Baby's Grasp

Birth stories...
 because sharing stories
is empowering.

 

 
 
Image by Garrett Jackson
Words can change how we see the world, those ones may
change how you see birth.
We are welcoming many different voices and perspectives.
A safe and non-judgemental space to share birth stories or to listen and hold space.

Birth Story Writing Contest 2021
 

Birth Sharing Circle Replay

A celebration of birthers, writers and maternity care professionals.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A truly moving event!

LAUREATES OF THE DSF’S BIRTH STORY WRITING  CONTEST 2021 

 

We are amazed and humbled by all the birth stories we have received and must say that the readers and jurors had a difficult job to do. We want to thank all participants who have submitted a birth story. We feel every single story is important and they have been read as such.  

However, this is not only a birth story sharing event, but also a writing contest.  

Let’s hear a drum roll…  the first three places and the 14 honourable mentions winners are:

The first-place laureate is:

Jennifer Ashton from Vancouver, BC

The title of her story is Dear Diary – October 1979

She won a $200 prize. Her story will be published on September 15th, 2021 here and in the Kingstonist.

 

The jury settled to offer two second places as both stories were equally appreciated.

The second-place laureates are:

Tanya Bellehumeur/Allatt from Hatley, QC

The title of her story is Winter Rose

and

 Alison Milan from Ottawa

The title of her story is Mama Fits

They both won a $100 prize and will be published on the DSF here on September 8th, 2021

 

The third-place laureate is

Marlowe Dibb from Vancouver

The title of their story is A Whole New Journey

They won a $50 prize and you can enjoy reading their story now.

The honourable mentions are: 

(We will publish one story per week.) 

Michele Barnes from Markham, ON

Bringing Natural Birthing Back

  

Rachelle Campbell from Kingston, ON 

Finding Solace in Our Home

 

 Karen Clarke from Mount Pearl, NL

Let Me Tell You About Your Birth

 Roya Chalaki from Calgary, AB 

She exists

 

Ruth Daniell from Kelowna, BC

New Seasons  

Hannah Day from Kelowna, BC

More Beautiful than the Bright Snow

Leslie Harris from Barrie, ON 

In the Dark 

Tao Hipwell from North Kingston, ON 

To Carry The Cure 

Marla Le from Kingston, ON 

Business Trip Baby

 

Rayya Liebich from Nelson, BC 

Cesarean Birth: Love, Sacrifice, and Surrender                                                                  

Maria Manecuta from Windsor, ON

Embracing and Accepting the Unknowns... 

Stela Murriz from St-Cecile-De-Masham, QC

When my story became history 

 

Cassidy Piney

 Bailey's Breech Birth

Ellie Reynolds from Gray Creek, BC

From the Orgasmic to the Emergency:

two birth stories

In French                                     

Emmanuelle Quiviger from Montréal, QC

Ta lignée  

Elena Martinez from Toronto, ON

Ainsi soit-elle! 

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Dear Diary - October 1979
by Jennifer Ashton
First-Place Laureate

Jenn Ashton is an Award-winning author and visual artist. Her book of Short Stories, People Like Frank and Other Stories from the Edge of Normal (TidewaterPress 2020) is shortlisted for the Indigenous Voices Award (2021). Jenn was a Teaching Assistant in the Simon Fraser University's Writer's Studio and is now studying at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, Professional Education. She is currently the Writer in Residence at the British Columbia History Magazine.

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Mama Fits
by Alison Milan
Second-Place Laureate

Alison Milan (she/they) lives on unceded, unsurrendered Algonquin Anishnaabeg territory with their partner, daughter, and two cats. Her interest in birth and desire to empower to-be parents of all sorts sparked a desire to share the story of her daughter’s birth. Alison loves to explore food and the great outdoors, studied Geography and Education at York University, and works as a Policy Analyst with Natural Resources Canada.

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Winter Rose
by Tanya Bellehumeur-Allatt
Second-Place Laureate

Tanya Bellehumeur-Allatt is a mother of four. Her fiction, essays and poems have appeared in Best Canadian Essays 2019 and Best Canadian Essays 2015The New QuarterlyGrain, EVENT, Prairie Fire, Malahat Review, subTerrain, carte blanche, Antigonish Review, Queens Quarterly and Room, among other publications.  She holds an MA from McGill University and an MFA in Creative Writing from UBC. Tanya is the author of the poetry collection Chaos Theories of Goodness (Shoreline, 2021) and Peacekeeper’s Daughter: A Middle East Memoir (Thistledown, 2021).

 Read more about Tanya and her writing at https://tanyaallattbellehumeur.com/

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A whole new journey
by Marlowe Dibb
Third-Place Laureate

Marlowe Dibb is a writer, thinker, dreamer and therapist. They live on the unceded territories of the xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), and səl̓ílwətaʔɬ/Selilwitulh (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations. They have a passion for supporting mental health within marginalized communities. In their spare time they might be camping in the forest, baking a pie, or writing a children’s song about feelings.

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Embracing and Accepting the Unknown
by Maria Manecuta
Honourable Mention

Maria is a first-time mom of a wonderful nine-month-old baby boy. Maria was born in Romania and moved to Windsor, Ontario in 2001 with her parents. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Developmental Psychology. She works part-time with adults with intellectual disabilities. She is passionate about the developmental social service field, advocacy, and all topics pertaining to mental health. Following her pre and post-natal experience, she became highly interested in perinatal care and wishes to help other women on their journey.

https://www.instagram.com/mariamanec-uta/ and https://www.facebook.com/maria.manecuta

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Baileys' Breech Birth
by Cassidey Piney
Honourable Mention

Cassidy Piney lives in Port Hope, Ontario with her husband, her two-year-old daughter, her nine-month-old daughter and her dog, Whiskey. She holds ar Child and Youth Worker Diploma and works as an Educational Assistant. Cassidy enjoys reading and competing and training in dog sports. Cassidy is an advocate for normalizing breech birth and hopes to start her doula training soon.

@cassidyandwhiskey

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Finding Solace in Our Home
by Rachelle Campbell
Honourable Mention

Rachelle is originally from a small town called Bancroft, located in Ontario. She moved to Kingston, Ontario in 2011 to take the Hairstyling program at St.Lawrence College, and took the Esthetics program the following year. She lives with her spouse, Matt and her two children, Raegan and Solace. Rachelle has a passion for childbirth and is an aspiring doula.

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Planned VBAC, Unplanned Home Birth
by Michelle Barnes
Honourable Mention

Michelle Barnes is a mother of two - a daughter who is five years old and a baby boy born February 2021. When she is not running after the kids or wiping tushies, she loves to read anything by Abbi Glines, or watching re-runs of TV series like Gilmore Girls and Fresh Prince. Michelle loves animals, and often has to save the cats from being ridden like horses by the kids. Sometimes the days feel long, but try to remember that the years go by fast. Michelle also enjoys making mini piñatas during her down time, check out some of her creations on Instagram @minibreakthru.

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To Carry the Cure
by Tao Hipwell
Honourable Mention

Tao Hipwell is a mama raising wild children on a small homestead North of Kingston. She has three little bears, er, boys, who love to read, explore the forests, cuddle, find wild herbs and foods, and play. She is a writer, yoga instructor, birth doula, and songwriter. She has felt a calling to holistic health and wellness. You can find her with tea in hand, babe on the boob, relaxing in the shade or making magic in the kitchen.

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Business Trip Baby
by Marle Le
Honourable Mention

Marla Le was born and raised in Brockville, Ontario before moving to St. Catharines, Ontario where she obtained a degree in Kinesiology from Brock University. She then went on to obtain her Master of Science Degree in Occupational Therapy at Queens University in Kingston, Ontario. She works as a community Occupational Therapist, primarily helping individuals who have been seriously injured in motor vehicle accidents. She currently lives in Kingston with her husband and son. 

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More beautiful than the Bright Snow
by Hannah Day
Honourable Mention

Hannah Day (@happydayyoga) is a mama of two daughters and a pre- & postnatal yoga specialist based out of Kelowna, British Columbia. She has been teaching moms yoga for almost a decade and founded @BirthPrepYoga in 2020. Yoga & breathing techniques are incredibly helpful for moms to release stress and anxiety during pregnancy and the postpartum period. When she is not teaching yoga, she is in her garden growing vegetables, or swimming in Okanagan Lake.

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In the Dark
By Lelie Harris
Honourable Mention

Leslie Harris is a mother of two grown adult daughters, 25 and 26 years old and soon to be a grandmother. Her youngest is pregnant and going through similar issues with her pregnancy. Leslie works with children with special needs which she loves. She also loves writing stories and poetry, reading, knitting, sewing, painting and doing other crafts. Leslie and her husband enjoy travelling with their small dogs in their travel trailer, canoeing and hiking. Her mother also lives with them. You can follow her on Instagram: books_and_rose_all_day and cuddleupandreadkids 

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When my Story Became History
by Stela Murrizi
Honourable Mention

Stela Murrizi is a curious observer of life. As a personal coach and educator to those seeking an alternative and more expansive way of living, she embraces the darkness and encourages her clients to dare to discover, with divine curiosity! There is no conversation too big or too small to be had. Stela enjoys writing, research, painting, DIYing, teaching Kundalini yoga, and eating well. She shares her life with her loving husband and dear son Declan. She lives her life in the process of perpetual discovery of her own truth...she knows that, in life, there is always more than meets the eye! Follow her on Instagram at Stela_Shakti or follow her blog and work at stelashakti.com

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From the Orgasmic to the Surgical: Two Birth Stories
by Ellie Reynolds
Honourable Mention

Ellie is originally from the UK, but moved to Canada in 2007. She holds a BA in English from Cambridge University, and since moving to Canada, she has worked in Early Years community development as a children’s librarian, and more recently, as a solo performer and theatre- maker. She lives with her husband Charles and together they have three children. You can follow her at https://www.facebook.com/elliesolotheatre

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Caesarian Birth: Love, Sacrifice, and Surrender
by Rayya Liebich
Honourable Mention

Rayya Liebich is an award-winning Canadian poet of Lebanese and Polish descent. Passionate about writing as a tool for transformation, she teaches creative writing classes to youth and adults in beautiful Nelson, British Columbia. She is the winner of the Richard Carver Award for Emerging Writers (2019), The Golden Grassroots Chapbook Award (2015), and The Geneva Literary Awards (2015). Her debut full-length poetry manuscript Min Hayati, has just been released by Inanna Publications and Education Inc.  (Toronto, 2021). https://www.rayyaliebich.com

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New Seasons
by Ruth Daniell
Honourable Mention

Ruth Daniell is the author of The Brightest Thing (Caitlin Press, 2019). Recent work appears in Watch Your Head: Writers and Artists Respond to the Climate Crisis (Coach House Press, 2020) and Resistance: Righteous Rage in the Age of #MeToo (University of Regina Press, 2021). She holds a bachelor of arts degree (honours) in English literature and writing from the University of Victoria and a master of fine arts in creative writing from the University of British Columbia. She lives in Kelowna, BC. You can watch her video poem about birth, "Corpse Flower," and visit her at ruthdaniell.ca.

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Ainsi soit-elle!
D'Elena Martinez
Mention honorable

D’origine espagnole, la poète et auteure Elena Martinez vit au Canada depuis l’âge de six ans. Elle a publié à ce jour quelques recueils de poésies humanistes et une nouvelle en France ainsi qu’un conte poétique pour enfant, au Québec. Quelques-uns de ses poèmes ont paru dans la revue virtuelle Culminances. De plus, elle figure en tant que représentante du Canada dans deux anthologies de la poésie mondiale : Analectes de la poésie mondiale (2015 et 2021). Ses textes sont par ailleurs traduits en arabe et en espagnol. Conseillère en développement socioprofessionnel et intervenante sociale, elle est reconnue pour sa passion de la littérature et de la complexité de l’âme humaine. Lire Elena, c’est plonger au fond de nos états d’âme pour y trouver ce qu’il y a de plus beau et de plus grand en chacun de nous.

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Let Me Tell you About Your Birth
by Karen Clarke
Honourable Mention

Karen Clarke (she/her) grew up in rural Newfoundland, the ancestral homeland of the Beothuk, and now lives in Mount Pearl, NL, with her husband and son. She is a social worker interested in the connection between maternal health and population wellbeing and currently works as a policy analyst. She loves to write and is working toward writing being a more prominent part of her life. She can be reached at clarkekaren02@hotmail.com

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Ta lignée
de Emmanuelle Quiviger
Mention Honorable

Emmanuelle Quiviger est mère de quatre enfants incroyables. Il s'agit là de son métier le plus important. Elle a également obtenu une maîtrise en interprétation de la flûte traversière à l'Université de Montréal, en 2000. Au lieu de travailler à la conception ou à l'adoption de son cinquième enfant, elle est devenue accompagnante à la naissance en 2012. Elle est depuis trois ans coordonnatrice aux accompagnements chez Alternative Naissance, organisme communautaire montréalais qui soutient les nouvelles et futures familles.

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She Exists
by Roya Chalaki
Honourable Mention

Roya Chalaki immigrated to Canada from Iran in 2015. Throughout her life, she has been an avid learner and a passionate reader. Roya is a mother and works as a software developer.

The jurors

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is professor at Queen’s University. Dr. Lawford is an Aboriginal midwife (Namegosibiing, Lac Seul First Nation, Treaty 3) and a Registered midwife (Ontario). Her research focuses on comprehensive, gender-inclusive sexual and reproductive healthcare for Indigenous Peoples with a particular focus on the provision of maternity care for those who live on reserve.

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 is a postpartum doula that services within the GTA area. She prefers helping her clients with overnights services to make the transition go a little smoother. She is a proud mother of 3 adult children and new mom to her cats Shaq and Kobe. Debbie is also a co-founder of Ontario Black Doula Society (OBDS) with 6 other brilliant doulas.

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 Whitney French is a writer, multidisciplinary artist and publisher. She edited the award winning anthology Black Writers Matter a collection of creative nonfiction. She is a self-described Black futurist, middle child- trouble maker and the co-founder of  Hush Harbour, the only Black queer feminist press in Canada. Currently, she lives in Toronto.
 

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 Leah Mol is a writer and editor. Her work won the 2018 CBC Short Story Prize and the 2020 Bronwen Wallace Award, and her first novel is forthcoming from Doubleday Canada in 2022. Leah holds a Bachelor of Journalism from Carleton University and an MFA in Creative Writing from UBC. Now based in Toronto, she lives with her partner and a very anxious cat.

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Marie-Pierre Tendland-Frenette

Marie-Pierre is a midwife and has been working in Hamilton for 8 years. She has a particular interest in working with immigrant and francophone women. She is often accompanied by a mentoring student. Her favourite part of her job is accompanying the same woman through several pregnancies and watching the family grow.  She is the mother of a five-year-old and trains for triathlons in her spare time. 

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 Lamara Papitashvili

was born in 1986 in Damascus and has roots in Georgia, Ukraine and Russia. Lamara is multilingual and has lived in Georgia, Belgium, Spain, Germany and Canada. While continuing to write novels, she facilitates writing workshops in Ontario schools for the Read Ontario program. She has received funding from the Canada Council for the Arts to write her novels. Her novel, Adieu Staline! will be published by Éditions du Gref in the summer of 2021. Une adolescente en exil (under the pseudonym Lamara Sagaradzé) was published by Éditions du Gref in 2017.

The Readers

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When not running around with her two young kidlets, Ashley’s attending births as a doula, writing custom lullabies for new babies, out on a paddleboard, or flying planes at the local airport. She is a member of the BC Doula Services Association, and serves on the board of the Tantalus Wellspring Society, a charity that assists those experiencing barriers in accessing mental wellness therapies. As last year’s first-place laureate, Ash is both excited and honoured to be a reader on the Doula Support Foundation's Birth Story Writing Contest.

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is an Actress, teacher and mother of three, who's birth journey has been previously published and made into a podcast. She is currently serving on the Doula Support Foundation’s Board of Directors and is a facilitator of the DSF’s Birth Sharing Circles. 

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Brigitte Pellerin

Brigitte Pellerin is an author, editor and photographer. She works in both official languages of Canada. Her columns appear regularly in the Ottawa Citizen. She is also the mother of three children who make her proud day after day. 

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Leah lives in rural Eastern Ontario. She works as a Midwife. She and her family live in a tiny house that they built on their families land. She loves reading, cooking and anything outdoors.

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Lori is a writer and teacher from Stoney Creek, Ontario. She placed second in the Doula Support Foundation's 2020 Birth Story contest. Her essays have appeared in The Hamilton Review of Books, The New Quarterly, and The Humber Literary Review. You can connect with her on Twitter @sebastianl74 and on Instagram @sebastianlwrites and read more of her work at https://lorisebastianutti.com.

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Flavia Vissentin

Flavia is an engineer who, by becoming a mother, discovered a new universe. A universe that she travels guided by her two children. Motherhood taught her that tribes are indispensable to keep going. That is why in 2020 she became, through Alternative Naissance, a postnatal companion. Sharing stories, moments, joys, and sorrows in such a chaotically happy moment as postpartum is healing ... Listening (in the case of this contest, reading) is extremely powerful."

Writing Contest: Birth Stories Guidelines

 

The Doula Support Foundation (DSF) is all about celebrating the power of those who birth. And just as birth is a transformative experience, so is storytelling. The intention of the birth story contest is to get inspiring birth stories that cultivate a positive and supportive birth culture in our communities. It is also a writing contest because well- written stories have the ability to make us feel and understand deep emotions like no other medium. 

 

Contest open June 1st, 2021

Deadline: August 1st, 2021

Prizes and Publications

The first-place winner will receive:

  • $200 cash prize

  • Will be published on DSF’s website

The second-place winner will receive:

  • $100 cash prize

  • Will be published on DSF’s website

The third-place winner will receive:

  • $50 cash prize

  • Will be published on DSF’s website

The 15 English and 10 French honorable mention stories will be published on the DSF website.

The intention is to publish a book with the winning stories in English and in French of the 2021 winners of the contest. We will translate the stories, so we can publish one book in French and one in English with all the stories.

What we are looking for:

We are welcoming many different voices and perspectives which are representative of the population of Canada. We wish to be able to share all kinds of births, in different settings with different health care providers and support teams in different eras. We welcome stories written by partners too (with permission of the birther).

 

A Birth Story (no more than 2000 words) that:

​​

  • highlights the beauty, the intensity, and the uniqueness of birth experiences;

  • challenges the unrealistic portrayals of birth we see on television, in film, and in forums across the internet that foment fear;

  • speaks to the birthing person’s power, capacity, and resilience and offers a powerful and realistic portrayal of what birth can be;

  • offers a different perspective, is stigma breaking, or promotes solidarity between birthers;

  • for those whose birth experience was not positive, is written in a way that captures one’s birth with emotion and honesty, and speaks to either one’s own healing process postpartum and/or how the person could have been better cared for in their experience.

How to submit your birth story

  • Submit your birth story at dsfbirthstory@gmail.com

  • Please specify “Birth Story Contest + your name” in the Subject line of the email.

  • Submit your story in a Word document, filename should be the title of your story.

  • Your name should not appear in the Word document to ensure the objectivity of the readers and jurors.

  • Include the following information in the email: name, title of your story, address, phone number, e-mail address, a short biography (75 words) and where did you learn about the contest.

  • All work must be original (not plagiarized or taken from anyone else) and have permission from the birthing person send to us by email (i.e., if you are a partner, or a support person sharing your story, you must have permission from the birthing person in order to submit your story). 

 

**Once an entry has been submitted, no edits, replacements or exchanges will be accepted. No entry will be accepted after August 1st, 2021.

Who can participate? 

All those residing in Canada (irrespective of visa status), novice or experienced writers, who want to share a birth story.

Judging process

  • Works are judged anonymously based on the story writing. (the jurors and readers won’t see the name of the author)

  • Submissions are processed by a two-tiered system in both languages (English, French) by readers and jurors.

  • The birth stories are read by readers who are from the maternity care field and the writing world. Each birth story is read by two readers.

  • The readers come up with a long list, one in French, one in English, which will be forwarded to the respective jury.

  • The English and French juries will read all stories on the longlist and decide on the first three-place winners and the honorable mentions.

Announcement of winners

Winners will be announced on September 1st, 2021 on the Doula Support Foundation website, Facebook and Instagram page. 

 

Only the first three prizewinners and the honorable mention recipients will be notified personally by email.

Birth Sharing Circle

Winners will be invited to a Birth Sharing Circle to present their stories in October on Zoom. This is an occasion where the jurors, readers and winners can share their birth and writing experiences in a non-judgemental space. All participants and public will be invited.

Publication

The first-three place and the honorable mention stories will be first published on the Doula Support Foundation blog and then into a book.

Translation

 The winning English stories will be translated in French. The winning French stories will be translated in English. The goal is to create a book in English and one in French with all the stories.

 

Publishing: We, the Doula Support Foundation, will be eventually be publishing the English three first place winners and the 15 honorable mention stories and the French three first-place winners and the 10 honorable mention stories in an e-book and paper book and all proceeds will go to the Doula Support Foundation. Therefore, we hold the right to translate and publish the 31 stories without paying any royalties to the authors. We thank deeply all the writers for sharing their birth stories and supporting the DSF.