Monday, August 27, 2012

To Be a Doula...

I struggle with answering people when they ask me what it is that I do.  A doula's job description is not cut and dried.  There is no pat answer to give, or list of duties.  If they had time and interest to listen, I'd tell them this:

Being a doula is being there.  It is sharing coffee on the couch while a mom finally allows herself to grieve a past birthing experience that left her defeated and angry.  It is validating her feelings, and hoping with her that this new birth will be empowering and strengthening.   It is rejoicing at the news that a baby daughter or son will join the family.  It is explaining pros and cons of AROM, delayed cord clamping and circumcision, and then trusting the parents to make their own choices.  It is confidence that yes, Mama, you can parent this child.  Yes, you can birth this baby.  It is urgent phone calls in the middle of family dinners that cause me to frantically motion the kids and husband into the van so I can get to a labouring mom in time.  It is my duffel bag, packed weeks ahead, waiting by my bed, by the door, in the van, wherever I go.  It is the car window open at 2 am in February, radio blaring to keep me alert on the way to the hospital.  It is the silence in the parking lot where I take a minute to sit and pray for health, wisdom and strength.  It is double hip squeezes for hours, literally.  It is water boiling, for tea, for the hot water bottle, for comfort.  It is bendy straws held to dry lips, and reminders to pee.  It is discussing the consistency of mucous plugs, and the colour of amniotic fluid.  It is fetching coffee for dads, and letting them know that it's okay to be tired.  It's okay to rest.  I will stay, and you can nap.  It's reminding them to stock the freezer ahead of time, to clear the air, the make it right.  It is excusing myself during a slow early labour, and sending the couple to their bed to encourage things along.  It is translating for a mother, fresh from Quebec, who can't understand the nurse, who can't understand her.  It is recording a daughter's entrance into the world so that her father can see her birth from all the way out west.  It is catching a midwife's eye and smiling when we both recognize the telltale breath catch grunt when the mother is finally dilated.  It is showing a Dad how to hold his wife in a supported squat,  and where to press for counter pressure.  It is smiling at him while he struggles not to cry as his daughter enters the world.  It is goofy grins that you just can't help when the baby finally slips out, covered in vernix and lanugo, and gives it's first lusty cry.  It's "Oh my baby oh my baby oh honey oh baby oh I did it I did it I did it I love you Baby I can't oh God thank you!'  It is congratulations, and sorries, and laughing and crying, because it is life. 

It's what I do.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

In Memory of Spot, the Pig

We got a pig.  We, who years ago would never have thought to even get a bird, got a pig.  We named her Spot. 

Can you figure out which one is Spot?

My friend, T, graciously gave me Spot when she was just a wee thing.  We bundled her into a dog carrier, drove her home (fast, to get ahead of the smell), placed the carrier in the pig enclosure and opened the crate door. 

Bam.  Gone.  She lasted all of 5 seconds before she ran off like a shot.  She sprinted across our yard, across the road, through the neighbour's yard and into the woods.

We searched high and low.  We set a live trap, and checked it every day.  Spot continued to be lost. 

Finally, after two weeks in the wild, Spot was caught!  And she was WILD!!  She thrashed and charged in the trap.  We set up a dog kennel as her new home and made it tighter than Fort Knox. 

People came from miles around to admire our pig.  My dad took one look at Spot and declared, "That pig is male." 

So Spot was not a she, but a he.  And we had to castrate it.

Thankfully, Dad has lots of experience and he offered to do the deed.  This was very handy for us.  You can't trust a scalpel to someone who's been wearing gumrubbers for less than 6 months.  That's just foolish.  The ear-splitting squeals brought the neighbours peeping over their fences, but it was soon over.  Spot's grunts took on a slightly higher pitch from then on.

We fed that pig thrice daily and he soon became very grateful and friendly.  He'd spot us across the yard and come galloping to the fence, snorting and wagging his tail.

Then, one day, Spot developed the hiccups.  It was so cute!  At least, we thought it was cute.  If only we'd known it was a sign of things to come.  Bad things.  Sad things.

One evening, I brought some beets and cucumber peels to Spot.  He wasn't well.  He shook, stiff-legged, foaming at the mouth, unable to open his jaws.  We called Dad, we called the vet and we waved over James, our neighbour.  It was confirmed. 

"That pig's got lockjaw!  Yessir!" said James.

Thankfully, our farmer neighbour had some Penicillin on hand and was able to spare a shot.  It was too late. 

Spot died that night.

Although we lost the pig (in the permanent sense this time), it was awfully nice to know how far our support system extends.  Dad, James & Jimmy - you're gold.

And, if we're going to get even deeper on the issue, how great is it that we are able to prevent such a thing in our families?  My kids are exposed to basically the same stuff as Spot (tetanus is not just rusty nails, but also dirt, dust, animal feces, etc).  Thank God it was the pig, and not one of them. 

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Why I Don't Do Nurse-Ins

World Breastfeeding Week is about to end, and Facebook has been inundated with links, articles, posts and pictures of happily feeding babies and toddlers.  My mother's heart says, "Aw!" whenever I see those photos of serene mamas and nurslings, with their chubby cheeks and butterfluttery lashes.  And, my mother's heart cringes a bit (a lot), at the comments that always accompany those kind of pictures.  There are always the comments.  When online articles and Facebook posts started to allow public comments, it seems that all of a sudden people decided that any opinion was worthy of posting, and that sarcasm, bullying and personal attacks were all okay, as long as you ended it with "Just sayin'".

This isn't about comments, though.  Despite how it may seem, the Internet does not have to belong in our lives.  We have the liberty to leave a website, or to slam the laptop closed if we don't feel like dealing with a stranger's flack.  In REAL life, though,  it can be kind of tricky to deal with snarky comments when feeding baby.

Thankfully, I haven't dealt with very many rude people in my breastfeeding experience.  Yes, I've had some people ask me if I'm *still* breastfeeding Gen, at the ripe old age of almost two.  I've never been asked to cover up (I'm discreet, I think), or told to leave a store.  There have been a couple times when men have walked into the room when I was nursing - and keep in mind, I chose that particular room because it was quiet and out of the way - and immediately remember a certain very important thing they forgot in another room, and leave, tripping over themselves.  Over all, though, it's been pretty good.  I've breastfed in malls, parks, restaurants, church, cars, name it. 

But what if I had received a comment?  Or, God forbid, been told to cover up?  What if?

Nurse-ins are very in vogue lately.  They make the news pretty often.  A mom gets a rude comment.  She tells her friends.  They rally up, set a date and time and show up at the offender's business to nurse their babies in protest.  The more moms the better!

I've been asked to some nurse-ins, and I've never been to one.  I won't be going anytime soon, either.  Here's why:

Am I still nursing Gen?  Yep, I am.  We've nicknamed her The Child Who Refuses to Wean.  When she is tired, hurt, sick, anxious or stressed out, a cuddle and a drink fixes it for her.  If she is lonely, nursing is her refuge.  When she nurses, she and I have our quiet time, together.  Those 5 minutes of nursing mean so much to her.  Breastfeeding, for Gen, is quiet, happy and safe. It is peace. 


Nurse-ins, to me, are the opposite of peace.  The loving act between mother and child becomes a weapon, an attack.  I am not willing to compromise my baby's sanctuary in order to give a business, no matter how breastfeeding un-friendly, a symbolic, passive-aggressive up yours.

Breastfeeding, the loving, healthy, maternal act, should not be used to bully a person, business or community.  It should not be used to shove them into accepting our comfort zones as their own.  If we want to be respected as mothers, then we need to extend that respect to others.....even those who don't hold the same views on breastfeeding as we do.