“That’s a loaded question lol! Let’s go back to 2009 – I had been living in Halifax for about 3 years (originally I’m from Saint John, NB) and I was volunteering with the Halifax Sexual Health Centre. I loved working there, and I accepted a 1-year maternity leave contract to run the administrative side of things. One of my duties was to be the only person on the front desk who could schedule abortion referral appointments. Most of those calls were people who were in crisis and/or traumatized – the phone call to me was one of the first they would make. I heard many stories, but something that stood out to me even then was that the lack of access to accurate information for these people was huge. Many didn’t have support systems here (university students, newcomers etc.) or had home situations that weren’t healthy.
I remember one young person in particular who really wanted to pursue adoption rather than abortion. Unfortunately, the process for that was long and full of red tape, and not much information was available. I did my best to find information for her, but I realized at that point that it was actually easier to access abortion services than it was to place a child for adoption in Nova Scotia! That really bothered me, so I started researching how to better support people with pregnancy options. That’s when I learned about doulas because the Home of the Guardian Angel/Chebucto Family Centre is the contact for adoption but they are also the home of the Volunteer Doula Program. I realized that if I did training as a doula, I could provide support to these people, and help navigate reproductive health services with them while they were in a very vulnerable mental and emotional space. It didn’t really matter to me that I wasn’t a mom and hadn’t ever been pregnant before. That was the key moment when I guess I “launched” into my career as a parent support specialist.
Since then, I’ve worked as a volunteer birth and postpartum doula, I’ve had my own business as a private hire doula, and I’ve been working as a nanny exclusively for families with children under 24 months old.
Somewhere along the way (I can’t remember when) I discovered birth photography and stillbirth photography. At the time, no one else was doing birth photography in Nova Scotia, and with my credentials, as a birth doula at the IWK, I was able to serve clients even more than a typical birth photographer because I was allowed into the OR during c-sections, and I was also allowed to stay in the birth room even when other support people were required to leave. I enrolled in a digital photography program through the Centre for Art and Technology, with the goal of studying lighting and editing as it related to birth photography. I was really encouraged there to further practise editing techniques especially on stillbirth photography and went on to launch Atlantic Stillbirth Photography.
I’ve worked other jobs in between, but everything has always mostly revolved around parent and pregnancy support services. I’m passionate about all things baby – it’s a little crazy, considering I don’t have any babies of my own. I live in Windsor, and share a home with my partner, 3 LOUD cats and my mom. I have a family that I nanny for with 2 boys that I’ve been with for over 10 years, those guys are like my honorary kids and I now own a gender-free baby boutique here in Windsor, and I love that I get to play with and research baby things all day long. “
“As I mentioned, I own Enby Baby, a new and pre-loved gender-free baby boutique here in Windsor, NS. I also run Novadia Creative Wellness, which provides support services to families through all stages of the parenting journey. Atlantic Stillbirth Photography is also a service that I launched, it provides professional newborn and birth photography to families experiencing stillbirth or anticipated neonatal loss. There’s no cost for that service, it’s completely volunteer-based, but we do accept donations. Before the pandemic, I was able to go anywhere in Atlantic Canada (NB, NS, PEI) but I’ve been limited to just mainland Nova Scotia for the last few years. I’m always looking for more photographers to get involved with that project, it’s not something many people are able or willing to do.
Parent support-wise, I have a lot to offer, and my goal is to be the person you can come to when you need to figure something out. I’ve always been that person that just knows where to point you, and I try to be that for my clients also. I teach prenatal education classes, and new parent classes (because babies do not come with manuals, and not everyone just “knows” how to care for infants), as well as workshops on baby-led weaning, infant sleep etc. Something I’ve been trying to get off the ground for a while is a concierge service, more like a personal shopper for those new parents who are overwhelmed and/or don’t have time to do the research. I love all things baby and infant, I love putting together capsule wardrobes and nurseries. I can identify a stroller across the street and tell you the make, approximate year etc. same with car seats (I’m also a child passenger safety tech, I teach car seat installations!) I’m realizing this is really wordy, so I’ll leave a list at the end of the services I provide – probably easier! “
“I am certified through Birth Arts International as a birth doula and a bereavement doula. I’m also a certified fertility and birth Reiki practitioner (master) with By the Moon, and a certified therapeutic arts practitioner with trauma-informed specialization through the Canadian International Institute for Art Therapy. I was a certified child passenger safety technician with Child Passenger Safety Association of Canada (CPSAC) however with the pandemic, my certification has lapsed and I haven’t had time to renew it. Further, I did a diploma program with Dalhousie in Emergency Health Services Management which has surprisingly come in useful during the pandemic, as I had to study epidemiology – but the true value was learning the Business of Canadian Health Care, or in other words, how the health care system in Canada works from a business perspective (costs of care etc.) that we don’t normally see due to our (not-so) “free” health care. I’m also a certified Mindful Motherhood trainer, and Laughter Yoga instructor – I think that’s it. I feel like I’m forgetting something, but I’m always doing things to further my skillsets. “
“As a volunteer doula in Halifax, I actually burned out on attending births. Because it was a passion, I was always taking on clients – and my favourite ones to work with were single parents, young parents and newcomers. Between 2012-2015 I attended over 100 births, most of them were at the IWK. I’d say 95% of them were as a volunteer doula, the rest were private hire.
I have been at one home birth, for a fellow doula, and I was there as a birth photographer – the photos from that session are gorgeous, it was a lovely sunny morning with light streaming through the windows, and her other kids were in and out of the room. Some of those images are still in use by the NSDA on their website. I don’t have a preference, but because I was really more interested in working with single parents and newcomers, most of those clients weren’t eligible or interested in home birth.
I’ve attended several stillbirths, all at IWK. There are 2 that stand out to me – the very first one I ever did, and another that I attended shortly after my dad passed away for a family that had 35 sweet minutes with their angel before she passed on. I always say the first one you do is the test – after you do that session, you’ll know if you are going to do more or not.
At the moment, I am not actively attending births – I moved to Windsor in 2017, and my dad passed away shortly after that. I took a bit of a sabbatical to deal with that loss, and by the time I was ready to jump back in, the CoVid pandemic had hit and it’s been a challenge getting hospital permissions.”
“Right now, the process to book is just to contact me. With the pandemic, I’m laying low and supporting those who contact me – but I haven’t been actively marketing services because I was focused on getting the shop up and running. I’m hoping in 2022 that I’ll be able to focus more on services – but that’s entirely dependent on public health measures since my clients all have infants who cannot be vaccinated yet.
I have a really laid-back style, but something that I learned in one of my very first doula trainings was to remember that this isn’t MY story or journey. I might not make the same choices as my clients, but that’s ok because it’s not my journey. My job is to support my clients in having a positive experience, and that sometimes means supporting things I wouldn’t do myself. I will never push my opinions on a client, although I do make sure that I offer as much information as I can to make an informed decision. I pride myself on knowledge and experience – I don’t like surprises, and I don’t want my clients to feel like they don’t have enough information in an important decision. My mantra is something called BRAIN – Benefits, Risks, Alternatives, Instincts, Nothing. I teach it to every client, and I use it in all aspects of my own life.”
“My mission has always been to be the person who can find the answers for you, or make life easier. While I’m not certified as a postpartum doula, quite a bit of the work I do is postpartum. I’m always available by text or phone to talk or listen – and it seems like I always have clients coming to me with questions, or looking for tips and advice. I do offer night nanny services and respite care, and I’m still working as a casual infant care provider for those with infants under 1. I teach workshops for new parents and grandparents, on everything from newborn care to feeding and sleeping. I’m hoping to get my “birth planning” and “baby registry” workshops going again soon too. “
“At the moment, where I’m not physically attending births, my support is mainly virtual. I’ve been offering text and phone support to clients during their last weeks of pregnancy, early labour and postpartum. This is actually working really well for me and for them. I live in a rural area, so physically going to their home isn’t always an option like it was when I was in the city. I think that for many of my clients, knowing that there is someone on the other end of the line at any time of the day or night is comforting. 2 am is a very lonely and isolating time when you are in labour or at home with a newborn!
I’ve also been known to put together necessity packages and deliver them to new parents who can’t leave the house, to organize meal trains and support for families who are dealing with special circumstances like an infant in NICU.
Something that I really want people to know about is that I do significant work with those at the START of their family journey. I do reiki sessions for fertility, and I love working with clients who have experienced loss in the past, but are now either pregnant or trying to get pregnant again. I use creative art therapies along with Reiki to support those clients and I really want to work with more clients in that way.
“For families who are going to be going through labor soon, I always ask the birthing person what they typically do when they have a bad headache. Their answer is usually a good starting point for coping mechanisms during labor, especially if they’ve never been in labor before. For me, I go to bed and sleep it off – if I can’t, I’ll take an Advil and try to stay as quiet as I can. Some people are the kind of people who take pain meds at the first sign of a headache, those are people who likely will be wanting an epidural medication line early in labor. Others have other coping strategies like distraction, comfort food, dancing, and meditation.
I try to remind them that this might be the first time their partner sees them in severe pain or distress – and then the question to the partner is “how do you cope with seeing someone you love is in pain?” That’s where we come up with a labor plan, not just for the laboring person but also for their support people. So many want to create a “birth plan” that is all about medications and interventions, but for me, it’s more important to establish how people react and respond in these situations and work from there to develop a coping strategy.
For doulas or birth support specialists themselves, I also very strongly recommend that you have a coping plan in place. Things can get stressful really quickly, and we are all human. Sometimes as doulas, we see and experience things that are traumatic to us, but not necessarily to our clients – and you have to have a plan to work through that because it’s not something you can bring to the client.
I remember the first time I saw a true shoulder dystocia (baby stuck in pelvis, but the head was out). There was another doula trainee with me that day, and after we were done with the client, I took her out for coffee and we talked it through, both of us. I have a counsellor that I see regularly, and I take steps to make sure that I am practising self-care regularly. You have to when you do what I do.”
“Personally, I try to avoid them when I can. But that’s me, and I’ve never had a baby. I mentioned before, this isn’t my journey, it’s my clients journey. If they want pain meds, we will talk about pain meds. All doula certification trainings teach comfort measures and non-medicinal pain management, but I never assume that is what my client wants. My job is to be there to support them in having a positive experience, and to make sure they have the information and knowledge they need to be able to do that. Interestingly, when I did my 12-hour initial shift on the birth unit at the IWK as a volunteer doula, there was a birthing person there who wasn’t able to have an epidural line placed for some reason. She was having a rough go of it, but one of the nurses suggested that she have me come in to help since traditional medicinal pain management wasn’t possible. The client was really not sure, but by the end of my shift, she was in the pushing stage and had hold of my hand. I mentioned that my shift was up, and she grabbed my hand tightly and said “You can’t go! I need you to stay with me!” Not exactly what I was expecting, but I will always remember that because for her I was exactly what she needed when she needed it. “
“When I was in the city, we always had backup doulas for the volunteer program. I’ve only ever missed one birth, and I say that it almost doesn’t count because I was actually AT the hospital, but we had been there for over 24 hours and I had stepped out to take a short nap in my car. I didn’t hear my phone going off, and the baby arrived within 5 minutes of the mom waking up from her epidural-induced nap. When I was attending births actively, I was careful when scheduling clients and due dates. Funny enough, I will always take on 2 clients with the same due date – but never 2 clients a week apart. Murphy’s law says that 2 clients with the same due date will not labor at the same time – but if they’re a week apart, they will always go into labor the same day. As a virtual doula, I really have no excuse for not being there. If my power or internet goes out, I have a data plan on my phone and a car to charge it with. I will always, always reply to someone messaging me about labor or doula-type stuff. This is my career, and those close to me know that if it has to do with babies, it takes priority over anything else. The only time I’ve ever actively sought a replacement doula was when my dad got sick and I had to go to NB unexpectedly. I knew that there was no way I was coming back to a client while he was in ICU, so I made sure I had someone take over the 2 clients I was waiting on. “
“Use your BRAIN. Benefits, Risks, Alternatives, Instincts, Nothing. Use it for everything and anything. It is the only tool I know of that allows you to really look at a decision from all perspectives and make an informed choice. ”
“So much… lol. But I’ve already written a novel. A few short things that I wish everyone could know: No one “lets” you do anything. Not your doctor, the nurse, your own parents or your partner. YOU are in charge, this is your journey. You have to do what is right for you. Unless you are in life-threatening danger, medical staff cannot make you do something you aren’t comfortable with – so if you don’t want to be induced at 39 weeks and you feel you know that it’s the right decision for YOU, then don’t go. Let them schedule it, you don’t have to show up. Also, can people please please please learn the difference between the words “gender” and “sex”? Gender is a social construct, one that humans don’t identify with until at least 36 months of age. Your “gender reveal” is actually an “anatomy reveal” – and has no bearing on whether you will be raising a boy, girl or other human. “
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