Category Archives: Doula

Not about that….

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So, when Marc found out he had a hernia, I said, “Oh, so you want to be quite private about this?”

My question is valid. He is a very private person.

He responded by saying, “Well, you can tell people. but don’t do a blog post about it or anything.”

ahem.

So I’m not doing a blog post about it.

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Anyway, he had his hernia surgery on Monday and since then he has been on the couch recuperating. In the time since he found out and was suffering with his hernia, I attended two births. We’ve been just a touch busy around here lately.

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But we’ve found our way. The babies have still been taken care of. As you can see from the picture above, they are getting ready for dinner. I have been doing the “blue” and “pink” jobs around here including mowing the lawn. Twice.

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The first attempt was a little skewed as I was figuring out how the mower worked and uh… apparently I can’t mow in a straight line. So, the lawn looked kinda like a bad haircut. But the second time it is much better. I’m actually proud to say I did it instead of hoping someone else takes the blame for the choppy grass with stray ends.

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In between all this birthing and hernia-ing and gardening and summer-ing that has befallen us, we have been enjoying the sun. (Yeah, I actually have a tan! In Canada! Who ever heard of such a ridiculous thing?!) We have peas popping out of every corner of the pea row and Gabrielle has taken it upon herself to search out and chomp every.single.one. The chard is being nibbled in stir fries, fried rice, and even burgers. Chard omelette? Yes please!

And the tomatoes are turning yellow. Oooo yum!

There is a hum over the garden now as the garden is wreathed in blackberry bushes. The bees are all over it. Every kind of bee. Mason bees, bumble bees and honey bees all slurping up that sweet nectar. The hive smells like honey and the frames are hiding purple nectar in every corner! Go bees!

We are happy and busy. And healing. Thanks for stopping in.

(See Marc, I didn’t blog about your hernia! Well, not the whole post!)

Whatchoo’ talkin’ about?

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“Whatchoo talking about?” Is one of Gabrielle’s most favourite things to say these days. She wants to know what is happening, why I said something, why we are doing something else and what road everyone lives on. So, I have to remember or find out what road every one of her friends live on. Also, she is a bit confused when I say Cora doesn’t live on a road. She lives on a boat. Otherwise, the world is categorized by streets of where everyone lives.

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The constant talking, which I’ve been waiting for, it is exhausting! When my mom offered to take Gabrielle for a sleep over, I heartily agreed. I spent the last two days with a lot of silence. And in the absence of toddler tears which appear frequently, I sipped tea and did not say one word.

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Gabrielle is a proper little lady, who carries her bag out to the car to get groceries, because she believes in green living. When we were in Vancouver, she was asking for a fern “sweeper” to clean up the dirty roads and was dismayed to find out that ferns do not grow in cities. “What ferns don’t grow in cities about, Mommy?” Yeah, does that question even make sense??

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Gabrielle’s inquisitive nature about every living and non living thing on the planet can often be invigorating too. Her brain soaks up every single thing, so it can take us as long as I will allow to walk from our front door to the car. Because she’s poking the bugs, collecting rocks or sticks or leaves, singing about her cousins, and asking me a thousand questions. Bless.

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This wheel barrow is filled with tomato plants. The tomatoes are forming on our bushes and we have two long rows of tomato plants. Marc says that every day I should look up a recipe that uses copious amounts of tomatoes so that when it dumps tomatoes, I’ll be ready. Do you have any favourite tomato recipes that you care to share, in anticipation of these beauts?

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I had this phenomenal weekend a couple weeks ago where I visited friends, went to a book sale, went to the yarn store, picked up bees with a friend dressed completely in flowers (I love her!) and that was only Saturday. Sunday, I spent at a birth. Yup, I don’t use the word phenomenal lightly.

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So to pick up bees, in case you’re wondering, I drove up to Cobble Hill from Victoria (about an hour) with a friend, loaded all these boxes of humming bees into the back of the truck. We tried to wedge them in really tight so they wouldn’t bang around because the boxes are made of mesh wrapped around a wooden frame. We only had one empty cardboard box fly out of the truck on the highway and no bees were harmed in our transporation.

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The ferry workers can be quite gracious with the transportation of live stock like bees, if you call ahead. They put me in the shade and let me park on the ferry where I wanted. Then I got home and dumped the bees into their new homes and headed to bed. It is always a full day when dealing with bees.

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So then the next day, I was up to my armpits in the beehive when I got the call that labour was really rocking. I stripped out of my bee suit and grabbed my doula bag and headed out on the next ferry. I got there with plenty of time before the baby arrived, and I traveled all the way to Vancouver (that means two ferries, and an hour waiting in between ferries) and got to assist in such a sweet sweet birth.

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The blonde mohawk on this baby stole my heart. Seriously, heart was a puddle on the floor…

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My mom watched Gabrielle while I was at the birth, which meant that she had to catch a ferry and sort of meet us in transit. But because of this funky arrangement, I got my birthday present from her. One of them being these fancy feather earrings all the way from the Northwest Territories. As a doula, I think that hippy garb is part of the package, I mean, if you want to be taken seriously. (I am totally joking…) Feather earrings equal major hippy points. Can ya feel it?

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There are two things about the picture above that I love. Obviously, my daughter and her daisy chain. But perhaps something overlooked by a quick glance, she is holding beeswax. She is swiping at it with one finger like it is her “smart phone” and she takes pictures, she texts her friend Paisley, and then she makes phone calls to Grampa. How cool is it that my kid imagines with bee-comb? Plainly, she is completely my daughter.

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Plainly, Marc lives in a house with all girls. And he tolerates it so so well.

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To reward this toleration, I have decided to knit him socks. This is my first pair of man socks and it is totally intimidating. Yeah, his feet are huge. Especially since the last pair of socks I knit were for Gabrielle. I should have geared up gradually for this. But 6 days in, I am almost done one *gulp* sock!

Now that the baby we were waiting for arrived right on time, we are headed camping. I’m sure there will be scads of pictures to follow. Happy Mid May, Friends.

 

Happy Birthing Day

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This is my dad and I, when I was one month old. When my baby was a month old, I completely understood this overwhelming fatigue.

I just had a birthday.

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I turned 31. But this post isn’t about me. It’s about my mom.

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My mom took the time when she was pregnant to research her options when it came to birth. She was barely 22 years old when I was born. When I was 22, I was travelling around New Zealand, and not thinking about babies at all, especially what kind of birth I would want. My mom did a lot of reading (which meant going to the library and bookstore then.) And she and Dad had all kinds of ideas about the kind of birth they wanted to have for their first baby.

She had a birth plan.

She found a doctor who would honour her birth plan. She wanted my dad in the room for the birth, she wanted skin-to-skin contact right after I was born. She wanted a drug-free labour, she wanted intermittent heart monitoring, she wanted delayed cord clamping. She was far ahead of her time.

Because of the intentional way she approached the beginnings of my life, and her determination, I was able to be born drug-free, naturally and have that skin-to-skin contact right after birth. She breastfed me, giving me the best start she could.

In labour and birth, there is a lot that is out of the mom’s control. But there is a lot that is in the mom’s control too. And when there is a choice on how things can proceed and it is not an emergency, we often do get a choice. I am so so grateful to my mom for her careful choices to be able to start my life out in such a intentional way.

Lots of the time, births do not go according to “our plan” but the fact that the mothers cared enough to make a plan has to speak to such love too. There is such value in every single life that enters the world. And the value of that new person overrides whatever part of the plan doesn’t go “the way it was supposed to go.”

This post isn’t written to make any other mother feel sad or inadequate. This is just to say a warm Thank you to my mom for her amazing efforts birthing me on that day 31 years ago.

 

Giving Birth in Mexico compared to Canada

Now, here is my preface.

I have never been a doula in a difference province in Canada. All the births I’ve done have been in British Columbia. And the birthing system is quite different between BC and Alberta and Manitoba etc etc.

Also, I have only done ONE birth in Mexico. In Puerto Vallarta, at One hospital with One doctor. I am by no means, the authority on this subject.

Thus the title of the blog post should be: The difference between Charlotte’s particular birth in Puerto Vallarta with Dra. Laura compared to the births I’ve done at hospitals in Vancouver and Victoria hospitals. Not very graceful eh? Now you can see why I chose the blog title I did, and why I must start with the preface I did.

-Natural Births are not the common practise-

When Charlotte first started seeing her doctor in Puerto Vallarta, she was lead to believe that most women schedule their c-sections without a second thought at 37 weeks pregnant. Period.

Her doctor did not resist her request to try a natural birth. But often it was suggested during appointments that “when” she has her epidural, then this and this will happen. And then *if* she needs a c-section, bla bla bla. And quite frankly, Charlotte gave birth in the operating room. There was not a separate delivery room as opposed to an operating room like they have in BC. Thus, Eric and I were fully suited in scrubs and everything was carefully sterilized in the delivery room.

-There is minimal hospital supplies.-

I know this seems like a given when you’re comparing a first world country and a third world country. When a woman goes into the hospital in Victoria, there is a stack of these blue super-absorbent pads in every room. There is a dresser full of medical supplies, towels, sterilized needles, gels, etc. In Puerto Vallarta, there is not. There are sheets on the bed you’re laying on. If you bleed on those sheets, they move them around a little so the wettest part isn’t touching your skin. Yeah, I know it sounds gross. Because it is, a bit. There isn’t a huge effort made on keeping you all polished and clean the way there is in Canada. There is great effort made in Mexico to keep you sterilized. They are a great fan of having an alcohol solution in a pressurized can and spraying and spraying the site where a needle will potentially go in, in a couple hours. And they spray the spot like someone with OCD would polish a brass handle. Every couple minutes, spray the spot again. Yeah I know the needle isn’t ready yet, but a germ may have crawled over in the last five seconds.

-There is paperwork at weird times.-

There is a lot of paperwork when you are first being admitted into the hospital in Mexico. Lots of “sign here’s” and “you missed a page” kind of moments. In BC, if you arrive at the hospital in full blown labour, they ask your name, they talk to your care provider, but you are pre-registered for the hospital so you don’t have to show any ID, you have no paperwork to fill out. Your care giver has already done all that and they have phoned the hospital to let them know you’re coming in.

In Mexico, we phoned the doctor, but they still had a good stack of paperwork for Eric to sign before Charlotte was officially admitted.

Then when a woman is in labour in BC, the nurses, midwives, doctors and anyone who enters the room or breathes in the same vicinity of the patient has to fill out multiple boxes on the charts they have floating around the room at all times. In Mexico, the doctor did not spend one moment filling out any charts. The nurses did a little bit of paperwork. The doctor was delightfully engaged in her patient the entire time that she wasn’t texting her husband on her phone. I really liked the way the doctor was engaged and didn’t have to bother with this.

When Charlotte was admitted from the delivery room (read: operating room) the amount of questions that the nurse had to ask her was unreal. And really strange things like if she was right or left handed. What was her religion? Did she have siblings? It was a bit ridiculous and bureaucratic but completed nonetheless.

-Fetal Heart Monitoring-

In Canada, they are obsessed with fetal heart monitoring. They have to do it every 10-15 minutes to fill out that box on their chart. Whether you are giving birth at home or in the hospital, they are always trying to get a heartbeat on the kid. Having a heart kid, I totally get it. The heartbeat of the baby tells the care giver a lot. It tells them if the baby is in distress. It can give the care giver hints on the position of the baby and if they are tolerating labour well.

The straps they have for the heart monitoring system is probably one of the most irritating things the nurses can do to the mother. The mother cannot move as freely and the nurse is constantly adjusting these straps to get a better read. Then if the monitor slips or the baby’s position changes, the machine starts beeping like mad to signal distress, even though often there is not any distress, and everyone gets just slightly anxious. How can you not when there is a machine beeping at you? (Yes, it may remind me of Monty Python with the machine that goes PING!)

In Mexico, Charlotte was at the hospital for 2 1/2 hours before the baby came out. For 15 minutes of that, I was putting bags in her room, putting scrubs on and then trying to find Charlotte again. So I was there for 2 hours and 15 minutes with Charlotte in the hospital prior to Lyra’s arrival. In Canada, she would have been monitored, if not continuously, probably 10 times for the baby’s heart beat. In Mexico, they listened to the baby’s heartbeat Once. Yup. Once.

So. (Like Cora says, “So” and then pauses like it’s a complete sentence. Now my child does this too.) So. This may be a good thing as it doesn’t bother the mother as much, and it’s not nearly as intrusive or cumbersome. So. It also could mean that if more women were going to attempt a natural birth in the hospital in Mexico (which they really don’t) then there is more chance for the baby to be in distress with no one noticing.

-There is no receptionist-

Doctors in Mexico have no receptionist. When they give you their phone number, it is their cell phone number, which they have on their person at all times. This is like, the best thing ever! In Canada, you phone a doctor’s office, you call outside their operating hours and you often can’t even leave a message on an answering machine. You phone in their office hours, you are put on hold, you can’t talk to an actual doctor because they are with patients. You speak to a receptionist who cannot tell you if the lump you found on your leg is cancerous or a cyst or a bad bruise or an ingrown hair.

In Mexico, you phone a number, you get a Doctor! You can ask them whatever you need to ask them. And then they say “Come down in twenty minutes? Or an hour?” And then you get a face-to-face visit with a doctor just.like.that.

It’s fantastic.

In Conclusion

Since I’m not American, and I’ve never done a birth in the United States, I do not know the comparison of that system. I’d be curious to know so feel free to leave comments to that effect or ask more questions on anything I didn’t cover.

I’d love to keep this discussion going and learn what could be different about our system and what is different about other systems world wide.

I would also like to say that this blog post was not to say that one country is better than the other. It was so interesting professionally and personally to see how different countries handle birth. And my perspective was singled out to one experience. There is a birthing centre in Guadalajara, just four hour drive away, and I imagine birth itself is a whole different animal.

Also, I wanted to thank Charlotte again for letting me be so open about her personal experience and deconstructing her own birth for this purpose.

Charlotte’s Birth Story – The Doula Version

As a doula, I write a birth story for my clients. It is a gift to them and part of my doula package when they hire me. It is strictly confidential. I am sharing this birth story only because Charlotte repeatedly expressed her desire for me to share in this space. Her own version of Lyra’s birth is here.

 

Charlotte’s Birth Story
Lyra Estrella Kaufman
Born February 14th 3am
8.1 lbs

Sariah knocked on my door at 12:10am and said “It’s baby time!!” Her face was so hyped up. I was immediately thankful that I was feeling better. “Ok,” I said, “I’ll be right up.”

I went into the bathroom and got my ziplock bag of a mini-version of my doula kit. I had good feelings all along that it was going to be a fast birth so I didn’t feel like I had to bring very much. I went upstairs to their apartment. Charlotte greeted me with a big grin. She said “I’m having lots of contractions and I can’t talk through them.” We were all excited.

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She phoned the doctor, as she was standing on the second step. She began having a contraction so she handed the phone to me. I heard a beep and I wasn’t sure if it was an answering machine so I just started talking.
“Hi, this is Amanda, Charlotte Kaufman’s doula. Charlotte is in labour and we are going to head to the hospital.”
Then I heard a very groggy voice say “Ok, Charlotte…. right…. ok how long until you are at the hospital?”
“45 minutes,” I said.
“Ok, I’ll meet you there.”

We phoned Oscar, our taxi driver who was going to be on call for her birth. Charlotte had a few more contractions and then Oscar knocked on the door. Eric grabbed the bags and we were headed upstairs.

As we were gathering our stuff, Cora woke up. She hadn’t woken up in the night for over a year, Eric told me later.
She woke up, sat up in bed and said “Baby sister is moving.”
Charlotte went over to her and said “Yes, baby sister is coming.”
Cora said, “Um, yes. I’d like some milk.” Sariah and Charlotte laughed.
“Yes, Cora. You can have some milk.”

We went upstairs and got in the cab. Charlotte was on her hands and knees in the back seat of this huge van that Oscar brought. We all got in and Oscar tried his first attempt at the very steep driveway. The tires squealed in protest. He reversed and tried again.

Oscar’s friend who was with him hopped out. Then Eric got out too and they were trying to figure out how to get the van out of the steep driveway. Charlotte was getting anxious as she didn’t want the van to roll back and squish Eric. She was yelling at him a bit from inside the van. Then they reversed and tried going up the other side of the driveway. (The driveway was a circle.) No luck on the other side either and then Charlotte said, “Oh, my water just broke!”
I yelled at Eric that Charlotte’s water broke. It was clear the van was not getting out and the bumping and jostling was really hard on Charlotte as she barely had any time between contractions.

Finally she turned and yelled at Eric out the window, “We need to get out of here!” He said “Ok babes, I got this! I will get us out of here!”

By this time the taxi drivers were talking to this other woman at the top of the driveway. Eric walked up to her and asked “Can we get a ride to Puerto Vallarta please! My wife is in labour and her water just broke.”

The lady said “Of course. Jump in!”

The lady, who introduced herself as Georgina, and her English husband Danny owned the smallest car in existence. And in the backseat was a carseat. Georgina wedged herself into the carseat. Charlotte was in the front seat on hands and knees. I was in the middle, leaning forward, rubbing Charlotte’s shoulders and whispering encouragement into her ear. Eric was beside me in the backseat.

Danny was an excellent driver. Between he and Georgina, they knew every bump and pothole along the way. He was careful and he was very fast. Charlotte worked on keeping her moaning low pitched to allow her cervix to Open Open Open. I would count on her ear when the contractions came, to give her something to focus on. We would come up to a red light and Georgina would look and say “Ok, Danny. Just skip in. We have to keep moving!”

Outside of Bucerius, there was a police car going the same direction as us, we pulled up beside it and Georgina, sitting in the child’s car seat, yelled out the window to them, asking for a police escort.

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They pulled ahead of us, lights and sirens going, and we went very very fast behind the cruiser. He pulled off as we got to Nuevo Vallarta, and waved us onward. Charlotte was doing so well through all this stress. The contractions were strong and very frequent. She concentrated on her noises and said “Open open open.” Her ability to remain as calm as she did through all this uncertainty and near-disaster impressed me to no end.

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We pulled into the hospital at Puerto Vallarta. Behind the first door, Doctor Laura was waiting for us. They had Charlotte get up on the bed and checked her. Dra Laura said she was 4cm. She said it very quietly so that Charlotte wouldn’t hear if she didn’t want to listen. Charlotte said she wanted an epidural. Dra Laura had made the call for the epidural before she even checked Charlotte.

By the time the anaesthesiologist got there, it was maybe 45 minutes. Dra Laura checked Charlotte again and she was 7cm. The anaesthesiologist put the needle in and then the nurse sprayed this can on the epidural tube. Eric was told to joke around a lot in labour to keep the mood light.
He said, “Charlotte, that was pink spray paint they just sprayed on your back.” When no one laughed, he laughed and said “This is a tough crowd!”

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The epidural was in place and Dra Laura said “I have to move the baby’s head just slightly. I am going to stick my hand up and when I tell you to, I want you to push just a little and I can tip the baby’s head.”

Dra Laura did just that and Charlotte looked at me with wide eyes and said “I can feel the baby coming down the birth canal.”

They decided it was time to move Charlotte to the delivery room. They told Eric and I to go put our stuff in her postpartum room and then come down and get in our scrubs. He and I got into the elevator with all our stuff and were just told a room number. The doors shut as we saw Charlotte wheeled down the hall and Eric looks at me and says “And this is when we steal your baby!” And I laughed. But we both felt a bit uneasy.

We dumped the bags and headed back down. The hospital was entirely empty so we weren’t sure where to go. We saw someone and asked. They gave us scrubs and we were changing and trying to figure out a one-size-fits-a-mammoth scrubs. Eric’s head bandana looked like a nun’s hat until he tied it. Then he tilted it to the side, real gangsta’ style.

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We got in the delivery room, as Charlotte’s baby was starting to crown. She said “The baby will be here any minute!”

Within 10 minutes, the baby’s head was clearly going to come out. In between contractions, Eric started telling me a pirate joke, which I honestly can’t remember a word of. Then suddenly, out came the baby! They cut Lyra’s umbilical cord and lay her on Charlotte’s belly. Charlotte cried and said “Hello, welcome baby!” Eric too was making joyful exclamations of being a dad again.

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They took Lyra to the warmer, and checked her out. The pediatrician suctioned out her nose and she put her hands up to fight him. She was immediately alert and looking around. Charlotte quickly delivered the placenta so that no one but the doctor even noticed.

The staff put Lyra in an incubator and took her to the nursery with Eric following closely behind. He was clear and confident in his role of dad. I mean, he’s done this all before!

Charlotte and I stayed in a corner of a hall for more than an hour while we waited for the effects of the epidural to wear off a little. Then after a few times asking the nurse, they moved her upstairs to her room. Soon they gave her baby Lyra and Lyra latched on immediately.

Mom and baby safe and happy. After such an adventurous and fast labour, they were home from hospital that very afternoon.

It was such a privilege to be a part of a whirlwind Mexican birth experience. Charlotte, I am extremely proud of you at what you accomplished. Eric, you were a fantastic and assertive father in exactly the role you needed to play. You together make a great team and I am nothing but grateful to be included in such a momentous day.

Welcome to the world Lyra Estrella! You are already such a pleasure!

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