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International Day of the Midwife!

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International Day of the Midwife is today and Virtual International Day of the Midwife has a free online conference! The lineup of presentations is really rich. Check it out here. 

In celebration of this day, we’re offering a 10% off code good for use on any of the items in our etsy shop! Use 2014SPRING10OFF. 🙂

“It’s hard to describe if you’ve never been there, but to watch a woman access her full power as a woman to give birth is awe-inspiring, and I never get tired of being witness to it. It’s an honor to watch that transformation take place.” ~ Julie Bates, CNM

I’ve been blessed with care, love, and attention from midwives for many years. They’re irreplaceable and the model of care cannot be beat.

Here is a quote I shared on Facebook yesterday from midwifery legend, Ina May Gaskin:

10150680_850255348324885_8097255052427107934_nAt the end of April, Marsden Wagner passed away. An OB and outspoken birth rights activist as well as author of Born in the USA and participant in many documentary films about maternity care, Wagner was an incredible asset to birthing women and midwifery in the U.S. He will be missed.

“Humanizing birth means understanding that the woman giving birth is a human being, not a machine and not just a container for making babies. Showing women—half of all people—that they are inferior and inadequate by taking away their power to give birth is a tragedy for all society.” –Marsden Wagner, MD

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Thesis Tidbits: Feminism, Midwifery, and Motherhood

“Feminism catches fire when it draws upon its inherent spirituality. When it does not, it is just one more form of politics, and politics never fed our deepest hungers.” –Carol Lee Flinders (in The Millionth Circle)

Yesterday, I spent several hours finishing a blog post for Feminism and Religion regarding empowered self-care (it won’t run until next  week). It is a primarily a personal narrative, rather than a political commentary, but as I was writing it, I learned about new legislation introduced in Missouri in an effort to effectively destroy the practice of independent midwifery here. I also have a friend whose family March 2014 082 member just experienced terribly abusive treatment during the immediate postpartum period. I typed feverishly away with an absolutely excruciating headache and a million things on my mind, primarily the very many injustices experienced by women during the childbearing year. I was also left wondering HOW we can truly take care of ourselves when legislators and health care workers actively take dramatic and even cruel steps to prevent us from doing so?

Another friend wrote a comprehensive blog post about this malpractice insurance legislation and the issues involved with it. Midwifery advocacy organizations have already introduced a perfectly appropriate piece of legislation this session and do not need the proposed bogus piece of legislation that offers nothing in the way of protection for Missouri midwifery consumers and instead simply serves to drive midwives out of practice:

…Fortunately, midwives in Missouri do offer a grievance process and adhere to the practice standards set by the certifying agency NARM (North American Registry of Midwives). While there is already a high degree of professional accountability practiced in Missouri, this is because the state professional organization (Missouri Midwives Association) believes it is important and necessary for the professional practice of midwifery and not because the state has directed midwives to do so.

The state of Missouri has continued to be uninterested in working with midwives and home birth families to improve and safeguard the practice of midwifery.

Is there a better option? YES! HB 1363

Instead of HB 2189, we would like to suggest directing legislators to support HB 1363. This is a comprehensive midwifery licensing bill which does provide a mechanism for oversight and responsible, regulated practice. It also addresses the issue of malpractice insurance by requiring midwives to have coverage under the same conditions as physicians. It would also require Medicaid reimbursement for families desiring the care of Certified Professional Midwives and home birth.

via Missouri Legislature Works Against Women, Families and Midwives….AGAIN. | Midwives, Doulas, Home Birth, OH MY!.

I also recently finished a class on ritual theory for my doctoral degree program. The text for the class was To Make and Make Again: Feminist Ritual Thealogy by Charlotte Caron. In it, I was repeatedly reminded that gathering with other women in a circle for ritual and ceremony is deeply important even though it might just look like people having fun or even being frivolous, it is actually a microcosm of the macrocosm—a miniature version of the world we’d like to see and that we want to make possible. Returning to Caron, she explains something similar: “Ritual change is symbolic change, but it can lead to direct action or to ideological change, so it can be an important element in strategizing for change. One way of causing change is to re-form or alter the system. This involves recognizing that we are part of the system and that the system is dependent on feedback from its parts to keep it in balance, which means that we have the capacity to change” (p. 209).

Ritual experience can lead to practical action: spiritual praxis. But, this action does not need to look the same for all women, nor does it always have to involve large structures of society or even sweeping societal change.

“It is important to recognize that not all women will choose to act in the large structures of society. While it is hoped that all women will act toward justice, still electoral politics, lobbying, and revising the economic system may not be the spheres in which some women exert their energy. Ritual actions, raising children to be just and caring people, living in just ways in intimate and community relationships, and modeling different patterns and values are political actions to change patriarchal ideology. The choices of what spheres to devote energy to are important to honor. The constraints of women’s lives—when they are disabled, when they are dealing with past traumas, when they are raising young children, and when they are doing the many other things expected of women in our society—mean that women need to make choices that will allow them to live with integrity and well-being.” (p. 211)

A number of options of action are possible. “What is important are women’s choices to act in concrete ways in every circumstance, to know our neighbors, to raise children to be caring people, to live as if justice exists, to be just in personal relationships, and to live in the community in ways that model the values of justice and well-being for women and all of creation.” (p. 211)

As a mother who works extensively with other mothers, I appreciated Caron’s acknowledgement that raising children is a feminist act with potential to create change as well. “Another strategy for change is through raising children to be just and caring people. A media image portrays feminists as being against motherhood—but in fact, feminists make the best mothers. They raise children aware of themselves and the world, of options and values, of what justice means and how to work toward it, and how to be self-critical and self-respecting” (p. 203-204). Caron also explains that “in a just society, women would be free to make whatever decisions they needed to, for however long they needed to, in relation to political action in the public and the private sphere. All people would participate in the decision-making, and women would be supported in their decisions rather than, as sometimes happens, made to feel guilty for not doing enough or not valued for what they do.”

In connection with women being valued for what they actually do, Caron makes an interesting note about the visions women in her research hold for the future, for the possible:

“Interestingly, none of the visions described by women was based in self-fulfillment, in gaining personal power, or in one’s group having power and the expense of others. Instead, the interviewees talked about the elimination of social, economic, military, and other patriarchal problems, and about living in a world of valued individuals, healthy and diverse relationships, economic and environmental sustainability, equality for all, and shared decision-making and power” (p. 220).

Connected to these themes, one of my classic favorite quotes about women’s spirituality groups is this one:

“…Women’s spirituality groups can become birth centers for social change”

–Anne Rush in The Politics of Women’s Spirituality (p. 384)

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Film Reaction: Birth Story

bs_header_f1I have never met anyone with more than a passing interest in birth activism who has not heard of Ina May Gaskin. She isn’t referred to as a the world’s most legendary midwife for nothing! But, how did she get this way? The new documentary film, Birth Story, helps explore that question.

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Prenatal visit

“The feature-length documentary BIRTH STORY: INA MAY GASKIN & THE FARM MIDWIVES tells the story of counterculture heroine Ina May Gaskin and her spirited friends, who began delivering each other’s babies in 1970, on a caravan of hippie school buses, headed to a patch of rural Tennessee land. With Ina May as their leader, the women taught themselves midwifery from the ground up, and, with their families, founded an entirely communal, agricultural society called The Farm. They grew their own food, built their own houses, published their own books, and, as word of their social experiment spread, created a model of care for women and babies that changed a generation’s approach to childbirth.

Forty years ago Ina May led the charge away from isolated hospital birthing rooms, where husbands were not allowed and mandatory forceps deliveries were the norm. Today, as nearly one third of all US babies are born via C-section, she fights to preserve her community’s hard-won knowledge. With incredible access to the midwives’ archival video collection, the film not only captures the unique sisterhood at The Farm Clinic–from its heyday into the present–but shows childbirth the way most people have never seen it–unadorned, unabashed, and awe-inspiring.”

I really enjoyed Birth Story. It skillfully weaves together vintage footage, commentary, and births with a present day shadowing of Ina May in her natural environment: at the Farm. The documentary shows her working in her kitchen, eating, talking to her husband, watering plants, riding her bicycle, teaching workshops, training midwives, going to prenatal visits, and finally, attending a very hands-off gentle waterbirth. It also lets us peek at images from the early days of The Farm community, the caravan of buses, the dreams of Stephen Gaskin and the “hippies” who followed him to Tennessee. Birth Story is not just a film about Ina May though, it chronicles the experiences of several other Farm midwives as well, and I loved hearing the commentary and opinions of the less-famous midwives who helped transform the birth world. inamaystephen

I found footage of Ina May with Stephen to be particularly poignant and very much enjoyed the vintage photos and footage. I also find it interesting how The Farm began because of Stephen’s leadership and ideas and yet Ina May took off as the ongoing famous person in the family. Of Stephen, Ina May explains: “He thought women we supposed to be uppity—this was great relief, I didn’t like being held down.”

Ina May describes her own first birth explaining that in typical birth climates, “there’s nothing about the special energy of birth and that’s kind of the most important thing…I felt like I was doing something sacred.” She also makes the basic and crucial point that the number one rule of maternity care should be Be Nice and laughs as she asks us to consider how just those two words could change maternity wards. There are only a handful of actual births in the film, three of which are from sometime in the 1980’s. We see a breech birth (a lot more hands-on than I think of present-day midwifery practice) and a shoulder dystocia, both rare occurrences in birth films. We also see brief footage of Ina May’s Safe Motherhood quilt project and a brief discussion of disparities in maternal mortality rates.

Another highlight of the film for me was midwife Pamela, whose birth we also see on-screen. She is shown telling us about an early birth she attended saying, “I fell in love with women. How can you see someone be so strong and not fall in love?” Exactly. My doula and friend, Summer, who watched the film with me, developed her reaction to this quote in a lovely blog post and it reminds me of my own past post about my own former midwife who helped me see that midwife means loves women. Ina May explains that she learned how to be a midwife by allowing herself to be instructed by the women themselves and then she trained other midwives. As I watched Birth Story I found myself feeling a little sad, nostalgic, and inamayandbabybittersweet, because I feel like the world that these beautiful midwives envisioned has yet to really be birthed and that in some ways we’ve gotten so far away from the relationship-oriented and community living/engagement model upon which The Farm was based.

My initial feeling as I watched the film was that it would be primarily of interest to people already very familiar with Ina May, thinking that it  may not appeal to or interest “regular” people. However, the friends I viewed the film with had totally different perspectives. One friend told me she thought her husband would really have liked the documentary, particularly for the emphasis on community. The one husband who was present reported that he thought everyone should see the film and not just people who are already “birth junkies.” So, I stand corrected, and will now say that Birth Story has the capacity to engage with many people!

In 2007, I had the opportunity to listen to Ina May speak in person at the La Leche League International conference in Chicago. She talked about sphincter law and made the association with our bodies’ capacity for bowel movements and women’s physical capacity to rebound from childbirth. I will never forget her saying: “I don’t know about you, but my butt closes back up after I poop.” That summed her up for me: plainspoken, real, matter-of-fact, and practical. She’s a legend!

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Starstruck? Oh, yes I am. My husband said, “these people are like your *celebrities.*”

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

The Midwife’s Tale: Author Interview and Brief Review

As I’ve written before, I can think of few things better than historical fiction about a midwife! Recently, I enjoyed reading The Midwife’s Tale midwifestaleby Sam Thomas, a historian and writer with an interest in midwives. The Midwife’s Tale is a mystery about seventeenth century English midwife Bridget Hodgson who, along with an assistant with secrets of her own, sets out to discover the answers to a murder, a newborn death, and the political machinations of the local government. The book is well-written, nicely paced, and intriguing. Do be aware that there is a fair amount of infant death, violence against women, and threats of rape, as well as general misogynistic treatment of women authentic to the time period in which in the book takes place. As Bridget notes: “As a midwife, I helped women when I could and comforted them when I could not.” Part of me kept wanting Bridget to stand up even more for women and to rise up in protest against the confines of her time and place and the treatment of women therein, but I found the depiction historically accurate, if also depressing. The following quote touches both on this tension between care and participation in oppression as well as on another element, I found interesting, which is in regard to the economic realities for women of this age:

“But as surely as the women needed me, I needed them. Without my work, who would I be? A wealthy widow and nothing more…The thought of such an uneventful and powerless existence filled me dread, for my work as a midwife mattered in a way that mere housewifery never could. I ensured that men who fathered bastards had to pay for their children and that the women who bore them were whipped. If a maiden was raped, who but a midwife would stand with her against her assailant? Who better than a midwife could recognize the signs of bewitchment and find the witch’s mark? Without midwives, lust would reign, and order would turn to chaos…” (p. 230)

I was fortunate to do an interview with author Sam Thomas as well and here it is!

How did you become interested in writing about midwives from a historical perspective?

It was pure chance, or perhaps fate. I was working on my Ph.D. (about religious persecution and toleration in England), when I stumbled across the will of an incredible midwife. (I posted a transcript of the will on my website.) I then discovered that historians were in the midst of some great new research on midwives, and I was eager to join in the fun.

The more work I did, the more fascinated I became with the subject, and I wound up writing a couple of articles and planning a full-length book. In the end I left the ivory tower, but could not bring myself to leave midwives behind.

Do you follow present day midwifery politics? If so, any thoughts on how this connects to the historical issues raised in the book?

I do, to some extent. We lived in Huntsville, Alabama not far from Ina May Gaskin’s place in Tennessee. And I was surprised to learn that midwife-attended births are illegal in Alabama. As a result some women – including a good friend – “happen” to go to birth in Tennessee so they can be delivered there. (Hi, Celeste!)

Things are rather friendlier in Ohio where we now live, and I’ve had a number of midwives and other childbirth workers come to presentations. We’ve had some wonderful conversations!

Did you find it difficult to balance writing accurately about the misogyny of the time with portraying a strong, female character? (Still within the confines of her time and space)

Great question! In fact this is part of the reason I love writing about midwives and about women more broadly. To be sure, my characters inhabit a misogynistic world, but it is one in which women have at least some room to maneuver. (Men from southern Europe were horrified by how much freedom English women enjoyed. Everything is relative!)

Midwives, of course, wielded more power than most women and in certain circumstances, more power than some men. They were the only women who took a public oath, and the only ones whose work required a license. They also played an important role in the criminal justice system (to use an anachronistic term). Despite being women, midwives had a lot of the rights and responsibilities of men, at least in the context of their practice.

Part of what I’m doing in The Midwife’s Tale – and in future books – is charting Bridget’s gradual realization that despite her wealth and status, she is subject to the same oppression as other women. It really throws her for a loop.

Will we see Bridget return in any further mysteries?

Happily, yes! I have finished The Harlot’s Tale, which will be released in January, 2014, and just completed a second draft of The Witch-Hunter’s Tale, the third in the series. Minotaur-St. Martin’s has bought a fourth in the series, so the pressure’s on!

Oh, I’m also writing a few short stories about different characters’ backstories. One will be about how Bridget got into midwifery, and the other will be focused on Rebecca Hooke and how she became such a nasty piece of work.

If your readers want to keep up to date on future releases (and maybe win a copy!) they can sign up for my quarterly newsletter, The Midwife Mailer. No spam, I promise!

Tuesday Tidbits: Hemorrhage & Postpartum Care

March 2013 068“A bright red ribbon of blood weaves women together. We are blood sisters. We bleed and bleed, and we do not die. Usually.” –Susun Weed

These Tuesday Tidbits all come from the current issue of Midwifery Today. It is an excellent issue with tons of great information. As I referenced before, however, it is literally making my uterus ache and contract to read it since the theme is Hemorrhage. I’ve had to read it in small doses—5-10 pages at a time—and then come back to it later because the contractions/crampiness in my uterus and lower back get too intense for me to continue. I’ve always known that I have an intense response to blood, but this is the first time that I’ve really tuned in to the body memory my pelvic bowl still holds with regard to excessive postpartum blood loss. That blood loss is one of the things I don’t blog about, but today I’m writing about hemorrhage anyway (even though my back/uterus is starting up again as I type this). I guess you could call it “psychosomatic,” but I call it uterine memory.

Robin Lim’s article about postpartum hemorrhage in Bali includes a nice list of preventing and managing hemorrhage, one of the most significant being to minimize prenatal “scare” as much as possible. She writes about good prenatal nutrition and nurturing prenatal care and she also recommends this essential:

Build layers of support and trust for the mother in pregnancy and labor to help her cope with any social, psychological or spiritual challenges that she might be carrying…

Lim also says that laboring women use “qi” while laboring and birthing, which is our life force, our energy. She says that if women run out of “qi,” they have to dip into their “jin,” which is, “one’s God-given lifespan”:

“If a mother uses all of her qi to bring her baby out, then she has none left to bring her baby out and to close her uterus properly…As birth-keepers it is our job to maintain the qi of pregnant, laboring, birthing and breastfeeding mothers. The mother who maintains her qi and does not use up her jin can still be glowing and full of energy after having five children…the mother who has dipped too deeply into her jin, due to having depleted her qi, can be dangerously run down after having just one baby…”

While one might interpret this as being a little too esoteric for the practical mind and perhaps a tad too close to the victim-blaming “you create your own reality” thought processes that grate on my nerves, I really appreciated the idea of the responsibility of birth-keepers to guard mothers’ life-force energy and to act to preserve mother’s natural resources and reserves of strength.

On a midwifery education note, I love the writing of Sister MorningStar and I loved reading her thoughts on midwifery education, especially her observation that

…I’m dreaming of a way and time when women are as healthy as deer and mothers birth in the night before professionals arrive. Don’t misunderstand, I want and am willing to talk at any roundtable about midwifery education. We need everyone who cares about birth at such a table, including mothers. We need a global table with a global voice, passion and wisdom. I am not saying that birth and midwives are not made better with midwifery education, but I am saying that I have many questions about modern midwifery education and its effect on the experience of birth.

And, moving on to postpartum care, loved this quote from Darla Burns in an article by Allie Chee:

As Americans, we are under the impression that new moms are ‘Superwomen’ & can return to life as it was before baby. We must remember to celebrate this new mother and emulate the other cultures that honor new mothers by caring for them, supporting them, & placing value on the magnificent transformation she is going through. This is the greatest gift we can give to new mothers & newborns…

I appreciated that Chee included information about postpartum recovery from miscarriage and stillbirth as well, rather than assuming that postpartum care is a need only following a live birth. Consistent with my own experiences and observations she notes that, “in the case of miscarriage and stillbirth, a woman is usually sent home with no postpartum care instructions other than perhaps a list of negative signs to watch for that may indicate further complications with her health. In these instances, many friends and family members, often not knowing how to respond, leave the mother to grieve alone and to recover physically by herself.” Other interesting notes with regard to postpartum recovery after miscarriage or stillbirth include these two:

  • The depression and anxiety experienced by many women after a miscarriage can continue for years, even after the birth of a healthy child….
  • [with regard to postpartum recovery/”lying in” time in other cultures]…Amy Wong, an internationally acclaimed author and expert on postpartum writes, “Natural delivery requires at least 30 days of rest, while cesarean delivery, miscarriage and abortion require at least 40 days…”

Of course, this made me reflect on my own experiences. I feel fortunate that I was cared for with a lot of love and tenderness in my own miscarriage postpartum, with my mom bringing us food and providing child care and support, and my doula organizing and delivering meals from friends as well as offering a loving and supportive listening ear. That said, I was back in front of the classroom two weeks postpartum and felt like perhaps I was taking “too long” to get back to “normal.”

Definitely make sure to check out the complete issue! Midwifery Today is my favorite birth publication and is a treasure trove of information as well as personal experiences and reflection.

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Eleven Years Ago…

In 2000, while working on my block field placement (internship) in graduate school, I met a woman who would become my best friend and a profoundly influential part of my life. We shared a lot of formative life experiences of early adulthood together and I accompanied her to the hospital for the births of two of her children and she came to the birth center with me when my oldest son was born. While my own mother had all four of her children at home and so homebirth and natural birth were parts of my life history, I didn’t really begin to focus on birth as an issue until I was married and in my early 20’s. At this point, I was most influenced by the newsgroup misc.kids.pregnancy. So, I became both deeply interested in natural birth and also very invested in my friend’s birth plans and her ideas about birth. As her pregnancy progressed, she hired a doula that I came across at a street fair and took birth classes from her at the birth center in which I would later have my first baby.

After Maggie was born, I was more involved in her life than I have ever been involved with a baby that was not related to me and in a way that I’ve never been able to be involved again. Without any children of my own at the time, I was able to be present for my friend in a way in which I now see, few friends are able to be for each other, since most women who connect during their childbearing years are intensely embroiled in the needs of their own children and families. Looking back, I see I was like the best postpartum doula ever, without knowing that is what I was being at the time (and, I was free, and did it for a year! :)) After bringing over dinner every night for the first week, for the following year I then I went over to my friend’s house every morning and took care of the baby while my friend ate her breakfast, took care of herself, and went for a run. Then, we would walk in the neighborhood together for about an hour, talking about our lives, dreams, and plans.

Last year, that magical baby that had such a profound influence on my life and on my birthwork in the world turned TEN! I could hardly believe it. At that time, I asked my friend for permission to post the birth story I had written in my journal the morning after her baby’s birth. My friend granted me permission, but then several days passed and since it wasn’t the baby’s birthday any more, the story sat in my drafts folder for…another year. And, now, that magical, wonderful baby is ELEVEN! Here is her birth story, through my naĂŻve, pre-maternal eyes…

Maggie’s Birth

With my little friend, 2002

Journal Entry, 11/3/01. 12:22 p.m.

Returned home this morning at 7:15 after being at the birth of Kate & Dave’s baby girl, Maggie. I’m very tired, but I wanted to write a little bit anyway. We went to the hospital at 1:30 p.m. on Friday (11/2) after Kate’s water broke. She was still 2 centimeters at 9:00 p.m., so they started pitocin. At 12:00 a.m. the doulas arrived and Kate was 3-4 centimeters dilated. The doulas were absolutely wonderful at soothing and guiding her. At 1:15 a.m. she was 7 centimeters (!) and at a tiny bit after 2:00 a.m. she began pushing. Then, she pushed for almost four hours before Maggie was born at 5:51 a.m. (8lbs 10z).

It was really hard to watch and not be able to do anything for her. I can’t imagine what it would have felt like as her husband—someone that close in. She did a wonderful, wonderful job. No pain medication at all, even with the pitocin. She only asked about pain meds once (before the doulas got there). I felt completely in awe of her strength and power. She was so brave and so strong and so tough. Powerful woman stuff. I couldn’t believe that she pushed for four hours. I do not think I could have done it. The baby was worth it though—boy is she cute and pink and making me want to have one too!

I can’t really describe what this experience meant to me or how powerful it was. It was beautiful and strong. Kate is an amazing woman and I am awed by her bravery. She and Dave are so happy with their precious little bundle. I got to hold her too, when she was less than 30 minutes old and Kate was being stitched up (bad tear). I didn’t feel like much help to Kate, but being present mean a lot to me and I hope the fact that I was there meant something to her too. I’m so encouraged to see that a hospital birth can be pulled off so well.

Life is wonderful. Welcome, baby girl!

Happy Birth-Day to you both today, Maggie and Kate! You hold a deep and special place in my heart. You both changed my life forever.

Bits of the (Birth) Net

The following is a collection of the bits and pieces that caught my attention and then were shared via my Talk Birth Facebook page during the last two weeks.

Listening

From a good article by the National Association of Mothers’ Centers in Mother Support: When Words Get in the Way

Words, whether written or voiced, are so very fragile. They can be bent or twisted, even become unrecognizable from their initial intentions. They can have different cultural meanings, regional understandings, and generational perceptions.

There will always be the opportunity for miscommunication…

Such a good reminder. What you say and what people hear are often two different things. What you say and what you mean can be different. How your words are received and interpreted can be very important and intent in many ways doesn’t matter! Communication is transactional process. A two-way process. And, it is symbolic. Meaning can never be fully interpreted and understood completely.

This article also reminded me of one of my own older articles, Listening Well Enough, which came to mind because I’m finishing up with the training of two women. The essay describes my own experience when I was training as a breastfeeding counselor in 2005.

Privacy

The topic of what to risk sharing online came up with friends recently and I enjoyed this article about answering the question of How Much Of Your Private Life Should You Keep Private On Your Blog?

Childbirth Education

Childbirth education is beginning too late in pregnancy; it needs to begin in the first trimester or even before women become pregnant…

The above is one of the concluding points from an interesting article from Birth Works International about supporting women without epidurals.

Good article from Lamaze about your breath and how it can help during pregnancy and birthing!

Virtual labor simulator!

Pushing Positions

Very interesting article on What is the Evidence for Pushing Positions?  Apparently there is more blood loss and second degree tears with upright pushing positions. Personally, I CANNOT imagine giving birth in a supine position. But, I’m also really, really, tired of tearing (tired enough that it is one of the factors in our decision not to have “just one more!” baby). For more thoughts about pushing, see previous post on Following Your Body’s Urges to Push…

And speaking of upright birth, Barbie homebirth photos! 🙂

Informed Consent

Valuable article addressing 10 Responses to Pressure to Consent (remember, it isn’t “informed consent” if you do not have the option of saying NO!)

Posts I’ve written about informed consent:

Prenatal Yoga

Online video prenatal yoga class: Prenatal Yoga – when you feel good, your baby feels good.

And my own prior posts on the subject:

Birthing Room Yoga Handout

“Birth, this elegant, simple, yet intricate process has had unnecessary, complex, expensive technology superimposed onto it, creating a dangerous environment for birthing women.” -Alice Bailes

Loved this article on what really matters for midwives!

Epigenetics

NEW STUDY: Epigenetics: Mother’s Nutrition — Before Pregnancy — May Alter Function of Her Children’s Genes. “As parents, we have to understand better that our responsibilities to our children are not only of a social, economical, or educational nature, but that our own biological status can contribute to the fate of our children, and this effect can be long-lasting,” said Mihai Niculescu, M.D., Ph.D., study author from Nutrition Research Institute at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, in Chapel Hill, N.C.–Epigenetics: Mother’s Nutrition — Before Pregnancy — May Alter Function of Her Children’s Genes

After CAPPA this year, I wrote about epigenetics here: Epigentics, Breastfeeding + Diet, and Prenatal Stress

Call the Midwife

Fun! Ms. Magazine linked to one of my blog posts about midwifery in their post about the PBS show Call the Midwife!  And, after posting to the CfM Facebook page about how I didn’t get to watch the show myself because I have no TV channels, CfM fan Jackie clued me in that Call the Midwife is available online (no TV channels required!) Yay! 🙂

Older Posts of My Own

Birth Culture: “Birth is cultural, the way eating is cultural. We don’t just eat what our bodies need to sustain us. If we only did that, there would be no reason for birthday cake. Birthday cake is part of our food culture. The place you are giving birth in has a local culture as well. It also partakes of our national birth culture. Not everything doctors do regarding birth makes the birth faster or physically easier for you or the baby. Some things are just cultural.” -–Jan Mallack & Teresa Bailey

Creating Needle Felted Birth Art Sculptures: My first foray into birth art, before I fell in love with using polymer clay!

Centering for Birth: “Centering is a breath awareness strategy that I’ve adapted for use in birth classes based on the ten second centering process described in the short book Ten Zen Seconds…” Free handout available about centering for birth! (I was reminded of this post by Enjoy Birth!

Breastfeeding as an Ecofeminist Issue:“What happens when society and culture pollute the maternal nest? Is that mother and baby’s problem or is it a political and cultural issue that should be of top priority? Unfortunately, many politicians continue to focus on reproductive control of women, rather than on human and planetary health…”

During a week when I didn’t have time to craft delightful new blog posts, it was fun to have a post from a couple of months ago suddenly getting all kinds of hits and Facebook shares. Thanks, internet! ;-D (Around 150 shares on Facebook apparently. I ♥ Facebook!)

On Parenting Books

Mama Birth: Sadly, Parenting Books CAN’T Actually Raise Your Child: Enjoyed this post! (But I recommend NOT reading the comments on the original article she links to about “detachment parenting.” I lost about 30 minutes of my life, felt my blood pressure rising, and only made it to page three!)

The revolution must have dancing; women know this.
The music will light our hearts with fire,
the stories will bathe our dreams in honey
and fill our bellies
with stars.
-Nina Simons via Rebecca A Wright, Doula

Book Giveaway! The Midwife of Hope River

**This giveaway is now closed. Heather K was the winner!**

In conjunction with the virtual book tour for Patrician Harman’s new book The Midwife of Hope River, I’m very pleased to offer a giveaway of a paperback copy of this wonderful piece of historical fiction.

To enter to win, simply leave a comment on this post!

For additional entries, do any or all of the following:

Read my reviews of Patsy’s two memoirs here:
Book Review: Arms Wide Open: A Midwife’s Journey
Book Review: The Blue Cotton Gown

Patricia Harman is also on a physical tour for her book (schedule here) and you can also check our her website, Facebook page, and Twitter account.

Giveaway closes at 11:00 a.m. on Thursday, Sept. 6.

Disclosure: Amazon affiliate link included in cover image.

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Book Review: The Midwife of Hope River

Book Review: The Midwife of Hope River: A Novel of an American Midwife
By Patricia Harman
Paperback: 400 pages
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks; Original edition (August 28, 2012)
ISBN-13:978-0062198891

Reviewed by Molly Remer, Talk Birth

Already a fan of CNM Patsy Harman’s lyrical writing style and understated prose, I was eager to read her first foray into historical fiction. The Midwife of Hope River: A Novel of an American Midwife did not disappoint. This novel contains a little bit of everything: some mystery, some romance, some intrigue, some drama, some sociopolitical commentary and ecological activism, and also, birth. Lots of birth–some animal births and many human births. Some of the births are powerful, some are scary, some are sad, and all are realistic and touching.

The Midwife of Hope River is set in a small mining town in West Virginia during the Great Depression and follows the story of Patience Murphy, a midwife with some secrets, as she attends births in desperately poverty-stricken conditions. The story also explores the race relations of the time, with Patience developing a close and mutually supportive relationship with a young black woman who becomes her apprentice—a friendship that raises the hackles of the emerging KKK members in the region.

Harman’s writing reminds me of that of Catherine Cookson or Anne Tyler in the simple elegance with which she writes about normal people experiencing normal lives. Low key and plainspoken without unnecessary drama or angst, the result is a realistic story that speaks to the heart and to the common human experience.

I kept expecting something bad to happen in this book, and while there were definitely some bad events in the story, there was a wonderfully empowering scene towards the end, rather than the victimization or attack I was fearing. I simply can’t think of any type of historical fiction that could be better than a novel about a midwife! Patricia Harman.jpg

Read my reviews of Patsy’s two memoirs here:
Book Review: Arms Wide Open: A Midwife’s Journey
Book Review: The Blue Cotton Gown

Disclosures:

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

Amazon affiliate link included above (in title)

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**Also, make sure to check out the companion book giveaway as part of the virtual book tour of Harman’s novel.**

Patricia Harman is also on a physical tour for her book (schedule here) and you can also check our her website, Facebook page, and Twitter account.

Book Review: Pushing for Midwives


Book Review: Pushing for Midwives: Homebirth Mothers and the Reproductive Rights Movement
by Christa Craven
Paperback: 232 pages
Publisher: Temple University Press; 1 edition (October 28, 2010)
ISBN-13: 978-1439902202

Reviewed by Molly Remer, Talk Birth

Mainstream feminist groups have been slow to recognize the right to reproduce along with the right to be free from reproducing. A focus of the second-wave women’s movement was shaking off motherhood as what solely defined womanhood. So perhaps there has been a reluctance to watch over the process that makes women mothers. –Jennifer Block quoted in Pushing for Midwives

Framed as a health policy concern, Pushing for Midwives assesses the homebirth movement and midwifery activism in the context of the reproductive rights movement. The focus of the book is on legislation in Virginia, but is still of relevance and interest to activists from other states. Craven also tackles complicated topics that are often ignored in homebirth and midwifery texts, addressing issues of race, privilege, and socioeconomic status and the impact on access to care. She also takes a solid look at issues of political and religious diversity within the homebirth activist community.

Written in a densely academic style evocative of a dissertation, Pushing for Midwives, became tedious and dry in places and took a long time to finish reading. The very narrow focus on Virginia, while still applicable to other states, became tiresome by the final chapters.

I particularly enjoyed Craven’s exploration of the history of consumer activism in midwifery as well as the consideration of homebirth in the larger context of women’s health activism. I appreciated her exploration of the feminist movement and how it has historically neglected issues of birth advocacy and reform, while also looking the current relationship between feminism and midwifery activism, particularly how birth advocates choose to self-identify. Women’s health activists and midwifery advocates will likely find a lot of food for thought in the pages of Pushing for Midwives.

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

Amazon affiliate links included in book title and image.