Death Doula

My work experiences in brief:

Professional dancer. Finished at 18.

Range of part time work while in 6th form and college: Waitress, barmaid, factory worker, shop assistant.

Left college, went into care work for several years. Worked in Nursing home, the Residential home, then hired privately for a couple in their own home.

Left because of low pay (and needed more money as I was getting married), so worked for my dad in an office. Knew it wasn’t for me, wanted to go back into care but with better than minimum wage.

Started nursing degree. Got pregnant, had my first boy. Went back to nursing. Got pregnant again, had second boy. Exceeded amount of maternity leave I could have (course changed from a feb cohort to april cohort so by the time I rejoined end date had been pushed forward two months, which meant I would finish third year longer than 6 years after I’d started… anyway, its complicated.) so had to leave it completely at end of second year. Favourite moments: A and E placement-particularly day I worked with suicide victim, volunteering in HIV charity, working in Special Needs school, watching Surgery, my Midwifery placement, watching the autopsies and my cardiac placement. Worst moment: elderly care ward. Soul destroying.

While at home with boys, trained as a breastfeeding peer supporter. Helped run a group and led breastfeeding portion of antenatal groups.

Got divorced. Realisation that I had to support my family hit hard. Needed a job with pay, but something where my experiences would be useful. Trained as an antenatal teacher with NCT (Medical+person centred care+breastfeeding), but just before end of course funding got swept from underneath me; I couldn’t come up with £4000 to pay for it myself, and so I had to leave again before finishing.

In need of cash (always about the money), have gotten a job in an office again (minimum wage, 0 hour contract. Thanks, Tories.) as a part time finance assistant, and am an office cleaner too.

So, I’ve a mix of NCT training which empowers people to choose their own care and control their own destiny; NHS nursing, which has grounded me in reality and given me a basic understanding of health and disease; care work, where I’ve walked with many people to the borders between life and death; and I’ve also had a dab hand in many walks of life with many sorts of people in all my part time work too.

And here I am in my thirties having effectively wasted my entire life so far. Where can I go? What can I do? Where will I be useful? Where are all my skill sets needed?

Anyway, I found out that death doulas are a thing. I may have found a spark of hope.

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Surrogacy – the glossary

Surrogacy, what does it all mean?

Before I explain my experiences with it, its best to do a quick glossary of terms I’ve learnt over the past couple of years of being in this world.

SM – surrogate mother, the woman who carries the child.

£15000 – the maximum a surrogate can be given in expenses in the UK for a straight forward arrangement. The amount a SM will get will be based on an individual basis – what it would cost one SM to be a surrogate won’t be the same as the next. It is illegal in the UK for a surrogate to be paid to be a surrogate – and this is an extremely good thing, and anyone telling you different is either ignorant (best case scenario) or they enjoy the exploitation of desperate people, taking them for all they’ve got and placing babies in bankrupted homes without a second thought for how they and the baby they place there will survive, or (worst case) they run a baby farm with lots of human traffiking victims forced to be pregnant repeatedly and never recieving a penny – this has happened. In any case, our expenses policy is a good thing. It ensures that all surrogates have altruistic motives, or in the very least, not JACKPOT motives, protecting the SMs, the IPs and the babies. Abroad, it is a different story – though of course, UK SMs give birth in NHS care and continue to be cared for with the NHS, where any health ramifications for SMs in the USA for instance will have to be paid for out of her pocket. This can be in the hundreds of thousands. Expenses are more there for this reason- but before any North Americans feel like coming over and nabbing a UK surro, Surrogates in the UK cannot be surrogates for people living outside of the UK – how long you have to be a resident in the UK before you can use a UK surrogate is something I don’t know – If you know, let me know!

IP (sometimes IM or IF) Intended parent, Intended Mother, Intended Father. The two people who get the child after birth. Always has to be a couple; single people cannot be granted parental orders. (See Single arrangements for further info). There is complete equality in the UK for gay and straight couples (and the spectrum between) and women and men (and the spectrum between) to seek surrogacy arrangements. This is not the case abroad, and as there isn’t enough surrogates in the UK, many IPs do have to travel abroad and have met with varying degrees of success and homophobia.

Arrangement/agreement – There is no legal framework around a surrogacy arrangment as of yet – ie there is no guarentee that the IPs will pay the money, or take the baby at the end, and no legal framework to ensure the SM will hand over the baby. All there is (at the moment) is an arrangement/agreement where all parties put down their responsibilities, and what they expect, and what the plan is if “such and such” occurs (eg: more money for mulitples, who to contact if IPs die while SM is pregnant, if everyone agrees to an abortion if the need arises, contact with family with SM after birth etc.), and then the surrogacy goes forward entirely based on trust. Many people on both sides of the arrangment have been let down and hurt (more often it is IPs not wanting to pay, or surrogates/ips thinking they’d recieve pictures or stay facebook friends but one party cuts the other out completely – cases of SMs keeping children are very rare), but the vast majority that take time at the beginning to get to know one another, and have a clear arrangment of what to expect, go very well and all parties are happy and satisfied. Again, abroad the situation is very different, and there are legal proceedures either side of the arrangment.

PO – Parental Order. Legal Document handing over custody from SM to IPs. Until this is granted, the parental responsibility lies with the SM, and if SM is married, her husband or wife too – they will be the people put on birth certificate – this doesn’t apply if the SM is not married to her partner). The PO cannot be applied for until 6 weeks after birth (as people less than 6 weeks post birth are not able to make legal decisions over child custody) and must be applied for by 6 months post birth. IPs generally take baby home on day of birth and just wait the 6 weeks out, applying as soon as possible. If the spouse of SM signs a legal document saying they did not agree to surrogacy arrangement and they withhold any responsibility, the sperm owner can put their name on birth certificate instead at birth – this is preferable as at least one IP can make medical decisions, travel with baby etc. in the interim before PO is granted. When PO is signed, a new birth certificate is created with the IPs names on it, and the SM and her spouse are removed completely – this is only if the SM agrees to the PO, of course. She is in the legal position of keeping the baby, regardless of whether she is related to the baby, at any point until the PO is granted.

GS – Gestational surrogacy. This is where the SM has IVF treatment with the IM/donor egg and the IF/donor sperm. SM is not genetically related to baby. To be a surrogacy arrangement, one IP must be genetically related to child. GS is preferable for some surrogates as being genetically distinct from baby makes any concerns relating to that obsolete, is usually more supported by her family. Also, the recompense is usually higher than that of TS. It is preferable to many parents, particularly IMs, as it is the only way the IM can be genetically related to child. There are also more surrogates willing to be GSs – and it takes away a completely unfounded but ever-there concern that a TS surrogate will want to keep the baby more than if they were GS because they are related to them.

TS – Traditional Surrogacy. This is the surrogates own egg and the IF’s sperm. To be surrogacy, one IP must be genetically related to child, so donor sperm is not acceptable. This is preferable for SMs as it’s straight forward and less stressful – IVF can involve a host of drugs which can have some not so nice side effects, and lots of needles and things stuck up and in strange places, and blood tests and urine tests and reams of paperwork, not to mention the travelling (which can be difficult to work around their own children and employment). With TS, the insemination can happen in her own home.  Many IPs would have needed donor eggs in any case (for instance, in a male same sex relationship), and this way they can see the walking, talking genetic material of their egg donor. It is preferable for IPs as it is much cheaper than the other route (no IVF costs for instance) and the recompense to a TS is around £6000-£12000, where GS is £12000-£15000.

IVF – In Vitro Fertilisation. An embryo is created in a lab with egg and sperm and placed inside a woman’s womb which has been regulated somewhat to give the best chances of success. The level of regulation can vary widely.

Single arrangement – You can have a surrogate and have a single arrangement, it just cannot be called surrogacy, and the custody change over is different. Instead, this is called a co – parenting arrangement, and that surrogate will stay on the birth certificate, and either share parenting with the IP, or sign over custody, but will forever remain the mother on the birth certificate. Expenses cannot be paid in this arrangement.

Surrogacy where neither IP is related is plain adoption – for the IPs to be given child, they must be a close relative to the SM and social services must be involved. If they aren’t a mother/brother/sister of SM, the baby is placed in social care – the surrogate cannot decide where baby goes. IPs can apply to social services for the baby, but baby will be placed in foster care until the courts decide who gets awarded custody, and then it is likely baby will be placed and adopted with a family that has been waiting longer for a child. Again, expenses cannot be paid in this scenario as this may be construed as the IPs buying the surrogates baby – a pointless exercise in any case as it is unlikely they’d be granted custody.

There are more (BfP, AF etc.) But this is enough to be getting along with.

Journey so far

I have matched. That was the easy bit!

To do this, several things needed to be done. Firstly, my partner and I needed a criminal background checks, and I needed to be tested for STDs – this must be done in a way where me name and date of brth appear on the paperwork. I ended up having testing done twice becuase the first time round I went to a confidential service. “where’s my name?” “It won’t have your name, this is entirley confidential.” “But I need to show them to someone else, how will they know this was mine and I didn’t steal my sister’s or something?” “They won’t.” “Brilliant.”

After that, I had to fill in some paperwork to join COTS, as it was best for this individual arrangement. And then I had some paperwork from the IVF clinic to fill in and send off, followed by a consultation over the phone to arrange for me to go to the clinic and sign paperwork, have some counselling and some more tests done. Also, I will have to decide on having a natural cycle (no drugs other than some to encourage my lining of my womb to be thicker, or lots of drugs which control when I ovulate.)

This so far has taken 3 months.

In the mean time, I’m on pregnacare multivitmans in preperation, and making sure I’m not getting pregnant myself, and looking forward to a flight up to Glasgow to get the next bit underway.

Looks like another 3 months before I can start peeing on any clear blue merchandise.

Keep you posted!

Finding my parents

There are three ways to find a couple to be a surrogate for.

1) You know them personally, and you offer on finding their fertility issues.

2) you join an angecy and get matched – free for surroagtes, very expensive for intended parents. Mixed feelings about these across the community, but they do offer at least the illusion of more securiy and they do make everything feel more official. The two main ones in the UK are SUK (surrogacy UK) and COTS (Childlessness overcome through surrogacy). I am with COTS for reasons which will become clear

3) FACEBOOK! Of course, you all knew that! There are loads of groups on facebook where surrogates and intended parents can talk and meet (lots of meets for big groups are made) all for free. There’s lots of information from experienced surrogates and IPs and its all (I don’t know if I mentioned it) FREE. Downside, badly run groups with cliques and uninformed/unengaged admins do become full of arguments and rivalaries and people can lose out.

I found my IPs on facebook. They saw me as available on facebook, and messaged me, and I mesaged back for a few weeks, and then we arranged to meet. They are with COTS, so after talking to them and meeting them in person, we decided to match (I say we, I was so excited that they were AMAZING that I rushed it slightly), and as part of the arrangement, I joined COTS too to make their paperwork easier. The official arrangement was done with a COTS support worker (see the glossary), and they are supporting all of us. Wasn’t a problem for me as it is free for me to join, and my IPs were already members from a previous arrangment.

I matched with them for 5 reasons

1) they were GS and I wanted GS

2) They live within 2 hours of me – I have notoriously short labours

3) they have already got a daughter through surrogacy, and I felt more confident with people that had done this before

4) In meeting them in person, I was very confident that they would be amazing parents (I can see that already with their beautiful daughter), look after me well – ie, confident they are financially secure enough to cover all costs and it not affect the home I was placing a baby in – and confident they will respect my wishes. We also shared many similar outlooks and humour (basically, I like them a lot, and they like me, and we would like each other if we had met outside of this arrangement).

5) They are CANADIAN.

I’m a surrogate mother

I loved being pregnant, but not nearly as much as I loved labour. I am awesome at labour – wonder woman, black widow? Push over. I am SUPER HUMAN. I need to think of a good name for me – Wonder Womb? Uterus Gold? I’m working on it.

Unfortunately, I’m not that enamoured by newborns. In fact, they scare the living day lights out of me. I am one of the unfortunate souls that take weeks to love their children – only when I know their smell, face, sounds and touch do I form an emotional bond. I would protect them with my life immedietly, but an actual feeling of love is long in coming. Nothing to do with my pregnancies or births, or breastfeeding – all of which were straightforward and brilliant. Just something in me – something I don’t think is unrelated to my being on “the spectrum” as it’s known.

My partner (not the father of my two boys) has never wanted children, doesn’t want children, and is very happy in step dad role. He would be sterilised but he is apparently too young (he’s in his late 30s now) to make such a drastic decision. Odd, as its the same age women start being warned off by media to try starting a family, but never mind.

This is wonderful to me (my partner not wanting children, not how women are controlled by the media) as my boys are all the children I could ever want,and I certainly don’t want another new born – quite apart from not liking them very much, I have done the toddler thing, and having another now would take resources, time and energy from the two I have when they most need it- stuff that is already in short supply.

But. I would quite like to feel superhuman again. I can’t believe that was my last labour. How do I experience that all again without ending up with a baby I can’t afford, and that neither I or my partner want at the end? There must be a solution…

So! I have become a surrogate mother! Not pregnant yet, thought I’d document my journey here from the beginning.

Wish me luck!

Just. As. Important.

“As long as the baby is ok…” “… and, more importantly, the baby…” “The baby is the most important…” “doesn’t matter, baby is fine so you should count yourself lucky…” “ah well, baby’s here now and thats all that matters….

I’ll improve on this blog post eventually. But for now, this.

BABIES ARE NOT MORE IMPORTANT THAN ANY OTHER HUMAN IN THE ROOM! They are JUST as important. Other People and their wellbeing matter too. The Mother’s health, wellbeing and happiness is just as important as the baby’s. OTHER PEOPLE MATTER. Is this the only reason to birth girls – to create more vessels that don’t matter to create even more that won’t matter? Babies that are all important on day one – to the detriment of every other person’s wellbeing; sometimes inccuring in those people permenant disability and death – suddenly become worthless things themselves, facing their own “at-least-the-baby-is-ok” mutilations?

This is not right.

Babies are NOT. MORE. IMPORTANT.

They are JUST. AS. IMPORTANT.

No where is it more pronounced that women are on the bottom rung of society than at this moment – a moment all the more torturous to be disregarded because it can be and is for many the most empowering and magical moment of their lives.

Child – led Childhood

Demand Feeding. Baby Led Weaning. Child Directed Study. At what point to we just hand in the towel and say “fine, raise yourselves, you’re so good at it!”

Thing is, though, that might not be such a bad idea.

My role as a facilitator in antenatal sessions isn’t to teach, but to provide a framework where parents can discover for themselves what they need to know for their parenting journey. This is so preferable to teaching – parents are all individuals and being able to cherry pick the most important pieces of information for them personally and as a couple ensures that they receive exactly what they need (if I’ve done my job right). This saves me having to teach 100 different things too, otherwise there is no way I could provide for every parent that comes to me (there isn’t the time!). Many, of course, outright ask questions expecting answers; usually I would signpost, occasionally I’d answer. But the information they uncover for themselves is largely the bits they remember the most. And it means they, as couples, can make decisions together – and lay foundations for their family life.

My homeschooling experience is almost identical. I have a framework, but it is my sons who decide what they want to discover, how they want to learn it; I support them and come along for the ride, there with the knowledge of how to find out the information. It is the skill of learning how to learn that I am ‘teaching.’ This would be the same in an ideal school. Child directed study is becoming part of many curriculums.

Should my parenting be any different? Am I there to tell them what to do, how to be; even who to be? Or am I supposed to, like above, provide the framework so they can grow themselves up? A Child led Childhood.

Research is consistently showing that allowing babies from birth to determine their day (feeds, sleep etc.) increases cognitive development throughout childhood, lowers risk of obesity, increases dexterity , improves speech development, social development… They do better with adults being catalysts and support for their development, rather than directly interfering with it by being parent led. Why should this stop out of babyhood?

This can sound extremely bizarre to adult ears. How can children possibly understand or know what they need?

I wonder whether many adult’s reluctance to hand over the reigns is their own internal power struggle saying that they should be in charge.

Oppression is the powerful majority controlling lives and removing rights to the powerless minority. The movement of ‘Childism’ is one which argues that kids need to be respected as human beings, and to treat them as people of unequal worth to adults, and to dismiss their perspective or experiences due to differences in their in size, experience and power is to be discriminatory, oppressive and abusive to children.

April is Child Abuse month, where we look at child trafficking, neglect, pedophilia, child slave labour, domestic abuse and every other horror perpetrated towards children in one big umbrella of abuse. Perhaps it should all, like murders and abuses of other minorities, be called crimes of prejudice. These, like violent and abusive acts towards POC and the LGBTQ community are named as acts of homophobia and racism, should be named as acts of childism.

That is the extreme end of the scale. Ordinary Parent led parenting is nothing like abuse. But perhaps the beginning of solving childism is for all parents to trust their children to occasionally make some decisions about themselves for themselves. Maybe, letting the kids take the reins every once in a while on their own lives wouldn’t be such a bad idea.

They can’t do a worse job of parenting themselves than adults have thus far.

My two definitely do a much better job of it than me.

 

 

Article on demand feeding milk and child development http://eurpub.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2012/03/13/eurpub.cks012.short

Article on baby led weaning and child development http://www.naturalhealthquincy.com/uploads/pdf/971.pdf

Article on child directed learning – http://alternativestoschool.com/articles/benefits-self-directed-learning/

Article on childism http://ideas.time.com/2012/04/26/childism-the-unacknowledged-prejudice-against-kids/

Breastfeeding and politics – a rare post based entirely on opinion

Breasts are political.

I grew my two without ever having input from number 10, but now they are here, they are of great importance to the political world at large.

Whether they are ostentatiously sustaining other people near Mr Farage, or being used as soft porn additions to family papers, they are in no doubt a dividing source of political fodder.

But why? What is so important about these strategically placed blobs of fat interlaced with ducts and blood vessels?

SEX. My blobs are SEXY. I have no say in this, this is what I’m told. Your blobs are sexy too. And, like all sex things, they should be nowhere near children or open spaces without male stipulated permission, and they should be for the sole use of men.

The thing is, I don’t think my blobs are sexy. I mean, I am sexy – I’m genetically interesting due to a diverse gene pool, I’m relatively young compared to most of the population, I’m even featured, indicating fertile ovaries, and I show no outward appearance of illness, indicating good breeding stock. Isn’t that the most perfect dating profile you have ever read?

But my blobs aren’t part of that. And, historically, they weren’t for centuries. The dressing up of them was initially designed to mirror the hidden hips and buttocks – which, unlike boobs, are indicators of healthy breeding material (you should see my hip fat working it, baby).Breasts only look like they are good for sustaining young once full of milk; as any peer supporter will tell you, size of boobs or nipples is no indicator of how well they will feed baby. It’s the insides that matter – and for the vast majority, the outside has no baring on that at all. (There is a tiny group of people who you can visably see didn’t grow adequete tissue inside from the outside, but it doesn’t make the breast unattractive. Inny or flat nipples can cause latch issues, but not milk production faults-and they can be managed for successful breastfeeding journeys.)

This isn’t just a breastfeeding thing either. All breasts turn into mum breasts after pregnancy. Breasts are a natural and beautiful maternal thing, much like a buddha belly (where ’em with pride, ladies) and should be seen as a secondary sexual feature that comes from mothering. Like… the harsh tone mums develop when yelling at small people running away from them toward danger, the stare they inherit from their respective lineages when children are doing something their mum literally just told them not to, the way they can drink cold tea an hour after they made it without complaint… That is where ‘boobs’ should be listed.

They are part of mummyhood, and much like the belly, the stares and the yells, they should be there whenever children need them to be.

If your lover person/s feels they wants to include any of the above in sex, and indeed if the mother wants to, that’s between them. None of those features are to be immediately assumed to be sexual objects on their appearance, and are not the business of anyone else.

How is any of this political?

It comes down to the issue with the SUN, and with Mr Farage. What are women for, and what is their place? Because, to them, it’s not as equals. The world is not equal for women, and all the time it isn’t, women’s different body parts will be used to beat them back into the place people in power feel they ought to be.

The ‘Green Surge’ has included a great many Facebook friends of mine; be they of breastfeeding, volunteering or homeschooling communities – all people with originally vastly differing political stances. Why? Because The Green party’s agendas and policies for women are vastly more attractive than the policies of other parties. Could breasts be a deciding factor in the upcoming elections?

Until the world is as easy to manoeuver for old, trans, black, gay, poor, disabled, muslim women as it is for young, cis, white, straight, rich, able, protestant men, the world will be unfair, unjust, and the people at the top will do everything they can to stay there – their livelihoods depend on it.

And that means boobs in papers, and mothers being told when and how they can breastfeed babies.

And, therefore, breasts will continue to be political territory.

How will you use yours?

Bedtime Routine

“You’re not going to get any sleep when that baby arrives.”

One of the most common pieces of advice to new parents is to get the baby into a bedtime routine so that mum and dad can schedule in some sleep. Many different pieces of research from a spectrum of different child care areas have shown that having a routine is a very healthy thing for a child to have-in terms of education, behaviour and physical and mental health. In Behavioural Sleep Medicine, it is shown that parents who attend parenting classes or parent groups were much more likely to have an established bedtime routine by the age of 3 years than those who didn’t, so people who work with parents in these important days have a big part to play in a parent’s choice of implementing a bedtime routine at some point with their baby. All this left me with a question.

black-woman-confused

If you should have a bedtime routine for your child, when do you start it?

In a group of over 400 families all with sleep problems in their children, researchers gave half instructions of a basic time for bed, and the other half a specific routine. Introducing a bedtime routine resulted in much less behavioural problems in the children and much happier mums. The age of the child participants was over 7 months old-so problems with sleep had been identified.

But then, if it’s ‘supposed to be’ before 7 months when ‘normal’ children are in some sort of routine (the kids above all weren’t), when should you start thinking ‘ok, they should be in a routine now… I’ll go get help.” 2 weeks? 6 months? Ever?

Quote from Baby Centre:

When your baby is as young as six weeks or eight weeks old, you can start to follow a set pattern every night. Your baby will quickly come to appreciate the consistency and predictability. It will help her learn sleep habits that will stand you both in good stead for the future.”
http://www.babycentre.co.uk/a553895/bedtime-routines-for-babies#ixzz2mJu2y0H2

6 WEEKS?!

What about attachment? Closeness? Isn’t this all just ‘Cry it out’? And what about baby staying in the same room with you until 6 months! SIDS, people!

Also, this sounds much more like scheduling than routine. They’ve worded it like what I feel routine means – doing the sort of same stuff in around the same order about the same time to help someone predict and get ready for what happens next – but they mean scheduling – forcing things to happen at the exact same time in the exact same order to force someone to act a certain way. Are 6 weeks olds supposed to know anything other than how cuddles feel, how to get milk, how to vomit, and need-clean-bum-now-have-clean-bum feelings?

What happened to baby led care – something that DOES set children up well for the future #theresafutureblogpost.

ask-question-1-ca45a12e5206bae44014e11cd3ced9f1

Some questions for readers to ignore completely.

What should parent practitioners be telling parents about Bedtime routines?

What age should started implementing a bedtime routine?

Should you implement one at all?

Should you ever ignore the routine for a family party or event?

Can the routine change between carers?

Does it change with subsequent children?

I honestly don’t know. If you are a parent going through sleep issues with your children, I apologise for having no answers! All I can tell you is what I did:

I found out about co sleeping #theresanotherfuturepost.

If you want to find out about co sleeping, this is an amazing website: http://www.cosleeping.org/

Behavioral Sleep Medicine (Volume 9, Issue 4, 2011 pages 237-242) Parenting Services May Be an Opportunity for Improving Bedtime Routines Among At-Risk Preschoolers (Anne Martina, R. Gabriela Barajasa, Jeanne Brooks-Gunna & Lauren Hale) http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/15402002.2011.606771#.Upx0EOJTwjo (accessed 01/12/13)

A Nightly Bedtime Routine: Impact on Sleep in Young Children and Maternal Mood (2009)

Jodi A. Mindell, PhD, Lorena S. Telofski, BA, Benjamin Wiegand, PhD and Ellen S. Kurtz, PhD

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2675894/ accessed 01/12/13