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Talk Books: Touching Bellies, Touching Lives

touchingbelliesEvery so often I end up reading a book that is nothing like I was expecting and yet is totally amazing. Touching Bellies, Touching Lives is one of those books. Subtitled “Midwives of Southern Mexico Tell Their Stories,” I was expecting a collection of birth stories from Mexican midwives. While there are birth stories, and everyone knows that I love birth stories, this book is so much more than a birth story collection. It is a personal pilgrimage, a preservation of the legacy of midwives, an examination of cultural birth practices, and a sobering first-hand account of the declining culture of traditional midwifery in Mexico. Many people may have the misconception that in Mexico or other South American cultures, midwifery is commonplace and maybe even flourishing. In Touching Bellies, we come to understand that Western medical practices are encroaching at a steady pace and that many midwives are elderly, retiring, and not being replaced. A steady theme runs throughout of women going to midwives for “belly massage,” but going to “modern” facilities to have their babies (unfortunately, they’ve imported some U.S. 1950’s-style practices in terms of birth position, birthing alone with no husbands allowed, and being treated dismissively in labor. This is along with a cesarean rate over 40% and up to 70% much in some cities).

The author, Judy Gabriel, takes multiple trips to Mexico on her quest to document the lives and stories of Mexican midwives (most of whom are age 65 and many of whom do not live to see the end of the book). She photographs the midwives and, with some hurdles with language barriers, listens to their stories–asking about the first birth they attended as well as any births that were problematic for them. She returns to them bearing hearing aids, dresses, and photos of family members from the United States. She travels through rough terrain and to distant villages on her quest to listen and learn from these midwives. I was completely absorbed by Judy’s dedication to her mission and her personal insights and life lessons as she travels and learns.

The “belly massage” practice for which Touching Bellies gains its title was endlessly fascinating to me (and to Judy, the author) with midwives regularly helping position the baby, release tight muscles, and ease aches and pains through a gentle process of abdominal massage and fetal manipulation. This aspect of midwifery care was so pervasive that when Judy would ask in a village where the midwives are, many people would not understand and say that they don’t know what she is talking about. When she asks for the woman who massages the bellies of pregnant women, everyone knows where to tell her to go.

In this quote, a 75-year-old midwife tells the story of helping a woman who is in premature labor. The doctors have tried to stop her contractions without avail and now say she must have a cesarean and the baby will most likely die:

“…The mother-in-law said, ‘This woman knows more than you doctors. You may have gone to the university, but, excuse me, for you doctors it is always puro cuchillo, puro cuchillo [just knives, just knives]. Leave the midwife to work in peace, and you’ll see what can be done without knives.’

So I did my work. I rocked the girl in a rebozo and massaged her belly, moving the baby up. The contractions stopped.

The doctors asked, ‘How did you do that?’

I said, ‘You were standing right there watching. I did it in front of you. I’m not hiding anything. You saw me rock her; you saw me massage her.’

‘Is that all you had to do?” they asked.

I said, ‘Yes, that’s all I had to do. What else would I have to do?’

(The baby survived and was born at full-term six weeks later.)

The dedicated care for women, in touching their bellies, touches their lives. Almost all of the midwives in the book have access to nurturing touch and almost no other resources available and yet almost all of them report never losing a baby or a mother in childbirth.

I absolutely loved reading Touching Bellies, Touching Lives. It is an extremely interesting, thought-provoking, and thoroughly fascinating journey. The information about the gradual decline and near-extinction of midwifery in Mexico is sobering, but the book does end on a hopeful note.

You can read more about the book here as well as see some of the interesting documentary-style photographs of the midwives from the book (one of the points of Judy’s travels was to photograph the midwives and share pictures of their families in the U.S. with them and vice versa). The book itself is available via Amazon.

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

Tuesday Tidbits: How to Make Life Easier as a New Parent

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In all my years as a birthworker, I still find that one of the most overlooked topics in childbirth preparation is adequate preparation for postpartum—those early weeks, or months, with a new baby. In my personal life, I experienced a difficult postpartum adjustment with my first baby, an easier one with my second baby, and two delightful, nurturing babymoons with my last two babies. Years after training as a postpartum doula, good postpartum care remains one of my passions, so I really enjoyed this post from a mother of five. Her feelings of rushing to get back to “normal” feel very familiar even though almost twelve years have passed since my first, tender, postpartum adjustment:

“I remember coming home from going out for the afternoon with Hero at 7 days postpartum. After we got back to our tiny apartment I came down with a fever. I was probably wearing the cutest non-comfortable outfit I could squeeze into. I probably didn’t think that 7 days after giving birth required anything of me other than “getting back to normal.” Life went on, and I urged it faster. In fact, that’s the way I parented, too. Smile, laugh, roll over, sit, crawl, walk, run, milestone, milestone, grow, grow, grow…

When I think back on my postpartum times (for the most part) I remember being exhausted, being emotional, being upset at Kirby for not doing enough, feeling fragile, feeling sad, and feeling weak. And then I got pregnant with Peter… And by the time I had him, I had interacted with enough wise mothers who had screwed up enough to know better and they told me what to do and I listened. After five babies I could finally say I did it right. I’m not saying you have to do it like me. Maybe you’ve already got your postpartum flow down and you need no such advice. In that case, a w e s o m e…”

Now I realize that some moms can just go, and they are happier that way! I get that. But it took me too long to realize that that’s not me. And I don’t want you to spend too much time thinking that should be you if it isn’t. Don’t spend four days, don’t spend four weeks, and certainly don’t spend 4 entire babies feeling like a shell of a person trying to figure it out…

The Fike Life: How to postpartum like a boss.

Unlike my early memories of my first son’s life, rather than looking back with sense of regret and fatigue, I look back on the weeks postpartum with Tanner (fourth and final full-term baby) with a tinge of wistfulness for the sweet, delicate, care-full time we spent together, nestled in bed in milky, marveling wonder. The author of the post above describes it as a “little sacred space,” and that is exactly how I feel. It also needs to be fiercely protected.

I look at that one week postpartum as a little sacred space that I will never get back. It’s a space where, for the most part, it’s just that brand new baby and me. And I’m selfish about it. And not sorry. Life will keep plummeting forward rapidly and I won’t ever stop it. But I can have a week with a floppy new baby on my chest in my bed and I’ll take it. And I’ll protect it.

AND IF THAT DOESNT TUG AT YOU MOTHERLY HEARTSTRINGS KNOW THIS… (super practical advice I got from my midwife with Peter)

When you have a baby you are recovering from an injury that is deeply internal. Your blood needs to stay concentrated there to bring essential nutrients to heal your organs and make you strong again. When you get up and walk around, your blood abandons your core and flows into your extremities, which can massively prolong your recovery. Stay rested and keep yourself down as much as you can. Just think of your organs! They need you!

via The Fike Life: How to postpartum like a boss.

It isn’t just the weeks following a new baby’s birth that matter, the first hour matters too and can set the tone for the rest of the postpartum journey:

…The way your baby is cared for and nurtured immediately after birth significantly impacts their transition from the womb to life outside.

In a culture that commonly separates mothers and babies for routine procedures such as cleaning, weighing and measuring, most babies are missing that critical time of being skin to skin with their mothers, which has short and long term consequences for all.

As these procedures are not necessary to maintain or enhance the wellbeing of either mother or baby, there is no reason why they cannot be delayed beyond the first critical hour.

via 7 Huge Benefits of An Undisturbed First Hour After Birth | BellyBelly.

Why doesn’t this uninterrupted hour and subsequent caring postpartum support happen for all new families? One reason is related to the “treatment intensity” of the US birth culture:

The questions you post in your article are good ones: Are midwives safer than doctors? How can homes be safer than hospitals and what implications does this study have for the US?

It’s a super knotty issue and it shouldn’t be about the superiority of midwives over doctors or homes over hospitals. The debate we should be having is over “treatment intensity” in childbirth and when enough is enough. The concern is that patients can be harmed by doing too much and by doing too little–in the US I worry that we cause avoidable harm by always erring on the side of too much.

via An Unexpected Opinion on Home Birth | Every Mother Counts.

Another is related to routine hospital practices that are not evidence based:

1. Start with giving the birthing woman antibiotics in high doses so that the baby develops candida (thrush) and colic. Then mix in a lot of stitches, either to repair the perineum or the lower belly/uterus.

2. Separate the mother and newborn. Make the mother walk a long distance (with her stitched body) to be able to see/feed her newborn…

via 6 Point Recipe for Making New Parenthood as Difficult as Possible | Wise Woman Way of Birth | by Gloria Lemay.

On a related note, we find that breastfeeding gets off to a better start when birth is undisturbed. We also find that decisions about breastfeeding may be made months before the baby is actually born:

…Recently, a nurse contacted me asking for ideas for teaching an early pregnancy breastfeeding class. I think this is a great idea, since mothers’ decisions about breastfeeding are often made before the baby is conceived and if not then, during the first trimester.

via Breastfeeding Class Resources | Talk Birth.

11800191_1651989138346635_1607714063463262593_nIt isn’t just postpartum during which we need these reminders about the “cycle of care.” The cycle of care of young children can be largely invisible, both to those around us and to ourselves. I’ve taken some time this week to appreciate my investment in my baby and cut myself a little slack on the other things I always want to “get done.” Brain-building is important work too!

Speaking of said baby, who has been taking his first steps this week at nine months old, I was amused this week to come across one of my older posts on family size decisions, in which I decreed my doneness with my childbearing years. Instead of embarrassing, I find the post oddly affirming or reinforcing that at some level I really did know that we weren’t quite “done,” there was still space in our family (and our hearts!) and there really was one more baby “out there” for us.

We decided we’d make the final, ultimate decision after she turned two, because too much longer after that point would make more of an age gap than we’d want. I posted on Facebook asking how do people know they’re “done.” I had an expectation of having some kind of blinding epiphany and a deep knowing that our family is complete, as I’ve had so many other people describe: “I just knew, our family was complete.” I didn’t have that knowing though—I vacillated day to day. What if I never know for sure, I fretted. Perhaps this sense of wistfulness and possibility with continue forever—maybe it is simply normal. One more. No, finished. But…ONE more?! And, I have a space in my heart that knows with great confidence that four (living) children would be the ultimate maximum for us. I definitely do not want more than four…so, does that mean there still is one more “out there” for us?

via Driveway Revelations (on Family Size) | Talk Birth.

However, I also find it to be true that four is most definitely the ultimate maximum. We laughed earlier this week remembering that a couple of weeks after Tanner was born I kept saying that I thought maybe we’d picked the wrong name for him. Mark asked me what I thought it should be and I said I kept thinking that maybe it should have been “Max.” While we joked at the time that this was because he is Maximus Babius, I only now caught on to the unintended double joke that he has definitely pushed our family size to our “max”!

Other tidbits:

I got this book about midwives in Mexico to review and have been zooming through it. It is SO good!

We’ve been working on new sculptures!

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(read more: Sneak Peek: Pregnant Mama – Brigid’s Grove)

We’ve added some new Moon Wisdom/First Moon bundles to our shop:

11825154_1650996815112534_7593072070926503121_nAnd, our new blessing cards came in. We were printing these on regular printer paper and are excited to have nice, professional cards instead!

11800234_1650792701799612_305310151573875723_nWe also still have five spaces left in the Red Tent Initiation program beginning at the end of the month:

Sign up for the Brigid’s Grove Newsletter for resources, monthly freebies, + art and workshop announcements.

And, as is our tradition, in honor of World Breastfeeding Week and National Breastfeeding Month, you can get 10% off items in our shop throughout August: WBW10OFF.

Talk Books: A Passion for Birth

Sheila

“We are only now beginning to discover the long term destructive effects on human beings and families of treated women as if they were containers to be opened and relieved of their contents.”

–Sheila Kitzinger

Sheila Kitzinger’s new autobiography, A Passion for Birth, is an absolute treasure. One of the most long-term and pivotal influences in the world of birth activism, I have quoted her work more times than I can count. In fact, I judge the quality of a book by the number of pages I dog-ear to return to. I turned down the corners of so many pages in A Passion for Birth, that it will take me a year’s worth of blog posts to share all the provocative quotes that caught my attention! While Sheila always included a personal flavor in her other books, this book is truly about her, her life, her passions, her family, her activism, her work. Interwoven throughout is the social justice oriented thread of her absolutely devoted dedication to women, feminism, and childbirth activism. Her book is very real, relatable, and readable as well as often charming. She doesn’t hold back from treading into controversial waters, however, and she is straightforward and unapologetic even when writing about topics that can be divisive in the birth world.

I was pleasantly surprised to discover the full-color series of photos in the center insert to the book, they range from Kitzinger’s childhood, a homebirth picture of the birth of one of her daughters, and ending with a poignant photo of Sheila’s casket, decorated by her family, resting easily on some chairs in the dining room of home she so loved.

An internationally recognized author and expert, Kitzinger was an anthropologist and one of the first professional people to acknowledge that women’s birth wisdom, stories, and experiences are worthy of study and attention. Spanning an impressive career of more than fifty years, Kitzinger’s anthropological and activist work was undertaken at a global level and her clear and unwavering commitment to social justice work and activism is a thread running strongly throughout her entire autobiography. The book takes us from Sheila writing and studying while sitting in a playpen in her yard (an effort to have a work area undisturbed by her five children!) to traveling with her family to Jamaica to study the birth customs and stories of the women there. Her identity as an anthropologist is clearly reflected in the cross-cultural birth experiences she surveys and describes and the autobiography includes lots of travel! It also includes homey touches like favorite recipes and descriptions of family traditions as well as stories of her own four homebirths, including that of twin daughters. I found myself wanting more content about her life with children, her life as a mother, which, while acknowledged and integrated through the text, was curiously absent from much of the narrative’s exploration. I was also curious to know more about the accident and serious brain injury experienced by her daughter Polly, which was mentioned somewhat incidentally (though it clearly had a significant impact on the family), as was the passing mention in a photo caption referencing her husband Uwe’s eye removal surgery.

Highly recommended to anyone with an interest in birth work, birth activism, feminist studies, women’s health, or anthropology, A Passion for Birth was compelling, inspirational, funny, straightforward, assertive, honest, candid, wry and dedicated.

“The way we give birth is an expression of culture. It can be spontaneous and instinctual, but it is still patterned by the society in which we live.”

–Sheila Kitzinger

Stay tuned for an ongoing series of themed posts based on additional content and thought-provoking quotes!

In a pioneering career spanning more than 50 years she campaigned for and oversaw a radical change in maternity care, placing women’s rights and choices at the very heart of childbirth. Her passion, research and knowledge of childbirth have had enormous impact on millions of women worldwide.

A Passion for Birth | Sheila Kitzinger | Pinter & Martin Publishers.

Publishing and purchasing details: 

Author: Sheila KitzingerSheila
Published: 7 May 2015
Binding: hardback
Format: 240 x 160 mm
Pages: 384
Illustrations: colour and b/w photographs
Pinter & Martin edition available: worldwide
Translation rights: Pinter & Martin

Also available from: Amazon.co.uk | Wordery | The Hive | Waterstones | Foyles | Mail Bookshop | Amazon.com

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

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Tuesday Tidbits: Does Breastfeeding Really Matter?

August 2015 060Does breastfeeding really matter? Or, is it just one possible way to feed a baby?

Breastfeeding matters. It matters for women, babies, families, workplaces, society, and the whole world.

But, is breastfeeding hard?

It is true that in the early weeks many women experience difficulties with breastfeeding. Coupled with the lack of support many women also experience from partners, in-laws, extended family members, and employers, they may stop breastfeeding long before they originally hoped and planned. Is that breastfeeding’s fault though? Is it inherently difficult? No, but it turns out that our prevalent images of breastfeeding may contribute to difficulties with latch and milk flow. Laid-back breastfeeding (nursing the baby draped across your body tummy to tummy rather than sitting upright with the baby in the crook of your arm) may be the answer to many early breastfeeding challenges:

In the commonly used cradle, cross-cradle, and football/rugby holds, mothers and babies must fight the effects of gravity to get babies to breast level and keep their fronts touching. If gaps form between them (which can happen easily with gravity pulling baby’s body down and away), this disorients baby, which can lead to latching struggles. The pull of gravity makes it impossible for a newborn to use his inborn responses to get to his food source and feed. For baby, it is like trying to climb Mount Everest. Instead of mothers and babies working together as breastfeeding partners, mothers must do all of the work. Instead of being able to relax while baby helps, most mothers sit hunched over, tense, and struggling.To complicate things further, in these positions, gravity can transform the same inborn feeding responses that should be helping babies into barriers to breastfeeding. Head bobbing becomes head butting. Arm and leg movements meant to move babies to the breast become pushing and kicking. Mothers struggling to manage their babies’ arms and legs in these upright breastfeeding holds have often told me: “I don’t think I have enough hands to breastfeed.”

How Natural Breastfeeding Can Help

In Natural Breastfeeding positions, baby rests tummy down on mother’s body, ensuring the full frontal contact that activates his GPS. Baby’s weight pushes the pressure buttons on his front, which improves his coordination for easier feeding. Natural Breastfeeding makes it possible for babies to be the active breastfeeding partners that nature intended. But it’s not just good for babies. Mothers can relax completely and rest while baby feeds, often with both hands free. And gravity helps baby take the breast deeply, so there’s no need to micromanage baby’s latch.

via Many Moms May Have Been Taught to Breastfeed Incorrectly: Surprising New Research – Mothering.

I learned about laid-back breastfeeding before my third child was born. It made a huge difference in her ability to latch well and nurse comfortably (I then didn’t discover she had an upper lip tie until she had dental work at two!) It also made a dramatic difference for my last baby, who was my easiest, most comfortable, almost-painless-from-the-start, early breastfeeding experience (they all got easy with time and I nursed each for three years, but the early weeks were more challenging with the first three compared to the last!)

August 2015 034
Isn’t modern formula close to breastmilk though?

No! Breastmilk is a living substance, customized to your specific baby. It is amazing how many unique things breastmilk can do!

Vitamins and minerals that we all know are present only represent a very small proportion of what’s in our milk. There is a huge range of other components. Components, for instance, that dispose of harmful bacteria in different ways. By absorbing them, engulfing them, destroying them, lining the gut and preventing them from entering our baby’s blood stream, preventing them from using our baby’s iron stores to grow (pathogens need iron to thrive), etc…

And these are targeted responses to specific pathogens, because our baby’s saliva goes into our blood stream and informs us of anything harmful they have been exposed to in the last few hours. Our body immediately produces the exact antibodies for that specific infection, and feeds it back to our babies via our milk within the hour.

via The composition of Human milk | Breastfeeding Thoughts.

Notice I do not say that breastmilk is “perfect.” What it is, is normal. It is the species-specific, biological appropriate food for human babies.

I’ve heard that our bodies make different kinds of milk and you have to be careful to separate the foremilk from the hindmilk though? Doesn’t that mean I’ll need to pump to make sure my baby is getting enough of the cream?

If you have pumped and put your milk in the fridge, you have noticed the same phenomenon. As the milk cools, the fattier, more opaque milk rises to the top and the bottom portion of the milk appears thinner, more translucent. Perhaps you would call this milk more “watery.” But, it isn’t watery. It doesn’t lack nutrients. It is just lower in fat.

Breastfeeding moms read a lot about foremilk and hind milk and for lack of a better term, obsess about it. I talk about this with moms way more than I care to. Why?

Because, in my opinion, this is a completely nonsensical and irrelevant topic 99% of the time.

We don’t know the fat concentration of your milk when the baby first starts nursing, nor do we know the rate at which the milk gets fattier.

via Balanced Breastfeeding – “The Good Milk” Foremilk/Hindmilk.

What about postpartum depression? One of my friends said that her doctor told her to wean because of depression.

While this is a common recommendation, it is not evidence-based. In fact, breastfeeding helps protect mothers’ August 2015 001 mental health by mediating the effects of stress:

Research over the past decade has shown that breastfeeding and depression intersect in some interesting and surprising ways. All of this work has shown something that makes sense. Breastfeeding does not deplete mothers, nor does it cause depression.

Breastfeeding problems certainly can do both of these things—all the more reason why women need good support and accurate information. But it does not make sense for something so critical to the survival of our species to be harmful for mothers. And it is not.

Breastfeeding and stress

One of the initial areas of research was in examining the role of breastfeeding in turning off the stress response. Of particular importance was breastfeeding’s role in lessening mothers’ levels of inflammation (which is part of the stress response). The molecules that cause inflammation can lead to depression. When inflammation levels are high, people are more likely to get depressed. When inflammation levels are lower, the risk of depression goes down. The great thing is that breastfeeding is specifically anti-inflammatory. This is one way that breastfeeding protects women’s health throughout their lives. It lowers their risk of depression. It also lowers their risk of diseases such as heart disease and diabetes…

via Mothers’ Mental Health and Breastfeeding – Breastfeeding Today.

Side note: why is depression such a risk for mothers anyway?

…When you consider the isolation, lack of support, history of abuse or other trauma, and, particularly in the U.S., the need for mothers to return to work almost immediately following the birth, the increase in depression rates is hardly surprising…

via Mothers’ Mental Health and Breastfeeding – Breastfeeding Today.

What about the sleepless nights everyone talks about? I want my partner to be able to feed the baby at night so I can get more sleep.

Similar to mental health, research has actually found that nursing mothers get more sleep, not less.

And, on a related note, many people share the misconception that it is normal and desirable for a breastfed baby to “grow out” of needing to nurse during the night. This actually depends on multiple factors, primarily the storage capacity of a mother’s breast:

In other words, if you are a mother with an average or small breast storage capacity [which is unrelated to breast size], night feedings may need to continue for many months in order for your milk production to stay stable and for your baby to thrive. Also, because your baby has access to less milk at each feeding, night feedings may be crucial for him to get enough milk overall. Again, what’s important is not how much milk a baby receives at each individual feeding, but how much milk he consumes in a 24-hour day. If a mother with a small storage capacity uses sleep training strategies to force her baby to go for longer stretches between feedings, this may slow her milk production and compromise her baby’s weight gain.

via Do Older Babies Need Night Feedings? — Nancy Mohrbacher.

Am I creating a bad habit by allowing baby to breastfeed to sleep? April 2015 090

Your child’s desire to nurse to sleep is very normal and not a bad habit you’ve fostered. Don’t be afraid to nurse your baby to sleep or fear that you are perpetuating a bad habit. Baby often will seek the breast when sleepy or over-stimulated because it’s a comforting and familiar place to him. To associate the breast with wanting to relax enough to go to sleep makes perfect sense. As adults, we also do things to relax ourselves so we can go to sleep: we read, watch TV, get something warm to drink or a snack, deep breathe, get all snug under the covers, etc. Breastfeeding does the same thing for your baby.

via KellyMom.com : Breastfeeding to Sleep and Other Comfort Nursing.

You may find that nighttime nursing is surprisingly peaceful and undisturbed. I remember finding my first baby often puzzling during the day, but at night, it felt like we were in perfect harmony…

…So we feast together in the darkness.
Till we are both full-filled.
Me. You.
You. Me.
Youme.

via A Poem for World Breastfeeding Week 2015 #WBW – The Story Witch.

Breastfeeding matters. It is woven through our lives and through the interlocking systems of society. It has important impacts on physical, mental, and emotional health for both you and your baby. In fact, breastfeeding is a type of “shero’s journey,” one that impacts a mother and her child through the rest of their lives:

Breastfeeding is the day in and day fabric of connection. It is a huge physical and emotional investment, the continued devotion of one’s body to one’s baby. Breastfeeding support may not as exciting or thrilling as birthwork for me, but it is so very REAL and so very needed, and part of the nitty-gritty reality of individual mother’s complicated lives as they find their feet on the motherhood road. It really matters.

In what ways has breastfeeding been a hero’s journey for you?

via Breastfeeding as a (s)hero’s journey? | Talk Birth.

Breastfeeding Blessing Pocket Altar (mini birth altar, medicine bundle, doula, midwife, mother blessing, lactation, nursing)Sign up for the Brigid’s Grove Newsletter for resources, monthly freebies, + art and workshop announcements.

And, as is our tradition, in honor of World Breastfeeding Week and National Breastfeeding Month, you can get 10% off items in our shop throughout August: WBW10OFF.

Celebrating World Breastfeeding Week!

August 2015 043It is World Breastfeeding Week and we’ve been busy supporting celebratory events around the country. We donated nursing mama sculptures to the World Breastfeeding Week picnic in Springfield, MO and to two LLL Leader workshops, one in NY and one in Tennessee. Today, we donated a birth sculpture and 4o goodie packets to the upcoming Women in the Wild photo shoot in Kansas City and we also mailed a spiral mama sculpture and 20 goodie packets to a Live, Love, Latch event in Portland, TN.

August 2015 068Is there a Live, Love, Latch event near you? Check it out here: Events – Live, Love, Latch!

On August 22, we’ll be giving away some goodies at MamaFest in Rolla, which is also registered as a Live, Love, Latch event.

What is MamaFest?

 It’s a celebration! A celebration of women, of community organizations that serve women, of women-owned/women-oriented businesses. We want you to come visit the vendors, have some refreshments, visit with your friends on the couch, and take home awareness of what your community has to offer YOU.

(Men and children are welcome to attend!)

via MamaFest 2015.

I’m particularly excited about the Women in the Wild event. This article about the effort really brings home why it matters:

…The women behind this photo would like to shift the paradigm, to change the narrative of shame that is inflicted upon mothers. They would like to celebrate the bodies of mothers, with all of their glorious imperfections, because they are strong, and beautiful. Mother of one, Jacklyn Kosakowski, shared: ”When the opportunity came up to take this photo, I honestly wasn’t doing it for others. I did it for myself. My changing body during pregnancy was difficult for me, and especially afterwards was hard. I’m at a good place with myself and I have just recently began to appreciate my stretch marks and mommy belly. This body carried and nourished my baby for nine months and pushed for four hours just to meet her, so I should be proud of this body. To just be out in the open, half naked, with other beautiful mothers was such an amazing feeling. There was no judgement, we all looked beautiful.”

via The Shame Game » Erin White Photography.

You can also visit Erin White Photography on Facebook for more information and beautiful, inspiring photos.

The theme of the 2015 World Breastfeeding Week is: “Let’s Make it Work” and it focuses on mothers combining breastfeeding and employment.

The WBW 2015 theme on working women and breastfeeding revisits the 1993 WBW campaign on the Mother-Friendly Workplace Initiative. Much has been achieved in 22 years of global action supporting women in combining breastfeeding and work, particularly the adoption of the revised ILO Convention 183 on Maternity Protection with much stronger maternity entitlements, and more country actions on improving national laws and practices. At the workplace level, we have also seen more actions taken to set up breastfeeding or mother-friendly workplaces including awards for breastfeeding-friendly employers, as well as greater mass awareness on working women’s rights to breastfeed.

via World Breastfeeding Week 2015.

WHO_BreastfeedingWeek2015_EN4Images for the 2015 theme of “Let’s Make it Work” are available here: WHO | World Breastfeeding Week.

Why does the support of employers matter to breastfeeding women? It matters immensely. Women and their babies don’t exist in isolation, they are nestled within larger systems that can either help make or break the breastfeeding relationship:

“Governments and commercial companies will ‘invest’ billions in expensive new technology: roads, bridges, airports, dams or power generation plants, ‘for the good of society’. They may even ‘invest’ in schools and hospitals, but the crucial primary investment in the emotional, physical and mental health of all humans, which breastfeeding and mothering provide, is invisible.”

—Gabrielle Palmer (The Politics of Breastfeeding, p. 333)

via Breastfeeding as an Ecofeminist Issue: Collage Project | Talk Birth.

Seriously. This is why World Breastfeeding Week matters. It isn’t just about breastfeeding memes and platitudes, it is about systemic change in the US and around the world.

I was interested by this story about an Argentinian politician and her baby breastfeeding at work:

…We’re having a moment here when it comes to the cultural conversation surround public breastfeeding. When we talk about women balancing work and childcare, part of what we’re talking about is women living in a world that makes it difficult to care for their children while simultaneously managing the rest of their lives. It’s not that it’s physically impossible to care for a baby while going about one’s day, it’s that we live in a world in which women are shamed for things like breastfeeding in public.

via Why it’s important that this Argentinian politician was breastfeeding her baby on the job – Page 2 of 2.

August 2015 060…We are mammals because as a species we nurse our young. This is a fundamental tie between the women of our time and place and the women of all other times and places as well as between the female members of every mammal species that have ever lived. It is our root tie to the planet, to the cycles of life, and to mammal life on earth. It is precisely this connection to the physical, the earthy, the material, the mundane, the body, that breastfeeding challenges men, feminists, and society.

Breastfeeding is a feminist issue and a fundamental women’s issue. And, it is an issue deeply embedded in a sociocultural context. Attitudes towards breastfeeding are intimately entwined with attitudes toward women, women’s bodies, and who has “ownership” of them. Patriarchy chafes at a woman having the audacity to feed her child with her own body, under her own authority, and without the need for any other. Feminism sometimes chafes at the “control” over the woman’s body exerted by the breastfeeding infant…

via Breastfeeding as an Ecofeminist Issue | Talk Birth.

Past World Breastfeeding Week posts:

 Sign up for the Brigid’s Grove Newsletter for resources, monthly freebies, + art and workshop announcements.

And, as is our tradition, in honor of WBW and National Breastfeeding Month, you can get 10% off items in our shop throughout August: WBW10OFF.

Guest Post: How does your body know when to go into labor?

Mollyblessingway 011I recently received the following news story to repost. Many women have questions about when they will go into labor or concerns about pre-term labor. They may also worry about “never” going into labor on their own and may face pressure from care providers or family members towards induction. We often rely on signs like cervical changes, contractions, and increased cervical fluid (as well as proximity to due date) in order to help us anticipate the birthing day. I distinctly remember the interesting and counterintuitive experience of having the question of, “WHEN,” somehow feeling more and more mysterious and hard to predict the closer I drew to my own due dates (when really, the closer you get, the fewer birth-day possibilities remain! While it is very normal for babies to be born after their estimated due date, the possible window of when the baby will be born narrows with each day of pregnancy, simply because: babies do come out). Turns out, your baby’s birth-day timing has more to do with what is going on at a molecular level, than what you can observe from the outside!

(If this guest post is too heavy on molecules and too light on personal experience, you might want to check out one of my most popular blog posts: How do I know I’m really in labor? | Talk Birth.)

Key components of interest from the research below:

  • The molecule that triggers birth is the TLR4 molecule.
  • This molecule is activated by other molecules produced in the mothers tissues due to uterine stretch, by proteins that are released from a baby’s lungs just before birth, and by the placenta as it begins to reach the end of its life.
  • Factors that can contribute to a surge inTLR4 and lead to premature birth are:
    • Bacterial infections
    • Damage to the placenta
    • multiple pregnancy

Here is the guest post with more!

———————————————————————————————————————————-

RESEARCHERS at the University of Adelaide have identified that the activation of the TLR4 molecule is key in controlling the timing of birth, acting as a trigger common to both preterm and on-time labour.

Professor Sarah Robertson, Director of the Robinson Research Institute and lead author of the study published this week in Endocrinology, said the research was likely to lead to new therapies in preventing preterm labour.

“Preterm labour, birth at less than 37 weeks gestation, affects 5-13% of pregnancies worldwide. It accounts for 28% of all neonatal deaths and can result in major health consequences for surviving children,” says Professor Robertson.

“In order to prevent preterm birth, we need to understand the physiological responses which lead to normal on-time birth, and our new research pinpoints a ‘master switch’ that influences the timing of birth.

“We know that several agents can bind and trigger the molecule TLR4 after release from fetal and maternal tissues in late gestation, including proteins that are released from a baby’s lungs just before birth.

“Other molecules that activate TLR4 are produced in the mother’s tissues due to uterine stretch, or when the placenta begins to reach the end of its life.”

Professor Robertson says that there are other factors that lead to a surge in TLR4 and premature birth, including local bacteria infections, damage to the placenta due to inflammation, or even multiple pregnancy.

“This is a surprising finding because TLR4 is generally thought to be involved in the immune response to infection, and had not previously been linked with normal processes in pregnancy,” says Professor Robertson.

“Now that we know how critical TLR4 is in regulating the timing of birth, we can commence testing drugs that target the TLR4 pathway.

“While this is yet to be looked at in a clinical setting, we believe this finding will ultimately lead to methods to effectively protect women at risk of going into labour early,” she says.

This work was supported by project and fellowship grants from the National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the Australian Research Council.

Key contacts

Professor Sarah Robertson Director, Robinson Research Institute University of Adelaide
08 8313 4094 sarah.robertson@adelaide.edu.au

June 2015 012

Tuesday Tidbits: Does Giving Birth Have to Be Terrible?

July 2015 116“To nurture life is to . . . embody the intelligent Love that is the ground of all being.”

— Carol Christ

Does giving birth have to be a terrible experience involving screaming, swearing, and pooping on the sterile “delivery” table? Anyone who has followed my blog for a while, already knows what my answer to this question is (no!), but here are some additional resources that caught my eye this week. First, erase the idea of maternal-fetal conflict, reinforced insidiously all across the internet and the media, and keep your expectations high:

Birth doesn’t have to suck. Keep your expectations high and do the work to have those expectations met. Don’t let anybody convince you that you need to step aside for your baby. You need to step up for your baby.

via Dear Friend, Birth Doesn’t Have to Suck | ImprovingBirth.

Next, choose your care provider very carefully. Remember, this baby only gets to be born once! Don’t wait for “next time,” to find a respectful provider and the birth setting your heart desires.

But, I have a doula, surely she’ll protect me from my less-than-ideal doctor!

No, again. Protection from other care providers is not a doula’s job. This is a multilayered issue, but here is a good post with some reasons why:

“My own doula and I have had more than one conversation about why she didn’t warn me about my own provider—someone who I now know has a reputation for not following through on promises to patients. “But I asked you!” I’ve said to her. “Why didn’t you tell me?” She has explained patiently, each time, that she gave me the information I needed to make my own decision. What I wanted from her—to say, “Oh, Cristen, you need to switch providers right now!”—is not something she would ever say to a client. Instead, she gave me specific questions to ask. She encouraged me to talk to my provider about my wishes and pay attention to the conversation, to trust my instincts, and to be honest with myself about whether or not I thought my provider was really going to follow through with what she’d promised.”

via Birth Monopoly | Three Things Your Doula Can’t Tell You.

I know you want your doula or childbirth educator to be able to tell you these things straightforwardly. I wish they could. I’ve had birth class clients ask me the, “why didn’t you tell me” question too and it is a very fine balance for birth professionals. I often longed for the freedom to take the Dr. Pig-Face approach, described by Nancy Wainer Cohen in her class birth activism book from the 1980’s, Open Season:

“If childbirth classes really ‘worked,’ more women would be having babies without interference. More women would be recognizing the complete naturalness of birth and would remain at home, delivering their infants with feelings of confidence and trust. More and more, midwives would be demanded. The names of those hospitals and doctors who treated women and babies with anything less than absolute respect would be public knowledge, and childbirth classes would be the first place these names would be discussed. ‘You’re seeing What’s-His-Face? He’s a pig! In my opinion, of course,’ I tell people who come to my classes. I then proceed to give them the names of people who have used Pig-face. They can always ask Dr. P. for the names of people who have used him and been satisfied with their births, for balance.”

–Nancy Wainer Cohen, Open Season

via Honesty in Birth Preparation | Talk Birth.

In addition to high expectations and careful assembly of the birth team, you may also want to keep secret the Mollyblessingway 027sensations of early labor. I followed this advice with all of my babies and have no regrets.

When you begin to have sensations, do your best to ignore them as long as you possibly can. You may want to consider keeping these feelings to yourself and having a “secret sensation time” with your unborn baby. Get in as dark a space as you can. Minimize what is happening with your husband, family and the birth attendants. You have control over your body and a say in your hormone activity. Help your pituitary gland secrete oxytocin to open your cervix by staying relax in a dark, quiet room with your eyes closed.”

via Words of Wisdom: Keep the “Sensations” of Early Labor a “Secret” | NüRoo.

Another way to prepare for a wonderful birth is through connecting with your body. One way to do this is through prenatal yoga. The movements and sensations of prenatal yoga sink into you and become a part of your body memory, guiding you through birthing:

“…Anyone involved with educating adult learners (in any context) is likely to be familiar with the concept that people are most likely to retain information that they have actually practiced (versus reading about, hearing about or seeing demonstrated). I have found that incorporating a few simple yoga poses into each class session is a beautiful way of illustrating and applying many important elements of childbirth preparation. In approximately 10 minutes of movement, important points can be underscored without having to actually say anything or “lecture” to clients. The hope is that as we move together through a carefully chosen series of poses, subtle emotional development and trust in birth occurs—again, in a more effective manner than by the childbirth educator saying during class: ‘Trust birth!'”

via Incorporating Prenatal Yoga into Childbirth Education Classes | Talk Birth.

Also, prepare yourself for a nurturing postpartum. Your baby will arrive primed for connection rather than separation. The more you are cared for by those around you during this vulnerable and magical time, the more embracing you can be of the delicate, fierce, and encompassing neediness of your dependent newborn:

“The cutting of the umbilical cord tends to herald the arrival of a new and unique life. Though this tiny being began its existence many months before, growing nestled and protected within the womb, the just-born infant is seen as an individual apart from his or her mother. There is, however, a significant error in this thinking, for baby and mother are one, so to speak, and severing this unit denies an empirical truth. Birth should not be a celebration of separation, but rather a reuniting of mother and baby, who joins her for an external connection.”

–Barbara Latterner, in the book New Lives

via Inseparable | Talk Birth.

I’ve spent a lot of time exclaiming: I JUST want to transform the birth culture in the U.S.! Now, you have a chance  to share your opinions and experiences in this new survey: Transforming Birth Culture in the United States Survey.

molly37weeks 071Other tidbits this week:

  • Lann has a new YouTube channel for his Minecraft and other gaming videos. You can check out Zall Craft here.
  • I finally took the leap and signed up for Leonie Dawson’s Shining Year Academy. I’ve been buying her annual workbooks for four years, but it is time to grow! We’ve been working through the Double Your Biz Intensive and it has already been worth the price! (*links are affiliate links)
  • I updated the links/print layout for my three e-booklets. These were all written prior to my birth work. Hope you might find them helpful! Free e-Booklets | Talk Birth

Tuesday Tidbits: More Women’s Health Thoughts

February 2015 091Can we actually expect humane care in pregnancy and birth? According to a new report, no. Mistreatment in labor is a worldwide issue…

99% of all maternal deaths occur in low-income and middle-income countries, where resources are limited and access to safe, acceptable, good quality sexual and reproductive health care, including maternity care, is not available to many women during their childbearing year. The most common cause of these maternal deaths are postpartum hemorrhage, postpartum infection, obstructed labors and blood pressure issues – all conditions considered very preventable or treatable with access to quality care and trained birth attendants.

Analysis of reports examined in this paper indicate that “many women globally experience poor treatment during childbirth, including abusive, neglectful, or disrespectful care.” This treatment can further complicate the situation downstream, by creating a disincentive for women to seek care from these facilities and providers in future pregnancies.

via Science & Sensibility » Report Finds Widespread Global Mistreatment of Women during Childbirth.

From the original paper:

…The researchers identified 65 (mainly qualitative) studies undertaken in 34 countries that investigated the mistreatment of women during childbirth across all geographical and income-level settings. They analyzed the evidence presented in these studies using thematic analysis, an approach that identifies and organizes patterns (themes) within qualitative data. Based on this analysis, the researchers developed a typology of the mistreatment of women during childbirth consisting of seven domains (categories). These domains were physical abuse (for example, slapping or pinching during delivery); sexual abuse; verbal abuse such as harsh or rude language; stigma and discrimination based on age, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, or medical conditions; failure to meet professional standards of care (for example, neglect during delivery); poor rapport between women and providers, including ineffective communication, lack of supportive care, and loss of autonomy; and health system conditions and constraints such as the lack of the resources needed to provide women with privacy.

via PLOS Medicine: The Mistreatment of Women during Childbirth in Health Facilities Globally: A Mixed-Methods Systematic Review.

I’ve written about violence against women during pregnancy before:

Domestic Violence During Pregnancy | Talk Birth

Companion guest post about abuse of women during labor:

Guest Post: Abuse of pregnant women in the medical setting | Talk Birth.

It was via link trackbacks to these posts, that I read an article about birth control which raises important questions related to men’s health as well:

…Around the planet, advocates for healthier families insist that reproductive rights are human rights. Are they? If so, why is little attention paid to reproductive empowerment of the half of humanity born male? An honest human rights framework would acknowledge that the difference between the top easily reversed family planning method available for women (1 in 2000 annual failure rate) and the top method available for men (1 in 6 annual failure rate) is unjust and unconscionable…

Condoms are So Hundred Years Ago: Why Better Birth Control for Men Would Be Better for Everyone | ValerieTarico.

And, finally, bringing it back to women’s health, I read a horrifying article about young women working in factories using radioactive paint.

…When the women began exploring the possibility that their factory jobs had contributed to their illnesses, university “specialists” requested to examine them. Former factory girl Grace Fryer was declared to be in fine health by two medical experts. It would later be revealed that the two experts who had examined her were not doctors at all but a toxicologist on the US Radium payroll and one of the vice-presidents of US Radium…

The Radium Girls and the Generation that brushed its Teeth with Radioactive Toothpaste | Messy Nessy Chic.

This is why people question GMOs, flouride, vaccines, ultrasounds, artificial sweeteners, etc. Because we cannot always assume benign intent, nor can we assume full and appropriate disclosure, risk assessment, and truth from corporations with a vested interest in claiming no harm.

Super quick post for today! I’ve been busy grading papers and have a class to teach tonight.

Tuesday Tidbits: Birth Privacy

IMG_5598 I’ve been trying to post about this article for a couple of weeks now! It is an interesting look at the biological need for privacy at the end of pregnancy and during birth.

…This ‘time’ at the end of pregnancy was described in a lovely article (The Last Days of Pregnancy: A Place of In-Between- The Mothering website) as Zwischen, a German word for between. At the end of pregnancy the mothering hormones start to cause emotions to run high as the cervix starts to soften, efface and women generally crave the quiet and private places they need to emotionally and mentally travel inwards.

In many traditional cultures around the world, women are known to actively leave their tribes for birthing huts (Inuit Tribe a group of indigenous people residing in the Arctic regions, Kwaio a tribe who live in an Island off the Pacific and many more). The Eipos people in Papa New Guinea are documented (Schnietenhovel) to go into the Wilderness of the Bush shortly before the onset of labour. The tribes above are also protected by various women they already have a relationship with throughout their pregnancy and birth journeys. Midwives and female relatives provide the support to enable confidence in the birthing process and some of the women will go off and give birth alone.

via The biological need for privacy at the end of pregnancy | Calm Yorkshire Birth.

She also writes about how the pervasiveness of social media might impact this need for privacy:

…Don’t be fooled by the facelessness of facebook and other social media. Just because you cannot be physically seen, it doesn’t mean you have privacy. I often hear so much unnecessary stress from women who feel observed on groups within the social media communities. Smart phones leave us open to be contacted by anyone day or night at a time when we just don’t want to be in touch with anyone at all. I wonder what effect social media has on the orchestration of birthing hormones that play such a vital part in undisturbed childbirth.

via The biological need for privacy at the end of pregnancy | Calm Yorkshire Birth.

I felt a strong call to retreat and pull in during all of my pregnancies, maybe because of my introverted personality and craving for solitude, but maybe because of biology too…

Pregnancy—towards the end of pregnancy I feel an inward call. I start wanting to quit things, to be alone, to “nest,” to create art, to journal, and to sink into myself. Nothing sounds better to me in late pregnancy than sitting in the sunlight with my hands on my belly, breathing, and being alone with my baby and my thoughts.

via Introverted Mama | Talk Birth.

For me, this preference for solitude is reflected in my preferred birth environment which involves no talking/noise and as few other people present as possible.

This is not how all women feel, my own mother has expressed that she enjoyed and wanted quite a few people around her while she was giving birth—the help, support, companionship, and affirmation from other women was important to her births. The women giving birth on The Farm, of Ina May Gaskin’s Spiritual Midwifery fame, also seemed to be very social birthers. I remember looking at the pictures in the book and feel a little horrified by the huge gatherings of people present for births! Speaking of The Farm, I enjoyed reading this interview about the birth culture created by the midwives there:

“This is how I had my own babies,” she said. “I knew that if I could do it, pretty much anyone who was healthy and well could do it. So I wanted to help women. Of course, I never thought I’d be in the type of job where I was working mostly with delivering babies, but in the process of helping women, I fell in love with women. Women are brave. We’re absolutely beautiful creatures.”

via “The Farm” in Tennessee is the country’s oldest intentional community. But the real story is how they deliver babies.

I was also reminded of this past post about Birth Witnesses. This remains one of my very favorite guest posts that I’ve hosted here and it gives me food for thought every time I re-read it:

The only way to understand birth is to experience it yourself. The ONLY way? That comment stayed with me, haunted me. I became a doula after my daughter’s birth because I wanted to be able to provide women with support and knowledge that could give them a different experience, a better memory than what I had. I just couldn’t believe that there wasn’t a way to understand birth at all except to experience it firsthand. Certainly there wasn’t always this fear and unknown around birth that we each face today. Not always. I began studying that idea. What about other cultures? What about our culture, historically? What about The Farm? There wasn’t always this myth and mystery about birth! I realized there was a time (and in places, there still is) when women banded together for births. Mothers, sisters, cousins, daughters, aunts, friends. They came together and comforted, guided, soothed, coached, and held the space for one another during birth. These women didn’t go in it alone – they were surrounded by women who had birthed before them. Women who knew what looked and felt right, and what didn’t. Women who could empathize with them and empower them. In addition to that, girls and women were raised in a culture of attending births. Daughters watched mothers, sisters and aunts labor their babies into this world. They saw, heard, and supported these women for the long hours of labor, so when they became mothers themselves, the experience was a new, but very familiar one for them. Birth wasn’t a secretive ritual practiced behind the cold, business-like doors of a hospital. It was a time for bonding, learning, sharing and sisterhood. Girls learned how women become mothers, and mothers helped their sisters bring forth life.

via Birth Witnesses | Talk Birth.

We can’t overemphasize the importance of who is present in the birth space and their influence on how a birth unfolds. Other people’s presence can have a powerful impact, whether positive or negative. One important area is with regard to freedom of choice and self-direction:

…Women can find themselves feeling bullied or coerced into agreeing to procedures they wish to avoid, such as induction or continuous fetal monitoring. They may be told if they don’t follow their doctor’s suggestion their baby’s life will be in danger. Consent is most often given, but it is not informed consent. Many parents in this vulnerable position either don’t know how to advocate for themselves or are under prepared to – practically, emotionally and psychologically.

via When Doctors Don’t Listen: Informed Consent and Birth | BellyBelly.

Choice-based narratives figure heavily into both “alternative” and “mainstream” dialogues about birth. I am emphatic that the companion to informed consent must be informed refusal. Very often, there is no option to refuse, and in this situation, there is no real choice involved at all…

…Women’s lives and their choices are deeply embedded in a complex, multifaceted, practically infinite web of social, political, cultural, socioeconomic, religious, historical, and environmental relationships.

And, I maintain that a choice is not a choice if it is made in a context of fear.

via The Illusion of Choice | Talk Birth.

On a related note, what about pain and birth? Do we accurately remember what birth feels like? I feel as if I do remember, though it is often said that you “forget” as soon as the baby is born. I find instead that it is more of the “halo effect” described here:

The ‘halo effect’ is the term given to describe the positive emotions experienced by the new mother when the baby is placed in her arms for the first time. In that moment, amidst a rush of oxytocin and happiness, the mother is likely to have a more positive view of the birth experience than she did ten minutes earlier. Simply put, the happiness of holding her baby for the first time overpowers any pain or negativity from the birth.

It makes sense that this effect could influence how the pain of birth was remembered. The pain of birth may be remembered as less severe simply because the benefits of having a healthy baby are felt to outweigh the discomfort caused by childbirth.

Women who experience traumatic births and who are unable to hold their babies immediately after the birth may miss out on this ‘halo effect’. Though they will still experience the rush of love and hormones upon holding their baby for the first time, the delay can reduce the impact this has on their overall feelings about and memory of labour and birth.

via Do Women Forget The Pain Of Giving Birth? | BellyBelly.

When you feel amazing about yourself and deeply in love with your baby, the memory of exact sensation fades to the background and the exhilaration and triumph and love moves to the forefront. However, there is also simply the physical component (kind of like when you have the flu, it dominates your mental landscape and you forget ever feeling healthy. Then, you get better and the flu-self becomes distant). I marvel at how women shift through these physical stages. When I am Pregnant Woman, it is totally real and becomes normal. After I give birth and become Nursing Mother again, that is what is vibrant and real and Pregnant Woman, and the thoroughly embodied experience of pregnancy, becomes fainter and more dreamlike. Interesting that I use the word dreamlike, because I also find that it is in dreams that the physical experience returns with crystal clarity. I sometimes dream about being pregnant or giving birth and in those dreams I am 100% confident that I have not forgotten at all what it feels like, my body holds a deeply invested physical memory and “imprint” of my babies and births, it is just hard to call it back as vividly while going about every day life tasks at the same time.

Anyway, once we’ve experience the power of birth, we may become evangelists for birth, at least for a time. I really enjoyed my memories of the enthusiasm and energy I felt as a new birthworker reflected in this post from ProDoula:

It’s magical. It’s moving. It’s more than you ever imagined it would be. And you love it!

You never want it to end. You want to feel the power of these women and you want to talk about birth, ALL DAY LONG! In fact, you never want to talk about anything else again!

At the end of the last day, you “friend” each of these women and you expect to stay in contact with them forever. You are sad that it’s over, but you are a new woman because it happened.

You are replenished. You are fulfilled. You are wiser and you are stronger.

And then, you go home…

via Don’t Puke Birth on the Ones You Love | ProDoula.

What I discovered with time though is that I feel the power of women and this replenishment and strength in other forms besides the birth world. I find it in my priestess work, in my women’s circle, and at the Red Tent too.

IMG_5632

We had a run on twin mama goddess sculptures this week after a happy customer shared a picture of hers with her friends! 🙂

 

 

 

Tuesday Tidbits: Birth Transformation

“Women are as nervous and unsure of themselves as ever, and they need to learn to trust their bodies. Birthing is much more that eliminating pain. It is one of life’s peak experiences.” –-Elisabeth Bing

via Thesis Tidbits: Exceptional Human Experiences | Talk Birth.

May 2015 146The mother of the Lamaze childbirth education movement in the U.S., Elisabeth Bing, died this week at age 100. She had a tremendous impact on the birth culture and was a very early activist in promoting the “radical” idea of birth as a transformative, powerful, important experience in a woman’s life.

…For years Ms. Bing led classes in hospitals and in a studio in her apartment building on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, where she kept a collection of pre-Columbian and later Native American fertility figurines.

Ms. Bing preferred the term “prepared childbirth” to “natural childbirth” because, she said, her goal was not to eschew drugs altogether but to empower women to make informed decisions. Her mantra was “Awake and alert,” and she saw such a birth as a transformative event in a woman’s life.

“It’s an experience that never leaves you,” she told The New York Times in 2000. “It needs absolute concentration; it takes up your whole being. And you learn to use your body correctly in a situation of stress.”

via Elisabeth Bing Dies at 100; ‘Mother of Lamaze’ Helped Change Childbirth – NYTimes.com.

Bing was also early to recognize that birth experiences can be traumatic for mothers. This week, I read another May 2015 164 interesting article about mothers’ experiences of birth trauma:

“…far too many women are left in the aftermath of a traumatic experience on the very day she is born as a mother. She is a new woman – amazing, strong and life-giving – ready to face the world. Holding her new baby in her arms and a smile (or not, depending on her acting skills) on the outside, with a broken heart, fractured spirit and shattered self-confidence on the inside. This is the result of traumatic birth…”

The Secret That Many Moms Are Keeping – Mothering.

Can part of the “cause” of traumatic births be the expectation that a “good birth” is a quiet and controlled birth? Nadia Raafat wrote a powerful article at the Huffington Post that touches on this possibility:

Contractions were outed, surges, came in, the un-gratifying word pain was ostracised from the semantics of childbirth and, across the nation, grateful midwives watched in awe as powerful, silent women breathed their way through drug-free labours.

That’s half the story. The other half concerns those who did not experience the blissful or natural birth outcome that hypnobirthing promised them; the many disappointed women whose labours were violent, or which deviated from the normal care pathway, women who found the experience not only painful, but shocking and traumatic – all the more so because they believed it might be painless. I have met many of these women – still processing their birth experience years later, still wondering what they did wrong? Their emotional and physical scars run deep and take many years to heal.

via Denying the Pain of Labour Is Like Denying the Pain of Life | Nadia Raafat.

Raafat goes on to advocate the full spectrum of the semantics of birth and birth experiences:

Childbirth is the most profound experience in a women’s life. It is awesome, challenging, brutal, visceral, joyful, transporting, awful, deeply physical, incredible, powerful, at times, calm and in-flow, at other times all-consuming and over-whelming. Our preparation and our semantics need to acknowledge the whole spectrum of the experience, not just the palatable colours.

via Denying the Pain of Labour Is Like Denying the Pain of Life | Nadia Raafat.

I have a long time interest in words and birth and how we “talk birth” in our culture:

…On the flip side, I’ve also read other writer’s critiques of an overly positive language of birth, labeling and mocking words like “primal” as “euphemisms” for hours of “excruciating” pain. But, that makes me think about the locus of control in the average birth room. It seems like it might more difficult to start an IV in a “triumphant” woman, so lets call her stubborn or even “insisting on being a martyr”? Could you tell someone making “primal” noises to be quiet? Probably not, but you can tell someone who is “screaming” to “stop scaring” others. Asserting that a painful and degrading language of labor and birth is “real” English and that the language of homebirth advocates are “euphemisms” is a way to deny women power and to keep the locus of control with medicine.

via Wordweaving | Talk Birth.

I’ve also thought a lot about the association between a quiet birth and good birth. “Quiet” during labor is often associated with “coping well” and noise is associated with not coping, which may not be the case:

…Occasionally, I hear people telling birth stories and emphasizing not making noise as an indicator, or “proof,” of how well they coped with birthing–“I didn’t make any noise at all,” or “she did really well, she only made noise towards the end…” Women also come to classes looking for ways to stay “in control” and to “relaxed.”

This has caused me to do some thinking. Though relaxation is very important and helpful, to me, the goal of “laboring well” is not necessarily “staying in control” or “staying relaxed” or “not making any noises.”

via What Does Coping Well Mean? | Talk Birth.

And, speaking of how we talk about experiences as well as pulling this post back around to Elisabeth Bing, I quoted some reflections on postpartum care from Bing in a past post:

“The degree of pleasure you take in your mothering is not the same thing as loving the baby or being an effective parent. Keep in mind there is a distinction between mother love and maternal satisfaction. You may love your baby very much but be dissatisfied with your life circumstances.”

via Talk Books: Laughter & Tears: The Emotional Life of New Mothers | Talk Birth.

May 2015 150