Saturday, September 29, 2007

Ah, the drama

Seems like the Marie Claire article made it to print, as suddenly the internet version has about 200 comments. The picture is also showing up now!

On another note, Zari is becoming quite audacious about walking on her own. She gets this really happy, and somewhat surprised look, whenever she takes off by herself.
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Weekly running update

I have decided to post weekly updates on my half-marathon training. This week's mileage was 3-4-3-7. On the 4 mile day, my dog hurt his paw while chasing after a deer and he refused to go any farther. I had to turn around, while he hobbled home on 3 paws. It was probably a 3 miler at best.

Today I ran 7 miles (technically, I ran 1 hour and 15 minutes, and I figured that was probably around 7 miles) and my legs are nice and sore. I brought my cell phone with me to know how long I'd been running. I don't have a sports watch, so I had to make do. Anyway I kept checking the phone every few minutes and every time it was a disappointment. "I've only been running for 25 minutes? I thought I was almost done!" Seriously, it made the run so much harder. Just like labor. When you watch the clock, time does this weird warp thing on you and makes you feel miserable. So my advice to runners and laboring women: throw away the clock. Time is irrelevant. Live in the present.
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Thursday, September 27, 2007

Old & New Breastfeeding Art

Thanks to the Black Breastfeeding Blog for pointing out this photography exhibit that pictures contemporary mothers & babies replicating famous breastfeeding paintings. See the Black Breastfeeding Blog for another sample comparison.

Pablo Picasso, Maternity, 1905 (Laura and Liam, 2006)

Titian, The Virgin and Child, 1565 (Julie and Megan)
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Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Positive role models

I am usually not someone to follow celebrities. But this article about Jennifer Garner's balancing acting with mothering is noteworthy. She discusses her experience nursing her daughter while filming in the Arizona heat. Yay for moms who are dedicated to breastfeeding!
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The Politics of Breastfeeding

Some days it seems that all I do here is pass on interesting things that other people wrote...It's the reality of being a full-time mother, dissertation-writer, and breastmilk-provider. So here is a great article about The Politics of Breastfeeding from The Toronto Star.
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Monday, September 24, 2007

The Value of Pregnant Women

This article, The Rights of "Unborn Children" and the Value of Pregnant Women, is a fascinating analysis of the implications of the 2004 Unborn Victims of Violence Act. The authors find that the growing emphasis on fetus' rights often erodes pregnant women's rights. They note the fallacies between characterizing maternal-fetal relationships as inherently conflictual. After all, who can better advocate for the unborn than the babies' own mothers? The authors conclude that in our current legal and political climate, mothers are "beatified in words and villified in deeds."
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I finally finished my "Fauxhawk" mei tai carrier,. It's basically a Babyhawk except the waist fastens with two rings instead of with a knot. I made it without a pattern (of course!) using fabric left over from other projects. The shoulders and waist are lightly padded for extra comfort.

The straps are made from material I bought in the Paris fabric district of Montmartre. I used it to make two twin-sized duvet covers for one of our guest bedrooms. It's a natural cotton with interwoven linen strings. The dark brown decorative fabric that you see on the back is left over from a custom sling. The mei tai is reversible, and the other side of the body is made from very heavy undyed French linen that I bought several years ago.

Overall I am happy with how it turned out, especially for my first try. The only thing that's "wrong" with it is that I initially made the straps too short, and had to piece on another 15" on the ends. Oops!

I found that it's most comfortable when I criss-cross the straps over my chest, rather than having them go straight down like backpack straps. Otherwise it feels like the shoulder straps are going to slip off. The criss-cross style does accentuate my...ahem...rather ample bosom. C'est la vie, n'est-ce pas?

Zari quite likes it. As you can see, she is happily sucking/chewing on the edge. I mowed the lawn with her strapped to my back the other day.

Anyway, I think I might offer this for sale at a greatly reduced price, since I did mess up on the straps...but then again, maybe I will like it so much that I will want to keep it for myself!
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Saturday, September 22, 2007

When Nursing in Public Was Normal

This recent blog post "When Nursing in Public Was Normal" has some photographs of American women nursing in public in the 1930s and 40s. (Is the second one a Dorothea Lange? It sure looks like it). This blog post has another version of the 1943 photograph. I wonder how acceptable/visible nursing was during those decades. I know breastfeeding rates were quite low by mid-century. Are those pictures the rule or the exceptions? When did "covering up" become a social expectation? More questions than answers...
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When I started writing my Labor & Marathons post, I had this nagging feeling that it was going to make me go out and do something. Sure enough, I inspired myself so much that I have started training for a half marathon! I am using The Non-Runner's Marathon Trainer and just finished the second week's schedule (16 miles total). I ran 6 miles this morning, mostly on trails in the woods on the outskirts of town. In 7 more weeks I should be up to 13 miles!
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Thursday, September 20, 2007

I love garage sales

I found all sorts of treasures today, including:
  • a walnut desk for Eric's home office, $20 (he's been using a cheap laminate desk)
  • an oak Mission style children's rocking chair, $6
  • 3 framed pictures, $6.50 (I will spray-paint the frames black and put my own pictures in)
  • a pair of black slip-on leather shoes, $1 (I've been looking for shoes like this for a while)
  • a silicone bakeware set, $3.50
  • a wooden truck set, with a detachable trailer, $1.25
  • a fold-out metal luggage stand like you see in hotels, $0.50 (for the B&B)

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Tuesday, September 18, 2007


A bit unsteady, but Zari is walking on her own (with lots of encouragement from us).

It's also time for an updated "Now & Then" series:

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Friday, September 14, 2007


Two excerpts from Margaret Atwood's novel Surfacing.
They shut you in a hospital, they shave the hair off you and tie your hands down, and they don't let you see, they don't want you to understand, they want you to believe it's their power, not yours. They stick needles in you so you won't hear anything, you might as well be a dead pig, your legs are up in a metal frame, they bend over you, technicians, mechanics, butchers, students, clumsy or sniggering, practicing on your body, they take the baby out with a fork like a pickle out of a pickle jar. After that they fill your veins up with red plastic, I saw it running down the tube. I won't let them do that to me ever again.
I can feel my lost child surfacing within me, forgiving me, rising from the lake where it had been prisoned for so long, its eyes and teeth phosphorescent; the two halves clasp, interlocking like fingers, it buds, it sends out fronds. This time I will do it by myself, squatting on old newspapers in a corner alone; or on leaves, dry leaves, a heap of them, that's cleaner. The baby will slip out easily as an egg, a kitten, and I'll lick it off and bite the cord, the blood returning to the ground where it belongs; the moon will be full, pulling. In the morning I will be able to see it: it will be covered with shining fur, a god, and I will never teach it any words.
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Thursday, September 13, 2007

Go to Jail

This is what happens to midwives in many states and provinces, including the state where I currently live. For more information on the legality of direct-entry midwives, visit MANA.

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Are Cesarean rates grossly underreported?

I was at a conference last weekend, where Henci Goer mentioned the underreporting of hospital cesarean rates. Some hospitals are starting to report their cesarean rates only among "low-risk" women; in their calculations, they exclude cesarean sections for breech, multiples, preterm births, fetal deaths, and abnormal presentations. In other words, the C-section rate that your hospital advertises may not be correct--it is likely much higher. This is the case, it seems, in all California hospitals. Remember my recent post about CA C-section rates? I looked at the fine print on the document and it turns out the rates are only for full-term, head-down, singleton births with no abnormal presentations!

Want to see for yourself? If you go to the original document, there's a small hyperlink about rate explanations. The link brings you to a page that, at the bottom in very very small print, has the following text:
Rate Explanations:

Cesarean Delivery Rate
Number of Cesarean Section Deliveries per 100 Deliveries (excludes abnormal presentation, preterm birth, fetal death, multiple gestations, and breech procedure). Cesarean delivery may be overused in some facilities, so lower rates may represent better care.

Cesarean Delivery Rate – Primary
Number of Cesarean Deliveries per 100 deliveries among women who have not previously had a Cesarean section (excludes abnormal presentation, preterm, fetal death, multiple gestation, and breech procedures). Cesarean delivery may be overused in some facilities, so lower rates may represent better care.

Vaginal Birth After Cesarean (VBAC) Rate
Number of vaginal births per 100 women with a previous Cesarean delivery. VBAC may be underused in some facilities, so higher rates may represent better care, though this rate includes some women who were probably not good candidates for vaginal birth.

Vaginal Birth After Cesarean (VBAC) Rate, Uncomplicated
Number of vaginal births per 100 women with a previous Cesarean delivery (excludes abnormal presentation, preterm birth, fetal death, multiple gestation, and breech procedures). VBAC may be underused in some facilities, so higher rates may represent better care.
Cal me paranoid, but I doubt the extremely small font is accidental.
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Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Gloria Lemay classics

Here are two classic articles by Gloria Lemay, a birth attendant in British Colombia:

Pushing for First-Time Moms

Pelvises I Have Known and Loved

In "Pushing for First-Time Moms," Gloria exquisitely describes the stages of pushing. I experienced many of the sensations she discusses. I first had small abdominal pushes that felt exactly like throwing up, except in the opposite direction. I call it "throwing down." I could hear my voice catching in the back of my throat, but I wasn't making any audible sounds.

At that point, I reached inside for the first time to see if I could feel anything. Sure enough, there was the baby's head, still kind of far inside and more backwards than upwards if that makes sense. I felt a small, thin anterior lip of cervix. It felt exactly like the neck of a t-shirt. Because I had read Gloria's article, I knew the lip was nothing to worry about and that I just had a little more dilating left.

I also experienced a sensation of being "stuck" and some frustration that the baby wasn't moving down--especially when my pushing urges changed from mild and slightly pleasant to irresistible bearing down sensations that I had roar through.

Gloria has this to say about the baby's head being "stuck":
I recommend that midwives change their notion of what is happening in the pushing phase with a primip from "descent of the head" to "shaping of the head." Each expulsive sensation shapes the head of the baby to conform to the contours of the mother's pelvis. This can take time and lots of patience especially if the baby is large. This shaping of the baby's skull must be done with the same gentleness and care as that taken by Michelangelo applying plaster and shaping a statue. This shaping work often takes place over time in the midpelvis and is erroneously interpreted as "lack of descent," "arrest" or "failure to progress" by those who do not appreciate art. I tell mothers at this time, "It's normal to feel like the baby is stuck. The baby's head is elongating and getting shaped a little more with each sensation. It will suddenly feel like it has come down." This is exactly what happens.
Given time to mold, the head of the baby suddenly appears. This progression is not linear and does not happen in stations of descent. All those textbook diagrams of a pelvis with little one-centimeter gradations up and down from the ischial spines could only have been put forth by someone who has never felt a baby's forehead passing over his/her rectum!
My full-on pushing urges lasted about two hours, and towards the very end Zari's head descended fairly quickly, exactly as Gloria has described. At this point I was sitting on the toilet and supporting my tissues. Eric says I got very quiet. He thought that labor had stopped. Little did he know that she was starting to crown!
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Tuesday, September 11, 2007


Zari and baby L (4 months old) hanging out in matching diapers.
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Monday, September 10, 2007

Marie Claire article

I was interviewed a few months ago for an article about freebirthing in Marie Claire Australia's October edition. I noticed that it just came out on their website, although I can't get the picture to show up.
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Sunday, September 09, 2007

Fun in Arizona

I've been having a blast visiting my friend Jen in Arizona. We went to the Applebee's nurse-out last night with over 100 other people. Even though the sun had set, it was still over 100 degrees! There were several television stations and reporters present. Zari and I made it on channel 5 news last night (twice, if you watch carefully!), and we're on their website too if you click on the breastfeeding feature! We also made it onto the local Fox news. I've also found some newspaper articles about our protest from the Arizona Central and the East Valley Tribune. Note the preponderance of ignoramuses on the AZ Central comments section. Sigh...breastfeeding is not like having sex in public, or like smoking in public, or like peeing in public. It is a legally protected right.

Jen & I (and babies!)
Brief editorial comment: asking a woman who is breastfeeding in public to leave or cover up is analogous to asking an African-American person to please sit in the back of the bus, because someone else is offended by their presence in the front. It doesn't matter how much someone is offended; all citizens are legally protected against racial discrimination. As are breastfeeding mothers. End of discussion. Doesn't matter how much you dislike it, it's against the law to prevent a mother from breastfeeding in public.

We hit the thrift stores yesterday--Goodwill had a 50% off sale on everything in their stores--and I found several nice outfits and pajamas for Zari, plus a pair of sandals and a small backpack. I also found this hiking baby backpack at a consignment store. Zari really likes it, enough to fall fast asleep in it while we were making double chocolate cookies from my all-time favorite chocolate cookbook I Want Chocolate! (ps--you can search for the recipe on Amazon. I don't usually add the milk chocolate chips; I find that the cookies are plenty intense and chocolatey without them.)

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Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Nurse-in at Applebee's

I will be participating in a national nurse-in on September 8th to protest a Nicholasville Road Applebee's in central Kentucky forbidding a woman to nurse her baby in the restaurant, unless she used a blanket to cover up. This request is specifically contrary to state law.

If you want more information about joining or organizing a nurse-in, you can join this new Yahoo group.

To read more about the incident, here are a few links:
The mom's story featured in a local newspaper
A description of the incident written by the mother at
The Lactivist has also covered the incident.

Beware the wrath of nursing mothers!
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Monday, September 03, 2007

Due Dates

Something I wrote last year...enjoy.

Due dates are a bunch of nonsense. Let me explain why:

1. Only 5% of women go into labor on their due date (In other words, it is wrong for 95%!).

2. The notion that pregnancy lasts 40 weeks from the last menstrual period came from a German physician in 1807 (Hermann Boerhaave). He didn't do any statistical studies on average length of pregnancies--he just came up with this number based on observations. In part, because it was a nice, easy number to remember (10 lunar months). This method of calculating due dates later became called "Naegele's Rule" and is the one that most doctors use today, even though there is no statistical evidence that 40 weeks is the correct average length of pregnancy.

3. Naegele's Rule is based on the last menstrual period and assumes a 28-day cycle. However, many women have cycles longer or shorter than 28 days. Ovulation usually occurs 14 days before the next period (NOT 14 days after the previous), so a woman with a 35-day cycle will ovulate later in her cycle than a woman with a 28-day cycle.

Let me illustrate this with an example: Let's say there are 3 women whose menstrual periods all began on the same day. I'll say Jan 1st for convenience.. They all became pregnant during the same cycle. Naegele's Rule (and most doctors) would give them all the same due date. However, that is flawed:

Amy has regular 28-day cycles. Her 40-week "due date" would fall on Oct 7.
Becky has regular 35-day cycles. Her 40-week mark is Oct 14.
Cindy has irregular cycles, ranging from 30 days to 55 days. Thus, her 40-week mark could be on Oct 9, or Nov 2, or anywhere in between.

4. The average length of pregnancy is not 40 weeks (okay, technically 38 because there are 2 extra weeks thrown in there before conception, but that is confusing to most people so I'll stick with 40). Women gestate babies for different amounts of time. Just like some of us grow faster, hit puberty at different times, or start our periods at different ages, women also grow babies at different rates. For example, in studies done of healthy Caucasian women, the average length of pregnancy was 41 weeks 1 day for first babies, and 40 weeks 3 days for second babies.

Next, you'll remember from statistics class that averages are calculated from a wide range of possibilities. Term pregnancy is generally considered to be from about 37 weeks and beyond. Many women go into labor between 37-42 weeks. However, a substantial minority gestate much longer--often 44 or 46 weeks. The longest documented pregnancy is 52 weeks. Yes, one full year. And you thought "Ten Month Mamas" had it hard!

So, even if you take into account the length of your menstrual cycle, and the fact that average pregnancies are 41 weeks 1 day for first babies if you're Caucasian, that still tells you nothing about what specific day you will go into labor. Hence the 95% inaccuracy rate. It just gives you a 5-6 week (or more) window in which your baby will probably be born.

5. Ultrasound dating is not 100% accurate, and gets worse farther along in pregnancy. 1st trimester estimates are +/- 5 days, while 3rd trimester estimates are +/- 22 days (or a 44-day window of possibility).

6. Way too many women go through unnecessary stress worrying about their due date. No wonder, since 95% of them are wrong!

I got most of my information from Anne Frye's Holistic Midwifery Vol 1, and Henci Goer's The Thinking Woman's Guide to a Better Birth.
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Sunday, September 02, 2007

Tagged (updated with pictures!)

Here are 6 things about me (the photo is from 6 years ago when I had short hair):

1. I started university as a double major in violin performance and physics. (Ended up majoring in American Studies and studying French and Afrikaans on the side. Go figure.) I've played the violin since I was five years old and thought I would be a concert violinist until an overuse injury during high school slowed me down and made me re-evaluate that idea.

2. I've studied all sorts of dance: ballet, jazz, modern, ballroom, and Irish. I've also bought bellydance DVDs and I would love to take lessons. Some day when I live in a bigger city...our small town of 5,000 doesn't offer much.

3. I joined a fencing club during high school. When I was sparring with one of my friends, he broke a foil (a lightweight fencing sword, such as the one Eric--aka Zorro-is wielding below) on my chest. I thought it was pretty funny.

4. I've always liked to sew and am quite handy at making things without a pattern. My two most ambitious no-pattern creations were:

- A 1770's style dress, complete with undergarments, corset, quilted underskirt, and overdress. It makes a sweet Halloween costume. It took me about 100 hours to sew. I made it as a final project for an undergraduate humanities class. I could have just written a paper, but this was way more fun. Sorry I don't have a better picture of the dress. Maybe later I will dress up and take some new photos. I also made the Zorro costume for Eric. On my insisting, he sewed most of the cape. You know, teach a man to fish...

- My wedding dress. I fell in love with a gorgeous designer dress from Spain, but the $3,000 price tag was out of the question. My mom and I surreptitiously took measurements and sketches while we were in the dressing room. Then we went home and made a replica, with some minor changes. Total cost for materials (the entire dress was made of silk): $300.

5. My mother gave birth to me while hanging from her ankles. Her doctor had this theory that giving birth upside down would prevent hemorrhoids. My mom recalls that only her shoulder blades were touching the bed. She was yelling at him to let her down--she had never had hemorrhoids in her life--but he did not. I think I have the story right but I should cross-check the details with my mom.

6. I love power tools and fixing things. My husband and I renovated old houses while in graduate school. We've done plumbing, electricity, plastering, drywall, framing, cabinetmaking (well, technically we were helping an Amish cabinetmaker), paint stripping, tiling, hardwood floor refinishing, lap siding, painting, glazing, kitchen designing...

The kitchen I designed. We called it the "yuppie paradise" kitchen.
Before & After, Master Bathroom Shower
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If I were looking for a midwife...

Sage Femme would be a great fit for me. Read about her practice style on her recent post Midwife Identity Crisis. Too bad we live several thousand miles apart!!

The midwife I apprenticed with before I moved has started doing more of these kinds of births. Here's a brief description from an email conversation we had about two years ago:
My midwifery partner and I have done a few births this summer in which the parents did not want to be bothered with at heart tones, no vag checks, etc. that's what we did. Many first time moms, too. When mom was getting away from herself and feeling out of control, I would go over to the tub, get to eye level with her and tell her she was strong and powerful, and that this is normal. She is doing fine. Then I would give her a drink (Dad, too) and give her a cool cloth...then back to couch! Same when baby was caught her own baby and sat back w/Dad to admire their son. We checked that baby was breathing without difficulty and pinking up, Mom didn't look too bloody, so we retreated to the couch again until they called us to get out of the water.
We need more midwives like you!
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