Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Reese's 'Birth' Day

Reese’s ‘Birth’ Day….

I had a fleeting glimpse of what a ‘Doula’ meant when I was reading the famous “What to Expect When You Are Expecting” and thought that Doulas were not likely to be available to us in small cities such as Saskatoon (much less Rosetown, 115km outside of Saskatoon)! I thought the concept of a Doula would have been something I would have investigated further had I realized their availability to us sooner. Other mothers and fathers we knew had never mentioned a doula before, so that is why I assumed this would not be an option to celebrate the birth of our baby. I must say that there seems to be an incorrect perception that midwives and doulas are the same and are the old-fashioned way to celebrate your baby’s birth day –much like when health care was at a much lower standard and lower-tech. This could not be further from the truth and that is why I have chosen to share my husband’s and my experience in choosing to use Doula services!

Reese was due December 30, 2006 so my husband and I were attending the hospital orientation held at Royal University Hospital in early October. We were choosing to deliver Reese in Saskatoon due to my doctor being located in Saskatoon. It was here that we heard a brief presentation from Kari Hollingsworth discussing the role and benefits of doulas. It wasn’t until early December that we met with Lisa Wass and Ann Cook to fine-tune our Birth Plan. My philosophy for our baby’s birth was to have no medical interventions unless our baby’s life was compromised….this meant no epidural (or other medications for pain), vacuum, etc. There are many services doulas provide to help both mothers and fathers prepare for the birth of their child, but given that we enlisted Lisa and Ann’s services so late in my pregnancy, they were primarily available to assist with the actual ‘birth’ day. This meant reviewing considerations we hadn’t thought of as related to our Birth Plan, helping us with how to practice various breathing and massage techniques, a few different exercises for mom to practice, and even some herbs that I could try to induce labour naturally if I felt necessary (rather than being induced at the hospital).

Since this was our first child, my husband and I wanted to have some assistance for the delivery of our precious gift!! Our hope was for a safe and healthy delivery of our baby –one that both of us could participate in. Well…..on January 7th my contractions came with a vengeance, beginning at 11:45AM. It was like a light switch had been flipped! I had thought something was ‘up’ the previous night, and had called our doula to discuss what I had been feeling. Under her advice, I tried to rest as much as I could, thinking that I could be going into labour. My husband and I decided to make the drive into Saskatoon to have our baby delivered there (even though Ann and d Lisa would have come out to the hospital in Rosetown). When we arrived just after 1PM, Lisa met us at the emergency door for RUH and had even taken the liberty of saving my husband a parking spot!! --That is certainly going the extra mile! J

Upon assessing me, the doctor on call found that I was fully dilated…so up I went to the birthing unit, expecting my baby to be born very quickly! Ann and Lisa were great at involving my husband in my labour: they guided my husband as to what to do be it various position changes, massage, positive reinforcement to encourage me….soon (that means after five hours or labour), our son, Reese was born! I was fortunate that we didn’t require any interventions (episiotomy, vacuum, epidural, etc) other than the doctor suggesting he break my water as he thought this was holding the deliver of my baby. He was right! Within 20 minutes of him breaking my water, my son was born!

Typically, pregnancy and birth related health care facilities, classes, and books are tailored exclusively to the needs of the mother-to-be. Lisa and Ann’s practice was to include both the mother and father. We found our doulas attentive to our needs, plans, wishes, worries, and concerns regarding labor, birth, and transition to parenting our new baby. My husband was encouraged to be as involved as he wanted: from simply holding my hand to coaching me through each contraction. I concentrated on the labor, while my husband concentrated on supporting me. Ann and Lisa took care of everything else (being familiar with the process and terminology of birth to understanding hospital protocols while at the same time being and advocate for what we hoped our ‘birth’ day to be). They seemed to know what we needed before we did.

Overall, by my husband and I using doulas for the birth of our son definitely helped nurture and protect this intimate and life-changing event for our family! My husband and I felt that he was a better participant during the labour and delivery process as a result of Ann and Lisa’s doula services. Both he and I were much more prepared, confident, and…dare I say it….relaxed about the delivery of our precious son!

Tammy, Geoff & Reese

Monday, June 12, 2006

Pregnant women dance way to smooth delivery

Sarah MacDonald, The StarPhoenixPublished: Monday, June 12, 2006

Six women in varying stages of pregnancy move across a dance floor, their bodies swaying and arms floating in time with the music.
Their movements, which include elements of belly dance, African dance and yoga, are designed to strengthen their bodies for delivery of their babies. The exercise also helps position the babies for birth and increases the flow of oxygen to the womb.
Once a week, these women dance together and prepare for their deliveries. They are led by two Saskatoon doulas, Kari Hollingsworth and Lisa Wass.
"We teach an eclectic mix of exercises to prepare women physically for birth," Wass said.
The classes have themes such as trust and fear, Hollingsworth said.
"We also work on emotional things," she added.
As well as teaching prenatal dance, the doulas discuss specific elements of birth and teach the women how to ease labour with the help of massage, exercises, and mental focus.
The word "doula" is Greek and means "women helping women." Now it's used to refer to women who help women or couples with birth, primarily with physical and emotional support, Hollingsworth said.
Hollingsworth and Wass each assist with two births a month, and the demand for their services is rising.
"We are there representing (the women's) interests. The health-care system is there to provide care but they have to be careful of their own policies and litigation possibilities," Wass said.
They massage the women, keep them comfortable, calm them down or encourage them, let them scream or provide them with silence.
Hollingsworth was motivated to become a doula because her own birthing experiences weren't all she'd hoped they would be.
"It's one of the most intimidating, vulnerable things you can ever do. People will either come out of childbirth feeling empowered and strong and good about themselves, or they'll come out feeling . . . quite taken advantage of, saying 'I didn't know that's what it was going to be like' and afraid to have another baby," Hollingsworth said. "We're there to hold hands with you."
Doulas provide one-on-one service for women. Hollingsworth and Wass are by the women's sides for the entire labour, sometimes for as long as 40 hours. They said it's important for women to own their births and feel good about them from the first stages of pregnancy to after the delivery. They want to ensure that each birth is a positive experience.
Hollingsworth and Wass also help the women's support people.
For men, the thought of having a doula may be intimidating, but doulas don't replace the role of the fathers during birth. Rather, they provide them with support, too, and help them assist their partners.
"The first thing we tell the dads is . . . we're going to teach you how to coach a sport you've never seen and you will never play. And then they laugh and the wall comes down," Wass explained.
Carmen Hesje searched for a doula and found Hollingsworth as well as the dance class.
"I'm really focused on having a good positive birth experience with less pressure on my husband," said Hesje, her hand resting on her swollen belly.
"It's kind of a different mindset. You're the mom and you're in control."
At the end of the class, a former student, Kathy Donnelly, came in with her new twin girls. Wass was Donnelly's doula.
"I highly recommend it. You have someone that is solely there for you, focused only on you. You've got somebody who knows what birth is all about," Donnelly said.

© The StarPhoenix (Saskatoon) 2006

Sunday, June 11, 2006

'gentle birth choices' video review

length: 57 minutes
produced by: Barbara Harper, RN
rating (1-10): 8
Availability: Saskatoon Public Library,

summary: different kinds of birth in different settings; circumcision discussion; commentary by two prominent experts in childbirth (marsden wagner and michel odent); displayed VBAC, posterior labour, children at birth, older mother, waterbirth, homebirth, birth center birth, husbands at birth

highlights: a very empowering VBAC; comfort measures for posterior labor (especially the support); rescucitation efforts were amazingly calm and reassuring, nobody was ever worried, not even the parents

weak points: cut-off of sound at pushing stage is very misleading

primary educational value: different positions; power in being upright; comfort measures; children at birth; VBAC at home; environmental differences in hospital birth

increased my interest in: VBAC, children at birth, older mothers, waterbirth

I would recommend this video to: nurses, CNMs, physicians, labor assistants, parents, childbirth educators, doulas, aspiring midwives, and grandparents

The companion Book now comes with the DVD. - A good deal!
Pic#1: We are on the BALL! Pic#2 : Resting between the waves........

Doula moments to cherish...

Having Doulas attend Saskia's birth was a last minute decison. What a joy! Here are some pic's to share of Kari and I with the family. Used with permission of course!


A Doula in Action


Lisa, Kari asked me to send some pictures of "a doula in action."

We also wanted to thank you for your part. It was a nice team effort. It is nice to see that you and Kari can work like is comforting to know that you can leave your clients in good hand. Hope these work out.

Take care.

A birth Story to share....

This is a story I have been given permission to share. Debbie came to take our Labour Intensive and movement classes at Birth Rhythm.

Birth Story of Melissa Rose (in detail - for the ladies only!!)

Melissa was due on Feb 25, 2006. She, however, had her own ideas aboutwhen her birthday would be and gave no hints whatsoever about herimpending arrival. In my opinion, I was having zero contractions, not even Braxton Hicks, just an occasional pain in my lower abdomen that would last maybe 15 seconds and only occured a couple of times per day. It was nothing, just a twinge, really. I tried my best to be patient and let her decide her own time. I did have an acupuncture appointmenton the 27th, and considered a few of the other alternatives, but settled for simply walking and getting out of the house a few times to visit coworkers and friends at the curling rink.

All of the activity seemed to have no effect on inducing labour, but I knew something must be going on as I started to lose my mucous plug on March 1. Nothing too dramatic, but enough to give me hope that the babywould be coming - someday! Still no contractions, so imagine mycomplete surprise when my water broke . . . while I was lying on my side napping on the couch 'watching' a curling game on television! I haven't moved that fast in many, many months as I dashed to the bathroom; I was shocked at how much liquid was simply gushing forth from me, and I had to change my pants twice before I was ready to go out of the house.

I did not want to go into the hospital as I knew they would not release me, and I was convinced I was not in labour, plus I very much wanted to labour at home as long as I could this time. So much for that plan though! My water broke at about 3pm, Scott got home shortly after 4pm, his mom had come over to be with me in the in between time and she would be looking after arranging care for Amy and Kari. We went in to the hospital and got admitted around 5pm. They hooked me upto the monitors and baby was happy with a heartbeat varying between 130and 150bpm.

I was apparently having contractions after all, so said the machine, but I honestly was unaware. The nurse figured that was OK -why would a person need to feel all of them?! I was only 3cm dilated so pacing the hallways we went. My doctor came and checked me at about 6pm,and made arrangments to have my labour augmented (the drip!) as soon as there was room in the delivery ward. At that point I also elected to get the epidural if I was going to have medicine to increase the contractions. The nurses thought the move to the delivery ward might happen around 7:30, so Scott and I had some supper and waited, and I finally felt some contractions, and I breathed through them, and then they started getting worse, and 7:30 came and went and 8:30 came and went and I was really having some hard contractions and no one had checked me since 6- so I sent Scott to find a nurse and find out when Imight be moved and when I could get an epidural. Luckily, they were just on their way to find me - they had sent a lady home from the delivery room to make room for me!

Apparently she had been induced and it wasn't working. How disappointing to get sent home fromthe delivery ward! Shortly after 9pm I was in my birthing room and the 'epidural man' was on his way. Unfortunately, I was in a lot of pain and could hardly wait for him to get in to do the '5 minute procedure'. The nurse tried to get my IV started - no luck, my vein collapsed. So the 'epidural man' came in and tried too - no luck, I started bleeding fromthe needle site in my hand. Ouch. On to the other hand, luck was with us that time, as he located a good vein in my arm.Then to lean over the table and arch my back as the contractions were coming one top of the other and 'don't move' and 'breathe slowly' and I was sweating and then I was nauseous and everyone had to wait while I retched into the metal bowl, epidural procedure only halfway done. Icould FEEL the catheter sliding up my spine, it was most unpleasant. Iwas shaking and crying (can anyone here recognize transition? LOL) and then had to roll on my back for the epidural medicine. Oops, the nursehad accidentally thrown it out. So we had to wait while he got more. Then, a check to see if the epi was in the right place came back -negative - blood in the syringe.

At this point, the 'epidural man' commented that this made him 'not very happy'. If I had not been in the middle of a contraction at that very moment, I would have commiserated that I too was 'not very happy'! So I had to sit up and over the table again as they tugged the catheter down a little bit. And lying down onthe bed again I whimpered and said "Hey, guys I gotta PUSH". The 'epidural man' seemed shocked but the nurse was right on top of it (and later apologized as she suspected I was in transition as soon as I felt pukey) and checked and sure enough I was fully dilated.

There was a bit of a commotion as they tracked down my doctor (already on his way) andthe 'epidural man' gave me a big shot of painkiller - it maybe took the edge off the last three contractions before I had to push, but they were still painful. He figured that I must be feeling better because I triedto make a joke in between contractions right at the end. I tell ya, the delivery room is tough crowd. I could hear this beeping noise from somewhere so I piped up "what, am I backing up now?". It took them amoment to 'get' the joke, but then they were all laughing and saying'good one!'. Hmmmm, they never did say what that beeping noise wasthough . . .

...Pushing lasted maybe 15 to 20 minutes, and was very intense. The epidural (if it was indeed working) did not touch a hint of the pain of delivery. Melissa was born with the cord wrapped around her neck so tightly that the doctor had to cut it immediately as he could not loop it over herhead. Again, so much for the whole 'when should the cord be cut' decision, it quickly became no decision at all!

She had very good APGARscores though, of 8 and 9. Healthy little girl, reasonably healthy Mommy at the time of delivery. She was born at 10:37pm and by the time the stitching was completed it was around 11:30. I breastfed Melissa, had a shower, and we went to our room. This is the only delivery I have felt well enough to stand andhave a shower afterwards, what a treat. I sent Scott home and Melissa didn't wake for another feed until 5am. Bonus! Unfortunately, I was feeling lousy, and the nurses were concerned becauseI was bleeding 'more than they would have liked'.

The next day my doctorwas also concerned, enough that he wanted to take a look - with my legsin stirrups and with a speculum!!!!! I shuddered and thought I was goingto cry. I have second degree tears and many, many stitches. A speculum?! OH my gosh, shoot me first. And, if he couldn't see anything with the speculum, it would be straight to the Operating Room and a spinal anesthetic to see what was causing the bleeding. In my mind I was thinking 'can I get the spinal for that darn speculum thing?' but Ididn't say it outloud as I was trying to focus on just being brave andgoing through with the procedure.

Scott was there and the girls were there, it was probably good because I knew it would be upsetting to them if they saw Mommy cry and then leave with the doctor. As I made my way out of my room to the dreaded stirrups and speculum Iasked to go pee. Wish granted. All of a sudden an enormous clot (likethe size of one of Amy's shoes!) fell out. EWWWW! However, it was this event that prevented the whole speculum ordeal, as both the nurse andthe doctor felt that this was the cause of the bleeding. THANK GOD.!!!!

So far, she has been a very sleepy baby which means I get to be a very sleepy mommy if I choose to be! I'm still moving pretty slowly around the house, but I am eager to get out and show off Melissa and book myself some 'me' time and get a full body massage. My staff got me a gift certificate for a spa, and I DO intend to use it soon.

Lots of love, thanks for all the well wishes.

Debbie and Melissa


I realized after I thought the birth story was complete that I had forgotten Melissa's stats! She was 8lb, 1oz, 21 inches long, barely anyhair, and all fingers, toes, ears, and other assorted appendagesaccounted for.

I also thought you might be interested to know if I used any of the learnings from class - I did!

I spent some time during the rest of my pregnancy on my big purple ball rolling around as I typed on the computer and discovered that it felt really good. As I was waiting for labour to begin, I reminded myself time and time again, that my bodyknew what it was doing, and I didn't need to 'help' it. I did 'figure8' belly dancing through some of the early contractions and when my lower back was sore. When labour was strong, and in particular as I was going through transition and an epidural installation at the same time, I focused on the (inhale) slooooowwwwwwww (exhale) dooooowwwwwwnnnnnnbreathing technique. It really helped to focus. My relaxation times were not all that relaxing due to the epidural stuff, and I found that instead of my 10 focus words to relax, I used 3 of them as a mantra to get me through some of the other contractions "patience, perseverence,and giggles'. It was the only three I could remember from the wholelist, in fact!

I had high hopes that I would be able to labour at home for as long as Icould, but that was not to be. I was undecided about the whole cordcutting timing procedure and that was not to be my decision anyway either!Perhaps the best thing I learned from the birthwise course was to trust myself, and the knowledge that I have, both from cognitive learning and research as well as the intrinsic spiritual knowledge that lives in eachof us if we just choose to listen to it and trust it as well. It was a challenge at times of "oh my god, this really hurts I don't want to do this anymore" followed by "ok, relax, slooooowww dooowwwwwn, relax your jaw, breathe, imagine the birth, where is the baby, make room for baby,this is the way, you can do it"

I imagine most of my fellow participants of the course have also hadtheir babies as well, I hope they were all healthy deliveries. I have pictures of Melissa, but they are on my digital camera and our computer is unhealthy at the moment and I can't get the pictures off. I'll seewhat I can do to get you one though!


Natural Birth cannot be under our control, It is simply something to which we surrender ourselves

I want to share with you an excerpt from another website that I found interesting. It comes from Shiela Stubbs. I am posting it because I think she makes some wonderful points about the purpose of our work in labour and the resulting joy. She is a Christian. Wherever your faith lies, this is worth reading....

The Passion of Childbirth:

When I saw Mel Gibson's movie “The Passion of The Christ,” a thought occurred to me that I had never considered before. When Jesus promised the criminal on the cross beside him, “Today you will be with me in Paradise,” I realized that He was telling the suffering man beside him they would soon meet in a place that Jesus already knew well. Jesus had been to Paradise. Jesus not only knew what Paradise was like, but that it was worth torture to get there! They would be together and it would be wonderful! Just wait and see! Jesus could have put a stop to His suffering at anytime, yet he went through it because he loves us somuch. He did it so we – so I – could be with him inParadise! Being a woman and a natural birth advocate, I thought of the pain of a woman suffering through childbirth. In a similar way, I am willing to suffering through childbirth for my baby. Before he is even born, I love my child and want so much for him to be with me. Labor may seem like torture at the time, but that same day, I know will have my child in my arms. We will be together and it will be wonderful! Our relationship will be fuller and richer when we see each other face to face. Compared to what Christ went through to welcome me home, a few hours of labor is NOTHING! Eternity will be a rich, full life when we see Christ face to face. One woman described her last few days of pregnancy,with intermittent contractions keeping her from rest like this: “You know that part of you that wants to cry for mommy when you stub your toe? That part of me is crying right now, saying that God really hates me. This seems so unfair. I'm losing it, and it's a scaryfeeling.”

Mark 15:34 - My God, My God! Why have you forsaken me?

Another woman planning a VBAC at home described her fear too:“I'm just scared! All the other stuff that I fear nowand then, like losing the baby isn't really the bigdeal. I just am afraid of the pain. When my body takes over, I can't turn it off, and theintensity of feeling a baby move down through yourbutt is just incredible and you can't do one stinkin'thing about it.”

Jeremiah 4:31 – I hear a cry as of a woman in labor, a groan as of one bearing her first child – the cry ofthe Daughter of Zion gasping for breath, stretchingout her hands and saying, “Alas! I am fainting; mylife is given over to murderers.”

Another writer who describes herself as very a earth-centered, pagan woman said, "I truly wondered if I was crazy for [having the baby at home]. I think it was the sheer enormity of the experience: ....That raging power and those relentless contractions are not in our control.

"John 16:21 – A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that achild is born into the world.

There’s a verse in the bible about childbirth that I’ve always wondered about. Especially since becoming a mother, I've wondered what it means :1Timothy 2:14, 15 – And Adam was not the one deceived;it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner.But women will be saved through childbearing – if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety. Now I am beginning to wonder if perhaps the verse refers to the Passion of our suffering through childbearing: that we willingly sacrifice our own bodies for the love of ourchildren. We take up our cross and lay down our livesto give them life, submitting to the pain, allowing it to happen, even to the point of having our bellies pierced with the sword (cesarean section). Adam was not deceived. He sinned, knowing it was sinful. The woman was deceived. I was deceived. I trusted the wrong people. I didn't trust God, who created childbirth. Isaiah 66:9 :Shall I bring to the time of birth, and not cause delivery?" says the Lord. "Shall I who cause delivery shut up the womb?" says your God. Childbearing gives us an opportunity to experience but a tiny portion of the suffering of Christ on our behalf. It gives us the opportunity to understand Christ’s willingness to endure suffering for the life of another person, a person we already know and love even before they know us. We do it so they might have life, together with us. Natural birth cannot be under our control, it is simply something to which we surrender ourselves.

Further thoughts:
It is very difficult for us to fathom the endless love of God. Love is one thing that never runs out. The more love you give away, the more you have to give.Through bearing children God again offers women a unique glimpse into his everlasting love. Besides love itself, something else appears in a mother that never runs out: her milk. The more she gives and gives of her milk, the more milk she will have. In our world, products we create are used up, depleting our supplies, but God's love is abundant and everlasting."That you may nurse and be satisfied with her comforting breasts, That you may suck and be delighted with her bountiful bosom." -Isaiah 66:11Don't be deceived by those who tell us to limit that which God has provided so abundantly.

Our next book in the Childbirth reading room is Birthing the Easy Way, By Sheila Stubbs. Check it out!