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Birth Happens: A journey of Wombs in Bloom.

One of the things about birth is that you can never predict when the baby is going to come. A due date is really just an estimated marker, but baby can come any day of the week. One of my dear doula sisters had the opportunity to be present at her sister’s birth. The catch: They live on opposite sides of the country. This is her experience of being a long distance doula and what she did to overcome her expectations of being present during the birth.

Birth happens.

As much as you may try, you cannot predict its unique process. That’s the beauty of it. Having the wisdom to accept that your baby knows when and your body knows how. Be at peace and surrender to the rhythmic waves of your rite of passage. Let others lucky enough watch in awe as you conquer each one.

I was one of those lucky ones chosen to watch another bring new life earth-side. A gift not many receive–The gift of witnessing strength and courage.

Being invited to be in the presence of the most powerful of feminine energies.

To hold space and to hold hands.

To support birth wishes and support new families.

I was chosen to be my sister’s doula.     With four years apart, I was constantly amazed by my big sister. Copying every movement she made, every word she spoke. Once becoming the middle child I came to understand this is quite annoying. But irritating or not, I was to fly back home to Ontario to be by her side. Fresh out of school and trained as a holistic doula, I had travelled to Victoria, BC to pursue a calling from my soul. A calling which had me leaving everything and everyone I knew and I wouldn’t change a thing. I know that this is what I am meant to be doing and there is nothing else suited for me out there. I had been given valuable skills. My mind filled with knowledge, my heart with compassion and empathy. It was time to put all of these to work.

We spoke over Skype and through text messages of natural birth wishes and comfort measures, herbs and skin to skin contact. I gave her resources and advice. She gave me the blessing of my very first client. She wanted a different birth experience than the previous: She wanted to feel empowered and in control. We did not need to meet every month to create a bond. The trust and comfort was already there running through our veins. We had stories and inside jokes, family vacations and family pets. We shared the same upbringing. We were children of divorce and we share the same emptiness in our hearts of an absentee father. I knew just as well as she did what support she needed, and we were both ready to learn, grow and birth together.

With signs of a preterm birth (low cramping, belly drop and already 3 cm dilated) weeks before her EDD we decided it would be best if I flew in two weeks early and we could all prepare together. But baby V was to enter this world at a pace no one could see coming. She was anxious to lock eyes with the familiar voice that calmed her growing body, the woman whose womb created safe and ancient territory. She wanted to meet her mama and no one was going to stop her.

It was settled. I was leaving work and all packed to go. I said goodbye to the animals and my partner and headed out to take part in the most intimate and sacred of moments. I felt fear and disbelief in myself. I can admit that now. The very thought of letting her down shook me to the core. I felt like I needed to prove myself. I desperately needed my family to see that going to the other side of the country had paid off. I would catch myself in this negative space and quickly remind myself of all the training I had received, all of the experienced and enlightened instructors who filled my life with wonder and curiosity. They instilled a yearning for personal and professional growth. My heart was ready whether my brain knew it or not.

Baby V was growing fast and a stretch and sweep was to be done on the day I would be leaving. A stripping of the membranes can take days, even weeks and sometimes they don’t take at all. In case of baby V this was it! Her pathway was within view and she was that much closer to meeting those who already loved her. My flight was at 9pm and I had three layovers before I could get to Ottawa. I tried desperately to change my flight, but in the end my heart knew what was happening. A call from my mother made it real.

“She’s 8cm dilated.” “But I’m still in Vancouver, my flight isn’t for another hour. This is my job and I’m missing it.” I rambled and raged. I sobbed and kicked my luggage. I didn’t care that people were staring. They’d be crying too I they were me!

I had done what I feared the most: I was letting my big sister down.

How could she ever forgive me for missing the birth? How could I ever look into her eyes knowing that I disappointed her so much?  For hours these thoughts ran through my head. I was wondering if she was coping and if she had stayed drug free like she had wished for. Did she feel safe and empowered? Were the doctors and nurses giving her time to labour? Each plane could not go fast enough. I couldn’t sleep; I just wanted to be by her side. I wanted to look her in the eyes and say “You’re doing it!” I knew I couldn’t do any of these things and I felt raw and powerless.

I finally landed in Edmonton, ran into the airport and checked my phone. My sister had birthed a healthy baby girl completely drug free just like we had talked about. She did it! Everyone was happy and safe. Despite the wonderful news, I was still upset about the situation and angry that it was still going to be another 5 hours and another layover in Toronto until I could see my sister and meet my new niece.

 And then something hit me like a ton of bricks; I was being selfish.

I was letting something so special and beautiful hurt my feelings. I was being childish and it needed to stop. As much as I tried, I couldn’t shake my grumpiness. What if I had jinxed myself and my career?

I finally passed out for the 40 minute flight from Toronto to Ottawa. I woke up feeling more like myself. My mom picked me up at the airport, bought me breakfast (finally food!) and then we were on our way to the hospital. All of my anger and resentment towards the situation and me quickly melted away once I walked into that room. I saw my glowing sister and the first thing she said to me was “I did it.” My eyes filled with tears and I replied with “yes you did. You’re a birth warrior.”

I knew I couldn’t turn back time and be my sister’s birth doula but I could use my skills and be her postpartum doula. I stayed for a week to help her and her husband as much as possible. For the first few days, I was on sibling and dog duty. Baby V’s hilarious big sister, A, kept me busy with cartoons and stories of karate. She called her new little sister “sweet baby” and always wanted to hold her as soon as she got home from school. She is in awe of this new life and she is going to be the best big sister.

Then it was placenta time. I was going to be able to give my sister back so many of the nutrients she had shed during birth. I had done a raw dehydration and encapsulated 100 pills but could have easily done another 100, I unfortunately ran out of capsules. She credits these pills for her exceptional milk supply and increase in mood.

I tried to let my sister and her husband sleep as much as possible so I would take the night shift–caring for babe from the hours of 11pm- 6am. I quickly fell in love. She is pure magic. We would stare at each other and I felt like she was looking right into my soul, like she knew who I really was. I wondered what her journey was like and if she remembered my voice from the first time I had talked to her in the womb. I played her sitar when she fussed and within seconds she was either mesmerized or fast asleep. Despite what everyone says, sleeping when baby sleeps was impossible. I couldn’t miss one second of those eyes, that yawn or those impressive farts. I felt capable and proud of myself that I was trusted with this precious being. She felt safe enough to fall asleep in my arms every night and I can never forget our time together.

It was hard leaving and it’s even harder being so far away and not continuing this bond. I love the island and I know that my heart belong to this land, but it stills yearns for the familiarity of home –like the smell of cinnamon that fills my mother’s home. Maybe one day I’ll go back, but for now I have a future to build here and I’m very blessed to know that I am being fully supported by those around me.

I will cherish my first experience with birth and even though it wasn’t exactly what I had imagined, it was still powerful and unique. I grew a new understanding for my sister and what she is capable of. I had always looked up to her because of her sense of humour and for always being the cool one; now I stare up at her with completely different eyes.

She is strong, she is powerful. She is a Birth Warrior!

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Essential Oils

Scents have always had a way of calming people and bringing them back into a moment. I can always think back to my grandmother and the sweet smell of cinnamon warmed apples baking in her oven or walking through Fernwood in the spring to find myself greeted by lavender on the street corners. I can even remember the smell of eucalyptus being rubbed onto my chest when I was a sick child and needed to clear up my air passages.

If you take the natural oils from these substances—may the oils come from the roots, leaves, bark, stems, you are creating an essential oil. The processing isn’t as simple as just collecting the oils though. They will need to be distilled and cold pressed to extract the oils and this can take a lot of work but in the end, you are left with an essential oil. Most of us will choose to source out companies that have a respectable crop and harvesting system to buy essential oils from. With these oils, you can incorporate Aromatherapy into your daily routine. Aromatherapy is used to enhance physical and mental wellbeing by promoting relaxation, pain relief, emotional support, skin support and many other aspects of life by stimulating brain function or absorbing through the skin into the bloodstream. Many of the oils have antifungal, antiviral, soothing, calming, and nourishing qualities making them a useful alternative for not only our bodies but for cleaning surfaces as well. These qualities also make essential oils and the use of aromatherapy a perfect form of alternative medicine during pregnancy.

From reducing anxiety and tension to enhancing sleep quality, the use of essential oils can be blended into any trimester and labor. With a world of oils available, most women can find at least one or two scents that resonate with them during their pregnancy and can even be useful in their postpartum period. If you find an essential oil or blend that works with you, you may find it increases your quality of sleep, reduces tension and stress, balances the body, clears the skin, minimizes cold and allergy symptoms and increases your overall mood. When diluted, essential oils are safe to use on baby as well and can even help with diaper rash or increasing milk supply.

While there are three main ways to incorporate essential oils into your pregnancy, I am going to focus on two. The third way to use essential oils is by ingesting them and I do not want to promote ingestion as there are many different qualities of essential oils available and one kind may be harmful. The other two ways of using oils is aromatically and topically.

When using Essential oils aromatically, you can inhale the oils directly from the bottle, place a few drops onto your hands or use a diffuser and fill your home with the aroma of your choice. This is great for emotional support, respiratory support and sleep support. Try taking in a deep inhale of the scent while thinking your favorite mantra or qualities and feelings that you would like for you, your baby, and your family. On the exhales, breathe out qualities you don’t need or feelings that are holding you back. This practice is a great addition to your morning and nightly routine as it can set your mind up for a day of positive feelings and relieve any stresses at night that you might have picked up throughout the day. Try stimulation scents like citrus or peppermint in the morning and calming scents like lavender or sandalwood at night.

When using Essential oils topically, you can directly place the oils onto your skin or dilute them in carrier oil. This method is ideal for spot treating pains and skin irritations. It is also wonderful for immune support or allergy relief. It is always best to test the oils on a patch of skin before applying to multiple places on your body. I only apply oils directly to the soles of my feet and the palms of my hands. If I use them anywhere else, I dilute the essential oil in a carrier oil—usually coconut. Some other carrier oils are jojoba oil, almond oil, olive oil, avocado oil, calendula oil, or arnica oil (you can make a great muscle treatment for sore legs and joints). My favourite skin moisturiser is using a base of coconut oil (1/2 cup), shea butter (1/4 cup), add in two capsules of vitamin E, a pinkie nail sized dollop of rosehip oil, mixed with lavender and rose essential oils until you get a desired scent. You can also add a few drops of essential oils to water with a splash of witch hazel to make a facial toner—I like lavender, tea tree and rose.

Essential oils are a great way to enhance your pregnancy but there are some oils that come with warning. Clary sage is an amazing essential oil to use during labour but it should be left untouched in your pregnancy until you are full term. Its powerful induction properties can help jump start contractions and give baby the strength to move down the birth canal. Applying clary sage to the beautiful baby point (TCM) in my experiences can get baby moving quickly. You can also mix clary sage with coconut oil to smooth over your belly. A combination of clary sage, lavender, bergamot, grapefruit, peppermint and rose can be added into a spritz bottle to help relieve nausea during active labor and provide another wave of power for you to work with contractions. Sage can also decrease milk supply in not only essential oil form but as a culinary herb as well so once baby is here it is best to avoid it in all forms. Peppermint as we know is an amazing digestive aid especially when it comes to nausea. You can apply a few drops of peppermint to a warm facecloth and place over your eyes or around the back of your neck to relieve symptoms of a cold or headache. It should be used with caution in the postpartum period as it may decrease milk supply. That being said, if you are trying to decrease milk supply, you can combine peppermint and clary sage and rub onto your breasts as well as the highest point between your shoulders and neck and see if it will help.  Fennel can help with milk production if you apply it with a carrier oil or onto a facecloth compress onto the breasts. This essential oil should only be used for a few days at most as it may increase urination. If you have high blood pressure, it is best to avoid peppermint, rosemary and clove as they will increase your blood pressure.
If you are using essential oils on your breasts and are breastfeeding, it is important to wipe the breasts before a feeding period. Using a hot cloth, you can wipe the remaining essential oils from your skin. The oils will have already released their healing properties into your bloodstream after a few minutes of application so it is okay to wipe off if you need to feed right away.

Although essential oils are used to enhance your pregnancy instead of harm, they should always be used at your own risk. Each body will react to oils differently than the next and some scents may make you feel ill while others will invigorate you. If you are using scents during labor or having someone who is planning to make you a calming labor spray, make sure you are alright with the smell before you fill your birthing room with it. If you are birthing at the hospital, it is best to smell the oil directly from the bottle in respects to the other birthing mothers and sensitivities of staff.

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Here are a few of my favorite oils with their healing properties:

Lavender: Good for all stages in pregnancy, calming, reduces stress and tension, aids in postpartum depression, calms skin tenderness(acne, bruises, bumps, rashes), sleep support, seasonal allergy support, grounding, prevents stretch marks, helpful in healing after labor, decrease high blood pressure, mastitis, safe for household cleaning.

Lemon: Good for morning sickness, uplifting, seasonal allergy support, digestive support, aids in postpartum depression, increases lymphatic function, cools the body when applied to the feet, invigorating, great oil to use in the morning.

Bergamot: Uplifting and calming, relieves anxiety and tension, soothes muscles, cooling properties, balances female energies, aids in postpartum depression.

Rose: Promotes skin healing, relaxation, reduces scarring, promotes elasticity.

Peppermint: Aids in morning sickness, reduces headaches and tension, helpful during transition, mental clarity, helps urinate during labor, reduces nausea.

These are only a handful of oils and their descriptions. If there was an oil you are interested in using during your pregnancy, please feel free to e-mail me and I can give you suggestions on blends and application processes.

Ficus
http://www.ficusdoula.com
ficusdoulaservices@hotmail.com