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Holy Comment Approval!

I totally forgot I had to approve comments.


I've been wondering: Why hasn't anyone commented on anything?

Writing today, I thought that maybe I had turned off comments accidentally. Uh, no... I just hadn't approved them!

I have spent an hour so far approving comments and still have dozens to approve. 

I am so so so so so sorry if you commented and it never came online. Totally my fault!

This won't happen again!

(And I see where I need to update, too!)

I have a couple of hateful comments, but, 99.9% are wonderful and appreciative of my writing. That makes me feel like I have been doing something right for all these years. Yay me!

Again, so sorry for being so obtuse.


Pingback Spam, Too?!?

I am devoted to cleaning up this poor blog's mess today. Eek!


My First Gay Bar Experience

Most of you know I identify as lesbian. Really, the words are "Femme Dyke"... a more political, descriptive explanation of how I walk in the LGBTQ+ community.

Buzzfeed recently asked folks to share their first gay bar experiences as a way to express the good and bad of the atmosphere in what used to be seen as a safe space. I wrote mine out and wanted to share it here as well, especially since my babies have asked me to write my life here on the blog.

There is so, so much more to the story, but here is the outline of my life at the Parliament House in Orlando.

Parliament House circa 1979

What Gay Bars Mean to Me

I was 17-years old in 1979 when my gay boyfriend and I ventured to the Parliament House in Orlando, Florida. It was like walking into Wonderland; an alternate Universe I never knew existed. For once, being a fat girl didn’t make any difference… I was embraced and accepted for all that I was. In fact, I found myself in the midst of brilliant, eccentric, artistic and whirling-twirling misfits that pulled me into the middle of their all-male fold.

Besides dancing to Donna Summer and drinking watered-down gin & tonics, the PH had a Show Bar where Drag Queens performed twice nightly. The Divine Miss P emceed, her biting snark gave me a view into humor I’d never experienced before. There is nothing quite like being the object of a Drag Queen’s dart.

Divine Miss P

For some reason still unknown to me, the Drag Queens took me under their wing. I was not even in the bar legally, must have made a fool of myself with my ignorance of gay culture a hundred times, yet they sat me down in front of the make-up mirror and taught me how to “paint my face.” For years afterwards, I was asked if I was a Drag Queen (although the huge rhinestone brooches and bracelets, the feather boas and glitter in my pink hair might have had something to do with it, too). It took until I had kids that I learned to tone down my make-up enough that strangers didn’t think I was about to lip-sych a song for them.

Being in the bar allowed me to explore my then-fluid sexuality, no one telling me I was disgusting or sinful. I wandered in and out of the closet for another few years before identifying as lesbian after the kids were born. Those early days were a whirlwind of round-robin kissing, casual sex, copious drugs all while struggling to finish high school. A time that was ignorant of the things that would kill us in the not-so-distant future. A time when we would never, ever have remotely thought someone would bring a machine gun into the bar and kill us by the dozens.

37 years ago, here in Orlando, that would have been me in that bar. Instead, it was children of my peers. My heart sobs for the loss of innocence.



Anonymous Rape Story Told to Me


I was raped too. Sad how many are. 

I was 19. Had a keg party at my own home. Someone brought over guys from the Air Force Base. Friends of friends. 

I drank too much. 

I remember dancing with this guy, I never knew his name. 

I remember being in my room saying no, I don't want this. 

I woke up naked and ashamed. 

I went for a walk, praying everyone was gone by the time I came back. I think they were, it's all fuzzy. 

About a month later I see him at a club. I went up to him and yelled at him & slapped him. I left. I heard from friend of friends he was in an alcohol related accident that night and was seriously injured and discharged from the Air Force because of it. 


I haven't thought about that in a long long time. Still never knew his name. (Or maybe I just don't remember) 




I Was 18. I Was Drunk. & I Was Raped.

(Note: I am purposefully capitalizing the sexual assault Survivor’s pronouns and any words relating to Her to offer Her some of my respect for Her ordeal and perhaps, give Her a smidge of Power back.)

I’ve been following the story of the Stanford former champion swimmer, Brock Allen Turner, and the Woman he sexually assaulted as his sentence (if you can call it that) was handed down by Judge Aaron Persky. You simply must read the entire story to get the picture of the horrific injustice that was inflicted on an innocent Woman as She was unconscious from drinking too much at a college party. 

Much has been said about the Survivor’s drunken state… that She deserved it, that it really is so common as to be irrelevant. She was unconscious when She was assaulted. Even if She was conscious (which she was not) still, She was in no shape to consent. 

The incredible Survivor’s letter that was read aloud in court can be seen here: Here Is The Powerful Letter The Stanford Victim Read Aloud To Her Attacker. She recounts how Her life has been ruined by this attack and trial. Yet the judge, in his comment during sentencing said about Brock Allen Turner, “A prison sentence would have a severe impact on him … I think he will not be a danger to others.” Fuck the impact on the Survivor. 

As can be imagined, the backlash from women around the United States has been swift and intense. A brilliant piece by Katie J.M. Baker of Buzzfeed, entitled We With Pitchforks, aims to shame Brock Allen Turner, imprisoning him for life, all over the Internet, with shame because he never expressed remorse, apologies or was given an appropriate sentence.

Brock Allen Turner - memorize this face.

I feel a kinship with this amazing Survivor because I, too, was young (I was 18-years old), very, very drunk and was raped with very little memory of the experience.

The legal drinking age in Florida at the time was 18 and I took advantage of that, spending inordinate amounts of money I made at a fast food restaurant on alcohol. I had loads of cash because I was still living at home. I felt free for the first time in my life.

I went to a local restaurant/bar (a famous chain) almost every night after work, drinking a few drinks, eating appetizers and socializing with the boys and men at the bar. The bartender and servers got to know me well because I was (and am) an awesome tipper. I would get delightfully tipsy, sometimes drunk, but could always get my bicycle-riding ass home at the end of the night.

However, this one evening, I met three men and they asked me to join them at a table. I jumped at the chance… they were adorable! I had just been paid and bought round after round of drinks for all of us. I shot tequila for the first time, several shots on top of the amaretto and creams I regularly drank.

One minute I was at the restaurant and the next memory was being on a bed, a gun to my head and being raped by each of the men, one by one. Then memories disappeared again and the next time I woke up I was at one of the guy’s houses, in his arms and hurting so bad it took me a great deal of energy to unwind myself, get up, call a friend (no cell phones) and get myself home.

Where I took a shower. And scrubbed my body, including the cuts, scrapes and many, many bruises I had all over my stomach, arms, thighs and, most especially, my breasts. It looked like they had used razor blades? Sharp knives? Definitely fingernails. The bruises looked like they had grabbed my flesh as if it was bread dough, squeezed and twisted it. I could see finger mark bruises in several places.

And then, while showering, the image of the gun flashed into my head. Had I tried to fight and they felt they needed to threaten my life to make me lay still?

I especially scrubbed my vulva and vagina. My sore, swollen and bruised vulva. I used a washcloth and tried to shove it inside myself so I could get their filth out of my body. I soaped my fingers and used them to swipe the semen out of me. I know I was in the shower a very long time.

I didn’t cry at all. Of course I know now I was in shock. It took several days before I could think about it enough to feel. And then cry. (Which I continued doing for years.)

But that day, I did not cry. I was due to go to work at the fast food restaurant so got myself dressed and had my dad drive me to work. (He kept asking, “Where is your bike?” I didn’t know.)

When I got to work, my manager took me aside and asked where I had been the night before. I was confused. Did he know something happened? My friend who came to get me that morning also worked with me, told our manager I had been raped. As if that part of my privacy being exposed wasn’t enough, the manager of the restaurant I had been at the night before called and told my manager that I stiffed the waitress and bartender over $300. Suddenly I remembered I gave one of the guys cash to pay the server when I went to the bathroom. Apparently, he pocketed it. And the server saw me leave a hefty tip… and one of guys grabbing it as he left the restaurant. I was so embarrassed and promised to pay them back immediately.

Talking to my manager, he asked if I knew anything about the guys. I actually (somehow) remembered they were servers at another local Mexican restaurant. My manager and the manager at the restaurant paid their management a personal visit and got the three of them fired that day.

That was the extent of my vindication.

Nowhere along the way did anyone suggest telling the police. It never even crossed my mind. If it happened today and I saw what happened to this assault Survivor, I would never dream of reporting my rapist. Why? It doesn’t change a thing. And, if anything, it smears, smashes and humiliates the Survivor even more… again and again.

It took years of therapy and rape survivor support groups to forgive myself for being drunk that night, to finally believe it wasn’t my fault, that I had not asked for it. The cuts and bruises healed over the first week or so. The inner torment lasted over a decade.

I no longer cry about the experience, have integrated it into a part of my life story and share it when I see a woman beating herself up for putting herself in that position. I beg her to see the reality that we never ask to be raped or sexually assaulted, even if we were out-of-our-minds drunk or drugged. It might take her years and years to grasp even a seed of what I say, but at least I offered her a counter to the screaming voices in her head… and the fucking crap “friends” and family might be saying.

So I share here for the Woman who was terrorized by Brock Allen Turner and Judge Aaron Perksy so She might know She is not alone. I am another woman who knows and understands the shame and humiliation they try to push into our Souls via our vaginas. I also want Her to know there can be joy in Her life again one day. I want to tell Her how proud of Her I am She faced this animal in court even if the judge buried Her in shit with his sentence.

She is not alone. I will think of Her and send Her healing light every single day.

A Change.org petition has been created asking for a review of the case and Judge Aaron Persky's decision. If you feel so inclined, please sign it.


Discussion of NYT’s Op Piece on the Safety of Home Birth

There’s an uproar over Dr. Amy Tuteur’s New York Times opinion piece on April 30, 2016, "Why Is American Home Birth So Dangerous?"... Inflammatory! Judgmental! Incorrect! I have heard it all. They are common and frequent refrains when talking about her. People despise her so much they refuse to either click on her Skeptical OB site or read anything she writes. 

I am here to say that sticking your head in the sand is not the answer! Unless you read what the “enemy” says, how do you know how to rebut? You can’t! 

And then, what if you just happen to read something that resonates? Might Tuteur have something to say that is valid? Is every word suspect? 

In the New York Times Op Ed piece, she uses the Oregon statistics as her jumping off point for showing how dangerous home birth is in the United States. Why does she only use these? Why isn’t she using the beloved MANA Stats? Because the MANA Stats were done so incorrectly and are only with self-reporting midwives, who can believe what they say? And even the MANA stats showed increase in death for babies in home births! And they climb even higher if breeches, twins and VBACs were included. 

But what about the statistics from the Netherlands? The UK? Canada? Those statistics are absolutely irrelevant here in the US. Certified Professional Midwives (CPMs) do not have the same education as midwives in those countries. When CPMs have hospital privileges, learn pharmacology in school, and a standardized education, only then can we compare those countries’ stats with our own. 

So, say you disagree still with what Tuteur has to say and you want to argue with her… in writing, of course. I have only read three rebuttals so far from the home birth midwifery community. 

The first was from MANA in their “Women Are Choosing Home Birth: The Infant-Maternal Health Care System in the U.S. Owes Them A Safe Option,” a rambling piece about why women choose home birth. (Yes, yes, we know… the medical model does suck a lot… yes, women do want more autonomy….) But, one of Tuteur’s main points is that US CPMs don’t pass muster with the International Confederation of Midwives’ standards for midwives around the world. 

MANA says: “Families deserve the support of a provider that meets international standards. The International Confederation of Midwives, with input from over 100 countries’ midwifery associations including those from the United States, have created standards that are increasing safety for families globally. The International Confederation of Midwives supports the ‘recognition that midwifery is a profession that is autonomous, separate and distinct from nursing and medicine.’ and does not expect, nor recommend, that midwives be nurses first. MANA, among other midwifery organizations, is working on continuing to meet and even exceed the recommendations of the ICM.” (emphasis mine) 

Criminy, even MANA states, in black and white no less, that CPMs don’t even meet the minimum standards of what midwives around the world should be giving their clients! 

This is completely unacceptable. 

The second rebuttal comes from Faith Gibson, LM, CPM in California. She writes in “MCDG ~ Amy Tuteur & the question of why people think ‘… American Home Birth So Dangerous?’” I’ve known Faith for years, watching as she tirelessly fought for home births and then licensing in CA. So, when I saw she’d written a rebuttal, I thought, “Finally! Someone might be able to argue cogently!” But, oh, how very wrong I was. 

Not only did she mock Tuteur’s name (on more than one occasion), sounding like a pre-schooler taunting a classmate, she also advocated non-consensual bondage of Tuteur, saying: 

“I’ve had more than one delicious fantasy of tying her to a chair and making her watch 48 straight hours of Sponge Bob-Square Pants cartoons.” 

Wow. Advocating violence against another person and attempting to make it humorous makes Gibson look almost monstrous to those of us who have been held against our will at some time in our lives. 

And then, quite oddly, Gibson picks Sweden’s statistics to use as proof of the safety of home birth. Sweden? Again, a totally different system of education and midwifery. She went into a great deal of detail about Sweden, all completely irrelevant to the conversation. 

When she morphed into a historian, I sat shaking my head. She discussed maternity care from the late 1800’s through the 1940’s. What in the world does that have to do with countering Tuteur’s opinion piece?!? Not one thing. This part of her piece went on and on. And on. Even saying PBS should do a History of Maternity Care segment. Not a bad idea, but not fit for such an article as this. 

I need to mention the horrific picture Gibson chose to highlight her article, a baby being removed from (most likely) an anesthetized mother in the 1940’s. She couldn’t have picked a more gruesome photo if she tried. Yet, again, it has zero to do with birth today. 

Brilliant Bodies writes in “In Response to Tuteur's ‘Why Is American Home Birth So Dangerous?’": “There is no solid evidence to show that C.P.M's mortality rates are any worse than C.N.M's mortality rates as C.P.Ms are typically the ones working with economically disadvantaged and rural populations, there are far too many factors to point to their training as the cause of death.” 

This is patently false. There is evidence (see the MANA Stats as a start, but the Oregon Stats if you weed out the MANA ones like I do) and CPMs are not… ARE NOT… the midwives that primarily work with economically disadvantaged and rural populations! From the CDC, "The uptick in home births began in 2004, and, so far, the majority of these have been among non-Hispanic white women." The CDC also says, “In 2012, 1 in 49 births to non-Hispanic white women were out-of-hospital births.” 

And one last note from this blog says, “And none of us (including Tuteur) have been through C.P.M training so we have no right to speak to the quality of the education involved.” 

Well, I have been through the CPM training and have every right to say how inadequate it is. So much needs to be done to fix this CPM mess we’re finding ourselves in. There are answers. Fix the holes. NOW. 

So, to date, no one has effectively been able to counter what Tuteur was saying in her Op Ed piece. Anyone else want to give it a try? 

Just to inform you all, Tuteur is not going anywhere. She is only going to get louder and more pervasive in our lives. You can try to ignore her all you want, or you can listen to what she has to say AND BLOODY WELL FIX IT! (Sense a theme here?) 

There isn’t a month that goes by that I don’t hear about a fetal death or disability from a home birth midwife (most are CPMs). One helacious 2-week period showed one of each from one midwife! These that I am hearing about have parents still in their early grieving periods, so haven’t reported the midwife. Yet. I guarantee you will hear about these incidents within the next 2-3 years. 

This is unacceptable! NARM simply must standardize the CPM education. It cannot allow schools around the country to make up their own curriculum any longer. Just reading that schools do this is absurd! 

If MANA and NARM want midwives to step up to the International Standards, then, for goodness’ sake, DO IT ALREADY! What are you waiting for?!?



Pierced Suspension in Pregnancy

A question appeared that asked about Pierced Suspension Play and pregnancy… safe? I thought it would make an awesome blog post, so here it is! 

Visual Alert! For those not used to seeing Suspension Play, the pictures/videos can be jarring. Be aware of your cultural biases if you choose to Google what it is or looks like. 

Background: I have been a part of the Kink community for 25 years, lifestyle (living it, not just playing at Dungeons or Play Parties). I have participated in a wide range of experiences from bondage to impact play to edge play (including needles and suturing). I have not been suspended, but it is a familiar experience in my own bio family as well as my kink family. 

Suspension Play, pierced and otherwise, is part of the BDSM Scene… the Kink Scene. Suspension is one of the advanced experiences in the Scene. Those that partake may or may not be Pain Sluts. They may or may not do other advanced play such as needle play or brandings/cuttings. DO NOT ASSUME the person is merely looking for a higher high. Suspension, historically, has been used during religious ceremonies and has been used as Rites of Passage/Vision Quests in different cultures. In BDSM, the "goal" is the same; to push the body into sacred spaces... physically, emotionally, spiritually. 

Now, for a pregnant body, the issues that come into play would be the elasticity of the skin (via hormones) and the bottom’s ability to withstand the experience without sustenance. If I were counseling a pregnant person considering being suspended, even if they were experienced, I would really encourage them to choose a Top that was very, very experienced… one who really knows the body’s strong spots… and will take extra caution with the shifting musculature. If the person has played this way several times, there will likely be scar tissue from previous suspensions. The Top will likely need to ignore where the body had been suspended before, instead, seeing the body as a first-time bottom… feeling where the hooks should be, how deep they need to slice through the skin, and then find their exit far enough from the entrance so the skin doesn’t rip when the body is lifted. 

The set-up tends to be the longest part. Making sure the pregnant person is hydrated adequately is really important. Sie should be counseled/encouraged to call hir Safeword at any time sie feels (abnormally) light-headed, dizzy or confused. The Top should also check in regularly to make sure sie is doing well. This, of course, goes throughout the entire Session. 

Those who do suspension play must be cautious of the body falling from any height. Injuries from falls must be prevented.

When one is suspended, it can last for an extended amount of time, sometimes hours. I would caution erring on the side of a shorter session than a longer one. Checking in and keeping hir hydrated is really important. Again, sie should call hir Safeword at any time, but it really is the Top’s job to gauge the Scene and bring the person down sooner than later. 

That addresses the physical aspects of the Scene. Now, let me talk about the emotional/mental parts.

There are several descriptions/words that try to explain the high that comes from any kind of pain play. Subspace is a common word used. Flying is another one. We know, of course, that it is the rush of endorphins that flows through the body, giving one that awesome feeling of being in the presence of the enormity of life and floating on its wings. (As in birth, trying to describe the endorphin flow using words is extremely difficult. And woefully inadequate. My apologies for not being eloquent enough to describe it properly.)

In suspension, the endorphins are amazing and the world falls away. When this happens in birth, Nature takes the reigns, guiding the flow, bringing the endorphins out when needed, then gradually lowering them again after the birth so the birthing person can come back into their body/head to begin parenting. In a Scene such as suspension, there is no innate ebb and flow to signal the end of the Scene. It depends on a human decision. Because the bottom is often really fucked-up-high from the Scene, it becomes imperative that the Top call the Scene when the time seems right. 

If I were doing pre-Scene negotiation with a pregnant person about to be suspended from hooks, I would ask hir to please keep a part of hir brain connected to the baby’s needs. Is the baby moving more or less than typically? Does the baby “feel” scared? Does the baby need to eat? If sie feels any weirdness from the baby, consider ending the Scene. If I was in charge of a Scene as a midwife, I might even check in on the baby with a Doppler periodically (one with headphones). Most people wouldn't consider it, but would be an added reassurance if desired.

After such an intense Scene, Aftercare will be of extreme importance. Don’t let the pregnant person walk alone after being brought down and moved to an Aftercare site. Makes sure there is juice on hand. Have a glucometer handy in case sie needs to check blood glucose for hypoglycemia if sie’s shaking (or is it from the Scene itself?). When sie can eat, carb and protein snacks periodically will be really helpful. 

How would I counsel a pregnant person who came to me asking about Pierced Suspension? I would first ask why sie was wanting to do it. Is it a spiritual need? An endorphin desire? The rare opportunity presenting itself? Exploring why can help hir make a conscious decision to move forward or not. 

If sie hadn’t ever done it before, or only a couple of times, I would encourage waiting until after the pregnancy (and maybe even nursing) to do it. We still don’t know enough about the effects of stress hormones on pregnancy, labor, birth or breast feeding. 

I might suggest a more mild type of play… needle play, for example, which can bring on the delightful endorphins as well, without the massive intensity of suspension. 

Reminder! With any blood play, BE SAFE! Discuss health history, Hepatitis/STI/HIV status, have brand new/sterilized needles/hooks for each insertion, disinfectant/alcohol at the ready, sterile gauze to staunch bleeding, an emergency kit with supplies to revive some who has fainted and a phone close by to call EMS if more help is needed. It’s always a good idea to have a medic-type person specified for intense Scenes so they aren’t involved in the Scene itself and can watch with a more detached view of the Scene. 

If I am missing something, let me know! Email me at NavelgazingMidwife@gmail.com


Gangsta Grandma

Some of the strangest memories I had as a child include being shuffled off to friends' houses for the weekend so my mom could go to Rock Concerts. I remember when she went to see The Rolling Stones in Jacksonville in 1975. I was 14. She went and saw The Who. Pink Floyd. AC/DC, Jethro Tull and more. 

I was so embarrassed by her behavior. I begged her to grow up. A lot. She just laughed and kept on partying. My friends thought my mom was great. I had "The Cool Mom."

As I grew up, I watched my mom morph into a dozen different people. She always seemed to be able to go with the flow of change.

I thought I was like that once. After leaving Christianity, embracing Judaism (since abandoned), having an Unassisted Birth, coming out lesbian and moving 3000 miles from home, my mom said, "Barbara Ellen, if you told me you were going to be African-American, I wouldn't bat an eye."

But lately, I feel I have gotten mired in the mud of old age. And criminy, I am a mere 54 years old! Many of my sentences seem to start, "I was in the birth world for 33 years..." and continue with The Way Things Were In the Olden Days.

A couple of days ago, I stumbled upon pictures of a wide variety of amazing things in birth... pictures I'd used to teach, not only my students, but also in my blog. The student group I shared them with were mesmerized! And LOVED them! I felt useful for awhile. And it was nice.

Today, however, was a discussion that took me right back to being that elderly, retired midwife. The topic is irrelevant (and it was in a private group), but after sharing my horror at the topic, I gradually learrned I was, by far, in the minority. When did that happen? How had I missed the advancement of a midwifery skill by being out of the loop for a mere 3 years? And it isn't like I have NO fingers in the midwifery pie anymore, either! I participate in several midwifery groups and run my Navelgazing Midwife Facebook Page.

Goddess, I feel old.

I wrote out that list the other day of things I think about writing. My history. My life. Is it over? Am I really considering writing my Autobiography at 54? Is there still time and space for growth?

Being a Crone has been an honored position for eons. In many ways, I feel like my knowledge is appreciated... my memories important. In others, I feel like I am sitting here, in my recliner, with 2 broken feet, watching everyone else's life move forward, while I, especially when writing, am stationary. Ha! Or going backwards?

Is living in/replaying the past (and being MIRED in it!) necessary for writing one's memoirs? I am lost and wish I had someone to ask.

I don't want to be left behind. I don't want to sound stupid when I share midwifery knowledge. 

I want to remain relevant.

Gangsta Grandma refers to my mom. Her musical tastes have evolved over the decades, always embracing the different genres as they came and went. Her most recent incarnation has been enjoying (gads, LOVING!) Gangsta Rap. My mom is 74 years old. It is frightening to be in her car as she has screaming rap on the radio. I rarely go anywhere with her unless I am driving. Her license plate says, in very few, but clear, letters: Gangst Grandma. I am the stick in the mud, she reminds me often. "Listen to it! It's poetry!" she begs me. I stick my fingers in my ears and sing, "la la la la la" to drown out the horrible words and sounds.

What would happen if I took my fingers out of my ears? If I read the words instead of trying to decipher them through all the screaming? What might I learn?

Who knew I would still have profound lessons coming from mom when I is so flippin' old.

Mama and Meghann


The Cunt Coloring Book (and other feminist memories)

This book was integral to my beginnings of loving my body as well as understanding the vulva in midwifery.

Tee Corrine was an artist in the 1960's, 70's and 80's. I learned of her around 1988 when I moved to San Diego from Frankfurt. I was a newly out dyke and Zack was still in the Army in Frankfurt (but was being separated for being lesbian) and I attended Lesbian Support Group meetings at the LGBT Center in downtown Hillcrest.

The Cunt Coloring Book, published initially in 1975, was extremely controversial, even when I first saw it in the late 1980's. Older lesbians told the story of how difficult it was to get published and some enterprising dykes published it on their kitchen tables to start. It was shared in an underground fashion, passed quietly frrom woman to woman (ha! the spelling of "woman" at the time was "womyn"... couldn't have the letters "men" anywhere around a vulva), sometimes one woman coloring a page and having the next in line color the next one.

There were very few lesbian mothers at the time and I knew of no gay fathers at all. We moms eventually formed a Lesbian Mother Support Group and it was awesome. I loved meeting other moms who understood the secrecy needed when sending our kids to school... how the Emergency Contact was a "friend" who happened to live with us. 

Just like when any moms get together, there are going to be different parenting styles, but blessedly, they, for the most part, didn't spank. I was already in the Natural Birth Community, a La Leche League leader (who I also had to hide my sexuality from) and had been a doula for around 6 years. There was one mom who talked about "seeing red" when she got mad at her kids and she thought we all did, that that was perfectly normal. I remember an intervention, of sorts, where we discussed what was discipline and what was abuse... a topic hardly ever mentioned back then. We encouraged her to find a therapist and deal with the anger instead of taking it out on her kids.

The lesbian community was quite polarized at that time. There was a Separatist faction that wanted nothing to do with men. At. All. I had a boy child (and co-parented Zack's son as well) and was not welcome in Separatist spaces. Even if I didn't go with my kids, I was snubbed and usually left because no one would talk to me. I refused to pretend my son didn't exist, so soon learned where to, and where not, to go.

While there have been transgender folks since the beginning of time, there seemed to be so few back then... public... except in bars, usually as drag queens doing lip synch shows. Goddess forbid a lesbian come out trans; he was ridiculed and the venom flowed that he had joined The Enemy and just wanted to be part of The Establishment instead of remaining an oppressed dyke.

At this time, the late 80's, is when the term Politically Correct was just coming into vogue; it wasn't a negative term yet. The words became a frequently used phrase when I worked at the San Diego Lesbian Press as a writer.

"The first issue of the San Diego Lesbian Press is published in October (1987), just six months after a group of women meet to discuss the need for such a publication and form a collective to make it happen."

"A Collective" being the operative words. The SDLP operated on the "consensus" method of making decisions. (Or rather, NOT making decisions!)

Consensus: Consensus is a process for group decision-making. It is a method by which an entire group of people can come to an agreement. The input and ideas of all participants are gathered and synthesized to arrive at a final decision acceptable to all. Through consensus, we are not only working to achieve better solutions, but also to promote the growth of community and trust. 

In other words, consensus is a group of people who argue for WEEKS on end about trivial shit and rarely, if ever, get anything done because everyone in the group is an Alpha Female and refuses to conceed to a different position/belief/idea.

Clearly, I hate consensus. It started with the SDLP, but has continued in other, mainly lesbian or women-prominent spaces.

One SDLP argument: It was a Separatist newspaper, but was always on the verge of dying because of lack of funds. One time, a man (gasp!) wanted to advertise in the paper... something benign like a lesbian bar. But he owned the club and the money would come from him. So several women had hairy cows over the issue of whether to accept the money or not. I am not exaggerating when I tell you the "discussion" went on for weeks... 3 meetings a week... for at least 4 weeks. "What if the check was written on his wife's account? Can we do that?" "What if he 'donated' the money. Then could we accept it?" "We can't take it for any reason... on principle."  

I got so sick of it; that was when I left. 

I wrote some good pieces while I was at SDLP, though. Looking back, well.... I wrote a piece about admiring Indian (from India) women's "costumes" after going to a parade and there were many women in sparkly harem outfits. I talked about hiding behind the veil and how they were "mysterious," but did they really represent oppression? Was I admiring the oppression of women in another culture? As far as I knew, we were on the cutting edge of understanding the oppression of other cultures by flaunting them.

I wrote a very long and very well-received article on how BDSM is one of the most vile and sub-culturally-accepted forms of physical abuse against women. I insisted there could never be consensuality and both submissives and Dominants were deluded in their belief that it was acceptable behavior to be hit/hit, that no one EVER deserves to be hit. For any reason. (Remember, this was a total La Leche League belief that I parroted often.) 

When I was coming out in the BDSM community in 1995, I had to overcome that long-held belief. Apparently, I did. Completely. laughing

I was privileged to attend several really cool lesbian concerts and shows and, because I wrote reviews, I got in free (I was way poor at the time). Jamie Anderson, Tret Fure, Cris Williamson and the Indigo Girls long, long before they were as well-known as they are now. There were also lesbian comedians: Lea DeLaria (now famous in Orange is the New Black), Kate Clinton and Lynn Lavner all gave me great interviews. It was hilarious hearing about our (lesbian) lives through their comedy. Decades before Ellen. Both the singers and comedians generally alluded to the lesbian community... except Lea DeLaria who was screamingly out. We were more used to reading between the lines and, in the case of songs, changing the gender from "him" to "her." (I think lesbians and gay men still do this!)

Below is a picture of me marching in the Gay Pride Parade (what they were called back then) about 1989.

It was very challenging being a lesbian mom back then. Many of my friends lost their kids to their former husbands when they came out. I was one of the very few lucky enough to march.

Besides lesbian issues being important to me back then, fat issues were also important. That will be a post all on its own, but I needed to make a comment here about my marching 3+ miles as a fat woman. I did it. Easily. I was also 28 years old. The fat activists of today are in their 20's. I will share, in other posts, what exactly fat does to a body's mobility as the years pass. And I'll discuss fat and health issues as well. I believe that, because I spent a great deal of time speaking and writing about fat activist issues... the importance of not fat-shaming (a relatively new term)... that I am uniquely able to talk about fat as an older woman and the hobbling effect it has had on me. Anyway, as I said... other posts.

Okay, moving on to another topic. Writing as fast as I can.


My Herstory

My kids have been begging me to tell my life story for a long time. I have thought and thought about what I could talk about and came up with about 800 things, knowing I'd need to whittle it down for clarity's sake and so someone might actually read it.

Things off the top of my head:

Coming out in 1979

Having sex with lots of gay men that eventually died from AIDS and how it's a flippin' miracle I don't have it

Living with lots of gay men

The lesbian culture of the 1970's and 1980's


Getting pregnant before marriage

Having 3 kids in 3 different locations

Meeting my soulmate at a La Leche League meeting

Coming out as a lesbian mom


Being lesbian in the military culture

Mental illness/Depression

Becoming a doula

Witnessing a maternal death and its residual effects 

Working with CNMs in Frankfurt

Laboring women at my house in Frankfurt

Writing for the San Diego Lesbian Press

Lesbian Support Groups in late 1980's

Living on welfare

Being a doula at Planned Parenthood

Working at Planned Parenthood

Being a cruel lover

Going to Casa de Nacimiento in 1993

Moving to Orlando

Working at a free-standing birth center with CNMs as a birth assistant/doula

Working at the Farmworker Association of Florida under a CDC Grant to do HIV/STD Counseling for migrant Hispanic women

Becoming polyamorous

Becoming kinky

Going to jail

Sending my kids to their dad

The introduction of the Internet on Dec. 31, 1994

Falling at the birth center and becoming disabled for 3 years

Learning meditation and biofeedback

Settling with Worker's Comp

Phen-Fen (being on tv and in the press)

Working at Disney World

Writing about Disney World (including food writer)

Moving back to San Diego with soulmate

Back to Casa for almost a year

Studying for midwifery license in CA

Fighting for license (because of jail history)

Getting license

Buying Ama Mama Holistic Healthcare

Gastric Bypass in 2001

Getting coccidiomycosis in October 1993, sick for 3 years

Closing Ama Mama

Broke feet trying to exercise

Doula for Meghann (twice)

Being frozen out of San Diego's midwifery community

Agoraphobia for 2.5 years

Learned Mindfulness Meditation

Marrying soulmate in San Francisco and San Diego (being in the press)

Broke foot falling off Wii Fit Board (needing 3 surgeries to fix) 

Soulmate's transition from a woman's body to a man's

Kicking addiction to opiates

Separating from soulmate and moving to Orlando

Retiring from midwifery/doula/monitrice work

Diabetes (and other fat-related health problems)

Physically hobbled because of fat

Broken feet, torn ligament, bruised bones and stressed tendon (what I am dealing with right this moment)

Dealing with issues I have with transmen and their transition

"Outlander" obsession

Becoming a Phone Sex Operator

Hmmm... that should keep me busy for a few years! laughing 

While this is for the kidlets, y'all are welcome to come along for the ride, too! Would love to have you.

(Me today)





Swallow Your Fear (An Adventure Story)

I loved Charon. She was one of my dearest friends in San Diego for many years when our kids were small... breastfeeding pals, birth junkies, one of the doulas I trained... just an awesome friend. When she moved, I lost touch with her. She isn't on social media, but I just found her address and will write her a snail mail letter.

But this is about an adventure she and I went on once... when we were trying to figure out if we were supposed to be midwives or not.

Where the wild hair came from, I don't know, but she and I found ourselves in her car thinking, "Let's go to Mexico and find a Curandera!" Curanderas are healers, midwives, witches... the wise women of the village. We immediately went into total un-PC mode and tried to think what a Curandera would want in trade for her wisdom. Unfiltered cigarettes came to mind. (Can you see me rolling my eyes in complete shame now?!?) And microwave popcorn. Where that came from is beyond me, but we stopped at a store and bought both. We also had sandwiches, fruit and a lot of water. 

Then we headed South.

We had NO idea where we were going! We turned off the highway onto a small, barely asphalted road, and somewhere along the way, we entered Mexico... no border crossing, no sign... just after driving for a couple of hours South, there was nowhere TO be, but in Mexico!

We began seeing little tiny houses, multi-colored, but it looked like someone had taken sandpaper to them. We headed into a neighborhood... barrio... and the first person we saw, I asked in my terrible Spanish (I wasn't fluent back then), "Where is the Curandera?" Amazingly, the man pointed in a direction I could understand. We drove on... into a new barrio... and asked again. The same direction was pointed out, so we went on. We asked about five people before someone pointed to a house three away from where we were. 

We parked the car and walked up to the door... and the Curandera opened the freakin' door before we even knocked!!! She looked at us like she was expecting us and invited us in.

Her house was a shrine to the Virgin Mary and Jesus. Every level space had candles (many lit), and statues of Mary and Jesus... they were everywhere. It was very dark in the tiny space even though she had the curtains pulled aside. She sat us down at her table that had two chairs and talked to us. I caught about every third word, but the gist was we were to begin praying to the Virgin Mary for guidance. She knew we were looking for guidance? Hmmm.

In my broken Spanish, I explained to her about our conflicts in becoming midwives. We had little kids. We were getting older. We didn't have money for school. The Curandera waved off each concern. In no uncertain terms, she told us to suck it up and get ON with life already.

Then she brought out the Ball Jar. It held a pink liquid and was about a quarter full. She turned to Charon and said that she was the one that was most scared, so she had to drink some of the liquid... it would make her fears go away. Hesitating, she finally reached out and took the jar. She took a small sip and her face scrunched up tight and I thought she was going to throw up. "It tastes like transmission fluid!!!!!" She tried to give the Curandera back the jar, but she pressed it into her chest/heart and said anytime she felt fear, she was to drink some of the liquid.

Charon kinda laughed and said, "I don't think I will be afraid of anything ever again!"

The magic worked!!!

It was time to leave and we brought in our meager (and terribly driven by old Westerns) gifts and the Curandera followed us back out to the car and tossed the cigarettes and popcorn back in. She began rummaging around and found the fruits and water and took all that we had. We helped her carry everything back into the house. I realized, because it was getting darker, that she had no electricity and no running water. It was sad to leave... she gave us huge hugs and kisses on our cheeks.

Then we got back into the car and looked at each other; how do we get home? Drive North! So, we headed out and just depended on divine intervention to get us back to the States. 

We drove a lot longer going home than getting to the Curandera's house. We drove on a mountain (that we never even saw going down!) with terrifying winding roads that had no barriers on the dropping side of the mountain. I dared to look down and EEK! There were buses crashed down the hill. Cars. Oh. My. God. If we fell off the side, NO ONE would know where we were! We hadn't told a soul where we were going. We would have just vanished. We started laughing about it WOOSH! our car was picked UP by the wind and set back down again with a thud. We stopped laughing. She then drove about 30 miles an hour the rest of the time on the mountain... cars lined up behind us. We didn't care.

To this day, I have no idea how we found our way back to a US highway, but we didn't go through Border Patrol that time, either. Just all of a sudden, signs were in English. We drove home, glad to be back on American soil.

When I get scared, I think about Charon's jar. I wonder if she still has it.


Shaming Midwives

There seems to be a movement underfoot... by mostly young midwives, apprentices and students, but with some older midwives as well... that are about darned tired of the shenanigans some midwives are doing during OOH births. The Cytotec without consent, the Cytotec with consent, the inductions and augmentations with pitocin, attending breeches and twins... and some even feel VBACs are part of the dangerous activities of these midwives. It's just time everyone stop, take a breath, get a flippin' grip of themselves and reboot.

You midwives who operate out of the scope of practice know who you are, even as you think you are above the rules. STOP IT ALREADY. Quit lying on charts. Quit lying about ROM times, the length of second stage... quit telling women how to avoid a positive result on GBS (which is dangerous!), quit having women use Hibiclens in labor, quit lying to women about the risks of antibiotics and vaccinations during pregnancy (use that "evidence-based science" you espouse). Quit saying that homeopathics stops a hemorrhage and pitocin is a bad thing to use. Quit saying there is no such thing as GDM or GBS. Quit trying to "help" a woman "pass" her GDM screen and test... let her test and get a TRUE result! Her baby's life might depend on it! Quit minimizing LGA/macrosomic babies by telling stories of giant babies born over intact perineums... IF that story is even true, there are FAR more shoulder dystocia stories with huge babies. Enough. Quit having women push more than three hours before transferring into the hospital. Five, six, seven, eight hours? Sheer insanity. 

And let's talk about the MANA Stats. Quit lying on those, too.

No one seems to want to approach the renegade midwives. If they try to at Peer Review, the midwife will just stop coming. She feels above reproach because she's done her time and, generally, had good outcomes. But even midwives who have lost two, three, four babies aren't catching on that they are dangers to moms and babies. There is no mechanism for reporting a rogue midwife. NARM says it isn't their area and MANA doesn't hear complaints either. Unless the mom is in a legal state that has OBs and CNMs on their board, it is unlikely that anyone will care about the midwife's behavior.

I say we shame them. We name them and shame them. Even if anonymously. I will put up dangerous midwives' names here if you want. I'm hearing the same names over and over so it isn't a place to put up a competitor you want out of business, but a truly dangerous midwife. Tell me what they have done that is out of the scope of practice of CPMs/LMs and let's just shame them into compliance.

I am sick of their behaviors. Since I have written about the "Non-Con Cytotec,' I have had at least a dozen midwives, students and apprentices come to me to tell me of the horrors their fellow midwives/preceptors are doing. ENOUGH. Enough.

If we don't control our own behaviors, someone is going to come in and command it for us. We need to do it outselves.


Addendum to "Non-Con Cytotec"

I was thinking about the post and remembered a couple of things that happened that I wanted to share. Both were at Casa.

First, for some reason, the Hispanic women fainted much more than I have ever seen anyone else faint postpartum. It happened in El Paso and it happened in San Diego as well. Very interesting. I wonder what that mechanism was all about. But, anyway, so the women would get up to pee and either faint walking to the bathroom or faint right after peeing on the toilet. Much has been talked about why that happens, so we won't talk about it here, but what happened after the fainting is what I want to discuss.

There was an especially cruel midwife who worked at Casa when I was there both times. She'd been fired a number of times for various things she did wrong, but always came back. From what I could tell, this "treatment" for fainting came from her. When the women were on the floor or on the toilet, she would grab their nipples and twist them, wrenching them hard. The women, not in their bodies, would eventually say, "Ow!" and then would quickly come to again. While the twisting did work, it was unspeakably cruel and a violation of their bodies. I did it a few times, but it just felt wrong, so I ended up sitting with women (who were not bleeding and in shock) and waiting for them to come back to their bodies. It took longer, but felt much better in my spirit.

One more experience stands out in my time there. I don't remember exactly when it was, but I think it was during my 2002-2003 stint because I had a Littman stethoscope. I was first-on, which included being in charge of the labors and deliveries during my shift. There were always staff midwives who oversaw what we were doing and who we could go to with questions or concerns. So, I had a baby and in checking vitals postpartum, the baby was in Respiratory Distress and I went to tell the midwife and ask her to please call EMS to transport. Instead, she went to see the baby herself (which was fine) and holding him, she used my Littman to listen to the baby who was audibly grunting and retracting. She frowned while listening and then said, "Let me see that stethoscope," pointing to the $10 one Casa supplied. I said, "But this is a Littman! (an $80, excellent stethoscope) and she demanded I give her the $10 one. She listened with it and pulled it off her ears and said, "That's better! He's fine" and handed the incredibly distressed baby back to me. I was stunned. She had no intention of getting this baby help. Would it have looked bad on her transport record? Was she worried about the hardship for the mom if the baby was in the NICU? I will never know, but none of that should have been at play; only the health and safety of that baby should have influenced her decision.

The baby, by the way, came back on Day 3 doing well. The midwife smugly said, "See? He was fine." Ugh. (Dumb luck.)

Just wanted to share these memorable stories.


Non-Con Cytotec (and more)

So, the Honest Midwife, Leigh Fransen, wrote a post entitled "Cytotec Tea" and it has been making the rounds, the truth of the post being questioned, Leigh's motivations being questioned... (is she a Dr. Amy minion?!) and it is time to share, publicly, what I also have seen at the hands of CPMs/LMs.

I was also an LM/CPM like Leigh, but was an apprentice/student when I saw much of what I did that was unethical and illegal.

I was at Casa de Nacimiento for three months in 1993 and then during most of a year from 2002-2003.

In 1993, I was nearly totally midwifery green, having attended maybe 75 hospital births by that time. I knew not what was legal and what wasn't; I trusted my senior midwives for guidance and education. But, there were clearly things being done to the women that weren't right. I didn't have the presence of mind to 1) say anything or 2) to leave. Sometimes women would stall near the end of their labor and a midwife would give a clandestine shot of pitocin into the vaginal vault (the floor of the vagina), shooting the baby out almost immediately. The women never knew it was given to them. Other times, the midwives would use something called a "ghost," a gauze tampon soaked in pitocin, placed inside the vagina or rectum, again, without their consent. The ghosts worked slower than the shot, so was less dramatic on the baby (and, most certainly, mom). 

Charting, too, was often a stretch (understatement). Any glimmer of changing dates (a mom had a longer cycle? *wink wink*), lying about when women's membranes ruptured and not beginning to count second stage until you could see the baby's head were all common occurences.

After I left Casa, I moved to Orlando and worked at Special Beginnings Birth & Gynecology Center with CNMs. It was an amazing place where we charted what we saw, women were risked out according to the law and there was never, ever, lack of consent. I was startled at the difference.

Why did I volunteer... no, PAY... to go back to Casa in 2002? And stay for almost a year? It was midwifery boot camp. I learned so much there, including tips and tricks I could have in my arsenal should I ever need them. By the time I got back there, the pit in the vault and the ghosts were gone, but pretty much everything else was still there.

And so were the cameras.

Cameras had been installed to watch the students in the birth rooms. The women did not know about them. As far as I know, there was no taping going on, but the lack of privacy was terrible. I heard that later they put the cameras on the consent (buried?), but they were not there when I was at Casa. 

Somewhere near the end of my time there, I learned that some of the women were being given Cytotec without consent. I was horrified. I thought back to all those post-dates women who miraculously went into labor with the Blue & Black Cohosh (that never worked when I gave it to them!) and realized they had probably gotten Cytotec. The only time I was asked to give it to a woman, it was in Gatorade, melted; I refused to give it to her. The midwife shrugged and went and gave it to her herself. I went back and looked at my charts and saw, "Mom sipping Gatorade" in several places... almost always with post-dates women ready to be risked out. I don't know if they used Cytotec to augment labors; I never saw that occur.

So, when I've disclosed this in midwifery groups (usually in defense of Leigh), other Casa graduates have said I was not telling the truth, that they never saw any of these things happen. I say to them that the students were usually sheltered from the information, yet they still can't believe the midwives would ever use Cytotec. Blessedly, another midwife, a trusted midwife in the community, finally said she learned of the Cytotec in the herbs while she was there with some of the women who were disbelieving. Validation is a wonderful thing.

I left Casa behind to become a CPM/LM in San Diego, CA. There, most of the midwives were good and above board, but there were still the fudging on charts, the taking on of high-risk clients and, in my experience, the manipulation of consent. (I often said, "How informed IS informed consent?!" My IC form was extremely long and demanded the women explore a wide variety of providers and studies before making their decisions. I did not want to be the only piece of information they received.)

One midwife in particular was less than stellar. I learned, from her clients that transferred to me, that if she didn't have gas money, she would call the client and have her measure her own belly. Not that self-care is a bad thing, but if you're paying for a midwife to do a visit, then she damn well better pay a visit. 

Did I ever do anything wrong? You bet. I fudged charts, lied about ROM to care providers when we transferred, allowed women to keep pushing far, far beyond what the law stated we should and took on high-risk clients (the most egregious was taking a client with a history of three shoulder dystocias... who had a helacious one again). I took a woman with a history of a massive PPH... waving away its seriousness as "probably" the doctor pulled on the placenta and caused it himself. Wrong. Blessedly, she transferred care mid-labor and then had a torrential PPH in the hospital; she almost lost her uterus to save her life. I would have killed her at home.

What was in my head?!? I wanted to help women... help them have a great birth experience... to help them love giving birth... to show them there can be respect in birth... and, now that I look back, that I wanted to SAVE them from the medical establishment. How fucking arrogant of me. I am incredibly ashamed of my behavior and actions during those years. I have apologized to the women who will talk to me (and have psychically apologized to those that won't/don't). All I can do now is speak out.

Why? Why now when so much is past? Because I have been saying these things for years and no one listened until Leigh started her wonderful blog. While there are a few things I question about her experiences, enough resonate that I know she isn't lying about most things. (I don't think she lies, per se, but is a tad hyperbolic at times.) I get messaged and told of all kinds of things midwives arre doing around the country, hear the stories of the damaged babies and the physically used women. Yes, even midwives damage clients.

If home birth midwifery is going to have any sort of quality reputation in the US, we really need to reign in the rogue midwives. We need to stop the lying, the operating outside the scope of practice. It's true, the hospital/medical system doesn't allow for a lot of leeway with autonomy and a low cesarean rate like midwives can offer and when there is IC, women should be permitted to determine their own course of care. However, far too often, the midwife isn't skilled enough, doesn't have enough education, to facilitate such complicated births. Until midwives acknowledge their limitations, we are doomed.

I encourage others to speak out, but realize they may have to wait until they are no longer licensed either. Even still, I hear those that tell their stories, in public, about the midwives who shouldn't be practicing anymore. What's so hard, is there is no one governing body to report these wrongdoings to. Where is the accoountability? Oh, that's right... there is none.

Let's fix that.


GoPros in L&D

So much is being said about video cameras on the bodies of cops so they can be held accountable for their actions. I say we bring cameras into L&D to do the same of doctors and nurses. 

I worked at a birth center once that had cameras in the birth rooms. From the day they were installed, the midwives and students acted differently than the day before. As far as I know, the cameras weren’t recording, but I can’t say for sure. There are very real issues of privacy to think about, but making sure the students didn’t operate out of their scope of practice was more important to the owners. 

I’ve thought about this privacy thing in L&Ds and thought if the woman was the one with the camera, the privacy issue would become moot. She could wear a GoPro on her head and her privates wouldn’t be able to be seen, but the doctors and nurses would.

Would the medical personnel act differently if they were recorded? Would they manipulate women the way some of them do? Would they humiliate, belittle, dehumanize women the way some do? Would they speak kindly to everyone finally? Would they offer the pros and cons in a way that would hold up in court? 

Hospital legal teams would never allow this to happen, of course, lest things be caught on camera that can end up in a courtroom. But what if we secretly recorded, audio recorded, our labors and births? What if we had a Google Glass and could record everything that went on? What if we have a special pen that captures what our “team” does to us? 

What does this say about trusting our providers in birth? For the majority of women, the person they hire is not who they see in labor. For too many VBAC women, the bait and switch at 37 weeks can be beyond frustrating… even angering. Maybe if doctors heard themselves talking, they would reevaluate their words to women. 

Yeah, I think a GoPro on the forehead of a laboring and birthing woman is a dandy idea.


What's Up

Let's see... lots has happened.

Zack and I broke up in December.

I moved to Orlando, Florida in late December after driving across the country with my daughter Aimee and the 2 dogs. I live with a dear friend and her family while my doggies are living with my mom 6 miles away.

I've been very, very sad about the loss of my 28-year relationship with Zack, but am trying to stay positive to the things that might come to me here, across the country.

It's a lot hotter here in Orlando than anything San Diego could give me.

I have to go to school for 3 years if I want to be a FL Licensed Midwife. Not sure that's going to happen. I want to be a Monitrice more than a Midwife, but still have to get licensed here to do that.

I'm exploring other options, including possibly working at Disney World again (a job I loved!). It would close a door on birth, but maybe I am due for a new season.

I'm becoming a SMART Recovery Facilitator (a secular AA/NA/OA sort of group) so I can bring SMART meetings to Orlando. SMART has become a very important part of my life.

It's been a relief to leave San Diego's midwifery community.

I get to see my dogs every day and take them to the dog park several times a week. They have kept me saner than anything else.

I also get to see my mom every day and she is a delight! She makes me laugh lots. I am glad I get to be here for her last years.

My girls pay for my membership to the Y and I go at least 3 times a week to ride the exercise bike. It isn't helping with my weight, but it should be doing something good, right?

I got to spend Christmas with my girls and grandbabies and it was a delight!

I'm selling my mother's Disney memorabilia for her on several Facebook Disney Selling sites. I'm meeting some cool people! Who knew there were such rabid pin collectors?!

I have something weird happening with my right groin/leg... I go for a sono next week to see what's up.

I have all my new docs set up here and things are good. I also have a great therapist who is a Mindfulness teacher. We have lots in common despite her being younger than my youngest child.

Zack and I remain good friends. He is someone I will always love; we just couldn't make the trans thing work. We, quite literally, grew apart. He will always be the great love of my life. *wiping tears*

I need/want to write more. So much is tenuous, I just don't know what to write yet. Will this remain a birth blog if I go work at Disney? Could I go to births on my days off? The way my leg feels, I am glad I am not on-call right now. But, I do miss birth.


More soon!


Doulas Get Together

I had a great time today! First, I went to a class on how to use a rebozo (long piece of cloth) in labor and birth then got to spend some time with five newish doulas at a local restaurant. You’d think, after all this time, I would have all the knowledge I’d need, but I’ve been taking classes and learning very cool things like how to give foot baths and how to “sift” a mom in early labor to help her relax. (Sifting is another word for jiggling a very little bit.) I loved the class today and met some really great women, some of went to eat with me after the class. 

I listened as they told their few birth stories, filled with excitement and joy, expressing the difficulties the moms and babies had and how they’d been called to two births at the same time. It reminded me of my early days, too! I remember how much I learned those first few years, how it seemed every birth had a complication I’d only read about and didn’t really feel equipped to attend to. But, the Universe had other ideas and there I was, with the baby with meconium, the mom with preeclampsia, the labor that was prodromal and the dad who was freaked out. And you know what? I did great with what was given me! And these women did the same thing that was given to them. It is the way we learn; trial by fire. 

I didn’t share a whole lot of my experience, but the women said they knew of my Facebook Page and my (poor neglected) blog. Made me feel good! 

I’m putting more than my toe into the doula community and enjoying it very much. I’m finding some cool women who agree to disagree with major topics such as circumcision and breastfeeding… and perhaps even with my belief that home birth midwives need more education and skills training? (The tipping point that scooted me out of the midwifery community 4 years ago.) I’m loving the doulas; they are great! 

And look! I even wrote a blog post about them! They even inspired me to write today. Who could ask for more?


Lilia's Birth Story (Brow Presentation)

"I think she'll be born next week," my doctor told me. At 39 weeks and 6 days pregnant, it wasn't what I was hoping to hear. I had stopped working the week before, both my parents had flown in from Hawaii, baby's room was clean and ready, and her newborn-sized onesies washed. My baby was prepared, too. Since week 20-something she had been in a head-down, anterior position.

To my surprise, I woke up the next morning, her due date, with bloody show. Not long after, I began to feel contractions. My husband and I began tracking them at 8:30 a.m. on December 6. At 11 a.m., we called our doctor to let her know they were consistently 10-12 minutes apart. I continued contracting into the afternoon, but life went on as normal. I understood that contractions could stop, so I didn't want to get too excited, but I asked my mom to take some pictures, just in case it was my last day being pregnant.

Around 6 p.m. Dr. G came by to see how I was doing. "You're at 1 cm," she said. "I'll be back later." From the beginning, I loved Dr. G's calm, confident nature. When my husband and I were window shopping for obstetricians, she was the first we met. I found her website when we were just a few weeks pregnant with the search terms "home birth Panama". In a country where the c-section rate in private hospitals is 8/10, I was determined to have a vaginal birth, and it seemed like a home birth was just the ticket. Dr. G was just the person for the job. Actually, she was the only person for the job. She and her husband are the only doctors in Panama who do home births.

At 11 p.m. Dr. G came back. "You're 6.5 cm. I'll set up the pool." I was elated. 6.5! That's practically 7! I'm almost there. When the pool was set up, Dr. G invited me in. I was in darkness, in my daughter's room, contracting in the warm water. The contractions were getting pretty intense. I loved the water, but I wanted to use the bathroom, then go to the bed, then back to the water, then use the bathroom again. In the living room, my mom and Dr. G, along with her husband, talked and looked at family photos. During a particularly intense contraction, I told them to shut up. For the most part, my husband and I were alone in our little girl's room, in the dark, waiting for her to come.

I was camped on the edge of the pool, arms hanging over the side, resting on my knees. When I got the urge to push, I told my husband, who alerted Dr. G. "Push if you want to push," she said. So I did. I pushed when I felt the urge to. I didn't feel like I was making any progress, so I thought that maybe I was misreading my body's cues. Still, I pushed when I felt the urge to. I pushed with my whole body.

Dr. G came to check me and said that there was something preventing me from being fully dilated, and that it was preventing my baby from being able to come down the birth canal. I'm actually not completely sure what she said, as Spanish is my second language and I was in labor, but that's what I understood. She finished breaking my water, which had partially broken while I was on the bed earlier.

Though I was not aware of the time, it seemed hours passed. The sun began to light up the room. "December 7th," I thought, "My daughter's birthday will be December 7th." Dr. G insisted that I drink some juice. "You need energy," she said, "Take a sip." I refused. "Take one sip. Now another. And another. OK, finish the cup now." I didn't want any of it. All I wanted was to finish the job. Dr. G was right, I lacked energy. But I did not lack determination.

Dr. G encouraged me to feel for my baby. "How many knuckles in?" she asked. "Two." After several pushes, we were still at two knuckles. What am I doing wrong, I wondered. I'm doing everything I can.

At the insistence of my mom, my husband Jose got in the pool with me. She had been gently suggesting this for the past half hour, but I did not want to move from hugging the side of the pool. Finally, I gave in. My tired body rested in the arms of my husband, who sat behind me. With each contraction we pushed together, his hands gripping my legs and giving me strength. Soon some black hair emerged. It was at this point that the pain of the contractions were matched by the pain of my daughter's head grinding my tailbone as it curled back inside me post-contraction. I don't know what was worse, the pain during a contraction or after a contraction.

I remember my contractions pausing for some time. When they came back, I pushed with everything I had while my cheerleaders coached me in English and Spanish. I was so caught up in pushing that I hadn't realized the progress that I had made. "Look down," my husband said, "Look at her face!" As soon as I looked down she was already swimming out of me like a little fish. Dr. G got her, unwrapped her umbilical cord from her waist and leg, and handed her to me.

Lilia Marie was born with her eyes wide open at 8:30 a.m. on December 7th. 7 lbs, 2 oz and 19 inches long.

I didn't think much of the unicorn shape of her head then. I knew babies' heads were funny-shaped when born, and I was more taken by her beautiful face, her precious hands, and her full head of hair than the shape of her head.

When Dr. G came back the following day to check on Lilia and me, she mentioned that the obstetrician books say Lilia's type of birth, brow presentation, is not possible vaginally. I didn't understand then what I understand now. The diagram below is helpful. The most common presentation is A. Lilia's brow presentation is illustrated in C.


I also did not understand how this would effect my recovery. Supposedly, a benefit of vaginal childbirth is a quicker, more easy recovery. I, however, could not stand up without immense pain for three weeks. It felt like a bulldozer had cleared a tunnel through my body, and when I nursed, I could feel my insides going back together. It was so painful I would often cry. At my six-week check-up an internal wound was still healing, so I was prescribed Sufrexal to help it along. My physical recovery took a toll on me emotionally as well, as I could not hold my daughter in a standing position for the first month of her life, and I felt that I could not adequately comfort her.


If You Have to Ask...

FACEBOOK!... the answer is TRANSPORT!

That is all.


Kristen's Uterine Rupture Story

In 2005 I delivered my first child, a son, via emergency c-section due to "non-reassuring tones".  I miscarried my second pregnancy at 10 weeks in 2009.  After infertility treatments, I became pregnant a third time in 2011.  My pregnancy was glorious, healthy, and I felt great throughout.  I was seen by a seasoned midwife at a highly respected practice that delivered at a large suburban hospital. My midwife was pushing for a vbac, but I was on the fence.  I told my midwife that I would not want to attempt a vbac if my baby was over 8 lbs, at which point she reassured me he wasn't (he was actually 9 lbs, 9 oz at birth). I think my instinct was telling me not to vbac, but I was being overwhelmingly told how much better for my baby a vbac would be.  Ultimately, I decided to let God/the Universe decide.  I prayed about it and said if I went into labor prior to Jan. 2, 2012 (the first date the hospital would allow an "elective" c-section due to the March of Dimes 39-week guideline), I would attempt a vbac.  If I did not go into labor prior to Jan. 2, I  decided I would do a RCS. 

My water broke around 1:00 AM on 12-31-11, as I was brushing my teeth before bed.  Because I was Group B Strep positive, we went right to the hospital so antibiotics could be administered.  I labored slowly, and around 7:00 AM began receiving Pitocin.  They continued to increase the amount of Pitocin and I began to have a lot of pain, so around 10:30 AM I asked to have a C/S.  The midwife talked me out of it, saying both the baby and I were doing well, and why would I want an unnecessary surgery.  She suggested I get an epidural and I remember saying, "but if something goes wrong I won't be able to feel it".  She assured me they were doing continual monitoring and all was well.  It will haunt me forever, but I agreed to continue laboring as well as to get the epidural. 

Around 3:30 PM on 12-31-11 is when I believe I ruptured.  I noticed I didn't have one big baby bump anymore, instead I had two smaller ones that were diagonal in my abdomen.  I pointed it out to the nurse but no one seemed worried.  Minutes later, I heard my son's heartbeat slow and not come back up.  My parents had just arrived, and at this point the midwife and several nurses came rushing in, only to realize I was bleeding heavily.  They rushed me to the OR for a c-section, but for reasons still unknown to me, no doctor showed up to perform the c-section for 45 minutes.  During that time, the midwife, nurses, and anesthesiologist simply had to stand there knowing my baby was most likely dead already.  When the doctor did show up, my son was found up in my abdomen, my cervix had also torn, and my catheter was filled with blood as my bladder had also been damaged.  The suction necessary to pull my son out was so strong, it lifted my body off the OR table.  When my son came out, my husband said my body fell back onto the table and I passed out. 

My son was blue and not breathing at birth.  He was resuscitated and put on life support, then sent to a NICU at a trauma center an hour away.  While initially there was some hope we would eventually bring our boy home, sadly his brain damage was too significant.  He went into cardiac arrest at five weeks old, and although he was again resuscitated, he suffered further brain damage and we had to remove his life support so he would not have to suffer anymore.  Of course, after watching my son's incredible suffering, I will always wish I had trusted my instincts and demanded the C/S when my son was still perfectly healthy.  Or refused Pitocin (didn't know then I could have said no), or not taken the epidural...   I am learning to live with the million "what if's" that I now have.


Anna's Uterine Rupture Story

On Christmas Day, my husband unwrapped my gift - six consecutive boxes to find, eventually,my positive pregnancy test. We were expecting our second baby the following August.  Through that winter, spring and finally summer, I had a perfect pregnancy. Even in the heat of a southernsummer, I loved being pregnant.  

Early on in my pregnancy, I read a newspaper article about a mom who had chosen to give birth at home after a previous c-section.  It sounded so different from the hospital c-section I’d experienced with our daughter who turned breech at 39 weeksThis mom described her birth as “empowering” and her story was so full of emotionWhat a relief it would be not to be separated from my 2 year old daughter and have her welcome her little brother as soon as he was born.  How comforting it would be to walk my own halls – or better yet, the garden – as my contractions progressed.  How nice it would be to not be caught on the hospital conveyer belt of pregnancies, but have a midwife who knew me and my family, attending.  I contacted the midwife mentioned in the story to see if she would be willing to have a patient over an hour away from her practice.  To my surprise she said yes, and our journey began. 

We took our preparations for our son’s birth seriously. We studied pain management techniques, I was active and did weekly yoga.  I found a local doula and signed up for childbirth preparation classes.  We also grappled with days of doubt.  We asked our midwife hard questions about recognizing problems before they became emergencies: How would we know if something wasn’t right? “I’ll know” she assured usAnd as a Certified Nurse Midwife with 10 years of hospital experience, as well as experience with hbacs, I expected her to know what she was doing, how to manage the risks and when to transfer to the hospital.

Finally, at 40 weeks and 2 days, we thought Christmas had finally arrived.  I woke up at 1am in intense pain, but figured I should try and rest for as long as I could.  There was no resting.  I called my midwife, barely able to talk through my contractions.  She was at another labor, but promised to send another midwife from her practice.  My nerves kicked in - this was not what we had planned. I remembered my husband predicting the midwife would not be there for us when I went into labor on the long drive up to one of the many appointments she had cancelled.

The sun rose.  The alternate midwife arrived.  The pain increased. I couldn’t move, I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t focus and around 7am said I needed a break.  I knew that was supposed to be a sign that my labor was transitioning, but I also knew that the pain I was experiencing did not feel like the pressure I expected; it was too raw.  I did not feel empowered, I felt vulnerable.  Nothing about this was “beautiful” or “healing.”  Hours had passed.  The water in the birthing pool had been warmed up again and again but was no longer offering much comfort. expressed my concern that I was experiencing the “wrong kind of pain.”  There was a strange popping sensation. The midwife had no answers for us.  My husband noticed that my abdomen looked asymmetrical and pulled our midwife aside to express his concern about my pain.  The midwife said everything was normal; he continued to encourage me accordingly.  For hours.  

I remember seeing a hummingbird at the window, hovering, curious over the roses my husband had put in the window for meThen, in one contraction my whole body suddenly felt like it was tearing apart. I thought my son was descending; in reality it was my uterus rupturingMy midwife tried to check my son’s heartbeat.  I could hear the faint dull, slow, thud.  60 beats per minute when it had been in the 130s.  And then the vomiting and shaking started.  I closed my eyes and did not open them – willing the world to go away.

After eight hours of labor there was nothing my midwife could do to save our son.  There was no operating room in my kitchen.  She only had a pediatric oxygen maskWe put in a 911 callimmediately but even with the EMS arriving within 10 minutes it was a further 15 before they had managed to get an IV in and we were even on the move to the hospital, each bump in the road causing all-consuming ripping pain.

By the time we reached the hospital by ambulance – under 8 miles away  Brody had no heart beat.  He was gone.  I prefer to think that he died when I felt him struggle upwards out of my uterus while we were still at home, than in the ambulance to the sound of my screams to get him out.  

I am lucky to be here after the volume of blood I lost.  Without the rapid transfer I would have bled out.  When my surgeon performed the emergency c-section I needed to deliver my dead baby even he was shocked.  My uterus was – in his words – shredded.  Brody was lodgedagainst my liver.  I had insufficient blood volume for anything other than general anaesthesia to work.

I will always regret the gamble I took with our son’s life.  If I had been in a hospital, continuous monitoring could have shown that Brody was experiencing trauma; that my contractions were not the right intensity given the pain I was experiencing; and my rupture might have been caught early enough to have given our son a fighting chance of survival.  Aultrasound later in my pregnancy would also have shown he was going to be big – 9lb 2oz – rather than the 7lb my midwives guesstimated.  An obstetrician might have raised concerns about the short time, just 10months, between my pregnancies, and warned me of the risks involved with being too far from an OR.  There’s a reason ACOG’s guidelines recommend hospitals who allow vbacs have an OR available and staffed 24 hours, 7 days a week.  I had come to believe in “trusting birth” and “trusting my body.”  But my body broke.

If we had been in a hospital I would probably not tell myself every day that not only did my choice to give birth at home result in the death of my baby, it deprived my husband of the gift of a first son, and took away my daughter’s chance to have the little brother she now asks to go rescue from heaven in a rocket ship.  We all want him back.

In one out of every two hundred vaginal births after caesarean, the mother ruptures.  But, I had a perfect pregnancy – why would I be that one?  The bigger risk – surely – was “unnecessary interventions” inevitably leading to a repeat c-section.  I did not know how quickly my baby could die.  I did not know that the hospital would be too far away to save Brody.  I did not know that I was gambling on my son’s life for the sake of an idyllic birth at home.  

I know there are lots of stories of mothers who have had a great experience birthing at home.  They were very, very fortunateI need you to hear my story: parents who suffer tragic HBACoutcomes do not tend to speak out because we know it was our choice. But, the absence of their voice should not give you the false impression that heartbreaking experiences like ours don’t happen.  They do.

My medical records state “13:15 client stable, holding baby”.  My warm, pink, perfect baby who quickly began to turn blue.  I stroked his soft cheek, willing him to come alive in my arms as thetears fell on his closed eyelids.  There was no magical fairytale ending to break the curse.  No true love’s kiss could make him breathe and let me look into his eyes.  My hummingbird had flown.  We love you Brody, I’m so sorry I let you down.  xxxx

“i carry your heart with me (i carry it in my heart).”  ee. cummings