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Websites For Dads

I love everything about Mothering Touch.  The one thing I sometime feel badly about though, is that in focussing on Mothers, we sometimes miss out on supporting Fathers.  In an effort to find new resources for dads, I was snooping around the internet the other day (the speed at which I do it makes it snooping rather than surfing) and I found these websites for fathers:

New Dad – Beginnings & Endings

Footprints of Fatherhood – Fathers leave their footprints across the hearts of their children

Great Dad – Because Dads Don’t Always Think Like Dads

24-Hour Cribside Assistance

Fatherhood – It’s the best job on the planet

Looking for more?  Just Google "Dad Blog" – there are LOTS of great sites available!

– Eva

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The SPLASH Prize!

When I was pregnant with Simon, 20 years ago in Edinburgh, there was a rumour that if your waters broke in Marks and Spencer’s they would give you a gift certificate.  I spent some time loitering hopefully among the baby clothes and nursing bras, but my membranes remained staunchly un-ruptured.

On Monday, Marnie and Liam were attending the last class of their Childbirth Preparation Series.  At the break, Marnie told the other participants in the class that she was feeling crampy and uncomfortable.  About 10 minutes before the end of the class, Laura, their teacher, noticed that Marnie was getting restless.  Marnie got up and got a birth ball to sit on and as she was about to sit down she leaned forward and looked very focused!  Laura said, "You look as if you just had a big contraction." – "Yes," said Marnie, "and I think my waters just broke!"  Laura asked her if she would like some help getting to the washroom, and Marnie looked at the door and said, "No, I think my car is closer, I want to go home."

On the way home, Marnie and Liam called their midwiife who suggested they go to bed and try to get some rest.  But the baby had other ideas.  By the time the midwife arrived at their house an hour and a half later, Marnie was pushing.  Little Satoshi Keith made a hurried and very surprising entry into the world!

Marnie is the first mother whose membranes have ruptured at Mothering Touch.  We were all so excited by this event, that I decided we should implement the Marks and Spencer’s tradition here, in Victoria." So from now on, if your membranes rupture at Mothering Touch, we will give you a $20 gift certificate to celebrate!

Congratulations to Marnie and Liam for being the first winners of the SPLASH Prize (Special Prize for the Liberation of Amniotic fluid and Subsequent Happiness)!

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Breastfeeding Support and Naturopathic Medicine – A Natural Fit!

By Guest Blogger: Dr. Alexis Blanks, ND

When you are pregnant, it’s pretty natural to be focused on the immediate task ahead… that little thing called labour!  But once the baby is born, along with the realization that you are now in charge of another person’s life 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, comes the challenge of learning to breastfeed.  Along with this challenge will likely be the realization that although it may be the most natural thing in the world, breastfeeding is a skill to be learned like any other and there may be all sorts of challenges and questions along the way.  As a relatively new mom, this is an experience that I can relate to.  As a naturopathic doctor and trained breastfeeding counselor, I am so excited to have knowledge and skills to help new mothers during this exciting time in their lives.

Naturopathic medicine and breastfeeding support is a natural combination.  One of our key principles in naturopathic medicine is to prevent future health problems through education of healthy living.  I have often been struck by what a powerful effect the simple act of breastfeeding your child can have on a baby’s long term health – and the mothers health too!

Naturopathic doctors combine modern scientific knowledge with more a holistic view of health and well being. We are experts in the use of many natural forms of medicine such as herbs and homoeopathy and are also trained to know when pharmaceutical intervention may be required.  In my practice I am also licensed to prescribe pharmaceuticals when necessary.  A visit to a naturopathic doctor is usually much longer than a visit to your conventional doctor.  This allows us the time to obtain a thorough understanding of a mothers concerns and to provide enough explanation so that the mother can leave the office feeling that she has been heard and that she has a good understanding of the problem(s) and the solution(s).

There are a myriad of questions a woman might have about breastfeeding such as how to deal with nipple pain, attain a good latch and know that your baby is getting enough milk, I can help women with these questions.  There are also some questions that as a naturopathic doctor, I am particularly well trained to answer.  Questions such as:

  • the use and safety of medications, herbs, supplements and homoeopathic remedies during breastfeeding.
  • supporting milk supply with the use of herbs or medications.
  • options for treating medical issues such as thrush and mastitis.
  • the potential for certain foods in moms diet to aggravate baby via the breast milk.
  • the introduction of solid foods.

As a nursing mother, I know how fulfilling it can be to breastfeed your child.  I am excited to combine the skills I have learned in breastfeeding support with my medical and naturopathic knowledge for helping women with this wonderful, and yet, not always easy skill!

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Power To Push

I’m so excited about the Power To Push website and the Best Birth Clinic I heard about today!  What a great resource for women all over BC!

The Best Birth Clinic is for pregnant women who are unsure about how to give birth to their baby.  Women with babies in breech position, or who are planning a VBAC or desiring a caesarean without medical indication – all can find support and information and help in getting the birth they decide is best for them.  The clinic is at the BC Women’s Hospital in Vancouver, but will accept women from all over BC.  Of course this is not terribly accessible for women outside the Lower Mainland, but it’s a start!  Maybe other clinics will open up in other areas.  Maybe this clinic will provide leadership for care-providers in other areas to try new things.  I am ever the cock-eyed optimist!

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Yoga

Yoga is an excellent form of exercise in pregnancy.  While gently stretching and exercising the body it also quiets the mind.  Prenatal Yoga classes are carefully planned to include postures (aasanas) which as safe for the pregnant woman and her baby within.  The principles of yoga include a respect of and compassion for the body and its troubles and limitations.  Through prenatal yoga, a pregnant women learns to listen to her body and treat it gently.  She learns to respect her body’s strength and resilience.  She learns to relax and breather and quiet her mind, important skills for coping with the stress and sleeplessness of pregnancy and parenting.  Although few scientific studies of yoga in pregnancy have been carried out, those that have (like this one from Bangalore, India) show positive effects of yoga on both mother and baby.

For a woman who has been very active and fit before she became pregnant, prenatal yoga may not feel strenuous enough in the first and second trimestre.  An active woman with a low-risk pregnancy is encouraged to maintain her usual activities as long as she can through her pregnancy.  But even a very fit woman will find, sometime around her 6th or 7th month, that she is feeling a little heavy and a little slow, and that a more relaxing form of exercise would be welcome.

Besides exercise and relaxation, prenatal yoga provides pregnant women with a place to meet other women who are at the same stage in life.  Meeting and talking to other pregnant women is important in a woman’s development of her identity as a mother-to-be.  It helps her to feel pregnant.  It also helps her to realize that she is not alone in her experience, that other women are having the same sensations and emotions.

Click here to read about the pre and postnatal fitness options available at The Mothering Touch Centre.

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Emotional Availability

This article in the Globe and Mail, Want Baby to Sleep?  Be “Emotionally Available”, jumped out at me because I spend quite a lot of my time listening to parents tell me about their sleep woes with their babies and toddlers.  The article reports on the cleverly-named "Study of Infants’ Emergent Sleep Trajectories" (SIESTA).  Dr Douglas Teti, a professor of human development and psychology at Penn State University conducted a three-year longitudinal study looking at how parents put babies 1-24 months to bed.  He found that the bed-time ritual itself did not predict how well babies slept at night as much as the WAY the parents (all mothers in this study) put their babies to sleep.  He found that more “emotionally available” mothers had babies who slept better.

Sleeping

It could be that this is a case of circular reasoning.  Mothers who are haggard and depressed from lack of sleep are much less likely to be emotionally available.  So we may have a chicken-and-egg thing going on here.  Babies who have difficulty sleeping long stretches have mothers who are more tired and more miserable and less likely to be able to find the emotional resources to be available to their babies at the end of a long day.  Anyone who has had a small child knows that awful feeling of desperately patting and bouncing a baby to sleep, thinking only of the blessed relief of being able to go and rest ourselves.  It’s SO difficult in that context to continue to be a kind and tender and emotionally generous parent!

On the other hand, Dr Teti has a good point in saying that it is HOW we do the bed-time thing rather than WHAT we do that helps our children to sleep.  I work with parents who co-sleep and parents who don’t; parents who let babies cry-it-out and parents who never let the baby make a single peep; parents who take six months to teach their baby to sleep at night and parents who take six days.  I am very sure that what matters most to our children is that their parents feel confident and relaxed about the parenting decisions they make.  If a parent is happy and comfortable with her/his approach to bedtime and sleep, the parent is much more likely to be able to be really consistent and the baby is much more likely to feel safe and relaxed too.  The decisions we make about how we run our families need to be suited to our physical and emotional situation and based on our own intuitions and values.  So how I parent will necessarily be different from how my best friend parents, even if we share a lot of the same values, because our personalities and families are different.

I believe the most important thing we can do at bedtime to help our babies fall asleep feeling safe is to TALK!  When you cuddle your baby to drowsiness you say things like: “It’s night time now.  Everyone is sleeping.  Mummy is sleeping and your friend Josephine and her mummy are sleeping and the bunnies and the birdies are sleeping.  And you’re going to cuddle up in your nice bed and sleep well and in the morning we’ll go to the park…”   As you talk you keep yourself focussed on the baby, and focussed on the message which is “It’s sleeptime”. 
And the sound of your voice is cosy and quiet and teaches your baby that even as your body moves away from her, your voice keeps some contact and provides reassurance and safety.

Keep talking.

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Cycling & Birthing – What’s the connection? (Part II)

As Laura wrote, on July 12th, she and Jay accomplished an amazing thing this summer!  Read Jay’s analysis of how cycling is like labour.  She make SUCH a good comparison!


Recently, my colleague Laura Warren and I entered in the 32nd annual STP (Seattle-to-Portland) cycling event on July 17th and 18th.  The cycling tour is a two-day ride from Seattle (beginning at the University of Washington) to Portland Oregon (ending at Holladay Park).  Each day would be 102 miles of bike riding alongside over 9500 other cyclists.  As birth doulas and childbirth educators, Laura and I could not help but compare the experience with childbirth.  Here are some of the observations we discovered during our ride.

A.  The ride was not only a physical challenge, but a mental challenge as well: Throughout the ride, Laura and I did alot of self talk to motivate us to continue and persevere through it, even when we felt we didn’t have it in us.  During labour, moms have to tap into their inner strength, just like we did, in order to motivate themselves to carry on with the job of birthing their baby.

B.  Having continuous support through Laura was really helpful to keep me focused and positive about the job we had to do.  I hope I did the same for her.  In labor, having continuous labor support from a partner, midwife, doula or family member helps to build up Mom’s own endorphins, helps her feel safe, supported and uninhibited so that her sole focus is to keep relaxed and meet the challenges that labor will demand of her.

C.  Fueling our bodies and getting adequate rest really helped not only in our training, but on the ride itself, it helped us with the challenge of riding 102 miles a day. On our first day, we were unable to eat a good breakfast and had had sub-standard sleep.  We had to sustain the first two hours of our ride on power bars and gel shots before we got to our first mini- food stop.  This resulted in mental and physical challenges for Laura, who struggled during the first half of the ride.  Eating, drinking fluids and resting throughout early labor is essential in preparing Mom’s body to meet the challenges of Active Labor.  During Active labor, it is so important that Mom eats if she feels hungry and is starting to lose her “umph”.  The energy in her food will help fuel her body and help her gain the strength that will be needed as labor becomes more challenging.

D.  The second day provided us with rolling hills along country side roads.  After each hill, we would look way ahead to see another hill waiting to challenge us.  When we got discouraged, we would tell each other to just look at the road immediately ahead of us, breathe and keep peddling.  In labour, Mom sometimes become afraid of her contractions, and fear what is ahead of her.  As a result, she may panic, become tense and find it hard to relax, making the contractions feel worse.  Mom must take each contraction one at a time.  She needs to breathe that one contraction away, relax as much as possible between contractions, then use her new energy to greet the next contraction with her breath.

E.  There were times in the ride when we got so tired, we would wonder when the first or the second day was coming to an end.  We learned that if we timed our rides just to the next mini-stops which were every two hours or so, that became our goal.  That thinking made the endurance of the ride more manageable.  Sometimes when a Mom labours, she wonders “when will this end.”  The reality is that she doesn’t know how long her labor will be.  So if Mom can set mini goals such as reaching a dilation goal, or getting through a stage of labor, or getting through 5 contractions, it can make her labour more manageable and she can focus on the small achievements.  Which would you rather hear, “you have 12 more hours to go” or “let’s just breath through 5 more contractions?”

F.  When Laura and I cycled into Portland after 204 miles, the absolute elation, wonder of what our bodies could do and the sense of accomplishment was overwhelming.  We had done it.  All the training, mental preparation, nutritional education and being each others “cycling doulas” accumulated in a powerful and empowering experience.  When Mom holds her baby, she will feel these things also.  Being in labor is a physically and mentally challenging experience, but with the right preparation, support and trust in what your body can do, the result can be an amazingly positive, rewarding and miraculous journey. 

Laura and I trusted that our bodies, if adequately prepared, would see us through our cycling experience and we relied on each others’ support to help motivate us.  In a woman’s labour, her body and support team will and can do the same.  Good luck to all those parents awaiting the arrival of their little ones!

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Is it a boy? Is it a girl? VIHA’s Ultrasound Policy

This month, VIHA (The Vancouver Island Health Authority) announced that ultrasound technologists doing prenatal ultrasounds will no longer reveal baby’s sex to the parents.  In fact the official policy is that the technologist is not to discuss any aspect of the ultrasound with the parents while it is going on:

ultrasound

“The Ultrasound Technologist (Sonographer) will not be able to provide you any results of your scan, whether that concerns the gender of your baby, or any other matter.  After your examination is performed, it will be read by a qualified Diagnostic Radiologist, who will give the results to your doctor or midwife.  Under no circumstances are technologists permitted to give results to patients – please do not ask them to do so.  Parents who want to know their baby’s sex are invited to go to private ultrasound facilities and pay for an ultrasound for the purpose of identifying the baby’s sex.  You can click here to read VIHA’s ultrasound fact sheet (PDF)

I know some parents who are quite upset about this.  They feel that the tech will know something about their baby which they will not be allowed to know.  I sympathize.  Knowledge is power and a woman should be able to know everything that can be known about her baby and her pregnancy.  Or should she?  There may be things she doesn’t want to know – ask any woman who has had a false positive on a screening test – sometimes too much knowledge is a very uncomfortable thing.

Some people, who don’t want to find out the baby’s sex (or couldn’t find it out when they had their babies 30 years ago) says things like: “It spoils the surprise!” or “It shouldn’t matter – as long as it’s healthy!”  When I was pregnant with my first child, I said: “I don’t care – as long as it has red hair.”  He turned out to be a boy – with brown hair.

On the other hand, what would make us need to know our baby’s sex?  If there is a real risk of a genetic or sex-linked disorder, the parents will be counselled about having amniocentesis which will find out the baby’s sex along with any other chromosomal information.  Some have been saying that the reason for VIHA’s policy is due to the fear that parents will terminate pregnancies when the baby is not of the desired sex.  But I have not been able to find any statistical evidence that this is actually happening.  I think the real reason behind this change in policy is that it takes a lot of time to identify EVERY baby’s sex and then many parents are bound to be disappointed, or even upset, when it turns out that appendage was the umbilical cord.

When I was pregnant with my second child, I wanted SO much to have a girl, that I decided to find out so that if it was a boy I could get used to the idea before the baby was born.  It WAS a boy – with red hair!

At first, many parents will say that they want to know if the baby is a boy or a girl because they want to know what colours to buy.  And when I suggest that they can still go shopping after the baby comes – in fact shopping is a great activity to do with a small baby sleeping in a carrier – the parents will tell me they want to know so they can bond better with the baby.

It’s true that we are hungry for anything we can find out about our baby which will help us imagine what life might be like after the birth.  We need to be able to imagine ourselves as a parent for this baby and imagine what the baby might be like. 

But I need to ask, is the baby’s sex the MOST important thing about that baby?  Is it more important than whether the baby is calm or tense, quiet or noisy, cheerful or grumpy?  Will it affect our parenting style more than whether the baby is sensitive, relaxed, lively, or sleepy?

I wonder if NOT knowing the sex of the baby could be a good thing.  For a few months we are not assuming anything about the baby based on its chromosomes.  We are getting to know our baby, his/her favourite times of night for dancing, propensity for hiccups, tastes in music.  We are daydreaming about the baby without swathing it in pink or blue.  Maybe that’s good practice for later in the baby’s life when we have to learn to parent THIS baby, not the one we thought we would have, or the one we wish s/he could be.

I am not sure what the best way to deal with this is.  I just know that there are WAY more than two ways to think about it.

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Cycling & Birthing – What’s the connection?

I am in AWE of my Childbirth Educator buddies, Jay Duncan and Laura Warren, who have been training for the Seattle-Portland Classic Bike Ride for the last six months.  They have been keeping us up-to-date on their progress and telling about what they have learned personally through the experience of training together.  I asked Laura to write about it for our blog.  Here is what she had to say…


Jay and I will soon be leaving for the Seattle to Portland Bicycle Ride.  We’ve been training for since February.  204 miles in 2 days.  I still can’t believe that we’ve come this far.  Many times, I have wondered how it was that we stayed motivated enough to continue.  Well, I finally realized that our cycling is not that different from giving birth.  As a matter of fact, I have decided that since I was able to give birth, I should be able to accomplish any goal I set for myself.  (Mind you, it has been a long time since I gave birth!).

Every time I show birth videos in my classes, I wonder why I feel such empathy for those women.  Those of you who have attended the class might remember the mom in that birth pool who continues to say “I can do it” as she breathes and focuses on her doula.  Well, I realized that I too say that to myself everytime I encounter a hill while I ride (and trust me, there are plenty of those in Victoria).  I have been my own doula all along.  And when I don’t think I can anymore, I hear Jay telling me that I can do it.  And she also reminds me to breathe!

I know that once I start the ride, there will be no going back (just like a mother-to-be, once labour starts).  I know that I will have to pace myself if I expect to finish (a Mom too).  I know that I will have to stay hydrated and nourished so that I have the energy needed for the journey (yep, Mom too), and I also know that if needed, I can call for help (hmm, a taxi might be My chocolate cake).

Jay and I have tried to prepare ourselves as well as possible for this event.  That’s all we can really do.  Now we have to wait and see where our journey takes us.  I know we will make it to Portland, and what I hope for the most is that at the end of our ride, we look back and say: ‘We did it”!

We’ll keep you posted.  And as some of you go through labour on July 17 and 18, we will be thinking of you and the hard and rewarding work you are doing… along side us.

Happy Cycling & Happy Birthing!
Laura

P.S. In case you are wondering what the chocolate cake is all about, in my classes, I use “chocolate cakes” as an analogy of pain medications.

UPDATE: Click here for an update on Laura & Jay’s Ride!

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My First OFFICIAL Blog Post

Well, of course, I have been blogging for years: writing short essays for my website on topics that I hoped would be useful to my clients and my colleagues.  But now Mothering Touch has an actual Official Blog.  This is a little intimidating.  And yet, so much happens here every day of the week, I should never have trouble finding something to write about.

Right now, in the big activity room, Do Stier, a Doula Trainer for Vancouver, is running our annual DONA-International Post-Partum Doula Training.  Fifteen enthusiastic and caring women are learning how to help mothers and families in the Post-partum period (the first six weeks after birth).  Last week I ran a DONA-International Birth Doula Training and twelve new birth doulas have now joined our birthing community.  One of my trainees, came from as far away as Edmonton!

A couple of moms with their babies, on a stroll downtown, have popped in to nurse on the comfy brown couches in our smaller back room.  That back room – officially called the Resource Room (now "The Nest"!) – is one of my favourite things about this place.  We planned it as a room for breastfeeding consultations and private prenatal classes.  It houses our lending library which contains books and DVD’s on pregnancy, breastfeeding and early parenting.  The room also gets used for meetings of local community organization, like the Doulas of Victoria or Breastfeeding Matters.  And on most days, a few mothers and fathers and babies find their way there for a quiet time and a peaceful breastfeeding moment.

Tonight, when we’ve tidied up from the four-day doula training, there will be a prenatal yoga class in the Activity Room.  Elke will lead the lovely round-bellied moms through invigorating and then relaxing poses.  After that, I will teach the fourth class of six-week Childbirth Preparation Class for Doctors’ Patients.  Having spent the last three weeks learning about childbirth and natural self-help and coping measures for labour, tonight we will examine pain medications and other medical interventions.  I look forward to seeing this group of excited parents-to-be, whose questions and curiosity always make the evening lively.

I hope this this blog can become an extension of our store – a place where new and expectant parents can be sure of a friendly welcome and balanced information.  We hope you’ll visit us often.

– Eva

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Breast is Best for Moms Too!

It’s common knowledge that breast milk is the best start for babies, reducing risks for many short term and chronic diseases.  But the best kept secret is that breastfeeding is beneficial for moms too!

Latest studies show good evidence that women who breastfed their infants have up to a 12% reduced risk of type 2 diabetes for each year they breastfed.  Breastfeeding decreased the risk of ovarian cancer by up to 21%. Breastfeeding also decreased the risk of breast cancer by up to 28% in those whose lifetime duration of breastfeeding was 12 months or longer.

Women who did not breastfeed their infants were more likely to have postpartum depression (unmeasured factors, such as depression that was undiagnosed prior to giving birth, may have increased the rate of depression seen in this group).  And current studies show that after weaning their children, breastfeeding mothers’ bone density returns to pre-pregnancy or even higher levels.  In the long-term, lactation may actually result in stronger bones and reduced risk of osteoporosis.  In fact, recent studies have confirmed that women who did not breastfeed have a higher risk of hip fractures after menopause.

If we as a community want to improve the health of our future generations, we need to come together and support our mothers in their choice to breastfeed. Here’s our chance to support breastfeeding moms!

– Eva

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Bellycasting

Making a belly cast is a wonderful way to capture your belly in the final stages of pregnancy.  It can be done on your own, with your partner, or as part of a blessingway ceremony.

help pregnant mom remember the latter days of the third trimesterThe dried cast can be left blank or decorated pretty much any way you like: with paint, feathers, collage, beads.  If you do your cast as part of a blessingway or with friends, you can ask them each to bring something meaningful to decorate your cast with.  Friends and family can help the pregnant mom with the preparation and casting process. Afterwards, it can be hung on a wall as a visual reminder of your baby’s first home.

Making the cast is fairly simple, and you can gather the supplies at a craft store, or buy a kit at The Mothering Touch Centre with everything you need as well as instructions on how to create your cast.

We also have books such as Birthing From Within by Pam England, it offers advice and techniques for making your cast, as well as other projects to express yourself artistically during your pregnancy; and Shari Maser’s book, "Blessingways: A Guide to Mother-Centered Baby Showers".  She has many suggestions for marking your pregnancy as a rite of passage into motherhood.

So pull out your beads and feathers, your favourite pictures and your paintbrush, and get casting!