Creating Your Support Circle

One thing that we stress with our clients during our prenatal appointments is to create a solid support circle to help with the postpartum transition.

Transitioning from pregnant to postpartum can be incredibly overwhelming, even for moms who are experiencing postpartum for a second, third, fourth + time! Creating a support circle to help during those first 6 weeks postpartum can help immensely!

Think about all of the things that need to be done...
laundry
dishes
cooking
cleaning
baby care tasks
appointments

And don't forget about self care!! Who can you call on to help out? Who can take baby for a stroll on a nice day while you grab a shower and a nap?

Surround yourself with people who truly care and make you feel good. Their care and want to see you succeed as a parent will make you feel wonderful!

 

Who Am I? Shannon's Story

When I read Lindsey's post about Who Am I and her identity struggles after she became a mom, I wanted to have each member of our team open up a bit about who we are as individuals, parents and women.

This month, it's my turn.

As many of you know, Sweet Stella's started because I lost my identity when I became a mom in 2010. I needed something that was mine. Something that I could pour my heart and soul into and let go of the stigma that followed my postpartum depression, anxiety and rage.

Little did I know that losing my identity was exactly what I needed to really find who was hiding inside. Sometimes, it takes something really humbling, something scary to make you dig deep and get to know yourself again.

So, who am I?

I'm a woman. I'm a creator, an artist.

I'm a free spirit with a wild heart. I refuse to be told what I can't do.

I'm a mom. A mom who puts herself first, who loves to lift weights and hike, and a glass of prosecco. A mom whose kids drive her nuts from time to time, and who loves to sing them Yesterday every night at bedtime.

I am me.

Unapologetically. Authentically. Hippie heart and all.

It's taken me a very long time to get here. I've had to be broken to find myself, but I did. I found myself and I'm so happy I did.

Who are you?

Understanding Active Labour

Active Labour is typically described as the time where the cervix dilates from 3-7cm and does a whole boat load of changes such as thinning and effacing. Baby descends lower into the pelvis and contractions get stronger, longer and more intense.

You may have heard your health care professional say something like when your contractions are 5-1-1 you are in active labour and need to go to the hospital/page me.

Unfortunately, labour and birth are quite unpredictable and there are many variations of normal. What's important is that you listen to your body and find your own normal.

If your contractions are every 15 minutes (and you're 39-42 weeks pregnant) and you find it difficult to walk or talk through them, chances are your body is doing a lot of changes and preparing for birth. Some women don't actually get to that 5-1-1 rule until their water breaks, and your water can break at any point during labour. Some babies are even born in the water sac (referred to as en caul)!

When you're nearing the end of pregnancy and you feel like things are starting, go through a mental checklist. Ask yourself

  • how am I feeling?
  • am I angry? (anger is often associated with transition, 7-10cm)
  • do I feel pressure and like I need to poop?
  • can I walk or talk through this pain?
  • what do my instincts say?

You've got this, mama! Active labour is hard, but you can do it. You were made for this!

Labouring at Home

There's a big reason why we encourage clients to stay at home during labour for as long as possible.

Control.

You're able to control your environment, and feel at ease in your own surroundings, which will help with the flow of oxytocin and labour progression.

Think about your home for a moment. Picture yourself there.

You feel safe and grounded. You feel loved and cared for. The environment is familiar, so the stress hormones are already lower.

You can eat and drink as much or as little as you'd like, and you can move around freely. You can rest, you can bathe, you can just be.

If your plan is a hospital birth, spending as much time at home prior to heading to the hospital could help you avoid a longer stay in your birthing suite.

When contractions are too much to bear, and you can't talk through them anymore, and comfort measures are failing....head in!

Being at home brings incredible comfort, and control.

Birth and Your Doula

Birth from the perspective of your doula is an incredible thing. We get to see you at your most vulnerable, and your most triumphant. Truly, it is an honour to support a woman during birth!

While every doula is different, we often find ourselves...

  • Applying counter pressure
  • Placing cold wash cloths on foreheads and backs
  • Fetching popsicles and freezies
  • Rubbing Partners back
  • Holding moms hand

We do whatever is needed in the situation, and sometimes that includes excusing ourselves to the waiting room to give you space. Our role during birth is whatever it needs to be, and that is largely determined by how your labour unfolds and what your wishes are.

We want nothing more than for you to have a positive birth experience and we will do everything in our power to try and help that happen for you. We strongly believe in your power as a woman, and know that you can do this.

We are your champion. We are your cheerleader. We are your doula.

Fertility: Your Body, Your Journey, Your Choice - Natural Supplements

Welcome back! This month we are focusing on Natural Supplements! Sometimes changing your diet and your lifestyle will solve your infertility, some women notice better results when taking natural supplements and herbs. The first thing my naturopath recommended for me was Cod Liver Oil, which also happens to be great for pregnancy. 

The following herbs were also recommended to help increase fertility:

• Red Raspberry Leaf– This is probably the most well known fertility herb! It is high in nutrients and helps tone, strengthen and also brings overall health to your uterus.  You can get it in a capsule but is also available as a tea (which is my favourite). 

• Nettle Leaf– Is very high in minerals. It is nourishing to the adrenals and kidneys. It is a stress reducer and also tones and strengthens the uterus. Once pregnant, it is great for getting enough nutrients during pregnancy and has a high vitamin K content to prevent hemorrhage. You could add nettle leaf to a tea and drink before and during pregnancy.

• Dandelion– Contains vitamins A and C as well as some minerals. The root is beneficial to the liver and the leaf is mildly diuretic. It can also help cleanse the body and remove toxins.

• Alfalfa- Has vitamins A, D, E and K and 8 digestive enzymes. 

• Red Clover– Is very high in vitamins and contains almost every mineral. It has been known to help balance hormones and restore fertility.

• Maca (or Maca Root) – Is a hormone balancing herb that is known worldwide for its fertility promoting properties. It is good for both men and women to increase fertility.  It is a very strong herb that often has very noticeable effects on fertility. You can get it in a powder form or in capsules.

• Vitex/Chaste Tree Berry– This helps lengthen the luteal phase of your cycle (which is when fertilization and implantation occur).  

IMPORTANT: Do not take any of these herbs in combination with fertility drugs, hormone treatments, or hormonal birth control! As with any herbs, supplements, or medication, consult a doctor or health care professional about your specific case!

Fertility struggles can often be linked to hormone imbalances. The herbs listed above can help to balance your hormones; however, sometimes your hormones are so out of whack that it might be beneficial to try a progesterone cream (which is by prescription).   

For couples, struggles with infertility can be quite painful. Proper diet and nutrition can be a big help and are beneficial in overall health. While sometimes medical treatment is necessary, couples should at least consider changing their diet first to support their body.

xoxo

Stephanie

You Are A Superhero

Want to know a secret?

You know that human-being-growing-ability that you have? That mama-bear instinct? The quick reflexes to catch spit up, or save a child from harm when they are taking their first steps?

Those abilities...those instincts....they make you a superhero.

You physically, in your body, grew a baby. The ability to be pregnant is something that is really unique to women, and whether you get there by way of embryo transfer, ovulation kits, BBT monitoring, fertility treatments or happenstance; it makes you a superhero.

Whether you carry that baby in your arms or in your heart; you are a superhero.

You are an incredible human being, destined for great things!

The Story of Nicole and Lexi

After a devastating loss in December of 2011 we were very happy and surprised to find out in the summer of 2012 that we were expecting.

I hadn't been feeling well but I just chalked it up to the fact I was home myself (hubby was working out west) taking care of a 3 year old, 2 dogs, the household chores and maintenance as well as working full time. My doctor had said he could take me off work at any time but with October/November being the busiest months at work I said I would try to stick it out a little bit longer!

On the 22nd of November, I was on my lunch and decided to use a portable blood pressure tester to see how mine was as I was feeling a little puffy. The monitor read 168/98 and on the advice of my doctor I headed to the Hospital. After being given I.V fluids I was sent home for a few days to chart my blood pressure. It continued to slowly rise.

On November 25th, close to 25 weeks into my pregnancy, I was admitted to the hospital for what I thought was going to be my home for the next 3.5 months. I was put on labatelol to keep my blood pressure down and also given a 24/hr urine test and had blood drawn frequently. They had also done ultrasounds and informed me that my baby was measuring more then 3 weeks behind and had severe IUGR. I was given 2 rounds of steroids injections but was told that it was just precautionary measures. By that Thursday night I started feeling nauseous and having pain in my right shoulder and chest area. (I honestly wanted to believe it was the McDonalds my father-in-law had brought me to eat that night)

Friday morning I was told to contact my husband and family. They would be putting me on 4 hours of magnesium and then expected to take me in for a c-section. The original plan was for me to stay awake, but once again things did not go as planned.

2 hours into my magnesium I was told they need to deliver the baby ASAP as my condition was deteriorating. I had developed SEVERE HELLP SYNDROME and the only way to save myself and my baby was an immediate emergency c-section. For someone who had never even had stitches (other then from my first childbirth experience) this was extremely terrifying!

My daughter came into this world on November 30th 2012 weighing 500grams (1lb1.8oz's) and was 29cm long. She was intubated at 7 mins of life.

The next day or so was a real blurr, due to the magnesium and morphine they had me on. I got wheeled through to see my tiny daughter but barely remember.

Alexis Lily (LEXI) spent the next 109 days in the NICU. She battled CLD,BPD, pneumonia, sepsis, stage 2 ROP, PDA,ASD, multiple infections, reflux, anemia and pulmonary hypertension to name a few. On March 19th 2013, 10 days after her due date, we finally got to bring our precious miracle home. Lexi now weighed 7lb11oz and was oxygen and monitor free!! Lexi is now a happy healthy 4 year old and started junior kindergarten last fall. We worked with the amazing team at Thames Valley Children Center (O.T, P.T and SLP) to make sure she was ready.

I struggle with anxiety and PTSD, but find it very helpful to share my daughters story and hopefully inspire other parents of itty bitty babies. Miracles happen every day and my little Lexi is living proof! Always listen to your body and don't be afraid to be checked if you think something is wrong!

Massive appreciation to Nicole for sharing her story of HELLP to raise awareness. If you or someone you know is experiencing symptoms of HELLP, please seek medical attention immediately!

Labour and Your Doula

Labour. It's an exciting time if you're an expectant parent, and it's equally exciting for us doulas! We eagerly await that text message or phone call, ringers on high volume with the most obnoxious ringtone known to man.

Watching a woman give birth, holding her hand or stroking her forehead, being there to support her in her absolute most vulnerable moments is something that is truly incredible.

The most important thing to remember when you are starting to feel like this could be it is to call your doula. There is a time and place for emailing and texts, but when you are feeling the beginning stages of labour it's really important to call your doula.

First and foremost, it is likely going to be really comforting to hear their voice. Additionally, it's important for your doula to hear your voice and read your tone. We can sense a lot just in a quick phone call, and can typically hear if there is any hesitation or fear, as well as if you are able to talk through any of your contractions.

Labour is the Superbowl of birth; the big game. When you call and let us know how you're feeling, typically we are by your side within an hour at most and can bring the energy down just a smidge, allowing your body to relax and do its beautiful work.

Labour and your doula. The moment we are anxiously awaiting for, so we can support you in your birth.

Understanding Early Labour

One of the most frequently asked questions from our clients is how will I know that I'm in labour?

The real answer is that you will just know. Something instinctual will kick in that signals to you that yes, you are in fact in real labour. Early labour can last hours, days or weeks, so different phases, physical signs and emotional triggers before it happens can be really helpful.

Sometimes, there are physical signs but please understand that everyone's normal is different. Here are a few things to look for that can signal the beginning of labour.

Contractions are the big physical change that most women anxiously anticipate in the latter stages of pregnancy.

Sometimes they present themselves as a low backache, and other times similar to the cramping you may experience during menstruation. If they don't go away with position changes, movement, breathing, or hydrating it is likely that they are early labour contractions. If you can still talk and move through them, consider them a warmup for active labour!

Other physical signs to look for are:

Soft bowel movements
Nausea
Sudden burst of energy
Wanting to sleep more than usual
Bloody show
Loss of mucus plug

In our training, we call early labour a Vacation Day. It's an exciting time where things are obviously starting, but not quite there yet in terms of active labour, where you can relax.

Treat yourself to you favourite meal, a matinee movie alone or get your doula to come with you, and have some ice cream. Treat it like vacation and let your happy hormones flow easily. When they are triggered by people, places and things that naturally make you happy, you can coast through early labour with ease.

Like I said, early labour can last hours, days or weeks. As difficult as it can be, try not to watch the clock or think about your due date.

Give into the process and let your early labour work for you.

Your body is doing exactly what it needs to do to birth your baby.

Body Image During Labour

9 months

40 weeks

Body changes during pregnancy happen relatively quickly when you take a step back and think about it. Inside, organs are shifting and moving around to make room for a human life that will grow from a poppyseed into a watermelon in just 40 or so weeks.

That's a huge amount of change so it stands to reason to think that it can be difficult to wrap your head around and feel comfortable in your own skin.

Much like the article earlier this month which deals with your identity fare you have a baby, the physical manifestation of that identity is that body that you lovingly (or not so lovingly) look at every day.

Keep in mind that while your body is changing rapidly, it is also doing something truly incredible. It is building a life. Your body now has two heart beats, two sets of lungs and organs. Your body is growing a brand new organ to sustain the new life inside you.

Your body is amazing.

While things will shift and move, while hips may not go back to their narrow state pre-pregnancy, you body is beautiful and it is working hard.

Celebrate it! Every stretch mark, every bump. Every new inch that you discover.

Celebrate it and embrace it, for it is building life.

Mother's Day Giveaway!

In celebration of Mother's Day, we've gotten together with two incredible London, Ontario businesses for a gorgeous giveaway!

A Moon and Two Stars creates beautiful breastmilk and memorial keepsakes. Jessica Hale, owner and creator, says it so eloquently. " I believe every woman should celebrate her breastfeeding journey, whether it was for a week or over a year, every moment matters. I also make keepsakes from cremation ashes, flower petals, pet fur, first curls and fabric (from wedding dress, baptism dresses, baby blankets, etc) "

Her designs are truly one of a kind, and paired with a stunning necklace from Poag's Jewellers, is the perfect way to honour you this Mother's Day.

Not sure what you would put in your pendant? I personally think the first curls from my boys would be lovely, with a little bit of soil or flower petals from where we've plated our roots.

 

Ready to enter for your chance to win this incredible and personalized prize? Click through the entry form below, visit the sponsoring businesses pages and give them a thumbs up.

Happy Mother's Day!

Fertility: Your Body, Your Journey, Your Choice - Acupunture

Acupuncture is a great resource for fertility; there have been many studies that prove that it increases fertility.  It is based on the theory that energy flows through your body along certain pathways.  An acupuncturist balances your energy by stimulating specific points along these pathways with tiny needles.    

Acupuncture increases blood flow to the reproductive organs and relaxes muscle tissue which will create a stronger chance for an egg to be nourished, implant and be carried to term.  It is also is a great resource for reducing stress which will help to increase your chances of conceiving as well.  It could also help you cope with the stress of trying to conceive. 

Acupuncture isn’t just great for women’s fertility but it is also a great resource for men, regular treatments can improve sperm count and motility. It helps keep the normal flow of energy unblocked and therefore increases your chances of conceiving.  

Reducing stress is probably the number one thing to do when you are trying to conceive. However, it is easier said than done.  Trying to get pregnant is stressful on its own.  When people are stressed they release a hormone called corizol in their brain. This affects the chemical balance in their brain which changes hormone levels and disrupts the reproductive cycle (this explains why some women menstruate late when they are stressed, or even possibly miss their period all together).  Acupuncture helps keep all these factors in balance and it is not just for conception.  It can help with nausea, aches and pains, anxiety, insomnia or morning sickness.   

With all of that being said, acupuncture is not for everyone.  I, personally, am not good with needles.  I contemplated back and forth for over a year before I decided to try acupuncture.  Since I am not good with needles I found that the treatment caused more stress than actually reducing it. So it did not work for me. However, I know many people that swear by acupuncture and say it was great for them.  I strongly encourage you to give it a try even if it ends up not working for you like it did for me.  I am glad that I tried it because I would always wonder if that would have worked. 

Now I have crossed it off my list and ending up finding another resource to reduce my stress that works much better for me.  
 

Stephanie

Explore Your New Self

When you become a mom, there's a shift in identity. All of a sudden, you aren't just you but you are someone's mom.

Long ago were the days when you were called by your first name. Now you are

Mom
Mommy
Mama
Ma
Mum
Mami

And in social circles like preschool, daycare and school you are Owen's Mom, Graeme's Mama etc.

You lose a part of your identity. You change and shift and are recreated into someone new. It can be an extremely difficult thing to wrap your head around and this new version of your deserve some exploration.

Take time to get to know this new self.

What are the things that you enjoy doing now that you are a mom? Are they different from things that you enjoyed before? Are there things that you miss about life before you became a mom?

Take time and be understanding. You've spent 20+ years or so being you and now all of that has changed.

Find your new normal and embrace it.

Labour Support with an Epidural

Many people think that if you're hiring a doula, you're likely having an unmedicated birth. Most have visions of doulas with long flowing hair, the smell of sage and patchouli, and chanting.

What they don't realize is that the type of birth we attend is determined by one thing: the client. If the client is wanting an epidural birth, awesome! We will be there, and will come packed with knowledge of how to support you before, during and after your epidural.

One of the biggest things about labour support when you've had an epidural is helping you to manage the pressure. The changes in pressure are still going to be felt by mom, although not painful, and keeping communication open about what mom is feeling is key. We often are there asking questions about what the pressure feels like, if it's located in a particular spot and then communicating that back to your health care team.

We can also do things such as fetch ice chips, water, and popsicles. You simply ask, or let us know what you need, and we will do it or get it for you!

Additionally, your doula can help with different positioning to help make you more comfortable while you wait for the anesthesiologist, then again after the epidural is in place and your movement is somewhat limited. 

After birth, when the epidural wears off, you may need assistance getting up to use the bathroom, or simply repositioning in bed if you're wanting to stay there.

Ultimately, doula support is tailored to the situation whether you choose to have an epidural or not.

It's your birth and we support that.

Who Are You?

Who are you?

You're a Mother. You're a partner. You're a Wife. You're a homemaker. You're a cheerleader. You're the rock in the family.

But who are YOU?

The most exciting days in your life have come and maybe gone. Weddings, babies, lifelong partnerships and promises. You have made this life that is worth living, a dream. Then it hits. Who am I? What do I need? When did I get lost in all of this happiness?

How do you find YOU again?

This process for me has been difficult, exciting and scary. I am still finding me. One step at a time, one foot in front of the other walking on my own path. Sometimes it is 3 steps forward and 1 back, but I am closer to me everyday.

We can do this. I can do this!

I am a Mother. I am a Partner. I am a wife. I am a homemaker. I am a cheerleader. I am the rock in the family. I am ME!

Who are you?

Lindsey

Seasonal Changes and Pregnancy

Pregnancy lasts 40 (ish) weeks, which means more than likely you are going to experience at least one if not two seasonal changes during the duration of your pregnancy. What can you expect?

First and foremost, depending on your estimated due date, you may have a bit of a baby belly during the winter months. This means slippery sidewalks, lack of sunshine, and cumbersome winter clothes. Be aware of your surroundings and always err on the side of caution!

One thing to keep in mind to help with seasonal changes is to keep your wardrobe simple. A basic pair of maternity jeans (we love the ones from Thyme Maternity!), a few sweaters and a few tank tops are really all you should need to get you through the bulk of your pregnancy. Heavy maternity coats, unless you live somewhere particularly chilly, are likely an unnecessary expense.

If you're between sizes and maternity clothes aren't quite your jam with the full belly panel, think about going up a size from what you would normally wear for things like tshirts, sweaters and leggings. Forever21 is a great place for inexpensive, trendy pieces that you need for only a short time.

As summer approaches, do whatever you can to stay hydrated and cool. Crank the AC at your office or home, put some fruit in your water bottle, and invest in an inexpensive kiddie pool for the backyard.

Seasonal changes can be difficult to manage while you are pregnant, but the most important thing to keep in mind is that it's temporary, and that your comfort is the biggest priority.

Why birthPrep?

When you start looking into options for prenatal classes, more often than not you are likely looking at the options offered by the health unit in your area.

Did you know that there are other ways to learn, that provide incredible support as well as information?

We have created our own course called birthPrep - Pregnancy and Birth Education, after feeling like there just wasn't enough information out there for parents who are exploring their options. Either the options are outdated (think of holding an ice cube while practicing breathing, or birth videos from the 1980's and 90's) or just incomplete.

There are so many ways of birthing, and the options available to you are plentiful. In our course, you'll learn about hospital procedures, comfort measures, positions for labour and birth and even information to help ease your postpartum transition.

And, since we know that sometimes time is limited, life happens and babies come when they are ready, we've created an online course to make learning easier!

As always, we are only an email away if you have questions, need clarity, or just some support!

Fertility: Your Body, Your Journey, Your Choice - Yoga

Fertility_ Your Body, Your Journey, Your Choice..png

I mentioned in an earlier post that Yoga is a great form of exercise and is good for fertility.  It is great for balance, toning, flexibility and preparing your body for pregnancy. Yoga can bring an overall balance for your body, physically and mentally. 

Fertility Yoga uses certain poses that can assist your body in strengthening, supporting and nurturing your reproductive system.  

There are other benefits to Fertility Yoga as well:

• Increased energy flow • Helps to balance hormones • May clear blockages or adhesion's in reproductive system • Increases circulation • Supports healthy immune system • Supports the body in detoxifying • Helps with mental struggles of your journey • Calming environment to reduce stress

Given all the benefits listed above, what do you have to lose? At the very least it’s a night out! 

North Yoga & Wellness in London offers Fertility Yoga, and their instructors are great! By doing yoga you are strengthening your reproductive organs and muscles that are used during pregnancy and child birth, so it is a big benefit.

I challenge you to find a yoga studio near you and give Fertility Yoga a try!

Stephanie

Slow. It. Down.

This month in Mindful Motherhood, it's all about making time to slow down.

Sounds counter productive, doesn't it? Making the time, just to allow things to slow down. It sounds like you'd be wasting time, and putting so much effort into making all of the time.

All. Of. The. Time.

The thing is, we lead such incredibly busy lives as parents that we often don't have the time to just slow down and notice. Notice the details, the moments shared. It can be difficult, and then life passes us by.

This month in Mindful Motherhood, make the time to slow down.

Be intentional with it this month. Sink into the slow down, and allow yourself to unravel just a little bit.

Eat slower

Move Slower

Think Slower

Love Slower

Breathe Slower

Whatever you do, make the time to do it just a bit slower this month. Notice all of the details that surround you in that moment, breathe them in and let them live in your heart with just a little bit more intensity.

Slow It Down. You'll be glad you did!