Finding space in the contraction…

As a birth worker, I tend to see birth as analogy for life. This helps me not only to guide my mamas in their journey, being able to give them something to relate the process to, but also to get through the challenges in my life. I tell my mamas all the time, the key to this process is to relax, and to find space in the contraction. And when that doesn’t work? Well, we must focus on the expansions. Because for every contraction, there is an equal and opposite expansion.

I’ve said it a million times, and I believed it. But what about when the contraction is so great that you are left curled up in a little ball on the floor, a sobbing, weeping mess….

It’s the type of contraction that starts in your back, and stays there, like hot knives stabbing, unrelenting.

What then?

A good doula will tell you that you need a change of scenery, a change of position, a breath of fresh air, and perhaps a spoonful of honey. She will tell you you are safe, you are  beautiful, you are loved, and that you are doing this perfectly.

and then, she will make you run up several flights of stairs.

and do lunges.

and maybe some squats.

In that moment, you will resist. You will think that she is ludicrous. You will feel that you don’t have the strength, that you are too tired. You might just want to curl back into fetal position and pretend it isn’t happening.You might just want to give up.

But she won’t let you. She will hold your hand and drag you up those stairs. She will pad the floor for you as you lunge. She will get in behind you and support you in that deep squat. And she will remind you of what that inner strength that you already posess.


Times are tough. Is a doula really necessary?

I believe in women. I believe in our ability to birth our babies, in the wisdom of our bodies, and that we are inherently capable. However, I also believe that the way we live, the way we move and the way we understand birth through a very clinical, risk averse, medical lens systematically undermines our trust and the process itself. Birth does not exist in a vacuum, and we must consider the context.

Let us start with the context of movement. Most of us spend very little time moving. We lead sedentary lives, even those of us who are fit and active still ‘outsource’ much of the movement that the human body was designed to do – example – we drive our cars most places, especially here in Calgary. Many of the ‘pregnancy related’ aches and pains are not a result of dysfunction in our bodies, in fact, it is actually our bodies compensating for inefficient bio-mechanics and trying to make up for the fact that there are muscular weaknesses and tensions due to repetitive and limited movements. I think of my head coming forward as I type this passage, and how that creates an unnatural load in my spine contributing to tension in my upper back and shoulders. Historically we hunted, and gathered and covered large amounts of terrain daily. We didn’t sit in furniture. We squatted for a number of different reasons. We probably didn’t spend much time looking down at tiny screens. Whether you struggle with pain in your back, a separation of the abdominal muscles (diastasis recti) or pain at the front of the pelvis (symphysis pubis disorder), it all tells us the same thing; there are likely some pelvic imbalances created over a long period of time because of many of our bio-mechanically unsound habits. So great, you say. Now what? Obviously it would be difficult to re-program years of desk sitting, car driving, pelvis tucking, tummy sucking in, high heel wearing patterns in ten months. That’s where an experienced and knowledgeable doula can help. Because of these patterns in our bodies we often attend births where baby’s position contributes to a much longer and more painful journey. How can we help?

  1. We can help to prevent malposition in the first place with targeted exercises that will help to balance muscular weaknesses and pelvic ligaments. Here are some excellent resources:
    1. Daily Activities

      We send this link as well as our own prescription to all of our clients.

    2. Pregnancy

      I spoke about this blog in my class today. Theis is an excellent resource. I also highly recommend her books.

  2. We are very good at turning babies in labour. It is part training, part experience, and part intuition and part voodoo witchcraft. An experienced doula has many tools at her disposal and it can make all the difference between a long and bumpy road, and posssibly a surgical birth, and a smooth uncomplicated labour.

Now let’s consider the context of birth. I’ve met many women who are terrified to give birth. The way birth is portrayed in the media is ACTUALLY terrifying. I cringe when I watch birth scenes in most shows (with the notable exception of Call the Midwife). And then, we go to the doctor and are monitored and thoroughly checked to make sure that nothing is medically wrong. We actually look for all the things that can possibly go wrong. We talk about ‘risks’ and ‘pain relief’ and the futility of planning. We share our trauma and our horror stories, maybe hoping to prevent it for another, or perhaps simply as a cathartic exercise. The underlying assumption is that birth is scary, dangerous, painful, and an accident waiting to happen. Regardless of your personal position on this subject, these collective assumptions have an effect. And if you yourself, have experienced the trauma of a birth that didn’t go as planned, the effect is even more salient. So, how then, can an experienced and competent doula help?

  1. We help to shift the framework, and question the underlying assumptions. We believe in you. We believe in your baby, We believe that you are capable and wise, we believe you are meant to birth. We believe birth is sacred and seek to celebrate and preserve the sanctity of the event. Whereas the medical model seeks to understand pathology and how things go awry, we operate from the assumption that you are already whole and that you have everything that you need to birth this baby. That said, experienced doulas can also recognize when medical intervention is necessary and helpful.
  2. We are there for you from the moment you hire us. We encourage our clients to email, text and phone because we know that it creates trust. We don’t profess to know everything, but draw wisdom from years of teaching pre and postnatal yoga, and having supported many births from start to finish. We have a vast network and every woman, every family teaches us. That knowledge benefits all of our clients. And is often more helpful than what you would get from Google.
  3. We can help you to feel safe. We can create a bubble around you, and your partner so that you are able to stay in the ‘oxytoxic’ state of mind (which is the altered state of a woman in labour). We anticipate your needs, physical and emotional and we cater to those needs without question. (Questions take you out of the ‘oxytoxic’ state).  We create a physical environment that helps to sustain the altered state of labour, and an emotional environment that supports you no matter what you choose.
  4. We take the weight of responsibility of ‘knowing’ off your partner. It’s huge responsibility; what does labour look like? when do we go in to the hospital? how can I help her to stay present in her body, with challenging sensation?  How can I help her to invite in MORE intense sensation?? Unless your partner is a bit of a sadist, I’m pretty sure he/she has never asked that last question….but it’s important. We free him/her up to love and support you in exactly the way he/she knows how, without having to be the expert.

So, are doulas necessary? Given the context in which we birth, I believe we are. I believe that every woman and family deserves a knowledgeable guide who believes in birth, and can help to shift the focus from what can possibly go wrong, to what IS going right. I believe that birth is a celebration, and should be something we look forward to with excited anticipation rather than anxiety and fear. Let me help you elevate the conversation.

I am currently accepting clients with due dates after March 20, 2017. My email is My FB is here: and my phone number is 403-863-1539.




Support the Calgary Milk Bank, and have fabulous stocking stuffers!

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The lovely Amy Bidrman, a mentor and dear friend has taken on the most fantastic project in the hopes of raising funds for the Calgary Mother’s Milk Bank. She had a vision, and she has manifested this vision, and the result is spectacular;

Mama's milk 1 Mama's milk 2

The calendar she has created features breastfeeding mamas doing yoga (yes, that is me and Ivy on the right), and bonding with their babies. But this is not just about breastfeeding, and it is not just about yoga. It is a celebration of all mothers and the incredible transformation that occurs the moment that little seedling plants itself in our wombs. Amy, a central figure in the prenatal and postpartum community has always celebrated mothers, and this project is the culmination of her dedication to honoring women. The photos are beautiful, professionally done, and the calendar is large enough to hold the many appointments we have as busy working parents. So go out and buy yourself one. Or many. Buy some for all your relatives! Amy paid for this project ENTIRELY ON HER OWN!!!! You will be supporting a woman who has dedicated her career to helping women feel safe, supported and loved on their motherhood journey. And you will also be supporting a fantastic cause, as we know that there is no higher form of nourishment for our sick and early babies than mother’s milk. Plus, it might just help a couple postpartum mama’s to celebrate themselves, stretch marks, soft bellies and all, and realize that beauty radiates from the inside out. (I’m a model now, ha!)

You can purchase the calendars in many of the yoga studios around the city, or below, on Amy’s FB page. The cost is $20.

Swelli Community

Love and light,


What is a birth story?

In describing our service and what it entails, we talk about the prenatal meetings (there are three of them now, plus a workshop), and we talk about our attendance at the birth (which is the primary reason many people hire us). What we often don’t talk about, or possibly just briefly touch on, is the birth stories we write. Interestingly, it is often a part of our service for which we receive lots of positive feedback. Reflecting on this there are many reasons why the telling of the story should be so important to the families we serve.

First, it is a love letter to our babies, a story to tell them when the time is right. It is also a love story to our mamas. We see her, in her beauty, meeting her edge, and surrendering. And there is nothing more beautiful or more powerful than a birthing woman. It is the greatest love story. We don’t just tell the story of the birth, we talk about their pregnancy journey. We observe dynamics between partners, unseen in the context of the relationship, and especially on the day of the birth when mamas are deeply engaged in the meditative state. We see you, new dads, timing expansions to the second, squeezing hips, stroking hair, running back and forth with boiling pots of water to fill the pool, and taping newspaper over the window to create the ‘cave-like’ space for birth. We see you filling her water and holding it gingerly to her mouth, we see you whispering in her ear how much you love her, and how proud you are, and your sweet exclamation of pure unbridled joy when you glance at that baby for the first time. We bear witness to the most tender moments, and see families at their very best, and it is not just our pleasure, or privilege to disclose this, but our responsibility.

I have heard the argument that each mama should tell her own story, and I completely agree, but I also think that as that witness, I owe it to her to describe the beauty, the sacred, the intense, all of it. Especially the intense; when things do not go as planned, my outsider’s perspective can help her to reclaim her power, to re-frame the unplanned, and to honor her, as the fierce mama warrior she was. Because there is a fierce mama warrior in each of us. We don’t see ‘patients,’ we see women, women we truly love, discovering their strength, their grace, and meeting unconditional, universal love, sometimes for the first time. How could I not write about that?

One of my recent clients has given me permission to share her story. For this, I am immensely grateful. Thank you sweet Hannah. We love you, and your beautiful Chloe.

Chloe Madeleine Levesque PDF

Cloth Diapering in Five EASY Steps

I know what you are thinking. Cloth diapering, yuck, do I have to touch poo? Is there going to be poo in my washing machine? How can poo go in my washing machine? Do I have to fold things, or pin them? On a squirming baby? Seriously? What about when I am out and about?? Will I have to carry poo around in my purse? That’s not going to happen.

I’ve heard all the objections, and I’ve thought them all myself. I did not cloth diaper my son 13 years ago. I thought that it would be difficult, costly, and disgusting. I thought that I would have to touch poo. I envisioned daily mountains of soiled cloth waiting to be laundered and carefully hung to dry. I envisioned a squirmy baby eluding my carefully folded poo catcher only to jab itself, or me, with the safety pin.

My fears were irrational; cloth has come a long way, my friends. Everyone is doing it now. Thanks to some sage advice from my partner and dear friend (thank you Kirsten Wallace), I gave it a shot with my daughter and found that it was absolutely none of the things I anticipated. I also realized that every mom has to touch poo. It’s inevitable. For all you pregnant mamas out there, brace yourself for an entirely new relationship to poo. You will not only touch it, you will have long and lively conversations about it; when it happens, the quality, the texture, the contents, the frequency, and everyone’s favorite, the poopsplosion!

So here is the method that I use. I have not struggled with lingering odours or diaper rash, which are common problems that can be related to cloth diapering. I have struggled with ratio of mommy changed diapers to daddy changed diapers, but that is another post entirely.

1. Identify the type of cloth diaper that is going to work for your family

I really liked the all-in-ones. However, my friend whose son consumes more food and beverage than your typical 250 pound adult (no exaggeration) finds that the all-in-one’s are not ideal for the heavy wetter. I used Kawaii but I hear that Bumgenius or Mother-ease are very good for those heavy soiling babies. Get enough diapers to last 3-4 days. After about a month, you will likely change 5-8 diapers per day. I own 24, and that is more than sufficient.

2. Plan to use disposables for those first mec filled weeks

What’s this ‘mec’ you say? Is that like the store? No. No it is not. It is a tarry substance that will plague your baby’s bottom for the first couple weeks. And it happens frequently. Sometimes up to 18 times per day. (If you are reading this post chances are it’s already too late for you, sorry new parent.) Save yourself the grief of what truly might be an overwhelming pile of laundry and be okay with disposables for a little bit. You will probably get them in a cake at your baby shower anyway. You will have a much better chance of sticking to cloth if you don’t get completely turned off by the experience of coping with the needs of a newborn and a mountain of shit.

3. The water efficient cycle is not your friend.

The recipe for avoiding the funk is simple. Wash your diapers every 3-5 days. You can store them in a wet bin, I have never bothered. I simply remove the insert, fold the velcro tabs back in on themselves and chuck them in a plastic lined bin with a lid (the lid is key).  First wash, hot water and vinegar. Second wash, hot water and detergent. Not just any detergent, but the type of detergent that is not going to build up on your cloth diapers and render them completely useless. Repellent, even. Ahem. Tide. I really like Claudia’s Choice. I have not tried Rocking Green, but it’s supposed to be quite good also. In some of the newer machines you will have to add water to these cycles to ensure that the machine is filled. Dry in the sun to bleach, or just in the dryer if you live somewhere where outside makes your skin hurt for six months of the year.

4. On the go

Find yourself a really nice wet bag. In Calgary, Babes in Arms, carries them. Alternatively, my brilliant partner sews them. Check them out at Birdy and Bug! You may have poo in your purse, but that person standing next to you in line at the grocery store will be none the wiser. You just toss these little smell proof miracles into the laundry with the rest of the diapers on day 3, 4 or 5.

On vacation, you may find it awkward to ask your dad’s girlfriend if she is okay with poo in her washing machine while you stay with them. That’s reasonable. Let go of that self judgment and be okay with disposables for that week. Same thing goes for attendance at your best friend’s destination wedding, and that week long family camper van vacation. The wet bag has its limits.

5. After six months, liners are acceptable. Actually, liners are necessary.

Seriously. Once those little darlings start eating solids, it does get a bit more interesting. Unless you are okay with scraping those bits into the toilet then do yourself one last favor and be okay with the flushable, biodegradeable liners. Once you start using these, you will drive across the city, in a snow storm, in rush hour, to ensure a ready supply. A bad day is a day that you forget to put the liner in. Or grandpa does. Or worse yet, grandpa thinks that those (rather pricey) liners are actually ‘newfangled baby wipes’ and uses them to clean up the mess, rather than shield your diaper from it.

That’s it. That’s all there is to it. Now you can sit back, and enjoy the smug feeling that accompanies being a new mom, and an environmental crusader. Subtly and without judgment, of course.





Five ways to cope with severe ‘morning sickness’

Of the many things I would have liked to have in common with Princess Kate, severe nausea (Severe Nausea and Vomiting of Pregnancy or Hyperemsis Gravidarum) would not have been my top pick. Unfortunately, for up to ten percent of pregnant women, this is reality. To be clear, I am not talking about throwing up once or twice in the first trimester. Or even once or twice per day in the first trimester. I am talking about a unrelenting urge to vomit, with or without actually vomiting, that stays with you throughout your day, every day, from the first month, sometimes, until you give birth. Triggers are inescapable. Everything sets off waves of nausea, often so consuming, that the sufferer has to escape to a dark a smell free room. I couldn’t handle the smell of the stove being turned on – did you know, that the stove has a smell, in isolation of something cooking on it? I couldn’t handle fluorescent lighting, offensive deodorant on people merely passing by (which was pretty much every type of deodorant), restaurants, gyms, or even coffee smell. And I love coffee. But one stroll down tenth street where the Roasterie often delights passersby with the delicious aroma of perfectly roasted beans sent me running to the nearest trash can to relieve myself of my lunch. Every. Single. Time.

Things that don’t help that well meaning friends , relatives and colleagues will suggest include soda crackers, ginger (just the thought of it made me want to puke), a handful of almonds, protein with every meal, small frequent meals, drinking water with meals, drinking water between meals, ensuring you eat before rising out of bed, green apples, cutting out greasy foods (this one was truly confounding given I hadn’t been a big consumer of greasy foods, or really, any fast food, for years before I became pregnant), those ridiculous little wrist bands meant for sea sickness, and peppermint tea. Another thing that sufferers of HG often experience is the general sense that their friends, families, and colleagues just don’t understand, and kind of wish that you will “suck it up” and just move on with your day. You feel like nobody understands. And that is because they don’t. Unless you have experienced the truly awful and all-encompassing feeling of constantly needing to wretch, it’s very hard to understand. So smile and thank them for their advice, and then do whatever it is you need to do in order to get through the day. Here are some of the things that actually helped me;

  1. Rest. And lots of it. Let go of the need to do everything. I already know most of you are superwomen, employed professionals by day, super mother or wife by night (I’m including our fur babies here). Everyone  in your life probably knows you are superwoman. So stop trying to prove it! In my case, I was trying to run a yoga studio, be a social worker from 9-5, and continue to doula, while raising my son,  taking care of my large and energetic dog, and maintain my relationship with my partner. No big deal, right? I really do believe that my body was literally putting obstacles in my way so I could no longer continue to drain the precious resources I needed to devote to building my little person. I resigned from the yoga studio, enlisted the support of my doula partner (thank you swellmama), and happily put myself to bed, in a dark room, with the window open almost every night by 8:30. My son, bless his heart, became quite independent taking on many of the chores I could no longer do, and my husband took on the task of cooking. Give yourself permission to engage in marathon netflix sessions. Give yourself permission to nap. It is, afterall, only a short period of time, and I promise you will have many opportunities after that baby arrives to prove just how super you are.
  2. Grapefruit and pineapple. I’m not sure what it was, but citrus was a lifesaver to me. I never left home without it. My favorites were grapefruit juice and soda, or pineapple juice and soda. I carried a grapefruit in my purse at all times. Never once did I vomit citrus. Never once did it make me gag.
  3. Fresh air. Better yet, try fresh air combined with a slow rhythmic pace. The school I worked in was built in the fifties and fraught with nausea triggers. I’d even hazard a guess that it would qualify for what we call “sick building syndrome.” When the nausea took hold it was nearly impossible to do any work. So I’d often take myself for a little walk. And it helped. This is probably a good habit for anyone anyway, pregnant or not.
  4. Simple carbohydrates. I’m aware that this is blasphemy in this day and age of gluten free and ‘Wheat Belly.’ However, you do not have to consume cereal or white bread, there is a healthy way to do the simple carbs. I started my day with millet, lunched on some sort of soba noodle soup, and ate (or didn’t eat) whatever my husband cooked for dinner. I always made sure that when I was feeling good, I got my fare share of fresh fruits and vegetables (the salad bar at Community Natural Foods being my top pick). Occasionally, I’d allow myself a croissant. I swear those chocolate croissants from Sidewalk Citizen Bakery were all I could eat some days. And that’s okay 😉
  5. Yoga. But probably not the type of yoga you think. On the worst days, a wide legged forward fold combined with deep belly breathing was the best I could manage. The rest of the time I maintained a somewhat vigorous practice I had established well before becoming pregnant with my little girl. If today is a bad day for you, do the forward fold, rest your forehead (your third eye) on a chair or a bolster and tune in to your breath. Allow the breath to expand your belly around your baby and see if you can extend the exhalation so that it is twice as long as the inhalation. This posture is explained here wide legged forward fold

If none of these things work, know that it is temporary. It will pass. In nine months or so. And consider a conversation with your doctor or midwife. There are pharmaceutical options, and they do help in some cases. When I had my son 12 years ago, I wasn’t aware of the pharmaceutical options and I ended up losing weight and being hospitalized twice for dehydration. With my daughter, I discussed it with my midwives right away, and based on their information as well as my own research (motherrisk) decided that it was something I was comfortable using. Each women has to decide for herself. For me, it made the difference between near constant vomiting (followed frequently by dry heaving and hospitalization) and just being on the edge of vomiting. Which might not feel better, but is a lot less messy at work. Finally, if you experience depression as a result of your condition, please seek help. Know that you are not alone, and that depression is a normal reaction to a difficult situation. You don’t have to work through it by yourself.

Good luck mamas. For more info check out the following links;

Help HG


Globe and Mail article