My story of hope… to conceive

My story of hope that make dreams come true.

My name is Virginie Vast – my story which I will share with you today is a story of hope for all women going through fertility issues.  I have myself been through 6 years of infertility treatment to finally have the joy to hold my little girl in my arms. Having openly talked about my story at work after the birth of my daughter, I realised how many women were going through the same journey… in silence. This is probably the worst thing we do to ourselves as women, to carry on in silence, feeling ashamed, not asking for help… and I am hoping through sharing my story and offering my support will make women fertility journey a little easier to cope with.

So here is my story…

As a child, I grew up in a very loving family, my mum was my dad’ first love, they got married in their 20’s and right away became parents. Few years later, three girls came to complete our family and my mum made the choice to dedicate her life to us. My parents were so strong together, at team no matter what the circumstances of life were. I grew up with this very idyllic family picture… you fall in love, you marry the love of your life, you have children and you live happily ever after.

6 years ago, it felt like destiny repeating; I saw him, his name is Laurens. At first sight, I knew he was the one and he will be the father of my children. One year later we said ‘yes’ to each other in this most beautiful wedding day, so excited to make our dream of having our own family come true…but then the story didn’t go on like in my childhood dreams as we faced fertility issues. 

Nothing prepared us, as a couple, to this infertility journey and the thought that our dream of being parents might never be.  We realised we were not alone on that journey as infertility is becoming an increasingly common issue. Did you know that 1 of 6 couples are facing fertility issues and to date, more than 8 million babies were born from in vitro fertilisation (IVF) since the world’s first in 1978.

We stood up strong as a team, more determined and positive than ever to make it happen, however the journey undeniably put relationships into pressure. Our couple life became a calendar of medical events, punctuated by periods of wait, hope and deep grief. And as infertility hits you hard as a couple, it either makes you stronger together or it pulls you apart – in our case, it made us stronger than ever, even if the outcome of that journey was to turn towards adoption.  

Every day I woke up with the same thought ‘Will I be a mum one day? Will our dream ever come true?’, and carried on in silence. People would keep asking us ‘Don’t you want to have children?’, if only they knew and after 6 years of restlessly trying to be parents, we came out of excuses to be able to answer. The norm is to get married and to have children. People have expectations and we did not want to let them down. 

Every day was a challenge – torn between growing my career, fighting to become a mum, dealing with deep grief of battles lost on the way and at the same time, protecting my couple and myself. To plan my days, I had to take into consideration so many variables, depending on workload, priority changes, last minute travel required and the planning of all medical appointments. Both of us having demanding jobs, some IVF cycles were real puzzle of logistical tricks to make it happen while at the same time ensuring we perform at work and we remain happy as a couple. Hope gave us the strength to carry on.

In life, I am a very passionate person; I love to drive initiatives that can make a difference. I have the chance to have new challenges at work that really excited me, and this passion and excitement without any doubt kept me going. I put a smile on my face, I put all my energy in what I love doing as I did not want people to find out or worse to feel sorry. One day, one of my colleague asked me ‘Don’t you want to start a family, you are now married and you would be a fantastic mother?’, this sentence was too much to handle to remain silent so I told her my story, the same story I am telling you today. I felt so relief and touched how understanding and supportive she was. 

If I was not so worried about what people would think and the impact it may have on my career, I would have actually talked about it openly much earlier to create awareness on fertility issues, on what it takes and on ways to get the support and space to persevere. I would have advised younger women at work not to wait to start a family over their career, I would have shared my experience to support those turning towards adoption.  

After 6 years of battle against infertility, my story is one of hope. The journey might be long, frustrating and painful but my message to all of women is to not give up, to be strong, to seek for help and to try over and over again because it is worth it… today, my dream of having a family with the man I love became reality and I am the luckiest mum of a little girl Chloe, she is 14 months today. 

Good luck everyone and please feel free to reach out to me. As women, we are here to support for each other. 

Virginie Vast 

About the author

Virginie Vast is a citizen of the world, she studied in the USA and Sweden, worked across 7 countries in Germany, France, Spain… to end up 10 years ago in beautiful Luxembourg – the place she calls home. This is where she met and married the love of her life, Laurens and after many years of trying to be parents, they are now a family with little Chloe who just turned 1 year. Virginie comes from Normandy in France, and she is a senior business executive in Supply Chain at Vodafone.

Virginie is passionate in life and loves to do things that make a difference to the world. Last year, she has created and is now heading the Vodafone Foundation in Luxembourg where she has the ambition to change the life of 5,000 people per year in the Grand Duche. She focuses on inclusion on disfavored communities, STEM education for girls and integration of disable people through sport…  a partnership with Ministry of Education, Script and the sponsorship from Princess Tessy De Nassau.

To help women going through the same challenges of infertility, she has created a support group in her workplace where she offers her support and advice to other women on the same journey or about to embark on it..share experience or simply offer a shoulder to lie on in tough times. The group now counts 7 women, they are no alone anymore and can hold on each other to go through this journey. She is also an active member on Luxmama.

Wrap your baby! About baby carrying

As a mother, you will carry your baby around nine months in your belly. After the birth, you might feel an emptiness, like something is missing. The belly is still there, kind of. But the baby is in your arms now. You might feel the need to have a smoother transition than that. It is normal! You wonder how. There comes the wrap or carrier!

And believe me, your baby needs this transition too. Did you hear about the benefits that carried babies experience? And you as parents too? It stimulates the cognitive development, promotes sleep, ensures proper development of joints, muscles and especially the tiny hips, facilitates digestion and it is perfect for premature babies! It is proven, that they gain weight faster when carried.

Baby carrying contributes the parent-child bond – even if the beginning was hard for both (difficult birth, post partum depression – there are many reasons and often things which don’t work out as we wished them to, but nothing is lost).

It reinforces the sense of parental competence and self-confidence.
How to carry your baby? Avoid neck, back or shoulder pain with an adapted wrap or carrier, get this freedom of movement and make a choice for your economics and our ecology. Baby carrying is definitely saving you money and it is better for the environment.
I became a baby carrying consultant because it’s my passion and a lifestyle. Before the birth of our daughter, I was convinced about the benefits of carrying. 
I always adored the images of men and women in warmer countries, wearing their little ones in beautiful wraps in a way that seems so obvious and easy. I wanted to do the same. But I didn’t see many people carrying their babies here.
I bought a wrap. 
I watched videos and tutorials.
I read and watched again. 
I watched them slower.
I was motivated…and ended up lost with my super long elastic wrap.
I didn’t give up with my wrap and found out that you can do this even professionally.
Why not, with the equipment that I got in the meantime, I could have opened even my own shop, I told myself.
I knew directly: this is the thing to do! I want to become somebody that helps parents through and out of this labyrinth. This is a call!

Our daughter participates from the beginning in all daily life activities as she is carried a lot. And we ARE active. She sees everything and everyone and she is seen. And she is such an easy and happy baby.

When I meet somebody in the street, she can make eye contact. If she wants. If she has enough of the world out there, she turns her head against me and sleeps or rests. Strangers often want to touch our babies, do you agree with me? And us, the parents, we hate it – you agree on that one too? Not so simple in a wrap. You protect your tiny treasure so much easier. Now baby is not so accessible to dirty outside fingers. The place in front of our hearts is a safe haven.

When I carry my daughter, I take a break from this daily madness. How long will she want to be carried? Thanks to good quality material and wrapping techniques, it is not a problem to wear up to 20kg. Carrying is not just for babies, it is for toddlers too.
No, my back doesn’t hurt. Yes, don’t worry, she can breathe in there. And no, the position is not unhealthy – it is the contrary in fact.

I wish we learned to trust ourselves again and listen to our intuition. I am here to help you with this too, not just how to put your baby in and then out and where to adjust the node. 
We need to become the competent parents, which our children need, especially nowadays. 

About me

I am Honorata, 31 years old. I live in France at the Luxembourgish border with my family. I am passionate about baby wearing and obtained my certificate via “Die Trageschule ®” in Germany“. During my free time I enjoy horse riding and long walks. I offer individual and group workshops around baby carrying in the whole area. It is also possible to rent baby carriers that I have in my assortment or to try them out during group walks that I organise regularly.

Mothering the mother, or the job of a Postpartum Doula

History of birth & postpartum

Mary Cassatt, Maternite 1890

Historically birth & postpartum were home-based. Up until the 19th century women gave birth in their home with the help of an elder experienced woman from there village at first and a midwife in more recent years.

The strenuous nature of birth along with the fact that breastfeeding was the only way to keep a baby alive mandated the great care new mothers received from the people close to them and from their village. Most people used to live in small communities and after birth the mother was supposed to stay in bed and learn to breastfeed her baby. The older women were there with valuable guidance and advice and the community was there to provide food and help with older kids and housework.

The modern era

Medical advances combined with the urbanization of societies meant that Postpartum care declined greatly in quality in the 20th century! Now we know that mum is safe, there are doctors that take care of her for 3 days at the hospital, midwives that teach her the basics and then off she goes…alone to the house with no one to help!

And then we are sad about low-breastfeeding rates and high rates of Postpartum depression in most developed countries! What we need to understand is that this should not surprise us. Breastfeeding is a learned skill and requires a lot of support from other women that have the knowledge to share in order to be successful! Dana Rafael, US Anthropologist and Breastfeeding advocate that studied birth & postpartum of around 200 traditional societies, said that:

breastfeeding was a physiological process that needed to have something in place in the culture or else the lactation function would not work. Breastfeeding needs support”

Also, birth and breastfeeding are energy draining activities and the new mother needs nutritious meals and help with all the tasks she previously undertook with ease. And foremost she needs psychological support, confirmation that she is doing ok, that things are going to get better, that she is a good mum! A new mum needs to be mothered also and in modern societies we have forgotten that…

In Luxembourg a recent survey conducted by Happy New Mama  showed that 65% say they were not prepared for life after birth & especially for the postpartum period, although 74% amongst them had received a Prenatal education course. When asked to describe this period the majority (66%) is on the negative side, with 27% responding “Very Hard” or “Not Good” and another 39% said “Average” which is amazing if we think that this is the period were we finally meet the person that was growing inside us for 9 months! When it comes to negative feelings, “Tired”, “Exhausted” and “Overwhelmed” were naturally on top but some other not so obvious were highlighted. 1/3 of respondents reported feeling “Isolated” or “Lonely” and 27% “Scared”. Finally, around 25% felt “Depressed” and experienced the “Baby Blues” with 11% reporting  “Postpartum Anxiety” and 6% “Postpartum Depression”. The majority of the population that took part on the survey relied on help from their partners mainly, 46% had an independent midwife visiting and 40% had one of their parents helping.
However, these numbers are only an indication) as Luxembourg does not publish data on Postpartum Mental Health!

Factors associated with a negative experience seem to be C-sections, especially emergency ones. And consequences involved lower rates of long -term breastfeeding (39% breastfed their baby over 6 months vs 80% for women with a ‘very good’ postpartum period).

Moving finally on what would help during that period, top answer were more sleep, a warm cooked meal or help with housework but “company, someone to talk to” was also chosen by 42%, which is in line with the loneliness of that period!

In Luxembourg the state provides some visits after birth from an independent midwife (sage-femme liberale). They visit at home, check baby’s weight, check the breastfeeding and if there are any medical or other issues with the new mom (e.g. excess bleeding, any infection, pain etc) and this is a valuable service for new mums. They visit in the first 15-21 days postpartum and reimbursed by CNS. However, the visit lasts 45 min and often there are not enough midwives in Luxembourg to cover the demand. Many midwives also offer other services in private and are an invaluable resource.

For sure the postpartum experience of women giving birth in Luxembourg is a topic that needs to be explored further and official authorities should start paying more attention to it as this period affects women’s well-being and is probably the most fragile period of their lives, mentally and physically.

Role of doulas

This is the point where, in many modern societies, a Postpartum Professional (or Doula) comes. The role of a postpartum doula is NON-medical and it’s focus is Mothering the mother, it is to give space to the new mum to recover from birth and to get to know her new baby. They offer practical help and emotional support to the new mum until she is confident and strong enough to take care of her new family. A Postpartum Doula will prepare nutritious meals, will give a massage to increase oxytocin, will take care of older kids, support and encourage mums with breastfeeding and give them time to have a nice bath or show some exercises to help recover from birth. But most of all she will be there to listen! Listen to her birth story, her worries and anxieties of being a new mama and to celebrate the most intense transition they will go through, the transition to Motherhood.   A postpartum doula is the village we have lost!

Because postpartum care should be given again the position and value it once had and because..

It is not enough to keep new mamas alive, we need new mamas to thrive!

More about the contributor

Christina Anyfanti is a Certified Postpartum Professional & part of the Newborn Mothers Collective as well as a Birthlight™ Motherhood & Baby Yoga Teacher.

She also has a Diploma in Counseling Psychology among others.

Equality between midwives & doctors in Luxembourg, a radical idea?


Cover image: photo credits – F&G Photography. Cover Model: Emmy McNiece – Luxmama Volunteer & Calla Lily Breastfeeding Support

First of all, we are all immensely grateful for EVERYBODY (doctors included) passionately contributing positively to the health and well-being of pregnancy, birth and beyond. That being said, the way we welcome new life onto earth is tremendously important, as it shapes our future humanity and creates lifelong patterns, even trans-generational influences we don’t fully understand yet (refer In Utero film)… There is zero excuse not striving towards optimised, respectful, humanised and compassionate maternity care, especially in such a well-resourced country, our beautiful Luxembourg. This will require continuously taking an HONEST unbiased look at what’s working and where we can improve, by birth-workers (doctors included), politicians and concerned citizens working together towards a common goal. Together we can do it! Let’s make it happen Luxembourg!

As a maternity care services consumer, after knowing what evidence based care is as Step 1, Step 2 in obtaining such care according to the reliable is to decide if you want the industrial (medical) or midwifery model of care. In Luxembourg, consumers have no such choice as there is mainly the medical model of care. That is – all birthing families, healthy or otherwise go to an obstetrician for primary care and nearly all will give birth in a hospital (with money is the key driver). Step 3 is to carefully choose the birth setting as the main 3 options have very different ways of approaching birth and impact your experience and outcomes greatly. Again, families in Luxembourg basically have hospital birth to choose from. Step 4 is to gather your team and consider to hire a continuous and exclusive labour companion for non-medical support as in-hospital midwives/nurses are seeing to multiple patients at once. Again, this choice is not respected in maternity care facilities and families mostly are faced with great resistance if they want to bring in such support at their own cost. (See all 6 steps here.)

freedom in birth

There’s a reason why these choices are included in the steps to obtain evidence based care. And that is that they increase your chances of having a positive and empowering experience in which your own values, goals and preferences play a key role. This concept of having choice in your care is a central theme in Human Rights in Childbirth, 1 of the 3 Awareness Pillars here at the Luxmama Club & ParentPrep asbl. It is well evidenced (Sandall et al. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2013) that the continuity midwifery model of care is the gold standard for healthy birthing persons (the vast majority of the population) and has vastly different philosophy and outcomes on how birth is approached. We’re talking fewer medical interventions, fewer preterm births, fewer pregnancy losses, more spontaneous births and no increase in risk to the newborn.

what is midwifery

In maternity care we are talking about creating new humans, new parents and ultimately a new society and as such there is no excuse in such a prosperous country as Luxembourg to not strive towards excellence. It is well known that Luxembourg’s rate of medical interventions in birth (carrying further short AND long-term risks) is concerningly higher than recommended by the World Health Organisation and therefore many believe there is room for improvement. Luxembourg is also 1 of only 12 other countries in the EU with a C-section rate higher than 30%. (WHO 10-15% is acceptable, above is overuse). And when you look closer, maternal choice is responsible for only 2.6% (2010 from Conseil Scientifique Domaine de la Santé) so it’s not that the majority of consumers want it.

Below is a brilliant snippet illustrating the dilemma for those not needing these routine medical interventions (the vast majority) and those specifically seeking undisturbed care based on the latest evidence to maximise their chances of physiological birth. We should be making it easier for families to achieve this as the creators of the award-winning documentary Microbirth explains: “the single most important thing we can do for a healthy baby across a life course is to ensure that microbial seeding occurs completely at birth through vaginal delivery when possible, that skin-to-skin contact occurs and that the microbes are supported through breastfeeding of a significant duration. This should be on every birth plan.”

What would happen if sex was interfered with as birth is interfered with? Click here to watch the comical 7min video “The Performance”. Note that Luxembourg’s rate of medical induction of onset of labour is 2016: 26.30%, 2010 26.10%. (The WHO considers 25% high).

screenshot 2019-01-15 at 11.34.09
Extract from “The Performance” video CLICK TO VIEW

And as concerned citizen, mother and filmmaker Carole Hauck asks:

1. What makes birth safe?

2. How can it be disturbed?

3. What are the consequences of unnecessary medical interventions for the motherbaby and even society?

4. Can we as a human race survive this?

Click here to watch the film “Die sichere Geburt. Wozo Hebammen?” in German or here for the trailer in English of “The safe Birth. Do we need midwives?” featuring Dr Michelle Odent and Ina May Gaskin.

As part of our Birth Rights Awareness Campaign, #choice2haveamidwife at Luxmama, we are conducting interviews to help shed light on the long-standing inequality the midwifery profession face in the current maternity care system in Luxembourg and the impact on consumers/families. Anonomously is also possible due to the controversial nature 😉 Please forward this article if you know of someone that is interested. Click here to answer the online interview for midwives, other perinatal/health professionals and concerned citizens.

Join the discussion also in Birth Culture Luxembourg!

“The fact that the idea of equality between doctors and midwives seems radical is a testament to how entrenched are the systems that have established medicine’s dominance over midwifery.”

“The current status of midwives and the relationships between medicine and midwifery that underlie integration, cannot be understood without recognizing the systemic inequality between obstetric medicine and midwifery, awareness of its historical roots and a commitment to dismantling that inequality.”

“Since time immemorial, women have attended each other in childbirth.. Up to the late 14th century midwives were entitled to practice without regulation. From this time onward they were downgraded from qualified and independent female healers to mere assistants of the physician.”

“The relationship between the female profession of midwifery and the male profession of obstetric medicine reflected the entrenched sex inequality of the time. Just as the state enforced men’s economic and legal dominance over women, the state enforced medicine’s dominance over midwifery and ultimately its control over maternity care.”

“In the last few generations, midwifery has risen up again as a profession in places where it was eradicated. Regardless of how they are trained and where they work, midwives face powerful structural and systemic barriers.  Doctors decide if midwives are allowed to practice in the hospital and if so how they practice. The state decides if midwives are allowed to practice outside the hospital, often regulating midwifery practices in a way that imposes medical standards on them and prevents them form providing genuine midwifery care that upholds their client’s human rights.”

“Midwifery and medicine have overlapping but distinct visions of pregnancy & childbirth. Midwifery frames pregnancy and childbirth as normal physiological life events, with the potential to become a pathological medical event. Medicine frames pregnancy and childbirth as medical events that by definition can only be safely managed through medical treatment. The integration of these two paradigms requires understanding of their differences and a willingness to work together despite them.  The differences between the professions should not prevent the recognition of both as necessary (and equal) partners in the care of the pregnant population.  Equality doesn’t require that two groups be exactly the same in order to be treated equally. Equality means that the differences between two groups do not make one group superior or give it the right to dominate the other.

The recognition of doctors and midwives as equal and complementary partners in reproductive health care requires respect for their relative fields of expertise.  Midwives are the experts in physiological birth. They know how to work with the female body to help women give birth to their babies. Doctors are the experts at using medical treatment to fight pathologies and manage medical crises.”

“Inequality exists in law, when the laws themselves and the administration of those laws, reflect the cultural attitude that doctors are superior to midwives and treat midwives differently to medical professionals.”

“It is time to put an end to the hierarchical, monopolistic care systems that were constructed on socially and economically discriminatory systems of sex. These systems and today’s c-section assembly lines do not optimise maternal and newborn health.

“Integrated systems with strong midwifery professions as the first line for maternity care, in partnership with and with reliable backup from medical professionals, are the most effective and most efficient strategy for optimising the health of mothers, babies and communities.”

“Health care systems are shifting from the old hierarchical models toward team-based, patient-centered care, which is often called “woman-centered care” in the maternity context.  This shift reflects a movement away from the vertical model of care, in which doctors were at the top and everybody else (incl the patient) was below them, to a model in which the patient is at the center of a team of care providers, who are working on a horizontal plane, as equal and complementary partners, to provide care as needed for each individual.  This transformation is achievable but only with recognition of the role of power and entrenched inequality in the construction and dynamics of the current system. It is ultimately the responsibility of the democratically elected governments to impose justice and equality for its childbearing constituents.”

Let’s make it happen Luxembourg!


More about the Author


Mother of 2 children born in Luxembourg, Holistic Maternity & Empowerment Coach/Educator, Marise Hyman supports families holistically towards an empowered pregnancy, birth & parenthood journey through Marise Hyman Maternity Coaching – setting them up for heart-centered connection, so they can move from confusion to confidence. She is also teaches Dancing for Birth™ classes and understands that we need to “heal birth to heal the earth” and is therefore also a passionate Birth Advocate and founder of the Luxmama Club & ParentPrep asbl, an NGO raising awareness for birth rights, perinatal mental health and green parenting. She’s a highly sensitive person (HSP), personal development junkie and sucker for slapstick comedy.

What is a Birth Doula?

what is a doula wordpress cover

Cover image: photo credits – F&G Photography

Firstly, it is very important to say – WE LOVE LOVE LOVE MIDWIVES!

As part of our Birth Rights Awareness Campaign, Have a Choice 2 Have a Doula” at the Luxmama Club & ParentPrep asbl, we are interviewing Birth Doulas and other birth workers in our community to help illustrate the very well-studied benefits that continuous, known, exclusive, non-medical labour companions bring to the birth experience AS COMPLEMENT TO THE VERY IMPORTANT MEDICAL TEAM (MIDWIFE AND OBSTETRICIAN IN LUXEMBOURG).

Our approach is to raise awareness at the level of the strongest voice collectively, the consumers. It is key that consumers understand their Human Rights in Childbirth which underlines their right to “choose the circumstances of birth” according to their individual wishes, regardless of what care providers may claim – e.g. “ you will only be ‘allowed’ 1 support person (e.g. the birthing person’s partner ) in the birth room”.

Read more here about our campaign, your rights, how to hire a Doula and more! Let’s make it happen Luxembourg!

IMPORTANT: We want to emphasise that WE LOVE MIDWIVES and the work they do but families (just like in more than 50 countries worldwide already) deserve to choose the evidence-based benefits from continuous, uninterrupted 1-on-1 labour-support from a person pre-chosen by them aka a continuous labour companion as complement to the important medical team. Likewise, families ALSO deserve the choice to be cared for by an autonomous, traditionally trained midwife in pregnancy & birth (versus only obstetric-led in Luxembourg) as midwives trained according to international standards are THE experts in natural birth for healthy low-risk women. Please refer to another one of our birth rights awareness campaigns #choice2haveamidwife

Click the image below for the 44 min video:

Youtube Thumbnail updated Meet Doula Erin

Why would I need a Birth Doula if my partner is there?
Please refer to a previous article here where we address this common question.
What is the difference between a midwife and Birth Doula, why would I need both?
Please refer to our main webpage here for #choice2haveadoula, under the section “What doulas don’t do” (scroll down)


More about the Author


Mother of 2 children born in Luxembourg, Holistic Maternity Coach/Educator, Marise Hyman supports families holistically towards an empowered pregnancy, birth & parenthood journey through Marise Hyman Maternity Coaching – setting them up for heart-centered connection, so they can move from confusion to confidence. She understands that we need to “heal birth to heal the earth” and is therefore also a passionate Birth Advocate and founder of the Luxmama Club & ParentPrep asbl, an NGO raising awareness for birth rights, perinatal mental health and green parenting. She’s a highly sensitive person (HSP), personal development junkie and sucker for slapstick comedy.