Embrace Turns ONE | Winnipeg Birth Photographer and Doula

Can you believe it has been ONE YEAR since www.embracebirth.ca was launched? I have had the most amazing year learning and growing with all of you. I can not thank you enough for following with me on this journey! I have worked as a doula for over ten years now, and last year decided things needed a little refresh. I am SO glad I did!

In the past year Embrace Birth Services has:

-And in between it all, I was invited to hold space with some truly amazing and breathtaking families as they welcomed some adorably sweet babes to their families.

 

I can only hope that this next year is as amazing as Embrace’s first official year of business has been. Some days I seriously feel like I need to pinch myself when I realize how lucky I am to get to do this work each day. And I want to send out a huge thank you to the families who have welcomed me this year. For teaching me, trusting me, growing with me. I have been in awe of the love, strength, wisdom that each of you has shown. Thank you for walking this journey with me!

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Do Life: The Best Early Labour Plan

While some lucky birthers find themselves starting labor with active contractions five minutes apart or less, most of us will have labors that ebb and flow in the beginning, contractions starting as mere annoyances, and slowly progressing into an active pattern. Ah, the joy of early labor.

Early labor can be long and drawn out, reaching 6-24 hours, especially for first time moms. Contractions during early labor can be anywhere from 20 minutes apart to about 4-5 minutes apart. Generally you know it’s early labor if contractions are progressing closer, but you are still able to focus on life, pausing only briefly during the height of a contraction. They may be 30-60 seconds long.

While there is important work being done during this time, it often doesn’t feel like it. Watching the clock can make time seem to stand still, so I recommend “doing life”. That is— continue to go about your day as you normally would, stopping just long enough for the contraction to pass, and then brushing it off and continuing on as normal. The longer that you can deny labor and keep doing life, the better headspace you will probably be in once active labor hits.

 

If you’re unsure what to do, some ideas are:
-take a long leisurely shower or bath.
-take a nap
-make food, or bake!
-play a game
-cuddle on the couch with a blanket and your favourite Netflix series
-clean your house- slowly though- don’t burn extra energy
-paint your toes!
-go shopping
-take a walk around your neighbourhood
-take a last set of maternity photos

If you think you may be in early labor, send a quick message to your doula to let them know— and then continue business as usual. Use one of the tips from this list, or pick something of your own. The important thing is that the activity keeps you comfortable and focused on anything other than your beginning contractions!

Once you find that you are having to stop and focus through your contractions, or they are five minutes or less apart, it’s time to call your doula (and your midwife if need be!). Start thinking about moving to your chosen place of birth if not planning a homebirth, and settle in to meet your baby!

5 Signs It’s Time To Contact Your Doula | Winnipeg Doula

Am I in labor? Is this real? When do I call my doula? Such common questions at the end of pregnancy!

Many birthers find that they have prodromal or “practice” labor at the end of their pregnancies for days or even weeks before starting to labor in earnest. This can be frustrating and confusing all at the same time! These warm up contractions help your body and uterus to practice and warm up, but generally do not work to significantly dilate your cervix (although some dilation and movement of the cervix can happen!). Don’t confuse that with meaning they don’t do anything-  prodromal labor is a good thing, even when it doesn’t feel like it!

Still, it can be confusing trying to figure out if it’s practice labor or the ‘real deal’. These warm up contractions may feel very real! The most common way to tell the difference is over time-- while “real” early labor contractions will get noticeably stronger, longer and closer together, prodromal labor will typically not get significantly closer together or longer. For most people they will happen for several hours and then fizzle out, starting again later or another day. This is a good sign that these are the important priming contractions-- but not a sign that true labor is starting.

In this case, I recommend trying to get rest, and remain positive- these contractions can give you a good chance to practice some of your relaxation techniques, but I urge you not to get caught up in planning for the birth yet! The best thing that you can do is to rest and keep your mind off of it.

So how do you know when it’s time to start preparing for the birth and calling your support people? Below are a couple signs that productive labor may be starting- and it’s time to alert your partner, your doula, birth photographer and/or midwife! Your doula will have different preferences for how you contact them, so make sure you ask! Often an email or text during overnight hours is preferred (or waiting altogether until morning), while during daytime you can use whichever method you prefer. For my clients, I tend to prefer a text or waiting until morning unless your mama sense tells you something may happen quickly! But as always, don't hesitate to pick up the phone if you feel you need me! 

 

1. If your water breaks

Whether a trickle or a gush, your water breaking can be a dreaded and exciting moment. It may not mean that contractions will start immediately, but it's a good sign! If your water breaks and contractions have not started, or they are still light, I personally treat this as a perfect time to grab some food and then climb back into bed. Getting some rest before labor starts in earnest is always a good idea! Not sure if it was your water? Amniotic fluid should be clear, and have a mild scent- not like urine. Some people say it is sweet smelling.

2. You lose your mucus plug and/or see bloody show

Seeing bloody mucuous on the toilet paper after you wipe can see a bit scary, but it’s also something to be excited about in the last weeks of pregnancy. This is a good sign that your cervix is starting to move and dilate! If noticable contractions have not started yet, they may soon. Just to keep you on your toes though- some birthers will lose their mucuous plug and not go into labor for days or even weeks. Still- it’s a good idea to keep your care provider and support people in the loop if this happens!

3. You start feeling like you have the flu

It’s a common occurance. You get to 39 weeks pregnant and it hits-- You’re achy, tired, your stomach gets upset and you may have loose stools or even diarrhea. This may feel like the worst thing in the world, and many people worry that they are now going to have to go through labor while sick, but it’s actually a common sign that labor is getting ready to start! One of the ways your body prepares for labor is by dumping hormones-- and some of these will cause your body to mimic signs of sickness. Again- this isn’t a foolproof sign, but it’s a good one to be aware of- especially if you’re finding yourself in the bathroom a lot. Many birthers state that the night before or hours before labor started, it was like their body got spooked and “emptied out”- that’s a strong fight or flight response there-- your body is preparing to do hard work!

4. Backache

Wait, how do you know the difference between regular sore back and one that signals labor? You can’t always. But if you notice a backache that switches from a generalized soreness into a concentrated pain that may ebb and flow-- this may be a sign that things are gearing up.

5. Contractions Pick up

Braxton hicks are frequent during late pregnancy, so how do you know when they’re the real deal? If you’re noticing contractions that are easily timable with an obvious start and end- labor may be starting! Early labor contractions will continue to progress longer, stronger and closer together, so it may take a few hours before you know for sure. If they’re coming at regular intervals though, even if still fairly far apart-- it’s time to give your support people a heads up! True labor contractions will also not let up with rest, position changes or increased water, and tend to include some back pain with them. Many birthers also report that their labor contractions felt like they wrapped more around the belly, as opposed to the low down menstrual cramp feeling of braxton hicks.

Feeling some signs? Maybe it’s your time! Don’t forget to get some rest, and contact your care provider and support people!

 


 

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Winnipeg New Baby

Winnipeg Pregnancy Guide: Welcome Baby! A Visiting Guide | Winnipeg Doula

Adding a Winnipeg baby to your house? Overwhelmed about keeping up with visitors and expectations? It can seem like a daunting task to settle in with your precious newborn without having to add the worries about entertaining guests, or trying to navigate new feeding and sleep routines while someone else looks on.

Leading up to our first child’s birth, our own new Winnipeg baby, my husband and I were dead set that we didn’t want visitors– we were really craving that time to settle in as a new family of three, uninterrupted. We were worried that having a revolving door of visitors would make us more stressed out, and were also a bit concerned about dealing with all the (sometimes not so) helpful advice that new parents get. So we encouraged family and friends to wait a few weeks before stopping by.

As it turns out, we were pretty overwhelmed anyways, and probably could have used some helping hands! In hindsight, I wish we’d felt confident enough to encourage visitors– on our terms. I’ve learned a lot over the past six years, and we were incredibly grateful to have wonderful family and friend support after our next two births. Our visitors were amazing at coming at convenient times, never staying too long, and making sure to be helpful while they were here.

I’ve jotted down a quick list of ways to be helpful while visiting a new Winnipeg baby. Share it with your family and friends, Post it to Facebook, or use it for yourself if YOU are the new visitor. You want to be invited back after all!

Come at a convenient time

Dropping by unannounced is never a good idea in a house that has a newborn. Communicate with the family and ask what time is best for them. And be flexible– Sometimes what seems like it will be the perfect time ends up being 12 minutes after nap time has started and all those sleepy new parents want is to go to bed with baby. No one needs guilt on top of exhaustion.

Keep your visit short

Unless Requested otherwise! In those early days and even weeks, short visits are usually key. Give them a bit of adult interaction, swoon over the gorgeous new baby, and then get the heck out of dodge and let that family rest. However– some parents really find themselves craving this companionship, and may encourage you to stay. Read their cues! If they’re settled in and keeping the conversation flowing, it’s ok to keep chatting. But watch for signs of tiredness, hunger or anxiousness- sometimes it can feel awkward to deal with those new baby tasks when you’re worried about your guest. Which brings me to the next point…

Image courtesy of WordPress.

When In Rome… Let the baby eat

For a parent who is new to breastfeeding, it can be an overwhelming task. There is no covering up or being discrete when you’re still not sure exactly how to latch baby on properly. And the last thing they need to worry about is making someone else feel awkward. Take your cues from the parents- if they request privacy, this is a perfect opportunity to make yourself useful! Tidy the living room. Wipe down the table. Offer to make tea or a snack. If however, the parents don’t make a big deal out of it– don’t make it into one. Continue talking, make eye contact, and reaffirm that a baby eating is a totally normal and acceptable thing!

Make yourself useful

It’s important to acknowledge that everything with a new baby takes twice as long- if not more. Help out a little while you’re there. Help an older child put away their toys, offer to make the parents a cup of tea or grab a quick snack. Walk the dog or swipe a cloth over the counter quickly. If you’re close with the family or have permission, offer to empty their garbages or throw a load of laundry into the washer. It doesn’t have to be much, but these small gestures are so appreciated! Time spent visiting is often time when the parents aren’t able to get other tasks done- a visitor lending a hand quickly on their way out makes the visit less stressful.

Visit with the big siblings

One of the biggest sources of guilt for parents is often trying to spread the attention between a new baby and older siblings– be they human or of the furry variety! If you have time, try to acknowledge these forgotten members- take a pup for a walk or give them a good long back scratch. For human siblings, take a moment to talk to them about this new development, and make them feel special by reading them a book or playing a quick game. They will appreciate it, and so will the parents.

 

Any other tips you would add? What worked best in your household in those early newborn hazy days?

Embrace Birth Services has created this handy printable for those first weeks with your Winnipeg baby. Post it on Facebook, send it out with a birth announcement, tape it to your door.

 

Winnipeg Baby
Winnipeg Baby

Winnipeg Pregnancy Guide: The Benefits of A Winnipeg Midwife | Winnipeg Doula

While almost everyone has heard of a midwife, I find that few people truly understand what midwifery care includes- and why having a Winnipeg midwife is so awesome! Before going into the process of how to obtain a midwife in Winnipeg, I think it’s important to explain how their care differs and why you want one- even if you don’t know it yet!

A midwife in Winnipeg provides the same professional medical care during both the prenatal period and birth that you would receive if you were to choose an obstetrician or family doctor to attend your birth. As a client of midwifery you can receive all the same testing and access to resources that you would normally expect. Midwives are highly trained professionals with expertise in birth. Fortunately- with midwifery you get so much more than just a medical provider!

 

Informed consent.

One of the basic and yet most important tenets of midwifery care is informed consent. In my experience this has gone so far beyond a simple “This is happening, ok?” to a true desire to ensure that the family understands all options presented and makes the best decision for themselves. Appointments with midwives are filled with information and dialogue about the existing and newest research and evidence based practice- and how that may effect you and your pregnancy and birth.

Long Appointments.

During my second pregnancy, I LOVED having extra long appointments with my midwife. It was a breath of fresh air compared to the experience with my previous OB where a “long appointment” only referred to the amount of time I spent sitting in the waiting room. This extra time with my Winnipeg midwife meant that we had a chance to go over not just my weight and blood pressure (Actually, many midwives won’t even worry about your weight, focusing more on other markers, but that’s another blog), but could delve into how I was feeling emotionally, and to help me prepare for the upcoming birth and changes. I left each appointment feeling heard, and more confident, more supported.

Stronger Relationship With Those Likely to Attend Your Birth.

One of the wonderful pros of working with a Winnipeg midwife is that you have a far greater chance of actually having met the care provider who ends up being there at your birth. When you choose to work with a Winnipeg OB, your doctor typically works in a call group of 6-8 doctors, any of whom may be the one to actually attend your birth. It’s common to have all your appointments with one doctor throughout your entire pregnancy and then only have one or two five minute appointments with a second doctor from the practice at the very end. This means there’s still 4-6 or so doctors who have an equal chance of being there for your delivery whom you have never met before, or sometimes even heard their name.

I loved during my pregnancies to have a chance to meet and get to know each midwife on my team. I felt fully supported and comfortable with any of the midwives who might show up on my birthing day.

Winnipeg doula embrace birth services

Choice of Place of Birth

While many people under the care of midwives still prefer to give birth in the hospital, there are many who love being able to take advantage of two other options- a homebirth in Winnipeg, or a midwife attended birth at the Women’s Health Clinic Birth Centre. Both are a wonderful and safe option for low risk individuals who desire a more natural experience for their labor. Your midwife will go over all the safety measures in place for you (It can seem daunting until you realize how well trained and equipped they are!), and you are free to choose whichever place of birth appeals most to you (barring medical changes which would require you to change to a hospital birth). Since many studies now have shown that homebirth is just as safe as hospital birth, it is so great to be able to have the choice to birth where you prefer.

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Postpartum Care

It’s almost difficult to put this point into a brief paragraph. When I speak with women who are considering midwifery care, one of the things I always bring up is the level of postpartum care that you experience with a Winnipeg midwife. In Winnipeg, you remain under the care of your OB until 6 weeks postpartum, and your infant transfers to the care of your pediatrician or family doctor. Once you are discharged from the hospital, you typically won’t see your doctor again until your 6 week discharge visit. This visit is often fairly quick, focuses on your healing from vaginal or cesarean birth, and if no immediate concerns are raised, you are sent on your way until your next pregnancy or pap smear. While some awesome providers out there do inquire more into your healing process both physically and emotionally, it doesn’t seem to be standard practice.

In contrast, Winnipeg midwifery care follows both parts of the mother/baby dyad for a full six weeks. During these weeks you will receive several visits at home, and at the midwifes office. To me, this aftercare makes all the difference in recovery from birth, considering not just your physical recovery, but also the emotional adjustment to all the changes that have occured! My midwives were an amazing resource with breastfeeding, stress management, reassurance daily when needed about normal healing processes, and any other questions I could come up with regarding having a new baby at home. The switch to a level of care that covers both mother and baby is an important one– so much in these first weeks affects both parts of your little team!

 

Have I convinced you yet? Stay tuned for a blog about how to get a Winnipeg midwife. I want to take a second as well to acknowledge that Winnipeg is also home to some -amazing- family doctors who attend births, (I’m looking at your Dr Reynolds and Dr Schneider!) and Obstetricians. There are absolutely some gems out there! If you find your experience a little lacking though, don’t forget about the amazing complement of having a doula at your birth as well! Doulas work wonderfully alongside midwives and other care providers to tend to your positive experience. Visit my services page for more information about what I offer as a doula.