Monday, 14 December 2015

Durban Doula's Pregnancy Diary Week 24!

Another fortnight of pregnancy flies by!


In some small, intimate way it has been a week of mourning for me.


Maybe first time moms have it a bit easier - they have no idea what to expect. As a third time mom, who has had both an easy bay and a high-needs baby, I know that even an easy baby changes life in so many irrevocable ways. My youngest (4) has been out of nappies for a while, weaned a year ago, and loves getting herself dressed, while my oldest (6) can run a bath, and make tea and sandwiches with the help of a strategically placed chair. They are pretty self-sufficient and keep each other quite busy most of the time, when they're not trying to scratch each others' eyes out that is.

So anyway, my point is that the days of jumping in the car without a whole extra nappy bag and a whole extra hour of preparation are drawing to a close. Also, moments to lie in bed and read, sitting down to a cup of coffee with friends, eating with both hands, leisurely baths, and wearing dresses - these will become luxuries again. (If you're wondering about the dress thing - I don't own any dresses I can breastfeed in.)

I picked an awesome husband who really does see himself as a fully fledged parent, not just 'mom's sidekick'. This means that I have had far more freedom to do my own thing, freedom normally enjoyed by men / dads, and more freedom than many other moms I know, to do things I love, like doula work, writing, singing in a band and things like that.

Two links about this:
Why I’m Done Asking My Husband To Help Me Out
My Husband; Five Reasons I Am Not Lucky to Have Him

I found an animated GIF maker!
Some lightheartedness in
an otherwise sober week.
The other day he was talking about getting involved in a club of sorts and asked if I might also be interested. I was, but I mentioned that I wasn't sure it was an option with the baby coming along. He made the point that no matter how much he helps, there are some things that only I will be able to do - like giving birth and breastfeeding - and some of those things intrinsically limit my options in ways he doesn't experience. He has a deep appreciation for how I fulfill those roles and that does make things a bit easier.

Take doula work for example - he has always supported me in dashing off in the middle of the night to be with birthing moms, which means getting the girls ready for school and then taking over my portion of our parenting duties while I catch up on sleep the next day. But even with that support, taking on clients won't really be an option for at least 12 months, perhaps more. I only started doula work when my youngest was 18 months old and even that was a challenge at times.

I know there are husbands who leave their wives to hold the fort while they go on business trips, but I'm not sure I could justify it considering the amount I earn from doula work, and how erratic the hours can be. Also, breastfeeding and being away from baby is a challenge - I can't guarantee that I'll be able to express for my own babe while I'm helping a mom give birth to hers. I don't think it would be fair to the birthing mom either that I'm not able to be fully present with her.

So that's why I say there's a moment of mourning happening in our house. Of course I know that the moment I hold his squishy body against mine, waves of love will crash over these sand castle concerns, but that doesn't change how I feel now.

I think it's hard for moms to acknowledge these feelings. Surely being a mom is 'enough', who could want 'more' than the privilege of being a mother?


Me.



I do.


I love being a mom, more than I thought I would for sure! I don't regret having a third child in the least. But I am not primarily a mother. I am so many other things. It's important for my children to know that. They are not 'obstacles' in my life, but they need to know that this family is a team that works to fulfill the needs and desires of every member of that team - and that 'mom' is not just a name for a glorified domestic servant.

Shauna Niequist puts this far more eloquently than I ever could in the following video - 'Things my mother taught me'. It is just under 18 minutes long, but worth every second. I make a point of watching it at least once a year.



I do realise that this intense period of mothering is just a season and seasons will pass as they always do. Recognising seasons has been pivotal to my 'inner peace'! I'm not going to store up snow in my deep freeze so I can build a snow man in summer, I'm just going to enjoy summer for what it is.

I do love my children fiercely and I find parenting immensely fulfilling, but I don't think it's fair on any child to expect them to be the primary source of a woman's sense of value and affirmation. That responsibility is too great for any person, never mind a child. When I get my sense of value and affirmation from an infinite source, it makes me more able to give into my relationships as wife, mother, friend, daughter and sister.

As Niequist says:
Everyone benefits when women tap into the passions and use the gifts that God has given them. The church benefits, families benefit, marriages benefit, businesses and non-profits benefit. Everyone wins when women discover and live out of the gifts and passions God gave them.

And now for something completely different...


After a big lull, there are so many women due around the same time as me! Many of them are births I would have volunteered, nay, begged to attend as a doula. So while I'm sad that I may not be able to walk alongside these ladies in their births, I trust we will be able to walk our baby journeys together!

And the baby?


Apparently baby is as big as an ear of corn now - 30cm long from crown to heel, weighing 600g - and feeling as pokey as if I really had an ear of corn in my belly! A-maize-ing! (Sorry I couldn't help it)

I'm having to do the sumo sit quite often, because if I sit upright with my knees together, baby pokes my belly where it touches the tops of my thighs... Having said that, I really do love the sensation of him moving about in my belly. It's like having a little friend with me wherever I go.

He can hear now too - so the girls are having great fun talking to him and kissing my belly and pretending to listen to his replies. It is very sweet. Speaking of sweet, he is also developing taste buds, which would totally explain my craving for Lindt Strawberry Intense chocolate bars.

I'm looking forward to getting some sorting done when I go on leave next week - we still have stacks of boxes to unpack from when we moved in just over a year ago. I keep saying I want to do it before my belly gets too big, but my belly already feels big!

A note on empathy when talking to pregnant ladies - when a pregnant lady says: 'I feel so big!', the response, 'But you're so small' may not be the most helpful. You are essentially telling her she has no right to feel that way - or that her feelings are untrustworthy. 

In my case, I did ballet for 25 years, and I have a fine tuned sense of where my body is in space, and this little belly feels massive for me. That is my experience.

Some possible alternate responses: 'Are you finding it a challenge?' will draw out what the mom means - is it sleeping or getting in and out of the car or getting dressed that she is finding particularly challenging? And then empathy is always a good follow up: 'Having to deal with two young children and a belly in this heat must be quite something! Either way, I think you're looking lovely! Is there anything I could help with?'

Empathy is a powerful thing!

Rather than feeling invalidated a woman feels heard and understood - something I believe everyone appreciates. 

On that note, bloggers feel heard and understood and affirmed and validated when you comment on their blogs, and especially if you share the posts you feel are relevant to your circle of friends so...

Does any of this resonate with you? 
Have you felt guilty for feeling like there's more to life than being 'mom'? 
Share your thoughts below...

(If you missed last week's installment about clinic visits, camping adventures, clothing solutions and feminist frustrations, you can find it here: Week 22)




Friday, 4 December 2015

Durban Doula's Pregnancy Diary - Week 22

And so the downhill stretch begins!

Yay for salad cravings...
This mahoosive bowl of salad: all mine!

I went for my clinic visit at St Mary's Hospital in Mariannhill this week. 

State hospital? Say what?


You've heard me rant about how I feel irritated on behalf of all the ladies paying a fortune to go to private hospitals and assuming they must be getting the very best care available... Well, I've decided to vote with my feet. I've volunteered at St Mary's before during my training, been in theatre for a caesarean and had a client transfer there for a caesarean and to be honest, I'm much happier with many of their policies than I am with the policies of many of our private institutions...

One thing I do appreciate about St Mary's is that they do have individual delivery rooms, and besides that, midwives take care of most of the deliveries, calling the doctor only if needed, and they encourage birth support. Having said that, I am not planning to have to actually go there - we are planning to birth at home as you know - but if intervention becomes necessary, then that's where we're headed. I did call up the delivery ward matron to check that this was acceptable, repeating the words 'planning a home birth' and 'private midwife' a number of times to make sure - and her verdict was that as long as I've been to the clinic for prenatal care, that is fine.

My new favourite Twitter account / Facebook page -
@ManWhoHasItAll
'Top tips for men juggling a successful career and fatherhood.'

And I'm reminded how glad I am that I chose a man
who doesn't see himself as 'mom's sidekick' but
really lives this whole egalitarian vibe on an every day basis.
They are quite serious about their Baby Friendly Hospital certification - there is no default nursery stay or mandatory stint in the incubator. Skin-to-skin for an hour, within 5 min of birth is encouraged, every baby sleeps by mom, breastfeeding is assumed and encouraged and no artificial teats or artificial milk will be used without your consent. (For more info on the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative click here to see a pdf.)

So yeah, back to that clinic visit: despite arriving late, and during lunch hour to boot, it was mostly painless. Apparently I was supposed to have been there by 7am, but I got my book and paid R50 for my appointment (I'm not in their official catchment area). Waited at the ANC (ante-natal clinic) desk for the staff to come off lunch and redirect me - was redirected to the HIV testing station, then to another queue and another room to have my blood pressure, weight and pee-stick checked, then to another queue and room to have blood taken for further antenatal testing, and then in to see the resident midwife who did the usual data collection (previous births and pregnancies, health issues etc) and belly palpation.

One of my new outfits...
Photobombed!
If I had come on time, my blood results would have been ready for collection before I left, but as it stands I'll need to collect them at a later stage. Two and a half hours altogether - and despite some signage mishaps i.e. not knowing where to go next, the staff were all very helpful. As I said, mostly painless. 

Get on my belly!


Some other great news this week, which has alleviated much of my daily frustration, is that I bought a bag of second hand maternity clothes from someone on Facebook... What joy to have pants that just fit and shirts that are comfy without being too snug! I'm not sure how I managed pregnancy without maternity clothes before! Over the next few weeks I'll be posting some of my outfits. It really helps to feel confident and comfortable in what you're wearing.

Speaking of Size


Apparently baby is about the size of a pawpaw / papaya  - 27 cm from crown to heel and 19 cm from crown to rump - so a small pawpaw by Durban standards! The midwife I saw at St Mary's said it seemed like fundal height was showing as 24 weeks (i.e. the height of the top of the uterus), and the sonographer also thought baby was looking a bit bigger than average. I'm not too stressed - I'm sure of my dates as I keep track of my cycle, so even with cycle irregularities taken into account I can't be more than a week out, and even if baby is a little bigger than the last two were, I'm sure I'll manage!
Wikimedia Commons 

I often hear of women reporting back from their gynae appointments with something along the lines of 'I'm 28 weeks but the gynae says that the baby is measuring 30 weeks' or that their due date was brought forward again. Now that doesn't mean that your baby time-traveled somehow and became 31 weeks mature all of a sudden, all it means is that compared to the average baby at 28 weeks of gestation, your baby is the size of the average baby at 30 weeks gestation. About that... ultrasounds are not considered reliable late in pregnancy. Even the machine manufacturers say that macrosomia (big baby) cannot be diagnosed with enough certainty to indicate a caesarean, and even then, caesarean birth is not necessarily the best choice for so called 'big' babies. (An excellent link on this here.)


Feminist Frustrations



Maybe I'm being oversensitive, but the reaction to 'We're having a baby boy,' seems disproportionately enthusiastic. We really are and were truly indifferent to whether we were having a boy or a girl, but everyone seems to assume that we must automatically be super excited that we're having a boy after our two girls, as if we would somehow be missing out if we had had another girl. But then I may be the one overreacting...

Camping Adventures


A couple of weeks back I thought it might be nice for us to take the girls camping, before I get too big, and before we become a family of 5 with no space for camping gear in the car... We picked a spot nearby, at the beach, packed the camping gear we had, borrowed some bits that we needed, took a day of leave and headed on our merry way. The first evening was great, if slightly cramped with all four of us in a four man tent - who made up those sizes anyway? There is no way 4 men could fit themselves and their bags in that tent
A little something like this...
comfortably unless they were in the snow and needed to keep each other warm... but anyway.

Besides the wind it was ok. The next day though, it started raining. Fortunately hubby's folks were joining us at the resort, but were staying in one of the apartments on the property. We ate with them that night even though we had planned a potjie - what should have been a  stew cooked in a three legged pot over hot coals became a stew cooked in a stainless steel pot on a regular stove. It still tasted good though. Anyway, they could only get a 6 sleeper apartment - which was just as well, because we discovered our tent was leaking in 7 different spots, and it rained the second and third nights... So we were grateful for the warm dry beds!
The girls had a great time though, and I really appreciated the heated pool - I am such a wuss when it comes to cold water! Not sure when we'll attempt the camping thing again soon though - we'll definitely need a bigger car next time! I was stowing food under the chairs and fitting shoes in wherever there was a gap... It was quite something!

Other than that, not much to report here, other than that we are happy and healthy and expanding in all directions! 


Friday, 20 November 2015

Durban Doula Pregnancy Diary Week 20

20 weeks now, which means we're

HALF WAY THERE!!

What the heck... how did that happen?


So, as you know I had my once scan this week. We did want to find out the sex of the baby, partly because the girls were totally convinced we were having a boy, and for various other reasons - although we really were totally unfazed with either possibility.

And besides the fact that everything is totally normal and spot on for a healthy pregnancy and birth and baby, we also discovered that our third little sproglet is most certainly, definitely, no doubt about it....

A BABY!


But beyond that, Jansen sproglet #3 also possesses the plumbing of a little boy. And he wasn't shy about letting us all know. I'm not posting that pic online, because that's just creepy, but even I could see what was going on!

So anyway, much excitement ensued. We have almost decided on a name, but we are keeping that, at least, a secret. The grannies are so excited that they can go shopping now!

The feminist in me is slightly irked by the huge fuss about baby's sex, and the intense gender stereotyping that starts happening before the sproglet is even born, but we deal with that as it comes.

That wasn't all that happened this week...

Bellies


At 20 weeks I am well and truly in the thick of things. (Excuse the pun.) My belly finally looks truly pregnant, and to be honest, I keep getting a fright when I look down and it's there... weird I know. It's a bit like when you have a cavity and your tongue keeps searching it out. I feel like my belly has just popped out and I just want to touch it the whole time.

On belly touching, I really don't have a stress with friends touching my belly to be honest, it is so lovely to be part of a community that celebrates this baby with me! At church this week a lady came and asked if I wouldn't mind her knitting something for the baby. I have spoken to her once or twice, before but was so touched by her open heartedness. I honestly can't imagine having a baby without a community like this!
Wikimedia Commons

More about bellies - dad and both
the girls have felt the baby move this week. Hubby said it's watching my belly grow that makes things feel more real for him, not the movement so much, but my eldest daughter's response to the baby moving was so precious - she marveled at how strong the kick was. 'My hand almost bounced off your belly!' she says.

It's not surprising that the kicks are quite strong, baby is about 16.4cm from crown to rump, and about 25.6cm from crown to heel - that's about half the length of my first two at birth! So apparently that makes baby banana sized now. The girls love the fresh produce comparisons. Centimetres don't really mean much to them, but they know bananas!

Fitting it all in


I'm desperate to go on Christmas leave and do some sorting in the house! But first we have the end of term to get through... It's not so bad this time with both girls at the same school - I think it will be slightly more complicated when they are at different schools next year!

I'm also struggling to get enough exercise although I have been gardening a bit which is great for squats and the like, but not so good for cardio! I really need to make time to go walking and / or do aqua as summer comes, as I can feel my hips are already feeling a bit unstable. I didn't realise how much ballet helped with my previous pregnancies! With my second I was teaching up until a week before she was born! It really helped keep me fit and toned - although I do remember sometimes feeling dizzy from standing so much.

Food weirdness


Spur's Chicken Wings - the half portion!
On that dizziness, this last week I had two days where I even felt dizzy sitting in a chair. Then I realised I had forgotten to take my iron and magnesium for a couple of days - and once I took them again I felt a thousand times better. I think part of the problem has been that I've struggled to eat meat this pregnancy - except for Spur Chicken Wings - I can eat a 'to share' portion of those on my own! Other than that I struggle to get meat down my throat without gagging, that and egg for some reason. So I'll take the chicken wings when I can get them!

Oddly enough, I was out with some friends at a birthday breakfast for another friend the other day, and the thought of getting bacon and eggs into my belly was giving me cold shivers, even at R25 a shot, so I took the plunge and ordered a half portion of wings which went down a treat... Yes. I was that crazy pregnant lady noshing on spicy durky chicken wings at 9 am while everyone else was deciding how they wanted their eggs. I felt quite decadent. At least I have an excuse! (And, as crazy as it sounds, me and bacon are really not getting along at the moment!)

How expensive are babies?

The 'must-have' list part I
(Click to zoom)
I can never get over how much money people will spend on baby gear... I sometimes get the feeling that moms think that the more money you throw at something, the better it will turn out - like birth for instance - you must have the best (i.e. most expensive) gynae to get the best care, and a midwife that charges a small percentage of what the gynea charges can't be giving an equivalent or superior level of care. This also counts for hospitals - in my doula work I find the state hospitals have after birth care and policies that are streaks ahead of 99% of private institutions. Their breastfeeding advice is far better and women get much better support - and I almost feel sorry for the women spending a fortune at private institutions thinking they must be getting the best care, when often the advice given and policies implemented are, in my experience, severely outdated and not in the best interests of mom or baby.

So yeah, I also often feel moms should wait a couple of months after baby is born to decide what gear to get. I can't tell you how many moms have bought gorgeous wooden cots and compactums and portable baby baths, running into thousands of rands, only to end up cosleeping, changing nappies on the go and bathing baby in a tub in the big bath!

The 'must-have' list part II - so you can 'rest easy'
knowing you are 'as prepared as possible'.
Can we sue for false advertising?
Never as the retailer what you need!
(Click to Zoom)
In short, please don't ask the saleslady at the baby shop what you will need! Ask a mom who seems happy being a mom, whose parenting style you admire and who is in a similar financial situation to yours - she will be able to give you a much better idea of what works and what doesn't!

Or, you could take your doula shopping with you - I sometimes wish moms would do that - then at least they would have an idea beforehand of what is really worth the money and what isn't, and what alternatives exist, in the interests of informed choice and all that.

Travel System - great for carting groceries around
while baby sleeps in your arms!
For example, my favourite baby carriers / slings are not sold at your usual baby gear outlets, and you won't find a wide variety of cloth nappies there either. I prefer not to take that baby bucket seat out of the car (spending too much time in those seats can cause spinal issues) so the whole travel system thing doesn't work for me either, and I'd much rather take my baby shopping in a sling or wrap than packing all my groceries in the pram while I hold a screaming baby anyway, but that is another story.

Also, there are plenty of places to get good quality, second hand baby gear - an option that is friendlier on your pocket and on the environment!

I guess there is also a little bit of chagrin on my part that women will spend 3k on a compactum (i.e. glorified chest of drawers) and 5k on a cot that may end up becoming laundry storage, 7k on a travel system too big to take anywhere and another bunch on nursery decor, but 3k for a doula is just too much... But, placing my own issues aside, babies don't have to be as expensive as we make them, and spending more money doesn't automatically make you a good parent. *Rant Over*

After all that, reaching this point in the pregnancy has really got me thinking about what we will need for this baby.
  • Cosleeper - I made myself one of these last time, and used the long pillow as a pregnancy pillow. The dog attacked that one, so I'm going to need to make myself another one soon! In case you were wondering, we didn't use a cot at all with #2 - this was it. And in case you were wondering, she sleeps beautifully now!

Humanity Cosleeper

  • Car Chair - Another car seat and possibly an extra booster too to make sure we can fit all the kids in our car. It's that or a new car... so maybe we'll go with the car seat for now. 
  • Cash - to pay our midwife. Medical Aids only pay about 25% of what a home birth costs, even though a home birth costs only about 25% of what a normal vaginal birth without epidural costs in hospital. But anyway.
  • Donut - We were lent one last time - so possibly looking at going the second hand route for one of these.
  • Clothes - We have mountains of frills and flounces... which will now be donated to a good cause - but very little that I could use for a boy, so that is a biggie. Gender stereotypes again, I know!
  • Home birth supplies - Linen savers, pliers, maternity pads, chloroform, biting sticks and industrial plastic to line the birth pool.
  • Coconut oil - I use it for everything! Bum Cream, massage oil - everything! Beyond that we don't use too many lotions and potions on baby skin so we're sorted. 
  • Washing Machine - Ours is almost ten years old and has been serving us faithfully for all that time, but is starting to show signs of slowing down, so we are looking at getting a slightly larger one with better water usage... I must admit that on the whole I'm a little concerned that our appliances are reaching that age. You know 'that age'? Our fridge is also nearly ten years old, and starting to feel too small for our growing family, and our dishwasher is over 20 years old and irreplaceable bits are starting to rust, but I guess we'll need to cross (or wash) those bridges when we get to them... (Update: Our washing machine gave up the ghost a day or so after I wrote this! Typical! But fortunately for us, a friend needed to get their machine sold this weekend, so we are taking it over. On the rest, we'll have to wait and see!)
  • and possibly some other bits and bobs like reusable breast pads and gel ice packs and whatevers... 

I'm sure I'll think of some 'nice to haves' along the way, but that's pretty much it!
I have a full stash of cloth nappies: some that I used with my older daughters, and some new ones I've bought since. Like I mentioned a couple of weeks back, I also bought some newborn cloth nappies and a friend offered to lend me her stash of newborn nappies to supplement mine - so we are all taken care of there!

Yay for budget babies!

PS I was joking about the choloform.

PPS And the pliers... and yes, the biting stick too.

(Find my Week 18 Pregnancy Diary here in case you missed it.)

Thursday, 5 November 2015

Durban Doula Pregnancy Diary Week 18

Week 18 of the Durban Doula's Pregnancy Diary!


I was wondering how I was going to find something to write every two weeks, but even with a third baby (6th pregnancy, but more but that later) there is always something happening!


Well one of the most exciting things about the last few weeks is that we won a birth photography package from Sarah Jane Photography, a photographer based in Hillcrest here in KwaZulu-Natal. The prize includes a full birth photography package and a mini-maternity shoot and from the pics I've seen on her Facebook page and website, this is going to be amazing!


Sarah Jane Photography

Getting good photos is important to us, but not something we can usually afford. My hubby struggles with memory issues, which means photographs are almost a necessity when it comes to big events, so we we are so excited about winning this prize!

So two weeks to go until our scan, and in the interests of budget babies, I'm going to a private sonographer (i.e. one not attached to a hospital or franchise) and this scan is going to cost me less than my first scan with my first daughter over seven years ago... Giving birth and having babies doesn't have to break the bank!

Introductions
This week I popped in with Arlen Ege, my midwife in Pietermaritzburg, on the same afternoon that I went to visit my most recent client. All is good so no worries! I'll have my next checkup with my backup, and then back to Arlen again after that.

In case you're wondering why I am seeing a midwife so far away from me - 45 minutes' drive - Arlen was there for my second daughter's birth and I honestly couldn't imagine inviting anyone else to be there. I work with Arlen reasonably often as a doula, more often than I do with any other midwife, and we know we work well together and I feel like there is a mutual trust there which I really appreciate. 

So alert!
So about that client - I linked to her first VBAC birth story in my previous post, and she had a second successful VBAC on Monday morning this week! It ended up being an unintentional, unassisted home birth but mom was absolutely overjoyed! Full story on my blog here.

via Wikimedia Commons
According to various internet sources, our littlest one is the size of a bell pepper now - although if baby was supposed to be avocado sized last week, I'm not sure what's happening! Maybe in Ameria the bell peppers are huge and the avos are small, because here in South Africa the avos are usually bigger than the peppers! Actual measurements do help though - so we know that baby is probably just over 14cm long from crown to rump and weighs just under 200g... And this little one is particularly active! I have been feeling definite baby movements quite regularly for the last 2 weeks now, and I am absolutely loving it!

So next time you hear from me, I'll be chatting about how having babies doesn't have to be as expensive as people generally believe, and of course I'll be sharing some updates from our scan! See you then...

(In case you missed it, find Week 16's Pregnancy Diary here.)

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Durban Doula's Pregnancy Diary Week 16

Week 16? Four months? WHAT?


Peep toe shoes peeping...
I sometimes feel this is all passing me by a little too quickly... in four weeks I'll be half way there!

Maybe I'm feeling that way because things have been a little crazy this last week... crazy in a good way though.

In this week's edition of my pregnancy diary: Goggles, Wardrobe Issues, Belly Pics, Cloth Diapers and VBACs... and of course, the fresh produce size comparison

Goggles

So my eldest daughter told me I must get her some new goggles, so that when the baby comes she is going to put her Hello Kitty swimming costume on, with her new goggles, and she can watch the baby come out under the water. Momma isn't too sure about how she feel about this, but ok, we'll see how it goes!

My youngest (4) has also started whispering to baby (through my belly) and then pressing her ear to my belly for an answer. They are both still utterly convinced we are having a boy.

Wardrobe Issue
It's been a hot day in
Durban today!

One thing I am struggling with this time around is clothes. I hate taking forever to get dressed, but honestly, I'm really running out here! I think my style of dress has changed to a slightly more corporate feel since I was last pregnant over four years ago - I don't have as many pants with elasticated waists as I used to have, and my blouses tend to be more fitting / structured than they were in the past. So this week I'm planning to put everything I can't wear to one side in my wardrobe, so I don't get depressed having to look through it all every day in search of something I can still wear! I think I am going to have to buy few items though - I've already found some built in support vests with a bit of extra length that I can wear under everything else, and I'm thinking of making myself some more harem pants, the ones that look almost like a skirt, as I find them extremely comfortable - especially in summer when you can wear them as an 'all-in-one' just by pulling the elasticated band up over your chest. I think tops will be my biggest need though - I'll have a look through my sewing patterns and see what could work...

Belly Pics 

About size, I honestly do feel much bigger this time than I did with either of the girls... I don't know if I mentioned previously, but last time I was still wearing skinny jeans with no issues when I was 4 months pregnant. I get that I sound like that annoying friend with no kids and an immaculate house who always profusely excuses the (non-existent) mess when you come over... 

But still, I still have those same skinny jeans and they are feeling much tighter on the belly. So obviously the thought of twins crosses my mind, as I think it does with every mom at 2 am in the morning. We'll have to wait until 20 weeks to find out though, but honestly I think it's just a third pregnancy thing! The girls seem pretty keen on twins though. The eldest has already told me I'm having twin boys, and one of them can sleep by her, and when he wants mommy milkies, she'll bring him to me and take the other baby to sleep by her. All organised!

Apparently baby is the size of an avocado now, about 11.6cm long (crown to rump) and weighing in at about 100g, although that weight is apparently due to double over the next two weeks! And in true pregnancy fashion, this talk of avocados, and searching for free avocado images on the net has made me crave avocados - so I messaged hubby and asked him to bring some on his way home. Apparently baby has started growing toenails and eyes and ears are getting closer to their final positions.

Cloth Nappies
My newborn cloth nappy 'stash' so far...

One thing about third babies, is that they get all the hand-me-downs from the bigger kids in terms of car chairs and general baby gear - which is a great financial boost for us, but sometimes it is nice to have something special for this baby, and so being the pragmatic person that I am, I bought some newborn sized reusable cloth nappies for this little sproglet. I used cloth nappies with both my girls, but before you panic, these are not your ouma's cloth nappies lying about in buckets of Steri-Nappy! You get all sorts of different kinds now - some that are as easy to put on as disposables, some with snaps, some with velcro, and many with a 'One-Size-Fits-Most' style. You can find out more about cloth nappies in South Africa on the FB group South African Cloth Nappy Users, they'll direct you to the groups that are specifically set up for buying, selling and trading cloth nappies.

I was only one of two people I knew using them back in 2009 when my daughter was born, and back then there were only 4 brands available in SA; now there are many many more options in terms of style, colour, fabric and print! To be honest I find the scope of choice quite overwhelming, where others love to have a collection of many different types.

I started using them originally because I couldn't bear the thought of my grown daughter one day asking what we were thinking letting every baby generate a couple of tons of biohazardous waste that would only start decomposing in 500 years in the name of 'convenience' - convenient for whom I'm sure she would ask?

Cloth nappies nowadays are so easy to wash, and I saved a fortune with my girls, as you can often reuse them for a second or third child, or if they are well looked after they can be sold once your babies are done with them. It really was a no-brainer for me!

Newborn nappy on the left, OSFM on the right!
See that middle snap on the newborn nappy?
You snap that down so it doesn't irritate the cord stump.
Clever hey?
So back to those newborn nappies... the OSFM (One-Size-Fits-Most) did fit my babies from about 3.5kg onward, but they looked like little butternut bums! There was none of this fancy newborn nappy stuff when I had either of my girls, so I thought to give them a try. I found a batch of 17 second hand newborn nappies for sale on the FB group mentioned above, and here you see them. I know they don't look that little in the picture all together, but you can see they are teeny tiny compared with my OSFM nappies! So anyway, the thing with newborn nappies is that you only use them for up to 2 months anyway (depending on the size of baby of course) and they don't need as much absorbency because you are changing them more often, so they are much trimmer to the extent that you can actually button up the button-up vest! I'd probably like to get a couple more so I'm keeping an eye out for any more second hand batches. Because you only use them for such a short time, you can usually get a pretty good resale price for them, so you still save on nappies in the long run!

Our littlest doula baby!
(Shared with permission)
Even though I'm pregnant, I'm still taking clients for a while as you know, and I had the wonderful privilege of attending a beautiful VBAC (Vaginal Birth After Caesarean) last week. It was a midwife assisted water birth at a local hospital and after a long time of stop-start labour and irregular contractions, mom went from 6cm dilated to baby born in 45 minutes! So much for Friedman's curve! 

We did some of the positions from Spinning Babies and climbed lots of stairs to keep things going, as mom's waters had been broken and the Caesarean was booked for the next day if the baby wasn't there yet. Mom was very brave and strong throughout, and dad was an incredible support - it really was a lovely birth to be at. 

Part of the craziness of that week was that I had a work deadline (I work in IT too!) and a parenting course that I had played a part in organising starting on the night that baby was born, but fortunately hubby is incredibly capable and understands the nature of doula work and did a sterling job of filling in where I couldn't be, along with a great team all working hard to make the course a success. I don't think a doula or midwife-to-be could ask for a better support than that!

Speaking of VBACs, I'm currently on call for a client who was my first VBAC nearly 2 years ago, planning her second VBAC. The story of her first birth is here (scroll down a little to find the full story). So needless to say, we are both excited about the upcoming birth!

I'm certainly going to miss the doula work while I'm tending a teeny baby of my own, but at the same time, I'm looking forward to having an excuse to lie in bed all day and cuddle with my littlest person! I even find myself wanting to do that now, especially as I am feeling very distinctive movements. It's sometimes quite a struggle not to go into daydream mode!

So anyway, that's us for week 16! If you have any questions about anything I've mentioned, submit them below.

Also, Subscribe via email using the box on the right to make sure you don't miss out on any future posts - like week 18's diary here - and in case you missed week 14, you can find that here.

Friday, 9 October 2015

Durban Doula's Pregnancy Diary - Week 14


What another one?


No, not another baby, another blog post... I know I said I was going to do one every month, but there is just too much to write, so I'll try one every two weeks and see how it goes.

Our first appointment


So I saw our midwife, Arlen, this week - and I honestly can say I'm so glad I chose this model of care. Our initial appointment was just under an hour long, we talked about the pregnancy so far, how I had recovered from the last birth, what plans were for this birth and various other bits about birthiness in general. We checked all the vitals - peestick, weight, blood pressure and belly - and heard a little heartbeat too. It was great. It felt like home. 

I also got my home birth shopping list, and contract and prices for various birthing options, and like last time, the amount I'm paying for a home birth is still less than the co-payment I would have to make for a gynae in private practice on an average hospital plan that pays 150% of medical aid rates - as many gynaes charge over 300% of medical aid rates. I can understand why, given all the insurance that needs to be paid, but that's a topic for another time. Medical aids or hospital plans on the other hand, only pay 25-35% of the cost of a home birth - R2500-R4000 of R8000-R12000, even though I'd be saving them over 30k... Patriarchal prejudiced misogynistic mumble mumble mutter mutter...

And, as much as I have reservations about the safety of non-medically required ultrasound scans, (see last diary here), I admit I am a little excited for the one we are have in about 6 weeks' time. I think we'll take the girls (4 & 6) along with us, as they seem to be more excited about this baby than anyone!

Having said that, everyone seems so excited about this baby, which is so lovely for a third child! I'm enjoying being pregnant, because I know this will probably be the last time, so even getting past the nausea was bittersweet, as crazy as that sounds!

Obligatory Fresh Produce Comparison 


You thought I had forgotten about the obligatory pregnancy diary fresh produce comparison! Porridge brain has not set in quite so severely as that...

Well, baby is now about 8cm long (crown to rump) - about the size of a lemon.
He/she is growing hair, can make facial expressions, suck his or her thumb, and can even pee. Yes, baby pees in the amniotic fluid, it gets absorbed by my body and gets processed by my kidneys so I can pee it out 53 1/2 times a day. At least it's easier than nappy changes!


Irritable Uterus and the Doula Pregnancy Protocol

Peesticks, irritable uteri and
getting rid of baby pee -
Toilets are an integral part of pregnancy
Wikimedia Commons

I am currently on call for possibly my last two clients before my own baby arrives, unless I get some clients for November and December. (Any takers? Last chance! Only taking one per month!)

I'm not sure what the protocol is on doulas and maternity leave, but I feel that January is a good time for me to stop, as I'll be entering my third trimester and may not have the energy for the physical demands of doula work - staying up all night, massaging for sometimes hours on end - it can get quite demanding, and by then I think my belly may be getting a bit large to be getting in anyone's space!

I have also experienced 'irritable uterus' with my last two pregnancies - yes, that is a thing!
I can already feel reasonably strong Braxton-Hicks contractions - tightening of the uterus without downward pressure, considered to be toning up for the real thing - as I did with my first two. I haven't ever had problems with prematurity, but it was uncomfortable having strong, and sometimes even painful contractions caused by over exertion, dehydration, a full bladder, an empty bladder, touching my belly,or sometimes seemingly caused by nothing at all. 

Plant Nanny - Available on Apple,
Android and Windows devices
I'm being more diligent with making sure I get enough magnesium and drinking enough water this time around, and I'm hoping that will help, but I thinking booking clients for my third trimester would still be unwise, for me and for them!

By the by, I'm using a little app called Plant Nanny to help me remember to drink water, and it seems to be working!

After the birth I think I'll need to take about a year's break from taking on doula clients, perhaps more depending on the personality of this little sproglet. I may still be able to do some volunteer work as that usually involves a set period of time, primarily in daylight hours. Again, this is one of those bittersweet things, letting go of something I love so much for a season, but that's just what it is, a season. Ideally I'd love to be a private midwife one day, so it makes sense to have my own children sooner rather than later.

As much as I will miss doula work, I am so looking forward to newborn snuggles! I went to help a friend with breastfeeding her newborn this last week, and those teeny tiny fingers and toes always undo me!

Other birthy things I'm thinking of right now... 


  • Trying to think of how to fit three car seats in our Daihatsu Sirion
  • Sorting out the girls' playroom and unpacking all of the boxes of oddments from when we moved so it's not stressing me out when baby comes
  • Getting some newborn sized cloth nappies - a luxury I didn't have with my first two - I just started them off on regular cloth nappies and they spent their first few weeks with butternut shaped bums!
  • Realizing how many safety gates we will need for our new house (at least 3!)
One last funny thing... Even as a doula and a third time mom who had great natural births with the first two, I do still have moments of consternation centered on the question, 'This baby is coming out where?'


So I pull a doula move on myself every now and then: Women all over the world do this all the time. Our bodies are designed to give birth, and so on.

I won't be quite so glib in my encouragement in future

After seeing how much I just wrote, I think once every two weeks might be doable - not as much pressure as a weekly diary, and not as much marathon reading as a monthly one - what do you think?

If you do want to get notifications of blog posts and pregnancy diary entries in your email, please subscribe by entering your email address in the box on the right, or follow me on Twitter on @DurbanDoula

And if you have any questions about how this Durban Doula does pregnancy, ask away below and I'll address them in future posts. 

Find Week 16's diary here and week 12 here.

Monday, 28 September 2015

The Durban Doula Pregnancy Diary - Week 12

Mom's belly and 6-year-old's toes

I think most moms breathe a sigh of relief when week 13 comes around! 

My nausea is almost totally gone, dizziness too, and I feel like I have more energy than I have for the past 8 weeks. On the first evening I still had some vooma left at 6pm, I chopped and I cooked and I baked - I felt like superwoman! It was great.

Twelve weeks is also that magical date when miscarriages become much less likely - but when you're pregnant I feel every day is a milestone! I don't have any scan pictures for you because I'm not going for a 12 week scan - shock and horror, I know! But I do have some reasons for my decision:

Firstly, I know my cycle really well, so I know exactly how far along I am, so no need for a scan to establish date.

Secondly, even if the usual checks at 12 weeks did pick up something odd on the scan, I wouldn't do anything about it. If there was a problem with the nuchal translucency measurements (used to pick up Downs Syndrome) I would not do an amniocentesis or even consider an abortion, because I know how high the false positive rate is for those tests, and that up to 25% of Downs Syndrome cases aren't detected until birth anyway despite all the testing. I also know the stats of how many healthy babies are miscarried because of the amniocentesis.

Baby apparently measures 5.4cm from crown to rump -
about the size of a plum!
"Plum on tree" by byfir0002 via Wikimedia Commons
For me, getting a possibly positive test would just cause unnecessary stress over something that I can't really do anything about. I've had too many friends who were told they have placenta praevia or that baby had water on the brain or some other dire diagnosis, only to be told 8 weeks later that all was fine... I'm thinking the effects of all those stress hormones on an otherwise healthy baby can't be good!

Having said that, I will go for a scan around 20 weeks, to check that we are all on track for the home birth we are planning, and yes, we will see if we can check gender, purely because we have had two girls so we have mountains of dresses and frills, and I'd like to be able to know what to say if people ask if we need anything. If we can't see gender at that scan I don't think I would have another one just to check.

Furthermore, I am increasingly concerned about the risks of ultrasound scans, especially 'recreational' scans i.e. scans that aren't medically necessary.

Some links about possible risks of ultrasound scans:

Ultrasound Scans - Cause of Concern - Dr Sarah Buckley

Natural childbirth IIb: ultrasound not as safe as commonly thought - Chris Kresser

Concerns were being raised back in 1999 already!
Ultrasound: Weighing the Propaganda Against the Facts - Beverley Lawrence Beech

So as you saw above, we are planning a waterbirth at home. I had an incredible home water birth with my second child, and so I am due to go for my first checkup with the same midwife soon.

Looking a bit tired!
I am getting a little bump and I'm already having to use the hair elastic trick on the buttons on my pants to make extra space for my growing belly...

One odd thing though, is that I won't feel any physical sensations in my womb area for a few days, and then all on one day it will feel like everything is stretching and expanding and aching. It would be fun to know what is happening on those days! Is it a growth spurt? Who knows?

I've had one or two flutters that I would like to believe are baby moving, and as baby is just over 5cm in length (from crown to rump) I know it's not impossible. They say second time moms can sometimes feel baby as early as 13 weeks, so maybe 12 weeks isn't such a stretch the third time around!

That mystery is also part of the joy of pregnancy for me. While I sleep my body feeds this baby and takes care of all its needs, and my baby gets on with the business of reaching and connecting and expanding... all alone in the dark. It's like a little seed planted in the ground - all alone in the dark without any help or intervention, it somehow germinates and starts forming all the bits necessary to be a tree or a flower, and reaches for the light when the time is right.

Big sister giving the belly some love!
The girls are super excited about the new baby - they often ask me how big the baby is now, and love telling strangers at the shops that mommy has a baby growing in her tummy!

I also got my first two little gifts for the sproglet - some newborn clothes and other bits and bobs - and I can't believe my girls were ever newborn sized! Those leggings are so tiny! But on the other hand, I am truly grateful they weren't bigger - for obvious reasons!

So anyway, that's me for now...
Feel free to ask questions or add comments below!
Keep an eye out for our 16 week diary! (Update: I decided to switch to posting every 2 weeks instead - so here is week 14! And in case you missed it, you can find week 8 here.

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Thoughts on supporting young or vulnerable mothers and mothers-to-be

Young, unmarried or otherwise unprepared woman gets pregnant, family has conniptions about 'irresponsible behaviour', family accepts the situation and steps in to help, family ends up taking over and mom lets them, confirming family's perception of mom as irresponsible.

I see variations of this story reasonably often in my line of work.

The young mom carries the stigma of 'irresponsible' pregnancy, very visibly for the term of her pregnancy; partner / sperm donor / rapist is usually unscathed by such societal strictures. Well meaning family steps in to save the day - which is all good and well, except that the help usually comes at a price, and that price is often compliance.

It is truly a challenge to be strong and make good choices when you have been labelled as 'irresponsible' and you feel like you have become everyone's problem, which is often how these young moms feel.

'How are you going to look after this child?' 
'What about your studies?'
'What were you thinking?' 
'I told you he wasn't good for you.'

Once everyone is done asking questions, completely overwhelming the young mom to be, breaking down every last shred of confidence she has, then the moment comes for her own mom and dad to step and and fix it all. As if her 'failure' becomes their 'failure' and they have to do their utmost to 'fix it.'

She hands over more and more power as she feels less and less capable.

I'm sure that the delight in being the rescuer, the rock, the provider, isn't a conscious thing, but I sometimes feel that sense of power that comes with being the rescuer ends up causing disempowering situations for the mom to be.

I've seen moms given absolutely no choice about the circumstances of the birth, not because of the actual costs of her choices, but purely because mom's choices didn't line up with the choices of the financier. Mother's options are not even a point of discussion, because the perception is that she has already proven herself incapable of making good decisions so decision-making needs to be taken out of her hands. To be honest, it's not only the young or otherwise unprepared moms who experience this. Moms who are experiencing domestic abuse or marital difficulties or financial strain get similar treatment.

Often these moms are left with little to no autonomy,  as implicit or explicit threats of withdrawal of finance and / or accommodation and / or acceptance are enough to keep her toeing the line. Her parents speak on her behalf, pay on her behalf and decide on her behalf. 

I have yet to see a grandmother-to-be present her daughter with options, encourage her to research those options for herself and find a solution that makes the best of the situation, with the resources at hand, and most importantly, accepts and supports those decisions even if they weren't necessarily the decisions she would make.

I understand that a young mom may choose options that add extra strain to a family, but I'm suggesting that those who are willing to help be honest about the degree of help they are willing to provide, be it financial or otherwise, and then allow the mom to decide how to use the resources that have been made available to her.

Stepping in and fixing everything often seems to end up paralysing the mom-to-be. She may be overwhelmed at the task ahead of her and steps back, confirming the prevailing perception of her as irresponsible and not up to the task of parenting. This then requires family to step in even more, creating a cycle of disempowerment and resentment.

Rather, family should give resources as they are willing and able, and thereafter empower and equip the young mom to make the best plan she can with those resources. She is, after all, about to be a parent, and that is, after all, what good parents do. They do the best they can with what they have.

And it's not just about the birth, often these young moms are kept in check or subdued for many years with the 'Remember how much you owe me because I saved you' line.

Which brings me to the party we haven't yet considered - the baby. That baby will be the one living with the consequences of the mother's choices, as a baby, and into its future as an adult. Surely a dynamic of rescue and disempowerment is not the example one would want to set, as I have seen where the grandmother continually criticised the mother's parenting in front of the child. How is that helpful for this little person who ends up cscond guessing their mother's every move? In one particular case the child became horribly confused and acted out in the most impossible ways, never sure who to listen to or who to be loyal to, and grandmother's perception of her own daughter as a lousy mom was confirmed, thus justifying her intervention in her own mind.

Rather than disempowering moms, let's remind them that as mothers they have the most powerful influence over that child's life, equaled only perhaps by the father's influence if he is around. Let's show them the power they have and support them in exercising that power to make the decisions that will carry them and their children into the future as responsible individuals, confident in the knowledge that they are equipped to deal with whatever life gives them.

Obviously this isn't the situation for every vulnerable mom, but I do see it quite often. Congratulations to all the families and grandparents who have made the effort to encourage and support vulnerable or single moms rather than 'rescuing' them!

Have you experienced something like this?
Share your thoughts below...

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Taking a break in 2016 - this Durban doula is with child!


To all potential clients, I just have to let you know that I'll be taking a break from doing the doula thing for a while in 2016, because I just don't feel I have the capacity to do what needs to be done with my own newborn to take care of....


My view of my belly - I can still see my toe-shoes -
joined by the soon to be 'middle child',
Yup, this Durban Doula is expecting her third sproglet in April 2016 - or rather late autumn as I tend to tell people (here in the Southern Hemisphere). No one can ask me 'Is the baby here yet?' if they don't know exactly when baby is due! (Sneaky I know, these are the things you learn third time around!)

While I kept a week-by-week diary with my second - which you can find here - I'll be keeping a monthly diary this time around. I'm trusting you'll enjoy sharing the journey with me!

So we are at 8 weeks now - 8 weeks since the first day of my LMP (last menstrual period) - which means it is about 6 weeks since conception, and baby is about the size of a kidney bean. While a first time mom would think things are taking so long, all I can think is that it is happening so fast!

Last week baby was a little blueberry with a tail and 'arm buds', this week he/she is a kidney bean with webbed fingers and almost eyelids!


"Kidney beans" by Sanjay Acharya
Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0
via Wikimedia Commons
I weighed about 7kg more at the beginning of this pregnancy than I did at the beginning of either of the other two, and I still have many of the same clothes, so things are feeling tighter much earlier than they did before!

I'm actually less nauseous than I was before, which is a great blessing as I now have a full time job as well as two preschoolers to look after! It's been quite manageable though, as I'm only nauseous if I stop eating for like, 15 minutes; other than that I'm fine.

Consequently I seem to spend my life eating food, preparing food, or thinking about food! Cravings and aversions seems to change by the minute - not sure if it's a physiological thing, or if it's just me getting the most mileage out of what will most likely be my last pregnancy - but hubby has been doing an absolutely sterling job of keeping me fed and watered - especially when I had 'flu and gastro in the first two weeks after discovering I was pregnant! That was grim. I don't get sick, so pregnancy nausea and fatigue combined with the aches and ails of 'flu and gastro was just horrible!
Our Facebook pregnancy announcement...

The days that I felt only nauseous were good days!

Oddly, I've been craving bitter things - like beer (which I never drink anyway!) and grapefruit juice. That and sour things, and apples, and naartjies (tangerines for non-South Africans). Just yesterday I was craving a good Durban curry - so I think that's what I'll be cooking this evening.

Things like mincemeat / ground beef on the other hand - I just can't! I can't even go in the kitchen while it is being cooked, and my poor husband 's affectionate kiss after he ate some himself left me dry heaving. Fortunately he didn't take it personally! The smell of coffee just gives me the shivers. It's so crazy how this little being just takes over your whole body - even the way you sense and feel things, the way you are in your skin - it all changes. What a precious gift to hold this little person for this time!

As with my previous pregnancy, I struggle a bit with dizziness in the mornings, not helpful when you have two preschoolers to get going - but I've found that keeping up with my iron and magnesium has really helped - that and deep breathing and staying well hydrated. A super-involved dad helps too! As I write he is busy making oats porridge for the girls for lunch.

Some of the other stuff... well, let's just say, I've never tanned at a topless beach before, but I think I know what it would feel like the day after the first time... every day. Um. Yah. Pressing on.

Tired with a
teeny belly
We decided to tell our two girls, A & E, aged 6 and 4, about the pregnancy, because I did need a little extra TLC when I was so ill, and because I'm just horrible at keeping secrets like that about my life. They are very excited, but have very little concept of time so the littlest keeps thinking baby is going to pop out next week - I've got them to understand that baby is only coming out after Christmas, but before E's birthday!

I'm also keeping them updated with my little week-by-week pregnancy updates which they quite enjoy. They are both convinced that baby is a boy. I'm not sure if it's some kind of sibling intuition or wishful thinking - but as we are only going for a 20-something week scan we still have a while to wait!

The general response from family and friends has been very positive. We are feeling very loved and supported by our community! But, I must add, where 4 weeks ago it would have been rude to point out anything about the size or shape of my belly, now I am greeted with delighted cries of, 'Oh, you've got a little bump already!'

I'm tempted to make 'Harrumph' noises, but I guess it comes with the territory. 

I've been doing some pregnancy stretching exercise on the floor of my bedroom which have been great in helping me feel a little more energised (yay endorphins!) and I'm making a plan to get back into my weekly walks once myself and my walking partner are up to it.

So anyway, we are planning another water birth at home, as I did with my second child - incredible birth story here - so while I am looking forward to it, I am also happy to wait until the time comes and just savour every moment of these precious few weeks of growing and incubating this tiny human inside my own body.

(Find our week 12 diary here.)





Tuesday, 25 August 2015

How I explained menstruation to my daughters (aged 4 & 6)

The birds...
I think I have an unfair advantage on this 'Birds and Bees' thing with my girls. I'm a doula so the words vagina and placenta and sex and discharge (etc!) are all part of my daily vocabulary, so my girls have always grown up with (mostly) the correct terms for everything, except we've adopted the term 'yoni' to name their 'private parts'.

We use the term yoni as the term vagina technically only covers the bit you can't see i.e. the internal bits. In truth, you can't really wax your vagina, 'cos getting wax inside there would be both difficult, uncomfortable and unnecessary. The other term for the whole area, including urethra and vagina, is the pudendum, which literally means 'shameful place' - also not a term I'm happy using. Yoni seemed like a great alternative as it means 'sacred space', with the implication of being a place of creation, rather than 'sheath' which is what the term 'vagina' means...

Menstrual Cup
(Upside Down!)
I use a menstrual cup for my monthlies, so when my curious 5 year old found it and wanted to know why she couldn't play with it, I took it as my chance to make this into a learning opportunity. So this was how I explained menstruation to my then 5 year old:
You know when a baby grows inside a mom's belly, it grows in her womb? Womb sounds like room doesn't it? Well, the womb is like a room for the baby. (Many giggles trying to say womb and room as she struggles with her R's.)  
What is in your room? A bed? Well mommies' bodies are so clever that every month they make a bed in case mommy and daddy make a baby there.  
What carries food and life around our bodies? Yes, blood! (We had this discussion before.) So our clever bodies make a special bed out of special blood to feed a baby just in case. But if we don't put the baby there, then the bed gets old, and it has to come out, so then the blood comes out by your vagina, but it isn't bad blood like when you get hurt, it's very special blood. So we use the cup to catch the blood so it doesn't make a mess, isn't that clever? Then next month mommy's body makes a whole new bed in the womb / room and it starts all over again. Isn't that amazing? So when you were a baby in my belly, you had your own room, my womb! And you climbed into the bed my womb made and that's where you grew and grew and grew, getting your food and oxygen from my blood until you were big enough to come out. Aren't you glad there was a bed ready for you? 
To be honest, she was happy with that, and on that occasion she didn't really want more information about how babies get put there, although we have previously had a discussion about how dad puts a seed in mom's womb, and then the egg and the seed together make a baby, exactly how that happens she hasn't asked, but I think she has an idea. Once you know the anatomy, the mechanics are pretty obvious!

...and the bees.
(Who thought of that anyway?)
And the girls both know they came out of my yoni, so that part is also easy!

Speaking of anatomy, we have a lovely big kids' anatomy book with accurate cross section diagrams, so we have studied genitalia along with all the other parts and organs, which has really helped it to be less awkward. In general, I think if we are unfussed and matter of fact, they will be too. Or maybe this is one thing we can learn from them?

Like with menstruation, even now I can tell my girls that when the old bed is coming out it can sometimes be a bit sore, so on those days I take extra special care of myself, and I tell them that one day when they start having a period every month, I'll take extra special care of them on those days too. There are some lovely gift packs you can get to celebrate a girl's menarche or first menstruation - something I'll definitely look at!

I don't want menstruation to be a case of, 'Here are some pads, don't let your brother see,' but rather a celebration of our capacity to bring forth life out of our bodies. Our Western culture seems to see women's bodies as inherently 'unclean': natural birth is and amniotic fluid is 'gross' rather than glorious, breastmilk is a seen as a biohazard with working moms being told they can't rinse their pump parts in the office kitchen sink. But any old cow's milk is fine. Um. No. I recorded this YouTube video on that topic - take a look and let me know your thoughts!


I know women who were told that their vaginas were essentially putrid, seeping wounds, and while the experience of many may not be quite so discouraging, I think it comes close. I'd like my girls to see their vaginas as powerful channels that facilitate both pleasure and procreation. So for example, if a daughter is presenting her gorgeous yoni to the world, where another mother may say, 'Sies! Put that away! No on wants to see that!' I've tried to rather take the line that our yonis are so special and precious that we only show them to people we trust, people who know how special and precious they are - which leads on to a whole discussion on what we can do to protect our children from sexual predators, but we'll leave that for another time.

So with menstruation and intercourse and childbirth and various stages of a woman's life, I have a sneaky (but pretty well founded) suspicion that if we approached the process with less shame, we might experience less pain, and consequently more pleasure.  I certainly have found that my struggles with menstruation closely match my prevailing mental state, and my experiences of childbirth have also largely mirrored my confidence in my body's ability to give birth without mishap. As for my girls, ask me in 6 years!

How were you taught, or not taught about menstruation? What helped you the most in coming to terms with your changing body? Share your thoughts below!