Wednesday, December 7, 2016

The Peanut Ball

I am so excited to announce that we now have a Peanut Ball to bring to births!

The Peanut Ball is originally an exercise ball, but just like the spherical exercise ball made its way to the labour comfort measures world, so has the peanut ball!

The Peanut Ball is super helpful for women who want to rest and lay down, but want to keep their pelvis open and active. It is also amazingly helpful for women labouring with an epidural because they can lay on their side, but maintain openness in their pelvis to facilitate baby's rotation and descent into the birth canal.

Here is an article on the benefits (and it has pictures!):

Here is a short video of the many ways a Peanut Ball can be used.

Monday, October 3, 2016

VBAC and What Ina May Said To Me

Ina May Gaskin, baby Ollie (in the womb) and I
Birth and Beyond Conference, 2013
Almost 3 years ago, during the inspiring Birth and Beyond Conference of 2013, I was in the presence of Ina May Gaskin. I attended as many of her sessions as I could and I got to meet her face-to-face and have a short chat with her. If I'm being honest, the whole point of me attending the conference had been to meet her. Granted, there was the educational appeal as well. As a doula, I love learning and keeping up to date on all things birth. But how could I pass up the opportunity to see and hear Ina May? Then there was the little detail about me being pregnant. It was my 4th baby. And I was intending to have a VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean)...well technically a VBA2C (I had two previous cesareans).

This was a point of great contention with a few care providers I encountered, that it order to receive supportive care, I had decided to move to another city at 7 months pregnant so I could have midwives be my attending care providers. And I was doing everything that I could to prepare myself physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually (not in the religious sense, but at a soul level). You see, the first time I tried for a VBAC, I ended up giving birth by cesarean again. But it wasn't a great experience, because it hadn't been on my own terms. I had felt pressure, fear-mongered and frankly, bullied into consenting to the cesarean. Needless to say, I did not want to feel that way again. I knew that if I was going to need a 3rd cesarean it would be based not on fear, not on care provider preference, but on truth (evidence based care catered to my personal circumstances) and compassionate care.

So, here I was at the Birth and Beyond Conference. Surrounded by such positive and supportive energy in all the people there. I couldn't help but truly feel that my body and baby would guide me and let me know just what I needed along the way. Just as had been happening throughout my pregnancy.

But, I wanted to hear what Ina May had to say to me about my situation. So, I waited in line to speak to her one-on-one after one of the sessions.

I'm not sure what, if any, ideas I had about what she would be like. But it was so refreshing to see she was (and is!) such a down-to-earth, matter-of-fact kind of gal. She tells it like it is. She doesn't care much for structure and loves tangents. And best of all, through and through she believes in women, in birth and in creating a supportive/positive birth community.

As I waited, I tried to come up with a succinct way to tell her my obstetrical history, but I failed. It was my turn and the words just started coming out. I started off by saying she was a great inspiration to me, had helped me prepare for birth and inspired me to become a doula. And then in regards to my 4th pregnancy and my VBAC plans I said, "So this is my 4th baby, I've had 2 cesareans (my 2nd and 3rd babies) and now I am going for a VBAC. They tell me my pelvis is too small. I'd love to hear what you have to say about all this."

She nodded and looked at me sincerely and said, "Hmm. I don't think so, your pelvis seems just fine. I think you'll do just great. You'll know what to do and what you'll need."

And just like that, one of the the most famous and experienced midwives planted the seeds that would flourish into confidence, advocacy, stamina and intent.

I did not know then how it would all unfold, but I did know that however it unfolded, I would know what to do.

What I loved about her words was that they were open-ended, leaving out the part of whether or not I would in fact give birth vaginally. I know that is exactly what I needed. Most everyone I had talked with said things like, "You can do it!" or "No, you shouldn't do it!" or "Women are made to give birth, you've got this."

When the reality was, my satisfaction with this birth did not need to based on a specific outcome. It had to come from within and it had to be about the journey, but I needed to believe in my body and baby and leave doubt behind (including that negative Nelly inside my own mind!).

I had already been growing the idea that it wasn't all about a vaginal birth for me, that it was more about the experience, and really about how I felt throughout. After this brief but powerful interaction with Ina May, I knew that was now more true than ever.

I embraced the idea of giving birth, however that would turn out, knowing that I was able. That I was ready. And that I would need to surrender to the journey.

I embraced the intent behind my decisions, and knew that making decisions would have to mean that I owned them. That in that moment I knew that is what was right for us, and trust that this was true. Once you have knowledge and have prepared, there is no excuse to say, "I should have done differently" because the truth is, you can't have done differently. In each given moment, I was going to have to decide what to do with whatever knowledge and intuition I had.

And that's what I did.

And it was so different from my other birth experiences...there are just no words to express it.

I did not realize how much strength his birth would require. Mental, physical and emotional strength. And I found it within me, from the people around me and from envisioning all the women in the past and present who had also, and were also, giving birth.

The journey had expected landmarks and many more unexpected ones, but in the end what mattered most is that I was respected, supported and felt relaxed and powerful. My baby and I were enveloped in a cocoon of secure love and peace, among the seemingly endless twists and turns of labour, my people had my back...I had my back. And it was bliss. Even though my strong little guy had to go to the NICU after (a whole other story!), because of the grounded-ness, support, compassion and respect I experienced during his labour and birth, I felt ready to navigate that next journey by his side, as a confident Mama.

My VBA2C baby is now 2 1/2. He is a daily reminder to me about the strength and resilience of the human body and spirit, about the power of intentions and trusting your intuition, and of having the grace and wisdom to accept help when it is needed.


In just a few short weeks, I will once again be attending the Birth and Beyond Conference, and I am thrilled!

I will be giving a talk on VBAC. On how to prepare optimally and powerfully and how to build yourself (or your clients) up to embrace your (their) own journey and all our stories.

And I am super excited to see and talk with all the amazing people that are going to be there. And I look forward to seeing Ina May once again...and share with her just how much of an impact our short interaction 3 years ago had on me and my experience.

If you are a birth worker of any kind, or you are passionate about all things birth, you should come and attend too! You will not be disappointed. Check out the website and get your spot soon before time to register runs out.

Hope to see you there!


Saturday, June 4, 2016

Be who you are, do what you can...

Butterfly Boucher is one of my favourite musicians. Her music is just awesome. That's my personal opinion, of course.

So just like with our unique taste in music, our unique ways of coping with situations and stress will vary.

There is no such thing as a one-size-fits all approach to life. Especially when it comes to birthing our babies.

The beautiful thing about birth is that there is a continuum of options and wherever you happen to be, so long as you are there with awareness and on your own terms, then embrace it, own it and find the sweet relief of surrender.

Trying to prove a point, to yourself or to others, will bring you out of your zone.

Trying to force labour down a certain path, when it is clear it isn't going that way, will bring you distress.

Trying something on for size because you heard it's best, but inside you know it isn't working for you, well that's just not fun and will likely not work out how you want.

Be a brave, unshakeable Mama-Love-Warrior....informed, emotionally, mentally and physically prepared...but most importantly, fully aware and honest with herself.

Remember, that you can prepare and do all you can do...and then you have to enter the unknown of birth. Surrendering to this process is often hard for us. But when we do so, we realize we have what we need to get through it.

Labour with compassion, for yourself and for others.

Labour with respect...towards yourself, towards your baby (he or she has a say too!), and don't forget to respect birth! Respect your own unique birth process. It may turn out different than you expected, but you need to give it the space and path it chooses.

Labour with inner strength and own your decisions. There is no time for is too fleeting for that.

The inner story and expectations we have about birth, labour and parenting need to be examined one by one. Where did they come from? Are they helping? Or are they stressing us out or causing worry or anxiety and nervousness? Do we need to keep them...or can we say thanks and let them go? And there is no shame in seeking out some help or guidance during this self-awareness explorative process.

Just like the quote above says, "I can only be who I am, I can only do what I can..I can't begin to describe the relief."

Choose who you want to be...

Know that you will do what you can do...

And then go on...set yourself free of self-limiting beliefs and see what that feels like for you.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Welcome to Heart and Wisdom Birth!

Please browse the tabs and contact us with any questions.

The next Mind, Body, Baby workshop date:

"Labour and birth are truly an amazing and wise process, and every woman should be given the chance to trust her heart and the wisdom of her body in order to birth her baby, in whatever way feels right for her." -Kat Garduno

Friday, January 1, 2016

Add These Things To Your Birthing To-Do List

This post has been ruminating in my mind for a few weeks now.

It may not be eloquent, but hopefully it will be helpful.

Anyways, here goes.

When we prepare to birth our baby, we check things off our to-do lists. Each of our lists may look different, but for the most part I think it's safe to say will include one, or all, of the following (in no particular order):

  • Decorate the nursery
  • Buy stroller, baby carriers, diapers, clothes, etc
  • Attend prenatal classes
  • Help prepare siblings (if you've had babies before)
  • Attend yoga or some other exercise class
  • Pack bags
  • Fill freezer with meals
  • Hire a doula (hehe wink, wink...couldn't help myself!)

The list goes on, and like I said, it looks different for each of us.

But what is missing?

It looks pretty good! What could it be?

I promise something is missing.

Here's a clue...

Who is the one that is actually going to be giving birth?
Who is the one that will remember the birth for a lifetime?
Who is the one that will need to make decisions during pregnancy, birth and beyond?

The answer is YOU!

Where are the lines on your to-do list for preparing for the emotional and mental aspects of this journey?

We aren't usually encouraged to think of the following:

  • Have I thought and read/researched about how birth and being a parent may impact me and my emotional/mental well-being?
  • Do I have supports in place to help me through the first year of my baby's life (ideally longer, but usually the first year is the most all-encompassing)?
  • If my birth involves special circumstances (for example, VBAC, previous difficult or traumatic birth, etc) have I sought out guidance and support to help prepare me for this birth?
  • What are my beliefs about birth, the postpartum period, breastfeeding, being a parent?
  • What, if any, are my expectations when it comes to all of the above?
  • Are these expectations based on what I need or are they based on the ideas/opinions of others?
  • Have I looked at them clearly and critically/logically? Are they based on sound evidence or pure opinion or fear?
  • Do I even need to have these expectations or ideals? 
  • Are they contributing in a healthy way to my preparation or are they leading to anxiety about the whole thing?
  • How attached am I to these expectations?
  • How will I feel if they do not come to pass?
  • What do I need to do/prepare/heal/let go of to feel that however the birth experience may go, I will feel at peace and confident about my experience and my decisions?

That last one is the doozy. It's the trickiest one of all, but also the most important.

It means you need to dig deep...and not on the day your labour starts.

Well head of time, prepare your heart and your mind. Begin to explore the questions above. Be curious, not judgemental. As these things come to your awareness, you will begin to see that some things are important and some things are not. You may also realize some new things become important that you didn't think of before.

After giving birth to my own babies and supporting many women through their own babies' births, I feel that the most important aspect of preparing for birth is not how or where you give birth. Not if you avoid the epidural, or if you give birth in a hospital, or if you give birth squatting or on your back, whether you birthed vaginally or by cesarean...

These things may be important, but in the end it doesn't come down to these, because every woman's birth experience is going to be different and based on her own personal health history, circumstances and sometimes to sheer-random-birthy-luck.

After you give birth to your baby, it is true that some things will not go as you thought, some things will, perhaps some things may happen that you didn't even consider...and it's OK if you feel sad about it.

But after you give birth to your baby the thing that is going to carry you onward and forward and help you move beyond that sadness and through the whole motherhood journey is how you felt during the birth. And for that matter, how you felt during the whole childbearing months, which ultimately lead to the BIG day: the day you give birth to your baby.

If you felt fearful, if you felt you couldn't or didn't speak up about any questions you had or to ask for what you needed, if you didn't understand what was happening or why, if you didn't know you had options, if you were made to feel at odds with your body and had a hard time accepting the changes and sensations, if you felt unsupported during labour and lacked the guidance to feel reassured about what was happening...all these are possibly going to contribute to you feeling a bit confused, upset and, for some women, can be the trigger(s) that lead to them feeling utterly devastated after they give birth.

And no woman should feel that way. In this day and age, we can do better.

Women need to feel empowered to prepare themselves, inform themselves, be aware of their options, be aware of evidence-based care, so that they can make informed decisions and feel respected, heard and at peace with their birth experience.

But also, women need to understand birth.

Thankfully, mother nature has been smart and has designed birth in a way that works well and without complications, most of the time.

I do not want to start some debate, but I will likely ruffle some feathers when I say, there are way too many opinions and ideals, from one side of the spectrum to the other,  that give women the expectations that if they "do birth the right way" they will have a perfect birth. The thing is, there is no one way to have a perfect birth. In fact, we should just scrap using the word perfect to describe birth (or anything in life, for that matter).

It is my opinion that in almost all cases, birth is unpredictable in at least one way, almost always in more than one. There is a sort of randomness to birth that is yet unexplained.

There are things that we just can't completely anticipate, and that's just part of life.

These unanticipated things are different for each of us. For some it means that the intensity and duration of labour were more than they thought. For others, it means their baby is in a position that makes it hard to progress. For others it means that some health concern arises and leads to needing to make appropriate decisions to ensure a healthy mom and baby in the end. For others, the experience will seem completely "run of the mill", but then the shock will come after, with breastfeeding or the sleep deprivation....there are just so many ways our journey unfolds.

Ultimately, we may not be able to control all these things, no matter how hard we plan, how much we read, what doula we hire, what care provider we choose or where we choose to give birth. Obviously, I am not saying that these preparations are NOT important. What I am saying is that we need to make these preparations but ALSO understand that there is much more to giving birth that these.

What we most definitely CAN do and prepare and count on, is our attitude, our coping tools and our mindset. And these are the things that are harder to prepare, but well worth the effort.

There are cases, where the unpredictability of birth (we are human after all, not perfect or ideal or without faults--it's just part of the human journey) comes to pass and things go down a different path than we thought we'd be on.

It is in these cases, where being emotionally and mentally prepared is most critical. It is where mindset comes in very handy and we will be able to handle the forks and bumps in the road much more steadily. And this will set the foundation for a steady start to parenthood.

If we are clinging to expectations and ideals beyond a time that is healthy to, forcing the experience to continue down a path that it just can no longer go, and we do not know our options or are making decisions that are not fully informed, we will feel the impact of these deviations in the journey much more.

So I encourage you to dig deep.

Be willing to explore your beliefs and ideals and expectations. Be willing to prepare: knowledge, mindset, attitude and build a coping tool-kit.

Do what you need to do to be steadfast but also flexible and fluid for it is almost for certain that there will come a time that your flexibility and fluidity will be needed.

Remember that each woman's journey is her own. There is no "perfect" way to give birth, it will be unique for each of us. And that is why it's beautiful.

Remember what matters, is that we feel supported, respected, informed and well, like rock stars, because, heck, giving birth is a great feat that needs to be celebrated, rejoiced and everyone who births deserves a high-five!

Saturday, May 9, 2015

A Book That's Helped Me Feel Happy {Again} About Parenting

For a couple weeks I've been reading and re-reading Susan Stiffelman's new book titled "Parenting with Presence: Practices for Raising Conscious, Confident, Caring Kids."

One day I read something that was a game changer for me. I took the information in, and let it sit, processing it mentally and emotionally before sharing with my hubby.

"I read something yesterday that blew my mind."

"What!? You've waited a whole day to tell me!?"

"Yep, I needed to process it."

It was something so seemingly simple and obvious, but I'd never thought about it the way Susan presented it.

And that is the core and beauty of her new book: It presents simple yet mind blowing stuff that if taken into practice is sure to change the way you view parenting, your children and life.

While reading her entire book, I felt like I was sitting on a comfy sofa in a sunny, warm room with her right in front of me, conversing and listening to me.

Her writing style and the wisdom and advice she shares is as if you were having a one-on-one session with her (well, at least it was for me...I'm a Pisces with a vivid imagination!). But the point I'm trying to make is that unlike some other parenting advice books that talk down to parents, telling them what they should do, Susan offers insights and opportunities to gain self awareness so that we can become better parents (and people) from the inside out.

This is the perfect time to confess that for the past few months I've been feeling burnt out. I've had enough of the battles that happen every day with the kids to do their schoolwork. I'm tired of having to clean up after the 3 year old's messes that she seems not to learn to stop doing. And I'm tired, oh so tired, of having to put my needs last.

After reading this book, me, the mother of 4 who seemingly should have the hang of it by now, got 2 huge (for me) things from this book that have made me feel happy about parenting again (and these are only two of the many insights and aha moments I had while reading):

1. (This is the thing that blew my mind and took me a day to process before telling my hubby).
I tell my kids I love them every day, several times a day. But I don't think I had been making a point to consciously show them. And this made me feel sad. I realized I'm so dependent on multitasking, and actually prefer to escape from certain moments by going on my phone or computer. Susan explains that when you take some time to be totally present with your children, it lets them know you like them, you like spending time with them, and you enjoy listening to what they have to say. She does a way better job at making the point. But what finally dawned on me is that if I express my acceptance and love with my actions and most importantly, my total presence, my kids will be more willing to comply to requests without battles. I've tried it out for the past few days and WOW, it really does work. I know it's hard for some parents to get down and play with the kids. But I'm sure we can all find a way to connect with them. It doesn't have to be the same for everyone, just find something you can do together for a while and give them your FULL presence (no phones, screens, facebook or taking pictures). Think of the last time you had that sort of interaction with someone. It feels good to have that full connection with someone, right? It doesn't happen as often as it should and it leaves us feeling frustrated when we are trying to tell someone something and you know they are distracted on their phone or doing some other task. I know I get bitchy with my hubby if I think he's not listening to me. So I can relate to how the kids feel if I'm seemingly playing with them but actually I'm writing a grocery list or checking my email on the side. Gosh, I even try to do something while breastfeeding my baby, even though he doesn't nurse for long. I finally realized the message this is sending my kids. Don't get me wrong, I know as parents we have things we need to get done. But I get it now: when you have those moments of time with your kids when you really don't need to be doing anything else, give the moment, yourself and them your full presence. It is one of those things that will pay in dividends.

2. Once again, another book has made it very clear that holding on to shame and guilt lead to nothing good (the last book I read to make this message very clear was Brene Brown's "The Gifts of Imperfection"). Guilt and shame will likely lead to us not feeling confident with our parenting choices, and this in turn will lead to us not being kind with ourselves. When it comes to setting and sticking to the limits, that our kids need to feel safe and to thrive, we may feel inadequate. Giving in to tantrums or arguing with our kids ends up sending the message that there's no captain manning the ship. Again, Susan does a great job at explaining this in a way to make you go "Ah wow, I never thought of it that way." And so, I have been noticing that I sometimes second guess myself and have doubts and then guilt when I set limits. And I've noticed that, at least for me but I think this would apply to many other parents too, the key to maintaining limits is making sure we stay calm. For example, one evening my son wanted a bedtime snack. He got bread and put it in the toaster all on his own. Then he got the ketchup and mustard out. I requested he use peanut butter instead as it was a healthier choice. He complained and complained and said I wasn't being fair. I stood compassionate but firmly planted. And eventually he relaxed and enjoyed his peanut butter sandwich. If I had not taken the time to stay calm and just be present during his complaining (mini tantrum) I would certainly have given in and relented. But instead, his reaction didn't push my buttons. And in the end I was able to stay at the helm of this sometimes crazy-rocking-boat. If the captain freaks out, all is lost. I'm being a bit dramatic, but kids need to know someone is in charge. As Susan puts it,
"Children don't want to be in charge, it's just that they know somebody has to be, because they understand that life is not safe unless someone competent is behind the wheel (Parenting With Presence, pg. 51)." 
I need to keep reminding myself to see things as: if it's not an emergency, don't freak out. And even in an emergency, freaking out wouldn't help. Things will be clearer and calmer if you just stay present.

Two other things you need to know about this book. The first is that it does have ideas and insights that have to do with mindfulness, ancient eastern know, the sort of stuff in "The Power of Now." For me this is fantastic because I love that's right up my alley! I'm only mentioning it so you aren't surprised. If you aren't into that stuff, I still think you should give it a chance because from cover to cover the book is amazing (and I'm seriously not even joking here). If you have ever felt like a bad parent, have a kid who has tantrums, have a kid who pushes your buttons and triggers you, have a kid who loves (or is addicted to) screen time, have a kid who is stressed...or actually, if you have kids period....this book will have at least one thing you can take home that will help you and your relationship with your kids.

The second is that while it's an amazingly well written book that you can read within a few days, it's not an easy read. What I mean here is that you can't just expect to read it and that's it...voila all will be great. No, if you want it to help, you're going to have to be willing to do some soul-searching of your own. But this isn't a negative thing. In fact, the more you know about yourself, the better you'll be able to get to know the kind of parent you are and that can only help in the end. At the end of each chapter there are reflections and questions to ask yourself as well as ways to implement the main points of that chapter into your daily life. I tell you, Susan does not leave you hanging. She's got your back the whole time. And that's why I felt I was in a one-on-one session with her.

Now, because I love this book so much, I'm going to gift one copy to a lucky reader! All you have to do is click on over to Susan's website (here) then send me an email ( and tell me one thing you'd like to change in your parenting. I will draw a name at random on May 31, 2015. Please make sure you use an email where I'll be able to contact you if you're the winner :-)

If you want your own copy NOW, head on over to her website or Amazon.

And here is a short video in which Susan Stiffelman talks about the 3 takeaway messages from her book.

<3 Thanks for reading <3

P.S. Happy Mother's Day to all the Mamas out there!