Saturday, October 31, 2009

The Art of Childbirth

The Art of Childbirth is a two day art exhibit at the Cabell County Public Library, located 455 9th St. Huntington, WV. The exhibit will run November 19th and 20th in Meeting Room #2, on the 3rd floor of the library. The exhibition will be open from 2:30 pm to 5:30 pm both days. Admission is free.

The art will bring out the beauty and emotions of pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding. If you're in the neighborhood, drop by and take a look.

Oh, and some of my artwork will be on display. :)

I'm very proud of myself for being so cool and calm here, aren't you? In reality I'm jumping up and down because this is my very first exhibition! Woohoo! Yes, it's true... some of my own birth art will be flying through the postal service this week to hang in good company with other works depicting the beauty of birth. If you can't make it to the exhibition, my art is on display online at :) By the way, I do take commissions as time allows. :)

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Infant Circumcision... What Happens to those Foreskins?

I just read this article on Dr Momma's blog... in it she traces some of the uses that circumcised foreskins are put to. Some are used to grow skin cultures that will be used for skin grafts. Some are used to make cosmetics. Did she really say cosmetics? Yes, she did. In fact, she goes in depth about how one very expensive skin cream advertised by Oprah Winfrey uses them. Oprah is silent on the issue.

I had heard rumors of infant foreskins being sold for use in cosmetics, but I never took the time to do the research myself. With the growing controversy about circumcision, it is no wonder that suddenly the CDC is promoting the practice again. Heaven forbid that parents actually want to keep their sons intact and that these cosmetic companies can't make their products!

When I was pregnant with my first child, I hoped and prayed for a girl so I wouldn't have to decide about this whole circumcision thing. I didn't really understand it all... they gave us literature in our childbirth class about it. I read it and reread it... it made sense to leave the baby alone, but it was such a prevalent practice that the whole issue was like taking a leap of faith. Luckily, my first child was a girl. Whew! I could table that issue until another time...

My second child was a boy. My inlaws offered to pay for the circumcision if we wanted, since funds were limited. Our pediatrician was willing to do the procedure in his office once my son was two weeks old. By that time, I had made up my mind. Our daughter had a wonderful, pain free start to life. Why shouldn't my son? Why should he have to experience pain every time he urinated? Why should he be strapped down and have this most sensitive of tissues cut off? At the time my son was born, many of these procedures were still being done without anesthesia... babies can't feel pain, right? Riiiiiggghhhhtt. I turned down my inlaws' offer and kept my son as he was meant to be. Maybe I got to this decision via a different route than some, but I've never looked back. When my others sons were born, circumcision was not even an option in my mind.

What about those parents who don't have the luxury I had? Most circumcisions are still done in the hospital before the baby is discharged. I wanted to cry when I changed my newborn nephew's diaper and saw the raw red flesh and the wound from the procedure on his little penis. How could anyone do this to a helpless little boy and feel good about it? I think that most parents don't think about the consequences. The baby is taken for circumcision so quickly after being born that most haven't even had time to really get to know their sons and their personalities. I had two wonderful weeks of getting to know my son... I could not let him be hurt. There was no argument strong enough for me to take him in and let them do unnecessary surgery on him.

So, even if a person is pro circumcision (something that I can't even fathom), how can they pay for a procedure to be done to their infant, and then let that body part be sold off to another company that uses it to harvest cells that are put into expensive cosmetics for rich women to smear on their faces? How can those women pay so much for cream containing the ingredients made from infant parts and knowingly use it? I don't know these answers. They baffle me.

They say that a single foreskin can be worth up to $100,000... you can bet that little boy never sees a penny of it for his contribution that he never even consented to. His parents don't see any of it either. How can this continue to happen? Protect your boys... they don't deserve to get the most sensitive area of their body lopped off so he'll "look like Dad." Say no to circumcision.

NOTE: For those who don't know what is involved in a circumcision, check out this description at

Monday, October 19, 2009

Docs Banning Doulas & Birth Plans... What's Next?

When I saw this I just hated to see that this is happening. This arrived on my Facebook page the same day as a notice about a woman who received a letter from her OB giving her HIS birth plan for HER birth. It was very similar in tone. When I first became a doula fifteen years ago, it was sometimes awkward to try and do your job around the OBs and hospital staff. Doulas were a new concept then for most hospitals, and none of us really knew where we stood.

As the years have gone by, doulas made their own niche, serving women who needed extra support. I never did understand the whole advocacy thing... if we spoke up, we ran the risk of being kicked out and then our client would be without the support they paid for.

I am no longer a doula. As much as I loved helping families welcome their new babies, it wasn't feasible to be gone at any hour on short notice with my own growing family. Once I had my homebirths, the hospital environment was very difficult for me to endure. I know that women in the hospitals need the help of doulas more than ever... and I admire those women who can see women being forced into the situations the sign above insinuates and still do their best for their clients. It takes a lot of grit and determination.

Birth plans have always been ignored... if you had an OB who not only read your birth plan but tried to abide by it... you are one lucky woman! While we all diligently wrote out our birth plans, fully believing they would be honored, one by one we have all become cynical as our plans were derailed, one by one.

We have fought long and hard to bring the ability for women to choose their birth experience and to bring their babies gently into the world if they so choose. Now the docs are fighting back by banning things like opting not to have an episiotomy or to have another support person in the room. Some hospitals are taking the chance with the CDC's recommendation of as few people as possible in the maternity ward during this H1N1 flu panic to ban doulas as well.

We need to step up and keep fighting. They are eroding our choices. No VBACs, no doulas, no birth plans. I say we keep fighting to have the births we want without interference. Why should we care about their time schedule? Babies come when they are ready and take as long as they need during labor. We owe it to ourselves, our babies and our daughters who will be birthing some day to make birth all it can be... as Harriette Hartigan so elegantly put it, "Birth is as Safe as Life Gets."

Sunday, October 18, 2009

ICAN Needs Cases of Insurance Discrimination

Last Thursday, Peggy Robertson of Colorado testified before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee about being discriminated against by her insurance company. Her story can be found at the ICAN website:

According to the ICAN press release, Mrs. Robertson was not only rejected for coverage because she had previously had a cesarean section, she was told in a letter that the only way they would give her coverage was if she consented to sterilization.

With the percentage of pregnant women who give birth via cesarean section rising to almost 33%, using a cesarean as a "pre-existing" condition is setting up a third of American women to be uninsured in the future. More and more hospitals are not offering VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean) as a choice to women. Page Hospital in AZ was the most recent one in the news that threatened a VBAC mother with a court ordered cesarean if she did not consent, even though she had had a successful VBAC for her last birth. This mother has decided to travel hundreds of miles in order to get her VBAC. This shouldn't happen, either.

If you have stories of insurance discrimination based on previous cesarean, send them to ICAN. The Senate committee wants to investigate this issue.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Change of Seasons

As we are preparing for winter (autumn just began, yet we are having freezing weather already)I am reminded of preparing for birth. We are blocking drafts and gathering in the last from the garden. When one prepares for birth one blocks fears and gathers their feelings in preparation. One must be prepared to meet the new baby... a new soul who is making their journey onto this plane with heart and mind open.

As pregnancy reaches its end, the ripeness of the body leads to the mind turning inward. Like summer ending, the plants must begin their journey inward to sleep through winter. A mother must turn inward so she can tune into the coming labor and the baby's arrival.

Once baby has arrived, she should be able to spend her time getting to know her baby. A cocoon should envelop them into a protected space while they get to know each other's rhythms and personalities. This is like closing yourself in for winter, secure against the storms that rage outside the door.

Protect yourself and your little one from the outside world for a while... spend those first few precious weeks together, locked away from the hustle and bustle of visitors, shopping and the world at large. Emerge together into the "spring" when you are ready.

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