Wednesday, March 28, 2007

C-section and UBAC stories

In light of our recent discussions about c-sections and VBACs, I just came across two birth stories on this blog. The woman's first birth was a cesarean section, and her second was a UBAC (unassisted birth after cesarean). An inspiring read.
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Monday, March 26, 2007

more pictures!

Zari's recent fascinations: standing up whenever her feet hit a surface, playing with Zeke, and grabbing her feet.

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Cesarean Sections and SUVs

There’s been a bit of controversy over one of my earlier posts (Four out of Five) and I wanted to write a more lengthy response to some of the recent comments. I unknowingly offended someone and decided to remove the original post with the brief descriptions of the different women’s circumstances. (For new readers, it was a short post about a recent string of cesarean sections among women I know IRL. Of the last 5 to give birth, four had cesareans. I was the "fortunate fifth.")

The intent of the original post was not to pass judgment on the individual women. I included a few brief sentences about the circumstances of their births to give some context to the post. I tried to keep my language neutral because it was not meant as a critique of the women themselves. Judgmental or attacking comments would have read along these lines:

“I can’t believe that X made Y decision. What was she thinking?”
“X was wrong for doing Y.”

In my follow-up responses, I emphasized that I have a problem with our maternity care system in general, because too many women end up with surgeries for their births. I find fault with any birth, vaginal or cesarean, that leaves women traumatized.

Brooke Shields, for example, had such a nightmarish experience with her first child (induction that ended in a cesarean section, followed by postpartum depression) that she chose an elective cesarean for her next child. I feel sad and angry that she had such a traumatic experience in the first place. To choose medically unnecessary major abdominal surgery for her second birth speaks volumes about how traumatic her first birth was. Women deserve better!

I think that some of my readers are equating my condemnation of a general circumstance (our high cesarean rate) with a condemnation of the women who undergo these surgeries. Disapproval of a general situation does not at all translate into judging women who find themselves in that circumstance, for whatever reason. I think Judit summed it up well with her comment: “I simply see no judgmental attitudes here pertaining to the individual women, but I do see this little survey as a comment on the circumstances many pregnant women find themselves in, in general.”

Let me use an analogy to illustrate my point:

I don’t like SUVs or other large, gas-guzzling vehicles. I have made the choice to drive a small, fuel-efficient vehicle (diesel VW Golf) that gets 50 mpg. I also invested a lot of time and money into converting my Golf to run on used vegetable oil. I am concerned about our country’s level of fossil fuel consumption, especially its role in exacerbating global warming.

Let’s say I wrote a post about the number of SUVs and large trucks in our church parking lot (or grocery store, or wherever), and I expressed the sentiment that many of those vehicles were wasteful or unnecessary. I mean, you don’t really *need* an SUV to drive on paved, plowed, and salted roads!

Okay, so I write the post disapproving of a general circumstance (high numbers of fuel-inefficient vehicles). That does NOT mean at all that I dislike or judge the people who own them! It just means that I disagree with a particular practice. I also acknowledge that SUV ownership is a lot more than simply a matter of consumer choice. For example, most passenger sedans will fit only two children in the back seat, because you have to use car seats or booster seats until children are 8 years old. So after two children, you are essentially forced to buy a larger vehicle, and SUVs or minivans are usually the only choices in the States. Consumers don’t have a lot of fuel-efficient options for larger vehicles. This is partly the fault of auto manufacturers: in France, for example, there are loads of small minivan and mini-SUV type cars that get 40-50 mpg. It’s also partly the fault of our government for not establishing stricter fuel economy standards. And it’s partly the fault of American consumers for not demanding more efficient choices.

Let me tell a story about how appearances don’t tell the whole tale: a dear friend of mine drives an SUV. Waving hi, since you probably are reading this post! Turns out, her parents gave it to her and would be incredibly offended if she didn’t drive it. Does she like driving a gas guzzler? Nope. Would she prefer a fuel-efficient compact car? Yep. But she has to balance her environmental principles with her family relationships.

To wrap things up:
I don’t like cesareans; in particular, I don’t like our national cesarean rate of 30%. Am I glad they exist though? Yes. As Judit remarked in response to another post: “If I felt like I had no access to an emergency c-section in the event of a real emergency, I would be a lot more apprehensive of birthing anywhere.” Do I hope I never need one? Yep. Do I condemn our maternity care system that leaves the majority of birthing women with some sort of scar (episiotomy or C/S)? Most definitely. Do I condemn those who have cesarean sections? Nope.

My defense rests.
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Saturday, March 24, 2007

What about this one?

My sister-in-law designed this business card. Oooh, I like it a lot too! Now I can't decide which I like best.

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Thursday, March 22, 2007

Shameless plug for my slings

I've received so much demand for my slings that I make that I decided to become "official" and make business cards. I'm still working on them, but here's a preliminary design.

My brother-in-law (thanks Rob!) designed the logo. I had a bunch of names floating around and for now have chosen Second Womb for my business name. Close runners up were:
  • I Wanna Be A Wallaby
  • Sassy Slings
  • Baby Hammock
  • Baby on Board
I make ring slings ($35) and pouch slings ($30), by the way. I'm also starting to delve into the world of mei tai type carriers.

Some day I will create a website, but for the moment I've posted the fabrics I have in stock at I suppose I could sell them on Etsy...another thing to do, right?

Anyway, I'd appreciate comments or suggestions for the business card design.

Oh, here's an earlier card I started to work on:

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Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Cord cutting

I don't know whether to feel glad or sad at reading this article about delayed cord cutting from the Toronto Star. I'm glad that medical studies are finally focusing on how leaving the cord intact after birth significantly improves a baby's condition. (Or should I say, " cutting or clamping the cord immediately after birth significantly worsens a baby's condition." It's not that delayed cord cutting is an added "benefit," but that early cord clamping is a "harm.")

Thing is, this shouldn't be news at all! Doctors and midwives have known this for hundreds of years. Anne Frye's textbook Holistic Midwifery extensively documents this, if you want more detailed information.

Here's a quote from Erasmus Darwin (grandfather of Charles Darwin) in 1801:
Another thing very injurious to the child, is the tying and cutting of the navel string too soon; which should always be left till the child has not only repeatedly breathed but till all pulsation in the cord ceases. As otherwise the child is much weaker than it ought to be, a portion of the blood being left in the placenta, which ought to have been in the child.
I have a few issues with the newspaper article, as glad as I am that the topic has made it into the news:

1. The picture. Okay, I see lots of gowned people surrounding a newborn baby. Where is the MOTHER??? Why isn't the baby on her chest??!! Images like these reinforce the idea that birth is a medical procedure, and that the mother is really not all important in the whole process. It reminds me all too much of the Monty Python sketch I posted earlier.

2. Researcher Eileen Hutton's quote: "It's an intervention that has the potential to have a (positive) impact on a large number of babies and at a very low cost. This benefits the baby without any real down sides for mom."
NOT cutting the cord is an "intervention?" I vehemently disagree. Clamping and cutting the cord is the intervention; leaving the cord intact is simply normal human physiology.

Erasmus Darwin. Zoonomia. Vol III 3rd ed. London 1801:302
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Monday, March 19, 2007

Working on the dissertation

It's been quiet on my blog lately. Over the past few weeks I've dealt with:
  • two very nasty plugged ducts (one that lasted more than 48 hours)
  • painful nipples--possible case of thrush? (hoping it isn't)
  • a congested and thus very unhappy baby (who is now well again, thankfully)
  • drop in my milk supply (mostly affecting how much I can pump for the adopting couple)
  • nursing every 2 hours round the clock
I am also trying to push ahead with my dissertation. I am currently writing one of the early chapters, very slowly, since I can only work when Zari naps. I worked on my chapter outline today and think it is coming together quite well. I will also borrow some of the essays from this blog and intersperse them between each of the chapters.

My dissertation goals:
  • finish a draft of all chapters by early fall
  • revise the manuscript during fall semester
  • defend in December
  • become "Dr. Rixa" by Christmas!!!!
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Sunday, March 11, 2007

Passionate Mothering

I recently bought Dr. Sarah J. Buckley's book Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering. It is fantastic--well worth the money. She writes about birth and mothering as both a mother of four children and as a physician and scientist. She makes a compelling argument for undisturbed, instinctive birth. If you cannot find the book in your local library, which is likely since it is published in Australia, you can read many of her articles on her website. If you are pressed for time, read this one first.

Here are some excerpts from a chapter called "Healing Birth, Healing the Earth."
The ecstasy of Birth—her capacity to take us outside (ec) our usual state (stasis)—has been forgotten, and we are entering the sacred domain of motherhood post-operatively, even post-traumatically, rather than transformationally....
Giving birth is, inherently and hormonally, a passionate and sexual act. From the perspective of hormone levels in both mother and baby, we could say that birth is the most passionate experience that we will ever have....
These passionate hormones [oxytocin, prolactin, endorphins, and adrenaline] are not just feel-good add-ons. They actually orchestrate the physical processes of birth (and sexual activity) and enhance efficiency, safety and ease for both mother and baby. This hormonal cocktail also rewards birthing mothers with the experience of ecstasy and fulfillment, making us want to give birth again and again....
The problem in our times is that the passion of birth is neither recognized nor accommodated. Birth has become a dispassionate medical event, usually occurring in a setting that discourages emotional expression. If we are to reclaim our birthing passion, we must give ourselves permission to birth passionately and we must choose our birth setting and birth attendants with this in mind. Birth in these circumstances will be more straightforward, with less need for interventions, helping us to step into new motherhood with confidence and grace.
Passion, to my mind, is an opposite and an antidote for despair and depression. This is clear physiologically and hormonally. If we gave birth, and were born, in passion, how different would our primal emotional imprint be? And what about our brain chemistry, which is being set even as we are born?...As a birthing mother I have both witnessed and experienced the enormous passion that can be unleashed at birth, and that can fuel both passionate motherhood and a lifetime’s work on behalf of mothers, babies, and the Earth, and I ask: “Can we afford, as a species, to be born, and to give birth dispassionately?”
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Oh Boy

I've got a bee in my bonnet over this incredibly myopic article about breastfeeding: "Nursing Mothers Don't Appeal to Everyone."

Here's a summary of his opinions (taken from one of the comments to the article):
1) "I don't like the way you eat, so you should eat in the bathroom."
2) "Mother's milk is like poop."
3) "Only brown people in third-world countries breastfeed."
4) "Some nursing mothers were rude to me after I gave them dirty looks."
I have lots of adjectives swimming around in my head to describe this man's attitude, but I had best not post them in a public forum.

I can't wait until Hathor the Cow Goddess gets her hands on this one.
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Saturday, March 10, 2007

"Barbarians in Blogistan"

Apparently I am part of an ultra-extreme movement, according to a recent article in the Ottawa Citizen, "Barbarians in Blogistan." Here is what the author has to say about people who give birth at home without a paid attendant:
Then there are the medical amateurs, who conduct their own research, attempt to heal themselves on their own, and even give birth by themselves. Devotees of the "unassisted birth movement" hold that newborns should be delivered by the mother herself, without a doctor or midwife or doula present...Certainly, do-it-yourself ob-gyn is amateurism at its most extreme. The majority of the millions of amateurs out there are not far-out obsessives...
Sweet! Now I am a "far-out obsessive." I get a kick out of the idea that allowing an involuntary bodily function to happen is somehow extreme. Sure, DIY brain surgery would be extreme. Or for that matter, a DIY cesarean. Ouch!

But giving birth isn't something you do; it's something you simply let be. For almost all labors, nothing needs to be "done." You just stand aside and enjoy the ride. Dutch obstetrician (and ardent midwifery and homebirth supporter) Gerrit-Jan Kloosterman agrees:
Spontaneous labour in a normal woman is an event marked by a number of processes so complicated and so perfectly attuned to each other that any interference will only detract from the optimal character. The only thing required from the bystanders is that they show respect for this awe-inspiring process by complying with the first rule of medicine--nil nocere [do no harm].
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Thursday, March 08, 2007

Spring is coming!

...and I just put syrup taps into our maple tree. The sap is finally flowing after a long cold spell. I rigged up some plastic tubing so that the sap flows through the tubes & through the lid of the collection bucket. That way miscellaneous things like twigs or bugs can't get in.

Zari has figured out how to grab things and put them in her mouth. Fingers are a favorite--hers or ours. She also likes playing with small stuffed toys, which means we have to tell Zeke all the time: "no, not for you."

A friend lent me a play gym for Zari. She likes to bat the toys around and--of course--put them in her mouth.

I just started putting Zari on her Baby Bjorn Little Potty this week, and she LOVES it! She used to fuss frequently when I peed her over the toilet. Now, she sits contentedly on the potty, kicking her legs and looking around. We are doing even better with EC because she will happily go whenever I offer.

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Saturday, March 03, 2007


I just came across a few interesting articles about cross-nursing (nursing other people's babies): "Breast Friends" and a response to the article: "She Breastfed My Son." I also found this British article called "Not Your Mother's Milk."

I've never thought it was weird, but I guess some people really freak out at the idea. My little sis in fact has a good friend due around the same time, and they've talked about nursing each others' babies if the need arises. For example, if they are watching each others' kids and the other baby becomes hungry, they will simply nurse the baby!

It's something I wouldn't do with a stranger or casual acquaintance, for health reasons. But with close friends or siblings, I wouldn't even blink if they asked me to. In fact I would be honored.

Donating breastmilk is similar, but since it's not given directly from the source, people don't have as much of the "yuck" reaction.

Would you do this for a friend or sibling? Would you mind if your friend nursed your own baby?
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Friday, March 02, 2007

Mmmmmilk! and other pictures

What I pumped a few mornings ago...I often get 6-8 oz during my morning pumping session, after Zari is done nursing.

Doing pushups

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Thursday, March 01, 2007

Musings on Love

The love I have for Zari is unlike anything else. My love for my family members is an undercurrent that never disappears, but it often gets lost beneath the flow of activities and wildly different personalities jumbled together. With my husband, my love takes on changing forms. Of course there’s romantic love. It’s important but certainly not the foundation of a marriage, as movies make it out to be. Sometimes it’s a deep sense of friendship and camaraderie. I notice this most when we’re working on a project together: perhaps repainting our guest cottage or assembling an oil filtration system for our Greasecar. At other times it’s a raw sharing of our innermost selves. Occasionally our love manifests itself as irritation or annoyance when we try to imprint our wills too strongly on the other person.

With Zari, I just love her. Deeply and simply. To say “I feel love for her” is inaccurate. When we feel something, it implies that there is an object outside or separate from ourselves: I feel the wind on my face. My love for Zari is unlike any other. I don’t have to work on it, like I do with my family. It doesn’t take on changing forms, as with my husband. It just is. It always will be. That love cannot be separated from my existence.

Our physical link began to end when we cut her cord 2 ½ hours after she was born. As long as she nurses, we will not have severed those ties completely. But the love I hold for her—the love that is part of me, that is me—will forever keep me bound to her.
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