Thursday, 17 March 2011

Bush Dreaming

This story will appear in "Birth Matters" magazine shortly, along with stories from Fleur Magick and midwife Hazel Keedle. Enjoy!! 

It was just a few days after a hectic Christmas that my partner and I packed the car and headed bush to help set up base camp with Fleur. The kids were uber excited to be going camping again but the excitement wore off after several hours stuck in a hot hot car and their expressions turned into a quiet frustration. As we turned down a dirt track our spirits lifted again as we knew there would be a crystal clear river to rejuvenate our senses. We were not disappointed. We wasted no time stripping off and headed towards the river who was calling us with her song. A goanna lay motionless on the branch of a eucalyptus, hoping to go unnoticed. Tiptoeing across the hot, hot sand and then Relief! The water eased our desperation. 
After a while just laying and soaking it was decided that we best go and set up camp before it got too late. The base camp was just perfect with a ring of tents, a great kitchen area thanks to my partner, Lucas, and a campfire in the middle. My kids watched in amazement as Fleur’s boys, James & Preston, painted their faces, arms and legs with charcoal from the cold fire. I could tell they were keen to do the same but weren’t quite sure if they could, or should! Meekly they grabbed a few pieces of charcoal and did a few stripes on their legs and across their cheeks. Fleur and her boys performed dances to welcome us onto country. Needless to say, I felt extremely privileged to be there that night with my family and Fleur’s family.
The song of the cicada’s was almost deafening but as the sun went down this gave way to an orchestra of night insects. The kids were pooped after a long day of travelling, swimming and playing, and didn’t take much convincing to go to bed. The adults briefly admired the night sky and then joined the kids shortly after! 
The next day and for the rest of the week we spent the time together swimming, playing and learning about Wiradjuri language, bush tucker (which my kids now point out in all types of locations… who’d have thought there was bush tucker in the Bunnings carpark!) Fleur took us on bush walks and to glorious swimming holes nestled amongst the sandstone cliffs.  She was in her element. Lucas and I were absolutely amazed at her agility & flexibility to be able to climb over boulders, across logs and up steep slopes. Nothing phased her here. I have never seen a woman at 8 months of pregnancy so active. We felt quite ashamed at how unfit we were! 
Fleur took us to a Wiradjuri cultural site where the hand prints of her ancestors were visible for all to appreciate. The colours of the ochre were incredibly vibrant. This was an area for all the family and was evident by the variety of sizes and shapes of the hands, including childrens hand prints. Unfortunately this whole area is under threat from coal mining and the local environmental groups are continuing their fight to protect this amazing area. 
Usually by the end of a camping week, my family is busting to go home to remove the sand from our hair and have a good shower. This time however, it was difficult to pack up and go back to normal life. I’m sure we could have lived there forever.
Fleur and I had met some five years earlier when she was pregnant with her second babe and I was pregnant with my first.  We had both joined the local yoga group and had had friendly exchanges as the months passed but we had never discussed where we were having our babies. After a few weeks of Fleur not being in class I asked the teacher if she knew where she was, to which she exclaimed with a somewhat puzzled look on her face “oh, she’s gone bush to do secret womens business…. or something”. At that moment I thought “Wow! I want to do secret womens business too!” 
A few weeks passed and I was becoming anxious to get back to the bush. The full moon was on her way and I was sure a babe would be born under it. I packed lightly… a few clothes, a swag and meagre cooking utensils. This time my family was staying behind. 
Fleur’s mother had arrived, her midwife Hazel and there were other sisters coming and going at the base camp & birth site. Talk about an awesome support network! There is something very liberating about only having women around you. Fleur had invited me to sleep out at the birth site and I was more than happy to oblige. It was as simple as picking a flatish spot, making sure there were no creepy crawlies whose home I might be invading, and unrolling my swag and my sleeping arrangements were done. The view from my swag was sensational. If I looked straight up it was a sheer vertical sandstone escarpment above me with a few overhanging tree branches. If you looked across the gorge you could watch the full moon & the stars appear over the cliffs over the other side and track their way across the night sky. 
I was acutely aware of the need to be absolutely present and in the moment. To be able to take in every sight, every sound and every experience. These experiences were many and varied. One of my favourites was the morning I lay peacefully watching a hawk fly from one side of the gorge to the other, picking off cicadas one by one and landing directly above me on the cliff. Backwards and forwards she went. 
The time I spent alone at the birth site was taken up by a lot of relaxation and contemplation. The song of the water over the rocks made the perfect soundtrack for bush meditation. The shifting sands of the river made for the musing of the ever fluid & changing nature of living. The early morning drops of rain on my face exposed my vulnerability. 
The time spent together as a community of women was vibrant and energetic. Dancing, singing and ceremony were a part of the ritual of being on country and the women revelled in it. I cannot think of a better way to honour those last weeks of pregnancy.  I can only dream that every woman has the opportunity to relax deeply, honour herself and connect with her sisters, herself and her babe in whatever fashion suits her over those last weeks. 
Fleur’s mother, Roxanne, is one of the most generous women I have ever met. Her unconditional support for Fleur was loving & pure. She made sure both Fleur and I were well fed at all times and that we wanted for nothing. I cannot thank her enough!
Secret womens business is called that for a reason. There are some things I will keep between Fleur and myself and there have been some experiences I have shared with my partner and family & friends. This story has been just a snapshot into what was an awe inspiring adventure. 
The country onto which young Yiri was birthed is under serious threat from coal mining by by the Xstrata group. It makes me angry and a sadness wells up within with the thought that this stunning area of cultural significance could be disrespected, wasted and destroyed by the mining magnates. The ever increasing thirst for energy is unsustainable and as consumers we are the ones who can dictate how we influence this energy and can demand a more sustainable future. Please show your support for this cause by visiting

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Whose Birth? YOUR birth!

Imagine organising your wedding and being told that the person who will be conducting the ceremony will be whoever is working on that particular day, who you may or may not have met beforehand. Or being told by a car salesperson that one particular car is the only one you can have regardless of your personal needs & uses for that car.

These situations would be considered fairly significant life events- celebrating a union or financing a large purchase. If this scenario actually happened in real life, I would hazard a guess that you would turn around, walk out and find a different car yard or jump online & start searching for your own marriage celebrant.

So what about your birth? I'm sure we can all agree that bringing a new child into this world is an extremely significant life event for the parents and the child! For birth to unfold in an uncomplicated manner there's a few important things that need to happen:

*the mother needs to feel safe & secure in her surroundings
*she needs people who she knows & trusts supporting her
*she needs to be uninterrupted

It seems simple enough, doesn't it? And yet for most women they see a variety of care providers throughout their pregnancy who spend the minimum amount of time getting to know THEM. So long as  blood pressure is fine, fundal height is measuring fine and we get to listen to bubs heartbeat on the doppler then it's move on out and time for the next appointment.

Is this satisfying? Is it conducive to building trust? Not particularly.

And by the time you do go into labour the staff in the maternity ward seem completely foreign. You might see a familiar face or two pass by but in your labour land haze you can't really make head nor tail of them. Once in the delivery room you're mostly left alone with a midwife occasionally poking her head in to see if everyone's ok before she checks on the other women who are also in labour. A shift change occurs and someone new comes in & introduces themselves and you, or your partner has to outline *once again* what your birth wishes are. Do these people share the same philosophies on birth as you? No time to find out, here comes another contraction!

Don't get me wrong... I'm not having a go at midwives or doctors. I know many midwives who feel dismayed at the maternity system. It's the system itself that is broken.

Now relate this back to the opening analogy of a wedding. This is in total contrast with the wonderful experience of a well planned wedding... family & friends supporting your wishes and the celebrant, photographers, florists & caterers all hand picked and responding to your every whim. And yet most people rate the experience of childbirth as more important than their wedding. It is an event where the details of the experience, who was there and how you were treated will remain in your memory for a lifetime.

Imagine if you could hand pick your perfect birth! Your perfect location and your perfect support team!

The good news is... you can! Just like planning any other significant moment in your life all it takes is a little time & research.

And here's some resources to help you on your way :)

The My Birth website was established for women to find resources. You find information on your local hospital & learn their statistics for caesarean rates, induction rates, episiotomy rates, VBAC rates etc.

What if you're not happy with your local hospitals statistics or feel they're not catering to your individual needs?

Well, if hospital's not your thing and you'd like a homebirth in the Central West try these midwives:

You can also join with like minded women at the local Joyous Birth meetings, held monthly in Orange. Here women share their experiences both in hospital & at home. Contact me for details.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Dubbo Pregnancy & Baby Expo

My family and I ventured up to Dubbo to attend the inaugural Dubbo Pregnancy & Baby Expo. I had a stall there promoting my doula and childbirth education services. I took along some herbs which are traditionally used during pregnancy, childbirth & in the post partum period for people to have a look & smell of.

I had the privilege of giving a workshop titled "The Power of the Pelvis" which guided women (& some partners) to create a visual image of their pelvic outlet. By having this knowledge women can find positions to adopt during labour that creates more space in the pelvis for their babes during birth.

When I talk about "creating space in the pelvis" I'm not talking about being able to drive a truck through there. It's very subtle and unless you're consciously aware of the movement of your pelvis it can be difficult to identify.

Try this exercise:

Press your thumb & forefinger together very tightly. Then try & slide your fingers across one another. Notice how they stick together and won't slide?

Now, with thumb & forefinger still pressed together,  relax those fingers and take the pressure off. Suddenly these two fingers can easily slide along one another.

This is how subtle a position change in labour can be and shows that we don't have to create a huge amount of space in order to allow a babe to slip through the pelvic outlet.

The expo had a good turnout and I spoke to lots of pregnant couples & made some great new contacts in Dubbo.

Doula Services

What is a doula?

A doula is an experienced, non-medical childbirth specialist who provides physical, emotional and informed choice support in pregnancy, during childbirth and in the newborn period. 
She provides continuous care - building friendship & trust for the entire journey.
A doula aims to create an environment that is private, free of pressure, fear, and distractions. 
A doula does not take the place of a woman’s partner, but rather compliments and assists them in having an active role in the birth of their child, enhancing the overall birth experience. 
She comforts, inspires confidence & offers unconditional support.

What you can expect with me as your doula:

*4 x 2hr antenatal visits
This time allows us to build friendship & trust. I believe this is so important as a birthing woman needs to feel safe and secure with the people in her birthing space. We discuss what type of birth you wish for and how, as a team, we can go about facilitating this. This time can be used for anything you wish - relaxed chats, massage & meditation, mapping your pelvis and working through labour positions- it's up to you!

*Unlimited access to my personal resources including books, CD's and DVD's

*Unlimited phone/email access before & after the birth

*Support throughout the duration of labour and birth regardless of the length of labour. Many women choose to use alternatives to medical pain relief. Some of the alternatives I offer include massage, aromatherapy, homeopathy & flower essences, acupressure, rebozo, suggesting a change of position & the use of warm water in my birth pool.

*Support for siblings throughout the process

*3 x 2hr post natal visits
Support is given for establishing a strong breastfeeding relationship, sleeping/settling techniques, baby massage, bathing baby etc. Meals are supplied and light household duties can be undertaken. A birth debrief can be undertaken.

*Priority given for the use of my water birth pool (free of charge for clients)

$750.00 - Orange
$850.00*-Bathurst, Molong ,Blayney
$950.00*-Dubbo, Mudgee, Lithgow
*includes travel costs

water birth pool
$130.00 + $50 refundable deposit
birth pool + hygienic disposable liner
air & water pumps, thermometer, tap & hose connections