birth experience

How Did I Get Here? (A Tribute to My Birth Doula)

Jessica, myself and my son a few hours after his birth. 

Jessica, myself and my son a few hours after his birth. 

In less than one week, my first born will be TWO! I've been reflecting on my journey of motherhood a lot lately, and my attention keeps going to the pregnancy and birth of my son, which was the mark of many significant changes for me in my life. 

The process of trying to conceive, being pregnant, birthing, and mothering have all been life changing for me. Not only have all of these monumental life events shifted me personally, but also professionally. These events are what ultimately led me to my current role supporting women in these life stages in my counselling practice.

Almost exactly 2 years ago, my sister Jessica (who is a birth doula/childbirth educator/doula trainer from Birth Takes a Village in Vancouver) flew to Calgary to support my husband and I during the birth of our son; and she also hosted an amazing blessingway/mothers blessing for me a few weeks before my birth to help me get prepared.

Jessica is knows everything there is to know about creating empowering birth experiences for women and their families! I have learned so much from her about birth and supporting women over the years, and I continually get support from her in my own mothering journey and also I consult with her on a regular basis to help me in providing the best support for the clients I see in my counselling practice (I also often quote her on social media and in my blogs 😉).

Jessica and my son this summer (2017)

Jessica and my son this summer (2017)

Jessica's support during my pregnancy and labour helped my husband and I to create an incredible birth experience for ourselves, and along the way, she also inspired me to start my own counselling practice focusing on supporting women leading up to their births and in the post partum period.

I had worked as a counsellor for almost 6 years prior to this, and grew a new passion for pregnancy, birth & motherhood as I went through these stages myself. So with a lot of support and encouragement from my sister, I focused my learning and education into this specific area and launched my Counselling practice almost a year ago now!

I don't know where I would be without her, and I'm sure that many other women who have had her support for their births feel the same way! Thanks Jessica for everything that you do!

Did you have a doula support you for your birth and/or post-partum period? Share in the comments! 

JEN IS A COUNSELLOR AND PSYCHOTHERAPIST IN CALGARY, ALBERTA. IF YOU ARE INTERESTED IN BOOKING A SESSION WITH HER OR ATTENDING ONE OF HER GROUPS OR WORKSHOPS, VISIT THE ESSENCE OF YOU WEBSITE OR CONTACT JEN DIRECTLY.

3 Ingredients for an Empowering Birth

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Who doesn't want an empowering birth experience? The steps that you will take leading up to your birth are so important - not only for the birth itself but also for your transition into the post-partum period. So here it is, my recipe for creating an empowering birth

  1. Knowledge 
  2. Emotional Preparation
  3. Support 

Simple, right? Although these three ingredients might seem simple, there is a lot involved in each. So, I'm going to break them down a little bit further below. 

1. KNOWLEDGE

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Making INFORMED CHOICES is an essential part of creating an empowering birth experience for yourself. Think about what you want your birth to look like, do your research, and make a plan. The way you birth your baby is your choice and NOBODY else's! There will be many people offering their opinions/perspectives/demands about how you should birth your baby, which can be overwhelming. However, when you have done your research and you know what is best for you, this will give you the power to stand up for yourself and assert your right to make informed choices for how you are treated and for what happens during your pregnancy, birth, and post-partum period. 

"Informed consent rights are extremely important to women’s experience during birth. One of the biggest factors in whether you remember your birth as a positive or negative experience is the degree to which you feel informed and involved as decisions are made in terms of your maternal health."  
- Taken from "Understanding Informed Consent" by Jessica Austin, Birth Takes a Village

And, your perspective of whether your birth was positive or negative also is a huge indicator of whether you will view your birth as traumatic or not! Use your power. 

2. Emotional Preparation

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Preparing emotionally for your birth is as essential part of creating opportunity for an empowering birth and positive transition into the post-partum period. Fear is one of the biggest obstacles to having a positive birth & post-partum experience; so don't let it stop you from achieving what you want! Take the time to explore and process your fears and other emotions around your birth/post-partum, and identify what you need to do to move past these to achieve your goal of having an empowering birth.

When women invest time into emotionally preparing for their births, they give themselves a much higher chance at having an empowering and positive birth experience and a positive transition into the postpartum period.

It's also very important to process past experiences that might impact your birth experience and transition into the postpartum period. There are often many negative internal dialogues that women have playing on repeat that interfere with our trust in ourselves to birth and care for our babies. These could be messages received during your last birth, from hearing other women's birth stories, or from past experiences in your life completely unrelated to birth but related to your ability to believe and trust in yourself and your body

3. Support

Choose to surround yourself with people who support your vision and your goals for your birth and post-partum period. Think carefully. Some people who are "supportive" in general won't necessarily be the most supportive people for you during your pregnancy and birth. Make sure that the people you choose to let in during this time can meet you where you are - and can respectfully support your choices. The last thing you need is people who try to convince you to do anything that you don't think is right for you. So not only does this include your family and friends that you want involved during this process, but also your healthcare providers. Choose your doctor/midwife carefully! And consider getting a doula - their role is to support you in your choices! 

So there it is, my recipe for creating an empowering birth! What else would you add? Comment below!


The Essence of You offers sessions and workshops on birth preparation to help women plan for empowering births! Contact Jen for more details, or check out our upcoming events here

JEN IS A COUNSELLOR AND PSYCHOTHERAPIST IN CALGARY, ALBERTA. IF YOU ARE INTERESTED IN BOOKING A SESSION WITH HER OR ATTENDING ONE OF HER GROUPS OR WORKSHOPS, VISIT THE ESSENCE OF YOU WEBSITE OR CONTACT JEN DIRECTLY.

"The Internal Dialogue is What Helps Most"

One of the many helpful texts I received from Jessica to support my friend in her labour tonight!! 

One of the many helpful texts I received from Jessica to support my friend in her labour tonight!! 

You know when someone is passionate about supporting birthing women when they text you all evening to support you in supporting your birthing friend! My sister Jessica (Birth Takes a Village) is a trusted, respected and well known Birth Doula in Vancouver. I trust her more than anyone else when it comes to birth. I gained so much from having her support leading up to and during the birth of my own son; and I often rely on her for information and support for my friends too! She never hesitates to answer all of mine and my friends questions and send information, research articles and birth stories and videos to help however she can, regardless of her busy schedule! Tonight, alongside tonnes of helpful information to support my friend through her contractions, Jessica said:

 

"The internal dialogue is what helps most."

 

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I love that someone who has so much education on childbirth believes this to be true! Coming from a psychological perspective, this is my belief too. I love helping women in preparation for their births by supporting them to identify and release fears, and process their thoughts and emotions about pregnancy, birth and the post partum period. When women invest time into emotionally preparing for their births, they give themselves a much higher chance at having an empowering and positive birth experience and a positive transition into the postpartum period.

It's also very important to process past experiences that might impact your birth experience and transition into the postpartum period. There are often many negative internal dialogues that women have playing on repeat that interfere with our trust in ourselves to birth and care for our babies. These could be messages received during your last birth, from hearing other women's birth stories, or from past experiences in your life completely unrelated to birth but related to your ability to believe and trust in yourself and your body

What is your internal dialogue saying to you right now? Is it helping you or holding you back? 

 

Jen is a counsellor and psychotherapist in Calgary, Alberta. If you are interested in booking a session with her or attending one of her groups or workshops, visit The Essence of You website or Contact Jen directly.

This is me and some of the most important women in my life during my pregnancy who joined together to support me during a Mother Blessing. This day was FULL of affirmations and had a huge impact on my own internal dialogue for my labour and birth. I am so grateful for having had this experience to prepare me in such a positive and empowering way.

This is me and some of the most important women in my life during my pregnancy who joined together to support me during a Mother Blessing. This day was FULL of affirmations and had a huge impact on my own internal dialogue for my labour and birth. I am so grateful for having had this experience to prepare me in such a positive and empowering way.

Contact me for information on my Birth Preparation Sessions!

"Healthy Mom, Healthy Baby" - Is that ALL that matters? - Let's talk about the impact of how women are treated leading up to the birth of their babies.

“Whenever and however you give birth, your experience will impact your emotions, your mind, your body, and your spirit for the rest of your life.”
- Ina May Gaskin

This is so true! A woman's birth experience is a big deal, but so many people downplay it with saying: "Healthy mom & healthy baby, that's all that matters!" I disagree. Your birth experience matters too, and so does your transition after your baby arrives.

Women go through enormous changes during and after experiencing childbirth. Who you surround yourself with and how you prepare yourself is so important! All of your thoughts and feelings leading up to the arrival of your new baby will be very influential on your birth experience. Unresolved emotional issues from your past can have a detrimental impact on your labour and birth, and will also impact your ability to connect to and cope with the demands of your new baby. Walker Karraa (author of Transformed by Post Partum Depression) discusses how a woman’s birthing experience is impacted by the state of her mental health, and that complications in childbirth are often caused by untreated mental health issues.

How many women out there are experiencing unnecessary birth trauma because they have not had appropriate care and support leading up to their birth? Complications in labour seem to be more of a norm now than an anomaly. There are many things that contribute to this, and before I get into a rant about our health care system … I will come back to mental health.

“In our culture childbirth has been seen as a medical procedure, with the majority of public discussion concerned with safety and statistics, as defined by physicians, and with little room for debate and dissension – especially from those who are at the centre of the process - women themselves.”  - Sarah Buckley, 2009 – Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering.

How many people think that your mental health and unresolved issues from your past will impact your birthing experience and your relationship with your new baby? This isn’t something commonly spoken about, but it is an important matter to consider. And it doesn’t stop there – all of your relationships might be impacted by your birth experience and also the transitions that follow when you become a mother (and more changes with each subsequent birth & baby). If this was something that was discussed more openly, women might be more inclined to get support to prepare for each birth & new baby on a deeper level than your typical childbirth education classes (which are very important too!)

Your emotions LIVE in your body, they are felt by your body, and they are stored in your body.

“Emotions, though interpreted and named by the mind, are integrally an experience of the body…each emotion is the result of interplay between the sensory, autonomic, and somatic nervous systems interpreted within the brain’s cortex.”  - Babette Rothschild, 1957 –  The Body Remembers.

Even when your mind shields you from your emotional pain, your body remembers. When you are suppressing your emotions, you are disconnecting yourself from your body, and in turn, disconnecting yourself from your intuition. Both connecting to your body & connecting to your intuition are SO important – maybe even the MOST important – parts of birthing & mothering. You need to connect to and listen to your body and intuition during birth, and also to be able to respond to the needs of your children once your become a mother.

“To prevent complications during and before pregnancy, we need to work on ourselves, emotionally ridding ourselves of any negativity about our bodies, past history or childbirth itself.” (Zuki Abbott, 2007 – This Sacred Life, Transforming Our Life Through Birth

 It is so important to give yourself space and time to connect to your body, your emotions and your intuition leading up to the birth of your baby. When you give yourself the opportunity to do this prior to your birth, you will be more prepared to cope with your feelings during the birth of your baby and your emotions once your baby arrives.

“Recovering from birth and caring for a newborn wreaks havoc on women physically, psychologically, and emotionally, especially when they live in a culture that does not take care of it’s new mothers.”  - Walker Karraa, 2014 - Transformed by Post Partum Depression.

So not only does the saying “healthy mom, healthy baby – that’s all that matters” disregard a woman’s birthing experience, it also disregards her experience as a mother – her transition into motherhood with her first baby and also the continuation of her journey as a mother with each subsequent baby. Respected mom, respected baby – this matters too. The way that a woman is treated leading up to, during and after her birth is so significant and influential on her birth experience & her transition into the post-partum period. Women need to be heard, respected, empowered, supported, and honoured during these life changing experiences. This is arguably the most important time in a woman’s life and just being “healthy” isn’t going to cut it.

Contact Jen for information on Pre-Natal, Post-Partum & Body Image Sessions. Individual Sessions, Group Sessions & Workshops are available.

Sources:

Abbott, Zuki (2007) – This Sacred Life, Transforming our Life Through Birth

Buckley, Sarah (2009), Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering

Karraa, Walker (2014), Transformed by Post Partum Depression

Rothschild, Babette (1957), The Body Remembers