Thursday, March 08, 2007

International Women's Day

Go to the International Museum of Women and experience The Motherhood Project, dedicated to the "sometimes joyous, sometimes mysterious, and sometimes complicated realities of modern motherhood."

"window children/with protective parents/sit and watch/other kids go out and play"

When I had my daughter, obstetric ultrasound was relatively new. My British obstetrician proudly told the story about the Glasgow obstetrician who saw the potential in ultrasonic testing for cracks in submarine hulls. I had one scan late in my pregnancy because the obstetrician suspected that my baby was quite small. The images were unsettling – at 28 weeks, her body was too big to completely fit on the screen, so it appeared as if her legs, arms, and torso were unconnected. I left the room, shaken. After waiting for the results for a day, I heard that the verdict was in – she was growing normally. (Her birth weight was a decent 8lb 8oz.) Even with the good news, it was hard to reconcile those images with the feeling of her inside me.

To reconnect, I would press my belly against my husband late at night, so that he would be able to feel the baby move against his body. We would talk about who this baby might be, based on the clues that we had – the vigorous movements, the tumbling and dancing. We worked hard to leave the disconnected ultrasound images behind.

During my second pregnancy, I chose to be cared for by midwives who were part of a pilot project at Grace Hospital, and, as part of the project policy, I had to be seen once by a physician. His main focus seemed to be to convince me to agree to an ultrasound. “You’re not one of those midwifery patients who’ll argue with me, now, are you?” I remember my 3-year old daughter looking at him, warily, when he said that. “Oh, of course not!” I heard myself saying, submissively, while thinking, “I wish I was strong enough to opt out.”

Over the years, I followed the progression from 2D to 3D and 4D ultrasounds. During research trials of the 4D equipment, clients would describe the experience as eerie, like they were seeing something that they weren’t supposed to see. When I didn’t hear anything further about 4D scans, I assumed the newest models were being used under strict guidelines in medical diagnostic settings. But, when I started to hear that one of the newest pregnancy trends is the “Bonding Scan,” I couldn’t help being reminded of the trend to X-ray customers’ feet in shoe stores in the 1940s and 50s.

For some reason, the 3D and 4D ultrasound images have always made me feel mildly nauseous. It feels like the baby isn’t comfortable being scanned – moving away from the transducer, covering her face. But, after talking with many clients this week, I’ve found that I’m not alone. Each woman that I’ve spoken with (perhaps we’re all in agreement because, well…they are my clients) talked about a little voice in her head that said, “It’s like we’re looking at a mystery without permission.” “There’d be a porthole if we were meant to see this!”

Certainly, ultrasound images can reassure parents. They can see the fingers and toes and be sure that everything is “all right.” But, isn’t it a false sense of security that we’re being given? We can never ever be sure that everything’s “all right” in life. Ultiimately, we have to accept that there are hidden dangers, potential concerns, around every corner. Life can never be risk-free. As parents, we have to let go at some point, do our best to keep our children safe, and hope for the best. Certain things are beyond our control. This is the hardest challenge of parenting – to trust that we will do our best to ensure the safety of our children, teach them to keep themselves safe, then, eventually, let them go out into the world.

Perhaps my negative feeling about the “bonding ultrasounds” is my gut telling me that we have to trust our bodies and our babies. It doesn’t mean that we have to turn our backs on technology, just use it judiciously, mindful of the false sense of security that it gives us.
- Jacquie Munro, Vancouver Doula

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Spread Passion - Watch TED

My clients often ask what they can do to prepare for parenthood. My favourite suggestion is to take time each day for a walk in the woods, or on the beach. It forces us to slow down, and appreciate life just a little bit more.

Once you have a newborn, time slows right down. You can sit and look at each other for hours, and wonder where the day went. You watch the baby scan the edges of your face, fascinated by the interplay of light and dark...

Once you have a toddler, you share the passions of childhood, the multitude of experiences in a single step, the joys of a pile of leaves or a puddle...

Then, as the children grow, parents can get lost in the day-to-day schedule, and discover that, somewhere along the way, those feelings of awe and passion have slipped through their fingers. But...

I've found a place where you can reconnect with people who have retained their passion for life - in many diverse disciplines and areas of study, exploration, business and research. Each speaker can spur a day's conversation, and make you feel recharged. So, check out the TED talks.

Watch it - don't go overboard - it's like finding a link to all the best people that Peter Gzowski ever interviewed on his Morningside show on the CBC!

As a starting point...check out Carl Honore (Feb. 28, 2007) talking about slowing down, and Sir Ken Robinson (June 27, 2006) talking about creativity. The talks are powerful and life-affirming...especially if you view a talk together, then head out for a walk on the beach with your partner. Just the right sort of preparation for parenthood! - Jacquie Munro, Vancouver Doula

Land Speed Records (baby style)

The three little girls born this week almost set land speed records. The total official labour time for all three was 5.5 hours. Wow! (One was a first birth!) Now, I'm counting the official labour time as starting once TWO progressive regular contractions are coming every 10 minutes. (That's 2/10 for short.) Now, the total time of the three labours from the "first sign" adds up to 14 hours.

So, we had "fair warning" for each. I made it to each birth...and we all made it to the hospital in time (my apologies to the drivers that we flashed on the highway!) We didn't spend much time at the hospital before each baby was born (45min, 2 hrs, 30 min.) And...the quotes from the mums and dads and babies were great... "It's amazing the second time around - that was a little easier!" "I can't believe it's over already!" "The whole thing was incredible - crazy!" "That wasn't as bad as I expected!" "Whaaa!"

Now, I wonder if these girls flew into the world because they knew they were joining their sisters? Between these three families, there are now 6 girls!

Welcome to Hannah, Sadie, and Ava! - Jacquie Munro, Vancouver Doula

"The only real valuable thing is intuition" - Albert Einstein

Oh...the remaining three babies...I never talked about them... Sorry! Here it is...

It's interesting how women often have a sense of how their labour will go, even weeks before the due date. Some women have dreams of a spider web (baby wrapped in cord) or a rock climber (cord again) or a square peg in a round hole (positioning problem.) Are these premonitions or self-fulfilling prophecies? I don't know. I like to think that the body is giving the woman a clue about what is currently happening, and that these dreams are reality-based, not fear-based.

The last three births in the marathon week mirrored their mothers' dreams and premonitions exactly. One had said that she wasn't concerned about the birth at all. Another had said that she had a hard time visualizing the baby coming out of her - there was some problem with that image. The third said she was feeling very patient.

Well, the first woman, a heptathlete, had the straight-forward first birth that she had envisioned - pacing around the house and hospital, squatting between her husband's legs for her baby's birth. Pure and simple. No muss no fuss. What joy!

The second woman laboured beautifully at home, made a smooth transition to the hospital, and sunk into the tub on Holly. Her labour had looked like it was accelerating normally, but whenever I talked about the baby sliding down, she'd jump in with..."No, don't say that." It was as if she knew it wasn't safe to imagine the baby descending. It turned out that the placenta had partially abrupted, and the baby needed to be born by cesarean to stay safe. I truly believe she had known there was something going on at an intuitive level. There's no better lesson to learn as we head into motherhood - that we can trust our instincts. Amazing.

During her pregnancy, the third woman had been so accepting of whatever labour might throw at her. She seemed so calm, trusting in her body. She had a long slow prelabour period, and surprised the doctor by showing up for a prenatal 7cm! Even though it took a further 10 hours before the baby was born, she remained patient throughout. She took in everything that I said, her husband said, her nurse said, her doctor said...trusted her body, did what she needed to do for her baby, and it all worked! Here's her account:

"Your confidence and coaching really worked for me - I kept remembering you saying that it's all in the mind and that it's safe to go further. Every tip you gave me, whether it was working through a contraction or a push, made so much sense. I could actually imagine myself climbing up the rope when you told me to do so.

My first birth experience has been so positive and amazing, and I should really credit you for it. It's just like having a personal trainer run with you through your first marathon. And I can now speak from firsthand experience that birth itself is not unlike running a marathon. I remembered how the crowds cheering on the sidelines, the bands playing, and the water stations, all gave me boosts of energy. You supplied the bands, the cheering crowds, and the sips of hydrating water when I needed them. Somehow giving birth to Allison seemed a whole lot easier than the marathon ... probably because I had my own support team for the entire journey! Thanks so much!"

So, these three women listened to their bodies and their babies, and had the births that were "just right" for them. This was a true testament to mother's wisdom...and a mother's intuition.
- Jacquie Munro, Vancouver Doula