Sunday, February 28, 2010

Writing contest deadline extension

Thanks for all the entries I've received so far for the writing contest. Call me a bit selfish, but I love reading your entries and I want more! So, I have decided to extend the deadline to March 31, 2010.

I'd also love to offer more prizes, but I can't do this on my own. I have already donated a $50 gift certificate to Second Womb Slings. If you have a product you'd like to offer for the contest, please email me. I'd be happy to review your product and feature your company in exchange for your donation.
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Saturday, February 27, 2010

Hollywood meets the fishy pool

...and it isn't pretty

The fishy pool made me laugh, but everything else about this trailer for The Back-up Plan drove me crazy. Seriously, can we *please* get beyond the worn-out stereotype of laboring women turning into crazy, screaming exorcists?

Still, there's hope. Several bloggers have been writing about Kourtney Kardashian's labor and birth. Check out posts at The Unnecesarean and Crunchy Domestic Goddess for starters. For example, when her water broke, she--gasp!--went about her everyday life rather than doubling over in pain and immediately rushing to the hospital, like Julianne Moore in 9 Months.
photo from The Unnecesarean

Want to see more juxtapositions of Hollywood-style births with what really happens? Watch Laboring Under an Illusion: Mass Media Childbirth vs. The Real Thing. It's a scream.
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Friday, February 26, 2010

10 months old!

I was looking back through pictures of Zari when she was 10 months old, and it's fun to see the contrast between the two children. Zari's hair was so much thicker. Dio still has that fine dandelion fluff. She was into grinding her teeth together at that age too.

When he's concentrating on something, he sticks his tongue out.
He had a major blow-out today, but it had been several weeks since he had a poopy diaper. I can usually anticipate when he needs to go. 

He's been sleeping terribly much of this last month. We're lucky if he only wakes up every 3 hours at night, but sometimes it's every hour and a half or every two hours. And naptime is sometimes just as bad: 30 or 40 minutes and then he wakes up and is exhausted but I can't get him back to sleep. And to top it all off, he's started waking up at 6:30 am, instead of his usual 7:30 or 8 am. What's up? I don't know if there's anything different I can do to help him sleep better. At night, he starts out in a separate room. He's bundled up to stay warm (but has one arm free so he won't struggle). There's a fan running for white noise. But he seems to wake up just as frequently when he's in a separate room as he does once I bring him in with us (around 1 am, or whenever he wakes up to nurse after I've gone to bed).

Dio can crawl quite quickly now. He's started pulling himself up on the furniture all by himself. He hasn't figured out how to get back down, though, so I have to come to the rescue.

He loves to stand up in his crib, hold onto the bars, and bite the rail. This comes in handy for when I need to get dressed or fold laundry or dry my hair. Zari climbs in to join in the fun, and the two of them bounce around and laugh together.
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Call the police!

I just received two comments on the video of Zari's first nursing. I moderate comments on several of my birth and breastfeeding videos, since you never know when some weirdo will write something totally ridiculous. Like this:

Hey......Who beat up your wife (or girlfriend?) I mean look under her chin and her chest and her arm.......Very suspicious if you ask me.

And this:

Hey.......What happened to this new mother?? Either she fell off a 2-story building, or wombody [sic, but a great unintentional pun if you ask me] beat her up. I mean look at her chin, and her chest and her arm. She's all beat up with scratches and abrasions. Somebody should call the police!!

Hmmm, this person has obviously not figured out that it's just blood from giving birth to a newborn baby. They don't come out pre-washed. Well, unless you have a waterbirth. Dio was squeaky clean except for a small spot of blood on his head.

What do you think--allow these comments for their comic relief, or delete them for their silliness?
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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Breastfeeding logo contest

Please pass this along!

The Breastfeeding Coalition of Boone, Clinton and Montgomery County is sponsoring a contest for a new logo for their organization. 

Contest rules:
Entry should include two high-resolution versions of the logo: one with graphics only and one with text and graphics. Text should read "Breastfeeding Coalition of Boone, Clinton, and Montgomery County" with an emphasis on the first two words.

The winning entry will receive Earth Mama Angel Baby's Boobie Tubes ($19.95 value) and a wooden ring nursing necklace with a leather cord ($15.95 value). Prizes are donated by Believe Midwifery Services.

Entries are due by March 15, 2010. Submit entries to

More about the prizes:
Booby Tubes are all-natural hot/cold packs for engorgement, swelling, and pain relief due to weaning, mastitis, or plugged ducts. They are made of 100% organic cotton and filled with flax seed.
The wooden nursing necklace is perfect for giving your child's busy hands something to do while she nurses. The leather cord has special knots that slide and enlarge the opening, allowing you to easily slip the necklace over your head. The wooden ring is silky smooth untreated wood.
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Weight check

I made four infant scale slings today for a midwifery student in Canada. Zari helped with quality control and product testing. Her baby doll weighed in at around 1 pound.
My new Second Womb Slings website is very, very close to being up! I just have a few last details to iron out. Keep posted for the website launch.
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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

DIY play kitchens

We're close to finishing the renovations on the apartment building we bought (pictures definitely will be coming!). I said to Eric the other week, "I feel like we're hemorrhaging money." He agreed. I finished painting and installing 2" wood blinds in the large upstairs apartment today. Now the whole place needs a good cleaning this week before the open house we're holding on Saturday. We keep finding more and more burst water pipes in the basement. The building was winterized last fall (water turned off, pipes blown out, water heater tank drained), so I suspect that the pipes burst the previous winter when it was in the middle of foreclosure proceedings. He's already repaired about 8 or 10 pipes, and just today we found two more! He's over there this evening repairing that area. Then--we keep saying this--we can FINALLY turn the water on and test all of the toilets and faucets.

I have lots of projects I'd like to work on next. One that has caught my fancy is making a play kitchen for the kids. Over at high-heels and a sippy-cup, you can see how to make a play kitchen from thrifted or free items such as a used nightstand. Or for the REALLY frugal people out there, you can make one out of cardboard!

And if I were ever building a house, I would definitely do this to my staircase! It sure beats mattress-surfing down the stairs. Or, if space and money are no object, about adding a huge tube slide inside your house?
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Monday, February 22, 2010

Afterthoughts on Epidurals

Thanks to everyone who posted about their epidural experiences! If you haven't already shared yours, please do. I've really enjoyed reading all of your diverse perspectives. I'll probably have several posts discussing various issues raised in the comments sections.

Today, I wanted to talk about the not-so-empowering epidural experiences and what we can do (if anything) to prevent those from happening as often. Some women really wanted to give birth without an epidural but felt cornered, forced, or coerced into one. Or they had inadequate support from the nurses or their spouse and there were really no other options but the epidural for dealing with labor. Some were induced and--quite understandably--found the pain of Pitocin-induced contractions totally overwhelming. Some had epidurals that supplied inadequate pain relief or that left them with long-term side effects such as back pain or nerve damage. Some felt abandoned after their epidural, like they didn't matter anymore now that they were quietly contained by their medications. Some felt like they had caved in/given up too soon. And so on...

My question for you is: what are some practical things we can do, both individually and institutionally, to make these kinds of experiences less common? I'd like to hear from all of you: "lay" women, birth attendants, doulas, and childbirth educators. I know that we can't prevent every case of disappointment, dissatisfaction, or dis-empowerment. But surely there are things we could do to help. (And I feel that it will be a LOT more complex than simply telling women to adjust their expectations, or telling them that wanting a natural birth is a silly, selfish goal, etc.)
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Saturday, February 20, 2010

This is what 9 months does to siblings

From 2 days old... now
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Friday, February 19, 2010

From the mouths of babes

Zari, Dio, and I took a shower together yesterday morning. As we were getting in, Zari said:

"Dio has a little bum. You have a HUGE bum, mama! I have a medium bum. We all have bums."

I'll take that as a compliment.
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Wednesday, February 17, 2010


When I was a PhD student, I was chatting with an acquaintance about pregnancy and birth. She had four children. She said something that was really hard for me to wrap my mind around. "I just love it when I go into labor and get an epidural," she said. "I feel so empowered!"

Epidural + empowerment are two words that don't always get put together in the same sentence, even among women who gladly choose epidurals for pain relief. For me--huge caveat that I'm speaking about my own thought processes here, not generalizing myself onto all women--an epidural is the opposite of empowerment. Not just emotionally or psychologically, but in the literal sense, too, because an epidural causes full or partial paralysis from the waist down. The thought of losing sensation, of literally being unable to walk or move, isn't something I would look forward to in labor. To me, labor = movement. I cannot imagine having a contraction without moving in response to it.

I imagine that many people have reacted the same way to my choices (giving birth at home, having an unassisted birth, foregoing pharmacological pain relief) as I did when I was talking with my acquaintance. A sense of curiosity, a bit of the exotic other that feels genuinely foreign, the push-pull of one's own values and preferences at odds with another's.

I wonder why it is so surprising that women have such different reactions to certain choices or life experiences. We certainly don't expect everyone to feel the same about, say, their time in high school. Some people spend their whole lives reliving their high school glory days. They loved high school so much that they can't wait to go back and coach football or teach English at their old school. Some people would happily erase those years from their memory and are just glad that they made it through alive and relatively unscathed. (Or maybe they were like me: mostly oblivious to what was going on around me and happy in my own little world. It helps that I had a good set of friends, too.)

So what is it about birth experiences that's so divisive? Why are we so quick to take offense, or to react defensively, when people make different choices from ours? Perhaps we allow these significant life experiences to partially define ourselves--so that the choice to have, or to not have, an epidural isn't just about the epidural any's about how we define ourselves as mothers and as women.

This meandering train of thought brings me to another set of questions. I want to hear about your epidural experiences. Tell me everything and anything (and you don't necessarily have to answer these specific questions in order--think of them more as prompts):
  • did you plan on having an epidural during labor? why or why not?
  • at what point in labor did you have one? 
  • how did you feel about it at the time? later on? 
  • did you feel at all pressured into choosing an epidural (from nursing staff, midwives, physicians, or even your own partner or friends)? 
  • did you have adequate labor support? In other words, were you able or encouraged to use other forms of pain relief (shower, jacuzzi, birth ball, massage, hypnosis, movement, TENS, gas and air, etc) before the epidural?
  • did you experience any short- or long-term side effects from the epidural?
  • do you feel that the epidural positively or negatively affected the course of your labor (or had no effect at all)?
  • what did your epidural feel like? did you have complete loss of sensation? pressure but no pain? etc...
  • would you have an epidural again? would it depend on the particular circumstances of your next labor? (for example, maybe you'd have an epidural if you had another posterior presentation, but not for a normal anterior presentation)
  • what about emotional/psychological effect of the epidural? did you feel empowered? disappointed? strong? weak?
Let's hear from you!
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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Upcoming book reviews

I have a lineup of books waiting to be reviewed. I've enjoyed all of them and look forward to finding the time to write up my thoughts about them. The reviews will appear in roughly this order:
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Sunday, February 14, 2010

Writing contest

I feel like I need to extend a metaphorical olive branch, after the response to my grammatical critique a few days ago. I was thinking back to my favorite teachers from high school and college. The best ones always provided constructive criticism: praise for what you're already doing well, and critique of what needs work. Only hearing praise would have felt warm and fuzzy, but wouldn't have helped me improve. Only hearing criticism would have discouraged me. (I had a violin teacher in high school who did this, and she made me cry all the time. I finally switched teachers because she scared me so much.)

So I am going to sponsor a writing contest. Think of it as Act II--the part where we put our minds and pens (keyboards) to work and do something constructive. To entice you to participate, I have prizes!

Topic: Becoming a Parent, Becoming Transformed
Genre: Your choice (first-person narrative, short story, informational article, etc.)
Length: 500-1,000 words
Deadline: entries must be received by March 1, 2010
Submission instructions: email your essay and contact information to stand.deliver at One entry per person, please. Entry must be your own original, unpublished material. Don't even think about plagiarizing.
Prize: winning entry receives a $50 gift certificate to Second Womb Slings. The entry will also be published at Stand and Deliver.

I purposely made the contest topic open-ended. I encourage you to reflect on one specific aspect of becoming a parent that has transformed you in some way. It could be about anything from struggling with infertility to giving birth to raising an exceptionally spirited child.

Please spread word about this contest. I look forward to an inbox full of entries!
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Saturday, February 13, 2010

Heart2Heart giveaway winners!

Velvet Sweatpants and Emily (comment #37) are the winners! Please email me within the next 5 days.
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Thursday, February 11, 2010

Attack of the Grammar Queen

This post was a grammatical edit of a recent online article about home birth. I went back and forth about leaving it up and taking it down. I finally decided to take it down and focus my energy on constructive pursuits such as the writing contest. I've left the comments section open, though. Lots of sparks flying in there!
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Tuesday, February 09, 2010

CFP: Controlling Birth: The Politics of Pregnancy in American Culture

Controlling Birth: The Politics of Pregnancy in American Culture
Proposed Special Session 
Los Angeles, CA
January 6-9, 2011

The term “birth control” typically refers to the various technological and behavioral mechanisms intimate couples use to prevent or limit progeny. This panel seeks papers that broaden this term to encompass the myriad ways that society engages in controlling birth. Despite the prevalent view of reproduction as an intensely intimate and personal decision, how and when couples have been able to limit or prevent reproduction have been greatly influenced by larger political concerns—debates over women’s roles in society, sexual agency, and sexual desire; eugenically-motivated historical narratives of “excess” reproduction and “race suicide;” and conflicts within the scientific and biomedical discourses of the body, pregnancy, childbirth and the professionalization of obstetrics.

Please send a 250-500 word abstract and a brief C.V. to Ginny Engholm ( by 1 March 2010.

Ginny Engholm
University of Kentucky
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Monday, February 08, 2010

Heart2Heart giveaway!

I have two Heart2Heart Infant Inserts from ERGObaby to give away! See my reviews of the ERGObaby carrier and the Heart2Heart insert for more information about ERGO's product line. This infant insert is designed to carry your newborn securely in an ERGO carrier.

The Heart2Heart insert is a natural cotton color and will coordinate with any ERGO carrier. $25 value.

The last Heart2Heart giveaway winner never contacted me...which is too bad, because I liked her entry. Make sure this doesn't happen to you!

For this giveaway, I am giving extra points to expectant moms or parents of a newborn. I want the winner to be able to put this to use, now!

Giveaway rules:
  • To enter, leave a comment. Let me know if you're expecting a baby or if you have a newborn (up to 4 months old). 
  • US residents only, please. (It would break my bank account to ship it internationally...sorry!)
  • Be sure you leave some way for me to contact you: website, blog, Blogger profile, email, etc.
  • Contest ends Friday, February 12. 
  • I will pass the Heart2Heart along to someone else if the winner does not respond within 5 days. 
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Sunday, February 07, 2010

This week in pictures

It's been a slow, quiet week. Too slow. Zari was bored. It's been cold and wintry out and we didn't even have any snow on the ground until this weekend. We got out a few times this week (playgroup, library, bank, grocery store, indoor track) but the rest of the time we were indoors. Which means we sit in the living room and play with the same toys over and over again. I am very much looking forward to warm weather.

So what do you do when you are cooped up indoors?

You line up objects by color and size and shape
You take naps
You jump off couches in your post-church superhero outfit: tights, shirt, and supercape.
On a really, really boring afternoon your mother makes you a boa constrictor bag. It's fortunate that she sews slings because she always has fabric on hand. The boa constrictor bag is very useful for singing "I'm being eaten by a boa constrictor" by Shel Silverstein. 
Also useful for helping greedy sisters stop taking things away from their little brother. Your mother tells you "you're being a greedy python. Time to go in the python bag!" and you think it's so funny that you forget about bothering your brother.
After it snows, you make a big snowman and stomp around in the snow with your papa. Snowman accessories include: funnel, concrete anchor nails, carrot, string trimmer, sticks, and leather work gloves.
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New WIC breastfeeding package

This past October, WIC made a major revision to its foods program: it will now cover fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and baby food. The most exciting change is its new breastfeeding package that rewards exclusive breastfeeding. You can read more about the new WIC program at the Motherwear Breastfeeding Blog or you can visit WIC's website. Here are some details on the breastfeeding package:
To get breastfeeding off to the best possible start, the new WIC food package strongly encourages exclusive breastfeeding. Since giving formula in the early weeks may prevent mothers from making enough breast milk, WIC helps protect a mother’s milk supply by not offering formula to breastfed babies in the first month of life.

In turn, fully breastfeeding mothers receive a greater variety and amount of foods than anyone else participating in the program. Fully breastfed infants receive more than twice the amount of baby foods than formula-fed babies from six months of age until their first birthday. Throughout an infant’s first year of life, the new WIC benefits are greater for women who choose to offer their babies more breastmilk than formula.
This news prompted some questions that I'd like to discuss:

1) WIC is one of the largest purchasers of infant formula, distributing around half of the infant formula used in the United States. Is giving out formula for free (to the receipient at least, not to the taxpayer) inherently incompatible with its support of exclusive breastfeeding? In other words, can you really be promoting breastfeeding when you're still providing formula to any qualified WIC mother who wants it? I found that others have been asking the same question. In the International Breastfeeding Journal, George Kent discusses WIC's promotion of infant formula in the United States (full text is available--it's definitely worth the read!). A few excerpts from his article:
WIC has a breastfeeding promotion program, but its positive impact is diluted by WIC's infant formula program. It is difficult to see how offering free formula could fail to be an incentive to use formula. The inducement is not simply that something of value is being offered at no cost. Even if it is unspoken, there is the implicit message of endorsement: if a government agency is handing out this product, it must be good....

WIC encourages breastfeeding as the best source of infant nutrition, and it earmarks funds for breastfeeding promotion and support activities. However, the budget for breastfeeding promotion [0.6% of the total WIC budget excluding rebates] is far less than the amount spent on obtaining formula.
2) Should WIC restrict formula distribution to mothers who have a medical contraindication to breastfeeding (adoption, certain medications or diseases, documented low supply from an IBCLC, etc)? One could argue that this would inhibit "freedom of choice"--a phrase that Americans love to throw around whenever they feel threatened in some way. Would women feed their infants something else besides formula (diluted juice, straight cow's milk, etc) if WIC did not provide it for free? Is it better to provide an inferior substitute for free, than to refuse to subsidize it "just in case" some women might (hypothetically) feed their infants something even worse?

On the other hand, would ending formula subsidies really inhibit freedom of choice? Women on WIC would still receive assistance with their own nutritional needs, and with food for their baby once it starts on solids. They could still choose to use formula--just at their own expense.

Is it right--from both public health and ethical perspectives--to not give free formula to women who choose not to breastfeed? There is a huge body of evidence about the health risks of infant formula. Is it right to supply it, for free, when breastfeeding would have greater health benefits and fewer health & medical costs? George Kent argued:
In 1993 the US government's General Accounting Office (now called the General Accountability Office) recommended that the government "develop written policies defining the conditions that would contraindicate breastfeeding and determining how and when to communicate this information to all pregnant and breastfeeding participants of the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC)" [p3]. The resulting study spells out the benefits of breastfeeding, and it provides a detailed analysis of the conditions under which breastfeeding might not be advisable, such as cases in which the mother has specific diseases or has taken certain kinds of drugs. The study concludes by reiterating the benefits of breastfeeding, and recognizing that there are rare situations when the mother should be counseled to not breastfeed. It ends by saying that "Breastfeeding should not be withheld from any infant unless absolutely necessary" [p32].

What happened with these recommendations? Surely one must recognize the contradiction between acknowledging that mothers should only rarely be counseled to not breastfeed, and at the same time providing free infant formula to very large numbers of mothers.

Perhaps people should have the opportunity to choose to use infant formula, just as they are allowed to choose greasy hamburgers and cigarettes. The point here is that allowing a questionable product to be on the market is one thing. Having the government promote it is quite another. Having the government promote infant formula particularly among poor people raises enormous ethical questions. Does the balance of benefits and risks from the use of infant formula justify the government's providing infant formula to almost half the infants in the US?
Even if they ask, WIC will not provide alcoholic beverages to its clients. The fact that they might ask for beer, for example, is not a sufficient reason to provide it. Similarly, the fact that some WIC clients prefer to use infant formula is not a sufficient justification for WIC to provide it. The large-scale distribution of free infant formula by WIC to all clients who ask for it is a situation that needs to be fixed.

If infant formula could be demonstrated to produce better infant health, there might be a reason to distribute it without cost to those who could not otherwise afford it. However, there is no evidence to support the generalization that the use of infant formula results in better infant health than breastfeeding. On the contrary, the evidence clearly and consistently shows that the use of infant formula increases the risks of morbidity and mortality throughout the life cycle. The use of infant formula has been shown to be harmful to the health of mothers as well. The inescapable conclusion is that the government should not be distributing free infant formula.

It might be argued that if they were not supplied with infant formula, some WIC clients might instead use juice, cow's milk, evaporated milk, or over-diluted formula. There is that risk, but it is likely to be overcome with proper breastfeeding support, from WIC, employers, and others. Moreover, those who feel that they must use infant formula would remain free to purchase infant formula. It does not seem sensible to promote an inferior product simply because one can imagine something that is even worse.
The US Food Policy blog has a discussion about these very issues. Several commenters pointed out that there are other complex behind-the-scenes issues: lack of education about breastfeeding, breastfeeding difficulties, lack of maternity leave, lack of support for breastfeeding/pumping in the workplace. One commenter wrote:
The true killer of breastfeeding is the fact women in the US have to work to make ends meet- not the WIC office. Mothers are not milk cows and unless you have a sympathetic boss, pumping every two hours to maintain your milk supply disrupts work. Even then, some women find it impossible to pump because their bodies know the difference between pumping and nursing so then their milk supply drops or even dries up completely. Am I saying that women should not work?- No I am not. However I am pointing out how complex this problem is.
Let's discuss!
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Thursday, February 04, 2010

Crawling, finally

Dio figured out how to crawl on Monday! Each day he becomes more intrepid. I love watching him move his arms and his legs, gingerly at first, and then more confidently, almost as if he can't believe this crawling thing actually works. He's been making these funny happy noises all week, too: kind of a squawk/laugh/cough all rolled into one. I'd say he's crowing with pride in babytalk. He's also started pursing his lips all the time, which makes me laugh. Zari has started to imitate him. I'll see if I can catch that expression on film.

Zari never did much in terms of signaling potty when she was Dio's age, but I swear Dio signs "potty" almost every time I bring him to go. And he makes very distinct fake grunting noises when he's pooping--mimicking what I'm doing. Zari, on the other hand, did EC strictly by timing and me cueing her. She never really signaled to me when she had to pee. She was also dry at night much of the time starting around 7 months old. I'd potty her once around 1 am, and she'd be dry the whole night and have a huge pee when she woke up. She would never really wake up during our nighttime trips to the potty. Dio is the total opposite: the littlest thing at night wakes him up, and then he's ready to party! Forget trying to potty him at night. He either gets REALLY MAD or acts like it's morning and starts wiggling around in bed and making lots of noise and trying to wake us up. So for now I put on a double-stuffed Fuzzibunz and change him once in the middle of the night. We'll work on nighttime EC at a later date...
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Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Necessary/Unnecessary: A round of birth stories

The fourth Lamaze Healthy Birth Carnival about "avoiding unnecessary or routine interventions" is about to begin and I hope I'm not too late! I have several birth stories to share, all featuring long, exhausting, non-progressive labors.

Paxye, a mother of four, recently wrote about her first two births. Both began in birth centers in Quebec, and both were very long, posterior labors. She transferred to a hospital after a day and a half of laboring and very nearly had a cesarean with her first baby--the only reason she didn't was her persistent refusal and her son's birth one minute before the absolute deadline her doctors gave her for a vaginal birth. Her second labor followed much the same pattern, but she insisted on staying at the birth center and, with a very supportive midwife, gave birth on her own power. Her third birth was a planned unassisted birth, one that went very smoothly and quickly compared to her first two. A year after that birth, she wrote about why she chose unassisted birth. She just gave birth to her fourth child and first daughter Wilhelmina. It was a long, stop-and-start, posterior labor like her first two births. She commented:
As I grew in my knowledge and my confidence the stories show a progression. The first ended up being a hospital transfer and a whole array of interventions short of a C-Section, but only because I would not consent. The second, with me refusing the transfer and staying at the birth centre but still with more intervention than I would have liked and then finally my second unassisted birth [Wilhelmina], which resembled the first two labours, yet I had all of the control.
Jenne's first birth, a planned unmedicated hospital with CNMs, turned into a traumatic ordeal when she had a long period of "failure to progress" early in labor at 3 cms. She wrote about this birth for the Lamaze Healthy Birth Carnival #4. In her words:
I was bullied, harassed, threatened and manipulated into accepting pitocin augmentation and AROM. I knew it was not necessary and I felt no need--physical or emotional--to speed up my labor. I was coping well and was trusting the natural process that birth is.

Eventually as I was so adamantly refusing to consent, I was summarily kicked out of the hospital. I say it that way because there was no gentleness or supportiveness in the attitude of the attendants. They used it as a threat to get me to cooperate. When I didn't, they rudely told me to leave and left it at that.
You can read the full birth story here. This birth was so traumatic that she developed PTSD. Jenne has also channeled those negative experiences into positive action; she helped found the support group Solace for Mothers. Jenne gave birth unassisted to her second baby about a month after Dio was born. She recently revisited what birth means to her, if you're interested in reading that.

Amy Romano's sister Katherine just had a homebirth-turned hospital transfer-turned c-section. She wrote about the labor and birth in the post my lovely c-section. She labored at home for a long, long time and finally decided to transfer after no cervical progression. She tried an epidural, pitocin, and sleep to see if that would help her labor pick up. Eventually she chose to move to a cesarean section and, although it was the last thing she had planned for, she felt very positively about her decision.

And, if you've been reading my blog, you heard about my sister-in-law's birth in Failure to progress or reason to be patient? She wanted an unmedicated birth, but after a marathon labor and several hours of no progress past 8 cms, she chose a few interventions. After 8 hours of no progress, she tried AROM and an IV for hydration. She gave it another 2 hours and, when she was still 8 cms dilated and starting to fall asleep standing up, she chose an epidural (to help her sleep) and Pitocin (to augment the contractions). That did the trick, and she gave birth vaginally just a few hours later.

So I've been mulling over the question "what makes an intervention necessary or unnecessary?" The prominent theme in these four sets of birth stories is that the women who felt the interventions were necessary and welcome (Katherine and my SIL), rather than unnecessary and traumatizing (Paxye and Jenne), freely chose the interventions on their own--on their own request, on their own timetable, and on their own initiative. They knew it was time for assistance. They were the primary actors in their births, rather than recipients of others' agendas. They held the locus of control, even when that meant asking others to do things for or to them at some point (IV, epidural, Pitocin, or c-section).
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Monday, February 01, 2010

Sour grapes?

Another article about Gisele Bundchen's birth gives a few more details. From Supermodel Gisele Bundchen claims son Benjamin's birth 'didn't hurt in the slightest':
Four months after giving birth to son Benjamin, she has opened up about the eight-hour birth - saying it 'didn't hurt in the slightest'. Gisele gave birth in her bathtub at home in Boston with no pain relief with her mother, sports star husband Tom Brady and a midwife by her side.

"My delivery was in a bath tub, in water," said the 29-year-old. "I wanted to have a home birth. I wanted to be very aware and present during the birth...I didn't want to be drugged up. So I did a lot of preparation, I did yoga and meditation, so I managed to have a very tranquil birth at home."

Speaking to Brazilian TV channel Fantastico, she said: "It didn't hurt in the slightest. The whole time my mind was focused in each contraction on the thought 'my baby is closer to coming out.' It wasn’t like 'this is so painful.' So I transformed that intense feeling into a hope of seeing him."

Bundchen says her son didn't cry after being born and rested in her lap for a long time. "It's wonderful," she said. "Never in my life I thought I could love like this. You hear people talking about it, but you don't know until it happens to you. I couldn't be happier."
Poor Gisele. She had a lovely birth, one that she planned and prepared carefully for--and she gets ripped apart for talking about it. Commenters to this article call her a liar, an android, a robot. They call her brainless and dumb, or deceitful, or selfish and shallow, or overly competitive. All because giving birth was not a painful experience for her. Sour grapes, anyone?

Now I love my birth experiences. Pain was definitely a part of the experience, although not the dominant or defining aspect. I've written earlier about how I view pain and what giving birth feels like (great stuff in the comments sections, too!). I don't at all begrudge Gisele her painless birth, nor do I doubt that she is telling the truth. I know several women who have had births where pain really wasn't present at all (I'm not talking about painless births due to early epidurals--but unmedicated or "natural" births). Often they were using some form of hypnosis, such as Hypnobirthing or Hypnobabies. Several gave birth in out-of-hospital settings, but not all. The fact that I experienced moments of pain as part of giving birth doesn't make me doubt that Gisele didn't, nor does her experience evoke feelings of hostility, defensiveness, or anger in me.

Gisele's description of focusing the power and intensity of birth--"I transformed that intense feeling into a hope of seeing him," she remarked--reminds me of the video Birth Day. Naoli Vinaver Lopez, herself a midwife and mother of three, transformed the sensation of pain into one of "love bursting out of my womb" by focusing on her husband as she labored. I also recall an essay by Ingrid Bauer about "Birth as sheer pleasure" (from Midwifery Today Issue 68). Some excerpts:
With this second birth, I went into active labour very suddenly and without warning just after 3:00 a.m. I was taken aback by the intensity of the contractions. For some bizarre reason (fear!), I decided to time the contractions even though I hadn’t planned that and had no idea what the timing actually meant! They were five minutes, five minutes, then three minutes, three minutes, then two minutes, two minutes, progressing rapidly.

I didn’t realise how fast things were going and sank into fear mode. If these first six contractions were already this intense, how would I ever stand 10 more hours? After all I was an older mom, hadn’t had a baby in 12 years, and this was going to be hard! Immediately, my abdomen was gripped with incredible pain. I couldn’t stand straight. I bent over, grasped the sink and rolled and rocked and moaned with every contraction. Despite the intense pain, I was “coping” well.

But all of a sudden, I remembered. I realised that even as I was rocking and moaning with the contractions, part of me was actively resisting and holding back against the powerful life energy that was coursing through me. I was still split, hadn’t fully embraced or committed to that energy, and was being painfully pulled between the two choices. It became crystal clear to me in that moment that the only thing that was causing pain was not the strength of the birthing energy, but my fear and resistance to it. The more I resisted, the more it hurt.

I decided to completely move into that energy, as part of it, rather than against it or bravely alongside it. I had a good look at the next contraction. The words, “This is only sensation” came very clearly, out of nowhere, into my awareness. I decided I wanted to feel this sensation, not resist it, no matter what it was, no matter what it felt like. I wanted to be and feel alive, no matter what that might mean! I consciously opened my arms, heart, sex and body to it. I was willing to experience the very centre of it, now, in this very moment. And wow!

Forget about pain-free! In that moment, literally within seconds, the overwhelming pain was transformed into the most intense orgasmic pleasure. And I mean intense. Those contractions were powerful. Contractions came one upon the other with rarely more than 5-10 seconds between, and often less (not like my first birth where I slept between contractions!). I felt sometimes close to the edge of being overwhelmed and falling back into fear (have you ever been so happy that you’re afraid you can’t take any more and it’s going to end? It’s a bit like being at that edge).

But then I opened my mouth to sing and didn’t stop. I just melted right into that life force, flowing like an open channel through my body, out my mouth, out my sex, out my heart. I wish I had a tape recording because apparently I sang some incredibly beautiful melodies (“not like any birthing sounds I’ve ever heard,” said my good friend, who caught the last bit and has been to several home/unassisted births). I don’t remember what it sounded like (except one note); I just remember the feeling of the energy.

I felt everything within my body: the cervix opening, the baby moving down, the bones cracking apart slightly, his head emerging. No pain, no burning, just oh-so luscious, sexy, sensual, wet, alive, moving fullness. There was absolutely no pushing at all. I just kept breathing and singing and wasn’t aware of any contracting or bearing down in my uterus, just smooth movement. Just before he emerged, I instinctively arched way up and then lay forward again (I was on hands and knees), as it felt almost like he was moving “around a corner.”

Exactly two hours and 10 minutes after the very first twinge, he came out to the waist into his papa’s and my hands and paused there between contractions, opened his eyes, looked around and sang “Oh” on the exact same note I was toning. Then he whooshed out on the next contraction and I took him in my arms.

That birth changed so many things in me, showed me the true beauty and pleasure of Nature and birth, cracked my heart wide open. I can hardly read a single book on birth now — even the most progressive, alternative natural birth kind — and not think that somehow, something utterly vital is missing. Something nobody ever told me about. So much emphasis is on how to handle the physical pain. Nobody ever prepared me to simply fully embrace the sheer sensual pleasure of birth.
My parting thoughts? "It is an unfortunate part of human nature to envy those who climb above us and to pull them down literally or verbally or at least within our own critical and judgmental minds," Richard and Linda Eyre commented in an essay about motivating children through praise and positive reinforcement. Let's move beyond our impulse to deny other women's experiences when they are different from our own. Let's stop tearing each other down and instead celebrate those moments of intense joy and fulfillment.
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