Melbourne Doula

Welcome to 'Melbourne Doula', the place where I share what birth work is teaching is me, and what I am learning from the wonderful families who have invited me to share this most special season of their lives. Here you will find information about me and the doula services I provide, birth stories from remarkable women and their loved ones, as well as all kinds of resources to enrich your own journey of discovery. And welcome also to BLISSFUL HERBS, the home of beautiful herbal teas and bath herbs to support wellness through every season of life.

A great white bird takes flight: farewelling Roisin

"Which emotion most closely resembles grief? Why? Love. Love is the slow development of strong bonds, while grief is the slow dissolution of those strong bonds.
With the capacity to love, comes the necessity to mourn." - Alan Wolfelt, Ph.D.

And this is the courage that parents have. The great test of love is not in the loving but in the letting go – and how much more than when we have to let go so soon, too soon … when we’re not ready. Every little life we conceive we will one day have to farewell, sooner or later, and this is the big-hearted, brave-hearted leap of faith we take when we open our hearts to conceive a precious life.

In 2008, my daughters were 10, 8 and 5 years old. I was 41 years old and joyfully pregnant – the whole family had been clucky for several years and this was a much prayed for, planned for and wanted little baby.

At 11 weeks into the pregnancy, it was starting to sink in – I was going to have a baby! On my 41st birthday, I told the girls I had a special present for them. They unwrapped a matchbox to find a kidney bean nestled on a bed of cotton wool. Of course, they guessed right away!

I attended a lovely homebirth, then went home to rest. I noticed blood when I went to the toilet - just like the start of any normal period. Not heaps. Not light. Just normal. I ran my midwife friend Gaye and said, "Please tell me this is normal ..." and she sadly said, "Oh love ... no, no it's not really."

No pain. No worry. Just ... like a normal period. I still felt pregnant and I *thought* I could still feel baby's presence. I remembered that Mum had bled with me, after the shock of a car accident, so I rang her.

I found out from Mum that she'd bled at the exact same time of pregnancy, her second: 10 weeks. She bled like a normal heavy period, for 8 days. She did not feel at all concerned that she would lose the pregnancy. She did have some cramps, like a normal period. And that bubba was me. (Bloody stubborn and determined and nothing's changed…)

Also, her sister, my Aunty, bled for a few weeks and was hospitalised for it, during her third pg - that resulted in my feisty cousin.

Mum was lovely, reassured me and said she pray for us and the baby. She had such grandmotherly affection for the little unborn.

So these stories encouraged me, and I prayed and held on to hope, and rested.

The next morning, the girls came into my room all giggly, dressed in nurse/doctor outfits, pushing a cart with lots of important looking charts. Talitha listened to the baby with her 'stethoscope', took my pulse, consulted her incredibly high tech machine that goes 'ping' and informed me that the baby would be fine.

The day after I noticed the blood, I was called to another birth - this time in a birth centre, also a beautiful birth. I was only needed there for about 6 hours, so it was not very taxing on me. Once again, as I went home in the evening, I noticed more blood. I even wondered if being around the oxytocin of these births was triggering the blood ... maybe I don't need to worry??

At this point, if I'd had an ultra-sound, or if I'd had a blood test, I could have found out for sure what was happening with the pregnancy.

My soul mate friend arrived from New Zealand this same night. Kathryn is the friend who was with me in the shopping mall when I had my second baby, and held my 2 year old Talitha in her arms as Saoirse was born!

I said to her, "Ok there's something I need to tell you ..." and quick as a flash she said, "YOU'RE PREGNANT!"

I stared at her and said, "Damn! You're GOOD! You’re scary good - but there's more news ... I'm bleeding ..."

I couldn't believe that after nearly 4 years absence from one another, she was so in sinc with me. I feel like God sent me the most loving sister-friend I could have had to comfort me during what could have been a sad and lonely experience.

The next day, we walked around our beautiful town and I rested in the afternoon. I asked hub to mind the kids while Kathryn and I each took a rest.

Well, multi-tasking hub decides now is a perfect time to burn off some blackberries down the gully. While minding kids. Not.

Thumping on the back door ejects me from bed. Irate neighbour. "Do you know anything about the FIRE in the GULLY??" Race to see. Hub single-handedly trying to contain a scrub fire and gamely informing us he's got it under control.

Bee line to phone, dialled 000 for the first time ever in my life. Kathryn is taking a soak in the bath. Knocked gingerly, and informed her that fire engines were about to arrive but NOT TO WORRY!!!

Raced out to the gully and started filling buckets of water, yelling at kids to hand them to hub - who I can see is winded and exhausted. No less than THREE fire engines arrive up the drive.

Kathryn's relaxing soak becomes significantly less so as 5 year old Hadassah undertakes to provide her with minute-to-minute updates, barging into the bathroom shouting:

"Da fire twucks here!"

"Da man got out!"

"He's talking to Daddy!"

"He's getting out da hose!"

Kathryn gives up on the bath and comes out to join the drama.

A crazy eyed, wild-haired woman accosts her yelling:


(She was in Hong Kong with me during the SARS outbreak there.)

We both fell about laughing.

I decided I would sagely say nothing to hub about his actions, figuring he'd had enough of a scare.

Well, that lasted about 5 minutes.

What I yelled at Kathryn was pretty mild compared to the er, conversation I had with (at?) hub on the subject of: I told you to call the council first, why didn't you, you never listen to me, I asked you to watch the kids not burn scrub, how the ding dong am I supposed to rest, how's this supposed to prevent a miscarriage, and on and on it went .... while Kathryn kindly kept the girls occupied by looked at romantic picture of our honeymoon …

Could it BE more ridiculous???

(Side note to this: it was Hadassah who crept up to hub and said in her solemn little voice, “Daddy I think you should look at the fire down the hill. I don’t think it has gone out.” We have learned that when Hadassah delivers these little words of wisdom, DO NOT IGNORE HER OR BRUSH HER OFF!)

The next day, Kathryn went home.

I had a few cramps. I got out some wheat bags which did help a bit. Towards the end of the day, I had ache across my lower back and lower abdomen. Almost like an early labour contraction. I wasn't distressed by them, just a bath and the heatpacks were fine to comfort me. They did not start and stop like contractions do, just a general ache like some women have during their period. I just didn't want to be having any aches, because I didn't want this to be a miscarriage. Towards the end of the day, I felt some small blob or two slip out, like a small clot. Not at all uncomfortable, and all I could see when I went to the toilet was blood. Blood on the pad and in the toilet, and still not more than a normal period. But that must have been when I actually miscarried.

Still bleeding the next day, no achey pain anymore. I went to our local doctor. He's a pretty alternative kind of doc. I asked about having an ultrasound. He said, "Why do you want to do that? How do you feel about u/s? You've never had one with your other pregnancies? What do you want it to tell you? You have your own internal ultrasound. You just need to connect with your baby, with this baby's story, and accept what is."

His face was so kind, I felt like I was looking at the face of Jesus.

I said, "Tony, you're really challenging me."

He said, "I know you already know all this."

I said, "Sometimes you need a friend to say it to you."

Tony took some bloods. I got the results a few hours later: the HCG was about half what it should be at that stage of pregnancy.

I read on the internet that bleeding in pregnancy does not always mean miscarriage. And some women just do have low HCG and still sustain a pregnancy. The thing is, is it rising or falling? I needed another blood test to find that out, in a day or two. What were the chances that I could have bleeding AND low HCG and the baby still be OK?

On Thursday, I weeded the garden all day. I didn't want to go anywhere, talk to anyone - just sat in the grass and pulled weeds till my hands were red, cut and sore. That was therapeutic. Got me through one more hard day of limbo.

Hub came into my room with tears in his eyes. He lay down and cuddled me, saying, "I'm so worried and scared."

I woke up in the middle of the night and really wanted God to say something, tell me something. I just needed comfort. Sometimes, I ask God to put a certain scripture in my mind, this is a way I've received personal messages from him before. I know not everyone does this or believes in it, it's just something personal between me and God. The impression I received was "Job 3:17". I thought I might have something in common with poor old Job, so turned to that page. It read: "There the weary are at rest."

??? Means nothing, right? - until you look at the verse just before it:

"Or why was I not hidden in the ground like a stillborn child, like an infant who never saw the light of day?"

Who knew there was even anything in the Bible about stillbirth and miscarriage?

From this, I felt that the Lord was letting me know that our little baby was "too weary", perhaps too fragile to live, and that this little bub was now at rest.

It really helped to have God 'tell' me, and to know that our baby was now at rest. When I first began bleeding, and was praying for the baby, I saw a picture of the tiny baby being held, or covered, in God's hands. I felt such a sense of peace. From this I felt reassured that the baby had no fear or distress, but was being held and protected. This gave me peace, even though I was sad and worried too. This was quite significant for me, because I had sensed that at the time of my mother's threatened miscarriage, that tiny foetus that was me got a big shock. I know this sounds weird, but I sensed in my spirit that I had had a shock then. Apparently when I was born, I had sucked my thumb in utero to the bone, I then screamed constantly for the next six weeks and drove my parents mental, and stayed a pretty tense and insecure child. I had plenty to be tense about (it's called 'life') but I've always wondered if that experience in the womb is where it started. As this peace came over me while praying for our 'Little Little', I felt healing for my own soul about this.

The next day, back to the GP, another blood test. More weeding while I waited ... waited ... waited .... this waiting is doing my head in. It's the worst part. Not knowing, holding out hope, kind of knowing, but still ... a tiny vestige of hope .... an ultra-sound would have prevented all this waiting and not knowing ...

Phone call. The HCG is half what it was two days ago.

"So, can I leave that with you?" Tony says gently.

I'm fine, I'm fine. I already knew, really. Now I have to tell my family.

I ask everyone to come outside. I can't tell them inside, it's better outside. We sat on the garden bench in the spring sunshine, surrounded by the beautiful green of Warburton. I told them the baby had died. Dh had tears in his eyes. He said, "I feel like we'll always have someone missing." DD3 cuddled on my lap and said again something she'd been saying all week, "I don't want da baby in your tummy to die." DD2 suddenly decided there was something inside she had to get, and left. I saw my beautiful strong DD1 standing staring. I said, "Sweetheart, you look sad." She burst into tears and came to put her head on my lap, that started me off and I bawled too. Then out came DD2, also in tears. She told me later that she'd made up the excuse to go inside to hide her tears. So I opened my arms to her and be all cuddled and bawled. These beautiful girls had really bonded with our wee bub, we all had.

Then I said, let's all go for a long walk. We got drinks and cookies and headed up the hill to where there is an old aqueduct trail that winds along the mountain, trees and awesome views the whole way, and we walked there for about an hour, the girls on their bikes and us on foot.

You might know the book, "Hello Baby". The author, Jenni Overend, was the teacher of a writing class I once attended. Jenni's mother grew up in Warburton and was best friends with a girl who used to live in our 100 yr old house! She gave me pages of stories about the history of this house and the families who lived here. One family had a tragedy when their son was accidentally killed. Jenni's Mum wrote that the father worked through his grief by planting hundreds of beautiful flowers, working into the night by the light of a kerosene lamp. I felt the same way - I wanted to plant lots of colourful flowers.

The next day, my midwife friend Gaye came to visit, with yummy things to eat - and three punnets of beautiful flowers. "Irish Daisies" she said they were - "Really??" I said and she said, "Nah, they're English daisies, but we'll call them Irish daisies shall we?" Since she and I both have Irish heritage! That cracked me up, I thought it was hilarious, so now we have *ahem* Irish daisies in our garden. How did she know I wanted flowers to plant?

Then we went to Tasmania for our daughter's Irish Dancing competition. Lovely people wished us a nice, healing holiday. But it was quite stressful and exhausting (as anyone who has anything to do with the competitive world of Irish Dancing will know!) and quite different to what we expected. But we had one day together on the beach, in the sun and wind, a fragile, happy-sad, bittersweet time.

I was so relieved to get home, and got a cold and sore throat as my body protested. I only wanted to plant more flowers.

A day or two after we returned from Tasmania, feeling blue and bereft, I received this email from a woman we have only met once, when she interviewed us for a Uni assignment:

"I have thought of you often since meeting you, and God has laid you on my heart to pray for you, especially this week. This morning I felt God wanted to give you, Julie particularly, a message. God sometimes gives me words or a picture for other people. For you, Julie, I saw a great white bird taking flight and flying away from you, carrying something precious. Here is what I felt God saying...

"Julie, you are double. You are of me and my heart yearns for you to heal. You are my child, and one precious to my kingdom.

See, the great white bird has taken off. Its flight, wide wingspan and heavy beats of its wings are for you. For healing. But it has taken flight, It will return with hope and a heart to give you.

It leaves now, headed for a place of blessing. Into the sunrise, toward the light, this great bird carries a precious gift. It will return with a greater gift and much blessing.

There is blessing and hope where it goes. So do not despair in your loss but wait for its return. It will return with more than it left with. It is a bird with a mission and a purpose.

It is dear to you. Without it you feel lost, but don't worry. I care for the white bird. I feed it and nurture its love.

It will return with a message for you that will fit in to the puzzle. It will be for healing.

So run with it. Run with my message, and do what you most need to.

I know your needs and your wants. But right now I am taking from you this something precious, so that later on I may return to you something, a blessing, which is much greater.

In your loss do not despair, but trust me. I am your Carer, and I know you. I know what you need.

That is why I am taking from you now, so I can give back to you much more.

I am your God. YOU, my child are so precious. I am with you always and do not abandon you to despair.

You are never alone. Remember this, and it will comfort you.

Have hope, trust, faith, but above all- hope, for there is much promised."

I trust that this will be helpful to you. I have no idea what it means, but I hope it will mean something to you."

Pretty amazing, coming from someone who hardly knows us and had no idea we'd had a miscarriage.

Two days later, she emailed again with this:

"The rain falls. It falls like tears. In despair, there is water - water everywhere.

Tell Julie and Doug of my love. That I know their pain. I know where they stand. But it will not always be so forever. For I know.

There is bright sunshine coming. After the rain comes sunshine. Your tears will dry, and I myself will wipe them away.

For I did not take away what you loved, only to let you mourn and ache inside. I took from you, to make way for something more.

You are blessed, for I am blessing your whole family. I will return to you double what I took away. Do not fear for the life lost -this is the way of the world. But I have overcome the world.

You will not grieve forever. The tears will stop falling when sunshine comes. I am returning to you a precious gift, and you will not be worried nor disappointed.

In my time I have decreed more for you than you can imagine. I will bless you beyond your dreams, and you will not be sad.

So stick with me. I have a purpose for you. I commend you thus far for your work.

But wait for the sunshine. Trust that I will fulfil your dreams and give you the desire of your hearts.

Yes and I will give you more than this.

Hold firm, and wait!

Do not despair, for I am with you, and I will heal you."

That day, it was pouring with rain. We love the sound of the rain on our iron roof. In the Bible it says, "He tends his flock like a shepherd, he gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that are with young." I was amazed that after a quiet, solitary grief, God would use someone else like this just to let me know He cares, He knows and He feels for us.

It was a gentle miscarriage. I felt that my body handled it efficiently; it did what it was meant to do.

Would I really have liked to have had an ultra-sound, that could have been harmful to the baby if s/he was still holding on - or have given me news with such finality? "I'm sorry, this pregnancy is not progressing. There's no heartbeat. Your baby is dead." And then left me in a stark room reeling from shock? Walking out of there to get in the car, feeling like I'd left a limb back in there .... or worse still, being told I now needed a D&C to 'clean me out'? My midwife had told me, "If you are having a miscarriage, make sure you go to hospital won't you, in case you bleed a lot." I was very surprised to get that advice. No way was I going to do that - 'just in case' I haemorrhaged. I thought I would wait and see IF I did. I would go to hospital IF I needed to.

7 days of uncertainty, of not knowing for sure and till hoping - sure, it was no fun. But it was a gradual, gentle letting go, instead of a rude shock. If I had given in and decided to go for the quick answer, thinking it would put me out of my misery, I think it would have been more traumatic emotionally, and I would have missed out on the journey. Tony the GP said, "It's time to listen to your baby, to your baby's story." He was right. I would have missed out on that, on so many bittersweet treasures, if I'd just gone for the quick fix answer.

After the m/c I felt like I wanted to de-tox or cleanse somehow. I just felt my body needed it. So, for a day, I drank water only. (This was after I'd stopped bleeding - and I knew my iron levels were good.) Next day, I had fruit only. Day after that, fruit and veg only. After that, normal diet until the next week when I did the 3-day thing again. Also barley green for detox and vege juice with parsley. I drank Raspberry Leaf, Nettle, Oregano and Red Clover tea. I just felt drawn to have those things.

It took about 5 months before my cycles normalised and the erratic bleeding and cramping settled back to a regular rhythm. Some women are back to regular cycles within a month, but for me it was several months. And that’s about how long it took me to come to terms with it emotionally.
I think in the same way that a medicalised, materialistic society has reduced childbirth to a merely clinical procedure, the tendency to regard miscarriage and stillbirth as something ‘gone wrong’, a mess to clear way and move on from as quickly as possible, detracts from the experience of pregnancy loss as a deeply emotional and spiritual event as well as one of great physical impact. It is still the loss of a precious family member and I felt so blessed to be surrounded by people who knew and understood the depth and significance of my experience – both in real life and on line at Joyous Birth. And most of all, to once again experience the tender and intimate care of the God who forms us in the womb, who calls us “fearfully and wonderfully made” and promises to carried us in His arms even to our old age and grey hairs.
“For you created my inmost being, you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you for I am fearfully and wonderfully made – your works are wonderful, I know this full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was formed in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” – Psalm 139:13-16

“… you whom I have upheld since you were conceived, and have carried since your birth. Even to your old age and grey hairs, I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.” Isaiah 46:3-4
We never got to meet or see or hold the tiny baby I sensed was another girl, and who I would have called Roisin, “little rose” in Irish, after my mother, Rosalie. But she was as known, and as dear and precious to God as any of us are, even though the days ordained for her were so fleeting.

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