Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Guess why I am grateful for "R"?

I just love running. I LOVE running. I am so grateful that my body lets me do this amazing activity.

Why do I run? My childhood was active, I guess. No organized sports but lots of hiking, skiing and cycling. Then in my thirties I built stone houses, ran a market garden, carried children around, in short I was pumped, more or less. I could rip open a fifty k bag of cement and throw it in the cement mixer, then haul bucket after bucket up to my partner on the roof. I could kill ten chickens with a single swipe of my cleaver. Kidding.

I love getting up in the morning and knowing that I am going for a run today. I love getting my gear ready, my shoes, my special clothes, my handkerchief, iphone, all good. I love getting out the door. And then I am free! My heart beats, my breath comes slow and natural, my legs move back and forth, my brain quiets.

Then I hit my two k slump, but it doesn't last long ... back in the saddle, the weather is good, and its always good when I'm running, possibly cold or hot but I feel good! Then I hit my 6 k slump ... a little tougher ...
We did it!!!

However long I run for, I am always happy I've gone. My face starts smiling when I see the world going by. My thoughts calm themselves. My worries and doubts, my monsters, my evil eyes, they all pass by and I keep on running, breathing, running, breathing.

There's a thing called the PR in running. It's a wonderful concept: PR stands for Personal Record, which is what you are running for (or against). You aren't running against other people's best times, just your own. There's only you and your achievements when you are running, at least thats the way I feel. Even when I ran my first half, I still was absolutely thrilled that I made it in the time I did (2 hours 37min), because for me it was an achievement ... for myself.

So, if you see me out there running one day, know that the main emotion I am feeling is one of gratitude. Thank you, body, for keeping me on the track!

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Being Black, Being White

L'expérience de grossesse et d'accouchement des femmes noires, qu'en est-il au Québec?

We had a typical Quebec moment when the organizer of this important forum invited me to speak, as a white doula who has had many years of experience serving black families, and I had to decline because of my own religious practice. I really love this aspect of living here, in Montreal, in Quebec, in Canada, where cultures, religions and heritages slip and slide together, usually quite happily.

Instead, I compromised by offering to write a small piece about my experience as a white doula and midwife here, and the advice I would give others when working in the black community.

First of all, let's get something really crystal clear here. Yes, there are different variegated levels of privilege. But if you are white, you pretty much have to accept that come what may, you are more privileged overall than any person of color. I will never, ever understand the nature of the every day racism that my friend Elizabeth experiences. Yes, she has a great life, yes she owns a beautiful apartment and makes good money and yadda yadda. But people look at her and think something that has to do with the fact that she is black (beautiful mama, african lady, exotic queen, and so on),  and they don't do that with me, or at least if they do decide to put me in a box, its not based on the color of my skin.

So, now that we've got that out of the way, let's talk about how our experiences as white people affect the ways that we work with or for the black families we may serve.

We can fall in to one of several potholes on the road to true justice and tolerance:

1. Overcompensation. Please don't make the mistake of thinking that you need to somehow "fit in" to your clients' cultural or religious activities, beliefs or customs. It's just dumb. You are YOU. Be gracious, be humble, be authentic. Don't wear particular clothes, talk in a certain way or act differently just because you are working with people who are not like you. You will never know what its like to live their experience, so just plan on being respectful and courteous, and try not to pry.

2. Cultural Voyeurism. It's true, some African or Caribbean cultures seem so cool and attractive to those of us who grew up in, Calgary, for example. However, it is not your place, as a guest in someone's home, and particularly as a guest in someone's life, and at a very intimate and powerful moment of that life, to explore your fantasies about what their cultural heritage might be. You are not in their lives to learn about their culture. You are particularly and specifically there to accompany that family on the path to parenthood. The tasks that involves are pretty much the same across the board. Provide prenatal education; facilitate informed choice; translate and interpret medicalese when necessary; assist the parent(s) to figure out what they want for their birth experience and how they plan to reach their goals. Love the new family. Create kind and lasting relationships within the maternity care team. You're not there to find out what its like to be from Congo, or from Switzerland.

3. Random Assumptions. These are the beasties that really get to me. Just keep your assumptions to yourself and everyone will be better off. Remember, something you may characterize as a harmless opinion could be a hurtful assumption.

4. Trauma Rating. Please don't go in to a relationship where you (white person) are providing care for a (black) person, where you have any intention of "turning the racism tables". It doesn't work that way. Historically, men have oppressed women and white people have colonized colored people. It's history. Let's try to avoid playing a game of who has the worst history. That never ends well. As a white person who has been involved in non-profit work for many years, often providing pro bono services for black and other colored people, I see clearly the pitfalls of the Great White Hope and I see how tempting it might be to share my awful traumas ("just like yours, see?") with others. But its a mistaken path. Your pain as a nation or as a people is different from mine. All I can do is respect, love and do my job.

Finally, because this forum is about the black person's experience in maternity care in Quebec, how do these points above affect the doula, midwife and birthing person? Institutionalized racism is a reality in our hospitals today. ("Mexicans bleed, West Africans scream, East Asians' babies don't descend, North Africans come to Canada to cheat the health care system" etc etc etc). As a black person receiving service from the maternity care team, it is so important that you have a birth companion with you who can accompany you through a hospital stay that may be less than pleasant. As a white doula or midwife, watch your words, be doubly careful of acting out your own prejudices and generalizations. Watch your tongue! Open your heart! Stay human!

So Grateful for "Q for Quando"

Gotta love that Italian pop music!!! Grateful for all the days we sped along the Autostrada or some rocky road in our beat up old van, tape player blasting, full of love...

Pino Daniele

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Postpartum Intensive November, 2016

We are offering a postpartum doula training for people who want to work outside the box. This course will give the student an in-depth understanding of the period from birth to eight weeks postpartum. The physical, emotional and psychological experience of the postpartum period will be discussed and challenges during this time will be examined. Alternative methods of maintaining postpartum health will be explored.
The course runs from November 18, 19, 20, 2016 and the cost will be $350; $300 earlybird special (register before September 18, 2016).

What will be covered? Day One: The normal mother baby after birth from birth to eight weeks postpartum: mother care, baby care, feeding, emotional health, family, and more. Day Two: Challenges during the postpartum period: what to do? When to refer? Day Three: Role play, discussions and case studies. The workshop lasts three days and will continue with mentorship and support afterwards.
Meet our teacher:, Erin Ryan CPM
"I began working professionally as a midwife in 2000, In that time I have attended over 900 births, working throughout the US as well as rural clinics in Bali.  In my 2 years in Bali I worked in a clinic as well as doing home births and I served women from over 15 countries.  I’ve seen babies born in many different environments, and I have worked with women and families from many different cultures from all corners of the globe.  In all circumstances, the constant has been loving care and respect for the mothers I work with.
My fascination with birth started at a young age.  A Laura Wilder fan, I was curious about how pioneer women delivered their babies on the frontier.  Life led me from Little House on the Prairie to the University of California at Berkeley.  After graduating, I immediately began pursuing midwifery, working as a volunteer doula at the county hospital, and later attending and graduating from the National Midwifery Institute.   While gaining a strong academic foundation, I trained as all good midwives traditionally have, through apprenticeship with some of the best.  My education did not end there; I continue to learn through research, consulting with midwives and other medical professionals and most importantly from the wisdom of mothers.  I pass this knowledge along to my colleagues and clients to continue improving birth experiences for women everywhere."

Interested? email us at mbcdoulaschool@gmail(dot)com

Monday, May 2, 2016

P is for Popcorn

A Short Homage to Popcorn

I love the taste of it. I love how peculiar it is: did people back centuries ago discover its properties by mistake? I love its many coats and dressings. I am grateful for popcorn, and its fun factor. It contains all sorts of good things for your body: protein, minerals, vitamins, and fats.