Childbirth Education

You can start calling me, Nikole Opiyo, Certified Childbirth Educator and Doula. 

This past year I have been on a mission to learn as much as I can about prenatal and postnatal education and care while in Canada recognizing that we have pretty amazing care, policies, and education when it comes to giving birth.

It all started when I gave birth to Mercy. I had a hard time with her pregnancy not really desiring to connect with anyone, learn about childbirth or newborn care, and grumbling constantly through every ache and pain and change my body was going through. I was very ill equipped to give birth, something I realized in hindsight.

The care I received immediately after giving birth was life changing. We stayed in the hospital 5 whole nights and I was taught the in’s and out’s of caring for my brand new baby and letting my body heal. I left going, “how do people do this without this kind of help?”

It planted a seed that this is something I *might* be interested in getting involved with.

That was confirmed after the birth of Amina. My desire to support pregnant woman, new mommies and babies only increased. I didn’t really know how though as I wasn’t in the medical profession and neither did I really want to be.

Then we travelled to Kenya. Amina was only 3.5 months old. During that trip I met with numerous other mothers and babies. It was such a joy to connect with them through this mutual life experience. But it was also heartbreaking listening to their stories of trauma during childbirth and struggles with life with a newborn. And they had such little support and education. Let’s be honest, giving birth and those first few weeks/months with a newborn are INTENSE. Intensely wonderful but it can also be intensely hard for anyone.

We met with one mother who had a baby just a bit younger than Amina. As we spent some time with her, I started seeing a number of things that made me a little concerned for the well being of this child. I didn’t want to question her. This was her 3rd or 4th child so it wasn’t like she didn’t have any experience with this stuff. And I guess I am always cautious not to impress my white-girl western knowledge on people. I mean, who am I to tell her how to take care of her child just because I delivered my babies in Canada? I have nothing to back up my information except the fact that I have given birth in Canada. I just left it at this is her child and I am sure she knows what she is doing.

That baby passed away a few weeks later. It was heartbreaking. We aren’t sure why, and we will never know. Maybe it was something completely different than any of the red flags I had noticed. But nonetheless, it was heartbreaking.

My desire to learn and educate myself was fuelled. I decided that I needed something behind me, other than the fact that I have given birth, that gives me a bit of weight to be able to teach these mothers. I got in contact with local midwives, doulas, and prenatal teachers and decided that I was going to take a course training to be a Certified Childbirth Educator and Doula.

So that is what I did. I just received my certificate in the mail from Douglas College last week!

I wanted to take a picture of myself with it but I had just woken up and looked awful and this is the only picture that looked half decent.

I am so excited to start doing this work in Kongowea! I am not entirely sure what it will look like at this point. Kelvin and I have decided that we need to do a lot of learning and listening from women in the community who have given birth so I think that will be our first step. We also will start visiting new moms and babies and giving out care packages. We will see where it goes from there!

 

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Common Questions We Get Asked

There are a few questions that we get asked daily right now. I thought I would answer a few of them here.

Are you working right now? 

Kelvin and I both finished our jobs in December in order to allow us to have the whole month of January to prepare to move. We are still working though. The Rehma Project is a non-profit organization and runs off of generous donors. Much of this month has been focused on gaining a donor base for The Rehma Project. We have been having a lot of meetings and doing presentations and writing for support. We thought it would be a little bit relaxed, but it’s actually been really busy! We have booked off next week to focus solely on packing and doing last minute things.

On top of fundraising and packing, we have been doing lots of last minute appointments like vaccinations and doctors and dentists as well as taking care of the small things like cancelling our cell phone contracts and figuring out our medical plans. 

Mercy rocked her first dentist appointment yesterday. She let them clean and floss and check her teeth. Thanks to Dr. Osepchook and his awesome team for taking care of our family’s teeth!

Do the girls have dual citizenship?

Yes, they do. We are currently waiting for their Kenyan Passports. We hope they arrive in the next week so we can have them before we leave! Even without the passports, they are able to enter and be in the country as Canadians because they are still young. I will need to have a pass that allows me to live in the country. I will apply for it once I arrive. It does take a little bit to dance around residency issues in both countries though and we are figuring that out as we go along.

Are you shipping stuff to Kenya? 

No, we aren’t. The cost of shipping things is pretty pricy. We are attempting to take it all on the airplane with us. We are allowed to take 6 pieces of large luggage (50lbs) for free and then we need to pay for extra bags. I am hoping to have all our stuff fitting into no more than 9 suitcases. We also have a lot of donated items for our soccer programs that we will be carrying. So our stuff for our family will hopefully fit into 7 suitcases or so. I will update you on my packing once I really get started.

Will you be delivering babies? 

As many of you know,  I have been studying childbirth education this whole past year with hopes of starting some sort of prenatal and postnatal education program in Kongowea. I will update you more on this in another post. But I will make it very clear that I am not trained or qualified at all to deliver babies safely. I studied to be a teacher. Kelvin and I often talk about how we will approach this in Kenya as to not give the impression that I can deliver babies. Who knows, maybe one day I will get the training but that won’t be for a little while.

What will you do in the first few weeks after arriving? 

We arrive in the middle of the night on Feb 1st. We will be picked up by a guesthouse and will stay there the first night then transfer to friends’ house for the next night. After that, we are going on a 3 day safari to Amboseli. This was my anniversary gift from Kelvin (and we will most likely be needing a bit of a rest after all the travel and goodbyes). We will arrive in Mombasa Feb 6th. For the month of February our main focus will be finding a rental house (you can see my blog post on that here) and setting up a home. Kelvin will also be busy with the Rehma Tournaments that will be finishing up in the middle of the month. We also might have some visitors! February is already shaping up to be a busy busy month.

Will the girls be going to school?

We haven’t quite figured this one out yet. I am not sure I want them in the Kenyan education system but we couldn’t afford to put them in an international school. I have dabbled around the idea of homeschooling but, honestly, I just know that isn’t for me as a mother (makes me a cringe a little). So we will have to see. There are a few options to try out but we will look more into it once we arrive.

How are your parent’s holding up? 

Everyone asks us this question. We have lived very close to my parent’s for the past 4 years. They are fortunate to see their grandkids daily. We have become a very large part of their every day life and that will soon change. So yes, they are doing ok right now. Mom has some teary moments daily and Dad constantly says things like, “what are we going to do when we can’t see you every day?” That final goodbye at the airport is going to be a doozy, that’s for sure. I don’t even want to think about it right now. Believe it or not, it will be hard for us to say goodbye to them too. Tough knowing they won’t be able to see the girls regularly especially because they are such phenomenal grandparents.

Have any other questions? Feel free to ask!

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Rollercoaster Goodbyes

I don’t think I had ever realized how exhausting it is to say goodbye.

I realized it last night when I collapsed into bed at 8:12pm after a full weekend of goodbye meetings and dinners and services.

It’s a strange space to be in as we linger between saying goodbyes knowing we aren’t going to see our loved ones on a regular basis anymore and then being excited for the chapter God has ahead of us for our little family of four. It’s tough and exciting all at the same time.

It can be an emotional rollercoaster for sure. And I am learning that an emotional rollercoaster (as with any normal rollercoaster) takes a toll on my physical body.

Please don’t get me wrong, we are absolutely loving our time with our friends and family. In fact, we are the ones asking and demanding and planning to see you all. Our times with you all have been nothing short of fruitful, nourishing, loving, and rich. But eventually we have to give that one final hug goodbye…rollercoaster, I tell ya.

I dropped into bed last night going how on earth am I going to survive this week of even more rollercoaster goodbyes?

And then a simple whisper…

“Come to me… and I will give you rest.” – Matthew 11:28

So today we have been still visiting but in the comfort of our home, allowing ourselves to slow down and rest in the wonderful conversations and the in between downtime. Keep praying that we would not loose steam, that we would enjoy and be present for every interaction, and that we would find rest. 

These girls are super troopers. They have been dragged all over the place and have really been a blessing to us and so many others. Am so proud of my little girls.

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