The Birth of Ella Eliza Faris - My Birth Experience

Alright folks, more than a year later I am just getting to this post. I hope you enjoy and please note that there are photos, nothing graphic but if you think you will be offended then stop reading now.



It was not the easiest year. My pregnancy was quite tough for nearly 6 months which was hard on everyone. The changes around here were immediate, sharp and stinging for the most part. I could no longer nurse Aida which was hard on both of us. At that point we were only nursing once or twice a day, but it was a huge source of comfort for Aida and took her a long while to adjust. I felt badly and that was only the beginning of the guilty feelings to come. Because I was so sick, I spent many days in bed and away from everyone else. It was tough on me, Aida and Curran. He had to absorb all the responsibilities and Aida basically lost her mom for an extended period. It sucked big time. BUT... I got better and things got easier. The rest of my pregnancy was wonderful and Aida was nothing but excited for the new family member (she named "Bean") to arrive.

All I really have to say about my birth experience was that it was amazing. Truly amazing. I am not a brilliant poet when it comes to writing or verbal expression so I will never be able to put into words how beautiful this experience was for me, but then again it doesn't really matter. I know, my baby knows and so does my husband (to some extent). Other than that, all I can say is trust me, it was perfect.

One extremely important and absolutely priceless decision I  made was to use hypnobirthing during this labour and birth. One of my doula partners taught the hypnobirthing series to us and I could not be more thankful for it. It truly made all the difference in my labour. I had the most calm, peaceful experience and I know it was because of the relaxation techniques I learned and practiced often.

I also had the ultimate support team with me through this experience and I am forever grateful for each of them. I was completely honoured to have BOTH of my doula partners present and their support was immeasurable. I could not have asked for a better team of midwives who supported me in all my hopes and wishes and enabled me to have the home water birth I was looking for.  

This whole pregnancy went by in a flash. Even with feeling like complete garbage for a large part of it, I was full term in what felt like no time. It is amazing how one toddler and a very busy doula schedule allow you time for little else - even time to wrap your brain around having another baby. SO we basically went through the whole pregnancy talking little of it. Aside from taking hypnobirthing and practicing those techniques, we did not prepare much of anything, did not choose names, didn't even talk about a name until a week or two before she was born (after all the baby's name was Bean), none of the basic stuff that parents usually start doing once they see that positive pregnancy test. I did have organized what was most important to me - I had my healthy baby, my supportive husband, a crack team of doulas and my wonderful midwifes. The rest was just details. All I knew was that I wanted to birth my baby at home in water and did not want anything unnecessary.



  
I really wanted to make sure everything was organized for the water birth so when I was a few weeks away from my due date we got the pool ready. Just as a side note to those wishing to have a water birth - make sure you have everything (mostly) set up by your 37th week. If you go into labour any sooner you will need to be at the hospital but come week 37 your home birth is a go as planned. It would be very disappointing to discover a leak (as we did) in the pool or that it takes WAY longer to inflate than you expect (also, as we did) all while in labour. A friend was kind enough to lend us a birthing pool. After a very frustrating evening of using a bicycle pump (do not use a bicycle pump) to inflate it and discovering a leak, another friend lent us a foot pump (DO use a foot pump). Once we patched and inflated the pool most of the way we were ready to go. Aida loved the empty pool and literally just wanted to sit and read her books inside it. No, we did not keep it in the middle of the living room for weeks. 

So here it is. 

I was 10 days away from my due date and not at all expecting to have a baby yet. I was 5 days post dates with Aida and was not thinking I would be at all 'early'. Even with all of my doula experience I had no idea I was in early labour. My doula brain was off and my oh-so-silly mom brain was in high gear. I had a wonderful sleep the night before (missed clue #1) - a rarity for any woman as pregnant as I was - and woke up feeling very energized. I gave my belly my standard good morning rub and smiled at the fact that baby had moved - their back was clearly laying right along the front of my stomach when it had always been along my right side (missed clue #2). I had so much energy (missed clue #3) that I cleaned my house top to bottom, including getting on my hands and knees and pulling the dog hair off the non-scratch pads on the feet of the dining room table and chairs (missed clue #4). While Curran was at work I enlisted Aida's help in rearranging all the living room furniture to prepare it for our home birth that would happen in the next couple weeks (missed clue #5). 

When Curran arrived home from work he simply smirked, shook his head and told me to go have a rest since I was "basically going to have a baby right away." I doubt it.

I had my first massage appointment during this pregnancy (I know, so dumb) at 7pm with one of my doula partners who also happens to be a RMT (lucky me). Half an hour into my massage my very tense hamstring and IT band released and literally seconds later I felt and faintly herd a little "pop." Yep. I realized what happened and let out an exasperated "are you freaking kidding me?!" I was so relieved that all this was happening with my doula partner and that I hadn't just destroyed a strangers sheets. 

I was not feeling any contractions, only the same old Braxton's Hicks that I had been having my entire pregnancy, but there was slightly more blood than either of us were comfortable with so we made a call to the my midwife and headed to the Birth Centre to be checked. In the car on the way I finally got a hold of Curran (yes, on speaker phone) who got himself into a characteristic panicked flap trying to prepare the house and get care for Aida organized. Our wonderful neighbours came to the rescue and watched Aida while he borrowed their car and met us at the birth centre. 

I was examined by my midwife just after 8pm and I was already 4cm dilated! No wonder there was more blood than expected. Things were changing fast and I was not yet feeling as though I was in labour. We headed home in the separate cars we arrived in. Once in the car I took a moment to collect myself and talk to my baby. I wrapped my head around the fact that I was in labour and told my baby that if they were ready then so was I. I drove home. When I turned onto my block I got my fist "real" contraction. "Oh boy." "Yep, I remember that now"


I was welcomed home by a VERY excited Aida who kept shouting "Baby Bean Is Coming!" My heart sank and I cried a little as I said good bye to my only child for the last time. Things were about to change forever.     

My very wise midwife, who was supposed to come to the house around 11pm, called Curran with a feeling that she should come right away to set up her things. I am so glad she did. She arrived shortly after 930 and things were beginning to kick off. Although the contractions were feeling intense things were great. I was in the zone.

The first of my doulas arrived somewhere around 10pm. I was listening to a hypnobirthing track on repeat while calmly working through my contractions with Curran. My doula, as all great doulas do, provided me with whatever else I needed in the moment. She helped kept my breath calm and steady and my body relaxed. My other doula arrived soon after and along with working her magic, captured some great pictures of my birth.






It was not long after my doulas arrived that I felt the need to get into the pool. What a magical sensation that was! I remember feeling how the warmth of the water on my legs was the most extraordinary sensation. As I lowered my body into the water I knew it would not be long before I was holding my new baby. The relief I felt as I entered the water is indescribable. I was somewhere truly amazing. I was not in pain. I was not scared. I was in a state of release. I felt every shift and change in my body and every move my baby made. I was in the deepest state of meditation that I will ever achieve, of this I am sure.

The next series of pictures were taken over approximately 15minutes  











The jolt from one moment to the next was extreme but SO wonderful. This moment. This moment is perfection.




These first minutes are simply gobsmacking. It's a girl! I did it! We did it! I cannot believe we MADE this beautiful creature and she is ours, we get to keep her.


Dad getting in some skin-to-skin time

Bonding

Baby Bean (as she was known until she was 4 or 5 days old) was born on September 30th at 11:24 pm, less than 2.5 hours after I felt my first 'real' contraction. She was 6 lbs 11oz.

Ella being examined by the Midwife


One of the best decisions we made for this birth was having our baby at home. For anyone with a healthy, low risk pregnancy I could not advocate more for home birth. I laboured and birthed this lovely little baby in the place I am most comfortable, then was able to crawl into MY cozy bed and snuggle with her all night long. My midwife stayed for quite some time after to ensure we were both safe and healthy and she even did my laundry and helped Curran and the doulas clean up, all while I snuggled with and got to know my new little treasure. The entire time I was happy and felt secure in our place, I ate my yummy food, we were kept warm with my soft bedding that doesn't smell of bleach and other harsh chemicals and we all slept the whole night through without nurses waking us every hour to perform their disrupting checks. Totally dreamy! I could not be happier with our experience.


Snuggles soon after welcoming our lady Earth side
Happy mama with a squishy baby
Aida meeting her baby sister for the first time
Aida really likes her
Curran and I are very lucky
Less than 24 hours old
Ella's 3rd day 

I have been tossing around the idea of sharing my birth story on the blog for a while now. I was reluctant to at first simply because of the work I do. I am often asked by my clients what my birth was like, what choices I made, and often in the throws of the most difficult time in labour - "was it like this for you?" The only answer I ever really give is "what my labour was like doesn't really matter, this is about you and your labour." I always feel like there is never a good answer to these questions. The experience of labour is different for every woman. The point in me blabbing on here is to say please don't play the comparison game with your labour. Whether it is before, during or after you have a baby, comparing your experience with any one else's is pointless. Your labour is your own, so own it for what it is, was or will be.

Diane's Beautiful Birth Story

Hello again and happy weekend! I thought I would help you start your weekend off full of happy thoughts with another beautiful birth story. This is a post written by Diane who recently gave birth to her first baby. Her labour and birth was absolutely beautiful. Diane's ability to keep calm and maintain control and focus was nothing short of amazing. She is such an inspiration. This was one of those births that I wish every woman could witness - it was the kind of birth that would wipe out any fear and anxiety a mother has towards her labour and ability to birth her baby. Diane prepared for her labour and surrounded herself with positive encouraging support and began the process with confidence in herself and her body's ability and it truly showed in her birth. Her lack of fear allowed her body overflow with endorphins (which, by the way are 200 times stronger than morphine!!) which let her body labour quickly and with greater ease. Diane is a Wonder Woman! Thank you for sharing your beautiful experience with me Diane!      

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Photo provided by family

"As soon as I got over the initial excitement and nervousness of being pregnant, I knew that I wanted to get a doula. I had heard about doulas from a few friends who said it was the best decision they ever made. I thought that it would be difficult to convince my husband that this was something we should spend money on but he was on board from the start.

We decided to ask my friend Bree-Ann to be our doula.

A few people thought it was a little weird to have a friend as a doula, but I knew Bree-Ann’s calm and rational personality was exactly what I would need.

Our little guy Benjamin surprised us all by arriving just over 2 weeks early.

After my last day of work, I had big plans of relaxing while my husband was at an office party. In fact I had big plans of accomplishing a lot during the 2 weeks off work so that I would be totally ready for our baby.

But my little guy didn’t seem to care about all my plans and decided he was eager to meet us.

One of the biggest reasons I wanted a doula was that I knew no matter how many classes we took and how many books I read there was no way I could know what to expect when the big day arrived since this was something I have never experienced before. When things got started that evening I was pretty unsure that I was actually in labour.

I kept thinking that it was too early and I was just leaking a little (my water couldn’t have broken!), and those were just really bad Braxton Hicks contractions.

I called Bree-Ann and she answered my questions and told me this could be the real deal.

Little Ben (Photo provided by family)

 In the middle of the night when the contractions started to get bad my husband called Bree-Ann and she came over to our house.

Bree helped with massaging and keeping me calm while my husband rushed around the house packing our bags and getting ready to leave. Once we got to the hospital things started to progress faster and I began to doubt my plans to have no pain medication.

I felt like there was no way I was strong enough to continue and that I was not ready for this.

Bree-Ann helped me to find my strength, to stay calm and to breathe. She helped me to focus and trust my body to do what it is supposed to do without any medication.

Both my husband and I were so happy to have Bree-Ann at our son’s birth." 

Happy Family (Photo provided by family)

Beautiful VBAC Birth Story

Aida meeting Baby Ruby for the first time

What seems like forever ago and just yesterday all at the same time, I was incredibly honoured to bare witness to an amazing VBAC story. This is the birth story of Jill, one of my closest and dearest friends. It was the birth of our first children that initially brought Jill and I together. As many cherished friendships begin, we met doing something very near and dear to us both. Yoga. Prenatal yoga to be specific, basically the perfect storm for friendship building! We have been very close ever since and I was so full of joy to be invited in to what I knew would be an amazingly beautiful birth. Jill is a gorgeous, strong, powerful woman with the most gentle sole I have ever had the privileged of knowing and I am thankful everyday for her. I will never forget Jill's incredible VBAC story and am continually grateful to have witnessed the birth of one special lady that I will know and love always. Thank you for the beautiful moments Jill!

"I am so incredibly blessed to have Bree-Ann in my life. She is an amazing friend and the most naturally talented doula I can imagine - she was born to do this!

First some quick background info; this was my second pregnancy, my first child was born via emergency c-section so I was going into this new birth experience with some anxiety. Bree and I talked a lot about my first child's birth and she was able to help me look at many aspects of it in a new light which really helped me to feel more calm and confident in my body as I prepared for the birth of our second baby.

My goal was to have a VBAC and I was very passionate about it - Bree-Ann always encouraged, supported and empowered me in this which also gave me confidence in my ability to have my baby naturally. I had some preterm labour scares at 32 weeks and Bree was right there to talk through things with me and put my mind at ease. We talked about what might happen if the baby came early and what I could do to help delay baby's arrival. In the end, my water broke at 34 weeks, 3 days and even though I was concerned and nervous I felt more prepared for things thanks to our conversations.

Bree-Ann was an incredibly calming and powerful presence during the labour and birth of my daughter. She helped me to remain calm despite my anxieties around potential interventions and a preterm baby. Once my contractions started labour progressed very quickly and was super intense as a result. Bree arrived very soon after my husband called her even though it was after 

1:00

 in the morning. As soon as she arrived it was like a breath of fresh air for both my husband and I. He had been bent over the bed massaging me as I rocketed through contractions and was able to finally change positions and get some help and suggestions for keeping me comfortable. Bree was immediately at my side coaching me on my breathing and helping me labour naturally. It was an extremely intense 3.5hr labour and I know I couldn't have gotten through it without drugs if Bree-Ann hadn't been there, guiding and supporting me. Towards the end my body started pushing involuntarily and Bree helped me get through those contractions which still amazes me. Not only did I have to get up and walk from one end of my room and into the hall to change beds during this time but I also had to be transferred 3 floors to a delivery room all while trying to keep my body from pushing! Bree-Ann was right there the whole time coaching and reassuring me - her voice helped me focus and get through each surge. 

When we were finally in the delivery room and I had a very loud and intense nurse shouting directions at me, Bree-Ann stood beside me and gently whispered encouragement in my ear. She tempered the instructions being hollered at me with gentle coaching. During the birth she was right by my side holding onto my leg and guiding and encouraging me, I couldn't ask for more. After our daughter was born my husband went with her to another room where she was checked over and cared for. Bree stayed with me as we waited for the placenta to be born and helped me with suggestions on how to encourage my body along naturally. As we waited in recovery for my daughter, Bree-Ann was right there with me to celebrate my beautiful baby girl and the fact that not only had I achieved my VBAC but I'd also brought her into the world completely naturally, no drugs! I know, without a doubt, that without Bree-Ann, I could not have gotten through such intense contractions without some sort of "help" - the thought crossed my mind several times and each time I was able to focus on my body and my breathing instead with her calm, confident coaching. 

When my husband and daughter finally returned we all had a tearful reunion. Bree knew how important breastfeeding was to me and I was concerned that with my daughter's prematurity and the fact that we had been separated for over an hour after her birth that we might have some difficulties. Bree made sure we had all the support and guidance we needed to successfully establish breastfeeding. Thankfully, my daughter was strong and alert enough to get a good latch and nurse till she fell asleep. This first experience proved to be more essential than I could have known as it gave me confidence in our breastfeeding relationship that carried me through two very challenging weeks while my daughter was in Intermediate Care at the Women's Hospital following her birth. Without that positive first experience I may not have persevered with such conviction, giving my daughter opportunities everyday to practice nursing even though she needed to be tube fed for the first week and a half of her life.

I can honestly say without a doubt that having this wonderful, caring, dynamic, thoughtful, intelligent and intuitive woman with me, my birth story would be much different. Thank you, Bree-Ann with all my heart for being so amazing <3"

 -Jill

The Purpose and Value of Doula Support


I am often asked what a doula does and how she can help a mom through her labour. I am going to cheat here a bit and post a short essay that I wrote a long while ago for the certification process. There are not a ton of details but you get a better sense of the general idea. The role a a doula is always dependent on the needs of a labouring mother, and as such, changes not only with every client but also through each labour. We are great adapters and fill the role/s that are needed when they are needed and do our very best to help the mother and her partner have positive, empowered birth experience. My apologizes for the lameness of the essay.     

The Purpose and Value of Labour Support
Women have been caring for each other through labour and birth since the beginning of our existence, and childbearing and childrearing was once a community effort. Families were large and tightly knit. When a daughter became pregnant, her mother, and possibly grandmother, all of her sisters and aunts would be by her side throughout her pregnancy, labour, birth and motherhood. She was never alone in this journey and could rely on the wisdom of her elders and the support of her female community for advice, emotional care and physical encouragement. Somewhere along the way our society has lost these values, and pregnancy, birth and childrearing have become isolated and unsupported. Birth is no longer an event for the entire family or female community and all responsibilities of birth and labour have fallen to the mother and her partner. Mainstream media has turned birth into something unnatural and frightening, instead of the empowering, fulfilling, natural triumph it is. Western society, and the medical community in particular, continually perpetuate messages of fear and doubt, leading the majority of women to believe that they are unable to birth their babies naturally. This has had grave implications on our communities and for the mothers of this world, driving childbirth even further from a place of joy and love in the process.
The Doula, meaning “woman caregiver,” works to bring birth back to where it belongs: in the hands of an informed laboring woman. A doula is the support system for a woman and her family through pregnancy, childbirth and the early postpartum period. She helps to empower the childbearing woman by providing her with information and support in the form of continuous emotional care and physical comfort techniques. A doula is not part of the medical staff and, therefore, uses only non-medical methods to comfort and care for her client, such as breathing techniques, massage, physical support and reassuring touch and encouragement (1).  With her knowledge, training and skills in the birthing process, a doula can help a mother birth more comfortably and quickly by suggesting position changes that allows her body to create more room for baby to find their way Earth-side. Positioning and other techniques learned by doulas may also be used to move a mal positioned baby allowing the birthing process to continue more rapidly with less discomfort for the mother.    
The doula not only cares directly for her client but also does so indirectly by supporting her partner though the birthing process. She helps the partner enjoy their experience by allowing them to take on whatever role they feel most comfortable in. For example, when the doula plays a more physically active role in supporting the mother, her partner is able to provide the loving encouragement and emotional support essential to the birthing process, or vice-versa. A doula is able to make suggestions for ways the partner can effectively support their loved one when they are unsure of how to help (1). The doula also ensures the partner is rested and has time to eat and care for their own needs so they are better able to care for mom and baby once born.
The doula’s calming reassurance allows both parents to understand that what happens during labour and birth is normal and natural, which helps to maintain a relaxing, positive birthing environment. A doula also advocates for her clients wishes by encouraging and enhancing communication between the family and birthing staff, but she does this without speaking on behalf of or making decisions for the laboring mother and without projecting her own values and desires (1,2). A doula helps the mother and her partner make informed decisions for herself and her new baby by providing information about their options and associated benefits and risks or by suggesting questions to ask their care provider (2). Through all of these means, the doula assists the mother in having a safe, empowering and fulfilling birth experience.
The benefits of a doula’s continuous labour support have been well established. In the most recent 2011 review of labour support studies, Hodnett et al concluded that women with continuous, one-on-one support were more likely to birth vaginally with fewer complications and medical interventions such as cesarean sections and the use of forceps, vacuum extraction, and synthetic oxytocin (3). Doula supported labours also tended to be shorter in length and the mother’s request for pain medication and/or epidurals were significantly decreased. Negative feelings about one’s birthing experience were also reduced with the presence of a doula. The babies born to women with supported births also tended to have better five-minute Apgar scores and increased success with breastfeeding (3). Spouses also feel more supported by a doula and in turn provide more support to their labouring partner (3). Although continuous support in general improves a mother’s birth experience, the 2011 review found that doula-supported labours had the greatest results and most impact for a mother, partner and baby when compared to labours that were supported by friends, family or hospital staff (3).    
The role and benefits of a doula extend far beyond those of the labouring mother. Doulas carry the potential to positively influence society as a whole. The care doulas provide to women during pregnancy, labour, birth and early postpartum is paramount to strengthening the early emotional relationship between mother and baby, which in turn will prove to be positive for the future of the family, and on a large scale, society in general. These mothers gain greater confidence and self-esteem, which helps them to adapt to their new family life and decreases the likelihood of developing postpartum depression (1). Research has also shown that women who have doula-supported labours have an increased sense of satisfaction with their partner and display greater affection and bonding with their baby, all of which are likely to enhance the long-term family bond (5). The decrease in medical intervention during labour and birth, often attributed to the presence of a doula, allows for a decrease in medical expenditure, allowing medical finances to be allocated more efficiently (5).  
Because the role of a doula has such vast impact, her responsibilities are extremely important. A doula carries great ethical responsibilities to her clients, colleagues, society, and to the doula profession itself (4). She continually strives to improve her knowledge of the birthing world, uphold the values and mission of the profession and promote maternal and child welfare.

References
1.     The DONA International Position Paper
2.     DONA International Birth Doula Standards of Practice
3.     Hodnett ED, Gates S, Hofmeyr GJ, Sakala C, Weston J. Continuous support for women during childbirth. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2011, Issue 2. Art. No.: CD003766. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD003766.pub3.
4.     DONA International Birth Doula Code of Ethics
5.     Klause MH, Kennell JH, Klaus PH. The Doula Book. Second Ed, Da Capr Press, 2002.

We Really Don't Know the Effects Of Labour Interventions

 "Inducing labour may contribute to autism

Why babies were being induced in the first place still needs to be considered

Posted: Aug 13, 2013 12:01 PM ET

Last Updated: Aug 13, 2013 12:00 PM ET



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The biggest study of its kind suggests autism might be linked with inducing and speeding up labour, preliminary findings that need investigating since labour is induced in increasing numbers of U.S. women, the authors and other autism experts say.
It's possible that labour-inducing drugs might increase the risk — or that the problems that lead doctors to start labour explain the results. These include mothers' diabetes and fetal complications, which have previously been linked with autism.
There is a growing consensus that risks for autism occur before birth or soon after.There is a growing consensus that risks for autism occur before birth or soon after. (Veejay Villafranca/Getty )Like most research into autism causes, the study doesn't provide conclusive answers, and the authors say the results shouldn't lead doctors to avoid inducing labour or speeding it up since it can be life-saving for mothers and babies.
Simon Gregory, lead author and an associate professor of medicine and medical genetics at Duke University, emphasized, "We haven't found a connection for cause and effect. One of the things we need to look at is why they were being induced in the first place."
Government data suggest 1 in 5 U.S. women have labour induced — twice as many as in 1990.
Smaller studies suggested a possible tie between induced labour and autism, but the new research is the largest to date, involving more than 600,000 births. The government-funded study was published online Monday in JAMA Pediatrics.
The researchers examined eight years of North Carolina birth records, and matched 625,042 births with public school data from the late 1990s through 2008. Information on autism diagnoses didn't specify whether cases were mild or severe. Labour was induced or hastened in more than 170,000 births.
Overall, 5,648 children developed autism — three times as many boys as girls. Among autistic boys, almost one-third of the mothers had labour started or hastened, versus almost 29 per cent of the boys without autism. The differences were less pronounced among girls.
Oxytocin and prostaglandins are used to start or speed up labour but the study doesn't identify specific medications.
The strongest risks were in boys whose mothers had labour started and hastened. They were 35 per cent more likely to have autism.
Among girls, autism was not tied to induced labour; it was only more common in those born after labour was accelerated; they were 18 per cent more likely to have the developmental disorder than girls whose mothers had neither treatment.
Autism affects about 1 in 88 U.S. children. Symptoms may involve communication problems including avoiding eye contact and unusual repetitive behaviour including arm-flapping. Causes are uncertain but experts believe it probably results from a combination of genetics and other factors. These may include mothers' illnesses and medication use while pregnant, fathers' age at conception, and problems affecting the fetus during childbirth — all suggested but not proven in previous research.
The study's biggest strength is bolstering the growing consensus that risks for autism occur before birth or soon after, said Dr. Byron King, director of Seattle Children's Hospital's autism centre. He was not involved in the study."

The above is an article from cbc online and can be found here.

I am aware that nothing in this study is conclusive but it really makes you think about our lack of knowledge when it comes to the effects of any labour augmentation or assistance. There has simply not been enough research done or time elapsed to really see the full effect of the medical system's actions in pregnancy, labour and birth. It is terrifying to think about but the fact of the matter is we just don't know. I am NOT suggesting that there is no place for medical intervention when it comes to labour and birth because there most certainly is. In my short time as a doula I have witnessed labours that indeed would have ended in tragedy had medical advances not been available. Conversely, I have also attended births where medical interventions used were seemingly unnecessary and in some cases even harmful. I do believe there is a place in labour and birth for modern medicine but I know it is grossly overused in our society. Because long-term effects of these medical interventions are unknown I think we should not be so nonchalant with there uses and greater care and consideration should be used by those caring for women in labour.       

Ina May Gaskin and Reducing Fear of Birth

Ina May Gaskin, MA, CPM, PhD (Hon) is legendary in the world of Midwifery. She is founder and director of the 41 year old Farm Midwifery Center in Tennessee. 
Ina May Gaskin, photo credit: http://www.tumblr.com/tagged/birth%20story

You can read a Bio of the lovely Ina May on her web site here.

One of my favorite 'birth prep' books is Ina May's Guide to Childbirth. It was the only book I found useful while awaiting my own birth journey and I have since lent it to many friends and family. Instead of filling your head with all the things that could possibly go wrong during labour, Ina May provides a much needed dose of positive birth stories and confidence boosting facts about the natural ability of a woman's body to birth a baby. She has an amazing ability to bring a pregnant woman and her obsessing thoughts back to the reality of the entirely natural process. Ina May focuses on reducing fear in labour and birth and talks much about the fear-pain response of a labouring woman. Much of the work a doula does before and during birth is to reduce that woman's fears and therefore the pain she experiences. I entered my labour with 100 percent confidence in myself and my body's ability to birth and believe Ina May's words have much to do with that.

 
Very Recently a movie was made called Birth Story: Ina May Gaskin and the Farm midwives which look amazing. The trailer alone is beautiful.

Thank you Ina May for all that you do to empower women and families and allow people to view birth the way it should be - "unadorned, unabashed, and awe-inspiring"  


Pelvic Floor Muscles - A topic for EVERYONE!

As a doula I like to attend as many secessions and classes possible so I have the most up-to-date information for my clients. A while ago the Women's Health Clinic (WHC), which operates out of Winnipeg's new birthing centre, offered a class on pelvic floor muscle (PFM) health. PMF is a huge topic in the birthing world so I was most definitely there. A large part of the class was a refresher for me but there were also many new things I learnt. Most moms and moms-to-be have lots of questions on this topic so I thought I would share some information with those who care to learn.  Although, as it turns out, it is not only mams and preggos that should be learning about PMF, this is a topic that affects EVERYONE. Yes, that means you too gentlemen.

All the information that follows comes from my doula training and the information presented at the PFM health class provided by the Women's Health Clinic (WHC) and their informational brochures and handouts. Much of this information can be found on their site www.womenshealthclinic.org. More great information can also be found here www.pelvichealthsolutions.ca 
This information should not be used to replace a visit with your health care provider.

What are the PFM? The PFM are muscles that originate from the tailbone and insert onto the pubic bone forming a sling that fills the bowl of the pelvis. These muscles not only create a muscular hammock but they also form an intricate network that weaves around and throughout the pelvic organs. The PFM serve five major functions which include supporting the pelvic organs (bladder, uterus, vagina, rectum), they also act as the sphincters to control the passage of urine, stool and gas. The PFM assists in respiration through interactions with the diaphragm while also working with the abdominal and core muscles to help stabilize the trunk and spine to improve posture. As if that wasn't enough, the PFM play a significant roll in sexual function and enhanced pleasure. How does that grab ya?!


There are two types of PFM dysfunction: Hypotonicity (Weak pelvic floor muscles) which can contribute to stress incontinence (aka: peeing yourself when you cough, sneeze, run or jump ect.), urge incontinence (feeling like you need to go all the time) both of which are NOT a normal part of aging, pelvic organ prolapse (yes, this can happen), uncontrollable passing of gas or stool (you know who you are), and a feeling of pelvis/sacroiliac instability. Conversely, Hypertonicity (Tight pelvic floor muscles) contributes to urinary and fecal urgency, urge Incontinence, chronic pelvic pain, constipation, dyspareunia, vaginismus, vulvodynia, pudendal neuralgia, interstitial cystitis and chronic prostatits. Both weak or overly tight PF muscles can also cause hip, pelvic or low back pain and stiffness or fatigue. 

One of the most shocking things I learnt in this class was the population percentage of those with some form of PFM dysfunction. 96% of the population is affected by at least one aspect of PFM dysfunction and 87% show 2 or more symptoms! That is nearly every one! 

Causes of unhealthy PF muscles are plenty. Many things can lead to either weak or tight PF muscles like pregnancy and childbirth, hormonal changes (as in menopause), chronic constipation and straining, chronic coughing (like smokers cough), surgery, recurring UTIs, poor posture, excess weight and lack of exercise are but a few. Some PFM dysfunction symptoms like urge incontinence are made worse by consuming food/drinks that cause irritation to the bladder. For example, the following list worsen symptoms in most people: Coffee, caffeinated tea and sodas (some medications also contain caffeine), alcohol, chocolate and smoking. Some people's symptoms also worsen with the consumption of the following: acidic foods (including tomato and tomato products), citrus fruits and juices, artificial sweeteners, spicy foods, milk and milk products, sugar and honey for some, corn syrup and cranberry juice. I know this last one seems weird considering that cranberry is used to cleanse the kidneys and is good for bladder infections, but it is best to consume cranberry extract. Also, concentrated urine (which happens when we don't drink enough fluids - which most people don't) can irritate the bladder and result in greater symptoms of urgency and frequency. Further, I personally know many of you out there who refuse to use the bathroom anywhere but in the comfort of your own home or, when forced to use a public washroom, hover over the toilet seat in order to avoid any contact with said toilet. Both of these actions (or lack of action I should say) can also wreak havoc on those oh so important PF muscles. Holding in your pee or bowel movement regularly can cause PFM issues while hovering counteracts what you are trying to do by tightening everything up instead of releasing. Also, terrifyingly, propylene glycol and other chemicals found in many soaps, shampoos, perfumes ect, can weaken the muscles which absorb these chemical through your skin. Gross!!     

Fortunately, most PFM disorders can be corrected although it may take time and work. Whenever the topic of PFM comes out the first thought is usually 'kegels' or PF exercises (I'll let you look up how to do kegels). Although these are extremely important and crucial in strengthening PF muscles they may not be the answer to all forms of PFM dysfunctions or symptoms. For those with symptoms caused by tight PFM, Kegels would be the last thing you would want to do. It is important to maintain a balance of taught and firm pelvic floor muscles without being overly tight or too weak. Thankfully there is PF physiotherapy available for those who need it. The Incontinence & Pelvic Pain Clinic (IPPC), a division of the Nova Physiotherapy & Sports Fitness Clinic, is run out of the medical arts building and specializes in PFM therapy. Another local physiotherapist that specializes in PFM is Donna Sarna. Also, the WHC has a pelvic pain nurse, Lynn Crocker-Loat who helps women with pelvic issues.

So please be kind to these muscles that serve so many purposes. Keep healthy, drink lots of water, eat well, exercise, do go to the bathroom once when you feel the need and don't hold it forever. Just sit on that dang toilet seat (you can clean it first if you so desire) instead of hovering and try not to strain so much. Do exercise your PFM if they are not overly tight and do see a physiotherapist if you are experiencing unwanted symptoms (you don't have to live with them!). 

Thank you for visiting and taking the time to read! Please leave comments and tips for other readers if you so feel the urge.   

Happy Summer Guys!!
  

Detoxifying My Mind and Body into Spring

Like most everyone else right now I am feeling pretty done with this winter. I keep hoping for spring to show it's messy, wet, mucky self but it seems to be rather shy this year. Try as I might, I cannot coax it from winter's grasp. I begin to feel this way every year, but lately my desire for warmer weather seems particularly huge. This winter has been a tough one by bringing a never ending onslaught of frustration for us. Seemingly non-stop colds and flus piled on top of a teething, non-sleeping toddler mixed in with breaking appliances, cars, roofs, ceilings, phones, and wallets all rolled into a cluster cuss of bad luck. I was also handed my first ever traffic ticket, which I will say on record was complete BS and I did not actually violate any road rules. Non-the-less I still got the ticket. Having a toddler that needs to run and play outside and who easily becomes stir crazy doesn't help much either. We just want to be able to go outside without the mitts, the jacket, the tuque, the boots, the icy sidewalks and piles of snow that have taken up all the space everywhere. Its time for grass and sun and picnics and parks and evening drinks outside with friends and family.

The snow is making us all crazy!

But we are doing our best to make the most of it!

The past months have been weighing heavily on both my mind and body. I have fallen into the terrible circular habits of poor eating and little exercise that cause me to feel sluggish and put my mind into an unhealthy state. I decided that I needed a change. I needed to jump-start my body and my spirit out of this slump and ready myself for the spring. I need to un-fog my mind and re-discover the beauty in the calm, the simplicity, the humor, the frustrations, the happiness, the crazy that is everyday life.

One week ago today I challenged myself to do a minimum of 30 yoga classes in 30 days. I have practiced yoga on and off for about 8 years and through that time I have found that my yoga passion lies in Moksha. For those who don't know, Moksha yoga is practiced in a room kept at about 40 degrees Celsius and fairly high humidity. It is definitely not everyone's cup of tea but I love it. I love the heat and I love the sweat! When I leave each class I can literally wring the sweat from my clothes, and as grossed out as you probably are right now, it makes me smile every time. Sweating allows your body to rid itself of toxins that build up and are stored in your tissues. When I am sweating to the point of a steady stream flowing off the end of my nose I can't help but think of all the nasty stuff leaving my body and it makes me feel great. I find the heat makes the practice much more challenging and because of this my mind has no option but to focus on the task at hand. For the hour or hour and a half of each practice my mind is shut off from the outside world. I don't think about my day or what I am going to make for dinner or when I am going to have time to finish this project or that, or anything else. I just am. I am able to be solely in the moment and this is so rejuvenating. All my thoughts melt away and the constant background chatter of my mind dissolves into nothing.


Aida's version of Downward Facing Dog


Yoga feeds both my mind and body. By allowing my thoughts to turn inward and focus only on my breath and the postures, I come away feeling rested, calm and in good spirits. The physical aspects of  yoga stretch and strengthen my muscles while detoxifying my body. Since having Aida I have discovered muscles I didn't know I had and discomforts I had never experienced before. The physical toll your body can take simply from nursing a child really blows my mind. I have neck and back issues I have never had to deal with before. And try as I might to carry my daughter evenly with my left and right side I still become unaligned and muscles on one side become tighter than the other. Yoga has REALLY helped me begin to correct these problems and I feel better and better with each class.

Also, for all those mamas-to-be out there, Yoga is a fantastic way to stay comfortable and healthy throughout your pregnancy. Many women begin to experience discomfort and pain at some point in their pregnancy. Often, this discomfort is caused by the much needed hormone called Relaxin that begins to course through your body almost immediately following conception. This hormone functions to soften the joints that will need to stretch and alter for delivery. Unfortunately, Relaxin doesn't specifically target the pelvic area and many women experience lose joints all over their body which, as you can imagine, can become quite uncomfortable and even painful. I personally began to feel the effects of this hormone almost immediately. My hips and pubic bone got more and more painful throughout each day. I started taking prenatal yoga when I was just 8 weeks pregnant and continued until just days before Aida was born. I also regularly visited a chiropractor who specialized in pregnancy. The combination of these two things kept me extremely comfortable and pain-free through my entire pregnancy. As soon as I began yoga and chiropractic care, I felt completely normal. No pain, no achy joints, no stiffness, nothing. I had the best pregnancy one could ask for and I attribute much of that to the yoga that kept me strong to balance my lose joints and opened my pelvis with ease and control.

So, the challenge. I will do my absolute best to attend at least 30 yoga classes in 30 days. It has been exactly one week that I began my challenge and so far (by the end of today) I will have done 10 classes in 7 days! Big thanks to my hubby for encouraging me to do this and taking on more so I can take this time to care for myself!   

I will let you know how things are going as I progress through this month. Wish me luck!



    



   

The Mama's Story of My Very First Birth

One of the most amazing birth experiences I have had as a doula was my very first one. I was so incredibly honoured to be invited into this birth. I was ecstatic that I was going to be able to work alongside a midwife, for in my mind, they are truly magical beings. When I first spoke to Sila on the phone I was nervous that she might not want me present since it would be my first birth, but instead she welcomed me and wanted to help me learn and gain experience. Also, purely by chance, the doula whom I ended up working alongside was the very one who guided me through my birth with Aida. That alone was very special to me.
It was a long but incredibly beautiful birth. I surprised myself at how calm and not nervous I was. It felt completely natural to me, like I was exactly where I belong - next to a powerful labouring mama. I loved every minute of it. Sila is a woman with such strength and beauty, inside and out, and was nothing less than wonderful to be with. We spent a lot of time chatting and laughing and bonding and when it came to the more difficult parts of her labour we worked so well together. I could feel the absolute trust she had in me and it fed my drive to do everything I could to help her have the beautiful birth she wanted and deserved. 
I witnessed for the first time the birth of a tiny, gorgeous human being and I was filled with such happiness for the mom and her new baby that I could not contain my tears. The emergence of this new baby triggered a rush of so many emotions in me along with the memories of my own birth and I was so thankful to feel these again. It was nothing short of amazing. I will forever be great full to this mama for the wonderful birth I ended up experiencing by her side.
Sila, who is back home in Kenya, sent me her birth story to share with you all. I hope you enjoy reading it! Thank you Sila for sharing with me and those who read this blog and thank you again for being an all around wonderful woman.  
   


"When I was in my early 20’s I remember wondering if a magic genie came to me and said I could only have one thing in my life but not both – a true love or to be a mother – which would I choose. In my head I always chose to be a mother. If I couldn't have both then that was the one I’d choose. In 2011, I was pregnant at 31 and in a troubled relationship. I was advised, "You need a doula to be with you through it!" and yes, you guessed it I googled it first and later decided I did need a doula! After asking my friends about doula services in Winnipeg, a friend recommended her friend friends' wife, who happened to be Bree. I later learnt that it would be her first birth! As a new mum-to-be, I was a little bit apprehensive but if there is something you will learn about Bree is that she can calm a storm. We met shortly after I reached out to Bree and she explained the package she will be providing me - but since she was still in training she will be shadowing a certified doula. I registered for a pro-bono doula with another well known doula service in Winnipeg. Bree was a great support for me 3 months leading to my birth. And when Barbara Harper was in town for a talk on water births - we made a date to attend the event. She kept me informed and also advised me on what/how I should prepare. The fact that Bree was a mother too made her a good birthing 'companion' for me. We talked about how I felt, how to improve my energy levels (I was pretty tired) and how I was coping with everything. 

On Nov 21st I started laboring at 4:30am and my midwife confirmed that I was indeed going to have my baby today. I called my doula's Jessica and Bree - Bree was to shadow another certified doula for her practicum to be validated. Bree was the first to arrive by my side and she brought me some homemade pasta sauce and a pack of sanitary towel that remained from her last birth. Bree kept me distracted from the pain as I crotchet my baby a sweater in between my contraction. Bree truly felt like a sister at that moment. At 9pm (yes, 17 hours later) my midwife suggested we go to the hospital since I was 6cm dilated.  Bree checked my bag to confirm I carried everything and helped me finish my packing. We arrived the hospital and thank fully I got my own huge room. I got settled in as my bath was prepared. Bree excused herself to pump milk for her daughter and I remember she had mentioned that she often pumps at work as well. Now, I had never heard the weird sound of a breast pump before and when she started pumping, I thought it was the funniest thing I have heard ever! Of course it wasn't so funny after I started pumping but at that time I laughed so hard I teared up. It was hilarious! 
After Midnight, my pain intensified and Bree stepped-up and made sure I was breathing right and when the pressure was too much for me, she walked me though techniques to ease the pressure. At 7:25am I was ready to push -- Bree was there to cheer me on as she snapped pictures from her phone. The photos she took are the only once I have of Mariela's birth. Pictures that I shared with my family who were back home in Kenya. Mariela was born at 7:45am on November 22nd 2011 and I asked Bree to cut the umbilical cord. 
Bree was my star during my 25 hour labour. One thing that I love about Bree is that she loves what she does as a doula and because she is so passionate about her work, she is also so great at it too! I remember my midwife telling Bree that she will make an incredible midwife some day. She is just not a doula, she is a phenomenal doula. 
Thank you Bree."


Thank you again Sila! And thanks to you all for taking the time to visit my blog. 
Have a great day!

Interview

I was recently interviewed about being a doula by Jennifer for her blog, Regular Everyday People. Her blog is one of inspiration. The entire concept of her blog is captured perfectly in her tag line "Finding magic in ordinary life, because that's where it is." You should take a bit of time, grab yourself a cup of coffee and dig in to the richness of the everyday people she interviews. It's worth it, I promise. At least read my interview:) Enjoy!



"The concept of a 'due' date is something that is very abstract in many cultures. If, like in Uganda, you count a pregnancy by the moons, you end up having a 'due month' and baby comes when she is perfectly ripe without causing mama lots of anxiety."

"The very talented artist who created this beautiful illustration is Itaiana Battoni - Desenho Artístico."





















I saw this on the Mother Health International Facebook page today and think it is such a great message. We are not supposed to be the ones deciding when it is time for baby to be born. Our society needs to re-learn patience and realize that the baby will begin the process of birth when they are ready. It is so incredibly rare that this natural process will not happen on it's own, and it breaks my heart every time I see or hear about unnecessary interventions that try to force a woman's body into labour. 

Here's to patience! You're going to need it as a parent anyways...you might as well practice it before you become one.

One Powerful Mama

A while back I attended the birth of a friend of mine who was having her second baby. It was an amazing experience for me. I felt so completely honoured to be present during this beautiful and fast birth. It was a home birth, a first for me. It was such a wonderful and relaxed setting. Surrounded by all the people she wanted, in the place she felt most warm, secure and comfortable, Heather laboured like a champ! It was fast, very fast. I was there less than an hour before she birthed her beautiful baby girl. But a crazy hour it was! Everything happened so fast. I new her first was a fairly quick labour and that this was going to be even faster, but I was even shocked at how quickly things were moving. The way Heather laboured was completely inspiring! She is so incredibly powerful and makes it look so easy.

Heather's photographer was not able to make it in time for the birth so I tried my best to fill both roles: the doula and the photographer. I am by NO accounts a professional photographer but I tried to capture this amazing event as best I could. It was a challenge to go from taking pictures to massaging to pictures to climbing over furniture to providing counter pressure to pictures to assisting getting in and out of the tub to pictures and all over again, but such a FUN challenge! You can read Heather's birth story here and see some of the pictures I took during her labour (she created a very nice slideshow at the end of the post). While your at it, check out the rest of this mama's great blog, careful tho, you might just lose a few hours of your day getting lost in all its inspiring glory.

Since Heather's birth I have had the great honour of being a doula for another wonderful friend of mine. Having these experiences has been too amazing to put into words. I have been witness to the birth of two children who will grow alongside my own daughter, who will pay together, learn together and journey through life together. I will know these souls from birth until forever and that fills me with such joy.   

Happy Tuesday to you all!

What Some Clients Had to Say

"As a first time Mom, I had so many questions. And when I found out I was having twins, I had double the questions! Bree-Ann was there to offer support, education and advice. She helped us solidify our birth wish list and while in the hospital she helped make sure our every wish was met. When changes from our original plan occurred she always made sure we knew why the changes were happening, what the changes meant, and that we were okay with what was happening. She was a solid support system for both my husband and myself and was there for anything we needed. She went above and beyond what I could have ever imagined a Doula doing and will forever hold a special place in our hearts."
— Lisa

"Being a Dad holds a lot of responsibility during the birthing process. Bree-Ann played a critical role during our labour allowing me to give my full attention to my wife. She was always able to answer any questions I had, explained procedures step-by-step and I always felt that I had someone who I could count on. I would easily recommend Bree-Ann to any Dad who wants to have a great support system during child birth."
— Mike