Fall 2017

Vital care for your pelvic floor


For this post I interviewed Chana Ross, the clinical director of Vital Physiotherapy and Wellness. Her business was a sponsor for our first 4 Trimesters Conference, and she will be a speaker at our next conference on May 12, 2018. A warmer person, you will not meet. Just the kind of practitioner you want if you have to have someone zoning in on your most intimate areas ;)

How did you get into the field of pelvic floor physiotherapy?
I have three beautiful children. After my second I was experiencing pelvic pain. After visiting my doctor and being told that everything was “fine” I went searching for other answers. A friend of mine had recently become a pelvic physio and encouraged me to come to see her. It changed my life. I decided that I wanted to change other people’s lives the same way that my friend had changed mine!

What's the ideal time for people to come see a pelvic floor physio?
ANYTIME! I think any person who has ever had a baby should see a pelvic physio once. But, we encourage people to come BEFORE getting pregnant to ensure that you feel your best throughout the pregnancy, but that you also optimize your delivery and your recovery! We also see people years after having had their babies, through menopause, and people of all ages who have never been pregnant.
Its empowering to understand your pelvic floor muscles and what the muscles are doing. A pelvic assessment is usually an “Aha!” moment for most people.

Is there something you wish more people knew about their pelvic floors?
Most people assume that they will be coming to learn how to kegel. But your pelvic floor muscles (the muscles which sit at the bottom of your trunk and are responsible for holding up your organs, for keeping you continent, and for sexual function) are actually part of your "inner core system” and they work together with your breathing diaphragm, your inner abdominal muscles (your transversus abdominus) and your inner most back muscles (your multifidi). So, you never “just kegel”. You have to learn how to coordinate all four muscles. Actually, most people who we treat are almost in a perpetual kegel, they clench their pelvic floor muscles All. The. Time. We are usually training clients how to lengthen and let go!
You should see a pelvic physio if you are experiencing leaking of any kind or amount (even with a full bladder), any pain with sex, any low back, hip or pelvic pain, abdominal separation postpartum, and to prepare for labour and delivery!

You were 4 Trimesters' very first sponsor. What inspired you want to support this event?
Oh my goodness! So many reasons! As a pelvic physio and health clinic owner, it is my job to empower people! To teach them that they do not have to settle for the status quo. That they can expect more -- from their bodies, from the medical system, and from their "village." One of the best ways to do that is to educate them. That way people can make decisions about themselves and their families from a point of knowledge and understanding, not fear.
The other clear reason to participate, was to support a fellow mama as she in her work to empower and support other parents! It is our job as practitioners, parents, and humans is to lift each other up and work together towards our goals. When we heard about this amazing event it was more a question of how could we NOT participate?!

To get in touch with Chana and the rest of the Vital Wellness team click here, or to book an appointment, go straight to this page.
Vital is co-hosting an event on December 3 that you might want to check out, too!

Meet Emma Rohmann, environmental engineer and eco-health expert


WORKSHOP: TRIMESTER 1 STREAM: Detox your home before baby

What's your best advice when it comes to choosing healthy,  non-toxic baby products? 
Turn the packaging over and dig a little deeper. So much of what we're told on the front of packaging is just marketing. Terms like non-toxic and eco-friendly aren't regulated, so they often don't mean much. I love supporting local businesses, where I know what I'm getting is quality. But when that's not possible, always turn the package around and find out what's in a product - often packages will hide what's in by focusing on what's not in a product.

What was the most important lesson you learned from your own pregnancy and birth?
From very early on in my first pregnancy, I learned to let go. I was no longer in charge, and I couldn't really control what happened. Sure, I could make healthy choices and read up on what fruit my daughter was the size of each week, but she called the shots. When she arrived 3.5 weeks early, I really knew who was boss. As a fairly organized and plan-obsessed person, this was a hard adjustment. But it has changed me for the better in ways I never thought possible. I think it's made me more resilient and flexible, while still wanting to give my best to my kids - even if my best leaves a lot of room for improvement (and let's be honest, nobody's perfect!).

What's the thing you wish all new (or expectant) parents knew more about?
Like many expectant parents, my awareness of chemicals in products increased dramatically when I was pregnant. I wish everyone knew more about the impact of chemicals in everyday products have on our health - and how it doesn't have to be expensive, complicated, or time consuming to choose healthier products! Babies are most susceptible to health effects of these chemicals, and we as parents can help set them up for long-term health by choosing better products and making simple changes at home.

What excites you the most about being a presenter at 4 Trimesters first conference?
I love sharing knowledge that will help make people's lives healthier, and better. I stressed myself out SO MUCH when researching healthy, non-toxic products for my kids and I don't want others to go through that. I'm excited to share strategies and have conversations to help move expectant parents from overwhelm to empowered to create a healthy space for their baby! 



Meet Kelly Maslen, birth doula and holistic nutritionist

KM w Ella.jpg


What's your best advice when it comes to pregnancy?
Don't listen to negative birth stories. They will influence your birth experience, and create fear around pregnancy and birth.

How did you chose your care team for your birth?
My midwives were a team I had worked with at previous births as a doula. The doulas who attended my birth where my dear good friends. I felt I needed two doulas because as a single parent I didn't have the extra support from a partner.

What's the thing about birth that amazes you the most?
Birth is a transformative, humbling, and empowering experience that will inspire you like nothing else. It helps if you can let go and trust the process. Birthing gives you an opportunity to love a human like you have never loved before. 

What excites you the most about being a presenter at 4 Trimesters first conference?
I'm looking forward to meeting pregnant parents that are eager to learn how they can gain skills and information that will lead to an empowering and fun birth experience.


Winter baby bonding

Fair warning: I'm about to do some mega gushing about a product. The wonderful thing about having businesses you love agree to sponsor your event, is that it's really easy to say great things about them.

Images previously appeared on https://www.instagram.com/hyggemama/

Images previously appeared on https://www.instagram.com/hyggemama/

I love carrying my baby on my body. I actually didn't know when I put a Bridge the Bump coat insert on my baby shower gift registry how much I was going to wear my little one in the following year. Now I wouldn't hesitate to say this is one of the best of pieces of "baby stuff" to come into our house.

My Bridge the Bump insert made our first and second winters as a mama-baby dyad super cozy. I could snuggle my kid up in any front carrier -- a wrap, a ring sling or a buckle carrier -- and then bundle us both up in my parka for outings. I could even stay warm while breastfeeding and running through the snow to catch the bus.

I didn't have to get an ugly oversize coat from Value Village, and I didn't have to buy a whole new maternity coat that probably wouldn't be as warm as the one I've had for years, either of which would be a whole coat to have to store between this baby and my next. I had the option of getting this simple (but brilliant) zippered triangle to match the colour of my parka so perfectly that it didn't even look like an add-on (choose from black, brown, green, gray, navy or red). One of my mama pals ordered two different zippers for her's so that she could use her BTB insert with her parka or her raincoat. So smart!

I never had a super-preggo belly in a parka-wearing season, but it's worth mentioning that you can also wear it upside down to accommodate a bump before baby arrives. (Like I said, simple, but brilliant.)

Additionally, from a ethical consumer perspective, Bridge the Bump is a small company run by two mamas who design and manufacture them right here in Toronto. You gotta feel good about putting your money into things from local family businesses. 

If you're not sure about what a fantastic tool babywearing can be for both you and your little, come to my Keeping Baby Close workshop at the conference on October 28. Then once you're ready for all-season babywearing, get yourself a Bridge the Bump coat extension system

Meet Megan Tasker, childbirth educator, birth doula, and yoga instructor




What's your favourite thing to snack on or drink at a birth?When I'm supporting a client at a birth I pack a pretty big snack bag, in case the birth is long. I try to have a homemade meal that I froze, a protein bar, juice box, apple and almonds are my go to. But depending on the hospital I get excited about different local food places that I can nip out to during the day to grab some of my favourite snacks - it's different at every hospital!

What's something that you think there's too much attention on the birth world?
Dilation! We live in a very cervix/dilation centred birth culture. And although the cervix opening is very important, part of what helps that cervix open is the choices we make to cope, positions we choose, and where baby is at. If baby isn't in a good position, the cervix will have more challenges to open than if baby is optimally positioned.

What's the thing you wish all new parents knew more about?
That nothing is permanent and everything changes. That as soon as you think you just found baby's routine, it'll change on you. And that this is totally normal. Especially when it comes to infant sleep. We live in a relatively well-scheduled culture, we always say that birth is the last frontier of unpredictability, but it's not just birth, it's child-rearing as well. The more you expect things to change, or to be unpredictable, the easier it is to adapt to these changes.

What excites you the most about being a presenter at 4 Trimesters first conference?
The same thing that excites me about being birth workers. There is such an incredible community of birth workers in Toronto and so much incredible knowledge, and for us all to be in one place for the community to tap into is pretty exciting. To work alongside, and to connect with so many incredible people, is humbling and an absolute privilege. 



Meet Olivia Scobie, perinatal and parenting therapist, and birth doula



What's your go-to gift for a friend having a baby?
I like to give my pregnant friends something to pamper themselves in the last few weeks of pregnancy. Often they will receive adorable baby clothes or baby equipment as gifts, so my goal is to give them something just for them. My go to right now is the Tenth Moon Essential Package. It has homemade granola, a lavender mineral soak, herbal sitz baths - and all sorts of lovely things. I have ordered four this year already! 

What was the first thing you ate after giving birth?
I don't remember the first thing I ate after I gave birth for the first time, but I do remember that after I left the hospital I stopped at a diner because after not eating for about three days, I was HUNGRY and knew I didn't have much food at home. I ordered the 'farmers' breakfast with pancakes, homefries, sausage, eggs, toast, and fruit and ate every last bite. I still remember it as one of the most satisfying meals of my life. 

What's your best advice when it comes to the postpartum?
Everything changes. Just when you think you got this whole parenting thing figured out, you will find yourself facing a new challenge. And thankfully, just when you think you don't know how you are going to get through the days, something suddenly clicks and you know you are going to be okay. 

What excites you the most about being a presenter at 4 Trimesters first conference?
I could talk about early parenting and postpartum mood pretty much all day long. Usually my friends and family listen kindly but without a lot of interest, so I'm pretty pumped to hang out with expectant parents who want to talk about it with me :) 


Meet Janet Walker, Osteopathic Manual Practitioner and Restorative Exercise Specialist



What's the thing about pregnancy and birth that amazes you the most?
That another human being can develop from the union of 2 single cells. It's incredible! I love studying embryology and how the body structures and systems develop. And how intra-uterine life, and birth, affect us. On a physical, emotional and psychosocial level. When I'm treating, I consider all that - parent, baby, and relationship - pre- or post-natally.  

What's your best advice when it comes to pregnancy and alignment?
Aches, pains and the stereotypical 'waddle' may be common, but they're not natural. They're often a sign of an underlying alignment issue; please don't ignore them. Your body is designed to walk and move regularly, even during pregnancy. Lack of natural movement contributes to many prenatal aches and pains. And they can make birthing more difficult. Make an effort to move more!

What's your go-to gift for a friend having a baby?
ME! I'm happy to provide hands-on help for breastfeeding or other newborn concerns. I make some pretty tasty muffins and easy-to-reheat meals too.

What's the thing you wish all new (or expectant) parents knew more about?  
Newborn life. It's not easy transitioning from the womb to the outside world. Lying still and alone is stressful. Empathize. Your baby wants to hang out with you - snuggle on your bare chest, share a bath, or enjoy a gentle massage. And move - walk, dance, sway and rock. It's what they're used to. Take the time to understand their needs. 

What excites you the most about being a presenter at 4 Trimesters first conference?
The diverse group of presenters! It's a unique opportunity to gather knowledge and build a support network. Of course, I'm excited about my part too - sharing how alignment can empower you at any stage.




Meet Ruth Ruttan, birth doula, infant sleep educator and pilates instructor


Name: Ruth Ruttan

Workshop: Trimester 3 stream: The Art & Science of Infant Sleep

What's the thing about pregnancy and/or birth that amazes you the most?
There are SO many amazing things about pregnancy & birth! I'm amazed that so many people can experience pregnancy in so many unique ways- no two pregnancies are the same. As for birth, whether it's at home, birth centre, hospital, if it's unmedicated, or with an epidural or a Caesarean birth, it is amazing to watch the strength, power and the courage that new parents find to birth their babies. We need to be kind to ourselves. There needs to be grace. Even when birth is 'easy', it's not easy! 

What's your best advice when it comes to pregnancy or being a new parent? 
Everyone has an opinion about your pregnancy, birth and parenting... Respect your intuition and educate yourself. There is a wide range or 'normal' and 'safe'. Figure out where you fit on that spectrum and make it work for you, your baby and your family! 

What's your go-to gift for a friend having a baby?
A doula! (often as a group gift!)
Good Food! I like to help set up meal trains for friends or give gift certificates to prepared meal delivery services. 
I also think a stretchy wrap or SleepBelt is a lifesaver for most new parents. 

What was the first thing you ate after giving birth?
I don't remember what I ate after my first birth, but I know the first thing I asked for was my lip balm! After my second, we all sat down to a big pasta dinner that my dad whipped up. 
And with number three, all five of us sat in our bed and ate salt and vinegar chips at 3am (well, not the baby!).

What excites you the most about being a presenter at 4 Trimesters first conference?
I'm really looking forward to being in community with other amazing educators, but even more so with our attendees! It's a huge opportunity, not only share what I do, but learn from each unique pregnancy to parenthood journey.



Meet Rhondda Smiley, doula, breastfeeding educator and yoga instructor


Name: Rhondda Smiley

Workshop: Trimester 4 stream: 
Expectations, Frustrations & Success: staying sane and happy as a parent

What's your best advice when it comes to labour and birth?
Keep upright, keep moving, keep breathing, as much as you are able. Use gravity and gentle movement to support the work your body and baby are doing together. Even if you choose an epidural, there are ways to keep your hips and your options open! As a doula who's spent a lifetime training in movement practices such as yoga and dance, I bring a creative approach to supporting you in positions and movement that will keep your body, breath, mind and heart open. 

What's the most important thing you learned from your own experience of becoming a parent?
I learned the hard way to let go of the illusion of control! When I was trying to conceive, I naively thought I'd be able to book my pregnancy around vacations and rush times at work. Ha! My ovaries had other ideas. I thought I'd spend nine months of pregnancy blissfully feeling like a fecund goddess, only to find my head in a toilet with "morning sickness" for the first five. My birth ended up being a total 180 degrees from what I planned. I wanted to birth at home, but my baby ended up needing an emergency cesarean before I'd even gone into labour. And you can be sure the surprises didn't stop once my daughter was born. Breastfeeding challenges, postpartum depression, needing surgery when I was supposed to return to work... In the moments when I could remember to let go of the notion that I could control the situation, and surrender to how they actually were, being a parent became so much easier -- and happier. Someone once said, "make plans and God laughs". To that I'd add, "make plans when you have kids and God is LMAOROTF". 

What's something you wish more expectant parents knew?
I wish that new parents who want to breastfeed knew better what to expect once their baby is here. How to know if their baby is actually taking in milk during a nursing session. How often a newborn baby needs to feed (hint: every 3 hours is not enough for newborns). Where to find effective, expert help if things are not going smoothly. I wish expectant parents could spend time around other breastfeeding parents before their birth, because we've largely lost one of the most important ways we have to learn this skill -- through watching other parent-baby dyads doing it. I know now how much easier nursing my daughter could have been if I'd been better prepared. It was my desire to help save other parents this grief that motivated me, 13 years ago, to become a La Leche League Leader (mother-to-mother breastfeeding counselor, since retired). I'm committed to sharing my lactation knowledge and expertise with my doula clients who want to breastfeed, so that they have realistic expectations and feel prepared and confident in feeding their new baby. 

What excites you the most about being a presenter at 4 Trimesters first conference?
The other presenters at 4T are my birth heroes! I'm totally stoked to be in the company of these kind and expert professionals. These are the people I respect enough to refer my doula and yoga clients to. These are the people that I've entrusted to care for my family and myself. 


I want you to know about The New Mom Project

No matter how 'minimalist' your approach, babies need "stuff". For some families, obtaining that stuff is way more challenging and financially daunting than it is for others. I'm so grateful for Gwen Broda, who started The New Mom Project here in Toronto. I thought interviewing her might be a good way for you (and me!) to learn more about her work. Furthermore, I've invited The New Mom Project to have space at our conference next month, so our attendees can hear from Gwen in person, and get involved -- either as a donor, or a recipient it's the kind of help needed to adequately and safely welcome baby.

NMP - Gwen.jpg

How did you come up with the idea for the New Mom Project?
After having my third child, and not working enough hours in my pregnancy to qualify for Maternity Leave (for the second time), I was angry. As a student and a mother, I had fallen through the cracks with no safety net from society. I was grateful for my supportive family and friends, but I wondered: "How do people do this if they don't have the same family support I did?" After a Google search to see what services were available to families who needed extra help, I quickly realized there weren't any. 
At the same time, I read an article about the Finnish Maternity Care Package (aka the Baby Box), which is given to every expectant person in Finland and has made a huge impact on the health and wellness of their population. It made sense to me to bring that same idea to Toronto and create a type of package that would provide families with essential baby items like clothing, blankets and diapers.  The New Mom Project now supports about 50 expectant and new families every month by outfitting them the best we can thanks to the generosity of the community.   

How do families in need access your help?
The New Mom Project is a registered charity. We have a referral process that families need to use in order to qualify.  We support low income and at risk families, who are often newcomers, single parents, young moms, old moms -- everyone, really. We have made partnerships with most hospitals, midwifery clinics, community health centres, shelters and Toronto Public Health who all send in referrals for families they are working with.  The goal of NMP is to be a community resource that supports health care providers in their struggle to care holistically for their clients, and I think we are doing a great job at that so far. 

Can you tell us about a particularly rewarding experience since starting the NMP?
We are very happy to have a location now where moms can come for 5 visits and choose their own items.  I think it brings a level of dignity and empowerment to our clients. Recently, a new mom whose baby is due soon came for her last visit.  I have seen her throughout her pregnancy, and have been lucky to get to know her.  During her last visit, she spoke to us about organizing her items at home, and how much joy and happiness they bring.  She has not purchased anything for her new baby because we were able to support her. NMP was able to outfit her completely thanks to the generosity of our community, which lessens the financial impact having a new baby brings.  Beyond just the "stuff", we hope that receiving items from NMP impacts parents' confidence, and empowers them with the tools to be great parents.  Her gratitude and happiness makes us know we are doing a great job.

What are the best ways folks can contribute to the NMP both on conference day and beyond?
The best ways to help NMP at 4 Trimesters' fall conference and beyond is to stay connected with us through our social media, and spread the word about our services.  We gladly accept in-kind donations of baby items, diapers, wipes, toiletries, strollers and anything you found helpful for your own child.  Through monetary donations of $100 we are able to purchase new car seats for families so they can safely bring their baby home from the hospital. 

What's your dream for the future of the New Mom Project?
The future of NMP will reflect input from the parents who use our services.  Currently we have started accepting maternity clothing and we are beginning to provide educational programming based on prenatal and postnatal health, and I would love to see this expand and continue.  We endeavour to make our services more accessible to anyone who needs it. 

You can find the New Mom Project on Facebook and Instagram.

Green Beaver: the real deal

GB river mountain sky.png

II first learned of the Green Beaver Company in the early 2000s when I was working as a grocery clerk at a health food co-op here in Toronto, and some of their products came into the store. "Cilantro toothpaste?" I thought as I was unpacking a box to stock the shelves. "What a weird thing." (Don't wait years to try this unconventional flavour like I did though, it's actually great!) What I noticed from the get go is that they were a local company (this side of the Ottawa River) and their products were reasonably priced (if you're familiar with natural body care products you know that quality stuff that doesn't cost a small fortune is rare!). Since then, their soaps, lip balms and kids bubble bath have become regular fixtures in my bathroom.

Green Beaver is a company that really puts their values into practice. Just take a look at their website. It's rich with information to educate their customers: an ingredients glossary is the most exciting to me (how many times have you looks at the contents of a body care product and been unsure of what half the words on there mean?). There are also articles on how to chose a good mineral sunscreen, and the effect body care products have on our ecosystem.

So the Green Beaver Company doesn't just want you to buy their products.
They want you to get why they do what they do, and how it serves the world. Imagine if more companies of their size, with their success, operated that way?

I feel really lucky to have Green Beaver supporting our conference, because they go above and beyond to educate their audience and that's something I aspire to do with 4 Trimesters, too. They'll have a table on October 28 at our conference at the Centre for Social Innovation, so not only can you check out their products if you haven't done so before, but you'll have the chance to ask them any questions you have about greening your body care.

I couldn't be more excited

Well, it looks like, after months of planning, this website is up.
Which means that 4 Trimesters perinatal conference is actually happening -- and in the not too distant future at that!

Perinatal conferences for professionals (midwives, doctors, nurses, doulas, social workers and the like) aren't that hard to find. They're offered through hospitals, professional associations, and other interested parties. A conference FOR NEW AND EXPECTANT PARENTS with a whopping 16 workshops to choose from offered by a range of local birth pros? That's something you don't hear about everyday.

I hope you can take some time to click your way around the site and find out what this unique offering is all about. It promises to be educational, empowering, enlightening, inspiring and fun. And once you realize there's no way you want to miss such an exciting event, go over to our registration page and then follow the link to purchase your ticket. But be sure to do so before our early bird sign-up, with its special rate closes on September 28.