Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Level One Intensive Doula Course


Intensive Level 1 Course!
 
Four Sundays – January 13, 20, 27, and February 3, 2013
Graduates from Levels One and Two are already working as doulas … if you feel you would like to accompany women through the childbearing year, take a few Sundays to spend with us learning doula skills, and more!
Level One gives you the skills to volunteer as a doula with Montreal Birth Companions, or you can go on to learn more doula skills in Level Two, which starts on February 9, 2013.
For a registration form or more info, please leave me a comment below...
Cost $400 (plus tax).

Level One Intensive Doula Course


Intensive Level 1 Course!
 
Four Sundays – January 13, 20, 27, and February 3, 2013
Graduates from Levels One and Two are already working as doulas … if you feel you would like to accompany women through the childbearing year, take a few Sundays to spend with us learning doula skills, and more!
Level One gives you the skills to volunteer as a doula with Montreal Birth Companions, or you can go on to learn more doula skills in Level Two, which starts on February 9, 2013.
For a registration form or more info, please leave me a comment below...
Cost $400 (plus tax).

Friday, December 7, 2012

The Power of Love

My husband suddenly said to me the other night, "Remember when you were in labor and you asked the midwife if she thought you could birth vaginally"?
I though back to that afternoon. I was working hard at a VBAC. I was in the birth pool, and fast approaching a milestone in my labor.
"No, I don't remember that. What did she say?"
My husband looked at me. "She said, "No." Just like that. No."

"Well", I said, "that's where I learned midwifery. That's where I learned what NOT to say. That birth and many, many other births where I have been the witness of what NOT to do or say to or with a birthing woman."

Last week we went for a run together. He had a heart attack two months ago and you could not imagine a less likely person to have one ... fit, energetic, athletic, and all that ... anyway it happened, so he is slowly getting back into his exercise routine. He was wearing a heart rate monitor. I was running next to him and he couldn't get his heart beat lower than 140, unless he slowed to a walk. I ran ahead. His heart rate slowed down. I ran back to be next to him. His heart rate speeded up.


I ran a few blocks ahead of him the whole way and he kept his heart rate level. That means ... like the Kinks song - "you make my heart sing..." which is nice, after thirty years.




But it also means, as described so beautifully in the Secret Teachings of Plants, that the heart itself produces messages and hormones that we still do not understand.


And that's where the presence of a doula makes such a difference to the birthing woman. Because she understands that there are reasons for and reasons why that we cannot understand. She sees that most of the time - not all, but most - the body, mind and soul work perfectly well together - or as perfectly as we are used to, which ends up being that raggle-taggle, patched together, immensely beautiful way we call being alive. She sees that a woman who is left alone, within a bubble of her own labor, surrounded by people who love her - and this does not exclude the attending physician, if that is what she desires - will bring forth a child in her own sweet time, using whatever means we understand or do not understand.


And that is also why we have to be so careful when we are attending a birthing woman. Careful with our words, with our bodies, with our thoughts and emotions. Because who knows how sensitive she is to the slightest nuance? And who know how your own heart is acting? What are you communicating to the birthing woman under the surface of your public presence?






The Power of Love

My husband suddenly said to me the other night, "Remember when you were in labor and you asked the midwife if she thought you could birth vaginally"?
I though back to that afternoon. I was working hard at a VBAC. I was in the birth pool, and fast approaching a milestone in my labor.
"No, I don't remember that. What did she say?"
My husband looked at me. "She said, "No." Just like that. No."

"Well", I said, "that's where I learned midwifery. That's where I learned what NOT to say. That birth and many, many other births where I have been the witness of what NOT to do or say to or with a birthing woman."

Last week we went for a run together. He had a heart attack two months ago and you could not imagine a less likely person to have one ... fit, energetic, athletic, and all that ... anyway it happened, so he is slowly getting back into his exercise routine. He was wearing a heart rate monitor. I was running next to him and he couldn't get his heart beat lower than 140, unless he slowed to a walk. I ran ahead. His heart rate slowed down. I ran back to be next to him. His heart rate speeded up.


I ran a few blocks ahead of him the whole way and he kept his heart rate level. That means ... like the Kinks song - "you make my heart sing..." which is nice, after thirty years.




But it also means, as described so beautifully in the Secret Teachings of Plants, that the heart itself produces messages and hormones that we still do not understand.


And that's where the presence of a doula makes such a difference to the birthing woman. Because she understands that there are reasons for and reasons why that we cannot understand. She sees that most of the time - not all, but most - the body, mind and soul work perfectly well together - or as perfectly as we are used to, which ends up being that raggle-taggle, patched together, immensely beautiful way we call being alive. She sees that a woman who is left alone, within a bubble of her own labor, surrounded by people who love her - and this does not exclude the attending physician, if that is what she desires - will bring forth a child in her own sweet time, using whatever means we understand or do not understand.


And that is also why we have to be so careful when we are attending a birthing woman. Careful with our words, with our bodies, with our thoughts and emotions. Because who knows how sensitive she is to the slightest nuance? And who know how your own heart is acting? What are you communicating to the birthing woman under the surface of your public presence?






Monday, November 26, 2012

Breathe Together



I have had some feedback about the title of my book. Several reviewers have given it "five stars", but have had doubts about reading it because they thought it would be an angry, polemical work about the horror of hospitals and the saintliness of doulas.

And it isn't.

I have a holistic world view, which means that I believe that there is a place for most types of activities and interventions, within very strict limitations. A 90% epidural rate for first-time mothers is just plain wrong. 90% of all first time mothers do not want an epidural, although certainly some do. And very few first-time mothers actually need pain medication. If and when they do, an epidural is a very effective tool that can provide exactly what the doctor ordered.

Cesarean sections are also very, very useful tools. Surgery can save a baby's or a mother's life. But one quarter of mothers and babies in North America are not in danger of dying during childbirth, adn so we see that this tool as well is overused.

We have come to believe that the overuse of these tools is necessary. Women are afraid of pain, men are afraid of birth, and children are being born into bright lights, machines, masked humans, and a mother nowhere in sight.

Here is a little explanation of my use of the word "conspiracy":

The root of “conspiracy” comes from the Latin conspirare, from con- “together with” and -spirare “breathe.” My hope is that just as women instinctively know how to breathe through their contractions, we will realize that we all know how to breathe together. Whether we are in a hospital, a birthing center, or at home, when all of us: physicians, nurses, midwives, obstetricians, doulas, birthing women, partners and, of course, the baby, are working as one in the birthing room, then the birth experience will provide a better start for the new family. When the birthing woman and her child, and not a machine or a chart, or a schedule or an agenda, are the center of our attention, then no matter what the outcome, the new mother will feel better about her experience and will be better able to care for her child. When we simplify our approach to birth, we will see that birth is simple.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

War on Women

My heart is with the women of Goma.

Rebel soldiers captured the town of Goma yesterday morning, while the UN and the world stood and watched.The country's army can do little against the rebels, and the UN soldiers do not have a mandate to strike against them, so they are now in control of the airport and much of the town, according to news from the area. They are moving towards Bukavu today.

Why do we care?

Here are some statistics from the website of the Panzi Hospital, which opened in 1999 in Bukavu, 100 km south of Goma. Dr Denis Mukwege founded the hospital, as a response to a growing number of sexual violence victims in the area. He is still the medical director, and the hospital specializes in gynecological surgery for fistula and for vaginal reconstruction following violent rape. They also provide treatment and support for women suffering the effects of these attacks.
  • It is estimated that there are over 200,000 surviving rape victims living in the Democratic Republic of the Congo today.
  • From 2006 to 2007, an estimated 1,100 women were raped EVERY DAY.
  • Today, it is estimated that 36 women and children are raped daily.
On October 25, 2012, four gunmen attacked Mukwege's home, killing his guard. They fired bullets at Mukwege as well, who avoided them by dropping to the floor.[2] After the assassination attempt, Mukwege fled to Brussels and the Panzi unit reported that [his] absence has had an “overwhelming effect” on daily operations at the unit.[3]

Four women are raped every five minutes in the Democratic Republic of Congo, according to a study done in May 2011 by three researchers, including SUNY’s Tia Palermo. “These nationwide estimates of the incidence of rape are 26 times higher than the 15,000 conflict-related cases confirmed by the United Nations for the DRC in 2010,” says Palermo. The level of sexualized violence has received an intense amount of international focus, which has revealed the varied kinds of horrors soldiers have perpetrated against women, even while the country maintains the highest number of U.N. peacekeeping forces in the world. (see here)

As the fighting escalates, families are fleeing from Goma, but they have nowhere to run. There are five DP camps in the surrounding areas and these are full. Families are being separated. Pregnant women are still giving birth, and if a woman survives a gang rape there is a good chance she will have conceived and will give birth. Where are these women to birth and who will attend them?

Montreal Birth Companions doulas have accompanied women from Congo and other countries who have suffered rape and violence at the hands of "freedom fighters" who use rape and sexual coercion as part of their arsenal. These women are strong, and we are honored to accompany them as they give birth. But these are the lucky ones, who have made it to a more peaceful home. Thousands, if not millions, if not billions (One Billion Rising) of women are being raped, beaten and murdered, even as I sit in my comfortable warm living room and write these words.

Please help in any way that you can. Spread the word about this conflict. Donate money to charities that are working on the ground to assist women and children:

Pennies for Panzi is a campaign that is raising money to create a daycare where children of rape survivors can be cared for while their mothers are healing.

Heal Africa provides assistance for women and children in Congo.

Medica Mondiale "supports traumatized women and girls in war and crisis zones."

Safe World for Women is a UK based charity.

This winter season, have a party, do some dancing, and ask your guests to donate money to a worthy cause. If you are a medical professional, consider going to a war-torn country to donate your skills. If you own a company, perhaps you can make a larger donation or donate materials.


Remember how lucky you are.



War on Women

My heart is with the women of Goma.

Rebel soldiers captured the town of Goma yesterday morning, while the UN and the world stood and watched.The country's army can do little against the rebels, and the UN soldiers do not have a mandate to strike against them, so they are now in control of the airport and much of the town, according to news from the area. They are moving towards Bukavu today.

Why do we care?

Here are some statistics from the website of the Panzi Hospital, which opened in 1999 in Bukavu, 100 km south of Goma. Dr Denis Mukwege founded the hospital, as a response to a growing number of sexual violence victims in the area. He is still the medical director, and the hospital specializes in gynecological surgery for fistula and for vaginal reconstruction following violent rape. They also provide treatment and support for women suffering the effects of these attacks.
  • It is estimated that there are over 200,000 surviving rape victims living in the Democratic Republic of the Congo today.
  • From 2006 to 2007, an estimated 1,100 women were raped EVERY DAY.
  • Today, it is estimated that 36 women and children are raped daily.
On October 25, 2012, four gunmen attacked Mukwege's home, killing his guard. They fired bullets at Mukwege as well, who avoided them by dropping to the floor.[2] After the assassination attempt, Mukwege fled to Brussels and the Panzi unit reported that [his] absence has had an “overwhelming effect” on daily operations at the unit.[3]

Four women are raped every five minutes in the Democratic Republic of Congo, according to a study done in May 2011 by three researchers, including SUNY’s Tia Palermo. “These nationwide estimates of the incidence of rape are 26 times higher than the 15,000 conflict-related cases confirmed by the United Nations for the DRC in 2010,” says Palermo. The level of sexualized violence has received an intense amount of international focus, which has revealed the varied kinds of horrors soldiers have perpetrated against women, even while the country maintains the highest number of U.N. peacekeeping forces in the world. (see here)

As the fighting escalates, families are fleeing from Goma, but they have nowhere to run. There are five DP camps in the surrounding areas and these are full. Families are being separated. Pregnant women are still giving birth, and if a woman survives a gang rape there is a good chance she will have conceived and will give birth. Where are these women to birth and who will attend them?

Montreal Birth Companions doulas have accompanied women from Congo and other countries who have suffered rape and violence at the hands of "freedom fighters" who use rape and sexual coercion as part of their arsenal. These women are strong, and we are honored to accompany them as they give birth. But these are the lucky ones, who have made it to a more peaceful home. Thousands, if not millions, if not billions (One Billion Rising) of women are being raped, beaten and murdered, even as I sit in my comfortable warm living room and write these words.

Please help in any way that you can. Spread the word about this conflict. Donate money to charities that are working on the ground to assist women and children:

Pennies for Panzi is a campaign that is raising money to create a daycare where children of rape survivors can be cared for while their mothers are healing.

Heal Africa provides assistance for women and children in Congo.

Medica Mondiale "supports traumatized women and girls in war and crisis zones."

Safe World for Women is a UK based charity.

This winter season, have a party, do some dancing, and ask your guests to donate money to a worthy cause. If you are a medical professional, consider going to a war-torn country to donate your skills. If you own a company, perhaps you can make a larger donation or donate materials.


Remember how lucky you are.



Friday, November 16, 2012

Bad Science, Bad Medicine, Bad Luck

I am actually enraged this morning, and I have been since last night. It's just no good any more to pretend to be kind old Mrs Tiggy Winkle, and watch women being abused over, and over, and over again in our worn out medical system.

A few weeks ago, I witnessed a natural, speedy delivery. The woman was effectively pushing in a supported squat. Enter the doctor, who cannot catch a baby from underneath and pressures the woman to lie down. A small shoulder dystocia develops. Doc pulls on the head like there's no tomorrow and breaks the baby's collar bone.

That same week, a foreign lady let me know that an OB at the same hospital has been charging her $100 cash for each prenatal. Here in Canada, that is ILLEGAL.

She labors beautifully, and is almost delivering, when the doc suggests an episiotomy. This was the one thing, the ONE THING, that my client was terrified of. Luckily, she pushed the baby out with the next contraction.

Move forward, random thoughts: A client was in the hospital for twelve hours. During that time, she saw about ten medical professionals. What do you think the most-asked question was: How are you feeling? Nope. "Do you have any questions?" Nope. "Is there anything you need?" Nope. It was "Have you had any miscarriages or abortions. Well, it's not rocket science to figure out that that may not be the best question to ask a laboring woman for two reason: One, she may not want everyone in the room, including her partner, to know. And, Two, these are painful memories that she may not want to think about.

But yesterday takes the cake.

Lady is being induced, medically necessary induction. Gets put on the pit. She's 2 cm. Then in five hours, she's seven cm! And then two hours later, still seven cm! They are talking AROM, so my client wants me to come to the hospital. Fine.

She's laboring so well, not feeling her contractions at all. I have seen this, infrequently, but I've seen it. The doc wants to AROM, but since she's seven cm, she decides to wait it out.

Finally, in the evening, another physician comes in and checks her. She's two.

Discussion. Justification "your vagina is a funny shape". "She's a good resident so we don't check her results". Even when those results are difficult to believe? Really? Then, a peace offering. You stay here and sleep, we'll start the induction again tomorrow.

Bad Science: why the induction? check your results, and especially check a student's results. Have a look at how you're playing with the insulin and oxytocin.
Bad Bedside manner:  Is it necessary that a woman not eat for days? Is it possible to at least make eye contact with the doula, so that she doesn't feel like shit when she leaves the hospital? Are you going to apologize for your mistakes?
Bad Luck:  How often do iatrogenic errors lead to major consequences?

Where is this all leading? It's not leading to a rise in home births, at least not in Quebec. I was speaking to a midwife yesterday from another country who has witnessed over a thousand births, and she is not certified here and therefore is not practicing. There is no bridging program that effectively allows for CPMs to become certified here in Canada, so we are left with a lack of midwives and an overburdened hospital system where errors frequently can and do happen.

Comments? What are YOU doing to change obstetrical care in your community?


Wednesday, November 7, 2012

She's Too Radical

When I look in the mirror these days I see a caricature of Mrs. Tiggywinkle. My body changed over the past ten years. Even though I still run four kilometers three or four times a week, and I feel quite fit, more or less, my shoulders have changed shape, my waist has thickened, my grey hair is down to my bum but no one ever sees it because I wrap it in a scarf, and...well, I feel different.

Mrs Tiggywinkle, however, is a laundress. She is an independent female: round in shape, granted, and she is a little perhaps neurotic, but she takes care of herself, of her small house, does other people's laundry AND makes friend with a little girl in distress.

And she's got fearsome prickles.

Is she radical?

I met a prospective client the other day. Lovely woman, nice partner. She had heard about me through one of the long grapevines that eventually lead my way. I'm not big on advertising, publicity, I never wanted to be on Oprah, and I don't have a fan club. So people usually hear about me from other women in a round about way.

But this lady had gone through a list of doulas in Montreal, found them wanting, and came to me. And she expressed one doubt, which was that I may be "too radical".

Radical has its root from root: from Late Latin "radicalis" ("of or pertaining to the root, having roots, radical"), and from Latin radix (root).
And the definition is: Favouring fundamental change, or change at the root cause of a matter. 

What is the root cause of the birth matter? I believe the root cause of abusive maternity care shares its root with woman abuse in every aspect of our lives. So, in "favouring fundamental change", I am going to go to the root of the matter. I am not going to spout empty slogans and run other women's lives according to my agenda.

The root of birth abuse is a culturally useful and familiar disrespect for women in general, and for birthing women in particular. If I am going to practice as a radical doula, then my priority will be respecting the birthing woman. To this end, I will not persuade her to make choices that conform to me agenda. Ever.




The woman I met may have been imagining a furie, a Roman goddess of vengeance, guarding the door of the birth room with an eye to exacting payment for past wrongs.

The furie would insist that the woman follow her rules: no interventions, under any circumstances; upright positions throughout; lots of vocalizing required; partner hands-on at all times.







But radical doulas are not furies. We respect the desires of the women we accompany. We melt our egos and support the woman's choices. Our agendas stay at home. We are just and fair, possibly to a fault. It is a fine line between supporting a woman during childbirth and feeling like you are witnessing, indeed apologizing for, an abusive act that should be named. But in the naming, the birth process is damaged. Our role is to bear witness, to take notes, and to love the one you're with.


Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Thoughts on Solitude


We are all alone. We are born alone, and we die alone. This little albino lizard blends in so well with her surroundings, we can hardly even see her against the whiteness of the sand. But she is alone, just like you and me.

The most wonderful and valuable service a doula can offer another woman during her childbearing year is companionship.

The newborn is the most beautiful, alluring little creature. But he needs attention, breastmilk, love, concern...he is alone too, but he knows what he wants. He wants to be held, nuzzled, nursed, touched, loved.


Please be mindful when you are accompanying a woman on the journey of giving birth to a new life. Be mindful if you are accompanying her on a more difficult journey, when she is not having a perfect experience. Please be mindful when you are feeling alone, and remember that the air you breathe in has just been breathed out by another person. Please be mindful when you speak to a woman in labor. Be mindful when you stand next to an old woman on the bus. Be aware that your presence can mean a universe to a woman who is feeling alone.



Thoughts on Solitude


We are all alone. We are born alone, and we die alone. This little albino lizard blends in so well with her surroundings, we can hardly even see her against the whiteness of the sand. But she is alone, just like you and me.

The most wonderful and valuable service a doula can offer another woman during her childbearing year is companionship.

The newborn is the most beautiful, alluring little creature. But he needs attention, breastmilk, love, concern...he is alone too, but he knows what he wants. He wants to be held, nuzzled, nursed, touched, loved.


Please be mindful when you are accompanying a woman on the journey of giving birth to a new life. Be mindful if you are accompanying her on a more difficult journey, when she is not having a perfect experience. Please be mindful when you are feeling alone, and remember that the air you breathe in has just been breathed out by another person. Please be mindful when you speak to a woman in labor. Be mindful when you stand next to an old woman on the bus. Be aware that your presence can mean a universe to a woman who is feeling alone.



Monday, October 29, 2012

Radical Doulas

One of "my" doulas was at a clinic the other day and she met a resident who apparently had worked with me in a hospital birthing room some months ago. The resident made two comments about me: "Rivka doesn't like me because I'm a man". And "she concentrates on the woman - we are just there as technicians to catch the baby".

Funny, I like men generally. I wonder if he could think a little deeper about why I may have given him the cold shoulder. Was he treating my client with disrespect? Was he reading the situation closely? Did he have the woman's best interests at heart? Was he acting according to protocol, to science, or to "ghost protocols" (those ones that get left over at hospitals because they are too hard to change)? Was he working from his heart? Did he ask my client to lie down when she was pushing perfectly well in a squat? Was he scared?

And "she concentrates on  the woman". Well, hello, that is what a doula is supposed to do. We are not there to make friends with the medical staff. I have very cordial relations with many of the nurses and physicians I work with. But I do not go into a hospital to make friends. I go into a hospital to provide my client with a safe place to give birth. That means that I make every effort to create a peaceful environment in which the woman can let go and do her work of birthing. I don't have to joke and laugh with residents. I can quietly whisper to the woman so that she is feeling good. I'm not interested in staring at her vulva as it opens. I've seen it lots of times, it is doing perfectly well, and there is no medical need for me to do so.

If a woman is undergoing an intervention that I do not approve of, then I will definitely put my back to the staff and direct all my love and attention to the woman. Women DO undergo unnecessary interventions in the hospital, far too often. I am not talking about women who go into the hospital with a clear plan to be induced, have an epidural, and be happy. I am talking about the HUGE number of women who actually believe they can give birth naturally in the hospital environment.

These women are often treated badly by under-experienced residents.  If a woman has a small leak of amniotic fluid, that's no reason to admit her to the hospital two weeks before her EDD and then break her waters twelve hours later to stimulate labor. If a woman is happily pushing in a supported squat, there is no reason why she should lie down just because the doctor hasn't caught a baby that way. If I see a resident reaching for the amnihook, with his hand in a woman's body, I will say something. That something might be said in a gentle voice, but it probably won't be friendly. And the woman on the bed will appreciate my interference. I am not against a justified AROM. But you never insert something in a woman's vagina without telling her what you're planning on doing.
Do you?

Radical doulas, we need to stand up and speak out. Women are being treated badly in our hospitals and I am ready to take a stand.

I am taking notes of occasions where my clients have been abused during labor and childbirth. Please start to take notes too and we will start to create a manifesto.

Power to the birthing woman!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Montreal Birth Companions Radical Doulas



I am writing today mainly to praise and glorify! The radical, wonderful volunteer doulas who work alongside me in Montreal Birth Companions.

This month we are working with about ten women, from varied places across the globe, from China, Quebec, the Ukraine, the middle east and the Caribbean. I have each of these ladies assigned to two doulas, that's twenty doulas and many, many woman hours, and all of those hours are taken away from time spent at jobs, with family, or at other activities.

Some of the volunteers are doulas who are taking my doula course, but others are fully qualified doulas who still commit time to volunteering for this worthy cause.

MBC volunteers, you are amazing radical doulas. I love you all.


Montreal Birth Companions Radical Doulas



I am writing today mainly to praise and glorify! The radical, wonderful volunteer doulas who work alongside me in Montreal Birth Companions.

This month we are working with about ten women, from varied places across the globe, from China, Quebec, the Ukraine, the middle east and the Caribbean. I have each of these ladies assigned to two doulas, that's twenty doulas and many, many woman hours, and all of those hours are taken away from time spent at jobs, with family, or at other activities.

Some of the volunteers are doulas who are taking my doula course, but others are fully qualified doulas who still commit time to volunteering for this worthy cause.

MBC volunteers, you are amazing radical doulas. I love you all.


Friday, October 19, 2012

Birth and Beyond 2012

Birth and Beyond 2012 Having my AM coffee
Wow!!!! What a ride, these past few months!!

I had such a lovely train ride to London, Ontario. I like riding the slow train, and the Ontario coutryside is beautiful, and I enjoyed hearing the announcements in good English and lousy French (petty but true).
But I only took the train because I was scared to fly - so much unexpected stuff had happened in my life - in Italy the car was totalled, no details available, involved a 20 year old offspring (mine). But we were in Bali at the time so we got that text you never want to get:  "covered with blood car totalled please call".

Then my father died.

And its kind of like when a baby is planning on being born. You know its going to happen, and you have an approximate date, but you don't know exactly when, and when it does its a shock.





So I had a crazy solo trip from up on top of my mountain, which is a place of peace and air and refuge.









Down the mountain in the ramshackle little Fiat. Train to Florence, then Rome, on the plane. Sitting next to a lovely young couple who had just spent their week vacation in Rome - they were in love! And it's good they were sitting next to a birth attendant, because I don't think any old middle-aged woman would have been so comfortable with their seriously heavy petting!

I spent time with my family, trying to figure out how to properly say goodbye to an atheist scientist. We did a good job, and we all felt very lonely by the end....then it was the Jewish high holidays, they are called high because they are the most important festivals of the year, a time of introspection, taking stock, making peace with one another. I got back to my house in Montreal and discovered that my former partner is ill. Then a lovely volunteer I worked with in Bali passed away unexpectedly...

It was in the middle of the holidays that I had a wonderful opportunity to speak at the Birth and Beyond Conference. The conference was great - it was the first annual and for a new project it was very well attended. I am really looking forward to next year! We had the opportunity to listen to, and interact with, many wonderful people in the birth world including James McKenna, Robbie Davis-Floyd, Jodi Hall, and many others. The intimacy of the conference was lovely - everyone mingled and branched out. There was a wonderful art exhibition as well, and a drumming circle...please register for next year so that I can meet up with you all!

Upon my return, my husband's heart decided to act up. Not for lack of love. He is still in love, and gets love in return from me and my five sons. He is very active, eats well, is young (five years younger than me, anyway!). But his genes didn't tell him that he had some issues, and boom!

We are ok now, and thinking about some changes in our lives...

I posted a status update on my birthday this year - August 21, my father died on the 19th. I asked you all to give your loved ones some loving. Do it now.

Birth and Beyond 2012

Birth and Beyond 2012 Having my AM coffee
Wow!!!! What a ride, these past few months!!

I had such a lovely train ride to London, Ontario. I like riding the slow train, and the Ontario coutryside is beautiful, and I enjoyed hearing the announcements in good English and lousy French (petty but true).
But I only took the train because I was scared to fly - so much unexpected stuff had happened in my life - in Italy the car was totalled, no details available, involved a 20 year old offspring (mine). But we were in Bali at the time so we got that text you never want to get:  "covered with blood car totalled please call".

Then my father died.

And its kind of like when a baby is planning on being born. You know its going to happen, and you have an approximate date, but you don't know exactly when, and when it does its a shock.





So I had a crazy solo trip from up on top of my mountain, which is a place of peace and air and refuge.









Down the mountain in the ramshackle little Fiat. Train to Florence, then Rome, on the plane. Sitting next to a lovely young couple who had just spent their week vacation in Rome - they were in love! And it's good they were sitting next to a birth attendant, because I don't think any old middle-aged woman would have been so comfortable with their seriously heavy petting!

I spent time with my family, trying to figure out how to properly say goodbye to an atheist scientist. We did a good job, and we all felt very lonely by the end....then it was the Jewish high holidays, they are called high because they are the most important festivals of the year, a time of introspection, taking stock, making peace with one another. I got back to my house in Montreal and discovered that my former partner is ill. Then a lovely volunteer I worked with in Bali passed away unexpectedly...

It was in the middle of the holidays that I had a wonderful opportunity to speak at the Birth and Beyond Conference. The conference was great - it was the first annual and for a new project it was very well attended. I am really looking forward to next year! We had the opportunity to listen to, and interact with, many wonderful people in the birth world including James McKenna, Robbie Davis-Floyd, Jodi Hall, and many others. The intimacy of the conference was lovely - everyone mingled and branched out. There was a wonderful art exhibition as well, and a drumming circle...please register for next year so that I can meet up with you all!

Upon my return, my husband's heart decided to act up. Not for lack of love. He is still in love, and gets love in return from me and my five sons. He is very active, eats well, is young (five years younger than me, anyway!). But his genes didn't tell him that he had some issues, and boom!

We are ok now, and thinking about some changes in our lives...

I posted a status update on my birthday this year - August 21, my father died on the 19th. I asked you all to give your loved ones some loving. Do it now.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Fall 2012

Autumn Leaves



So much has happened since the summer months - its hard to imagine that it's only been four months since I was preparing for my trip to Bali.
Yayasan Bumi Sehat is one of the most beautiful places on earth. Please have a look at their website, and make a donation if you can. I will be holding a fundraiser here in Montreal in the near future, and I plan to blog more about my experiences there over the next few months. In short, Bali is a wonderful place, and the Bumi Sehat clinic is next to its heart.
After my too-short stay in Bali, we traveled up to our hideaway in Italy, where we are slowly fixing up a pile of rocks we call our sometimes home. Our place on the mountain  started as a family project, on an isolated track off the beaten path in the mountains of Italy. Families grow and change, but the building, clearing, hiking and mushrooming stays the same. This past summer, we had a lot of work to do to repair the damage done by 2011's harsh winter. We finally got it all fixed up and we settled in to relax a little...
Back in Canada, several family events led me to realize that we are being invited, when we come into this reality, to take part in a magical mystery tour. The most important thing is to be kind to the ones around you. Show the people you love that you love them, each and every day. Don't take anything for granted. Thank you, I love you, and I'm sorry are important  phrases. Don't forget to use them.
More exciting news for the fall: Levels One and Two of the Birth Companions Doula Course are starting this weekend at Studio Vie. Visit my site and have a look at what's offered.
I am taking on more doula clients for the fall, as well as guiding women through the maze of birthing choices here in the city. I am always struggling to keep our wonderful volunteer organization afloat - if you are feeling generous and want to contribute to this very worthy cause, please visit Montreal Birth Companions.
Advice for 2012?
Be gentle with others. That includes birthing women and newborns.
Love each other.



Fall 2012

Autumn Leaves



So much has happened since the summer months - its hard to imagine that it's only been four months since I was preparing for my trip to Bali.
Yayasan Bumi Sehat is one of the most beautiful places on earth. Please have a look at their website, and make a donation if you can. I will be holding a fundraiser here in Montreal in the near future, and I plan to blog more about my experiences there over the next few months. In short, Bali is a wonderful place, and the Bumi Sehat clinic is next to its heart.
After my too-short stay in Bali, we traveled up to our hideaway in Italy, where we are slowly fixing up a pile of rocks we call our sometimes home. Our place on the mountain  started as a family project, on an isolated track off the beaten path in the mountains of Italy. Families grow and change, but the building, clearing, hiking and mushrooming stays the same. This past summer, we had a lot of work to do to repair the damage done by 2011's harsh winter. We finally got it all fixed up and we settled in to relax a little...
Back in Canada, several family events led me to realize that we are being invited, when we come into this reality, to take part in a magical mystery tour. The most important thing is to be kind to the ones around you. Show the people you love that you love them, each and every day. Don't take anything for granted. Thank you, I love you, and I'm sorry are important  phrases. Don't forget to use them.
More exciting news for the fall: Levels One and Two of the Birth Companions Doula Course are starting this weekend at Studio Vie. Visit my site and have a look at what's offered.
I am taking on more doula clients for the fall, as well as guiding women through the maze of birthing choices here in the city. I am always struggling to keep our wonderful volunteer organization afloat - if you are feeling generous and want to contribute to this very worthy cause, please visit Montreal Birth Companions.
Advice for 2012?
Be gentle with others. That includes birthing women and newborns.
Love each other.



Thursday, September 20, 2012

Birth is Political

Like everything else. Birth is political.

I am on the train right now going through lovely Ontario, on my way to a conference. I will be presenting two workshops tomorrow. One is for birth attendants, exploring the ways we can assist women to have natural births in the hospital setting. One is for anyone who is interested in setting up and maintaining a volunteer doula program, on zero funding (Montreal Birth Companions has been going for close to ten years now, and we have assisted up to 100 women a year).

The conference has been the subject of some controversy because of one of the speakers. Emotions and opinions are strong and heated.  Everyone believes they know best. Best for the woman, best for her baby, her family, and the world at large.

I, too, believe that my opinions count. I believe women's bodies are made to give birth, that most women can retrieve their physical knowledge of how to birth, and that if well nourished women are given the right kind of care and a safe space in which to do it, they can usually give birth to healthy babies without much problem. I believe the physiologic need for surgical intervention should probably hover around 2 to 5 per cent, for women who have had good prenatal care. Our present rate of 25 to 30 per cent is a crying shame.

But I also know that my opinions are hotly argued against by others who consider themselves more educated, more scientific, and more knowledgeable.They may even consider my opinions to be dangerous. Or, indeed, inconsequential.

Most of my activities don't rock any boat. When I sit quietly in a hospital room and surround a laboring woman with love, and watch closely as the doctor, acting in good faith and confidence, persuades her to take an unnecessary epidural, or a needless induction, I am being a good citizen.

When I coordinate a volunteer doula for a refugee from Somalia who has been circumcised, and who wants to have a natural birth, I am just rocking the boat gently enough that the passengers will feel comfy and slightly sleepy.

When I suggest to a woman who has not been able to obtain a registered midwife, and who doesn't want to give birth in a hospital, no matter how friendly it may be, that she look around for an unregistered, "illegal" midwife, then I am starting to make some small waves, but still not even good enough for decent boogie-boarding.

Let's try to sail together into the future, taking the waves as they come, breathing together...

Oh! my metaphor is hitting shoals - of course - who is the captain? The right answer is: the captain of the Birth Boat is the woman who is laboring and giving birth. She is the one we are attending. We are the ones with the knowledge and we can use it wisely and quietly, without scaring her as she works at bringing her baby into the world.

The root of "radical" is "root". We are trying to discover the root of the problem, we would like to root it out, to make a fresh start in the world of birth, and in the world.

Come visit me at the Radical Doula site:

Rivka


Monday, September 10, 2012

Scrambled

What is happening? Birth is as always, good. Death is coming up in strange corners. Yesterday we started Levels One and Two (places still available, by the way) of the Birth Companions doula course, and not just one but two students burst into tears, at different points in the class. I'm not that mean to my students!

Life is turning faster and faster.

I have been through a car accident, a death in the family, a dear friend's death, disturbing news about another colleague, and all in the past month?

I am okay though, sending gratitude and thanks - thanks for my family, my husband and all the goodness that is continually bestowed upon me.

But every so often, I break down, and yesterday when my innocent husband decided to tear down the ivy that was plugging the gutters, I couldn't take it. Those poor vines! I couldn't stand the noise of them coming off the walls. Now they sit, in sad piles on the driveway.

We do not know how connected we are, either to each other or to the world around us. Let's carry our baskets gently, and be kind to each other.


Scrambled

What is happening? Birth is as always, good. Death is coming up in strange corners. Yesterday we started Levels One and Two (places still available, by the way) of the Birth Companions doula course, and not just one but two students burst into tears, at different points in the class. I'm not that mean to my students!

Life is turning faster and faster.

I have been through a car accident, a death in the family, a dear friend's death, disturbing news about another colleague, and all in the past month?

I am okay though, sending gratitude and thanks - thanks for my family, my husband and all the goodness that is continually bestowed upon me.

But every so often, I break down, and yesterday when my innocent husband decided to tear down the ivy that was plugging the gutters, I couldn't take it. Those poor vines! I couldn't stand the noise of them coming off the walls. Now they sit, in sad piles on the driveway.

We do not know how connected we are, either to each other or to the world around us. Let's carry our baskets gently, and be kind to each other.


Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Birth Companions Doula Course: One, Two, Three

Level One of our Birth Companions Doula Course spring 2012 session was a wonderful success! The students are already attending births, either with partners or with mentor doulas. They are now part of Montreal Birth Companions, and it has been a busy and productive summer.

Level Two will be starting on September 9, 2012, at Studio Vie. It will run for eight weeks, with three hour classes every Sunday. In Level Two, we will explore the challenges that can occur during pregnancy, birth and the postpartum period, and discover the ways a doula can facilitate healing. This level is open to anyone who has completed a doula training.


Level Three will be comprised of a select group who will travel together to Cuba, to explore in depth an aspect of maternity care and will tour the facilities at a Cuban hospital and meet the midwives.


Level One will be starting in the fall of 2012, as soon as we have full registration. We have registrants already, so please register as soon as you can. See below for registration details.

Hoping to see you all in the fall!!


Birth Companions Doula Course: One, Two, Three

Level One of our Birth Companions Doula Course spring 2012 session was a wonderful success! The students are already attending births, either with partners or with mentor doulas. They are now part of Montreal Birth Companions, and it has been a busy and productive summer.

Level Two will be starting on September 9, 2012, at Studio Vie. It will run for eight weeks, with three hour classes every Sunday. In Level Two, we will explore the challenges that can occur during pregnancy, birth and the postpartum period, and discover the ways a doula can facilitate healing. This level is open to anyone who has completed a doula training.


Level Three will be comprised of a select group who will travel together to Cuba, to explore in depth an aspect of maternity care and will tour the facilities at a Cuban hospital and meet the midwives.


Level One will be starting in the fall of 2012, as soon as we have full registration. We have registrants already, so please register as soon as you can. See below for registration details.

Hoping to see you all in the fall!!


Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Hope the Voyage is a Long One




Ithaka

As you set out for Ithaka
hope the voyage is a long one,
full of adventure, full of discovery.
Laistrygonians and Cyclops,
angry Poseidon—don’t be afraid of them:
you’ll never find things like that on your way
as long as you keep your thoughts raised high,
as long as a rare excitement
stirs your spirit and your body.
Laistrygonians and Cyclops,
wild Poseidon—you won’t encounter them
unless you bring them along inside your soul,
unless your soul sets them up in front of you.

Hope the voyage is a long one.
May there be many a summer morning when,
with what pleasure, what joy,
you come into harbors seen for the first time;
may you stop at Phoenician trading stations
to buy fine things,
mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony,
sensual perfume of every kind—
as many sensual perfumes as you can;
and may you visit many Egyptian cities
to gather stores of knowledge from their scholars.

Keep Ithaka always in your mind.
Arriving there is what you are destined for.
But do not hurry the journey at all.
Better if it lasts for years,
so you are old by the time you reach the island,
wealthy with all you have gained on the way,
not expecting Ithaka to make you rich.

Ithaka gave you the marvelous journey.
Without her you would not have set out.
She has nothing left to give you now.

And if you find her poor, Ithaka won’t have fooled you.
Wise as you will have become, so full of experience,
you will have understood by then what these Ithakas mean.



©C.P. Cavafy, Collected Poems.Translated by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard. Edited by George Savidis.Revised Edition. Princeton University Press, 1992


Hope the Voyage is a Long One




Ithaka

As you set out for Ithaka
hope the voyage is a long one,
full of adventure, full of discovery.
Laistrygonians and Cyclops,
angry Poseidon—don’t be afraid of them:
you’ll never find things like that on your way
as long as you keep your thoughts raised high,
as long as a rare excitement
stirs your spirit and your body.
Laistrygonians and Cyclops,
wild Poseidon—you won’t encounter them
unless you bring them along inside your soul,
unless your soul sets them up in front of you.

Hope the voyage is a long one.
May there be many a summer morning when,
with what pleasure, what joy,
you come into harbors seen for the first time;
may you stop at Phoenician trading stations
to buy fine things,
mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony,
sensual perfume of every kind—
as many sensual perfumes as you can;
and may you visit many Egyptian cities
to gather stores of knowledge from their scholars.

Keep Ithaka always in your mind.
Arriving there is what you are destined for.
But do not hurry the journey at all.
Better if it lasts for years,
so you are old by the time you reach the island,
wealthy with all you have gained on the way,
not expecting Ithaka to make you rich.

Ithaka gave you the marvelous journey.
Without her you would not have set out.
She has nothing left to give you now.

And if you find her poor, Ithaka won’t have fooled you.
Wise as you will have become, so full of experience,
you will have understood by then what these Ithakas mean.



©C.P. Cavafy, Collected Poems.Translated by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard. Edited by George Savidis.Revised Edition. Princeton University Press, 1992