Nearer Still~Being a Doula: Guest Post

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After a caesarean with my second daughter, Cecily, due to complete placenta previa, I knew that a VBAC would be a challenge with my next baby. Especially here in Nova Scotia where midwives are basically unavailable. I asked Lola to attend my birth for several reasons; 1) she is a good friend, 2) We share much the same view on labour, birth, and well, much of life in general, only Lola is far more knowledgeable than I on pregnancy and birth. 3) I knew that I would need a strong support if I was going to have a VBAC. Lola was a perfect mix of what I needed as she provided physical support during a long labor, helped me keep my sense of humor, and most importantly, helped advocate and offer her knowledge as I made birthing decisions. I am so glad to be able to share some of her thoughts on being a doula with you today.

I’ve been a Doula for seven years now. When Marissa asked me to write about my experience as a Doula and my views on birth I was really excited. And then I panicked. I’m not your typical Doula and I have some very strong opinions on how birth could and should be handled better in North America. I’ll share a bit about it all and try to keep it brief.

 

What is a Doula?

DONA International defines a Doula with the following…

The word “doula” comes from the ancient Greek meaning “a woman who serves” and is now used to refer to a trained and experienced professional who provides continuous physical, emotional and informational support to the mother before, during and just after birth; or who provides emotional and practical support during the postpartum period. Studies have shown that when doulas attend birth, labors are shorter with fewer complications, babies are healthier and they breastfeed more easily.

That seems to be a pretty accurate description. I also take photographs or video tape births if that’s what the parents want.

Why, Where and When did I become a Doula?

I need to say right at the beginning that I find the idea of hiring a Doula strange. In other cultures, birth attendants have always been close friends or family members such as sisters, mothers, aunts or grandmothers. Unfortunately, in our society we have lost vital understanding of the process and we no longer approach birth with a feeling of confidence but rather with fear and trepidation. Many women do not even know how the actual growing and birthing of a baby happens and that negatively effects the way we can offer each other support and assistance. It’s sad that we have to hire someone to fill in for the roles that used to be had by close family or friends but I do think that with the current state of things, Doula’s can be incredibly beneficial for an expecting mother.

With that said, I’ll explain why I decided to enter the profession almost 8 years ago. I’ve always loved pregnancy and birth. When I was newly married, I longed to somehow be a part of the birth process but I wasn’t sure how so I researched different ways I could help women to have a wonderful birth experience. A doula fit the bill perfectly. I was trained by CAPPA Canada and found three lovely women who agreed to let me attend their births as a part of my certification process. Looking back now, I realize what a novice I was. I’ve learned so much since then and have gained a very deep respect for the birth process. My views are more realistic but I still see birth as a natural and beautiful event.

At the time of my training I lived in a small town in Alberta that had a small hospital where all of the low risk deliveries took place. I had my first baby there and attended many families during my time spent in Alberta. It was in that delivery room I gained my confidence as a Doula. I massaged and photographed and massaged and ran for water and… did I say massaged? As wonderful as it was to gain so much experience, It’s also where I started to see major flaws in the way birth is managed. We’ve moved many times since then and I’ve been able to work with many different women and a variety of care providers. Over the years, I’ve discovered my specific gifts and also my weaknesses. We can’t be all things to all people and I’ve learned to embrace that and be up front with my prospective clients so they can know ahead of time if I’m what they will need. I’m a very knowledgeable Doula who serves well under pressure. I have a healthy bank of information stored in my head that I can access when needed. I am encouraging and affirming. But I am not good at making birth a moody or dramatic event. Some women really need and want that. There are some Doulas who are wonderful at making birth ceremonial and emotional but that is not my specific gifting and I gladly refer women to others who can better suit their needs if that’s necessary.

We live in Nova Scotia now and I have three (almost four) beautiful young children so I don’t advertise as a Doula currently but I will always attend births. It’s just something that I love. Lately, I definitely feel more drawn to the possibility of becoming a childbirth educator for the area and I’d love to focus on helping underprivileged, single or very young mothers confidently birth their babies.

My views on Pregnancy, Birth and things that need to change…

The female body works in amazing ways. Pregnancy and birth provide a unique time for women and their families to understand this and to become confident in making decisions about what, where, when and how they will bring their children into the world.

We have the unique privilege of living in a society of plenty. We have food, water, information and medical help available for most people in Canada and that is such a blessing. But somehow, in the last sixty or so years, we have handed over our rights of carrying and birthing babies to a system that has shown itself to be less than ideal, mostly by the embarrassingly high infant and maternal mortality rates and the soaring Caesarean sections being performed. There are legitimate reasons for medical interventions but the excessive and unwarranted use of them can cause serious harm to young vulnerable newborns and mothers. It’s only when we are confident and informed that we can say yes or no to the options laid out before us. Doula’s can help with this sometimes drastic learning curve.

As women, we have also become out of touch with how our bodies function. Things like assessing our own cervical dilation, fundal height, foetal position, and fertility awareness are all things we should be knowledgeable about and comfortable with. Trained health care providers are a service we are privileged to have access to in Canada but that doesn’t excuse us of the responsibility of understanding the process ourselves. We routinely force babies out before they are ready, clamp them and lay them in plastic containers to be blinded by lights, foot thumps and cold instruments before they have shown any sign of needing to be taken away from their mothers. One of the saddest things I see as a Doula is a women lovingly and longingly looking over at her baby on the warming bed while he or she is weighed, measured and dressed before being handed back to be fed, sometimes an hour later. Babies belong to mothers and fathers and we must remember that. We can gladly accept medical help but ultimately the decisions we make, or refuse to make fall on our own shoulders. It can be a frightening realization but also a very empowering and freeing one. I love what I do. I’m blessed to be able to be a part of such a life changing time for so many families but I want to encourage women to know and understand what’s happening. Take charge of it. Own it. And whether you have a home birth, hospital birth or caesarean birth you can know that you were able to make the best decision for your baby and yourself.

Have you had a Doula and if so, how did affect your birth experience? How has your birth experience affected you?

My name is Lola and I’m a pretty ordinary woman, wife, and mama who also happens to be a Doula and novice homesteader. I live in Nova Scotia with my family and live for sunny days at the beach and deep conversation with friends. I am wildly blessed and am learning to not become sidetracked from the truly beautiful and meaningful things in life. www.nearerstillnearer.squarespace.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Are You Inspired?


We cleaned out our front hall closet today and wondered what we were going to do with it. Because why use a closet as a closet when you only have two in the entire house? At first, I thought of a book nook for the girls as they are all the rage and frankly, I think it is a great idea. However, as Dan pointed out, we have plans for more reading spots than we have closets.

Then I thought of a play kitchen. Perfect. The girls have been setting up random kitchens lately and having so much fun. So after thinking about it for a few minutes, I did what any self-respecting, creative woman would do; I googled it because surely there have been others out there who have done it beautifully. I’d have used Pinterest because that seems to be where all the best ideas lurk but my computer is broken and it doesn’t work well on my phone. Anyways. I hadn’t looked long when the absurdity hit me. Who am I kidding? No matter how many lovely ideas I find, I am likely going to stick some crates, baskets, and a little side table on the tacky 70’s linoleum, hang a couple of pictures on the un-cool old wall paper, and let the girls raid my kitchen for supplies. And they will love it.  If I could come up with the idea then surely I can figure out how to create it on my own.

So where am I going with this? Well, I have been chewing on a word for a couple of weeks now. Inspire. It seems to get used a lot in the online social media world. There is Pinterest to inspire creativity (in so many ways); there are blogs to inspire better parenting, eating, living, learning, and so on. If you really love the word there are some brilliant DIY wall décor ideas. And sometimes I spend so much time seeking inspiration that I forget what I was looking for in the first place. I discount my own ability to act (or choose not to act) based on my own thoughts, beliefs, and creativity.

Inspire, by its definition, means to influence, move or guide. It means to spur on, to bring out, or to infuse life (Thank you, Merriam-Webster dictionary). Inspiration brings action. It doesn’t/shouldn’t bring guilt, discouragement or inaction.

Through all the forms of social media* I have found so many great ideas for my home, family, and life from others. I have been encouraged and challenged as a mother, as a wife, and as a woman. In many ways, I would say that I have come to realize more of who I was created to be. I’ve been inspired.

On the other side of the coin, I have collected  “inspiration” and become dissatisfied. I have read about parenting and second-guessed what I know to be best. I have read about balance and felt less for the time that I spend with my children. I’ve turned from the computer to my life feeling that I need to be “more” and frustrated with my lack of ability to be that. I’ve taken some one else’s words, ideas, beliefs, and beauty on as my necessity. And that is stifling. It’s uninspiring. But the thing is I don’t think most have intended to share their stuff that way; it’s me taking it in with my own insecurities and hang-ups.

And so I want to say this plainly. Don’t allow my words in this place to do that to you. If you read my thoughts and feel pressured, looked down upon, guilty or hurt, turn away from them. Throw them out. Perhaps my struggles and insecurities are not what yours are but perhaps the things that I write about bring out yours. I am tempted insert all kinds of disclaimers here of how I don’t think I am all that or that I have any thing more than another and I suppose this is a disclaimer in itself. But the truth is that I know I am not alone in feeling that I need to measure up…to what I’m not sure any of us know exactly.

I had someone recently make a kind comment on my charming life and at first I chuckled and then I sighed. Is that really what is seen? Yes, my life is lovely. I am incredibly blessed. I have been given much and I have much to offer. And my life has just as much, or more, of the disorderly, the messy, the hard, the mundane as I can handle. Yes, there are some things that transfer to screen well and look very charming. But that is not all of what life is.

I think that perhaps I am writing this mostly for the mamas who are also in my particular place in life. We are raising our children and there is so much that we can be and do. We think that we can and should be everything. And life laid out on a screen is so much neater than life in motion. Including mine. As I already said, I have received so much from the lives of others and I very much want to offer what I have to others both on and off screen. I want to inspire. I want to be inspired. But, I don’t want to spend my days thinking that I should do or be something that I am not. I don’t want you to either. I don’t want either of us to spend time and space on lies when our lives can be and are filled with so much good. I want you to be inspired. Truly. If anything I share can do that for you, take them and use them. I will be blessed by that. But please, please don’t be brought down by mine or anyone else life on the screen. There is so much more than that.

Oddly enough, I saw this blog post, http://powerofmoms.com/2012/04/your-children-want-you/, circulating as I was writing this one. I had feelings of, “she said what I was trying to say, and she said it better” and “ why even bother finishing this” welling up. But then I realized that was exactly the point she was making. I don’t need to be someone that I am not. She was specifically talking about being a mom but the thing is that each of us would do well to focus on living well as ourselves. Not compared to someone else. 

* I am talking about social media but I think that this can often also apply in face to face friendships as well…I know that it does for me.

A hodge podge update


  • After last week spent in the hospital with Kathleen, this week is just zipping right along. Kathleen is doing well although the antibiotics aren’t sitting so well with her and so she is much fussier than normal. But we finally got an almost decent sleep last night so I almost (not quite) feel sane today. Dan does so much better than I on less sleep.
  • It’s turned a bit colder again and since the girls can’t reconcile themselves to pulling on hats, boots and coats, they have been spending more time at inside arguing play. Actually, they mostly play really well, but there are definitely sibling squabbles when they get a little stir crazy. Lately they play fairies, dress “their children”, raid my kitchen to stock their kitchen (sounds like something I did back in BC), climb furniture, and slide banisters. I should mention that their kitchen is a garbage can, a mop bucket, and our little red electric stove. Their house is the mud room.Two nights ago they were friends coming to visit me for supper and so I was Marissa to Aneliese and as Cecily was her child, I was Auntie Missy to her. We were friends for about 1.5 hours with only an occasional slip. This morning Cecily was upset at Aneliese and getting mad until as Aneliese said “I just gave her some time to take some deep breaths and we worked it out.” and Cecily wasn’t hitting, by her description, she was “patting”. Oh my.
  • We are getting a goat at the end of the week. Well two actually, a doe and a baby. We are going to attempt to drink goats milk as our raw cow’s milk source is gone. I am hoping that we like it but not too sure. I love goat’s cheese though. And goats are fun, provided they don’t get into my garden.
  • I’m also realizing that just because I grew up with animals and worked with them my entire life, I don’t know as much as I need to. Which why I really appreciate sites like this one to fill in the things that I need to know about goats.
  • Dan is building a barn in his spare minutes (?). It’s just a little one that we can add on as we are able. Right now it will house our goats and the fifteen chickens that we have on order for the end of the month.
  • We are also getting a steer in a couple of weeks so that we have our own beef for next year. We are almost a little farm don’t you think?
  • We have our first guests coming at the beginning of May to stay in our very unfinished guest house…for a few weeks. My good friend and college dorm room neighbor. I am so very excited.
  • I love pussy willows and I spied some in our neighbors orchard the other day. I was very brave (for me) and asked if I might have some.And on that note, I bid you good night.

Grateful


Our week started out with all of the girls having a bit of a cold that seemed to be almost at its end. Kathleen’s seemed a little worse than the other girls had and she had it longer than they had. On Monday, I thought she was perhaps getting better but by Tuesday had decided to take her to have it checked out. After being told it was RSV (as I had suspected), we were sent home to watch her for any worsening symptoms. Within a couple of hours, I was headed back to the hospital with a very sick and unresponsive baby. Long story short, after a getting her on oxygen we were taken to a larger hospital via ambulance where we have spent most of the week while Kathleen has been treated for bacterial pneumonia. After the initial worrisome hours of watching her too fast heart rate and low oxygen levels, she seems to have recovered quickly and well. Crazy how fast it happens both ways. Now we are home where she is sleeping like a little kitten in the sun and I am catching her up on all of her missed feedings, giving her probiotics to replace good bacteria and trying not to worry too much about the state of her precious gut flora (already disturbed due to C-section birth) from the antibiotics. And she is getting increased kisses and cuddles from all of us which of course she is soaking up:).

Sleep, sleep, sleep...we did a lot of that.

Feeling a little better and still so sweet!

Vernal Equinox & Eggshell Seed Starters

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We celebrate the Vernal (or Spring) Equinox today. The sun and earth are celebrating in style with their warmth calling little ones to run about in bare feet and cats to laze in the sun. I believe that I shall fold my laundry outside in the beauty of it all.

We celebrated the first day of spring by starting some of our seeds. I’m not sure how great our garden will be this year as we haven’t a prepared garden plot but we are going to give it a go. With starting seeds in mind, I have been saving eggshells for the past couple of weeks to start my seeds.

I’ve used eggshells for a few years and always find that it works well. Not only are they a free pot, but the calcium in the shells is good for the growing plants, they are the perfect size for starting plants, and they break down completely in the soil while still providing essential nutrients to the plants.

This idea is not in any way original to me, even though I was the first person I know to do it, and I think there are probably plenty of other how-to’s on it but really I just want to share pictures of the fun that we had together. That is the fun, when I remembered to let go of control and not stress about it being done exactly as I would do it.

You will need:

  • Eggshells ~ when you are using your eggs for cooking, just crack off the top third and save the bottom portion. It’s a good idea to give them a little swish with water but I often forget.
  • Egg carton ~ to store the egg shells and to hold them once you have planted.
  • Seeds~ I ordered my seeds from Hope Seeds this year. They offer local seeds with a commitment local and sustainable agriculture, which includes the avoidance of genetically engineered seeds. I’ve also heard lots of good things about Salt Spring Seeds, based on Vancouver Island.
  • Dirt ~ I use a seed starting mix.
  • Pen
  • Needle
  • Scissors

How to:

  1. This is the step where you should carefully poke just one hole in the bottom of the clean eggshell using the needle. This is for drainage. I forgot. I’ve forgotten before and the seeds have been fine because I just water lightly. So if you remember, great. If you forget, don’t stress.
  2. Fill the eggshells with soil. Fill them full and even compact the soil just a little. If the soil is dry you might want to lightly wet it (a spray bottle works well).
  3. Plant your seeds. I usually do one or two seeds per egg, depending on the size of the seed.

    This is a very good opportunity for practical math

  4. Cut the most of the top of the egg carton off, leaving enough to write what you have planted in the rows. Actually, it would be a good idea to do this as the first step but I had some eager planters that got a little ahead of themselves.
  5. As was implied in step four, write above each row what you planted. I try to do it as I plant each thing otherwise I forget. I also record it in my garden log with the date, how many, and other info that I want to remember.
  6. Lightly water. My little water girl occasionally soaked them but I wouldn’t recommend that too often. The idea with seedlings is to always keep them damp, especially as they germinate. I find that a spray bottle works well.
  7. Keep the egg cartons in a warm sunny location. Once the seedlings have sprouted and grown enough to be transplanted in the garden or a larger pot, gently crack the shell before planting. It will biodegrade, the roots will grow out into the soil and the shell will continue to provide calcium to the plant. 

May you experience Light and Life on this first day of spring!