What Did Your Doula Do For You?

Giving Birth with Confidence has launched a blog carnival focusing on doulas! I’m psyched about this, because I love doulas, and this is why. It’s an older post, but it still is really the best way I can express what my doula did for me, and why I am such a huge believer in this kind of labour support.

Like Cara at Giving Birth With Confidence, Ialso want to shout, “Every woman deserves a doula!”  Doulas are awesome. And I’ve been learning a ton about how many different kinds of doulas there are over at The Radical Doula. I used to think it was just birth doulas and postpartum doulas, but I’ve discovered that there are full-spectrum doulas who attend women through a variety of experiences including pregnancy loss and termination, doulas who work with women in custody, and so many more who provide women with much-needed personalized support. 

So if you are pregnant or know someone who is pregnant, or going through a pregnancy-related experience and need support, consider finding a doula. If you can’t afford to hire one, there are often student doulas who are happy to provide services free of charge in order to gain needed experience. You can find a doula through DONA International among other professional organizations, or by asking your doctor, midwife or other birth professional.  If you’re local, ICAN Cowichan Valley keeps an up to date list of local birth and postpartum doulas, so comment here  if you need help finding the right support person for you.

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Read Donna’s Cancer Story

No one wants to think about a child dying, or to consider what it must be like to be a parent watching your child suffer and not being able to help.   I’ve struggled to find the right words to say to friends and family who have lost children–nothing is ever right, every word or phrase comes out like some God-awful platitude or cop-out or worse. I don’t know how people who have experienced this kind of loss even continue to breathe, day by day, let alone live full lives, but even saying this much somehow cheapens their experience:  who the hell cares what I can comprehend?  What difference does it make what I think in the face of their suffering? 

I don’t have any answers to those massive and not at all rhetorical questions.  But, reading Donna’s cancer story is helping me to think about them with more complexity.  The story is part of Mary Tyler Mom’s blog, and it has been serialized as 31 segments, each representing one month in this little girl’s cancer treatment.  It is intended to honour Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, and it is an opportunity to learn how a family copes with a child’s debilitating illness and what I can only characterize as the ultimate kind of devastation.  Nothing I say can possibly approach the power of Mary Tyler Mom’s own words, either in this interview or in the blog itself.  So I encourage you all to read it and share it.  As I read each day, I’m starting to understand that witnessing a child’s shortened life may be the best way to support the family that outlives her.  This story gives us all an opportunity to acknowledge that Donna was here, and that her life continues to matter.  From the small amount I know from my friends whose children have passed away far too soon, continuing to acknowledge their lives and deaths even when it is incredibly painful because it stirs up the worst fears in any parent’s heart seems to be one of the most important things any of us can do.

So, if you can–even more importantly, if you think you can’t–read Donna’s story.  It’s well worth the time and the sadness in ways I think will take a long time to fully understand.

New Fit 4 Two classes starting next week!

It’s that time of year again: new schools for both my kids (one in high school, one in kindergarten, OMG), and new classes for me to teach.  Next week I’m running two free trials for Fit 4 TwoStroller Fitness on Monday morning and Prenatal Fitness on Tuesday evening.  I love doing the free trials because they’re an opportunity to welcome new folks, show them what Fit 4 Two is all about and hopefully give them some take-home ideas for how to maintain or improve their fitness levels, and also to say “thank you” to repeat customers by giving them a little freebie before the new session begins in earnest.

This session is going to be a lot of fun.  We’ve had a beautiful August, and I’m really hoping the weather stays nice enough to keep Stroller Fitness outside!  In the event it doesn’t, however, we will use the gym at the community centre and do an indoor version of this mobile workout.  With any luck, we may be able to take parts of Prenatal Fitness outside, too, since it’s still light outside well into the evening.  I’m still working with some of the moms and babies who took my prenatal classes last fall.  Now I’m looking forward to seeing some new faces, and being even a small part of such an important time in women’s lives.  One of my favourite things to do as a fitness instructor is the relaxation segment that concludes every Prenatal Fitness class, where we take a few minutes to just be mindful of how we each feel at that moment, to focus without judgment on the transformations taking place in each of the women’s bodies, and to experiencing each moment fully without worrying about what came before or what we have to do next.  I like it because, let’s face it, we can all use some relaxation at the end of a long day, and because there is no better preparation for labour and birth than learning to accept and respect your body for what it is, what it can do, and what it needs in the moment.

In addition to Stroller and Prenatal Fitness, I’m also adding a new class format to the schedule this year, Tummies 4 Mommies, which I’m pretty excited about.  It’s a progressive series of classes that focus specifically on postpartum core rehabilitation. Participants will learn techniques for engaging and strengthening their core muscles from the inside out, and they’ll get handouts to take home so they can practice their technique on their own time (or not).  So many people spend so much time doing a million crunches to no avail (and actually with a potentially negative impact if they experienced diastasis recti during pregnancy or if they haven’t first strengthened their deeper core muscles):  I’m looking forward to working in a very focused way with women to help them activate the muscle groups that are really going to give them an integrated, effective approach to building a stable core, and help protect them from some of the problems that result from weak muscles in this area (can anyone say urinary incontinence? boo…). Core classes are also fun because they offer lots of opportunities to interact with the babies during the workout.  The babies are adorable, plus this takes the pressure off the moms to try and fit their exercise in between moments of fussiness as they can continue to snuggle, play or even nurse throughout a lot of the movements!  If you want to learn more about core conditioning during and after pregnancy, check out this month’s edition of Fit 4 Two’s newsletter, and remember that there are franchises operating all over western Canada, so there are lots of opportunties to join these classes. 🙂

Simple

It all really just comes down to this:

Stop pathologizing my body.

It’s the women that matter

The other day, after teaching an aerobics class, one of my regular participants stopped me to chat.  She’s in her early 60s, and has been taking class with me for a couple of years.  We got to talking, as we usually do, about pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding.  We were talking about why there are so many interventions in birth, why people choose not to breastfeed babies and why some people’s circumstances make breastfeeding virtually impossible.  We talked about things we have done, and things we’d like to do, to try to make things better. 

On the topic of breastfeeding, I said something about breastfeeding having so many benefits for children, it’s hard for me to understand why people without obstacles in the way choose not to do that for their babies.

She put her hand on my arm and said, “Yes, but it’s the women that matter.  The babies, too, of course, but honestly, I really care about the women.”  She then went on to talk about things like breastfeeding lowering the risk for breast cancer, helping the uterus contract back to non-pregnant size after birth, and so on.  She finished her comments by repeating, “I really care mostly about women.  It’s the women that matter.”

It’s the women that matter.

No apologies, no qualifications.  She wasn’t talking about ‘good mothering,’ or living up to this or that ideal, or observing a parenting trend.  She was talking about women, and her matter-of-fact belief in the central importance of our health and experiences.

We need more people like her.

Blizzards are GOOD!

Yes, I’m still scarce around these parts.  Still under deadline, brainpower maxed out, and unable to write a coherent blog post.  However, I am popping in to promote a good cause. I always love a good cause, and especially when it involves ice cream on a hot (okay, well, somewhat warm) day.

Although I’m generally not a fan of fast food establishments (I normally eschew them as the realization of pure evil), and I don’t think their periodic good deeds erase their overall destructive power (still with me?), Dairy Queen’s Miracle Treat Day is pretty cool.  Go get a Blizzard, and DQ gives $1 or more to your local Children’s Miracle Network Hospital.  I know enough people with sick kids and babies right now that this seems like a pretty timely (read:  urgent) cause.

I know, I’m a fitness instructor and I’m advocating ice cream. Stop the presses!  No, really:  occasional ice cream is part of a healthy lifestyle.  What’s not healthy is declaring war on entire food groups because you hate body fat.  I would normally recommend something a little less processed/mass-produced than DQ ice cream, but under the circumstances, I think we can all take one for the team, yes?

So, go get yourself a Blizzard and feel GOOD about it.  Or, if you must, you can skip the Blizzard and just cut your hospital a cheque.  But that’s not nearly as sort-of-not-really-subversive, nor is it as delicious.

 

Birth community and a little update

A while back I posted about wanting to generate a birth network here in the Cowichan Valley.  But the crazy few months that followed meant that that wish never got too much further than a blog post and a couple of discussions with friends.  So I was super excited when I was invited to join a circle of women at the new Matraea Centre in Duncan, called together by Sarah Juliusson of Island Mother, Dancing Star Birth, Birth Your Business, and other cool projects. Sarah took the initiative to bring a group of people whose work supports pregnant and birthing families for a Birthing from Within training for professionals and discussion about our local birth community. 

I was tired and rushed last night, and had had one of those days where it’s lucky I work mostly from home because other humans would not have appreciated my mood.  But I made it to Matraea nonetheless, and am so glad I did.  I already knew some of the women there including the midwives, and a postpartum doula (aka goddess) who founded the New Mom Centre, and I met some others whose services include pre and postnatal yoga, and prenatal dance and art.  It was amazing to be sitting in a room full of so much excitement–excitement about Matraea, excitement about building connections in this community, excitement about sharing a common enthusiasm for supporting women and families. 

It was exciting and also educational.  Sarah took us through an exercise designed to help us examine the way we listen and respond to women when they talk about pregnancy and birth.  We worked in pairs to practice not only reflective listening but also body language that shows our clients that we are ready to ‘meet them where they are.’  I took away the message that we need to really hear what women are saying, recognize the validity of their position, and work with them so that the choice they make is truly theirs and not an empty reflection of our values.  This process focuses not on the outcome–not on what a woman ultimately chooses to do–but on how she gets there.  Does she feel supported?  Does she feel confident?  Does she believe that she is the most important person in the equation?  Does she own her own pregnancy, birth, and body? 

Tomorrow I’m going to start going to one of Sarah’s Mama Renew groups.  I’m not sure I’ll be able to do the whole session; I may have a scheduling conflict, but I won’t know for a while.  So, in the meantime, I’m going and I’m really curious about what it’s going to be like.  I have pretty much no idea what to expect!  But I hear it’s an awesome group of women (8 or 10, I think), so I figure it can only be good. 

Tonight is the first ICAN meeting here at my house for the Cowichan Valley chapter.  I’m nervous, which is funny because there’s really nothing to be nervous about.  I’ve wanted to do this for such a long time, as I think a group like this can really make a huge difference in a woman’s life, if it’s there for her at the right moment.  So, even if no one comes, just spreading the word and waiting so that ICAN is available for any person who may need it at any point in the future is good enough.

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