Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Organic Birth

I was talking with my oldest daughter and my husband this morning and somehow we came up with "organic birth." Why not? Where we live, organic is big. Organic food, organic clothing... why not organic birth?

What exactly would that mean? Well, with organic food, it means that no chemical fertilizers or pesticides were used. So, with organic birth, it would mean birth without chemical induction, augmentation or pain killers. Wait... that sounds like natural birth... unhindered birth... home birth!
What can we do to achieve this gold standard for ourselves and our babies? Trust in ourselves! Our bodies are made to give birth... how else did the species survive? Our babies know how to be born. It is a team effort.

For more on this, look for our new website which will be launched shortly:

I'm excited! Hope you'll stop by when it goes live!

Monday, March 24, 2008

Growing and Expanding

Growing and expanding is a part of life. I'm really not talking about my waistline, although after eight children, I am not as svelte as I used to be. Our family has grown and expanded... once we were only two, and now we are at ten people in our family.

Our children, in turn, have grown and expanded in their own ways. Many are either budding or accomplished artists... others are more technically inclined. They are becoming their own people, comfortable in their skins and in their interests.

My husband and I have grown and expanded our relationship. After almost 28 years together, we have a much deeper love and understanding between us than when we first began our journey together.

This is a recurring theme in our lives. Growing and expanding keeps us interested and alive... it sparks lively conversation and debate. Stagnation is something that lurks elsewhere.

I think this also happens with birth. There is a growing awareness of women's abilities to safely birth their children without the aid of pitocin inductions and cesareans. Women are figuring out that they don't necessarily need that epidural. As the pendulum has been swinging further and further towards surgical birth, it is time for it to begin its return to the other side. Our options continue to grow and expand, as does our awareness that birth is inherently safe the majority of the time.

Monday, March 17, 2008


Birth. I think about it a lot. Not only processing my own memories and what I felt went well and what didn't, but about birth in general.

For my first birth, I did everything I was supposed to do. I read books. I went to a childbirth class that was not hospital-based. I had a CNM. I had a cesarean with an epidural. Not by choice... I had every intention of not having drugs of any kind. But my inexperience, my willingness to think that my CNM knew best and my own beached whale mentality put me in that OR as surely as if I had scheduled it.

By the time I had my last birth in 2007, I was doing my own blood pressure checks, I didn't bother with weight checks and only did urine tests close to my due date. My midwife dropped by and we listened to the baby and we talked to the baby. It was fun. I finally figured out how to hear with a fetoscope... I'd been trying since my 5th baby. When I went into labor, my midwife came over and camped out with the kids. She gave me quiet suggestions occasionally, and my baby was born into my arms with hardly anyone's input at all. The biggest effort was to get up off the floor and move to the sofa.

My own journey to trust birth has encompassed a long road from that initial cesarean. I thought I trusted birth then, but really, I didn't know what it meant. I don't expect to convince every woman to birth like me. I think every woman should follow the path that makes her the most comfortable... but at the same time, I have a hard time hearing about pregnant women continuing to check into the hospital only to leave via the OR. What kind of start is that for them as mothers and for their babies' introduction to life outside the uterus?

Mothers today have more choices than they used to in most states. Where they don't have as many choices, many moms are taking things into their own hands. I think a huge movement away from the managed care system is beginning. Unassisted birth is happening frequently enough that it is becoming big news. More women are hiring midwives and staying home. So much so, that ACOG had to rush to issue a statement against the safety of homebirth after "The Business of Being Born" was released. I've seen the movie. It was difficult for me to watch, because although I knew the statistics, it was difficult to see them in print and said out loud. I think this film will get a lot of women thinking about their options.

There has been a lot of criticism about having the director's birth included, since it was a cesarean. I thought it was good to include it... not because it "balanced" the film, as I've heard, but because it showed her laboring at home, realizing that she needed more assistance, and had plenty of time to get to the hospital for the extra help.

That's my take anyway. Birth is a large part of my life. I hope that never changes. Birth is the beginning. The start of a new person. Full of potential.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Trust Birth Conference Aftermath Pt 2

Saturday morning I was monitoring Patricia Ann Edmond's session on Midwives' Biographies. This turned out to be an amazing foray into our history. She had published diaries going back to the 1600s that detailed births. It was really wonderful to think of them heading out to attend a birth on foot or horseback... maybe by canoe. The work remains the same. Babies are born. Wow. The history of the human race. Midwives helped birth an awful lot of us throughout history. Patricia brought up that those women's faces are alive today in their descendents, and that we too look like our ancestors. The thread is never broken.

The next session was the one I was waiting for... Writing About Birth. This session was a panel of 4 speakers: Jan Tritten of Midwifery Today, Jody McLaughlin of The Compleat Mother, Sheila Stubbs, an author, and Laura Shanley, another author and the accepted leader of the unassisted birth movement. This session was great. We talked about magazine articles, online writing, and publishing books through a publisher or by self-publishing. I came away with a lot of ideas about my own publishing future.

At lunch, I took my daughters across the street for burgers. My oldest was getting a chance to meet an online friend of hers she had been corresponding with for about five years. We met her friend, her friend's mother, and her friends two nieces. We had a lovely lunch, and all too soon I had to head back to the hotel.

My next session was Don't Push Me: Physiologic Pushing with another panel that consisted of Heather Brock, Gloria Lemay and Karen Strange. This was a terrific session. Our bodies are amazing... they push whether we put the grand effort into it or not, and more often than not, if we do put the grand effort into it, pushing takes longer than if we just breathe through the contractions and let the uterus do its thing. Gloria Lemay was extraordinary and funny... I'd love to listen to her all day. Karen Strange gave her input about the baby's experience of birth and how the baby helps himself get born. This never fails to amaze me and I never fail to well up with emotion thinking of this wondrous process we have to reproduce ourselves. Heather talked about her own births and how she was able to listen to her body and trust the process without actively pushing. I've done this myself, so I could totally relate to her experience.

After this session we had to rush to the next one. I was attending Gail Hart's The First Ten Minutes of Life. This is yet another amazing midwife sharing her experiences. Babies have a lot going on in those first ten minutes of life. The circulation changes from an open system with the placenta to a closed system. They open up their lungs and breathe, oxygenating their own blood. Their digestive systems turn on, as their nutrition must now come from outside the body. They have people in their face, they may be getting poked, rubbed with harsh towels, blinded by bright lights, startled by loud cheers... it is quite an adjustment. This session was amazing in its insights and humor. Gail Hart is another person I could listen to all day long, just soaking in the wisdom.

After this session, it was time for us to say our goodbyes and pack for the plane. We were dropped off at the airport, where we waited for two hours before we could board our plane. We had a straight flight back, landing in our town a little after 10 pm. While I was sad to leave early and miss another wonderful day, I was so glad to be home and able to see my husband and other children.

Now I can't wait for the next one. :)

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Trust Birth Conference Aftermath

I am still soaking in everything from the Trust Birth Conference in Redondo Beach, CA. Wow. Here is my experience at this incredible gathering.

I flew into LAX with my oldest daughter, Wenna (16) and my youngest daughter, Midori (1). Wenna came with me to watch Midori while I was attending sessions. Midori came with me because she still nurses quite a lot. We flew in on a small plane... it was crowded, noisy, and our view was obstructed by the undercarriage of the wing that held the propeller and the landing gear. We did see some incredible snow fields as we crossed the Cascade mountains heading for our first stop in Redmond. After a brief stop, we headed to LAX.

I hadn't flown in over 20 years, and the take offs and landings were something else. After we landed, I was totally lost at the airport, and had to ask for directions so I could meet Lennon, who was picking us up.

Lennon is great... we had a great visit during the drive to the hotel. She delivered us to the lobby and we checked in and found our way to our room.

Waiting inside was my dear friend Lori of over ten years online... we had never met in person until this moment. She is warm and wonderful, if a little stressed as she was trying to finish up printing jobs and battling jetlag. With her were Janelle and Kathy... it was nice to see faces to go along with the emails I had seen for so long.

I took the girls to dinner... we were starving. Redondo Beach is a wonderful town. Even late at night it was safe for us to be walking the streets in search of the restaurant. The food was terrific, and the evening air was wonderful. We were admiring the ficus trees and jade trees in people's yards on the way. Those plants are houseplants where I live. I met Carla at one point in the lobby. We got to bed late.

I got up and registered in the morning and met Kristi Zittle, who was handling the registrations. We had worked together on conference stuff for the past few months. She is so sweet and always smiling. I ran into Carla again, and met her husband, Ray. To my detriment, I skipped the opening session so the girls and I could hit the grocery store for provisions for the room. I had already gotten blisters from walking... I hadn't worn nylons for years, and that was all I had brought. I had to buy a pair of socks for cushioning. We bought dinner supplies for the girls... my youngest would never have sat through the conference dinner, and I really wanted to hear the speakers.

My first session was with Sheri Menelli of She had some great ideas for building a birth-related business. She is such an enthusiastic speaker, it was hard not to get swept away with her suggestions. I will be going over my notes and applying some of them.

I was monitoring the next session, which was Pre & Postpartum Fitness with Carla's daughter, Heather Brock. After eight children, I figured a few hints on the best way to tighten my abdominal muscles was not amiss. She was a dynamic speaker, and inspired all of us in the session with her flexibility and flat stomach. I'm already trying some of her suggested exercises.

I ran upstairs after the session to see what needed to be done before the dinner. I took the girls out for a brief walk about to get them out of the room for awhile, and nursed Midori. When we got back we helped with last minute printing jobs before the dinner. We were finally able to get dressed and get to the banquet room. I found my table, and was delighted to see that I was seated at the same table with several AAMI students, Henci Goer, and Heather Cushman-Dowdee of Hathor the Cow Goddess fame. We had a lovely chat before the dinner started.

Ricki Lake was there to get an award for Courage in Media for producing "The Business of Being Born." She accepted graciously, and had to run to another engagement. Then we got to eat a lovely meal.

After the meal, Carla did some awards. Debby Sapp was handed her diploma for graduating with honors from Ancient Art Midwifery Institute. What an accomplishment! This course is very difficult, and to complete it at all is an amazing achievement. Then Carla presented some awards. I'm sorry I don't remember them all... I was nervous about the one I was presenting in front of 170 people, many of whom I revered. Suddenly it was time for me to step up and read my speech honoring Vi Sadhana, a traditional midwife from my city. She was not able to attend, but after an emotion-filled reading on my part, I took her certificate and plaque back to the table with me, to deliver to her when I got home. Pamela Hines-Powell was honored next, and she opened up the perfect opportunity for her apprentice, Lennon to begin our presentation to Carla. Students had donated funds to get her a bed and breakfast weekend to help her recover after the conference, and I had made a drawing of her grandmother, who was a midwife. We presented these items to her and gave her hugs.

After the awards, it was time for our keynote speaker, Dr. Michel Odent, to talk to us about how to Dispel the Disempowering Birth Vocabulary. Though his accent was thick and a bit challenging to understand, his speech was eloquent, and it wasn't difficult to follow his talk. Everyone leaned forward, trying to catch every word. So many words associated with female genitalia and with birth are associated with shame and negative connotations. This happens in languages around the world.While this wasn't news to me, it was wonderful to hear his take on the entire matter and what he suggested. While I didn't get to meet him personally, it was a great treat to hear him speak, and to see Dr. John Stevenson, who was at a nearby table, as well as so many of the other well-known birth advocates all in the same room.

This is long enough... more later on Saturday and our trip home.

Trusting Birth

What does trusting birth mean?

For some, it is a frightening thought. How could we possibly birth without doctors, nurses, surgical procedures, machines and hospitals? But if this is so, how did we get so far? Certainly we haven't always had access to cesareans, episiotomies, IVs and epidurals.

A mere 30 years ago, the cesarean rate was less than 10%. Now it is over 30%. We're still women. Our bodies haven't changed in 30 years. Why can't women successfully give birth today like our parents did?

The answer is that very few trust birth anymore. This is a terrible loss for humanity. We live in fear of a natural bodily function. We see it on television on reality birth shows. We hear it from our doctors who tell us that we are not capable of passing our babies through our pelvises without intervention. We hear from nurses that we won't be able to bear the pain. What else are women supposed to think?

Fortunately, some women are finding the light at the end of the tunnel. Some of us are spreading the word that birth is something we are built to do successfully. As my friend Karen Strange of Newborn Breath says, "Birth is designed to work in case no one is there."

I admit that nothing is perfect 100% of the time. Let's face it... what is? There will always be a very small percentage of births that do need that extra help... and that is what hospitals and obstetricians are for. They are designed to deal with the unusual situation. Normal birth is so boring for them they need to do interventions to make it interesting.

But for those of us who have a healthy pregnancy, all we need is to let our bodies do their thing. Pelvises spread to let babies out. Women who embrace labor and move as their body tells them to help their babies get in the right position to make their grand entrance.

Why do I trust birth? Because I've seen it work. I've lived it. I've done the labor dance and have been the first to touch my baby. I'm not a big person... yet I've birthed babies over ten pounds at home. I have embraced the pain, have felt the baby move from my belly and through my hips. It wasn't easy, but it was worth every minute. I have felt that delicious hormonal cocktail that floods a woman's body after the natural birth of a baby. Flooded with oxytocin and love for my newborn, I have experienced that incredible babymoon while getting to know this new little person.

Maybe my views are a little simplistic. I may not be quite as confident if I were the midwife in charge of someone else's birth. But maybe that is the point. Maybe we should take responsibility for ourselves. Even if we have an attendant, we should be able to make the decision to be responsible for the outcome. Maybe that is the real reason I trust birth. I'm okay with the responsibility.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Inner Knowing

Inner knowing. So many people discount that today. Yet you always hear after a plane crash or other disaster that people just *knew* something was going to happen, so they cancelled their ticket, or changed their plans. So many of us hear this little voice inside and discount its wisdom. Pretty soon, the little voice stops trying to get through to us, and we're left on our own to sink or swim.

So it is with birth. Deep within we know what to do. Our bodies know how to conceive a baby, grow a baby, and push out a baby. The baby knows what it needs to do to help itself be born. Yet again, so many of us don't listen. We hear horror stories, sign up for cesareans and epidurals... anything so we don't have to listen to our own body's wisdom.

We are told by the medical establishment that birth is dangerous. At any moment the baby could die. We could die. Come into the hospital and we'll make all the decisions for you. We'll poke you with needles, fill you with pitocin to create tetanic contractions that will send your baby into distress, which will be picked up by our electronic fetal monitors that send sound waves into your uterus to aggravate your baby. What, it hurts? We'll give you this nice epidural so you don't need to feel a thing. Nah... we PROMISE it won't hurt your baby. Now that your baby is in distress, we'll hasten his birth. If it will take too long for a vaginal birth, we'll just roll you into the OR and cut him out. If you get an infection, that's okay... we'll load you up with lots of antibiotics to try and clear it up.

Hmmmm. Sounds inviting, doesn't it? I've had four hospital births, and while all of them were not that extreme, the general theme was the same. If I had a valid reason for birthing there, that would be a different story, but I was a healthy pregnant woman with a healthy baby each time I went there. The first time, I got that lovely cesarean package. My precious baby was lifted out of me behind a drape and I didn't see her until my incision was almost completely repaired. Oh, and I got the bonus of having the epidural wear off AFTER they strapped me down to the OR table, but BEFORE the cesarean took place while they searched for the anesthesiologist. I don't remember anyone being in the room with me... if they were, they certainly didn't respond to my overwhelming urge to push while my legs were tied together and my arms were strapped down. My inner knowing was trying to kick in... and I was trying to listen... but was unable to.

My last hospital birth happened with my second daughter. No meds. Almost no doctor... she rushed in at the last moment when my doula screamed down the hall to the nurse that the baby was crowning. It *almost* happened on its own. Well, actually, it did happen on its own... the doctor wanted me to turn around and sit for the birth, but I wasn't about to change positions... she had to deal with me upright facing away from her on the bed. That inner knowing took care of it all. I had begun to listen. I was in the position that was needed. My little daughter, however, had a bit of a rough start, and needed a little extra care at the beginning. I was somewhere else while they worked on her... my mind was trying to process the intensity of this birth that went from 5 cm to the birth of the baby in only a few contractions. I remember vaguely sitting on the bed staring off into space, idly playing with the umbilical cord that was still attached to the placenta within me while my baby was across the room being suctioned and stimulated. I didn't have the presence of mind to call her name or anything... something that probably would have helped her come into herself. My husband rushed in... he had been out checking on the other children, since I was only at 5 cm. His presence slowly brought me back to myself, and I began asking about the baby and talking to her.

The inner knowing was there... but was interrupted. By removing the baby away for treatment instead of treating her there with me, we both suffered. It took her several minutes to come into herself, and it took me almost as long to come back to myself. Only the presence of my husband pulled me back, then we both were able to communicate with our daughter and let her know it was okay to come into herself. We were there for her. It was okay.

Inner knowing. We all have it. We just need to learn to listen.

Monday, March 10, 2008

The Trust Birth Conference

It is unfortunate that the Trust Birth Conference is over. It was incredible! To those of you who could not come, look for recordings of the sessions to become available in a few weeks at .

This conference will go down in history as the conference that really helped bring homebirth into the mainstream. With the release of "The Business of Being Born," more women are able to see this option and question some of the routine practices that dehumanize them in the hospital. This conference built upon that, with the theme: Birth is Safe; Interference is Risky.

Our keynote speaker, Dr. Michel Odent, talked about how disempowering the vocabulary surrounding birth, pregnancy and even genitalia is all about shame and putting the woman in a place of no power. Yet it is she who gives birth.

As women, we should not be delivered. We should be the ones who actively give birth. Birth is a cooperative effort between a mother and a baby. Doctors, nurses and even my beloved midwives should not interfere. If there is a problem, of course they are on hand if needed. Otherwise, they are but witnesses to the miracle of birth.

I learned so much at this conference. Not only about our histories, but how to let the body do its thing instinctually, how to allow the baby his or her part of the birth, and how to promote a woman's abilities to trust birth, her body and her baby.

I am the mother of 8 children. It took me awhile to discover these things and not fight them. It took me awhile to learn to listen to my body and to let it do the work it was designed to do. But I have learned this lesson, and you know what? It works!

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