Why I wish I knew Darla when I had my baby: Karen Parmar

Why I wish I knew Darla when I had my baby: Karen Parmar

This is part of a series called “I wish I had known Darla when I had a baby” so expectant moms can find me before baby arrives and invest in their health and their family with a postpartum doula

I wish I knew Darla when I had my Logan 12 years ago. Logan was born a couple weeks early. My water broke while I was at work and I didn’t even have a chance to finish work, say goodbye to my work friends, or take a day off to myself before my baby came. Bam… I was a mother!!!

He was born quite small, which meant he needed to nurse more than some babies. He was colicky for the first 6 weeks and didn’t sleep well. I was exhausted! Although my husband was home every evening, the days were long. We had just moved to Warman and I didn’t know anyone yet. I felt lonely and then felt guilty for feeling lonely when I had a beautiful baby and husband.

Like many new moms, Karen’s entrance to motherhood wasn’t what she expected, especially the loneliness and guilt.

At the beginning, I had a hard time getting out with Logan because he would cry so much and nursing out and about was a disaster for me. I didn’t have confidence to nurse my baby in public, so I’d try to feed him in the vehicle. He would cry and so would I. I would get so frustrated so I tended to stay home, where it was easier. I wish I would have known Darla then as she would have been able to help with this.

It would have been so nice to be involved with a supportive moms group. Having a group of other moms to talk with and other babies for Logan to socialize with would have been wonderful. Although motherhood felt fairly natural to me, there were days that I would question if what I was doing was right or if I should be doing things differently. Some days I felt like I was winging it. I wish I would have known Darla then, but I didn’t. I do know her now and I’d love for you work with her.

I met Darla last winter and right away I felt good about her. She is kind, caring, and compassionate. She is one of my biggest cheerleaders, and wouldn’t it have been great to have that when I was a new mom? I would highly recommend Darla to help you through your motherhood journey.

Why I wish I’d known Darla when I had my baby: Corie Wiebe

Why I wish I’d known Darla when I had my baby: Corie Wiebe

This is part of a series called “I wish I had known Darla when I had a baby” so expectant moms can find me before baby arrives and invest in their health and their family with a postpartum doula
I had my first child in March of 2016. I was 26 years old, in a committed relationship, and had been trying to conceive for about a year prior to succeeding. I was ready for this new chapter in my life. I was excited for it. The elation I felt on seeing the positive test was indescribable. And short-lived.
image1.jpeg
My emergence into motherhood was rife with trauma, both physical and emotional. I don’t know what I expected the early beginnings of motherhood to look like, but I certainly was not prepared for the pain this transition would cause, especially emotionally. 
I became a Mom alone.
Oh sure, family came together to celebrate the birth, to meet Rhett, to congratulate us. But no one recognized the second birth, all too often eclipsed by the baby’s – the birth of a mother. This birth, in my case, was a storm. The kind you can feel coming by the tension in the air. The kind that promises to make you fear for your life by the threatening skies alone. The kind that – once you’re in it, demands all your attention be used to navigate your own survival.
By the time I went into labour with Rhett, I was already just trying to survive. I suffered with Hyperemesis Gravidarum for the first 20+ weeks of my pregnancy. I lost a significant amount of weight, and then I was shocked and upset (and shocked at my upset) to learn that I wasn’t carrying the little girl I’d been dreaming about, but a little boy instead. 
These were the first tidal waves. They were perceived as small, but were nonetheless impregnated with the threats of the storm on the horizon. A threat I could feel in my very soul.
I was still grieving the daughter I wouldn’t have when I went into labour — a labour that became a tropical storm of its own, ending with a vacuum delivery, hemorrhage, an abysmal apgar score, a jaundiced newborn, and a very unempowered me. 
image2.jpeg
I was drowning – and between mouthfuls, lungfuls, of water I was expected to respond to “Isn’t he wonderful.” “What a beautiful baby,” “You must be so happy.”
I would grasp for answers while fighting for breath, fighting to find my feet, fighting to find the surface.
I would get close enough to hope, but I was being berated by tidal wave after tidal wave.
Rhett wouldn’t eat – tidal wave
He wasn’t gaining weight – tidal wave
Our feeding schedule, allowing me 10 minutes between feedings – each one a tidal wave
None of my friends in the city had kids. My family was 3 hours away and my husband’s was 5. Neither side had dealt with Postpartum Depression anyway. I was drowning and I had no village.
image3.jpeg
My husband was frequently called home to save our son from his own mother. I yelled, screamed, at my 2-week old infant more than I’d ever yelled at anyone in my life. For offences like sleeping, or spilling milk out the side of his mouth. 
I would try to make him cry. I dreamed of killing him. I dreamed of running away so Mark could raise him properly, with love.
A coworker (who became a good friend) had a child around the same time as I did. We didn’t know each other well, but she tried to help. She’d take me to Mom Groups around the city, where I would try to make Mom Friends. I was desperate for a village, but not in a place where I could smile and chat and care about anything but this storm. I was still drowning, and it was still exhausting. Karen was trying, and I am forever grateful, but she was also going through her own transition into motherhood, and I knew I was a burden.
On top of these legitimate struggles, I simply didn’t know how to “Mom”. I felt no natural affection, I had never cared for a newborn, and I’m pretty sure intuition needs space away from constant and unrestrained fear. I researched EVERYTHING – a kind of hyper-vigilance borne to compensate my utter failure to love. I feared every cough, spit-up,and fever. My heart pounded in the space between each of his breaths, which I watched and counted, day and night.
These were the darkest times of my life. 
We came through them, we love fiercely, and our family has a strength that can only be forged through hard times, but I desperately needed a village. Women, newly unfolded Mothers, they need to be swaddled in love and fed the experience of the women around them. Not all hardship can be avoided, but not all struggles need to be endured alone. I was sure that no one had ever felt the way I did, and that was the loneliest struggle of all. 
image4.jpeg
I met Darla after the birth of my second child – already an altogether different (and better) experience. I attended the Warmen Mom and Warmen Breastfeeding Groups, and I connected more readily with the amazing women I met there.
When Paisley was hospitalized at 2 months old, I learned just how valuable Darla was, as she messaged with me day or night – providing assurances, love, care, and hope for my daughter and for me.
Darla, like any postpartum doula, will come to your house and help you, but she has also, importantly, perfected her own way of coming to your heart, and healing with love, coffee, and friendship.
If I had known Darla, she could have helped me to keep my house up whilst also teaching me that the neatness of my home is in no way a reflection of my worth as a Person or a Mom.
If I had known Darla, she could have met my baby boy. She could have held him and looked at him with that face that says “Wow – look at this perfect baby”; A face my perfect baby never got to see. I know she would have, because I’ve seen her bless other perfect babies with it. 
If I had known Darla, she could have connected me with services and resources to help me cope, address feeding issues, heal, and grow into the mother I was meant to be. The mother it took me 3 years to find alone in the aftermath of my personal storm.
I wish I’d known Darla, because Darla knows how to accept, adapt, and love. Lessons I really could have used a guide in learning. She is an entire village in a single amazing woman, and not only that – she can build a village too! Even in the wake of tropical storms. 
image5.jpeg
Why I wish I’d known Darla when I had my baby: Stacey Challoner

Why I wish I’d known Darla when I had my baby: Stacey Challoner

This is part of a series called “I wish I had known Darla when I had a baby” so expectant moms can find me before baby arrives and invest in their health and their family with a postpartum doula

“My “I wish I knew Darla” is slightly different because I did know Darla…since childhood. I did not, however, understand fully the value of a doula’s support until Darla and I reconnected at the beginning of my 4th pregnancy. Darla agreed to be my doula throughout my pregnancy and delivery. After two deliveries and a miscarriage that left me feeling fearful and anxious about giving birth, I was determined to create a new experience for myself and my baby. Darla was extremely reassuring that I could have a positive birthing experience. She equipped me with the resources to make informed decisions about my pregnancy, delivery, and postpartum care by skillfully answering all of my questions free from judgement or bias. It was truly an invaluable gift that Darla provided me the invitation and space to talk through my fears about delivery, express my sometimes irrational anxiety, and to be vulnerable about my past experiences. She helped me to build confidence in my body and its natural ability to deliver my baby, which was incredibly empowering.

Stacey glowing after the birth of her third baby, Nev.

When my baby girl ended up returning to hospital at 12 days old, I would again call on Darla for her support. She showed up for me, just as she had throughout my pregnancy and delivery. She sat with me on the paediatric ward late into the evening while I worried and cried. Her being there for me at that time was so touching to me, I doubt I will ever forget it. When Nev and I returned home, there were many days I missed Darla’s one-on-one support. I wish I had Darla’s support during my first two pregnancies and that distance hadn’t hindered her from being my postpartum doula. I certainly wish that every woman could have the same type of support that I received from Darla.”

What is family-centered maternity care & why it matters

What is family-centered maternity care & why it matters

While I didn’t know the exact definition of family-centered maternity care (FCMC) when I was pregnant and planning my birth, the birth I envisioned and hoped for fit that model without my knowing it.

wp-image-603669910jpg.jpg

I came to be more interested in the concept when I joined a patient and family advisory council for maternal services for our local health region. I joined not because I want all moms to have my exact experience, but so they may each have the experience they desire and their choices respected.

There are various definitions of FCMC but the main gist is that it respects and takes into consideration the patients’ preferences and empowers patients to be responsible for their self-care. It also reduces the use of interventions that are unwanted, inappropriate, or not needed (more on this definition can be found here, though there are many others as well). Reducing the use of unnecessary interventions matters because interventions can directly affect breastfeeding.

It was fitting then when last fall I was contacted by a postpartum nurse/instructor who is also a PhD student focusing on obstetrical research. She wanted to speak to a woman about her birth experience to see how it fit into the FCMC model. I’m always happy to share my birth story, and I was even more excited because she wanted to make a video project. My only regret, if you can call it that, from our birth is I forgot to call our birth photographer we’d booked – baby just came too fast and it slipped our minds! My doula took some pictures, which were amazing, but of course not quite the same.

This nurse and I discussed how my birth fit into the principles of FCMC. Here they are in more detail:

  • Childbirth is seen as a wellness, not illness, and a normal life event.
  • Care is personalized to the individual needs of the family.
  • The hospital team assists the family in making informed choices for their care during pregnancy, labour, birth, postpartum, and newborn care, and strives to provide them with the experience they desire.
  • The father and/or other supportive persons of the mother’s choice are actively involved in the care.
  • Whenever the mother wishes, family and friends are encouraged to be present during the entire hospital stay including labour and birth.
  • A woman’s labour and birth care are provided in the same location unless a cesarean birth is necessary. Whenever possible, postpartum and newborn care are also given in the same location and by the same caregivers.
  • Mothers are encouraged to keep their babies in their rooms at all times, and nursing care focuses on teaching and role modelling while providing safe, quality care for the mom and baby together.
  • Parents have access to their high-risk newborns at all times and are included in the care of their infants to the extent possible given the newborn’s condition.

These don’t sound like outrageous expectations, but they are not the norm for every family when they go to give birth in a hospital, and that’s a shame.

Why does this matter? Because a mother’s birth experience has a direct effect on her postpartum experience. We already know we need to do more to improve postpartum care for moms. A good first step would be improving her birth experience as much as possible so she gets off to a good start and doesn’t have to add dealing with a traumatic birth on top of healing her body and taking care of a newborn.

Watch the video below to see the beautiful representation Darcie did of our birth and how it fits into family-centered maternity care. I’d love to hear how your experience fits into this model of care or how it could have been improved to better reflect it.

[wpvideo PHJGfXmR]

Follow your heart: the importance of choosing the right caregiver, part 2

Follow your heart: the importance of choosing the right caregiver, part 2

I knew before I became pregnant that I wanted a doula. I knew the stats on how much a doula could help me achieve the birth I wanted (and conversely, navigate my birth if it didn’t go the way I wanted). With the help of a good friend, I selected four and met them for interviews.

I met two of them outside of my home: one in a coffee shop, one where she worked. The other two came to my home. All lovely women, they were a good mix: one taught yoga and was a registered massage therapist. Another also taught yoga and did placenta encapsulation. Two sort of fit the stereotype many think of with doulas: a bit on the hippie-ish side. The other two didn’t fit that stereotype at all. One taught pilates and was also an esthetician. The other has four of her own children, including a VBAC birth, so vast personal experience.

I was drawn to two of them: the pilates instructor who had years and years of experience and had attended nearly 100 births (she doesn’t have any of her own children, which didn’t cross my mind at the time, so I guess it didn’t matter to me, or I might have asked). The doula who had four children was my last interview and our chat lasted two hours. I felt like I was talking to a friend. I wanted to hire her immediately. 

Related: Why silence is golden: the importance of choosing the right caregiver, part 1

When I talked it over with my husband, he wondered if it was because she was the last one, and said people are often drawn to the last choice, in part because we remember it best. In the end, I hired the pilates instructor who had two doulas apprenticing under her. Our rationale was I liked her, we were getting 3 doulas for the price of 1 (one of whom was also a massage therapist, which seemed like a good idea when labour would become painful), and she had a ton of experience.

I continued my relationship with the other doula. She lent me two of her books and ended up being the teacher at the prenatal classes we decided to take. When I spoke up about the importance of hiring a doula at this class, I felt a twinge of guilt that I hadn’t chosen her, even though she didn’t seem bothered at all by it. We kept in touch, and I eventually asked the doula I hired if she could be the backup. All of this signalled to me I should have trusted my heart and my gut.

My son and I were always drawn to her warm heart. Here she had just snuggled him to sleep.

As I grew closer to this fourth doula, I had this nagging feeling in the back of my mind that she was the one I should have hired. When the doula we hired forgot our first meeting, that nagging grew stronger. I tried to ignore it, but eventually I said it out loud to my friend who had helped me choose the four to interview. I needed to say it to someone in a safe space and just get it off my chest. Admitting it was another sign I should have followed my heart. 

It’s as if the universe was listening. My water broke and contractions began nearly four weeks before my estimated due date. The doula I’d hired was on vacation, so it was my backup I texted, called, and who attended my birth. And when she texted my friend to say I’d had a beautiful birth and delivered my baby boy, our friend replied, “It was you she wanted there all along.”

I know I still would have had a beautiful birth if the doula I’d hired had been there. She is a lovely person, I loved my prenatal pilates class, and it was through that class I met one of my best mommy friends, so I can’t say I regret that decision. It worked out in the end anyway – funny how that happens.

Choose a caregiver with your heart, not with your head. After all, matters of childbirth and parenting are mostly matters of the heart. It didn’t matter who had more or what experience or how many doulas for whatever price; what mattered most was the connection I felt, and it was undeniable. Who has a two-hour visit with someone they just met? People who will become close friends who text each other regularly, try to have coffee together regularly, and tell the other they love them regularly.

Listen to your heart. The heart doesn’t lie. It will guide you to the right decision when choosing a caregiver who will be sharing in some of the most beautiful and intimate moments of your life.

 

 

Contact Me