Monday, December 31, 2007

Äpfel schütteln

"Komm, wir wollen Apfel schütteln,
Äpfel schütteln;

alle Kinder helfen rütteln.
Ria, ria, ria, rums."

This German children's song would be perfect to sing while shaking a woman's hips with your hands in labour. One of the many indigenous practices used for centuries to loosen the pelvic muscles and ease a baby's journey through the pelvis, "shaking the apples" works really well with first time mums in early labour, as well as multips as they approach birth.

I heard the term "Äpfel schütteln" used by an older German midwife about 15 years ago. We were in the attic of an old Kitsilano house, trying to fix the malposition of a baby late in labour. My client had hit a plateau at 8 cm, and, after a good half hour of vigourous hip shaking by the midwife, the woman said, "Did you hear that thunk?!" Then the labour took off, we all dashed to the hospital, and the baby was born.

I "shake the apples" to help second-time mums release muscles and allow the baby to be born. Sometimes, it just takes a two-minute shake, then she says, "It's coming!" Most times, she's sure the shaking knocked at least half an hour off the labour time.

Think of the speed that a paint can shakes in the machine at the hardware store...or the speed of a woman's hips during a Tahitian dance...

And it feels so good!

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Walking the Labyrinth

"You are a gift to me beloved
trust my body
trust my baby

Last night, friends and family painted the labyrinth in the living room of a woman in early labour, hoping that she would have a chance to walk the labyrinth as the labour progressed. But her labour skyrocketed and her baby was born sweetly before the paint had time to fully dry!

But I think she had been metaphorically "walking the labyrinth" for a long time and was fully ready. There were no blocks. She trusted her body, trusted her baby, and held firm and fast to her husband, whose hands held the baby's head as it slid out into the flickering light of a candle.

With a labyrinth there is only one choice to be made. The choice is to enter or not. With the smooth and quick birth of this beautiful boy, the choice was made. What a joyful entry to the world.

Breastfeeding Tips for Dads

As part of their Breastfeeding Counsellor's course, Sarah Munro and Ann Marcoux created a podcast of breastfeeding tips and tricks for men. They interviewed three local dads and let them do the talking. So, click and listen to Breastfeeding Tips for Dads.


Geared to all dads, whether they're at home or not, Man in the Moon dad and baby groups in Vancouver offer support and fun with books for dads and their babies on evenings and weekends. Offered at most Vancouver libraries, these groups start their next session mid-January 2008. Check your local library for details.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Meet Carly

As a doula, I am invited into the homes of so many wonderful and creative people. This past year's client list has included an amazing collection of writers, artists, counsellors, dancers, environmental crusaders, yoga instructors, entrepreneurs (and lots of lawyers.)

I love watching my clients' postpartum transformations, as they find ways to reconcile mothering with their "pre-baby" careers. Many former clients become consultants or start new businesses, and others strike out in entirely new directions. I support and applaud their efforts to find balance in their lives.

One such former client is Carly Fleming. She has recently branched out on a career path that I believe will fill a gap in perinatal services in Vancouver. I encourage you to call her if you feel in need of expert counselling assistance during the childbearing year - and beyond.

Carly provides pre-conception, prenatal, and postpartum counselling to women and men who need some additional support as they travel through their childbearing journey. Her services are aimed at individuals who are having difficulties coping or adjusting to pregnancy and parenthood or who are experiencing emotions that are preventing them from moving forward in a productive and fulfilled way.

She offers clients the choice of having her come to their home to conduct the counselling session or meeting with them in a private counselling office (locations are Kits and downtown).

Keep her contact info handy:
Carly Fleming, M.Ed., RCC
Prenatal and Postpartum Counselling

Friday, December 14, 2007

Crossing the Portal, the Old School Way

I stood still in Pottery Barn the other week, in front of a phone that looked just like the lovely heavy black phone that we had when I was little. You know, the one with the rotary dial that, when you needed to dial 9-1-1, took such a long time for that 9 to rotate. No wonder they didn't stick with the British emergency code of 9-9-9. The emergency would have been over before the dialing was done.

So, still standing there, lost in space and time, I started to think about my low-tech childhood in the '60s and '70s, how I skipped to Kerrisdale elementary school in my skirt and walked through old door marked "Girls", and how my parents decided that it was totally unnecessary to have all the new high-tech things that were in the stores - how we shared a party line, had no answering machine, no voicemail, no calculators, no computers, no videos or DVDs, no recording devices, dishwasher or washer/dryer. We just had one little black and white TV with rabbit ears, a clothes line, and a hand cranked mangle to make life easier. (I laughed when I heard the editor of Canadian House and Home say just last week that her laundry room would not be complete without her most luxurious appliance - the mangle. Well, this one's electric, and it presses sheets, but hey...) It was truly an "Old School" childhood, and time was our ally.

So, I really noticed those multi-coloured cut-out letters stuck on the window at BC Women's Hospital the other day - "I DO IT OLD SCHOOL - ASK ME HOW". I kept thinking about those words as I helped a client through an almost 48-hour unmedicated, uncomplicated birth. After 31 hours at home, we went to the hospital to birth "old school" style. The tools at hand were our hands and eyes and ears and wisdom (other than my client and her husband, "We" also included nurse "Wendy" aka Michelle, and the Family Practice Group 2 docs Ron and Sheena, who all have the guts to go "old school"). Time, on this day, was our ally, for we needed a lot of it to accomplish the goal. The high-tech equipment didn't seem to know how to behave with us. The blood pressure cuff kept pumping itself up even when no one was there, and that brand-fangled-new monitor didn't work as well as the doptone, so it was turned off.

So, things were kept as simple as possible. On and on...dancing in the shower, rockin' an rollin' on the ball, just one contraction at a time, one breath at a time, listening to lovely music. To get rid of a puffy cervix at 9cm, we used the Trendelenburg position on the bed (no epidural necessary) and lots of encouragement. We used hip squeezes, hip shakes, swirling and spiralling hips, visualization, trance-inducing techniques, foot rubs, endorphin sleep and dreams, squatting, kneeling, walking, tears, hands, eyes, and love....liberally. And this amazing labouring woman drew on the strength of all her life, with the aid of a few sherpas, and did what all women have the power to do, climb the highest mountain ever - birthed her baby with arms outstretched to touch his body.

And when that baby came, it was pure joy. No exhaustion, just sparkling laughter and smiles and "I'm as high as a kite!" (love those endorphins) and an eager, wide-awake little boy who came out with his meaty fist stretched to the sky. Ahaa! The culprit - just one little hand had slowed things down. We knew it! But, with time, this little man and his mum had worked it out.

When the pediatrician came later to say "Hi", she actually bowed down before the woman, saying "I am not worthy." And the doctors agreed that, if any drugs had been used, it probably would have been a cesarean. And the nurses outside were in awe, knowing that there's an initiative in the hospital to reduce the intervention and cesarean rates by encouraging low tech/high touch birthing, and wishing that they could have seen how it was done.

I am in awe of the couple at the centre of the whirlwind, this vortex of birth. I thank them for trusting in birth, for trusting in the body, for trusting their baby, for trusting me to calm their spirit and their wild eyes, when I'd say, "It's fine, it's normal, you are safe, you can do it," or "She's safe, she has the strength to do this."

On this day, I think all three crossed the portal, the old school way.

- Jacquie Munro, Vancouver Doula