Sunday, October 30, 2011

{Ottawa Doula} Frame of Mind

Before I even knew that the term "attachment parenting" existed, I was raising my daughter in a way that aligned well with this style of parenting. All the books and articles I read only confirmed my beliefs, and helped me to become more confident in the instincts that I was following. It certainly wasn't the norm to parent in this way, but that didn't stop me!

However, as with all ideas, beliefs and value systems, nothing is ever black and white. Attached parents may not be able to follow this frame of mind all the time, and different children require different strategies.

Although I can't call my child "different," I can certainly call her many other things - spirited, gregarious, head-strong, and challenging, to name a few.

Maybe she's only challenging to ME, the parent, who is perhaps less suited to this type of personality (I like quiet - lots of it!) But the most important lesson I've learned (so far) as a parent, is that we must accept our children for who they are, not what we think they should be.

Of late, we've had some challenges with A (not surprising, given she's 2!), that have made me question my attachment parenting frame of mind. I breastfed (still do), babywore, co-slept, avoided cry-it-out techniques and tried to understand my baby's cues. I didn't do all of this just because I read it in a book - I did a lot of it naturally (although self consciously at times).

Now that we're in the toddler years, and I'm working two jobs, the struggles with sleep and nighttime parenting have become an issue. For a while, we thought we were "in the clear," when she started sleeping through the night. That only lasted several months until she started waking up again - very predictably, at 1am and 5am.

It doesn't necessarily bother me to comfort her back to sleep and occasionally share the bed. What is bothering me is a niggling thought that I need to be "tougher." That given my child's boisterous personality, I need to perhaps apply some stricter boundaries.

It helps me to think about it this way - when am I giving up TOO much, just to make her happy? When am I ignoring all my needs?

And so last night, we had a big cry-fest, when I refused to give in to her demands. We can't shut the door and leave, as she knows how to open the door, but I just sat beside her while she threw a MEGA tantrum at 4:30am. She eventually went back to sleep, sniffling and hiccuping in that horribly sad way.

This is where my frame of reference becomes foggy, and I can't determine my true feelings. If I am an attached parent, don't I want to avoid letting her cry like this? Yet, if I tap into my needs and desires, don't I really need/want an extra hour or two of sleep before starting our day?

So my attachment parenting friends out there - tell me your experiences. Can I be an attached parent and avoid giving in to every nighttime need?

Friday, October 28, 2011

Self Care

I've spoken recently about the drawbacks to being a doula, and working in a job that is unpredictable - you don't know what your hours will be; there is no one telling you what to do; and the perks are sometimes hard to spot.

Something must keep drawing us back to the birthing space - clearly, the miracle of birth is fantastic, and being able to provide emotional support is extremely rewarding. I would also argue that OBs, midwives and doulas are adrenaline junkies. Just like those people who continue to seek higher and higher peaks to scale, we continue to seek experiences that get the heart pumping (as I tell my clients, labour is actually pretty boring until the end, but sometimes, you come up against a situation that leaves you reeling!)

And with all this adrenaline, lack of sleep and outpouring of support, there is little time and effort for something that is so important: self care.

Image Source
Like the flight attendants say: you must put on your own oxygen mask before you help your children (or anyone else for that matter). If a doula (or any type of person who's main role is to support others) does not put on her oxygen mask, she will burn out and be useless to her clients.

I've learned this the hard way these past 9 months, and I'm ready to take more of an active role in the self care department. So here is an outline of some of the things I plan to (try) to do for myself, as I enter some of the busiest months of my career thus far:

1) I'm joining Andrea over at At Peek Inside the Fishbowl to do the "100 Club." A long, fast walk every day, and 40 jumping jacks, 30 crunches, 20 squats, 10 push-ups. Quick and simple!

2) My yoga 10-class pass is sitting unused in my wallet. Time to bust it out and attend a class each week. I am also committing to doing one other day of a quick yoga/meditation exercise.

3) Protein: people who stay up all night don't need more carbs. Carbs are great for an all-around healthy diet, but if that's what you're eating to keep you awake, you're in for an unpleasant surprise. Sugar crashes! Headaches! Nausea! I am committing to eat more protein.

4) Monthly massages. This is easy for me - no one needs to drag me to the massage table! (thanks Anna Belanger!)

5) Friends: they are my lifeline. I need to commit to working on friendships, so that I don't end up losing any. Phone calls, letters, emails and as many face-to-face dates as I can schedule.

Even when you're not a doula, self care is so important. What do you do to take care of yourself?

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Our Busy Week

What have we been up to here at the Tweet? Good question, because I haven't blogged since last week!

1) Getting ready for halloween..

Cookie making!

2) Putting our gardens to bed...

Bye bye tomatoes!

Free mulch from Hydro One

3) Seeing babies being born...sorry, no pictures here!

4) And finally, discovering mould in our downstairs bathroom. There are pictures, but do you really want to see them?

Hope you had a great week! What have you been up to?

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

You are every person you will ever meet

Many of us bloggers are taking time this week to write about a serious issue: bullying. We're writing about it because another teenager has died here in Ottawa. He took his own life, in order to escape from his struggles with depression and bullying.

As I sat listening to the words of his father, a councillor here in Ottawa, the sadness I felt from this wasted life turned into anger.

I'm angry because Jamie lost his battle with depression. I'm angry because Jamie couldn't be himself in a world that demands conformity. I'm angry because our society as a whole fails, time and time again, to help young people deal with the challenges they face.

But most of all, I'm angry with the bullies. I am filled with anger directed at them.

I realize that there are other factors that contributed to Jamie's suicide. I know that mental health issues are multifaceted, and take a long time to get under control. And I'm sure that Jamie's family, his school, and his friends tried to take action.

But I remember those bullies well. Although I can not begin to imagine what Jamie went through, I can certainly relate to the experience of being bullied. My middle school years are not fond memories. Several girls in my class, including me, were targets of gossip and cruel words and it made school life a rotten experience. I was extremely lucky to have a couple of great girlfriends, and the sympathetic ear of the vice principle, who did as much as she could to support us through those challenges. And although I was not a gay youth, I was called a lesbian and bullied about my sexuality. For a young teen, this is particularly devastating.

But my girlfriends and I did not receive the worst. I remember another young girl, slightly overweight, who was  the subject of relentless and cruel treatment. She was bullied physically and emotionally, and eventually had to move schools because of the abuse.

My thoughts go to the girls who did the bullying - what was wrong with them? How did they become so cruel? Is it possible to be inherently mean or does it have a lot to do with the skills of the parents? Or is it just that the parents weren't aware of what was going on?

I reflect on these memories now that I have my own daughter. The thought of her growing up to bully other children makes me sick to my stomach. How do we prevent this?

I'm far from an expert, but I think that raising empathetic children is the key. Teaching them - from the newborn stage - the importance of recognizing and sharing another person's feelings is the BEST way to ensure that children will become compassionate adults.

This reminds me of an episode of my favourite show Being Erica, which aired just the other week. In it, Erica is a "therapist-in-training" and is called upon to help a man who she does not like. As she struggles to help someone she despises, her own therapist tells her "you are your patient. You are every patient you will ever have, and you are every person you will ever meet."

When we put ourselves on another level, and look down on others, we are saying I am not you.

And that, my friends, is how wars are started; how fights or disagreements arise; and how we come to marginalize others. It is based on the fact that we have separated US from THEM, or ME and YOU.

As soon as we take this step to separate ourselves, and as soon as we draw that line in the sand, we have lost the battle. As humans, this is how we fail each other, time and time again.

I will make a plea to you tonight - I ask you to talk to your children about these lines that we draw. I ask you to work in your own lives to erase these barriers. And most importantly, I ask you to help your children realize that we are every person we will ever meet.

This is Matthew Barber's You and Me.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

An Unexpected Life

When I get to the point in a prenatal visit when I must talk about "unexpected outcomes" with my doula clients, I get a bit nervous.

Why? Because I know that most of the time, my clients will be reluctant to discuss what would happen in the event of: a cesarean section, a stillbirth, a child with a medical or health condition, caring for a child with special needs...the list goes on.

When we become pregnant with our first child, we generally put on our rose-coloured glasses, and have a hard time contemplating what life would be like if things didn't go the way we imagined them. I know this, because I did it too.

I remember watching an episode of Oprah during my pregnancy, which showcased "real" moms talking about the truth of motherhood - what things are really like. I turned the TV off and called my own mom in a panic, and asked her "is it really that bad!?" The feedback I got from her, and from other moms, was that I had nothing to worry about. It's Oprah after all, not real life!

Fast forward several months, and I realized that a lot of the women speaking on that Oprah episode were right - I had fallen down the rabbit hole and wasn't coming up anytime soon. And I had a healthy baby!! Imagine the shock I may have experienced with a baby who was sick.

We can never fully prepare for an unexpected outcome, because clearly, we don't know what it will be like, or how we will react. But that doesn't mean that we need to shut our eyes and plug our ears - discussing the unthinkable may help us to realize that we are not in control. And that's OK. The more we let go of control, the better chance we have at surviving a crisis in our lives.

I would like to share an incredible blog by a woman I know, Julie Keon. Julie was my childbirth educator during my pregnancy, and I will never forget the moment that she took out a picture of her daughter and passed it around to our class. She was illustrating the fact that pregnancy and birth are unpredictable. We hope for the best, but we should also open our eyes to the possibility of hardship and loss.

As I have been reading through Julie's posts, I realize how imporant it is for other mothers to share the joys and challenges of leading a different kind of life - an unexpected life. Without this knowledge, and without a glimpse into the unknown, how would we ever begin to understand the depths of human dignity, strength and love?

Please visit Julie's website, and take a moment to read some of the posts - especially the introductory post on the main page. Share this with any parents who are learning how to raise a child with special needs.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

You WILL get a medal!

In September 2008, just days after we tied the knot, hubby and I took a two week honeymoon to Newfoundland. I know, a little bit of a different choice for honeymoon destinations, but who ever said you need to be predictable?

Newfoundland is actually a magical honeymoon destination, and the most beautiful place I've ever visited. Part of our plan was to spend five days in Gros Morne National Park, a designated Unesco World Heritage Site. We could have actually spent two months there, but alas, real life called us back home.

As we planned what to do from our cozy cabin, hiking Gros Morne Mountain was definitely a top priority. It's the second highest peak in Newfoundland, and 806 M high. The climb was supposed to be a challenging one, but we counted on the fact that we were in decent shape.

But no one foresaw how my post-wedding body would react to all the pre-wedding stress and jitters by getting sick. It happens to the best of us - you go, go, go, only to drop dead as soon as you have a moment to relax. Well, I didn't quite drop dead, but it was touch-and-go for a couple of days as to whether I would have the stamina to climb the mountain.

Hiking day dawned clear and sunshiny, and hubby ignored my whining and ushered me to the car. We set out early, as we wanted enough time to complete the hike before possible clouds and rain rolled in. The first part was easy - a slow, meandering 4km uphill to the base of the meanest part of the mountain.

When we emerged from the green forest (with chirping birds and ponds scattered here and there), we got our first view of the actual "mountain." Many people just hiked this portion of the trail, took pictures like all good tourists, and then turned home. But not us - oh, no - we were aiming to do the whole thing.

At the end of this 4km hike was a terrifying sign, warning hikers of the dangers in climbing Gros Morne. The sign went something like this:

All those faint of heart be warned: the next several kilometres involve a vertical climb upward over a steep boulder gully - which is actually a major landslide that took place not too long ago. It's quite possible another landslide could happen at any point, and you will be buried alive under the rubble. If you happen to make it up the "scree" (ie. sharp, pointy rocks), you will reach the smooth arctic tundra, which can often be shrouded in thick clouds. It's possible that you will lose your way at this point, and fall down the side of the mountain. If not, and you find yourself still alive, you will descend another 6km down a steep Ferry Gulch (read: scary cliff). It is not uncommon to encounter bears and angry moose. Use trail at your own risk.

At this point I turned around to go back to the car, but hubby had other plans. And actually, he was right - the hike up was the scariest part, but we made it to the top feeling exhilarated and proud of ourselves. The next day I was so sore I could barely lift a leg, but man, did I feel awesome! I'd just climbed a mountain!

The point of this post? Yes, there are things in life that seem insurmountable (eg. birth!). You will be scared, and you may whine and cry most of the way. But all of a sudden you will come to a point where you give in, let go, and start having fun. And despite the bruises, sore muscles and sunburned face, you will finish that challenge feeling stronger than ever before.

When you meet a challenge head on, and take the bull by the horns, despite all your misgivings, you WILL get a medal for your courage. Sure, it might not be a real medal hanging on your wall, but it will be there, all shiny and pretty - in your heart.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Emergency Preparedness

My hubby thinks I'm crazy, but I'm currently planning our Emergency Preparedness kit to store in our basement. It will include things like water, first aid kits and canned food. It's something I've been meaning to do for ages, but the task always seems to get pushed to the end of the To Do List.

And although I may be laughed at, the truth is, you just never know. Yes, we live in Ottawa, Canada, and I think we're pretty safe from things like war and famine. But global warming could soon result in severe weather patterns (as it has in the past, with the 1999 Ice Storm), and infectious outbreaks scare the living daylights out of me. So, like a good Girl Guide, I like to be prepared for a period of time when we may be stuck in our home.

This has me reflecting on a recent birth, where I was called upon to handle an emergency situation. Being a doula in Ottawa, I had taken for granted the fact that we are near many amazing hospitals. And yet, none of these hospitals will be able to serve you if you can't get to them on time (and you aren't blessed with a midwife to catch your baby at home).

I seem to have forgotten one important lesson:

Birth is unpredictable

Oh sure, birth is normal (unless proven otherwise), but it's certainly not predictable. You can't tell how a woman's labour will progress, no matter how much of an expert you think you are. And so sometimes things will go faster than you think - faster than a speeding bullet!

So I thought it may be helpful for other doulas out there (and partners/Dads too!) to outline a few of the things I learned from my experience:

1) A precipitous labour is one that is under 3 hours in length. The woman essentially has no early labour signs/symptoms and will begin active labour immediately.

2) A lot of blood and mucous, with contractions quickly becoming 1-2 minutes apart can indicate that a woman has dilated very fast (blood/mucous is normal in every labour, but may be a sign of impending birth if progress has been quick)

3) If the water breaks and the woman immediately feels the urge to push, you can be quite sure that she is close to delivery (especially with the other signs mentioned above)

4) It's always best to call 911 from your home, even if you're close to the hospital. At least at home you have access to clean/warm towels, and don't have to deal with a cramped backseat. DOULAS: don't be worried about calling a false alarm. Paramedics are trained to assess the situation, and if your instincts are wrong (which they probably aren't), at least you will know that you played it safe.

5) If you do get stuck in the car, because you assumed you had more time, always pull over to the side of the road and call 911. The operator will guide you through the delivery

And the most important thing I have learned:

6) Doulas should do everything they can to avoid catching the baby. Even if dad is driving, he should be instructed to come around to the back and catch the little one. This is something that has been drilled home to me, because if anything were to happen to the mother or baby, the doula would be out of a job (and possibly involved in a lawsuit).

As a newer doula, I realize that lessons are learned at every birth - and that I will continue to learn for many years to come. This situation was a pretty intense lesson, and I am thankful for the fact that it was a good outcome. I don't even want to think about the "IFs."

So as a lesson to all you doulas-in-training out there - read the Emergency measures in your pregnancy/childbirth texts. 'Cause you just never know!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Doula Drudgery

A fellow doula recently wrote a great post called "Being a Doula is Hard," and it has inspired me to also talk about the pitfalls of my profession.

Anthro Doula hits on a lot of great points:

Nervousness about being called at inopportune times, being woken up at all hours of the night, working on very little sleep, having to be in hospitals all the time, dealing with difficult care providers, being emotionally and physically supportive to someone else in their most vulnerable time, and having to be the most attentive you've ever been.There's also the fact that doula work is not always steady (many people don't always want to pay a reasonable fee)...

The sleepless nights are sometimes torture, and yes, being in hospitals all the time is a drag (I love, love, love home births - obviously since I had one myself! I love working with midwives, who are quiet and caring; I love homemade food that clients provide; and the comfort of someone's living room couch is a godsend).

As a doula, you will miss family outings,
like this one to Saunders Farm
I think the worst part for me is being away from my family. Because not only is it the 12 hours (or more) when I actually attend the birth, but it's also the frequent phone calls/texts from clients in early labour, and the emotional and physical toll I must overcome in the days following.

Take this past weekend for example. I spent Saturday dealing with a migraine, as well as frequent communication with a client in early labour, which lasted almost two days. I was called to the birth in the wee hours of Monday morning, and got home 12 hours later. I then stumbled around the house for a while, and finally crashed at 8pm.

I miss my daughter a lot when I'm at a birth, and although I'm dying to crawl into my pajamas and a warm bed, I also want to spend time with her before I get my rest. I also struggle with the resentment that I must get up the next day and go to my "real job," spending even more time away from the little munchkin.

So why do I do it? I could get paid extremely well in my day job, especially if I took it on full-time and became more involved in the design of specific projects.

But something keeps calling me back to labouring mothers, and I follow that call despite the all-nighters, despite my longing for my daughter and husband, and despite the sterility of a hospital room.

When called to a birth, driving through the dark streets past midnight, I see myself tied by invisible strings to all the labouring women around the world. I feel this safety net around me as I drive with other midwives and doulas, on our way to yet another birth. I hear the laughter shared by women, I feel the loving touch, and I smell the scent of baking Groaning Cake (click for a recipe!), which permeates the birthing place. I carry these sensations with me into the hospital room, and they sustain me and my client through the long night. And as the head is delivered, and a wriggly little baby slips into the world, I say a small thanks for this miracle, and for my ability to share in it.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

One, two, three, four: Tell me, how many do you want to go for?

Time Magazine recently debunked a whole bunch of myths related to only children. The main findings from the author's research is that only children aren't really that much different from other children. In fact, some studies have suggested that only children score higher on SATs and have higher self-esteem. Does this mean that children with siblings are dumb and hate themselves? No, of course not! But perhaps we have been misled by stereotypes when we think about only children.

A big debate is happening in our house right now. Actually, that's not true - it's just happening in my head. Every day, I wake up with a different thought:

"I will try for another baby"


"What, are you crazy!? No more babies!"

It seems easy for some people - they either embrace the only-child thing, or they have always been sure about multiple children (some are so sure that they bang them out in a matter of a few years!) I'm more curious to hear from the people out there who just don't know...who wake up each day having made a different decision than the day before.

I love babies. I wouldn't be doing doula work if I didn't love babies.

But do I want to love another one of MY babies? Gah!

First of all, I realize that I'm already assuming that I would be blessed with a pregnancy. I've heard of plenty of women who have tried for a second child (after a fairly easy conception the first time around), only to discover a fertility issue. So I realize this "debate" in my head is entirely based on the assumption that I would actually get pregnant if we tried.

I keep listing off all the reasons why we should try for another child - A. needs a sibling; I want to bring another child into the world; I wonder if we're "complete" as a family; and somewhere deep down I worry whether I'm a "real Mom" if I don't have more children (this is a belief that I think truly exists out there - just listen to this quote from Jessica Alba). And as more and more friends have second babies and announce pregnancies, I do feel the pressure mounting.

The pressure in my HEAD of course....brought on entirely by myself.

So why don't I want another baby? There are a number of reasons, which maybe some of you can relate to.

Personally, I don't know if I was cut out for this Motherhood Thing. And I'm not just saying that so you'll leave nice comments telling me how great of a Mom I am - I'm saying it because I really believe that some women have a harder time adjusting to motherhood and all its demands. Perhaps it was lack of preparation, or unrealistic expectations...or a bit of both! I feel very well adjusted right now, and love my daughter to bits, but the newborn stage is just not for me.

So then my head tells me: ok, fine, why don't you just suck it up and get through the newborn stage? It's not that long!

But there are other questions: how will I do doula work with two children? How will we afford me being on maternity leave with no benefits? Can I juggle two children when I find one to be a challenge?

Many unanswered questions, and I know I've got some time. While a decision doesn't need to be made today, I certainly don't want to be wavering for many years to come.

So tell me - what do you think? Are you an only child? What was your experience growing up? If you're having children, or planning for children, do you know exactly how many you want? Why?

Sunday, October 2, 2011


We all have those times - kids have cried all day, hit other kids, screamed at you, screamed at other kids, and refused to nap. By dinnertime, you are exhausted and in need of a serious break.

The easiest thing to do is to flip through your take-out menus and actually give yourself a break.


1) You just did this 3 days ago (pizza night)

2) Face it, every day kind of sucks right now (life with toddler)

3) Your bank account doesn't need another hit

4) There is perfectly good food in the fridge

I know...the temptation is there.

Sometimes, I'll admit, I give in to it. But tonight I didn't!

I am a huge fan of soups. Why? Because they're so darn easy, and you really don't need to follow a recipe. Plus, if you've forgotten to defrost some meat, you can just go vegetarian instead! Here are the basic ingredients for any fabulous soup, and I will give you some substitutes if you're really scrounging around:

2 tbsp Oil (butter will do...heck, any fat will do)

1 tsp Garlic (ok, if you're seriously desperate you can just use garlic powder. But do you have any ginger??)

1 Onion, chopped (no onion? What about leeks? Tip: cut big quantities of these things now while they're in season, and freeze! And, in a pinch, you can always skip the onion)

Spice (go crazy! Liven up a soup with anything, and try different combinations: thyme & oregano, cumin & thyme, basil&oregano&thyme&rosemary, cumin & curry powder)

2 cups Vegetables (really, this can be anything. But the best veggies for soups are clearly: carrots, celery, potatoes, sweet potatoes, squash, peas, I missing anything?)

1/2 cup Lentils (or chickpeas, or black beans...any kind of legume will work. Just remember that some legumes require extra cooking time. I always prefer red lentils because they're so fast!)

3-4 cups Veg., Beef or Chicken Stock (you CAN do water here, and just add some salt for flavour, but it may taste a little bland)

Extras: these things are just for fun! Tonight I tried a few spoonfuls of diced tomatoes and 1 tbsp Red Wine Vinegar. You can top with grated cheese, sour cream and chives.

Start by heating the oil. Sautee the garlic, onion and spices until onion is soft. Add the veggies and legumes; stir, and then add the stock. Bring to a boil and then simmer until everything is tender. Add more stock/water if you see it getting low. Unless you want a stew, of course!

Bon appetit!