When I tell people I’m working towards being able to teach Sacred Pregnancy retreats, I’m usually met with the look – the one full of skepticism, the one that says “Oh… you’re one of "those" doulas, with their hippy woo-woo science! Are you a Sherpa too?!”
Common misconception – I’m not a Sherpa or a three month old baby! However, I am pretty passionate about women experiencing the kind of birth day they envision, and that just might mean taking the time to connect to yourself and the little one your body is working so hard to help grow.
I know I’m guilty of this – I rarely take time to address, honor or mark the milestones in my life. Sometimes, this takes a toll on me! It can feel like all of these important events are flying by and my journey seems to be going far too quickly. Sacred Pregnancy is about slowing down, appreciating the little (and big!) changes your body is going through and honoring this transitional time in your life.
A Sacred Pregnancy retreat will teach you to take time for yourself – even if it’s 5 minutes a day. It outlines the importance of meditation and journaling to connect to yourself and your baby and create a sacred space for reflection. It will also encourage you to take a serious look at the expectations you hold surrounding pregnancy, birth and motherhood. Women will get all kinds of pregnancy and birth messages from the time they are a young girl until the step onto the pregnancy, birth and motherhood path. Are the expectations you have realistic? Are they serving you in a positive way? Some of these messages are healthy, good and empowering, but most from society at large are not. It’s important for us to look at our expectations and where they come from, or at least where do we think they came from. It’s also especially important to know that every birth story is a normal birth story. It’s your journey; it’s your life lesson.
Sacred Pregnancy is connection, is facing and forgiving your fears, is honoring the body that is growing an extension of love, is sisterhood. It’s growing your circle. It’s learning to change – because you are changing! Motherhood is a journey and pregnancy is just the beginning – so slow down when you can, you deserve to celebrate it!
This time I’m going to talk about toddler oral care!
As babies grow into toddlers, they often form opinions. Opinions about everything including having their teeth brushed! Having been through this twice now, I have found a few tricks that make the task simpler.
So here is a glimpse into my evening routine with my two little ladies:
Before bed, we brush and floss every night (because brushing before bed is the most important time!). Many people ask me if flossing is even necessary on children. I say ABSOLUTELY! For a couple of reasons, I am a huge advocate of starting the flossing routine with kids as early as you can:
I find that flossing while they are sitting on the counter top or with their head laying in my lap is the easiest. You get the best view and can floss quickly. Another tip I often suggest is letting the little ones use a floss handle on their own. Once they are done or a few minutes has elapsed, I take my turn. Floss handles work great for toddlers, especially if you don’t want to have your fingers bitten! As they grow older, they can practise with string floss. Parents should also help with brushing because at 2 years old toddlers don’t have the dexterity or ability to effectively remove all of the plaque by themselves.
Toothpaste- what should I buy? For the longest time, we just used water. Yes, water! My toddler then became very annoyed and bored with this twice daily routine of brushing. That’s when I added toothpaste! Until your child can spit the toothpaste out and you are confident that he/she is not ingesting any of it, stick to fluoride free toothpaste. The amount of fluoride in toothpaste is in very low concentration, but for little people it can be toxic in larger amounts if they are not spitting it out. Around age 4 is when you can test them to see how well they can spit. Currently, our 2 year old spits out her fluoride free paste as she copies and learns from her older sister who uses fluoridated paste. They each have their own toothpaste though until I am 100% sure Quinn isn’t eating the other half of the paste!
Fluoride Application. Most dental offices offer a fluoride application with a child’s dental visit. Depending on the office and the type of fluoride they offer, a fluoride varnish, foam, gel, or rinse may be given. I am a huge advocate of topical fluoride for kids where suitable.
If parents are having a challenging time getting their child to brush, there is an abundance of plaque on the teeth, and/or many cavities have been diagnosed, an electric toothbrush may be a good option. They are kind of like a “toy” for kids, have a 2 minutes timer built-in, and effectively remove more plaque than a manual brush if they are being used properly. I would recommend rechargeable electric brushes for kids like Oral-B or Sonicare.
Fillings on baby teeth? Hopefully, early on, you have established a healthy diet and stellar brushing and flossing routines so that your child is at lower risk for cavities. If a cavity does occur at a young age, many parents ask if it’s necessary to even have it filled since they’ll be losing it anyways. YES. Adult teeth will start coming in at the age of 6 and end around 13 years of age. This means if a child has a cavity at a young age and doesn’t get it taken care of, he/she may have that decayed tooth until age 13! By this time, infection of the entire tooth and other teeth in the mouth may occur. The child may experience pain and infection could spread. It is very important to have baby teeth filled. Please refer to the permanent chart to find out when your child’s adult teeth will start coming in.
Here are a few tips for keeping your toddler low risk for cavities:
-Diet also plays an important role in cavity formation. If the diet has a lot of sugar in it, then the toddler will be at higher risk to get cavities. Actually, any carbohydrates and sugars can combine with germs in our mouth to create acid which can cause cavities. Sticky carbohydrates like gummy bears, fruit roll ups, caramels etc. are especially bad since they cannot be easily washed away. Hard cheese is an example of a good food for our teeth!
-Does your child drink juice, pop, and milk? If yes, eliminate the pop and juice. It can be given as a treat or on special occasions. Milk can be consumed at mealtime and water in between meals. No food or drinks should be consumed after brushing the teeth at night time.
-Does your child snack frequently? It is better for our teeth to eat a few meals a day opposed to several snacks or small meals throughout the day. This is because our mouths are more acidic for about 30 minutes after eating, meaning cavities can form more easily if we snack frequently.
I hope you have found this post helpful! Please feel free to contact me if you need further information. If I do not have an answer for you, I may know someone who does!
Nicole Sailes is a certified Hypnobabies Instructor with Full Circle Birth Collective. Learn more about Nicole here.
This week on the Full Circle blog, we're going to hear from my friend Vanessa Taylor. Vanessa is a mom of 3 beautiful girls: a 3-year-old singleton and 7-month-old twins! I met Vanessa in a breastfeeding support group about 2 years ago, and we became fast friends because of our similar parenting styles and our goal to learn as much about breastfeeding as possible. I asked her if she would be kind enough to share her story of her twins' birth and exclusively breastfeeding her girls (and a shoutout to postpartum doulas!), and she was nice enough to write this. ~Kelsey
My breastfeeding journey begins with my oldest who is now 3. Long story short, I knew from the second I got pregnant with her that I would breastfeed her. Formula wasn't a choice for me. I would make it work. And we did. Through the cracked and bloody nipples, through the month where I'd pump a little milk to put in a syringe to squirt on my nipple to help her get latched, to endless all night nursing, until I weaned her when I was 3 months pregnant with the twins. I gained confidence in myself and my body regarding breastfeeding. I joined a wonderful breastfeeding group on Facebook, and became semi-obsessed with infant feeding. I read about booby traps, birth, and how to overcome common obstacles. And with the twins, knew I'd breastfeed them, just as sure as I was with my oldest.
One of the first things I thought when the doctor told us "it's doubly fine! It's twins!" was "will I be able to breastfeed them?" Breastfeeding is very important to me so when we learned I was having the least risky type of twins (I have dichorionic (separate placentas) diamniotic (separate sacs) twin girls), I breathed a small sigh of relief. Most doctors will support vaginal delivery with di/di twins if one baby was head down.
My pregnancy was mostly uneventful, but very challenging at the same time. Everything I did during my pregnancy was to grow my babies, and keep them in as long as possible so they wouldn't have to go to the NICU, where a lot of moms' breastfeeding journeys end. I followed Dr. Luke's diet recommendations from the book "When You're Expecting Twins, Triplets, or Quads". She talks about which foods are best to eat in each trimester, how much protein to eat (which is a TON), and how much healthy weight to gain in each trimester. I got a FitBit to keep active. I rested when my body told me to. I credit this book with my girls' very healthy birth weights and my healthy weight gain of 42 pounds. I was very aware that lots of twin moms have c sections, which can affect breastfeeding so I did some yoga to encourage the babies to get head down which my OB said was a requirement for vaginal birth. Baby B turned head down early on but Baby A stayed breech until 35 weeks. She finally turned and I was confident I'd get to birth them vaginally. I knew there was a chance of vaginal birth for the presenting baby and c section for the other baby. I was terrified of a c section.
When I went into labor at 37 weeks 5 days at 3:15AM, we called the babysitter, the doula, and raced to the hospital. 6 hours and no c-section later, I had my babies in my arms. I credit the on call OB for my vaginal birth of the second baby, Everly. She took her sweet time compared to her sister, Harlow, who basically shot out an hour after we got to the hospital. This OB was patient and listened to me when I wanted to try different positions, he didn't rush me, he let me know when I was making progress getting Everly down, and when I wasn't. I even got to breastfeed Harlow between contractions. My husband knew how important it was for me to be able to nurse her within the hour after being born, so he asked the nurse to hand me the baby for skin to skin and some nursing. After almost an hour of not making much progress and a few times where everyone in the room looked very nervous waiting for Everly's heart rate to come back up, I made up my mind that I didn't care if I pooped on the table, I was getting this baby out. As soon as I started pushing like I was pooping, I made better progress. With one last huge push, and me basically ripping my husband's shoulder off, she came out. She was blue, but they assured us she was ok, and then she started screaming. My babies were here! 1 hour and 1 minute apart. I nursed both of them in the operating room immediately after birth (they make you deliver in the OR "just in case"), and neither needed any NICU time. YAY! Harlow was 5 lbs 9 oz and Everly was 6 lbs even. My oldest daughter was 6 lbs 1 oz so these were some good sized babies!
They were great nursers from the beginning. Harlow was a little sleepier in the first 24 hours but the ladies in the breastfeeding group on FB (including Kelsey) assured me that it was OK, and to follow their lead. We were discharged the next day after me insisting, and that's when the fun began! The hospital wanted me to schedule an appointment with their pediatrician for the next day since we were leaving "early", so I did. The babies nursed pretty much non stop until my milk came in late on Day 2. They didn't lose much weight and have been gaining like crazy ever since. I knew it was important for each of them to nurse 10-12 times everyday for the first few weeks, and it turns out, they still nurse 9-10 times even now at 7 months.
After we got home, I called our postpartum doula to schedule when she'd come help us overnight. She came 2-4 nights per week for the first 3 months. I honestly don't know how we would have made it without her. She would bring them to me during the night, help me get them latched, burp and change them, put them back to sleep, and repeat all night long. I tandem nursed only when they were very little. I found it much easier to nurse them one at a time.
For me, nursing twins wasn't much different than nursing a singleton, except we do everything twice. Feed baby, burp baby, change baby, and repeat. With the confidence and knowledge I'd gained with my oldest daughter, it came naturally and easily. I had and have help, so that is truly invaluable in dealing with the daily grind with 3 kids 3 and under. For me, doing a lot of research before babies were born helped tremendously. I knew what was normal, when growth spurts were, and I wasn't intimidated. I trusted my body to provide milk for the babies it grew. And it has! My girls are right around the same size my oldest was at the same ages. Breastfeeding twins is a challenge, but if met head on with support and knowledge, it is absolutely doable!
Kelsey Voelker is a labor doula and lactation educator with Full Circle Birth Collective. Learn more about Kelsey here.
One of my favourite things when I get home from a birth is scrolling through the photos I took on my phone or camera. Reliving the adventure that just took place, piecing together the story and how it unfolded, but mostly reinsuring what I just witnessed was in fact real.
Sometimes you feel like you're dreaming. The strength and power that these women's bodies and minds endure is untellable. The paramount force in a labouring woman is unlike anything you've ever seen before. The courage and vulnerability of a cesarean birthing woman hits you in a place you never realized was there. Those first moments of the surreal, the birth high, the hormonal cocktails, the connections, the first latch, the cries and the laughter. Her fears and joys all bundled up in to one experience. And the partners, oh the partners! I feel so lucky to get to catch some of these moments on my phone or camera.. and of course I keep some of these moments just for my heart too.
Below is a collection of only *some* of my favourite photos that I have snapped. I didn't need to load the blog with 100+ pictures now did I?!
Thank you to my clients for allowing me to share these moments of their incredible & uniquely wonderful birth stories. I feel like these pictures deserve to be seen, acknowledged, embraced, and celebrated!
After arriving at the hospital and getting tucked in to the pool. Warm water, such a wonderful thing.
This little guy liked to flip things around on us, literally. Breech baby born via cesarean birth with a well-heard mama who got her skin to skin, immediately.. and everything else to make it the perfect day.
Dad's face, says it all. Worry, Amazement, Love.
This overwhelming moment of love, amazement, and that finally he is here!
Team work, Team Love.
One of the most courageous people I have met to date.
One of those, "its a girl!" moments and mama can barely believe it.
She's got skills :)
Miles Circuit and kitty cat helpers
Falling in deep.
(Grand)Mother watching her daughter embrace the waves, with the loveliest midwife to support her through the tears. Such an beautiful moment to watch.
When you catch your baby and make eye contact for the first time.
Your mind is your guide. She did this, she so did this.
Meeting her new little sister.
Now a little brother to meet!
Still one of my favourite photos, and one of my first births as a doula. Love this couple to bits!
That first latch, the first reconnection.
As a dental hygienist and parent, I often get asked questions about babies in relation to the health of their teeth and gums. I will go over a few key points for setting your infant up for a lifetime of optimal oral health.
The reason I call it “oral health” is because it’s not just about the teeth. It’s also about the soft tissues which include the gums, tongue, lips, cheeks, floor of the mouth, and the hard & soft palates. All of these components should all be checked at your baby’s first appointment to make sure that everything looks healthy and within normal limits.
According to many dental professionals and reputable sources (1, 4), a child should have their first dental visit within 6 months of their first tooth appearing or by one year of age. Although this may seem very early to some parents, the reason for this is to acquaint the child with the dental office, the instruments, the dental professionals, and also to talk about prevention and home care routines like brushing and flossing. Not much will likely take place during the first appointment but if your little munchkin is at all cooperative, the dentist may be lucky enough to briefly screen her for decay/cavities and most importantly talk to the parent(s) about your daily oral care routine & habits.
Most dental offices will give you an age appropriate brush for your infant and some tips on keeping their mouth healthy. Here are a few tips I share with parents:
-Use a damp cloth to wipe baby’s gums daily. Laying baby in your lap and lifting their lips out of the way is most thorough.
-All babies have a natural tendency to suck on things. Be aware that prolonged use of thumb/finger sucking and/or soother use can lead to changes in shape of the mouth and how the teeth occlude, or close together. Eliminating any sucking habits between age 2-5 is desirable.
- Introducing a sippy cup or cup by age 1 and allow the child to drink water or milk at mealtimes only. Juice is high in sugar and can easily cause decay.
- Never send baby to bed with a bottle. Decay can occur if milk sits in the baby’s mouth.
-Once baby has teeth, brush them gently with water only. Once they’re older you may want to consider toothpaste but NO FLUORIDATED TOOTHPASTE until your child can spit it out (around age 4 or 5)!
Teeth begin to develop at 6 weeks of pregnancy while the baby is in utero and continues until around 15 years of age. Once the baby is around 6 months old, her teeth may begin erupting. Below is a chart indicating the approximate time when baby teeth begin to erupt. Keep in mind that many babies may be later or earlier.
Babies tend to chew on things and salivate more heavily around the time when they get a new tooth. The function of the saliva is to soften the gums for the tooth to erupt. Chewing on toys or their fingers is also common and makes their gums feel better. It is NOT normal for babies to have a fever when their teeth are coming in. Please consult your baby’s doctor if he/she has a fever.
Occasionally a baby may have “thrush”. This typically appears as a white coating in their mouth that cannot be wiped off (2, 3). It likely won’t affect the baby much but on occasion it can cause him/her discomfort. Thrush is an overgrowth of a fungus, Candida albicans, which is part of the body’s normal flora. In particular instances, an overgrowth can occur if the balance between the healthy bacteria is upset, allowing the fungus to take over. Consult your child’s doctor if this occurs. Probiotics and an anti-fungal solution may be recommended.
I hope you have found this information helpful. Please feel free to email me anytime if you have more questions at Nicole@fullcirclebirthcollective.com. More information about toddlers and oral health coming soon!
Nicole Sailes is a certified Hypnobabies Instructor with Full Circle Birth Collective. Learn more about Nicole here.
A little story for you all: while my older son is in swimming lessons, my younger son and I hang out in the “dry land” area... there's some small slides, big blocks, one of those wooden things with the beads that you can move around on wires that are always in doctors offices. It's an awesome little area if you need to occupy a sibling. The kids always take turns, and if not, no one seems to have a problem stepping in to help out. A little “dry land village” if you will.
Now, without going into too much detail, I'll just summarize. It's easier on all of us that way. My son, who is 2, was climbing up and down one of the slides and he going down on his tummy, face first. From the top of the slide to the bottom was maybe 6 inches longer than his entire body. He wasn't doing anything super dangerous or inappropriate for his age. And no one is allowed to wear socks or shoes in the pool area so with bare feet, he had great grip! There was another child there, a girl, who was about 6 years old. She tried to do what my son was doing and her care giver immediately told her she was not allowed. My heart (and science-of-child-development brain) went out to her, and I tried to engage her and my son in another activity together, but she was having none of it. She was determined to climb up that slide, but she wasn't given the chance. There was a time out and a lot of crying for the rest of the swimming lesson. And in my head were all kinds of thoughts about the teenager this little girl was going to grow up to be... what kind of risks will she take when she's older? What experimenting will she do? Blah blah blah. And all of that is a topic for another post.
But what I'm here now to talk about is “appropriate risk”. It's something that I feel very strongly about, and there is research and evidence to back up my feelings. As parents, it's natural for us to be concerned or worried about the things our children are doing... and that will go on for eternity, or as long as we are alive, whichever is longer: As long as I'm living, my baby you'll be type stuff. But there are MAJOR physical and emotional developments that are supported by allowing children to take appropriate risks. They learn new skills, gain confidence, and develop resiliency when they *gulp* FAIL. It's ok, guys. Your kids are going to miss. They are going to fall, cry, bleed, and probably fall again. But they will also learn in the process. They will try try again, and low and behold, they will eventual master that task!
Studies of such risks and research into development play a role in child care settings and in school curriculums. Should it play into how we parent as well? YES it most certainly should! Giving children challenges allows them to develop problem solving skills and to assess danger. If they are given choices that challenge them, they are less likely to look for those challenges in more dangerous situations. Now, I'm not saying that we should be letting children of any age run free and let them climb anything and jump off of wherever. That's where the “appropriate” comes in. As the adults, it's ultimately up to us to make the first decision as to whether or not something is doable... can they succeed in this on their own, with my help, or is it something they aren't ready for yet? This is Vygotsky's Zone of Proximal Development for those of you interested in social learning theory :) Being anxious about it is totally normal! But when we transfer that anxiety to our children, that's when we have a problem. Again, another post for another day.
Parents! Life is fun! Kids are kids! Slides go down AND up! Keeping them safe doesn't mean keeping them from doing things... it simply means supervising and supporting them while they discover who they are and what they are capable of.
Livia’s Birth Story
By Amy McKay
My birth story starts long before I ever became pregnant. It starts in my second year of nursing school, when I did a short placement in Labor & Delivery and saw for myself how over medicalized birth has become in our culture. I couldn’t wrap my head around why a normal and natural event was being treated as an emergency waiting to happen, and I knew deep down I could never be a part of that system.
After struggling with infertility and endometriosis I finally got pregnant in the fall of 2015. The same night those two little lines turned pink I went online and started emailing every midwifery practice I could find. Then I waited with bated breath. Two days later I was totally stunned and overjoyed to get an email notifying me that I had a midwife! My husband was very supportive. He was a little unsure when I said I wanted a home birth though, but he gave me the benefit of the doubt and then did his research. He was totally on board with the idea pretty fast. I absolutely loved being pregnant. Its such an amazing and transformative time, and I have never felt more beautiful, womanly, and happy in my own skin as I did while growing my baby.
My labor started in the middle of the night on July 4th 2016, 2 days before my due date. I’d been having strong and frequent Braxton Hicks for the past week and it was at the end of a big one at 1:50am that I lumbered out of bed. I took two steps and felt a gush. I woke my husband Warren: “I think my water just broke”. “What!” He jumped up out of bed, instantly alert & wide eyed. We were both excited but also surprised. Half an hour later real contractions began, and they were about 10-15 minutes apart for the rest of the night.
At 6am I sent my husband to pick up the TENs machine from our doula, Sonya. Sadly for us another of her clients was also in labor and had asked her to come, so there was a chance we’d need to use our back up doula. I finally got out of bed around 9am, with mixed emotions. Reluctance, because I knew it might be a long time before I could truly rest in my own cozy bed again and that there was a lot of work ahead of me. Excitement, because getting up felt like an acknowledgement that our Bean really was on his way and I was ready to get things moving.
I worked on some projects for a few hours, truly enjoying early labor, while my husband prepped the house for the birth. After lunch we went for a walk, but instead of strengthening my contractions petered right out. I was confused and disappointed when we got home, so I figured I’d go take a nap. I wasn’t in bed more than 15 minutes before the contractions picked right back up again, and felt more intense. I was in bed for an hour and in that time the contractions really increased in frequency, duration and intensity. Laying down was now too uncomfortable. We called my best friend to come over and when I got out of bed a contraction hit me so hard I doubled over and my head swam. I finally agreed to call the back up doula. I’d been holding out, hoping ours would be free but it wasn’t meant to be.
By 5pm all my people were with me and things were definitely feeling less exciting and much more serious. I was vocalizing through contractions and our doula could hear when things got more intense again, and declared it was time to call the midwife. I asked if it was too soon to get into the pool and was very happy to hear that it wasn’t. It felt heavenly! I quickly felt like I was coping again, and was really able to relax for awhile. My contractions continued increasing in intensity and I rotated through positions, trying to find some relief. Side lying. Hands and knees. Squatting. Forward leaning. I hated changing positions, it always brought on a contraction, and it was always stronger than the last.
At some point in the pool I declared I was done, and started to give up, mentally. Up till then I had felt confident in my body’s ability to birth, and confident in my ability to handle the process. I had doubts during contractions of course, but in between I would go right back to a place of positivity. My people offered sweet words of encouragement but it was going in one ear and out the other. I just couldn’t imagine going on like that much longer. I felt like I wasn’t fully surrendering to the process and to what my body needed to do but I just didn’t know how to let go. I had a little cry and felt like a failure for doing it but, bless her, our doula Mitzi told me crying was perfectly okay and to just let it out. So I did, then I pulled myself together and started noticing that contractions had spread out quite a bit. I felt my labor stalling, and decided it was time to leave the tub.
Later on I agreed to a cervical check, under the condition that our midwife Heather not tell me what my progress was. I knew I would be discouraged with any number other than 9 or 10cm. My cervix was very stretchy, but baby’s head was tilted to the side. Heather suggested side lying, walking stairs sideways, and lunges. I found out later that I was only 5-6cm at this point and that baby’s head was something called “ascynclitic”. This meant that his head wasn’t dilating me evenly. It also probably explains why I felt like labor was stalling out, while earlier I had felt consistent & increasing progression. Somewhere deep down, I had been feeling that something wasn’t going quite right. Learning about ascynclitism days later validated that feeling.
I laid in bed with the peanut ball between my knees and had the most intense and painful contractions yet. I begged everyone to let me get up. Heather asked for 5 contractions on each side before getting out of bed again, knowing that the increasing intensity was good and necessary. I squirmed and cried out and bounced my leg against the ball, anything to try to escape the sensations. Finally, I got up and did more stairs, sat on the toilet and the birth stool again and then got back into the pool.
Strong counter pressure on my back & hips was my saving grace. Everything ached. I couldn’t get comfortable and then my contractions started doubling up. No sooner would one peak than the next would be building on top of it. I started crying again, and saying that I couldn’t do it. I wanted desperately to escape my body. I was all out of confidence and beating myself up a bit in my head, for not being as strong as I thought I should be. I’m sure this made my perception of the pain much worse. I felt lost in a haze of pain, and pressure, and the knowledge that there was no escaping any of it. I didn’t say most of this out loud though, and my people continued to be so supportive of me.
Giving up on myself is my only regret with my birth experience. I was pretty miserable from that point on and I felt traumatized for awhile afterwards. I was so disappointed in myself. Labor did end, I did give birth, and I had accomplished what I’d set out to do - have an unmedicated home birth. Yet I couldn’t shake off the feeling that I had failed myself. Eventually, I started to see things differently. I cut myself some slack and let myself off the hook for not meeting my own expectations of being some superwoman who never lost confidence or had doubts about her capacity to birth. I actually hadn’t even realized that that was my expectation until afterwards when I felt I’d let myself down. Maybe I wasn’t a ray of sunshine in hard labor and maybe part of me did give up. So what? It doesn't make what I accomplished any less amazing. It took about a week before I felt empowered by my birth, rather than still reeling from it. Now I feel like a superhero, like there isn't anything I can’t do. I wish every woman could feel like that after giving birth, because every woman deserves to!
Heather checked me again and said my cervix was very stretchy and that with the next contraction she could push it out of the way and then I would be fully dilated. It hurt so much I asked her to stop, not really expecting that she would but just needing to say it. She stopped. A little later I let her try again. Finally, fully dilated. I kept expecting to feel an uncontrollable urge to push but never really did. I pushed and pushed and pushed anyways, trying every position suggested to me. I was totally convinced my stubborn child just didn't want to be born! I didn’t feel that my body and my baby were working together, or maybe I still hadn’t figured out how to fully surrender. I had expected the pushing phase to be easier then active labor, to feel relief that the end was near and finally be “doing something”. Apparently, I just had too many expectations of what labor was going to be like! I’m sure there’s a life lesson in there somewhere. I had to do all the work on my own because my baby’s head was still crooked.
Pushing was overwhelmingly intense; the pressure building up inside scared me. I heard Heather tell me not to run away from the pressure, not to fear it. It felt like my body was coming apart at the seams. It was just before midnight when a tiny bit of my baby’s head started to show. Our doula Sonya arrived at this point, finished with her other client’s birth. I looked into the mirror Heather had placed below me, watching that little patch of head appear and recede as I pushed. It felt like it was taking forever though so I looked away, leaned back into my husband’s arms and let him hold me up as I pushed down with every fibre of my being.
I was totally oblivious when the rest of my water broke and dark meconium poured out. Heather called EMS as backup, just in case. I wasn’t particularly worried about the mec, because it wasn’t my job to worry. My only job was pushing. The room always felt calm, nobody panicked. I saw the dining room table covered in emergency equipment, and I knew the midwives were capable of handling whatever might happen.
EMS arrived 4 minutes later and were ushered into the kitchen and out of the way. My baby was finally crowning and it felt simultaneously like it lasted an eternity and also passed in the blink of an eye. I was surprised out of my haze by people shouting at me to stop pushing as the head emerged. I looked down and felt shock mixed with overwhelming relief that it was nearly over. My baby’s eyes were wide open and staring back up at me as Heather looped the nuchal cord off the neck once, twice and a third time. It was wound tight, which definitely explains the mec at the end. The body followed and I could see that there was good muscle tone so I wasn't the slightest bit worried. It was 12:19am on July 5th. One day before my due date.
I felt an overwhelming and all consuming sense of relief, followed by disbelief that I was holding my baby, and then absolute joy & intense love. Then I noticed that our Bean was a she! I cried; she was so perfect. Bright eyed and alert. After the placenta came I laid down on the couch with my beautiful daughter in kangaroo care. She was still wide eyed and rooting around. We spent about 2 hours there together, soaking each other up. Warren was close behind me and so sweet about not rushing me for his turn to hold her. I really wanted that skin-to-skin time and he was wonderful to let me have as much as I wanted. It was blissful. I was so relaxed & happy, and still so relieved it was all over and she was safe in my arms. I was also still reeling over the fact that my Bean was a she! I had been fairly sure it was a boy in there. We named her Livia Marley.
Our doulas took care of cleaning up and before long it was impossible to tell a baby had just been born in our living room. I tried a few times to get up and into the shower but I was too dizzy and faint so instead Sonya & Heather sat me down and washed my legs with warm soapy water then tucked me into bed. I can’t even convey just how wonderful it was to be tended to with such warmth and compassion in my first few hours as a mother.
Birth is a big deal.
Totally transformative, earth shattering and life altering.
Welcoming our daughter in the privacy, safety, and comfort of our own home allowed us a gentle transition into parenthood. We felt cocooned in our happy little house for days after her birth, and our first venture out felt so scary, as if the world was suddenly a much more dangerous and unfriendly place. We also had phenomenal postpartum care from both Heather and Sonya. They are honestly the dream team! I felt supported in my physical and emotional recovery, had tremendous help getting breastfeeding off to a good start, and knew they were only ever a call away when questions came up. Livia’s birth was the hardest experience of my life and also the most rewarding. I am so proud of what I accomplished, and so incredibly thankful to have had the opportunity to bring her earthside on my own terms, in my own space, fully present for every moment, and surrounded only by the people of my choosing
Special thanks to past clients Amy Mckay for sharing her birth story with us and our viewers.
The story of your birth told from your mom:
Dominic Boire - your father
Barbara Sriver - primary midwife
Jenna Craig- second midwife
Sonya Duffee - Doula extraordinaire
Around 11:30 pm on Sunday April 24th, I went to the bathroom and noticed I had lost part of my mucous plug and some amniotic fluid. Shortly thereafter I began to have contractions. Around 1:30 I woke up your father and told him. My contractions we already 6 minutes apart 45 seconds in length. I texted both our doula Sonya and midwife Barb.
Sonya agreed to come over in the morning. Around 5:30am, having not slept that great dad and I figured it would be good for me to have something to eat and just rest. I was instructed oatmeal would be a good choice. I ate a bowl and went back to bed. Not even 10 minutes after I laid down, I felt the desire to vomit. I sprung out of bed trying to make it to the bathroom and I vomited everywhere! Carpet, curtains, bedspread, pillows. Nothing was safe. Your dad was so great and took it like a champ and got everything cleaned up. I went back to bed to rest until Sonya arrived.
She said Barbara would come and check on us later in the afternoon if things don't progress before then.
Dad and I did end up going to see the midwife Barbara at her office around 4pm. We were still having some contractions. She checked my blood pressure and it was good. She also measured my belly and measured from my pubic bone to the top of my uterus. It was 37.5cm which was larger than the week before. I was surprised by this because you had dropped a lot and started to make a lot of room, your bum was no longer at the top and your feet were no longer kicking me in the ribs. While we're at the midwife she mentioned there is a drink that we could drink that will help start labour's intensity. We had to go and pick up one of the needed ingredients at the Italian centre nearby. As soon as we got home we made it and then I drank it around 5:30pm when we got home. I also tried to eat some almonds and drink water. I wasn't able to keep any food or anything down, but the drink did have some protein in it, so I was grateful for that. As Barb had predicted the contractions started again around 6.30pm. Dad was starting to get pretty concerned and uncomfortable and the contractions were starting to get closer and closer. Dom did contact Sonya for here to come over to provide some support.
When Dom originally contacted her she was actually out getting groceries and would come over right afterwards. She managed to come around 7.30pm and the contractions where about 45 seconds long and just under 5 minutes apart. We all stayed in the living room and worked on having the contractions there. While we're at the midwife office dad noticed a birthing stool and asked if we could borrow, which I'm really grateful we got it because I used it a lot as the contractions progressed. I would sit on the stool and the rest my head on a yoga ball. Just after 8pm my water broke while I was on the stool. Good thing we had towels under the stool. Water continued to gush out for the next 20 minutes. I went to the washroom as during the birthing process my body cleaned itself out. When I got back to the living room I vomited into a bowl the concoction taken to help progress the birth, this was now around 8.30pm. We stayed upstairs until Barb came over as the contractions were getting more intense and closer together.
Barb showed up closer to 9pm. We brought everything we had in the living room down stairs and we continued down there for about 30 minutes before we started to fill the birthing tub for me to go in. I really enjoyed the birthing tub as it reduced the pressure, I was mostly on my hands and knees and your dad would put pressure on my lower back during the contractions. I started to feel like I wanted to push so Barb check my cervix to make sure it was fully dilated so that I could start to push. Turns out cervix was only 3 to 4 cm dilated and you had turned sunny side up and were really far back towards my back.
I'll be really honest with you when Barb told me this my heart sank and I wanted to quit. I wanted to go to the hospital and get some medical intervention. Luckily Barb had a pretty frank conversation with me and I had a decision to make on what I need to do next, with the support of the team I decided to continue and stay strong. Bard told me that I would need to eventually get out of the tub and onto the bed so that I could lay in a position that would help you turn into proper position. That is what we did, the contractions were getting stronger and closer together, they were about 1.5 minutes apart and 45 seconds long. I was really amazed with myself because somehow I managed to relax through these really intense contractions and you eventually helped me and turned into proper position. My cervix also became fully dilated and it was around 10 pm.
I went back into the pool to go and push you out. I laid really low and had my hands up on the side of the pool for support, you dad was at my head holding my hands and reading the positive affirmation we had hung up in the room. Barb kept on checking me and the progress I was making. Around 10.30pm I actually felt you head as you were almost ready to come out. This gave me a second wind and the energy to finish and get to hold you in my arms. By 11 pm you were really close and Barb could see your head getting ready to come out and by 11.37 you were born. You head came out on one contraction and we waited for your shoulders to come out on the contraction after that.
Barb passed you through my legs under water into you Dad’s arms and then I quickly grabbed you. I then laid my my back against the tub and held you skin to skin. I eventually looked to see if you were a boy or a girls. It took you a little bit of time before you started to breathe and make noise. Barb continued rub you back and eventually you started to make noises, but we could tell you still had stuff in your lungs. It took several minutes before you were screaming and it was clear most of your lungs were clear.
Turns out your dad's prediction was right and you were a boy. Your dad actually thought you were going to be a baby boy before I even took a pregnancy test. He also picked you name when I was about 15 weeks pregnant. Throughout the night your dad was keeping your Aunty Dawn and Grandma posted on the progress of the birth so that they could pray for us that everything goes well. Turns out your mom let your great Grandma Boire know and she contacted the nuns in Toronto to pray for us. Your dad was also having a texting battle with Grandma Sharon because she thought you were going to be a girl. By you being a boy your dad was given two bottles of port, one from Papa Ron and the second from Uncle Dustin.
Back to your birth story... Eventually the umbilical cord stopped throbbing and your dad cut it. I kept you on my chest for a little while and just really enjoyed holding you, I was still in a state of shock and overwhelmed by what my body had just experienced. But it was pretty clear in your dad's eyes how much he loved you and was excited to touch you. I then transitioned into starting to be time to deliver the placenta so you dad got to hold you while I did that. He was pretty excited and got to really connect with you, when he held you, you started to calm down and breathe better. He got to experience your skin change color change to a nice healthy pink color. Even though I did want him too he brought you for a quick tour of the house as he got some more towels for me.
I was a little jealous how he was able to hold you for so long while I was delivering the placenta. I was really struggling with it and we tried many different things. We started in the tub, then moved to the shower and then finally to the bed and it still wasn't coming out. While I was on the bed I did get to hold you while I tried to breast feed you. You latched on right away and I was so grateful.
Eventually while I was on the bed the placenta did come out. Turns out it was the biggest placenta the midwives had ever seen, that's why I think it took so long to come out. I gave you back to your dad while I went for a shower and cleaned up. While in the shower I passed several large blood clots, when I was done I went back to bed and Barb stitched me back up for a smaller tear I had on my left side. It seemed like everything that hurts happened on my left side with my pregnancy with you, I had hip issues, I was sore on my left. It was the side that your back was on, my right side was the one that would get abused by you kicking it all the time.
After Barb was done stitching me up your dad and her measured your head which was 35cm around and your length which was 20.75 inches long and your weight which you were 9 lbs and 1 ounce. I then got to hold you and tried to breast keep you again as the midwife gave your vitamin K shot. The midwifes needed to fill out some paper work and Sonya cleaned up and by 3am every one was gone and your dad and I and you slept in the basement for the night. We tried just butting you in a crib beside the bed but you wouldn't settle down and kept on letting out two cries and then stop. Your dad wasn't going to be able to sleep with that so he grabbed you but two blankets around you and but you between him and I. You the quickly fell asleep and slept until 10am. Your dad and I were really grateful when they how calm of a baby you are and how well you slept, we could talk right beside you and you slept like a champ.
Later that day you got to meet your Grandma Sharon and Papa Ron and then your sister Lily and Jon and Steph. Barb also stopped by to see how you are doing and answer any questions your dad and I had. The next day you got to meet your Pere Don and memere Collette and talk on the phone to your Auntie dawn who gave some helpful advice to dad and I.
Midwives Jenna Craig, Barbara Schriver and your Dad looking on your weight
Special thank you for sharing your birth story with us
Past Full Circle client, Megan Boire whose doula was Sonya.
We are so excited to share this new magazine with you geared towards new parents from the lovely and talented Lorraine Stephanyshyn from Lorraine Marie Fotography and contributors all over Alberta.
Inspired Magazine is the passion project of local photographer,
Lorraine Stephanyshyn, and local writer Athena Raypold. Lorraine Marie Fotography photographs newborns, babies, and families in the Edmonton area using a photojournalistic “Day in the Life” style, and Athena writes about her love of food, cooking, and community at The Salty Almond in addition to working as a freelance writer. Between Lorraine’s photography and Athena’s writing and page design skills, they make up the team behind Inspired, a motherhood magazine that exclusively features local, independent businesses and writers that serve young families.
The first issue of Inspired, was an advertorial magazine that Lorraine funded completely. It featured advertorial articles by local businesses that were complemented by Lorraine’s photography. Since its inception, however, the magazine has evolved from strict marketing piece to legit local magazine. Lorraine's goal is publish Inspired quarterly, each issue themed toward a different stage of childhood and, thus, motherhood. The first issue of Inspired was a newborn guide, the Fall issue is baby themed (3 months to 15 months).
Because she values the local economy, every advertisement and sponsored article will promote a local, independent business and every article will be written by a local writer or blogger, featuring relevant and researched topics. For Inspired’s Baby issue, she has writers contributing articles on exercising with baby, babies and play/development, teaching babies emotional regulation, sleep training, introducing solids, discipline and babies, breastfeeding, and mom wars. Each issue will address topics specific to the theme’s age group, allowing the magazine to appeal to parents with children of all ages.
You can check out her website here: www.lorraine-marie.com
There are a few locations which the magazine can be picked up at and Full Circle office is one of them! Be sure to check out this magazine, next time you are by for a visit.
Ironically, I encourage my doula families to take the time to write down their birth stories while it is still fresh and new in their memory.
Life has a way of getting ahead on you in the busy moments of tending to a newborn, chasing toddlers, caring for the young child and all the activities that having young teenagers bring. It is easy to say it will get done, tomorrow.
Almost twenty two years later, I am finally taking the time to do this for myself and to share the moment this little one made me a mama.
To be honest, I struggle with putting words to paper and it is not an easy task for me. I contemplated writing her story many times over the years, but with the busy years of homeschooling, working, running a midwifery and doula practice, getting certifications and managing a family, consumed me and the years went by. It's true what they say, years do go by quickly, almost in a blink of an eye.
We welcomed our first born daughter into our arms almost twenty two years ago on April 21, 1995 at 8:37 AM on a bright and beautiful Friday morning.
I remember the very moment of sitting in a cafe with my friend Michele, who had happened to be my maid of honour in my wedding a few months back. Michael had been talking about wanting to have a baby and I was contemplating, should we or should we wait.
We had been together for a few years and it seemed that it was the natural progression in our relationship together, but were we ready to become parents? Michele was against the idea and practical in her mindset of waiting until we were more established and secure.
Obviously, we threw caution to the wind excited to be parents, resorting to the fact we'd figure it out if it happened and decided to see what the universe provided for us.
Low and behold, we conceived shortly afterwards.
It was summer when we conceived. Strangely, my husband, Michael sensed I was pregnant, even before I really knew. I was still in denial, although the symptoms were definitely there and I knew, I wanted the extra reassurance at the first pregnancy test.
It has been interesting to me that for some families, when a new life begins another passes on.
Over the years of being a birth worker, I have witnessed this many times amongst many of the families I have attended. I am not sold on the fact that it is just coincidence.
Sadly, earlier on in my pregnancy, my father became quite ill and was diagnosed with brain and lung cancer with numerous tumours.
The time I spent with him in the hospital made me realize that I was not comfortable with the idea of having my baby being born there.
I remember the conversations Michael and I had discussing birth options and the anxiety I felt about being in the hospital with little control of who was present and what was being done to me, proceeded the idea of giving birth. A few weeks after getting pregnant, Michael ran into a friend of ours who recently had a home birth and raved about the care she received and her experience. We went over for dinner where she proceeded to share her birth photos and story with me, I knew instantly that this is what I wanted and moved on to finding our midwife to have our baby in the comfort of our own home.
It was 1995 in Calgary, Alberta. Midwifery was not regulated.
I called the only midwife available and chatted with her over the phone and immediately set up a consultation. At our visit, we both felt at ease and felt we were in good hands and proceeded to secure our home birth with her. At that time the fee was $1000.00. I was working as a nanny and taking care of an 86 year old senior who was mostly bedridden and working part time as a florist, Michael was working odd jobs in carpentry. Our finances were beyond tight, but thankfully we managed to pulled it all together.
My guess date was April 20 and I didn't give much thought to it.
I had stayed up late that evening watching T.V. I distinctly remember the ER episode, included a horrific childbirth scene and regretted my choice before strolling into bed at 11:00pm. Michael had to work late, he was putting in hardwood flooring for a client and wanted to get it completed before baby arrived, he strolled in around midnight. I remember this because just as he drifted off to sleep I was awoken by cramps, contractions started immediately after.
I tried going to sleep but couldn't. So I slipped quietly into the living room and called my mom. I wanted to share my excitement and nervousness with someone and I just wanted to hear her my mother's voice and get her reassurance.
I figured I would try to get through as much of labour as I could before waking Michael. I remember my midwives emphasizing that you never know how long labour could go on for, so I chose to let him sleep.
My friend, Michele mentioned I could call her at any hour and she would come by. I thought her company would help me. She arrived within a few minutes, I was in hands and knees moaning through the contractions. My back was beginning to ache. She placed her hands above my back and provided me with Reiki at the same time of the contraction.
Waves of nausea were rolling through me and the intensity increased, we had thought about going for a walk, but at that point I realized I just wanted to be left alone. I gently broke the news to Michele who understood. After she left, I decided to hop in the shower and this point the contractions were coming about every 5- 7 minutes or so it felt like, I was not in a state to time then, I didn't feel I was getting much of a break in between them and as soon as I gathered my thoughts another would seem to begin.
My tolerance of Michael sleeping was wearing thin,
I was becoming more annoyed that Michael was sleeping while I was in a great deal of discomfort and pain. I woke him up, demanding he get me some water. To this day he swears he leaped out and ran to the tap to get my glass of water, but to me it felt like an eternity of waiting.
I moved from the shower to our bed, my back was killing me and nothing was helping me. Waves of nausea returned and I regurgitated the last night's supper..
We had called the midwives earlier but they just disregarded my call and said to keep doing what I was doing. I remember feeling annoyed that they weren't coming.
By now it was about 5:00 AM in the morning of April 21. The wooden massage balls were firmly pressed behind my back as I sit on the toilet ramming my back deeper into the massager, "please go get your sledge hammer", I pleated with Michael, the tension in my back and bones were unbearable and I remember feeling like if only they would break apart, would I feel relief. He obviously refused my request, I crawled to the bedroom floor urging him to call the midwives again. This time they said they were on their way.
My primary midwife arrived at 6:00 AM. My contractions were every 2 minutes lasting about 45-65 seconds long in length at that time the records indicate that I was 4 cm dilated. and 90% effaced. I was already beginning to feel pressure and was urged not to give it any effort and to breathe as much as I could.
I remember feeling frustrated that no matter how hard I tried to control it, my body continued to bear down. At this point I was on all fours and the midwife was setting up and Michael was beginning to pump the pool up. I called for Wendy, but she most likely was on the phone with her second midwife Sharyne Fraser, Michael came in her place and attempted to breath with me. His tone threw me off and I had a hard time getting into it, for some reason when Wendy breathed with me, her voice became like a tunnel that I could move through and it was easier to breathe and centre myself.
Looking back I feel bad that Michael attempted to comfort me but obviously he didn't have the tools or resources to know how to help and ended up being the observer through most of it. I mostly didn't want to be touched or coddled, I just needed space to get down to my work.
It was comforting knowing he was there and that was enough at that time. To this day, he feels that although it was an honour to be there and of witness, the real work is that of the mother and women tending to women. I think he just felt out of his element.
7:00 AM Second midwife Sharyne Fraser arrives with coffee in hand. Wendy and her are in the living room setting up.
At 7:45 AM I was checked again and found now to be 7-8 cm dilated, the anterior part of the cervix was swollen. Thankfully that resolved quickly as I move into the tub which is situated in our living room. Michael sitting by the side of the tub, unsure how to help me. After my first contraction in the tub my water spontaneously breaks.
8:15 AM I am fully dilated and begin pushing spontaneously in the hands and knees position
8:30 AM Karen Robb, the student midwife walks in and comments how lovely it is to be able to eat and grab a coffee before coming and thanks me for the lovely morning birth. I move from hands and knees to laying against the birth wall. The contractions are like waves one after the other and I am getting little break. I recall looking at Michael and saying in a quick exhausted breath, " we are never doing this again" ( he calls this the Linda Blair pea soup moment, I call this transition)
With one huge push at 8:37 AM, Sara grabs the mirror to show my progress and without much thought, I push the whole baby out in one contraction. Michael and Wendy together surprisingly caught off guard, catch the baby and Michael brings her up to my chest. Everyone in the room, including my self remarked how quickly she arrived. I am completely overwhelmed with what just happened and catch my breath as Michael kisses my forehead and greets our little one.
I placed her in-between my legs and admired her perfect little body and face as she gleamed up at me and Michael. not knowing about the strong determined woman she would become.
We named her Arie McKenna and she weighed 6 pounds, 10 ounces.
I spent many days and nights looking into my sweet little baby's eyes and wondered what kind of person she would become, what she would be like, where would life take her and what passions and pursuits she would strive for, as she set forth on her own path. The intensity of knowing that I was just given the biggest gift in the world made me question my own ability to parent and be everything I wanted to be for her, a good mother, teacher and mentor for her, these thoughts would sometimes consume me. For the first time in my life looking at my daughter made me want to be the best I could be for her.
Along the way, as she grew and evolved into the person she was designed to be, we had our joys, giggles, challenges and struggles and many head butting moments of disagreement.
Many times I felt like I was failing as her mother as she has challenged me every step of the way, but through it all, she taught me so much about love and took me to my core, learning about myself, who I was and ultimately influenced my life for the better.
I am grateful for her and for the lessons I have learnt over the years.
Michael, Sonya and Arie at approximately 2 weeks old.
There is one poem that I feel represents and reminds me of what being a parent is all about. I would like to share with you this wisdom, may it remind you that our children come through you, but are not you. .
On Children Kahlil Gibran
Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer's hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.
Welcome to Full Circle's blog, creating content for our clients and readers with a focus on all things pregnancy, birth and beyond.