It took me a while to get over the initial disbelieving thoughts about my absent period, strangely tender breasts and sudden hilarious childhood food cravings. But when I finally did, I decided against a pregnancy test, opting instead to ask my inner-wisdom (inner-knowing/soul/ spirit/ higher self//intuition/whatever resonates with you) if I was pregnant. I received clear NO’s, and having grown to trust this divine part of me above all else, I felt no need to investigate further.
A few weeks later I felt nudged to book an ultrasound scan to check up on my ovaries. After being diagnosed with PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome) years before then spending the previous five diving deep into holistic wellbeing, I had journeyed to the point all my other symptoms dissipating! With the encouragement of my hormones finally coming into harmonized balance and having started a Holistic Hormonal Wellness Circle for women, I was curiously excited to see if my cysts had shrunk, lessened or disappeared as well!
Wand on my belly nervously awaiting the results, I was abruptly told my ovaries were not able to be seen due to the
8 WEEKS along blob they pointed to me on the screen.
In spite of the extraordinary healing I had experienced, I assumed when it came to fertility that there would be another EFFORT-FULL journey ahead of me a few years down the road when my husband and I foresaw growing our family.
So the news that I had conceived EFFORTLESSLY utterly floored me.
After processing the first wave of emotions in the bathroom stall, I flowed to a covered rooftop patio, which to my heart’s relief was completely unpopulated due to the present downpour. I connected to the most underlying part of me I had come to trust so infinitely and asked HOW COULD I HAVE BEEN LIED TO ABOUT THIS!!???!??
With the refreshing rain and wind chimes chiming around me, I received the words “We wanted you to be Delighted and Surprised.”
I cried and laughed. I felt simultaneous overwhelm, awe and joy and slowly allowed the shock of my delightful divine surprise to sink in.
Pleasant Pregnancy and Preparation Alignments
A few weeks before the ultrasound appointment, I had the timely interaction of meeting our neighbor who happened to be a midwife. Having already gained insights around the various risks and concerns associated with conventional birthing practices, I knew I would feel safest planning for a natural homebirth.
She shared with me sage advice that was profoundly supportive for my first trimester, lent me THE MOST ALIGNING childbirth book and gave me the insight that there was only one midwife in all of Nairobi doing homebirths (herself not being an option considering she was expecting too!)
My husband, J, and I considered going to Edmonton (my hometown) for the birth, but with the uncertainty around his visa permit approval, decided to stay in Kenya and what a gift that was!. Our midwife, Lucy, was AMAZING. She made me feel so safe and comfortable from our very first meeting and would come to our place for all the appointments. I remember catching myself smiling and laughing during one check up at how surreal and enchanting the moment was. I was laying down on a bench in our garden as she listened to the heartbeat of the Little Light growing inside of me while monkeys swung from the avocado tree above us.
I absolutely LOVED being pregnant and dream of being in East Africa again for a second pregnancy. [This also led to many a moment feeling confused and guilty about why I was thriving in my trimesters when a plethora of women (many of whom I knew closely), had gone through and/or were going through such deep hardships and deep pains in their motherhood journeys. Slowly I came to understand that there are many different facets that influence the vast spectrum of pregnancy experience but in my own case, I began to see numerous parallels between the new emerging approaches from trailblazers in the fertility space which emphasized the multifaceted aspects to prime for pregnancy before conceiving and they ways I had spent the previous half decade journeying towards healing naturally and holistically. Diving into deeper into fertility and hormonal wellness, I saw that as hard, confusing, frustrating, costly, lonely and time-consuming prioritizing my wellbeing was, all the different shifts I made towards more harmony (such as learning to nourish rather than deprive my body, balancing blood sugar, releasing stagnant feelings connected to stress and anxiety, improving sleep, reducing toxins…) were preparing me to be a more thriving host for a developing baby. I look back now on the past symptoms and challenges Life led me through with such fondness and deep gratitude, for giving rise to such a pleasant pregnancy and healthful foundation for my child-to-be.]
When I began to read the book lent to me by my neighbour, I was struck again by yet another inconceivable layer of how Life had been getting me ready for birth even before I conceived!
A couple of months before becoming pregnant, I completed an in-depth program becoming a certified instructor in Inner-Connection and Emotional Release, learning and experiencing how to support the unearthing and transmutation of suppressed emotions/stored energetic toxins/ childhood wounds/ the false-self.. (whatever resonates for you). It not only fostered deep shifts in my life; body and being, but SO closely paralleled the way in which Ina’s May’s Guide to Childbirth, shared about moving through contractions and having an unmedicated birth as well. I was shocked when I saw the noise-making, breathing and movement strategies written on the pages in front of me were the EXACT same as the ones I had become well acquainted with in my own experience.
The international best-seller laid out the importance of having the space to feel safe and using uninhibited deep free embodied movement, breathing and sounds to move through contractions, open throat and open the cervix (rather than resist them which creates further tension, prolongs labour and increases risk of complications and interventions).
I was in awe of how my dive into breath work, embodiment and somatic healing practices had unexpectedly blessed me with the ability to surrender to the intense waves of labour by all the practice I had been doing staying with, fully feeling and expressing waves of unprocessed emotions.
The last pivotal piece that prepared me was Connecting Within to my Inner-Knowing. I reached out to a fellow Inner Voice Facilitator and in the safe space held for me, let go of my lingering fears and attachments and received divine guidance, wisdom and clarity for the upcoming labour. I was filled with a deep felt sense of Strength, Peace and TrustFULLness that carried me through to the birth of my Little Light.
Here are a few of the experts of the Divine Wisdom that I received during the session:
“Birth comes from HERE [from withIN], more than anything else”“This [connection to deepest self ] will be with you no matter where you are, no matter the external, no matter the situation, no matter the setting, no matter the company…THIS is so deep. THIS is so strong. THIS is so big. All those external things are puny, puny, puny. Tiny, tiny, tiny. Oh you have this weight, Oh you have this depth, Oh you have this strength.
You know how to unlock it. It’s too deep to be contained. Will be with you in that moment, no matter where you are.”“You can minimize and soften the pain of the contractions by ALLOWING them. You’re not resisting the storm, not trying to refuse it or refuse it. Accepting that it’s there, accepting that this contraction is here, feeling it, being in it, while being deep, bringing the light into it. Of course not resisting, the resistance will only prolong, will only cause greater tension, will only cause more pain. Learning to accept and BE IN IT and WITH IT… comes back to PRESENCE and ACCEPTANCE.
TrustFULL Labour & Bare All Birth
On a Wednesday, one week before my guess date, J and I trekked up the steep sets of stairs for a morning stroll. I was only able to make it 5 minutes past the gate before a new level of soreness and tenderness in my pelvis forced us to turn back. As the day progressed, I climbed up and down two more rounds to grab a parcel and let in a masseuse.
Now I can’t say if it was all the stairs making baby really engaged, the feel-good hormones from my sore body finally getting some overdue relief during my first pregnancy massage, the reflexology during the appointment or a mix of these facets, but around 4/5pm I started to feel more and more pressure and oncoming cramp-like sensations.
It being my first pregnancy, I had no clue whether these new feelings were
The new sensations kept building. My mind had picked up somewhere that it was more common in first pregnancies for baby to arrive after the guess date and holding onto that notion I thought I had about 2 weeks to keep preparing. Having just wrapped up a collaborative webinar on PCOS & Fertility, I’d had only one day of shopping for necessities. I hadn’t nested or stocked up my freezer with bone broth and meals. I had not yet made my string of affirmations or hung up my fairy lights for the magical birthing ambience I was envisioning. We hadn’t even gotten any diapers or a change mat yet.
When J got home early that evening I told him about the heightening pressure but didn’t think I was going into labour and that I would still make the lunch date, shopping, food prep and pregnancy photoshoot plans I had over the next few days.
When the sensations continued to build, I felt a just-in-case nudge to start on the string affirmations. I wrote out
“I Trust You”
and sat with the daunting notion that I could very well be meeting my Little Light very soon despite not feeling at all ready.
I went down and inwards and as I felt into my concerns they began to ease and soften and I slowly sank into a space of acceptance, allowing and trusting the timing.
The waves kept increasing in duration and frequency so we called Lucy who advised me to take a shower and drink some cold water to see if the contractions might subside but they continued to build.
Finally around 11:30pm it became blatantly clear that C was the correct answer to my mind’s query. This had all been early labour and active labour was nearing. I texted my friends that our next day lunch date would need to be rescheduled then, upon Lucy’s advice, J and I went to bed to try and rest.
I slept a bit then began dozing in and out as the surges became more frequent and stronger until I had the urge to rush to the bathroom. I was having really intense contractions while on the toilet so we called Lucy again and while talking to her I remember getting a little longer window after a contraction and thinking- ‘yay! they are finally subsiding, I can go back to rest again!” but soon enough they picked right up again only a minute or two apart.
She told me to go back to bed until I UTTERLY couldn’t be in bed anymore.
I didn’t last long as the surges continued to intensify until around 2:45 am when my whole body and being was just screaming “NO!!” to lying down a second longer.
I got up and immediately had a clear deep inner-knowing and ordered J to tell Lucy it was time to come. I shifted into the living room where, bless my dear husband, a quadrant of blankets and pee pads had been laid out across the floor.
While J called the ambulance to come be on standby and investigated the birthing pool setup, I was deep within myself, riding the surges.
The contractions escalated insanely quick and the painful pressure bearing down in my pelvis felt INTENSE and RELENTLESS with only a brief pause between each wave.
At first it was hard to not want to run away and resist the pain but in that time on my own I began to learn how to soften and surrender to the surges, allowing them to overtake me and be fully felt. I deepened in not holding back, leaned into deep breathing and made a lot of wild free sounds to move through them- sighing, moaning, groaning, quivering and humming.The gift of having done the same before many times with intensely uncomfortable emotions had truly paved the way.
Proclaiming words I had written out also helped me to not get pummeled by the waves.
When another strong surging force pierced within me, I would repeat over and over and over again in my mind:
“Allow Allow Allow”
“Surrender Surrender Surrender”
“I Trust You, I Trust You, I Trust You” (saying both to baby, trusting my Little Light was working with me to move down into position and to my body, trusting it knew exactly what to do in each moment to build up to and foster the birth).
In other moments when the painful pressure bore down, I visualized the head being pushed down on the cervix (like in the image below) to remind myself that the painfully intense contraction was SERVING US through brilliant divine design, each one bringing baby down into position and shrinking my cervix from being a thick plug holding baby in for the past 9 whole months, to a paper thin pathway for my Little Light to come through!
By the time Lucy and our doula, Esther, arrived my active labour had already progressed fast and far along.
We refrained from checking dilation. I so deeply trusted and could feel that my free noises and movements were allowing me to keep opening up and sensed examining such an intimate part of my body at such an intimate moment would feel incredibly invasive and intrusive, make me tense up and come into a mental state away from the deep connection to my body’s divine wise guidance and just entirely disrupt and prolong labour.
Being surrounded by my support began dancing in and out of being in my own world during the surges then having present, sharp and clear awareness of our interactions and the space around me during the minute pauses.
During this window I remember:
• Getting unbearably hot and ripping off my housecoat to be gloriously fully naked at every contraction and shouting “HOW DO WOMEN DO THIS IF THEY ARE BEING FORCED TO WEAR CLOTHES!!??” (referring to a birth story I had heard of a labouring women trying to undress and staff insisting she had to stay covered and feeling such deep empathy in that moment for all those who shared a similar experience).
• Suddenly noticing and being shocked at how cute and tiny Esther’s hands were.
• Becoming aware of the sound of rainfall and it whisking me back to that downpouring afternoon when I first found out I was expecting, immediately filling me with a blissful joy and gratitude beyond words.
• And an unexpected urge of needing to poop… again. I hesitated, feeling embarrassed about pooping in front of them (it had not reached my previous awareness that pooping during labour is common, normal and a good sign of things progressing!), but I quickly surrendered to it, forgoing the tension and screamed “I need to poop… BUT I DON’T CARE!!!”
It felt really strange to poop on all 4’s like an animal then Lucy sweetly chimed in with “may I wipe you” and made me feel like it was totally fine, normal and no big deal.
Next thing I knew, another bolting surge came and I felt like a balloon had popped and burst between my legs! It felt AMAZING, a sweet and empowering victory like sensation and my water breaking (only half an hour after Esther and Lucy had arrived) bestowing to me a brief moment of well-earned rest from the relentless contractions.
I pivoted to a dry corner of the pee pad quadrant where my body guided me into an exaggerated Child’s Pose- legs opened as wide as could be, raised head and torso with my palms pushing into the ground against the next set of waves.
Soon thereafter, I felt the head was so down and close to emerging, followed by an immediate awareness that J was not there! I yelled “Where is J!? WHERE IS HE!?” worried he would miss the birth of our child!
Ironically, baby’s head arrived at the same time as the standby ambulance and J had just ran up to open the gate and made it back well in time.
Then preparing to crown, my body took over to a whole new level. It was in total override mode, pushing for me.
I had zero mental effort of ‘trying to push’; I COULD NOT NOT PUSH.
The contractions had peaked to their highest level and my entire body was surging and heaving with strong, intense, insanely powerful, forceful energy. Similar to the sensation of having a sudden strong sneeze overtake you, or how the body begins to coil and charge up to push vomit out, my whole body was powerfully expelling baby’s head out of me (which I later realized is referred to as the ‘Fetal Ejection Reflux’ and ‘Physiological Birth’).
During one of these involuntary surges I howled “HOW DO WOMEN DO THIS WHO DON’T DO YOGA!?” feeling genuinely it was SO HARD AND SO INTENSE even with all the care and preparation I was able to do and could not fathom the even greater levels of extremity experienced by other labouring women.
And in one of the brief moments between the forceful pushes I remember touching baby’s head and thinking it felt so wet, slimy, hairy, bumpy and weird! Then I experienced what is commonly referred to as “the ring of fire”.
I shrieked ”IT BURNS!!” and a lot of swear words as the width of his head emerged through.
When the innate power of my body pushed out baby’s head, he/she released a quick cry and hearing Little Light for the first time filled me with relief and delight.
The head coming out felt slow (even though it was only about 10 mins) then all of a sudden the body slipped out so rapidly. I blacked out for a quick second and next thing I recall, I was in a new quadrant section with my back resting against the couch between J’s legs as we met our baby (only 33 mins after my water had broke).
It was such a blissful beautiful flow to that sacred moment of our new family curled up together, J behind me and around me and holding Z tightly over my heart. After what felt like such a quick build up and intense experience there was such deep divine satisfaction to be finally resting with the love we had created and I had just birthed.
Guest Post Jenelle Katrine is mama to little Zakai and facilitator for Inner connection and hormonal harmony through her business "For Goodness Sake"
For a variety of reasons, 29% of pregnant Albertans will give birth via Cesarean section. While this number is unfortunately much higher than the World Health Organization’s recommendation of 10-15%, it’s important that we as a birthing community support those who require a c-section to safely birth their baby. At the end of the day, there will always be cases of individuals who require this medical intervention to preserve both them and their child’s health and safety.
How Birth Effects the Infant Gut Microbiome
One of the biggest concerns for those who give birth via cesarean is that it will impact the development of their infant’s gut microbiome. During a vaginal delivery, as the infant makes their way through the birth canal they are exposed to a large number of healthy bacteria that will assist in the development of the uniquely vast and important bodily system known as the gut microbiome. The gut microbiome is responsible for a number of important bodily functions including immune and metabolic function. According to evidence, there are many chronic inflammatory conditions that are present in infants who were born via c-section and it is thought that these conditions are microbiome-mediated - meaning a reduction in the proper development of the microbiome could have caused such conditions. There have been tests done on infant feces from both of those born vaginally and surgically, and these tests show a variety of positive bacterial cultures in the vaginally-born infants and very little variety (including some negative bacteria) in those born via belly birth. So how do we help those babies who had to come earth-side via c-section? This is where Vaginal Seeding comes in!
What is Vaginal Seeding and How Do You Do It?
What does the evidence say?
Despite this practice going against most hospital guidelines (more on this below), a number of studies suggest that vaginal seeding alters the infants microbiome to more closely resemble that of an infant born vaginally. Of course there needs to be more randomized placebo- controlled trials to fully demonstrate said benefits. Fun fact, there are currently 2 US-based studies on this currently taking place and one more worldwide!
What the previous meta-analysis and large observational studies have shown is that babies born via cesrean who were seeded with the process listed above had an increase in Bacteroides and Bifidobacterium spp. in their gut which are important strains of bacteria for priming the microbiome. Lacking the former bacteria strain in a microbiome has been associated with a microbial imbalance that could lead to being overweight later on in childhood. While some studies were done by administering a diluted form of these bacteria orally to the infant, these studies did not have the same beneficial impact as the studies where the infant was seeded with the gauze method.
Controversy around Vaginal Seeding
Like many other physiological practices that birth-givers seek out in a hospital setting, many who work in the health care field and even many health care institutions frown upon or forbid this practice under their care. There are a variety of reasons behind this resistance. The biggest one is the fear that these vaginal secretions could also contain harmful infections such as Group B Streptococcus, HIV, herpes simplex virus (HSV), and human papillomavirus, and therefore seeding the infant could increase the chance of the infant being exposed to this. Many people undergo planned c-sections due to a known infection and therefore seeding would increase the infection risk. However, it is important to note that of all of the controlled studies currently done on vaginal seeding, there has never been a reported transmission of infection. Another issue brought up by skeptics is that infants receive their first exposure to maternal microbiome in the womb, so seeding is unnecessary. It is important to note that this claim has also been studied, and in the most recent studies no resident microbiota were present in the placenta of a term pregnancy before birth.
Wrapping Up: Should You Try Vaginal Seeding?
As a birth doula and childbirth educator, my role is not to push you in the direction of any procedure and rather encourage you to make the decision that is right for you. However, as evidence suggests, the risks of vaginal seeding are low and the benefits are massive. Consideration must also be put into whether your current care provider or birthing institution would support this practice, and how comfortable you are with advocating for yourself and negotiating this practice to occur. I encourage anyone who is considering vaginal seeding to read the linked resources below and be mindful of claims made of the dangers of this practice without coinciding, high-quality evidence to back this claim. At the end of the day, your infant deserves to be exposed to your unique microbiome to ensure the proper development of this important function of the gut. Be sure to use BRAIN to effectively weigh the pros and cons to this practice and be sure you are making the right decision for you!
For more information :
Many books we read when we learn we are pregnant, mostly talk about pregnancy and the first week postpartum. These books are full of what to expect and how to cope with delivery, but do not always share the successes of the long term postpartum, and how to raise your child throughout their most formative years. My own children have been a form of “science experiment” as I have always practiced these forms of language and support, but they are the first two who I have seen through from infancy to kindergarten. Many of these books created the foundation of how I speak to my children, and how I imagine them as individuals. Others I have read after having my first born, and still use the methods today.
The Whole-Brain Child: 12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child's Developing Mind by Daniel J. Siegel, and Tina Payne Bryson
In this revolutionary parenting book, Daniel Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson share twelve key strategies that foster healthy brain development, leading to calmer, happier children. This book coined our understanding of the upstairs, and downstairs brain offering a more basic and approachable understanding of brain development, especially in children, and how to support children where they are. I personally use the upstairs, and downstairs brain, and the language “flipping your lid” in not only working with young children, but coping with my own parenting moments lead by dysregulation, and in teaching those yoga and mindfulness. Honestly, anything by Daniel Siegel, and/or Tina Payne Bryson will be a life altering book choice, including The Yes Brain, Parenting from the Inside Out and No Drama Discipline.
The Montessori Baby: A Parent's Guide to Nurturing Your Baby with Love, Respect, and Understanding by Simone Davies
Raising a Secure Child: How Circle of Security Parenting Can Help You Nurture Your Child's Attachment, Emotional Resilience, and Freedom to Explore by Kent Hoffman, Glen Cooper, and Bert Powell
Written by the founder of the “Circle of Security” founder, this parenting book has practical tools to foster healthy attachments with children.
The language and examples are easy to understand and implement
How to talk so little kids will listen and how to listen so little kids will talk by Joanna Faber and Julie King
No Bad Kids: Toddler Discipline Without Shame by Janet Lansbury
It's Ok Not to Share and Other Renegade Rules for Raising Competent and Compassionate Kids by Heather Shumaker
This book is for parents of children around toddler and older, but still a valuable read at any time, to set young children up for success around conflict with peers, including siblings. Often adults will tell children they need to share, when in reality sharing is not appropriate or even fair.
Check out these books and comment below which ones you enjoyed the most or if you have any other recommendations for us.
Hey there, parents! 🤱✨ Are you looking for ways to boost your breastfeeding journey?
We've got some amazing tips for you today on the best foods to nourish both you and your little one! 🥦🍓🥛
Fresh Fruits and Veggies: Load up on nature's goodness!
Fruits like berries, oranges, and apples are packed with vitamins
& antioxidants that support your immune system while providing hydration. Veggies like spinach, broccoli, and sweet potatoes are excellent sources of essential nutrients, helping maintain your energy levels and enhancing milk production.
Lean Proteins: Incorporate lean proteins like chicken, fish, tofu, and legumes into your diet. These protein powerhouses not only help in repairing and building tissues but also provide you with a good dose of iron, which is essential for maintaining your energy levels and preventing anemia.
Healthy Fats: Don't shy away from incorporating healthy
fats into your daily meals! Avocados, nuts, seeds, and olive oil
are excellent sources of omega-3 fatty acids, which are
crucial for brain development in you and your little one.
Plus, these fats also aid in the absorption of
fat-soluble vitamins, promoting overall well-being.
Oatmeal and Whole Grains:
Boost your milk supply with a warm bowl of oatmeal!
Packed with fibre, iron, and essential nutrients,
oatmeal and whole grains help keep you feeling
full, provide a steady release of energy, and support lactation.
Add some fresh berries or a drizzle of honey for a touch of sweetness!
Probiotic-Rich Foods: Incorporating probiotic-rich foods like yogurt, kefir, and fermented vegetables into your diet can help promote a healthy gut for both you and your baby. A happy gut means better nutrient absorption, improved digestion, and reduced risk of allergies for your little bundle of joy!
A healthy diet is key to a successful breastfeeding journey. These nutritious foods not only provide you with the essential nutrients you need but also contribute to your baby's growth and development.
Have any favourite breastfeeding-friendly recipes or tips to share? Drop them in the comments below!
Let's support each other on this incredible journey of parenthood.
Check out this amazing recipe!
Staying fed is hard stuff in the early days of new parenthood. For a quick snack when your up during those middle of the night feedings, or to go along with your early morning coffee is Berry Oatmeal muffins. I love using blueberries in mine, but any berry works, and mixing and matching berries is fun too!
This recipe is easy to double and freezes well!
1.5 cups flour
1 cup cooking oats
2 1/4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
3/4 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup cold milk
1 1/4 cup blueberries (or berries of choice)
sanding sugar for topping (optional)
*Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
*Line a standard 12-cup muffin tin with baking cups.
*In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, oats, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. In a separate bowl, whisk together sugar, eggs, butter, and milk. Stir wet ingredients into dry ingredients, then stir in berries.
*Divide batter evenly between muffin cups, approx 1/4 cup to each. Sprinkle with sanding sugar, if desired.
*Bake until tops spring back when lightly touched, about 20 minutes.
*Cool 5 minutes, then remove to wire rack to cool completely.
Trigger warning: Postpartum Depression, birth
The first thing you might be asking is why this is something that the Full Circle Birth Collective (FCBC), any Doula, or anyone surrounding birth might be concentrating on. Isn’t it enough that we live in a patriarchal society, and that men’s needs are primary in all things, except maybe birth? Shouldn’t we then be looking at what the birthing partners actually need, in terms of physical, mental and emotional supports?
I’ll be the first to say that post partum depression, and the mental health struggles that birthing partners go through before, during and after birth are very significant, very important, and should be stressed. My own experience with my former partner around the birth of our two children, and her struggles with post partum affected all of us in different ways, and we need to do more around supporting birthing partners through this very difficult time in their lives. Most of the literature that is out there, and a lot of the personal and private stories I have heard do emphasize that we need to concentrate on how to care for birthing partners more effectively, both from their support people and the medical institution as a whole, especially as it pertains to people of colour. That being said, something that has come out more recently, and is being looked at a little more closely, is the impact on the non-birthing partners through the birthing process, and this is the focus of the rest of this blog post.
As men take on more of a role in parenting, we are seeing a rise in symptoms in Dad’s that resemble post-partum depression (Ross), and that this is impacting how they relate to their children, and how they are coping with the emotions (CBC News; Associated Press·). I’d add to this from my own history, where I suffered from post-partum depression with both of my children. With my first, after a labour of 65 hours, the insane sleep deprivation, concern for my wife’s health and lack of support structures for myself or my family, I suffered from classic symptoms, such as the depressed mood, wild mood swings, inability to connect with my child, withdrawal from family and friends, and reduced interest and pleasure in activities I used to enjoy, to name a few. With my second child, we enlisted the services of my mentor and head of FCBC, Sonya, who was able to help me be more present during the birth, and feel supported in the months that came afterwards, way beyond the scope of her contract. Even then, I had the symptoms of post-partum depression, although to a lesser degree, which I attribute to my partner’s support, the seeking of professional counselling and guidance, and also to Sonya herself.
You don’t have that same place where you can talk to someone who you know, who may have gone through exactly what you did, and say: “I felt really terrible today”, or that “my child wouldn’t go to sleep, and I was so exhausted, and I felt like just shaking that child, even though I didn’t”.
So the question is what do we do now that we know that this might be a thing. The first thing to do if you see a Dad who is struggling, is to support that person and try to get them some help. That can look like suggesting that they talk to someone, whether that be a clinical counsellor, a therapist, or a registered psychologist. If they don’t want the help, whether it be a stigma thing, or not, you can get them to talk to someone they know, or maybe someone they don’t (such as myself), who can then act as a bridge to get them help from a more qualified professional.
Aly Sumar is a Daddy-Doula in Training in Edmonton, Alberta, supporting men and non-birthing partners in the key life moments such as birth, with clients stretching all over Canada.
A baby is never born alone. With it, comes the placenta - a second birth which occurs right after the baby’s, and unfortunately a very neglected and important part of the birth story. We can only say that labour has officially ended when the placenta is born - not the baby itself. The placenta is vital to creating and sustaining human life, it is the interface between mother and child, and in many cultures it is considered sacred. Every single person on Earth has lived with one for 9 months, so how come we know so little of it?
Among the placenta’s many incredible and unique functions are:
It is also the only temporary organ developed in adulthood, and the only one that does not share the host’s DNA, but rather shares the same DNA as the baby. This would make the placenta the child’s “twin”, so to speak, and maybe that is one of the reasons why it has been used in rituals and consecrated in different cultures across the globe. Some believe it to be an angel that protects the baby, or that it represents the child’s roots so it should be buried or planted with a tree, while others use it as an amulet or as a medicinal compound. There are countless traditions surrounding the placenta across millennia, and until very recently, with the advance of modern medicine, it was still very respected and revered after the child was born. Nowadays, it is usually thrown away, discarded as hospital waste.
We do know that even after birth, the placenta is still rich in vitamins, minerals, hormones and stem cells. One of the safest ways the placenta can be of use is by preserving placental tissue through a stem cell bank, since these stem cells can treat diseases and conditions throughout the child’s life. Still, you only need a small portion of blood and tissue to store in a stem cell bank, and that means the rest of it would be thrown away - unless you decide to do something different.
As you may have heard, placenta consumption (in capsules or in smoothies, for example) has become increasingly popular. It may seem like an otherworldly act to ingest your own placenta, but it is actually nearly omnipresent among mammals, both carnivores and herbivores. Out of all the over 4000 species of terrestrial mammals, only those of the camel family do not ingest their placentas after giving birth. Although there is little scientific evidence regarding the benefits of consuming your own placenta, those who have tried it usually testify that they feel more energy, less stress, have an easier time breast/chest-feeding, present more immunity, and fewer occurrences of baby blues and even postpartum depression.
If it feels like too much, that’s ok - I’m not saying it’s for everyone, and there are definitely situations where ingesting your placenta could be harmful to you and your baby. There are other ways you can honor the placenta:
Any contact you can have with your placenta is already therapeutic, even if you can’t take it home due to medical reasons. Look at it, touch it if you want, thank it for protecting and serving you and your baby. This can make such a huge difference in your postpartum, helping you get a sense of closure and healing from any trauma along your journey.
Full Circle offers consultations in placenta services and can help you in figuring out the best way for you to benefit from its properties. Contact us to find out more.
Placenta Medicine Manual - Daniela Paz Salinas, 2017
Influencia de la Reincorporación Oral de la Placenta (ROP) Autóloga Tras el Parto en la Evolución Bioquímica Sanguínea y Láctea - Sergio L Sanchez Suarez, 2015
Placenta, the Forgotten Chakra - Robin Lim, 2014
Placenta: The Gift of Life - Cornelia Enning, 2007
Estudio Bromatológico de la Placenta Humana - Sergio Sánchez Suarez, 2003
When my first born child was around four months old, her poop began to change. I think Google searching what your baby’s poop looks like is something every parent does at some point, but when her strange diapers didn’t clear up after a few weeks, and then we began to find blood in her diapers, we knew something wasn’t quite right.
We took our daughter to our family doctor, who diagnosed her with a Cow’s Milk Protein Allergy (CMPA). CMPA is a fairly uncommon condition, occurring in only around 2-3% of babies. The baby’s body reacts negatively to the proteins found in cow’s milk (and products containing cow’s milk). However, much to our surprise, this condition didn’t just affect our baby. Our daughter couldn’t consume any product containing cow’s milk proteins, but at four months old, she wasn’t consuming anything other than chestmilk, so where was she being exposed to her allergen? This is how we learned that cow’s milk protein can actually transfer through chestmilk. This meant that not only would she be unable to consume anything containing dairy, it meant that if I wanted to continue to feed her my milk, I couldn’t consume it either.
Switching to a dairy-free diet was incredibly overwhelming at first. Once you start looking for milk products on the ingredients of your favorite snacks, you realize very quickly that it’s in pretty much everything, and it goes by many different names.
Some ingredients are obvious; milk, butter, cheese, yogurt, cream (heavy cream, sour cream), ice cream… but others are less easy to recognize, such as whey, lactose, or casein.
With my husband’s help, we screened ingredients and switched over products I used frequently with dairy-free alternatives. As the years have gone by, dairy-free foods and alternatives have become increasingly more common, making it much easier to eat dairy-free than before.
Eating out can be quite difficult, and often I would choose vegan restaurants or restaurants with vegan options to make things easier. When I couldn’t choose vegan, I would always be sure to search up the ‘Allergy Menu’ of the restaurant we would be eating at, so that I could pre-plan what I would be able to eat, and save myself the time spend searching for an allergy-friendly meal while sitting in the restaurant.
Luckily, many infants with CMPA grow out of their allergies, and this was the case for my daughter. We successfully reintroduced dairy into my, and then her diet, when she was 11 months old. Since then, my toddler son (who did not have CMPA as a baby) has been diagnosed with a milk allergy, and I find myself thankful that because of my experiences with my daughter, I have the knowledge I need to help him and our family avoid his allergen.
Common Symptoms of CMPA:
Not all babies will have every symptom of a CMPA. My own daughter only had gastrointestinal symptoms.
My favourite dairy-free alternatives
Milk Not Milk
Butter Earth Balance, Becel Margarine (Vegan)
Yogurt Riviera Coconut, Silk Soy Yogurt
Ice Cream SoDelicious, Sno Dairy-Free
Creamer Silk Vanilla Creamer, Milk’s Own Barista Oat
Cheese Daiya, VioLife
Sour Cream Daiya
Cream Cheese Tofutti Cream Cheese
Whipping Cream Silk Heavy Cream, SoDelicious CocoWhip
Cheese Sauce Daiya
Snacks EnjoyLife, MadeGood
Local Restaurants: You can make your life easier when eating out by choosing vegan restaurants or restaurants that offer vegan options. Here are some of my favorites:
Bliss Baked Goods
Bloom Cookie Co.
Kind Ice Cream
Made by Marcus
Sweet Pea Cafe (this cafe has a cute play area for kids too!)
Love to hear your favourites, comment below.
“It’s a strange feeling having guilt around sharing a positive birth story as I know birth is so unpredictable and doesn’t always go to plan. People are quick to tell you their negative birth experiences when you are pregnant and it is usually followed by some iteration of “oh you just wait, you will see what I’m talking about”. We need more positive stories around birth out there so that is why I am sharing my positives unmedicated home birth story.
I have always wanted kids and when I found out I was pregnant I was so grateful and excited. I did A LOT of research and preparation for birth. I knew, in the ideal situation, I would give birth at home, in water, and with no medical interventions. In preparation for birth, I read a lot of books, some of my favorites being “Babies are not Pizzas. They are Born not Delivered”, “Sweet Sleep” and “Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth”. We also took classes with Sonya our doula and also a hypnobabies prenatal class with Ricky Issler, which I think significantly contributed to how I was able to cope during birth.
My water broke at 9pm on June 9, which also happens to be my birthday. My husband and I were out with friends but I quickly excused ourselves cause I thought something was up. On the car ride home I knew for sure my water had broke, as I was now sitting in a large puddle in my freshly detailed car lol. When we got home I texted my midwife and doula to let them know my water broke but no contractions had started and both of them said to take some gravol and get some rest! By 10pm I had taken my gravol and was laying down to rest listening to my hypnobabies sound track, while my husband was frantically getting the rug moved in the living room, blowing up the pool, and getting some things crossed off the todo list (baby was 7 days early).
Laying down to rest didn’t last long as I quickly became very uncomfortable in any laying position. It started out with cramping and I quickly knew I was having real contractions. I kept trying to lay back down cause I thought I was in for the long haul and knew I needed rest, but now the only place I could get comfortable was on the toilet. Around 12:30am we checked in with our doula and I was still talking through contractions, I was nauseous so I was throwing up every once and a while but my contractions were only about 20 - 30 secs long and we agreed to check back soon.
I continued to labour on the toilet for a while as any other position didn’t feel good. Around 2am my husband brought up the birthing ball to give that a try and that was a great relief. I was now concentrating very hard, still listening to my hypnobabies relaxation music and making a deep humming sound which helped me focus.
As we neared 3am things were intensifying and I was getting the chills which I knew could mean I was going into the transition stage of labor. We decided we should time the contractions, they were 45 secs long and coming quickly. The doula and midwife were called and both were on route. My husband moved me downstairs to continue to labour on the birthing ball. I also had the tens machine on now which was a nice distraction.
Once the doula and midwife arrived and were set up, we started to fill the pool. At around 4:30am my midwife asked if I wanted to be checked to see how far along we were and I agreed. Much to all of our amazement, I was already 9cm and started to have the pushy feelings. The pool couldn’t fill up fast enough at this point lol!
By 5am I was in the pool and activity pushing. The water was such a nice relief. After about 1.5 hours of pushing in the pool we were making progress but not as much as we would have liked to see. We moved to land ie. the couch around 6:50am and within 20 mins we had a beautiful baby boy in our arms!
My birth was very fast for a first time birth. Baby was with us just 10 hours after my water broke. I am so grateful I had such a positive birth experience and that I was able to stick to my plan, but I was also willing to change the plan if it needed to be changed. Healthy baby and healthy mom is the most important thing at the end of the day.
The best part: having such a supportive birthing team and husband. Their words of encouragement really help get you through. And of course, having a healthy baby come into the world.
The worst part: the ring of fire lol (when the babies head is crowning and about to be born). This is the only moment I would describe as painful, it only lasted a few moments as I waited for the next contraction to come and birthed the babies head. Oh and when they push on your stomach after birth, that was not cool lol.
Most helpful coping strategies:
I hope this story encourages anyone considering an unmedicated birth whether at home or in the hospital!
Anyone who has given birth before can agree that it is one of the most transformational journeys of a person’s life. The intensity of contractions, the roller coaster of emotions, finding strength you never knew you had… it’s all so incredible and life-changing! However, those reading this who have experienced trauma during their births would not necessarily agree with the incredible part - more like incredibly terrifying. Something that many people don’t realize is that whether you had an empowering birth or a traumatic one (or a combo of each), this is the product of an intelligence within our bodies called the Central Nervous System. This system is highly influenced by our birth setting and responds in an attempt to keep us safe. Our CNS is an extremely important facet of birth, and so I thought it is definitely worth explaining to anyone who is about to give birth.
Our Central Nervous System is a complex system that regulates various hormones in our body to respond to stimuli from our environment. Everything we experience or perceive in the outside world will stimulate us (by physically affecting our nerve endings or by creating emotional responses in our brains), and these stimuli can either be painful or pleasurable. Once our brains receive stimuli, it is the job of the CNS to imprint these experiences into our cellular memory so that if the same scenario were to happen again, our system can prepare to either run away or fight the threat or invite more of the experience in to receive more pleasure. We have two sides to our CNS that handle painful and pleasurable experiences - Sympathetic (fight, flight, freeze or fawn) and Parasympathetic (rest, digest and reproduce). When our Sympathetic Nervous System has been engaged, it’s like the gas pedal of a car - it causes a release of stress hormones like cortisol, epinephrine and norepinephrine which will send blood to the parts of our body that will mobilize us to “fight” or “flee” the threat we are faced with. People in an engaged Sympathetic response will notice an increased heart rate, rapid breathing, body shakes, and a general sense of urgency. On the other side of things when our Parasympathetic Nervous System is engaged we can think of this as the brakes of a car - it causes a release of feel-good hormones like oxytocin, endorphins and serotonin which will make us feel good as well as tell our brain that we are safe which will engage recovery processes in our body like our immune system and reproductive function. The two sides of our CNS work in opposition, meaning we can’t be in fight-or-flight and rest-and-digest at the same time.
But what does that have to do with birth?
As you probably read here, reproduction is a function of the Parasympathetic nervous system. What this means is that in order to both reproduce and give birth, our body and brain needs to feel like it is safe to do so. This is a primitive function that all of us mammals have - it ensures that we don’t give birth when we are being attacked (think back to our caveman days, how on Earth could we keep the species alive if we birthed our babies while fleeing a wolf attack?). Now the difference between us and other mammals is our advanced prefrontal cortexes. This part of our brains is where we get our logic and much of our “book smart” intelligence from… but this high intelligence comes with a consequence, and that consequence is that we perceive a larger variety of threatening situations. Yes, our CNS would shut down labour and birth if we were being chased by a bear, but it also does the same when we are being yelled at, coerced, ridiculed, or talked down to as most of us have a very mammalian reaction to any of these behaviours. Our bodies tell us that these behaviours are threatening and it will start to mobilize us to flee the situation or fight against it. And if you don’t know, now you know… these behaviours are quite common within hospitals and with certain care providers. So let’s take for an example something as simple as someone rushing you through your birth. Perhaps you’re in the hospital and the doctor caring for you has told you that if you don’t have your baby in 4 more hours they are going to suggest a C-section. You really don’t want a C-section because open abdominal surgery is scary and recovery time is extended. So your CNS will take in that information and based on your perceptions of C-sections and being on a time crunch, your body decides it’s no longer safe to birth and starts to release stress hormones. With the presence of stress hormones, your oxytocin (the contraction-causing hormone) cannot flow freely anymore and you stop having contractions (or they slow down significantly). 4 hours later progress has stalled and you end up in the OR. All it took was one sentence from the doctor to shut down the process!
All it took was one sentence from the doctor to shut down the process!
How do I protect my CNS
Now that we know what we know, how do we avoid going into fight-or-flight during our births? Unfortunately we cannot guarantee that this function will not be engaged at all in your labour. Sometimes threats happen regardless of how much we prepare. That being said, there are small steps you can take to increase the likelihood of you feeling safe during your birth:
Welcome to Full Circle's blog, creating content for our clients and readers with a focus on all things pregnancy, birth and beyond.