Toronto

My Body That Could. . . and Did!

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My journey to motherhood began in 2002, the year my husband and I were married. Right after our wedding we stopped all prevention and started down a long and bumpy road. After six years of tracking cycles, taking temps, ultrasounds, meds, and intervention, we came to a cross roads. We thought long and hard about what our next move would be in the mission to become parents, and like a ton of bricks it hit me, I didn't need to be pregnant, but I did need to be a mother. This propelled us onto another path where we would become foster parents, and eventually welcome, our now oldest daughter into our home and hearts. We had done it! We were parents and we were a family.

Our conceiving a biological child became insignificant and we looked forward to giving our all to our darling daughter. Less than a year after our daughter came to us I discovered I was pregnant. Sadly nine weeks later that pregnancy ended in miscarriage. I was so sad, so mad and for a long time never thought I would forgive my body for such a cruel trick. Months past, five to be exact and I was pregnant again! I was in disbelief, but in an instant, I knew what my miscarriage was meant to teach me, it taught me to believe in my body, have faith that it could do, what for so many months and years I was angry for it not doing.

We welcomed our second daughter into the world in April 2009.  Seven years after we began our journey to parenthood, there we were the beaming parents of two beautiful girls. My journey to motherhood had been full of so many emotions, and in the end the biggest one was joy. I knew if my body would allow me, I had to give that joy to another woman who was unable to carry a baby herself.

I set out to help a couple find that same joy of adding a biological child to their family. After discovering Joanne, Robyn and the Canadian Surrogacy Options agency, we found an incredible couple. In 2012, another beautiful baby girl was brought into this world, with the help of my body. A few months after she was born, I felt compelled to be a surrogate again. As much as I wanted to help another couple who had a long and heart-breaking path to grow their family, I was asking of my body for another miracle to share. CSO helped connect me with another couple and professionals to ensure that what my body needed to do was done safely and healthy for everyone involved. It was an honour again to help a couple in need and in 2014 we welcomed a beautiful baby boy into the world…again my body did what I knew it could. I have been so blessed, so incredibly blessed to carry three children, one of them my own, and two whom I was able to give back to their mommies once they were ready for the world.

Becoming a parent wasn't easy; making my choice to become a surrogate was a simple choice and CSO added to that comfort, lending support every step of the way. Lending my body, opening my heart to a connection that no words can express has truly shaped my soul. Now, I am bigger part of the CSO family and have been given the opportunity to support other intended parents on their journey to making their dream of a family come true.

ABOUT JULIA HOWELL

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Julia began as a Surrogate with Canadian Surrogacy Option and has now joined the CSO team helping to support surrogates and intended parents through each of their respective journeys.  Julia is a mother of two, a surrogate of two and currently carrying her third gift of life for an excited couple from Newfoundland. She currently lives in Trenton with her family.

If you are interested in becoming a surrogate or in search of one, you can contact Julia and Canadian Surrogacy Options directly through any of their networks. Their egg-donation division, Little Miracles, is also available for anyone seeking services. And you can follow Canadian Surrogacy Options through Facebook and Twitter.

Beyond the Bio: Meet Megan . . .

When Megan started work as a doula, she felt that there was a gap in the Toronto birth community. And so Spectrum Doula Collective was born. Megan hopes that no matter how or when you choose to grow your family that Spectrum Doula Collective can be a safe space to find support. Pretty cool, hey? We think Megan is pretty cool too . . .

What drew you to doula work?

After a career break and travelling for a couple of years I came back to Toronto with a new perspective and was keen to work in an inclusive, and progressive environment where I would feel like I'm making a positive impact. When I returned from my travels my very pregnant friend was telling me about her doula, and with my previous work in maternal and LGBTQ health, a light bulb went off. A week later I signed up for the Birthing From Within Doula and Mentor Training, and the rest is history.

If you weren't a doula what would your alternate dream job be?

If I weren't in birth work, I would love to be working with penguins (I'm being very serious! I went to the Antarctic a couple years back and was in awe), OR I've often day dreamed about owning a Bed & Breakfast on Vancouver Island while bee keeping and making honey (pipe dreams?).

What did you want to be when you were in elementary school?

There were so many things I wanted to be, but it ranged between being an artist, a doctor, a firefighter, to an architect. I had no idea what any of the above entailed but they all sounded good at the time.

If you could go anywhere in the world where would you go?

This is such a hard question for me, I've been to so many countries that I would love to go back to (Norway, Mongolia and Nepal to name a few) and many more I would like to visit! I have never been to New Zealand though and it's top on my list!

What would the perfect off-call day look like for you?

Because off-call days are so rare, I usually like to spend them doing something away from my phone. I imagine paddle boarding on Toronto island with a good friend or two followed by a picnic in the summer would be lovely, or brunch followed by Body Blitz with some friends in the winter would be perfection!

Favourite vice (or two) that you have no guilt about?

Please don't judge me. I am a sucker for Survivor and the Bachelor/Bachelorette (I promise I won't bring either up unless you ask me first). I love playing bad pop music while I'm driving. And I love chocolate, and cake, and cookies, and sour cream glazed timbits. . . and well anything sweet.

 

Name One Thing . . .

. . . you learned the hard way about birth early in your career:

My first client hired me late in her third trimester and the day she confirmed, she found out she was 4 cm dilated and 60% effaced. I thought she was going to go in to labour that night. After a week of anticipation, and not much sleep she finally called with contractions. I had no idea that someone could be 4 cm dilated walking around the city like nothing is happening for a whole week!

. . . you look back on in your life that makes you feel proud:

I cycled across Canada the summer of 2014. When I started in Vancouver, my cousin asked 'what the heck are you doing??' I said, "I don't know, but I'm here and have to make my way back home". I had told myself that at anytime, I can hop on a bus or a plane if I don't want to finish. But I biked every inch, solo, and self supported from Vancouver to Halifax. Whenever I'm struggling or think something isn't possible I say to myself "Megan! You biked across Canada, you can surely do this".

. . . that usually surprises people about you:

That I use to play Rugby. I actually started the girls rugby team at my high school eons ago, and played Varsity at the University of Waterloo. Even when I was playing rugby people were surprised to find out. It's like they imagined me in the 'end' zone picking daisies or something? (To be fair there were some days where I would have preferred picking daisies).

. . . that's always in your fridge or pantry:

Almond milk, cheese, and hummus.

 

What's your favourite . . .

Colour

Green

Animal

Elephant

Season

Spring

Toronto Cafe

Boxcar Social Riverdale

Birth Book

Labyrinth of Birth by Pam England

 

Beyond the Bio: Meet Kira . . .

Kira is passionate about birth, reproductive justice and building body-positive spaces. She is a sensitive soul always rooting for the underdog, and a total goofball exactly when you need her to be - you definitely want to get to know this peanut butter loving lady (and if you're lucky she just might share one of her homemade birth snacks with you...!).

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What drew you to doula work?

An interest in reproductive justice and health initially drew me to the field. I became really interested in birth from a social justice lens and when I discovered what a doula was, it wasn't long before I was enrolled in my first training.

If you weren't a doula what would your alternate dream job be?

I'm so passionate about this realm of work that my dream job would totally be in the field. Both a dream and a job I hope to eventually have, I would love to offer perinatal mental health support.

What did you want to be when you were in elementary school?

I went through a LOT of phases. I can quite clearly recall wanting to be a designer, a journalist, a teacher... I'm sure my mom would have a few more to add.

If you could go anywhere in the world where would you go?

Columbia! I have spent a bit of time in Central America, and can't wait to start exploring South America. My godmother always used to talk about bringing me to Columbia (her home country) before she passed.

What would the perfect off-call day look like for you?

Hiding my phone in a closet, going to a yoga class, hanging out with some friends and a glass of wine (or three).

Favourite vice (or two) that you have no guilt about?

Peanut butter.

 

Name One Thing . . .

. . . you learned the hard way about birth early in your career:

That labour can be looong. I learned that even if a client tells me their labour has begun, to ask more questions and make plans accordingly, but not to call all my backups and drop everything until labour has been fully established.

. . . you look back on in your life that makes you feel proud:

I hope to look back on the relationships that I've created and feel proud of the love and care I put into them.

. . . that usually surprises people about you:

That I'm actually pretty introverted. I consider myself an introverted extrovert, so it's usually my extroverted personality that presents in social situations.

. . . that's always in your fridge or pantry:

Coffee, chickpeas, cheese, almond milk, peanut butter, CHOCOLATE... Enough food that when the apocalypse comes, I will be fully stocked for a year.

 

What's your favourite . . .

Colour

Blue

Animal

Sloth

Season

Spring

Toronto Cafe

The Common

Birth Book

The Birth House by Amy McKay (fiction) or The Birth Partner by Penny Simkin (non-fiction)

Beyond the Bio: Meet Corina . . .

When Corina is in your space you just somehow feel calmer. An incredible listener, a humble spirit, and an eternal student, makes Corina one of those people you meet and you just can't resist to get to know better. She will continually surprise you with the things she's done... but you have to be a good listener because she's a modest one and would prefer to learn about who you are!

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What drew you to doula work?

Nothing specifically drew me to doula work - I started teaching prenatal yoga and absolutely loved it. One day, a student asked me if I would be interested in supporting her during her birth. I agreed and fell in love with birth work. It was like coming home to a place I never knew existed and fitting in perfectly. Since then, I immersed myself in birth (and birth-related) work.

If you weren't a doula what would your alternate dream job be?

Medical Anthropologist.

What did you want to be when you were in elementary school?

Store cashier (since they got all the money).

If you could go anywhere in the world where would you go?

The Romanian delta - we used to have a beach house there (but I am really not a fan of travelling and I'd be content staying home).

What would the perfect off-call day look like for you?

Tea and breakfast on my deck, a yoga class, a trip to the farmer's market, followed by baking (a lot).

Favourite vice (or two) that you have no guilt about?

Medical dramas and fantasy fiction - but especially new adult fantasy fiction (I am obsessed with the Court of Thorns and Roses series by Sarah J Maas).

 

Name One Thing . . .

. . . you learned the hard way about birth early in your career:

I can't control what people say to clients.

. . . you look back on in your life that makes you feel proud:

Choosing my current career - it was a difficult decision since most of my life I had aspired to be in academia.

. . . that usually surprises people about you:

I used to be an archaeologist working with geophysical methods!

. . . that's always in your fridge or pantry:

Cheese.

 

What's your favourite . . .

Colour

Burgundy

Animal

Cat

Season

Autumn

Toronto Cafe

Rooster (on Broadview)

Birth Book

Birthing From Within by Pam England

Acupuncture + Fertility

Whether trying to conceive at home, or with assistance from a fertility clinic, acupuncture has proven to have many benefits in increasing the chance of getting pregnant. Special thanks to Michelle Kapler, acupuncturist, herbalist, and founder of MuLi Fertility, for sharing with us how acupuncture can help support conception.

Fertility work is something I take very seriously. It is a privilege and and honour to be with a growing family on their very sacred and personal path. Its the elation and joy of those emails that come through my inbox with the subject line “it worked!” after multiple IVF failures. Or text messages with screen shots of positive pregnancy tests, after they have waited for such a long time. Then there is the darkness. The disappointment. The longing. The heavy and brutal exhaustion. The self doubt. I feel so fortunate to witness the inevitable evolution in people as they go through something that is so hard and so heartbreaking. There are fewer things that are so raw and so real, than a person’s journey to parenthood.  

For Acupuncturists, fertility work is not a new concept. We have known for a long time that by simply putting the body into an optimal state of homeostasis and health, we can have a profound affect on fertile potential. We believe that by using gentle therapeutics such as acupuncture, herbs and food, we can encourage the body to heal itself and thrive.

Achieving that optimal state of health is an important goal for any person, regardless of where they are in their fertility journey and regardless of whether they are providing the sperm, the egg or the womb. Whether a person is in the preconception planning stage, the actively trying to conceive (TTC) stage or in the process of using Assisted Reproductive Therapeutics (such as IVF), the odds of conception can be significantly increased, simply by working on improving overall bodily health.

5 Things that A Fertility Acupuncturist Works to Improve

  1. The menstrual cycle:  The ideal cycle (one that is optimal for conception) is 28 days in length, has four days of bleeding (where on day one, the pad needs to be changed every 4 hours) with no cramps, clots, spotting or PMS of any kind. When a woman comes to acupuncture clinic, we compare her cycle to the ideal cycle and work toward it - as a way of measuring our success in improving fertility.
  2. Digestion: Proper digestion is essential for optimal fertility, as both absorption and elimination functions are an integral part of the manufacturing and metabolism of hormones. If you have indigestion or constipation - it is one of the first things we work on.
  3. Sleep: Sleep is very important to health and conception. Hormone production is greatly affected by sleep. The aim is to have at least 7 hours of good quality sleep every night. If someone isn't sleeping well, we work to resolve this issue as quickly as possible.
  4. Nutrition: The diet that we consider to be “healthy” in North American culture is not necessarily optimal for conception. We encourage a nutritionally dense diet, which may not be what most people are used to, when they think of “healthy eating”.
  5. Stress: It is widely known that stress has a huge impact on fertility. Acupuncturists work to improve the way the body and mind respond to stress, and offer tools on how to deal with it.

By improving these five things, we can have a positive impact on a more microscopic level, meaning we can

  • Improve egg quality
  • Improve lining
  • Balance hormones
  • Work toward resolving established conditions such as PCOS, endometriosis and uterine fibroids
  • Achieve a more predictable menstrual cycle
  • Decrease changes of miscarriage
  • Decrease the chances of medical side effects if a person is working with Assisted Reproductive Therapeutics (at the fertility clinic)

For some, using the treatments at a fertility clinic is the only option for conception. In this case, working with a fertility acupuncturist can still be beneficial. The most recent research has revealed that there is a significant increase in chances of conception for people who use a whole systems TCM approach (acupuncture, food, lifestyle, etc) in conjunction with their IVF cycle. This includes on site acupuncture at the fertility clinic, before and after the embryo transfer. The most significant development about this particular research is that the findings have reflected the improvements in outcomes of bringing pregnancy to term and live births. For more details, go here.

about Michelle Kapler

Michelle Kapler R.Ac is a Registered Acupuncturist and Herbalist. Since graduating in 2010, from the Institute of Traditional Medicine in Toronto, she has focused her practice exclusively in fertility, pregnancy and maternal health. She is passionate about helping women to achieve hormonal balance, pleasant periods, successful conception and healthy pregnancies, with acupuncture, herbal medicine and food.

When she is not at work, you can find Michelle hanging out with her husband Peter and daughter Leah – making delicious meals from their backyard veggie garden – shucking and eating oysters – watching baseball – and attending epic family snuggle parties.

If any questions arise, she offers a complimentary 30 minute consultation for all new patients. To connect with Michelle - you can find her on her website www.mulifertility.com, Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.