Sunday, May 10, 2015

Welcome to Heart and Wisdom Birth!

*Update August 2015:
Because of several factors, I will not be taking on any birth clients until further notice.
However, I will continue to be available for consultations, prenatal prep sessions and we will also be holding the Mind, Body, Baby Workshop on a regular basis. Please contact me 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

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!cdc

Saturday, April 25, 2015

At Peace With Our Decisions

Know you have options and a voice, always.
Photo courtesy of Tall Grass Photography
As a doula I witness women making decisions during pregnancy and childbirth. Many times, I am invited into this process by my clients asking me questions or sometimes for my advice.

But as a doula, it is not my job to make decisions for my clients.

As a doula, it is my job to support and encourage my clients to find their own truth, their own power and to gather the info they need to make a decision they will be at peace with.

As a mother, I know firsthand how hard that can be. I know what it's like to second guess and doubt yourself. I know what it's like to make a decision when you are afraid. I know what it's like for something unexpected and scary to happen where decisions need to be made quickly. I also know what it's like to be so involved in {or detached from} the process that you just wish someone else would make the decisions for you.

Sometimes, I wish I could help a client make a decision. But then I quickly realize I wouldn't be helping because it is not my process, it is not my birth, it is not my decision...the only thing I can do is fill the room with positive, peaceful, loving intention and support.

And you know what? This is an amazingly helpful thing to do. Why? Because when a person is in the midst of making a decision (sometimes a really difficult one, that may have been unexpected, or something they didn't want to have to be faced with), they don't need judgement, they don't need fear, "what ifs" or "should haves". All they need is someone that has got their back. Someone that is supporting them, NO MATTER WHAT. Someone that will remind them of their options and help them understand more about the situation they are in. Someone that will remind them what is important (to be true to yourself, to trust yourself, to stand in your power) and to bear witness to the process. It is a soothing feeling to experience what it's like to make a decision surrounded by support. Personally, I know that being unconditionally supported and surrounded by love gave me the strength to make the decisions that needed to me made. And I was able to know right down to my core that I was at peace with my decisions, despite things not turning out the way I thought they would. I know what the opposite scenario feels like too.

Being able to encourage and unconditionally support a labouring woman, to make decisions she can be at peace with, is one of the main reasons I became a doula.

Birth is an unpredictable, mysterious, beautiful thing. And sometimes unexpected things can happen which will require us to make decisions we didn't think we'd need to make. It definitely helps if we are prepared and ready to advocate...but even then, the decision making process is hard, often one where we rely on our deepest instincts and ultimately by weighing the pros and cons of what we can be at peace with.

Sometimes we don't make decisions from that place and we may look back and feel regret. It kinda sucks. I know I've been there. And what really helped me was to realize I did the best I could in that moment. After the birth of my 3rd baby, I had a lot of regrets and anger surrounding the decision to consent to a cesarean. For a long time I carried that around. It was a process to slowly peel away the layers and get down to the core of it all. I realized I had set expectations of myself. I realized I had made decisions based on fear and based on the belief that I wasn't capable. I also didn't really consider the point of view and wisdom of my baby who was also undergoing the process. It hurt to see the truth, but there was no turning back. I began to heal and I realized my strength in the process. I knew that if I was to ever have another baby, I was now a different woman. I now knew what it felt like to make decisions I was not at peace with. I decided that from that point on, I would decide things {life stuff too, not just birth} based on MY own terms, from a place of peace and strength.

It took me giving birth 4 times to finally believe that there is no perfect way to give birth, there is only the way that is right for each of us.

I had heard it, read it and been told it before...but it's so easy to get caught up in the this-vs-that mindset.

What matters most in birth is not if we give birth with medication or without, if we have a VBAC or a repeat cesarean, if we birth at home or in the hospital...the list goes on. {It's not a competition}

What does matter is that we understand the physiology of birth, that we understand our options, that we are true to ourselves and the intentions we have for us and our babies, that we advocate for informed choice and evidence based care, that we're encouraged to trust our intuition and that we're respected and listened to throughout.

The only way this can all unfold, is if we make it speaking up, asking questions and knowing that we have options and a voice, always.

However you and your baby chose/choose (cause babies have a say in birth too!) to give birth, know that there is at least one person in the world that will cheer you on and not judge!

I want women to know and experience the strength and power they can find within themselves when they give birth. I want women to remember the day their baby was born as an empowering one.

But most of all, I want women to know that all women are in this together. Birth is a catalyst that thrusts us into the circle of beginnings and ends, of life. We join all the women before us and all those that will come ahead. And that is a powerful thing to be a part of.

We each make our own personal decisions, because we each have individual situations, health considerations, and in the end we need to own our decisions. But we are united because we all know what it's like to be ready to do anything for that tiny little human we've grown and nurtured within love someone so much more than anything we'd ever have imagined. And being at peace with our decisions during birth is the foundation to having a great start in our relationship with that beautiful little human. And that is important <3

{Photo from Tall Grass Photography, used with permission}