Category Archives: Doula

Ryler’s birth, 6 years on

I can’t find an account of Ryler’s birth. Maybe I’ve told the story in my head so may times I’ve convinced myself I’ve jotted it down, but while sharing my birth stories with a new friend recently, I couldn’t find his. So, today seemed like a good day to wrack these old brand cells and get it down on ‘paper’.

I was 40 weeks and 3 days and we were getting anxious. My husband had what was possibly the most prestigious speaking engagement mere days away. He was the selected student speaker for his 2014 graduating class at Regent College. He was speaking the Friday. Today was the Monday. He had told me that he was not going to miss the honour of speaking to his graduating class, and so we needed to get birth a-happening. I still question him on the authenticity of that statement, but he sticks to it.

So we did. If my memory serves me correctly, I had an appointment with my midwife that morning, who performed a solid stretch and sweep, I had induction massage, induction acupuncture, ate a crap load of pineapple, took evening primrose oil (both ways!), went for walks, ordered curry from the takeaway spot across the road and had sex. Comeaaaaaan cervix. We wanted this baby OUT. The induction acupuncture included burning Chinese herbs by my toes – we weren’t messing around.

The following morning I woke up at 4:30am with a sharp pain in my back. YES! Things were happening. I jumped up, grabbed my lower back mouthing a silent ‘OW!’ and made my way to the bathroom, thinking that I’d let Theran sleep, because labouring moms are awesome like that. 2 more sharp contractions frighteningly close together and I realised that, nope, aint no-one gonna let Theran sleep. So I woke him up.

I remember the next hour in a blur of: calling my friend Amy to watch our sleeping Clayden, calling the Doula to meet us at home, I think I hopped in the bath and chatted to an on-call midwife (a locum who I hadn’t met) telling her things were happening. Important point to note in the story: the locum asked us to call her back when we decided to head to the hospital. (Which, spoiler, we didn’t). My Monday of desperately wanting labour to get going was coming thick and fast. As if all our labour inducing techniques were about 12 hours delayed and then hit at once. BAHM. No time to breathe, no time to think, and no break from INTENSE back labour.

What followed, was something about Amy arriving, knowing this was FULL BLOWN labour, a TENS machine on my back, our doula arriving, coffee in hand and eyes wide, her holding me while Theran packed the car, and her following us to the hospital. My contractions did.not.stop.

Bad baaaaad words came out my mouth as Theran raced through red lights. My membranes ruptured spontaneously in the back of the car at 45th and Cambie. In my Lululemon pants no less. And this was not a waters-breaking ‘trickle’ situation. No, no, the word gushing comes to mind – pouring, streaming – a real bold waters-breaking experience.

Theran screeched up to BC Women’s and I waddled into Emergency as if the baby was half out already. A first time mom was being admitted and the staff taking one look at me yelled ‘multip?’ and I screamed ‘YES!’ (as in, not my first baby) and I was ushered ahead, straight into a curtained off section, and a nurse rushed in to check me. I begged her not to check how far I was dilated and promised her I was 10cm. Promised. I may have even offered her some bribe to send me straight to delivery but, I knew she had to check. Shoes kicked off, and pants pulled down and fully dilated I was. To this day I have no idea how they (my shoes and pants) made their way back to me (I’m presuming my doula had eyes on it all).

10cm dilated, with my doula holding my hand and Theran still in admitting, I was wheeled up to delivery. I remember VIVIDLY, gripping the rails on the bed SCREAMING while the elevator climbed floors slower than a snail could’ve crawled them. The car trip, the 10cm, the elevator pinging in slow motion – this is the stuff movies are made of, man.

Into the delivery room I was wheeled and my doula ran the bath (ah, doulas). I was GBS positive so needed an antibiotic drip. (CONTRACTION). Also, where was Theran and my midwife? (CONTRACTION). A little lady walked in, (CONTRACTION) saying she was going to cover for my midwife until she arrived (CONTRACTION), and that she specialised in premature babies and I could hop (CONTRACTION) into the bath (CONTRACTION) once my midwife had arrived. (CONTRACTION)… you get the idea.

Side note: we now refer to contractions as surges (hypnobirthing-style) but back then these bad boys were full speed, cranked up, non stop, knock you over CON-TRAC-TIONS.

Theran ran into the room, I squirmed on the bed through what seemed like a never ending stream of relentless back stabbing; up, down, squatting, lying, standing, squatting, all 4’s, squatting, groaning, moaning, screaming… contraction, contraction, contraction. The concentration of oxytocin was overachieving that day. Finally, my midwife ran in. She slid behind the foot of the bed with her hands open as if to catch the babe. I saw her and in my not-so-finest moment yelled “WHERE the HELL have you been!?” (something we laughed about after, considering we were the ones who forgot to call her back). She chuckled (we love midwives). I hopped in the bath. With a nurse trying to put the antibiotic IV in my hand to distract me (she kept asking me if she should and I kept asking for the distraction) within minutes he was born, in water. This perfect chubby little boy. Our Ryler Cael Knighton-Fitt. At 6:30am, Tuesday 29th April at BC Women’s in Vancouver, Canada.

At that very minute, birthing Ryler was the most knock-the-world-off-its-axis moment. I had so much adrenalin pumping through me. I felt like an absolute hero. I loved Clayden’s birth – it was, after all, what inspired me to become a doula – but this was so different. A wild ride of raw hormones, emotion, disbelief and massive, MASSIVE adrenalin. And within (what felt like) minutes, I was up, showering, breastfeeding, calling family, having mates arrive, enjoying a hot coffee (post birth request – a good coffee) and then I took a nap. Ah, I was in post-partum heaven. I was so proud of US.

We made it to Theran’s convocation, as a family of 4, with a 3 day old on my chest. As you might know, that 3rd day is quite something. With milk coming in, and hormones peaking, emotions POURED out of my eyes, as I watched my husband speak to his graduating class, graduate with a double major, and receive 2 awards we did not know he would be the recipient of, chosen for him by his professors and Regent faculty. I don’t think I’ve EVER cried as much as I did that night (oh no wait, maybe during my marathon, I may have cried as much during my marathon).

And that, my little Rylie pops, is how you were born. Damn, your birth was epic and you made me feel like a champion – that car ride to the hospital is something I will never, ever forget. I’m also really grateful for your super speedy arrival. Thanks for that.

I love you my little bud. Thanks for joining our family.

x

Remembering Clay’s Birth… 6 Years On

My eldest turned 6 today. Remembering my kids’ birth consumes me. I find it so hard to go through the day without reminiscing moment-for-moment how those days unfolded and what took place, in the minute that corresponds.

I remember reading a friends account of her first baby’s birth. She is not even a ‘journal-type-person’ but she jotted it down. I’m sure I’ve written about Clay’s birth somewhere, but moving across the world and the emotions of wrapping up a life you loved to journey into a future of unknowns encourages the losing of such things. So, here is my feeble attempt, 6 years on, to recall that day. The day I became a mother.

It was the Scotiabank half marathon and I was 39 weeks pregnant to the day. We had friends running, so got up early to support. I was extremely whale-like but I love half marathons and was envious and wanted to support our friends. I remember STRUGGLING to keep up, dashing in the car, driving to the next spot, trying to find parking en route, hopping out the car, rushing to the street to track the guys, running back to the car – I was aching at every move. I literally could not MOVE MY LEGS fast enough. At one point I kept the car running while my friend went to spot her hubby because it felt like a baby would drop out of me if I wasn’t careful. It was cruel – my body was just not managing.

Fast forward to lunch with my cousin and her kids, chatting over cake and imagining a baby and how long it would take for him to arrive (suspecting, like ‘most first borns’ he’d be late)…

Later that evening Theran was watching Battle Star Gallactica (a series I had no interest in watching), and I was watching some other series – each on a laptop in bed. Around 11pm, I got up and went to the bathroom. In the bathroom, my waters broke. After the shock of realising what had happened, I noticed that there was meconium in my waters. I breathed, walked back to our bedroom and waved at Theran from the bedroom door (our room was carpeted, and he had his headphones in). After about 5 seconds of frantic waving and anxiety building, I caught his eye, and told him my waters had broken. He jumped up.

I went into adrenalin overload. Shivering. Naked. More waters, more meconium.

Theran phoned the midwife. We’d meet at the hospital in half an hour. Sitting on the edge of the bath in a gown. Prayers on the couch. Calmly we packed the car. Excitement. More adrenalin.

We Skyped my parents in South Africa in the car on the way to the hospital. We knew meconium meant things would be moved a little faster, and more than likely a baby was going to be born in the next 24hrs.

I remember arriving, checking in and being hooked up to a monitor and watching my contractions (which were totally manageable so I was stoked). I had to pee in a cup, and was then induced. My midwife leant down and in my ear she whispered “Sweetheart, 9 out of 10 women will take an epidural when induced like you’re about to be, go easy on yourself”.

I laboured for 7 incredible hours. 7 undeniably life-altering hours. On the toilet, on a birth ball, squatting, standing. Walking, groaning, the induction smacking me across the face with peaks the size of mountains and the depths the size of puddles. The chemical version of oxytocin my heart was furiously pumping through my body was unlike anything I could have imagined. We called the anaesthetist. A mere 15 minutes later, I was numb. And I came back to life. Seems my body was fighting itself, and I dilated to 10cm almost as instantaneously as the epidural took effect (that’s pretty instantaneous in birth time).

I remember Theran adjusting the video camera (he’s a filmmaker). I remember it was calm, it was dim, it was quiet. It was 7 in the morning, we were chatting, and the staff shift came. I said goodbye to my nurse Hazel (who felt like a sister – I think I may have offered her money to stay with me she had been so incredible) and hello to Michelle (who I didn’t know what the time, but who was equally as awesome).

I pushed – for hours, maybe? Eye-ball-popping pushing. The OB on call was ready to catch.

Clay’s position was head down, but, posterior. He was otherwise known as sunny-side up. Preferably a (first time birth) baby should be anterior. And his heart rate was dipping.

In the calm, quiet of 7ish in the morning, at the announcement of the posterior positioning about 8 medical staff entered the room – in symphony like precision. Tables were moved, cloths were pulled revealing shiny apparatus, doctors faces were in my face explaining things to me, papers about potential emergency c-sections needed to be signed: Clay had to turn for me to push him out.

It was like I somehow flew into the OR, and on the next contraction, with the help of 6 (I’m not kidding) of the team, they turned him. Blood, waters, bold moves by the medical team. I remember praying that he’d turn. I was stunned to hear he did – as if my prayers needed to play catch up with what was happening to me. On the first go. He had turned. The next contraction, I was told, would be when I needed to push him out. Push. Him. Out.

I so so very clearly remember grabbing the waists of the women on either side of me – my midwife and Michelle, and as the contraction grew, and the team encouraged, I pushed with EVERY-SINGLE-PART-OF-MY-ENTIRE-BEING. Still focussing on breathing in for the 2nd of 3 pushes per contraction, a baby was handed to me. A beautiful, healthy, safe baby boy. Caught off guard, I looked up at the paed anticipating him taking this vernix covered being away, and he looked at me and said  – “he’s perfect, you keep him”.

(Meconium babies often need to be suctioned immediately after birth to clear the meconium from their airways – but Clay was breathing perfectly).

Theran cried, I cried. We had our beautiful baby and standing around us was a team of about 8 people who, for the 5 minutes we were in the OR, focussed every ounce of themselves on me. It was then, feeling so encouraged and so supported and SO loved, that I knew I wanted to make women feel the same when they birthed – so supported – so known. That level of intimate care and love. That, coupled with my new baby boy – changed everything.

Clayden – I will forever, and ever and ever be changed by you and because of you.

Oh, the Fathers love for us…

With Sincere Gratitude…

I can’t believe it has been a year since this… together with Pure Beginnings, we launched Debbie’s Pure Beginnings Pregnancy Journey.

And, as we’ve wrapped up this journey, I’ve become so nostalgic looking back over the past year. Pregnancy and parenting is such a mish-mash of excitement, stress, fear, trepidation, anticipation, joy, tears and leaking boobs.

Together with the incredible Team at Pure Beginnings, we created these videos, spoke at national Childbirth Educators Forums, and opened up many, many everyday pregnancy and birth related topics for discussion.

If you missed any posts – you can find them here:

I love this world; this crazy, frantic, joyful, intense, scary, emotional ride. This busy, tear-filled, beautiful, messy role of Motherhood. And I’ve felt so privileged to walk this road with you all, and the Pure Beginnings Team. What an absolute privilege.

And finally, in wrapping up, I can’t help but give you some inside scoop on who exactly it is, behind the brand. They are a family. But really, they are a real family. A husband and wife team (and some awesome extras), convicted to start Pure Beginnings when their own kids were born. Even with them living in Durbs, I’ve met them on numerous occasions, and been hosted in their home and have been incredibly inspired by their hard working ethic, their gentle and beautiful natures, their humility, care for people and their product and determination to do and be better and provide better alternatives for US.

You want to support that family sending their kids to soccer and/or piano lessons? Those are the people behind Pure Beginnings.

Thank you Kate and Bruce (and Amanda) for allowing me to start this journey with Brea in the best way possible, with a Pure Beginning. xxx

How I Increased my Milk Supply

With the boys, I had milk in abundance. ABUNDANCE. So much so that with Ryler, while he was on the 90th percentile in body weight (my little budda boy), I donated 4L’s of breast milk to the Vancouver Milk Bank based at BC Women’s Hospital. I love that place so much I would have given them a kidney if they’d asked me.


So when I took my youngest for her check ups and she was not growing as much as I was used to a baby growing, it caught me off guard. Sure, breastfeeding was going ‘fine’, but this busy mom of three was, well, busy, and it was summer, and it was HOT, and if I thought about it, I wasn’t getting letdown as often as I remember… CUE the intentional breastfeeding.

Can I just say outright, that baby formula is GREAT, and it absolutely has its place. I’m not anti-formula at all, but having had 2 exclusively breastfed babies, I felt strongly that I needed to put time, effort and energy into ensuring I’m giving this the attention it deserves. Fortunately I have a friend who is a Lactation Consultant and Pediatric Dietitian and so I went straight to her and my clinic sister for advice.

This is what I did to increase my milk supply:

I drank Jungle Juice. I had never heard of it before (seems it’s quite popular around these parts though)…

Here’s how you make it:

  • 2 L’s of boiled water
  • 1 L apple juice or rooibos tea
  • 1 sachet Blackcurrent Rehydrate
  • 60 mls Schlehen Berry Elixier
  • 8/10 drops of rescue remedy (if you think it necessary)

Dosage: Day 1: Drink 3L’s of Jungle Juice, thereafter, drink 1 1/2 L’s every 2nd day.

Along with this, maintain hydration. Healthy diet – you know the drill. I also drank Carmien’s Nursing Tea.


Then there is Power Pumping: 

This, my friends, requires a GOOD (ideally electric) breast pump and time. The below image is taking into account you have a double breast pump, which not many of us do, so if you don’t, power pumping would look like this: You would pump 20min on the L, pump 20min on the R, then 10min L, 10min R, 10min L, 10min R. And then you take yourself for an ice cream for all your hard work.


Also, “keep pumping after feeds, even if it seems empty and pointless, it will increase your demand, which will boost supply” – as told to me by Lactation Consultant, Deidre Lindeque.

Medicines:

Please consult your doc/pediatrician/lactation consultant before you go ahead with any medications. I managed to power pump and drink enough jungle juice to increase my supply enough to not need a script of any of the below (I did request one, but never filled it), so I am no expert in this. Please chat to someone medically trained, and who you trust (you’ll need a script for all of the below, so you will have to chat to your doc regardless) :

Some good options are:

  • Domperidone/Motilium.
  • Vomi-guard (a anti nausea drug which has a side effect of increased milk production)

At one point, above what I already needed to pump for my daughters carer to feed her daily (you pumping-working moms – you’re FREAKING AMAZING!), with a looming business trip, when I had to pump and store additional feeds, I asked my paed for a script. For personal reasons, I declined eglynol (which is a very commonly used breastfeeding booster drug) and requested the ones above (Domperidone/Motilium/Vomi-guard). Remember, you have options. Do what works for you!

I also want to encourage you to join Breast Feeding groups such as the Le Leche League in your area for support, encouragement and help. Contact LLL South Africa here.

Final thoughts: Be easy on yourself. This momming thing is HARD. Go with your gut. And please don’t give up too quickly either (unless you’re crying yourself to sleep each night – because then you need to do what you need to do to survive). There have been many times with this 3rd child, where I’ve being humbled by the difference between having a lot of time off with my newborn, and a mere 4 months. I am often whats-apping my working-mom-friends while sitting on a towel on our office bathroom floor, with the ‘zhuuut zhuuut zhuuut’ sound of the pump in the background as we send pics of the amounts of breast milk we’ve successfully retrieved or chat about how ‘pumping is going that day’. It’s no joke.

Friends, I’m with you. Share with us! What have you done that has helped you?

Packing your Hospital Bag

If you’ve had a bub before, did you find packing your hospital bag strange? I kinda do. Maybe it’s admitting that birth is imminent and you’re ‘heading somewhere important’ or it’s just that packing your phone and charger can’t be done until the last minute so it’s all a bit ‘meh’?

Anyways, since my mom has been convincing me this bub is coming early (which now I’m not so sure of), I figured I’d better get it done. Also, thanks to Dischem and Discovery, half my goodies were all over the house and so ‘Nesting Debbie’ needed to put them in their place.

As a doula, I have a list called Packing Your Hospital Bag I usually send expectant moms, but I had to do a bit more research as it seems things are different in SA (they don’t give you nappies, pads or sexy stretchy undies in hospital? – WHAAAAT?).

I combined my doula list with the ones given to me by my midwife, HypnoBirthing instructor, and hospital and so here’s my summary of what you need to pack: (of course this all depends on your personal preference and how long you plan to stay in hospital).

Mom’s Bag: 
Clothes pre and post birth (with easy access allowing breastfeeding)
Slippers, socks and dressing gown
Toiletries (toothbrush, toothpaste, deo, lip balm, shampoo, conditioner, hairband, hair brush, face cloth)
Pads
Breast pads (not many, as your milk will only come in on day 3 or 4)
Nursing/comfy bra
Those super sexy stretchy (but admittedly, very comfortable) hot pants.

Dad’s Bag: 
If planning a water birth, dad might need his boardies. (I refrain from suggesting a speedo type suit because really, that’s just not appropriate, unless you plan on laughing that baby out).
Change of clothes
Toiletries (if staying overnight).

Baby’s Bag: 
Change of clothes (for hospital and going home), beanies, socks, vests, baby grows etc.
Swaddling blanket/s
*Nappies
Wipes
Bum cream (this is most NB for that first meconium poo – slap your natural bum cream all over that kids tush to prevent the meconium from glueing itself to your newborns bum).
*I plan to cloth diaper but that’s not so kosher for while you’re in the hospital, so I’m using the samples sent to me by all the baby marketers.

Dare I be so bold as to say you DON’T need to use Vaseline or Surgical Spirits on your freshie? You can use a natural bum cream or pure organic oil (such as coconut) for his/her first nappy, and that belly button cord would be much happier with weeping wound or graze powder over surgical spirits.

Labouring Bag: 
Anything you have that will assist in labour, although your doula will have lots of tricks if you’ve hired one.
Massage oil, massager, TENS machine, hot/cold pack rebozo etc.
SNACKS! Including sugary drinks (such as Powerade/Energade), and any other nibbles of your choice.

Added Creature Comforts: Pillows, blankets, photos, visualization pictures (and prestick), music, iPod/phone docker, candles (check the hospital regulations on what they allow regarding naked flames), essential oil diffusers etc.

FINALLY, things like: your birth plan, pregnancy card (if you’ve been seeing a midwife), hospital authorization forms, ID books/cards, camera, phone, chargers (and adapter), car seat, cash/credit cards etc.

Anything I’m missing? 

Xxx

Back to HypnoBirthing… Did it Work?

And here we find ourselves on the other side of birth. Phew.

And yes, I’ve been asked from my fellow HypnoBirthing moms in the know, the skeptics, and everyone in between… Did it work?

beautifully-born

My answer: Ask my husband, who you can find on the corner of the street holding a huge placard reading ‘HYPNOBIRTHING REALLY WORKS’.

I guess it also depends on what you imagine HypnoBirthing being. I didn’t imagine a pain-free birth, and, well… my birth certainly wasn’t pain-free. I also didn’t imagine any rainbows, silver gloves, thermometers, control switches, and I didn’t tap into any deeeep, hypno, out of body experiences. Nada. None of that.

hypnobirthing-woman

Here are excerpts from the text I sent my fellow hypnobirthers (when I was all post-partum-hormoney) the day after our daughter was born:

pink-line

‘My last two births were similar regarding their intensity and speed but were chalk and cheese! Hubby (as am I) is convinced the hypnobirthing helped tons.

1) Breathing was AMAAAAZING. The calm breathing gave me tons of energy in between contractions (at one point I was dozing off in the bath) and the surge breathing gave me something to focus on during surges.


2) I had highlighted a few affirmations but in labour all I could think about was ‘bringing oxygen to my uterus/womb’ – I think because the physical side of how the uterus works made such sense to me. So every time I took a quick 20 count breath in and out in (surge breathing) I was imagining filling all of my uterus’ blood vessels with oxygen. And knowing that 2 or 3 breaths will get you to the peaked the surge helps you handle each one.


3) Our daughter was born sleeping. She woke after a min or so, and then went back to sleep. Heart rate happy the whole time. Hubby is convinced it’s because she was calm and there was no panic.


4) A doula is a REALLY good idea. My doula was on form and so helpful because she embraced the hypnobirthing idea. I definitely felt intensity and (dare I say) pain and so knowing natural pain relief techniques (hip squeezes etc.), combined with the mental strength was incredible.


5) I felt empowered. As each surge approached, I wasn’t panicky and scared (or just anxious/tense). So I felt like I took charge of each one – as opposed to my middle child’s birth where each one smacked me across the face… Hubby said this was very apparent to him.

And here’s where (mid birth) I tossed the HypnoBirthing idea out the water…

‘Breathing baby down’ felt like saying “here’s a watermelon, now slice it in half with your eyes”. Impossible. I tried to keep with the birth breathing but that force to push is HARD-CORE and when baby is right there it’s hard not to so desperately GET.IT.OUT! Not purple pushing, but not breathing either. Aggg.. and after all that rehearsing on the loo…’

pink-line

My biggest takeaway from the classes (and from the birth) which helped me, was UNDERSTANDING the body better (mainly the uterus, hormones, endorphins and what does what) and what my mind needs to do, to help my body get into its primed and ready birthing vibe. I’d recommend this course to ANYONE remotely interested in natural birth (be it with or without pain meds), but even just the education alone is incredibly empowering.

Have you done a HypnoBirthing class, or experienced a HypnoBirthing birth? If so, please share your experience…

Image credit: Rebecca from Love Made Visible. 

A Post Partum Hormone Inspired Post

You all know about the 3rd day bluesy/post partum/milk-coming-in day? If you’ve had a baby, you probably know what I’m talking about. I know it well. With all three kids, this day was real. Real as. I was warned about how the tears might flow, for unexplained reasons and how it’s hard to get a handle on it, but how it is also beautiful and emotional and hard and possibly a little out of control. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a feeler. I FEEL things. And so for me these days were full on. But I anticipated it.

What I had forgotten about, was the 1 week post baby endorphin high/low. Wow. Hormones man, they are HARD CORE. And so this past Friday it all came rushing back. I have to believe that for me the unknown of ‘going into labour’ has a lot to do with it – that hour by hour, reliving what went down exactly a week before, the ‘is this labour’ questioning, the call to the midwife/birth team, the drive to the hospital and the walking into (contraction-ing into) the delivery room… And then marking (and celebrating) the exact time of birth… Even the ‘settling into the quiet, safe, sacred space of your hospital room’… It all came flooding back.


And so after some tears trying to process this all with hubby, and some more tears upon messaging my midwife (and her always-beautiful replies), and some more tears in the shower (those are great hey?), hubby offered to take me back to where it all happened.

So last Friday at 6:30pm, we piled our new family of 5 into the car and went on our first official family adventure – back to the hospital where it all happened. Hubby pulled up at sunset, I hopped out the car with our 1 week old and paid the maternity ward a visit. And honestly… it was a bit random. Maybe I was expecting some ‘Hi Debbie, how are you, so lovely to see you again, would you like a coffee?!’ with the nurses I had befriended on my lone ranger (hubby-less) stay in the hospital. But it was random. I know, a little disappointing right?

Because it was on the way home, while listening to the CD we played when we brought all the kids home from the hospital, that it dawned on me. While place is significant, and always will be, PEOPLE are where it’s at.


It was my midwife (a hero of a woman, who, after being in her care makes me want to sign up for midwifery school immediately), who loved me, empowered me, lead me, and in return allowed me to lead in birth. It was my husband, who held my hand through it all, listened to my needs, encouraged encouraged encouraged, watched, witnessed, and believed I could birth our daughter into the world with grace and dignity. It was our doula, who was thinking about what I couldn’t think about at that time, whose mind was always on what I needed next, and who carried the journey of labour with me. And our friend and photographer, who I’m SOOO glad was there, to celebrate with us, to capture, to document the real life miracle that is birth (for which I am eternally grateful and will treasure the pictures forever!)


It was them. Sure, I loved my quiet, safe hospital stay with wonderfully supportive nursing staff. But that Team. Oh that Team.


They gave me courage, they believed, they knew, they guided, they inspired and they empowered me (in ones most vulnerable state), to do this crazy, beautiful, natural, wonderful, hard, tiring, unforgettable and mysterious thing called birth.

For you, Susan, Theran, Thato and Rebecca. Thank you. May we all do for each other in day to day life, what you did for me in Delivery Room 3, 16 September 2016.

All pics: Love Made Visible

When all you want is to GET THE BABY OUT

To tell you the truth, I didn’t think I’d be here – post 40 weeks. Even though 40 weeks is the estimated time of a full pregnancy, all of that depends on your cycle and when you got pregnant and and and – it is no exact science as to WHICH particular date baby WILL be born. But still, I didn’t think I’d be here… at 40 weeks… still waiting.

Did you know that Term falls anywhere between 37 weeks and 42 weeks. Thats a 5 week window. That’s far off from an exact due date.

The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has redefined the meaning of “term pregnancy.” Pregnancies used to be considered at term, and babies ready for delivery, any time after 37 weeks. If mom went past that, those last three weeks (or longer) were almost seen as a write-off. Now, however, after a couple of decades that have seen too many C-sections and record numbers of babies in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), those last few weeks of pregnancy are being taken seriously. That’s why “term pregnancy” is now being broken down into distinct categories. (Source)

Early Term: Between 37 weeks 0 days and 38 weeks 6 days
Full Term: Between 39 weeks 0 days and 40 weeks 6 days
Late Term: Between 41 weeks 0 days and 41 weeks 6 days
Poster: Between 42 weeks 0 days and beyond.

That’s just some interesting info to chew on… but say you get to 40+ weeks and despite knowing that bubs is healthy and happy and fully developed for his/her impending adventure in the outside world – if a chemical induction (oxytocin/pitocin) is looming… what can you do to BAHM!!! speed labour along?

HUGE Disclaimer: Some people swear by these methods, and some seem to have zero effect. I am no medical expert. Please speak to your Care Provider before you try anything crazy and at the end of the day, baby will come when baby is ready, so play with this all lightly. Okay? Good.

Clayden skin 2

With our second, we were warned of a fast birth. And at 40+3 days we were getting a bit nervous. Hubby had a HUGE speaking engagement fast approaching and genuinely couldn’t miss it. So on the Monday (40+3), we went nutso on EVERYTHING to do with natural induction, and Tuesday at 4:30am I went into (fast and furious) labour, and at 6:30am, our second was born. So even if it is all mental – I can’t help but believe that our attempts at natural induction were a raging, rip roaring success.

I’ve come to learn it’s all about oxytocin. ALLLL about oxytocin. So, thats the goal. Get more oxytocin running through your body, and do what you need to do to keep it up (and your stress/anxiety hormones at a minimum).

As a mom, and a doula, here’s what I would suggest: (Obviously, again, please chat to your birth team care providers before jumping into any of this.)

Exercise/Long walks. Man these can be hard because you feel like a hand or a head will pop out at any time, but don’t give up. Keep active (within reason).

Stretch and Sweep/Membrane Stripping: Some are not so keen on this one, as it’s a bit intrusive, but it can be very effective. Basically, your doctor/midwife will use a gloved finger to separate the amniotic sac from the uterine wall. This action releases prostaglandins. We love prostaglandins. *Personal preference: I had a gentle stretch and sweep with my 2nd, it didn’t hurt, and it certainly helped. 

Nipple Stimulation: Stimulating your nipples can help release oxytocin and cause your uterus to contract and possibly bring about labor.

Sex: Although research results are mixed, anecdotes abound about late babies making an entrance soon after a love-making session. Semen contains cervix-softening fats called prostaglandins (also used in medical induction) and a woman’s orgasm can lead to strong uterine contractions. (source)

Acupuncture: Acupuncture stimulates the release of oxytocin in the body. In a randomized trial published by the Journal of Perinatal Medicine, over 400 women were given acupuncture, membrane stripping, or both procedures before their labours. There were no significant differences in the outcomes of the groups, but the vast majority of these women did not require medical inductions. Pregnancy acupuncturists are often super clued up with a number of tricks including how to try turn posterior babies – so keep an open mind. Even just for the fun of it.

Acupressure/Prenatal Massage: Some practitioners believe that acupressure can start and restart labor. The key is beginning the practice early and often, or else just head to an experiences prenatal massage therapist. Various pressure points are safe to press starting at 37 weeks. You can increase pressure the closer you are to your due date and during labour itself. But prior to applying acupressure to yourself, make sure you get proper instruction from a trained acupressure professional. Read a great Mommy Potamus article about it here.

pressure-points

Spicy Foods: Spicy foods can cause your body to release prostaglandins throughout the digestive process. These hormones may trigger contractions in the uterus. Either way, even if they don’t, you scored some chilli poppers out of the experiment. So it’s a win-win. (f you’re in the Cape Town area, may I suggest The Pickled Popper‘s Chilli Poppers).

Evening Primrose Oil: Though EPO itself may not cause labor, it can prime and soften your cervix. You may take the oil orally or insert it vaginally for the best results. You can prick the oil capsule with a clean needle and insert. While healthcare providers have long suggested taking EPO to ease birth, there is little proof that it naturally induces labor. Rather, treat it as something which softens your cervix, and that can’t hurt (source).

evening-primrose-oil

Red Raspberry Leaf Tea: Midwives often recommend drinking red raspberry leaf tea in combination with evening primrose oil as your due date nears. The team at OBGYN North in Austin, Texas, share that the tea tones the uterus and helps to organize irregular contractions into regular, productive patterns. Even if it doesn’t work, you’ll stay hydrated. (source)

red-raspberry-leaf-tea

Eat Pineapple: The bromelain in pineapple and other tropical fruit is said to induce labor by stimulating the uterus. Alternately, it could just be the intestinal stimulation from eating large amounts of pineapple that gets labor started. And you would really need LARGE amounts for it to actually kick labour into gear. Either way, this is a delicious way to induce labor naturally.

Eat Dates: Date fruit contains saturated and unsaturated fatty acids such as oleic, linoleic, and linolenic acids, which are involved in saving and supplying energy and construction of prostaglandins. In addition, serotonin, tannin, and calcium in date fruit contribute to the contraction of smooth muscles of the uterus. Date fruit also has a laxative effect, which stimulates uterine contractions.” (source) There is another great article by Wellness Mama about dates and labour here.

dates

All that being said, I’d love to hear if you have tried any of these methods and if anything helped you. And of course… Good Luck!

Image credits: herbs.lovetoknow.comwww.youngandraw.comwww.checkpregnancy.com.

My Experience with HypnoBirthing

I toyed for ages whether or not I should sign up for a HypnoBirthing® class, and then I just did. I mean, this was my 3rd pregnancy, I’d done all the prenatal stuff overseas, attended the breastfeeding lectures, the home birth info evenings, and had witnessed and assisted at many births, so did I need it? Gah! I tend to overthink these things, so I just jumped, which I guess is the best way to do stuff sometimes.

Like a number of people I’ve chatted to, I was a little put off (maybe confused is a better word) by the name, HypnoBirthing®. Kim from Beautifully Born suggested I come for the first week and if it wasn’t up my alley, I could duck and never return. Sounded like a sweet deal to me… of course she knew I’d fall in love with the concept and be itching to return – which I was.

beautifully-born

Kim is the HypnoBirthing® Faculty Member, Regional Liaison, Practitioner trainer for South Africa, and Founder and Owner of Beautifully Born HypnoBirthing® – so you must know she knows her stuff. When you’re dealing in the potentially ‘airy fairy side’ of all this hippie birthing goodness, you want someone legit. Kim is legit.

TIME WILL TELL (ha ha ha) if my HypnoBirthing® training will be effective or not (look out for THAT blog post!) but I thought pre-birth, let me inform you what HypnoBirthing® is all about… well, what I understood it be.

“I’ve been a Labor & Birthing nurse for 17 years; and after attending HypnoBirthings,  I’ll never look at birth in the same light. It’s incredible.”
– Traveling Nurse, Judy Richardson, RN

marie-mongan-hypnobirthing
What is HypnoBirthing®?

HypnoBirthing® is a tried and proven method that guides and prepares a woman in giving birth in a peaceful and extraordinarily beautiful manner. It is a program that considers the psychological, as well as the physical, well-being of the mother, her birth partner, and the newborn, independent of context, whether that be in the quiet of a home, a hospital, or a birth center.

The HypnoBirthing® program is built around an educational process that includes special breathing, relaxation, visualization, meditative practice, attention to nutrition and positive body toning. Most importantly it fosters an air of mutual respect for the birthing family, as well as the health-care provider in a traditional health-care system or an alternative setting. (source)

The HypnoBirthing®  Premise

For me, a LOT of this made sense. Especially experiencing two different birthing cultures, in South Africa and Canada.pink-lineFor most of their lives, women have been inundated with the negative stories of other women’s birth experiences. Everyone, from their mothers, sisters, aunts, cousins, friends, and even strangers, wants to tell them the horrors of giving birth. They have been conditioned to believe that excruciating pain is associated with labor; and because of this, women today hold an unprecedented fear of giving birth. This extreme fear causes their bodies to become tense, and that tension prohibits their bodies from easily performing a normal physiological function. The result is exactly what they feared most–long, painful birthing or unnecessary intervention.

People who are drawn to HypnoBirthing® have long been searching for a way to give birth confidently and as calmly, safely, and gently as possible, whether they have chosen to birth in a hospital, a birthing center, or at home. Until HypnoBirthing®, this kind of birthing almost seemed unattainable for the general population.

Through a very simple program of self-hypnosis and education, healthy, low-risk women, as well as women who need medical assistance because of special circumstances, learn to dismiss fear-based stories, misinformation, and birthing myths; and they are helped to see birth as normal. They learn to trust that their bodies know how to bring their babies into the world in the calm and gentle way that Nature intended. (source)pink-lineNot all HypnoBirthing is the same. Make sure you find a legit teacher, teaching the Marie Mongan Method.

Got it? Easy peasy, right? Ha. There are more details at the very bottom, but for the majority of you, I think you’re reading this to find out what I (the average human) thought of the class. I’ll put it in bullet point for you:

  • Liberating and Empowering – reminding me that natural childbirth is just that, natural. Possible. Beautiful. Doable.
  • I understood it as finding a state of relaxed-ness where your body can do what it was designed to do.
  • The importance of understanding the fear – tension – pain cycle and how it can inhibit birth.
  • Learning about the uterus’ muscles and what your body is doing when the beautiful, gentle and shy hormone Oxytocin leads the way…
  • Rephrasing birth/labour lingo (this was interesting, and refreshing).
  • Remembering the importance of positive thinking, the role of the subconscious, visualization and affirmations.
  • Some of the mild hypnosis (deep relaxation) stuff was a bit out-there, and I’m nervous I might struggle without the lead of someone like Kim, but I’m very keen to give it a go and see how it all plays out.

Practically, here’s what I’ve been doing over the last 5 weeks: Reading the book (NB!), listening to the Rainbow Relaxation track on my phone every night (I fall asleep after about 20 seconds), and listening to positive birth affirmations in the car. Hubby has been practising the light touch massage (like a back tickle – so good!) and I’ve been rehearsing my 3 different types of breathing: calm, surge and birth breathing.

birth-affirmations

Honestly, I could ramble on and on and on about this (ask our Friday night dinner friends). Pre-birth, I would recommend this course to anyone who is inclined towards a natural labour (not augmented) and birth and is wanting to be instructed as to how to think about birth differently – with a fresh, new mindset, and NOT one where you feel like you’re out of control and are being filmed for the next horror movie.

Now tell me, have you tried HypnoBirthing? Did it help? What worked, what didn’t? Talk to me… but really… I need to implement this stuff within days. Yeeeee…

hypnobirthing

I’m sure you have questions. Some of them might be answered here. If you are playing with the idea of attending a class, chat to Kim. You can contact Beautifully Born online and on Facebook.

The Deets: HypnoBirthing® Classes are taught in a format of five, 2 1/2-hour classes.

You will be provided with the official HypnoBirthing® book, Rainbow relaxation CD and all course materials. Refreshments will be provided during classes.

Course prices

  • The cost per couple for a group course is R1950.
  • There are private courses available in your own home or at a practitioner’s venue – contact Kim to find out about your nearest practitioner, prices and availability

Payment terms for all courses can be arranged, please ask your practitioner.

Here is the outline as to what is covered:

Week 1 – Building A Positive Expectancy

Introduction to the remarkable HypnoBirthing® philosophy
The History of Women and Birthing
Why and how you can have an easier, more comfortable, and safer birthing
How Nature perfectly designed women’s bodies to birth
How to assist, rather than resist, your natural birthing instincts
The vocabulary for calm and gentle birthing
Visualizing gentle births by viewing beautiful birthing videos.

Week 2 – Falling in Love with Your Baby/Preparing Mind & Body

The remarkable mind of your newborn baby—Prenatal bonding techniques
Rapid and instant self-relaxation techniques and deepening techniques
Breathing techniques for labor and birthing
Hypnotic relaxation and visualization
Selecting the right care provider
The Birth companion’s role in birthing
Preparing your body for birthing with massage and toning.

Week 3 – Getting Ready to Welcome your Baby

Preparing Birth Preference Sheets
Preparing the Body for Birthing
Light Touch Labor Massage
Your body working for and with you
Avoiding artificial induction and achieving a natural start to labor
Releasing negative emotions, fears and limiting thoughts.

Week 4 – An Overview of Birthing – A Labor of Love

Onset of Labor – Thinning and Opening Phase
Birth explained simply
Settling in at the hospital or birthing center
Preparing for home birth – or baby’s choice of birth
As labor moves along – passing time through labor
Hallmarks of labor
If labor rests or slows – Companion’s  prompts and activities
As labor advances – birthing with your baby
Protecting the natural birthing experience
Birth rehearsal imagery.

Week 5 – Birth, Breathing Love, Bringing Life

Moving into birthing
Positions for descent and birthing
Breathing baby down to birth
Baby moves to the breast
Family bonding with your baby.

Image credit: andrewmicahornoch.tumblr.commombodystroll.com, www.beautifullyborn.co.za, https://us.hypnobirthing.com.

The One about Hiring a Doula

Birth is expensive – I get it. I’m facing all of that right now. Scans, blood tests, Dr’s/midwife bills… it goes on and on. On top of that, I’ve just signed up for HypnoBirthing classes, and for first time mom and dads there are prenatal classes, prenatal yoga, lactation consults, buying a ga-zillion (often expensive) things. It’s all just hectic.

And then there is the doula, which doesn’t seem all that important when facing the million bills, unexpected needs, third trimester exhaustion and hubby asking “what on earth is a doula?”

I’ll save you my shpeel on why I think you really, really reaaaaaally should consider hiring a doula (I am a doula, and have had a doula at both previous births – so am a huge advocate) but I’ll just give you some food for thought, inspired by Wellness Mama Blogger, Katie.

if a doula was a drug

As a doula, it is an honour to be invited to participate in anyone’s birth team, and having done it numerous times, I am always inspired and in awe of labouring moms. There really is something so primal and raw about a mother labouring – it is beautiful and astounding to witness. While doula’s are certainly not the be-all-and-end-all of births, there is a lot of evidence that the presence of a doula can shorten labours and (in some cases, drastically) improve birth outcomes.

What is a Doula and What Does She Do? (Source)

doula-ing

What Does a Doula Do? The word “Doula” comes from the Greek word doule, meaning “handmaiden” or “woman who serves.” That is precisely the role of a doula for a laboring woman: to serve the laboring mother and help her have her desired birth outcome. 

In essence, a doula is a massage therapist, friend, therapist, DJ, court jester or anything else a mother needs her to be in labor. She is a shoulder to cry on or an encouragement when the mother thinks she can’t go on.  Most doulas go through a rigorous training program before assisting women in labor.

A doula is trained in labor and childbirth and provides continuous support to a laboring mother. Her focus is tending to and helping the mom and supporting the relationship of the laboring couple. Doulas often support laboring women by:

  • Providing continuous emotional and physical support,
  • Giving information if asked and helping the mother find resources to research her birth choices (before labor),
  • Using comfort measures like massage, suggesting different positions and helping with relaxation breathing,
  • Accommodating the mother’s wishes for the birth environment (low light, soft music, etc) to the extent possible in the place of birth,
  • Encouraging the mother to communicate with her doctor and to be informed about any procedures and interventions (a doula does NOT give medical advice or interfere with the doctor/mother relationship),
  • Supporting the father or birth partner in the best way to support the mother. A doula never replaces the very important role of the birth partner and a good doula will help the birth partner by suggesting ways that he can support the laboring mom and things that can improve their synergy in labour.

But WHY a Doula?

Women have complex needs during childbirth and the weeks that follow. In addition to medical care and the love and companionship provided by their partners, women need consistent, continuous reassurance, comfort, encouragement and respect. They need individualized care based on their circumstances and preferences.

Doulas are educated and experienced in childbirth and the postpartum period. We are prepared to provide physical (non-medical), emotional and informational support to women and their partners during labor and birth, as well as to families in the weeks following childbirth. We offer a loving touch, positioning and comfort measures that make childbearing women and families feel nurtured and cared for.

Doulas are also great at practical help: taking photos at your birth, moving your bags from one room to another, keeping you hydrated, massaging your lower back through a tough contraction, helping you understand ‘medical talk’ going on around you, filling the bath if you desire a water birth, and they’re always on the other side of the phone when your waters break, you lose your mucus plug, or you’re onto your 17th cup of red raspberry leaf tea…

red-raspberry-leaf-tea

Numerous clinical studies have found that a doula’s presence at birth

  • tends to result in shorter labors with fewer complications,
  • reduces negative feelings about one’s childbirth experience,
  • reduces the need for pitocin/oxytocin (a labour-inducing drug), forceps or vacuum extraction and cesareans,
  • reduces the mother’s request for pain medication and/or epidurals.

Research shows parents who receive support can:

  • Feel more secure and cared for,
  • Are more successful in adapting to new family dynamics,
  • Have greater success with breastfeeding,
  • Have greater self-confidence,
  • Have less postpartum depression.

So, how do you go about Hiring a Doula?

In South Africa, the best thing to do is to check out WOMBS (Facebook and website) as well as MamaBamba and just ask around. Chat to your gynae or midwife. Doulas gain the most business from word-of-mouth, because I think actions really do speak louder that words in this type of ‘industry’.

Interviewing a number of potential doulas is really important – but might feel a bit weird, right? Even if you’re not sold on the idea, I’d recommend just meeting with a couple and chatting stuff through, and soon enough you’ll get a feel for what they can do to support you in your birth and if you want them as part of your birth team.

Here’s a cheat sheet on what to ask (thanks to Wellness Mama)

Important Questions to ask when considering a Doula:

  1. What is your training? If certified, through what organization?
  2. Are you available around my due date?
  3. How many other clients do you have around this time?
  4. What is your philosophy about birth and how do you most often support women in labour?
  5. How many births have you attended?
  6. Have you attended births at my birth location and what were experiences there?
  7. Do you have experience with my caregiver?
  8. Do you have a backup doula and will I meet her?
  9. At what point in labor do you meet up with us?
  10. How do we contact you during labor? Are you always on call?
  11. What coping techniques do you find most helpful?
  12. What are your fees?
  13. Why did you become a doula?
  14. Have you given birth yourself? Did you have a doula? What were your birth experiences?

It is also really important to connect with your doula and feel like you can trust her. She will be with you during one of the most intimate and vulnerable times in your life, so your comfort with her is vital.

Money, money, money…

The cost of a doula varies greatly depending on where you live. Doulas who are working toward certification (student doulas or doulas-in-training) may offer discounted or free rates (WIN!), while some really experienced doulas can cost a pretty penny (but often offer awesome benefits such as a whole toolbox of tricks, use of a TENS machine, prenatal massage, training in HypnoBirthing and so on). In general in South Africa, the rate seems to be around R3000. For the most part, medical aid will not cover this cost, so needs to be calculated into your birth budget.

This might sound like a huge additional (and maybe even seemingly unnecessary) expense, but considering the additional expenses that can occur without the presence of a doula, can be just as much if not more. If for no other reason than protecting the birth experience and the deep (deeeeeep) memories associated with your birth experience, that was enough for me. In my mere 32 years of being alive, one thing I’ll always believe in is community, The Village, and it is in these times of very real vulnerability that continuous loving support can make or break. We were never ever meant to birth alone.

And so, have you ever had or considered using a doula? What was your experience?

Image credit: blissfulbeginningsdoulacare.wordpress.com, antipodeanmushroom.wordpress.com,