Friday, June 14, 2013

9 Month Gestation


As a busy birth doula, I have to book our vacation time 9 months in advance. No more flying to Hawaii on less than 24 hours notice (that was exciting!), or Scotland on 4 days notice (you would, too, if you found a $250 flight). Exciting trips! But there's a cost to spontaneity. You lose the depth of experience that research, reading and planning can bring. So, this past October, we decided to think of the 9 months of waiting for this summer's European trip as a gestational period...with time for thoughtful planning, reflection on past experiences, and expectation.

So, on a cold Fall evening in 2012, my husband and I started our Summer 2013 planning by reminding each other which slow travel experiences we have loved the most. We listed off our favourites easily. "That Lustleigh Cleave walk in Devon - green and quiet." "Our East Linton hike in Scotland past Hailes Castle and Traprain Law - a sacred hill climb with fighter jets overhead." "Fort Buoux in Provence with the kids - following the souls of those escaping down the secret stone stairway." "Monterosso to Levanto - dripping sweat on a hike, returning by boat over the sparkling sea." These memories are crisp and sparkling, and each involved a hike in a place so quiet you can almost hear the ghosts of the past. No crowds. Just slow travel.

But we need to include another love of ours - cycling. It's a bit faster travel than hiking, but it still qualifies as slow travel (except for our speed-demon mountain descents). Past stand-out memories include riding our Velib bikes (me in a skirt!) through the busy streets of Paris to an outdoor concert, pedaling to the tip of Galiano Island, and speeding down a hill to lunch at an agriturismo in the Chianti hills.

As a doula, I nurture each woman's experience, reminding her that my goal is to help her create a positive memory that will last a lifetime. That sounds a lot like travel! Each person's concept of the "ideal birth" or the "ideal holiday" is different. The woman who has a cesarean can be more satisfied than the woman whose baby is born on her bathroom floor (ah, crazy expectations). One person's stolen passport disaster can be another person's colourful story! After our passports were stolen in Montmartre (it was a scene out of the Bourne Identity), we let loose (what could we lose?), chatted to everyone we met, and created some of our best Paris memories...from the leather-jacketed detectives who came home with us to the hole-in-the-wall studio photographer (I'm sure he makes fake passports) off the Champs Elysees to the commiserating tourists at Coquelicot to the "I'll do anything for you" server at Le Cafe Qui Parle. It was an epic day, topped off by a race from the Canadian Consulate to the airport, with no time to spare!

While my clients are googling everything pregnancy and birth related, I'm googling birth research, plus Trenitalia, Tour de France and Alistair Sawday. When they say "I don't know what I don't know!", I remind them (and myself) to simply absorb the information for a few months...and then all will become clear. So, after sharing with me their best and worst experiences of trekking in the Himalayas, the couples who didn't have any opinions about anything baby-related start to draw from their slow travel lessons and current experiences, and eventually start asking me about slow parenting, co-sleeping and babywearing. And they, in turn, help me to understand that a 5-hour drive to pick up bikes in Provence is crazy. I change our bookings so we will drive less and increase our hiking and cycling time. And my clients leave work earlier and start walking on the beach more, and I start reading novels set in Italy. We all slow down. We learn from each other. We learn from our own lives, our own histories. We remember what is important to us. In travel and in birth, the journey can have as much long-lasting impact on us as the destination.

No, I really don't believe that "a healthy baby" or "a healthy body" or "a safe arrival at our destination" is our only goal. An open mind, an open heart, a connection with others, and a positive perception of our experience, leading to a good memory (in addition to the safe and sometimes unexpectedly interesting arrival) is what is important.

Each of us has a singular perception of reality. Each experience is unique. The key is to roll with it.

So...even though we have set the stage for a great trip...
- Flying into Venice and staying in a flat in Palazzo Widmann
- Hiking to San Fruttuoso Abbey over Portofino Peninsula (only accessible by foot or boat)
- Watching (in person!) 5 stages of the 100th Tour de France
- Hiking up  Toulourenc Gorge near Vaison la Romaine
Cycling with 5000 others down the cobbles on the Champs Elysees on the last day of the tour
- Riding old bikes from L'Hort de Sant Cebria to the windy beaches of Catalunya
...we have no idea what adventures will stand out in our memories. That, we will leave to chance.

The 9 months gestation of our trip are almost over. Just a couple of weeks before take-off. Just like birth...whatever happens, the journey is going to be amazing!

- Jacquie Munro, Slow Birth, Vancouver Doula

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