Dads and Doulas | Winnipeg Doula

With Father’s Day almost upon us, I wanted to talk about one of the elephants in the room. One of the most common concerns when a couple is talking about inviting a doula to their birth, is what about dad? Doesn’t he feel displaced? What if he wants to be part of the birth, helping his partner through the experience? I hear stories from families where the birther wants a doula, but dad isn’t sure. He worries about being “unneeded” once they hire a doula.

Rest assured, having a doula present does not mean that the mother’s other support person, be it her partner or another loved one, is replaced. On the contrary, having a doula can help support the partner so they can better support the birthing mama.

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With my first pregnancy, I know my husband was hesitant to invite someone else into our birthing room. By just a few hours into labor though, he already expressing how thankful he was that we’d chosen to have a doula. While my husband remained by and large my primary support, my doula was our rock. She was there to offer tips or encouragement when I needed, and having her perspective was priceless. My husband knew me- he knew what things relaxed me and could read my facial expressions. My doula knew birth. Together they were an unbeatable team.

But she didn’t just help me. She was around to grab snacks and water when my husband needed. She was able to stay in the room with me when he needed to make phone calls or go for a walk. The birth room can sometimes be a stuffy place, and getting even just a few minutes of fresh air while knowing your partner is still supported is such a relief. My daughter is almost seven, but he still talks about how unburdened he felt as soon as our doula got to the hospital– he was still my support, but it wasn’t *all* on him anymore.

As a doula I see the same thing in the families I work with. Partners who are worried that they might not know enough or have the right words to say, gain confidence as they watch an experienced doula care for the birther. My favourite thing to see is when they start to copy things that they see me doing, providing the perfect combination to their partner. A dad who started the labour maybe just lightly rubbing a back learns exactly the right way to prov

ide counterpressure during contractions, or how to sway with the rhythm of her breathing. As he’s able to step into a larger role and feels more comfortable, I’ll take the opportunity to grab snacks or water, maybe grab lotion for moms back, or help her fix her hair. Sometimes one of us will be provoding physical support while the other stares into her eyes and talks to her. Dad and doula complement each other, always one ready to step into the role that mom needs.

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And when things get intense, as a doula I’m able to lend support to both partners– I’ll often provide physical support to the birther while explaining to the partner what is happening, reminding them that these sights and sounds may seem intense, but that it is all normal. Especially as you get close to the moment of birth, the hospital staff or midwives are often focused on the medical side of things– as they should be. This can leave both mom and partner feeling a little lost and sometimes scared. Having a doula there who understands birth and typical protocol can be incredibly reassuring when everyone around you is talking above you– not TO you.

I love working with families, and especially love seeing these strong dads become more confident as they support their partners. For more information about working with a doula to support both of you, head on over to my doula page.  If you have questions, send me a message! I’d love to hear from you. Happy Father’s Day!

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First Moments | Winnipeg Birth Photographer

Some moments just stand out. Today I'm going to skip the long words and just share some of my favorite photos to capture-- the first time you lay eyes on that beautiful baby. These minutes are like nothing else-- seeing for the first time this soul you feel like you've known forever and yet never met.

Grab some tissues!

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Winnipeg Doula Winnipeg Birth Photographer
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Sophie21
Grace-18
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Do you have a picture from your first moments with your fresh babe? I have from all three of mine and they are seriously amoung my very favourite things ever. Being able to see both their tiny details and the looks on our faces at the time are so special to me!

Hello Henry | Winnipeg Cesarean Birth Story

I met Lea and Mark last year just as fall was settling in. Their easygoing natures and warm personalities were such a breath of fresh air. As we got to know each other, I fell in love with their trust in the process of birth and in the story their little one was cooking up for them. If I could come up with one phrase to describe their vibe to the upcoming birth it would be settled. It was just a lack of fear or stress. They knew what their preferences were for the birth, and they prepared for it thoughtfully with both prenatal classes and a doula. But they also had a fantastic relationship with their care providers and between being well informed and holding a trust in those providers, they were prepared and open to whatever path they needed to head down.

In January Lea and Mark found out that their little one was breech. They talked about their options with their doctor, and agreed that they would follow baby’s lead. If baby decided to stay bum down, the safest delivery for both Lea and the little one, would be a planned cesarean. A few weeks later when baby was still breech, they proceeded to plan their cesarean birth. Of course this wasn’t Lea's first choice, but I loved her understanding and security with the path they were heading down. It wasn’t the experience she would have picked for their birth, but she was confident they would make the best of it, and knew that it was the right decision. In so many births where the parents feel satisfied, I hear that common thread— regardless of the type of birth, or what happened during it— what makes the most difference is that the parents had a voice and were able to make their own informed decisions. Lea and Mark did, and I am so proud of them for being able to look so calmly through their options and choose the right one for them.

Right away, Lea began speaking with her doctor about her preferences for the birth and the possibility of having me attend, and thankfully her amazing provider was on board. We talked about what else to expect for their birth, and made plans for their special day, February 16th.

As is the case so much of the time, their little one had other plans! Despite being the one day Lea said she didn’t want to have a baby, she started having contractions on February 14th. We laughed a bit about the irony, and they made plans to go to the hospital and be checked out. After a couple hours it was confirmed that she was in labour (gee thanks, she could have told you that!) and they would be meeting their baby tonight!

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I headed over to meet them, and could feel the excitement in the room when I joined them in triage. Mark updated me while they started getting Lea set up with her IV, and we were able to confirm that both Mark and I would be welcomed into the OR for the birth. I was so happy to be able to continue supporting and documenting their journey! Often doulas and birth photographers are not allowed into the operating room for cesarean births due to a one support person limit at both Women’s Hospital and St Boniface Hospital. Thankfully this tide seems to be very slowly turning, as care providers and nurses are seeing the benefits and focusing on how they can improve the experience for these families as they welcome their babies. And we are SO thankful!

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Scrubs on and ready to go, we counted down the time until they came and got us for the birth, excitement building as each minute passed. Finally we went down the hall and waited in recovery. When they came to get Lea she made it to the door before running back in to give Mark a hug— their last as a family of two! I’m pretty sure I grinned like a fool.

Once in their birthing room, it’s like time speeds by. Mark comforts Lea, whispering in her ear and keeping a reassuring hand on her. As they await the birth, Backstreet Boys start playing on the radio. Lea laughs and they tell me that in a previous surgery she had, one of her requests to make the experience better was to have Backstreet Boys playing in the background. What serendipity that it randomly came on now, just as they were meeting their baby!

Before long, we’re able to peek over the curtain and Mark announces that they have the most beautiful baby boy! He looks big and strong, has the most annoyed look on his face (what a shock to the system birth must be!) and is absolutely perfect. He lets out his first cry, and I’m pretty sure all of us tear up.

The emotional moment as we hear baby cry for the first time <3

They take him over to the warmer to get his first checkup, and Mark gives Lea a continuous update on how he’s doing and what’s happening. It’s been months and I can still hear his voice in my ear as clear as day, proclaiming over and over how perfect their son is, voice dripping with emotion and love. Finally they have him wrapped up and bring him over to show Lea her son for the first time. It can be hard to see when you’re still lying down but Lea immediately starts to talk to him and is able to reach her hand out and touch him. I feel so blessed to be able to witness these amazing moments.

   

Mark sits down to cuddle with baby while they wait for Lea to be ready to go back to recovery. She can’t see their little guy, so he makes sure to continue giving her all the details. I love how much he makes sure at every moment to keep her involved. It can be so isolating to lay on the table covered by the drape while so much is going on around you, but Mark continues to reassure Lea and recount for her everything that she can’t turn to see.

Finally it’s time to go back to recovery, and like some kind of miracle mama, Lea is able to sit up right away and wastes no time getting to know each detail of her son. She talks to him and rocks him like a pro when he fusses, like she’s been doing this for years already. They latch him on for his first breastfeed and start to learn together. I watch quietly, lending a hand when needed, but mostly just being witness as the three of them transition so well into their new role as a family of three. It seems like such a natural move for Mark and Lea, and I think how lucky baby boy is to have their soothing personalities in his life.

Time flies by as they take in each detail and soak up the newness of this amazing new personality. He's content to just sit and hold mom or papas finger, knowing he's safe and loved here.

   

I am so honoured to have gotten to know Lea and Mark and to support them as they become parents. I can't think of two more deserving people, and I know Henry will be a very loved little boy. Welcome to the world little Henry!

Your Birth Is Not My Story

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You may have noticed that I don’t “check in” at the hospital or birth centre, nor do I make an announcement post after the families I work with welcome their little one. This isn’t because I’m not over the moon excited about what I do and the hard work these families have put in— I am! These new names and stories and faces are etched into my brain forever. Birth is an amazing love story of epic proportions.

But this story? It’s not mine to tell. That announcement? Not mine to make. Sharing the news about your brand new bundle of joy is usually one of the most exciting announcements a person ever gets to make, and I don’t ever want to be the one to take the wind out of anyone’s sails! I see posts from doulas often who are either on their way to a birth, or so excited about what they have witnessed and want to share that with their followers- I get it! There is a magic in birth that you just can't replicate, and as birth workers we sometimes want to shout it from the rooftops.

It may seem a little reaching that my checking in at a certain place of birth would ruin someone’s news, but unfortunately you hear about it happening all too often! All it takes is someone who knows the family and know that they’ve hired me, to see me check in at the hospital they’ve chosen to put two and two together and figure out the exciting news before the family is ready to share. I know of several families who have had their babies announced by a well-meaning friend or birth worker who thought they were being discrete enough. And that's the last thing that I want. I am extremely grateful to be a part of these birthing days, but I am not the story, and I don't ever want to make this amazing accomplishment about me. These families- they deserve the kudos and the chance to share their own news.

So I will continue to jump for joy on the inside, but I will leave all the big reveals to you— exactly the way it should be. I typically send a few sneak peak images to my birth photography clients within a day of their birth, and I love when they're able to use them for an announcement! I am always happy to be tagged in posts and love to see the photos you choose to share-- on your own time. Once the news has spread a bit, then I'll share my awe and excitement. But it is so improtant to me that you get your big moment first.

The Face Behind Embrace: Meet Your Doula

When choosing a Winnipeg doula or birth photographer, there's one criteria that I always feel is more important than training, or numbers of births, or history-- personal connection.winnipeg doula

Inviting another person into your birth space is inviting them to witness your most vulnerable moments. And it is so important to be comfortable with this person! How safe and respected you feel during your birth directly correlates with how you feel about your experience and even your perception of pain. As birth professionals we are used to holding space in a calming and respectful manner, but finding someone you really connect with is the best way to ensure a birth environment that allows you to relax and get that oxytocin flowing.

I try to be an open book for my clients. I believe knowing me and feeling connected is super important for our relationship and my ability to serve you best during your birth. So today I decided to throw down some fun facts about me. Still super curious about something? Ask! I'm always happy to share.

 

  • When we go out to dinner I almost always order a clubhouse sandwich and fries. I believe poutine should be a weekly staple, and I cannot eat stew without thinking of my mom's homemade recipe (Which I still haven't managed to replicate...). Comfort foods win out for me almost every time.
  • I'm an instant fan of any shows with female leads, great music and characters who show strength in their vulnerability. I've watched Grey's Anatomy since the very first episode, and I still go back and rewatch them with warm fuzzies. My Netflix list also includes Scandal, The Crown, This is Us, Gossip Girl, and One Tree Hill.
  • I decided to pack up and leave my small town high school at the end of grade 11 in favor of a tiny Christian boarding school 3 hours away. It was a huge lesson in independence but also knowing when to lean on those around me for support. It was the most soul healing, wonderful year of my life, surrounded by real, open and gentlehearted people. I will carry those memories with me for the rest of my life.
  • I have a psychology degree that I affectionately refer to as my most expensive piece of artwork. I'm thankful for everything I learned but so glad I followed my heart!
  • I am married to my high school sweetheart and totally get a kick out of the realization that we've now been together almost half my life.
  • I am totally ok drowning my feelings as long as it's in cheesecake. Peanut butter oreo gets my vote.
  • I was a doula for five years before having my own babies.
  • I can be sucked into any music with great lyrics. James Arthur is getting a ton of playtime around here right now, as is Nichole Nordeman, and Macklemore after a recent client had me looking them up again. Old steady favorites are Ed Sheeran (my third baby was born listening to him!), Florida Georgia Line and Luke Bryan. I'm the type that will be driving along in the car, hear a song, break down into tears and declare instant love. Want to hear what's playing right now? Come join me!
  • But I'm not above dancing like a fool around the kitchen to a good beat. I am *all over* dancing it out Grey's Anatomy style.
  • Playing Wii Lego games while cuddled on the couch with my family is my idea of a perfect Friday night.
  • I felt like a princess on my wedding day, but one of my favorite memories is eating my leftover wedding meal in sweats the next morning because I was too excited to eat during the reception.
  • I'm a long term kind of girl. Two of my best friends I've known since birth and since 9th grade. They know me inside and out.
  • My second baby was a precipitous birth and ended up being caught by his daddy on our kitchen floor. I'm pretty sure neither he nor I will ever live it down.
  • I am a lefty. For fun science-y facts- So is my husband, and we have two kids who are lefties, and one odd man out who prefers his right.
  • Star Wars rules all in this house. My three year old wants to be Luke Skywalker when he grows up, and I'm not entirely sure he won't find a way through sheer determination alone.
  • I love pinterest, and keep my boards carefully curated, deleting things as my tastes change or we complete a project. Welcome to my Type A world.
  • Don't confuse me with a pinterest mom though. No smiley face sandwich has ever graced my daughter's lunch box.

Burning questions left over? Leave them in the comments and I'll answer!

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Photo Credit AliciaTPhoto


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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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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: A Look Inside My Doula Bag | Winnipeg Doula

I often feel like I need to explain myself when people ask me what I carry in my doula bag. People expect to see a lengthy list of magical and crucial items which I cannot attend a birth without. The truth is- I carry less and less as time goes on. At first glance this can look like a lack of preparation or experience, but it really comes down to perspective and trust.

See the thing is, you don’t need me to pack 83 tools and gadgets to rock the heck out of your birth. Your strength and perseverance, your knowledge and focus, are what are going to help you through the journey that is labor. I’m just there to support you along the way.

There’s sometimes a comfort in “things”. If I pack enough items, if I read enough books, if I’ve stressed over writing the perfect birth plan– *then* I will have the birth I wanted. The truth is that none of that is the key to a satisfying birth experience. 

When you hire a doula, you’re not hiring me for massage tools, bendy straws or lotion. You’re making the choice to hire this doula for my experience, my expertise, my deep seated belief that you have within you all the tools required for a wonderful birth story. I am holding space for your birth, but I am not the writer of your birth story.

What I bring in my doula bag are primarily items designed to help me serve you. To be the best doula I can be for you, every step of the way. So without further ado, I present an inside look into what I’ve found to be the necessities.

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Spare Clothing.  Sometimes birth is messy. Being able to support you fully means that sometimes, a change of clothes comes in handy later on.

Toiletries. Because after 20 hours together, you’ll be happy I brought the toothbrush. All items in here are designed to keep me fresh in mind and body- self care means that I’m putting my best foot forward for you.

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Snacks. This is a sampling of what I keep in the bag for if I need to run quickly. Usually I throw in some fresh foods right before I head out the door. Keeping up energy during your labor and birth is important for the entire team- I encourage my families to eat and drink, and make sure that I do too. Labor is a marathon, not a sprint, and the better we treat our bodies, the better they’ll treat us!

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Massage Tools. Touch during labor can be a magical thing, soothing aching muscles and serving as a reminder of support all in one. To enhance your experience I bring grapeseed oil, a roller ball massager, and a sensory ball to hit all the right tense spots. You can also see a sleep mask for if you’re having trouble resting in between contractions, a small heat bag, a some crystals. I’ll be honest that I’m not 100% sure where I stand on crystals and their usage, but I do know I found it grounding in the last weeks of pregnancy and early hours of labor to hold and rub the smooth cool stones. There’s something about the firmness of a stone or crystal that is extra reassuring when everything around you feels a little shaky. 

I also keep on hand a kneeling pad, a copy of The Birth Partner books, and the gloves and chux pad (the bright blue one). These have come in handy while laboring at home or during a car transfer!

And that’s it! All the important things that assist me in helping you. Add in a willing heart, peaceful open mind and body that’s willing to work- and you’ve got a doula! And the stuff that really matters? That’s already inside you.

winnipeg doula bag

When you Come Unglued | Holding Space as a Winnipeg Doula

I talk a lot in my work about ‘holding space’. It’s a beautiful and breathtaking concept, and Glow Doula captures it perfectly in this article.  What does Holding the Space Mean? As they underwent some business changes, the article was unavailable for a while. Now that it’s back up, I wanted to share it with you again.

“In a strictly spiritual sense, to “hold space” for another is to make yourself a centering force.  To hold the space for a woman giving birth is make yourself the rock-solid ground beneath while labour throws everything it’s got at her.  It means passing no judgement or holding no sway over her decision making, nor her perception of her experience.  It means not trying to fix the unfixable, or reason with the unreasonable. It means accepting that there will be times in labour when she comes a bit unglued, and will be convinced she can’t do it – and knowing what she needs to hear (and doesn’t need to hear) when that time comes. It means making it emotionally safe for her and her partner to live through this most intense of experiences in their own way, and to feel whatever emotions come with it. It means making sure they know there’s a safe space if and when they need to talk afterwards.”

 

At Embrace Birth Services, your doula holds space for your birth- whatever that may mean. I will be your firm foundation, your soft space to land, no matter what choices you may make, or twists and turns your labor may take. Your doula’s support is not dependent on any criteria- I am there to sit with you through the quiet and the storms.

Continuous support during labor has been associated with numerous benefits, but perhaps the most important is the peace that comes with knowing that you have someone on your side who is an unshakable presence- who is there 100% to support your experience. “Not trying to fix the unfixable” is such a beautiful way to put it. As a doula I don’t claim to take away the sensations or pain of labor. A magic wand I am not. But I can sit with you as the waves crash, as you come unglued and assure you that your feelings are real, that your experience matters, and that I will be there every step of the way.

My amazing doula holding space for me during my third labor. No fixing, no magic, just an unwavering presence who exuded acceptance and support.
Other great articles on what it means to hold space:

Heather Plett

Birthing From Within

 

Are you ready to find out more about how a doula can support you during your birth experience? Fill out the form below to set up a complimentary consultation with your Winnipeg doula.

 

 

Winnipeg Pregnancy Guide: Postpartum Pad Tips! | Winnipeg Doula

If you’re expecting in Winnipeg, you’ve probably heard the news regarding recent health care cuts, specifically those surrounding the postpartum period. We could talk til we’re blue in the face why this is the wrong choice for Winnipeg moms, but instead, I’m here to offer some constructive advice.

The first issue that has been discussed the most by Winnipeg moms lately seems to be the disappearance of those famed mesh undies. Love them or hate them- they get a lot of attention! And unfortunately, many expecting parents lately have been receiving letters from their care providers announcing that they are no longer being provided by WRHA at Winnipeg hospitals. If you’ve read my previous packing list suggestions found here, you’ve got a sneak peak into a fabulous solution.

While no more stylish than the mesh underwear and monster pad option, many women swear by Depends post birth as a hands down better choice. I’d have to agree. I know it sounds wrong, but hear me out. The postpartum period is filled with enough uncertainty and perceived loss of dignity. Depends cuts down on the leak factor, so you can go about the day getting to know your fresh babe without worrying if your new couch is sporting a new stain. They fit better and more comfortably than a one size fits all mesh underwear, and means no need for the King Kong size pad weighing you down.

And now that Winnipeg hospitals may no longer be supplying the beautiful mesh underwear and postpartum pads, choosing Depends also means having an easier item to purchase. While mesh panties may need to be hunted down at a medical supply store or online, Depends are readily available at any grocery store you or your partner may have a moment to run in to. It’s win-win.

So while I still want to blow a giant raspberry in the direction of whomever is responsible for taking away more services from Winnipeg moms, in this case at least- fear not, you have other (and better!) options!