Thursday, July 16, 2015

Slow Birth

This is the end of the line for this blog address.  Follow the path to  You'll find more doula, slow birth, slow parenting and slow living posts.  You'll also find more information on how I can help you along your own path.

The births this month have been beautiful and surprising and powerful.  You might think that, after attending more than 1200 births over 28 years, I might have seen it all.  But I haven't by a long shot! These mothers and babies and families teach me something new every day. From a sweet girl who was born "face first" (so rare that most of us have only seen this once before) to a client who "pedalled" her way up and over the mountains of labour. Another new mum thanked me for helping her to see that birth doesn't have to be scary... after she breathed her daughter into her arms while floating in water.  And another client whispered, "Do you think anyone will believe me when I tell them how amazing it was?! Don't get me wrong, it was way bigger than I had imagined, but that was great!"

I am currently working with 4 clients per month, and still have some openings in October and December 2015, as well as January, March and beyond in 2016.  What's with busy February? Anyone???

We're off to Europe in August and September, so please get in touch before August 10th or we will have to have a "virtual interview" by email while I'm sitting in a little B&B in the Outer Hebrides or in a small cottage in Provence!

So, please walk on over to now! Thanks to Communications Designer Alanna Munro (aka ma belle-fille) for brainstorming new projects and services, and doing all the technical and design work that is beyond me.  I'll be rolling out new offerings soon enough. Until then, you'll find lots to read that you won't find anywhere else!  - Jacquie

Monday, May 12, 2014


After the deep bath
where they breathed together
After the rug from Azerbaijan has been rolled up

The deep red duvet cover
red waves spilling to the floor
reminding me of an oil painting
I saw once
in a window in the Marais

Picture a man leaning over the textured fabric
watching for movement
for the outline of a leg
the movement of a hand

His eyes lift
He looks at me

There is a sound
Is it purring?
"like a tiger" he whispers
"like a lioness across the plain" I whisper

She is labouring in her cave
far from us

under the fabric
hair clinging to her forehead
like a toddler's hair clings to his neck
after a nap

We have our hands
on pulse points
hand touching ankle
hand touching wrist


Light crosses from the window to the bed

And the baby is coming

As the cherry trees
spill confetti onto the sidewalk outside

- Jacquie Munro

 (Thanks to Grace's mum and dad for being present and slow for her birth)

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

On peat, kelp, the blowing wind, the white sand, and our DNA

I've been doing a lot of family research this month, in preparation for the next bucket-list trip with my husband. This trip will take us back in time, to the Outer Hebrides, to Stornoway, to the Isle of Berneray. It might take a year or more to even begin to understand this place where the Munros were "born", but we will get there.  

I'm looking forward to standing, in our "weatherproof" gear, on a white sand beach, holding onto each other, face to face, hoods touching, eyes bright, hanging on for dear life in a 65 mph gale!

The peat, the kelp, the blowing wind and the white sand are in my husband's DNA, and I love that part of him the best! However distant Berneray is in time and space, the struggles and joys of the Munros come from there, and I need to fully understand the place to fully understand him, us as a couple, and our children (the work never stops). 

How is this connected to birthing, parenting and family? In every way.

I've been reading the Scottish census records, right back to the early 1800s, discovering large families - husband (Head) and wife (Farmer's wife), with sons and daughters - up to 13 children living with their parents in thatched blackhouses on small crofts on windswept islands on the edge of the "civilized" world.  

On the tiny Isle of Berneray, Harris, each family had a herd of sheep, a few highland cows, and a few acres of machair fertilized with dung and kelp, gathered from the beach by the family, for growing the Berneray potatoes that taste like the soil and the sea. On good days, they could fish in the calmer waters of the eastern shore. In 1851, there were just a couple of hundred people (really only about 20 families) living on Berneray in rented crofts. They were cleared from the land a few years later by the landowner and were flung away like sand. Some headed north, some south, and some crossed the seas to North America and Australia.

Our children are their great great great grandchildren.

Did these women and men have time to consider their preparedness for each new baby?  How did they cope with the work load of caring for so many children? How did they cope with the fragile nature of their own life? their children's lives? Did they lie awake every night wondering what would happen to their children if they contracted consumption or pneumonia? Did the workload wash away their sadness? Or did it make it worse? 

Their joys and losses were no less powerful than our joys and losses.

They had jobs to do. Life was hard. They sang. They got things done. They had to. They figured things out. They worked cooperatively with the other families. The mothers nursed their babies. The older children went down to the sea to gather kelp or muck out the byre. The seasons and the weather dictated what needed to be done. right. now. 

These women strapped their babies onto their bodies and just headed outside into the wind.

This is a wind that blows so hard that you can hardly open the door.

Today, birthing a baby is still the hardest thing that you will ever do. It rocks you to your core. Your body, which takes 9 months to make a baby, takes twice that time to physically recover afterwards.  Imagine doing that 10 times or more. (Maybe you'd be happy when your husband left to join the militia. He might leave for years to live on the mainland in barracks, but you might just have a few years free of pregnancies.)

Today...when you approach the birth of your second child or third child, you worry whether you will get your body back, or whether that 10 extra pounds will really be yours to carry always as a reminder of your last baby. As a man you wonder how you will balance work and family. Will you need a new car? Will you lose your autonomy, your dreams, your old self? Will you lose your connection to your love, the person you married? Will you lose your couple-bond in midst of daily chores and the continual work load of caring for children in this fast-paced world? 

Will you emerge stronger together? Will you emerge together?

Take some time to think about who your ancestors were. They worked hard for you.

Take some time.

On our large Munro family tree, each person's life is reduced to two dates - birth and death.  It stuns me. Our lives are just a blink - much too short to let things slip away unnoticed, unspoken, or unheard.

So take some time to remember those people who lived in the wind on the edge of the world - who could not let things slip away. They lived with life and death daily. They were hardy, blunt, outspoken, fiery, but equally quick to laugh, to cry. Their gaelic psalms sound like strange wailing. They were open and flexible, ready to move like the wind. 

Faced with the challenges of this busy world, we might not face imminent death daily like our ancestors, but we must still be fierce, drawing on the lessons that birth has taught us, that our ancestors have taught us, fighting to remain connected to each other as couples and as families. For ourselves. For our children. For their children.

Today, in this busy city, we still have to call to each other over the wind that is trying to blow us apart, pressing the doors shut.

This is life. Face each other, eyes locked, laugh and hold on tight.


Saturday, June 15, 2013

Why I Love Maps

Jacquie reading a map on a hike in the Peak District

Why do I love maps? 
Why would I never use GPS?
It’s all about the story.
For me, the journey tells a story – as important as the destination. GPS is just about the destination – its clinical precision can be both boring and utterly wrong. When you can read a map well, you are able to tease out the stories in the landscape. You can see how the new road follows an old riverbed, skirts an iron-age fort, or marches ramrod straight along a Roman road. You can see how a town lies on a raised beach, even though it is now 10 miles inland.
In my work as a doula, I see each woman as a having unique body map for each pregnancy. My job is to read the map of the woman and help her navigate the journey. How does her past inform her present body and its response in labour? I read the tightness here, the release there. I follow the path of the acceptance or the fight. The emotional wounds rise up like a raised beach. It is all visible and easily read unless a piece of the map is missing. I can search for months for that missing piece.  I read the journey of the body and the baby, the traveller.
Where did this love of maps, of the landscape and of the body, come from? It all started (as it always does) in childhood.
I was trained in map-reading by my dad. He was a cartographer and artist (with a love of geology), and I remember sitting beside him at his drafting board adding trees to the UBC map he was working on. He taught me how maps were created, how he would layer transparencies over the base. He taught me how to read the layers like a story, and how to make the two dimensional world turn into 3D in my mind. Whenever we went on road trips, he would put my brother and me in charge of the map and the AAA book, and we would act as navigators from the backseat. We could read contour lines, read the glacial effects on the landscape, call out igneous! and sedimentary!, then point out all the 3-star motels with swimming pools. In the winter, we would read Country Life magazines, and write longhand letters to faraway places to request information. We would write to consulates and visit the BCAA to collect maps, and study study study. I can still smell those new maps. I could visualize (and connect with) what a bird must see and feel flying over the British countryside. My dad’s descriptions and the map contours turned into real images in my head. Then, when we landed in the UK  in 1966 (after an emergency landing in sulfuric Iceland), I remember seeing the patchwork green fields and being amazed that it was exactly as my dad had described. “Look at the tiny cars!” he would say, as we were circling the airport. “They look like ants!” I was hooked on maps, hooked on changes in perception, hooked on travel.
My dad told stories of escaping grimy Manchester and cycling through Derbyshire with friends in the late 1930s, following metal signposts to places like Pott Shrigley (all signs point to Pott Shrigley – I know!), camping in farmer’s fields, then riding up to the Cat and Fiddle Pub on top of a peak and watching the smokey towns below. He would show me the map and tell me stories that brought the Peak District to life, from the plague village of Eyam, to the moveable landscape of Chatsworth House. My mother would add stories of the midwives (who taught prenatal yoga in the 1950s) riding their bikes from house to house in the village, and I would trace my finger over the lines on the map and imagine myself riding my bike along those lines. (Did my wish to attend births start then?)
Fast forward to 1982, when Bob and I took our first overseas trip together. By that time, we both felt like veteran European travelers  (8 trips between us, and he had lived there with his intrepid family in the 1960s). So we combined our passions and skills and headed off. We went to the places that we had loved as children – to “Squirrel’s Wood” in Elstead, where he had lived, to the Yorkshire Dales where his dad had been stationed during the Second World War, and to the Peak District, where my dad would ride, where my heart still lives. Bob mowed my gran’s lawn in Manchester, and ate chocolate eclairs on her path in the sunshine. We stayed on a farm in Somerset at lambing season (I’m never far from birthing mammals), and had a stand-off with a large cow on a bridge in Dorset. We took a ferry to France, stayed in high-ceilinged creaky hotels for 20 Francs and ate tureens of Potage de Legumes in Laon and the Loire (epic)! Our Renault (which we filled with diesel once – seriously) had been bought just for us by a small garage in Crawley, and after an epic repair, that little car took us thousands of miles across the roads of France and Switzerland. We ended the trip with Bob dreaming of owning a sheep farm in Scotland, and me dreaming of helping the sheep birth in the middle of the night.
When I do my client visits, I draw from their stories of their travels to India, Italy, or Guatemala. Each physical journey that they have taken teaches them something about their own bodies, their responses, their patience, their strength. They climb mountains one step at a time. They cry, “I don’t think I can do this!”on the West Coast Trail, but they do it!  I add each of their stories to my own map of their body for later reference. My own daughter says she was kelp in her birth pool in labour. I add the new word “kelp” onto my map of her  - connecting her labour to the water of Boundary Bay, the beach at Point Roberts, her cousin Graham dragging giant strands of kelp up to the cabin, then her sons Jack, then Finn, diving into the world head first and feet first.
So when I stand with Bob on a path in the Luberon, listening to the sound of the cicadas, I look down at the map in my hands and see all the possible routes before us.  I see the traced path, and below that, I see a layer of the red soil, and, below that, the geological history of the land. But, I also see the layered stories and histories of all those who have stood on the path, see their labours and births, see children running ahead to that cave over there, see our son and daughter-in-law climbing to Fort Buoux, see my parents driving the road to Apt, see my brother and his wife cycling towards Bedoin in the distance, and see all the lines that each person has traced on this particular spot.
There’s no need for GPS.
It is the journey that tells the story, in life and in birth. Maps are drawn on our bodies layer upon layer… and are held within us.
- Jacquie Munro

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

A note from Teddy's mama

Lyndsay's birth was an emotional triumph. It had been a challenging pregnancy, but she faced it one day at a time.  She gathered together her team - family, friends, doula, doctor. On the sunny birthing day, my memory is of so many women (including her sister, as well as her dear friend who had also been my client) - our hands, our quiet voices, and our hearts, helping Lyndsay through the waves. I say waves because most of her time at the hospital was spent in the bath. Low toning, the splash of the water...our are are safe... Those are my memories of the day.  I don't think her eyes ever opened until her son was born into her arms, and then...what joy! Her birth was open, raw, supported, undisturbed. It was a day that I will never forget!
Here are Lyndsay's words describing how I helped her on that day...and how we are still connected now:
Jacquie is an incredible woman. Her strength, knowledge, compassion, empathy, understanding, calm, wisdom and experience carried me through my nine months of pregnancy. I had a particularly rough one, emotionally, as at the time I was on my own. Jacquie was never judgemental, always empathetic to the diversity and complexity of humans. She always, always had words that were so wise and thoughtful, words which would would allow me to feel supported and just a little bit stronger. I called her many times in tears, unsure if I could do it, overwhelmed by the uncertainty of my situation and the unknown world of pregnancy and childbirth. 
The day of my son's birth arrived and Jacquie led me through every contraction, movement, sound, emotion, sensation. It was her words that calmed me and allowed me to realize that my body was just doing its thing. "Feels crazy but it's safe." She would tell me I was safe, that my body was doing what it was meant to be doing, that even though it felt like I was trying to pass a bowling ball out of my vagina that this feeling, this immense and unbelievable physical pressure, was normal. I felt no fear - I closed my eyes, gave in to these unknown sensations and knew I was in a safe place. Just had to move through. I must have crushed Jacquie's hand about 50 times through the labour. 
After it was all over Jacquie told me she knew from the moment she met me that my birth would be as it was: powerful, strong, no complications. I apparently birthed like a champ. I needed to feel that - I needed that insane strength, to feel that power of being a woman warrior, to overcome my emotional and personal sadness and to embrace labour and birth. I thank Jacquie for this. Jacquie will forever remain a huge part of my memory of my pregnancy and birth experience! She was also so helpful in postpartum -nursing issues and ongoing personal issues - and I truly felt cared for by her. I can't recommend Jacquie enough!

Go to DoulaMatch to read a few more "testimonials" from my many amazing clients!

- Jacquie Munro, Vancouver Doula, Slow Birth

Photo Credit: Jonetsu Photography

Thursday, May 30, 2013

What does it take to have an intervention-free birth?

(Laughing at 5cm)

According to a Perinatal Services BC report, in the first quarter of 2013 almost 1 in 3 (31.7%) women in BC gave birth by cesarean section, and 1 in 5 women (20.1%) were induced. These are the highest rates of cesarean and induced deliveries ever recorded in BC and it forces me to reflect on how things have changed over the past 26 years.

I just re-read the Statistics Canada paper (1996) "Declining Cesarean Rates: A Continuing Trend?" and felt a twinge of nostalgia. Take a look at the study. The cesarean rate in BC during my first year as a doula (1987) was 21.9%, and a few years later in 1992 and 1993 the rate was declining! At that time, there was hope that the overall cesarean rate would continue to drop, with the goal of reaching the World Health Organization's recommended "medically warranted" cesarean rate of 10-15%. One local study (Janssen, Klein and Soolsma, 2001) found that Burnaby Hospital had a cesarean rate of 10.3% in 1995, which was appreciably less than the BC Women's Hospital rate of 22.9% (less than half an hour's drive away). They concluded that "Differences in use of epidural analgesia may contribute to differences in institutional rates of cesarean delivery. Use of epidural analgesia may be related to use of ambulation, consistency of caregiver during labor, availability of epidural, and suggestion for its use by caregivers." What does this mean for birthing women? It means, as more recent studies suggest, that inductions and epidurals – technology that have become more and more common throughout my years of doula practice – are influencing the rising cesarean rate.

But why are inductions and epidurals more common now than two decades ago? What has shifted in the past 26 years in the general population? I'm currently working on compiling and analyzing the statistics for my first 1000 clients and it looks as though their intervention rates have been consistent over time. Just to give you a snapshot of recent births, of my 18 clients in the first quarter of 2013, the cesarean rate was 5.5% (1), the induction rate was 11.1% (2), and the rate of epidural use was 22% (4). Here’s what happened:
    • The lone client who gave birth by cesarean was over 40 and had been induced at 40 weeks. (Have you heard of the 40 at 40 trend? What are your thoughts?)
    • The second induced client had prolonged ruptured membranes and gave birth without any other interventions - almost birthing her baby in the bathroom!
    • Two of the four epidurals were planned in advance, due to non-pregnancy-related medical conditions.
    • Among other clients who used analgesia, one woman was given a shot of morphine and gravol (and gave birth without complications or any other medications) and two women used nitrous oxide gas after reaching 8cm dilation (and while remaining mobile).

Without an induction or epidural, how did 78% (14/18) of my clients manage the power of their labour? Are my stats low because my clients are highly motivated to avoid interventions? Do they all deliver at home or with midwifery care? Do they avoid cultural messages that describe birth as risky and dangerous?

Maybe the women in 2013 are totally different than in the 1980s. Twenty-six years ago, the average age of birthing women was much lower than today. So are the high cesarean, epidural, and induction rates in BC related to the increase in older first-time mothers? That could be true. But, the majority of my clients are well over age 30, with 22% over age 40. So that idea doesn't explain the low intervention rates among my clients (though I’m going to explore the influence of age and other potential sociodemographic confounders in my case series analysis).

And, yes, my clients would all love to avoid a cesarean. But, those who are planning a home birth are the first to acknowledge that they don't know what their body or their baby will need on the "birth day." My client can be motivated and keep calm, but if her baby is in face presentation or if her placenta is lying over the cervix, there’s no choice in the matter. Her only option is a cesarean. The baby and body like to play the wild card.

And while many of my clients plan a home delivery with midwives, I work equally as often with clients cared for by physicians. We can try to make the hospital environment as homelike and undisturbed as possible, but when there is only one available birthing room and 5 women in the assessment room, and all the nitrous oxide tanks in the hospital are empty... you will be disturbed, your labour will be disturbed, and your probability of having a cesarean will increase! (Yes, that scene was played out the other day at BC Women's.)  Each statistic has a real woman's story within it. 

All my clients hear friends and family say, "Get an epidural!" at some point during pregnancy.  They have all heard other women recount horror stories (why must we do that???). And many have daily phone calls from those near and dear to them who inadvertently undermine their confidence. "Why would you think YOU could birth without drugs? I didn't.  Just book your cesarean!" Women’s motivation can be severely impacted by the daily onslaught of negative images.

But in trying to understand why my clients’ intervention rates are so low, there's one piece of the statistical puzzle that really compels me.  The average dilation upon admittance at hospital for the epidural and no-epidural groups. The two women who had unplanned epidurals arrived at hospital at an average of 3.5cm.  Those 14 who didn't have epidurals comprised of 7 successful homebirths (71% were having their first baby), and 7 hospital births (average arrival dilation upon arrival was 7cm). Does arriving at the hospital later in labour make a difference?

Now, I can't conclude that arrival at hospital at 7cm will never result in the need for an epidural or a cesarean.  But, it certainly increases your chances of having a smooth, intervention free birth if you arrive at hospital in active labour. Every client and their partner who birthed without an epidural or cesarean said that, if I hadn't been with them at home, they would have driven to the hospital hours and hours earlier.  Many women said their advanced dilation gave them incredible confidence - "I couldn't believe I was 9cm when I arrived! When I heard that number, I knew I could do it!"

So, my thought is that, taken together, these approaches account for my low epidural, induction, and cesarean rates: a positive attitude, low stress, low disturbance levels, late arrival at the hospital (as long as the woman is in contact with her caregiver, who is supportive of the plan), great support, as well as many other low-tech options – movement (walking, dancing, swaying, spiraling, lunging), position changes, water (shower, tub), sound (singing, toning, talking, music) as well as continuous physical and emotional support (from me and their partner and team). All of my clients who used those tools went on to have spontaneous "slow and simple" vaginal births. 

- Jacquie Munro

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Texting: Trends in Doula Life

One more thing...she now officially hates being on her back. She will sleep so peacefully 
on us then the second we put her down she goes nuts. :) Oh the questions.
That is just one of the text messages that I've received this week. Day or night, weekday or weekend (as my husband will attest!) the messages flow in from clients who are pregnant, newly birthed, or even facing their first nursing strike at 6 months!

I quickly reply by text, which releases a flurry of iPhone alert sounds. Um...I'd better phone her.  My husband and I are good at taking long walks arm in arm, communicating by hand signals, while I'm calming a client on the phone. Forty-five minutes later, I hang up, confident that we have covered all of today's fears (at 41+ weeks, with no baby in sight, there's a lot to cover!) (p.s. She went into spontaneous labour the next day!)

Each morning, I check in with my clients who have just given birth. Many times, it's an opening move of an hour long phone chat.  Other times, my text "How was your night?" or "How's breastfeeding going today?" results in these responses from new mamas...
Breast feeding is pretty good, working on getting a better and more productive latch but overall she feeds great. She is already above her birth weight! (mama at 3 days)
Had a phenomenal night. 3 feeds each 3 hrs apart and she went straight back to sleep. It was bliss. (mama at 6 days)
She seems inconcolable at night she will feed well at 10 then sleep three hours then one hour naps I'm exhaused (mama at 13 days)

Some women need to see their midwife, family doctor, or lactation consultant, or they might need the name of a good postpartum doula service. Which one above do you think needed a referral? But most women just need to hear me say "I hear you".  Jacquie pep talks are famous!
 You've breastfed successfully before. Confidence (even if you fake it) is key, because your baby is a sponge for feelings. If you're calm, she'll be calm. If you're freaking out...well... (Day 1)
Trust your instincts and keep her skin to skin and nursing as much as humanly possible today and tonight. (Day 2) 
Anticipate another mega feeding (aka breastfeeding bootcamp) night. Try to beat 12 feeds in 24 hours then your milk should be in tomorrow. (Day 3)
Just a reminder that no baby will self-wean before 18 months. Anything that appears like rejection is probably a short-lived nursing strike. Is he teething? Please call me. (7 months)
But it's not just the women who send me text messages.  The dads, the partners, the grandmothers, the midwives, the lactation consultants and the family docs - they all check in. Because this is a team effort!
Hopefully she will feel good about the experience and her decision making. (Family doctor after a birth)
Sounds like still early labour but progressing... (snippet of long family doctor update about a client at home)
Or I will send an update to the client's caregiver (with their permission):
She's thrilled that something is happening. We had a good walk. I came home for dinner. I'll check in with her in a bit. I hope it's tonight! (41 weeks, and baby was born before breakfast.)
When one physician heard that I connect with postpartum clients and caregivers by text, he said, "I like to go the old-fashioned way and meet them face to face." Oh, absolutely! I agree that face to face is best, but is it practical on a daily basis? Does it meet the clients' needs? When a breastfeeding mama is curled up on a sofa and wants to know if she can bath her baby, is it really best to bundle up the baby into a carseat and take a trip across town for a 5 minute doctor visit?

Many postpartum questions do not require a medical visit. Sometimes, just a woman to woman (aka doula) chat is needed. Often, postpartum women just need me to say, "It's a crazy ride, but it's normal!" Face to face is best, but I can also offer an immediate virtual hug via text before popping over for a home visit. Or if my answer to their question is, "I don't know the answer myself, but I know who does," I can recommend that the woman calls her caregiver to make an appointment. One of the reasons why midwifery care is so exemplary is that, in BC, midwives provide multiple postpartum home visits.   And the family practice doctors here are always waiting for a call. My text and phone messages (and Facetime chats) bridge the gap between my clients' visits with their caregivers (and myself)...and boy, do my clients appreciate that!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Conversations with babies

I was at a home birth many years ago. The new mother had nursed the baby, and was just drying off after showering (and chatting to her husband about what had just happened!), while I was quietly tidying the bedroom. As the parents came out of the bathroom, shining and clean, the midwife approached the baby, who was lying in a moses basket. With the parents' permission, the midwife was going to do the newborn exam. She leaned close to the baby, and said something like..."Hello - I'm Patti. I'd like to pick you up and weigh you and measure you." She waited a moment, then gently picked up the baby. Each movement during the newborn exam was preceded by an explanation of what she was doing. She moved slowly. She held the baby respectfully. "Babies are not fragile, but they are vulnerable," she explained to the new dad, as she moved her finger along the baby's spine. The baby was engaged, focused on Patti's words. The baby was content to be weighed and measured by these calm hands, washed by calm words.

I had always spoken to my own babies and clients' babies as people, as equals, but what Patti was doing took it to another level. "I'm going to put a diaper on you now (pause)..." She provided ample time for the baby to take in her request and respond. She was asking the baby to be a partner in a conversation, right from birth. She was also modeling a wonderful slow parenting method which the parents then continued with their baby as he grew.

When Jack and Finn were newborns, I didn't want to interrupt their time with their mum and dad by holding them too much (unless a parent had been "touched out" and needed a quiet moment in the bathroom!). Before picking one up, I would tell him what I was going to do and pause for a (then silent) response. I still go through a day with the boys, telling them what will happen next, what we've just done, and how our day will flow. The rhythm helps them to make sense of their world, and shows that we respect their need to understand the world. They are active, and now very vocal, participants in the conversation. "We'll go to grandmama's house, and then she will give us scones!" How we parent our babies at birth flows through the toddler, then preschool, then school years. Everything is connected.

Montessori teachers have practiced this for a long time. Michael Olaf says, "Gentle handling from birth on also builds trust in the world. Talk to the child gently, explaining what you are doing as you dress and change him. Provide soft clothing, peace, and soft lights, in the first days as the child is getting used to the world outside the womb. We can learn to listen to the sounds a baby makes, to watch quietly, observe, see what the child is trying to tell us, and to get to know this unique human, giving the message that the child is cherished and the world is a safe place." 

Rudolf Steiner stated that a newborn is a "sense-organ" (she is a sponge for touch and sound and movement and taste). Parents should pay close attention to the sensual input surrounding their newborn, limiting their time outside in loud traffic or having noisy toys in the first years. Babies take some time to "come into their body", so our words and movements and their environment should be respectful and calm. I especially love Rahima Baldwin's book, "You are Your Child's First Teacher", which points to practical ways to bring this gentle Waldorf approach into your home.  It was only after about two years that Jack and Finn were able to process the overwhelming sensory input of a crowded space. Slow and quiet outdoor green spaces were more their style, and we respected and honoured their needs by keeping the pace slow for a few years. 

Magda Gerber, one of the founders of RIE, the new "hot" (and slow parenting) approach, said “We not only respect babies, we demonstrate our respect every time we interact with them. Respecting a child means treating even the youngest infant as a unique human being, not as an object.”   Talking to our babies about what will happen next helps them to feel safe in the world, and helps parents develop a sense of rhythm.  Describing what you will do next, calmly and slowly, will also ensure that you remain connected with your baby, and reminds you to slow down. You don't need swings or bouncers or extra props. With the RIE approach, a lot of pressure is taken off the parent.  You can let the baby lie on the floor watching a sunbeam or the geometric line of a table leg. You can slow down and see the world from your baby's perspective. This is the start of child-led learning. For more info on the basics of RIE, take a look at Janet Lansbury's blog and see if her posts resonate with you. 

Explore the ideas in the Waldorf, Attachment Parenting, Montessori, RIE and Slow parenting approaches and see what makes sense to you and your family.  Each will offer you some great parenting tools...and, to quote one client, "There are some ideas that I just want to throw a book at!"  Take what you like and throw a book at the rest.

Through these conversations with your baby, you will start to develop your own family philosophy, "the big picture", that will lead you through all the years of parenting. Our own slow family philosophy includes a lot of "Cs". I see us as caring for our children, with conversation, connection, consideration and consistency. Our children do not belong to us, they belong to themselves, but we're in this together.  What's your family's philosophy? Or are you still pregnant and waiting to hear what your baby says?

Respect for our child's autonomy starts with our first conversation. "Here's my breast. This side is the appetizer. The next side is the entree. I think you're going to like it!" Wait...listen with your heart...and your baby will answer.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

The Lumineers playing...

A woman spiraling
a partner drawing
a woman in the shower
a cat watching
a doula holding
a fan blowing
a strong woman
a boy crying
a midwife whispering
a bird singing
a grandma helping
a boy in the rain
a lost cat
a push
a pant
a baby at home!

(Photo courtesy of dad Chad Smith. Extra love always to mum Carie. Love to midwives Gillian and Carolyn and Patti. Hugs to grandma Smith and big brother Bruce, the boy in the rain...and the cats. And kisses to bonny Alice.)

Friday, May 10, 2013

Cascade of interventions in first-time mothers with term births who experienced labour

Today, the report "Listening to Mothers III: Pregnancy and Birth" was released. I saw that the data suggested that the highest percentage of cesareans came from the induction group. Their chart is below:

I looked at my own data from the past 12 months (N=30) for first-time mothers at term who experienced labour (so gone are the multip births, the scheduled cesareans for placenta previa, the premature births, etc.) Of the 87% of clients who did not have an induction, there were NO cesareans. Of the 13% of clients who had inductions, 100% of them had epidurals and 50% of those women had cesareans. Overall, of the 30 clients who fit the criteria (two were at home), the epidural rate was 40% and the overall cesarean rate was 13%. The numbers are small, but they still closely mirror the large study. Interesting stuff.

I will publish my complete stats for the past few years soon, and will tease out some more of the interesting results, including VBACs (I believe the past year's VBAC success rate was 100%), home birth stats, and more.


"I see someone has been food shopping!"

“I see someone has been food shopping!”

One little sentence spoken by one little boy,
In an epic pose,
Hand on hip,
Peering into my fridge.

We just looked at each other
Eyes shining
And we laughed!

It was a simple statement.

At three years old, Finn knows that his Dagum (Grandad) and I (Deecy) keep quite an empty fridge. We tend to do European-style daily shopping for our meals - whatever we can carry home in baskets or on my bike. We eat very well. He was just genuinely surprised to see that we’d filled the fridge before he (and Jack, of course) arrived for a sleepover.

But, what if an adult had said that to me? Would those words have been interpreted as a comment on my (lack of) organizational skills? If I had just announced a pregnancy, or embarked on a postpartum weight loss challenge, think of the potential impact. My confidence would have been shaken. I might even remember the comment for a lifetime.

“Does she think I bought the wrong stuff? Is she going to critique me on my fruit purchases? Do I have too much dairy? Too much carbs? I shouldn’t be eating meat…or maybe I should? So glad she didn’t open the freezer! She just eats nuts and seeds.”

Yes, Finn’s innocent comment started me thinking about how much we read into what other people say to us, especially when we are pregnant. “What was she implying when she said that?” “Was he judging me?” The resulting guilt and loss of confidence can really shake us to the core.

I still remember the sleepless nights spent thinking about my weight gain (or lack thereof) and eating habits (or urges) during my pregnancies, just as clearly as if it was yesterday.

At 16 weeks in my first pregnancy, I had a nutritional consultation at our local health unit. I’d had to record my food intake for a week.  “Not enough cheese, I see,” said the nutritionist, shaking her head. “Not enough crackers. You’ll have to add more snacks throughout the day – cheese and crackers.” She looked me in the eye. I’m sure she would have been fine if I ate something different, but I spent the rest of my pregnancy scouting out different cheeses and something other than Carr’s water biscuits.

I had an obstetrician (for no particular reason). At 35 weeks, he said, “Let’s see if you’ve grown this week.” Yes, there were italics in his voice. All I could think was, “Didn’t I grow last week? What’s with the emphasis?” I went home and worried. At 38 weeks, I was sent for an ultrasound "for suspected IUGR"...growth RETARDATION???, and told to expect a baby under six pounds at birth, and told to eat more.

At 40 weeks, I stood on the scale so the nurse could weigh me. I had gained fifteen pounds in a week! “Oh, my!” said the nurse. “You’ve been eating some good meals this week!” I looked down, shocked, but then I started laughing. I was holding heavy shopping bags in each hand! It wasn’t until I was home that I felt the true absurdity of the situation. If I had been able to weigh myself (or even been given the right to NOT be weighed) like an autonomous healthy adult, I certainly wouldn’t be recalling this event 26 years later!

No one ever asked about our food habits. No one knew that we rode our bikes to Granville Island to buy our food, cooked wonderful meals, and grew our own summer vegetables.

Just to let you know…at birth, my daughter was a happy chunky 8.5 pounds…cheese or no cheese.

In contrast, during my second pregnancy, I was in charge of my chart. I wrote down my weight (if I liked) and checked my urine myself before each prenatal visit.  I was treated as an adult. I was trusted. We talked about nutrition, sharing recipes and ideas and laughing about the comedy of pregnancy. No judgment. No pronouncements. All the comments were positive. “Oh, what a bonny baby!” didn’t make me worry that I was eating the wrong food. It filled me with pride and confidence. I’d made a bonny baby! The experienced hands palpating my uterus belonged to Sheena Mavis. She described my pelvis as “cavernous,” so I could easily imagine birthing my baby (who, after a joyful labour, turned out to be a slippery 9.5 pounds).

What astonishes me is that my clients still describe similar critiques of their weight gain or food intake.  “It makes me feel like a child,” said one client recently. “I can’t even be trusted to weigh myself or eat properly. I have a CSA and my caregiver has no clue!” (We laughed together!) Don't think that one caregiver type or another make these comments - it's across the board. We all say these things. Thoughtless comments (without any implied meaning) can have such a negative impact.  Rather than expecting people to stop making these comments, we must become more informed and increase our confidence in our bodies.

We need to arm ourselves with the best evidence, so these comments won’t touch us. I love how the current BC Maternity Care Pathway comments on the practice of weighing a woman in pregnancy, “Some women may not wish to be weighed regularly. Since the evidence for any benefit is not strong, the woman’s preference should be a consideration.” It recommends that caregivers “advise women to refer to Healthy Pregnancy BC, a BC online resource for women related to healthy eating and healthy weight gain.” It expects that women can be trusted to educate themselves about healthy eating and weight regulation in pregnancy.

The UK NICE guidelines (which I love for its simplicity and clarity) lists “antenatal interventions not routinely recommended”, which include:
  •            Repeated maternal weighing 
  •       Iron or vitamin A supplements 
  •       Ultrasound estimation of fetal size for suspected large-for-gestational age unborn babies 
  •       Routine ultrasound scanning after 24 weeks 
  •       Gestational diabetes screening using fasting plasma glucose, random blood glucose, glucose challenge test or urinalysis for glucose

      For more information, go to Eating Well, BMI Calculator, Healthy Eating, have fun walking to the Farm Markets, and, if you really need to enter a supermarket, make it as organic as you can, and cruise the outer rim of the store (where the unprocessed foods are), and keep your armour on when anyone says, "I see someone has been food shopping!"