Archive for May, 2009

Quick Link: Nursing Birth

I had big plans for posting this week, but an international trip, a pre-term labor scare, and high drama at work have foiled them.  So for now, I’m just going to leave you with a recommendation for one of my new favorite websites, Nursing Birth (  It’s written by a labor and delivery nurse here in the Northeast, with the goal of educating and advocating for safer birth.  It is an inside view of hospital birth in the U.S. and is simultaneously inspiring and horrifying to read.  The running “Injustice in Maternity Care” (a.k.a. Don’t Let This Happen to You) series is particularly enlightening and should be required reading for all pregnant women planning to give birth in a hospital.


30 May 2009 at 10:27 pm 1 comment

Share your birth story with us!

Hello all,

MFOM believes that one way to help women learn about midwifery and to show support for our midwives working here in Massachusetts is to share with each other our stories about birthing with a midwife (or midwives!) in attendance. One way we are doing that is through posting of birth stories of women who have given birth with midwives here in Massachusetts on our website: . We have had the good fortune of having some truly beautiful stories to post and encourage everyone to take a look!

We also are looking for more birth stories! If you would be interested in sharing your birth story (or stories!) with us, please contact with “birth story” somewhere in the subject and our birth story editor will get back to you to talk about getting your story up on our website!

Thank you and we look forward to hearing all about your births!

Bridget Colvin
MFOM blog administrator

29 May 2009 at 12:06 pm Leave a comment

Still the same

I was interested, as I helped my daughter set up her home for a homebirth, that her instructions from her midwife and the items she had to order, etc., were almost identical to mine when I was preparing to birth her at home 26 years ago! It felt soooo good!

28 May 2009 at 6:36 pm Leave a comment

How to talk to pregnant friends (part 1 of an occasional series)

This post is more a plea for advice than a how-to per se. I am having a lot of trouble figuring out how to talk to some of my pregnant friends. 

I know they don’t have to all use my midwife or have homebirths or even go all natural, like I did. They’re separate individuals, and what’s right for them, individually, may be different than what was right for me.

That’s not really my issue. My problem is that I have no idea how to respond when one of my pregnant friends says something like the following:

  • “My 30-week ultrasound shows that the baby’s already over 6 pounds–it’s going to be HUGE! I don’t know how I’m going to squeeze out this giant baby!”
  • “I know I’m never going to go into labor on my own–my doctor says my body just won’t do it.”
  • “My OB says my baby’s breech, so he’s just going to schedule a c-section for 39 weeks so I don’t risk going into labor first.”

What do you all think? How do you respond to statements like the above without sounding like a judgmental know-it-all? So far I’ve mostly kept silent, but as more of my friends start having babies, this is clearly an issue that will recur.


27 May 2009 at 3:50 pm 2 comments

An Old Book for New Homebirth Women

As a homebirth grandmother, I recently reminisced on some of the reasons I chose to have babies at home. Of course the reasons were myriad. But one very significant book popped to mind. Way, way back in the late ’70’s I was introduced to Ashley Montagu’s “Touching.” An anthropologist, he presents an extremely deep look into both animal and human gestations, births, and perinatal periods. Well, my ancient copy of the book was in pieces, so last year I ordered a new one. Just one little peek into the book: “The biological unity, the symbiotic relationship, maintained by mother and conceptus throughout pregnancy does not cease at birth; indeed, it is naturally designed to become even more intensively functional and mutually involving after birth than during gestation in the uterus…” Do hospitals know this? Even if they did, how could they facilitate it? If they could, would they? I think we all know the answers to these questions. “Touching” is a magnificent book and wonderful reading for any mother preparing for birthing her baby. And another reason for saying “thank you!!!” to our brave midwivesd!!!

26 May 2009 at 9:42 am 1 comment

Quick link: NYTimes on maternal deaths in Tanzania

This article in The New York Times is the first of three in a series called “Death in Birth: Preventable Losses.” There are some heartbreaking pictures that accompany the article, and of course the goals mentioned in the article–to lower the maternal death rate in Africa, where many women “die during pregnancy and in childbirth, largely from problems that can be treated or prevented”–are essential, important goals for the UN, WHO, etc. 

But the article is very dismissive of midwifery, and seems to suggest that the answer to this problem is simply to improve the implementation of the medical model of childbirth, rather than to use a midwifery model. For example, this is what the article has to say about traditional birth attendants:

In rural areas, many women use traditional birth attendants instead of going to the hospital. The attendants usually have no formal training in medicine or midwifery. Many doctors blame them for high rates of maternal death and complications, saying they let labor go on for too long, cannot treat complications and fail to recognize emergencies that demand hospital care. But many women are loyal to them. For one thing, the price is right. Around Berega, they charge about $2 per birth. A normal birth at the hospital costs about $6, an emergency Caesarean $15.

While there certainly may be traditional birth attendants (read a much more thoughtful approach to them here) who are less skilled than others, the mere presence of “formal training” (as opposed to apprenticeship) should not rule them out as birth attendants. I also cannot believe that price is the only reason women choose traditional birth attendants; this article does not consider the pull of culture and tradition, which can be enormously strong.

Furthermore, the article seems to highlight examples of less-effective practice even when implemented by “formally trained” birth attendants–essentially, physicians’ assistants and nurses. In one case, a baby is described as being delivered by a c-section formed by “a quick vertical cut,” rather than the safer horizontal incision. In another case–described in the article in the typical sensationalist “home births can go bad!” manner that is so common today in the media–a woman hemmorrhaged to death after birth. Why?

A case in the Tanzanian city of Moshi late last year reveals how suddenly a seemingly normal labor can turn into an emergency in which every second counts. . . . 

An autopsy found that Mrs. Khalidi bled to death because the nurse who delivered her baby failed to perform one basic task, essential to prevent deadly bleeding: removing the placenta after she gave birth.

Normally, pulling on the umbilical cord will extract the placenta. But the autopsy revealed that the cord broke off. The nurse apparently did not know how to reach into the womb to remove the placenta.

There is nothing here about normal, mother-directed delivery of the placenta, or about how midwives in the US today do not recommend “pulling on the umbilical cord” precisely because it can break off, leaving part or all of the placenta still inside. 

Clearly, the article highlights a terrible tragedy in Africa today, but I’m not convinced that the answer is more “formally trained” nurses–such as the one described above–and more cramped, unsanitary hospitals.


23 May 2009 at 12:28 pm 4 comments

a bend in the path

I am a 34 year old SAHM of 4 living in the Pioneer Valley for just under 6 years. Together, my husband and I have a life overflowing with abundance. That said, our budget is an interesting patchwork that we often struggle to balance. I am a thrifty/frugal/mend it till it falls apart sort of earthy

gal. With each birth I have transformed my entire being. Without the support of midwives I don’t know where or who I would be.
Tomorrow my youngest child will turn two. TWO! I began my mothering journey at the tender age of 21, practically a baby myself. I was so young when I had my first child that I wasn’t completely formed yet as an adult. As such, I didn’t have a clear vision of what kind of mother I wanted to be. I was alone living on the west coast, no friends, no family, and no role models.  Five months along, armed with only one book (“What to Expect…”) gifted to me by my OBGYN, I jumped in with both feet and eyes half open. Oh dear. I was so ill prepared for birth. Though I wanted this baby, I felt victimized by the changes happening to my body. I was scheduled for section because I was a week overdue. I was given no alternative options and certainly my reading material didn’t empower my inner voice. I was embarrassed and ashamed at the birth. They broke my water and immediately began the PIT drip even though I was already experiencing contractions upon arrival. After 45 excruciating minutes and a nurse’s patronizing advice:
“It’s supposed to hurt.
Nothing is wrong.
The doctor will not see you this soon.”

I begged for someone to check me. The doctor casually walked in my room and without warning checked my progress, then proclaimed:
“It’s breech.
We’re doing a section.

There were 8 more people in the room immediately. Instruments were coming out of the walls, gurneys flying, medical terms wielding across the room to each other. To everyone in fact, but me. They spread my legs and clumsily poked about until the rubbery cord inserted itself into my urethra.
“Doctor, she’s catheterizing. Let’s go!”

Off I went.

The years passed. The first year was blissful—thank god for mommies who make milk! I moved back to the east coast and found a supportive group of friends and even some mother’s I could count on for advice. I did not realize the full extent of the trauma, the damage to my self esteem, to my feelings of inadequacy, to how deeply I buried my voice. I learned that I did not have dominion over my own body. No one helped me to cope with the rapid changes to my body (during the pregnancy) , to embrace the transformation of becoming a mother. I became a parent who mistrusted her instincts and hated her body.
I became pregnant again when my first child was 2 ½. Though I regarded the gift of motherhood with great honor, there was a sadness inside that I could not shake. Luckily I found an old copy of Spiritual Midwifery and a new course was set.

I will finish my story this week! Please feel free to add your own stories of birth in the comments.  I welcome questions as well!

Yours in abundance,

19 May 2009 at 1:26 pm Leave a comment

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