Archive | May 2011

Birth Altar Wisdom

I am preparing to paint a birth altar cabinet for a friend’s upcoming blessingway ceremony. I have felt the urge for some time to share a post about the words that I included on the birth altar that I created for myself before my last birth. Some elements included were from pages of a cheapy page-a-day calendar from the $1 Shop and some were parts of a t-shirt tag from the tag on a shirt I purchased from WYSH at an LLL conference in 2009 (why keep a t-shirt tag from 2009, you might ask? Because it had lots of cool things written on it! And, behold, it became a source of birth altar wisdom for me. Wisdom lurks in unexpected places!)

I am struck by how these words from unconventional locations apply so perfectly to giving birth. Here’s what the little cards and snippets I included say:

From the calendar:

Inhale * Exhale * Relax * Repeat

LOVE the process.

Embrace peace within.

Keep it simple.

Right here


Right now

From the t-shirt tag:

Befriend fear, embrace struggle, trust nature, the process, and a baby’s wisdom (I swear, this shirt had NOTHING to do with giving birth!)

We don’t tell our flowers how to grow, to stay low or bloom before they’re ready.

Undivide your attention. All clear.

Lead with your spirit, rise above the noise, show the world your true self.

Also from the tag were individual words that I included: freedom. trust. inspiration. respect. authenticity. empowerment.

And, then I cut the following from a tag on a pendant from my husband:

May the Love we’re

sharing spread its Wings

and fly across the Earth

and bring new Joy to

every Soul on the Planet.

Help Choices in Childbirth Win a Grant!

I’ve posted several times before about one of my top favorite handouts for birth classes and birth education booths—Choices in Childbirth’s booklet, Guide to a Healthy BirthNow, Choices in Childbirth is trying to win a $5000 grant through FAM (the Foundation for the Advancement of Midwifery) and would really appreciate your vote. Here is the information:

Help Choices in Childbirth win $5k! Vote Today! Tell your friends!

 Vote for CIC to win the $5,000 Floradix Fan Favorite Award from FAM, and you can help to expand our educational programs that have a direct, and positive impact on women’s pregnancy and birth experiences.

In her words…

Thank you from the bottom of my heart for your work and the ongoing work of Choices in Childbirth. Your Guide has singularly been the best and most comprehensive resource I have been given to date. Two months ago I decided to switch my care over to “Mother-Friendly” facilities and practitioners. Finding alternatives to traditional practices proved to be one of the most difficult and stressful projects in my pregnancy. I was give your Guide last week and within 2 days I had set up meetings with a pre-natal chiropractor, birth center, pediatrician, and midwife!

– Joey Anna Young

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The Details:

As one of the finalists for a grant proposal we submitted to FAM (the Foundation for the Advancement of Midwifery), CIC is eligible to compete for an additional $5,000 Fan Favorite Award furnished by Floradix. Your vote will help us to win crucial dollars that support our educational resources for women: the online Mother-Friendly Provider Network and the printed Guide to a Healthy Birth!

Here’s how you can help:

1. VOTE for us! Use this link ( to complete the survey and choose CHOICES IN CHILDBIRTH when you get to the selection page! (you have to click through a few pages first with a few words from the generous sponsors of this award, but hang in there – we appreciate your vote!)

2. SHARE your status! Copy this text, and set it as your status on Facebook, G-chat and Instant Messenger:

Please vote for an organization I support, Choices in Childbirth, to help them win a $5k award to fund their work to educate and support women in their maternity care options: 

3. FORWARD this email!

4. TELL US YOUR STORY! We would love to hear your story of what CIC means to you.

Please tell us more! We’d love to be able to show what our work means to our supporters.

Email with your story!

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Our Proposal

CIC is eligible for this fan favorite award because the project we submitted to the Foundation for the Advancement of Midwifery has made it to the final round of the 2011 grant cycle! Below is a synopsis of our proposal:

Choices in Childbirth’s education and outreach programs are creating a national movement to change the way women and families think about birth. We are not satisfied with speaking to the choir – we want everyone to know their rights and options in birth! CIC has created two educational programs, the Guide to a Healthy Birth and the online Mother-Friendly Provider Network, that will significantly impact maternity care in this country by bringing the conversation about birth into mainstream dialogue in an accessible, evidence based way. The Sponsor a Midwife campaign is a creative marketing and outreach plan that will showcase midwifery within these programs by providing 100 free memberships to Mother-Friendly midwives in the Provider Network and distributing at least 5,000 copies of the Guide in each of 5 pilot cities. Together, these educational programs and the outreach campaign will provide more families with information about their options in maternity care, promote access to midwifery care, provide valuable advertising opportunities for midwives, and help us to create a sustainable model for providing these resources in additional communities across the country.

Happy Birthday to Me!

When I get money as a birthday gift, I usually just put it in with the household money and it gets spent on groceries or miscellaneous cash expenditures. This year, I decided to get myself a present! I saw these unassisted birth pendants by Meghan Rice on Laura Shanley’s site before I gave birth in January and loved them, but talked myself out of buying one for various reasons (too expensive, what if something happens to the baby, etc.). Since I did end up birthing my daughter on my own AND in a kneeling position exactly like the pendant and since she was born in January (birthstone is garnet), I decided to go ahead and splurge on one of the pendants with a garnet belly 🙂 She arrived just before Alaina’s four monthabirthday on May 19th (also my mom’s birthday!) and it felt like just the right occasion. I really love this pendant!

I have to say that I have the greatest collection of pendants in the world. Too bad I only have one neck, because I would like to wear many of them all of the time! 😉

We also hung up my belly cast. I like how it looks on the red wall!

far away

close up

Book Review: Arms Wide Open: A Midwife’s Journey

Book Review: Arms Wide Open: A Midwife’s Journey
By Patricia Harman
Beacon Press, 2011
ISBN: 978-0807001387
324 pages, paperback, $16.47 (Amazon)

Reviewed by Molly Remer, MSW, ICCE, CCCE

I very much enjoyed Patricia Harman’s first book, The Blue Cotton Gown, and was delighted to learn about her new memoir, Arms Wide Open which is, in a sense, both a prequel and sequel to her first memoir.  The first half of Arms Wide Open chronicles Patsy’s experiences with homesteading and communal living as a young hippie mother in the 1970’s. It also explores her thoughts and experiences with peace activism and her passion for an eco-friendly life. During this time, she attends her first birth and dives into her midwifery journey and eventually becomes a CNM practicing with her hippie-farmer-turned-OB/GYN husband in West Virginia. Her experiences with their years in a joint women’s health practice are described in The Blue Cotton Gown. Readers who, like me, wondered what happened where The Blue Cotton Gown left off, can find out in the second half of Arms Wide Open, which is a narrative of Patsy’s ongoing work with women through 2009 and includes her emotional painful moments in her marriage, as her husband struggles with fears of another lawsuit as well as with chronic pelvic pain patients who abuse his trust (chronic pelvic pain is a specialty of their practice).

I did feel as if there was a large chunk of story missing as the book somewhat abruptly skips from 1978 to 2008. We miss learning about any of Patsy’s experiences in nurse-midwifery school, nor do we learn much about her practice when she was a CNM attending births. The book transitions from her years as a self-taught midwife considering going to school to become a CNM, straight to her present-day years as a CNM in a private women’s health practice.

Harman’s writing style is lyrical and engaging as well as candid. The book is based on personal journals and reading it feels like eavesdropping on someone’s very private thoughts and feelings. The book is much more of a look at a woman’s feelings about her life, than it is a “manifesto” about birth or about the practice of midwifery. In this manner, I feel like you receive a much more complete picture of a midwife’s life and journey, rather than reading a sequence of birth stories. Patsy has a lot of life in addition to birth. While definitely not a “feel good” book, Arms Wide Open is a deeply touching and very honest exploration of one woman’s personal journey in life, love, motherhood, and midwifery.

Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book for review purposes.

Celebrating 100,000 Hits! Mother Rising Book Giveaway

Giveaway is now closed. Shawna was the winner!

Talk Birth has reached 100,000 hits and I’m having a giveaway to celebrate this milestone! When I initially began this website in 2007, it was exclusively for the purpose of providing information about my birth classes to the local community. I never intended for anyone other than local, potential clients to read the information here, I was just using WordPress as a platform to host what I assumed would be a fairly static site—possibly just being updated with new class information and dates. Then, I decided I’d like to add a couple of posts/articles for my prospective clients to read. Before I knew it, the few posts I had made were receiving hits from locations other than my local area and so I started writing posts with a wider/more general audience in mind. Eventually, the class information portion of my site became very secondary to the birth-blog portion of my site. And, I find it somewhat amusing, that now I primarily reach women through my writing rather than through my classes. I have a new class beginning in June, but otherwise, I have been on leave from teaching any classes since my new baby was born and due to my other commitments, I have only had limited availability for classes for the past year or so.

When I first began my journey as a childbirth educator, some part of me envisioned reaching hundreds of couples through my classes. I quickly realized that I wasn’t going to be able to fill group classes in my small hometown and felt like I had an excess of birth-change energy that was being blocked/frustrated by only working with one couple every so often. I used to complain to my husband, “I just want to transform the birth culture in the U.S. Is that too much to ask?” I felt like my drive to change the birth world was just hitting up against a wall and I felt frustrated by living in an area that could not support that packed-to-the-brim, life-transforming classes I’d envisioned offering. Writing blog posts became my way of “discharging” this energy as well as being a birth educator to a wider audience—i.e., whomever stumbled across my blog! This has been a fulfilling way for me to use some of that activist energy and to feel like I have the ability to make some type of change within a large circle. As my classes became more well known, I did build enough of a practice to be working with new clients each and every month of the year and I felt personally satisfied with that—I need direct contact as well as virtual contact to feel like I am making a difference. I love that this website/blog helps me with each of those avenues for change.

In honor of 100,000 hits, I am giving away a copy of the book Mother Rising: The Blessingway Journey into Motherhood. Since my tagline is, “Celebrating Women, Transforming Birth,” I wanted to give away a book that exemplifies the idea. Mother Rising is perfect, because it is literally about celebrating women through blessingways. My friends and I have a long-standing tradition of hosting mother blessing ceremonies for each other during our pregnancies and Mother Rising is a helpful resource for planning them. It even includes recipes for snacks!

To enter the giveaway, just leave a comment letting me know your favorite way to celebrate women.

You can earn bonus entries by doing any of the following and letting me know via another comment that you’ve done so:

  • Tell me what post/idea you’ve read here on Talk Birth is your favorite!
  • Become a fan of Talk Birth on Facebook
  • Subscribe to this blog via email (link this way —>)
  • Share the giveaway link on your own Facebook page or blog

Giveaway ends next Thursday at noon!

Review: A Book for Midwives

Review: A Book for Midwives
Hesperian Foundation
CD-Rom, 2011
544 page pdf book in English and Spanish
by Susan Klein, Suellen Miller, and Fiona Thomson
ISBN13: 978-0942364-24-8, $16.00

Reviewed by Molly Remer, MSW, ICCE

As a child, I was fascinated by my father’s copy of the book, Where There is No Doctor. Fast forward twenty or so years and imagine my glee when as a birth activist adult, I then discovered A Book for Midwives, also published by the Hesperian Foundation. Hesperian’s goal “is to promote health and self-determination in poor communities throughout the world by making health information accessible. [They] work toward that goal by producing books and other educational resources for community-based health.” In keeping with this goal, A Book for Midwives is available for FREE download on the Hesperian site. (Personally, I appreciate the professionally printed version of the book I purchased, because I think it would cost more same in ink to print it myself, but without the nice cover!).

A Book for Midwives is excellent; a true community resource. It is also a very sobering look at the reality of women’s health and health care in other countries. It contains reminders such as “do not hit or slap a woman in labor,” and other things that can make you cringe. A Book for Midwives is basically a textbook for midwives, health care workers, or educators working in developing countries and/or with very limited resources. I appreciate how it makes information available that is sometimes “hidden” in other books–i.e. explicitly technical content and “how to’s” that are normally reserved only for “professional” people. It is simply written and extremely blunt. There is no fluff and nothing romanticized about pregnancy, labor, and birth. In a way, it was hard to read a book that makes it so very clear how very, very difficult things are for midwives and women in impoverished areas (living in the US, I am used to the “normal, healthy pregnant women” approach to midwifery care). The book covers a wide range of information from preventing infection, treating obstetrical emergencies, doing pelvic exams, and breastfeeding to HIV/AIDS, testing for STDs and cervical cancer, and IUD insertion. There is also a section in the back of the book about medications, medication administration, giving injections, and other topics. It is an extremely comprehensive resource. (Just a side note, in the section on contraceptives, the book is heavily in favor of hormonal methods such as pills as well as very positive about IUDs and sterilization.)

Recently, Hesperian made A Book for Midwives available for purchase on CD. The CD includes the 544 page book as a pdf file in both English and Spanish. Both high resolution and low resolution versions of the book (in both languages) are included on the disk. This format makes it easy for the book to travel with you via laptop for trainings or presentations. I was particularly excited to convert it for my Kindle, making it readily available for travel and reference.

Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of the CD for review purposes.

Six Healthy Birth Practices Handout

Lamaze’s Six Healthy Birth Practices are one of my favorites resources when discussing birth plans in my classes. I find that some materials about birth planning on the internet are unnecessarily cumbersome (while simultaneously being very “cookie cutter”). As I tell my clients, the Six Healthy Birth Practices provide an absolutely phenomenal “basic” birth plan and concisely cover each element of a healthy birth. I suggest using them as a foundation for any birth plan the client plans to write. For use in my own classes, I created a one page handout briefly summarizing the practices: Six Healthy Birth Practices. At the bottom of the handout, I also include my own even simpler summary of the information. I just love them and think they should be the core of any class that serves women planning hospital births. Seriously, what women deserve in a birth environment can be summed up in six, clear sentences! How practical.

I also absolutely LOVE the video based on the practices that is available from Injoy. It is extremely affordable (I actually own three copies of it!). It is very concise and clear (just like the practices themselves) and I love how it shows women in a hospital environment, getting their needs met and having satisfying births. While I personally choose homebirth for myself and am a big advocate of homebirth, at least 90% of my clients are planning hospital births and deserve information and resources that support healthy, satisfying births in the environment they have chosen. I have a variety of great videos in my library, but many of them focus on homebirth and I think the message this sends to clients is—“good birth = homebirth.” While that feels personally true for me, it isn’t actually the message I want to share with my clients—I want to share my enthusiasm for birth, period, and to help them discover resources and plans for having a beautiful birth in any setting. I want to communicate to them that they deserve access to these healthy birth practices in the hospital and I hope we can create a birthing world in which all women can expect to have access to these practices in any setting. So, I like how this video shows women getting their needs met within in a hospital setting.

Additionally, the videos are available for free, practice by practice, on the Mother’s Advocate site, which also includes a variety of accompanying handouts to print.

And, again, here is my own handout for use during birth classes: Six Healthy Birth Practices.

I know I sound like a “commercial” for Lamaze’s Birth Practices and though I am a Lamaze member, I am actually certified with other organizations (ICEA and CAPPA). I think it is important that childbirth educators not limit themselves only to the materials and information provided by their own certifying organization and instead seek out excellent materials from a variety of the wonderful organizations that exist to support birthing women!