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!

The Hormonal Come-Down After Attending a Birth

Edmonton doula

Me at a home birth – where this crazy phenomenon is particularly strong!

After about an 8 week hiatus from attending births, I got to witness an incredible mama give birth this past weekend. Now as an Edmonton doula that’s witnessed many births, I’ve gotten used to the weird hours, the various bodily fluids and seeing women be incredibly primitive (to learn a bit more about what the life of an Edmonton doula is like, read this blog post). However, there’s one thing that just doesn’t seem to get easier with attending more and more births – and that is the hormonal come-down that I, your Edmonton doula, experience after a birth.

To further explain this interesting phenomenon that I and many other Edmonton doulas experience, I first want to find another situation to relate to. In my earlier adult years I attended many concerts and festivals (ok I’ll just say it, raves) where many of the patrons partook in various substance use. I actually worked as a character model for a while in which I’d wander around these raves dressed up in various costumes and interact with guests to enhance their experience. This would require me to be in close proximity with many people who were high on various things, and one thing I was warned about was the “contact high”. For those of you who have never heard this term before, it’s a theory that if you get close enough to someone who is “trippin’” to the point that you touch them, you can experience some of the side effects of the high just by physical contact. Many people I know think this is just a silly excuse that ravers made up to deny that they used drugs, but others are adamant that it is true and I now belong to this group!

My reason for sharing this (other than establishing that I in fact used to rave a ton and I’m proud of it!), is because for an Edmonton doula, birth can cause a massive contact high. We hip squeeze, massage, hold, hug, rub your back, etc… it’s not very often that we aren’t in physical contact with our clients at some point. Even without physical touch, as Edmonton doulas we are empaths and absorb a lot of the energy from the room. So after a birth, many of us experience very real and very intense “birthy” feelings. I’m sure many Edmonton doulas manifest and process these very differently, but personally I experience intense emotions (crying spells, feelings of euphoria, moments of anger, etc), uterine cramping and even sometimes, when it’s a really intimate birth, mild interruptions of my menstrual cycle (increased fertile mucous, intense cramping if I am bleeding at the time, a delay in bleeding, etc) after getting home from a birth. It’s like we absorb oxytocin in huge amounts and then when we get home, we have to come down off of that surge in oxytocin! Totally wild I know and I don’t have any evidence to share that this is a real thing, but I can give you some names of some Edmonton doula sisters that will attest to experiencing the same thing!

Are you a doula or another birth worker? Have you experienced a hormonal come down after a birth? Tell me about your experience in the comments!

My Top 5 Birth Bag Items

Edmonton doula

My fancy bag-of-tricks right before leaving the house to meet an Edmonton doula client in labour!

In the few years I’ve been writing on this blog, I’ve seen posts like these done but have never gotten around to writing one myself. Based on the high number of Edmonton doula clients that ask me what to pack, I think it’s time! Today I’m going to share the top 5 items that, in the opinion of an Edmonton doula, you MUST bring along to your birth.

Now I will preface this post by saying, LESS is MORE! Especially if you don’t have an Edmonton doula at your birth, you’re not going to want to be lugging around a million bags once it’s time to go to the hospital. Us as doulas in Edmonton are willing to help with bags, but trust me when I say that it’s the lowest on our priority list. We do bring a lot of helpful items ourselves, but there are many things that you can bring that are small and don’t take up much space.

1. A Pillow

Not sure where exactly you all are from, but for those who are Edmonton parents the hospitals here have the worst pillows. They are flat, hard and the hospitals usually won’t give you more than one. Seriously, sleeping on a rolled up towel will be more comfortable! Bringing your own pillow is great for comfort, but there are also ways to “spruce up” your pillow to help with labour. A couple of examples: get a really soft pillow case to rest your face on (the softness will awaken the nerve endings on your face and block some of the pain receptors according to the Gate Control Theory) and spritz it with your favourite perfume, cologne or drop with a relaxing essential oil (using aromatherapy during labour is an evidence-based comfort technique).

2. Snacks

So snacks are important, but not every snack is made equal. When it comes to birth, you likely won’t feel like eating many things but you want to keep your energy up. While most hospitals will give you juice, that is about the extent of what you’ll get while you’re there – so make sure to bring your own! My go-to snacks even as an Edmonton doula who usually stays up into wee hours of the night, is energy-boosting fats. Think nut butters, bags of nuts or trail mixes, granola bars mad with flax seed and/or chia seed, dark chocolate… anything high in “good” fats (the omegas) to keep you satiated and energized. You can even pre-make your own snacks like fat bombs, granola, etc. Even something as simple as coconut water can be a game changer! Also, pro-tip from an Edmonton doula: pack candy! The sweet in your mouth will activate the nerve endings on your tongue to help with pain.

3. Lip Balm

This is a big one surprisingly! For the amount of breathing you *should* be doing during your birth, plus factor in not feeling like eating or drinking, your lips get dry AF. It might seem like something so small in the grand scheme, but dry, chapped or peeling lips are going to distract you in a bad way and bring more discomfort to an already uncomfortable situation. Plus, us Edmonton doulas don’t want to get in the habit of sharing lip stuff with all of our clients. Bring whatever style of lip balm that you normally use day-to-day, but if you’re in the mood to buy something new, try a really sweet and fruity flavour or a minty one!

4. Music

What would we do in this world without music! I honestly can’t think of a time when music did not calm me down or help me through a high-stress time in my life. This one is important but I know personally as an Edmonton doula I always come equipped with music I find relaxing. I love to try and personalize my playlist based on what kind of music you respond well to in labour, but what’s even better is when the birther makes their own and brings it. If you don’t have an Edmonton doula or they don’t have a speaker, you’ll want to either bring your own or bring your headphones so that you aren’t listening to poor phone quality music. The sound should be loud enough that it drowns out some of the hustle and bustle of the hospital (your oxytocin can’t optimally flow with beeps and buzzes going off all of the time) but not too loud where it’s not relaxing. In regards to style of music, think genres that are mellow. Acoustic instruments, even a very mellow style of electronic music like drum and bass or deep house can be nice and have a steady beat to follow to help with focus. Avoid high-frequency sounds like really dance-y music or rock… unless these are normally sounds that relax you. When in doubt, Spotify!

5. Hair Brush/Hair Tie

One thing I very vividly remember as a child is that when I would get upset or worked up about something, my mom would put me in my bed and brush my hair. It was the beeeeeeest – instant calm. The gentle strokes of the bristles running down my scalp, feeling each little hair gently pull away from my head, it was like a rush of pleasure signals to my brain! So I always remind women in labour that I support that hair brushing, such a simple act, can feel super nice. You’ll also likely be getting out of the bath or shower at some point too and you won’t want your hair tangled and matted for the remainder of your birth. A hair tie is a MUST when you start to sweat a lot, perhaps vomit or it just starts to bug you. Never leave without a hair tie ( I’m sure most of you don’t!).

Bonus: This one is for the Partners!

Partners, when you are at the hospital and start using water, many birthers will want you to help them and sometimes, even get in with them. It can be soooo therapeutic and allow hormones to flow beautifully if at some point, you are given an opportunity to be skin-on-skin in the water. So, bring swim stuff! This way you won’t have to either pass up on an opportunity to be physically with your partner or just go in the buck. Most people wouldn’t feel comfortable with this but if you would, you GO!

What other essentials do you think need to be added to this list? What was your most useful hospital birth bag item?

The best way to find the perfect doula for you!

Edmonton doula

A lovely gift from one of my clients! As if getting to witness their birth wasn’t enough of a gift already!

Doulas in Edmonton (and likely everywhere else) can attest to this statement – we have a type! Though I love each and every family I support, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t look back at specific births with more overjoyed emotion  than others. This has little to do with what was happening in the moment and more with my connection with the couple. I genuinely feel like when I walk away from some births, that I’ve made a soul connection with people I didn’t even know before 9 months ago. This is a feeling that I, as an Edmonton doula, wish all could feel in whatever we do for work. This is, after all, essential to human nature – to serve others and treat them the way we wish to be treated, therefore relating in some way.

Now as amazing as this feeling is, being this connected with a client, it’s not easy to find the type of people that bring me this level of joy. I’m sure many doulas can attest to being hired by a couple that is not a total personality match, and it doesn’t feel like this. In fact, some situations feel downright yucky! So I’ve decided to write about a little tip for expecting parents when you head out on your search for an Edmonton doula. It’s simple really – you need to ask a friend!

How did you find your hairdresser? Your massage therapist? Your favourite bar? Your gym? Your friends? I can guarantee that all of you reading this can answer at least one of these with “through a friend”. That’s because we trust our friends to deliver the honest truth about services! You’re likely friends with people because you’ve got something in common. Similar personalities, similar faith and beliefs, similar occupation, etc. You trust your friends recommendations because you know that they have done the dirty work for you. They’ve tried the service, probably more than once, and they know it’s quality and that it’s a great fit for you. So when it comes to hiring a doula, I HIGHLY encourage you all to do the same!

As a doula in Edmonton, nothing brings me more happiness then when I get a referral for a new client from an old one. Seriously this is such a great feeling and it’s not just about flattery (though that is a small part of course ;). It’s more the fact that the couple was referred to me through someone I’ve already worked with and who appreciated my help enough to want me to support the people they care most about too. When I get referrals from past clients it also reaffirms that my love for them was also reciprocated, and to know that I positively impacted their lives is precisely why I love being a doula so much!

So now you know that it’s good on both ends for you to find your doula based on referral – so before you start your search for an Edmonton doula, ask your network and see if you can find a referral from someone you trust! Specifically, find someone you know who used a doula who has a similar personality to you so there’s a higher chance that doula will be a match. If you are interested in a doula but don’t know anyone who’s used one, I encourage you to check out the referral list on the Doula Association of Edmonton (click to go their page). Happy hunting! I hope you all find the perfect doula for you 😊