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May is…

May is International Doula month… Have you hired a doula?
I could write about all the amazing experiences, relationships and opportunities being a doula has provided me…but there is something on my mind that is bigger than all of that.
I’ve been thinking about my role in the birth room.  I have many ideas about the paradigm shift that needs to happen in order for women to take back their births (this implying that their power is being taken away) but what I have come to discover is that no shift is going to happen until women ACKNOWLEDGE that current birth trends aren’t acceptable.
As a doula I can choose to highlight all the unnecessary interventions, the increasing c-section rate, the lack of women centred support, OR I can analyze MY role, think about what I am doing to make woman centred care a reality for each of my clients.  If you hire a doula what are your expectations of her?  Do you think hiring a doula will lead to an empowered birth experience?  Do you think hiring a doula will prevent you from experiencing birth trauma?  Do you think hiring a doula will keep you out of the OR?  I’m sorry to say, if you answered yes to any of these questions you have unrealistic expectations of the role of a doula.  No doula can promise any of these things…what I can promise is that I will never doubt your capability, I will support you and your partner through the highs and lows of labour in a way that keeps you at the centre of your birth.  I will whisper words of encouragement at just the right moment…and I’ll know when that is just by looking into your eyes and remembering what it feels like to be in your shoes.  My doula work isn’t about giving you or promising you anything but understanding &love.  It’s all a doula needs in her birth bag.
So who do you hire to meet these expectations?  Women of  Earth hear my words singing from the mountain tops of the Elk Valley…YOU HIRE YOURSELF!  There is a powerful candidate ready, willing and waiting to shine, you have to trust her to do the job.  You can doubt her occasionally, but the majority of the time you have to believe she will succeed.  The only person who can claim responsibility for woman centred birth is you.  It’s your birth…own it.

May is many other things too.

On the 5th of May from the comfort of my bed I celebrated International Day of the Midwife while fighting the symptoms of strep throat…now that’s a bug!

I had big dreams of taking my boys to Cranbrook to celebrate.  The East Kootenay Midwives were celebrating the day by hosting a 5km Walk to Durban. ‘Midwives walking together to save lives’  The walk was to raise awareness regarding maternal and newborn health, a topic that will no doubt be prevalent at the International Confederation of Midwives 29th triennial congress in Durban South Africa.

My vision was to make big signs for my sons to carry high above their heads:

I wanted to be there…but instead I was in bed feeling sorry for myself.  I was there, marching alongside my midwives, in spirit.  But…the reality is I celebrate midwifery everyday.  Whenever I have the opportunity I ask women if they have a midwife…and a doula! In my rural BC town there is a big problem with our maternity services.  It’s not a people problem, I am confident in the women who catch babies in Fernie…it’s more a ‘system’ problem.  The way I see it Interior Health doesn’t understand the impact that having no other choice but to leave your community to give birth has on the mental health of an expectant mother!  Dare I mention the impact on the birth process itself?  With the Operating Room at Elk Valley Hospital closed every other weekend AND an entire month over the summer I think it’s fair to say you have a thirty percent chance of making the trip to Cranbrook to have your baby.  Cranbrook…an amazing facility with no continuity of care except the chart your physician has noted your medical history, and hopefully a few of the desires for your birth plan.  So let me repeat myself…do you have a doula?  She knows your desires, and she’ll be at your birth no matter where it takes place.  Oh and did I mention the closest midwifery practice happens to be IN Cranbrook?  So why not be one hundred percent sure of your birth plan? Choose midwifery care, give birth in Cranbrook, and come home without having possibly endured all the unexpected events that rural maternity care seem to impede us with.

May is also mother’s day, and…


I could choose to write about what becoming a mother has meant in my life, I gave birth to my youngest son on May 10th 2008.  The next day was Mother’s day, and that same year eight days later another woman gave birth to her son…but this May also marks one year since two mother’s I was working with lost their babies only one week a part.   Their birthdays were May 18th and May 24th.  There is a strange coincidence about the date May 18th.  I use to be a strong believer in manifestation of the negative.  So I simply chose not to discuss unexpected outcomes with women I was working with prenatally. But then I read a birth story that made me re-think this philosophy, and connect with the part of me that is a conscious mama who knows…when my children are not with me I subconsciously worry.  There is a place in my heart that throbs to know they are safe.  It doesn’t consume my every thought or direct my every action, but it is there.  Every mother endures this, some mothers cope better than others in the realm of subconscious worries.  The reality is we know that within our children there is a spirit we have no control of.  I think this same level of consciousness should be present in women who are with child.  Don’t worry about the possibility of stillbirth, or complications, but respect that the spirit within you is not yours to claim.  You can try to protect it, but you cannot claim it. So what do you do?  You cherish every moment.  This is the essence of motherhood…soaking in the butterflies, hiccups, kicks, cries, laughs, tantrums, milestones hello’s and goodbyes.  It’s only the moments you can claim as your own.  The story I read that made me think long and hard about what I just said was written in Midwifery Today Spring 2009 N0. 89  by a midwife named Darjee Sahala.  I couldn’t find a link to the story, but there is a tragically beautiful slideshow that brings life to her words…BRONA
It was her words, Brona’s mother, who made me get my hands on everything I could on the subject of still birth and how to support families through their grief.  It was her words that made me think hard about my own mother, who adopted me after losing two sons. Two- Charles & Andrew Malcolm. I finally asked her to tell me those stories. I hung off her every word…she felt all of the same things that Darjee felt…only decades before. Maybe I would never have asked…maybe I would never have imagined the injustice…My mother…birthing two angels. But I did ask, I did imagine…all because of Brona born an angel May 18th 2008… Little did I know I would use all this information…feel and try and cope with all the grief…precisely two years later.