Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Thursday, January 26, 2012

A Day in the Life of a Doula

This is a story about three women: two doulas and a laboring mother.

The mother's labor started in textbook fashion at 39 weeks, twelve hours after she had some light bloody show. She spent the day alone, enjoying herself and feeling crampy contractions every ten minutes. When Doula "A" finished work she slowly headed to the woman's home where they had tea and "chilled". Her contractions were becoming slightly more intense but our client was still chatting, making tea, and having a good time.

The textbook went a bit sideways at this point, when our lady decided to have a nap. As she lay down on her side, her waters broke and she felt the urge to push. Doula "B" happened to arrive at that moment and they quickly got into the car and drove to the hospital.

When they arrived at the hospital, they were of course whisked through to a room, and our lady was undressed and invited to get onto the bed. She did so, and continued to push. At this point, the resident tried to find the heart beat for the first time and was unable to. The baby crowned, the resident performed an episiotomy, and a very healthy baby was born.

The medical staff were very angry with the doulas for "letting" our client stay at home for too long. The new mother asked why she had been cut, and was told that the physician was concerned about the heart beat.

She was discharged the next day.

One of the doulas said afterwards:"That would have been a seamless homebirth." Yes.

My question is, what is your take on this?

Should she have come in when her labor started?

Should her doulas have done a vaginal exam? (A rhetorical questions, really, as they are not trained nor allowed to do so).

If she didn't have the support of a doula, then she would probably have come in earlier (here I am trying to convince myself that our services are unnecessary).

Thank you for your time, and appreciating in advance your comments,


Tuesday, January 24, 2012


Just to let y'all know - the volunteer doulas texted me at 3pm, our lady was going to have a sandwich and a lie down - then I didn't hear until 7pm - Baby Girl!!!

Quick and joyful natural birth. Thank you all for the collective toe pointing.

The doulas went home happy and will be back today to visit the new mother. They will visit her over the next week to make sure the breastfeeding is going well, and to talk over the labor and birth, and share in the joy.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Montreal Birth Companions

Right now, a lady who dearly wants to have a natural birth is in labor. She found out about Montreal Birth Companions from a little workshop she attended, and she contacted us with a request for a volunteer doula. She is single, living alone, and doesn't have the means to pay for a private doula - they can run to over $1000 here in Montreal. Of course, many people can afford them because they have private health insurance, and many doulas are now able to provide insurance receipts, which makes it a lot cheaper for the average working couple.

But MBC gets requests from women and families who cannot afford very much at all, and so our dedicated doulas donate their time and energy to accompanying these women on their childbirth journey. Sometimes we are approached by women who can afford a small stipend, but usually we are called by other agencies who have clients who need companions.

Over the years, MBC doulas have accompanied women from the four round corners of the earth: from the continent of Africa, from India and south-east Asia, China, Eastern and Western Europe, Central and South America, and of course from Canada. Our clients speak many different languages, as do the doulas. Many of our clients over the years have not spoken either of the official languages of Quebec (French and English, in case you were wondering...). Many of these women are single, many have recently arrived in Canada, some have left their other children behind.

Today's champion started early labor yesterday. She has been happy at home on her own until this morning, when her contractions started to become more intense. One MBC doula went to her place after she finished work; another is on the way when her work day is finished. They will probably be heading to the hospital soon.

Eight years ago, when our doulas first started volunteering, I was mentoring two exceptional women who were at one of their first birth experiences. This was with a lovely woman from the Indian subcontinent, who was unsure about when to go to the hospital. Although the doulas had been through a very comprehensive training (Holistic Perinatal Associates which, sadly, is no more - it was created by myself and Lesley Everest, of Motherwit fame), they couldn't figure out what exactly was going on, so they made several trips to the hospital in the middle of the night. Each time, they phoned me to ask my advice, and several other times too. So finally at around four am, they called me to say they were off to the hospital. I was lying in bed, and my feet happened to be pointing in the direction of the hospital they were going to. So I sleepily said "I'll point my toes for you.", which meant, of course, the equivalent of crossing my fingers, kissing my amulet, or praying for a good birth. The lady did go on to have a wonderful, natural birth, accompanied by her stout-hearted and exhausted doulas. Since then, "pointing your toes" has become a common saying in the Montreal doula community.

Some of our volunteers relaxing in the hospital!
So, everyone, "point your toes" for the lady in labor, wish her all the best, and let's hear a cheer for her wonderful doulas!!!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Girl Code?

Please visit the sisters and like my post! This will earn me one vote towards earning my Jetsetter edition course.

I just love it when I see women doing innovative and upbeat stuff. I love Savon Populaire - run by a trio of women, who have a few kids between them  and still manage to run a successful business (that also smells like heaven!)

Or there's Motherwit, also a Montreal-based business, run by our city's busiest and well-known doula, who leads a team of women who have accompanied many families through pregnancy and beyond.

My  Sicilian friend Ninni mixes her love for design with her desire for social justice to produce amazing creations, and she shares her knowledge with prison inmates to assist them to imagine a life outside of their limitations.

When I think of it, there are hundreds of amazing women I know and have known through the years, who have an idea, dream about it for a while, and then just get up and do it!

So - the code part - I just discovered another gem of a business, run by two enterprising sisters, who have decided to open the doors of web design to the common woman! Their site, The Girl's Guide to Web Design, looks very cool, works like a dream, and is full of interesting tidbits.

I had a lot of fun working with my sister on The Birth Conspiracy, my recently released book on natural birth, doulas, and hospitals. I loved working with her, and I was so happy that she agreed to put her amazing talents into our project.

The book is selling well, and we are planning three launches in different cities over the next few months. We are organizing a workshop in Italy in the summer with a great bunch of people, including our friend Lewis Mehl-Madrona, doctor, healer, storyteller, and author of Narrative Medicine.

I have so much going on - my volunteer doula organization, my own private practice, my workshops here and abroad, writing projects ... and I want to be able to use my voice more effectively and with a bit of a splash - I love techy stuff and I am always looking to learn more.
I envision a site where women can browse and gather information about natural birth, or find a doula, or sign up for an international workshop; get resources on anything from birthing in Sicily to doula projects in the Caribbean; find out how to join a writer's workshop ...and I want it to look good, and to work the way it should: big, beautiful, friendly, and cosmopolitan.

Which program? Jetsetter, definitely. I have been doing self-directed study since I was in high school; I love the name; and I can go at my own speed wherever I am.

Fun secret fact? I love to play the clarinet - from Brahm's Clarinet Sonata in F Minor, to some low-down blues after a few shots....

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Birth and Language, Words and Life

I am very pleased to present our next Italian get-together.
It will be held at a wonderful retreat in the green heart of Italy, from July 14 to 21, 2012.

Casa della Pace is a calm, beautiful, loving environment that allows you to fully relax, retreat from your daily worries and cares, and concentrate on what really matters.

This week-long retreat in July 2012 will not only be a chance for us to explore language and narrative during birth, but through all of our life cycles, from birth through childhood, adulthood, giving birth and raising children, old age, and that final cycle, death.

We will be exploring the universality of language, the power of words, and the joy of storytelling. Guest facilitators will include Lewis Mehl-Madrona,whose current interest is narrative medicine.

We will be working towards an anthology of stories and pieces emerging from the retreat, which will be published in 2013.

Registration is limited. If you are interested, please contact us (leave a comment) and we will email you our application form.