Archive for October, 2009

Reflecting on my son’s birth, a year later.

It was around this time last year that I was putting the finishing touches on my Juno costume and getting myself ready to give birth to my first child.

As things worked out, my son was delivered on November 6 by my midwife Valaree at Newton Wellesley Hospital. It really couldn’t have gone much better. My water broke spontaneously at 6 a.m. and I labored comfortably at home until around 1 p.m. Driving to the hospital in active labor and laying strapped to monitors in antenatal still isn’t the most relaxing memory of my son’s birth. But I consider myself pretty fortunate as far as hospital births go. I was fully dilated—probably on arrival, although I was never checked—and my son was born healthy at 3:26 p.m. after about an hour of pushing.

When I first learned I was pregnant what I had really wanted was a home birth. But after researching the options and related expenses i backed off of the idea. If my insurance wouldn’t help with the costs, I wasn’t comfortable paying out of pocket when I could give birth at a birth center or hospital for free. Many moms are more than happy to incur this expense to have the birth they want, but I wasn’t one of them. I had thought hospitals or birth centers would give me enough birthing options where I could have a birth experience close to what I was hoping for at home.

But further research proved that’s less, and less true. While Newton Wellesley at least has tubs for laboring you’re not permitted to birth in them. Even having access to the birthing stool was a fight. Inexplicably the padding had been removed, a surprise discovered by my midwife when she requested it for me. I felt well supported by my loved ones and care providers, but not by the institution I was in.

So now as I start thinking about my next child I’ve been wondering whether we would opt for a hospital birth again or further research a home birth. I keep hoping I’ll learn that they’re now covered by my insurance or that a new birthing center has opened. So far it’s hard to gage whether the tide is changing in support of home birth or against. It seems even Moms in the UK continue to fight for the option. I won’t say I have regrets about my son’s birth, I don’t, but if anything it validated my instincts that homebirth is right for me. If for no other reason than to spare myself the car ride to the hospital.

I have time to decide still so in the meantime I’m throwing my support behind those fighting for more birthing options, including signing this petition. I’m also doing what I can to share what I know about how birth can and should be with friends. The choir needs and many voices as it can get.



29 October 2009 at 1:00 pm Leave a comment

Book review/book club: The Wet Nurse’s Tale

Earlier this month Tanya over at Motherwear asked who would be interested in reading The Wet Nurse’s Tale  (by Erica Eisdorfer, Putnam 2009) with her as a sort of mini online bookclub. Well, it was fortuitious timing, because my copy had just arrived via the BPL reserves system.

Last week while my husband was on a business trip I had a bit more time to read than I normally do, and I immediately found myself absorbed in a great historical novel that–in style and feel, if not in content–resembles As Meat Loves Salt and Fingersmith. The great birth, breatfeeding, and mother-related themes just put it over the top, of course!

So I read about the adventures of the wet nurse Susan Rose and her baby, and though readers spend most of the book rooting for Susan and hoping she gets a happy ending with her own child, it’s not much of a spoiler to say that yes, things do work out well for them.

Meanwhile the novel covers the oral traditions, superstitions, and community involvement (learning to nurse by watching your mother do it) related to breastfeeding, as well as engorgement, mastitis, hand-expression, cluster-nursing, tandem nursing, co-sleeping, and an understanding of the supply and demand principles of breastfeeding. Susan’s first-person narrative is broken up by small inter-chapter segments in the voices of women who put their babies out to nurse, and these segments generally discuss the women’s birth experiences. This device lets the novel also cover midwifery, breech births, different positions during labor, and early skin-to-skin contact. 

It’s a great read–I don’t know when Tanya’s book group will get off the ground, but I highly recommend you grab a copy of the novel now for some engrossing pleasure reading.


29 October 2009 at 1:17 am 1 comment

Improving the outcome for birthing moms

NPR has run a few stories via the BBC news hour about the incredible death rate of African moms during childbirth. Faced with a lack of care, these moms-to-be—particularly in Ethiopia, but also throughout the continent—frequently give birth alone and receive no prenatal or post partum care. One woman dies every minute worldwide, almost all of the deaths are preventable.

It’s been interesting listening to some of the issues being faced in Africa, in comparison to our own system. There, according to the report, malnutrition leads to weak, small moms struggling to birth large babies, apparently laboring for days sometimes and frequently dealing with untreated tearing. Most of the deaths there are the result of haemorrhage (source: Unicef). Here, and in countries with similar healthcare systems, the deaths are far lower and stem from c-sections or reaction to anaesthesia.

At first I found it kind of ironic listening to how much Ethiopian women would benefit from access to c-sections while our death rate here is often blamed on the over use of the surgery. After reading this article, I’m struck by some consistent themes:

  • Access to adequate care: More midwife-attended births would prevent a lot of unnecessary intervention here and provide much needed aid there.
  • Nutrition/poor health of the mom: There it’s malnutrition bordering on starvation. Here it’s obesity. In either case the outcome isn’t great for mom or baby.
  • The real puzzle Even in this country, African women are more likely to die during childbirth than Caucasian women, regardless of wealth or education.

    It seems far too easy to fix these issues and yet nothing seems to be changing. Maybe the change needs to start from the top. One thing clear from the NPR report anyway, there have been multiple summits and lots of conversation but sadly, very little action.


    27 October 2009 at 2:29 pm Leave a comment

  • What I wish I’d known back then about breastfeeding

    WELCOME, October Carnival of Breastfeeding readers! Please follow the links at the bottom of this post to the other great contributors this month!

    My baby is fourteen months old and nursing 3-4 times a night and about that much during the day (more if we’re home together all day). When I think back to the day he was born and his very first attempts to latch on, it seems incredible that it was so long ago. What do I wish I’d known back then? Well. . .

    • that even though it would seem that my two-week-old, happy-spitter baby spat up his entire feed, everyone who says “it’s only spit-up, it’s only a small amount, don’t worry about it” really is right.
    • that breastmilk can apparently fix any problem there is: baby has a stuffy nose? use breastmilk in the nostril; baby is cranky, has an upset stomach, or took a stumble? breastfeeding to the rescue; baby has gunky eyes? place a drop of breastmilk in the corner. Sometimes I bet a careful application of breastmilk can fix the ozone layer!
    • that breastfeeding can be silly: my mobile baby would cruise over to me as I lay on the couch and then nurse standing up, almost like drinking from a water fountain; my boy now will in the morning one minute be playing on the foot of the bed with a stuffed animal and then bounding up to me, lowering himself onto my nipple, and latching on with a silly grin and a side-long look. 
    • that I’d love it.



    25 October 2009 at 7:56 pm 16 comments

    Mama mammals of the world, unite!

    I can’t be the only mama who gets all misty-eyed at the sight of other mammal mamas giving birth, cuddling their babies, co-sleeping, or breastfeeding–right? Well, whether I’m alone in this new obsession of mine or not, I had two great animal-mama experiences this summer that I’m just getting a chance to look back on now.

    First was the sight of a mama and baby gorilla in the National Zoo in Washington, DC, in July. The gorilla enclosure was jammed with kids, daycamps, and families, all trying to catch a glimpse of the baby, but at first no one saw her. The mama gorilla was on a hammock, sort of above most people’s view, and eventually she climbed off the hammock, walked around the area, and sat down in the back under a tree near the silverback. That was when people started to realize that the baby gorilla was on the mother–clinging to her chest the whole time, from when she was napping in the hammock to when she was walking around. Sitting near the silverback, the mother calmly started nursing, and the crowd went wild–seriously, cries of “Ooh, she’s feeding it! Ooh, how cute!” erupted from kids and adults alike. The gorilla seemed to tolerate all this attention, and then walked back to her hammock, climbed up into it, and disappeared from sight again–all with her baby on her chest. I was holding my baby on my chest in a mei tai, talking to him the whole time, and I seriously felt just like that mama gorilla–except people don’t normally exclaim happily when I start nursing in public (ah, the irony). Oh, and my boy didn’t nurse in the gorilla enclosure in happy nurse-in sympathy, but only because he had just nursed on the floor of the panda enclosure and was pretty content to watch the animals now.

    My second great experience was at the Miracle of Birth center at the Minnesota State Fair in August. Wow, this place was packed, again with kids and teens and families, all going nuts over the farm animals who had either just given birth or were literally in the process of doing so. There was a calf who was born just an hour before we arrived, and a bunch of piglets born the day before, and there were all these pregnant sheep and goats wandering around just like warm, beautiful pregnant women. Again I was holding my baby in a mei tai (I think he was on my back here) and talking to him about all the mamas and babies. A few hours later, sitting outside on a lawn relaxing with our friends and cousins who we’d come to the Fair with, I heard two cousins say they had just gone back into the Miracle of Birth barn because they’d missed it before. 

    “How was it?” someone asked.

    “It was good–we saw a cow deliver her placenta,” one of my cousins said nonchalantly.

    “A COW PLACENTA?” I sat up and screamed. “NO WAY!” Yes, I got laughed at by my friends, but I spent the rest of the afternoon lamenting that I hadn’t gone back into the barn and caught that moment. 

    Anyway, here are just a couple animal-related links for your pleasure–a brief post on a babywearing blog with another link to an article about animals “wearing” their babies, and a BoingBoing post from a couple weeks ago with a video of an amazing elephant birth. 

    So come on, ‘fess up–have your birth experiences made you more in touch with the animal kingdom?


    21 October 2009 at 7:11 pm Leave a comment

    Michael Odent and men at births

    Recent news is all about Michael Odent’s–not at all new–view that natural birth happens faster and easier when the mother is truly relaxed, ideally (he believes) alone except for a midwife. Of course, the media takes this, dumbs it down, and runs with it as “Bar Men from Birth?” etc.

    Apparently now there’s actually going to be a debate between Odent and a dad-blogger named Duncan Fisher, moderated by a midwife. I’m not sure what to think of such a debate–will Fisher bring science on his side? Will anyone be able to understand Odent’s English without subtitles (I sure can’t)? Will the “results” of the debate really influence midwifery?

    And then there’s the issue underlying it–should women have no men at their births? Would it have helped (or did it help) you to be in an all female-environment?

    Personally, while I was of course glad for his sake that my husband was at the birth of our son (right next to me in fact), I really didn’t want him or anyone else near me during most of my labor. I labored quietly in a tub in a dim room, with a midwife who was very hands-off, and perhaps that’s more in the spirit of what Odent means.

    What are your thoughts, either on the debate or the issue of men itself?


    19 October 2009 at 5:50 am 1 comment

    Great pro-home-birth article by Yale professors, OBs

    Take a look at this really great, pro-midwifery, pro-home-birth article in The New Haven Register by a team of Yale professors, midwives, and doctors. 

    Here’s how it starts:

    RECENT reports have focused on the rising trend of home births and, unfortunately, many stories have zeroed in on a few tragic situations.

    Although we recognize there is a contentious, ongoing debate about the safety of home birth, and we offer our concern and condolences to any parents suffering tragic loss, we are disappointed in the media’s continued implication that all midwifery care is somehow perilous.

    It is puzzling that these stories often do not cite well-documented evidence about outcomes of the practice of midwifery in the United States, nor invite representatives of the American College of Nurse-Midwives or the National Association of Certified Professional Midwives to comment.

    Its title? “Media Out of Focus on Midwifery.” Too true! Overall, it’s short but full of good, logical, calmly-stated arguments, and the fact that the authors include two OBs and a midwife is a huge advantage. Go read the rest!


    16 October 2009 at 5:26 am 1 comment

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