Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Lots of misc news

No particular rhyme or reason to what will be on this post, but here goes:

The Mother.Culture.Art breastfeeding photos are online again. They show the various ways breastfeeding is understood in our culture.

I have a plugged duct that is quite painful, enough that I didn't run this morning.

I made butter yesterday! I started buying fresh organic milk from a local farmer, and I thought I'd see if you could really make butter by shaking the cream. One mason jar and 15 minutes later, I had butter! I still have to knead the butter to get any pockets of buttermilk out.

Vanessa, the woman who had an unassisted birth in Le Premier Cri, just posted a comment on this blog. Bienvenue! I translated the information about her birth on the film's website. I invite any native French speakers out there to suggest revisions. There are several phrases that I couldn't find an exact English equivalent for, so I took some liberties. Here goes:


Vanessa, 32, and Mikael, 36, live in a collective with eight other people, a group of activists, artists, and organic farmers who met each other in the intersection of alternative ways of life. Their house in Maine reflects their values—it’s a retreat for city dwellers, surrounded by woods and fields, on the edge of a lake.

Vanessa fully embraces her pregnancy. It is her first baby, who is very much wanted and hoped for. Not only for her and Mikael as a couple, but also for each of their house mates.

Vanessa chose to give birth unassisted by the medical profession, deciding instead to take the responsibility of her son’s birth into her own hands. She is convinced that her body will know how to give birth and that if a problem arises during the birth, that she will be able to resolve it herself. She wants no outside interventions during the birth: “My reasoning is that if a problem presents itself, I will sense it. Women have always had that intuition. Giving birth unassisted is an affirmation of feminist and anarchist beliefs: nobody is better qualified to birth my baby than myself.”

Still, her decision worries some of the members of the group. Some would like a midwife there just in case...A legitimate concern, because it is also the first birth within the group, the first infant of the collective. A lot of their hesitations surfaced—primarily the worry that nobody in the group would know how to identify an emergency situation.

But Vanessa responds that it would be impossible to give birth the way she feels is best with a midwife waiting in the closet. “I would always be aware of her presence.” 

Vanessa is doing her own prenatal care. She does yoga and has regular massages. She drinks homemade herbal teas made from red raspberry leaves and nettles for her and her baby’s health. She is serene as she awaits the birth of her baby. 

She hasn’t decided yet where in the house she will give birth. Outside is probably out of the question because it will almost certainly be too cold. She will have a birth pool in the room. But she wants to leave everything open, to have complete liberty during the entire process to decide how and where the birth will unfold. The longer her pregnancy continues, the more Vanessa feels that her decision is right. 

“I want to be the only one deciding how I feel and how the birth should unfold.” Above all, she wants to ensure that she does nothing to hinder the process before it happens. She notes any desires or wishes that arise. Still, in order to have complete spontaneity during labor, everything needs to be well set up in advance.
Her final wish is to have a “lotus birth”—not cutting the umbilical cord and keeping the placenta and baby together until the cord falls off by itself a few days after the birth. “I really want this to be a rite of passage for me and my baby, and in order to for this journey to take place, you have to take risks and be willing to embrace the possibilities.” The knowledge of the risk she is taking is part of her journey, but she places her faith in nature, trusting that her baby will arrive safely into the world. She awaits as the full moon draws nearer.

Unassisted Birth
In the United States giving birth at home without medical assistance (called “unassisted birth” or “undisturbed birth”) is a growing trend. No doctor, no midwife, no nurse. The woman gives birth alone, with her family, or with close friends, whatever suits her best. Some women give birth outside, others in water, in the living room, or in a birthing room prepared especially for the event. 

A recurring theme in the unassisted birth movement is the right to have the freedom of choice and autonomy in making health care decisions. 

The unassisted birth movement is a militant protest against the over-medicalization of pregnancy and birth. Its supporters--including committed environmentalists, intellectuals, artists, and feminists—wish to overturn the established order and to bring childbirth back to its original meaning: bringing life into the world in a truly natural manner. Giving birth, according to women who choose unassisted birth, is a creative act that should unfold exclusively according to the mother’s desires, because they believe that what is good for the mother is also good for the baby. 

The unassisted birth movement proclaims that birth is a natural physiological process that does not need medical intervention. According to the movement, we are all in charge of our bodies, and the birthing mother is the best qualified person for bringing her baby into the world as long as she knows her body well. She knows what is best for her and for her baby. No one else has the right or the ability to tell her what is best for her. Medical procedures and technology are unwelcome intrusions, and women’s perceived dependence on medical experts leads them to accept treatment that in any other circumstance would be unacceptable. Women also reclaim their right to birth their babies into their own hands. 

Unassisted birth is also about facilitating mother-baby bonding. No one, except perhaps the baby’s father, should intervene in or interrupt the mother-baby pair after the birth. In France, the movement has no official representation. There are some reports of unassisted births, but no formal organizations exist that promote the practice. 1-2% of women in France give birth at home, but generally with a midwife in attendance—a practice quite common, for example, in the Netherlands

For more information:


  1. I'm sorry to hear about your plugged duct. Yuck. I hope you get better quickly.

    Making butter is fun, isn't it? We made some in our homeschooling group, and it was amazingly delicious. How do you knead it, though? We had the kids shake it in bottles for a long time, but ended up resorting to a mixer because it was taking so long. I guess the mixer got all the buttermilk out. That buttermilk was surprisingly delicious. We scarfed it all down pretty quick. :)

  2. I hope your plugged duct has cleared up. When I had one last the thing that cleared it up for me was nursing Charlie lying down, but with him lying the opposite direction I was (our feet pointing opposite directions)-- I guess having him nurse in a totally different position worked it out. You may be beyond this already, but anyway...


  3. Yeah, I've done that many a time when I got recurrent plugged ducts. Oh, the acrobatic positions I have used to get those things unplugged. This one took about 36 hours to resolve completely with lots and lots of hand-expressing. I had clumpy fatty stuff coming out of one of the pores. I'd work and work it out, and gradually it would come out more easily. Is there a name for that, by the way?

  4. Grey's birth story was beautiful, but it wasn't unassisted. She had a midwife there, and her husband did not really catch. I don't think Shoulder Dystocia is really complication it's just a signal to move to a different position. I don't really like seeing midwives between women's legs it must be really uncomfortable.


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