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self care

Our Experience with a Doula: A Private Session to Empower & Prepare both Parents for Birth

Honestly if you were to ask us what a Doula was 1 year ago, we both would have looked at you blankly with our mouths open. “Doula” seems to be the buzz word during this pregnancy. We get asked “Are you planning on have a doula during birth?”, “Are you going to hire a Doula?”, “Will a Doula help you after birth?” Midwifes, friends, work colleagues & people we don’t even know ask us these questions, and to be perfectly honest we said no because we didn’t know why you would want to hire a doula…. we didn’t know what they did or how they would add value to the whole experience. Researching doulas and their role during pregnancy was high on my list just to settle my own curiosity and to be able to give an educated answer when asked if we are planning on having a doula at birth.

 

Saturday afternoons I go to a prenatal yoga class in semperviva and the teacher is a Doula, Teresa Campbell. Teresa is an awesome yoga teacher and as a pregnant lady I feel safe and comfortable going to her classes. She gave hints of her role as a Doula throughout the class and it intrigued me. She has over 20 year’s experience and has seen hundreds of births. She mentioned that she was holding a prenatal couple’s workshop that would be beneficial for both partners & moms. Unfortunately, it was held on a weekend we had signed up for another yoga workshop and we could not attend. Instead we signed up for a private class with her in our home.

 

I had just finished the book called “The Fourth Trimester” by Kimberly Ann Johnson and had my midwife explain to me what the doula’s role is during birth. I had a much better understanding of a doula’s role before Teresa came to visit. Doula’s are present to take in the whole experience which cannot be done by doctors or midwives as they are so busy charting & documenting the mother & babies progress. The doula is person who can help with all the emotions that come up during birth and after for both partners, she/he is there to provide encouragement & confidence to both people. I see a doula as someone who is completely dedicated to the emotions and experience of the mother so the birth can be the most positive experience possible for the mother & partner.

 

The major reasons why we wanted to have time with a doula before birth were personal to us but maybe useful to others.

An observation we both had was that the role of the partner during pregnancy, birth and in the early months after birth is unclear and often the partner can be ridiculed for being useless or confused. I believe this is really unfair. The more support and guidance we can offer our partners during this huge life changing event the better. Yes, the mother & baby are so important and are the leading characters but we also need strong supporting partners to make everything run smoothly.

 

We are so lucky we live in a time where men are actively taking more of an equal role to raising their children. Moms are no longer expected to give up their jobs and take the soul responsibility of raising the children. The new modern dad carries the baby in the carrier, has skin on skin time with the baby to help with bonding, changes diapers, feeds the baby pumped breastmilk/formula, helps with night feeds, the list goes on. It truly is amazing how times have changed since my parents’ generation. This is something I am so grateful for, now let’s help our partners by providing them with the information & tools they need to feel useful, loved & appreciated.

 

The modern dad has come a long way and it is inspiring to watch but it has not been easy for them or their partners. There is not much support for men out there who want to be more involved. Their role can be unclear and confusing especially during the early months of birth. I think they can be overlooked for the value they can add and how helpful they truly can be during the whole process of pregnancy and after.

 

I believe we need to offer our partners a roadmap of how they can truly help. Who better to do this than an observer like a doula? They get to observe the dynamic of partners during the birth and after. They have witnessed so many births and situations where partners have been excellent help and where others were not as prepared. Why not seek advice from a person who knows what works during labour for both mom & partner and who can empower both people by sharing their experience, knowledge, do’s & don’ts.

 

 

When Teresa visited our home for our couples’ prenatal course, we started off the session with why we wanted to take part in the course. Basically, we wanted more of an insight to both of our roles and visuals of what the birth would potentially look like and what we may be doing during this time.

 

Teresa explained what things George could do to make the experience more comfortable for me.

Some suggestions were:

  • Ensuring I was drinking enough fluids and eating enough snacks
  • Providing massages to help relieve pain (Teresa demonstrated particular massages George could do and we confirmed which I liked the best and the pressure I liked so George would know before the birth)
  • Keeping eye contact with each other to reassure mom that all is good, sometimes words are not needed
  • If it happened that the nurse, I had didn’t suit George can request for another nurse, he can ask for people to be silent in the room (staff included)
  • He could turn down the lights if they are too bright
  • He can play my favourite music
  • Basically, he will be the one who controls the atmosphere of the room with guidance and requests from mom

We had no idea about any of the above options. Instantly I felt more at ease about the birthing process. I had mentioned to Teresa I do not like hospitals and was worried how I would react arriving there. Thank goodness I have never had to stay in a hospital so the whole idea of it is alien to me. It’s nice we can make the room as homely as we can by having control over the above.

We practiced some exercises called eye gazing where it is to promote connection and intimacy between partners. We really liked it. We stared into each other left eye without saying anything, just looking into the eye. Then after a while as we kept eye contact, we mentioned 3 things we loved about each other, 3 things that we were most excited about and 3 reasons why we loved our baby. It was really special to take time out like this to just focus on each other because things can get out of control and the bond between partners can be stretched & pulled in different directions as time gets closer to baby arriving. When the baby arrives, you want to feel as close as ever to your partner but without truly taking time out to connect the bond can overly stretch and cause lonliness in a relationship. We do not want this to happen and really feel by just taking 3 minutes every day to connect is super powerful and will definitely help with build a stronger relationship after birth & help encourage intimacy when it feels right for both partners.

 

It’s important for the partners to know that the mother will go through several emotional waves after birth and that they should be mindful of what they say and who comes to visit. This is where the partner is great help. They can be the ones who text family when labour begins, they can be ones who tell family & friends that mom and baby are resting and to call back next week.

 

Teresa’s prenatal partners workshop was insightful for both of us. We learned a lot & felt reassured about the birth experience & our roles during the experience. The bonus from this workshop were the exercises Teresa showed us to help keep & build our strong connection after the baby arrives. After all we both love each other so much & we want to keep that bond even when we are sleep deprived & not feeling like ourselves. Something as simple as kind words of encouragement & eye contact can make all the difference. Our relationship with each other is just as important as our relationship with our new baby girl. My aim as a new mom is to show as much love to my baby & husband as possible because we all need love, support, respect and encouragement through times of change. No one should be left on the outside or feel not as important as another in our little unit of 3.

 

We would highly recommend incorporating a doula somewhere throughout your prenatal experience to prepare yourself as much as possible for during & after birth. We have decided not to have a doula present for our first birth as we want to see how everything goes with just us & the midwives.

 

Let us know your thoughts on the above and if you would recommend a doula for your first birth or not? We would love to hear your feedback.

 

I hope you enjoyed the above.

 

As always feels free to leave any comments.

 

Thanks for taking the time to read this blog.

 

Chat soon,

 

Theresa xxx

A Daily Meditation Practice: Make It Work For You

From trial and error over many years I have come to realize the success of a daily meditation practice for me is to be realistic. We would all love to meditate for an hour in the morning and an hour before bed but for the majority of us that is not possible. How much time can you spare and can you find a similar time of the day to practice meditation? Making the effort to carve out time for meditation is the first step. The next step is sticking to your commitment of time & place for your meditation. This is where you need to create a habit so like brushing your teeth in the morning, you do not pass a day without meditation.

For me the best time of day for meditation is first thing in the morning. I have set my alarm 15 minutes earlier in the morning to get up to meditate. I wake up, go to the washroom, put on an extra layer, drink lemon water, take out my meditation cushion, press start on my meditation timer and sit in silence for 10 minutes (additional 1 minute warm up to get settled). So why on earth do I get up earlier to meditate and not savour that extra 15min of extra sleep? Am I crazy? Possibly! The answer is I’m not sure. I was so close to googling why meditation is good and writing a paragraph about that to fill this paragraph with but let me try and figure out why I choose to wake up earlier to mediate and why you should too?

Is sleeping not better for me than waking up earlier to sit in stillness? This is a fair question since the majority of the population suffer from sleep disorders and don’t get enough sleep at night. However, sleeping and meditation are completely different and both bring amazing benefits and both are super important. If you are a person who doesn’t get enough hours of sleep at night, I would say don’t set your alarm 15minutes earlier to wake up for meditation, sleep and let your body recover. Choose a different time of the day to meditate, simple. On your lunch break, go find a quiet bench to sit on, an empty office to sit in, the restrooms to hide out in…. honestly anywhere you can find that you feel safe & at ease in. Don’t feel you need to sit on a meditation cushion, in yoga pants at 4:45am to mediate, you don’t.

Personally I don’t have an issue with sleeping which I am very grateful for and we go to bed early in our home, around 9:30 pm. Therefore, I get enough sleep so I can wake up 15minutes earlier to meditate. This routine works for me but find one that works for you, one is not better than the other. It really doesn’t matter when, where and what you are wearing, just take 10minutes to focus the mind to meditate.

So, what is meditation? Again, the temptation to google is there but I will answer from a personal place. For me meditation is a very active practice. From the outside you may look like still with very little movement but on the inside the mind is extremely active. The practice is to bring that outward stillness into the mind. The mind or our thoughts have an innate tendency to wander, flow, distract and go nuts when you bring your body to sit in stillness. In truth your mind is always going but it becomes really apparent how crazy your thoughts are when you sit still and bring your attention to them. The aim of meditation for me is to become aware of my thoughts, notice where my thoughts lead and bring them back to a still point by focusing on my breath, the inhale & exhale through an open mouth a focal point to help focus & control the crazy spiralling of my thoughts.

Focusing solely on your breath for the first few breaths can be easy, however without even knowing it the mind wanders off to past or future thoughts and the breath is lost. The kind of exercises I like to do to help focus my mind is to focus my attention between my eyes to my inner eye, this really helps me for some reason, it’s like a pause button until I get distracted by my thoughts again and I need to repeat the process. Another one I like is to whisper silently in a kind way to myself that I am thinking and to bring my attention back to a focal point, sometimes I like that point to be my belly. A great way to help focus the mind and distract yourself from your thoughts is to count to 10 and repeat. You won’t believe how hard this is, I have found myself almost at 50 before noticing I wasn’t paying attention. When you notice you are not paying attention you start back at 0.

So why meditate? Meditation is getting a lot of media attention lately which is awesome, most of us know the benefits of it already. Even 1 minute of meditation is supposed to be beneficial to our mental health. Again, I will speak from a personal experience. Why I mediate is for the mental challenge it provides every morning. I know challenging to still my mind helps me cope with life after those ten minutes. It helps me think clearer, pause before I react (this doesn’t happen all the time but I notice an improvement), it helps me listen more as I am not afraid to sit in silence, it helps me in awkward silent situations and not feel awkward, it helps me sit in a restaurant by myself and just sit there without having to pull out my iPhone to distract me from the silence or loneliness, it helps me feel comfortable in my own skin, it helps me cope in times of stress, it helps me relax and ease into my day, it provides clarity and helps me be present in moments that I really want to be present in and fully aware.

There are many scientific reasons why meditation is great and I am sure I am benefiting from so much more but these are the reasons why I keep meditating every morning. I see an improvement in my life and how I look at life in general, I have learned to separate the unimportant from the important (can still mess up of course) and I truly believe it is those 10minutes every morning that help clear space in my head for what’s important, stillness, awareness, knowing who you are and being present in this life and taking control of your life to live the way you choose. All that from 10 minutes a day. Try it and see how it transforms you. It’s not all hype, find a time that works for you and just do it.

 

Thank so much,

 

Chat soon,

 

Theresa x