Friday, December 31, 2010

Doula 2.0

Here we are on the eve of a New Year, and like many I am pausing to reflect on the past 364 days. Typically I marvel at the speed of the journey from one year to the next, but this year it doesn't feel that way. Many of my experiences of 2010 have caused me to slow down and think, to critically evaluate my path and to examine my relationships and my roles within them. This year unrolled at a steady pace and I can think back and reflect on each phase with much clarity.

My children have grown of course and although that always takes me aback as they mature and change, I have very much savoured their company, their learning, the lessons they continue to teach me and their love. They have been a beautiful oasis in my complicated and busy professional life. They remind me of what we (my husband and I) have done right in 2010. The most important role of all seems to be holding well, is the most grounding thing I have in my life and caused me the least amount of doubt. I purposefully forced myself to make the most of not only days but moments with each of them.

The biggest change was expanding and moving Birth Source Inc. to accommodate a vision I have had for years. This was the biggest upheaval in many a year! Some days are a flip flop between excitement and regret still, but here we are working at fulfilling the vision and gaining confidence in it. This process did not zip by by any means. It has been slow and methodical, full of ups and downs and lessons that I will be forever changed by, both good and bad. So for this I must be thankful I suppose because if the journey were easy I guess I might not feel as determined to make it better! I have the best customers and support in my community than I could hope to have. Kathleen and Julie who work with me have been so supportive and helpful and understanding of my vision that I am eternally grateful to them for coming into my life! Kathleen is so even and calm and patient with my venting and ranting and offers me the perspective I need and the Mother to Mother support to the families that come to the store with all of her heart.

My professional relationships have ebbed and flowed in 2010. I have both lost and gained friendships within the doula/birth world and continue to digest and metabolize just how much of a profound effect that would have on me. I have many flaws, but lack of loyalty and ethics are not among them. I spent sometime feeling a little naive about maintaining these characteristics this year as they both appeared to have worked against me with regards to my doula work and my professional associations. But, of course after some time to reflect and heal I have come to understand that these are the characteristics that allow me to keep doing this work because I am loyal and ethical when it comes to supporting the families that hire me, the doulas that come to me for advice and a profession that I absolutely love.

Two experiences have influenced the reshaping of my doula self for 2011. The first one is attending the "Gentle Birth Guardian" training with Barbara Harper and Nadine Romain
in July and the second was leaving behind old associations with an organization I no longer felt benefited either of us.

The workshop with Barbara and Nadine helped me be comfortable with the unlearning I needed to do to feel truly comfortable with both my doula self and my personal self. I have been to many workshops, read all the books, bought into all the wisdom of the birth gurus and met many of them as well. When Barbara Harper takes you aside and talks with you about yourself, your dreams and goals and visions it is with such authenticity and grace it changes you. When she takes your face in her hands and looks into your eyes and says "I See You" she means it with all of her heart. She makes you feel like you make a difference and that your effort isn't for not.

All of us get into the birth field to make a difference to women and babies and everyone fulfills this in their own way, but Barbara Harper and my midwife Noreen Walker are the two women I have personally met that I feel are truly there for the Mothers and Babies. These are my mentors, not because they are rock stars in the birth world, but because they are willing to put themselves out there to make birth better for women. They don't worry about political correctness or rocking the boat and when I feel alone I think of them. These two women have made me feel seen and heard.

To examine the doubts I had and to take the steps necessary to be okay with saying goodbye to old associations that were holding me down and disappointing me so greatly was very difficult for me. I felt like I had wasted some of the best years investing in a one way relationships and sharing a common philosophy that turned out not to be. Much like a divorce I felt a big loss initially, a mourning if you will, but I recognize that it was a great learning opportunity and a valuable stop on my journey. It is easy to get comfortable and difficult to get out of( or in my case kicked out of) a comfort zone. I feel good about my service to my association as I furthered the vision of it's "founders" whom I respect very much and fulfilled my role as their ambassador with integrity and a pure doula spirit. I am okay now, with closing that chapter of life and moving on.

So... my resolution for 2011 is to continue improving my doula self, learning, creating authentic relationships, defending my doula sisters and helping them on their journey with whatever wisdom I am able to offer. I'm putting my energy to demanding and shaping not only quality education for doulas but mentor ship and support for them as well, casting off relationships with political ties and egomaniacs and getting down to the work of putting women first, something much is written about, but rarely practiced.
Peace Out,

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Tattooed Doula

I like tattoos. Always have, always will. I can't tell you when my appreciation began but the fact is that I now have three and will have more. The first two I have are small black and grey and not very "conspicuous" you might say, but they are very meaningful. For my 40th Birthday I decided to get the tattoo I have wanted for a very long time. I found an artist I felt good about, put much thought into the design and now I have a beautiful coloured half sleeve that I love.

I never felt much either way about how people might perceive me knowing I had tattoos. I mean I understand that for years people associated them with "bikers" and other wild personalities, but honestly they really have become mainstream by now with so many people getting them these days it is hardly shocking to see.

The funny thing about getting a tattoo of this size is how much of a social experiment it can be. I mean people that already knew me for awhile were not at all shocked, but it took others by surprise. These were mainly customers at the store and other people that I knew but didn't see often. The typical reaction was "Wow, you have a tattoo?" and the facial expressions were mixed. Would they think differently about me now? I could have had the tattoo for years for all they knew, but somehow "seeing" it potentially put me into a different light. The large majority of them were very positive though.

For people that like tattoos or had their own it served as a discussion point. They would admire the work, ask about the design etc. and talk about their own tattoo story. Other people commented on how I didn't seem like the type to have a tattoo, whatever that means and others would notice it and look visibly uncomfortable. I generally accept that people are curious, and yes there are those that just don't appreciate the art, but I have never felt "judged" by my tattoo. That is until a recent trip to Las Vegas for the ABC kids expo. Now it wasn't dramatic or blatant or anything just that I was a little more aware of what having a large tattoo means as far as the attention is gets.

As I went from booth to booth chatting with vendors and looking at the products I began to see a pattern. As I approached, one of two things happened depending in whether or not they noticed the tattoo before we started chatting or during our conversation. For those that noticed it right off they would either continue to initiate the conversation and as we chatted get warmer or they would be very short in conversation and not put out warm vibes so to speak. The rudest were the ones who noticed the tattoo and lacked the social etiquette to hide their reaction to it ( body language wise if you know what I mean). Let's just say those conversations were short. For those that noticed it well into our conversation it didn't seem to affect our interaction very much. Some would carry on like nothing and others would ask me about it.

This experience got me thinking about how one's appearance has the potential to affect their work life. It reminded me of when was younger and decided to get my nose pierced over 20 years ago now. I was told in dental assisting school that I would have to remove it or no dentist would hire me. Not wanting to reduce my chances for a job I obliged. I wonder if that still holds true today? Tattoos and piercings are fashionable now with many people sporting skin art and body jewelry. I bet plenty are dentists. Well, maybe not "plenty". The question is how does this affect peoples perceptions. Does the number of tattoos or piercings play a role and if so, what is considered acceptable?

I wonder if a tattooed doula could potentially not be hired because of her skin art? I mean imagine having a long telephone conversation with a women discussing her wishes and how they can work together to make the birth as positive as possible. The woman feels very comfortable with her philosophy and experience and is confident in her abilities and then she meets her face to face. Tattoos can be visible or invisible depending on the location of the tattoo and what you are wearing, but let's just say that at least a few are obvious in this example. Can you imagine how sad it would be if this initially positive relationship ended due to the appearance of the doula. A warm, competent doula who happens to sport tattoos might not be hired due to her appearance.

Okay I know that first impressions are important, but if the first impression over the phone was excellent then I guess there is very much a difference between first impressions and "visual" first impressions. It just got me wondering about my doula colleagues with tattoos and what their experiences might be. I have had plenty of client's with tattoos over the years and more than a few with various piercings. I can safely say that even if I didn't appreciate tattoos it wouldn't have meant anything either way about how I felt about them personally. With any luck a good match between a tattooed doula and her potential client's will be the same. I know plenty of beautiful tattooed doulas who Iwould welcome at my birth.

Peace Out,


Sunday, September 26, 2010

If These Walls Could Talk

I forgot I had a blog!! Well I didn't "really" forget but it feels like that since I haven't posted a thing in four months! The blog gurus would shake their heads for sure at my lack of frequency and content.

Anyway...I have been extremely busy since the beginning of May with the Birth Source Inc. store expansion and quite frankly didn't have the energy to blog about it at the time. Besides, it would have been far too negative, full of expletives and really just a complete downer to anyone reading it. I knew it would be work, that goes without saying, but no one could have prepared me for the stress that would come along with moving into phase two of my dream of Birth Source Inc. as a true community resource.

To make a long story short, I was mired in paperwork, red tape, last minute fires to put out at every turn, scrambling to find a new contractor on short notice and an electrician to replace the one who bailed on me just over a week before open! Thank goodness for my family and their dedication to getting the store ready to open as close to the target date as we could. My husband, children and of course my father who worked so hard and whom I can never thank enough! I have several others to thank for their help and promise them all I will pay it forward!

If the walls at Birth Source Inc. could talk they would tell you that I cried the first week I spent there, missing my old Birth Source Inc. and the security of my little store. Sitting among the boxes, not knowing where anything was or should go when found it. Looking at the unfinished workshop space with the wires hanging out of the ceiling and no store sign up to tell people we had arrived. Wondering if my decision was a good one, if I could handle the extra responsibility of the bigger location and it's future, accepting the financial responsibility it would pose on me and my family.

If the walls could talk they would also tell you how many wonderful people from the Gold Bar community stopped in during construction to enquire "what is going in here?" and being delighted to hear it would be a "baby store". Those same neighbors later stopped by and welcomed us to the area with open arms.

The walls of Birth Source Inc. would say how lucky I feel that the wonderful customers and children I missed so much during the move have come back, with love and support and humbling loyalty. They missed us too.

Birth Source Inc. is slowly moving toward the "Gathering Place" it was always meant to be. Collaboration and input from many others who understand and embrace the vision of offering women and families a comfort zone during the exciting, scary and often emotional ups and downs of parenthood. A place to come for friendship, learning and sharing.

Perhaps the most comforting thought is knowing I am no longer on my own. I am gathering a wonderful group of friends to share this with and work along side me to make the vision of Birth Source Inc. as true as it can be. As I jump over each hurdle my confidence and satisfaction with how much I am learning grows and just over two weeks later the walls of Birth Source Inc. are now seeing me smile more everyday.

Peace Out,


Sunday, June 13, 2010

My Heart Belongs to Daddy

Father's Day is on the horizon and like every year my thoughts get pulled toward how much my Dad means to me and how I can honour him on his special day. Like many Father's he is happy with whatever I do for him, which is typically find a practical gift to give him and make him a nice dinner. This year is different for me when it comes to thinking about my Dad though. I suppose it's partly because I am now an adult, with years of parenting behind me and many life experiences under my belt and maybe it's also because he is always in my life which is comfortable, predictable, and reliable.

My Dad taught me everything, how to ride my bike, to swim, play sports, to read a map,and to drive among other things. I get my work ethic from him as well as my loyalty. Once my Dad is your friend he's your friend for life. He doesn't have a large circle of friends but they are extremely important to him. People often say I am one of the hardest working people they know, well that's because of my Dad. If someone needs a hand he is there to help, until the job is done. He helps out at the store whenever I need it and often that includes holding babies too. He is there for my children after school when they need him and shuffles them to lessons, activities and various outings.

What I appreciate most about my Dad is that I feel unconditionally loved and protected by him til this day. He has never let me down my whole life. He would defend me and support me to the end no matter what. Now that isn't to say that he agrees with everything I choose in life, gosh no, but he supports me. He even paid for one of my home births, and accepts the fact that I like tattoos.

So my gift to my Dad this year is to Thank him. Thank him for being my most arduous supporter, my protector and my example for hard work, loyalty, honesty and trust. I will thank him by continuing to work toward continued success in my work, because he is so proud of
Birth Source Inc., being a good Mother because he taught me how children deserve to be parented, to be hard working and loyal to those I care about because those are skills he has taught me and are important to him. As a parent I understand the desire to make sure my children grow up well and are good people as adults. I am happy to give my Dad this gift and to make him proud of the person he helped shape and create.

My parents divorced when I was young and at the age of 14 I decided to leave my Mom's home to come live with my Dad. That was 29 years ago and when I stepped off that Grey Hound bus with just my suitcase and a cigarette dangling out of my mouth I am sure he had no idea what he was in for. Well it ended up with some bumps in the road now and again, differences and conflicts, but our relationship has stayed the course, evolved and is solid. I love my Dad with all of my heart and think he is the greatest Dad for me!

Happy Father's Day to my Dad and all the other great Dads both here and in memory for your hard work, acceptance, support and unconditional love.

Peace Out,


Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Every Once in Awhile...

I have attended plenty of births and each experience has been unique, because of course each woman is unique. The relationships I've shared with these women and their partners have at times been very professional and at other times on more of an emotional level. I have no trouble at all working with almost any woman and connecting to them( as it should be when you have been invited into their birth space), but sometimes the connections are on a different level.

People ask me frequently if I cry at births. Yes I certainly do at most, either at the time of or sometime afterward, because thankfully the awe of seeing a woman become a Mother isn't something I have "gotten used to". I have goose bumps right now just writing about it. If births become "Just another day in a woman's life" it's time to hang up the birth bag.

Every once in awhile though one sits with me a little longer, lingering in my thoughts and triggering strong emotion upon the simplest reflection if it. Such is the case of a birth I attended just recently. The birth itself was fabulous, (fast I was only there but 5 minutes before the baby arrived) straight forward, natural and almost completely free of interventions. What moved me so much with this birth was the aura surrounding the Mother. If you haven't seen it then it's difficult for me to describe. The ease at which she birthed her baby, the look on her face when she saw her child for the first time and the serene atmosphere, put me in a "holy" place at that moment. This is what women are capable of, what babies are capable of and why every second of the circumstances surrounding her birth matters. Every single person there, her husband, nurses, student nurse and doctors all honoured her space, talked quietly and gently to her and celebrated with her. I truly believe that each one was indeed just as in awe of her as I was.

When I reflect on why I felt so moved by this particular birth I know it was due to the connection that I shared with this Mother beforehand. We had the kind of knowing between one another that you can't put your finger on. We even dreamt of one another shortly before the birth. Every sense I had about how this birth would be told me she would be strong and beautiful and she was, told me the birth would be wonderful and it was, that I would feel very privileged to be there and I was!

It is times like that that make me so glad I walked into the doula profession and stayed here. Not every birth is going to be like this one, in fact probably not very many, but it makes me feel even more secure that my next birth has the potential to profoundly move me, to cement my respect for women and mothers and be eternally grateful for the women that invite me to share this time with them.

Women have the power to connect with each other during pregnancy and birth on a much deeper level than at other times. These connections can run strong and deep and tether us together forever. This is how I feel about my midwife. Although I don't see her often, know her extremely well or have the pleasure of another baby to share with her she has a solid place in my heart. When I see her face I feel my chest tighten and my eyes still want to well up with tears 9 & 7 yrs later, because I know how much she believed in me and cared about me at the time my babies were being born. I felt safe, strong and capable when she was present and that is a gift I will treasure forever! No matter how the births I attend unfold, whether they be over hours and hours or within minutes, this is the gift I also give to Mothers and thankfully they let me.

Peace Out,


Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Evolution of A Babywearer

My experience as a "baby wearer" began 21 years ago after the birth of my first baby. At that time there was limited choice for baby "carriers" and the term sling was not even in my vocabulary. I purchased a Snugli, a navy blue, corduroy one with a white flannel lining. I was in heaven! I carried my son in it everywhere and not having a car meant using public transit was necessary and now much easier! I practically wore it out! Once he was too big for the Snugli I transferred him to a stroller when I needed to go anywhere. I had a car seat for the occasional car trip, but it wasn't used much when he was an infant. Eventually I got a car and my Snugli was retired to the container of "baby stuff" I no longer used.

Fast forward five and a half years to the birth of my second child. There were some differences to my circumstances now. I was no longer a single parent, and had a five and half year old to drive to school (out of our neighborhood at the time) and to hockey practice. Having a car meant no more public transit for the most part, but the blue Snugli came out of the baby stuff bin( it was one of the few items I kept from the first baby). I used it much less then, but, when my baby didn't need to be in the car seat for travel he was out of it and in my arms. He spent quite a lot of time in hockey arenas as a baby, attending most of the practices and virtually every game his brother played so that would have meant a lot of time in his car seat! Eventually the Snugli went back to the bin.

In between the second Snugli retirement and the birth of my third child, six and a half years later I learned a thing or three. I became a doula, and that in itself opened up a whole new world to me (that is another blog post). Through the many books I was introduced to I discovered Dr. Sears and learned the terms "baby wearing" and "attachment parenting". To many of you who had not started having babies in the 80's this might seem odd to you , because it's now more mainstream. It could have been my age back then or partly because I didn't know anyone else who had a baby except a neighbor in my apartment building. I didn't know anyone who breastfed, slept with or carried their babies. I had one book on childbirth and did not attend any prenatal classes. I was going purely on instinct, so I was pleasantly surprised to learn there was a term for it. With our second child my husband followed suit, felt good about the same approach, gladly co-slept, and supported breastfeeding although I don't recall him ever baby wearing.

When I had my third baby I bought a ring sling. A lovely woman showed me how to use it properly and effectively. I found it to be more versatile than the Snugli as I could carry the baby longer and more comfortably. I went on to use it for my fourth baby too. I hiked many times using the ring sling, attended trade shows and sporting events, shopped and breastfed while carrying a baby more than I had ever done in the past. I had more children to care for so it made life so much easier. I had two babies (the last two were 22 mon apart) to take along to their big brother's activities and Daddy's as well. I couldn't imagine using a stroller and carrying a car seat or maneuvering a double stroller during those times!

Through my work as both a postpartum and birth doula I introduced client's to baby carriers and shared my experiences with them. When I became a childbirth educator, baby wearing and attachment parenting became part of the curriculum more and more. I needed to know a thing or two about it and my education continued so I could pass on accurate and safe information to my client's.

Fast forward again to the wonderful world of retail! When I considered the kind of business I wanted to run it was more of a resource center. It would be a place where customers and clients could come to gain information, share their experiences and buy practical, high quality products. The service that I would provide would be thorough knowledge of the items I stocked and to pass it along to my customers with hands on practical demonstration. How I learned about each carrier I sold was originally based on the manufacturers guidelines and instruction booklets. I felt this approach was good but, not ideal as I was learning along with my customer and let's face it I had not worn my own baby for a few years by this time. I purchased a DVD and watched You Tube videos to get a more practical idea of how they were used. Luckily for me I had a very experienced baby wearing Mama who worked with me who mastered many different carriers and the various positions they offered and we learned together as we added new styles to the inventory.

The baby carrier industry has practically exploded in recent years, both with work at home Mothers creating their own businesses and larger companies as well. One thing is for certain, there is no shortage of choice. I have been selling carriers for almost 4 years now, with the ring sling as my start point. From there I ventured into different styles and narrowed down my inventory based on some criteria that I am comfortable working within. I now carry some favorites including Mei Tai's, soft structured carriers, stretchy wraps, pouches and ring slings. I will be phasing out some brands in favour of others in the coming weeks and months.

I've been interested in carrying a woven wrap at the store for about a year now. I have sought out information on them and have seen a few up close. I have questioned Mothers who use them, people that sell them and perused baby carrier websites. I really feel like a woven wrap will be a very welcome addition to our carrier collection. However, woven wraps have been the one carrier I strongly feel that I need to learn hands on myself. It offers such a variety of carrying options for babies of all ages and the many tying options mean I need someone very experienced to show me first. I am excited to be attending a baby wearing workshop this weekend, where I will become proficient with wraps and polish up my skills with other carriers at the same time. Besides, with baby wearing front and center in the news at the moment I feel I need to be more than ever, very confident in my ability to help my customers and to pass on the message that baby wearing is safe for babies of any age.

I have come a long way since my Snugli days, but just as I felt back then carrying your baby against your body, close to your heart is one of the best gifts you can give both of you. Keep an eye out for some great new carriers at Birth Source Inc. and happy baby wearing!

Peace Out,


Thursday, March 11, 2010

Do As I Say, Not As I Do

I have been initiating some conversations around breastfeeding covers these days, because I read a blog post with a very negative opinion of them. It caused me to wonder why someone would have such a strong opinion about a piece of cloth and how breastfeeding women choose or not choose to use one. I was curious if other women who had used them felt the same way.

In talking to Mothers I learned that the ones who chose to use some sort of cover did so for various reasons, none of which stem from wanting to "cover up" that they are breastfeeding. Simply put it offers them the ability to feed their babies in public with some degree of comfort. Some women with larger breasts have told me that it is easier to use a cover than to try and make sure the baby and the clothing are covering them up. For other women it was due to a distracted baby or the fact that they wanted the baby to be able to nurse in privacy. Good point really, because when I go out to lunch or dinner with someone I love I don't appreciate strangers watching us eat either sometimes. Other women use them in certain circumstances and social settings such as when they are in church or out to dinner. Other women told me they appreciated having coverage in the back and were more concerned about exposing their postpartum backs and bellies than their breasts.

The woman who authored this blog post used a cover herself at one point and apparently it didn't work well for her. It seems that she initially used one to prove to her friends that one could discreetly nurse in public. When one cover didn't work beyond three months because her baby no longer wanted to be covered she tried a different style, that one also failed her so she ended up nursing her child in the bathroom.

Now with her second child she has "learned her lesson" and proudly breastfeeds in public. She states "I breastfed everywhere with pride. I just whipped the boobie out and put it away without anyone being the wiser." I guess all the women who use covers must not be proud to be breastfeeding in public? I appreciate that she has come to this point and feels like she has liberated herself from the nursing cover, but it is after all her second child and she now has some experience with nursing. Many of the Mother's I talked to also used one with their first baby and not as much or not at all with their second and/or subsequent babies. Good for them at least they were not feeding the baby in a bathroom!

With her new found freedom from the "silly nursing cover" she goes on to assure us that she isn't an exhibitionist. "I really do not want strange men staring at my second-baby-30-something-year-old breast. They are not as nice as they were when I was 19 and proud to show them off." I am still not sure what to say to this, but I guess she still attempts to cover her breast albeit without a cover.

There are a number of options for women who want to cover up while feeding the baby including fashionable nursing blouses, t-shirts, even dresses that are specially designed so babies have access to the breast for nursing, but allow for full coverage at the same time. Some women use a receiving blanket, shawl or whatever is handy. Still other women wear their own clothes with no special features and opt for no cover. What I rarely if ever see is a woman nursing her baby in public with her breast(s) actually exposed. So even those Mothers' that don't feel a special cover is necessary are typically nursing their babies with some degree of coverage for whatever reason.

So my point really is that this seems to be another case of "Do as I say, not as I do" which to my mind is unfair and judgemental. If you want nursing women to get out of the house, not have to pump bottles to feed the baby while they are out and not nurse in cars and bathrooms get off her case about using a cover. Remember because it didn't work for you, doesn't mean it is silly and useless. I am going to agree that no special cover is a must have for every expectant Mother, but I will say that if she chooses that then let her have it and be happy for her that she is continuing to breastfeed her baby whenever and wherever she chooses and on her own terms, which is really the point.

For a discussion about covers go

Peace Out,


No One Puts "Doula" In The Corner!

Well, actually they do and that's fine with me, I prefer to blend in at a birth whenever possible anyway. What I mean by "blend in" is to not be at the center of the experience at all times. I step up when I am needed and step back when I'm not and when I do it right I don't confuse the two.

So, how does one know when they are needed or not? Good question really. That answer lies in the relationship with the client and how the labour unfolds. Sometimes I pull many tools out of the birth bag and at other times (more often) just use my hands, my voice and typically my ever trusty Omni massage roller. Sure we talk about the various comfort measures available at the birth during our prenatal visits, but we don't know if they will be necessary or desired at the time. These are options at our disposal and to use with our discretion. If a couple decides the woman's partner will be primary support then he/she can use all the comfort measures and tools and I am happy to guide if need be.

When a client and her caregiver are discussing her care I step back or remove myself from the conversation. It is awfully awkward when the caregiver keeps shifting eye contact between myself and my client as if they need to convince me that what they are telling her is reasonable or acceptable. Of course it is none of my business, but if I am in the space of the ensuing conversation they might feel like they need to include me. If a client wants to bounce the information off of me or clarify something there is plenty of time to do that once the caregiver leaves. What if the caregiver doesn't leave you ask. Well, if my client seems confused, afraid, or anxious and the caregiver doesn't address it I might ask her "How does that sound" and then follow her lead. I know that when my client looks at me and says " what should I do?" she isn't asking me to decide for her or looking for approval just trying to make a decision and doesn't have enough information to go ahead. But, to a nurse or caregiver they might confuse that with imposing my ideas onto my client so I ask if they have any questions. This is usually enough to clue the staff in that they need to give her more information.

When a client is working through contractions and is coping well I am happy to simply offer her a drink, chat in between contractions if she likes, check in with her partner or simply nothing. If she needs massage, suggestions for positions or if her partner needs reassurance I am happy to do that for her. For all intents and purposes to the casual observer it might appear as if I am doing "nothing" just sitting in a corner quietly observing, trusting and waiting until I am "physically" needed. But in doing nothing I believe I am giving her space to find her strength, space for the couple to work it out between them. That is my job as I hold the space, and model the type of atmosphere they desire.

If birth takes a path less travelled and our map is no longer helpful then together we adjust our sails and move forward. In the end the experience will be hers and she will own it. I will be happy knowing that sometimes the most valuable thing I can do for her is be a familiar face, affirm her feelings and express my confidence in her and the decisions she will make. When a woman says "I couldn't do it without you" I know what she is saying is " I did it, thank you for believing in me" Of course she can do it without me, I am there to hold the space for her, serve when I am needed and sit in the corner when I am not, because SHE is doing it.

Being put in a corner by a less than accepting caregiver, nurse or midwife because THEY don't see the value in what a doula does is not a problem to me. Disrespecting the wishes of the woman and dismissing who she chooses to invite to her birth is on the other hand and all the more reason to quietly support her, because of all the people in the room aside from her partner I might believe in her and respect her the most of anyone. So put me in the corner I don't care, but don't put the Mother there she deserves to be front and center in her experience and no one else.

Peace Out,


Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Birth Source Inc. and the WHO Code

I recently had a spirited conversation with a sales rep from a breastfeeding supply company that I purchase stock from. Now, first of all I have to admire the sales people that actually show up in person, as most of the time business is done over the phone and by email. I love the Internet and all it has done to unite us from far and wide, but I am a face to face kind of person who likes to see the people I am involved in business with. I like to show them where and how the products they offer are displayed and sold. I want the face of the company they work for to see a small business person who carefully chooses products to serve it's customers.

On this sales call the rep brought along a woman from the company, a marketing person who specializes in merchandising product for retail. This was a pleasant difference for me as I am usually left working out how to properly merchandise products, which believe me is a whole profession on it's own. I am very open to displaying things according to how the company envisions their products. After all they have worked hard to create, produce and market them. I listened carefully to their suggestions agreeing that I could merchandise things a little differently perhaps.

Everything was going great up until the question of why I don't put more of the stock out on the floor was brought up. This is where things went sideways and my relationship with this rep was altered. Now just so you have some background I stock more of this companies products than many I am aware of in my community. I do this because some parts are hard to find and when a Mother needs them, waiting for it to be shipped can be too long in some cases even if it is only a day two. Also I sometimes get referrals for special needs feeders etc. so I keep them in stock. What I don't do is put them out on display in the store. Things like pump parts, extra tubing, nipple shields, bottles and nipples are tucked away in clearly labeled storage containers for when a customer "needs" those things.

The friendly merchandising woman showed me several examples of displays from other stores (one a chain store) with the products hung in neat rows, filling every inch of the shelve space, in like categories, in a convenient self serve fashion for the customers. I agreed it looked great and perhaps my little display could use some jazzing up. I explained that I try to make products as self serve as possible for my customers, however I don't think it is necessary with all the products such as the ones aforementioned. She asked me if it was because of the WHO Code to which I agreed that was indeed part of it and also because I feel it is important to find out what the customer really needs as compared to what they have been told they "might need".

Let's take for example the pregnant couple who came in recently to buy some cloth diapers and asked if I had any nipple shields. A friend had told them it was good to have one on hand to prevent sore nipples. I explained that nipple shields are prescribed by a professional lactation consultant and if not used under the appropriate circumstances they can cause problems as opposed to helping. The key to addressing sore nipples is latching the baby well and getting qualified help with it right away if needed. If there is a legitimate issue with the latch then the professional can encourage the use of one. This way the parents will hopefully receive thorough and accurate information on it's purpose, how to use it properly and how to wean a baby off the shield as well. I could go on and on about nipple shields and my concern about how they are dispensed as a substitute for adequate help, but that isn't the point of this post :) The point is that I listen to my customers and then make suggestions based on the information I gather during a face to face conversation with them. I provide them what they need at that time, not what I can sell them at the time.

Anyway the sales rep and the merchandising lady assured me that if I supplemented my stock and tweaked my merchandising I could double my sales! Now to a business person and store owner this is usually music to the ears, but in this case not so much. I explained that I am not interested in doubling my sales of bottles, nipples and breast shields. I sell pumps to people that "need" pumps not to those that don't. The sales rep then asked me if I tell the customer they can store breast milk in bottles too. I said yes I do and that I am happy to offer them the bottles with solid lids for that purpose but, unfortunately the company doesn't make a kit with that type. I have to purchase them individually. They have a feeding and storage kit complete with bottle, nipples collars etc. She then questioned that by not displaying them am I taking away the "choice" for women. Hmmm... the last time I checked lack of choice for bottle feeding options was not a problem. This was where my face felt warm and my heart rate went up a little. The editing process in my head was hard at work while I responded to this.

I explained that Birth Source Inc. is not typical to most stores in that I interact with my customers on a much different level than say Wal-Mart or Toys R Us etc. I have thorough product knowledge and the education to assist people with buying decisions. I have helped hundreds of women breastfeed to various degrees and that I continually update my knowledge with continuing education. I am sorry but I am not budging on my commitment to following the WHO code.

They seemed to understand what I was saying and stated that their company was committed to breastfeeding first. This is where she called me on the whole WHO code question as she pointed out the fact that I sold soothers and they were out on display. I agreed that was true and explained the special nature of the pacifiers to her, but she made a valid point. So the pacifiers are no longer out on display and available to parents who request them from now on.

The idea that I am somehow taking away choice bothered me for quite sometime afterward. As a doula and childbirth educator I am committed to helping people recognize they have choices and the encouragement to explore them. I am not making any judgements by not openly displaying bottle feeding items or taking away choice from anyone. I am choosing to serve the needs of breastfeeding Mothers, who are very under served in our community. I offer their companies products to women based on their individual and specific needs, educating them on proper care and use of the products and the best customer service possible just as every responsible retailer should. This should be our mutual goal, but somehow it is obvious that it is not.

Peace Out,

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Gisele Bundchen ~ Let Her Have Her "Painless" Birth

There is a buzz about super model Gisele Bundchen describing her birth as "painless". As one would expect there are mixed reactions to her declaration. I didn't give it much thought until today, when I heard a host from a showbiz news program question her on it. To paraphrase " As someone who has given birth naturally myself, without an epidural come on Gisele, painless?"

This was the turning point for me in forming an opinion on this story. How, where, with whom and all the other choices women make about their births are questioned and judged so much! If Gisele says it was painless, then it was painless. Why would she say so if it was exruciating?

Allow Gisele her experience and be thankful that she describes this moment in her life so positively, that is what is most important here, how Gisele feels about it. Obviously painless birth is possible because "she" has had one, let her have it!

Did you have a painless birth? It is okay if you did, I believe you.

Peace Out!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

What's In A Name?

The other day I was surfing the net and thinking about the number of businesses that serve mothers and babies. Boy there are a lot of them! As I read the various names I got the thinking about how it is they chose that particular name and I recalled a customer who questioned the name of my store.

She came in with her pregnant daughter looking to purchase a birth pool. After walking around the store for several minutes she presented the pool at the cash counter. Her comment to me was "Birth Source, this place should be called Baby Source. There isn't much for birth here". I briefly explained to her that not all of the "birth supplies" are out on the floor and pointed out that we did carry various other products that are "birth" related. She seemed unimpressed all the same and I let it go.

Once again I recalled another customer, a labour and delivery nurse from the Royal Alexandra hospital as I would discover. She had a cautious look on her face when she walked through the door and when I greeted her she told me she was looking for a baby carrier. After we found one for her and she picked up several other items she told me that she was initially nervous about shopping at Birth Source because of the doula connection. Apparently she had met some doulas she didn't care for. I guess a store run by a doula would be..."crunchy"?? I am happy to say that a nice conversation about doulas ensued and she left the store feeling much more at ease about shopping here and hopefully doulas as well.

So why Birth Source Inc.? Well the Inc. is kind of obvious, but where did Birth Source come from? Once upon a time almost 6 years ago I met a woman and fellow doula, Sandra Bilodeau whom I got to know over a period of months. We agreed there was a strong connection between one another both professionally and personally and soon after decided to become partners and as such needed a business name.

We brainstormed together, poured over our list, wrote out our choices several times and finally rested on Birth Source. This title would best describe our services in a nutshell. We were a "Source" for doula services, childbirth education, information and yes even some products back then. I enjoyed a very successful and happy partnership with Sandra until her husbands' Canadian military career took her back to Ontario.

A couple of years later after much contemplation and dreaming my website and resource center/ retail store was born. The question was would Birth Source the name still work? I would be carrying much more than birth products in the store, and doing more than prenatal classes. I would be offering supplies, gifts, products and services for both mothers and professionals that would span the childbearing year and just beyond. Was "Birth Source" too ambiguous? I decided perhaps so, but it would still be the umbrella for all the services I hope and plan to offer to the families in my community. It was born out of a love of serving women and families and that still remains. My good friend and partner Sandra and I lovingly chose it and I would like to hang on to that very happy time in my life.

So if it seems like a curious name for a store it is my wish that people will come to understand my intention is to serve them during the most monumetal phase of their lives with my understanding of the various facets of this phase including learning, sharing and products to enhance it.

Peace Out,


Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Here We Go!

Venturing into the blog world at last! I have to say that this has been a long process for me. Not because it had to be, but because I made it that way (unintentionally of course). Up to this point I have been an avid blog reader, marvelling at the talent of the bloggers and the content they put up hoping that one day I would find the energy and courage to try it. I am not by nature a technical person by any stretch of the imagination! Managing to maintain my ecommerce website was a HUGE learning process for me and still is so I was a little hesitant to add yet another mind boggling activity to the mix.

I started out okay choosing a blog program, and with the help of a tutorial on the web I found a host and started to "build" it. Now for those savvy computer folk out there it might have been a cake walk, but for me personally I quickly got overwhelmed with the gadgets and graphics etc. etc. and that is where it stopped!

I thought about the blog I had started and neglected feeling guilty about not following through, rationalizing to myself that I will do it when I get concentrated time to really figure things out and do it well. Thoughts of branding and sexy graphics and applications swirled in my brain! In short I got bogged down in detail and lost the purpose of the blog,which is to put up content and connect with others.

So this morning I made a decision, to keep it simple and just jump in and do it. Never mind how it looks today, it will surely evolve just as everthing else I have chosen to pursue has. I am looking forward to connecting to others and to enjoy the purpose behind this blog and that is to hear from you on the joys, heartaches, ups, downs, quips, quotes and musings about life, pregancy, birth, breastfeeding and parenting. So glad to have you here! Please join in!

Peace Out,