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How I thought this chapter would end – time for the next chapter

How I thought this chapter would end – time for the next chapter

It wasn’t supposed to end this way. Here is how I envisioned the end of this chapter in my life.

At the end of January, I submitted my two applications for the Warman and Martensville area Business Excellence Award (WMBEXA) for New Business and Micro-enterprise of the Year. I had my fingers crossed that, like last year, I would be a finalist. Because I had big plans for the women of Warman and Martensville who I have come to know through my work as a postpartum doula!

In my vision, I was going to rent the OK Tire passenger van, gather two tables of women to attend the gala with me, and celebrate the shit out of each other. Win or lose, I wanted to celebrate the friendships I’ve made and the support I’ve received since I became a postpartum doula in 2016. We would get dressed up, we’d eat great food, drink some wine, and then file into the van and head to Saskatoon for a night of dancing. I was even going to rent a hotel room and basically party all night. Unheard of when you’re a 39-year-old mama but it was going to happen, I could see it so clearly.

I was going to take that evening as an opportunity to thank all of the people who have supported me on my journey of becoming a postpartum doula and growing my business over the past three and a half years to include moms groups, workshops, in-home doula services, and birth story books. I was going to thank the women who have shared in moms groups and trusted me with their deepest, darkest moments and also their greatest joys. Many of these moms were going to be out dancing with me, so it would have been the perfect opportunity to toast each of them for the important part they play in my life. I remember when two of them (looking at you, Breanne and Kat) invited me out to supper with them one random Saturday: I was so happy to feel like I finally had friends in Warman; for a long time, I didn’t feel that connection and hardly knew any other moms (a common refrain heard at moms group!). Cheers to Brooke, Jessica, Amber, Shannon, Jillisa, Jess, Mary, Katherine, and so many more women.

First we met at moms group. Now we’re friends. Forever grateful for these women (who are so in sync they buy the same birthday presents for my son!).

I was going to thank all of the women who trusted me and invited me into their homes after they had babies. It was such an honour to be there in your most vulnerable days. Thank you for the visits and baby snuggles and letting me support you. An extra special thank you to Kristin Quinney, who was one of my first doula clients. She became one of my best friends. She knows me so well and loves all of me. And also Jessica Dutchak, another dream client who became a close friend.

I was going to thank people like Erin Francais who has been my friend before I moved to Warman, was my friend when I moved here and didn’t know anyone and felt so alone, and continues to be my friend and colleague to this day. She does incredible work for my business! You need a brand design, you go to her, now. Same if you need a website or photos. Remarkable. She is who pushed me to take my business up a notch and it worked.

If I had won at WMBEXA, I would have given a shout out to fellow women entrepreneurs in Warman and Martensville: we have such a strong contingent of women kicking ass here. We support each other, and I’m honoured to be a part of this movement.

I would have also thanked my spouse, Doug Ramage. He gave me the gift of our son, who was the inspiration behind becoming a postpartum doula, and that’s what led me to where I am now. He has taught me to dream big and follow those dreams, even if you think they’re crazy – maybe especially if you think they’re crazy. I used to think he was bananas for thinking this way. He’s not. Dream big. Believe in those dreams. Believe in yourself. He has always believed in me, sometimes more than myself. No matter what it means for him or our family, he has encouraged me full-stop to become the truest version of myself.

There would be so many other people to thank, these are a smattering of the people who have been in my corner.

I had no idea when we met that Kristin would become so much more than a client: she’s now one of my best friends.

As we know, the COVID-19 pandemic hit our province like everywhere else, and large gatherings couldn’t happen, so the WMBEXA gala was postponed. The celebration I envisioned didn’t happen, but I’m hopeful it can happen at a later date. I had one more piece of news I would have shared that evening; since it didn’t happen, I will share it now.

I’ve done a lot of self-reflection since the start of 2020, and part of this has included who I am as a woman and what I want in my life. That is probably multiple blog posts but for the purposes of this blog post, the short story is this: my time as a postpartum doula has come to an end.

It was a really beautiful chapter in my life that fulfilled me perhaps as much as it did the women I served – that is why I wanted that evening together, to celebrate friendships formed, moments shared, some really powerful memories. We will still do this.

Like every story, there is an ending, but it doesn’t mean goodbye. It means we’re moving on to the next chapter. I’m not going anywhere, and once we are able to gather again, I look forward to attending an evening moms group, not as the facilitator, but as your friend. I am confident all the amazing women in Warman and Martensville will still gather for moms groups without me setting it up! You don’t need me. You have the power within you to create those meaningful connections.

Part of who I am, the very fiber of my being, is a writer. That will never change. And in the next chapter of my life, my professional focus will be on telling your stories. This includes your birth stories, but it includes other stories as well – everyone has a story to tell. I hope you will follow me on this journey. I have so much more I’d love to share.

Until then, remember that even though motherhood can be hard, you’re not alone. And all of your defining memories and moments — yes, even the hard ones (maybe especially the hard ones) — can one day be transformed into a timeless legacy. You get to choose what that legacy looks like: it’s your story.

Being a postpartum doula was a really beautiful chapter in mine. Now we turn the page.

Much love and light,

Darla

When the time comes to say good-bye

When the time comes to say good-bye

As I sit down to write what could be called a eulogy, the sun is pouring in through the window. I like to think this is Konan telling me, It’s ok, Mom. I’m ok.

Before my husband took him to the vet tonight, he took this photo of us. I think you can see in his eyes he knew he was about to cross the Rainbow Bridge. In my heart, I knew it, too. Earlier in the day, I made sure to spend some time with him, petting him, and I even sang to him. I tried not to cry, because as the mom, you don’t want your baby to feel or pick up on your sadness. You want them to think everything is ok.

Knowing the end is near and that it is for the best doesn’t make saying good-bye any easier. Reading texts from my husband as I sat in Dairy Queen, sharing a funnel cake and ice cream with our toddler who doesn’t understand he won’t see Konan again, I tried not to cry again. I felt bad I couldn’t be there for my husband (who also had to be there at my cat’s side a few years ago when we said good-bye) and for my dog. For the jerk that Konan had become to some people, he clearly loved and seemed protective of Cub (likely why he was a jerk to others), and Cub wasn’t intimidated or bothered at all by his 100 pound dog.

The universe has a way of coming full circle. Many people know the story of Konan: when he was young, ruptured his ACLs, required surgery, it was expensive, we fundraised to help us cover the costs because my husband was in school, and from that experience, Doug created The Konan Koalition to help other families cover the cost of expensive surgeries.

And tonight we found ourselves facing the very decision many families we helped (or couldn’t help) had to face…our now old dog had ruptured the suctures from his surgery, had an infection in his leg, and is beginning to show signs of dementia. It would cost a couple thousand to fix. We could try meds and physio, also expensive, and no guarantee that would work. The irony wasn’t lost on either of us as we texted back and forth until we agreed, “This was it.”

Konan joined our family because my husband wanted a dog, and yet he became my dog. I fondly remember him shitting on a yoga mat as I talked on the phone to my boss, unable to get him outside. We enjoyed many play dates at Sutherland Beach dog park. My first cat, Patches, tolerated and played with him a bit, but not to the extent our second cat, Jeremy, did. Jeremy loved that dog, and we often joked Jeremy thought he, too, was a dog, because he always wanted to rough house with Konan. All three of our kids loved Konan, and he never showed anything but love back.

Konan scared the shit out of many a friend and foe, partly because he was a big dog with a big bark. We admit he became a bit of a jerk by the end in his old age. But to us, he was a big lug with a big heart who grumbled when you tried to cuddle with him. I’m certain he’s in doggie heaven with Patches, chasing her as she hisses and swats at him. He’s running joyously and pain-free through water (though not too much), chasing and eating sticks as big as fence posts, hopping around like a goof with other dogs.

Thank you to everyone who over the years has supported The Konan Koalition and the SPCA, which is where we brought Konan home from. Thank you also to the U of S small animal clinic for all their kindness and compassion over the years (when Konan used to go for physio, he was a memorable guy!). From all the comments I’ve read so far, our silly mutt touched a lot of people, and that makes me feel good. Until we meet again…

In the words of my toddler

In the words of my toddler

A few weeks ago, when I was struggling and getting frustrated, I received this letter in the mail. I thought it was worth sharing.

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If Cub could write his own letter….

Being a toddler is new to me…

Should I nap? Or try to be a big boy and go without a snooze?

Should I wake up for a snack? Or wait for breakfast?

I love all my books, toys, and pets.

Of course, I love Mommy and Daddy, too. They are how I became so cute (as I am told).

I am a lucky little boy that can sleep in if I choose or wake early to catch the neighbourhood construction.

If Mommy worked outside the home, I would have to rise early, grab a quick slurp, and go off to daycare. Sometimes I enjoy toddler company, but only when I want to.

That chariot behind Daddy’s bike is so awesome. I can be out there with all the kids, see all the trucks and cars. It is so cool. Sometimes I am tired but there is so much to see, I do not want to give in to a nap.

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Fresh air – where was I all winter? There is a whole new world out there. Who can sleep?

Now that I have found my legs, I am so excited to explore. I am super lucky Mommy and Daddy keep me safe.

If I coudl master more words, I would tell Mommy and Daddy I LOVE, LOVE them. Thanks for guiding me on my journey to being a little person. I am sure you are proud of my accomplishments, however small.

Cub sure would have a lot to say.

May each day find you more at peace than the next.

Love, Mom and Dad

(written by Cub’s Grandma Debbie)

For more on understanding your toddler, check out this great article by author Rebecca Eanes.

 

Soft hands: a grandmother’s touch

Yesterday my son and I came home after a three-day visit at my parents’ house.

It’s always bittersweet when we leave. I’m happy to return to my husband, animals, and our home and routine. But we always have so much fun. It’s clear my son loves his grandparents, especially Grandma.

It’s probably at least in part because she willingly takes him outside 6 times in a day if he asks and traipses up and down the street pulling his sled because he only likes it on flat surfaces (once he likes something, he really, really likes it). Or it might be because she goes up and down the stairs with him umpteen times! Or because she’ll always get down on the floor and play with him at his level.

Either way, it’s clear he’s going to have years of fond memories, much like I do from growing up with a grandmother near by.

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My mom’s mom lived about an hour from us, and my dad’s mom died when I was quite young, so my memories are mostly with a lovely woman who lived in our small town. At some point, Mrs. Fletcher became my grandmother.

We often spent summer holidays with them, travelling across the province to see the sites here. More than once we went fishing up north at Cowan Lake. I remember a particularly rainy vacation at maybe Green Lake? We stayed in the cabin and played cards and pick up sticks.

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We regularly went over to the Fletchers’ house. My parents and they would play cards. I would play their piano, watch TV, play with empty Toffifee containers and those little ceramic animals. Those little things stuck with me so much that when I saw those little animals at a flea market the summer before Cub was born, I just had to buy them. Even though he’s still far too young to play with them.

Mrs. Fletcher made awesome chicken noodle soup with thick noodles. She always made me tea and had cookies for me to eat. And she had the softest, plump hands.

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She died of cancer just after I started my first year of university. We all felt so fortunate that she was able to see and attend my high school graduation since we knew she wouldn’t see other milestones. I don’t have many regrets in life, but I do have one around her: when she was sick, she asked if I could come over and help hand out candy to any trick or treaters who came. Afterward, she gave me $10, likely just to be kind and compensate me for my time. To this day, I feel guilty that I took it. No doubt as a grade 12 student, I dashed off to hang out with my friends. But I hope she knows that my friends or a volleyball tournament or really anything weren’t more important than her.

I’m not sure I believe in heaven, but it’s a nice thought to think she somehow sees me, Cub, and my mom. And even though there’s no blood connection, every time I hold my son’s hand and stroke it, I think of her, because he has the same, incredibly soft, plump hands. I like to think they are from her. She was family, after all.

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I could go on and on about the memories I have of her, some big, some small, all great. She was just always there, kind of like my mom with Cub (and me growing up, too). It makes my heart warm to know he will one day grow up with all these wonderful memories, too: some big, some small, hopefully all great.

Empowered, strong, fulfilled: my amazing birth experience

Empowered, strong, fulfilled: my amazing birth experience

I know it sounds cliche, but it’s hard to believe it’s been a year since our boy was born. I figure it’s a good time to put our birth story from pen to paper (or computer screen), as it’s something I’d like to continue sharing with our son in the years to come.

The short story is we had an amazing birth experience. Here’s what I can remember of the long story:

Flashback to August 2014. It was hot. I’d handled July no problem, but August hit and I’d had enough. Our little house didn’t have air conditioning, and I was a hot, huge, sweaty mess. So, the dogs and I headed to my parents’ house, about an hour away. The A/C was blissful. I’d come back to the city on Thursdays to attend a prenatal pilates class and then scheduled any doctor appointments for the Friday. After that, I’d head back to Young.

After one such trip, once I got back to my parents’, I emailed my husband, APB, insistent that he come and get me on Sunday. No particular reason. I just felt I needed to be home (plus I missed my cats!). He tried to encourage me to embrace the A/C but I was adamant. He came and picked up me and the dogs, and we were back in Saskatoon by 7:30 that night.

We went to bed around 10 or 10:30. I woke up at about 11:30 with what felt like the baby kicking me and then a huge gush of liquid came out. I tried to squeeze it off, thinking I was just peeing the bed, but more came out, so I made my way to the bathroom and ran the tub. Once in the water, I called out to APB and said, “I think my water broke.” I asked him to check the bed.

APB checked and said there was no doubt my water broke. He said I should call Karen, our back-up doula, as the doula we had hired was out of town on holidays. She figured it would work out because it was still almost 4 weeks to my due date.

From the tub I texted Karen. She didn’t respond right away, so after some encouragement from APB (who was washing the bedding because I thought I might want to labour on the bed if it was early labour as I thought it might be), I called Karen. She had heard the text and figured it wasn’t a big deal. Then she saw the phone call, saw my name, and looked at the time, thinking something must be up because it was me and so late.

After chatting, we decided Karen should come over. She texted at one point asking if we wanted coffee, and APB answered, “Sure, coffee would be great. Contractions are 2 to 3 minutes apart.” Karen decided coffee would have to wait.

For my part, I knew the contractions were close, but I wasn’t timing them. I was just hanging out, enjoying my midnight bath. At some point, APB was messaging the kennel where our dogs sometimes stay, to see if the owner could come and pick them up in the morning and take them. And she did! So appreciated.

I was still in the tub when Karen arrived. She joined me in the bathroom, as did Brooke, my cat. It seems like such a little thing, but I was thrilled to have my cat there. I’d intended to labour at a friend’s house (whom I thought was also away on holidays at this point), and while I looked forward to a larger, more peaceful space, I knew I’d miss my cats. At 1:48 a.m. we left for the hospital. Because I was exhibiting signs that labour was moving along quite quickly (contractions getting more intense and lasting longer) and because I was early, according to my EDD, Karen said we needed to get to there. APB was also getting nervous and was pretty excited to get going. He tried to make me put on a seatbelt but Karen told him to get going, so he put on the four-way flashers. At this point, I was in the front passenger seat, backwards, holding on, trying to focus on breathing.

We arrived at RUH around 2 a.m. Monday, August 18, 2014. I was apprehensive (when APB went to park, I turned to Karen, and exclaimed, “Don’t leave me!” Which was a bit dramatic, because obviously she wasn’t going anywhere), but the first nurse I encountered in assessment put my mind at ease. I believe her name was Kerry or Kelly (I’m sure it started with a ‘K’). The first question she asked was whether or not I had a birth plan. I was pleasantly surprised by this question. I did have a birth plan but because my baby decided he was in a hurry, I didn’t have it with me and told her as much. She asked if there were any key things that were important to me, so we outlined those, and all of them were respected during my labour. Things like lights off as much as possible (the lights were off in the delivery room, and we used light from the bathroom as needed – in fact, no lights were ever turned on during the birth); music (we played CBC Radio); no medication (I was asked once if I wanted pain medication for relief, I said no, and was never asked again); the ability to move around during labour and to deliver in whatever position was comfortable (I laboured the entire time switching between all fours and on my left side, and I delivered on all fours). I also didn’t want the monitor strapped to me all the time (which it was not – I was checked intermittently) and once the baby born, I did not want any medical staff telling me the gender or saying much at all. I requested immediate skin-to-skin and delayed cord clamping.

Our doula, Karen, with me and our son.

Our doula, Karen, with me and our son.

Not only did this nurse ask if I had a birth plan, but when a contraction came, she encouraged me through it by saying things like, “You’re doing great. Your body is designed to do this. Good work.” She was amazing. My wish is for every mom in labour to have a nurse like her.

From here on in, it’s hard to remember many details. I remember when things got really painful, saying to Karen, “I can’t do this!” She’d make me look her in the eyes and encouraged me that I for sure could do it, and that I already was. APB was right there encouraging me, too. Both kept saying, “Soon you’ll get to meet your baby!” I know at one point I replied somewhat exasperated, somewhat joking (as much as a woman can joke when she’s in the throes of labour), “You keep saying that!”

I had two residents and the attending physician, who was not my prenatal doctor but from the same clinic. Turns out he was awesome (so much so that we switched to him as our family doctor). Looking back, my birth plan said I didn’t want residents but I obviously forgot and it didn’t matter as they were all great and respectful of my wishes. At one point, one of the residents checked how dilated I was and then Dr. Dosman asked if he could check. A contraction came and I yelled, “NO!” and he said “OK!” and pulled off his gloves and walked out the door. I couldn’t tell if he was pissed off or took it in stride but I also didn’t care because I was feeling intense contractions!

Shortly before I delivered my son, the physician asked me about the shot of pitocin to stop any potential hemorrhaging. I declined it. He turned to APB to explain why he was recommending it, and he said I didn’t want it and he supported that. The physician again respected our wishes.

At one point, the physician asked if I was going to deliver on all fours. Karen checked with me, and I said I wasn’t moving anywhere. He was cool with that: he literally pulled up a chair with his feet because he was gloved and waited. He was completely hands off until the baby’s head came out.

Our son was born at 5:26 a.m. in my husband’s words, our baby shot out of me like a cannon. I don’t remember how I knew what to do, but I easily turned around and the physician handed my baby to me and laid him on my chest. My husband told me later that it was somewhere between 5 and 10 minutes later before the cord was cut.

While we were enjoying our new little family, the doctor asked if we has a name picked out, noting, “John [his name] is a good name.” We had a couple in mind but hasn’t decided for sure.

Love at first sight.

Love at first sight. I remember telling our son, “We did it.” It’s a phrase I’ve used over the past year when we’ve gotten through a rough spell or day.

Some point after our son was born, we called my parents, and it was then that we agreed on the name. I’d just recently shown them how to turn off the ringer on their phones but still leave it on. No answer. Of course! They called back a few minutes later. Such a cool conversation: our baby was being weighed on another table, and I said, “Can you hear that baby crying? It’s ours!” My parents still recall that conversation to this day. They were shocked, overjoyed, excited. Kind of like us. I mouthed the name to my husband and he agreed, so we told them and everyone else in the room: Cub.

APB says the room was dusty, but really, the guy who never cries had tears in his eyes after the birth. To this day, he won’t tell me exactly why. I hope it’s because it was an amazing experience.

My husband's dusty eyes. Moments after giving birth.
My husband’s dusty eyes. Moments after giving birth.

I know in my birth plan I had thoughts around newborn procedures, but I can’t remember if I requested them or not. I know our baby wasn’t taken to be weighed, etc until a while later because by then my second doula had arrived (she wasn’t on holidays after all! She was leaving that morning). She took some amazing photos of my son and me – which was nice, because we’d hired a birth photographer, but we forgot to call her. Whoops! This is my only regret, if you can call it that, around our birth experience.

The funny thing, too, is that we did all this research about labour and delivery, like the signs of early labour, but I didn’t have early labour (at least to my knowledge). I had downloaded these empowering spoken word chants I’d heard in a yoga class that I wanted to play in labour. Forgot about that, too, much like the birth photographer. But it all worked out as it should have.

At some point not long after the birth because we were still in L&D, my husband posted a photo on Facebook, and I started texting people. I texted one of my best friends who hosts a radio morning show to tell her we were listening and that I’d had my baby! At the end of her show, she welcomed the show’s newest and youngest listener, Cub.

Another friend texted to say she recovered a Riders football from our raspberry patch that she was picking so I told her, surprise! Baby is here! And then another friend who is also a colleague emailed a work question…to which I responded, surprise! I’m off now because I had a baby! It’s all kind of comical to think about. We stayed in the hospital a few more days and I was literally finishing freelance work assignments during our stay.

After giving birth, I felt like I could do anything. The nurse who was checking me over after called me a warrior because she said she’d never seen a woman dilate to 10 centimetres without an epidural. I had to double check with Karen that the nurse had said that, because it seemed astounding to me: mostly that she had never seen an unmedicated birth.

My heart is bursting in this photo.

My heart is bursting in this photo.

I wish every woman could have a birth like mine. Not the exact same circumstances, as I would never tell a woman how she should experience something as personal as birth, but one that is empowering and on their terms as much as is possible. Giving birth is a normal physiological procedure, and at times that has been forgotten in society. Women, you got this. Your body was designed to give birth. It will hurt like hell but it will be amazing.

A wise friend told me it would be the beginning of the greatest love story I’d ever experienced, and she was oh-so-right. The past year has had hard times, but it’s true that you mostly remember the wonderful and amazing times. Sometimes when I hold my sleeping boy, I still tear up with how much I love him.

With that out of the way, now we focus on the cake smash photos and singing ‘happy birthday!’

Edited to add: I wrote the original version of this when my son was 1. I continue adding to it as I remember new things either on my own or from talking to people who were there!

 

 

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