What will my doula do?

I sit down for a lot of consults with potential families that go the same. “So… we’ve researched a doula, and we read what your description is. And we love your site and the vibe you give off. But… I guess I still don’t understand what you really do.” It’s true, there’s a bit of a mystique still around doula care, and a lot of misconceptions– many people still think that doulas are only good if you’re planning a twinkle lights style homebirth. And while I’m happy to support that– a doula can help ANY family, in any variety of scenerios.

For just a taste, I’ve started a quick list of some of the things I’ve done in the past year while spending time with my doula families.

 

Help you set up your birth space— hospital or home, I can get your comfort items ready, set the mood with candles or music, or make sure you’ve got the best pillow. For that matter- I can help you come up with a playlist that has just the right vibe for your labour. I’ve pumped up and switched out birth balls when they weren’t quite right, hunted down more pillows and blankets (for mom or dad), and adjusted lighting.

Help you decide if it’s really labour, or really time to go to the hospital. It can be super intimidating trying to decide if the signs you’re feeling are real labour. I often spend time on the phone or through text, talking about symptoms, feelings and instincts and helping mom decide what the next course of action might be. If it’s too early, I’ll help you come up with things to do in the meantime to keep your mind off of the contractions or to cope with the pain.

Help you transition from hospital to home. Moving from the comfort of home to the hospital can be a bit jarring to your system, especially if you’ve never been there before. I can help bridge the gap, navigate hallways, and even answer questions about parking.

Remind you about preferences that are about to become overlooked. Sometimes you get so caught up in the sensations of birth that you forget about things that were very important to you. I’m there to point out if your placenta is about to leave the room without you seeing it, turn on the music you wanted to listen to, offer up reminders about a position you wanted to try or to ask about delayed cord clamping. We talk beforehand so I know all the things that will matter to you.

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Answer questions when things get confusing. Medical staff can sometimes forget that their jargon isn’t second nature for you. Or you may have questions about recommended tests or options at different points during labour. I’ll help to clarify the confusing language, and figure out which questions you can ask your providers to get the answers you want.

Offer options- whether it’s pain relief, positions or next steps. When you’re dealing with intense contractions, sometimes it’s hard to remember all the comfort techniques you had planned. I’m there to offer reminders of things you can try- and we can even practice those during your prenatals. If natural measures aren’t working, I can help you BRAIN (Ask me about it!) your next steps in an informed and judgment free zone.

Help provide comfort to older siblings (or partners). It can be hard for your loved ones to watch you in pain, and harder still to be in the middle of labour and trying to provide comfort yourself to an overwhelmed family member. As a doula I’m able to give reassurance and explanations about the sights, sounds, smells and progress of labour to those with you, be it your partner or a little one. Sometimes all it takes is a quick reassurance  that all is normal, but I’ve also held hands, rubbed backs, had serious talks and even helped a loved one to a chair when they’re feeling faint. I support them so that you don’t have to.

Give your partner a chance to step out to grab a meal, or move a car. I remember back to my first birth and how relieved my husband said he was after our doula arrived. While I was buzzing on labour adrenalin, he hadn’t slept or eaten all night, and by that time he desperately needed a few minutes of fresh air and some nutrients. With my doula by my side, he was able to go take care of himself so he could continue taking care of me. I’m so glad to give this same relief to partners now as I know how much it meant to him!

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Help with early breastfeeding. Sometimes your labour goes perfectly according to plan but it’s breastfeeding that you struggle with. As an experienced breastfeeder and doula, I’m there to help prepare you ahead of time, and also postpartum to get your breastfeeding relationship off to the right start.

Remind you to do life during early labour. One of the easiest ways to get burnt out during your labour is to sound the alarm bells too early. I highly recommend that my clients stay aware of their bodies, but continue to “do life” during early labour for as long as they can. We’ll keep in contact during these hours so you can communicate how you’re feeling, but I’ll encourage you to ignore those contractions and rest until you can’t ignore them any longer. This puts you in a better headspace once true active labour begins.

And of course, provide physical support through touch relaxation, massage, position changes and more. While much of doula work is through the ‘heart’ side, I also use my hands to keep your body comfortable. Whether it’s strong counterpressure through hours of back labour, walking the halls with you through early labour, a foot massage after you’ve gotten your epidural or supporting you while you changing pushing positions, I’m your girl.

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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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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.