23 Jun 2012

Guest Post: My Doula's Story

Blue medicine Buddha painting.
The midwives unwittingly hung my IV from our Medicine Buddha.
The following is the written story of my baby's birth, presented to me by my incredible doula. I have edited minimally for clarity and length, but these are her words. To me, this story feels like a most wonderful gift of a unique perspective. I was especially amazed to see the words "without consent" in my doula's telling of events. At the time, I had a sense that I did not want certain procedures to be performed and I have ever since blamed myself for "allowing" them and "not being clear enough." I would like to thank my doula for being a powerful witness.

​Trevor felt the first rushes of labour on Sunday evening before heading with Ian to dinner at their friends' house. They kept the excitement a secret for the time being. On arrival home later that night, relieved to be able to labour openly, they continued to witness transformation as the magic of birth took flight.

Trevor rushed frequently throughout the night and attempted to sleep but felt restless. Cleaning the kitchen satisfied an early labour ritual for a few hours with baby as an active participant. The rushes started to come closer together and Trevor found comfort in a hot shower and his loving partner Ian. Together they recited the sacred incantation Om as they moved deeper into their birth journey and ultimately the path to becoming parents.

​Trevor slept for an hour and then had breakfast. He and Ian watched Grey’s Anatomy, pausing for each rush – the show proved to be a great distraction. At this point Trevor felt labour was manageable. Rushes were short in length, however Trevor could no longer talk through them. The labouring family went to the Forks for river gazing and stopped in at a pet store for a few rushes.

On April 12th, 2011 at midnight, I was honoured with an invitation to join the sacred birth nest. Ian began to set up the birth pool and gather supplies. Trevor’s rushes came more frequently and were more intense. I arrived to their safe and loving birth space and watched as Trevor focused inward, using deep slow yoga breath to move through each rush.

At 1:45 am Trevor entered the birth pool for the first time with Ian cocooned in the hammock next to him. Trevor leaned over the tub to work through each rush, supported with loving touch and kisses from Ian. Hot water and frozen grapes brought much joy to this hard working man.

At 3 am Trevor’s labour became deeper and birth sounds grew louder. Ian held Trevor over the tub and they kissed deeply during each rush. Trevor and Ian shared the story with me of how they first met and soon after Trevor began to sleep deeply between rushes. The word OPEN made its way into Trevor’s birth ritual, followed by a deep enjoyment of sorbet. The rushes became more intense, at times overlapping.

At 5am Trevor and Ian were ready to welcome another doula, Krystal, into their birth nest. “How will I be able to do this?” Trevor asked. The birth circle attempted to add more hot water to the pool and instead sprayed the entire room as well as each other. Laughter, water and tea revived us and reminded Trevor that he could continue. Trevor began to make louder, deeper birth sounds and felt intense sensations in his pelvis. Trevor and Ian discussed whether it was time to invite the midwives. With careful consideration it was decided that Ian would made the call.

The first midwife Leslie arrived at 8 am. Trevor and baby passed all the vital tests and Trevor vomited. The birth circle headed upstairs to settle back into the birth nest. Trevor squatted on the floor during rushes and rested on the birth ball in between. Rushes started to feel different, shorter with longer rest time. Trevor shared his concern of a stalled labour and questioned whether it was caused by the arrival of the midwife? The daylight? Trevor and Ian had a shower together to refocus and reconnect. Krystal took Quinoa for a walk and Alexa the second midwife arrived.

At 10:30 am Trevor decided it was time to return to his happy place (the birth pool). Ian attempted to rest and snored in sequence with Trevor’s labour mantra, which induced healing laughter but unfortunately woke Ian. Trevor breathed deeply and squatted in the pool during rushes. He could feel his pelvis opening. At this point Leslie found the fetal heart tones to be a bit high and asked that Trevor be helped out of the pool quickly to bring his body temperature down.

Trevor was open to trying every suggestion offered. Hot tea, hip opening yoga poses, leg massages, more Sorbet, lunges, stair walking and finally a shower. Back in the birth nest Ian assisted Trevor into a hanging position between rushes. Trevor started to feel more pressure and baby movements and decided finally to return to the comforting waters of the birth pool. Once again, Leslie found the fetal heart tones to be slightly above normal (164). Hydration, cool cloths and removal from the tub were requested to help bring his temperature down. Trevor squatted with Ian during rushes. Half an hour later, fetal heart tones lowered to 150 and Trevor returned to the tub, tête-à-tête with Ian, breathing deeply as one.

At this point the midwives took me aside to discuss their concerns: Group B Strep, length of labour, Trevor’s energy level, Trevor’s request for no internal exams and ultimately how they could communicate these concerns with Trevor. After an attempt to calm their concerns and bring trust to their practice, I returned to the birth room and asked Ian to give it a shot. Frustration was building, fueled by the midwives' lack of trust in birth and respect for informed choice.

Trevor and Ian decided to go for a walk to process how to move forward with their midwives present. They called a supportive friend and had a good cry. They returned to their home to request of their guests rest and privacy. Krystal and I served dinner in bed to the labouring couple. Despite the request for privacy, the midwives continued to interrupt to monitor.

At 9pm Trevor decided to consent to an internal exam in order to satisfy the midwives. They confessed they wanted to know how far along Trevor’s labour had progressed so that they could decide to stay or leave. Trevor’s cervix had dilated 6-7 cm and so they would stay. The midwives suggested baby’s position was preventing descent and further dilation. Once again Trevor tried everything to move things along. Aromatherapy, stair walking, acupressure, yoga poses and finally an epic head stand.

​“I welcome these sensations and I’m opening. I’m opening. I’m opening.” Smells of clary sage and peppermint filled the air as Trevor recited his birth mantra.

At 1 am on April 13th Trevor requested sterile water injections to relieve his back discomfort and they worked. Ian took the opportunity for rest. A few hours later Leslie suggested a second internal exam and artificial rupture of membranes to move things along. A discussion took place in the birth room regarding the pro’s and con’s of AROM at this point. Trevor requested a discussion with Ian before proceeding. I went to wake Ian to bring him into the conversation.

While waking Ian, Leslie found the fetal heart tones to be a bit high. Trevor was removed from the pool promptly and Leslie named dehydration as a possible cause. Leslie and Trevor entered the bedroom and an internal exam began without consent. The intended discussion between Trevor and Ian had not yet taken place. Leslie ruptured Trevor’s membranes during the internal exam without consent. Trevor’s cervix had dilated 8 cm, his fluids were clear, baby was positioned at -2 station with an asynclitic head tilt. Trevor felt the intensity of his membranes rupturing, started to feel pushing sensations and headed back to the safety and comfort of the water.

After an hour and a half of hard work, the midwives found fetal heart tones to be high and Trevor was once again removed from the pool to cool down. At 5 am Trevor and Ian moved to the bedroom to labour in bed together and Quinoa joined them. Trevor felt nauseous and the midwives suggested an IV to help with hydration and to regulate fetal heart tones. The IV was hooked up with a direct line to the medicine Buddha painting hanging on their wall.

At 7:45 am Trevor returned to the birth pool. Moments later fetal heart tones were found once again to be high and Trevor was removed from the tub to birth next to the pool.

Trevor pushed with strength and determination and at 8:23 am baby Jacob was born.

​Trevor and Ian immediately fell in love with Jacob and time stopped. Their house filled with midwives, cleaning, organizing and replacing the exhausted with the rested. Trevor's placenta took its time coming out and an alarm bell was set off. Thankfully a transfer was avoided due to the work of two new midwives. Trevor was finally given space to start his breastfeeding journey while being cared for by an intuitive and supportive midwife, Ian and Quinoa. And so begins another story...

​It is an honour to have been invited to witness this most amazing experience in the lives of Trevor and Ian. Trevor, you have reminded me of the courage and strength of body, mind and spirit that is required to give birth to a baby. Ian, you have reminded me of the importance of love, support and trust in this process. It was with humility and awe that I witnessed your birth. Thank you for this opportunity.

With love,

your doula and friend.

10 Jun 2012

Petition to Ease Restrictions on Breast Milk in Carry-On Baggage

Last week we packed up yet again and got ready to make our trip out west to visit our relatives. We don't have any family in Winnipeg, but we believe it is very important for our child to have a strong relationship with his grandparents. So, as much as I hate it, we fly frequently.

We took along several bottles of donated breast milk in a cooler, as well as an ice pack. At security, they asked to open up our cooler as usual. All seemed normal. And then came the question, "But how old is your baby?"

"He's thirteen months."

"Oh, ok. This is fine. Go ahead."

The exchange seemed simple enough, but suddenly left me wondering, is there an age at which I won't be able to bring milk along for my baby? Is thirteen months ok, but say, eighteen months too old? Why did they ask my baby's age?

We rely upon donated breast milk to feed our baby. I nurse him using an at-breast supplementation system, and am able to enjoy a satisfying breastfeeding relationship as a result. I would like to keep breastfeeding my child as long as he needs it. Since the World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding for two years AND BEYOND, I am and will continue to be grateful for human milk donations. If and when we are no longer able to find donated human milk, we will probably move to using whole goat's milk in the supplementation system. Goat's milk is closer to human milk than cow's milk is, but it is probably not commonly available beyond airport security.

During our stay in Vancouver, I looked up the rules. In Canada, you may only bring extra liquid aboard a flight for a child UNDER the age of 2. So, I decided to start a petition on change.org. Please sign it and share widely!


"Canadian parents using expressed breast milk currently face greater restrictions when flying with their children than do their American counterparts. Only passengers traveling with infants UNDER the age of 24 months may bring aboard more than 100ml of liquid per container, inside a 1 litre plastic bag. Women traveling without their babies are not permitted to bring their expressed milk on board. Those traveling with children above age two are not exempt from restrictions on liquids.

"The World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding until age 2 AND BEYOND. For those parents who must express their milk and bottlefeed, or who use donated milk and an at-breast supplemental nursing system, carrying liquid on their persons is a must. Why should the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority decide at what age a child no longer needs breast milk, especially during potentially stressful travel?

"Passengers traveling without their babies should also be allowed to carry their precious breast milk rather than pump and dump. Breast milk, known in the birth world as "liquid gold" for its important health benefits, should be exempt from the usual restrictions on liquids.

"In the US, breast milk is treated as liquid medication and passengers may carry it on board in quantities greater than 3 ounces WITH OR WITHOUT A BABY OR TODDLER PRESENT. Sign this petition and tell the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority to start valuing breast milk as vitally important nutrition for babies and children!"