Tuesday, December 29, 2009

8 months old!

A few days late...we've been busy with family. 

The predominant theme this month is how big Dio is. Every day we get more comments and jokes about how big/heavy/chunky/dense/chubby/fat he is. He has a 7-week old cousin and next to her he's a freakish monster baby. He's usually pretty good natured, but I love this picture taken on Christmas morning. We all were tired and wanted more sleep.

A month ago, Dio had just started having occasional tastes of apples and oranges and bananas. Now he's eating something at almost every meal, mostly fruits and vegetables and occasionally pretzels or homemade bread. And of course plain Cheerios, which come in quite handy when I need to put him down for a minute and want to ward off a crying spell. It still seems strange that he's eating so much at this point, since Zari didn't have any solid foods at all until she was 10 months old. But Dio is eating with gusto and I don't know if I could have kept him away from food for that long. And all of that food is doing interesting things to his digestive system. Goodbye, sweet smelling runny breastmilk poop...hello stink!

I think Dio will walk in Zari's footsteps--literally--and walk almost as soon as he crawls. She crawled at 8 months and walked at 10. Dio wants to walk all the time, which means we have to walk him all around the house. He also loves standing up against the furniture. I've figured out that if I stand him at the coffee table with my feet on either side of him, I can read a book and he'll be happy for quite a while just standing and looking around. No crawling yet, and no interest in even trying out hands and knees positions at this point. He has started twisting over from a sitting position into a near crouch, and maybe he'll start crawling that way.

I feel envious of all those parents of 4-5-6-month-olds who sleep through the night (or at least 5-6 hour stretches). At best Dio sleeps 3 hour segments, maybe close to 4 when he first goes to bed. At worst he's up every hour at night. He doesn't always need to nurse to go back to sleep, but he does need help of some sort: shushing or cuddling or rocking. We've had a few really rough nights this week where Dio was up almost every hour all night, and then Zari woke up multiple times and/or talked in her sleep. We were like zombies in the mornings. Last night he only woke up every 3 hours, which felt amazing to me.

I just don't know what else to do to help him sleep longer stretches. I bundle him up, but leave at least one arm free so he doesn't struggle and get too mad trying to get free. I have Fuzzibunz on at night so he doesn't feel wet. I use white noise and/or a fan (or both!). When we're not at my parents, he starts off in another room and at some point in the middle of the night I bring him in with us. At my parent's house, he starts off in a portable crib and then spends the last half of the night in our bed. When it's warmer again, I might try leaving him in his room a bit more, but it's simply too cold right now to be out of the covers every 2-3 hours during the night. He's really good about falling asleep for naps and for bedtime without nursing. Usually I just set him down when he's relaxed but still awake, and he conks out really quickly. But at night, when he wakes, he needs help getting back down. Which is fine, and I don't at all resent snuggling him back to sleep (or kicking Eric and letting him do it!) But I would really, really love longer stretches of sleep...even 4-hour intervals would be heavenly.

We've been enjoying the snow: sledding, snow forts, snow tunnels, snow mountains, snow angels, snow drawings. And of course, eating snow! At home Zari just eats it straight from a cup or a bowl. But here the grandparents spoil her with maple syrup or raspberry syrup poured over the snow. I could do without the Minnesota temperatures, but at least it's been reasonable since we've been visiting. Reasonable = above 0 degrees Fahrenheit (-17 C).

Zari loves playing with her cousins. Yesterday they closed themselves in a tiny bathroom and played with glow sticks.

Morning snuggle earlier this month.
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Friday, December 25, 2009

Quiet Christmas

It's a quiet Christmas evening here. We have a few feet of snow on the ground. All of the children are sleeping, except Zari (she's setting out foam alphabet squares). All of the adults are gone to a movie, except me. That's life when you have a baby. The dishwasher is doing the last load of dishes from our traditional German Christmas dinner of rouladen and rotkohl, along with sides of carrot souffle, peas, homemade dinner rolls, and steamed Christmas pudding with lemon sauce. The toys from the Christmas crackers are scattered around the dining room...I should make sure nothing is on the floor, since they are most definitely choking hazards for someone Dio's size. This Christmas we all--for the most part--gave handmade gifts to each other. I love the ideas everyone came up with. I'll take some pictures and post more about them later.

I don't want to spend too much time on the computer today. Since today's celebration is, at heart, about a baby's birth, I'll leave you with a lovely birth story from NieNie, aka Stephanie Nielson. (You can read a detailed account of her plane crash story here.)
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Wednesday, December 23, 2009


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Monday, December 21, 2009

Currently reading

I made a quick trip to the library last week (without kids! what a strange and liberating feeling) and grabbed several books off the shelf.

I first read Labor of Love: A Midwife's Memoir by Cara Muhlhahn. Cara was the home birth CNM featured in The Business of Being Born. It was a quick read, but not because it was particularly well-written or interesting. I found the book flat, rambling, and disjointed. The memoir was mostly about Cara's background and upbringing and not that much about her work as a midwife. I don't think it would have been published had she not already gained national recognition in the documentary.

I just finished Monique and the Mango Rains: Two Years With a Midwife in Mali by Kris Holloway. I really liked it. Kris served in the Peace Corps and worked alongside Monique for two years. Monique served as her village's midwife/health care provider and faced incredible obstacles in her effort to improve health and save lives. Malians have one of the lowest per-capita income and highest maternal mortality rates in the world. The book devotes a portion to Monique's midwifery work, but the bulk of the memoir is about all of the other aspects of life in a rural Malian village: poverty, lack of education, malnutrition, living and housing conditions, village politics and community traditions, gender relations, etc. It's one of those books that makes me grateful for what I have and a little...well...sheepish at the complaints and concerns I have surrounding birth culture in the U.S. I still think birth reform in this country is important, but I also realize that we have it so easy in the grand scheme of things. We have the luxury of arguing about informed consent and refusal, about the politics of VBAC and ERCS, about the relative merits of pharmacological versus physiological methods of pain relief...while the women in Monique's village had no access to cesarean section at all. Eight years after Kris' Peace Corps service, Monique herself died in childbirth. She was giving birth in a hospital in a nearby larger town and wasn't even seen by a physician until two hours after her death.

If you want a good midwife's memoir, my all-time favorite is Peggy Vincent's Baby Catcher: Chronicles of a Modern Midwife. I've read it probably 10+ times (I used to teach it as part of my freshman rhetoric classes at the University of Iowa) and it still makes me break out laughing. Other midwife memoirs I've read include:
And you can't mention midwives' stories without paying tribute to Laurel Thatcher Ulrich's book A Midwife's Tale: The Life of Martha Ballard, Based on Her Diary, 1785-1812. Another historical look at an American Midwife is Mormon Midwife: The 1846-1888 Diaries of Patty Bartlett Sessions.

Midwife memoirs I haven't yet read:

    I pulled two books off the breastfeeding section: Spilled Milk: Breastfeeding Adventures and Advice from Less-Than Perfect Moms by Andy Steiner and Unbuttoned: Women Open Up About the Pleasures, Pains, and Politics of Breastfeeding. I enjoyed both books but I think I prefer Spilled Milk over Unbuttoned.

    Supposedly a collection of essays about breastfeeding, Unbuttoned seems to have a high concentration of uber-competitive, glad-to-be-weaning, supplementing, and/or formula feeding writers. You'll come away from reading this book thinking that breastfeeding is the world's ugliest, most competitive sport; that LLL members are Nazi ideologues bent on making all mothers feel guilty; that breastfeeding always entails excruciating pain, bloody nipples, and terrible inconvenience. Does the fact that most of the contributors come from New York City play a role in the tone of this book?  Hmmmm...

    I checked out another book because I needed to look up a reference for an article I'm writing: The Official Lamaze Guide: Giving Birth with Confidence by Judith Lothian. I had the pleasure of meeting Judith at the Lamaze Conference in October. I talked with her about the history of Lamaze's position on home birth (also for the article in progress).

    The last book I checked out was Jessica Mitford's The American Way of Death, Revisited. It kept me occupied all during our 8-hour drive to Minnesota yesterday. A great read and makes a good companion book to Stiff by Mary Roach. I had another long talk with my dad about burial practices and am even more resolved to avoid traditional American funeral practices. The whole embalming/open casket/viewing/funeral home/airtight vault thing is really silly. I mean--if you're dead, who cares about a hermetically sealed coffin or the airbrushed makeup or the velvet-lined coffin? I'd like to either donate my body to science, be cremated (without embalming/casket/funeral home service as is increasingly common), or have a green home funeral & burial in a simple wood coffin or simply wrapped a shroud.

    Any good books you've read recently?
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    Friday, December 18, 2009

    Joyful news

    If you've been watching CNN, you probably saw that Arizonan mom Joy Szabo had a successful second VBAC--but not without a fight and a 6-hour temporary move away from her family. I blogged about her story a few months ago in Elective(?) Repeat Cesareans. Take the time to read the CNN story (which includes links to other stories and articles) and watch the video about "How to get the birth you want."

    Reality Rounds has responded to the news of Szabo's VBAC, wondering if the public might see her story as one of (selfish) entitlement, rather than empowerment.

    CNM and MPH Nicole Deggins of It's Your Birth Right just blogged about what patient empowerment means to her. Her favorite thing about attending births is when she sees "The Shift." It happens after a laboring woman is ready to throw in the towel, after she is sure she can't do this anymore. Then..."The Shift" happens and the dynamic changes:
    Immediately after “The Shift” she gets a surge of energy from somewhere and then WOW! The miracle of birth and life happens. And as she delivers her baby, she realizes that YES not only could she do it...she just DID it and the pride, the energy, the happiness, the beauty of it all. OMG!!! If we could put it in a bottle we could send love and stop war around the globe.
    She has a lovely story of a young teenage mother with lots of emotional and personal baggage, a "social history that had worn her down." But she found her voice and her inner strength through giving birth.

    My bottom line on the Szabo drama: it's a great story of one woman's empowerment, determination, and courage to follow what she feels is right for her and her baby. But it's a story that shouldn't have happened in the first place. A pregnant woman shouldn't have to move six hours away and rent an apartment in a big city, away from her home and family during the final weeks of pregnancy, just to escape an unnecessary surgery that her local hospital would have forced on her by court order.
    Read more ...

    Wednesday, December 16, 2009


    We've been renovating our upstairs bathroom--something we always intended to do, but a mysterious and worsening water leak compelled us to start on it this month. We ripped everything out: toilet, sink, ugly faux-wood paneling from the 1970s, cheap vinyl tiles, and plywood subfloor. Now we were down to the bones of the room: plaster walls, pink plank subfloors, rough plumbing.

    The next step was rebuliding the bathroom, step-by-step. We patched some holes in the floor, changed the heating vent location slightly, then installed a cement board (Hardibacker) subfloor. Zari helped by sweeping the floor. Two days ago, we cut and dry-fit the marble tiles. I was marking the tile locations for some rather tricky cuts, and Zari wanted to be in the middle of the action. She wanted my permanent marker, but I was able to keep her happy with a crayon. She "marked" the floor alongside me. Once the kids were sleeping, I installed the marble tiles by laying a thick bed of mortar over the cement board and squishing the tiles in place, being careful to create a strong suction seal with each tile.

    Last night, once the mortar was hardened enough to allow light foot traffic, I applied the grout. I went up this morning to polish off the grout residue while Eric played with Zari and Dio.

    The next job was to paint the wainscoting, baseboards, and char rail trim. When Dio was napping in the morning, Zari helped me paint everything down in our basement laundry room (too cold in the garage for painting--it was just 15 degrees F this morning). She really wanted to help paint, but it was getting difficult keeping the paint nice and smooth, not to mention keeping the paint out of her hair and clothes. So I came up with a great idea. I gave her a clean paintbrush and asked her to dust off all of the pieces before I painted them. I leaned them against the washing machine. She meticulously brushed down all of the pieces, carefully following each groove from top to bottom. If her brush went astray, she started over from the top, drawing the brush down in neat parallel lines.

    While we were working--me painting and her dusting--she said to me, "Good job, mama! You're doing such a great job." I had said those exact things to her minutes earlier, acknowledging her contribution to the work I was doing. Her comments made me thing how important it is to model behavior and skills to our children. And to let them work alongside us. Children don't make a distinction between work and play like adults do. Everything is play to them: sweeping, cleaning, cooking, painting, loading the dishwasher (all things Zari has helped me do in the past few days). We can come up with creative ways to allow very young children to "help," giving them a sense of purpose, importance, and, of course, enjoyment.

    For example, when I'm cleaning the bathroom, nothing makes Zari happier than to give her a bottle of "special spray" (either a dilute vinegar solution or just plain water) and a washcloth and let her go to town. She'll easily spend 30-60 minutes spraying and wiping the sink and shower and floor. She knows that my job is to use the "stinky spray" (bathroom cleaners) for the toilet and mirror.

    How have you helped model important life skills with your own children? Or, if you're not yet a parent yourself, what did your parents do when you were young?
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    Sunday, December 13, 2009

    Emergency deliveries

    Here's a roundup of recent "emergency deliveries." It happens in planes! In living rooms! In bathrooms! Via Blackberries! I've included highlights from each story. Bolding is mine. Feel free to laugh, cry, or roll your eyes.

    My commentary:
    • what's with the hullabaloo over clamping/cutting the umbilical cord?
    • good thing a doctor can go to medical school, not deliver a baby since the 1970s, and get all credit for doing nothing more than tying a knot in a shoelace
    • How come the dads get all the glory for doing simple things like using a Blackberry or being on the phone with an emergency responder? Isn't it the mom who's doing all the work here? Give her some credit!

    Baby Boy Delivered 30,000 Feet Over Colorado aka "Magic Doctor Does The Honors"
    A Southwest Airlines flight from Chicago to Salt Lake City diverted to Denver on Friday after a woman gave birth to a healthy baby boy at 30,000 feet. A suburban Chicago doctor who hadn't delivered a baby since the mid 1970's did the honors in the sky over Colorado. When it was determined that the woman was not only in labor but wouldn't make it to either the intended destination or any other, she was moved to the rear of the aircraft where the doctor did his magic, tying the umbilical cord with his shoestring.
    Baby Starts Birth in Hospital Toilet aka "It's an emergency if you're not in bed--even in a hospital"
    A British woman said she started giving birth to her son in a bathroom after seven medical workers told her she was not in labor. Janet Clark, 38, said she was 25 weeks pregnant when she went into the Pilgrim Hospital in Boston, England, with a great deal of pain and was sent home after talking to a doctor and four midwives, The Sun reported Monday. Clark said she returned to the hospital the next day and went into the bathroom after being told by two more medical workers that she was not in labor and had nothing to worry about. However, Clark said her son, Zac, began to arrive while she was on the toilet. "A pregnant woman shouldn't have to plead with medical staff," Clark said after giving birth to Zac, who hospital staff said needed special care at first but is now doing well.
    Young woman delivers her own baby at home in Mackay, aka "Wow! You mean delivering babies isn't just something doctors do?"
    JANE Santacaterina never wanted a homebirth but nobody told her baby. Little Braithe Williams arrived in such a hurry on Sunday afternoon, his mother did not even make it to the car. "My partner and I live at Dysart (in central Queensland) and I'd come to stay with my Mum at Andergrove for the last two weeks of my pregnancy, so I'd be closer to Mackay Hospital," said Jane, 20, yesterday. "When the labour pains started I went to get into the car and landed on the loungeroom floor. That's where I stayed."

    With her contractions coming every two minutes, mother Ruth Santacaterina rang through to Queensland Ambulance Service emergency medical dispatcher Leighton Smith in Rockhampton. "He was brilliant, so calm. He told me what to do and I did it," Mrs Santacaterina said.
    Fast-Tracked: Home birth quite a surprise for couple aka "Good thing dad was an EMT"
    Maria and Michael Hernandez of Modesto never planned a home birth for their second child. It just happened that way and it went remarkably well. "It was like something on TV or a reality show," Maria said Tuesday, holding her daughter, Brianna. "I'm just glad my husband was there to calm me."...

    Friday, her husband took her to Kaiser Modesto Medical Center for what they thought would be a routine birth, but after more than four hours, hospital staff sent them home to wait for Maria's contractions to get stronger. At 8:40 that evening, Maria's labor pains were getting worse and became intolerable by 9 p.m. As they prepared to return to the hospital, Maria went into the bathroom and her water broke. Soon after Michael ran to assist her, the baby's head was crowning, he said.

    Michael said his training as an emergency medical technician kicked in. He spread towels on the floor in the bedroom and helped his wife to lie down. "As soon as she was on the floor, the baby was coming by herself," he said. "The majority of her head was coming out."

    His mother, Maxine Mosqueda, was on the phone with a 911 dispatcher and they could hear the sirens of emergency vehicles responding to the call. The baby's head emerged, and the baby let out a cry. With another contraction, her shoulders pushed through and Michael pulled her out. He was clamping the umbilical cord when Modesto firefighters came into the room. Brianna Addison Hernandez was born at 9:17 p.m. Friday. She weighed 7 pounds, 1 ounce, and was 21 inches long.

    As emergency personnel took mother and child to the ambulance, the parents passed through a sea of neighbors gathered outside the home. The baby appeared healthy and began to nurse during the ambulance ride to the hospital, the parents said....

    Hernandez said the birth certificate, giving their home as the place of birth and noting the father delivered the baby, is something they will treasure. Maria was able to give birth without all the intravenous lines and noisy medical equipment. "It was scary, but now I think it was the most natural thing that could have happened," she said.
    Dad's web guide to delivering tot aka "Blackberry Birth"
    Desperate dad Leroy Smith resorted to Google with the request "how to deliver a baby" when his wife went into labour. He was so clueless when wife Emma suddenly started to give birth at home he opted to use the internet.

    Mr Smith called a midwife for advice but before she arrived Emma, 25, began having powerful contractions. So the 29-year-old grabbed hold of his BlackBerry, accessed the internet and sought help from search engine Google for step-by-step instructions. And after following the detailed guide on the internet's wikiHow Emma safely gave birth to daughter 6lb 11oz Mahalia Merita Angela Smith....

    "The BlackBerry told me that when I saw the head, I had to support it. And when the baby actually comes out, I had to place her on Emma's chest, then covered them both with a blanket and make sure they were both comfortable and relaxed. It was amazing. It was just us two in the house because the other kids were with their grandma - Emma's mum. The midwife arrived about five minutes after the birth and told me I'd done good. She clamped the umbilical cord and I cut it."

    Mr Smith, a security guard, added: "I couldn't believe I had done it and Emma was such a soldier, no pain relief or anything. I knew the midwife was on her way but Emma went into labour very quickly, the whole thing only took about 40 minutes."...

    Proud mum-of-four Emma, of Leytonstone, East London, said: "It's incredible that Leroy delivered our first daughter. The other three are boys. "I said to him 'you're Leroy Smith, you can do anything'. I had wanted a home birth anyway. And thank God for the BlackBerry, I'm never going to moan at Leroy about being on the phone again."
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    "Orgasmic Birth" giveaway winner

    I re-read through all of the comments for the Orgasmic Birth giveaway. Thanks for all of your helpful questions and commentaries. I'll be putting together the most interesting questions for when I interview the filmmaker Debra Pascali-Bonaro.

    I usually select giveaway winners using a random number generator, but this time I took the liberty of selecting a winner myself. I wanted someone who would be able to use the film not only for their own personal viewing, but also for educating and inspiring other women. And that person, to me, is...doctorjen! She's a family physician in a small rural town and attends about 70-80 births a year. (If you want to read more about the births she attends, browse through the archives of this blog. You'll see birth stories and commentary by her.) The film would make a great addition to her lending library.
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    Saturday, December 12, 2009

    Call for LDS pregnancy, birth, and postpartum stories

    If you are LDS and have stories/insights to share about your pregnancy, birth, or postpartum experiences, please contact Felice Austin at The Gift of Giving Life. She's writing a book "to encourage women of [the LDS] faith to make conscious choices about pregnancy, birth, and beyond." I'm honored to be collaborating with her on this project. Your stories can be long or short and can cover a range of topics. Please send in your stories soon; she'd like to receive all stories by the end of January.
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    Wednesday, December 09, 2009

    Nursing Moses

    Charles Moses Martin Goodrich began his life as a motherless baby. His mother died of an amniotic fluid embolism (a very rare and very fatal obstetrical complication) less than12 hours after she gave birth. What happened next was nothing short of miraculous. Over 20 women in the community of Marquette, Michigan arranged to nurse baby Moses round-the-clock.
    The more than two dozen other women who've nursed Moses know they cannot replace what was lost hours after he was born. But the father they've reached out to help says they've given his son something he could have never provided on his own. He's a healthy, happy, well-adjusted boy," he said, "who has always known a mother's love."
    Read the rest of the story here.
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    Tuesday, December 08, 2009

    Babies (the movie)

    The Motherwear Breastfeeding Blog alerted me to a new documentary coming out this April: Babies.  It follows four babies from Namibia, San Francisco, Tokyo, and Mongolia through their first year of life. I can't wait to see it!

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    Sunday, December 06, 2009

    Grand finale

    I came home from this evening's orchestra concern on a post-Beethoven high. There's nothing like playing Beethoven's 5th to get your muscles working and your spirits soaring. I was hoping for a nice relaxing evening. But instead, I found a string of posts that got me worked up all over again.

    Jill at The Unnecesarean started it all with two posts: Stuff White People Like: Talking About Birth and Convincing White Women that Birth is Painless Will End 'Race Suicide'

    Which got Reality Rounds' creative juices flowing with A Birth Blogger Rap

    And our intrepid OB/GYN student over at Mom's Tinfoil Hat wrote three replies-turned-posts.
    Reply turned post, need to walk away style
    Reply turned post, Dr. Amy is still there? style
    Reply turned post, Dr. Amy style

    I am doing my best not to get sucked in...you know, like this person:

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    Friday, December 04, 2009

    Musical breasts

    Our university orchestra, in which I play second violin, had a dress rehearsal this afternoon. I made extra certain that Eric could be home to watch the kids. He came home early from work and I ran off to the rehearsal, about a 10-minute walk away. I was bundled up in my winter jacket, hat, scarf, and mittens and still the cold was seeping through all of the layers. When I got to the auditorium, there were no string players to be seen. I realized that I had read the schedule too quickly and that the woodwinds were rehearsing first. And I also realized that Dio hadn't nursed for a few hours. There was no way he would be able to make it another two hours until the rehearsal was over. So I speedwalked back home, nursed Dio in a few minutes flat (urging him on with "nurse! nurse!" whenever he got distracted), and hurried back.

    I was chatting with several other orchestra members, mostly men and women with grown children, about how I am going to manage nursing and bedtime on concert night. Several of them reminisced fondly about their nursing days and said, "I totally understand what you're dealing with!" One woman joked with me about letdowns that take you by surprise.

    We'll see how the concert goes this Sunday. It will be another day of musical breasts, of nursing between tuning and curtain call.
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    Wednesday, December 02, 2009

    Breastfeeding in church

    I come from a religious culture that is fairly breastfeeding-friendly (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, or LDS/Mormon for short). No one bats an eye at large families. (I come from a family with 5 children, and my husband is the oldest of 7. There were 8 children in my mom's family and 6 in my dad's.) Many more women in our church breastfeed than is average for North America.

    Our meetinghouses usually have a room called a "Mother's Lounge," a place for women to go to nurse their babies or calm crying children, etc. I've seen some really nice mother's rooms with several comfy rockers, a changing table, and a sink. I've also seen some fairly cramped and unpleasant ones. The building in my town has a tiny room that was recently converted into a makeshift mother's room. It has an old padded armchair and a small side table. The last place I lived, the mother's room was off in a far corner of the church. The furniture was from the 1970s and I tried not to think about the numerous body fluids that had been spilled onto the old overstuffed couch. It was icy cold and always smelled strongly of poop and pee. I didn't go in there unless I really, really needed to take a nap along with my daughter! Some church buildings do not have mother's lounges at all.

    Although I am glad that we have mother's lounges, I feel strongly that we shouldn't be expected to only nurse there and nowhere else. I almost always nurse in the pews, unless my baby is particularly loud and fussy. Then I go into the lobby to nurse until they have quieted down. Jane of Seagull Fountain just wrote a post about this, actually, feeling that mother's lounges can quickly become "ghettos" where women are supposed to go to do unmentionable stuff like, say, feed a child from their own breasts. Read her post You don't need an inner city to have a ghetto.

    I've never got any grief about nursing in public from other church members, although I have heard of women in other LDS congregations who have. I guess because some churchgoers "immodest" or "indecent" or "licentious," somehow. TopHat, another LDS mama, discusses why she doesn't think breastfeeding in church is immodest. Jane of Seagull Fountain wrote this in Comfort Zone:
    let me share my joy [about breastfeeding] without thinking I’m criticizing you or diminishing you.

    Unless you think breastfeeding is something that should be hidden or something weird or something to be done under cover, in that small room, or only as long as “nothing shows” or no one is inconvenienced.

    Then I am criticizing you, and I’m saying you’re mistaken.

    And this includes people who are afraid that exposing (young) men to women breastfeeding will somehow harm them morally. I can’t even believe I typed that sentence. It is completely illogical. Letting young men see what breasts are for will LET THEM SEE WHAT BREASTS ARE FOR.
    What have your breastfeeding experiences been like at your church? Where do women usually nurse their babies? Do you have special rooms set aside for nursing or for noisy children? Is it expected that you go to these rooms, or do you feel welcome to nurse wherever you want to? Have you ever received praise or criticism for breastfeeding your babies in church?
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    Monday, November 30, 2009

    "Orgasmic Birth" giveaway!

    Debra Pascali-Bonaro has graciously offered to give away a copy of her film Orgasmic Birth! To enter (one entry per comment, please):
    • If you've already seen the film, write your own review. Post the review on your blog or website, and put a link to the review in the comments. Or post your review directly in the comment section. 
    • Write a question for Debra to answer. I will be interviewing her in the next few weeks and will use the most interesting, thoughtful, or probing questions. 
    • Talk about your own orgasmic/ecstatic/transformative (or whatever!) birth, especially in relation to the issues raised in the documentary.
     Giveaway ends Friday, December 11 at 5 pm EST.
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    Friday, November 27, 2009

    Review of Orgasmic Birth

    I met the filmmaker Debra Pascali-Bonaro at the Lamaze Conference in October, and she gave me a copy of Orgasmic Birth to review. I’ve watched it three times and had three very different reactions to the movie. This isn’t a traditional film review; I won’t be giving a play-by-play of what happens in the movie. It’s more a written account of the conversations I’ve had with myself and with others as I’ve thought about the film.
    The first time, I watched it alone while sewing. I found myself close to tears during the birth scenes. They were beautiful and moving. The noises and the movements evoked a bodily memory of my own births. When I watched these women move and heard them give birth, my body knew what they were experiencing.

    The film follows eleven couples through their late pregnancies, births, and early postpartum time. While they were still pregnant, they spoke of their hopes and fears for the birth. They were interviewed again after their births and discussed how they felt about the experience. The film also features twelve different birth experts, including obstetricians, family physicians, pediatricians, midwives, academics, doulas, and birth advocates. Many of the names are familiar: OB/GYNs Christiane Northrup and Jacques Moritz, Dr. Sarah J. Buckley, Dr. Marsden Wagner, Ina May Gaskin, Elizabeth Davis, Penny Simkin, Eugene R. Declercq, and Robbie Davis-Floyd. Others might be new to some viewers: Carrie Contey, PhD, Maureen Corry, MPH, Richard Jennings, CNM, Ricardo Herbert Jones, MD, Lonnie C. Morris, CNM, Lawrence D. Rosen, MD, NaolĂ­ Vinaver, CPM, and Billee Wolff, RN.

    Four of the eleven women give birth in a hospital with wildly different experiences: a first-time mom almost gives birth en route, not realizing that her labor is so far advanced. She commented that the hardest part was laboring in the car, when she could no longer move with her contractions like she could at home. A woman who strongly doesn’t want a c-section agrees to an elective induction and ends up with Pit, an epidural, and multiple vacuum extraction attempts. Another woman has a cesarean section for failure to progress. The other women give birth at home, some outside on their decks, some in birth pools, some in the corner of the shower, some on their beds. We see women squatting, kneeling, crouching, standing, swaying, walking, bouncing on the birth ball, hanging from a birth sling, climbing up and down the stairs. We hear them joke around and moan and sing and grunt and scream and cry.

    Several of the women explained what they were thinking and feeling during their labors. For example, we saw footage of one woman screaming as her baby was being born. From the looks and sounds of it, you’d think she was in extreme agony. But the film cut to her explaining what was going on internally: It just felt so satisfying to scream, she said. Giving birth was the most satisfying work I’ve ever done. I loved that the birth scenes often included how many hours or minutes before birth. One woman had a very long labor: 38 hours. You see her laboring at 23 hours before the birth, then 18 hours, then 6, then 1, and then finally you witness the last minutes of pushing. Because you see the hours pass by, you understand that birth is a process that takes time and is sometimes just…slow and tedious and quotidian.
    I watched Orgasmic Birth again a second time a few days later. My emotional response was more muted, and I found myself asking more probing questions about the film: What, exactly, was Debra Pascali-Bonaro trying to say with her film? Why did she choose “orgasmic birth” for the title? Might the idea of orgasmic birth set women up for failure when they actually go into labor and feel the rawness and intensity and pain, not just the bliss and the ecstasy?

    I found myself particularly troubled with the word “orgasmic.” I think a number of other words describe more accurately what the filmmaker is trying to communicate in this film: ecstatic, empowering, or transformative come to mind. In our society, orgasmic is always used in the narrow, sexual sense. In that sense, orgasmic birth = having a literal orgasm during birth. But that isn’t really what the film is talking about at all. We do see at least one woman literally having an orgasm during her labor (she said it was very unexpected and quite lovely), but the other women experience something else, something more nuanced and more complex than simplistic sexual climax.

    I thought about my own labors and births and there is no way I would label them as orgasmic. There wasn’t anything sexual in the experience. Sensual? Yes. Not in the erotic, titillating sense, but definitely sensual in the larger meaning—an experience involving all of the senses deeply and fully. Definitely ecstatic. Definitely painful and challenging at certain moments, mostly during the last hour or two before Dio was born. Empowering, yes. And normal and everyday too.

    I wondered if my rejection of the idea of orgasmic birth was just a case of sour grapes. You know—for me birth didn’t feel like amazing sex, ergo it cannot for anyone else either. But I don’t think so. I totally understand how labor and birth can be pleasurable, enjoyable, and even sexually fulfilling for some women. I enjoy giving birth—not that every moment of it is sheer bliss and pleasure—but the totality of the experience, for me, is quite positive. Just not sexual in nature.

    I do know some women in real life who have experienced moments of incredible pleasure (including sexual/orgasmic feelings) during birth, including a woman who I’ve known online for a while and finally met in person at the International Breech Conference in Ottawa. She brought her tiny newborn, not even two weeks old. This third baby’s birth was fast and furious, but twice during labor and pushing, she experienced moments of intense pleasure, much to her surprise. Click here to see pictures of her birth, complete with detailed comments. (Crowning pictures are quite graphic.)

    I still find myself troubled with “orgasmic birth.” I worry that that particular phrase (though not necessarily the film) sets women up for failure. I can see women finding the idea intriguing until they actually go into labor. Then, as the raw power of labor threatens to engulf them, they will say: “$#@! This hurts! This doesn’t feel anything like sex! Give me the drugs!” Sex in our culture is also debased and commercialized. I don’t like the idea of linking our casual and sometimes crass attitudes towards sex to something as beautiful and sacred as birth (and I think sex should be beautiful and sacred, but it often isn’t in our culture today).

    The other day, I looked up “orgasmic” in the dictionary and found that there is another meaning outside “the physical and emotional sensation experienced at the peak of sexual excitation, usually resulting from stimulation of the sexual organ and usually accompanied in the male by ejaculation.” The second meaning, one not in circulation in our everyday language, is “intense or unrestrained excitement” or “a similar point of intensity of emotional excitement.”

    I had an “aha!” moment. Debra Pascali-Bonaro is arguing that birth can be a peak emotional, physical, and spiritual experience. And given the right setting and preparation, birth can include moments of ecstasy, transcendence and occasionally even sexual pleasure. Her film explains the hormonal and environmental similarities between making babies and having babies. If we see birth not as just a narrow equivalent of sex, but rather sex and birth and breastfeeding as a continuum of important and inter-related life experiences, then the phrase “orgasmic birth” makes much more sense. Think of it this way: if women were expected to make love in the same kind of setting that they labor and birth in (in a clinical environment, observed by unfamiliar professionals, monitored and tethered to machines, and above all their biological rhythms forced to adhere to a strict timetable), they would undoubtedly have a high rate of sexual dysfunction and disappointment.

    Other thoughts I had while watching the film the second time: I wondered who this film is intended for. It’s definitely a film that people in the “birth world” would love (midwives, doulas, childbirth educators, birth activists, etc). But do we need yet another film that preaches to the choir? Would anyone with a more mainstream or medical view of birth even watch this movie? In other words, does the very nature of the film—and the title in particular—deter the very people who would benefit the most from watching it?

    Remember the Today Show back in September that accused home birthers of being hedonistic? I had the thought that, while watching Orgasmic Birth, someone could watch the movie the wrong way and find fuel for that argument. Now, that person would have to ignore about 80 minutes of the film in favor of 5 minutes of material (or not bother watching the film and simply make assumptions about the message based on the title).

    The hospital births that were decidedly not orgasmic or empowering or transformative (purple pushing, stranded beetle positions, "doctor knows best" mentality, multiple vacuum extraction attempts, cesarean for "failure to progress," etc) were a bit of a distraction. They showed these excerpts without enough time to explain what was going on and why. And the music, at times, was a bit too obvious in the emotions it was attempting to provoke. You know, the happy Enya-like music for the good parts, the stark, dreary music for the sad parts, etc.
    I watched the film for the third time a few days ago with a group of family members: my husband, my sister-in-law Lisa* (mother of five children, the first three born with Pit and epidurals and OBs, and the last two born naturally with hospital-based CNMs), my brother-in-law Ken*, and his wife Mary*, who is 33 weeks pregnant with their first baby. Mary is seeing a hospital-based group of five CNMs. These midwives have a 7% c-section rate and seem very open to doing births in a variety of ways. Mary would like to give birth without an epidural, so we’ve been giving her lots of advice and suggestions with the caveat that she can take or leave them as she wishes. We kept a running commentary as we watched the film: advice, suggestions, reactions, and explanations of what was going on, which Mary found helpful.

    After we watched the film, we had a long discussion about everyone’s reaction to the movie in general, and the phrase “orgasmic birth” in particular. Below is my paraphrase of our post-film conversation.

    Lisa (mother of 5, last 2 born naturally): “The title didn’t really fit the film. The overall message of the movie was that birth is normal. The film showed really what giving birth was like for me when I gave birth naturally. And even how they showed those hospital births and how clueless people are and how they just do what their doctors say. That kind of behavior bothers me, and that’s how it was with my first three children. Now I know that my body does know more than what a doctor knows, and that I need to trust myself. If I were in Mary’s situation, I think this is the best movie you could watch. I like this film much more than The Business of Being Born, which was really Hollywood-ized. There’s more nudity in this film and more of the noises of birth—it’s really what birth is like.”

    Mary (pregnant with her first): “It was invaluable to watch this movie with all of you, since you've already had several children. I liked hearing your multiple points of view during the movie.”

    Lisa on Pitocin: “Pitocin is awful. If someone offers you Pitocin, RUN! Run away from that person. That’s why I got epidurals with my first three because I could not handle the pain once I was on Pitocin. It felt like I was being turned inside out. With my fourth baby [first natural birth] I was really scared because I didn’t know if I would be able to do it naturally. But really for me, the contractions didn’t hurt at all. Pushing did. I pushed my fourth out in a kneeling position, leaning over the back of the bed, which was raised up all the way. The nurse had never seen a woman give birth like that before. The only thing I didn’t like about the movie is that I don’t think birth is a sexual experience. The kissing thing doesn’t make any sense.” (A few of the couples kissed a lot during labor.)

    We talked about the less commonly used definition of orgasmic (as a peak emotional experience), and they both totally agreed that that’s the meaning the film is trying to portray.

    Lisa commented that orgasm [in the narrow, sexual sense] has nothing to do with birth to her. Linking it to sex, for her, didn't work. Mary agreed. Lisa commented that sex was often talked about as this “dirty” thing when she was growing up. They weren’t allowed to say the words "sex" or "orgasm," let alone have one. Mary commented that sex is often not what it should be and that it has too many negative connotations or implications in our society, so using the phrase “orgasmic birth” almost contaminates the birth. Lisa was pleasantly surprised to find that the film was different than she thought it would be like because of the title. The first few minutes are a montage of women in labor, making very sexual sounding noises (because, let’s face it, labor and birth often sound like that!) and she was thinking “oh boy, what am I getting myself into?!” They both felt that the title “Ecstatic Birth” more closely described the movie’s message. Still, Mary felt the title should stay the same, even though it’s not exactly the right fit for the movie, because it made her think.

    Eric commented that he was most moved by the women who found that giving birth was a transformative experience—particularly Helen, who was a survivor of sexual abuse. (Helen was molested when she was 6, and raped when she was 19. She wanted to have her baby in a way that was safe, that was the opposite of her experience of sexuality in the past. She was worried that labor would trigger flashbacks, but giving birth became the most powerful thing that has happened to her body. She said, “I felt myself go away, and this woman who knew how to birth a baby came in. I felt transformed.”)

    Lisa: “I now have complete trust in my body, myself, and my womanliness. The film did a great job of showing how birth is naturally. There’s a plethora of emotions in the whole process, from the excitement of first finding out you’re in labor, to impatience when it keeps going on and on.”

    Mary particularly liked one husband’s comment about the birth, that “it felt like God was in the room.” She liked that the film communicated that it’s okay to be scared and it’s okay to cry or scream or whatever you need to do.

    Towards the end of our discussion, Lisa commented: “Mainstream people aren’t going to watch the movie because of the title, and that’s a shame. How could I tell someone they should watch a movie with that title, especially some of my more conservative friends?”
    It turns out that "Orgasmic Birth" was not Debra Pascali-Bonaro's first choice for the documentary title/concept. She pitched several other titles to media executives, including "Ecstatic Birth," but only "orgasmic birth" stuck. This makes sense of a title that is intriguing and controversial and memorable, but that doesn't exactly fit the content of the film. Her interest in the topic also comes from her own experience giving birth. From the Times Leader of NE Pennsylvania:

    The birth of her own third child, 19 years ago, “was an orgasmic experience in the way that dark chocolate is,” Pascali-Bonaro says. “The release, the absolute release, as I felt his body slip from mine, was orgasmic.”
    In sum: the birth scenes are incredible and the movie is worth watching for that reason alone. They're not overly romanticized or sanitized. I found them incredibly realistic, in all their variety, about what giving birth normally is like. I'd like a different title, because I think that it will keep many people from watching it, but I also understand the rhetorical power of "orgasmic birth."

    * Not their real names. You know who you are!
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    Giveaway of Permission to Mother

    Dr. Denise Punger is hosting a giveaway of her book Permission to Mother. Click here to enter!
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    Thursday, November 26, 2009

    7 months old!

    Dio turned 7 months old today--and what a lovely way to celebrate that on Thanksgiving. We're visiting Eric's sister for the week. She has five children ages 11 months to 11 years. On the way out, we stopped by to see my younger sister and her new baby girl. Dio definitely looks like a monster compared to his two-week-old cousin.

    So what's Dio up to these days? He likes to copycat vocalizations. He grunts, I grunt back, he grunts again (or shrieks, or squeals, or says ah ba ah ba or ah pa ah pa) ad infinitum. He loves waking up Zari in the mornings. He breaks out into a grin the moment he sees her, and he lunges toward her bed to grab and poke her. He's been on a bit of a potty strike. He used to go right away every time, but recently he's been arching his back when I bring him to the potty. Sometimes he'll go if I can distract him enough. Oherwise I put his diaper back on and try again later. His second tooth is just about ready to pop through the skin. I just cut out his third daytime nap, so now he has a shorter morning nap and longer afternoon nap and goes to bed at 7 pm. He's still waking up at night every 2-3 hours to nurse, but sometimes has a 4 hour stretch. I hope that trend continues!

    Dio's still nowhere near crawling yet, but he loves to stand up and hold onto things.

    He loves taking baths. He's definitely chunkier than his cousin, who is a few weeks shy of 1 year old.

    I suppose he has started eating solids. He has gnawed on the occasional apple, pear, banana, broccoli, and cucumber. Do banana peels count?

    Yesterday we enjoyed the last sweater weather of the season. I saw snow today--time for winter coats!

    One of Dio's cousins calls him "dandelion head." I like that.

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    Tuesday, November 24, 2009

    Why does birth matter?

    This is one response to my earlier post Thinking, No Conclusions Yet, from Jenny Parratt's PhD research about how birth affects a woman's embodied self. 


    I found this post and all the comments very interesting. I'm a mother and a midwife and I feel passionate that the actual birth experience does matter. I have spent the past 9 years researching women's experiences for my PhD with Professor Kathleen Fahy (at Newcastle Uni in Australia). My focus has been on how women's embodied self changes during childbearing. The 14 stories I collected for the research give a very detailed picture of women's experience before during and after birth. I've recently published them (called Feelings of change: Stories of having a baby). I don't give any commentary with the stories because they are pretty long the way they are, but I plan another book that shows my findings.

    Briefly, here are some of the findings from my PhD (cited below). My findings indicate that any woman can experience an improved sense of embodied self as a result of childbearing generally and childbirth more specifically. Embodied self change that is most empowering occurs when a woman uses her own power during labour and birth. This process of change is facilitated by a sense of self-trust and by being inwardly centred. A woman’s improved embodied self is then manifested by an increased awareness of and capacity to use her inner strength. This has the consequence that a woman who experiences a sense of improved embodied self feels more confident in dealing with other challenging life circumstances. I therefore conclude that when a woman uses her own power during labour and birth she is most likely to feel an improved sense of embodied self during childbearing.

    Parratt, J. (2009) Feeling like a genius: enhancing women’s changing embodied self during first childbearing. PhD Thesis. School of Nursing and Midwifery. The University of Newcastle, NSW, Australia
    Parratt, J. (2009). Feelings of Change: Stories of having a baby. Raleigh: Lulu.com.
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    Saturday, November 21, 2009

    Blogging break and books to read

    We're out of town visiting family over Thanksgiving week, so I am trying to limit my time online. Don't expect much here until we're back home.

    If you want some good reading material over the holiday, I'd suggest the following (all of which I am currently reading, and most of which I hope to review or discuss in the near future):

    Birth Territory and Midwifery Guardianship by Kathleen Fahy, Maralyn Foureur, and Carolyn Hastie. Some of it is very very theoretical--even a bit hard for me to get through--but I especially loved the chapters on birth territory and on mindbodyspirit architecture. I'd highly recommend this book, and a few of the chapters in particular, for anyone designing a maternity wing or freestanding maternity center.

    Proactive Support of Labor: The Challenge of Normal Childbirth by Paul Reuwer, Hein Bruinse, and Arie Franx. I challenge you to read the whole thing, cover to cover, before reacting to what they're saying. When I realized the authors were promoting the Dublin version of "active management of labor," I had the impulse to stop reading or at least to argue against it in my mind as I read. But I read the whole thing and found myself intrigued and challenged by their arguments. I'll write more about this book in the future, but their approach made me realize that the "birth spectrum" that so many in the birth world tend to talk about--ranging from a medicalized "technocratic" approach on one end, to a midwifery or "holistic" approach on the other--is sometimes entirely inadequate. This book, for example, promotes a style of maternity care that really doesn't fit anywhere on the spectrum. Some of the proposed practices might be seen as very medicalized, while others are extremely concerned with the woman's subjective, emotional experience of labor, of helping as many women as possible have spontaneous, vaginal, and non-traumatic births. Anyway, I'd love to hear your thoughts on this book once you've read it.

    Deliver Me from Pain: Anesthesia and Birth in America by Jacqueline H. Wolf. Just started reading this today and I am loving it. A very thorough, nuanced, fascinating examination of obstetric anesthesia in the US, from the early days of ether and chloroform to modern attitudes about epidurals and the value of labor pain.

    Birth Day: A Pediatrician Explores the Science, the History, and the Wonder of Childbirth by Mark Sloan. I haven't read this yet, but it's next on my list.

    Breastfeeding Made Simple: Seven Natural Laws for Nursing Mothers by Nancy Mohrbacher and Kathleen Kendall-Tackett. I had the pleasure of meeting Kathleen at the Lamaze Conference, and I loved her presentation about the Seven Natural Laws. She was kind enough to send me a copy of her book to review, which I hope to get to soon.

    I'm also watching Orgasmic Birth for the third time over the break, in preparation for writing a review of the film. I hope to show it to several sisters/sisters-in-law (and perhaps an adventurous brother-in-law?) and see what they think of it. I also will feature an interview or Q&A session with the filmmaker Debra Pascali-Bonaro.
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    Tuesday, November 17, 2009

    A tooth!

    Dio's normal drooling turned into a veritable fountain a few weeks ago. He's been soaking through shirts and bibs and jackets. And he's been a bit grumpier than usual. We looked at each other and said, "maybe he's teething?" A few days ago I spotted two little bottom teeth just beneath the skin. So today I wasn't too surprised to feel Dio's first tooth poking through! The other one will pop out soon, I'm sure.
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    Monday, November 16, 2009

    More on birth centers and maternity centers

    I'm currently reading Birth Territory and Midwifery Guardianship: Theory for practice, education, and research by Kathleen Fahy, Maralyn Foureur, and Carolyn Hastie (Butterworth Heinemann (Elsivier): Books for Midwives, 2008). Just today Science & Sensibility featured a review of the book by guest blogger Dr. Katharine Hikel. The review is worth reading--as is the book--but I wanted to highlight this particular excerpt when she discusses birth environments and brings up the idea of a freestanding maternity center: taking the entire birthing wing outside the hospital.
    But what is the best birth environment? In a chapter called “Mindbodyspririt architecture: Creating birth space,” architect Bianca Lepori describes her designs for hospital-based birth rooms that are meant to enhance, not counteract, women’s abilities to give birth. She created suites of rooms with “Space and freedom to move; to be able to move to the dance of labor; to respond to the inner movements of the baby; to walk, kneel, stretch, lie down, lean, squat, stand, and be still.” The rooms have “Soft and yielding surfaces; or firm and supportive surfaces; different textures; the right temperature; soft curves; darkness or dim light.” A birthing woman can be ‘immersed in water, flowing or still; respected, safe, protected, and loved.” Access to the suite is through an antechamber; the bed is farthest away from the lockable door, and not visible from it, so that privacy is respected.

    Lepori’s birth architecture reproduces the comforts of home. There is access to the outdoors, and private walking places. There are birth stools, exercise balls, bean bags, hooks for hammocks or ropes for stretching. Tubs and beds are large and accessible from both sides. There are accommodations for families. There are comfortable chairs for nursing. Medical equipment – supplies, oxygen – is tucked behind a screen or put in a closet. A refrigerator and light cooking equipment is available. This ‘birth territory’ certainly outshines the typical hospital OB floor; though it begs the question: Why not just stay home?

    The answer, of course, is that, for those four to ten percent of births that truly need intervention, the OR is right there. It’s better not to have to transport a woman who’s labor has turned complicated; it makes sense – for many – to have all the birth territory under one roof.

    This birthing-suite design indeed takes into account the all-encompassing, body-mind-spirit event of childbirth. It honors laboring, birthing women and families; it respects the process. It worked well for a designated maternity hospital in New Zealand – a facility already designed for childbearing. But most US hospitals are multi-use facilities; and though obstetrics is among the best money-makers for hospitals, childbirth is the only event that occurs there that is not related to illness or trauma.

    The real question is, why not remove birth completely from the pathology-centered hospital model? Why not redesign birth territory to maximize best outcomes, minimize intervention, and replace the present medicalized view of birth as a disaster waiting to happen with the more normative, expectant-management, midwifery view? Move the whole shebang, from the waiting room to the surgical suite, out of the hospital and back into the community where it belongs.
    The idea of a freestanding maternity center--one that has an OR and in-house OB and anesthesia, but that is completely separate from a hospital--is new. No one has ever done this before that I know of, and so no one knows how it would/should/could function. Would it be identical to hospital-style maternity care? Would women go there? Would being free from the confines of a hospital and all of its rules and regulations open up a space for a real change in maternity care?

    One of the best ways to explore this new idea and offer up your own questions and ideas is to come to the Controversies in Childbirth Conference in Tampa, on February 19-21, 2010. The conference oragnizier, Alan Huber, just wrote more about the concept of freestanding maternity centers today, in a post called Birth Centers Versus Homebirth.
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    Extreme makeover: diaper edition

    He was done with his newborn size diapers (6-13 lbs) by about 6 weeks and was starting to bust out of the smalls (10-20 lbs) by about 5 months old. I just put Dio into the size medium diapers (18-36 lbs). Zari didn't go into the mediums until after she was a year old!

    These size mediums are boring, though. White PUL, white hook & loop, white elastic, off-white bamboo velour.

    I decided to give one of the diapers a makeover. I recently bought a snap press (why didn't I get one earlier???) and some new PUL prints and solids. I took apart the old diaper and, using the bamboo velour inner layer, made this:

    I also liked my FuzziBunz so much that I made some of my own pocket diapers. First I made a pattern using the Fuzzibunz diapers. The green dotted one is a One Size knockoff, identical except I made snap elastic because I couldn't find buttonhole elastic in the right width. The sun & stars diaper is basically a Perfect Size knockoff, except I trimmed the seam allowances and put on FOE (fold-over-elastic) on as an experiment.

    I bought microfleece for the wicking layer from a diaper supply store, but was very disappointed to find that it doesn't wick--it repels! So these pocket diapers I made have been leaking like crazy. They still repel water even with repeated washings. I'm giving up on microfleece and will switch to a high-tech atheltic wicking fabric like powerdry or procool for the wicking layer. For now, I'm using the pockets as a cover and just laying the absorbent soaker pad inside, rather than tucked underneath the microfleece.

    I also made a stack of organic bamboo velour soaker pads for my new pocket diapers. They're 13x13", two layers thick, and fold into thirds with snaps. They really didn't need snaps, but I was having too much fun with my snap press.

    And finally I made myself a new wet bag. My old ones are plain white and starting to come unstitched. This one's a lot more fun. The zipper is recycled from a bag I bought at a thrift store.

    When I was expecting Zari, I made 24 newborn, 24 small, and 18 medium all-in-one diapers with hook & loop closure and FOE binding. Then I helped my sister make 48 of the same kind for her own stache. Now that I've made a variety of cloth diapers, I'd definitely do a one-size adjustable pocket diaper with snap closures if I were starting over again. I'd probably buy one stack of 36 prefolds for the soaker pads, rather than sewing my own. I like pocket diapers because they wash and dry really quickly, especially if your soaker pad unfolds into thinner layers. They keep your baby feeling dry because of the top wicking layer. And snaps don't wear out, wick moisture (which is a problem where I've sewn on my loop tape on the front of the diapers) snag up the diapers, or make a diaper chain in the wash. I like FOE because it's quick to apply, but it does wick moisture around to the outside of the diaper and, if your diapers have hook & loop closure, it starts looking ratty. So I'm leaning more towards a turned-and-topstitched style. And, if you use buttonhole elastic, you can make one-size adjustable diapers--which means you only need to make one set, not three or four!
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    Friday, November 13, 2009

    Book review: The Wet Nurse's Tale

    Yesterday I read a book from cover to cover: The Wet Nurse's Tale, by Erica Eisdorfer. I meant to save it for this morning's work-out session at the gym, but the book was so much fun that it didn't even last a day. It's the story of a young English girl, Sarah Rose, and her adventures as a wet nurse. Sarah is plain but plucky, a plump heroine-of-size who always has a witty retort. There's sex (not too surprising, since nursing involves babies, and babies involve you-know-what), drama, and adventure aplenty. There's a dramatic conclusion where her father sells her son and she must rescue him from a rich woman who is slowly going mad. Lots of little details about day-to-day life in Victorian England make it all the more interesting to read. And, of course, there are lots of babies and lots of breastfeeding.

    There are two narratives interwoven in the book. Sarah's is the dominant one, narrated in first-person, as if she were sitting in the room and telling you the tale of her remarkable life. The other story line is of Sarah's mother, who also was a wet nurse for as long as Sarah can remember. This second story is told through short narratives of the women who chose Sarah's mother to nurse their babies.

    Give it a read--I'm sure you'll love it!
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    Wednesday, November 11, 2009

    Pinky has a question about birth centers

    Pinky, one of my blog readers and a L&D nurse (well, she recently switched and now is working as a psych nurse) and CNM-in-training, is doing a paper on freestanding birth centers. She's like to know why or why not you'd choose a birth center. Here are her questions:
    Would folks who want a homebirth because of the restrictive nature of the hospital, come to a freestanding birth center? Is there a demand for Birth Centers? Especially a Birth center across the street from the hospital that has a large staff and 24 hour Ob and anesthesia folks so they can handle anything you throw at them. And a Nicu would be good too. I was thinking, if we did start up a birth center across the street from the hospital I worked at, would it be used? If we build it, will they come?

    So for any home birth folks out there, could you please leave me a comment on your thoughts. What would you need in a birth center to make it attractive to birth at?

    Here's my response: for me, a birth center is a less appealing option to me than a home birth. There isn't any inherent safety advantage of a freestanding birth center over a home birth, since the same equipment will usually be present in each setting (Doppler for intermittent monitoring, O2, IVs for dehydration/hemorrhage, antihemorrhagic meds, adult and neonatal resuscitation equipment, etc.) I'd much rather be in my own turf, rather than be at the mercy of an institution's rules, restrictions, or protocols. Of course birth center rules/protocols aren't anything like a hospital's, but still, it's not your house and you are the guest in someone else's territory. If I am going to get into a car and go somewhere else during labor, there better be a darn good reason for it--i.e., I need medical attention in a hospital setting.

    On the other hand, someone else might choose a birth center over a home birth for a number of different reasons. Perhaps they just feel safer birthing in an institution/going somewhere to give birth, rather than staying in their own house. Perhaps they don't have a nice or safe home environment and the birth center is really awesome and luxurious and has a great labor tub. Perhaps they live too far away from their backup hospital for their own personal comfort (for some women, this might be 30 minutes, for others, 1 hour), but the birth center is right across the street from the hospital (pinky's ideal scenario, which I definitely can see the appeal of; I mean, if you're literally across the street from the hospital, you can't really argue from a safety perspective).

    I wrote about this a while back in The Best of Both Worlds? I should note that I don't really feel that birth centers are the "worst of both worlds." It was more a train of thought that I was following at the time. I'd love to see more birth centers, especially ones really close to a hospital, because I think they would attract more women who are not thrilled about birthing in a hospital, but want the proximity to emergency care if needed.

    And for a really fascinating idea that has started to gain momentum, read about freestanding maternity centers (my phrase; they don't really have an official name yet). It's basically a freestanding birth center with an OR and 24/7 OB and anesthsia coverage. Not part of a hospital, but instead owned and run by doctors and/or midwives directly.

    Alan Huber explains his concept of a physician-owned birthing facility  in Why are pregnant women forced to choose between X and Y? and has more followup explanation in What's my hidden agenda?. Dr. Stuart Fischbein has also been working on this concept and thinks it might be a way to solve our maternity care crisis. Read A new type of birthing facility.
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    FuzziBunz giveaway winner & One Size Rewards Program

    Jill of Peestick Chronicles is the giveaway winner! Send me your mailing address and the type & color of diaper you'd like.

    Thanks to everyone for your comments, questions, and advice!

    I wanted to let all of you know about the FuzziBunz One Size Rewards Program, which lasts through the end of this year. If you purchase 9 One Size diapers, you get $40 worth of FuzziBunz products! Rewards Program products include XS diapers, Daisy Print Perfect Size diapers, Changing Pads, Menstrual Pads, Diaper Totes, Burp Cloths, diaper pails, and extra inserts.
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    Tuesday, November 10, 2009

    Breastfeeding and DHA

    Yesterday, my father-in-law sent me a link to information about lactation and DHA. He's an agricultural economist and directs an agricultural research centre in Canada. He was at a workshop on BioActive Fatty Acids with keynote speaker Dr. Bruce Holub, Professor Emeritus of Nutritional Sciences at the University of Guelph. My father-in-law wrote, "The bottom line is if you are nursing babies you need to take DHA!"

    An excerpt from the lactation page on Dr. Holub's website:
    DHA (docosahexaenoic acid, 22:6n-3) is a physiologically-essential essential nutrient and a key omega-3 fatty acid needed in high levels in the brain and retina (eye) for optimal neuronal functioning (learning ability, memory) and visual acuity, respectively.

    For breast-fed infants, their only source of nutrition (incl. DHA) for growth and development is their mother's milk. The amount of DHA in the diet is a major factor determining how much DHA appears in breast milk for the baby to consume for health. Since fish is by far the predominant food source of dietary DHA, and since fish is consumed at a very low rate (approximately one serving every 10 days), the level of DHA in North American breast milk is very low. For example, Health Canada has reported that DHA represents an average of only 0.14% of the total fat in breast milk. This low level reflects the low dietary intake of DHA during lactation of approximately only 80 mg/day.
    The research suggests that lactating women with a low dietary intake of fish should supplement with fish oil. I took fish oil during both pregnancies but stopped once my babies were born. This is good motivation to do keep up the habit!
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