Friday, July 18, 2014

Nous sommes les freebirthers by Stéphanie St-Amant

I'm up at 3 am with either food poisoning or a stomach bug...nothing better to do than hop online and distract myself.

At Eric's family reunion 2 years ago, I remember the exact same thing happening...mysterious gastro-intestinal malady, middle-of-the-night websurfing, puke bowl next to me on the couch. And unbeknownst to me, I was also pregnant!

I don't think that's the case this time around, unless my Mirena IUD has failed me. This can happen, although it's rare. A friend of mine and mother of 8 has gotten pregnant once on birth control and TWICE on IUDs! Both times the IUD came out with the baby.


I came across a fantastic article by Stéphanie St-Amant: Nous sommes les freebirthers. Enfanter sans peur et sans reproche ("We are the freebirthers: Giving birth without fear and without reproach" published in Recherches féministes 27.1, 2014, p. 69-96). The link leads to a free PDF and requires a free registration to

It's been over five years since I finished my dissertation on unassisted birth in North America. I've been immersed in birthing and raising small children, teaching at a small liberal arts college, remodeling homes, and managing rental apartments. It's fun to remember what I used to think and write about night and day.

Ivy's crying...must go...hope I don't puke on her :)
Read more ...

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Family reunions x 2

Wow, it's been so long that I'm not even sure where to begin. Right after we finished painting the exterior of our house, we traveled to Minnesota & Wisconsin for a family reunion. Lots of fun at the lake, no phone/internet for much of the time, and cousins/grandparents/aunts/uncles galore.

May 2014

While I was visiting family, Eric traveled to France to teach a creative nonfiction with the Paris Writers' Workshop. He hopped down to Nice afterwards to enroll the kids in school, set up utilities, and take care of other paperwork in preparation for purchasing the apartment. We were supposed to close while Eric was in France, but the mortgage company was so backlogged that we  rescheduled for the end of July.

During these 2 weeks away, Ivy decided to stop sleeping and to become a barnacle. She clung to me all day long and had to be carried around nonstop. And at night she went from waking up 1-2 times to 4-6-8+ times. Nothing except nursing would settle her down. She's also started this new thing of crying so hard that she pukes within a few minutes, sometimes even less than a minute. She gets so worked up if I don't tend to her immediately. Normally I'd let her fuss, but all my kids were in the same room with me. Some nights we had multiple chain reactions of one child setting off all the others. No fun.

Plus with this puking thing, letting Ivy fuss simply isn't an option right now. I am so mystified by babies' sleep habits. She's also had a runny nose and intermittent low fevers. I am crossing my fingers that all of these pieces form a puzzle that equals "teething." I *think* I can feel all 4 molars starting to come through.

We got home last weekend and had to turn around almost immediately to the French consulate to apply for 1-year visas. We had a three-hours drive to the nearest consulate; we counted ourselves lucky, because some people live 15-18+ hours away). We arrived, only to find out that the appointment we had booked way in advance was only for Eric. Even though we are all applying together, we were supposed to book six separate appointments. I searched all over the consulate website and didn't find anything about that rule...until I looked again found some fine print on the "terms and conditions" page of the online booking system. Not exactly easy to find!

I had to stay outside with the kids while Eric spent several hours waiting in line, asking for an exception, waiting in line again, asking again. The next available appointments were a week out, when we would be gone to another family reunion in California. We would have to cancel our entire trip, forego our airline tickets, and make another trip to the consulate.

The third time at the counter, Eric almost unconsciously switched over to speaking French. He explained our time constraints and travel plans and asked again if we could all submit our applications. The visa officer--who'd been yelled at by a very disgruntled man in front of Eric--finally said, "okay, fine, I'll take your applications. Go get your family." Woohoo! The whole time the visa officer was swearing and muttering (in French of course). We were super polite and thanked him profusely at the end. He replied, "I didn't even get my break." (J'ai pas eu ma pause.) Translation: "you're welcome, I guess."

We've been home just a few days, and we are leaving almost immediately for California. While we're gone, our work crew is going to finish renovating our master bathroom. Just in time for us to leave the country!

Our house is turned upside-down as we are filling storage boxes and deciding which things to bring with us to France. At least we only have to clean out our closets and bathrooms. Everything else stays--kitchen dishes/appliances, furnishings, pictures, etc. We found an amazing family to rent our house that was looking for a fully furnished home. Win-win.

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Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Exterior painting photos: before & after

Eric is finishing the last large attic gable on our 1900 Arts & Crafts home. It's been a multi-year project, starting when we bought the house 3 years ago on foreclosure. It was covered with vines, the roof was losing shingles, and the soffits were rotted out.

Once we had the roof & soffits rebuilt, we had to choose four paint colors and then repaint all the woodwork. The house is mostly brick (1st story) & cement-over-brick (2nd story), but there is still a huge amount of woodwork between the windows, soffits, porch ceiling, and 3rd story gables.

It's finally coming together, thanks especially to our friend who lent us his Condor manlift. (Why not womanlift? personlift?) Eric is the delegated scraper/painter, and he gives the lift two thumbs up. It took him 5 days to do the side gable (working some half days) and 3 1/2 days to do the front gable. He started on the back side today, so we should be done next week.

Before the lift arrived, Eric had finished painting the porch & 2nd story soffits with just an extension ladder. He was tired of hauling ladders around--and hauling himself and paint/tools/hoses/etc up and down. 

I've been busy getting our rental properties fixed up (a 3-plex and a 5-plex), taking a few former tenants to court for thousands of dollars of back rent & damages, and repairing the four exterior French doors on our house. All four doors were rotted out on the bottoms.

Thanks to products from the wood restoration company Abatron (LiquidWood + WoodEpox), I was able to completely restore the doors. 5 of the windows were broken, so I've been smashing them with a hammer (fun!) and reglazing almost all of the 40 windows.

We need a vacation from being on "vacation"!
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Wednesday, June 04, 2014

We have a place to live!

Amidst heaps of stress and uncertainty, we received good news: we have a place to live in France!

Eric found an apartment in old Nice when he was visiting in early March (thanks to a fluke $300 plane ticket). We put an offer on it, but until a few weeks ago we didn't know if the second owner was going to sign the purchase agreement. But it's official now! We're finalizing details regarding the mortgage and closing date.

Things we like about the apartment:
  • High ceilings (12-14 feet?)
  • Kitchen/dining/living room are all open to each other
  • Kitchen is small--no big surprise--but nicely done
  • Great location on a pedestrian street in old Nice. 
  • No nightclubs or restaurants nearby = no evening/night noise
  • 3 minute walk to the ocean and, of course, in the middle of everything else :)
  • 2nd to top floor, so the apartment does get some sun and adequate light. If you're on the bottom floors on a narrow street, your apartment will be quite dark
  • Could use a total repainting and, over the year that we're in France, new flooring in some of the rooms. Also the bathroom is functional but blah...perhaps we'll change that?
  • Great location & size for a vacation rental when we come back home

It was renovated about 5-6 years ago. These pictures were taken right after the work was done.

kitchen & dining room, with view of living room
living room
living & dining room
bedroom #1 with shower and sink
bedroom #2

It's on the 4th floor (which is called the 3rd floor in France) on a narrow pedestrian street. Although it's listed at 700 sq ft (65 sq m) and 2 bedrooms, there is an additional 3rd bedroom and storage area in the attic. Because the ceilings are less than 5 feet tall, the attic isn't officially counted. It's the light gray area on the floor plan.

The apartment will need some cosmetic looked like this when Eric visited it:


You can look out our bedroom window, across the staircase, and into the other bedroom window.

Stairs going up to the attic...more like a ladder really:

See the original beamed ceilings and the exposed rock wall?

Zari, Dio, and Inga will all sleep up here. Ivy will be in bedroom #2 unless we have guests. Then she will come in our bedroom.

View from the apartment. Notice the clotheslines outside the window? I will be using those every day!

Our neighborhood has lots of art galleries. There's a butcher & grocery store right out our front door.

Read more ...

Thursday, May 29, 2014

What we're doing today

Zari, Dio, and Inga are drawing pictures in the library. Right now they're talking about "balloon fish" (puffer fish?).

I'm putting our finances together in preparation for being overseas.

Ivy is sitting on the couch next to me eating a Granny Smith apple. Now she just spit out her apple pieces because nursing is way better than apples.

And Eric is doing the most fun thing: house painting. Our friend lent us his lift so we can paint the 3rd story gables.

Upon hearing the diesel engine start up, Inga ran outside, came back, and said: "We heared the thunder outside and we heared the thunder when we was in the library, when we drawed things."

What are you doing today?
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Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Birth options in/near Rennes, France?

A blog reader is expecting her third baby in October and will be moving to Rennes, France.  She prefers an out-of-hospital birth and wants to know if that option even exists. If you have any suggestions, please let me know! This might include:
  • recommended midwives/doctors
  • birth centers (if they exist in that part of France) or good hospitals (public or private)
  • traveling midwives who could come to her?



I am an American moving to Rennes, France in August and having a baby in October. I am wanting to know my options for natural birth at birth centers and how to find them and midwives. Can you direct me to a website or contact? I've been disheartened by what I've read online.

We live in Fairbanks, Alaska and have an AWESOME birthcenter and midwives. I had my first child in the hospital and it was terrible -- every unnecessary intervention possible. Then at the birth center, they just helped me along naturally and our baby came out just fine. I'm worried that if I have this baby in the hospital, I won't trust the workers or myself and will end up saying "ok, well if you think we need to do that, then go ahead."

I'm just getting worried that after having been converted to natural out-of-hospital birth, I may have to be forced to go the hospital intervention route again. You are the first person who has responded to my concern about my options. Is it possible for you to ask your readers about options in Rennes? I'm kind of feeling desperate here.
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Saturday, May 10, 2014

Zari talks about cyberbullying

A conversation between me and Zari on the way home from school yesterday...

Mama, what is uploading?

Uploading is when you transfer information from your computer to the internet.

Oh. We talked about uploading and cyberbullying in school today. Do you know what that means?

Cyberbullying is when someone is mean to someone else on their computer.

Yeah, our teacher told a story about two girls who were best friends, and then they got mad at each other and they shared their passwords and they said mean things about each other. That's not right.

Did you know that sometimes adults are cyberbullies?


Yes. Did you know that there is a doctor who says mean things about me online?

Really? And she's an adult? And a doctor?


That's not good.

She says mean things about me because she doesn't think anyone should have their babies at home. She says that mamas who have their babies at home do not love them and do not care about them.

But that's silly. You love your children!

I know.

What did you say to the doctor?

I told her she was a bully and that how she was acting wasn't right.

I'm glad that you spoke up. I think you should call the police to stop her.

No, it's the law that people can say anything they like, even if it's mean. I just choose not to pay attention to mean things that people say about me.

When I am a mama I want to have my babies at home.

Well, that will be your decision. Some women decide to have their babies at home, some decide to have them in a hospital.

Yeah, like when there's something wrong with you or the baby, then you go to a hospital.

Or sometimes women just want to be in a hospital. And that's okay.

Yes, whatever they choose is right.

I would never say mean things about a mama who wants to have her baby in a hospital. I would never say she's wrong or she doesn't care about her baby or that she's a bad mama.

Yes. If a mama had her baby in a hospital, I would say "That's great! That can be a good choice!"

Yes. I liked having my babies at home because I could have my family around me, and I could do whatever I wanted to, and nobody was bossing me around. And did you know that some mamas have their babies in a birth center?

What's a birth center?

It's a special place where you go just to have a baby, but it's not in a hospital.

Oh, that's nice.
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Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Best Practice Guidelines: Transfer From Planned Home Birth To Hospital

I am excited to announce that the Collaboration Task Force of the Home Birth Consensus Summit drafted best practice guidelines for transferring from home or birth centers to hospital. The guidelines are free and open source, meaning you can adapt part or all to your local setting.

Having clear guidelines for both the transferring midwife/physician and for the receiving hospital staff will facilitate a respectful, seamless transfer of care. This is especially important when the mother/baby pair has transferred for an urgent or emergency situation.

The Collaboration Task Force explains how they created the guidelines:

To create the Best Practice Transfer Guidelines, the Collaboration Task Force researched existing standards for universal intrapartum transport, transfer, consultation, and collaboration guidelines for all professionals who are involved when a woman or baby is transferred to a hospital from a planned home birth, as well as the evidence on practices that lead to improved interprofessional coordination. The result is a set of guidelines designed to serve as a blueprint for all of the providers involved in a transfer, including the midwife transferring care and the receiving hospital.

The Best Practice Transfer Guidelines are open source and providers are welcome to use or adapt any part of the document as desired.

The Collaboration Task Force is accepting endorsements of the guidelines from organizations, institutions, health care providers, and other stakeholders. We are pleased to advise that the American College of Nurse-Midwives (ACNM), the Midwives Alliance of North America (MANA), and the National Association of Certified Professional Midwives (NACPM) are early endorsers.

We are asking you to show your support of respectful, collaborative care for women and families who experience transfer from a planned home birth or birth center by endorsing the guidelines and encouraging the leadership of any maternity care organization that you are affiliated with to do so also.

To obtain the guidelines and provide your endorsement, please click visit
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Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Dio is 5, Ivy is 13 months, and I am trying to survive

If you asked me, I wouldn't say that having 4 children is much more work than having 3...except my blogging frequency has decreased dramatically from when I had just 1, 2, or 3 children. I've been in survival mode this semester. Exercise? What's that? Sleep? Never enough. Polar vortex that had this Minnesotan quaking in her Sorel snow boots? I've finally come out of hibernation this month. 

So Dio turned five. Five! He requested another Angry Birds cake, like last year's (at the end of the post).

Ivy turned 13 months. She has another tooth (#6), a few more words and signs, and is still completely crazy about dogs, cats, and birds. Especially dogs. She's started babbling in what sounds like sentences, usually ending with "dog" or "doggie."

Eating farm-fresh eggs...look at the color of those yolks!

There's something terribly adorable about matching shirts...

During Eric's house-hunting and Sabbatical research trip to France in early March, he found an apartment in old Nice.  Fantastic location, good price, lots of potential, and small (officially 700 sq ft but with an extra attic bedroom not counted in the square footage) but still enough room for our family and for guests. Our offer was accepted quickly, and we thought everything was good to go...but the second owner STILL hasn't signed the purchase agreement. It's been almost 2 months. 

We're starting to get really stressed because we can't apply for visas or enroll our children in school until we have housing finalized. And, if we don't get a signature soon, we won't have time to get a mortgage (it's a very long process in France, usually about 3 months). So yeah, we have plane tickets for August 1st but possibly nowhere to live.

So let's ignore our possible homelessness in France and admire my children! 

Ivy pointing out a dog (it might have been a squirrel or a matter, she still calls it a dog)

Inga being...Inga

Dio flying a kite


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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Hotmilk nursing bras

Part I: The Confession

I have a confession to make:

I am a woman of boring underwear. Until this past year, I have owned a grand total of two non-white bras. I've always gone for plain, white, and practical.

I couldn't stand it any more. When I had Ivy, I went crazy and bought several nursing bras in...hold it...ivory, nude, and pale pink.

Yes, I know, I might have gone overboard with the pale pink. And don't even ask about my knickers...

When Hotmilk Lingerie asked me to review one of their nursing bras, I said yes faster than a new mother's letdown. And I chose the opposite of plain and white: the Show Off in black & pink.

Hot Milk Show Off maternity full cup bra

I love the names of the nursing bras: Serenity, Mystery, Her Desire Was Dangerous, Devoted, Her Tangled Wed Tantalised, One & Only...

Hotmilk nursing bras start in D cups and run all the way to H. Band sizes range from 10/32 to 16/38. With free international shipping, anyone can enjoy a Hotmilk bra. They also sell maternity bras, regular bras, knickers, sleepwear, and more.

pssst...right now, all nursing bras come with a free pair of knickers!

Part II: The Bra

The Show Off is well-made with metal sliding rings & fastening hooks, lovely details in the trim & edging, and lush fabric. I am a solid 36D, and the sizing was spot-on. My bra band has triple hooks--necessary for supporting a fuller bust. The band is less stretchy than other brands I have worn and thus needs to be worn more snugly.

Part III: The Hack

This is by far the nicest bra I have ever owned both in construction and appearance. My only critique is that none of the nursing bras come with underwire. I MUST have underwire. Without it, I end up with a saggy uniboob. Yes, unfortunately, even with the Show Off.

But I didn't let that stop me! Armed with an old, stretched-out nursing bra and a pair of scissors, I extracted the underwire, cut a small slit in the inside channel of my Show Off, and inserted the wire. I secured the ends with a bit of black bias tape; this reinforces the fabric and keeps the ends from poking through. Voilà! Instant underwire bra.

Part IV: The Seduction

After Eric and I finished putting the kids to bed, I said, "Hey Eric, I just got a new nursing bra. How do you like it?"

...An hour later, he rolled over and murmured, "Any time you want to buy a new sexy nursing bra, I fully approve."

"I didn't buy this one--Hotmilk sent it to me to review."

"Even better."

Part V: The Verdict

I love my Hotmilk Show Off nursing bra. I would love it even more if they made an underwire option.

Part VI: Ivy Approves

What is more fun than sitting backwards on a potty playing with your mama's bra?

Read more ...

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Update on breech mama

Remember the mama looking for an in-hospital breech catcher? Here's the rest of her story...Thanks to everyone who offered advice and suggestions! 

The Intown Midwifery group in Atlantic ended up being the ones who seemed most comfortable with breech babies, and also were willing to accept me as a very late transfer. I didn't investigate providers west of the Mississippi much ;). Several others whose names you turned up were friendly and kind enough to speak with me, but either would not accepted a late transfer or would not accept a complete breech.

So we went down to Atlanta and met with Dr. Bootstaylor, the perinatologist who supports the midwives. He was extremely kind and relaxed. We did try a second cephalic version with him, also to no avail. He explained that in his opinion the studies showing successful vaginal deliveries for complete breech are skewed, and the results are actually worse but people don't report that. However, he was a willing to support me trying, with the understanding that we wanted to see steady progress, and that if she dropped into footling in labor that would mean a c section.

As it turned out, most of this never applied. My water broke early in the morning two days after my due date. We went in immediately, as they were concerned about the potential for cord prolapse. Dr. Bootstaylor came in and did an ultrasound which showed no sign of the cord underneath her. So we tried to get labor going, but it wasn't until after midnight that I really started having contractions. I continued for maybe five hours, and was dilating, but the baby's heart rate was in the 160s and losing variability. Since my water had been broken for more than 24 hours at this point, there was concern for chorioamnionitis, and we decided to go ahead with a c section. I was pretty far out of it by that point, but my husband was doing a great job of asking questions and standing up for me, so I do believe the c section was necessary. Oddly, after all that, the c section wasn't actually for breech, but for complication of prolonged rupture of membranes.

Her Apgars were 3 and 8, and she spent several minutes getting suctioned and stimulated before she was stable enough to be put on my chest. However, she had no respiratory problems after that, so I think that was just the usual "slow to get started" of a breech baby.

She then proceeded to get admitted to NICU because some screening blood work was concerning for neonatal sepsis and she "needed" iv antibiotics. I was really unhappy about not having her with me, but the test showed a high risk of a serious infection, and we didn't want to gamble with that. Somewhere in here, though, the breastfeeding got very messed up. She will barely latch at all, so I'm pumping, supplementing due to low supply, and finger feeding this to her. Plus my incision got infected and is a bit of a mess. So basically all the short term complications of a c section...

However; my little girl is beautiful, and I am working on enjoying her, in between all the chaos. Next time, I am thinking seriously about HBAC. Despite the best efforts and intentions of our providers, my husband and I both feel like we definitely got swept down the slippery slope of interventions, especially as far as our daughter was concerned, and would like to avoid getting started on that road in future. Also, next time, a doula. ;) I definitely overestimated my ability to cope with labor and also deal with medical providers, as well as my husband's ability to intuit what would be helpful to me.

Anyway. Thank you again for your help. Despite how things turned out, I am very glad that I had the option to try, and that we pursued it. As conflicted as I feel about the whole chain of events, I would be even more unhappy if I hadn't tried to avoid the c section.
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Thursday, April 10, 2014

Breech Birth Online Workshop by Maggie Banks

New Zealand midwife Dr. Maggie Banks is offering an online breech birth workshop. I reviewed her book Breech Birth, Woman-Wise here. More information below!


Breech Birth Online Workshop

5th – 25th May 2014

Breech presentation is the 4th most commonly reported indication for caesarean section, and previous caesarean section the first. Breech presentation can be seen, therefore, as a major contributor to the caesarean section rate, both in current and future pregnancies.

Publication in 2000 of the Term Breech Trial, which recommended caesarean section with breech presentation at term, accelerated the loss of breech skills as caesarean became universal and, to all intents and purposes, mandatory as vaginal birth became no longer offered. The discrediting of the Term Breech Trial did not halt the move to routine caesarean but there has been a gradual reclaiming of breech skills over the last decade or so.

The workshop addresses 3 aspects of vaginal breech birth:
  1. The vaginal breech birth option: Breech literature and guidelines are examined, and we explore the various options available (or not) to women and how these affect the woman and her baby.
  2. Physiological breech birth: The ‘what and how’ of breech birth when support, rather than ‘delivery techniques’, is used.
  3. Preventing and/or dealing with problems during vaginal breech birth: Appropriate care, timely recognition of problems, adept handling and engaging in collaborative  conversations and care strategies are the focus of this aspect.
This 3 week online workshop (see Workshop Calendar) is run on Birthspirit Moodle, and is designed as a fully interactive course for those who wish to engage in the thoughtful exchange of knowledge and skills about vaginal breech birth with other maternity caregivers. It is taught using videoed lectures, live classrooms, slides, videos, posted readings and discussion forums. (You can test your basic computer system requirements and internet speed here to make sure you can successfully participate in live classrooms before you register.)

Course material is available online from the start of each week to enable participants to set their own timetables for learning. Live classrooms pertaining to the focus of the week are held on Thursdays at 8.00am and 3.00pm (NZST). (You can check a world clock here as to which time – 8.00am OR 3.00pm – is best for you to attend each week). If participants are unable to attend the live session this will be available for viewing the following day but energetic connecting with each other in real time can be a powerful accelerant to our learning and understanding, so participants are encouraged to attend these at scheduled times.


Dr Maggie Banks (PhD, RM, RGON) has worked in a variety of practice settings, first as a nurse (from 1972) primarily in women’s health and neonatal intensive care, then as midwife (from 1987). A self-employed midwife in home birth practice since 1989, Maggie has combined the role of midwifery educator with practice since 1998. She has regularly taught throughout Australasia, as well as having been a guest speaker at conferences held in the Australia, US and Canada. She has a particular interest in breech presentation and birth as women commonly report their control of birthing is overridden, despite their opting for vaginal breech birth. Maggie is the author of Breech Birth Woman-Wise, and is known for her activism in ensuring that women giving birth vaginally are cared for by their known and trusted caregivers, that is, midwives.

Cost NZ$150.00

Register for the Workshop now.

This Workshop has been sent to Midwifery Council of New Zealand for points allocation.
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Monday, April 07, 2014

Ivy shows off her skills for LLL

Guess who's the new face of La Leche League of Indiana?


Photos by M.E.G. Photograpy

Interview with Meg Gregory here

More pictures from our photoshoot here
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