Aline met our family in January 2013.
To some we may have offered a captivating twist on the more conventional homesteaders Ottawa’s Riverside
South harbours. Gay professionals in our 40’s, neither of us having had a child before, both with very little
exposure to infants (read: zero) yet 4 months pregnant and faced with the pending eviction of our two
discriminating Bichons from the 250 sq space they called their own to build a nursery.
Aline interviewed with us as a postpartum doula for our first child. From the moment she walked into our home,
my partner and I were intrigued. We hadn’t known what to expect. We surmised we’d meet an opinionated
vegan-version of the love child of Mary Poppins and John Candy with a zest of Martha Stewart, post-
incarceration: helpful indeed but annoying! We had carefully put away anything that could be perceived as
harmful to the baby in order to impress her although we had five months to go! We also made sure the
ultrasound photo was front and centre in case she thought the love for our family pooches could not be
While we fumbled with questions, she calmed the Bichons first and then us! She spoke softly and without fear
about everything and anything to do with the post-birth script that the baby books had us rehearsing without
any live direction.
She walked us through the mysteries of her gift: the art and science of welcoming a baby and meeting the
unspoken needs of a mom who has laboured; she offered us a list of services and insight into her knowledge
base: did we understand the relationship between sleep, water and the hormones that breastfeeding
releases?; did we want to learn about swaddling; about co-sleeping?; about bathing and soothing?; Questions
predisposed to helping her -and us- understand what we felt was important before our little one was in our
We relaxed in her presence - information flowed as freely as her warmth and we were thrilled that the Bichons,
already vexed with eviction, were in love! She left us that night with time to review her contract and carefully
chosen educational information which was easier to refer to than the tomes we had read. We slept knowing she
was available to come to our home for a night shift to allow me to sleep as the baby blues were a silent fear.
Five months later, 40 plus two weeks since conception, overdue and post one failed induction, blood pressure
registered at “danger”.
Nothing had gone as planned.
In fact, we hadn’t even realized we had a plan but the unfolding of life as it happens made it apparent we had
had one -etched in indelible ink- in our minds based on Baby Story and other prime time folly like fashion matters
in the first photos post-birth. It doesn’t and never will.
Four days beside a bassinet with no baby, no excited opportunity to call saying “my water has broke, come
quick”, no time for a quick happy text to the world, we were faced with a second medically urgent trip to the
hospital and immediate induction.
Our little guy made it through that obstacle course called delivery with some health issues (thankfully fleeting
ones) that had neo-natal teams at Cheo and the General perplexed.
We were exhausted, distraught and speechless that Aline, somehow, was to be found perched at the end of
the hospital bed mesmerizing the nurses with her willingness to let them follow their necessary and yet
fantastically disruptive routines of measurements and temperature checks and the parading of lactation
consultants so busy they seemed to hover and disappear with the business-like air of humming birds - not
entirely human. She quietly supported us through the chaos.
The measure of a doula?
Yes, Aline showed us how to diaper a wiggle that cries, how to bathe a small sumo wrestler and win and how to
soothe a worried whaling. She folded laundry, baked, shared stories, quelled fears and swaddled. Yes, it is true
we felt nothing but emotionally-charged incompetence the first time we watched her hold our child. Yes, it is true
that our little mister knew immediately upon her touch she had his number, that there wasn’t much going to get
by her, that it wasn’t her first parade!
That, however, is not what we say when we are asked why would hire a Doula and would we do it again. And
the questions are still offered honestly and with a desire to understand: aren’t you private people - wasn’t it
awkward with a women in your house?; what if you disagreed with what she believed, how she did things?;
what if you had decided you didn’t want her at your home after you gave birth?; what if there had been no
issues, would you have needed her?
The measure of her meaning to us was a panicked text on a Sunday that said we think something is wrong and
her guidance to trust our instincts even though we hadn’t been home from the hospital for a day – a sturdier
directive than the breezy comments of kin. So we went to CHEO. Our baby was hospitalized for dehydration for
The measure of her meaning to us was when she unpackaged and sterilized all our breast feeding equipment
and then quietly took the pump from my hands when I shared that I could not breast feed for fear of the
medications in my body and felt the weight of that choice would forever be inexplicable as one meant to protect
As a breast-feeding supporter she listened as I explained with shock-tinged anger that not one breast-feeding
manual nor advocate had shared what the CHEO doctors had – the common incidence of newborn dehydration
they see as a result of the challenges of early breastfeeding. Sore nipples were as far as anyone dared to slight
the hallowed practice.
The measure of her meaning to us was when she slept on our sofa and formula-fed our son 8 days new while
my partner slept and I was re-hospitalized with life-threatening Eclampsia.
Perhaps it is time we shared. Shared with other soon-to-be’s out there… perhaps it is time we sent a note to
We don’t tell people when they ask why on earth anyone would need a post-partum doula, we remind them.
There will always be a need for women who help women, not the aunts, not the sisters nor the grandmothers,
but practised and skilled women, who have attended more births than their own, who see clearly and tend
without the bias of kin, to the needs of mothers and babies.
Women ask “why would you ever need such a thing as a Doula, I didn’t need one” and I smile. Like the lost
memory of the anguish of labour, so too has what they needed most in the early days faded away. Not “help” -
the kind which makes modern women feel as though they cannot mother their own child but an ancient tradition
of care that allows celebration and sleep and after months of hard work and that last mile of labour.
Looking back, I understand that we did indeed have a plan, you were our plan, and like all journeys, it is the
company that makes all the difference. Our adventure was better because you were there.
Forever thankful and still in awe.
You are so very gifted.
Heather, Celine and the dashing dude himself,
Rylan Yves Frederic
|Aline Paradis PCD(DONA), CLC - 613-612-8289
Certified Postpartum Doula and Lactation Counselor