Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Am I Allowed, Really??

I hear so many women ask if they are allowed to do something, particularly while in labour. I cringe inside at the sound of that phrase - "Am I allowed, really?"

Most women don't understand that what happens in labour is pretty negotiable. I always try to help women to remember that it is their body, their baby and their experience to protect.

For the most part, medical professionals (but usually midwives) are fairly accommodating to a woman's wishes - after all, she is having a baby; she is bringing a new life into the world; she will always remember this day... but, especially, she will always remember how she was treated.

Common questions I hear asked in terms of what a woman is "allowed" to do, include:

  • eat during labour (Why not?! Remember your body is doing some of the hardest work it will ever do, and you need to give it the energy needed to work effectively. Some hospitals [grr] are somewhat old-fashioned and prefer you not to eat should you require surgery, i.e. a c-section. Do your own research and find out there's absolutely no evidence to support that refraining from eating during labour is beneficial, in fact I would think it were on the contrare!)

  • move around during labour (There is much information on the positives of having an active labour and birth; specifically, a woman being able to take the position she feels is best will assist in keeping her as comfortable as possible, offer opportunities to get labour going or to provide the woman with some rest and allows the woman to use her intuition in adopting the best position to help baby move down through the pelvis and birth canal)

  • labour in the bath or shower (Even if the place where you are giving birth does not have a water birth policy, it is in the woman best interest to allow her to enter the bath or shower at any time she feels during her labour. There is specific information on labouring and birthing in water here.)

  • stay home as long as possible (There is actually evidence to support that staying home in labour while ever things remain 'uncomplicated' is beneficial. This is because you are generally more comfortable at home, less likely to get an infection if your membranes have ruptured, and [most importantly] you are less likely to feel as though you require the use of pain relief or intervention.)

  • have a trained support person (See my website - http://www.empoweredforbirth.com/ - or go here to read about how the Australian College of Midwives support the use of a doula.)

There are many other questions about what a woman is "allowed or not allowed" to do. My general advice would be to discuss your options during pregnancy with your birth support team - this means the people that will be supporting you on the day, including the midwives in the birthing unit. They should be helpful on what their policies suggest a woman do during the birth of her baby.

Most midwives are very accommodating in allowing women the freedom to do what makes them feel best. This is because midwives primarily practice care that is woman-centred.

Go to the Australian College of Midwives website to read about the evidence that supports every woman being attended by a midwife during the birth of her baby. And remember that the choices you make BEFORE you have your baby will strongly determine how likely it will be that you are "allowed" to do what you wish during labour and birth.

Blessings and happy informed choice making!

Jen Staniforth


Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Make Birth Yours

Make Birth Yours is a series of informal meetings organised by the ACT Branch of Maternity Coalition.

As part of Maternity Coalition, Make Birth Yours is non-profit, non-political and non-sectarian.

The aim of Make Birth Yours meetings is to:

• encourage a woman-centred approach to the birth process;
• support women in viewing pregnancy and childbirth as normal physiological processes, not illnesses; and
• emphasise women's rights to make informed choices about their caregiver and place of birth.

Information on birth choices available in the ACT and surrounding area is made available at Make Birth Yours meetings.

Come and join us for an open, informal chat about how you can best prepare for a positive birth experience.

For more information, check out:


Hope to see you there!


Jen Staniforth

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

A Labour of Love

Thought I'd post an article here that I wrote for those accessing my website. It's a fabulously gorgeous article about what LOVE brings to pregnancy and giving birth.


If there is one main theme that runs through giving birth to a baby, it is love.

While a baby is in the mother’s womb, it is a time when the she can begin to bond. When a mother talks to her baby whilst pregnant, she is feeling loving emotions that produce a response in her body that her baby can sense. Her baby will start to associate the happy voices he hears with the positive responses from his mother. And thus begins the bonding process.

It is not uncommon for a baby that is born into love to hold steady eye contact, immediately after the birth, with both his mother and father. The baby is studying the faces to whom those well-known voices belong and thus continues the bonding process, which began in the womb.

Babies who are carried and birthed in a loving and gentle atmosphere are often easy to spot. They are generally calm, contented babies that are very attentive from the moment they are born and become confident and adept toddlers.

Since a baby was meant to be conceived in love, it stands to reason that a mother who is lovingly supported during pregnancy and the birth of her baby will:

· feel more at ease emotionally
· be able to cope better with changes during her pregnancy
· be able to cope better with discomfort during the birth
· be more confident in birthing the baby without unnecessary intervention
· feel more confident in caring for the newborn

One of the best things you can do for your baby is to ensure you have loving care and support. This may be through your partner, through your friends and family, and through your doula. Your support people during labour should help to make you feel confident, safe and loved.

Help make the birth of your baby a "labour of love" by the choices you make before your baby arrives.


Jen Staniforth


Sunday, February 15, 2009

Being 2

It's funny how it comes on. Only about 2 months ago, Emily started getting alot more spunk in her personality. Emily is my 2-year-old (well, her birthday is next month). She has gotten alot more fond of making up her own mind (which is ok with some things, but not for others) and has worked out she can say no, and mean it.

Alas, to gently train a child in the ways she should go is harder than it seemed when she was small enough to be in the same place as I left her when I re-entered the room!!

I have found that the skill of being calm and positive during my pregnancy and Emily's birth has spread into my world as a parent. When Emily decides she'd like to do something her way, especially when it really isn't appropriate, I simply (ha ha) tell her "not right now" in a calm voice...

I'm a big believer in the saying: "if at first you don't succeed - try, try again". This can leave me saying things like, "Screaming is for danger" about 20 times a day, but after repeating this routine over Emily's 'screaming phase' (the past month) she has finally started to realise that unless she's in danger, we really would prefer that she doesn't scream! Same goes with the kick, yell and throw something when she can't manage to work it out - frustration. Emily has now worked out it takes much less energy to say "Help, please" and she knows that I will show her how it works and then let her have a try.

Oh, the joys of parenting a toddler! Let me just say that it is definitely well worth it, even on our worst days.

I've realised it is a journey for all of us, not a destination!! Parenting helps you deal with the worst of your traits, too.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Baby and Kids Market

I've just returned from the Baby and Kids Market - held about every 6 weeks at Woden CIT. It's a great place to meet other mums, grab yourself a bargain and learn about great services for mums (like doulas!).

Checkout http://www.babykidsmarket.com.au/ for more info.

If you'd like to meet me in person, come down for a browse and a chat!

Hope to see you all at the next market.


Jen Staniforth

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Enlarging My Landscape

How profound; the idea that you need to take a step back from a pregnant woman if all you can see at first is her baby.

Even though the reason I am there is because of the baby, in a way, I need to put the woman front and centre.

Enlarging my landscape means I need to take in the woman, her baby, her family and her individual situation and support her in a holistic way according to what I can see and what I can hear.

Enlarging my landscape means enriching the experience for women I support.

Excuse me - I'm off to enlarge my landscape...

Jen Staniforth.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Deepest Sympathy to Victims' Families in Victoria

To those affected by the recent fires in Victoria, I am so sorry.

Why someone would want to light a fire and end so many lives is beyond me; I hope that they are caught and given fair punishment for such a hideous crime.

When you hear of such a tragedy, you know there are no words that will make anyone feel any better. I sincerely wish there were more I could do; I wish I could give hugs and tell them it will all turn out ok in the end. Instead, I will send up prayers and support those organisations that are helping out and donating goods.

For everyone's information, the up-coming Baby & Kids Market (http://www.babykidsmarket.com.au/) at Woden CIT on Saturday 14th February 2009 will be donating all left-over goods and part of the entry fee to those families most affected.

Keep all the families in your prayers and let's stick together in times of greatest need.


Jen Staniforth.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Great Birth Story!

Ok, it's long - but well worth the read!

Rachael's amazing arrival!

This is a long story for a short but incredible experience – I wanted to capture all the details.

Just a short background note to get started – with my first child, I had a (ridiculously expensive!) obstetrician managed pregnancy through the private system. I had a nearly 24hr labour with lots of pain and anxiety (posterior baby), gas and an epidural. The end bit was very positive (45min second stage and got to “catch the baby” myself) but there were a few things I wanted different this time! Had no idea just how different it would be…

I was 9 days overdue and starting to get anxious about being pushed into an induction, as I was really keen and had been preparing for an intervention free natural birth. I had been reading Juju Sundin’s book “Birth Skills” and thought her techniques would work for me. The day before my “post dates appointment” I decided to try everything to get some action! I walked Ella the 2km round trip to daycare, my lovely doula Jen came and gave me a 1 ½ hr massage with some acupressure while I listed to Bach, and had a good long reassuring chat with me allaying my fears about a big baby, risks of going overdue, risks of induction etc. After she left I was all blissed out and decided to continue pressing the acupressure points every hour for the rest of the day. I had some spicy Mexican soup for lunch, and was having what I thought were quite strong Braxton hicks – they weren’t hurting but were intense enough for me to stop whatever I was doing at the time. I was having them every hour. That evening I told DP they were regular but I didn’t think they were prelabour as I hadn’t had a show or anything.

DP went to bed early that night and I was having to go to the toilet a lot (I thought it was probably just the spicy food!) and the tightenings were getting stronger. At 9pm I thought “well, I’ll go to bed, and if they’re just B-H they’ll go away when I lie down”. As soon as I lay down they got to 6 mins apart – but I was dozing in between so I thought “these aren’t strong enough for labour, must be prelabour”. Between 10 and 11 they were getting a bit uncomfortable to lie down for, and I thought “yep this is it, early labour” and got up to go to the toilet (again!). As soon as I got up they got to 3mins apart. But all I was doing to manage them was tap my thighs (if I was on the toilet) or count the leaves on the wallpaper to the beat of the Bach in my head! So I thought even though they were so close together, I must still be in early labour, as the contractions were still quite easy to manage.

At midnight I woke DP up, with no urgency, just thought he’d want to start getting things organized before we left. By this stage I was banging one fist into my other open hand, concentrating on the slap sound and visualizing either me running round the rugby field or saying in my head in time to the slaps “you can do this, you can do this”. I rang Jen at 1.30, and said I wasn’t sure if I should go in yet or not. I had to put the phone down for contractions by this stage. We decided Jen would start heading to the hospital now (it takes her longer to get there than me). I told DP to hurry up his packing of the car as I thought it was time to go. DP rang the birth suite who asked to talk to me, they asked how far apart the CX were and after hearing three minutes, said “wow - we’ll get a room ready for you”!

We loaded Ella into the car to take to her friend’s place (they were on standby for emergency babysitting!) and I started banging my stress balls onto the dashboard as I didn’t want my “smack” noise to scare Ella! Once we were on our way again, DP asked me to stop hitting the dash, as he was scared the airbags would go off, so I hit them on the door, and he said there are side airbags too! At this point I was in the middle of a contraction, and my concentration broke and I said “I’ve lost it” and got scared as for the first time I was flooded with pain. Then I thought “Juju said use another skill when one isn’t coping with the intensity any more” so I decided to use my voice and started breathing deeply then groaning out a deep, controlled “aaahhh” sound while I squeezed the stress balls.

I was hoping the adrenaline rush of being in the car would slow down labour but it didn’t seem to be working and I was afraid I wouldn’t make it to the hospital! I threw up once (fortunately I’d thought to tell DP to bring a bucket), I wonder if that was the start of transition. DP was wonderful, he was using this low calm but very encouraging voice, telling me what a great job I was doing and how proud he was and that we hadn’t much further to go. It was the longest 40 min trip in the world for both of us I think!

By the time we got to the hospital (2.30am), my groans were so loud they were vibrating in my ears (Juju again – she says match the activity to the pain, so step it up and get loud when you need to!) I was also back to my hand smacking which really seemed to work for me. Jen met us at the car – I said “I don’t think I can get out of the car” (!) but with help I did it. I had to stop walking for contractions. Jen said you could set a metronome to my hand slapping, it was so rythmic, and though I don’t remember it that I was rocking my hips too. They must have heard me upstairs because a man came down with a wheelchair. I REALLY did not want to sit down, but had the presence of mind to realize I needed to get to the birth suite fast! I still had to stop the chair and stand up for contractions though, as sitting still was impossible.

Jen was great for these contractions, as it was as close as I got to losing it. She would gently touch her hand to my shoulders if I was tensing up and I would notice that my groaning was turning into a more high pitched, worried sounding noise instead of the low, controlled one, so I could concentrate on “fixing” the noise and that got me back in the zone!

We got to the birth suite and they took the usual measurements, which was hard as I needed both hands for my smacking!! The contractions were very close. They asked me what I wanted to do and I said “I don’t know” (I remember feeling really confused at this point – shouldn’t I know what to do?) I ended up asking for the toilet, as I had spent so much time there earlier and I thought sitting might give me a rest. As soon as I stepped into the bathroom I said “I feel like something’s about to fall out!” so they asked to do an internal- which broke my waters with a massive gush! There was meconium in the waters and I could hear the midwife calling for assistance in the background. I was 8cm then. I sat on the toilet and said – “Oh my God I need to push!” The midwives were very encouraging and said push if you need to – but then they asked me to lie on the bed so they could put on a foetal monitor (the heartbeat was fine by the way!) I really was not keen on that idea but oh well –part of my brain that was still working (yippee no drugs!) told me to throw an arm around DP and a midwife, and say briskly “come on then, let’s get this done”. So up on the bed and pushing with each contraction – but then they told me to stop pushing, as I had an anterior lip and needed to wait until it retracted to push. That was absolutely the hardest thing – not pushing when your body is screaming at you to do it! I couldn’t stop my body a couple of times so I just held back and didn’t put any effort behind the push. DP was such a strength to me – I was gripping his arm and he was gripping me right back, giving me such support. Finally (seemed like forever!) the midwife was able to push the lip back and I could push again. They said “here’s the head” and I yelled “I can feel it!” with a big grin on my face… that feeling of imminent relief and excitement is indescribable – and she shot out! They said “stop pushing now” (the cord was around the neck once) but it was too late, she was coming no matter what. It was 3.05am – half an hour after we’d arrived!

For a couple of seconds they were checking her breathing etc (her APGAR's were perfect), and I was saying “give her to me, give her to me” and then there she was, on my tummy, looking up at me calmly with big dark eyes. What a rush – having no drugs this time meant I was totally “there” for the whole birth, and it made such a difference to how I felt afterwards. All the staff left the room and I gave her a bit of guidance to her first feed – she fed beautifully and went right off to sleep.

So I got my natural birth this time, and what an amazing experience. After anticipating another long labour, it was 5 ½ hrs from start to finish! I felt like I owned the whole thing – even when it was really powerful and full on, it was like feeling a massive surge of a wave which I didn’t control, but was riding on top of the whole time without being afraid. I had no stitches, and was home again a day and a half later ( I chose to stay in hospital overnight to get some rest before going home to Ella!) and after that extraordinary ride, I feel so empowered and strong – if I can do that, what can’t I do?

The things I think made the most difference were: going through the public system – the whole pregnancy I felt I was treated more with the assumption that nothing would go wrong; using the Birth Skills – that book is amazing and worked so well for me; and having a doula – you can’t put a price on having someone (who has seen a lot of births) telling you all along that you’ll do great, and having strategies to deal with anything that comes along – just having faith in you and instilling faith in yourself.

And don't you realise how much you love your DP when you go through something that intense as a team?

Rachael is a lovely baby- feeds well, self settles, smiles all the time – and I wonder how much of it had to do with our amazing birth experience together.


Wow! What a fantastic account of an amazing experience! Thanks to Bec for sharing with all of us. :)

Love and blessings,

Jen Staniforth.


Friday, February 6, 2009

I GOT IN! :)

So, to all those who don't yet know:


I start in just 3 days and feel like it's my first day at big school...

I know, I know. I hear you all say, "You've seen births, you love it and it inspires you, so what's the problem??!" To which I say, "Hmmm... No problem, just pre-course jitters I guess!"

I love the fact that I am going to learn so much more about supporting women who are "with child". I feel blessed that I've had the opportunity to work with women as a doula, in a capacity that has eased me into the world of birthing and has allowed me the chance to see how birth CAN BE. I do believe there would be more opportunities for me to become cynical about the fact that BIRTH DOES WORK if I were first thrust into a medicalised environment.

Here's the deal... I want you to help me stay accountable to lovely birthing women everywhere! Therefore, I openly give you permission to slap me if I ever:

  • Fail to promote birth as a normal, physiological process that is NOT an emergency waiting to happen;

  • Fail to promote primary midwifery care as the best way to offer maternity care everywhere (even though an obstetrician may be present at some stage);

  • Fail to promote woman-centred care; or

  • Fail to promote informed choice, informed consent and informed refusal.

I do believe that there will never, ever be an opportunity to slap me. Well, not on the basis of the above anyway!!

I'll keep you informed as I travel my journey of becoming a midwife. But for now, I am so thoroughly enjoying being a doula. :)

Love and blessings,

Jen Staniforth


I am now a Blogger!

Well, it's been a long time coming! Friends, family and colleagues alike have been trying to talk me into creating my own blog. Perhaps I'm more interesting than I thought...

So, I guess first thing's first. Welcome to my blog!

My promises to you, as your exciting new Blogger:

  • I will do my very best to make my ramblings as concise as possible
  • I will do my very best to blog often
  • I will do my very best to make my content exciting and informative

So, as you read my posts, please feel free to comment! After all, what is the point in writing if not to please your readers. :)

For those who have found my blog before my website, you can visit me and my business at:

Love and blessings,

Jen Staniforth.