Wednesday, July 30, 2014

MBC Doula School


I have been the director of Montreal Birth Companions for over ten years now. We are at a very exciting point in our life as an organization, and I compare it to that time in a child's life when he (I have only sons so forgive the gender specific pronoun) leaves home to find his way. Our organization is now becoming mature and I will have to relinquish some of my hold on it and let it become what it needs to become.
So  now I have a new baby, and that is the MBC Doula School. I have been teaching doulas since 2003 and I want to expand my (and my students') horizons, and to that end I have created a school which is based partly on my basic courses (Levels One and Two), but also is based upon guest teachers who come to MBC Doula School to share their knowledge.
I have been working hard to bring this program to reality and things are coming together nicely now. I have invited several wonderful guests to lead us on our learning path and I have had lots of enthusiastic feedback from prospective students. To those of you who are far away, I am working on a web-based program that will retain the friendliness and community of our in-house classes.
Dedicated Birth Keeper taking notes @3am
The cost of the program will be based on credit hours (details to come) and, as always, I am happy to offer scholarships and internships to those who cannot pay. Please do not let your calling to this field be hindered by your cash problems!  
Remember, this program values self-directed study and practical work. I also believe that what we do teaches as much as what we say, so we at MBC Doula School are very respectful of the boundaries and limitations our students may have.
Practical work is fully integrated into the program, as an observer, a volunteer doula, shadow, or as an apprentice or mentor.

Doula Care Level One is starting on September 8, 2014. A Safe Passage will be taking place September 21 and 22, 2014. Singing Birth workshop will be coming to Montreal in March, 2015. For more information, please visit MBC Doula School
Here are the courses:
Doula Care Level I
Anatomy and Physiology for the childbearing year
Doula Care I.
Breastfeeding I.
Nutrition
Practical Component   
Doula Care Level II 
Doula Care II.
Reviewing Medical Interventions
Diagnostics
Practical Component                                                            
Introduction to Healing During the Childbearing Year  (Level III)
Challenges During the Childbearing Year: An Overview
Overview of Healing Modalities                                                   
Electives                                                                   
  1. A Safe Passage workshop                                                    
  2. Working with Families                                                            
  3. Language and Birth                                                             
  4. Informatics for Birth Workers                                               
  5. Singing Birth                                                                            
  6. Postpartum Intensive                                                              
  7. Healing during Pregnancy, Labor and Birth                          
  8. Healing during the Postpartum Period                                   
  9. Cranio-Sacral During Pregnancy and for newborns
  10. Yoga pre-and postpartum
  11. The Placenta  and Placental Encapsulation
  12. Herbalism
  13. Ribozo
  14. Homeopathy for doulas
  15. Massage: Prenatal, During Labor, Postpartum
  16. The Doula Business
  17. Birth Narrative
  18. Working with marginalized populations
  19. Childbirth Education Course (observe)  
  20. Winter Birth Retreat with Debra and Rivka                             

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

My favorite birth books


I have always loved to read and study and write. I have been asked to provide reading lists for my doula courses and I always tell my students just to read everything on paper, online, about birth, women, and healing, and to think and discuss.



This is actually the kind of advice that is too wide and vague to be of much use, so I am trying to pin down my reading list and make some better suggestions. I have created a list here for the MBC Doula School students. It's on Goodreads, so you can make suggestions and add your comments and reviews.
I hope you enjoy the list, and I am looking forward to hearing suggestions, critiques and reviews.

Happy reading!

Friday, July 11, 2014

MBC Doula School Level One

Interested in doula training in Montreal? MBC Doula School provides a comprehensive doula training with hands-on experience throughout, as the students volunteer with Montreal Birth Companions (visit us here).
Level one is starting September 8, 2014. Follow the link below to find out more about a future in birth work!

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Burnout

Mama and son in Barbados
 Mama was happy.

This story is about burnout. About that feeling you have when you have so many worries and brightly colored post-its stuck inside your head that you mainly just walk around your house looking at things.

My particular form of burnout started in December, when my mother came to visit with a large parasite on her neck. Cancer is weird that way. This thing just grew and grew and grew until it just sucked her away.

I made her a party for New Year's:

L'Chaim! 

Then I got back to work. In January, I organized a big doula workshop with my friend Debra Pascali-Bonaro. It was wonderful, all things doula, all the doula students ... the hotel was crap, I learned my lesson about cheap hotels. The food was great - having a chef for a son is a bonus (yes, I paid him). 

I also attended five births that month. I realized during some of those experiences that I had to stop attending hospital births for a while. I couldn't bear to see unnecessary things done to women by people who had not bothered to educate themselves about the birth process. 

I studied like crazy for my CPM written exam. When my second son (the boy in the picture!) was born 28 years ago, I realized I wanted to become a midwife. Not because I had a wonderful birth experience but because in fact I was horrified by the approach and the touch of my birth attendants, and I was drawn to treating women with love.

I wrote my exam, and I passed!!! Now I am a Certified Professional Midwife. 

Then the parasite on my mother's neck took over my life, from February until March when she finally passed away, I was caring for her, sometimes from a distance, sometimes right by her side.

Home death isn't all its cracked up to be. Death can be pretty awful, really. I've seen death and its never so nice, but my mother's death was hard. 

And so to mourning and grief. In the Jewish faith, you just sit for a week and don't do anything. This is good. Then for another three weeks your activities are limited. This is also good. 

I have taken good care of myself over the past month. I realized that some of my big disappointments over the past few months are really little - the rejection slips piled up, so? So I started running again, back up to 4 k, and working on it. I want to get to ten by the end of the summer. I eat well. I try to do fun things. I cherish my kids and my family. 

What is the cure for burnout? Be gentle on yourself! This means being able to walk around the house and look at things. To stand in the middle of a room and think for a few minutes. To have a piece of chocolate. 

It also means saying no when you need to. Not always, but when you need to. It means making sure you have a couple of friends you can call when the going gets tough. It means not taking yourself too seriously. It means pushing yourself to get some exercise. It means starting slowly to get yourself back at work and play, but starting! Start off slowly if you need to, but you will need to. Burn-out can't last for too long, because then it becomes chronic tiredness and pain or illness. Treat yourself like a pussy cat for as long as you can, but when its time to get moving again, you will know it.

This particular pussy cat is so happy to be back from the edge! My energy is solid and growing. I am back in the birthing room, after some time away. I have my patience back. I am looking forward to an active and productive year, as the MBC Doula School blooms and MBC continues to provide service for those who are in need. 

Thank you for traveling with me for these past difficult months - the list is long, you know who you are. 

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Back to Birthing!



I found this beautiful broken robin's egg shell the other day. It reminded me again of how I miss going to births. I finally feel ready to go back to attending birthing women after having taken a couple of months off to attend my mother's death and to then mourn her passing.



When I had a farm, back in the days when I had four little boys under my feet; an acre of vineyard; a huge market garden and a wheat field ... not to mention needy Wwoofers and occasional building tasks (like hoisting chestnut beams for the roof) ... I digress ... when I had the farm, I used to pick coltsfoot flowers in February to make syrup for the next winter's coughs. Just last week, I found some coltsfoot on an abandoned lot in Halifax.



Spring is lovely. I am so happy that the sun has returned - I thought it never would. The darkness of winter 2013/14 was very, very dark, and I am grateful to be alive on this warm lively day.

Projects coming up: I am available for prenatal classes and to attend births; the new MBC Doula School  is growing and expanding; Montreal Birth Companions, as always, is providing doula services for women in need. 

Please contact me if you are interested in joining in any of these projects. I am always happy to share the love!


Thursday, March 27, 2014

Life and Death: A Tribute to My Mother


Death brings into question all of your life. My dreams, my goals, my aspirations, seem so small when I remember what my mother was whispering about on her death bed. 

I've always felt that my task on this earth is to try to do good; to try to be kind; to try to make the world a better place.

God knows I've failed,  spectacularly at times. I have a temper, and I "shoot from the hip", and I have a devil-may-care attitude that upsets people. I seem stand-offish and arrogant to those who don't know how deeply shy I am. But, yes, I must admit, my ability to dance to the beat of a different drum has kept me alive, literally, in the past, and probably will continue to offend people in the future.

I first met my mother after I stubbornly refused to turn from breech and the obstetrician recognized that because of a short cord, a normal delivery would be dangerous for me. My mother had a cesarean, which back in those days meant a serious incision - no pretending that cesarean section wasn't major surgery back in the fifties. It gave you a scar to remember! 

Two years later, she gave birth to my sister, and then another sister after that. Back in Uganda at that time repeat cesareans were NOT the order of the day, so my two sisters were born naturally.

My mother was a very sociable person. She was intensely creative and loved to see the world. She loved a party. She loved to talk to people. Her deafness was a real challenge to her, as she was a great and witty conversationalist. Two days before she died, my sisters both happened to be wearing pyjamas with polka dots on them. We were at her side constantly for the last five days of her life. That morning, she brightened up, looked at my sisters (both in their fifties and a little tired after having been up for three days) and said: "I could spot you girls a mile off!".

She wins the end-of-life, in deep pain, absolute pun prize.

She was always excited about my projects, no matter how zany they were. 

She was brave. She left England in 1952 with my father to go to Uganda where she taught mathematics at Makerere University. In 1959 they decided to move to Calgary where she lived a very different life and was appalled by the backwardness and provincialism of the people there.

In her late thirties, with three daughters, one of whom was spinning out of control (yours truly), she decided to move from mathematics into art and she decided to take art classes. She worked very hard and created some absolutely beautiful works. She became an artist during this time, and continued to paint, draw and create up until very recently.





These are some works she did during and just after my father died. 

Never to stay still for longer than a few years, my parents moved to Botswana in the late seventies where my mother created a silkscreen workshop that is still thriving, at a village museum:

My mother loved the desert. They would get in the truck and drive on to the pans and sleep under the stars. She loved the light.


My mother loved dressing up. She would mix colors magnificently, and she always made sure her hair was done. She loved jewelry, and perfume, and high-heeled shoes. She loved going out with me to buy a pretty dress.

She loved a party. She was always ready to celebrate! On her 80th birthday, she was with us in Italy and we drove to our favorite picnic spot: 

It is a spot by the side of the road where we stop and eat supper and watch the sun go down into the sea. We didn't have a fancy picnic basket - just the usual - home made bread, tins of tuna, mozzarella, capers, beer, ... and then we stuck a lighter into a plastic plate of cookies and sang Happy Birthday.
After the sun went down we drove to the nearby town, walked on the boardwalk, and had a coffee. A perfect party!




She loved to knit and sew. With three daughters, she always had us dressed in matching dresses, at least until her oldest decided to wear only jeans, hiking boots and a small T-shirt.

She was a very skilled textile artist: This is the front of a sweater she knitted for me from a silk/cotton mix.



She loved music. She loved art. She was always enthusiastic about going to the Musee des Beaux Arts when she visited Montreal.

She loved to get presents. 


She loved Italy. I moved there in 1985 and she visited whenever she could, which wasn't often in the beginning as she was living in Botswana. But a few years later, my parents bought a medieval tower in the middle of Umbria. It was, simply, a tower. No electricity, bathroom, kitchen, or much of anything. It had water. And it was in the middle of an Italian village.


They didn't live there, because they were still enjoying the Kalahari. So we moved in: two adults, two young children and pretty soon two more babies on the way. I don't know many kids who lived in a medieval tower for some of their childhood, but mine did - I suppose I must have inherited some of my mother's sense of adventure! 

Just over a year ago, after my father died, my mother found out she was ill. She decided to forgo exploration and treatment and instead booked herself on an art tour to Italy: 






This year, my mother spent the winter vacation with us, and she partied with her six grandsons well into the night on New Year's, 2014.


L'Chaim!!

In loving memory of my mother who died on March 17, 2014. 

Saturday, March 8, 2014

International Women's Day

This International Women's day, I would like to hand a mimosa branch to each and every one of the people I love.

This day is about women, about peace, strength, the power of love. 

We are not there yet, but I dream of a world where women can give birth with respect and honor; where we can all walk wherever we want whenever we want, a world where there is no hate, no war, no hunger.

"Se non ora, quando?"

If not now, when?



Please go out today and do one thing that will help bring peace.














Thursday, March 6, 2014

Women's Bodies and Other People's Values


In Quebec, we are experiencing an interest phenomenon. A provincial politician is trying to be Le Pen. She is stirring up xenophobic and racist emotions rather effectively with some doublespeak that pretends to be about secularism and feminism. The target? Religious Muslim women. The fallout? Pretty well everyone who is not .. erm .. well, let's just say that anyone who looks a little different has experienced annoyance if not rage at this political acrobatics.

I am used to people using women's bodies as a battleground. From my days as a sexual abuse counsellor - and a direct action activist - to my days working in hospitals with birthing women, I have been witness to the phenomenon of the woman's body being argued over, manipulated, commodified, objectified, ground up and spat out.

And it has grown up, this violence against women. Back in the seventies, as a rape crisis worker, it was pretty clear what was happening. If you were a woman, and you were alone at night, or walking home from work, you were a target and you could be raped. If you were a prostitute or an indigenous woman, you could be raped AND killed. Simple. Violence against women.

But today, the violence is coated in pretty words. What do you call it when someone puts his hand into a woman's vagina without asking her or looking her in the eye? Its called rape. Birth rape. Doctors who manhandle and abuse women when they are giving birth say that they are saving lives. They are not. They are exercising their power.

Politicians who make silly rules about what women can or cannot wear may say that they are doing it "for the women" (yes, in South Africa they say that rape is "for the women" too, when they are raping a lesbian to convince her to change her preferences). They say they are doing it for the Muslim women's enlightenment and freedom. 
They're not. They are also exercising their power.

I suggest we ban the type of clothing that overweight, middle-aged Quebecoise women wear, when they should know better. Oh, the tight T-shirt over a middle-aged belly! Oh, the tight jeans over hips that should be covered! Oh, the dyed blond badly-styled hair! The polyester double-knit suits! The shoes that Cinderella's sister wore!

But it's different, you argue. Those badly-styled garments do not speak of a deeper moral code - a code that oppresses women (we are speaking of Islam here). They are just off-the-rack, cheap garments, bought without a shred of moral judgement or thought. Yes, you're right. It heralds the victory of the mediocre fat lady; the no-brainers; the thoughtless violence; the amoral assholes who parade as sensitive do-gooders.

I went to a birth once with a lovely student of mine who wore a see-through spaghetti strap tank top and a fake leopard-skin miniskirt. It was a Montreal summer - hot and humid. In the greyish hallways of the hospital she looked like an angel from heaven - hot, sexy, and happy. The birth was a lot of fun: the birthing mother didn't take any shit from anyone and she gave birth on her hands and knees, even if the physician couldn't handle seeing her vulva "upside down". After the birth we ordered sushi.

Another of my fondest memories was a birthing woman who was dressed completely top to bottom: hat, wig, robe, undershirt, bra, panties, stockings and socks. She removed the panties and stockings to give birth but everything else remained. Her husband, who was not allowed to look at her, sang throughout her labor, and told jokes. She laughed that baby out. The room was full of love.

I have seen women's legs held down, women's bellies jumped on, women yelled at and berated. I have listened to doctors, nurses, and midwives tell women what to do; what to say; what to feel; how to move.

When will we rise up against this banal mediocracy?




Thursday, February 6, 2014

Birth and Pleasure!




Here are some highlights from the Birth Companions/DONA workshop with Debra Pascali-Bonaro last weekend. We started out sitting around in a circle, with notebooks at hand, listening intently to what Debra had to say...


Day One, Hour One


The room started to get a little messier and we all moved in closer to Debra, and to each other, as we started to get into her words and the concepts we were exploring together.

Moving Closer


Group Work
 
Debra explaining about positioning.

As I was saying - Birth is Simple! An introduction to the concept of pleasure during the childbearing year.
As the days progressed, we got to know each other better through working in groups of two, three or more. Women came from Nova Scotia, Quebec, and Ontario to participate in this gathering, and from such different backgrounds! But we found common ground and really connected.
And That's It!

Debra brought her birth cards out - a wonderfully innovative tool that really helps the new parents to imagine and understand what their options may be, and how one choice will have consequences on how the birth will unfold. The students played with these cards to learn how a doula can help the new parents to make choices prenatally. 
Working with the birth cards



I Love You

 Taking the time to treasure each other and ourselves.

WomanPower!


 We learned important techniques to use during labor and birth: the rebozo was a favorite! And of course the messiness of the room was no longer a consideration. We were getting down to the ground and having a good time!
Shimmying with a rebozo









Through active role play the students learned how they might act with a real woman in real labor. They used props such as birth balls, rebozos,


and learned about positions in labor, prenatal positioning, and some massage work.


Shake and Lunge!
 This useful tool hangs on a door (make sure it's locked!!) and a laboring woman can pull on it as she squats.
Deep Squat
 Finally, on Day Four, our babies were ready to be born. Our doulas comforted each other through active labor and used all the techniques they had learned during the final role play. They used birth balls, rebozos, positions, physical comfort measures, and a lot of vocalization! The room was alive with woman sounds: moaning, yelling, sighing, and laughter!




Thank you to everyone who made this workshop happen!

Monday, December 30, 2013

Debra Pascali-Bonaro in Montreal



Winter Birth Intensive
January 2014 
with Debra Pascali-Bonaro

Have a look at details here.

This training brings together Debra Pascali-Bonaro, one of the most experienced doula trainers in the world, famous for her dedication to joy in birth, and Rivka Cymbalist, author of The Birth Conspiracy.

WHO?

Those who take the workshop do not need a professional background, but should have the following: fascination with pregnancy, childbirth, and newborn babies; a desire to work with women or couples during this most meaningful and demanding time in their lives; emotional maturity; stamina; and reliability.

WHERE?

Montreal, Canada. 

WHEN?

The course will take place during four days (this includes the Introduction to Childbirth). 

Dates: January 25 to January 28, 2014.

Introduction to Childbirth will start at 8:45am on the morning of the 25th, so it will be advisable to reach Montreal on the 24th.

WHAT?

The DONA International Birth Doula Training covers all the basics of doula care before, during and immediately after childbirth.  This workshop has been approved by DONA International and counts for two steps toward certification. Please contact DONA for information about membership and requirements for certification as a birth doula.

WHAT IS THE COST?

Registration including accommodation US$875.00.
Montreal residents $700.00.


Monday, December 9, 2013

Women who want to be Doulas

Mamas, please let your babies grow up to be doulas.....

We started Level Two again two weeks ago - time is already flying - there's so much to teach and learn at every level! Two of the Level Two students are accompanying a birthing woman today, so they won't make it to class tonight.

I am so pleased to have met my new students. The group of women this year is very diverse, in age, background, experience... and yet we are all drawn by the desire to accompany women through the journey of childbirth.

I believe that all midwifery students should have to accompany at least fifty women through the birthing process (but even better one hundred or more), and that most of these should be in the hospital environment. Why is this?

Doulas learn to sit on their hands and let the birthing process unfold.
Doulas learn to keep their mouths zipped while they maintain a safe space for the woman.
Doulas learn respect.
They learn that the birthing process is unexpected. That it proceeds better when it is undisturbed, but that nature is pretty flexible with its rules.
They learn what NOT to do.
They learn humility, kindness, diplomacy, and they learn when to speak out and when not to.

We may all have our different ways of practice, just like we were all born slightly differently, just like we will birth differently. But we all practice companionship, which is the most important aspect of our care.

Learn to be a doula here.


Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Serendipity


“Our work in this area began when one of our medical students failed to follow the instructions for another study. She was only supposed to obtain the approval of primiparous, healthy mothers in early labor. They were then to go through the usual hospital routine, and the study was to begin at their babies' birth. She obtained the approval for the study early in labor, but stayed with each of 10 study mothers giving emotional and physical support until they delivered (family support was not permitted in this hospital). When we first heard about this error, we were upset, because all of these mothers and babies had to be removed from the ongoing study. However, when we looked more closely at the charts of these mothers, we found that they had unusually short labors. Surprisingly, three of these mothers delivered in the bed. This was unheard of in this hospital, because the focus of the delivery unit was sterility, and the rules of the hospital were that every mother was to deliver in a "sterile" delivery room. It is this serendipitous observation of altered labor with emotional support that has been the focus of our research for the last 10 years.”
Klaus, Marshall H. Touching during and after childbirth. In Field, TM (Ed), Touch in early development (pp 19-33). Mahwah, NJ, Lawrence Erlbaum. 

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Birth and Beyond 2013


Why do I love this conference and the women who work so hard to make it a success every year?

Because it's fun! We get to play!

And for so many other reasons. We get to stretch our boundaries: just like the perineum stretches so nicely when a baby's head moves past it, so we have to stretch our ideas and preconceptions when we meet the motley crew of professionals, activists, birthing women, and others, who make this conference the best of the year.

We also have to think. The speakers and movers and shakers at this conference are really good at pushing us to look outside the box: Jodi Hall has a superb intellect, and her grasp of complicated ideas is truly stunning. She manages to light up those ideas for us lesser mortals, and challenge us to use our brain power while we take pleasure in the exercises she prepares for us.  James McKenna and Diane Weissinger speak science: let's start thinking about "what would mammals do?" Gloria Lemay does not suffer complacency lightly - she will always challenge you to a duel. Robbie Davis-Floyd can always be relied upon to: 1. present complicated papers on birth from an anthropologists viewpoint; 2. tell hilarious stories about the rock stars in the birth world and 3. be the amazing woman who starts everyone singing.

We have to compromise: the intactivists breathed the same air as those participants who choose circumcision. The registered midwives discussed their work with the not-so-registered.

And, best of all, the participants at Birth and Beyond are truly lovely: from different walks of life and different places, with stories and paths that sometimes converge and sometimes not. And, somehow, we  all manage to get along just fine. Well, most of us. And that's because, at Birth and Beyond, everyone doesn't necessarily share the exact same viewpoint.

We get to talk about interesting concepts like LOVE, like VOLUNTEERING, like CO-SLEEPING,  like ENTITLEMENT, like FEAR IN BIRTH, like WHAT TO DO, like LOSS?

We learn and go on learning, we open our minds and our hearts, we meet people we would not expect to meet.

This is above all a conference that is dynamic and alive. It is not political, it doesn't seem to subscribe to a certain political line, and that is the beauty of it. Melanie and Shawn have managed to get all of the ingredients together for an event that is going to keep on moving, year after year …. don't you want to be part of it?

Get involved! Birth and Beyond 2014

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Salut Pauline! Loving my adopted province!

Last week, Montreal Birth Companions assisted a woman to give birth. Her hospital stay was very long and she finally left with a bill of over $20,000.

She was one of the many women MBC assists who do not have medical coverage here, who give birth in our hospitals at great cost. Some of these women are domestics who have been fired by their employers. Some are women who are here on the wrong kind of visa to be pregnant (hey, Harper! I thought you were against abortion!). Some are here illegally because they are afraid of harm or death in their home countries, but they do not qualify as refugees.

This woman was the kind of Muslim that Madame Marois wants: modern, educated, no head scarf. Her reasons for fleeing her country were valid and I will not explain more. She was taken in by an elderly Anglophone woman until the baby was born.

She needed a place to live, so we finally found her somewhere to stay until she gets on her feet. She is employable and will be fine.

But - her birth and postpartum search for housing was such a typical Quebecois event! The new mother was a Muslim. She wears western clothing and no head scarf. She was taken in by a Quebecois Anglophone, who is very old and appeared to wear a dressing gown. Her doula was a Quebecois Francophone who is a political activist. She rides her bicycle most days and has a couple of piercings. Her second doula was also Quebecois, who is a member of the Canadian army. The mentor doula is a Jewish woman whose politics veer from left to anarchist. She wears a headscarf. The shelter where she finally found refuge is run by a Muslim woman from Malaysia who regularly provides food for one hundred people at a nearby church. She wears a hijab and a floor length gown. The journalist who was interested in the story is a member of a visible minority. We all spoke different languages: French, English, Arabic, Bahasa Malaysia, Italian... and probably more...

We are united by love and goodwill, and by the urge to change this world for the better. Some of us wear head coverings, some of us don't. Some of us believe in God, some might not. But this Quebec is the place I like living - where we all get by and get along, sometimes speaking in broken this or that, trying to get along because we believe that getting along is a good thing. It's the place I brought my kids so they would get an education, and they are getting an education, and they speak several languages, including the language of tolerance.

So, Pauline, even though you have a bunch of liberal feminists on your side, and some aging would-be politicians, I would like you to come and visit our Quebec: the Quebec where we help people who don't necessarily believe in the same things we believe in, or speak the same language as we do, or wear the same clothes as we do. And I would like to remind you that while you are doing your politics, babies are being born and friends are being made and bonds are being formed across all of your artificially constructed boundaries.

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