Sacred Surrogacy

When I became a doula the horizons of my job seemed pretty clear. I would build relationships with families and assist them through a birth with the hope that they felt informed and empowered. While I think I’ have been successful at meeting my own expectations and loving  every minute of it, I never anticipated all the twists and turns that this “job” has offered me. In August of 2014 I attended a Sacred pregnancy retreat. It was one of the best experiences of my life by far. It’s truly changed my life, especially in the way of self care and friendship.

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At the retreat I met many incredible women but two in particular have changed my doula career in ways I didn’t know were possible. My first impressions of Leia and Angie were that they were extremely hard working, hilarious and open. Leia owns  and is the CEO of a company called the Canadian Fertility Consultants (http://fertilityconsultants.ca) and runs it alongside Angie and her husband Scott. We hit it off pretty quickly and from there began discussing how I could help out with the amazing venture of assisting surrogate mothers and intended parents.

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My first call of duty was to assist two Fathers from France with their new little girl (check out my blog about that here: http://nicithedoula.ca/?p=329). Leia was very inspired by sacred pregnancy and bought into the company. She asked the owner Anni to write an incredible course for surrogate mothers called Sacred Surrogacy. They have adapted this course and have turned it into an absolutely incredible retreat and have asked me to come aboard and help facilitate them. What an honour. In August I flew to BC where Leia held a retreat in her home. All in all it was an incredible experience but because it was my first time and I didn’t really know anyone I felt a bit like a fish out of water. I must have been ok though because they invited me back to help run the retreats alongside them.

 

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This past weekend was our Ontario retreat. There were almost 50 surrogates who attended and we ran the retreat like a well oiled machine. We split the women in 3 groups so that we could ensure everyone had enough time and attention though out the weekend. Our amazing team leaders led them through the different pods of activities we had laid out for them. The activities offered so much to all the women and gave them the opportunity to be open, release fears and build a sisterhood. It was a celebration of incredibly strong women supporting women and it was a pleasure to witness. One part of the retreat that I led was a sealing ceremony for women that had experienced loss. It was very emotional, but the support of the other women created a safe space for these brave women to grieve without judgement or negativity. It was beautiful.

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The relationships that developed before our eyes, the tears shed and the uplifted hearts were more than enough to encourage me to continue this path and make it the best it can be. A lot of the women’s favourite part about the retreat was the sisterhood salt bowl. Its one of mine as well.

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Here is a great shot from when we threw our holi powder. Colourful fun!

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When I got home I was pretty exhausted if you can imagine, but with a smile on my face. I went onto Facebook and saw posts from the women who attended the retreat saying it was “life changing” and “the best weekend of my life”. So much gratitude for their experience. How could I not feel amazing that I assisted them through this (sometimes) tough but empowering weekend. I can’t wait to do it again in a couple weeks in Calgary. It’s only gonna get better and better. I’m forever grateful for this opportunity and am excited to see what the 3 of us can whip up for future surrogates. It’s a journey. A selfless and very giving journey, and I honour any woman who decided to walk that path. Thank you for including me in this sacred time.
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Pregnancy Journey Colouring Book Contest

What could be more awesome than putting your two passions together? I’ve started working on a pregnancy journey colouring book. So far I’m pretty happy with my work and I should have them ready to sell by September. BUT. I need your help. I’m running a contest to see who’s mad colouring skills should be on the cover of my book. Heres the details:

Right click the image below and download

print it

Colour it in, in whatever style, materials and colours you like

scan your finished work  and save it as a high res file

send it to nicithedoula@gmail.com

Contest deadline Sep 8.

If your image is chosen it will be the cover of the book and you will receive a free copy.

Easy, right?

Winning entry will be chosen Sep 10!

Happy colouring!

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All the questions you have about doulas and why you should hire one!

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Photo by Calla Evans

http://www.callaevansphotography.com

Hey everyone. My name is Nici Shipway CD(DONA) and I am a very proud birth doula who practices in the greater Toronto area. I’ve been a doula for just over a year and I have to say that professionally it’s been the best year of my life. It’s an honor to assist growing families during this sacred time.

Within this post I hope to answer any questions one may have about hiring a doula and busting some myths!

So let’s strart with the basics.

What is a doula, anyway?

A birth doula is a non medical person trained and experienced in childbirth who provides continuous physical, emotional and informational support to the birth family before, during and just after childbirth.

What does “non medical” mean?

Doulas do not perform any medical acts such as vaginal exams, blood work, give any kind of diagnosis etc.

What kind of training to doulas go through?

To call yourself a doula you don’t technically need any training, however there are a few well respected international doula programs such as DONA, CAPPA which require training and a lengthy certification process. There are also many forms of professional development that doulas can choose to participate in to acquire more skills give them tools and knowlege to assist families. Here are a few examples of classes that I have done to get a general idea: Rebozo (my favorite birth tool), hypnobirthing, sacred pregnancy, sacred mother roaster (postpartum healing), dad certified ( how to better support dads in this special time )

Midwives and doulas are the same, right?

NOPE. while doulas and midwives work harmoniously together we have very different roles. Your midwife is a medical birth professional and have many responsibilities. I say that meaning that they are doing all your tests and checks, analyzing your charts, administering medication (if needed) and eventually catching your baby. Just to name a few of the awesome things they do. I’m sure you can imagine how busy they are so in general they don’t have the time to massage your thighs for 3 hours if that’s what you need. Generally your midwife won’t come to stay until you are in active labor which can be multiple hours into labor where, your doula will show up at any point you wish for them to arrive.

Do I have to plan to go drug free if I wish to hire a doula?

Absolutely not. Everyone has their reservations about certain medical procedures and not every doula will want to support a medicated birth so it’s important to establish these preferences during your interview. However the large majority of us support the mothers choice for what she believes is best for her. If you are interested in using an epidural, ask your doula how they feel about it and how they will support you during that time.

Ok, but if I have an epidural why would I need a doula?

I hear this question often. There are many reasons so let’s start with the definite fact that the hospital does not admit a laboring mom until she is in active labor. (Contractions 4-5 minutes apart and at least 3-4 cm) This could potentially be many many hours of labor so you will need support during this time. Once you are admitted you need to do blood work and you cannot receive an epidural until it comes back from the lab. Some hospitals have an anesthesiologist for the Labor and delivery ward while others have one or two anesthesiologists for the entire hospital. From the time you requested that the medication to the time you actually get it could be multiple hours or you may not receive one at all. Once you get your epidural it takes between 15 and 20 minutes to actually start working and unfortunately for some women they don’t work at all. Having the extra support of a doula during this time is priceless. Once you have an epidural your doulas work is not over. She will keep talking you through the process, potentially watching the monitors, emotionally supporting both the mom and birth partner, massage, using their rebozo to help relax your hips as well as assisting in changing positions often.

How will a doula help the birth partner?

To clear any misunderstandings, a doula is not meant to replace anybody. During prenatal appointments your doula will work together with the birth partner and show them some tricks of the trade to physically support Mom. A doula can also answer any questions they may have at any point during the process or refer them to other sources if it is out of the doulas scope of practice. During labor some women need one set of hands and some need 3. You never know what you will need. Your doula will always encourage the partner to support in whichever way they can and your doula will fill I’m all the gaps to ensure that you are fully supported. As you know, birth can be a long process and there will be a need for bathroom and food breaks. With a doula your partner can take care of both you and themselves with the comfort in knowing that there will always be someone supporting you. Whether things are going smooth and perfectly or not, emotions are running high. Your partner will see you experiencing something intense and that isn’t always easy. There are moments of helplessness and frustration. Having a doula to support the partner in these times by simply telling them they are doing a great job, listening to their questions and concerns, giving them some guidance or a break can bring calm, clarity and a fresh perspective in these moments.

Can a doula speak on my behalf at my birth?

We cannot. However during our prenatal appointments we will work on establishing birth preferences which you can share with your care provider before labor starts. This also gives the birth partner the opportunity to learn about your preferences so that they may speak for you if need be during your labor and birth.

Why are doulas so expensive?

The average cost for an experienced doula is between $800-1200, often depending on location. Let’s break down the costs A doula generally comes for 2-3 prenatal visits (not including your interview) that last 2-3 hours. They offer 24/7 phone support. And are on call up to two weeks before and two weeks after your due date. They are there for the entirety of your birth whether it’s 5 hours or 30 hours. They bring their doula bag which is filled with tools which will assist you (The contents of mine are around $500), and need to replenished regularity. Doulas come for 1-2 postnatal visits lasting 2-3 hours They must pay for hospital parking, food and often childcare. When you break it down you can see how much service and commitment you are getting for the price you pay. However, having a doula is priceless, really. Giving birth changes you. It’s an incredible event to experience and having an educated and caring person that you are comfortable with will help shape how you will be changed. The ongoing support in the postpartum period is also a huge asset. Some doulas (like myself) work on a sliding scale or if you are willing to hire a doula still in their certification process the fee can be much lower . Asking the guests of your baby shower to offer funds for a doula in place of a gift is a great way to cover your doula fees. Certified doulas are also covered by some insurance companies.

How can I find a doula? 

Many people find doulas through word of mouth. Ask your friends or a local moms group if they have any suggestions for doulas they would suggest. Your OB or midwife may also be helpful in this area. There are webite databases as well that can help you find doulas in your area such as doula match Or the DONA page

www.dona.org

Let’s have a talk about consistent birth support. Why is it so important?

Being supported both physically and emotionally during birth can offer amazing outcomes. Check out these statistics from a study by Klaus, Kennell and Klaus.

50% reduction in cesarean rate

25% shorter labor

60% reduction in epidural requests

30% reduction in pain medication use

40% reduction in forceps delivery

40% reduction in oxytocin (pitocin) use

http://www.understandingresearch.com/playing-the-doula-numbers-game

While these stats may seem too good to be true it’s solid data that shows what informed and consistent birth support can result in. When women are experiencing surges they rise and come down like waves. Eventually a rhythm is established and that brings comfort. If the rhythm is interrupted because she is not being supported during one contraction it can take her up to an hour to establish that rhythm again. Having a doula in the delivery room or home to establish consistent support is so important.

In general if you have an OB caring for you its a slim chance they will be the person delivering your baby. If you have a midwife it’s more likely that they will be with you during you labor and birth but it isn’t for certain. Having a doula ensures that there is a familiar birth professional in your labor and delivery room.

Whether you want to have your baby in the hospital, birth centre or home, with no drugs or all the drugs, if you want to feed your baby with your breast or a bottle or have an OB or midwife every family deserves consistent birth support for the best outcome that they will keep for the rest of their lives.

Thanks for reading! If you have any further questions please feel free to send me an email. Nici.shipway@gmail.com

Amazonian Birthing Goddess

It’s hard to believe that I met Alyssa less than 6 months ago. She has inspired me in so many ways. As a mom, artist, doula and so much more. I feel like I’ve known her for years. I feel like I could probably tell her anything. I’m so grateful to have her in my life and even more thankful that she honored me by asking me to support her through the birth of her third sweet babe.

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Early last year I saw a notice from Alyssa on one of my doula Facebook groups that there was a retreat for birth workers happening in August called “sacred pregnancy” and they were looking for a cook for the retreat. Being a relatively new doula I hadn’t heard about sacred pregnancy but I was eager to do most kinds of professional development. After doing some research I was sure this retreat was going to be an amazing experience for me. We solidified plans and I arrived with 8 shopping carts full of food.
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I sat next to Alyssa in our circle and i admired her pretty dreads and beautiful baby belly. I was thankful for her openness and I felt very grounded and comforted sitting next to her. It was a joy sharing that experience with her. We continued to keep in touch after the retreat. One evening I was laying in bed and we were texting one another and she asked me if I (along with her best friend Tamara and another mutual friend, Michelle ) would support her during her upcoming birth.I was so honored. And to be doing this aside Michelle was what put the icing on the cake.Over the next few weeks we had nice visits full of pumpkin muffins, massages, and henna bellies. It was also a joy to see our kiddos playing together. Insta-buds.imageKnowing that Alyssa labored quickly made me slightly anxious because she lived about 30 min away via highway. In general it takes me 30-45 minutes to get out of the house and depending on the time of day the drive could be messy.
Alyssa had been having contractions for a few evenings but nothing that felt like “actual labor”.I had my bags ready to go so I could up and leave any time I needed to.On the morning of December 3rd I was sitting at the kitchen table with Amelie and Sabine eating French toast and I got the text from Alyssa that she was in labor. I must have looked up with fear in my eyes because Amelie said “do you need to go to a birth”? I told her that I did. I proceeded to rip my onesie off and run downstairs to get dressed.By the time I had gotten everything together and came upstairs Amelie had dressed both herself and Sabine and were getting their boots on. I held Amelie’s cheeks in my hands and I said “I’m going to buy you a present”. We both laughed.
I zipped over to my parents house and dropped the kiddos off with my dad. I then illegally drove the carpool lane all the way to Alyssa’s thinking about how I would plead for forgiveness from a police officer if I got caught. The car pool lane gods smiled at me and I made it to Alyssa’s in good time. I was greeted by her husband Shawn who looked both excited and grounded. I headed upstairs and brushed my teeth which I hadn’t done yet that morning. I was so happy that I actually made it.
I felt like a ton of bricks was taken off my chest.
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Let me set this beautiful scene. Alyssa’s parents in the children’s bedroom with Alyssa and Shawn’s eldest, Paris. Their youngest, Roslyn hanging out naked near the birth tub. Alyssa sitting on a yoga ball naked and breathing deeply. Cards hanging from Alyssa’s bed frame with encouraging words from her friends and family. Gorgeous art of woman laboring above her bed, snow gently falling out the window and relaxing music playing.
Soon after my arrival, Calla the amazing birth photographer arrived To document this amazing event. Alyssa sounded chipper. “Hi! Can you put pressure on my lower back.? “Sure” I said. That was pretty much my physical support for the last hour of her labor. After about 10-15 minutes on her ball she decided that she wanted to get into the water of her birth pool in her bedroom. It was actually a large kids pool with sharks on it which I thought was whimsical and awesome.image
When Alyssa entered the water her contractions got stronger and longer almost immediately. She took good slow deep breaths and made awesome low vocalizations. She reminded me of an Amazonian warrior. Michelle arrived and got right in there. She supported her with positions and reminding her to breathe. We were a pretty badass team … If I do say so, although Alyssa made it totally easy for us by basically just telling us exactly what she needed.
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Alyssa soon began to push and tried a few different positions but eventually got into a half squat and stayed there. At this time her second midwife showed up. Both children were in the pool with her and were assisting me in putting pressure on Alyssa’s back.
After pushing for a little while I could tell that Alyssa was starting to get worried. She was talking about how this was taking longer than last time.Alyssa had, had no vaginal exams through her labor but at this point she asked her midwife to check to see if she was making progress. Her midwife told her that the baby was right there. I think that information gave Alyssa encouragement because she pushed out the baby’s head with the next push. She put her hand down and felt his head and said ” it feels gigantic” we all had a giggle.In her next push she birthed her round 9 lb 8 oz baby. He was lifted to her chest by her daughter. And we all laughed and cried.image
Alyssa looked down and said “it’s a little boy” to which the midwife replied, ” I don’t think he’s so little”. They named this little man Haphaestion Rain. They sat in the tub for a little while and Alyssa delivered her placenta still attached to her son. We moved them to the bed. Alyssa and Shawn wanted to do a cord burning to release their baby from his placenta. It was a really beautiful ceremony shared by Michelle, Shawn and Alyssa. They used beeswax candles which made the room smell like honey. It was like nothing I had experienced before and I loved being there to witness it.
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Afterwards Michelle and I prepared Alyssa’s placenta for prints and dehydration. Because Alyssa is wicked she painted her own placenta with food coloring and made prints at her bed side while Shawn had his first cuddles with his son. Roslyn even got in on the prints.
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One of the first things Alyssa ate after giving birth was an eclaire from Tim Hortons which she had been a craving for her through her pregnancy. They are harder to find than you’d think. I love this picture.

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After some hugs all around I headed home. Supporting this birth was different for me. Not only was I supporting someone special to me but I felt like it filled a part of my heart that was missing. Besides the cord burning Alyssa’s birth was the birth that I had tried for myself twice but did not get to experience. In my home, my daughter in the tub with me, surrounded by family and friends. Knowing that I’m not going to have any more children I knew I would never get to experience this. But I did! I was obviously not the one giving birth but the fact that Alyssa got to have this birth experience and I got to be a part of it filled me with love and gratitude. To witness her strength and beauty in these moments was truly inspiring. It’s a day that I will never forget.

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Watch the beautiful (PG) birth video by Calla here:https://vimeo.com/116516391
Birth Photos and videos by Calla Evans
www.bornbycallaevansphotography.com
Sacred pregnancy photos by Sue Crowder
https://www.facebook.com/everimagephotography

Decorating your belly

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Decorating your gorgeous orb can be a really nice way to get pampered while pregnant or connect with your baby. You can do it yourself or have someone else do it for you. I really enjoyed doing belly henna on myself and I especially loved having my daughter paint my belly.

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If if you are interested in my henna services send me a message! It’s one of my favorite things to do!

 

Consent over my Sacred body. My world.

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All this recent press about Jian Ghomeshi has brought up a lot of conversation about rape culture, violent sexual behaviour and very importantly, consent.

While JG has not been charged for any of these accusations (yet), the amount of woman he has been accused of violating is growing by the day. It’s pretty clear that these women are victims and I hope they are finding peace and strength in this difficult time.

Who knows why it took the CBC so long to cut it’s ties with JG, but in many people’s opinion (which I kind of agree with ) it’s because he was their breadwinner. Why didn’t woman who endured his sexual comments and unwanted physical contact say anything? My guess is partially because they knew that he was an ” important” public figure and that they likely wouldn’t get very far in a “he said/she said”  situation at HR.

If anything good can come from this situation it’s that it has struck up a conversation regarding respect for woman’s bodies and consent.

Alright Nici, this is a doula blog. Why are you talking about this?

I want to start off by saying that this is not a stab at Doctors.  I’ve had many great experiences with OBs, but I have also witnessed some upsetting and disrespectful acts done by doctors and I want to discuss this so that you can make choices for your body that you are comfortable with.

Globally what would you say are the most respected professionals? There was an “occupational prestige” study done which showed physicians to be at the top of the “Ladder of social standing”. If you’re interested in this study check it out.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Occupational_prestige

As a society we hold Doctors very high up (as we should in my opinion). So it makes complete sense that we don’t question Doctors’ actions more often. We are lower than them in social standing so why would we think it’s ok to tell them what to do with our bodies?

Well….because it’s your body. Your sacred space. Your world.

When you register to give birth at the hospital, you sign a lot of paperwork stating that you put your life and your baby’s life in the hands of your doctor. Every doctor has a different way of doing things, but that doesn’t mean that you agree with their practices. Something we tend to forget is that Doctors are working for us, not the other way around.

What I’ve witnessed and heard from my clients were not acts of sexuality, or abusive intent. What I have witnessed are non-consensual medical acts, roughness and disrespect for woman’s birth preferences and their bodies. Why do these things happen? Who is to say for sure. But my opinion is that it is at least partially due to the social standing of a Doctor,  impatience and poor communication.

As an example, a Doctor does not need your consent to give you an episiotomy. In the moment you generally don’t feel it, and the argument is that it will just be upsetting for the birthing mother in that moment if you tell her. If it’s between a life and death situation for the mother or babe, I’d say that these actions are justified. However, this is generally not the case.  Women need to be informed about medical acts or physical changes that Doctors are making to their bodies. Point blank. Or Physicians need to establish future consent in prenatal appointments.

I believe that we are afraid to ask questions of our Doctors and challenge their actions because of their social standing. Kind of similar to this awful situation with JG. Giving birth isn’t something that we do regularly or have a lot of experience with, therefore we just assume that whatever is occurring is necessary. Women come to me after an appointment or their birth and ask me why the Doctor hurt them in this way. To which most of the time I have to say, “I don’t know”. Maybe there is something I am not seeing. I’m not a Doctor, but I do speak English and know when someone is asking for consent. I’m sure that the Doctors have justified their acts in their mind, but if more women talked these actions through with their Doctors and let them know the affect it had on them, maybe doctors would change some of their practices. It also may be a good step in the healing process for these women.

I’m not going to go into the specifics of the hurtful and unprofessional acts that I have witnessed.  Instead, I want to talk about what you can do if you are going to be giving birth or have already suffered from non-consensual acts while delivering your baby or a traumatic birth.

CONSENT. This is a powerful word and it is very recognized by Doctors. While preparing your birth preferences you can explain acts that you do or do not consent to under the circumstances that no one is in danger.  State that you do not want anything physically done to you without your consent first.  Make sure that you give a copy of your birth plan to your doctor. If you would like, you can even get them to sign a copy.

What if my Doctor is not the Doctor who will be delivering my baby? Bring a copy of the birth preferences with you in your hospital bag. Give a copy to the Doctor and ensure they read it. It is important that your birth partner be aware of your wishes so that they can tell the Doctor if you are unable to. Be aware that a Doula can not speak for you at your birth, but they can remind you or your partner of your wishes so that one of you can convey the message yourself.

If you are a survivor of sexual assault this is something that you should bring up with your care provider and birth team. Tell them about your trigger words and places you do not wish to be touched. Birth is empowering but also very delicate. It can bring hard times to the surface. This is a very courageous way of setting your birth up for success.

If you’ve had a traumatic birth experience, luckily there is a lot of help out there for you. Women’s mental health in the postpartum period is becoming more and more recognized as something that needs to be treated delicately and efficiently, which is great news.

What can you do for yourself? Here are a few ideas that can assist with self healing.

-Talk about it. Talk about it with your partner, your close friends, your doctor, moms groups, etc. Let people know how this has affected you physically and mentally.

-Take a bath. Add healing and cleansing properties like calendula, comfrey, rose water and limes. Think about where you are feeling your physical or mental pain and imagine it going away with the bath water.

-Write a list of things that you want people or your doctor to say to you about your birth. Give it to someone special, have them look you in the eyes and say them to you.

-Write a letter (angry, happy, however you want to convey your message) to the person that hurt you and rip it up or burn it.

-If you’re near a body of water, write down your fears and regrets about your birth on stones and thrown them in the water. You can also do this with paper and burn it.

-Have a mother roasting ceremony where you are celebrated and warmed for giving birth in whatever capacity that was.

-Write your birth story for yourself. the way you experienced it, for yourself.

-Think about when you felt strong during your labor and birth. Associate it with colours, songs, images, items and surround yourself with them.

You are strong and powerful. You are important. Your body is important. Physical pain can lead to mental pain, physical scarring can lead to mental scarring. Our birth experience doesn’t just stay with us until we are done healing or when our babies are teenagers. It stays with us forever. In a way it defines who we are. Lets open up the communication between Doctors and Mothers. Make sure all your questions are answered and all your preferences are acknowledged.  Speak out if you feel you are not being respected.

Your loved ones are are here to listen and help you heal.

 

 

 

“Ma Puce” The story of Lucie and her two amazing Fathers

Pregnant woman

Back in august I attended my sacred pregnancy instructor training. At my retreat I met some amazing women. One is named Leia and is the CEO of Canadian fertility consultants (http://fertilityconsultants.ca/) and another named Angie, who is a surrogate support worker. We bonded and I became very interested in their work. Both woman had been surrogates and have donated their eggs to help families grow. I find it fascinating and amazing.

Being a wife to a husband who has been a sperm donor, I have had the pleasure to experience this really beautiful and delicate situation first hand. I hope to donate one day as well.

BUT. This story isn’t about me. It’s about Lucie and her two daddies.

After the retreat Leia and Angie and I stayed in contact. I came out and helped with a few things, and we are currently in the midst of planning a really lovely event together. However, the biggest honor that Leia gave me was when she asked me to provide postpartum support for two men visiting Canada from France who were going to have a baby born to a surrogate mother.

For their privacy I will call them G and F. Before Lucie was born I was in contact with G and F. They seemed very excited and curious of the unknown just like any family anticipating a new baby. We spoke back and forth for a couple weeks leading up to the birth.  I learned about their work as an anesthesiologist and physiotherapist and  they kept me in the loop about their surrogate’s possible induction, their visits to the hospital and excitement.

“We are still waiting !!

“She do not want yet to show her nose !! “
Finally their sweet Lucy Arrived. They were there to witness her birth, and immediately fell in love.
“Ma puce.” They called her.
“Bonjour, ma puce. You are so beautiful.” G would say to her as he held her close.
The first day that she was home with G and F they called me to come over. You could tell that they were in a bit of a whirl. When I came by they greeted me with big smiles and hugs. I got to meet the perfectly serene and round Lucie for the first time. I could tell that G and F were a little frazzled and that they wanted to make sure they were doing everything right. Of course they were, but as new parents who love our babies that’s what we do. We went over feeding, diapering, washing, skin to skin, what to look out for and how to properly use their carrier. G was a big fan of the carrier, but F didn’t feel comfortable using it. Which is fine. I told him to make sure he is always comfortable with how he is caring for his baby. This experience isn’t meant to make you feel scared. And It’s ok if you do. G was beaming with his sweet girl attached to him. He looked completely in his element.
We also went through all the products they had brought from France for Lucie. Everything they were doing was perfect. I think they just needed someone to tell them so. To see their body language change from kind of tense to relaxed by the time I left was very satisfying for me and it made me happy. You can tell that their confidence got a bit of a boost.
As I drove home after our first meeting I was admittedly kind of annoyed. I thought about the people in the world who say that two men can’t successfully raise a child and be a “true family”.  Well pardon my French but to that I say, ” fourrer dans le cul . vous crétins”! If people saw the love and adoration I witnessed in those moments, there is no way they could speak against it. It was true love and no one could deny that.
The reason G and F came to Canada to have their baby is because surrogacy is illegal in France.

“In France, since 1994, any surrogacy arrangement that is commercial or altruistic, is illegal or unlawful and is not sanctioned by the law (art 16-7 of the Code Civil).[14] The French Courts the Cassation already took this point of view in 1991. It held that if any couple makes an agreement or arranges with another person that she is to bear the husband’s child and surrender it on birth to the couple, and that she is choosing that she will not keep the child, the couple making such an agreement or arrangement, is not allowed to adopt the child. In its judgment the court held that such an agreement is illegal on the basis of articles 6 & 1128 of the Code Civil, together with article 353 of the same code.[15]”    – Wikipedia

In Canada our laws are quite different

“The Assisted Human Reproduction Act (AHRC) permits only altruistic surrogacy: surrogate mothers may be reimbursed for approved expenses but payment of any other consideration or fee is illegal.[10] Quebec law, however, does not recognize surrogacy arrangements, whether commercial or altruistic.” – wikipedia

It took about a year for G and F to get everything arranged. In that time, with the help of Leia, they found a surrogate, an egg donor and had begun the process of IVF. G spoke to me about the process and how everything just seemed to fall into place. He also spoke about how thankful he was for their surrogate because without her this wouldn’t have been possible. He seemed pleased with how everything went and he mentioned to me about how they were going to be starting the process to get Lucie a brother or sister. G plans to stay home with the children until they are all off to school full time.

In the remaining visits we had together we would go over how things were going. Lucie was growing beautifully and the Doctor was happy with her progress. She is a very chilled out baby with a beautiful little round face and a good appetite. Sometimes we would hang out together and sometimes they would let me snuggle with Lucie while they went and arranged paperwork or had meetings with their lawyer. G anticipated to be here until November 30 or potentially longer until all their legal paperwork was completed.

F had to go back to France to get back to work. But he had facetime visits with Lucie and G. Sometimes I peeked in too.

Well, they must have been very efficient because G was able to leave on Nov 1st to bring their sweet girl back to France to meet all their family and friends. Of course I was overjoyed for them but a little bit sad for me as well. I really loved working with this family and it was hard to say goodbye.

I’m so honored that I got to assist this amazing family through this wild transition into fatherhood. It makes my heart smile. I hope our paths will cross again some day.

I’m so happy surrogacy is legal in Canada. Thank you Canada!

I have never met Lucie’s surrogate mother. If you see this, darling, I want you to know that I’m so inspired by you. You have changed two wonderful peoples lives in a beautiful way . You made them fathers. What they’ve always wanted. I know that they will never forget you and the courageous and selfless act that you did for them. Your surro-baby is in wonderful hands. Thank you.

 

The marathon birth of Kaiya Rose

Delia and David were right on the ball. At 4 weeks pregnant I found myself sitting in her mothers kitchen talking about their hopes and wishes for her labor and birth.  Delia and I had a mutual friend who posted about my doula services on Facebook and she decided to give me a call. This was my second interview as a doula and so I was feeling a bit nervous initially, but they were so rad that I felt comfortable after a short time. Delia’s mother Rosemary joined us for the interview. It ended up that Delia and I had gone to the same high school (one year apart) and that we had many common interests. When they hired me I was really happy.

What was really wonderful about working with Delia and David was the fact that because we got off to such an early start that I really got to get to know them and know her through all the stages of her pregnancy. I got to see her belly grow and her outlook on her upcoming birth change from being a bit nervous to feeling confident and relaxed. It was a lovely process to witness.

Delia’s back gave her quite a bit of trouble during her pregnancy due to a previous injury. In the last few weeks she was so uncomfortable that she was unable to walk without two canes. I felt so terribly. There really wasn’t anything I could do to help her and that was frustrating for me. It didn’t help that the baby was in a posterior position and had dropped quite a bit. I went over and did a bit ofrebozo with Delia to try and loosen up her hips and at least offer some relief. I left my rebozos with them and showed David how to do it.

When Delia’s due date arrived she posted it on Facebook and of course got lots of old wives tales posted in the thread. One of which I had never heard before. I’ve heard some weird stuff like eating an entire pineapple, or eggplant Parmesan, but this one was weird – Swiss chalet sauce. After someone posted it, a few other people agreed. I laughed. That night Delia went to Swiss chalet with her family and had a double serving of the sauce. She called me around 1 am with contractions 5 minutes apart. WHAT?! I mean, I’m not saying that this mystery sauce put her into labor, but it’s kind if hilarious. Imagine the marketing.

We kept in touch over the next couple hours and eventually Delia decided that she would like to go to the hospital to get checked out. I got myself together and met them there. By the time I arrived Delia was being sent home. She was 2cm and still had some time. We went back to Delia’s parents house (where they are living) and Rosemary made us breakfast and tea. Delia wasn’t much into eating, but she managed to get a few bites in. David seemed pretty chilled out, but you could tell that seeing Delia going through her surges was sometimes hard for him to watch.  His love for her really beamed through this whole process.

Delia’s legs were pretty shakey and this started to become frustrating for her. David and I massaged them and put pressure on them. It helped a little. Just then her kitty dingo ran in the room jumped in her lap and began to knead her legs. We all watched in amazement and adoration. It was a great little happy reminder to cherish this moment and it definitely added some extra sweetness to this labor.

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Shortly after the invasion of doula-cat, Delia decided that she wanted to go back to the hospital.  When we arrived I assisted Delia getting up the stairs while David went to park the car. Just then a woman was walking by us and we locked eyes. I asked her if her name was Loraine. She looked completely puzzled and said “yes…….” I probably haven’t seen this woman since I was 4. She was one of my parents good friends and used to babysit me. It was a lovely little encounter and then she headed to work.

We got upstairs and headed back to triage. This time she was more between 2-3 cm and her contractions were pretty consistently 3-4 minutes apart. They decided to admit her and we were brought to the birthing suite. Rosemary and Delia’s friend Daphna stayed in the waiting room.

Delia looked beautiful. Like really really beautiful. Her concentration and her breaths were perfect but her back andshakey legs made things really difficult for her. There was a stool with a perfectly round black centre and we propped it up for Delia to stare at. She focused in on it and envisioned her dilation as she sat on the birthing ball. A little over 15 hours had passed since her first surge. She was very tired and we just couldn’t find a position that offered her any relief from her back pain. Delia asked for an epidural and the anesthesiologist showed up not too long after the request. David and I went for a quick walk. We informed the cheerleaders in the waiting room what was up and we grabbed a slice if pizza. I had a bit of a chat on how Davidwas doing and he was mostly excited and of course concerned for Delia. When we got back we were greeted with a “hieeeeeeee”. You’d be chipper too if after weeks of debilitating back pain you suddenly had none.  Delia took a nap, and so did I.

After a few hours with not much progress they decided to break Delia’s water. David and I continued to rub her legs and I did a bit of acupressure to help her surges along.

Delia’s mother, Rosemary stayed put in the waiting room she was determined to kiss that baby before she left the hospital.

in Delia’s room we watched a woman win a car on wheel of fortune and a gentlemen continue his winning streak onJeapordy.

Delia was very calm. We were on our third nurse at this point (all of which were lovely), but babe wasn’t ready. Delia dilated to 8cm and stayed there for a good number of hours.

David and I chatted a bit about our backgrounds and documentary films and eventually we got in a good nap. Some of which I did on a chair and some of which I did on my rebozos on the floor.

When Delia got checked in the morning they saw that she continued to be at 8cm with a bit of a swollen cervical lip. We changed her position and they started her on a smalldose of Pitocin to give her a bit of a push. It totally worked. After about an hour and a half she was ready to start pushing.

Delia began pushing with the nurse and made progress with every push. Two more nurses and the resident came in. At one point Delia was using her hypnobirthing breathing and moved her baby down with her breath. One of the nurses said “wow” under her breath. Delia was concentrating so well. She made it look easy. I was admittedly surprised at how much strength she had considering her weeks of pain and lengthily labor. Something I appreciated was the silence. We had heard many births over the past day and many of them had very loud cheerleading teams. The nurses really read Delia and kept everything nice and low.

Dr. Grumpyface entered to room. Dude looked like someone stole his breakfast bagel out of the fridge. He was all business, but David and the nurses and myself continued to support Delia. I rubbed David’s back in excited anticipation for him to meet his daughter.

As Delia pushed I remember her delivering the head and thinking whoa, that’s a biiiiig baby. With one more push she delivered her sweet 9lb 4oz bundle. I was overjoyed. Delia and David stared at her with adoration and I took some pictures.

Delia kept telling Kaiya that everything was ok.

I got to go out to the waiting room to find a very teary and proud nonna. I showed her all the pictures I took and she kept saying, “she’s so big”!

Kaiya was a bit gurgley and so they suctioned a bit if fluid out and by the time the pediatrician showed up she was fine.

We attempted a bit of breast-feeding but babe was wiped. It had been a long 33 hours for all of us.

I’m so honoured that I was invited into this very special birth. I’m so thankful that this awesome family was willing to give this new doula a chance. I’ll never forget the strength and courage that I saw in Delia and the love that exuded from David. Thank you so much for allowing me to witness this sacred time.

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Sacred Pregnancy

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In June I was scrolling down one of my doula pages on Facebook and I noticed that someone had mentioned that they were looking for someone to cook at a retreat for birth workers. In turn I would be able to also take part in the retreat. Being totally into absorbing every bit of professional development I can get and also being kinda poor I thought it was a great opportunity to expand my knowledge while also earning my keep.

After doing some research about what exactly I was getting into, I was VERY pleased to read about what I would be learning in this course. I remember reading the descriptions and seeing the pictures and just thinking “YES” this is exactly the kind of care and treatment that I want to offer the families I work with.

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Over the next month and a half I got to know the other woman I would be going on this journey with through the facebook sacred pregnancy Ontario retreat page. Everyone seemed really lovely and easygoing. What was surprising to me was people talking about how they were nervous? I started to think, “should I be nervous”? What is there to be nervous about? I figured that I would just wait and see.

On the first day of the retreat I headed up with my Mom who agreed to help me cook (which I couldn’t be more thankful for). She worked for hours to make sure that I was set up properly so that cooking would be easy and that I would still get the most out of the course. AND she helped me do the shopping which was a job and a half. We took 6 packed shopping carts out of the store. So thankful.

When we arrived to the HUGE gorgeous house there were already a few ladies there. My first night there was admittedly really stressful, getting all the food in order while also having really bad tummy cramps.

While I want to express my feelings and gratitude towards Anni, and my sacred sisters, I don’t want to give too much away about exactly what we did because the element of surprise was a part of what made it so special for me and I want to give that to the woman whom I will continue to share this journey with.  What I will do is express the points that resonated with me for which I am eternally grateful.

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GIFTING

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We began our circle with opening up gift bags. I love giving gifts to people and seeing their reactions. A lot of thought went into the gifts and while I felt like these people didn’t know me everything that came in that pretty large gift bag was beautiful and meaningful and I was surprised and really joyful for receiving such beautiful items. I feel like the entire time we gave gifts to one another, not just objects but emotional ones as well. There is even a project we did where we had to specifically gift someone a project that we made at the retreat. I myself made all the ladies little jar necklaces with dandelion wishes in them. I was happy to be around people who were as thoughtful as I try to be.

CRAFTING!!!!!

Now you’re speaking my language. For those of you who don’t know, I LOVE to make things…..just about anything. We had the opportunity to do a few crafting projects which weren’t just fun, but gave us the opportunity to talk about the subjects we were making the crafts for and get to know each other.

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Safe Space

When was the last time you cried in front of a group of strangers? I’m kinda a crier…. I’ll admit it, when I see other people cry, I cry, I cry when I’m happy, I cry when I’m stressed or upset or sometimes when things are just intense. To be quite honest. I cried… A LOT. I’ve realized over the past 6 months or so that I’m totally an empath. There were so many emotions in the room and I was feeling all of them and it was intense. In the beginning I was mildly embarrassed, even annoyed at myself but after a little while I realized that it would stop when it stopped and I should just embrace it for the time being and once I got over it, it became a wonderful release. Surrendering to my discomfort actually made me feel stronger. I had control and that I was justified in feeling the way I felt. To know that you can be completely yourself and bare your soul in a group of people that aren’t judging you and are just there holding space for you is such an amazing gift. What a world it would be if we could really see each other.

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Releasing and Forgiveness

I hold onto things….good things, bad things, but unfortunately its generally the bad things are what resonate. They are what I think about while going to sleep or doing the dishes. Sacred pregnancy gave me the opportunity to put those things out in the open, burn them away and begin the healing process. I’m not going to say that I am now problem free, but it taught me how to actively deal with these resonating problems in productive ways that I can be proud of. Forgiveness is something that I truly believe heals your soul. I try to practice forgiveness because I think it makes life better, I do struggle with it sometimes, but mostly when it comes to forgiving myself. It will be a constant practice for me, and I’m thankful for the tools I’ve been given to continue these practices in my life.

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Honoring One Another

Honoring people is something that I practice in my life. I give tons of kudos and try to let people know how awesome they are on a daily basis. I think people have a hard time honoring one another because often people only see the negative side of things and don’t want to seem corny or creepy by complimenting someone else. While I felt like I was honored the entire time we had one day that was dedicated to honoring one another. It was honestly one of the best feeling I’ve ever had. Some people say that you never feel as beautiful as you do on your wedding day, but I never felt more loved and beautiful as I did on that day. What an amazing gift.

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Going to the Salt bowl

This isn’t something that I had ever heard about. At our salt bowl ceremony everyone put in things that they had brought from their land or things that were special to them to add. Some of the things included essential oils, beads, flower petals, turmeric and smarties. Everyone put their intentions in the bowl, mixed it all up and we all got to bring home some of the beautiful smelling salts. I’ve really enjoyed using the salts in the bath. The smells of it remind me of our sweet time together. I’ve done three salt bowls since the retreat with other groups of people and I’ve just really loved the way that it brings everyone together. It’s meaningful, and special and I’m thankful that I had it introduced to me.

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Sisterhood

If I had to pick one thing which I cherished most from the retreat it would be the connections that I made with the woman that I had the pleasure of meeting. I honestly feel that I could call upon them at any time for any reason. I have so much love and adoration for them. As an example of how amazing this sisterhood is, yesterday one of the woman, Christine organized for some of us to go over to one of our sisters, Britney’s house who has just had a baby and help her for the day. With donations, food and intentions from the other sisters from the retreat we stocked her fridge, tidied up her place and gave her some mama love. What a amazing community that I get to be a part of.  I’ve made friends for life and I love them.

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Im so thrilled that I get to teach these classes and retreats. I love bringing people together and this is the opportunity to do that for the best reason. To honor pregnant woman while guiding them through this journey will be beautiful work. I hope I can offer them the same feelings of safety, strength and love that was gifted to me in this short but sweet time. I continue to practice the teachings from the retreat in my daily life and I feel more like myself than I have in a long time. I will be continuing my sacred journey by taking their sacred postpartum classes and their sacred Ayurveda classes. I’m excited to include mother roasting to my postpartum care.

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All in all I’m so thankful to Anni and all the sacred sisters for taking this journey with me. Anni, you are changing peoples lives in lovely ways and I’m so grateful for you and for starting this beautiful movement which is so perfect and necessary.  I’m forever grateful and I can’t wait to share this amazing experience with the pregnant woman of The GTA

All Photos by Sue Crowder of Ever Image

Behold!

I’ve always been so inspired by woman who post pictures of their postpartum belly. That they can see all the beauty left behind from where they carried their babies was something that I wish I felt about myself. I’ve taken pictures of my stomach multiple times and wanted to post them as an exercise of strength but I was always still kind of embarrassed and felt totally unsexy. I can now say that after my sacred pregnancy journey this past week that I feel more beautiful and strong than ever. I let people photograph and touch my belly which is something I would have never done before. So today while Sabine took her nap I decided to henna myself and photograph a part of me which for almost 8 years I’ve tried to hide. With no reservation I present my beautiful belly. The place that grew my two sweet misses. Thank you to the sisters at the Ontario retreat for helping me see the light. Love you.

I will of course be doing a huge write up on my sacred pregnancy journey, but I’d like to wait for the pictures so I can add them. Can’t wait to share it with you!

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