Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Chamonix and Mont Blanc

We took a 3-day trip to Chamonix, a village high in the French alps at the foot of Mont Blanc. Eric was invited to give a reading at the Mont Blanc Writing Workshop, reading from Hemingway on a Bike. Why not make a family trip out of it?

The drive took us 4 1/2 hours, along the Italian coast, up through the central plains growing arborio rice, and back into France at the very end. We went under 154 tunnels on the way there, including the longest tunnel I've ever driven in--the tunnel going right underneath Mont Blanc!

This trip was epic in more than one sense. We did both drives without stopping. You might not be all that impressed, if you've never gone on a road trip with four small children.

The best part, though, was the hiking. Day 1 was cloudy, misty, and rainy. Good for short hikes. Day 2 was a rare day of sunshine in an otherwise unusually rainy June. We opted to hike to Montenvers Mer de Glace (Montenvers Glacier).

Last year Eric ran up to the top in 45 minutes, so we were under-prepared for how long and difficult it would be (1 mile vertical gain according to my GPS map and 11.4 miles long according to my fitness tracker). I didn't bring enough water and we ate every last crumb of our food at the top. I also had to cajole a very cranky Zari into not giving up. She was ready to head home after less than 2 hours of hiking.

But we made it! And everyone--Zari included--loved reaching the summit, watching an avalanche, riding a gondola down to the glacier, and walking through ice caves.

Read more ...

Sunday, May 29, 2016

This weekend's hike: Vallon obscur du Donaréo

Scroll down for directions on how to find the trailhead.

Our across-the-street neighbors recommended hiking the vallon obscur du Donaréo, a hidden valley just outside of Nice. I'm writing up about our hike because we had the hardest time finding the trail head! It's not even a proper trail, except there is one sign at the beginning. Unless you know where to go, you'd never find it.

As we began the hike, the canyon walls lengthened and narrowed, cutting off the sunlight and casting us into a cool gloom. We had entered a magical world. We hopped over a small stream running through the bottom, occasionally dipping our feet in the cool water. The canyon walls were covered with moss, ferns, and sub-tropical vegetation. Mist and water droplets falling from above kept us cool--not that we needed to cool off any more!

Also lots of frogs, tadpoles, and lizards.

Back to reality--how do you get there? I visited many French sites describing the hike (here, here, and here, for example, but they weren't helpful enough to get us to the right place. We finally found it thanks to flagging down an old Niçois hiker.

Directions to the vallon obscur du Donaréo:
The valley can be hiked from the top (from Castagniers) or from the bottom, which is where we started.

1. Drive to the crematorium of Nice (Chemin du Roguez, 06670 Colomars). Take the road towards the crematorium, not to the Nécropole. Drive past the crematorium gates. 20 meters after the gates, park alongside the road or pull into a little gravel parking area on your right.

2. On your left, you'll see a chained-off road. Walk over the chain towards the concrete structures at the end.

3. Once you get to the end, slip through the little area on the right.

4. Walk along the wood planks, following the canal. Soon you'll cross over the canal and see a sign with information about the hike.

5. Go onto the little stream bed and start hiking up the valley. You can go as far as you wish. Near the top you will see an aqueduct; we didn't go this far as our kids were getting tired. The hike isn't strenuous, but there is some climbing over boulders and scrambling up and down steep slopes. Be sure to wear shoes that can get wet!

A short preview...

A longer look...

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Monday, May 23, 2016

New version of "Breastfeeding With Comfort and Joy"

A recent doula client and friend stopped by before I left for France to borrow some birth and breastfeeding books for the summer. She picked up Laura Keegan's Breastfeeding With Comfort and Joy and said, "I love this book! It was the most helpful breastfeeding book I read before I had my baby."

I reviewed Breastfeeding With Comfort and Joy back in 2009. I am excited to announced that Laura has released an revised e-book edition with updated information (particularly regarding skin-to-skin care and laid-back breastfeeding), more photos, and nine videos. Some e-book formats play the videos directly (Kindle Fire, Apple Books), while other e-book platforms will include a password-secured link to the videos.

The videos show babies of various ages taking the breast and feeding, some in upright positions and others laid-back. You'll also see 1-week-old twins taking the breast, a mother hand-expressing milk, and a mother doing breast compression to help her sleepy baby finish nursing. Another mom talks about nursing her baby right after the birth by putting her baby skin-to-skin and letting him scoot up to her breasts and latch on by himself. Finally, you'll see a UNICEF breast crawl video and watch a short documentary of a premature baby whose life was saved by skin-to-skin care after the birth.

Of particular importance are the new photos showing laid-back breastfeeding, with moms comfortably reclined and babies laying belly-down on top of their mothers. Laid-back breastfeeding enables babies' hardwired instincts to breastfeed, helps babies latch more deeply and effectively, and lets mothers nurse without having to actively "hold" their babies--a huge plus when you are nursing round-the-clock!

Laura wrote to me about this new version of Breastfeeding With Comfort and Joy:

When women see breastfeeding work, are confident to get comfortable, and fall in love with breastfeeding without the distractions and information overload, breastfeeding will become part of our culture.

I really want the new release pushed because it is an excellent resource for women to advocate for skin-to-skin at birth and other things. The information is not an update but a richer resource because of the shared experiences and practices that have come out since the first edition both in my practice and online. I now have more images to support the timeless concepts.

For the practice of women to have their babies at birth to reach a tipping point, women need an all-in-one-place resource when they demand this from their birth practitioners. Otherwise the scattered internet searches overwhelm them and the message is lost.

Please consider this book for yourself, for an expecting friend or family member, or for your medical/midwifery/lactation consulting practice.

The new electronic edition of Breastfeeding With Comfort and Joy is available from Amazon, Kobo, and iBookstore.
Read more ...

Saturday, May 07, 2016

Off to France again

We're spending the summer in Nice. We left last weekend with only 6 suitcases this time.

We pulled the kids out of school back home and put them in the French public school. All four children are in school this year, with Ivy in the "toute petite section" that starts at age 2.5. She did amazingly her first day, but the second day she clung to us and sobbed. She goes only in the morning. I love having school right around the corner and 2-hour lunch breaks!

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Friday, April 22, 2016

Update on homebirth VBAC ban in Colorado

The Colorado legislature recently included a VBAC ban into pending midwifery regulations. Thanks to consumer activism, the Senate has now rescinded the VBAC ban. Here's an update from Emily Thompson:

APR 22, 2016 — Yesterday, by unanimous vote, the Senate Health Committee removed the VBAC ban amendment from HB 1360 which will continue to keep midwifery legal in Colorado. Many midwives, mothers, advocates and their supporters testified in support of both the safety and the right of mothers to choose VBAC at home.

The signatures on this petition and the many comments definitely swayed the opinions of the Senators, and the strong testimony yesterday sealed the deal.

The bill still must be heard in the full Senate, and there is the possibility of amendments being added. We're asking Colorado residents to contact their State Senator and ask them to vote YES on HB1360 as it is presented to them from the committee.

Thank you again to everyone who signed, shared, and supported this grass-roots movement!


If you're wondering why preserving women's ability to have a VBAC at home is an important issue, consider this: around 50% of all US hospitals ban VBACs, either formally (hospital policy) or informally (no doctors at that hospital will attend VBACs). In those situations, a woman's only remaining choice for VBAC is an out-of-hospital birth. Banning CO midwives from attending VBACs forces those women into having unnecessary, unwanted surgeries or from having to give birth unassisted.
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Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Human rights in childbirth: VBAC bans

A few human rights in childbirth cases in the news:

Low-income women in Oregon forced to have cesareans: 

If you are have a previous c-section, you might end up in Laura Blevins' shoes: no hospital providers in her area attended VBACs, yet Oregon Health Plan would not cover out-of-hospital VBACs. Laura had to pay out-of-pocket for birth center care in order to avoid an unnecessary cesarean and is now filing an appeal with the Oregon Health Plan. Read her full story on her blog or listen to this NPR piece. She started a GoFundMe campaign to raise funds for her legal expenses.

Laura Blevins
Colorado Legislation would ban VBAC at home:

This last-minute legislation would ban home birth midwives from attending VBACs. With around 50% of US hospitals already banning VBACs, this is a pressing human rights issue. Please sign the petition and, if you live in CO, contact your legislators!
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Wednesday, April 06, 2016

Two must-read pieces on physiology and "pronurturance"

Understanding and promoting physiology in childbirth has been an interest of mine since my graduate school years. See, for example, my one of my comprehensive exams that asked me to reflect on the intersection of childbirth and environmentalism, in which I explored biodynamic approaches to both our natural and our maternal environments.

I want to share two fascinating pieces that make a case for respecting and facilitating the hormonal physiology of childbirth, with the end goal of healthier mother-baby pairs:

The first is the article "Hormonal Physiology of Childbearing, an Essential Framework for Maternal–Newborn Nursing" by Carol Sakala, Amy M. Romano, and Sarah J. Buckley (JOGNN 45.2 264-275). From the abstract:

Knowledge of the hormonal physiology of childbearing is foundational for all who care for childbearing women and newborns. When promoted, supported, and protected, innate, hormonally driven processes optimize labor and birth, maternal and newborn transitions, breastfeeding, and mother–infant attachment. Many common perinatal interventions can interfere with or limit hormonal processes and have other unintended effects. Such interventions should only be used when clearly indicated. High-quality care incorporates salutogenic nursing practices that support physiologic processes and maternal–newborn health.

The second is a PhD thesis by Florence Anne Saxton of Southern Cross University: Pronurturance at birth and risk of postpartum haemorrhage: biology, theory and new evidence. (PDF here) From the abstract:

Background: In spite of the almost universal adoption of the active management of the 3rd stage of labour, postpartum haemorrhage (PPH) rates continue to rise; reaching 19% or more in some obstetric units. Conversely, there is emerging evidence that women who experience continuity of midwifery care have lower rates of PPH. Continuity of midwifery care normally includes immediate skin-to-skin contact and early breastfeeding in the 3rd and 4th stages of labour to optimise release of endogenous oxytocin. The objective was to determine if skin-to-skin contact and breastfeeding at birth affected the rate of early PPH in a group of mixed risk Australian women.
Method: De-identified birth records (N=11,219) for the calendar years 2009 and 2010 were extracted from the electronic ObstetriX database which records public sector births in New South Wales, Australia. Excluded (n = 3,671) were all cases where skin-to-skin and breastfeeding immediately after birth was not possible leaving 7,548 cases for analysis. The outcome measure was PPH of 500 ml or more; the independent variables were ‘skin-to-skin contact’ and ‘breastfeeding’ at birth (the combination of these two variables I ultimately termed pronurturance). Analyses were conducted to determine the risk of PPH for women who experienced skin-to-skin contact and breastfeeding at birth in the 3rd and 4th stages of labour compared with those women who did not (regardless of the woman’s risk status or mode of birth).
Results: Women who experienced skin-to-skin contact and breastfeeding at birth had an almost fourfold decrease in risk of PPH, (OR 0.26, 95% CI 0.20-0.33, p < 0.001). After adjustment for covariates women who experienced skin-to-skin contact and breastfeeding at birth were again less likely to have a PPH (OR 0.55, 95% CI 0.41-0.72, p < 0.001). This protective effect of ‘pronurturance’ on PPH held true in sub-analyses for both women at ‘lower’ risk (OR 0.22, 95% CI 0.17-0.30, p < 0.001) and ‘higher’ risk (OR 0.37, 95% CI 0.24-0.57, p < 0.001) of PPH.
Conclusion: These results suggest that skin-to-skin contact and breastfeeding in 3rd and 4th stages of labour was effective in reducing the risk of PPH in a group of mixed risk Australian women. The explanation of this finding is that skin-to-skin contact and breastfeeding promote optimal endogenous oxytocin release. Skin-to-skin contact and breastfeeding at birth has shown no known negative effects and should be encouraged for all women during 3rd and 4th stage labour care.

Here are some core elements of a physiological labor & birth

Mother moves freely & chooses her positions during labor

Quiet, private environment

Unobtrusive birth attendants

Spontaneous, mother-directed pushing and upright maternal positioning

Immediate & prolonged skin-to-skin contact

Still skin-to-skin, even when moving from tub to bed

Skin-to-skin and breastfeeding ad infinitum

Read more ...

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Happy birthday Inga and Ivy!

Happy birthday Inga (5) and Ivy (3)!

I don't have any pictures of Inga on her birthday, just videos, but here's her cake. She drew me a pictures of a multi-layered turquoise cake and said "make this cake for me, mama!" The inside was 3 shades of turquoise. 

Ivy just turned 3 yesterday. 

We didn't have wrapping paper, so we used play scarves from the toy shelves.

Ivy has been asking all week for "a crown, a rainbow skirt, some sparkles, and some jewels." I bought her a sparkly rhinestone headband and made her a rainbow skirt, so that takes care of all four, right?

Eric modeling the skirt on his head, to the great hilarity of all the children

She wanted a "rainbow heart cake" so here's what we did:

It's rainbow colored inside!

Read more ...

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Two must-reads and some (slightly) relevant puppy cuteness

Okay, serious things first: two must-read pieces.

The first is a fantastic writeup about the hormonal physiology of childbearing, written by Carol Sakala, Amy Romano, and Dr. Sarah J. Buckley. It's written for L&D nurses and gives specific suggestions for how to "promote, support, and protect" hormonal physiology in order to "optimize labor and birth, maternal and newborn transitions, breastfeeding, and mother–infant attachment." There are 1.9 CNE units offered via AWHONN, free for the next 50 days.

The next is a series of photos of an upright vaginal breech home birth, with fantastic explanations by the birth photographer. This is one of the best photo series of a VBB that I have come across: you can see the baby working himself out, step by step!

And last...some fluff. Watch a mama dog be reunited with her puppies. I love how they start crowding around to nurse within just a few moments. I had a moment of this myself today, when Eric and I came home after being away for 8 days at a conference. It was the first time we'd ever left all the kids.

Read more ...

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

A bun in the oven: connecting the food and birth movements

This arrived today and made my week (month...or even more!).

It's Barbara Katz Rothman's new book A Bun In the Oven: How the Food and Birth Movements Resist Industrialization.

I've only read the first few pages and my mind is going a million miles a minute, making connections, thinking back to my graduate student years when I also studied food and environmentalism and wrote about radical French farmer Jose Bove who, with a group of angry farmers, dismantled a McDonald's under construction.

BUY IT NOW HERE (from NYU Press)!

(You can't buy it yet on Amazon, as it comes out March 22nd. But you can pre-order it here.)
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Thursday, January 28, 2016

Can motherhood be an asset in academia?

I recently went on the job market. One job was an open position in "sociology or a related field." Another was a joint position in American Culture and Women's Studies (hello dream job!). My academic interests are specialized enough that I had to jump when I saw these opportunities.

I wonder if I will be penalized because I strayed from the orthodox path leading straight from graduate school into a full-time tenure-track position. I had one baby during my PhD and was pregnant with my second when I graduated. I began teaching part-time soon after my third was born, and I have continued to teach while I had my fourth. And let's not forget I've been lactating for over 9 years straight!

I have continued to publish, research, and attend conferences since I graduated, but those activities took place on top of raising four children full-time and teaching part-time. Without a full-time job to support research and publishing, I haven't been able to keep up the same pace as my tenure-track peers.

I'd like to think that my immersion in motherhood, breastfeeding, and maternity care activism would make me an attractive candidate, rather than disqualify me, since those activities are directly related to my academic specialties. But I can't be sure.

In Germany, though, the Technische Universität (TU) of Berlin has created post-doctoral fellowships that specifically favor mothers. Look at this excerpt from the fellowship reviewer guidelines:

All reviewers are asked to consider the individual living and working conditions of an applicant. Female researchers with diverse career paths and with non-academic knowledge and qualifications are expressly invited to apply for an IPODI Fellowship and we assume that a diverse personal, professional or scientific background may open up new perspectives and innovative approaches in research. Family-related career "breaks" as well as intersectoral mobility are therefore perceived as additional qualifications and should be considered positively within the selection process.

To read more about this program, visit Dr. Kristen Ghodsee's article "A fellowship program that favors mothers?"

Have you been penalized by--or helped by--your experience as a mother or parent? Does your workplace welcome women who have taken non-traditional career paths?
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Monday, January 18, 2016

Pint-sized babywearing

4-year-old Inga wearing her 2-year-old sister Ivy...

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  
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Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Review of Touching Bellies, Touching Lives by Judy Gabriel

I'm excited about a new book about midwives of southern Mexico: Touching Bellies, Touching Lives: Midwives of Southern Mexico Tell Their Stories.

Written by Judy Gabriel, a doula in Oregon, this book tells the stories of more than 100 Mexican midwives. Judy has lived and traveled extensively in southern Mexico, and she was fascinated with the traditional midwives who were rapidly dying out, replaced by sterile clinics and sky-high cesarean rates.

Judy began compiling these midwives' stories by asking a simple question: "Can you tell me about the very first birth you ever attended on your own?" From this question emerges an astonishing set of stories. You learn about how many of these women received their training from birth itself. Often they were thrown into a birth because no one else was available, and soon they were being called to another birth, and then another and another...The midwifery of southern Mexico was organic and self-taught and fluid. It also has come under direct attack from modern Mexican medicine, and unfortunately this hostility has accelerated midwifery's decline and near-extinction.

Judy has organized the book into geographical regions, with brief narratives of her travels as she tries to locate and speak with as many remaining midwives as she can find. You'll travel with her from Oaxaca to Vera Cruz, from Tabasco to the Yucatan.

Each midwife's story is narrated by Judy, who sets the scene and describes the woman in vivid detail. Judy recorded and transcribed her interviews, so the stories also contain long passages from the midwives themselves. Judy has also included photos of nearly all the midwives--a wonderful way to connect to these wise women.

These stories gave me a glimpse into another world. Even though the midwives lived and worked in the 20th century, their lives were often unimaginably different from anything I have known. Alongside their midwifery journeys, you'll also read about the women's lives: childhood, marriage, babies, hardships. It's fascinating.

Reading Touching Bellies, Touching Lives sometimes feels like reading a eulogy: Mexican midwives are an endangered species, and their extraordinary knowledge and experience are dying out with them. The transition from midwifery to obstetrics, and from home to hospital, was even more dramatic and abrupt in Mexico than in the US, and the pendulum swung more violently as well. Of particular value are the midwives' skills with the rebozo and massage. Seemingly simple but remarkably effective, these hands-on skills have helped countless women have better-positioned babies, more comfortable pregnancies and labors, and fewer complications in labor.

We are lucky to have these midwives' stories captured in Judy's book. At the end, she gives me reason to hope that Mexico is starting to value its midwifery heritage: a new government-sponsored midwifery school in Guerrero trains midwives in both modern medicine and traditional midwifery skills and knowledge. If this trend continues, Touching Bellies, Touching Lives will be able to function not as a eulogy for a lost cultural practice, but  as a guidepost and inspiration for anyone wanting to learn about or promote midwifery in Mexico.

Let me end with a short excerpt from Hermila, a Oaxacan midwife. It's fairly typical of how many of these women became called into midwifery. She was 17 years old when she attended her first birth. She recalls:

One day the village priest asked me to help a woman in labor. I asked why the midwife Lupe couldn't help her, and he said Lupe was getting too old to work. He said I would know what to do because my grandmother had been a midwife.

I didn't know anything about childbirth. I'd never been with my grandmother when she attended a birth, and I hadn't had any babies myself. But the priest was insistent, so I went to the woman's house.

She told me what to do.  I just made a tea and fetched things for her and, when it was time, I held  my hand under her skirt to catch the baby. When the placenta came, I thought it was her insides, but she explained what it as. She said I had to tie something around the cord, so I tore a strip of fabric from the bottom of my slip and used that. I was afraid to cut the cord; she had to do that herself.

Two weeks later I was called to attend another birth. And then there was another... [p. 1-2]

To learn more about the book, visit the book's website Touching Bellies, Touching Babies.

Available for purchase on Amazon and from the publisher Waveland Press.
Read more ...

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Merry Christmas from the Freezes!

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . Merry Christmas from the Freeze Family! . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
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Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Winter Solstice Celebration

I've always wanted to celebrate the winter solstice, but until this year I kept forgetting! Last night we invited two families over. I prepared vegetable chowder, fresh bread, hot chocolate, and my German grandmother's lebkuchen (spice cookies with a lemon glaze). Our friends brought hummus, raw vegetables, macaroni & cheese, and homemade cider. At the end of dinner, we had a short ceremony where we turned off all the lights except for the candles on the table. We talked about solstice traditions. Zari read "The Shortest Day" by Susan Cooper, and Dio read "Candle, Candle Burning Bright."

The the fun part: the kids' solstice present! I found a strobe light at a thrift store this week and thought it would be perfect. We grew up with a strobe light, and I have fond memories of dancing for hours in the darkness, seeing ourselves move as if in slow motion. The horde of children ran upstairs to the attic to try it out. Besides Dio getting a bloody nose from bumping into someone else, the strobe light was a smash hit.

It had rained most of the day, but we managed to get a fire going with lots of help from our blowtorch.

When the kids woke up this morning, they discovered one candle that I had forgotten to blow out. It was large and deep, which explains why I had missed it. So we accidentally kept a light burning all night until the coming of day. Not sure if I'd deliberately repeat that...but a great way to celebrate the solstice!
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Thursday, December 10, 2015

What a baby's tongue does during breastfeeding

If you've ever wondered why pumping doesn't feel the same as breastfeeding, or why pumping often isn't as effective, then watch this video of a 14-month old baby "nursing" in his sleep with his mouth open:

The tongue "undulates" in a wave from front to back (imagine ocean waves continually rolling onto a beach). When a baby is nursing, she expresses milk with her tongue's movement, combined with some suction and, of course, her mother's let-down reflex. When you pump, you only have suction + letdown. Until breast pump technology radically changes to mimic the natural movement of a baby's tongue, pumping will...well...suck.

Here's an ultrasound image overlaid on an animation of infant tongue movement.

Note: This last video mentioned tongue-tie. Tongue-tie can cause breastfeeding difficulties, but be sure to read Nancy Mohrbacher's article Tongue and Lip Ties: Root Causes or Red Herrings? Too often, she notes, a mother will have breastfeeding issues and attribute them to tongue-tie, when other culprits might be causing the nipple pain or baby's poor weight gain. She notes:
When mothers focus only on tongue or lip tie, other issues may be overlooked and problems can continue for weeks or months....Is tongue- or lip-tie revision the right thing to do for some breastfeeding mothers and babies? No question! But because tongue tie is the root cause of the problem for a minority of babies, it is a terrible place for most mothers to start. When nipple pain or weight-gain issues occur, a much better starting point is to contact someone who can help adjust baby’s latch and evaluate baby’s feeding pattern.
Read more ...

Monday, December 07, 2015

Welcome to Sweden

I just came across this must-read article about reproductive culture in Sweden: Welcome to Sweden: Notes on birthday condoms, home abortions, and hysterical Americans.

Author and Wisconsin midwife Ingrid Andersson writes about Sweden's approach to sex, parenting, education, and family life--a stark contrast to America's oversexed prudishness, violence, and hysterical opposition to reproductive choices.

Her son's first day at public school was a welcome contrast from their American schooling experiences:
My son’s teacher said he did not need to bring anything apart from his curious, well-rested, breakfasted self. School will supply all his school needs, including an iPad and hot meals made from scratch. His first lunch —eaten over an hour at a round wooden table, sitting on a real wooden chair, in an actual dining room filled with windows and art—is baked salmon in rich cream sauce, dilled potatoes, steamed broccoli, salad with homemade dressing, bread, butter, and organic milk, served in all-you-can-eat buffet style. The kitchen uses 30 percent organic ingredients, locally produced when possible. My seventh grader is disoriented but delighted by trusting adults and an open campus with unlocked doors. (Every morning since Sandy Hook, my son’s school in America was all locked up by the time the kids were reciting the Pledge of Allegiance.)
Reproductive information, birth control, and abortion are discussed openly and frankly and are accessible to anyone:
Any Swedish teen or adult can walk into one of the common health centers and talk confidentially with a counselor or midwife about any personal or social issue or need, including pregnancy. She or he probably will already have been introduced to a youth health center on a school class field trip at age twelve or thirteen.

Youth and young adult health centers in Sweden offer a limitless supply of free condoms, free testing and treatment for chlamydia and other diseases, and free emergency contraception. Pregnant minors are encouraged but not required to involve a parent. Counselors and/or psychiatrists meet with girls and are available to all women. Abortion is free or low-cost and available on-demand up to eighteen weeks of pregnancy. A dating ultrasound is required, and if the pregnancy is earlier than three months, girls and women can choose between vacuum extraction or pill-induced abortion and to complete the abortion at home.

Abortions are performed up to twenty-two weeks of pregnancy, but after eighteen weeks there must be a medical indication and a psychiatrist is involved. All girls and women are encouraged to include support persons. Midwives, who are prescribing professionals associated with health and wellness, support all girls and women through normal pregnancy and birth, as well as contraception and abortion choices.

Records from ancient times to the present day indicate that women tend to prefer coping with unwanted pregnancy privately and using measures within their control, or within a circle of trusted family or friends. Preference for autonomy and privacy is evidenced even when clinic-mediated options are accessible. Thanks in part to research at Sweden’s Karolinska Institutet, home abortion is now predictably safe and effective. For women from Stockholm to Nairobi, it has become a first-choice abortion method.

America stands as an exception. For American women, politically driven drug restrictions, costs, and lack of funding for education and support make obstacles to home abortion formidable....

“Publicly protesting abortion or anything related would be seen as hysterical in Sweden, not even the Christian party would do that!” says Ella, a twenty-eight-year-old hospital gynecology nurse who plans to continue studies to become a midwife.

To read the rest of the article, click here:
Read more ...

Wednesday, December 02, 2015

What did you do when you were #7monthsawesome?

I don't use Twitter much except to repost what I write here. But I had to add to the #7monthsawesome conversation!

(I'm easy to find on Twitter: just look for Rixa.)

Join in if you did something awesome when you were 7 months pregnant!
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Monday, November 23, 2015

Laid-back breastfeeding

I've been breastfeeding for over 9 years straight, sometimes with both a baby and a toddler. I've nursed through 3 pregnancies. I read about breastfeeding voraciously. And yet... until recently I hardly knew anything about laid-back breastfeeding or "biological nurturing."
It's blowing my mind!

Nursing was never difficult for me; I didn't struggle with with nipple pain or latch problems or supply issues. But I remember the exhaustion of sitting up in a bed or chair in the middle of the night, holding my newborns in a cross-cradle hold, and wishing so desperately to lie down and rest. I rejoiced when we figured out how to nurse lying down. It took Zari (and me!) longer to figure out than my last three children.

Although nursing itself wasn't painful, sitting was, especially after I had Zari. I had a 2nd-degree tear requiring some stitches, and it was terribly painful to sit for several weeks. But I was stuck doing this:

Remember this Breastfeeding 101 video I made with Dio? I'm sitting up straight in a chair, holding him in a cross-cradle position. He has a great latch and I am reasonably comfortable...but it could have been a lot easier if I'd laid him across my belly instead of fighting his batting arms and resisting gravity.

To think I could have avoided exhaustion, pain, and unnecessary effort if I had known more about laid-back breastfeeding! I remember reading about it, but until I saw it in action, it didn't really click.

So here is my gift to all you pregnant or nursing mamas: information about laid-back breastfeeding that I have found most useful.

1. Nancy Morbacher, IBCLC, FILCA, explains the science and how-to's of laid-back breastfeeding. Article originally published in Holistic Parenting magazine, Issue 9 (May/June 2015) and republished at

2. Dr. Suzanne Colson's website Biological Nurturing has some fantastic resources, including a video that explains the basics and an article answering common questions.

3. Nancy Morbacher's YouTube channel is FANTASTIC! Watch them all!

4. Natural Breastfeeding How-To's (Prezi presentation with lots of videos)

Ivy doing some laid-back breastfeeding today
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Saturday, October 31, 2015

Happy 9th birthday Zari!

Guess what Zari's birthday present request was?

"36-month aged Parmesan cheese and 7-year aged Cheddar cheese"

I love this girl. I gave her a big hunk of Parmigiano Reggiano for her 9th birthday present.

We did our yearly ritual of reading her birth story and looking at her memory book. This year she squirmed and giggled, clearly enjoying the attention.


We had an impromptu dinner gathering tonight. Some friends called us this afternoon and asked if we wanted to go trick-or-treating together.

Me: Sure! Come on over.

Friends: We made chili. Do you want to eat together at your house afterwards?

Me: Yay!

I love friends who bring dinner :)


This year's cake was simple--no soccer balls or caterpillars or globes or fairy gardens or layered ombres. Just delicious brown butter pumpkin cake with brown butter icing. Mmmmmm.

Notice the 36 on the cake? I didn't have 9 candles, but I did have #3 and #6. 3+6=9!

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