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A client gave me a gardenia the other day. I love gardenias. They are so beautiful! Their scent, the thick white petals, the copious amount of blossoms on the bush… just lovely. I kept the flower next to me until it turned into a smooshed brown mass of deadness that no longer smelled sweet before throwing it out. Until then, though, I had to have smelled it a hundred or more times a day.

There was a time I was going to change my name to gardenia… lowercase g, no last name. I actually went by gardenia for about three years, determined to legally change my name once I’d finished midwifery school in 2002. I did worry about the difficulties of having only one name, telling people only a lowercase g and no last name, but I just loved gardenia so much it seemed worth it to me.

I hated my Barbara name in English. It was so old. Barbra. Ugh. Just so old sounding. I was named for my Nana, who I loved and who my mom adored and I knew if I changed my name it would break my mom’s heart, but I just really hated my name. And my middle name was even worse! Ellen. Blech! Now, Barbara in Spanish… that was nice. Savage. I liked that alright. But it didn’t have the same connotation in English. In English it meant old lady.

So, I was in midwifery school in El Paso, Texas where I spoke Spanish 99% of the time, even dreamt in Spanish, and was gardenia this and gardenia that. During one long labor, an older abuela took me aside and asked me if I knew what the gardenia was in Mexico and I said I didn’t. She whispered that it was the Mexican flower of death and I was mortified. What was I to do?

There really wasn’t anything to do but go back to Barbara which, suddenly didn’t sound so bad after all. Bárbara, the feral midwife… could I live with that? Better than gardenia, the midwife of death, right?

After that night, I never looked back and have always been Barbara… or rather, Barb. And as much as I didn’t like it before, I love it now!

Maybe I just needed to grow into it.


Gentle Grandmothering

As I approach my first completed year as a Nana, I have some thoughts about what it’s meant to me to be a hands-off grandmother. I was initially surprised when Meghann invited me to her birth and early postpartum period, thinking she would think I might meddle, but really glad she knew I wouldn’t. I ended up at her home for one week before the birth and five weeks after; it was perfect.

Meghann had some nursing challenges, some of which I was able to help with, others of which we needed others’ knowledge to solve. I didn’t feel any territorialism at all when she reached out to the Lactation Consultant or Pediatrician when the limits of my expertise had been exceeded, although I could see how other mothers, especially midwife/doula mothers could feel that way. I believe it takes a great deal of maturity that comes with years (and I have puh-lenty of years!) to be able to set aside that know-it-all belief and allow others in to help when their help is needed. If you as grandparent are able to do so at a younger age than I am, good on you, but I honestly believe I would not have been able to do so much younger than I am now.

When I was at Meghann’s those early weeks, I had my own room on my own side of the house and was careful not to overstep my boundaries, being where I was needed, going where I was asked. When things got harried, Meghann was texting me in the middle of the night and I was going to her to help her get latched on and make sure things were the way they were supposed to be, but otherwise, she and Brian were on their own, nursing, changing diapers, all the new parenting things… unless they needed extra help. I was there and more than glad to assist, but didn’t want to interrupt their parenting time; I know how precious it is.

What I did do was all the stuff that falls through the cracks. I changed the bed every day. I cleaned the bathroom twice a day. I made sure the trash was empty several times a day. I did the laundry continuously. When Meghann went to the bathroom, I straightened the area she was sitting/sleeping in in the living room. I made sure there were diapers for the baby in the area where she was. Brian was more in charge of food for her, but I would clean the dishes and kitchen when necessary.

By the time I left, they were pretty self-sufficient with everything I had been doing and I felt comfortable going. Of course, I wish I could have stayed longer, but I was glad Meghann and Brian were doing so well. They had transitioned to parenthood so beautifully.

While home, I would still get questions every once in awhile, but more likely, I would hear about how the new family was doing things. I remember hearing how they had read “Baby-Led Weaning” and were going to feed Gabriella that way instead of the La Leche League one food at a time way my kids had. It took a few minutes of “What?! You’re not doing it my way?” But, I listened to Meghann and read online about the method and was proud that I could grow and change even after all these years of something so new and different. When Gabby began eating the newfangled way and there were no untoward effects, I could breathe easy and chuckle inside that Meghann was, in fact, doing everything right. Still. Still doing everything right. She really is such a good mom. And I tell her as much as often as I can. I am so proud of her, listening to her instincts, learning new ways the way I did back when I was a new mom.

Recently, Meghann started Juicing and as I questioned her, we did this dance of my asking questions and she answering. I work hard to be respectful, not shoving her against the wall, forcing her to be defensive and angry, but giving her the space to explain what she is thinking and allowing her the time to let the story unfold. I could be snotty and judgmental and create a place of discomfort between us, but what would that serve? I want to keep things between us close and friendly. I have a vested interest in having things good so I can see my granddaughter often and in a positive environment. I don’t want my relationship with my daughter or my son-in-law to be negative or uncomfortable ever; I love them! And don’t I want to be nice and kind to those I love? Of course I do.

I’m about to visit again in a couple of weeks to be there for Gabriella’s first birthday and I want to make sure I don’t step on Meghann or Brian’s toes as far as parenting goes. I always want to defer to their wishes while sharing my ideas and thoughts along the way if they’re interested. One way I ask if they want to know my opinion is to say, “Oh, that’s new to me. We did it such-and-such a way” and leave it open to them to discuss it if they want to. If they don’t want to talk about it, we don’t. I don’t say, “Why don’t you do this?” or even, “Why don’t you try this?” because this is their baby and they get to raise Gabriella their way. I got to raise Meghann my way; now it’s their turn with their baby, no matter how much I might want to do it my way or might disagree with what they are doing. (Which I am not disagreeing with at all.)

There have been a couple of topics that needed to be discussed (usually mother/daughter topics) and I decided to email Meghann instead of talking over the phone and that worked great. Both of us being writers, it is a method of communication we’re comfortable with. Others might feel better talking on the phone, but email works for us.

What if I did ever step over the boundaries of being a too nosy grandma? Poking my business into theirs too much? I would hope Brian and Meghann would feel comfortable telling me, without hesitation, that I am offering advice where I wasn’t asked for any. Both my daughter and son-in-law are so kind and gentle they would never be rude, so I know they would do their best not to hurt my feelings, but I want them to know their family comes first, not my feelings. I’ve told them they can tell me anything at any time and I would be open to listening to what they had to say. I would hope they’d like to hear what a voice of experience has to say, too, but that ultimately, the choice is theirs and I am to understand that.

I think that this understanding right from the start makes things easier. There aren’t any hidden agendas or manipulative schemes between us. The clearer the communication, the better the relationship.

As I move towards the second year as Nana, I hope it goes just as smoothly as this first year did. I hope that Meghann feels as comfortable asking me questions about childrearing as she has and at the same time exhibiting her independence as a new mom as she does. She and Brian are amazing parents. They make great decisions together and I support them whenever I can. I’m just glad they support my place as maternal grandma. It’s a unique and wonderful place I wouldn’t trade for anything. 


Cesarean Scar: Emina's Story

My due date was April 26, 2012 but on the morning of April 20th, I woke up with contractions. What seemed like "fake" (braxton hicks) contractions, I was going to find out soon that they weren't fake. I waited an hour and they seemed to get worse. Finally I went to the restroom and saw that my mucus plug came out. When I saw that, I called my doctor and she advised me to come into her office right away and she would check me out. 

When I arrived to her office, she took me in right away. She checked me down there to see if I was dilating. She told me I was 2cm dilating and should go to the hospital now and register. I will never forget this day because not only was this my first child coming into the world but I was also terrified of giving birth. I was so out of it, that I ended up driving myself to the hospital, registering myself and walking myself upstairs to the maternity floor. I had already called my husband, my mother and father, my in-laws, my brother, my brother in law and sister in law... EVERYONE. They all yelled at me asking why I would drive myself to the hospital ( at the time I did not know why I did either ). 

I checked into my room at about 12:30pm, which was next door to a young women who I work with, that had given birth the day before (such a coincidence). She had given birth vaginally and explained how she was so sore down there. But she told me that she had gone 8cm without an epidural until she finally needed it. Also explained to me how the birth was not bad at all (her baby was 6lbs-ish). She calmed my nerves a bit but I was still so, so scared. 

Finally, after being in my room for 15 minutes, my mother arrived and she was in tears. She was excited and scared for me. She said she didn't like to see me in pain. My contractions were bad. They were 3-5 mins and they were painful. Within the next few hours I had my whole family in the room with me, while I was going through experiencing these painful contractions. I was walking around a lot, because I wanted the labour to go quickly. I was doing stretches and anything possible to get the birth going. 

After about 4-5 hours in my room, my doctor came in to check my status of the dilation. I was 4cm dilated and I was 60% effaced. I was still feeling these bad contractions but did not want an epidural until I was closer to about 8cm. Everyone was watching me in pain. Although I was in so much pain, I had a smile on my face the whole time. My family was making me laugh, walk, talk a lot, stretch out. It was a soothing experience to have everyone there. After another couple hours passed by, my doctor came to check on me and I was at 5cm dilated but still not effaced 100%. 

After an hour of being 5cm dilated, I couldn't take the pain anymore and my doctor suggested an epidural to try to get the birth process moving. I agreed to the epidural, even though I was also terrified of the epidural. I was shaking a lot when the anesthesiologist came in to give me the epidural. My husband was in the room with me and kept comforting me that I would be fine. They did a great job that I didn't feel anything when they stuck the needle in. It was like a tiny pinch and that was it. After the epidural, I felt GREAT! I felt so confident in giving birth. But, after a couple of hours on the epidural, the doctor had checked me again and said I didn't move from the 5cm and also my baby's heart rate was really high. She said she would give it another 30 mins and if nothing changed then we would have to take about other options. 

I felt my baby move A LOT, she was kicking like crazy. Everyone could see my stomach shifting a lot. I saw her foot prints a couple of times on my tummy, that’s how hard she was kicking. After 30-30 mins of waiting, the doctor checked again and of course I did not shift away from 5cm and at this point the head was basically stuck at my pelvic bone. The doctor said that the baby’s heart rate was getting really high, and my BP was getting really high, also the baby was basically stuck at my pelvic bone and if I gave birth vaginally, the baby would probably break my pelvic bone. So, she said I had no other choice but to have a C-section. When she told me I would have to have a c-section, tears poured down my eyes like a waterfall. Throughout the whole pregnancy, the thing I was most afraid of was having a C-section. My husband took my hand and told me everything was going to be fine, and that they wanted the baby to come out safely that's why I have to have a c-section. 

It felt like a knife went through my chest when they told me I had to have a c-section. My husband was so kind and loving. He encouraged me to go into the OR with a lot of confidence. When I got to the OR room, my hands were shaking uncontrollably. I was terrified. They prepped me up, cut me up and in came my husband. They said I would feel a lot of pressure but no pain. The process lasted pretty quickly and I felt EXTREME pressure, it was actually very painful for me. All of a sudden the doctor got the baby out and I didn't hear a cry, all I heard was,"OMG." When I screamed out," WHAT??? WHAT OMG??" The doctor said," Omg, the baby is HUGE."  Then I heard her cry. Everyone was cheering, my husband was in tears. I was crying and overwhelmed and didn't feel anything at that moment because I wanted to see my little ( or not so little ) baby. My husband came over with the baby and she was BEAUTIFUL. He said, "Babe, she is 10 pounds and 1 ounce." And I was shocked. I thought to myself OMG, no wonder she got stuck at the pelvic bone, she is a BIG, BIG baby. My whole family could not believe how huge she was. 

After staying in the recovery room, I finally got to hold my baby and kiss her. It was a surreal moment but honestly, I wouldn't change it for the world. Although I was disappointed that I hadn't given birth vaginally, I was extremely grateful that my baby came out safely and perfect. All I wanted was for my baby to be ok, whether it was vaginally or c-section, at the end of the day I was glad and never bitter about my c-section. 

When I touch my scar, I feel powerful. C-section is a major surgery and a birth at the same time. Although I am not fond of having a scar, it represents my baby and me. I was a strong women to be able to go through this birth, any way it happened. I am never bitter about it. I am more than thankful that my baby came into this world safely. Although I ended up going into Congestive Heart Failure 2-3 days after the c-section and ended up getting Post-partum cardiomyopathy, the experience was still great. I am thankful for life every day, especially my baby’s. My life is precious and every moment is a blessing to me. The fact that I can hold my baby and see her beautiful face every day is a gift of God. I thank God every day for my daughter and for my own life (since my own life hung on a very thin string). No matter how you give birth, be thankful for your baby and yourself. I love my scar, it’s a sign of strength. I love my baby, my life, my family and I love the fact that I can sit here and share this story with everyone. Never look down upon yourself, instead be grateful that your baby came into this world, which a lot of people take for granted. 

Hope you enjoyed my story and the birth of my beautiful little Ariana. God Bless!


Making a Hospital Birth Plan

Interestingly, I’ve been asked about this post several times in the last couple of months, so thought I’d re-post it. While it was originally written in 2008, very little has changed. I only removed the note about episiotomies since they really are done so infrequently now. If they are still done where you live, feel free to add a line about prefering to tear to an episiotomy or an episiotomy only for emergency reasons. Otherwise, I found it surprising how identical the plans were even four years apart, yet they really are the same.

I've also been asked if this can be shared in childbirth classes. I don't mind as long as you attribute it to me, please, with my blog's url, too. I'd also love to know if you're using this for your clients. And, to those that have, thanks for asking.

Birth Plans on the Internet are woefully out of date. So many "interventions" (and your avoidance of them) are routine they don't even require a mention on your paperwork. Feel free to delete any of the items on this list if it doesn't apply to you, but be very judicious when adding anything else.



My Birth Preferences List

I understand that labor and birth are unpredictable and ultimately want the health and safety of both the baby and I to take precedence. When possible, I request that procedures be explained thoroughly (benefits and risks) and also, when possible, I would like to be included in the decision-making process.

Below are items that are important to me. Your help with these is very much appreciated.

All of the requests are for a normal labor, birth and postpartum period.


- I would like to have as natural an experience as possible - freedom of movement, intermittent monitoring, a saline lock instead of an on-going IV and food and drink as tolerated.

- I prefer to bypass using the Pain Scale. If it is required for your job, please assign a number to me from your experience.

- Being in the hospital, I know pain medications are available. Please accept my request that medications not be offered to me. For personal reasons, I am striving for an unmedicated labor and delivery. If I desire medication or an epidural, I will be the first to ask for it!


- Please do not direct my pushing with counting or yelling "Push!" to me.

- I would like to be as active in the birth as possible, including bringing my baby up to my chest.


- I am not squeamish and would very much like to watch the baby be delivered as much as possible.

- Please use double-layer sutures when repairing my uterus.

- I admire Baby-Friendly Hospitals and would like to create that type of environment as much as possible. This includes having the baby skin-to-skin (as health permits, of course), keeping the mother-baby dyad together during the repair and recovery and encouraging unlimited breastfeeding, even during the initial recovery period.

- If my partner leaves the operating room with the baby, I would like to ask if my doula might step-in to help me during the repair.

- I would like one of my major support people to stay with me at all times in recovery.

Baby Care

- No Erythromycin eye ointment, please.

- No vitamin K injection (unless bruising or birth trauma occurs).

- No vaccinations are to be given at this time.

- We want to give our baby his/her first bath and understand you might have to wear gloves when handling the baby. This is an acceptable compromise to us.


There you have it! Simple and succinct. Keeping the Plan short increases the possibility that it will be read.

One of the issues that arises is when parents don't know why they are asking for certain things on a birth plan. I'm going to outline each item on the Birth Plan and explain why someone might choose to do (or not do) the procedure or intervention. I will also explain why I worded the item the way I did because I think it's important to know the reasoning behind the sentence structure as well as the reasoning for its inclusion.


- It might seem odd that I make one item filled with so many interventions, but declining/altering the procedures mentioned are very standard when a woman presents a birth plan to the hospital staff. I believe just dashing through them quickly, getting the "typical wants" out of the way, helps the staff to see that your next items will be different than the typical Internet birth plan template.

Asking for a saline lock lets the staff know you understand that progress in labor and delivery no longer includes "Hep"arin Locks, but they are saline locks nowadays.

- The Pain Scale is increasingly becoming a bone of contention with natural birthing women because with it comes the presentation (or encouragement) of medications and/or epidural for pain relief. The higher the number on the Pain Scale, the more insistent staff can get regarding accepting pain relief.

I suggest the nurse assign her own number based on observation because it is a requirement for hospitals to use the Pain Scale with patients. Here is what the Pain Scale looks like.

- Nurses tend to frown on women asking not to be offered pain medications. I believe it can be very uncomfortable for a nurse to see a woman in pain and not do something about it. The desire to help women is strong... and not being able to help - not being comfortable witnessing a woman without pain medication/an epidural - can be a very real cause of (di)stress in nursing staff.

In saying "For personal reasons..." there cannot be any sort of challenge regarding the request without stepping on a woman's feelings - and feelings are harder for people to trample than (what is perceived as) random wants.


- The tendency to holler "Push!" to a woman in second stage comes from when women were given a heck of a lot of medication and couldn't follow directions very well (back in the 40's. 50's and 60's) and the ritual has remained, most would say because women who have epidurals need direction to get the baby out. Many of us see the world of difference between giving direction and yelling. To me, the shouting becomes hysterical (not the funny kind) and sometimes filled with angry energy, exhorting the woman to try harder, "Push harder!" - as if she isn't doing a good enough job.

Even when women need to be directed in how to push, either for the baby's safety or because the woman is so numb she can't feel what she is doing, those around her can do this without the cheerleader effect so often found on labor and delivery floors. Asking politely in the birth plan lays out this request.

- Many Birth Plans will speak about being physically active and wanting to push in any position. Because that request is so common, I thought I would wrap that with the newer request for the woman herself to bring the baby up to her chest - to "help deliver the baby" if you will. If you don't want to help bring the baby up, just eliminate that part of the sentence, but if you want to have freedom of movement during second stage (pushing), I encourage leaving the first part in... and worded that way because "I want to be able to assume any position I want during pushing" will be frowned upon and discouraged - they hear that a lot. Worded differently, they will pay attention in a different way.


- It is very important, if you want to watch your baby delivered, to tell them you are not squeamish. If you are, DO NOT ASK FOR THIS ON YOUR LIST! The last thing they need is you to freak out or vomit in your incision, so think long and hard about watching your baby born. To be honest, being able to see much is rare because the incision is tucked under your belly. If they were willing to bring a mirror in, that would be an entirely different experience.

If your partner stands, they have a better chance of being able to watch the baby born. If the hospital is okay with photographs, before going into the operating room, ask if the person with you will be able to take a picture for you as the baby is born. Most will say no, but it is worth asking. I would highly suggest taking the camera into the operating room and when the doc says they are starting, ask again if you can take a picture of the delivery. Some nurses will say "No" whereas the doc will say, "Sure!"

When the baby comes to the mom, ask the anesthesiologist to take a picture of the three of you! See this picture taken by an anesthesiologist? It is priceless.

- This is actually a request that is often forgotten, so I really suggest this not only be on your plan, but also verbally stated as your surgery is beginning.

Having double-layer suture repair is often a requirement for future physicians and midwives when discussing Vaginal Birth After Cesarean (VBAC). If you remotely think you might have future children and want to try for a VBAC, make sure your uterus is closed with two rows of sutures.

- By mentioning Baby-Friendly hospitals (and if you don't know what one is, please read about them - start here), you express an understanding that there is another way of recovering from birth (including a cesarean) than removing the baby from his/her mother; you are letting them know you want mother-baby togetherness even if it might be inconvenient for the staff.

There will be the argument that the operating room is very cold, too cold for a naked baby, plus it isn't uncommon for a mom to be sedated post-birth, so holding a baby can be risky.

However, if you tell them, before the surgery, that you would like your healthy baby on your upper chest and breasts and be covered with the warm blankets (they have them in warmers), you will be sure to keep the baby warm and understand the need to do so. It is important to not say, "I want the baby on my stomach" because that isn't possible; you have an open wound there!

You can also tell the anesthesiologist you do not want to be sedated after the baby is born so you can spend time with him or her. You may have to remind him in the OR, too, so please be aware when you are in there. This is very challenging, especially if the cesarean is a surprise. But, keeping your wits about you will afford you many more of your desires than crying and complaining (about the pulling and tugging or the nausea). Know that strange sensations and nausea are common! Tell the anesthesiologist if you are nauseous, but understand they will give you something for it and it will probably sedate you somewhat. If this happens, someone else will have to hold the baby next to you instead of on you. This doesn't mean to just let yourself vomit (on the baby!) to avoid sedation, but that the plans might change if you get medication for nausea.

Many of these things are really great to discuss with your nurse ahead of time. Yes, you will be in labor, concentrating on that aspect. No, you won't want to talk about the "in case of" cesarean, but it really is good on three levels.

1. You will be letting your wishes known.

2. They will have a better understanding of who you are as a patient.

3. They will see you are a reasonable person who will allow the unfolding of your birth, vaginal or cesarean birth.

Number three can transform your labor experience. If the nurse sees you as willing to bend, they tend to bend a lot more, too.

- In most cases, once the baby is born, they are taken from the operating room and dad/partner goes with them to the Nursery. Moms are then left alone, usually sedated and go to the Recovery Room, also alone.

If women ask for a replacement person, usually the doula or grandparent, they will sometimes be permitted to have one. Operating Rooms are run by two people: the circulating nurse and the anesthesiologist. Both of these people will need to give permission to have another person in the OR. If they agree, that means that both support people will have to put the paper scrubs on, the funky hat and the booties. When the nurse comes in to give them to the dad/partner, make sure to let her know... the dad/partner will have to remind the nurse that so-and-so will also be going on after s/he leaves - "Could we have another set of scrubs for them, please?"

- Along these lines is asking that someone remain with you, even in the Recovery Room. By asking for someone "at all times," it encompasses the recovery period, too. It is the ultimate decision of the charge nurse in the Recovery Room, but if you are polite and respectful, they might break the rules if they have one that says "No one in the Recovery Room."

Sometimes, by having someone with you in the RR, you can also negotiate getting the baby to you to nurse. You can let the nurses know your support person will keep the baby safe and close and will hold the baby to the breast so mom can recover. The least amount of medication mom takes at this point, the less sleepy she will be and they will be more inclined to get you together with your baby.

I just had a mom who got out of recovery 30 minutes after her cesarean by moving her legs and then hips - that hospital's requirement for release from the RR. They did not permit her to be with her baby (dad stayed with her) and she wanted to nurse as soon as possible, so was determined to do whatever she needed to do to get together with him. If you want to leave the RR, ask what the requirements are and then do them!

When women have cesareans, because they are often either emergency or unplanned, it can be a time of bafflement and confusion. If you want to adhere to a prepared birth plan, you, the birthing woman, must keep your wits about you. I am not saying you aren't allowed to share your feelings of fear or disappointment, but I encourage you to try and put them aside (for the moment) for the sake of your birth plan/desires. The more calm and in control you are, the more likely you will be able to negotiate your wishes.

I know it seems the doula should be the one in control and to remind you of your wishes - and she can - but ultimately, it is the mother's behavior and words that direct the experience.

This is not a time to be demanding or harsh. (Actually, the more demanding you are in your wishes, the less likely you are to get them.) Be respectful and speak in a kind tone of voice.

(More on attitude and goals further down.)

Baby Care

- Erythromycin is used to help prevent Neonatal Opthalmia (Gonococcal and Chlamydial). Some families choose not to put the eye ointment in the baby's eyes

     1) Because they don't have gonorrhea or chlamydia

     2) They had a cesarean and the only way for the baby to contract neonatal opthalmia is through a vaginal birth

     3) Because they believe if the baby contracts an eye infection it can be treated then

     4) Because they feel it is invasive.

I encourage families to be truthful and honest with themselves when choosing eye ointment or not for their babies. Women have tested negative for gonorrhea and chlamydia, sometimes twice during the pregnancy, and their baby still had the very serious, often blinding, eye infection because their partners gave it to them after the testing period. Research and be able to clearly explain why you do not want the antibiotic in your baby's eyes.

- Vitamin K is used for the treatment and prevention of Hemorrhagic Disease of the Newborn (HDN), a possibly fatal condition that remains extremely controversial in its origin and treatment. I highly encourage you to read as much information as possible regarding HDN before making your decision. Be able to clearly explain why you do not want the injection given to your child.

Families might choose to avoid the Vitamin K:

1) Because there is a great deal of controversy about its usage

2) Because they had delayed cord clamping (which some research seems to demonstrate lowers or eliminates the risk of HDN)

3) Because they believe babies are not meant to have that much Vitamin K in their bodies; if they were, Nature would have given it to them.

Some reasons why a family might choose to administer the Vitamin K include:

1) Because there is bruising at birth (including hematomas, caputs, extreme molding)

2) Because there was an instrumental delivery (vacuum or forceps)

3) Because there was a traumatic birth (including a shoulder dystocia)

4) Because they are going to circumcise their boy or pierce their girl's ears before 8 days postpartum

5) Because the baby is going to the NICU and/or will have procedures that will break the skin and draw blood

Some families choose to give their babies oral Vitamin K. Some hospitals will do this and others will not. Read, ask and learn before you ask your hospital to do this.

- By saying "...at this time...." you are leaving the topic open for discussion and the staff might not be so antagonistic towards not giving your baby the Hepatitis B vaccine while in the hospital. I haven't seen nurses or doctors react strongly when clients refuse/decline the vaccine, but it certainly is possible to come across one.

This is another intervention you must be versed in so you can eloquently defend your decision not to vaccinate. If you are at risk for Hepatitis B, or if anyone that might come in contact with your baby is at risk, strongly consider your choice not to vaccinate. Be honest with yourself!

- Why on earth would the staff have to wear gloves to touch your baby? Because babies are considered "dirty" or "contaminated" if they have not been washed after the birth. They have your vaginal fluids, blood and possibly feces on them. If there was meconium, please strongly consider your choice not to bathe the baby. You, or whomever you designate, are always able to give your baby his/her first bath, whether in the hospital or at home. One major reason for wanting to bathe one's own baby is the ritual aspect of washing. The other major reason is parents tend to be much gentler than the nursing staff. It isn't uncommon for nurses to scrub the babies, especially their heads, with brushes to clean them; parents find this distressing.

Finishing Thoughts

I know this is your birth and you should be able to dictate the way it should go, but you are on the hospital's turf and you are choosing to birth in the hospital, so acknowledging and respecting the keepers of the kingdom (sugar) goes a lot further than defensiveness and anger (vinegar).

If you find your birth plan falling apart because of an unsympathetic nurse (as opposed to an unrealistic birth plan), you might ask to speak to the charge nurse and ask her for a more natural-oriented nurse. Natural-oriented nurses love couples with birth plans (or birth plan-type desires) and go out of their way to help a mom have a great experience.

If your plan is falling apart, even with a sympathetic nurse, you might re-examine what is going on with your birth. Has the normalcy changed? Did you ask for an epidural? (Which would require an IV and continuous monitoring.) Are you vomiting? (I believe you need food in that case, but in the hospital, an IV will be required.) Is your blood pressure going up? Is the baby's heart beat doing funky things? Is there meconium? Has there been no progress in many hours? Are you so tired you can barely see? Have you been whining (as opposed to vocalizing)? Are there people in the room you might wish were gone? Are you "performing" for someone in the room? (This is one of my favorite tricks and I have seen it happen several times, so it bears mentioning.) Has your doula been antagonistic and argumentative? Is your doula trying to direct the path of your birth?

Being honest about why a birth plan is unraveling can help you to re-group and either salvage what can be saved or to re-examine the plan with an objective eye. Of course, this is very challenging while you are in the middle of labor, but having supportive, not medically-antagonistic, support people can mean the difference between a labor and birth that fosters a feeling of success versus an experience that felt out of control and brings with it regret and sadness.

Be sure you even want to have a hospital birth plan. If you choose to create one and discuss it with your doctor/s and nurses, be judicious in what you request.

The goal of a birth plan is to individualize your care, to be seen as a woman with wishes and desires beyond the standard hospital experience. It really is important to remember, however, that you are birthing in a hospital and you will not create a homebirth experience there. If you want a homebirth, have one! If you are birthing in the hospital, know you will be compromising some of your wants while working to keep others; it's the way of hospital birth.  

When you are writing your birth plan, keep it realistic. You and your birth will greatly benefit!


Shifting from Pro-UC to Anti-UC

I was asked how I came to be so against Unassisted (Child)Birth (UC) when I had had a UC for one of my own births. If you’ve read me for awhile, you get the gist of it, but I don’t think I have any one post chronicling the path. Let me see if I can outline it here.

When I had Tristan (in 1982), I had a typical hospital birth with Demerol for pain (epidurals weren’t an option) and a mediolateral episiotomy. At the time, I loved his birth! I loved it so much I wrote letters to the doctor, nurses and hospital President thanking them for such an awesome experience. I didn’t know any better.

Then we moved to Tacoma, Washington and, pregnant with Meghann, I found a Bradley instructor who was also a La Leche League leader and prenatal exercise teacher… Marie Foxton. She was amazing! I glommed onto everything she said, reading anything she offered voraciously. Included in the reading material were newsletters (The New Nativity) from Marilyn Moran, the American mother of UCs. Birth and the Dialogue of Love was Marilyn’s book about husband and wife birthing. Her spin on UCs was that only husbands should be with the woman, no doulas, no friends, no kids; just the man you made the baby with. (Even UCs can have fringe elements!) The idea resonated with me perfectly and I set out to have a, what was called then, Do It Yourself (DiTY) birth. I was supposed to have my baby at the military hospital at Ft. Lewis (Madigan) and continued with prenatal care there. Standing between sheeple and birth anarchist, I had my membranes stripped without my permission (unless taking my pants off designated consent) and contracted for many hours before active labor really kicked in. Not one to just hang out with one man, I’d invited several people to the birth, too. One, Marie’s daughter who took pictures of the event (you can see them here in Meghann’s UC Birth Story) and the other two friends from LLL and my exercise class. Both women had newer babies they brought to the birth as well.

Over the years, I’ve had judgment saying I didn’t really have a UC because there were other people there. That they influenced me and didn’t allow me to listen to my own instincts, which, by the way, would have led me to the hospital. But it was a UC; there was no medical/midwifery provider there. No one listened to fetal heart tones. No vaginal exams. No blood pressure taken. No thought about the baby’s journey, just my own. When I hear UCers talk about their reasons for wanting to have that type of birth, it is rare that anyone even mentions the baby, especially the safety of the baby. They might say they don’t want the baby poked and prodded or they don’t want the baby taken away from them, but those aren’t safety concerns; they’re inconveniences. No one says, “I’m doing this because I don’t want anyone there because I don’t want any neonatal resuscitation or medications for hemorrhage." They honestly don’t believe they will need such things or they will have time to get help if they need it. They are wrong.

Reading Meghann’s birth story, you can see that she was a shoulder dystocia and nearly died. Had I had a midwife there, we wouldn’t have had to call EMS and the transition after birth would have been much more fluid and gentle. Even still, I thought the birth was awesome for many years.

This is where the question comes in: What changed my mind?

Time, distance and experience. When I saw a mother die in 1987, that was a huge sobering experience that profoundly affected my understanding of mortality in birth, both maternal and neonatal. After that, I knew it would be many more years before I was ready to be a midwife. In fact, when I was finally licensed in 2005, my reason for not becoming licensed sooner (despite being in birth work since 1983) was that I had not been spiritually or emotionally mature enough to take two lives in my hands. I wonder if we ever really are.

When I had my UC, I thought I was extremely knowledgeable, having read so many natural birthing books including Spiritual Midwifery and Oxhorn-Foote’s Human Labor & Birth. I studied the second half of Spiritual Midwifery (the technical parts) more than I read the first half with stories. I really did think I knew a lot. But, through the years as a doula, then attending Casa de Nacimiento in 1993, it slowly dawned on me how little I really knew. While I was still very much of the belief that women needed to be protected by their doulas and partners and that technology was mostly out-of-place, I saw experiences in the hospital and birth center that technology never caused. It was clear that sometimes, shit just happened in birth, even when it was left alone… sometimes, because it was left alone.

In 2003 (or so), I started writing an updated Emergency Childbirth for UCers, a manual that talked about what to do with emergencies when alone, whether accidently or on purpose. I wanted to market it to those who might get stuck at home in snowstorms or for after an earthquake and submitted chapters, but no one bit.

In 2005, I helped put on a conference with the California Association of Midwives, International Cesarean Awareness Network and Birth Resource Network and became a speaker for a workshop on UCs. (I can’t remember the name I gave it, sorry.) I loved the workshop and really felt I gave great information about how to overcome emergencies during an Unassisted Birth. I talked about shoulder dystocia, hemorrhage and surprise breech among other less emergent issues. I talked about what to do with tears and how to get a birth certificate as well. After the presentation, I was talking with the participants and one very pregnant woman came up to me and said she was going to UC, but wanted to know if she needed anything, could she call me… like for suturing. Absolutely! I would be more than glad to offer whatever I can, even if it’s just phone help. She thanked me and then we moved on with the rest of the conference.

A few months later, there was a buzz in the community about a UC death, the baby died during a shoulder dystocia. Immediately, I thought about the woman at the conference and wondered if it was her. It was. A few months after hearing about the birth/death, the woman contacted me and we began a several week processing of her experience. (I have permission to talk about this.) This mom was as connected to her body and fearless as anyone I’d ever met; it was stunning she lost her 8-pound baby during a shoulder dystocia. While we talked, she off-handedly said, “Barbara, I did everything you said to do, but my baby still died.” And it was in that second that I realized what I said and did as a midwife could make the difference between life and death… even if I wasn’t at the birth. She meant nothing unkind, no blaming or anything, but I took what she said and beat myself up for years, worried I’d done or said something that encouraged her to go through with the UC. I know intellectually that she made her own decision and that she was going to UC no matter if we’d ever met or not, but maybe what I said bolstered her belief that she could handle any complication. I now feel I gave completely false hope that complications could be handled alone, without medical or midwifery assistance. My heart still aches about the lost baby.

Other parts about that birth come into play, too, because the hospital didn’t treat the death with all the gentleness they should have. Mom never got a photo of her baby, no lock of hair, no blanket… nothing. She can’t remember what he looked like when he was born because they didn’t respect the protocol of what to do when a baby dies. We’ll never know if she was punished because of the UC, but I still cry that she never got a picture of her precious son.

So, after this experience, I did a 180° change.

Shortly after, a dear Netfriend also lost her baby during a UC, a cord prolapse in second stage that was mismanaged by the 911 operator. Had a midwife been there, the baby would, almost certainly, have been alive.

I got my midwifery license in 2005 and worked hard to be a midwife for as many on the fringe as possible. I met a woman at an ICAN meeting who was going to UC and I begged her to please let me attend. A horrific shoulder dystocia of an 11+ pound VBAC baby and subsequent hemorrhage shook all of us up so much, my anti-UC stance was solidified. Every one of us, including the mother, knows if we’d have not been there, both mother and baby would probably not be here. Shook me to the core; I still have nightmares about that birth.

Earlier, before the conference, I’d become Netfriends with Janet Fraser. I was incredibly distressed to learn she lost her baby during her UC. I was also angry as hell. I wrote a piece called “An Open Letter to Janet Fraser” that was harsh and extremely angry. A few years later, I removed it and apologized for the crudeness of my words. I still feel angry that she lost a baby that didn’t need to die because of dogma.

So, there you have it; my transformation from pro-UC to anti-UC. Believe me, I understand that some women have limited to no choices about some aspects of their births, whether they are VBACs or breeches or twins or midwifery isn’t legal or there are no midwives in the area, but I feel so strongly that women should have an attendant that if there is no way to have a midwife (or doctor) at the home for the birth, they need to be in the hospital. I know that seems mean, but it’s far worse to offer condolences because of a dead baby.



CPMs, Don't Read This!

You don’t have to read this because you’re not going to respond anyway, right? You’re not going to give me the time of day, not going to acknowledge that you even read my blog anymore, right? Well, now that I have your attention.

Your silent treatment tactics are not going to work. I will not be quiet about what I know about our “profession.” I will keep enlightening people as to the inner goings on and the mindset of the majority of CPMs/DEMs. And your thinking you can freeze me out with dis-information is incorrect; there are puhLENTY of apprentices and a few CPMs who quietly validate and verify where you’re coming from and going to. I speak the truth and that scares the shit out of you.

So, you can stay silent, but I will not. I have begun a letter-writing campaign to the legislators who have signed on to support the bills that would legalize CPMs in each of the states. I am letting them know there is another side to the story they’re being sold. I am not alone in my campaign.

Until you are able to have a healthy discourse about your behaviors and beliefs, the profession of CPMs will stay stuck in this un-professional, coffee-klatch, secret society style of presenting itself. Buck up and take some responsibility for your beliefs and actions. Only then will we really them be professional.


Succinct Reasons CPMs/DEMs Need to Get Their Act Together

Before I begin, I feel it's really important to say I am not anti-midwife, not even anti-CPM. I am against the way things are at the moment and am for increasing the standards for all CPMs/DEMs and believe it will only help home birth in the United States. I felt I needed to clarify before you started this post.

Sara Larane Savel, answering a thread about Michigan’s introduction of Senate Bill 1208 which would, among other things,  limit midwives to those that are Registered Nurses first, not permit breech births or other complicated cases out of hospital and require them to carry malpractice insurance, created this piece she calls “Midwives: Bringing it On Themselves.” I rarely quote entire posts, but this was so spot on, I can’t help but write it all out for you here. I’m going to interject between her points. She says:

“As a Michigan tax payer, I support strict regulation of homebirth midwives if they are to receive Medicaid reimbursement and be covered by insurance. The truth of the matter is that the midwifery movement has brought this situation on themselves.

Sara was once an avid home birth advocate, in her words, “Before I got pregnant and had a baby, I was convinced that I was going to have an all natural midwife assisted birth. I knew lots of women who successfully homebirthed with lay midwives, and was close to a retired DEM. I knew all the catchphrases about birth being a normal event, about doctors being cut happy, and rambled on about the Dutch ad nauseum.” Like me, she became disillusioned by the Natural Birth Community (NBC) and has chosen to speak out about her discoveries. Her list of reasons CPMs/DEMs are in such negative light right now includes:

  1. Not transferring high risk clients to obstetrical care.

This happens all the time and is something I’ve done (not done) myself. I attended a twin home birth and the births of women with very large babies. It took a really out-of-range woman to get herself risked out. I’ve watched as midwives have taken and kept high risk women over and over again.

     2.   Describing many high risk conditions as "variations of normal" in order to promote an agenda that all birth is "as safe as life gets" regardless of the medical needs of individual mothers and babies.

Exactly. Saying that breeches and twins are “variations of normal” is absurd. Breeches and twins come with unique sets of complications that are anything but “normal.”

    3.   Refusing to set concrete and consistent educational standards for classroom and clinical training.

This has to be one of the most confounding parts of CPMs… why they can’t come up with standardized education requirements is baffling.

     4.   Refusing to require hands on clinical training in emergency births.

While there is some hands-on training, there isn’t nearly enough. I believe there should be some rehearsing at each monthly Peer Review or more frequently if your Peer Reviews are further apart. I believe different groups of midwives and students should work with each other in these scenarios so each woman gets an idea of how the other person works during an emergency because we never know who we might end up with at a birth. However, the midwives/apprentices that work together the most should practice so much each knows the others’ body memories and actions without thinking. I believe these scenarios should include shoulder dystocias, surprise breeches and twins (including calling 911!), postpartum hemorrhage, neonatal resuscitation, the umbilical cord falling off, a partial release of the placenta, placental fragments still inside the mom, mom freaking out, TTN, fetal distress, hypoglycemia in the newborn, calling EMS and role playing that scenario as well as giving report to EMS and RNs and OBs at the hospital. (I’m sure there are more I’m missing. But the Big Three [PPH, NR and shoulder dystocia] are often the only ones addressed. That has to end.) I believe the more experienced midwives should lead the charge to educate the less-experienced women and insist on these scenarios any time midwives, apprentices and students are in a group together, even if it is a social setting. Spend 20-30 minutes before or after a gathering to practice some scenario. In my experience and in talking to midwives, students and apprentices around the country, this aspect of midwifery care is sorely lacking.

     5.   Fighting every attempt to hold midwives accountable.

This is confounding! When a midwife does something wrong, for goodness sake, instead of holding a rally for her, hold her accountable via Peer Review and legally if necessary. What is with supporting all midwives merely because “there but for the grace of god go I”? It’s ridiculous and extremely unfair to the women who lose their babies or have their child damaged by an inept midwife… even if it was an accident. Sure, accidents happen, but we hold OBs accountable for accidents. Why aren’t we doing the same for midwives?

     6.   Fighting every attempt to regulate midwives.

Another confounding aspect of CPMs, insisting that all midwives receive the same education and skills training via the same mechanisms. It does suck there aren’t schools around the US for women to attend in person, but at least the ones that are out there could be similar in their classes and information imparted. That CPMs are permitted to take classes via mail from a variety of schools is just weird. At the least, they could all be MEAC-accredited schools, even though MEAC isn’t the be all and end all for the education of midwives in America.

     7.   Unconditional support for midwives under investigation or on trial when a baby dies. Creating a culture of animosity against mothers who speak out against dangerous midwives.

Mentioned above. And it is just awful mothers who’ve lost babies in home births are made to feel like crap for speaking out. We expect and encourage women to speak out about their hospital births… usually in the negative to validate the home birth culture… but any time a mom speaks negatively about home births, she is suspect and considered a troll or one of Dr. Amy’s minions. That has got to stop! Women who’ve suffered through their home birth experiences have every right to speak up just like women who’ve suffered hospital birth experiences. We would never consider silencing a woman telling her hospital trauma story. Why do we do that with our troubled/pained home birth mamas? It’s simply not fair.

     8.   Not speaking out against dangerous midwives. There is an intrinsic code of silence in the midwifery community. Even when they think a midwife is at fault, they will stand in solidarity with her because they mistakenly believe that prosecuting dangerous killer midwives in some kind of medieval persecution. The concept of midwifery is more important than ethics, safety, integrity, or human beings.

Again, mentioned above and agree 100%. I do think a large part is the “there but for the grace of god go I” mentality, but midwifery is still seen as a calling and with that brings an entire (often unspoken) spiritual aspect to the profession and it seems like heresy to speak out against the women who are a part of the group. It is disgusting to me how dangerous midwives are spoken about in behind closed doors yet are allowed to continue their path of destruction with women and babies. What about the protection of our clients? Don’t they deserve to know who is and isn’t operating within the standards of care and who flagrantly flaunts the boundaries of safety? Isn’t there a space between lying and slander? I believe there has to be.

     9.   Double standards:

These are brilliant.

-         Saying that birth is as safe as life gets, and then switching to the statement that birth is inherently risky when something goes wrong.

-         Blaming mothers for not doing "research" or "trusting birth" when a midwife fails to do her job.

-         Using scare tactics to keep women from going to the hospital or seeking obstetrical care, then blaming the mother for not transferring when something goes wrong.

-         Telling women that "babies die in hospitals too" when it is actually a midwife error that caused a homebirth loss, and had the mother been in the hospital the death would likely have been prevented because of the availability of technology.

-         Wanting to be considered "professional" birth attendants, yet refusing to hold to consistent standards of education, scope of practice, oversight, regulation, and ethics.

-         Wanting to receive Medicaid and insurance reimbursements but refusing to hold liability insurance.

-         Saying they are not health care providers and do not practice medicine, yet want Medicaid reimbursement.

-         Claiming to support women yet abandoning them if they speak out against dangerous midwives.”

I couldn’t have said this better myself.

Sometimes things we write take on a life of their own. Sara told me she scribbled these words down in a 15 minute break while her three-year old was watching Bob the Builder. Inspired, Sara… absolutely inspired. I wish I’d have said these words myself. Thank you for allowing me to share them here.


Sarah's GREAT News!

I always love stories about babies and mamas, but this story of survival brought tears to my eyes. You go, Sarah!

"Good News for you, Barb.

"I guess it isn't hot off the press, but it's still good. I left my abusive ex. I am safe. I'm not being beaten or forced into nonconsensual encounters, intimidated, ruled by fear, told I'm ugly and worthless and unable to do anything well. Not anymore.

"And I remarried. We have a relationship dynamic that brings out the best in both of us, and we are able to communicate about anything and everything without being judged. I'm working on getting a clinical doctorate now, and am encouraged by my SO at every turn. We share responsibilities with the kids, pets, housework, garden. Here, there is respect, equality, and love. I am blessed.

"And it is good."

You are blessed, indeed, but you have the credit for your blessings. Embrace every one of them.


Radical Doula’s RHReality Check Article

Miriam Perez, whom I adore, wrote a piece July 17, 2012 entitled “Is it Safe? Asking the Wrong Question in the Home Birth Debate” wherein her contention isn’t that home birth is the issue, but that babies die in the hospital and that is where our focus should be. It’s surprising that Miriam would use the fetal death rate when, in fact, it’s the perinatal death rate that should be being looked at. The fetal death rate measures deaths starting at 20 weeks of gestation and ends at birth, with a stillbirth, whereas the perinatal death rate begins at 20 weeks and ends one to four weeks (depending on source) postpartum. Looking at this, you can see why, without batting an eye, why hospital births have many more deaths than at home; they include deaths before 37 weeks, which is when a midwife would typically begin attending the births. Let’s look at births in the hospital of normal, full-term babies and compare those to home births and see, use the ratio keeping them even and see who has the lower death rate. It’s unlikely anyone will be able to do this, but this would be the way to measure whose perinatal death rate is larger.

Miriam talks about the cesarean crisis and I agree the rate of cesarean sections is far too high, but she quotes the World Health Organization’s recommended rate of 15%, but neglects to mention WHO dropped that statement in June 2010, that statement saying there was no exact number that dictates what the percentage of cesareans should be.

Where we agree is that hospital standards need examining and revising, birth in the hospital should be civil and respectful (which, by the way, I see happening more and more as the years go by) and that those that make mistakes need to be held accountable. She mentions that deaths and accidents are hidden from view in the hospital, but that isn’t my experience. Families readily sue OBs and nurses, whereas that possibility isn’t available to those birthing at home. The most a mourning home birth family can do is go to the press and express themselves there. I believe that’s why it seems we hear more about home birth deaths than hospital ones.

Looking at the way hospitals operate is important, but for those of us who are immersed in the natural, home birth communities, it is those births that deserve our attention right now. Let’s get the non-nurse midwives more education and skills training as well as reign in the risks they/we take and lower our own perinatal death and complication rates. Then we can more evenly review what happens in the hospital and perhaps get that required-for-safety collaboration with the medical system.

I, for one, want it all.


Vanessa's Good News!

I love this one! Good job, Vanessa.

"My first baby was a homebirth.

"After reading all your thoughts on the CPM certification, I feared that as a young mom I had been naive and foolish. Did I choose my midwife wisely? So I decided to take a chance and google her (it has been many years and several babies since we last met, we both have moved to different states.)

"The first site was listed under her name and was a 'warning' site for moms and dads to avoid her. My heart sank. Then I read the site more carefully -- turns out this family was flaming mad because after 8 months of care she dropped them because the pregnant mother, who was older for having her first child, was having protein in her urine and high blood pressure. After trying diet and herbs, it didn't help, so my old midwife refused to continue care and sent them on to an OB and the women 'had' to have a hospital birth.

"YAY! I felt happy and proud. I really did try to research a lot before hiring her -- she had the CPM and LDEM certifications and had worked as an OB tech in a big area hospital. She did a lot of continuing education and gave us a huge binder of info when we signed on for our birth. I'm so glad to hear she is living up to the promises she made - to be a 'low risk' midwife who cares for mothers and babies more than her own reputation."


Sara's Good News

"My good news is that my son born on March 19th is doing awesome :) Like another poster, he is almost 21 pounds and 26 inches long. He was born at home after a quick easy labor weighing 7.4, so he's come a long way in such a short amount of time!"

Love it! Thanks so much for sharing with us, Sara.


Kendra Henry's Good News

Keep the good news coming!

Kendra says:

"I signed up for Certified Lactation Counselor training for this fall through the WIC office I work at. I can't believe it, but I've been there a whole year as a Breastfeeding Peer Counselor!

"I'm currently trying to get a mom's group, car seat and childbirth classes added to our breastfeeding class line up,  too. Not to mention a huge community world breastfeeding week picnic to get some positive spin in the community.




Another good news story!

Johanna Holmes says:

"Philip, Mr. 10 lb 8 oz Leap Day baby, went to the doctor and is now coming in at 20 lbs 13 oz and is 28 1/2 inches tall (8 inches in 4 months?!?) at all of 4 months old.  He's wearing size 24 month outfits.  No oversupply issues, he's not even nursing between 10pm and 6am.  Here's a comparison shot with his almost 4 year old brother."

Love it!



Georgia's Nursing

I asked for good news and people are taking it to heart! Here's Mary J. Blakley's good news for us to read.

"I gave birth to a beautiful baby girl on December 29th, and saw two midwives for all of my care.  I had planned a homebirth but had to transfer to the hospital due to meconium in the waters,
and you know what?  I love the fact that Ontario has very strict guidelines for who can and cannot homebirth, along with reasons for transfer.  Was my birth everything I had wanted?  No, but that's okay.  I was well-respected and supported in the hospital, and our community midwives are well-integrated into the Ontario health care system (some places are still working out the kinks, but I felt my local hospital created a wonderful cooperative team environment
for midwives, OBs, nurses, and GPs).

"My good news is that my daughter is healthy, happy, and HUGE, and we recently celebrated the milestone of exclusively breastfeeding for her first six months of life.  It was a lot of work and involved so much support from so many people and resources, but I am thrilled that we accomplished this goal.  Georgia recently started solids, and does not appear to enjoy sweet potato.  I think my breasts are her favourite thing in the world."

Wonderful Mary! Congratulations to all of you.


Hormonal Menopause

I know this isn’t birthy information, but is women’s health and is me, so thought I’d share anyway.

I don’t know lots about menopause, just that I’m there not having had a period for over two years. I just had a vaginal ultrasound (consensual) and the lining of my uterus is thin, as thin as a woman in menopause, so I’m officially there. Well, have officially been there for awhile, but reaffirmed now. I mention about not knowing a lot because it wasn’t until recently that I learned of the intense hormonal depression many women entering menopause experience, my own depression perhaps having another explanation besides (or in addition to) the life changes I’ve been experiencing.

I was on progesterone for awhile, helping to take care of hot flashes and night sweats, but my newest care provider was concerned about the progesterone and felt I should be on estrogen instead, or at least with the progesterone. But in 2007, I had a Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) and blood clot from ankle to groin and estrogen is contraindicated in women who’ve had a DVT. I was almost completely bedridden when I had the DVT, so the provider (a Nurse Practitioner) sent me to a GYN for a second opinion. The GYN said no way on the estrogen and put me back on progesterone, again for the hot flashes and night sweats. They suck, by the way. Nothing like having to lay down towels on the wet bed just to finish sleeping.

I off-handedly mentioned my lowered sex drive and that I’d love to have some help with it and she easily prescribed testosterone cream. Wow! It had to be compounded and my insurance didn’t pay for it, but the container is enough for 4 months and cost a mere $28 ($7 a month!). It’s in a little deodorant looking vial and I make one rotation of the bottom and a little squirt of cream oozes out the top. I then rub it in a hairless part of my body. At first, I tried under the top part of my flappy underarms (not where deodorant goes), but have since changed to the inside of my right elbow. I have to be very careful with babies and moms and only hold babies on my left side, hence putting it on my right side. I’ve only used it for a few days and nothing so far, but I’ll report back if my sex drive, fantasies and orgasms increase. laughing I know you can hardly wait to hear.

It’s kind of weird, taking hormones. The hot flashes and night sweats have lessened, so that’s good, but I can’t help but wonder what all these hormones are doing to the rest of my body. Interestingly, the results are more important than long-term considerations. Clearly, I’m a want-it-done-NOW kind of person.

Okay, time to put my cream on. Later!


How to Put Twins in a Moby Wrap

Here's some good news!


Good News, Anyone?

I get sent all sorts of stories and newsbits, but they are overwhelmingly not the happiest pieces of information. I would love it if people sent me some great things. Anyone?


Biter Death?

I’ve had ten people call/email/text me telling me that Dr. Biter (formerly, Dr. Wonderful) had a baby die in a home birth less than two weeks ago. I tried to wait until it made the papers (a couple said they were calling them), but I figured when it got to ten, several from very reliable sources, I could write about it and it wouldn’t sound like a crazy rumor. I’ve been told some of the facts, but those aren’t verifiable yet, so more information when I know for sure.


Binary Parenting

There’ve been discussions about raising children in a gender-free or gender-neutral environment, the most familiar being Storm, a baby being raised without the sex characteristics being publicized or known even amongst the closest of relatives. Before Storm was Pop, a Swedish child being raised the same way, all pronouns being gender-free. This must get extremely difficult, especially when there are groups who feel the same way, but there’s the Egalia Preschool in Sweden (“Sweden’s ‘gender neutral pre-school”) where they try to have balance in everything gender-oriented. Kids are called by their names, “friends” or using the newish gender-neutral Finnish word “hen.” I’ve not heard of any schools trying this here in the United States, but can certainly see it happening in the next few years.

Besides the parents making a choice not to disclose gender, there’s a movement that insists people might not even be one gender or another. The belief that there are only two genders is a Gender Binary System. Someone who has the sex characteristics of one sex (male or female), but the brain of the other sex is considered Trans* (the asterisk replaces the modifier of choice for individuals… i.e. Transgender or Transsexual). However, most trans*folks identify with the Gender Binary System. Those that do not are considered Gender Variant… not feeling or acting either male or female. In fact, there are some gender variants that don’t even use male or female pronouns, the common descriptors being them, they or their even when being singularly addressed. It’s getting confusing out there! (In writing, the gender-free pronouns tend to be sie or zie instead of he and she, and hir instead of him and her.)

In talking to Zack (my transsexual spouse), I asked about his childhood as a girl. He had an older brother and Zack (then Sarah) coveted his brother’s toys and pastimes. Many times, even in the very progressive household he lived in, he was pushed towards female things from toys to clothes. I wondered about other someday-trans* kids and how to help them have the most well-adjusted growing up time, what would Zack have changed (besides transitioning pre-puberty) to make things easier… and what are his thoughts on raising kids gender-free. He told me it would be awesome if kids were offered toys, books, clothes, etc. that were both genders and that any choice would be acceptable. This would be easier at home than out, especially for little boys who chose “girl” things. But, if there was a way to do so, this is how Zack said kids would be able to express themselves the best, as long as all choices were welcomed.

Z did look at me sternly and ask, “You aren’t suggesting kids be raised gender-variant/gender-neutral, are you?” I asked him why, what were his thoughts. He said this is a binary world and as hard as the them, they, theirs try to force people to acknowledge a third (fourth, fifth, etc.) gender, it is unlikely that will ever happen. He said he would imagine children not raised binary would be so confused as to not know where they fit in in our culture.

It sounds funny, a transguy talking about conforming to society’s expectations, but in order to not be humiliated in school, to be able to get a job, to not be continually angry (as so many them, they, theirs are), living in the binary world just makes sense.

I wonder what’s going to happen to Pop and Storm as they get older. Is their pronoun going to be them, they, their?

What are your thoughts? How are you raising your kids?


Cesarean Scar: Star

I am the biggest klutz on Earth. I can’t walk and chew gum at the same time. It’s pretty bad. Somehow, though, I had managed to make it to the ripe old age of 23 with no visible scars and no broken bones or surgeries. This was either through the grace of some higher power or because I never participate in sports. 

And then I got pregnant. I spent 40 weeks deciding that I was going to have a non-medicated hospital birth. My provider was onboard. My then-husband was on board. Everything was good. 

I wound up being induced due to some complications, and I walked around, and I used a birth ball, and everything was excellent.  Except my body did not cooperate. I never dilated past a 2. My ob told me she advised a c-section, and I cried. Big, huge tears. She sat on the bed next to me and hugged me and then gave me a few minutes to think about it. We went in the operating room, and I was scared. I remember telling my husband I didn’t want to do this anymore. A nurse had to come over and soothe me.

In the recovery, I found my scar to be an ugly, horrible, wretched thing – made worse by all of the people who told me what an idiot I was for letting my terrible OB cut me open, and how I hadn’t had birth like a real woman. If I was more educated, if I was in better shape, if I was more prepared…

Flash forward three years to kiddo number two. I’m in the best physical shape of my life, having lost 170 pounds and developed a 6 day a week gym habit. I’m determined to have a VBAC. I do everything I’m supposed to. At 40 weeks, I start encouraging labor in every possible way. Nothing.  41 weeks. Nothing.  I have a brief period of regular contractions, and go to the hospital. They stop. At almost 42 weeks, I have a not-encouraging nonstress test. I agree to c-section number two at 42 weeks, thinking that I am a failure. That I am a joke. That I am not a real woman. The surgery goes easily, with everyone being incredibly nice and the anesthesiologist cracking jokes with me when I got nervous. Recovery is not really a huge deal. I actually start doing some light jogging 4 weeks postpartum. I still feel very conflicted when I think of the birth or look at my scar, though.

But the more I think it over, the more I love my scar. It’s awesome. The 4-5 inch shiny white line is where my children were born. They are alive because someone discovered that you can bypass the vagina and take babies out another way. In the past, we might have died. 

My scar also says that I can roll with the punches. I allowed something that I swore I wouldn’t, for the better of my babies and my own health.  Isn’t that what we do, as moms? Don’t we look at our unique children and situations and do the absolute best for our own families? How can doing that ever be a bad thing?

My birth experiences weren’t what I imagined, but I was always surrounded by a caring team of individuals who did anything they could to honor my wishes, and I have two gorgeous, healthy, perfect children that light up my life every day.  If that’s not what we all hope for as moms-to-be, it damn sure should be.

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