Tag Archives: real

What is a Doul-a and What Do We Do?

When I first heard the term doula, I literally spoke the words: “a what-nah?” Fast forward two years and here I am: a practicing doula. The term ‘doula’ is ancient Greek and roughly translates as “a woman who serves.” For a professional movement that aims to empower, advocate and offer caring, non-judgemental support during pregnancy, birth, and the postpartum period, this definition, while providing the gist, falls short. (Oh, and there’s no rule that men can’t be doulas.) If you don’t know about doulas, or if what you do know makes you scratch your head in confusion or suspicion, do me this favour and bear with me as I hopefully debunk some common myths and share what I know to be true about the doula role.

A common doula image has been the hippy-dippy, placenta eating type (while the healing benefits of this practice can be argued) the bottom line is that doulas do not force-feed their clients placentas, a myth that can create real barriers to doulas being taken seriously in broader systems of care – someone who wafts into a room ripe with patchouli oil and is dismissive of doctor’s orders.

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Art courtesy of the author, Rachel.

Here are some frank but concise things to know: 1) if a doula has been trained well, they will know the role is not a clinical one, and 2) that while a ‘hippy-dippy’ approach is often scoffed at, it seems clear that our culture is starved for what might better be termed ‘holistic care.’ I feel lucky to have attended births where medical staff and holistic practitioners worked symbiotically. The outcome was stunning. Our mutual respect and willingness to complement each other’s roles disproved the notion that ‘medical births’ and ‘natural births’ must be separate entities. This type of bridging is one of a doula’s most astonishing tasks and achievements. The doula’s role is that of an impartial diplomat, offering translations, support and conflict resolution if tensions may be running high. A doula also runs interference between expectant parents and well-meaning but occasionally overbearing family members. Continue reading

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Body Positivity and “Healthy” Double Standards, or Why I Need Fat Acceptance Even Though I’m (Relatively) Thin

The moment you mention “fat” and anything positive in the same sentence you get a response that’s meant to put you in your place. It will usually go something like, “I don’t believe in encouraging unhealthy behaviour” or “I’m all for self-acceptance, but…”.

I certainly do understand this sentiment. I think social stigma can be a powerful way to discourage bad behaviour. Just look at MADD’s entire campaign against drunk driving, for example.

However, I do think there is an unnecessarily strong reaction against Fat Positivity. Below I’ve outlined 3 reasons why I think that reaction is unfair.

1) We overlook healthy individuals with large bodies because they don’t fit our cultural beauty standards 

The number one criticism of fat acceptance is that it encourages unhealthy behaviour. However, there are more and more examples that prove body size doesn’t always dictate health. Olympic hammer-thrower Amanda Bingson encountered this type of assumption when she was kicked off her high school volleyball team for not losing weight. Years later and she has been able to prove that a large body is just as capable of amazing things as a small body. It’s been encouraging to see her featured in this year’s ESPN Body Issue, the magazine’s “annual celebration of athletes’ amazing bodies”.

Another large and healthy individual who has come to my attention is yogi Jessamyn Stanley. I try (emphasis on try) to practice yoga every week, and yoga is, for me, one of the few physical activities I’m actually kind of okay at. That’s why I was stunned to see Stanley doing moves I am still far away from accomplishing. It’s clear to me that Stanley has the kind of core strength that most of the slender yogis in my classes still haven’t managed to build.

I cannot do this pose without assistance. I can maybe do a headstand on a good day, but just on my arms like this? No way.

Examples like Bingson and Stanley aren’t meant to prove that all large people are healthy. Instead, they offer a great reminder that size doesn’t necessarily dictate health. While large individuals are sometimes much more healthy than they look, some slim individuals can be much less healthy than they appear. Continue reading

ISIS, Gaza, Ebola, and Robin Williams: Dealing with Grief on the Large and Small Scale

This week I emerged from my happy little language cult in a tiny remote Quebecois town.

I emerged to discover a lot of sadness.

I had already been hearing bits and pieces about the deaths in Gaza and the lives lost to Ebola before I even left Trois-Pistoles, but the last few days I’ve also been hearing a variety of horrific rumours about ISIS. Last night when I started researching for tonight’s blog, I thought I would look into the veracity of those articles.

That was a bad idea.

At the time, I had a hard time finding coverage of the things I had heard about from any reputable sources. And the things I did come across were highly disturbing and meant to be provoking. I’m not actually going to link to anything I came across in my search, because I don’t want to see those images ever again. I don’t know when or where those photos were taken. I don’t know if they are fake or real. All I know is that they made me very very angry. And they made me feel very, very powerless.

Continue reading