Saturday, December 25, 2010

The Sweat Lodge


This Christmas Day, I offer you the gift of a story told by a new client:

I see that going into the sweat lodge in remote northern Ontario when I was 17 is something that I can use to propel me through birth. The experience was a powerful one then and now, as I face a long pregnancy and its culminating labour, the event is taking on new significance and its power is spinning in the expanding darkness of my womb.

I went into the sweat lodge to heal. I didn’t even know what parts of me needed healing. All I knew was that I was being offered a chance to experience something profound that might just change the course of my life. The sweat lodge itself was like a womb--dark inside but for the orange glow of rocks heated by fire until they took on their own light. The air was wet from water sprayed periodically on the burning rocks that would immediately vapourize and turn the tight dome into a small ocean that housed us all. There were perhaps ten girls and two men -- our first nations guides on this journey into the Sweat.

Once we had all gathered inside and been given instructions the animal skin flap of the sweat lodge was closed and we were cradled in primal darkness. I could feel the other girls breathing around me. I could feel the warmth of their bodies and their anxious energy. We didn’t know where we were journeying to or what sort of people we might be once we emerged from our process of rebirth. It was a moment very similar to what I have been experiencing in my state of early pregnancy, where very little has changed on the surface of things but I can feel strange ripples of energy coursing through my body and smell the electric smell of great change rolling in like a summer storm.

My memories of the Sweat are hazy. But images flash back to me like prophecies. I think there was a drum. The steady heartbeat of the world reminding us of our embodied state. The sweat has four stages each marked by one of the sacred herbs--sage, sweetgrass, cedar, and tobacco. At the end of each stage the lodge would be opened and we would have the choice to leave or to stay on for the next stage. We could decide that we had learned what we came to learn or that we needed to go deeper to reach whatever lesson was meant for us. Inside the sweat lodge I descended into the core of the earth to access the essence of myself. I imagine labour will be much like that--a spiralling downward into the most secret spaces of the soul where reserves of power you never imagined you had can be accessed and put to use.

I floated in the humid air of the sweat lodge as the ceremony commenced. It wasn’t long before I was soaked with the wet air and my own sweat that poured out of me like rain. My body slowly emptied itself of fluids and I’m sure that I became severely dehydrated. Stories poured out of us with the sweat. We told of our young lives’ greatest hurts, the things that were holding us back and torturing us. Tears began to mingle with the sweat. Girls cried out in pain or because they saw visions emerging from the blackness. Each time the flap was opened at the end of a stage some would leave, desperate for water, content that they had gleaned all they could, or simply exhausted physically and mentally.

I was becoming worn down myself. My body needed water and I was deeply aware of that. But I couldn’t bring myself to leave. I was sure that there was something at the end of all this that would be worth the suffering and somehow, amidst the agony of the Sweat I was able toembrace the experience as transformative. By the end of the Sweat I was deep within my own body and had become animalistic in my thoughts and movements. I was lying on the dirt floor of the lodge with my head in the lap of another girl. I was screaming a low animal scream that originated deep in my throat and resonated at my core. I clawed the ground like a dying creature letting the earth bury itself under my nails. I thought that I might die yet refused to leave until the flap was opened for the final time.

I find that my memories of the Sweat sound much like the experiences of labouring women who find intense beauty amidst pain, fear, and confusion. Labouring women connect to their animal selves just as I did in the suffocating final moments of the Sweat. And while I wasn’t comfortable or even fully conscious of the world around me I believed that I was safe. I believed that the guides wouldn’t let me come to harm, that the girls would hold me. This feeling of safety in the midst of chaos will be crucial to birth as well. I will need to feel that I am held in competent arms and that I will be told if there is real danger at hand. I think that if I can maintain a feeling of safety that I will be able to bear whatever pain or discomfort comes my way and hold on to the belief that bodily trial can be a gateway to spiritual truths.

When the sweat was finally over I lifted myself up off the earth and ate canned fruit that was being passed around. As liquid and sugar entered my body I felt deep relief and also a great sense of well being for having made it to the end. I drank water and water has never again tasted so pure and delicious. When I stepped out of the lodge I was given a moment that will forever be a part of my personal mythology. I emerged from the heat of that womb and into the cold fresh air of the northern summer night. The sky was spattered with stars and I walked carefully on unsteady legs to the edge of the lake where the water was black and silent. I let the air cool me and many of the girls swam in the midnight waves, coming fully alive after touching the edges of death. Time had lost all meaning. I have no sense of how long I stayed in the sweat lodge. It could have been minutes or hours. All I know is that I went in when the sun was still up and when I came out it was long past sunset.

I will hold on to the sweat lodge when I enter labour. I will let time lose meaning and surrender to the animal impulses of my body--letting it cry out when it needs to and growl deep in the throat and belly. I will let myself be cradled by my husband and the midwives, and doula who will attend me. I will remember that I am safe so that I can ride out the waves of birth without getting lost entirely. I see suddenly the the sweat lodge was a gift that I didn’t see the full value of at the time. It was a perfect preparation for birth given to me in days when I never expected to have a child. How strange that I can travel backwards now and see new aspects of the experience and new ways to apply it. I have already been both the mother and the child: The labouring woman clawing the earth in wild torment and the new baby crawling from the womb into the wide wide world under the slowly gyrating sky. May this experience give me strength and courage in the months to come and at the moment of birth.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

"It doesn't get easier, it just gets different"

As part of my doula service, I provide two prenatal visits, attend my clients' births, then make a postpartum visit to debrief and hug, but that's only the tip of the iceberg.

I encourage my clients to call or email me frequently...for years (yes, I mean that). I'm often on the phone for a few hours each day, answering clients' questions, brainstorming, or providing support and encouragement. I encourage my clients to call me whenever a question arises during pregnancy or postpartum, which is SO much more helpful than asking them to store it up for visits. We're able to work through each concern in the moment.

Please don't be shy about calling! It makes everything smoother in the long run!

Recently, I checked in with a former client to see how things were going (three years after she gave birth to twins). "Any words of wisdom?" I asked.

"It doesn't get easier, it just gets different," she said.

With those few words, she reminded me of the daily reality of mothering little ones.

Change comes in an ever widening circle. Change comes daily with a newborn, then weekly...then monthly...then yearly, as she grows. The physical and emotional challenges of raising children are dynamic. "Someone keeps moving the goal posts!" said one client. "Did they cover this prenatal class!? I can't remember anything anymore!"

Who knew that flexibility, creativity and spontaneity (along with a whole whack of family and community support) were the keys to successful parenting? In the beginning, we thought we just had to learn the basic rules of "How to Parent" and everything would be smooth sailing! Boy, were we wrong! It's all about rolling with the changes...

But you don't have to reinvent the wheel. You are not alone! Someone else is going through the same thing...right now...

So, give me a call. Whatever you're dealing with...I've probably chatted with another client about something similar, just yesterday. And maybe, you might just want to connect with her. Together, we can support each other through the daily changes and challenges of mothering.

For example...One day this week I was standing in the rain on Granville Street, discussing a woman's overabundant milk supply, then an hour later I received a call in the IGA about another baby gagging and spluttering on his mum's gushing breast milk.

Then, the next day, I was sitting in my parked car talking with another client about how to increase her low milk supply, just before receiving a call from a different client to ask about donor milk.

Various solutions, including the "Human Milk 4 Human Babies" Facebook group (community milk-sharing), the local Donor Milk Bank, and my favourite lactation consultant, popped into my mind. Personal connections were made...and they were off!

Yesterday, a mum called looking for some support dealing with the changes that happen around six weeks. She had found her rhythm a few weeks earlier. Feeds had been going well, sleep had become more predictable. Then...wham! the six week growth spurt had begun. Her baby had become more alert and started to sleep less. She was having to feed more to increase her milk supply. The goal posts had moved!

We talked...I made tea while we talked...and we talked some more...

I'd better call her again on Monday to check in, and encourage her to go to her local community mum's group.

Every time a client calls me with a mothering question, it increases my ability to support the next woman. Each woman teaches me something completely new. I encourage her to share her experiences at the local mum's group or La Leche League meeting. We each strengthen the chain of women helping women. We support each other through the daily changes.

I won't tell you what to do when you call. None of this parenting stuff is black and white. I'll just help you add to your mothering tool chest, share recent research, brainstorm.

But, above all, I'll just do my very best to listen.

I'll do my best to share the wisdom that I've learned from my years as a mum, a grandma, and as a doula, and learned from all my other clients.

Yes, there will be times when I won't have the experience to address your particular problem. But, at the very least, I'll know someone...maybe a professional...or maybe even another mum...who will be able to give you the tools to help yourself.

And then, I'll remind you that each day will be a mix of joy and tears and laughter. That's mothering. It's always changing, it's always challenging. It's never boring.

My client was right..."It doesn't get easier. It just gets different."

Jacquie Munro - Vancouver Doula

Friday, December 10, 2010

What have I been doing all this time?

In addition to my doula work, "loving the grandsons" has been added to my list of passions. With twins, there's a lot of room for family involvement, so we've all been chipping in daily to help out. My memory of this past summer is long long walks by the seashore with my husband, carrying the boys in slings, allowing their parents a break at sleep or eat, or just plain enjoy the peace and quiet.

It's been eight months filled with love and joy (we're not the sleepless ones).

Is there any downside? I tend to forget things more easily now, with so many things happening every day, but my calendar alerts keep me on task. So, clients...I may whisper when I answer my phone (sleeping babies!), and I might screen some prospective clients' calls if I'm rocking a tired boy while another stands holding my leg (I just can't reach my phone). Please accept my apologies in advance. BUT...the upside is that I now have a renewed and updated understanding of breastfeeding issues, sleep issues, introduction of solids, safety issues, attachment parenting...and a multitude of other topics. It's like I'm living a daily refresher course in how to support my clients through their pregnancies and postpartum experiences. You will benefit!

I'm now taking on fewer clients per month (4-5 at the most), so that I'm (hopefully) able to provide the best care to all. So, you'll need to call me early in pregnancy to book a spot. With this growing family, I'm learning to multitask all over again - and love it!

So, please don't hesitate to call or email! I'm here...just covered in babies from time to time....

Jacquie - Vancouver Doula

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Dear Jacquie...

Dear Jacquie,

We've not met, but I just wanted to thank you for my daughter's birth. I live in Edinburgh, although I'm from Victoria, B.C, and I stumbled across your blog about a year ago. My son (who's now 2) was born in hospital: my flat wasn't big enough to fit a birth pool and 2 midwives, and I hoped I could have a water birth in hospital instead. In the end, I was induced due to blood pressure and got a very controlled, restricted labour: I was on my back, monitored, for the whole thing.

When I became pregnant last spring, your blog was the final inspiration I needed to plan a home birth. You and Ina May were my encouragement through 4 days of slow contractions. In the end, though, my beautiful daughter came racing into the world, one hand over her head, into an empty bathtub. (The midwife had arrived 17 minutes before and let the water out of the bath to check me over...never happened! The birthing pool was filled and waiting in the next room but into the empty bathtub she came.) I had a wonderful, wonderful birth with no one monitoring, examining, or worrying me and the difference in my two birth stories still amazes me.

I'm attaching a photo of me and Rosa with my midwife team, an hour after the birth (the one in blue was the midwife, the one in white was a student on her first week - I was her first birth!, and the one behind was the second midwife who arrived 20 minutes too late).

I have loved reading your blog, and I really can't thank you enough for the inspiration you gave me.

All the best,
R (Edinburgh)

Friday, April 09, 2010

My Words

Wide open
Your face is soft
Your shoulders are heavy
You are safe
Your baby is safe
This is your power
You are strong
Feel your cervix melt like butter
Your muscles open
Your baby tucks chin on chest
You are wide open
Slow breathing
Your hands are soft
You are safe
You are with all the women in labour
The women are with you
You are doing this
Breathe in strength
Breathe out worry
Breathe in power
This is your power
Wide open
Wide open

- Jacquie Munro, Vancouver Doula - Slow Birth

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

"Around the World, Down the Prime Meridian..."

As you sleep, Finn, I stroke the world onto your forehead
Circling, drawing the lines of our planet with my fingers
Transferring the love of your great grandfather into your skin
Just as we did to your mother.

"Around the world
Down the Prime Meridian..."

You sleep, your eyes playing beneath their lids
Soaking in the words, the touch.
Are you dreaming of where you were three days ago?

You were hiding behind your brother Jack
Feet down
Ready to make a surprise entry
like a parachuter.

I can't even remember what it felt like to believe
that your mother was having only one baby.
It feels...

We waited that bright Saturday
waited for "the baby"
sitting outside in the sunshine
in the buffeting wind
at a cafe table
outside Capers
where your parents met
We waited
watching two men play UpWords
the same game your grandad and I played
when I was in labour.

Every movement on 4th was a sign

The woman pushing a bicycle
The pregnant women heading
to Semperviva
yoga mats tucked under their arms
Heading to the noon class
where your mother was supposed to be...

...where you would have been
Child's pose
Listening to the music chosen by your mother.

But you weren't at that class
You were with your mum and dad
at home
in the tub
hidden behind Jack
waiting to be born...

...waiting to surprise everyone!

"Across the Equator
Tropic of Cancer
Tropic of Capricorn
North Pole
South Pole
Mount Everest
Mariana Trench..."

You have always been with us
and we never knew it
You have always been part of our bodies
our planet
You have always been...

...Blue Pacific"

Tomorrow I will stroke
the cartography of love
into your brother's face...

(Finn, the hidden water fairy, was only discovered a few minutes after his older brother, Jack, was joyfully born into his mother and father's arms, at home, on Saturday afternoon. Finn then declared his presence, kicking the midwife's hand... "Jack was not alone! I'm here!" Then, over an hour later, Finn, already master of the great entrance, responded to his mum's pushes and came, splash, feet first, before a large audience in the hospital...
Bright surprises can still happen in this world!)

Jacquie Munro - Grandma to Jack and Finn, Vancouver Doula, Slow Birth

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Silence, s'il vous plait...

No words
as we open ourselves to birth

Close your eyes
and feel the whispers of women

No words

Jacquie Munro - Vancouver Doula, Slow Birth

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Slow Food in labour

Remember my very first client in the 1980's? Vaginal breech? Well, you might remember that I wrote about her stopping off to pick up a hamburger on the way to the hospital. Yes, her doctor was in the car with her, encouraging her to eat. All was well...and boy, was that birth smooth! During my early years as a doula, though, I discovered that the hamburger-eating client was not the norm. Eating in labour was discouraged. "The digestive system shuts down in labour..." "If you eat and then have general anesthetic, you might vomit and then aspirate the contents..."

Way back in 1993, one of the (apparently radical) studies presented at the International Congress of Midwives in Vancouver encouraged women to eat and drink as needed in labour, and argued that it was probably detrimental to the flow of labour to starve a woman during the process. The audience applauded. We thought this would start a movement to allow all low risk women to eat in labour. But, the protocol at most hospitals in our area remained the same. Women were allowed clear fluids chips.

In the 1990's, despite the general recommendation of "clear fluids only" in many hospitals, older nurses (most of them midwives from overseas) would still bring in lunch trays for women in labour at St. Paul's Hospital. I remember one nurse at Lion's Gate Hospital running the bathtub, helping the labouring woman into it, then passing her a big fat sandwich. "Oh, honestly, you need to eat!" she said, hands on hips.

Then, as the years passed, more family doctors would encourage my clients to eat as much as possible before they left home. One client took her doctor's recommendation to heart, and ate 6 scones in the car while heading into the hospital (she gave birth soon after). Another client made sure her husband and I (and her) cleared our plates of roast beef, yorkshire pudding, roast potatoes and loads of gravy, before dashing off to Richmond Hospital. She'd huff and puff and then eat some meat...huff and puff and eat a potato. She also gave birth soon after arrival at hospital.

But, the majority of women in hospital found it very challenging to get any food to eat during labour. One woman became so distressed when she wasn't allowed to eat during her induction. She started crying...couldn't stop...and her contractions disappeared. "I just want peanut butter on toast!" We eventually got an official "go ahead" from her obstetrician. The toast came...she ate...labour started again...and she had progressed from 2-10cm in about 15 minutes. Now, I'm sure not every woman is going to have such remarkable results after eating one piece of toast, but the emotional benefits of being able to eat and drink as needed in labour cannot be questioned.

At home births, women have always been able to freely eat and drink throughout labour. Homemade soup, papaya, omelettes, coconut water...even one client's beloved peanut butter chocolate chip muffins (eaten in the shower)...these are what sustain women. I would love to see a world where there is no difference between home and hospital (I hope I'm not a dreamer!)

So, it was heartening to see that a January 2010 Cochrane review identified no benefits or harms from restricting food and fluids during labour in women at low risk of needing anesthesia (Singata M et al. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2010;[1]:CD003930). The authors concluded, “Since the evidence shows no benefits or harms, there is no justification for the restriction of fluids and food in labour for women at low risk of complications. No studies looked specifically at women at increased risk of complications, hence there is no evidence to support restrictions in this group of women.”

Thank you. Now, let's go eat!

Jacquie Munro - Vancouver Doula, Slow Birth

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Outside of time/The whisper of water unites us

Slow Birth lives outside of time. Women in labour are often supported by caring people who are unwittingly blocking the slow birth process by writing down the time, charting, calculating, commenting on the progress of labour.

We are all guilty of this. We turn our heads to the clock. We look at the numbers on the monitor. We whisper of our own need to eat lunch, dinner, breakfast. We are stuck in time. But a labouring woman needs our help to stay out of her left brain, her 21st century mind. If we help her to labour without time constraints, her autonomy is supported. There is no pressure. She is undisturbed.

What happens to a woman who is hampered from entering her labour trance? What happens when she becomes fixated on time? The more we note the passage of time, the more she might start to calculate..."Okay...1cm per hour...and I'm at 5cm now...that could be five more hours...I can't do five hours!" She may become so anxious that her labour may stall...

But, give her a quiet, cave-like space, the sound of water, and the rhythm of swaying hips - all that will help her to labour outside of time. Add a calm, quiet voice if she likes it... "How about trying the shower again...listen to the sound of the water...listen to the sound of your with your are safe...your baby is safe..."

She steps into the shower. "Oh, this is lovely!" and she has finally left time behind. An hour later, and she is deep in a trance and her birth sounds are becoming deeper. She is progressing. Her eyes are closed. A man sits silently on the edge of the tub. Then the bathroom door opens, and someone leans into the dimly lit space. "It looks like you're doing fine right now. I'll be back in four hours," says a voice, and then it's gone.

"Four hours? Was that the doctor?" cries the woman. "I can't do four hours! That's a lifetime! Does she think I'm so early on that she has four hours to do other things?" The spell has been broken. It takes a long time to help her to regain her trance.

Hours later, a new voice whispers into the darkened shower room, "Oh, what a lovely calm space you have made here. How are you?" " stay..." It's the doctor, and she stays, silent, sitting cross-legged on the floor, totally trusting the woman. The shower sounds like a waterfall. We are all living outside of time now.

Outside of time/
The whisper of water unites us

And then she's suddenly pushing, standing, aware and present, and, as flawed humans, we are once again guilty of turning our heads to the clock. "It's now minutes, not hours! You are doing this!" And the baby tumbles out into her arms.

"8:12!!!" someone cries.

Will we ever be able to escape time? Perhaps not. We are humans, bound by time. Perhaps we should just laugh at our imperfect attempts to support women in labour, and keep trying to do our turning the clocks around, keeping our words quiet and few, keeping our fears and impatience at bay, and trusting each woman to birth in her own way. Always reaching for a slow birth, outside of time...

Jacquie Munro - Vancouver Doula, Slow Birth

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Slow Birth Preparation

There's so much expectation surrounding the preparation for birth in our culture. Strangers will ask, "Have you signed up for your prenatal classes? Have you prepared your baby's room?" Friends and family can press all the wrong buttons, too. "You shouldn't even think of labouring without taking the Inner Barracuda Course"...or whatever the prenatal class of the day is called.

I've had three phone calls in the past 36 hours from women whose hearts tell them that they shouldn't take any classes for this pregnancy. "I didn't need to read books before I made love for the first time, did I?" These clients are well-informed women who have chosen great teams for their birth. They are insightful, intuitive, and deeply trust their own bodies. They understand that birth is a triumph of the reptile brain over the analytical brain. And because of that, they are concerned that prenatal classes might hinder their reptile brain from being in charge on birth day. They've thought long and hard, and, for them, prenatal classes aren't the best option.

And I completely support them in their decisions.

A recent client laboured without any preparation for vaginal birth. She had chosen a cesarean for her first baby - a glorious breech baby girl. She had been anticipating a repeat cesarean for her second baby...until she decided that she would cancel her surgery, and just see what happened. After a slight panic over her lack of "vaginal birth training" ("Shouldn't I read some books?!" "Shouldn't I study up on birth?") she went into labour all on her own the next day. It was beautiful watching her labour without expectations, without the clutter of book knowledge. I talked her through each contraction, reminding her that this was something that she already knew on a deep level. She drew on her inner wisdom and breathed through each contraction. It was like watching a preschooler dive into a challenge without fear. She was strong, intuitive, capable.

When her baby was born into her arms (yes, it was a vaginal birth!) she looked awestruck by what she'd achieved. I don't think she'll ever question her own abilities ever again. And she'd done it all without studying.

We're given 9 months to prepare for our baby's birth. In that time, we have to process so much. We have to consider our changing selves, our changing relationships with our partners and families and friends. We have to draw on our past life experiences, both physically and emotionally, to gain the strength and will-power required for the transition to motherhood. We have to examine our family boundaries, understanding that the birth of a child will turn us from being a daughter...into a mother. We will weather the changing emotions of pregnancy, and watch our single girlfriends draw away from us. We will worry about our ability to maintain our core self, to maintain a loving intimate relationship with our partner... We may become overwhelmed by how we are now connected to all living the entire world.

Too much.

And add to that working a five-day week, organizing finances, perhaps moving, perhaps buying a new car, attending exercise classes, yoga classes, buying baby supplies, strollers, carseats, painting, and weekly prenatal classes...

Too much!

I call on you, each of my clients, to slow down, take time to do nothing, take time to empty your brain. Walk on the beach. Sit on a log and meditate. Breathe in the wind. Connect with your baby. Connect with your partner.

If you need to do yoga, go when it pleases you. Or do it at home. Turn on music, sit still, and let it enter you and calm you.

Consider delegating jobs to your family and friends. Give them lists of things to do for you. Ask for help. Many families buy nothing until the baby is born, then have family members make all the purchases and organize the house. Think about how that could give you the joy of release - could you do that?

Read books that speak to you. Poetry, novels, essays. And, yes, it's wonderful if you read inspiring writing by Ina May (and those on my recommended list). Call me for talks on subjects close to your heart. But, don't forget to look at the big picture... watch a TED talk each day (best start with Sir Ken Robinson...then Jamie Oliver) and enjoy discussing it with your partner as you walk on the beach after dinner.

Throw away all lists. Follow your heart. Leave work as early in your pregnancy as you can. Allow your pregnancy to draw you into the reptile world, as it must do.

Rather than following the crowd and doing what everyone else tells you what you should do, think about what really matters to you, to you and your partner, then decide what you need and what you want. What is essential for your new family? Remember, "do nothing" is an option.

Be slow,
Be conscious and conscientious,
Meditatively knit a baby blanket,
Then see if you still need prenatal classes.

Jacquie Munro - Vancouver Doula, Slow Birth

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Slow Rainbow

I've been on a journey of slowness during the past few months. Reflection, recovery, rebirth. Every free moment has been filled with cycling, running, long walks. I needed to be incredibly fit to face the births this winter. I was fit and well, but I just couldn't write.

I needed to be totally private this winter, in order to grieve for my dad, help my mum, support my family, and have the strength to help other families walk through their searing life struggles or challenging pregnancies and labours.

We're told that life never gives us more than we can bear. After years of being a doula, and recently dealing with loss at a personal level, I think the gods thought I finally had enough experience to support a large number of clients dancing with great challenges - a client whose husband has been battling inoperable cancer, another whose baby is still in NICU, another whose mum has recently died, and so many clients whose pregnancies ended far too early.

I just couldn't write. These women's stories were too fragile to write about immediately.

Don't think that it's only been a winter of unusual loss. We've just seen a slow rainbow of birth experiences. In between the losses, there have been groups, or should I call them "clumps", of babies speeding through the gate like downhill skiiers. I've expected some of these babies to pump their fists into the air and scream, "Yeahhhhhh!" One was born so quickly into her mothers arms, born at home 25 minutes after her mum called me to say, "I think the baby might come today." Born with mum kneeling alone in her bathtub, husband careening around the corner - "A baby!" When I arrived, mum was nestling her baby in her arms in bed, laughing.

And then there were the amazingly triumphant VBACs. Three women this winter whose first babies had been born by cesarean. The emotional challenges in the last few days were hard to bear for one woman - "Oh, they say that you have an 80% chance of it working, but it's really only 30%." (Booking clerk) "Decide whether you're having your cesarean within 5 minutes." But with strong support, all women successfully pushed out their second babies "the old-fashioned way" (OB quote). What joy! These births will truly change lives.

And there have been so many women who have accepted the unexpected with such grace. They have been so calm. The woman who had to take an ambulance ride at 10cm when her baby pooped in the water...the woman who had to move down from the sweet Cedar rooms to the higher risk area at hospital when her baby's heartrate demanded action...the woman who had to make a decision to have a cesarean because her baby's knees were in the pelvis. These women listened to their babies and made their decisions with slow grace.

I've been able to live in the moment with these women and those they love, helping them to honour their bodies, honour their babies, and cross over to being matter what. The joys have been so great. Isn't it always the way when you are walking beside sorrow.

Just as one client vowed to "smash" cancer, these clients have all been strong, powerful, determined, and amazing.

- Jacquie Munro, Vancouver Doula, Slow Birth