A Mother’s Love Shared
by Alyssa Jarvis
So I missed it! My 11-month old finally decided to crawl. We had been waiting for this big moment for a while now. She had been rocking on her knees and scooting about for the last month. Then, she finally got it. And I missed it. A whirlwind birth took me away from my babies for 1½ days. And I missed it.
I know I can’t be upset. I mean, I have seen the first crawls, first steps, first everythings for our other two. My wonderful friend and childcare provider didn’t even bring it up to me because she knew I would be heartbroken … but my husband did (believing, of course, that he saw it for the first time.) He was so happy because he had witnessed one of our three doing something momentous for the first time. He missed all the other firsts because of work.
I have to let him have this moment without being upset but it’s hard. I’ve been at home with my kids, I mean really BEEN at home for the past 7 years, and these are the things that matter to me. They sort of define me. I never thought I would be this kind of mom. You see, before kids, I used to value myself as much by my clothing as by the car I drove. I dressed in a suit everyday and had my hair highlighted every 6 weeks. Now seven years later, I am back to my natural hair colour and am lucky if I get it cut every six months. Surprisingly, I’m OK with this new definition of ME! In fact, I love it!
You can’t forget that I’ve also always had a “job” while I’ve stayed at home. I “mothered” six other kids at the same time as my own. Making lunch for two picky kids is much different than for eight. Listening to eight excited children tell me about their day is amazing but over the past years, I’ve awakened more than once in the middle of the night wondering if it was my kid or someone else’s that needed a dozen cupcakes for the next day’s bake sale. In my daycare these “extra” children were like my own. I loved every one of them and miss them all for their own special reasons. I admit now that the daycare is “closed”, my house is much cleaner and the closet door can close without six extra snowsuits … but I still miss the noise and excitement my days held.
My days are different now. With a baby and two kids in school full-time, I work a few days (and an occasional overnight birth) outside the home. I have an arrangement with a dear friend for childcare. I am truly blessed to have her in my life. We each have three kids – two who are school-aged and babies a month apart in age. We have the same philosophy about family and parenting. We’ve both chosen to give up some of the “extras” to have this time with our kids. I now know how it feels to find the “fit” you need to make work and childcare “work.” I know that if I ever have to drop my pyjama-clad darlings on her sofa in the morning’s darkness and race off to a 7:30 meeting, they would all miraculously have their teeth brushed, faces washed, be clothed, and make it to school with a full belly … without me being there and without me worrying for a second. I am so lucky. I know that.
So today, as well as celebrating Maryn crawling and Corey’s “first”, I’m also celebrating someone else. I searched high and low for a special poem one of my “daycare” kids gave me on a Mother’s Day. She’d printed her name in her best 5-year old printing and topped it off with a zillion X’s and heart-shaped O’s. It hung on my fridge for a long time. It was the thing I looked at when three babies were crying at the same time, a potty trainer just missed the potty, and grilled cheese sandwiches were burning on the stove. I was having one of “those” days.
Although you are not my mother
You care for me each day
You cuddle, sing and read to me
And watch me as I play
You see each new accomplishment
You help me grow and learn
You understand my language
And listen with concern
I come to you for comfort
And you kiss away my tears
I proudly show my work to you
And you give the loudest cheers
No you are not my mother
But your role is just as strong
You nurture me and keep me safe
Though it may not be for long
You know someday the time will come
When we will have to part
But you know each child you have cared for
Is forever in your heart
You see, I know now I’m OK with sharing life’s momentous events … because I know my family has found that “fit” that makes all of this “work.”
Thank you Eva for the love you have for my babies and letting me love yours. You are the greatest! And thanks for not telling me you saw her crawl first even though I know you did. XO
The Birth Of A Doula
By Jill Ritchie
I believe my birthing journey as a doula actually began a long time ago, when in my own infant days I would receive comfort from my mother’s skin as I lay suckling at her breast, listening to the sound of her heart beat as she held my swaddled body in her arms. I have early memories of my mother’s nurturing touch as she would gently lay cool cloths across my feverish brow. My mother would always know what I needed before I did. She had a quiet presence about her and I always knew she was close by. I was also fortunate to have the camaraderie of sisterhood, which has been ever present in my life. Memories of early morning giggles to late night story telling are still etched in my mind. My sisters taught me how to listen, how to advocate, and how to believe in myself. The wonderment of their friendship still brings tears of happiness trickling down my cheeks.
The birth of my two younger brothers was another major milestone in my birthing journey. I was old enough to truly appreciate the miracle of life, to experience the joy of holding a newborn in my arms, and to also experience the patience needed to comfort the cries of a little one. I loved my baby brothers.
In my youth I took care of many other families’ children. Most of those children had wonderful loving mothers and fathers. However, one family was not so lucky and I learned early in life that there are women and children out there who need someone to listen to them and give them support so they can become stronger and more able to cope.
Some of my most amazing memories in my journey would be the birth of my own children. So many memories of moments spent cuddling, rocking, holding tiny hands as they took their first steps. I remember long walks in the park, consoling their cries, playing peek-a-boo games, first days at school, first dates, first cars and still so many more firsts to come.
Another powerful memory was that of three women in a postpartum ward: one a young teen mom, one a Polish immigrant woman who spoke no English and one a middle aged first time mom. Each of them reached out to me, not with their arms, but with their eyes and their tears. They were looking for guidance, reassurance and knowledge. They were looking for someone who cared.
My journey has had many twists and turns and just like in the birth of a baby, once baby gets past that turn in the birth canal, so too could I complete my journey that had been set in motion the day I was born. Those turns would include the death of a very precious baby girl and the passing of my father who mentored me through life, taught me about family values and showed me that it is always far more rewarding to give than to receive in life. It was during this time of losses in my journey that my spirituality was born. I thank God daily for the strength he gives me and for the guardian angels that he has blessed me with that help guide me in my journey.
My birth as a doula has been an incredibly awesome journey. I am so grateful that this was the path that was chosen for me to take on the day that I was born. As long as there are arms reaching out to me, I will be reaching back.
Life is all about family!
INTRODUCING “The Doula”
DOULAS Offer One-To-One Support
Having a doula present to help a woman and her partner throughout labour and birth is truly an age old concept. Since the beginning of time women have come together to help support women during labour. The word “doula” comes from the ancient Greek and refers to a trained and experienced woman who provides continuous physical, emotional, and informational support to a woman before, during and immediately following childbirth. With a doula, a woman is never left alone during labour and birth. Doulas are experienced mothers themselves who have a passion for supporting women through this incredible life experience.
In today’s society having a doulapresent has proven to greatly improve obstetrical outcomes. Studies have shown that attending to women’s emotional and psychosocial needs during childbirth, not only contributes to women’s satisfaction and self-confidence but also a 20-60% decreased use of clinical interventions, shorter more comfortable labour, better mother and baby interaction, greater maternal satisfaction, decreased postpartum depression, and improved breastfeeding outcomes.
“One-to-one support from a professional reduces intervention rates, lowers the need for pain control and generally produces a more satisfied patient. This support is crucial for first-time mothers and also for women who’ve had previous caesareans but who want, and may be able to deliver subsequent children vaginally.”
The Ontario Women’s Health Council (WHC) October 30, 2000 Report
Doulas work as part of the team of caregivers which may include OB/GYN, family physicians, midwifes and nurses, providing support during labour, birth and postpartum. The doula does not replace the partner but rather enhances the partners role by reminding the partner what they learned in prenatal classes, and help with positions, comfort measures, as well as allowing the partner to take a break. A doula will begin to meet with a couple as early as possible in the pregnancy so that a trusting, friendship based relationship can develop.
Doula support also carries on into the postpartum days. Postpartum doulas haveextensive knowledge in the areas of breastfeeding, infant care and psychological needs of new families.
Doulas may receive there certification through such organizations as the Association of Labour Assistants and Childbirth Educators (ALACE); Doulas Of North America (DONA), Childbirth And Postpartum Association (CAPPA). Each of these organizations have a strict code of conduct which must be adhered to as well as continuing education requirements for certified doulas to maintain their certification.
This was a feature Article in SPECIAL DELIVERY, Vol.24, NO.3. Fall 2001
Supporting the Dying:
A Doula’s Inner Faith in Guiding Her Father Home
By Jill Ritchie
This article is dedicated to my father who encouraged me to become a birth doula. I am sure he had no idea that he would be the one who would benefit the most from my new profession.
During the past year I had the opportunity to use my labour assistant skills once again. This time, however, it was not in the traditional sense of a birth doulasupporting a labouring mom, but as a daughter supporting her father in his wish to die at the home where he had lived for almost forty years and where, together with his wife of fifty-five years, he had raised their eight children.
I am sure some of you are thinking, “How could this be an opportunity?” Believe me, this was an opportunity in every sense of the word. It is much like a couple whose wish is to have a homebirth. The criticism that they get from the medical community as well as from their families is sometimes overwhelming.
I thank God I learned how to be an advocate for my clients. I certainly needed to be one for my dad.
I thank God for all the comfort measures I learned as a labour assistant. My father loved the aromatherapy massage I gave him. When the pain was too great to bear I would use visualization to guide him to his favorite resting spot – a park bench underneath an old oak tree. It was peaceful there, the leaves just starting to fall, warm sunshine on his face.
I thank God for the reassurance I learned to give – every day he asked not to go to the hospital; every day I reassured him he wouldn’t.
I thank God for the massage and counter pressure techniques I learned as a labour assistant; lying in bed day in and day out would cause my dad excruciating muscle spasms.
I thank God for the “take charge routine” I learned as a birth doula. So many times my dad wanted me to change his oxygen in the middle of the night only to fall asleep in the middle of me doing so; or when he wanted to get out of bed when there weren’t enough of us to help him. It is so hard to take charge with your father or to say ”no”, but I know I gave him a few more precious weeks with his loved ones by doing so.
I thank God for learning how to work as a team. Many times the family became torn about dad’s wishes and what the medical community wanted. As a team, working together we were able to fulfill our dad’s wishes.
Lastly, most important, I thank God for learning, as a labour assistant, to believe in our bodies – a woman’s body knows how to give birth; faith in that knowledge eliminates fear. The same is so in death; all life comes to an end and when we learn to face it with compassion and respect, the fear is gone.
Being a doula provided me the opportunity to experience a closeness with my dad that will remain with me for the rest of my life and that opportunity would surely have been missed had he gone to hospital.
Thank you to all doulas for giving me the knowledge of a doula and the wisdom to use it.
In The Beginning There Was Breastfeeding
…those babies in my arms, at my breast,clutching my hands, pulling on my hair, teething on my heart, tugging at my sleeve, one child in the stroller, one helping me push ceaselessly absorbing all my loyalty and love – those children redefined every concept of bravery, courage and independence.
Breastfeeding was the beginning of that bravery, courage and independence. Of course, I didn’t know that until many years later when I was faced with life’s challenges. These life challenges define us not only as women, but more importantly as mothers.
In that very first moment when we bring our newborn to our breast, we look down in wonderment at this beautiful child that has been growing in our womb and now finally lies safely in our arms. We have no idea what the future holds, and so it should be. That is why these early moments, early days, early weeks, and early months are more important than we realize.
We know that breastfeeding is an unequalled way of providing ideal food for the healthy growth and development of infants. Our ancestors knew this but we needed to rediscover this fact through research.
In addition to many health benefits, nursing is an easy and natural bonding experience. Your body has been sustaining your baby for nine months. Your body and your baby still crave and need this nourishment, this love.
Breastfeeding is part of mothering. When our newborns cry, our breasts ache to feed them. When our toddlers skin their knees for the first time, we wrap our arms around their little bodies and bring them to our breasts to comfort them. When your daughter melts into your arms sobbing over her first lost love, her head caresses your breast and catches her tears. When our children are grown with babies of their own, your breasts will ache to hold your grandchild.
Sometimes however, breastfeeding can come with challenges that we don’t always understand. This is a time to believe in your mother wisdom that has been passed down intrinsically from every mother before you. Love is the nourishment that is most important for your baby. It is lovethat our breasts ache to give.
Breastfeeding is an extension of the birth process and it is necessary to prepare for it. Surround yourself with family, friends and professionals who will support you in your mothering.
Long after our memories may be taken from us I have no doubt that our instinct to nourish will remain.
- Mother of 5
- Sister To 7
- Aunt To 17
- Great Aunt to 6
- Daughter of Lydia McKee
- Grand Daughter of Dora White
- Great Grand Daughter of Margaret Pinkham
- Great, Great Grand Daughter of Jane Mott