As promised, here is my recipe for groaning cake, adapted from here. At the workshop I co-led on birth/death, we served this cake as our dessert, to great acclaim!


Groaning Cake (back left) for dessert!


This recipe makes 2 or 3 dense, flavourful loaves, which can be easily frozen to enjoy later. This recipe is packed with whole food ingredients for long-lasting energy. Feel free to substitute and modify according to your tastes. I especially enjoy it with a slice of sharp cheese.

Groaning Cake

3 cups whole wheat flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves

1 1/2 cups grated apple
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
1 large carrot, grated
1/2 cup chopped dates

4 eggs
1 cup pumpkin puree
3/4 cup oil
zest from two large oranges
juice and pulp from one large orange
1/3 cup blackstrap molasses
3/4 cup brown sugar or honey (reduce orange juice if using honey)

Sift dry ingredients into a large bowl.
Stir in apple, walnuts, carrot, and dates.
Beat eggs separately and mix in all remaining wet ingredients.
Gently stir wet ingredients into flour mixture. (Add juice from second orange if the batter is very stiff.)

Grease two 9″x5″ loaf pans, or line with parchment paper. Divide batter into these two pans.

Bake at 350* F for 40-50 minutes.

If you want smaller loaves, use three pans. This batter can also be baked in muffin pans for single-serving portions (bake for ~20 min).

A new survey is aiming to gain a better sense of the experiences and preferences Muslims hold regarding childbirth. Link here!
This survey is being conducted by a Muslim doula in Boston (Krystina Friedlander, and a Muslim midwife in San Francisco (Shannon Staloch,
Please support their admirable work by contributing to their data. Take the survey and share it widely!

On Tuesday, I co-led a class exploring concepts of birth and death in the context of education for my peers in the Outdoor and Experiential Education (OEE) program. It was insightful to consider how and when birth and death touch the lives of our students (in the school system). We recognized that we needed to address these issues both as individuals and as educators, because they affect us personally.

As a group, the four of us leading this class decided to combine birth and death under one umbrella, using the key concepts of liminality, fear, and pain as bridges between these two shores of mortality. We each shared our own connection with birth and death to demonstrate that everyone approaches these topics from their own history. The class was generally receptive, reflective, and willing to explore their own personal encounters with these topics. We also produced a zine for the class with teaching resources, reflection prompts, references, and recipes.

Beginning with The Quiet Game, we had some guided reflection on both birth and death, followed by an experiential exploration of pain coping techniques (using ice cubes, cf. Birthing from Within). We then walked over to the local midwives’ clinic in central Kingston to learn about their practice. Returning to our venue, we debriefed and then ate supper together in community, with groaning cake for dessert! (I’ll post my recipe soon!)

What do you think? Can birth and death be effectively discussed in the same conversation? Is it appropriate to discuss these topics in public educational settings?

I have added a new link to the side bar: Sew for Baby

Take a look and be inspired!

This link contains a list of online sewing patterns and tutorials collected from around the web. The patterns are categorized under:
Infant and Baby Dresses
Rompers and Sunsuits
Shirts and Jackets
Pants and Leggings
Skirts and Bloomers
Swaddlers, PJs, and Baby Loungewear
Baby Hats
Diapers and Diapering
Changing Pads
Wet Bags
Diaper Bags and Clutches
First Aid
Burp Cloths
Bottle Feeding and Pacifiers
Car Seat Covers and Gear
Stroller Covers and Gear
Toys and Trinkets
Play Mats
Shoes, Socks, and Stockings
Crib Stuff
Blankets and Quilts
For the Nursery
Seats and Clean Sitting Gear

In January, Dr. Gabor Maté, a Vancouver doctor specializing in addictions and mental disorders such as ADHD, presented a lecture in Edmonton entitled “Toxic Culture”. He discussed the ways in which the contemporary culture in North America (and increasingly, the world), is at odds with basic human needs for life. Stresses caused by un-addressed needs contribute to imbalances and diseases. At the root, he argued that the current scientific and medical paradigm separates mental health from physical health, both of which are seen as entirely distinct  from wider environmental and social issues. In this video, he draws an analogy between a plant in a garden and a human child.

If you were looking at a plant that wasn’t developing properly in your garden, you wouldn’t start blaming it for making the wrong choice. You would ask what conditions are lacking: soil, irrigation, sunlight. Similarly with child development; we need to ask what conditions children need for healthy development, and what conditions are available to them today.

I found Dr. Maté’s analysis of society today very incisive. His holistic way of examining complex social problems offers a sense of hope by responding to the reality of the situation. The two most significant needs of a person, from birth onward, Dr. Maté said, are attachment and authenticity. If these are met, a child has the tools to develop healthily and the resiliency to be themselves in a chaotic world.

Attachment is simply our need to be close to somebody. It represents the absolute need of the utterly helplessly vulnerable human infant for secure closeness with at least one nourishing, protective and constantly available parenting figure. (Scattered Minds, p74).

Authenticity is the “reality beyond roles, labels, and carefully honed persona” (In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts, p24). It is the recognition and validation of ourselves, the space to be and express oneself freely.

While Dr. Mate describes the implications of these two elements in parenting in his book, Hold on to Your Kids, I’ve been thinking about the role of attachment and authenticity for educators and doulas. In the birthing space, a doula is essentially present to provide an attachment through continuous care and affirmative support. Ideally, this allows the birthing mother to be authentic, to express herself as she desires and open up her genuine self. This expression of personal reality entails a level of vulnerability, which is why the relationship between the doula and mother must be based on trust.

Clearly, there are many factors which impact birth and parenting, and a positive birth experience is not necessarily a requirement for good child rearing– it’s not as simple as that! But at this juncture of the entry of a new life into the world, I think an empowering birth experience can set the stage for parenting that similarly creates secure attachment and allows for authentic childhood.

This spring, I had the rare privilege of working together with another doula. Doulas often refer to the need for a community of women to support a birthing mother—the experience of being at a birth with two doulas offered me a glimpse of that idealized image. We took turns supporting the mother through early labour, and as the birth approached, we worked together as a team, along with the father and the nurses. I had initially thought that we might need to be careful to allow each other to work with the mother, and at the beginning of the labour, we consciously took turns. While theoretically we were both filling the same role, our differing ages, personalities, and relationships with the mother allowed us to offer different kinds of support. We soon fell into a rhythm, each doing what we could best offer the mother.

It was a fantastic learning experience, to be able to watch another woman ‘doula’ a labouring mother. In particular, I feel that I grew by seeing another doula:
– immediately take an active role by offering massage
– encourage and give specific suggestions to the father to become more involved in the labour
– interact with doctors and nurses

Similarly, I was able to exchange tips and suggestions with the other doula, and we agreed afterwards that we both gained from the experience of working together.

Lying-in scene, sixteenth century Europe

In what ways have you seen doulas working together (at births or otherwise)? Could the potential tensions outweigh the potential benefits? What do you think of the image of a community of women supporting a birthing mother?

UPDATE: Ananda Lowe at The Doula Guide Blog recently wrote a post on doulas working together, including examples of various business models. Take a look!

I recently spoke with a mom-to-be who said that she felt she would be most comfortable in labour if she could just listen to music the whole time: she felt like she would be more comfortable and focused with music rather than talking or silence. I’ve been thinking about this a lot in the past few days. There is a reason that music therapy exists, and can be successful: music has a physical effect on us. It can relax us, it can send shivers down our spines. Music can help build pathways in our brains, it can affect the levels of stress hormones in our bloodstream, and it can be strongly associated with particular memories or feelings. There are many interesting and scientific things that you can read about psychoacoustics–this article, for example, tells us that music

has the ability to influence mood, to remind us of a certain moment, to create feelings. Music contributes to communication and conveys information with semantic and emotional elements. These elements indicate the involvement of the central nervous system through processes of integration and interpretation together with the peripheral auditory processing (Iakovides et al 2004)

But many of these things, written out, seem self-evident to us. We already know what kind of effect music has on our moods and our headspace.

There are many great reasons to prepare a playlist for labour: music can help keep you calm and centered, it can contribute to your overall relaxation, and it is something that you can have complete control over. You can have the same music at home, in the hospital (where they will often but not always have speakers you can use) and even in an operating suite if you are in a situation where you must have a C-section. Make sure that your partner and/or your doula are briefed about your preference for music and can speak to the obstetrician about it if you can’t.

I would suggest making several playlist for possible scenarios or moods: you don’t know exactly how you’re going to feel during the labour. You can make a few playlists or CDs–one that is upbeat and full of energy, one that is deeply relaxing, one with cheerful songs, one with quiet songs, one with some spoken word tracks or some recitations. You might want to listen to different music at different points in your labour, or you might want to hear one song on repeat all the way through. Just don’t make so many playlists that you won’t know which is which!

Which music would you include (or have you included!) in your labour and birth playlists? Is there something that you have found particularly helpful in the past?

P.S. For further reading on labour playlists, try this great article by Taz Tagore of Labor of Love.

People often compare birthing to running a marathon in terms of the preparation, nourishment, and encouragement needed to support such strenuous work. While there are obvious limitations to the analogy, it is useful in helping us understand the (literally) physical labour of childbirth.  Here is my recipe for energy bars. These are compact and nutritious, packed with dried fruit and oatmeal. As a doula, I like to have some along when I go to births, because they are easy to carry and are a great quick snack during long births. (They are also perfect for backpacking trips!)

Fantastic Energy Bars

Fantastic Energy Bars

1/4 cup tart dried cherries
1/4 cup dried currants or raisins*
1/4 cup dried blueberries*
1/4 cup dried apricots*

1/4 cup sesame seeds
1/4 cup slivered almonds*
2 cups quick rolled oats

1/2 cup water
1/2 cup Red River cereal*

1/2 cup honey
1 cup peanut butter*
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla

Finely mince dried fruit using a food processor.

Toast sesame seeds, almonds, and oats under the broiler until lightly browned — careful, oats brown fast! Cool.

Thoroughly mix fruit with oat mixture.

Heat water to boiling in a medium pot. Add Red River cereal and let stand 2 minutes. Mix in honey, peanut butter, salt, and vanilla. Cook over medium heat, stirring until smooth (about 5 minutes).

Stir all ingredients together until well mixed. Mixture will be stiff.

Press into a greased 8″x8″ pan. Cool 2 hours before cutting into bars.


*Substitution Suggestions: All the starred ingredients can easily be substituted if you have other ingredients on hand or are allergic to nuts.
– Dried fruit: use any other dried fruit such as prunes, apples, peaches, or even a few pieces of candied ginger. The dried cherries add a lovely tartness to the bars, so I would suggest only substituting them with other tangy dried fruit.
–  Almonds and peanut butter: substitute with other seeds/ seed butters (e.g. sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds; pea butter, pumpkin seed butter).
– Red River cereal: substitute with a mixture of cracked wheat and whole flax seed. I have also made this recipe entirely substituting the Red River with flax seed (cook for 5 minutes until slightly gelatinous).

Welcome to our blog!

The Handwork Doulalog is a collaboration between two doulas who are also sisters-in-law (and -in-heart): Noor in Edmonton and Lara in Toronto. We write (we aim to write) mostly about doula issues, parenting issues, and birth, with a little bit of hand crafting and making thrown in.

We hope that our recent changes have made our website more intuitive and accessible. The blog (this space, under “Home”) is for writing and musing. Information about our individual services and pricing is available in the Doula services pages for Edmonton and Toronto. Our contact information is also found in those pages. We are both actively working as doulas in our communities, so feel free to contact us with any questions you might have. We have also added a resource section under “Library” and welcome suggestions for other great texts.

We have split the admin for this blog into two: where previously we identified ourselves by signing off at the end of a post or section, we will now be posting as separate identities. We will continue, as we have in the past, to respond directly to one another’s thoughts, but we will do it in a separate post. We have also reorganized our links into different sections, to help you easily find the resources you are seeking. Contact us if you have any suggestions for helpful links!

Thanks so much for visiting, and please don’t hesitate share any comments or thoughts you might have with us!

Lara just shared a lovely birth story. It is really interesting to read about this mother’s experience with her cesarean section, and the significance of other people’s opinions and judgments in relation to the mother’s desires and needs. Take a look:

– Noor