The things we say

with-love-2-_-the-photo-forest

The word is the most powerful tool you have as a human; it is the tool of magic. But like a sword with two edges, your word can create the most beautiful dream, or your word can destroy everything around you. One edge is the misuse of the word, which creates a living hell…Your word is pure magic, and misuse of your word is black magic.

The Four Agreements, Don Miguel Ruiz

– Gosh, you’re huge, are you carrying triplets??

– All the girls in our family have difficult labours, I honestly don’t know why you’re even going for a natural birth.

– Hmm, you’re only 2cm, you’ve got a very long way to go, Mommy!

– There’s no need to be a hero you know, why don’t I call the anesthetist and get you set up with an epidural?

– I don’t like my moms to be in labour for more than 12 hours I’m afraid, so I’m calling a c-section.

– Look at this hungry baby, it’s a pity but some moms just don’t have enough milk. 

– All MY babies slept through the night from six weeks old; it’s all about being relaxed, they pick up on your tension you see.

Or:

– Ah you’re just glowing. How are you doing?

– You’re strong and determined, and I can’t see any reason why you can’t have the birth you want.

– Wow, you are doing so well! I’ll leave you in peace to relax and enjoy your labour.

– I know you’re tired, but you have made such progress. You’ll have your baby in your arms soon enough.

– You are giving your baby the best possible nourishment, well done! Can I suggest some things that may help you to produce even more milk?

– I’m so sorry that you’ve been up all night – you must be so tired. What can I do to help?

Words have more power than we can imagine. Surround yourself with people who will encourage you and lift you up in your days, weeks and years of motherhood, and be that person for others.

(Photo credit: The Photo Forest)

New Beginnings

new-beginnings

2016 started out for us with a horrible diagnosis for one of our children – not, thank God, a terminal one, but one that would require a lifetime of medication and careful monitoring. I always think that every other possible problem pales into absolute insignificance when a loved one is ill, and we found this to be so true. Things that we had worried about the previous week – finances, the house, our work – just all fell away in light of this greater fear. Luckily, this story has a happy ending. Without going into details, we researched and we sought second and third and fourth opinions, and it turned out that a parasite and a dairy sensitivity were at the heart of our little person’s symptoms; and not the condition that the doctors had initially diagnosed at all. One year on, and I am happy to report that all is well.

But really those few months put everything else that I went through this year into perspective. As for so many others, it was a year of mixed reviews. We had some really tough times (did I mention that I am now offically unemployed?) but we had so many adventures and lots of fun as well. Life with a three and seven year old is always, always eventful and there is never a day without love, laughs and lots of cuddles.

The highlight of our year was our trip to Europe to visit Oma and Opa, who live in the Netherlands. We were blessed with the most glorious weather and had a wonderful time riding our bicycles like real Dutchmen and eating lots of delicious food. We still talk about our time there, and I think we will for many years to come.

As always, Gentle Welcome has been my church, and my therapy. When I am teaching a class, or supporting a birth – just for those few hours, I am so incredibly involved and present in what I am doing, that really, it’s a form of meditation. A good birth can put me on a high for days (hello oxytocin!). This work I do is not quite a hobby, but not quite a job, and I intend to keep it this way in 2017. I want to keep my classes small and intimate, and plan to do just a few births this year, for people I really resonate with.

Yesterday, we celebrated the fourth birthday of our little boy with family and friends and now it’s time to dive into this new year. It’s the first year for a long time that is full of mystery. I really have absolutely no idea how it’s all going to turn out, and what I’ll be doing come year end. Exciting and nerve-wracking all at once. I’ve been contemplating my word of the year for a while now, and I think I’ve settled on “Joy”. As a Type A perfectionist, I’m very, very good at getting things done and ticking things off my to-do list, but sometimes (often) I forget to have fun while I’m doing it. I have not a single New Year’s resolution for 2017, but I am aiming to filter as many tasks, requests and jobs through the question of “Will this bring me joy?”. I suspect I’ll be saying “no”a lot more often than I usually do, and that’s ok! Happy New Year to you and yours, may it be a good one.

I love my gynae too!

Gardenia

You are free to choose, but you are not free of the consequences of those choices.

One of the things I hear most often in my practice is this: “I really want a natural birth, and I know my gynae mostly does C-sections/won’t let me labour without an epidural/says my pelvis is too small BUT I really love my gynae and I can’t imagine giving birth without him.” And yes, it is almost always a “him”. If I wasn’t a mother myself, perhaps I would be absolutely bewildered at the way that these strong, beautiful, intelligent women are so ready to give their power away but you see, I get it. I really do.

I love my gynae too. An older, incredibly experienced Scotsman, he has seen me through both of my high risk pregnancies, and he delivered my daughter. He literally saved my daughter’s life when I went into preterm labour with her at 20 weeks, and he continued to offer me compassionate care throughout the remainder of my pregnancy, which was spent on bedrest. Although he just missed my son’s birth, he stopped by at the hospital on his way home from holiday to check on us. This was typical of his style of care. He has never rushed me, he has patiently answered all of my questions, and I remain deeply fond of this wonderful man.

Throughout the centuries, medical men and women have been revered and celebrated in their communities. A good doctor, witchdoctor, wise woman or midwife holds the power to heal, to ease pain, to make childbirth easier and to save lives. I think it is entirely natural that we look up to these people. And the psychology of the relationship between a pregnant woman and her male gynae is even more complicated. There is the male/female power dynamic, and also the fact that a gynae sees a woman at her most physically and emotionally vulnerable. So yes, there are very good reasons why women feel bound to a particular gynae for the duration of their reproductive lives. I respect and understand that.

But I see the other side of the story too. I counsel women who feel deeply betrayed by their doctors. Having trusted them completely and, I would say, blindly they are traumatized and saddened when they are drugged, cut, shouted at to push etc etc. When I hear many of these stories (but not all), I can hear the red flags. The doctor who refused to look at a birth plan because “I know what I’m doing, trust me.” The doctor who openly said from the first appointment that his patients are ordered an epidural long before they go into labour. The signs are there, but the woman has given away her power, and regrets it too late.

So, what do you do if you love your gynae, but are not sure if he/she is the right support person for this birth?

  • Firstly, decide what kind of birth you want. In my HypnoBirthing classes, we spend a great deal of time talking about the choices that you have, and we also write a birth plan to share with your medical team.
  • Once you have visualized your birth, look at your provider honestly and rationally and assess whether they are able to offer you what you want. Want a waterbirth, but your gynae doesn’t do waterbirths? Well, that’s a no brainer. Want a natural birth, and all your friends have had C-sections with your gynae? That requires some further investigation and some honest questioning of your doctor. Don’t leave all of this to the last minute. Until your baby is born, it is not too late to change doctors – but it certainly becomes harder, the more advanced you are in your pregnancy.

Take it from me, no matter how much you love your gynae, you need to love yourself and your baby more. You need to take back your power, even though that’s hard, and you need to make the choices surrounding your baby’s birth mindfully so that you can live with the consequences in peace.

Finding and choosing a doula

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My very first doula babies are turning one, and I am just loving being a guest at their very special birthday parties! How much they have grown and changed in just twelve months; as have I as a doula and childbirth educator. After being a doula for over a year now, I’ve had a lot of time to think about the doula-client “fit” and how best you can go about finding the right person for you. That special someone who combines professionalism and experience with a warm heart and gentle hands. These are some ideas:

Finding a doula

Probably the best (and easiest way) to find good doulas in your area is to ask around. Ask your friends and colleagues first. Did they use a doula and did she add value to their birth? How so? If you don’t know anyone who has used a doula (not uncommon in this part of the world), ask other pregnancy/birth professionals. Most gynaes don’t know or recommend particular doulas, but your antenatal class teacher, chiropractor or homeopath might be able to make a referral. You can also ask on local Facebook forums or use Google. Hopefully, this process will net you the names and contact details of at least two doulas in your area that you can then go ahead and organize an interview with.

Choosing a doula

All good doulas will offer a free no-obligation meet and greet for you and your partner to get a chance to chat to them (and for them to check that they can offer you what you are looking for). Before you set up a meeting, make sure that they are actually available around your due date, and that they work with your gynae/midwife.

When you meet a prospective doula, you may want to ask her some of the following questions:

  • What are your qualifications and experience? How long have you been a doula?
  • Are you a mother yourself?
  • What kinds of births have you attended?
  • What do you love about being a doula?
  • Do you have any other related skills (as some doulas are also massage therapists or lactation consultants for example)?
  • What are the logistics of hiring you? What are your fees, what does that include and do you have a back up doula?

More important than what she says though, is how she makes you feel. Does she listen more than she talks? Does she take the time to understand what your hopes and fears for your birth are? Do you feel calm and at ease with her, or does she make you feel nervous? Do you get the feeling that she knows what she is talking about? Does she seem over-eager or desperate (eek, always off-putting!). I truly believe that the interpersonal fit between you, your partner and your doula is far more important than the number of births she has behind her.

Getting the most out of your doula

Remember that while your birth doula will certainly be at your birth (or her back up doula will), she is on hand from the time you hire her to long afterwards so USE her. Most doulas will welcome calls, e-mails or texts at anytime during your pregnancy. They may be able to recommend other pregnancy or birth related professionals or classes in your area, and many also have a lending library of great childbirth and pregnancy related material. They can keep your spirits up when you are feeling nervous or despondent and can help to provide you with evidence-based information if you are facing a medical decision, or creating your birth plan. After your birth and the postnatal visits in your package, they will happily offer advice on breastfeeding and newborn care, and refer you to a medical professional if it sounds like you may need more specialized help than they can give. They may hold mother and baby meet ups where you can meet other moms with babies of a similar age or even offer specialised paid classes on a number of subjects. Doulas love staying in touch with their clients so enjoy the very special relationship you will share and get the most out of it.

A good doula is one of the best investments you can make in your baby’s first year. Choose wisely.

If you are looking for a doula in the Durban area, I still have openings this year from mid-October. I work with homebirth clients as well as moms birthing at Hillcrest, Crompton, Westville, Parklands and Umhlanga.

Legacy

Piano lessons

My little girl has just started piano lessons. Somewhere in the mystical dance of DNA that happens at conception, she inherited her dad’s sense of rhythm and love of music. Although I have absolutely no musical ability, my family line is not without talent. Both my grandmothers played musical instruments; and in fact the piano that we have in our home now was inherited from my paternal grandmother. My daughter has a family legacy of music, and I am so grateful that she has such a source of joy that she can tap into for the rest of her life.

There is great wonder and pleasure to be had as your children reveal themselves to you – whose nose is that; doesn’t he sneeze just like your uncle? We look for the good things, but sometimes it is clear that our little ones have also inherited a nasty temper or a genetic physical weakness that is less delightful. It is not always certain either what is DNA and what is environment. Both my kids shout when they are cross which very sadly is a direct reflection of the way I handle myself when I have had enough (I’m working on it!).

When it comes to pregnancy, birth and parenting, it is so important to understand the legacy that has been passed down through your family; that has seeped into your sub-conscious along with your mother’s scone recipe and your father’s talent for telling a story. What messages did you receive as a child about birth? What was said about your own birth? Did you hear stories about how “you are so lucky to be alive – you almost didn’t make it!”? Or perhaps your and your siblings’ births were never mentioned at all; a taboo subject. What about breastfeeding? Did you grow up feeling that breastfeeding was something a little shameful, or did you just accept that babies were fed at the breast and that was the way things worked? What about parenting? Were you nurtured at home; did your parents make their love for you apparent? Or did you grow up in a restrained environment, where physical affection was not encouraged?

As we grow up, we often vow not to repeat the mistakes of our parents, but as we ourselves become mothers and fathers, these subconscious ways of thinking and being are so deeply engrained that they may be hard to shake. So what’s a mindful parent to do?

The first step is truly understanding the legacy that you have received. I firmly believe that almost every parent does their absolute best and acts out of love; so we need to treat our parents’ mistakes with grace and understanding of the tremendously difficult task that raising a child is. Then we need to be curious about what other ways of thinking about this thing – whatever it is – there are in the world. Yes, birth can be scary. In fact, it can be lethal. Mothers and babies can die. But is there also a possibility that it can be deeply spiritual and empowering? Can we hold the paradox? Can we let go of our deeply entrenched subconscious rules about what it is and isn’t, and allow for the possibility of something positive? When you are mindful about what you have inherited, you also have the power to change it…and most importantly to change it not only for yourself, but for your children and their children in turn. And that, my friends, is the most powerful legacy of all.

Bearing Witness

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I saw you; your naked back exposed to the needle, your belly soon to be offered to the scalpel. I felt your knee shaking under my hand; the tear sliding down your cheek glistened in the harsh light.

I saw you; your eyes on the clock, hours of toil already behind you. I know you thought you could not do it for a second longer.

I saw you; summoning the last shred of energy in your body to help your baby out. Muscles straining in your neck; sweat on your forehead.

I saw you; your arms stretching out to touch your babe; but then wrapped around yourself in despair as you surrendered her to the frantic ministrations of the doctor.

I saw you – all of you. I bore witness.

(As a doula, I have the enormous privilege of being present at some of life’s sweetest moments. I also see the tremendous courage, determination and strength it takes to birth a baby – however that happens – and I am in awe every time).

FREE evening event for pregnant mamas

It takes a village to birth a baby, to paraphrase the old saying, and we have such a lovely village of birth professionals in Durban! I’ve had the privilege to meet the most amazing women, and the occasional man, who are as passionate and dedicated to helping families have empowered, healthy and happy births as I am.

I’ll be partnering with Kirsty and Isabel of Blissful Bellies Pregnancy Yoga, as well as Dani of Simply Balanced Beginnings Chiropractic, to offer this FREE evening event this month.

Please join us as we work through some tools and techniques for birth. Meet other mamas-to-be in a relaxed environment, and receive a free goodie bag of pregnancy treats.

See you there!

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