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.