Thursday, December 11, 2008

Top 50 Eastern Medicine Blogs

Imagine my surprise when I found out that my humble little blog was added to this amazing list! I have bookmarked it for my own edification, and if this topic interests any of you, I urge you to do the same. This list is compiled on, and contains topics like acupuncture, yoga, meditation, herbal medicine, holistic health, midwifery, massage, and general health topics.

Anyway, thank you to those who included me... I will try to live up to your expectations. You can find the list at

And don't forget to check out our website:

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Thank you

I want to thank everyone for voting for us in the house contest. I was notified by George Tran, the man running the contest, that the State has contacted him and demanded that the contest be stopped. So, no contest, no house. But thank you so much for your support... we were in the lead with 94 votes. Our closest competition had 14 votes. Your show of love and caring touches my heart! Thank you so much for wanting this for my family.

We are now on the hunt for a place to move. Probably by February. If anyone has any leads on an affordable place in the Eugene/Springfield area of Oregon for a large family, leave a comment for me and I'll get back to you. We do have pets, but can pare it down to our two cats, who both prefer to live outdoors.

Thank you again... I am so touched by your generosity.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The Rakestraw Family Story

I am a contestant for a free house giveaway. For more information, go to I can be contacted at To vote for us, please go to this URL: and click on the yellow square that counts our diggs.

We are the Rakestraw family. My name is Toni and my husband's name is John. Our journey began long ago in a place far from Eugene, but along the way, we have been entranced one by one by our eight wonderful children. Yes, I said eight. We are the proud parents of four boys (Callum, Ian, Tristan and Ellis) and four girls (Morwenna, Ostara, Niamh and Midori) who are the reason we strive as hard as we do every single day. Having a home we can all call our very own would provide us with a security we've never had before.

John is a school bus driver. He loves working with kids. Maybe he's driven some of your kids home from school. Three years ago in December, we almost lost my beloved husband due to a congenital heart defect. One of his heart valves wore out and needed to be replaced. Fortunately for us, they did the surgery just in time. Despite the health issues that still exist from this situation that he deals with on a daily basis, he devotes the vast majority of his day to making sure kids get to school and back home safely. When he gets home, he spends time with us and works on our website,, helping to build a business of our own some day… if he isn't so exhausted that he goes right to sleep. His stamina just isn't the same as it once was, but we just buckle down and do the best we can. He is an amazing man, and I don't ever want to imagine my life without him.

I spend my days writing articles for other peoples' websites for an article service. I begin from the time I get up in the morning, and often don't finish until I'm ready to tumble into bed at night. But it is worth the long hours for less money to be here at home with my kids. In my spare time, I also work on our site and maybe get in a bit of studying or work on my artwork. I have been studying midwifery for several years, and it is my dream to one day help other women bring their babies into this world in a safe and loving way once my children are grown. Having kids changed our lives… to share what we have learned, we are trying to build a business helping women learn about birthing choices. This is a passion for us that developed through our own experiences birthing our children. It is going slowly, but I think eventually it will help contribute to our family's needs. We have been a part of the Saturday Market community as well, offering handcrafted natural fiber items, artwork and providing reiki treatments when they are requested, even for those who can't pay. We know what it is like to not be able to take care of your own needs because the money has run out. John and I do everything we can to make ends meet and keep our children happy and healthy… whether it is earning as much as we can at our respective jobs, returning cans to the market, or just spending some time to listen to one of the kids tell us about the cool project they stumbled across.

Our children are amazing (but then, what parent doesn't think their children are like no others?). Morwenna is our oldest daughter. She is very talented artistically and will someday make a living with her manga comic artstyle. Callum, our oldest son, is already attracting the attention of those in the video game world for his insightful reviews and comments online. Ian, who's next in line, enjoys a lot of physical activity outdoors as well as games. He is exceptionally good with babies and small children. Ostara had some health issues when she was smaller due to seizures from an undetermined cause. She has grown into a willowy pre-teen who loves to draw and is becoming an expert at origami. She is also very talented with math. Niamh, the next youngest, is exuberant and loves everything. She is developing a good drawing style, and she especially enjoys drawing our cats and rabbits from life. She also loves to run, ride bikes, and plant seeds in the garden. She is just learning to cook a little bit. Tristan is rather serious, and takes his play as seriously as any other tasks he does. His little brother, Ellis, is so full of love. He adores giving hugs and will often sit beside me as I work, just happy to lean on me. He loves the outdoors as much as Niamh and Tristan do. Our youngest, Midori, is almost 2. She has already figured out how to climb the bunk bed ladders, much to our dismay. She is one smart cookie, and she loves playing outside with the animals and her brothers and sisters.

This house would be a great boon to our family. There would be room for everyone to have bikes and have a lot of fun… from our 1 year old to our 17 year old. With an entire acre, the kids would be helping us raise food as well as providing enough room for our pets. The garage looks large enough to house a play area for the kids as well as possibly creating more bedrooms in the future. The large beautiful kitchen would be a great area for a few of our older children, as they love to cook and try new things. Even the leftover shed foundation could someday become an office or maybe a detached apartment for our older children… or maybe an art studio! I see endless possibilities with this wonderful property! Our home has always been very central to our family… we spend the vast majority of our time together at home. The house we live in now is similar in size (with the exception of the yard, which is much smaller), but with the economy the way it is, our chances of financing a mortgage in the next few months has been shot out of the water. We need to look for another place to live… and that is not an easy accomplishment with a family our size. We recently found out that the home we are renting will be going into foreclosure in a few months. When I have searched for a place for us in the past, many of the people I talked with just hung up when they found out our family size. Not ever having to move or go through the blatant rejection by people who don't even know us would relieve us of an enormous amount of stress, which would do worlds of good for John's health.

Owning a home free and clear would help us provide our family with lots of essentials that are beyond our reach at this moment, like a car that fits everyone inside at the same time. Our current car only seats half of us, and desperately needs to visit the mechanic when we can save up enough. It would also make a huge difference on those months that a school district job just doesn't pay the bills. We have a few of them every year. By eliminating the rent, those months wouldn't be so stressful and trying... we could make it on what I earn. Owning this house that George is so graciously offering in this contest would be a dream come true for the entire family. Please consider voting for us. Thank you!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Help a Deserving Family Win a House!

There is a man in my city who is choosing to give away a house that he owns to a deserving family, provided there are enough entries to pay off the outstanding mortgage. What a wonderful gesture this is! People can vote for their favorite at, and on December 23, some lucky winner will become the owner of their own house.

There are so many people who deserve a break like this... and I include my own family in this number. We paid to register for this wonderful contest, and I have posted our story at the Free House Giveaway Voting Site.

I have a family of 8 wonderful children and a husband whom I adore. You can learn more about us in our story posted on this site. Please look for my posting name of "Tuwamare" or just the post that introduces us as the Rakestraw Family. Votes are cast by clicking on the little green "thumbs up" icon near the top of each post. The winner will be determined by who has the most thumbs up votes. In the case of a tie, they will be tallying the comments under the winning stories for support. So please, vote for us by clicking the green thumbs up icon by our story, and if you feel moved to, post a comment beneath our story.

If you haven't visited before, you'll need to set up an account. It is free, and only takes a moment or two.

Once you've finished setting up your account, or if you already have one, merely click on this link to go to the voting area. To find us, you'll need to scroll down through several comments and story entries. We sure appreciate your vote, and I will probably post about this a few more times before the contest is over. We could really use a house of our own! Thank you!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Maternal Mortality

I read an article about the maternal mortality rate in Sierra Leone, one of the poorest countries in the world. 1 in 8 women die in childbirth there. This truly is a horrendous problem, one that is frequently overlooked when dealing with other health crises and providing other services in such areas. The poor family the article talked about suffered a terrible loss in the death of a young mother. But there is more happening there than just having a doctor on call to staff the hospital. This poor mother did not know that fasting for the last three weeks of her life in observance to Ramadan would affect her health. Pregnancy is not a time to fast. This poor mother and many like her also need education and nutrition. Many of the problems they face could be resolved right there.

One of the shocking facts in this story (yes, absolutely shocking!) was that the rate of maternal mortality in the U. S. 1 in 4800. Doesn't sound too, bad, does it? Compare it to another statistic in the article... the maternal mortality rate in Ireland: 1 in 48,000. Hmmm. Maybe I'll have my next baby in Ireland. This little island has the best maternal mortality rate in the entire WORLD. And those of us here in the United States face mortality rates 10 times worse.

The AMA keeps telling us we have the best medical care in the world, and that the hospital is the safest place to have a baby. Apparently, neither is true! While the AMA is supporting legislation to OUTLAW homebirth in the United States, telling us that birthing at home is risky, they're actually losing more women in the hospital.

About 1 or 2% of birthing women choose to have their babies at home. Even if 1 or 2% of those mortalities took place at home, that would be 48 to 96 out of 4800. The other 4752 to 4702 mortalities are in the hospital. I know women are subjected to interventions that end up causing problems during labor in the hospital... I've been subjected to them myself. What about giving women hands on care instead of using monitors? What about educating them about nutrition? Helping them to labor naturally instead of breaking their waters, stimulating their labors with pitocin, or cutting them open when they don't need a cesarean? Just last year a news story broke about two teachers at the same school who both ended up with cesareans... and both died.

Midwifery care has been shown to have better outcomes and less intervention. I support more midwives. Obstetricians are trained to handle emergencies... they should do just that, and stop messing with normal labor until they cause emergencies.

For those poor women in countries like Sierra Leone... many of them can be saved with the same answers that will save more women here in the States. Let OBs take care of the real emergencies and midwives take care of normal pregnancies and births. With better mother education that most midwives provide, there should be an improvement all the way around.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

A Birth from the Past

Today is my birthday. I don't know anything about my own birth. My mother was knocked out for her labor and birth and doesn't remember any of it. I was her first born child... she was 20.

Thirty-one years later found me in labor with my third child. He chose to be born on my birthday, even though he wasn't technically due for another week. This was my third hospital birth and second VBAC. We had a certified nurse-midwife, and we spent a long time walking around the hospital before retiring to the shower for the last part of active labor. We tried a birthing stool for awhile... I know it was working because I absolutely hated it and couldn't wait to get off of it! It felt so strange to feel the baby moving down like that. I wanted to lie down so much and everyone kept trying to keep me up. Once I finally laid down, I wriggled all over the bed. I think this was because the baby had been posterior, and he was finally turning. I opted for a half dose of fentanyl at 9.5 cm... but it really did no good at all. It didn't change my perception of my pain at all.

The CNM pulled so hard on my son we heard a large cracking sound. We were afraid his clavicle had broken... luckily it was okay. Our second son was born at 3:03 on the morning of my birthday. He is the best birthday present I've ever received. Now we look forward to sharing our day.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Celebrate Fertility!

I think our ancestors were onto something. They celebrated fertility and fecundity. A round belly was something to proud of... for both mother and father. In some cultures, couples did not marry until the woman was pregnant.

Today, we have a twisted sense of fertility. During our most fertile years we are urged to abstain. We suppress our fertility with fake hormones. We install foreign bodies into our wombs to make them inhospitable to growing babies. Sex is recreational rather than procreational.

Suddenly we find ourselves older. Everyone begins asking if we'll ever have a baby. Now, however, it isn't so easy. Our most fertile years are behind us. Every cycle becomes a stressful wait for ovulation and then another even more stressful wait to see if we conceived. After months of unsuccessful trying, we go to fertility specialists who load us up on drugs and run expensive tests. More often than not, they return with a diagnosis of "infertility from unknown causes." Then we're told of the options... all of which range from expensive to outrageous. And they offer a very slight chance of success.

We've got it all wrong. We're missing out on all those fertile years. We're set up by society's and our own expectations. Time is fleeting, and before we know it, so many of us are left with that indescribable yearning for a baby. Before it is too late, think your plans through. I think our society needs to rearrange priorities. Let's celebrate some fertility.

Monday, September 29, 2008

At Least You Have a Healthy Baby

"At least you have a healthy baby..." How many times have you heard this? While in the case of an emergency, we would all do whatever was needed to protect our babies, why should this be the standard of care? Why should we expect to undergo interventions that cause our babies stress, violating exams and have to be a spectacle to whoever wants to peek into the hospital room? Why should 1/3 of us expect to be cut open to deliver out babies?

REACHE (Regional Association of Childbirth Educators) of Washington State is presenting a conference called "At Least You Have A Healthy Baby: Exploring the Forces Behind the Cesarean Epidemic" on April 18, 2009. For more information, check out their website at

Thursday, September 18, 2008

The Other Side of the Glass

I watched the trailer for this incredible new movie that will be coming out called "The Other Side of the Glass." This follows in the footsteps of some of the other recent films that highlight what birth could be and the problems with our current birthing care. "The Other Side of the Glass" however, talks about dads. That's right... our poor partners who sit on the sidelines worrying about the pain we're suffering through while birthing babies. At last, someone is giving dads the chance to talk about how our country's birth routines make them feel. I feel it is high time that dads got to weigh in on this.

Several of the men interviewed talked about how helpless they felt in the hospital while the doctors and nurses were doing unspeakable things to their wives and babies... how difficult this must be! I know my husband feels the need to protect me... yet during our hospital births he was forced to step aside as they tied me to machines, attached me to lines pumping me full of pitocin (without my knowledge or consent), and gave me injections of medications that ultimately led to a cesarean. He had to stand there and watch as they sliced me open to extract our oldest child. He followed her to the nursery for tests knowing that I had not even seen a glimpse of her yet... I had only heard her cry. How hard must that have been?

"The Other Side of the Glass" is going to open this door so we can hear how men feel about being forced to remain helpless to protect their nearest and dearest. I feel that fathers deserve as much respect as mothers. We are still having to fight for the right of mothers to birth the manner that is best for them and their babies. Now it is time for us to also fight for the rights of fathers to protect their families from unnecessary interventions and indignities.

Our accepted form of childbirth needs a massive overhaul to honor the rights and feelings of the parents and the child. Birth should be about them, after all... not about the doctors and nurses who are running the assembly line.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

High Risk

Hi. I'm high risk. If I walked into an OB's office today to get prenatal care, I would be pushed to the high risk category faster than I could say "homebirth." Why? Well, let me count the ways.


At age 44, I am definitely an elderly candidate for motherhood. Somehow when I hit the magical age of 35 I transformed from a healthy young woman to an elderly mother who needs constant surveillance and testing.


I have eight children. That makes me not only a multip, but a GRAND multip. Everyone knows that our uteruses can only handle a couple of kids, so when you get one as experienced as mine is, it is time to pull out all the stops, because when that baby comes out, my uterus will be so old and tired that it won't clamp down and I'll bleed to death.


Once upon a time, way back in the early 1990s, I had a cesarean. Never mind about those seven vaginal births I've had since then.... I've just been lucky.

Large Babies

OMG! I have a history of large babies! Let's see... out of 8 children, half have been over 9 lbs! In fact, the largest was 10 lbs 11 oz! Well, that should have been a cesarean... if I'd come into the hospital like a good little patient, I'm sure they would have taken better care of me and sliced me open right then and there. I must have had Gestational Diabetes to grow such large babies...


I don't see what my age has to do with anything. If I'm young enough to still conceive, then I'm young enough to grow and birth my babies. I'm healthy and I take care of myself. As for being a grand multip... I'm darn proud of my kids! They are responsible, courteous and bright individuals. I know the symptoms to watch out for regarding hemorrhage and I know how to stop the bleeding. As for VBAC... shouldn't seven vaginal births prove my uterus can not only handle pregnancy and birth, but it is darn good at it! And as for large babies... none have had any problems associated with gestational diabetes or anything else due to their size. Oh, and I did get tested for GD in most of my pregnancies... nada. Zip. No sign of GD. So there.

Pregnant women should be treated as individuals, not lumped into categories for the simplistic reasons of age, parity, baby size and uterine surgery. Every one of us is different. While one person may need extra precautions, the next person of the same age doesn't necessarily need the same precautions.

Likewise, hospital births are not the perfect solution for all of us. We survived as a species this long... but since there are so many reasons to classify us as high risk, how much longer will we last?

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Standing Up for Our Rights

I'm a bit late in responding to the whole AMA and ACOG uproar... but I'm going to put in my two cents anyway. They insist the safest place to birth is in the hospital, yet 1/3 of all women birthing there end up with a cesarean, which increases the risk for complications and death. Another 1/3 end up with an episiotomy, a surgical procedure that has been proven to be unnecessary.

I have heard horror stories of how women are treated in the hospital while giving birth. They suffer at the hands of people who just don't care about them, their babies or the process of birth. How can that possibly be the safest place to be????

The AMA and ACOG are willing to create model legislation to make it illegal to birth anywhere else. Excuse me? They want to make it illegal to birth anywhere but in the aforementioned torture chamber?

Now I know that not every nurse and obstetrician contributes to scenes like I have learned about. Some are truly caring, wonderful people who try to do what is best for mothers and babies. But it sure seems that they are few and far between.

I certainly could not walk willingly into a hospital to give birth knowing that I'd have to fight for every little bit of freedom I may need to birth optimally. My first was a cesarean. One that probably could have been avoided if my CNM and the staff nurses had been willing to work with an inexperienced mother-to-be instead of pushing pain medications. But then, I may not be on the path I am today.

Women... stand up for your right to birth without intervention! While it isn't outlined specifically, it should fall under pursuit of happiness if nothing else.

Midwives... band together. Sue the AMA like the chiropractors did in the late 1970s for preventing them from practicing their trade.

We can do this. The AMA and ACOG are worried about midwifery and home births because more women are finding out they don't need to be treated like idiots and sliced open unnecessarily.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

New CafePress Store & Website

We're building our website:! While it is still a work in progress, I welcome feedback!

And if you've admired any of the artwork I've featured here on my blog, I have a CafePress store now that I'm slowly adding my various pieces to. The link is if you want to check anything out.

If you have admired a certain artwork I've posted here that you don't see over there yet, drop me a line and I'll get it added faster.

Thursday, July 3, 2008


Babywearing has changed my life. I first discovered this method of baby transportation after the birth of my third baby in 1994. While we did have a stroller for my older two, we often ended up using the stroller to carry our stuff while we carried the babies. Babywearing made so much sense!

I tried a sling, but my favorite has long been the Baby Bundler. I'm not sure if they're being made anymore, but there are others out there that are made on the same principle of wrapping along piece of fabric around the baby and yourself. There are so many exciting new methods of babywearing out there today that I have not been able to try, but it brings great joy to my heart when I see someone walk by wearing their baby instead of putting them in the plastic baby buckets.

If you too are addicted to babywearing, check out this very cool contest at

Win the Essential Babywearing Stash from Along for the Ride (one Beco Butterfly, one Hotsling baby pouch, one BabyHawk Mei Tai, one Zolowear Ring Sling, and one Gypsy Mama Wrap)

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Outlawing Homebirth

Oh my goodness. I can't believe what ACOG (American College of Obstetricians & Gynecologists) and the AMA (American Medical Association) are up to. ACOG sent out a position paper against homebirth and CPMs, saying the safest place for all women to give birth is either the hospital or an accredited birth center. The AMA is backing them up and is planning on creating model legislation so groups can push for this to become law. This is outrageous! They want to take away my choice to make an educated decision to birth at home. This choice should be available to all birthing women.

Actually, I can believe they're doing this. It really isn't much different when they went around badmouthing midwives at the turn of the 20th century so women would choose to go to the bright, shiny hospitals rather than stay at home with the "illiterate, unwashed midwives." Uh huh. Give me a midwife any day to those people in the white coats who just cannot leave anything well enough alone!

Take the typical hospital birth. You check in. They make you change your clothes so they can give you a vaginal exam. They put a heplock in your arm so they can add pitocin whenever they want. They strap you to the electronic fetal monitor, which has not been shown in studies to be any more effective at detecting a baby in true distress than if the nurse checks the baby's heartbeat for a few minutes every coupld of hours. They break your bag of waters. Turn up the pitocin. OH..... you DIDN'T get tested yet for GBS? Then they'll add some antibiotics you most likely don't need too. There goes the nurse turning up that pitocin again. Oh, the contractions are getting unbearable? Let's give you something for the pain. You'll have to stay in bed now.... you can't walk around or be upright with an epidural.... that's better, now, isn't it? Hmmmm. You're not making enough progress according to the clock, so we're going to take you to the operating room for a cesarean. You're obviously not progressing and this baby will die if it isn't born RIGHT NOW.

Yeah, right. Seems to me most labors are meddled with until there is no other choice. All the natural hormones mom and baby experience in undisturbed labor are all messed up and the body doesn't know where to turn. It's a wonder we've survived as a species. Cats and dogs couldn't birth under those conditions!

Ladies, we need to stand up for our right to choose the place we birth and who we want to attend it! Write to your state congressmen now, before the medical interest groups present that "model legislation." Write to your national congressmen to let them know that the AMA is trying to prevent midwives from practicing their trade. The AMA was sued successfully by chiropractors in the 1970s for that reason... and the chiropractors won! Let's protect our right to birth and parent our children (more on that soon... the AAP has issued a new stand on vaccinations....) how we think is best.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Catching Up

I meant to write a post for my oldest child's birthday on the 22nd... she turned 17. I can't believe it has been that long. 18 years since I was pregnant with my first child... 17 years of breastfeeding... well, not 17 years of feeding her, obviously... but since I have 8 children, one has been breastfeeding at some point on any given day.

I ran across some of my old pals from school on Facebook, and it is amazing to me to see how obsessed I am with birth compared to everyone else I know (with the exception of my friends and acquaintances in the birth field). I just don't know how anyone can go through something as transformational as childbirth and not be changed because of it. Maybe I'm the odd one out, huh? I'd be ecstatic to fall pregnant again tomorrow... I love being pregnant and giving birth.

Oh well. This is just a short note. More later.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

How Baby Experiences Birth

Have you ever noticed in a hospital birth how the baby is treated as an incidental passenger? The mother is encouraged to have drugs and lie on her back. Hmmm. The drugs DO cross the placenta and lying on her back can compress the large arteries that feed the uterus and placenta, and then the baby. I wonder why baby is distressed?

Next, the baby is unceremoniously pulled out with hands, vacuum extractor or taken out surgically, depriving baby of the tight squeeze that is needed to press fluid from the lungs in preparation for breathing.

The baby is suddenly in a very bright place (ever seen how bright those lamps are they point at the birthing mother's vagina? Yikes!), the temperature drops, and in many cases baby is whisked away to an exam table, without feeling a comforting touch from his or her mother. How frightening would that be?

What do you think is going through that baby's mind? Despite what tradition says, babies are very aware. They are aware of what is going on before they are born, and interact with mom or dad when they push on baby's foot through mom's belly. The baby needs to be with mom immediately. If there are problems, at least keep baby within mom's reach so she can reassure baby by touching an arm or leg. The baby knows what mom's touch is like... s/he has felt it through her belly since they were large enough to press against it.

There is some research that suggests babies know if they are wanted or not. They feel fear, rejection, love and comfort. How can anyone separate a baby from its parents when first born? How can they poke a newborn with needles, shove tubes down their throats and handle them roughly? How can they take newborn boys and circumcize them? They are so open and vulnerable.

As human beings, we need gentle, loving touch to survive and thrive. How can we expect babies not to carry trauma from a rough entry into the world when it was just a "typical birth?" Babies are born ready to be imprinted with their parents' faces and touches. Instead the first touch they feel is to be yanked out. The first face they see is most likely wearing a mask. What would you feel if you were to enter a place like that and have no way to escape?

All babies deserve love, gentleness and comfort. They deserve to be treated respectfully. There is the saying that in the eyes of a newborn baby you can see the wisdom of the universe. How sad that we don't pay attention to that wisdom. Instead we feel it is our duty to strip these babies of any wisdom they had to impart to us. I say it is time to learn from our babies. I know mine have taught me more than I ever imagined was possible.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Happy Mother's Day!

Mother's Day. Today is the day we honor those who have given birth. I would like to honor all those women today who have given birth. That includes moms who have given their babies up and moms who raised their children. Moms who suffered through stillbirths, miscarriages and loss. Moms who did their best to have the birth of their dreams only to end up under the surgeon's knife. Moms who continue to fight for the birth they want. Moms who were unable to give birth themselves, but they love their adopted children every day, meeting their needs just as surely as if they had birthed those children themselves. Every mom, everywhere, who has ever loved a child.

Happy Mother's Day!

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Gentle Birth is a Boon for Mom & Baby

I just took a webinar at by Sarah Buckley, MD. It was on the hormonal cocktail that happens during undisturbed birth. The hour and a half I spent listening to Dr. Buckley expound on what we, as mammals need to birth was amazing.

I'm no newbie to Dr. Buckley's work... I've read her book, "Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering" and have read her website as well. Unfortunately I missed her at the Trust Birth Conference... there were so many great sessions to choose from! This was the first time I've been able to hear her speak, however.

This hormonal cocktail doesn't happen the way it is supposed to in a normal hospital birth. Why? Because like other mammals, we need privacy, we need to feel safe and we need to feel unobserved. What do they do in the hospital? People come in and out constantly, we're in an unfamiliar place with strange people and smells, and we are under constant observation. Having birthed under those conditions, I know what it feels like. It is amazing we can birth at all! In fact, the one time my birth went quickly in the hospital was during my last birth, when everyone left the room except my doula, who was napping. While at the time I didn't appreciate being alone, my body sure did because I went from 5 cm to pushing in a very short time.

The hormonal cocktail that we get during undisturbed labor begins with oxytocin. Oxytocin, otherwise known as the love hormone, is present during orgasm, late pregnancy, labor, the immediate postpartum (when we have the highest levels ever) and when we breastfeed. Baby not only gets some of our oxytocin during labor, but she makes her own as well. High oxytocin levels immediately following birth allow mom and baby to fall in love and imprint on each other.

Endorphins also kick in, helping us deal with labor pain and to find pleasure in our baby. Ever wonder why we're willing to do this again and again? Endorphins make us feel good.

Catecholemines (epinephrine and norepinephrine) are excreted by our adrenal glands to initiate the fight or flight response. During labor, these hormones help us find the extra energy to push our babies out, and they initiate the fetal ejection response under optimal conditions. If conditions are not right, they may delay labor. Can you say "failure to progress?" FTP is one of the most common reasons physicians either perform cesarean sections or other interventions like breaking our waters, using vacuum extractors or cutting episiotomies.

Finally, prolactin kicks in. Sarah Buckley calls this the "tender mothering" hormone. It not only stimulates milk letdown, it helps us feel tenderness and caring for our newborn.

With an undisturbed, natural birth, both mom and baby are flooded with these hormones, helping labor to flow and birth the baby. They help us to bond with our new child and vice versa.

With a labor that is disturbed by others, we only get portions of this hormonal cocktail.

With a planned cesarean without any labor at all, we get even less. How will this affect us as parents? How will this affect our children as they adapt to life outside the womb and as they grow? Will it affect their relationships with others? What about when they are adults and having children of their own?

How much have we harmed the past couple of generations who never got undisturbed birth?

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Choosy Moms Choose Cesareans Article

Time magazine just ran an article entitled "Womb Service: Choosy Moms Choose Cesarean." The article outlines the story of a psychiatrist who chose an elective cesarean because she was afraid of laboring and then requiring a cesarean anyway. It goes on to discuss how vaginal birth can result in incontinence and pelvic damage, while cesareans can result in respiratory problems for the baby. It ends with the hope that "perhaps more women will feel less defensive about making the same choice."

Excuse me? Cesareans are major abdominal surgery. I know. I've had one. And I certainly wouldn't have chosen to have it. I did labor and end up in surgery. At least at the time I felt I had done all I could to have my baby the way nature intended. Cesareans have more risk than just possible respiratory problems for the baby. Both mother and baby have a bigger chance of dying from a cesarean than from a vaginal birth. I guess that isn't important.

And vaginal birth doesn't equal incontinence and pelvic damage. Studies have shown that women of comparable age who did not birth vaginally (or even have children at all) had the same chance of developing incontinence as those who had birthed vaginally.

If I decide I want to get my appendix removed, I should just be able to schedule the surgery whether I need it or not, if cesareans should be just another choice. It shouldn't matter that my appendix is perfectly healthy, right?

I have a fundamental problem with the argument that many obstetricians put forth that an elective cesarean is just another birth choice. At the same time, they are putting down home birth and unassisted birth as not being safe. I still have less of a chance of dying if I have my baby home alone than if I opted to go under the knife. How is this "just another choice?"

Okay, I'm even willing to compromise here. If cesareans are allowed to be just another choice, then they should concede that homebirth is also just another choice and leave it at that. If the OBs are allowed to promote the "safety" of surgical birth and point out the "dangers" of homebirth, I should be able to do the opposite. Studies have shown that homebirth is as safe or safer than birthing in the hospital. At least you won't be given pitocin and drugs that will cause the baby to go into fetal distress at home.

What about if we actually teach women that labor is nothing to be afraid of? There's a unique idea. Labor is a natural function of a woman's body when it is time for a baby to be born. There, I said it. Having a baby is something we are designed to do. In fact, it seems to be a rather well-kept secret that women are actually good at having babies, too.

It sounds to me like instead of choosy moms choosing cesareans, it is uninformed moms, coerced moms and frightened moms who choose cesarean. Most women are not told all the risks of having a surgical birth. A cesarean can cause problems for future pregnancies if the placenta in a subsequent pregnancy implants over the scar. A cesarean can result in infection for mom and/or baby. Hemorrhage is common. The baby can accidentally get cut. The incision can open up during recovery. The baby can have respiratory problems. Post-surgical pain can last for several weeks, and recovery time is longer than with a vaginal birth. The list goes on and on.

All I can say is this choosy mom will choose to birth at home.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Bucket Babies

Okay, I can't keep quiet any longer. Every time I go to the store, I see all these poor babies stuck in those portable car seats. I call them baby buckets. Their parents lug them in and out of the store, put them in the shopping cart or lock them to the child seat of the shopping cart. How comfortable must it be to be swung back and forth awkwardly as your parent carries you in something like that? They're not ergonomically designed for the parent to carry easily, and they're heavy. The poor baby is swung one way, then the other as the parent struggles to carry it into the store.

These babies inevitably start fussing and then crying at some point in the store. Do the parents ever take them out of the plastic bucket and hold them? No! The babies I see where I shop are pretty much ignored while they're in the baby buckets. If the parent reacts to them at all, it is just to try and shush them, without really looking in their eyes or even patting them on the tummy. My heart just goes out to them... the cries I hear either sound like "feed me" cries or "hold me" cries. What is so wrong with picking your baby up?

Out of all the bucket babies I've seen when I've been shopping the past six months, one dad actually stopped and picked up the baby out of the bucket. Kudos to him! I was so happy to see one parent respond to their baby's needs.

Think about it. Babies are put in car seats. In play pens. In strollers. Products are sold to prop a bottle to feed them. Are these babies ever held? Cuddled? Consoled?

I read parents asking advice online at various parenting sites, asking why their baby won't sleep when they leave him or her to cry it out alone in a room without the comforting feel of a parent's arms about them, or hearing a familiar heartbeat. My heart just breaks. And we wonder why children grow up feeling alienated, alone and like no one cares about them.

The mainstream baby industry is doing families a gross disservice by making ever more products to put baby in that discourages picking them up and holding them.

Babies need to be held... often. Babies need to feel safe and secure. They are too young to rely on themselves for consolation. They're BABIES.

Think back to your early childhood. What do you remember? I remember two memories from my early childhood vividly... one was a birthday cake with a sugar carousel on it, and the other memory is of standing at the screen door looking out and crying because I woke up and was all alone. I felt utterly abandoned and alone. I was very small... maybe two years old, because my sister hadn't been born yet. I remember seeing my mother's black car coming into the driveway. I still have issues about being alone and feeling abandoned. It has been a big issue in several of my own births.

Now back to these baby buckets. How are these babies going to grow up? What issues are they going to have from not being held? How do we teach parents that children are not inconveniences... that they are to be loved and comforted?

Yes, we have a baby bucket car seat. It seems the only kind you can buy for infants these days. But it stays where it belongs... in the car. Babies grow so fast anyway... let me hold my baby for as long as they'll stay willingly in my arms.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Our First Homebirth

Tonight marks the 9th anniversary of my first labor when I birthed at home. My 3rd daughter was born just before 5am on April 7, 1999 in the middle of the living room of the apartment we were living in after our housefire.

It was the most incredible experience. After gentle contractions all day long, I finally fell asleep around 9:30 pm, only to wake up at 2:30 am with strong contractions. My water broke soon after, and I kept a towel bunched between my knees as I called our midwife and a doula friend of ours. My husband awoke because of the noise I was making. He put together some quick homemade soup to cook while I labored and put on the music I had chosen. When the midwife got there, he helped her set up the tarp on the floor while I rocked back and forth on my birth ball. I thought of all the women in the entire world who labored with me that night. I drew strength from the fact that they were all feeling the same sensations as they labored to bring their babies into the world.

Soon I was pushing, and before I knew it, my husband was catching the newest member of our family. He felt her take her first breath, feeling the little airsacs in her lungs filling for the first time. My oldest daughter awoke just in time to see her little sister be born. Later, after the placenta was born and my second daughter woke up, we all sat around our newest baby and my oldest daughter cut the cord.

Our midwife made us a soft nest in the large beanbag couch we had, and tucked us all in before she left. Everyone fell asleep but me. I was so ecstatic over this birth. It had been intense, but I had birthed this child without the hospital, without medication, without beeping monitors. It was utterly amazing to be tucked in quietly with my entire family in the living room, holding my little one on my chest.

Birth works. Especially when we don't muck about with it. I had my proof in my arms.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Giving Birth

The terminology of birth gets to me sometimes. Women are not "delivered," we give birth. It sounds like we need to be saved from this most womanly of experiences. It really is disempowering and sad to hear our power removed from this most powerful of times. Giving birth is my passion, my life. If I am not the one doing it, I want to help others find this same elation, this same boundless sense of being.

My baby grows from a tiny seed deep within my body to an individual who is all their own. My baby signals when she is ready to leave that snug warm nest, and together we strive to bring baby forth.

My uterus tightens snugly around my baby, gently nudging her toward the world. My baby responds, pushing against the fundus with her feet, propelling herself closer to her first breath. Labor is a dance between mother and baby... an intimate ballet where mother moves to help baby do the pirouette through her pelvis and into the world.

To carry and bring forth life is a gift. To feel the butterfly flutters of a growing child within is pure happiness. To labor and birth a child is an expression of love.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Cesarean Awareness Month

April is Cesarean Awareness Month. In these days of rising cesareans, it is necessary to bring this information out in the open, to let people know that not every birth should be a surgical event.

How prevalent are cesareans? The CDC reports that the average rate in the US is over 30% of births are by cesarean. Some hospitals have rates of 50%... 60%... 80%. Are they saying that women cannot give birth? However did the species get as far as we've come?

When I had my first child, the rate was about 25%. That meant that 1 out of 4 women would birth by cesarean. We had 8 couples in our childbirth class, and yes, two of us had cesareans. I was one of them. While it was probably unnecessary, at least I could have a VBAC in those days without fighting for it. VBAC was a popular choice in the early 1990s. Now, women are not so lucky.

My mother had three children and no cesareans. Two girls and a boy. Both my sister and I have had cesareans for one of our births, and so has my sister-in-law. That makes 3 for 3. The reasons? My sister-in-law was past her due date with a large baby. My sister had a breech baby that did not turn after they attempted an external version. And my CNM was too tired and needed a nap, so they first gave me a cervical block, then after they effectively knocked out my endorphins with that, they talked us into an epidural, so we could not try different positions to get my daughter into an optimal position. All she need was to tuck her head, but I could do nothing to assist her since I was numb from my ribs down.

I do take some responsibility for receiving those drugs. While I had planned not to have them, I let them wear down my resolve. "You're too loud, you'll hurt your throat," they told me as I made deep moans with my contractions. "Your midwife needs a bit of a rest... and you look so tired. You could do with a rest yourself. Let us give you this epidural and you'll be able to take a nap." I had been in labor for only 6 hours at that point.

While I admit that I was a poster child for beached whale syndrome while in labor with my first, I think that with more support from the staff in being active I would have been fine. In fact, I was fine lying in bed dealing with the contractions. They hurt a lot, but I was sure I could handle it until they insisted that we do the cervical block. Once that wore off, I was doomed. This was my first baby, and the first time I had experienced any type of severe pain. All the books I had read and all that they talked about in my childbirth class went right out of my head.

I did try to put them off... but eventually we were worn down... after pushing ineffectively, I was wheeled to the operating room, where I swear no one was with me for quite awhile. I had made it to ten centimeters and had been doing purple pushes for 2 hours before they took me in for surgery. Seems they couldn't find an anesthesiologist, so I was left alone on the operating table, arms strapped out to each side and legs tied together. The epidural had worn off, and I had to push. If there was anyone in there with me, they were not within my field of vision and they certainly did nothing to either reassure me or help me deal with the strong pushing sensations I had to give in to.

When people finally came in, the anesthesiologist re-did my epidural. I asked the OB to please keep me informed on what was happening. They didn't... they talked about some vacation one of them was going to take. I tried to watch in the reflection on the overhead light... but it was too blurry. The only way I knew for sure that my daughter had been born was I heard her cry. They took her to the nursery and my husband followed. While they repaired the incision, it seemed an eternity went by before they finally brought her back in so I could see her. Every one else in the family met my daughter before I did. When my husband was able to bring her in, she was all swaddled in a tight blanket with a hat on her head. I couldn't hold her or touch her because my hands were still strapped down. The repair took forever!

At long last, they took me to recovery and I was able to hold my daughter at long last. I was finally able to unwrap her blankets and look at her, and was able to feed her. I was ready to have another baby right away, so I could get it right. I did not want another cesarean ever again, and now I can say that I have had 7 VBACs, four of which have been at home, and five of which have had no pain medications of any kind.

Let's do our part and spread the word. We don't all need to be cut open to have our babies. If it has happened to us, we don't need repeats of this surgery just because we're pregnant. We can give birth without a surgeon!

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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