I wrote this blog post for our Doulas of Vancouver blog. Thought I would share it here!
Her First Calf
From - (1973) by Wendell Berry
Her fate seizes her and brings her down.
She is heavy with it. It wrings her.
The great weight is heaved out of her.
She moves into what she has become,
sure in her fate now
as a fish free in the current.
She turns to the calf who has broken
out of the womb’s water and its veil.
He breathes. She licks his wet hair.
He gathers his legs under him
and rises. He stands, and his legs
wobble. After the months
of his pursuit of her, now
they meet face to face.
From the beginnings of the world
His arrival and her welcome
have been prepared. They have always
known each other.
She steps into the dark swamp
where the long wait ends.
The secret slippery package
drops to the weeds.
She leans her long neck and tongues it
between breaths slack with exhaustion
and after a while it rises and becomes a creature
like her, but much smaller.
So now there are two. And they walk together
like a dream under the trees.
In early June, at the edge of a field
thick with pink and yellow flowers
I meet them.
I can only stare.
She is the most beautiful woman
I have ever seen.
Her child leaps among the flowers,
the blue of the sky falls over me
like silk, the flowers burn, and I want
to live my life all over again, to begin again,
to be utterly
I Wear My Stretchmarks Like Tattoos
I am a woman
whose belly has billowed
a mainsail on a pirate ship
on its way to treasure
a queen-size-bed topsheet
on a new clothesline in March
around my freckled navel
tiny river tributaries
from the cold spring of my joy
pattern rising to the touch
by Kent L. Bijou
She looks at me with half closed eyes,
As if to pierce my soul.
The sounds she makes are strong and firm
For one just moments old
With skin still soft from life's ordeal
She muscles up a whine
Small fingers reach, yet never touch
But sure they will in time
For life's begun, and all is new
So many things to learn
She's not the first one nor the last
We've each once had our turn.
An Ode To Ethan
by Joyce Baron Kerr
Today it happened,
it's finally done,
the birth of my boy,
the little man, my son.
After a long tiring wait,
a sweet sound came,
the point when our lives,
would never be the same.
It was the sound of the cries,
signaling the start of new life.
I can't describe how proud I am,
of my brave and beautiful wife.
I'll admit that I too,
cried tears of joy.
When for the very first time,
I at last saw my boy.
As I stood there in awe,
and gazed down at his face,
in an instant the world,
became a much better place.
My heart was bursting,
with an intense sense of pride,
as I pictured my life,
with my son at my side.
I know it's early days,
and we've only just met,
but I promise I'll be,
the best father a boy can get.
I'll love you forever,
my son and my wife,
keep you safe, and protect you,
for all of my life
What is it really about a doula that creates these amazing stats? Stats are numbers that quantify. What makes those numbers possible is something that can't be quantified - one trusted, trained professional who provides continuous one on one support, who is beside the woman, unwavering and steadfast in tending to her comfort, her emotional and physical well being, whose care is not medical in nature. So, it's not, for example, about labor progress, cervical dilation, blood pressure measurements, but how is the woman feeling? Does she feel cared for? Does she feel safe?
What I bring are essential elements of care that the rest of the team aren't. And it's this exactly that we know makes such an enormous positive impact on how laboring women do and why there's less use of pain medications, with reductions in interventions and cesarean rates. It isn't a number though and it's something that can be hard to wholly describe.
It IS my presence - ever mindful of how the woman is doing from moment to moment, encouraging and reassuring, calming and grounding. Bringing my years of knowledge/experience to this woman, here and now, understanding what her specific needs are. Ensuring that her partner is doing well also! Partners are freed up when I am present so they can be there fully, without worry or feeling powerless. This in turn adds to the woman's sense of well being, so she relaxes and focuses on birthing.
There is something wonderful that happens when women are tended to in this manner, that makes all the difference for their experience. The more secure they feel, the better labor goes. Yet when labor and birth take a different path, where other choices need to be made, my care still proves invaluable. I'm focused on emotional and mental well being, not tracings on the monitor.
Care providers have their role. Their attention is focused on the health of mom and baby, through the lens of clinical care. We do need that and the complementary care of the doula's non-medical support.
My care has so many facets. It shows up in the littlest of details, in the simplest of actions, such as wiping a sweaty brow with a cool cloth. One may ask how do we get from that to 60% reduction in women requesting epidurals? You'd need to ask the women.
"I wanted support during labor, which you can't always count on from your partner or the nurses, all the time. It's her experience... which partners don't have of being at births and of having had a baby. We'll always be grateful for your attention to us at our daughter's birth." Shauna
This is written by one of my clients who wished to share her experience around decision making for place of birth and ultimately choosing and having a home birth. Thanks for sharing. To learn more about birthing at home, please visit my website: www.vancouverhomebirthdoula.com
"I was 40 when I gave birth. The "system" seems to be designed to scare pregnant ladies over 35. Because of my age, I didn't even think a home birth was possible until my midwife told me it was. I had been subject to a lot of anxiety during my pregnancy. Hospitals are not happy places for me, and the idea of giving birth at home seemed so much easier logistically, physically, culinarily (that's not a word), mentally and emotionally.
So that's what I aspired for and that's what I did. Although I still had a bag packed and had to be mentally prepared for a change of plans, it happened at home as I had envisioned. I'm so happy for this decision and this outcome. Transition to postpartum care was so smooth.
My midwives and Debra supported me throughout and I had full confidence in the medical care I was receiving. We are fortunate in that our midwives are well connected to the hospital system, so I knew that if we needed to go, the midwife would arrange this well enough in advance that it wouldn't be an emergency.
It is a personal choice, based on one's comfort level and idea of safe space, but we can make that choice ourselves (unless the Universe decides otherwise), regardless of the "system" or random opinions and commentaries that pregnant women tend to be subjected to.
My mother told me her friends were surprised that we did this at home, so I guess it's not as common as it used to be back in their native India. My mother didn't seem too shocked, as most of her siblings were also born at home. We are blessed to have options, and home birth is an important one."
Home Water Birth - one mother's informed choice
This is written by one of my recent clients sharing her decision to have a home birth. Thanks for sharing this Vivian.
‘Seven years ago, when I got pregnant with my daughter, I did not know anyone who had a home birth but I knew I wanted to have my baby at home without knowing why. Things, however, did not go as planned. There were complications. I was transferred to the hospital and my daughter was born with more medical interventions than I ever imagined. I had wanted a peaceful and natural birth for my baby and the birth was far from what my partner and I planned.
A few years later as I was learning about the ideal conditions for a woman to give birth, I came to understand why I had instinctively chosen a home birth. Emotional safety has always been extremely important to me. It was news to me that a woman needs to feel safe in her environment and with her care providers in order to labour and birth comfortably. Otherwise, our bodies tighten and constrict when we are supposed to open to make space for the baby to be born. Well...I was not entirely comfortable with my midwife which may have played into why things did not progress smoothly at home. I became even more uncomfortable when I arrived at the hospital. While I will never know if I could have avoided the medical interventions all together, I know that my discomfort at the hospital made the birth more difficult.
Armed with all this new understanding, I made very different choices when I got pregnant with my second baby. I shopped around to try to find a midwifery group that I was very comfortable with. I made sure that I found a knowledgeable and supportive doula so that both my partner and I would be well taken care of. I used acupuncture, Spinning Babies (Debra's wonderful suggestion) and hypnosis to better prepare myself for this birth. I am so glad I did all that and I was able to have my baby in the comfort of my own home this time.
Having a home birth and without any medical intervention has made big differences in numerous ways. I was able to go from the birth pool to my couch to my bed. I didn't need to put my tiny new born baby into a car seat and drive home! My daughter was able to be present for the birth of her baby brother. And I got to feel and experience how miraculous birth really is in ways that were unavailable to me the first time around. This experience made me feel much more connected to my baby from the beginning. My baby also got to just lie comfortably on me until he was ready to feed. He latched on well and has been breastfeeding without any issues.
Moreover, Debra and the midwives were so efficient that our place was cleaned up within an hour (they even took all the garbage out for us) even though they all brought bags and suitcases full of medical equipment with them. Thank you Debra for all your support. Avry's birth would not be the same without you. “ Vivian and Cornell 2015
To learn more about my home birth doula care, visit my website: www.vancouverhomebirthdoula.com
Debra Woods, Dakini Doula