There’s more to birth than doctors

Cross-posted at BlogHer

It seems odd to me now that there ever was a time in my life when I didn’t have much knowledge about birth or birth care providers, but when I became pregnant with my first child that’s exactly where I was at. I knew that I wanted to try for a natural birth, but I didn’t know much more beyond that. And so I found myself an obstetrician since that was what “everybody” I knew did. I didn’t have any local mommy friends at the time to offer up their recommendations, so I made my decision on an OB based on the experience a coworker and his wife had. He told me that their OB had let him catch the baby, and since that was something my husband Jody and I had talked about wanting to do and seemed pretty open-minded to me, I figured we would give her a try.

While I don’t recall interviewing this obstetrician per se, she seemed nice enough – though in retrospect her bedside manner was seriously lacking – and she seemed OK with our plans to have a Hypnobirth. In fact, with a few minor exceptions, she agreed to all of our desires on our birth plan and we figured she’d be a good fit for us. After all, she was saying all the right things, so we had no reason to doubt her. Little did I know that when it came time for me to give birth, all bets would be off.

When my time to give birth arrived, my OB’s true colors came shining through and, when reflecting on the experience several months afterward, I felt violated, disrespected, upset, duped and resentful. Yes, I had given birth to a healthy baby which is ultimately what every woman hopes for, but I believe the process and birth experience matters too and mine was seriously lacking. I was left wondering, could there have been another way? A better way?

Back up a few months to the Hypnobirthing childbirth preparation classes my husband and I attended, where I learned of a couple expectant mothers who had plans to have a midwife at their birth rather than an OB. At the time I didn’t know much about midwives – who they were, what they did – and was happy enough with my OB, so I didn’t bother finding out more information. For example, I had no idea that there was a difference between the type of care a midwife provides and that of an OB. I didn’t know what kind of training or schooling a midwife might have. I didn’t know that there were different types of midwives. I didn’t know if midwives attended births in hospitals and/or birthing centers or just at home. I really didn’t have a clue and I have a feeling that I was certainly not alone in that regard.

Here in the United States, giving birth in a hospital with a doctor is the norm. Yet in the majority of cases a midwife-attended birth in a birthing center or at home is just as safe. However, many women have never heard of midwives or what they have heard is often full of misconceptions.

It wasn’t until I had given birth to my daughter, officially joined the “mommy club,” and made some mommy friends of my own that I began to hear more and more about midwives and learn about the role that they play in helping women prenatally, during birth and postnatal.

A midwife attends a woman in labor - from The Business of Being BornI was fortunate in that one of my best friends ended up deciding on a midwife-attended home birth for her second child. She had such a wonderful experience that when I was pregnant with my second child, I decided to leave my new OB (even though she was a far cry better than my previous one) and have a midwife-attended home birth as well.

Thankfully, the word is slowly getting out and more people are learning about the value and importance of midwives thanks to Ricki Lake’s documentary “The Business of Being Born,” which I highly recommend all women and their partners see. It’s available on Netflix.

Here’s a bit more about midwives to help clear up any misconceptions.

What is the role of a midwife?
According to Midwives Alliance of North America, “Midwives are trained to provide comprehensive prenatal care and education, guide labor and birth, address complications, and care for newborns.” You can read about the different variations of midwives at MANA.

Why choose a midwife?
“Throughout most of the world, and most of history, women have labored and birthed with midwives. It is only in the last few decades that it has become common in the U.S. to birth in a hospital setting with a doctor. Being pregnant and giving birth are normal life processes for which a woman’s body is well-designed. Midwifery care has been proven to be a safe and nurturing alternative to physician-attended hospital birth.” – MANA

How does the care of a midwife differ from that of a doctor?
Midwives practice using the Midwifery Model of Care which is based on the fact that pregnancy and birth are normal life processes. This is a fundamentally different approach to pregnancy and childbirth and is in stark contrast to the standard Medical Model of Care.

The Midwives Model of Care includes:

  • monitoring the physical, psychological and social well-being of the mother throughout the childbearing cycle
  • providing the mother with individualized education, counseling, and prenatal care, continuous hands-on assistance during labor and delivery, and postpartum support
  • minimizing technological interventions and;
  • identifying and referring women who require obstetrical attention

The application of this model has been proven to reduce to incidence of birth injury, trauma, and cesarean section.

The women I know who have experienced both the medical model of care and the midwifery model of care prefer the midwifery model. Personally, when I saw my midwife for my prenatal care I felt like a real person, rather than just a number (which is how I felt at one OB’s practice, that I left I might add). I loved that my prenatal appointments with my midwife lasted an hour at a time and never felt rushed. I loved that I formed a bond with my midwife and that she knew me (and my daughter who accompanied me to all of my prenatal appointments) before I gave birth.

MamaAudrey at Deconstructing Motherhood remarks about her decision to go with a midwife and birthing center instead of a doctor and hospital:

I felt like I was in control of my pregnancy at the birth center and that my voice was important. At my doctor, I felt like just another number with a voice that needed to be silenced when heard. Thus began my prenatal care with nurses and midwives.

Mary at My First Pregnancy Ever agrees that there is a big difference between the two models of care.

And I think I can now rant about why I love my MW better than my doctor already. I went to my doctor on the 7th and saw the MW on the 9th. Both were very nice to me but you can so see the difference in their scope of practice.

She goes on to compare and contrast the two visits.

Ultimately the decision on who to have attend her birth is up to the mother, but it is my hope that women might learn from my mistakes and do their research ahead of time. Interview more than one doctor and/or midwife until you find one that is right for you. Knowledge is power.

Related links:
Midwives Alliance of North America
The Big Push for Midwives
Citizens for Midwifery
Midwifery Today
Motherbaby International Film Festival
The Business of Being Born

Blogs by Midwives:
Close to the Root by Kneelingwoman
Navelgazing Midwife
The Journey of an Apprentice Midwife
Homebirth: Midwifery Mutiny in South Australia
Midwife: Sage Femme, Hebamme, Comadrona, Partera
Meconium Happens

* Photo credit: Business of Being Born

Getting our green groove on!

Amy’s picHello. 🙂 I’m Amy, also known around the internets as amygeekgrl. Welcome to my groovy green blog party, part of the Ultimate Blog Party hosted by 5 Minutes for Mom! I’m so glad you stopped by. 🙂 Come in, have a seat and let me offer you something to eat.

Brownies with heart -2/7/08

Oat-nut scone with strawberry jam

Can I tempt you with some homemade granola or perhaps an oat-nut scone topped with strawberry jam or maybe you’re in the mood for a Grilled Panini with Provolone and Basil or a brownie baked with love? I have a fair bit to choose from here, as I enjoy cooking and baking a great deal. 🙂 I just wish I had more time to do more of both.

Me and the kids on New Year’s Eve - 12/31/07Now that you’ve got something to munch on, let me tell you a little bit about myself. First and foremost, I’m a mom. I stay at home with my two amazing children – Ava (3 3/4 years old) and Julian (15 months). My husband Jody and I try to raise them with the philosophy of attachment parenting in mind, though we really just follow our instincts and do what feels right for our family.

I have a lot of passions that I like to write about on my blog. Some of them include home birth (my son was a footling breech and born at home), breastfeeding (I’ve shared my experiences of nursing while pregnant and tandem nursing), and informed healthcare decisions (why we delay/selectively vaccinate). I also write a lot about the environment (picking up trash in our neighborhood, composting, and recycling) and do a weekly Green Tip of the Week column with suggestions to make life a bit more eco-friendly. Some would call me a hippie or granola or crunchy, hence my blog title. 😉

One of my favorite quotes is “You must be the change you wish to see in the world” by Gandhi. I try to live by that philosophy both on my blog and in my life.

I also write about maternal health as a contributing editor on BlogHer, write reviews for Green Mom Finds and will soon be joining the team of Blissfully Domestic as the Eco-Diva.

I like to do giveaways here at Crunchy Domestic Goddess. In the past I’ve given away t-shirts, natural cleaners, reusable bags, books, toys, and even a digital camera. I currently have a giveaway going on right now for a bottle of Shaklee Basic H2 natural cleaner. It’s good stuff! The deadline to enter is March 13. Hope you’ll check it out and enter to win!

In addition to my blog, I also have two online stores – Attached At The Hip, featuring AP advocacy wear and more and home to the I make milk. What’s your superpower? shirt, and Cute As A Bug, featuring cute and original designs for babies, kids and adults. I enjoy photography (and love taking part in Best Shot Monday), reading, and hiking.

green balloonsYa know, this is my kind of party, very environmentally friendly – no paper or plastic waste and little carbon emissions! 🙂 I hope you enjoyed your visit and will come back again.
Please feel free to sign up for my RSS feed or follow me on Twitter (amygeekgrl)! And, of course, be sure to leave me a comment so I can try to come check out your party too. 🙂

Now it’s time for the kids and I to get our party groove on, but feel free to visit the rest of the other party people linked up at 5 Minutes for Mom.

Julian’s got his cape and is ready to party! Ava’s got her cake and is ready to party!

Edited to add: I’ve donated a prize – an I make milk. What’s your superpower? short-sleeved t-shirt – to the Ultimate Blog Party. It is prize #141 on the prize list.

There are so many great prizes to choose from in this year’s Ultimate Blog Party, but my top fvie choices are: Bead Dangle Photo Tile Necklace by Elemental Memories, Marketing for Entrepreneurs by Lis Garrett, Burt’s Bees Naturally Ageless skin care line by Geggie, Go BPA Free Sippy Sampler Kit by The Soft Landing and Rocking Horse by A Rocking Horse To Love. If my top five picks are already taken, then I’d also love any of the following (in order of preference) #11, 12, 15, 2, 3, 14, 32, 34, 37, 70, 72, 79, 87, and 5 or anything related to a toddler or preschooler. 🙂

A letter to my body

BlogHer has unveiled a new topic area: Body Image and is encouraging everyone to write a Letter to Our Body.

Hello dear body o’ mine,

It’s been a while since we talked so I thought I’d take this opportunity to chat with you for a bit.

My bicep in 2005First of all, thank you for sticking with me all of these years. You’ve done some amazing things over the past 32 years and put up with some crap from me and yet, despite that I don’t often acknowledge your greatness, you keep on keepin’ on.

You proved yourself awfully resilient from an early age when you endured three eye muscle surgeries (for strabismus) before you/I were even 2 years old. You rose to the challenge when, at age 6, I stepped on a piece of wood while in a lake, and was on crutches for a few weeks while you healed yourself. You stayed remarkably healthy and strong throughout my middle school years when a bag of Funyons and a candy bar was often considered a “cooler” lunch than a sandwich and apple. And you kept on truckin’ throughout high school when I got us up before school for 7 a.m. band/flag corps practice, then went to school, then had drill team practice after school, then did homework and often worked until 10 p.m. at K-mart. You are a machine for getting by on so little sleep and still functioning well enough to get good grades throughout high school.

Then there were the college years, where I was often an emotional wreck, ate crappy cafeteria food, pulled all-nighters cramming for exams, not to mention the experimentation with drinking and smoking (cigs, cloves and other). I know there wasn’t a huge amount of either of the two, regardless thank you for responding so well the majority of the time, and keeping me on the straight and narrow even though I have a serious family history of addiction. You don’t know how thankful I am for not falling victim to it.

After college I began to wise up a bit and understand that you deserved better. I started drinking water instead of soda and even went the vegetarian route a few times. However, I admit exercise was not then and is still not one of my biggest priorities. You deserve better from me in that regard.

When I got pregnant for the first time, I believed in you to help me through a natural childbirth. And while I did the best I could with the cards dealt me (HELLP syndrome), I ended up having to be hooked up to machines and on drugs (magnesium sulfate) that I never knew existed. Even though I was seriously sleep deprived and bed-ridden and drugged, you stayed strong for both me and my baby girl. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for that.

After Ava’s birth, you recovered from anemia and, as Ava grew older, I started to pay closer attention to the foods we ingested, both for her health and for yours. Instead of frozen dinners, I opted for more whole, organic foods. I think this helped you, my body, a great deal when I got pregnant with my second child.

Knowing that I wanted a home birth this time around, I was willing to do just about any and everything to keep you in the best shape possible so that I could to achieve that, which meant eating more protein throughout my pregnancy, going for acupuncture, and drinking some nasty concoctions of Chinese herbs. All of it paid off when I went into labor on my own without any symptoms of HELLP.

You proved yourself to be a birthing warrior when you gave birth vaginally to a 9 1/2 lb. surprise footling breech baby boy in our bedroom at home. No drugs, no machines, just pure hormones, endorphins, love and determination. You were amazing. Again, thank you for doing exactly what you needed to do to have a healthy baby.

These past nearly four years of motherhood have caused some wear and tear on you, this I know. Sleep deprivation can be hard on a body, as can breastfeeding hunched over with poor posture. I will do my best to honor your cues as to when you need sleep and to be mindful of my posture. I know I need to take care of you to be able to take care of my family.

I hope to have a long run with you, dear body, and I pledge to continue to nourish you with good foods, save the occasional sweet treat. I gotta be honest, I think you do love your chocolate. 😉 I pledge to exercise more. I can’t promise anything fancy, but I can do more frequent walks and at least that is something. I also will try to take some time to honor you on a regular basis and appreciate you for the wonderful life you give me.

You are an incredible thing, my body. You are strong, resilient, healthy and amazing, and I thank and love you.

Sincerely,

Amy
(Crunchy Domestic Goddess)

Midwives, home birth proven safe – contrary to ACOG’s false assertion

Today I’m writing over at BlogHer about the recent statement by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists reiterating their stance opposing home birth and Certified Professional Midwives. The ACOG suggests that women are choosing to birth at home because it’s “fashionable” and “trendy” and accuse moms of placing the birth experience over the health of their baby. They say home birth is unsafe and fail to acknowledge rigorous scientific studies (and current practices in other countries) proving the contrary, that midwifery and home birth are safe practices. In other words, instead of being an advocate for women’s health (as they claim they are), they do a nice job of perpetuating FUD – Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt.

The truth is the ACOG is getting nervous because women are talking, thinking and questioning the status quo.

I hope you will head on over to BlogHer to read my thoughts and detailed research on this subject.

The Big Push for Midwives Campaign 2008

Cross-posted over at BlogHers Act.

Obama, Clinton, McCain, Romney, Paul and Huckabee aren’t the only ones hitting the campaign trail this winter. Thanks to a nonpartisan coalition of consumer advocates, The Big Push for Midwives – a campaign of a different variety, but equally as important – is pushing for the regulation and licensure of Certified Professional Midwives (CPMs) in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.

Midwife with mother and babyAccording to The Chicago Tribune, “Certified professional midwives, who are lay practitioners specializing in home births, are banned in 26 states… They fall under a different legal classification than certified nurse-midwives, advanced practice nurses who are licensed in all 50 states and work mainly in hospitals.”

Why is this important?

We live in an age where surgical birth via cesarean section (which is full of risks to both the mother and the baby) is becoming more and more common, while physiological birth (where labor starts spontaneously, progresses spontaneously without drugs, and birth happens spontaneously) is almost unheard of in many hospitals. Yet many women want the option of a physiological birth with a trained care provider (midwife) in a birthing center or in their own home. However, because of current laws, that option is not always available.

I believe that all women deserve the right to choose a maternity care provider that is best for their needs which is why The Big Push for Midwives is so important.

The Big Push for Midwives is a nationally coordinated campaign to advocate for regulation and licensure of Certified Professional Midwives (CPMs) in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, and to push back against the attempts of the American Medical Association Scope of Practice Partnership to deny American families access to legal midwifery care.

Our goals are to fully integrate the Midwives Model of Care into the health care systems of our states, to highlight the importance of family healthcare choices and to defend the ability of CPMs to provide legal and safe prenatal, birth and postpartum care to families in every state. Childbirth activists from the campaign’s participating states are pooling their collective resources and experience to coordinate and optimize advocacy efforts during 2008.

Amie Newman at RH Reality Check links midwifery and home birth with the rest of reproductive freedom, and believes that women should have the right to childbirth choices just as they do the right to abortion choices.

Hmmm. Sounds like reproductive justice to me. Substitute “abortion access” for “Midwives Model of Care,” “abortion providers” for “CPMs,” and “abortion care” for “prenatal, birth and postpartum care” and you can see how the underlying issues are essentially the same whether you’re talking about abortion rights or childbirth choices.

That is, whether we’re talking about provider choices for childbirth or access to abortion, it is not too much to ask that wherever women live in this nation, the options for reproductive health care are not effectively criminalized in some states and legal in others.

Jennifer Block at Pushed Birth notes that:

… the research data, as well as other countries that are caring for women and babies better than we are, show that midwives should be supporting normal labor and deliveries (the majority), while MDs should be caring for the complications, emergencies, and women with risk factors. This “division of labor” also happens to be far more cost-effective than our current system, which bleeds more cash for less care than any other in the world. The bottom line from a public health perspective: home-birth midwives should be legitimate care providers, not criminals.

Erika of Inspired Mama Musings headed out on her birthday of Jan. 24 with her two kids in tow to a peaceful protest at the capitol building in Idaho to support her local midwives, a cause that’s near and dear to her heart.

I am very fortunate and blessed to have had births attended by midwives and my hope is that the women and families of Idaho will always have that option.

Idaho is just one of 20 states that are introducing legislation or have legislation in the planning stages. Pennsylvania is another.

Annette of Natural Childhood also attended a rally supporting midwives at the capitol in Harrisburg, Penn., and included several pictures from the rally on her blog.

Our Bodies, Ourselves is also a supporter of The Big Push.

“This is the perfect time to insist that women in all communities have access to the option of midwifery care,” said Executive Director Judy Norsigian. “This would lower the number of unnecessary cesareans and enable many more women to enjoy the benefits of active support during labor and birth.”

Also worth noting is the book “Our Bodies, Ourselves: Pregnancy and Birth” is due out in March and includes information about the benefits of midwifery. And there’s a great article on the Our Bodies, Ourselves web site that compares and contrasts the type of care typically provided by midwives vs. that provided by obstetricians.

The Midwives Model of Care, based on the fact that pregnancy and birth are normal life processes, is a fundamentally different approach to pregnancy and childbirth and is in stark contrast to the standard Medical Model of Care. “The application of this woman-centered model of care has been proven to reduce the incidence of birth injury, trauma, and cesarean section.”

If you’re interested in advocating on behalf of licensing CPMs in your state, please check the list of state organizations and their various discussion lists and websites, where you can find out more information about how to get involved. If your state isn’t on this list and you’d like to get involved, you may email Katie Prown and she can point you to additional resources. You may also make a donation to The Big Push for Midwives Campaign.

Photo credit: Thanks to Homestyle Midwifery Care for this beautiful image.

Update on BOBB Netflix release and other birth movies

In case you aren’t on the Business of Being Born mailing list, but are waiting for the DVD release to Netflix, I wanted to let you know you are going to have to wait a little longer. The Netflix release has been pushed back to Feb. 26. The good news is that the reason it was pushed back is because BOBB is now planning a theatrical run in Chicago, Seattle, and Tulsa. So, yay for more exposure! The bad news, of course, is it that means more waiting, unless you happen to be in Chicago, Seattle or Tulsa. Then by all means get yourself to the theater! 🙂 And then email me and let me know what you thought!

Other birth movies on the horizon:

Le Premier Cri (The First Cry) – which follows 10 pregnant women all around the world, as they live, work and give birth. – This looks amazing and brought tears to my eyes the first time I watched the trailer. If you’d like to know more, here is a translated interview with the director.

Home Delivery – This film documents the lives of three women in New York, who for very different reasons have decided to go up against social trends and take the birth of their children into their own hands… and homes. – This film looks very different than the birth movies I’ve seen/heard about in the past, but seems very interesting as well.

Insurance update – the home birth saga continues

A while back I posted that I was trying to get our insurance company to acknowledge a claim for Julian’s home birth. I made phone call after phone call asking them if they had all of the information they needed to process the claim and each time, they would come back with one more thing that was still needed. I’d send them that “one thing” and then there’d be something else. It was always something.

I received an “explanation of benefits” in the mail from them a few months ago that said the claim had been closed because they hadn’t received everything they’d requested from me (BS!), and that they’d consider reopening it if the information was sent in. I threw up my hands in frustration and pretty much resigned myself to the thought that we would never get anything from them.

Then my midwife told me that she had contracted with a billing company and they could take over my case for me. So I sent them the information they required about two months ago and hadn’t heard a word from them until a couple weeks ago. Jody got a call saying that they needed the “explanation of benefits” that the insurance company sent to me and that they were “very optimistic” that we’d get some money from them.

I dug up that form and Jody faxed it in so now we wait and see. It would be awesome if they end up paying for part (or all!) of my midwife’s fees. Considering we paid $2200 for prenatal care, the birth and postnatal care, it would be a serious bargain for the insurance company. If I had had a hospital birth, which would have involved a c-section since Julian ended up being breech, it would have been tens of thousands of dollars and that’s just for the birth and not including the prenatal/postnatal care.

I’m not holding my breath, but I sure would love to see some of that money back in our pocket. 🙂

Birth doulas make a difference

“If a doula were a drug, it would be unethical not to use it.” — John H. Kennell, MD

If I could do my daughter’s birth all over again – a birth that, because of a pregnancy complication I developed (HELLP syndrome), included numerous interventions – I would have hired a doula. I’d done my birth homework and for some reason I didn’t think I needed one nor could afford one, but as I have since learned, having the right doula at your birth can be worth her weight in gold. I think if I had had a doula present at Ava’s birth, I would have come away from the experience feeling like I had been better informed (we were left in the dark about so many things) and more of an active participant in my labor instead of a passive recipient. But as the saying goes, live and learn. I have learned and now I will share what I’ve learned with you.

Doula (pronounced doo-la) is a Greek word meaning “woman’s servant.” Doulas are trained and experienced in childbirth, though they do not handle the medical aspects of it; those are reserved for a midwife or doctor. The role of a birth doula is to provide support for the woman and her partner during labor and birth. This support may include physical support such as suggesting different positions for laboring, giving massages or instructing the woman’s partner how to massage her, breathing with her, getting food and drinks for the woman and her partner, etc.; emotional support in the form of reassurance and comfort; as well as informational support such as explaining different medical options, risks and benefits, and possibly suggesting natural techniques to achieve the same results. It is often said that a doula mothers the mother.

The ‘Enjoy Birth’ blog has a post called “Get a birth doula” that explains the type of support a doula can offer including:

Resource for Comfort Measures: Having a doula is like having your very own talking birthing guide. Doulas know what can help during birth and how to do it. Your doula can either perform these comfort measures herself, or help your family or friends to support you with comfort measures. Your birth partners will feel more confident knowing that they are doing the right thing.
Constant Encourager: A doula not only encourages the mother to keep going, but she encourages the labor support to keep going as well. The process of labor can sometimes be long. A doula can keep you and your partner focused during the most intense part of labor.
Helps Explain Options: A doula is also a source of information about ways to handle your birth. Medical attendants don’t always have time to get into all the options available, and rarely give all the risks and benefits for the options they do give. A doula can help you understand what options are available, and what the pros and cons are. This can help you make better informed decisions.

There are many benefits to having a doula attend your birth.

Proven Benefits of Doula Care

Decreased medical intervention in labor*:

  • Reduces need for cesarean by 50%
  • Reduces length of labor by 25%
  • Reduces use of artificial oxytocin (pitocin) by 40%
  • Reduces pain medication use by 30%
  • Reduces the need for forceps by 40%
  • Reduces epidural requests by 60%

Six weeks after birth, mothers who had doulas were**:

  • Less anxious and depressed
  • Had more confidence with baby
  • More satisfied w/ partner (71% vs 30%)
  • More likely to be breastfeeding (52% vs. 29%)

*These statistics appear in A Doula Makes the Difference by Nugent in Mothering Magazine, March-April 1998.
**Statistics from What is a Doula?

Photo courtesy Tammra McCauley
Photo courtesy Tammra McCauley

I’ve heard countless stories from women I know – both in person and on the Internet – singing the praises of their birth doulas. Every one of them feels their birth experience was more positive as a direct result of the support offered by their doula.

Alma from Chicago Moms Blog reflects on her birth and the help she received from her doula – “her hero” – in her post Not Without My Doula.

“It (labor) was really hard, and I couldn’t have done it without the support of my doula, Tricia Fitzgerald. … her dedication and support was worth far more [than] the typical going rate for a doula.

She also squelches the myth that a doula tries to take the place of a woman’s husband or partner.

Doulas don’t monitor or deliver babies; they’re dedicated to mothering the mother, helping her achieve the birth experience she wants. And contrary to what some people think, your doula will not displace your husband. Rather, she just may keep you from cursing out your well-meaning partner who just can’t seem say the right thing or rub you the right way.”

I think it takes a very special kind of woman to be a doula and Leigh, a fairly new doula and mother of two young daughters, is definitely one of those special women. Leigh writes beautifully about each of the births she attends on her blog Mere Mortal Mama and I soak up every one of them. She seems to possess an ancient wisdom that allows her to be extremely in-tune with her clients. She is committed to helping them achieve the birth they desire. Here’s an excerpt from her most recent birth, that of a teen mother:

And then that moment comes; the moment when you notice the slight shift in energy of the room and know it is time to be fully present for your client. I glue myself next to the bedrail and remain over her for the duration of labor. I breathe in deeply with her and exhale slowly, offering the most hushed of encouraging words. We establish a pattern together quickly: we breathe, she cringes and tightens her brow a bit, I press a firm thumb on her forehead and smooth her brows, she relaxes and breathes out. I stroke her hair as the surges release; she lets out a cleansing breath. Our fingers entangle as she rests between the surges.

I whisper breathy words and phrases into her ear and have no idea where they are coming from. Upon speaking some of them, her head nods in barely perceptible understanding – her eyelids fluttering closed – and so I stick with those.

And it is those moments where ego and heart humbly meet, swollen like a balloon about to burst. Two women, in rhythm to the song of labor, swaying into words and sinking into breath; connected through the pulse of birth.

I believe that – “two women … connected through the pulse of labor” – sums up simply and perfectly what the experience of having a doula is meant to be. I think that all women and their partners should consider giving themselves the gift of a doula.

To learn more about doulas, including how to find one in your area and questions to ask when interviewing a doula, see the additional resources below.

Additional resources:
DONA (Doulas of North America) International – Learn more about doulas as well as find doulas in your area
CAPPA: Childbirth and Postpartum Professional Association
How to hire a doula – Questions to ask
How Dads/Partners and Doulas can work together to support the birthing mother
Information about Postpartum Doulas who’s role is to help a woman through her postpartum period and to nurture the family

Cross-posted at BlogHer: BlogHers Act

add to sk*rt

She’s Lump

Remember that song from the ’90s? “She’s lump, she’s lump – she’s in my head.” That song has been stuck in my head lately and a few days ago I told my sister that it was my new theme song.

Long story, short: I’ve had a couple of lumps – one in my neck, one in my lower back – for a while (months or even years). The one in my lower back started bothering me recently, causing back pain whenever I’d bend to pick up a kid or toys or anything. I decided I should get it checked out and, while I was at it, should have the one in my neck checked out as well.

I went to the doctor (family practitioner) on Monday and found out that the lump in my neck is actually a normal-sized lymph node. Huh. I thought it felt large to me or in an odd place for a lymph node, but the doctor assured me it was normal. She said I could have a blood test to make sure everything was fine, but since I’m going back for my yearly physical and pap (whee) in February, I told her I’d just have blood drawn then. FWIW, I had two inflamed lymph nodes in my neck (that never went back down to normal size after I had an illness) removed about 10 years ago. They were benign.

As for the lump in my back (“It’s not a too-mah.” – Kindergarten Cop) – it’s actually a ligament that won’t relax. It’s wound up tight and is inflamed, etc. She recommends I start doing some stretches, more walking, and/or yoga or pilates to strengthen my core. And of course, bend at the knees when I pick up the kids or anything else (oops – hadn’t been doing that), and be more aware of my posture (which quite frankly is shit most of the time these days). She said while the pain is just an annoyance now, it could definitely get worse if I don’t start doing something about it. *Sigh*

So all in all the news was good in that I don’t have any tumors or anything (which definitely was a worry in the back of my mind). But I do need to take better care of my back and work on getting that ligament back to normal. Anybody have any suggested yoga poses to help with that?

The one good thing about this ligament issue is it’s giving me an excuse to hire someone to pick up all of the frozen dog poop in the backyard (that’s been accumulating and stuck in the snow for the past two months). Woot.

The fun (for me) news from my doctor’s appointment was that the doctor I saw (not my usual doctor) was 8 months pregnant. I hadn’t known she was expecting, so I made a comment along those lines and congratulated her. While she was updating my chart (I hadn’t been to the doctor since well before Julian was born), she noticed that it said I had HELLP syndrome with Ava. She asked me if I had it with my son and I replied no. She said she was just asking that for personal reasons because she has HELLP with her first and is, of course, hoping to avoid it this time around. I went on to tell her that not only did I not have HELLP, but that I had an amazing home birth and a surprise footling breech baby as well. She got quite excited over that news and commented that my midwife must have been very skilled. So I told her a bit more about the birth. I could’ve sat there and talked pregnancy and birth all day, but I knew we had to get on with my appointment, so I bit my tongue. I have to admit though that I enjoy telling doctors, especially those who attend births like she does as a family practitioner, that I had a breech birth. I think it’s good for them to know that breech births CAN and DO happen vaginally and that just because a baby is breech shouldn’t mean an automatic c-section.

OK. Off to go Google “pooper-scooper” now. 😉

Waterbirth International needs help to stay afloat

I’m writing over at BlogHer today about the financial crisis Waterbirth International is facing and what all of us can do to help. I hope you’ll take a look, do what you can, and consider spreading the word on your blogs, message boards, etc. The fact that this organization, that’s done so much over the past 20 years in the United States to make water birth a more accessible and acceptable option for women, is facing the very real possibility of closing it’s doors is truly heart breaking. There’s so much more they can accomplish if given the opportunity. Please check out the article. Thank you. 🙂

Also, more coming later today about my health. I had a doctor’s appointment yesterday to have some things checked out that had been bothering/worrying me. I got mostly good news, but I’ll explain more later.