Friday, July 30, 2010

Planning for the fall is underway!!

Some of you may know that last December my friend and doula partner of 7 years, Kari Hollingsworth left Birth Rhythms. It has been such a big transition from being a team to having to hold the deep vision by myself.  I have been moving forward in some exciting and big ways, but some days they serve to exaggerate that loneliness I feel. I miss her.

Kari and I were 'born' as doulas together. We attended our first births in the same year, 4 years before we ever met.  We both volunteered as doulas and held similar jobs talking to teens in the high schools and then landed in the same doula training course in 2003..  Just as I have seen women bond and go on to practice together in the course I now teach, Kari and I saw eachother's spirit.  Spirit sisters she calls it.  We served women separately in birth, came in as a back up when needed, and dreamed together of ways we could make doula care and better prenatal education available to women in Saskatoon. We loved the women so much we held classes that we never made a dime on. Why?  To make sure they had a chance to own their births.  To share with them the joys of childbirth, and tell them about the secret paths, the untold obstacles and that every birth where the woman is in control, is a victory and a miracle.

We did it. We loved the women together for seven years and things started to change. We needed more women to hold the vision, and to serve as doulas, but as the vision expanded life shifts for both Kari and I meant the end of a partnership.  Is it the end of that vision? No, surely not.  Is it the end of Kari and I serving women in birth, no again.  We are just called to do it differently now.

Kari continues to work as a doula privately in Saskatoon. We are dear friends.

Birth Rhythms has expanded its offerings to mothers and families to include comprehensive childbirth education, two fitness/labour prep classes and various pre and post natal support groups. Are we going to make a pile of money? No.  Are we going to be a part of the revolution to give birth back to women. YES!

I also have a new focus on expanding  access to doula services as we train new doulas more effectively and mentor them through an apprenticeship system so that they can establish their own work and reach more women with their unique gifts. There is nothing else like it in Canada. It is exciting to tell you that six women will be a part of this program this fall!  I will be posting about them and introducing you to them over the next two weeks.

August 15th our new website will be live and we are all looking forward to meeting you at our grand opening celebrations on September 19th.  I will post more on that next month but mark your calendars!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Doulas Play Key Role.- Star Phoenix Article!!!!

After more than 30 hours of labour to give birth to her first child, Brooke Graham was convinced she'd never have another.

During the birth she took every medication offered and later suffered severe postpartum anxiety.

Four years after her daughter's difficult birth, Graham became pregnant again. She was terrified. A counsellor suggested she hire a doula.

She'd never heard the term. "I thought, 'Whatever, we'll give it a try. It can't hurt,' " Graham said.

Now, after the birth of her son -- the "most empowering experience" of her life -- she's training to become a registered doula.

"It's the greatest secret ever kept," Graham said.

The term doula means "caregiver" or "woman of service." The loose translation Graham is most fond of is "mother of mothers."

Doulas provide non-clinical support or care before, during and after birth for the woman and her partner.

Lisa Wass began working as a doula before she knew what they were. In 1998 Wass left teaching and began working in mental health services. Her first client was pregnant. Three weeks later, she supported the young woman in labour.

"I realized that day that . . . every birth at our hospital was very much a part of the big birth machine," said Wass. "I wanted to advocate for women so they understood that they had choices."

A few years later she was in the library doing research when she met Debbi Mbofu, the province's first registered midwife.

"She said 'Oh, you're a doula.' I said, 'a do-what?' " said Wass.

Misconceptions about doulas abound.

"When I first started meeting clients and I'd come in and have a conversation they'd say, 'This is cool. You didn't come in waving incense and crystals,' " Wass said.

Doula work is anything but hocus pocus. Wass details the different angles used in child birth, how a position change could mean the difference between delivering the baby in a yoga position or relying on vacuum suction.

Though they can provide suggestions, doulas are not midwives. They cannot prescribe medications, do medical interventions or conduct clinical examinations.

A doula responds to the wishes of the expecting mother, whether that means an all-natural, at-home water birth, or a planned caesarean section.

"We provide resources so that they can make informed decisions," said Wass.

"Somehow I would love to dispel the myth that doulas are all hippies," Graham said.

Both doulas say they support the concept of a doula for every woman who wants one. For that to happen, more women must become doulas.

"We need a lot of different women. Variety is very important," said Wass.

Though diversity is desired, it's difficult to come by. The work is demanding -- once the doula arrives, there are no shift changes. Labour lasts on average between 12 and 20 hours. The maximum caseload is one to two births per month, and that means being on call 24 hours a day. It's too much for many doulas, which means turnover is high.

From 1998 until 2007 there were about five or six doulas taking clients in Saskatoon at one time.

Wass has since trained 45 doulas from Saskatoon and area. She's worked to expand services into northern Saskatchewan, and is one of a few doulas who travel around the province. She has also spearheaded the Prairie Birth Collective, an organization of doulas, hypnotherapists, birth educators and massage therapists.

Evidence shows that doulas' efforts work. Intervention rates drop drastically and epidural requests are reduced. Caesarean sections also drop by 30 or 40 per cent when a doula is involved, says Wass. Studies show a woman's birth experience directly relates to her experience mothering, and women have fewer instances of postpartum depression and problems breast feeding.

It equates to a cost saving for the health-care system, but it's up to the mother to seek out.

Doula care can cost on average between $300 and $1,000. In British Columbia, where demand is very high, people pay thousands of dollars. Because of the demand, and the results of a task force study that show the rates of intervention drop dramatically if a doula is present, B.C. has begun incorporating doulas into public-health programming.

Right now there are no plans to incorporate doula care into the health-care system in Saskatoon, where the focus is expansion of the year-old midwifery program, says Sheila Achilles, director of primary health services for the Saskatoon Health Region.

"We don't have the capacity to pursue bringing them on as employees," Achilles said. "We certainly are supportive of any mom who chooses to have a doula with her."

After more than a decade serving mothers and their partners, Wass says the medical community is finally responding positively.

"It's a huge shift in Saskatoon," said Wass. "We used to come into the hospital and they'd say 'You're a what? Your name's Abdula?'

"For a little while there was a lot of hostility, because there was that needing to define roles. But now, there's such a great understanding of what a doula brings to the birthing woman and how we can work as a team," she said.

Read more:

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Dads and Doulas

I am a 35 year old father of two beautiful, naturally birthed boys (4 years and 3 months). Our first child was born naturally in a hospital setting with the help of a doula. The experience completely validated our decision to include a doula in the process of pregnancy and birth. Especially for first time parents committed to learning about the natural birthing process, a doula is an absolute must. Our first experience gave us the confidence to have a home birth for our second child.

In preparation for our second child we needed a refresher on the natural birthing process and the many natural tools and techniques that can be employed to joyfully support the arrival of a new human into the world.

We came to Birth Rhythm for the Labour Intensive – Embracing the Beauty in Birth – hands on workshop for the refresher. WOW! It was exactly what we needed to re-engage with the tools and techniques we already knew of and to learn some new ones too! The most valuable thing we learned from the class was the distinction between the typical birthing process and the natural birthing process. The workshop was many things… hands on, educational, eye opening (especially for first timers), casual, friendly, respectful, and fun! The whole experience was extremely valuable to us.

My wife and I have a deep appreciation and respect for doulas. Our doula and the Birth Rhthym doulas have given us the key to the empowerment necessary to have a normal, natural and healthy birth experience.

For anyone who has never engaged with a doula, this workshop is a brilliant way to learn first hand how a doula empowers the birthing couple.

The experience was worth every penny.

I have the utmost appreciation, respect and gratitude for the Birth Rhythm team.

Aaron Chubb

-Saskatoon, SK

For more info read: 5 Reasons Dads Should Demand a Doula!