As many of you know, the Midwifery Bill, now known as An Act Relative to
Certified Professional Midwives (House Bill 2368 and Senate Bill 1133; same
text) is being heard on Beacon Hill by the MA Joint Committee for Public
Health next Tuesday, 7/19/2011. This bill, when passed, will recognize and
regulate the practice of Certified Professional Midwives (CPMs). A link to
the text for this bill follows later in this post. As always, a few
prominent medical interest groups (most notably the American Congress of
Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and the Massachusetts Medical Society
(MMS) are actively trying to kill this midwifery bill, so we need many
citizens to voice their support NOW for midwifery options.
Please call your MA State Rep. and MA Senator TODAY, next week, or at any
point before next Tuesday, 7/19, letting him/her know that this bill is
important to you. and to urge its passage. With legislators, the squeaky
wheel gets the oil so it’s important that you and any friends and colleagues
you know call in support of this bill. If you only have a minute and don’t
have time to look up your Senator’s or Representative’s direct line, you can
call the main number at the State House and ask to be forwarded to him/her.
The main number at the State House is 617.722.2000.
You can find the name and contact information for your MA Senator and Rep.
as the following link:
Bill text (now known as House Bill 2368 and Senate Bill 1133) is available
by clicking here:
It’s especially important to call if your Representative or Senator is on
the Joint Committee for Public Health. Committee members and their districts
are listed below:
Sen. Chandler (Senate Vice-Chair of Public Health Comm.):
1st Worcester: Berlin, Boylston, Clinton (Pcts. 3-4), Holden, Northborough,
Paxton, Princeton, West Boylston, Worcester (Wds. 1-4, 9-10)
Rep. Lewis (House Vice-Chair of Public Health Comm.)
31st Middlesex: Stoneham (Pcts. 1-2, 4-7), Winchester
Bristol & Norfolk: Attleboro (Wd. 3, Pct B; Wds 4-6), Dover, Foxboro,
Mansfield, Medfield, Norton, Rehoboth, Seekonk, Sharon (Pcts, 1, 4, 5),
Middlesex & Essex: Lynnfield, Malden, Melrose (Wds. 1-5), Reading, Stoneham,
33rd Middlesex: Malden (Wd. 2; Wd. 3, Pct 1; Wds. 4-6; Wd 8)
Rep. Balser (bill cosponsor)
12th Middlesex: Newton (Wd. 5, Pcts. 1-3; Wd. 6; Wd 7, Pcts 1, 3-4; Wd 8)
Rep. Sciortino (bill cosponsor)
34th Middlesex: Medford (Wds 4-5; Wd. 7, Pct. 1; Wd. 8, Pct. 2), Somerville
(Wd. 4, Pcts 1-2; Wd. 7)
Rep. Garlick (also on Health Care Financing Committee)
13th Norfolk: Dover, Medfield (Pcts. 1-2), Needham
13th Worcester: Paxton, Worcester (Wd. 1, Pcts 1-4; Wd. 9; Wd 10, Pct 3)
17th Essex: Andover (Pcts. 2-6,9), Lawrence(Wd. D, Pcts. 1-2; Wd E, Pcts. 1,
4), Tewksbury (Pcts. 3, 3A)
Rep. George Ross
2nd Bristol: Attleboro (Wds. 1-2; Wd. 3, Pct. A; Wds. 4-6)
It takes only a minute or two to call, and this will make a big difference.
Here’s a sample script:
Hello! My name is XXX. I’m a constituent of XXXX’s. I’m calling today to
request that Sen./Rep. XXX support An Act Relative to Certified Professional
Midwives (House Bill 2368 and Senate Bill 1133). This bill is being heard
before the Joint Committee for Public Health on July 19th. Thank you for
your support of this important legislation.
(You may be asked for your name again, as well as for your address and/or
It’s that simple!
Please call today and help make good birth choices available to all MA women
and their families.
Thanks so much for your support!
Mass. Friends of Midwives
I was just reading this post on Slate’s XX Factor Blog (what ‘Women Really Think’ — or so they claim. In it KJ Dell’Antonia writes her response to Colleen Oakley’s Blog post wondering why she doesn’t get much support when she tells people she’s aiming for an intervention-free birth.
Dell’Antonia–an apparent birthing expert after four babies: one section and one natural birth courtesy of a midwife who “wouldn’t ante up the good stuff”–is amused by the notion of women thinking they can choose their birth experiences much like they order dinner from a restaurant menu.
I’ll grant her that birth can be unpredictable. Prepare as you do, you really don’t know precisely what your child’s entry into the world will be like until it happens. That said, I sure don’t feel like my son’s drug-free birth was based on luck alone. The choices you make during your pregnancy–from selecting your care provider to researching laboring techniques and understanding the huge variety in labor progressions–it all matters when your child’s birth day arrives.
Dell’Antonia professes to be enjoying her hard-earned wisdom. She’s apparently resigned herself to the claim that a healthy baby is all that matters She’s birthed, therefore she knows: prepare for disappointment.
My message to Oakley and women like her is that women who have given birth within our medical system have a lot to be cynical about. But it’s not them failing you by appearing skeptical, it’s the system failing all of us. My message to Dell’Antonia is that all moms value healthy babies above all else. Mom’s who choose to educate themselves know something you don’t: Being your own advocate makes a difference. You are not powerless. Until our healthcare system changes, educating yourself and advocating for yourself is the best birth choice we have.
I presently have three close friends due with their first child and one cousin due with her second. All have expressed an interest in natural birth and have a various times come to me with questions about my experience, seeking advice on everything from care providers to laboring techniques.
My first advice is always: get a midwife not an OB. After that I find I get tongue tied. I of course have an opinion on everything from how to labor, to the best baby carrier to buy for newborns. But I fear sometimes that I’m so passionate about my birthing opinions that I might come across as almost militantly anti-intervention.
I also think it’s nice to let a new mom explore birth options on their own and come to conclusions that feel right to them. So what I’ve tried to do lately is steer them towards resources I’ve found helpful.
What helped me the very most in terms of preparing to have a baby was reading birth stories. The internet is filled with some fantastic ones and I definitely have my favorites.
Here are my top five birth stories, in no particular order (FYI, most if not all of these links contain birth pictures that may not be safe for work, click with discretion!):
Xan’s UBAC Birth, by Babyslime This story is both heart-wrenching and inspiring. Unassisted birth is definitely not for everyone but it was the right choice for this mom. For me the fact that she’s 5′ 1″ and birthed a 9+ lb baby after a section gave me lots of motivation to trust my body.
If you’ve not read her blog before, definitely worth checking out. She’s a fantastic writer and offers some interesting info on everything from cloth diapering to no poo-ing (that’s no shampoo btw!)
The Birth of Grey Forest Walt: Outdoor, midwife attended VBAC This is the first birth story I remember reading. I re-read it the other day and it reads far more ‘earthy crunchy’ than I remember. Some might find that a turnoff but it’s lovely in all of its detail. It’s also a great illustration of the transformative power of birth for moms.
One Journey to Homebirth after 3 Sections: Slideshow/Video Love, love, love this… makes me cry every time. A beautiful story of a mom taking change, learning to trust herself and enjoy her child’s birth.
Home, midwife assisted water birth from Birth Story Diaries I just discovered a lot of the links to the birth stories on this site are now down but this one is still up and it’s fantastic. Lots of pictures!
Olive’s home/waterbirth video/slideshow This is just a lovely, simple birth experience from a mom who birthed at home with a midwife and her husband.
Does anyone have any others they love to share?
In a fit of utter boredom I spent some time yesterday trolling a celebrity gossip site and came across a post about Gisele Bundchen’s birth where she blissfully declared it “not painful.” The comments that followed were fascinating. They started out remarkably positive, along the lines of “wow, that gives me inspiration, I hope I can have a birth like that.” 700+ comments later the conversation devolved into the usual mud slinging. But a few things really stood out to me about the whole dialogue created by this unusual celebrity birth story.
1. Positive role models can produce positive results: It was lovely to see how just the mere acknowledgment that childbirth can be a pleasurable experience led some woman to shift their own thinking. I know this reflects my own experience with a mom and siblings who always spoke of the virtues of natural birth and clued me in to the reality of intervention heavy births. It allowed me to see births in film and on TV for what they really were: fiction intended to create drama.
2. How pervasive the negative image of birth is: Despite the comments starting out positive, it didn’t take long before Gisele was accused of lying about her birth experience. So many posters could not accept that it was possible for birth to be anything other than painful and horrible. The most common reason I saw: “My (mom, sister, friend) said childbirth was the worst pain ever. They were cut, the baby’s head was huge, they were in labor for three weeks, etc..” See point one.
3. That many view being sliced open via surgical birth as preferable to the possibility of tearing from vaginal birth: This never stops surprising me. I hear it all the time. It’s as though they’ve blocked out the reality that in order to surgically deliver a child an OB needs to cut through your entire abdominal cavity and then sew you back up. How is this better or less painful than even a larger tear? As if that’s even a foregone conclusion… (shakes head).
In related news:
A new California state report concludes that the number of woman dying from childbirth has tripled in the last decade. And guess what? The usual scapegoats (obesity, maternal age and fertility treatments) were ruled out as likely causes. What could not be ruled out? (wait for it) C-sections and inductions. Shocking, right?
What do you know, apparently Gisele Bundchen had a homebirth!
A close friend is 14 weeks pregnant with her first child and is very excited and inspired by her pursuit of a natural, midwife attended birth. I’ve shared with her all of my favorite books and she’s presently really enjoying reading about hypnobirthing. She also recently watched “A Business of Being Born” with her husband and now feels fantastic about her choice of care providers and honestly seems to be looking forward to the birthing experience, not fearing it.
Sounds lovely, no?
Then she goes home to visit her family and gets the–sadly almost inevitable–’take the drugs! Don’t try to be a super hero’ comments from a relative. The comments made her furious, as I remember them making me. I’m not even sure what is the most anger triggering, the vague implication from sometimes total strangers that you can’t hack child birth? The dismissive nature of one’s birth choices that were made, in many cases, after ample research? I guess the bottom line is it just seems completely inappropriate to vocalize such a negative experience onto someone who’s not even yet had the opportunity to go through it for themselves. But beyond just ‘raining on her parade,’ the comments towards my friend felt like the same kind of negative propaganda birth always gets: “It sucks, it’s painful, make it as easy on yourself as possible and do what your doctor tells you to do. But above all, TAKE THE DRUGS!”
What do you say to this? I’m pretty sure initially she did what I did, which was basically to nod and ignore. Then she moved on to, “how about we discuss this after I give birth?” But the subject left us wondering: what is the deal with this variety of comments that you get EVERYWHERE (even from our doctors as was depicted in Knocked Up)? At the end of the day, it’s only you and your baby experiencing that particular birth so why it matters to anyone else how you choose to prepare is beyond me. But is there any way to turn the conversation towards the positive so that it doesn’t feel like a weird birth-based competition?
We both assumed the root of these comments was some kind of failure insecurity. The mom is question had apparently aimed for a natural birth herself and somehow fell short and now resents the idea. And I’ve run into this many times myself – this resentment of the quest for natural birth. In some cases it comes from a mom who is using natural to mean vaginal birth, but regardless these moms feel very justified in telling you, aiming for a natural birth is not worth the effort.
Obviously there are plenty of women who have had natural births that feel differently. You can certainly just attempt to surround yourself with their stories instead. But I sometimes wonder if the whole ‘don’t be a super hero’ thing isn’t scaring a lot of natural birthers into the closet. I mean, who wants to cheapen a wonderful personal experience by feeling put into a position of having to defend it? Or having it made to be something that was somehow selfish, and about what the mom wants alone?
On the flip side, much like I hate being told ‘take the drugs’ I have no interest in forcing my birth choices on other women like a natural birth vigilante either. It just would be nice to get a constructive conversation out of assumptions.
Am I being too idealistic? Probably..
I’ve been pretty fascinated with the idea of birthing unassisted, but not to the point of considering it for myself. I love having the reassurance I felt from having my midwife there as well as my husband and mother (who acted as my doula).
But when I was researching birth stories in preparation for my son’s birth, I confess i found reading unassisted birth stories pretty inspiring. There are some beautiful ones online that very much present the birthing moms as extraordinarily knowledgeable and capable of making good judgement calls—even if it means transferring to a hospital. (An example of one I loved reading.)
Then there are those unplanned, unassisted births…the kind you see on “I didn’t know I was pregnant,” that new (bizarre) series on TLC. Not what I would call empowering by any stretch. Although it does sometimes leave me thinking, “wow, look at all of these babies born perfectly healthy despite a lack of outside care.” Of course they always present the situation like a bullet was dodged. And certainly, good prenatal care and a midwife to assist with the birth are (I think) pretty important safety measures. But it’s also tough not to notice how few of these births require any intervention.
Speaking of interventions: This craziness makes me grateful I didn’t birth in Utah.
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:
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.
I gave birth to my third son just a little over a month ago. It was also my third midwife-assisted birth (and our midwife was awesome!) but my first waterbirth. The water part was amazing, and I no longer have any doubt why water has been referred to as the natural epidural. Mostly, though, this birth has caused me to reflect on the vulnerability of a woman in childbirth.
This labor was pretty difficult for me, much more so than my last labor. I spent hours stuck between 6 and 7 centimeters, and I was exhausted. Finally, after much debate, we decided to have our midwife break my water to see if that would push me over the hump. Wow, did it! I went from not quite 7 centimeters to having a baby in my arms in 20 minutes. During the hardest parts of the labor, I was desperate for something, anything, to make it stop. Though I never actually asked for pain medication, I do remember thinking in between a couple of bad contractions that I could understand why a woman vulnerable in the throes of labor would agree to all kinds of things if told that they were necessary to end the labor and deliver a healthy baby. I’m pretty sure there was a moment or two for me where I would have though that even a cesarean section sounded like a pretty good idea. I know an epidural did!
As humorous as it may seem now, the reality is that this vulnerability is exactly why the midwife model of care is so beneficial to a woman in childbirth. The obstetrical model of care in this country all too often takes advantage of this vulnerability to convince a woman with no true medical need to get an epidural, Pitocin, a cesarean section, etc. In contrast, the midwife model of care refuses to exploit a laboring woman’s vulnerability with promises of quick relief without regard to risk. When I was in the midst of the hardest part of my labor, the only words I heard from my midwife were that everything was fine and that I could do it. And I did. While I am incredibly grateful for the labor support I received from my midwife and nurses, after this birth experience I am even more disturbed by the lack of support so often given to a laboring woman in what is one of the most vulnerable moments of her life. And I am even more certain of how crucial it is that we continue to advocate for midwives, natural childbirth, and access to childbirth choices and education.