The Great Wall of Vagina

Wow, I stumbled upon the work of UK artist Jamie McCartney, and was pretty much blown away.  You have to visit his site ASAP: The Great Wall of Vagina. 

The 9 metre long polyptych consists of four hundred plaster casts of vulvas, all of them unique, arranged into ten large panels. McCartney set out to make this project as broad and inclusive as possible. The age range of the women is from 18 to 76. Included are mothers and daughters, identical twins, transgendered men and women as well as a woman pre and post natal and another one pre and post labiaplasty.

It’s not vulgar, it’s vulva! This isn’t just sensation, it is art with a social conscience and McCartney wants people to stop, look and listen. This is about grabbing the attention, using humour and spectacle, and then educating people about what normal women really look like. Described as “the Vagina Monologues of sculpture” this piece is intended to change the lives of women, forever.

“For many women their genital appearance is a source of anxiety and I was in a unique position to do something about that.”

Vulvas and labia are as different as faces and many people, particularly women, don’t seem to know that. McCartney hopes this sculpture will help to combat the exponential rise, seen in recent years, of cosmetic labial surgeries. This new fashion for creating ‘perfect’ vaginas sets a worrying trend for future generations of women.

Wow.  Um, yeah, I agree.  Wow.

Posted in Birth Art, Feminism, Good Enough to Share, Sex and Sexuality | 2 Comments

NRP with Karen Strange

I took the most amazing NRP class today (NRP stands for Neonatal Resuscitation Provider, for those who aren’t hip to all of the gazillion acronyms in this crazy profession) with Karen Strange of, and I am so buzzed from the class that I have to sit down and write about it tonight before I forget everything that I learned.  It was unlike any NRP class I have ever taken before (and trust me, at this point in my nursing/ midwifery career, having to re-certify every 2 years, I’ve already taken the class 5 times before).  This class is designed for out-of-hospital providers.  It’s meant to teach NRP to homebirth midwives and doulas, those who’re resuscitating babies without pulse oximeters and oxygen blenders and a NICU just down the hall, but it was without a doubt more informative, evidence-based and just plain helpful than any other NRP class I have ever taken before.  It makes me wonder how these other NRP classes can get away with just teaching the how-to of resuscitation when there’s actually so much else going on which needs to be addressed.  It was completely mind-blowing, paradigm-shifting, eye-opening, wow.  I’m going to run over the bullet points here, but if you ever get a chance to take a class with her, DO IT.

*  Remember the baby in all of this.  As midwives in particular we’re so focused on the woman–the mother, the mother, the mother–her experience, her birth, her power, her strength, her triumph, her fears, her labor, that we forget that there’s a second silent passenger traveling with her every step of the way.  Karen talked about treating pregnant women almost as if you’re treating siamese twins–it would be rude to talk to just one twin as if the other isn’t there, you have to talk to both, so in that sense, everything you explain to the mother you should also explain to the baby.  We need to treat them the way we would want to be treated; this includes telling the baby what you’re going to do before you do it, telling the baby what’s going on, telling the baby what you want her to do, and telling her the story of what’s happened.  And reminding the parents to do the same, so that the baby hears this from everyone, not just from the midwife or doula.

*  Think long and hard about what birth might feel like from the baby’s perspective; how emerging into the super-bright, super-loud, super-chaotic world can be incredibly overwhelming and traumatic, even in the calmest and gentlest of births, and that in births where the baby requires resuscitation and intervention, even more so.  And think about the baby’s story in all of this.  Their early cries may be their attempt to be heard, to tell their story to the world, and to know that they’re not alone, that someone is listening.  Being present at the birth means being able to slow down and listen to what your baby is saying.  As the mother, you are the emotional regulator of your child.  If your baby is crying, notice how that makes you feel inside (frantic, frightened, worried?)–your baby may be responding to your emotions, since everything they know/ feel is a mirror of what you know/ feel.  Then take a moment to calm and collect yourself–how do you feel now?  By telling the story and naming what is happening or happened, you are helping the baby integrate their story (experience). For example, tell the baby that they’ve been born–they might not realize it yet.  Yes, that was really scary, and really hard, and really long, but we hear you, and you’re out now, you’re safe now. And calm yourself down while you’re saying it; then watch your baby mirror your emotions.

*  Everything that happens to the mother during pregnancy is also happening to the baby.  Motherbaby is  completely undifferentiated, and because of this the baby feels the impact of every stressful moment the mother experiences, even if it’s just for a second (such as slamming on the brakes while driving because another car cut in front, only to realize a moment later that you’re fine), except that the baby continues to feel the stress and adrenaline of the moment without the knowledge or understanding that it was temporary and not really a big deal.  The only way to counter the release of adrenaline is with the release of oxytocin, the feel-good love hormone that calms and soothes and relaxes again.  So as in the point above, it’s crucial to teach pregnant women to take a moment when they’re feeling stressed to ground themselves, feel where their feet connect to the floor, breathe, and release oxytocin in the process.  The time in utero, more than any other time in the baby’s life, is what’s developing and deciding who they are; babies are forming (marinating) in their mothers’ emotional states, this is what’s setting up their personalities, beliefs, termperments etc..  Stress is ok (and unavoidable), but the baby needs breaks from the stress, moments when the oxytocin flows again and s/he can relax again; teach moms to release the adrenaline, acknowledge what happened, tell the baby everything is ok, and then get a hug or a massage or some ice cream (great for relieving oxytocin).  Interested in learning more about this? Check out Prenatal Parenting by Dr. Frederick Wirth.

*  Oxygen is TOXIC.  It causes free radical damage, especially at high amounts, and especially with preterm infants. The newest guidelines from the AAP recommend starting a resuscitation on room air and then titrating up from 21% O2 (room air) until the correct O2 sats have been achieved in the infant.  And remember that it takes up to 10 minutes for a baby to be satting at the correct level–this is all part of the normal newborn transition.  There is a new chart in the 6th Edition NRP book with suggested O2 levels for the first 10 minutes of life, based on 100% O2.  The idea is that table is there to help guide the use of 100% O2, but if you don’t have an O2 Sat, then you shouldn’t be using 100% O2. Use room air (and keep in mind, if you’re giving mouth to mouth resuscitation instead of bag/mask, you’re delivering approx. 16% O2).

*  Babies need their full blood volume.  It belongs to them.  Only public demand will change the length of time practitioners wait before clamping the cord.  The research is already there (has already been there for years) about the benefits of delayed cord clamping, and STILL practitioners will commonly clamp and cut the cord immediately after birth, despite the research.  Now the only thing left to do is to educate the public so that they will start to DEMAND delayed cord clamping.  If you need more proof, look up Dr. Nicholas Fogelson on You Tube and watch his grand round presentations on this.  If you need to resuscitate, keep the baby attached to the cord, keep the baby lower than the placenta so the blood can drain into the baby, and milk the cord or have the mom give a few small pushes to get even more blood into the baby.  None of the concerns about polycythemia/ increased bilirubin/ jaundice with delayed cord clamping has been confirmed by research.

This video was embedded using the YouTuber plugin by Roy Tanck. Adobe Flash Player is required to view the video.

*  In the UK textbooks for neonatal resuscitation, there is a differentiation between inflation breaths versus ventilation breaths.  The first few breaths given to a newborn during resuscitation are inflation breaths. The purpose of these breaths is to expand the lungs and clear out the fluid which is there before birth.  These breaths need to be a little bit longer with a little bit more pressure.  In the AAP 6th Edition, no distinction is made between inflation breaths versus ventilation breaths, although they do concede that a little bit more pressure may be needed at the beginning to help clear the lungs of fluid.

*  The GOLDEN HOUR after birth is the most important time for bonding, and as a care provider we must do everything we can to help preserve this time.  The baby and mother have both been primed for the bonding through hormonal changes, and the blue print is there for this to occur, but the first hour after birth is when the gears actually align and the bonding is actually cemented.  This is the moment when the baby learns that after the stress of birth, there is a place of safety, rest and relaxation waiting for her/him.   This time is PRECIOUS, and you will never have this hour again.  Teach your parents birth etiquette. The Golden Hour is not the time to be sending photos or texting or emailing or being pulled away from your baby–it’s the time to be totally plugged in and PRESENT.  If for some reason the baby needed resuscitation or was separated from his mom, the Golden Hour happens whenever it is that mom and baby are reunited for the first time.

And that is just the smallest glimpse into everything I learned…not to mention how to correctly do mouth-t0-mouth resuscitation in a home setting.  Seriously, if Karen Strange comes to your city and you have a chance to take a class with her…run, don’t walk!

Posted in Academia, Complications, Education, Homebirth, Labor and Birth, Miscellaneous | 5 Comments

Grace’s Birth

Another birth story from my totally fantastic Due Date Club, this one written by Kristy.  I’ve got plenty more stories to come, but I’m trying to ration them a bit, birth story junkies that we all are.  So enjoy this lovely hospital birth with a very supportive team that did a great job of respecting the mom’s birth plan!


Fall of 2011 had just began and I noticed I had missed my period, not one but two months. This was rather odd as I was doing well health wise, loosing weight and my Thyroid medication I had been on for the past year or so was working well. Since being on the medicine, my periods had become close to regular every month, something which I hadn’t experienced since before our first daughter was born back in 2004.  July we had dropped our health insurance because we could no longer afford to pay half the premium anymore as it had gone up 5-6 times in the past couple years. So after making sure our daughter, Maddy, had health insurance from the state we went with out insurance for ourselves, not knowing we would be blessed to learn were expecting another baby girl!  There was a new pregnancy resource center in town that offered free tests, so I made the decision to go, even though I had my doubts. I tested and got a very faint line, which turned out to be because I was a little early in testing. In the coming weeks I would make an appointment with the OBGYN I had been seeing for my thyroid. A blood test as well as an ultrasound was done and I was just in pure amazement. For years and years we had waited and were not sure if we would ever be blessed with another baby again due to my Thyroid troubles. But in the last couple years I had a peace within myself in whatever happened. When I found out I was expecting a baby I went home and just smiled from ear to ear, I couldn’t believe I was given a chance to be a mommy again!

Fast forward to the Spring of 2011… I went into preterm labor at 34 weeks and went into the hospital to be monitored and then had my labor stopped. We were also in the process of getting ready to move in the next couple months. The plan was to be at our new place by July 1st, but we had most of the house already packed. We had everything we needed ready to go for the baby’s arrival, but one thing I learned through this experience is I will never plan a move while having a baby again.  Time is precious and babies are only babies for a short while. It was a necessary move in that it would affect all of our lives for the better.  Sure enough, moving has been a major blessing in our lives and one less stress to have an employer that values my husband and his abilities.

To get back to the actual birth story… It was Tuesday morning May 3rd and I had a liner on because my bladder was unpredictable; we all know how it is at this point in pregnancy. I was standing in the kitchen making Maddy a Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwich for her lunch that day at school and I noticed my liner was soaked, like I peed my pants.  So after I finished went to the bathroom and got a fresh pair of underwear and then put on another liner and stood there, and within a few minutes it was soaked as well. So this time I stood in the shower and just stood there with nothing on and tiny little gushes trickled down my legs. It was so tiny I couldn’t tell if it was my bladder or what, but knew it was odd. I had my water broken manually to start labor with Maddy and it was a humungous gush, so that is another reason why I was so puzzled, because this was not like that.  (I will never allow anyone to manually break my water again to induce labor.  Being a first time mom I didn’t know any better at the time.)  So anyways, we got Maddy off to school, I took a shower and got my bag and stuff in the car and off to L&D we went, because we were advised to go and get things checked out. I went into the bathroom and the nurse had a litmus strip to test if it was amniotic fluid or not.  It turned bright blue immediately which was positive. I had tested positive for Group Beta Strep at my check up the week before (I didn’t when I was pregnant with Maddy so that was new), so now because I was GBS positive I could not go home during early labor and I had to be admitted and started on my rounds of antibiotics right away. I almost wonder if infection caused my water to break or if it’s just that Grace wanted to come early; this was the question I originally asked myself after giving birth. Over the course of the next year I would find it out all the signs lead to me having an infection due to both GBS and a tooth infection I was unaware of at the time.

Once we were admitted we had called Maddy’s teacher who graciously offered Maddy a place to stay while we had the baby in the hospital. All of our family and friends lived out of state, and my mom and sister were not going to be able to visit for a couple months. So we were forever grateful for the graciousness of those we knew in our community.  Maddy had her own bag ready to go as well for when the time came for her to stay the night.  Grace was doing fine on the monitors so I was happy about that.  I had a really great nurse during the day who used to be a doula, which was very comforting. As a matter of fact this time I had an official doula, too.  It was my first experience having one and I thought it was totally worth it.  Our Doula Shellie was also Maddy’s occupational therapist so we were friends, and it was great. We waited to call her in with us until my contractions were a bit closer together and more regular. I didn’t go into contractions right away either.  After getting my first round of antibiotics and monitored for a bit, I had my IV hep-locked, (this makes it more portable, since the tubing can be hooked in and out of it) and I was un-tethered from the IV so I could walk.  I walked and walked for a few hours.  I noticed crampy-type pains coming and then after a while I was having regular contractions, but they were very tolerable, even though they were becoming more noticeable. I forgot to mention I was having contractions when I first came in and never realized it; you could see them on the monitor in the beginning and I was not feeling them, which again is something I never experienced that with Maddy so it was really weird!  I was on a time schedule for my antibiotics so they would give me a time to watch for to start another round of antibiotics again and in the mean time I was free to do whatever I wanted. I noticed that if I stayed in bed my labor would kind of slow down. So I made sure I was up and walking as much as I could and they fed me lunch! I was so surprised! This didn’t happen with Maddy, I wasn’t allowed anything! I loved sitting on the birth ball they provided me with, that helped cushion the spikes of the contractions and bouncing on it helped keep them going.

So as things picked up sometime late afternoon.  Early evening we called in our doula, Shellie.  Right before we called her in I had a small stall as well, and she had suggested over the phone that we maybe try a prostaglandin pill, I forget what it’s called [Editor’s note: this was probably either cytotec or cervadil] which usually the put in your cervix to soften and get things started [Editor’s note: it goes into the vagina underneath the cervix and is used as a cervical ripener]. I was very apprehensive about it, but needed to find a way to get things going again. It seemed to do the trick for and for while and I was contracting again. Our doula arrived and she was great and had a bag of all kinds of things she could use during labor to help.

My labor again stalled though not long after she had came, because I had to sit in bed for my round of antibiotics and the contractions subsided a bit. They were still there but not consistent. We talked to the Doctor and he said it was up to me, he was still very respectful of my birth plan but guided me through my decisions  and didn’t make them for me.  I was not used to this and this helped me be much more comfortable in having a hospital birth, as my last hospital birth was much more about telling me what to do and unnecessary interventions, such as manually breaking my water and early induction. This time around, however, it was a wonderful experience.  I told him I wanted to get up and walk and try a little while longer and see what happens over the next few hours and he agreed. So my doula began walking the hallways with us and talking and joking with my husband, keeping things a great atmosphere.  Sure enough walking did the trick again and I got back into a rhythm. I was able to smile and laugh and talk in between contractions, it was so different than my first labor. I think because my body was able to develop it’s own rhythm rather than being forced into one by induction, where I had my water broken and my body was kind of slammed into labor it literally felt like I was being wrung out like a sponge with searing pain. This time allowing it to come naturally it was much more tolerable. I was amazed, because when talking with my doula before birth at our formal meeting, I told her I was nervous but wanted to find a way to have a natural birth and find a way to work with my body. She gave me some tips for breathing; something I wasn’t taught in my Lamaze classes during my first pregnancy was how to actually fill up your lungs with air not just shallow breathing, and that did wonders! Basically they were hypno-birthing techniques that helped me find a relaxed state with as well as finding ways to not allow tension in your body. If she would see a section of my body tense up, like my shoulders tense up or another part of my body she would say “do a tension check” or let me know the specific part of my body that was tense and I could focus and make a point to relax each area of my body one section at a time and it worked! I can’t describe how, but it did.  She also described to me how the muscles work during labor in our formal meeting, which I didn’t know with Maddy; she also helped me learn how to visualize it and that also helped my body really get into a rhythm and really understand what I was doing.

So I was sailing away and time was just weird, the concept of time is so different in labor, sometimes it would fly other times it seemed like forever. My contractions were going strong and really spiked, they were lasting longer and a little more intense at the peak, but eventually the prostaglandin pill wore off and I needed to take a break from walking for a minute. So I had a slight stall again, but I did not loose faith, I was at complete peace with no pressure from my doctor and in control of my birth experience.

Meanwhile my doula ran me a bath in the Jacuzzi tub and put some lavender oil in there, oh my that was heaven! She then started an acupressure technique where she pressed on a pressure point near my ankle and then rubbed the side of my pinky toe, I am not kidding! And it worked!  Within no time I was contracting again! I was at 5 or 6cm at that time and within a few hours I had made it to 8cm. In the tub I was getting those spiky contractions again towards the end and would lay against the jets up against my back and it would help so much. I could smile and talk in between them and she was so positive to me and telling me what a wonderful job I was doing and how impressed she was with how in tune I was with my body. I felt like superwoman!  I could tell the contractions were getting more intense and she didn’t need to keep doing the acupressure anymore.  I got out and was checked and I was 8 cm. My nurse at night was awesome and my Shellie loved her and told me I got the best nurse on the entire floor that night. Shellie was right, she was my favorite nurse, so it just made my night. The nurse was so positive about my birth plan and showed me the wireless monitor so she didn’t have to drag me out of the tub to monitor the baby, but walked over to me and held it on my stomach instead.  I didn’t even know there was such a thing! She was telling me that some nurses don’t like them because it requires a little more patience and work, but they were awesome for natural labors like mine.

Shellie told me it shouldn’t be long now because my contractions were intense, and that I was entering transition. These contractions I really really had to concentrate on, they were very painful at their peaks but I thought of it like a roller coaster and that once I could reach that peak then it would cruise back down. Then I would get a break. They got intense but at the same time they weren’t one on top of another because I had maintained a rhythm.  With my first labor they were one on top of another, no rhythm at all and I felt as if I was working against my body. I didn’t know how find a rhythm or visualize and without a doula I had no one to ask for help. So having a doula by my side this time and knowing what was going on was so helpful.  This time I was ready and full of actual information in large part due to the consultation with Shellie before labor itself started. I honestly think had I not gotten an epidural with my first labor, I would have stalled and ended up with a C-Section because having an epidural was the only thing that allowed my body to calm down and dilate.

However, this time I wanted things to be different.  I wanted to know what it was like to experience labor; my goal was to make it through it on my own. As I entered transition I was leaning up against Jed.  I would lay my head in his shoulder, or squeeze his hand, but after a while it got to the point that even this wasn’t working anymore.  So I had him sit down and take a break.  I was checked and found out I was fully effaced and dilated to 10 cm with just a tiny lip of cervix, but the nurse fixed that.  I continued on through the strong contractions of transition and it was the hardest part but I knew the end was in sight and kept telling myself I am almost there; finding the strength within myself in my own mind was what got me through it. I was humming/moaning through the contractions and breathing, I can remember my doula explaining to my husband that my noises were pushing noises and it sounded like my body was getting close and she was exactly right.

The most amazing experience happened to me during transition, and Shellie had described this phenomenon to me in our meeting. I would have a very very hard and long contraction and I am not sure exactly how long but with the hypno-birthing technique I was able to relax myself so much that I actually went into a deep sleep in between each contraction. It was the most incredible feeling and each time I felt rested and ready for another. It was almost as if I was going into REM sleep. That is something I will never forget! Within around 30 minutes (I can’t remember exactly how long) it was finally time to push.  I suddenly felt pressure and then it literally felt like a ring of fire just like I have been told and then Grace crowned and within 3 or 4 pushes she was out. No tearing at all, I was amazed! She was 6lbs 12 ¼ ounces, a small little girl and a lot of white vernix. Thankfully she didn’t have any breathing problems and did well and I was able to hold her and got her to breastfeed, but she was a sleepy little girl and got a little cold so they gave me a couple more blankets out of the warmer and I pushed out the placenta very easily and the doctor said it looked great and very healthy.

I requested in my birth plan to let the cord keep pulsating and only cut it once it had stopped, and the doctor honored my wishes! This request can be very hard to get in a birth plan sometimes, but he was amazing.  So she got all her cord blood. I had no hemorrhaging at all, either.  I was nervous because with my first labor I did and I often wonder if it was because result of all the interventions sometimes.  What made me decide to have a hospital birth this time around was a desire to prevent bleeding complications similar to what I had with my first birth, but also having a supportive doctor, nurses and wonderful doula made it seem as if I were almost at home.  So after the placenta was out the nurse wheeled me into the nursery and Baby Grace was warmed up and then washed up. With Maddy I wasn’t even asked or allowed into the room for her first bath, this time they made sure I was everywhere I wanted to be with the baby. So I was really happy about that.

I had a wonderful lactation consultant and with her help Grace learned to suck.  Bcause she was born at 36 weeks just a few days before 37 weeks, Grace wasn’t good at sucking and needed a little help.  With a little practice she was taught to latch on beautifully; she was doing great and getting a lot of colustrum in fact so much that she over filled her belly a few times.  We were almost going to be released and then she starting exhibiting signs of jaundice and it got kind of bad, so we ended up staying a few more days in the hospital till May 8th and didn’t get released until the afternoon of Mother’s day. It was a hard few days, my husband had to go back home and get our daughter Maddy because she had become extremely homesick and told her teacher that she wanted to see mommy and sleep in her bed. She had fun out on her teacher’s farm, but missed home, and because of needing structure due to her Autism, Jed and I decided it would be best if he stayed with her and they would visit me every day and then I would stay with the baby. It was harder than I thought it would be, at first most of the nurses were ok, but the first had me keep Grace under the table in my room the entire day. Normally I would be just fine with rooming in, however I could not go to the bathroom, could not eat, and had no one there to help me, and the reason why is the stupid glasses they used kept falling off Grace’s eyes and I had to keep them on in order to not damage her eyes. The night before the nurse who was with me during my birth was working in the nursery, and that night she had put a baby hat that she had cut out to make a much more effective and softer band, with several layers to protect the eyes. It was much more comfortable for the babies than the goggles they had. But by day I had to monitor the baby in my room, and a different nurse put on the horrible goggles and said what the nurse I liked on the night shift had done was against the rules blah blah blah.  Grace kept pulling the goggles off; pretty much every few minutes I had to put them back on, so as I mentioned I was struggling to change my pads, go to the bathroom and eat and was a little frustrated at the nurse.  Thankfully night shifted started at 7pm and another nice nurse that I liked took over and it was a Godsend!  She allowed me to get sleep at night and took very good care of Grace for me when I needed a break.

I was a little stressed though because of the unknown with my breastfeeding, they gave me a Medela pump to try and draw my supply up, it hadn’t come yet. Finally the last few days I was getting transitional milk and pumping 10 ccs each pumping session.  I would pump after each feeding. It was just barely enough. Grace would feed and I could hear her gulp a few times which was good then after that I would give her what I had pumped by syringe. But I couldn’t bring in any more than that. So I started to get a little worried, because sometimes she had to have what was in the syringe to settle down completely.

The very last day we were at the hospital I had a little bit of a breakdown due to a nurse who I could not stand. She was formerly completely anti-breastfeeding and had no problem admitting to that, where I would have been completely ashamed to admit such a thing if I were her. Here I am struggling with all the unknowns of my supply and I am completely pro-breastfeeding and just can’t stand people like her. Supposedly after going to this workshop she changed her mind and thought she was the world’s foremost expert on breastfeeding and trying to tell me to trust my body and telling me things I already knew, as if I was some kind of stupid person.  She was so dense and new to breastfeeding that she had no idea that for some women there are supply issues and it doesn’t always just come naturally, for a good percentage it does but not all ladies, and for some reason I just happen to be the small percentage of women that struggle. I couldn’t get a word in edgewise hardly to tell her I am not a new mom this was my 2nd baby and my first baby I had major supply issues, as nothing ever came in at all that time. So I just wanted to smack her. I had just gotten Grace fed and she forced me to take her back into the room and feed her again, even though I had nothing to give her and Grace was asleep. So when she left the room I wrapped the baby back up and ate my breakfast with one hand and held Grace sleeping in the other.  By the afternoon when we finally got the ok to be discharged since Grace was in safer billi levels, I was completely ready to be out of there!  She took an already stressful situation and made me feel stupid and incompetent and just angry because she didn’t even start off having any respect for moms that breastfeed most of her career as a RN in the first place, which didn’t set well with me. She thought she could “teach” me more than I already know with her lectures to me. Anyways all I can say is I was glad to be rid of that lady and thankfully she was only on shift my last day in the hospital. I would have gone into a full blown breakdown had I had to stay around her any longer.

So Mother’s day afternoon we can home and I breastfeed for another several days after we got home; and Grace was doing ok at first it seemed so I continued to try my best. The Pediatrician sent me home with a scale and saw Grace every couple days at her office to check on my supply and the baby’s progress. I was only able to give Grace a half ounce at a time I learned with the scale weighing her before and after her feedings and she was needing 1-2 ounces at that point. Then, right at those last couple days of seeing the doctor I noticed she was started to get really dehydrated looking by the look of her diapers and I had to begin supplementing with formula because I just couldn’t give her enough and she also started to show the signs of still being hungry. For a while I kept up pumping but the feedings were so often I couldn’t find the time to pump after every feeding as I wanted, otherwise I wouldn’t have gotten any sleep at all. So it went down to a few pumping sessions a day and then once or twice a day. I was pumping an ounce total for a while, but because of not getting regular stimulation then went down to ½ ounce even with the same amount of pumping. I gave her every drop I could pump. I was happy that I at least made it as far as I did, because with Maddy literally none came in, just drops. So I was relieved she got some breast milk, which is way better that none at all. I had an easier time emotionally this go around, but still felt a bit sad because I so desperately wanted to give her breast milk. I wasn’t mad at myself  but I was sad because I enjoyed the bond during breastfeeding and Grace actually used to beg to breastfeed when I started to supplement and I would let her, but over time she got used to the bottle and didn’t beg anymore. That broke my heart. But at least I know I did my best and gave her as much as I could and that I am proud of.

Having an emergency appendectomy(removal of my appendix) when I hit my 6 week mark pretty much dried up my supply and I was not allowed to breastfeed with the medications I was on, some they could change around to be more breastfeeding friendly but others they couldn’t so I just decided at that point I had to stop and Grace was already receiving most of her feedings from formula. I could have tried to draw it back in, but with the move just a few weeks later and feeding and everything I had very little time to pump.  I would later find on that on both sides of my family women have had supply issues, I had no idea until just a few weeks ago.  I thought just my mom had struggles, so I think with that genetic combination and my thyroid, it’s just how my supply is.

In any case, it was a happy birthday to my Sweet Baby Grace!

Posted in Breastfeeding, Hospitals, Labor and Birth, Vaginal Birth | 2 Comments

Ashley Sophia’s birth story

Happy Mother’s Day!  Here’s another fantastic birth story from Kim, a mother in my due date club, this one a successful VBAC with a hospital team that was very respectful of her birth plan.  Isn’t it wonderful when that happens?  Enjoy!


On August 20th, 2010, two little pink lines appeared on a pregnancy test about which I’d barely given any thought.  Mike and I had just gotten back from an anniversary trip, on which we had decided to stop trying for a 2nd baby until 2011.  We had been trying for awhile, and the monthly disappointment was becoming too much for me to handle.  I figured I was just late, not pregnant.  I can’t begin to describe the rush of excitement I felt when I saw those two lines.  After a shaky start that included low HCG levels and a blank 1st ultrasound, I finally got to see Ashley’s sweet heartbeat on an ultrasound screen at 6 weeks, 5 days.

Fast-forward to 41 weeks, 1 day…

I had irregular, but intense, contractions all day on Friday, May 13th.  Since they petered out and never got into a pattern, I chalked it up to needing to drink more water or just doing too much in anticipation of my scheduled VBAC induction on May 18th.  We had a lot to do before our baby girl arrived!  I sat on the birthing ball for a couple hours, because I figured if they happened to be real contractions (and I was convinced they were not), I might as well help things along.  Since it was Friday night, Mike and I decided to stay up and watch television – the show “Four Weddings” to be exact. He is NEVER going to let me live that down.  We normally go to bed around 9:30pm, but we ended up watching TV until 11:30pm.  Hey, it was Friday night!  We didn’t have to get up the next day.

Au contraire…

Around 3:30am, a strong contraction woke me up.  The intensity surprised me, so I glanced at the clock and made note of the time.  Of course, my “pregnancy bladder” kicked in, and I had to get up to use the bathroom.  It was then that I noticed lots of bloody show.  I decided to get back in bed and time contractions – if I had any more, which I was sure I wouldn’t because I’d been having false labor for weeks.  Sure enough, soon after getting back into bed, I had another intense contraction.  I looked at the clock, noted the time, did some difficult math (it was 3:30am!) and realized that they were 6 minutes apart.  I woke up a little more and timed contractions for the next hour.  They gradually moved from 6 minutes apart to 5 minutes apart.  At that point, I realized, OMG, this is happening – I’m going into labor ON MY OWN!  (Key since I was attempting a VBAC.)  At that point, I woke Mike up and told him that I didn’t think we’d be going to yard sales that morning.  (We had plans to walk our big community yard sale that morning.  He was so excited about it.)  By the time I took a shower and finished a little breakfast, my contractions were coming every 2-3 minutes – active labor, 3 hours after the first contraction woke me up.

After reassuring Brooke that her baby sister wasn’t hurting mommy (hard to do while breathing through a contraction at the same time), we got in the car.  We dropped Brooke off at a friend’s house and Mike made a beeline for the hospital, as my (very) vocal reactions to my contractions convinced him that this was VERY real labor and not a false alarm. On the way there, Mike mentioned that he’d forgotten the camera.  I seriously thought about telling him to turn around.

When we got to the hospital, I skipped triage and was sent directly to labor and delivery.  I also walked in under my own power!  Yes, I am proud of that!  I was at 4cm, and they started an IV so they could put in my epidural.  My OB and I had decided together that, since I was attempting a VBAC, I would get a light epidural in the (unlikely) case that I ruptured and needed an emergency repeat c-section. An hour later, my epidural was in, and 4 hours after that, I was at 7cm.  At 9cm, my water had still not broken.  They decided to break my water to encourage Ashley to come down a bit.  When they did that, they discovered thick meconium.  However, my OB said that since she wasn’t showing signs of distress, it was fine to continue (though I was ready to sign papers for the RCS, if needed).  They did decide to use an internal fetal monitor so they could more precisely monitor her heart rate.  At this point, my contractions started to slow down, and I was given 2cc of Pitocin to get things back on track.  It worked, and I went from 8cm to 10cm in an hour.

I started pushing, and just like with Brooke, I was doing a good job, but Ashley just wasn’t coming down.  When I initially considered a VBAC, I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to push through the mental block of my uterine scar and push as hard as I needed.  Turns out, that was not the case, and not that my body really gave me much of an option.  When it was time to push, it was time to push! (As I said, I had a “light” epidural in case of a rupture and emergency c-section; I could still feel everything, which is how I wanted it.)  I pushed and pushed and pushed.

Finally, after two hours of pushing, the OB said that we had to start making decisions because it didn’t appear that Ashley would be coming out without help.  He explained that since I had gotten her down to a certain point, he could use the vacuum to help me get her out the rest of the way.  If that didn’t work, I’d be taken back for a c-section.  OR, I could just choose the c-section now, though my OB strongly encouraged me to try the vacuum.

This choice was familiar, as it was the same exact choice I’d been given during Brooke’s birth.  (Then, I went with the c-section, and we discovered that Brooke’s cord was wrapped around her neck twice, preventing her from descending.)  I asked the OB about the chance of the cord around her neck, (since that could be catastrophic in a vacuum delivery) and he said he was confident that wasn’t the case, so I gave my consent to use the vacuum.  My OB explained the risks and said I’d only have 2-3 pushes to get her out, and if it didn’t work, I’d be taken back to the OR for a c-section.  So, he told me to rest through a couple contractions and to tell him when I was ready.

I rested through two contractions, and I started to feel a “big” one come on.  I told myself “you can do this,” told my OB, “let’s go,” got up on my elbows, put my chin on my chest, and pushed as hard as I could’ve ever pushed.  With that push, Ashley crowned.  I pushed again, and the rest of her came out at 6:19PM – nearly 15 hours since I’d been woken up by contractions.  I felt the ring of fire as her shoulders passed, but I didn’t care, because OMG, I just had a BABY!!!  I was immediately overwhelmed with joy and love, and started to weep at what had just happened.

My OB rushed Ashley over to the neonatologist on stand-by to check for meconium in her lungs.  A minute later, the neonatologist gave her the all clear and said, “Dad!  Get over here!”  The presence of meconium changed our birth plan so that Mike couldn’t cut the cord, but my OB had left quite a bit of the cord so that once the neonatologist gave the all-clear, Mike was called over to cut off the rest of the cord.  I thought that was such a nice gesture.

Mike took pictures (he went back to get the camera as soon as I settled into my labor room) and I watched them rub her down while I was stitched up (vacuum extractions are not kind to the mother’s body).  After they weighed her, they swaddled her and gave her to me.  All I could do was stroke her hand and say, “You’re here.  HI!”  I remember feeling like my heart would just burst when she opened her eyes and looked at me.  Everyone and everything faded to the background, and I was hers and she, mine.

Posted in Birth Stories, Good Enough to Share, Hospitals, Labor and Birth, VBAC | 2 Comments

A man’s take on breastfeeding

This story has been making the rounds, but here’s a really fantastic post on the (Wo)Men Speak Out Blog about a man’s reaction to his wife’s breastfeeding, and his eventual evolution as a man because of it.  Yes, breasts can be sexual, but they’re also incredibly functional.  He wonders if it’s our discomfort with the idea that women can be anything other than a sexual object which leads to the general discomfort that so many people seem to have with breastfeeding, and especially breastfeeding in public.  A good question, and a very good read!

Posted in Breastfeeding, Mothering, Politics | Leave a comment

Levi’s birth story

May has arrived again, it’s officially Spring, and I have lots of birth stories to share with all of you!  Most of these are contributions from women who were part of my Due Date Club last year when I was pregnant.  I wrote a little bit about this extraordinary  group of women in the preface to Sebastian’s Birth Story; we were all due in May and had exchanged beads with each other in order to make birth necklaces which we could wear in labor to remind us that we weren’t alone, even in the deepest and darkest parts of the birth.   I have since gotten to know these women much better in the intervening year and have been truly blessed by their wisdom, support, energy, understanding and mama-know-how, and now that the one year anniversary of our births is nearly upon us (or has already already arrived for some), many of these women have generously offered to share their birth stories with us here on Belly Tales. So pop some popcorn, get some tea, curl up in a comfy chair and enjoy the diverse and miraculous stories which are about to unfold.

First up is Sarah, retelling the fast, whirlwind birth of her son Levi.   (Also serving as a very potent reminder to us midwives to LISTEN to women, and never assume that just because she’s a primip, she’s going to have a long, slow labor):


Saturday morning, April 30th – 38 weeks pregnant.

I insist that we have to go out and buy a toilet paper holder, towel ring, and towel rack for the bathroom we’ve been slowly renovating.  I drag Nathan around to 3 different stores before we select bathroom accessories I’m happy with, and he installs everything as soon as we get home. Everything else in the house has been ready since 37 weeks; there is even an Early-Labour To-Do List pinned to the bassinet.

Monday May 2, 2011 @ 3pm – 38 +2 weeks pregnant

I meet with my midwife Stacey for my 38 week appointment.  My blood pressure is elevated – not quite so high that we have to consult with an OB, but it’s been getting steadily higher over the last few weeks. Stacey knew I really wasn’t interested in dealing with the hospital unless absolutely necessary, and suggests that the easiest way to avoid an OB/hospital consult is for this baby to be born sooner than later.  She suggests doing a stretch & sweep today (S&S), then repeating it in a few days to hopefully get labour going prior to 40 weeks.   Because it’s my first pregnancy & I’m only 38 weeks it is unlikely that she’ll even be able to do a S&S, because my cervix is likely firm and closed.  If she can do one, she lets me know that it will probably be pretty uncomfortable and won’t likely cause anything to happen right away.  We review the risks/benefits and I decide to go ahead.  I’d been thinking about whether or not I was okay with having an internal exam at my 38 week appointment, and had decided that while I wouldn’t ask for one, if my midwife had a good reason to do one, I would be okay with it – – knowing that it only tells me what is happening in that moment, and is in no way indicative of what’s to come.

Stacey starts the exam, and we are both shocked to discover that I am already 3cm dilated & roughly 50% effaced.  She suggests that I could possibly be in early labour, and that would explain my high BP.  All that being said, neither of us anticipated that labour was imminent.  Baby was still a bit high, so she did a good ‘stretch’ but not a lot of ‘sweep’.  There was more bloody show than she anticipated as well. We decide that in addition to the stretch & sweep, I’ll start 3000mg of vaginal evening primrose oil that night, and take a dose of Caullophylum 200C.  I wasn’t interested in doing anything more intense like castor oil. I believe baby’s come when they are ready, and I didn’t want to force anything.  The S&S, homeopathics, & EPO would only help tip me over the edge if my body & baby were ready.  I know that I could walk around at 3cm for another 3 weeks… and that’s really what I expected to happen.

Over the evening I have some spotting and mild cramps that come every 20 minutes for a couple hours, but they are completely ignorable, eventually disappear, and Nathan & I head to bed.  As I drift off to sleep, I say to myself “Open for the baby.  Be open for the baby.  Surrender.”

Tuesday May 3, 2011  -  5am

I wake up to a cramp that is slightly more than the Braxton Hicks have been, and wonder if I could still be cramping from the s&s the day before. It’s so mild that I decide if it wasn’t for yesterday’s appointment I would ignore it, so I’ll just ignore it now. It goes away… but comes back a few minutes later… and a few minutes after that.  I don’t want to disturb Nathan’s sleep though, as his alarm will go off for work at 6:15am, so I commit to lying still and quiet in bed until then.  I realize that these cramps are coming every 5 minutes (I had 6 of them between when the clock chimed 5am & when it chimed 5:30am), lasting about a minute (each one lasted for 9 deep breaths, which I knew from practicing comfort measures with my clients, equalled about 1 minute for me) and they are starting to require my concentration and movement.  Still, I say nothing. I had a couple things I really wanted to finish up at work, and was thinking that I could go to work early then come home once labour picked up, if this was really it.  Then I feel a small gush similar to when your period starts, and after a couple gushes decide that I don’t want to make a mess of the bed so I’ll go to the bathroom to see what is happening.  There was lots of bloody show, so I went back to bed and woke up Nathan “Hey honey.  I don’t think you’re going to work today”.  It wasn’t just a little bit of spotting, but the kind of show you see when the cervix is making substantial change – thinking about it now, I estimate that I was maybe 5cm or so at that point.

I explained to Nathan what I was feeling, and he immediately suggested we call our doula Kim, who lives an hour away. I said that I didn’t think we needed to call her yet – this could go on for hours.  But because it was an hour away he wanted her to have enough time, so we called her from bed to give her the heads up.  I had spoken to Kim the night before to let her know about the stretch & sweep.  She told me after everything was all said & done that she knew I’d be having the baby that day, so her car was loaded & ready to go, and she had been awake since 5am that morning waiting for my call.  I tried telling Kim that there was no rush and to take her time, but by the end of the phone call I couldn’t talk through the contractions anymore so passed the phone to Nathan, who said to go ahead and come now!

I couldn’t stay in bed anymore; I needed to move, so we got up and started on the “Early Labour To Do List”.  We’d hardly get one thing started though, when another contraction would come and Nathan would have to drop everything and run to support me through it.

My contractions were now about 3-5 minutes apart, but were sometimes coming back to back, so I decided not to call Stacey yet, as I figured the double contractions indicated that baby wasn’t in an ideal position and I needed to stay upright and keep moving so that the baby could get well lined up. When contractions were more “regular” I planned to page Stacey. I started to feel nauseous and realized I hadn’t eaten so tried a bite of cracker & some ginger ale but they didn’t help.  By 7am contractions were intense.  I couldn’t walk or talk through them, they were coming every 2-3 minutes, lasting about 90 seconds, and I was moaning my way through each one saying “oh oh oh.”

I had laboured for a while in the living room, leaning over the back of the sofa, sitting on the birth ball, kneeling on the floor… but spent a lot of time in the bathroom, because I didn’t want to make a mess of the carpet in the living room and figured the bathroom would be easier to clean up.

Nathan paged Stacey to tell her it was time to come.  She asked to speak to me, and wasn’t really sure that I was in active labour.  She thought perhaps this was just cramping & spotting from the night before but I insisted that this was NOT from the S&S – this was REAL active labour.  I had a couple contractions while on the phone with her and Nathan had to take over the conversation for me. Stacey said she’d grab a bite of breakfast on her way to assess where I was at.  Kim, our doula, arrived at 7:10am – perfect timing for Nathan, who needed to finish getting the bed ready. That last contraction before Kim arrived, I think I cried through the contraction and said imploringly “Nathan…. It hurts”  (or something to that effect)  Kim walked through the door and Nathan immediately said to her “Take over!  I have to get stuff done”.  I hardly even noticed the change from one person to the next, I was so absorbed in the intensity of my contractions.

About this time I felt my first contraction with some pressure at the peak, and I found myself catching my breath. I thought to myself “Pressure doesn’t always mean pushing.  Pressure just means the baby’s head is getting lower.  Stacey is on her way anyway so no need to call her.” I didn’t say anything, just kept labouring.  I was in the bathroom, standing over the toilet and leaning against the towel rack for most of this time (Good thing we went shopping on Saturday!  Lol.)

About 7:25am I felt a trickle down my legs and realized my water had broken.  I immediately asked Kim what colour it was.  She said it was fine.  I said “No, what colour is it?”  I wanted to make sure it was clear – no meconium – because the midwives policy (as per the hospital they have privileges at)  is that you are supposed to transfer to hospital for any trace of meconium and I didn’t want to do that.  I had told Stacey that I would assess for myself whether I felt meconium (if present) warranted a transfer, since she wasn’t permitted to make that assessment anymore. I cracked my eyes open enough to check the fluid, just as Kim told me that it was clear.  Phew!

Then the contractions started to change from the hot low pain in my pelvis, to crazy intense amounts of pressure and for a few contractions, were a combination of both feelings. I cried at the peak of a contraction as I tried to cope “Kim… it hurts…” But I remembered that I needed to stay calm; to stay “low, soft, and open” and so went back to vocalizing “oh oh oh” alongside Kim.  I moved around a little in the bathroom, trying to find a position that was comfortable – no luck with that.  I asked for a hot pack which Nathan got for me but I immediately tossed it on the floor as it didn’t help at all.  Nathan tried rubbing my back but I needed his hand to just be still.  And I asked for some counterpressure on my sacrum, which Nathan gave, but I didn’t like that either.  Kim was holding me and supporting me through all this. Nothing was working.  I wanted out of our tiny bathroom.  The cool kitchen floor looked appealing, and I considered just laying down on the floor, but then the next contraction came and I leaned against the kitchen counter instead – the floor was too far down.  The counter was covered in dishes and I commented on that to Kim.  I felt so bad that the house wasn’t “ready” (ie cleaned to my standards and ready for guests). Kim said she’d wash the dishes for me when everything was over, but I didn’t hear her then.

I knew now the baby was on the way, and told Nathan “Blow up the pool!”  He raced off to do that, but by the next contraction I knew we didn’t have time to fill the pool so said “Don’t bother filling the pool Nathan!”  The pressure was so intense now, that I knew the baby was moving lower. Kim & Nathan offered to fill the bathtub instead – I declined, not wanting to create a hassle.  (Apparently they exchanged a look and began filling the tub anyway.)  And within a couple contractions I was asking if the tub was ready yet – I needed a change.  I was so desperate for water that I crawled into the tub in the middle of a contraction. My vocalizations of “oh oh oh” had changed to a more desperate “ow ow ow” mixed with crying – it was really hard to stay in control at this point.  There were only a couple inches of water, but the relief was instantaneous.

I realized that the baby was coming very quickly, and that saying “ow ow ow” through my contractions wasn’t helpful, so I switched to saying “Whoah Whoah Whoah”, to allow myself to stretch and open.  I put my hands down against my perineum through every contraction.  It helped me feel more in control of baby’s descent, as this baby was coming like a freight train.  I wanted to be sure of what I was feeling, so between contractions reached inside to see what I could feel – – only one knuckle depth in I could feel the baby’s head!!  Nathan could see hair at this point, and was preparing himself to catch if the midwives didn’t make it. I told Kim & Nathan to page Stacey back and tell her that I could feel the head so we needed Melissa too.  Melissa is the second midwife who comes for pushing and to care for the baby at birth.  Nathan skipped the paging step and called Stacey back on her cell phone.  She was just down the road from our house, so she paged Melissa as soon as she pulled in the driveway.

Then I had a contraction that I KNEW meant the baby was almost here.  Without thought or intention, my eyes flew open and I looked wildly at Kim and at Nathan.  I recognized that ‘the look’ had just happened, as I had seen so many of my clients with that same ‘look’ in their eyes.  I asked where Stacey was, and they said she was here.  Stacey didn’t really believe I was that far along yet, and was working at getting all her equipment inside.  I was asking where Stacey was, but what I meant was “Is she ready to catch this baby?” Stacey told us after that she didn’t believe I was that far along, so she wasn’t in a great hurry to get set up.  When she came into the bathroom (8am) she had the fetoscope to check the fetal heart rate, as I had declined the Doppler throughout pregnancy.  When she couldn’t find the heartrate though I told her it was okay to use the Doppler.  With the next contraction she could see how low the babies head was and said “Where do you plan on giving birth?  Because there isn’t enough water in this bathtub.”  I told her I was getting out and going to the bed to give birth.

At 8:10am I made my way from the bathroom to the bedroom, and asked for towels from the birth pool box to get laid down, as I didn’t want the sheets to get all wet and messy, even though the bed had been made up for the birth.  I got into bed as another contraction was building, and laid down on my side with Kim at my head and Nathan at my feet.  At 8:06 (tub) & 8:11(bed), Stacey checked the heart rate – 120 both times. My body was pushing, and I was still saying “whoa whoa whoa”, but I wasn’t adding any extra effort to it as I really wanted to give myself time to open.  When Stacey took the next heartrate at 8:14 it was only 70, and she asked me to push hard with the next contraction.  I thought to myself that for this stage of labour a FHR of 70 wasn’t so bad in a single contraction, and I didn’t really want to push aggressively because it might make me tear.  But I recognized that Stacey was on her own, and was probably worried about caring for both baby & I if something went wrong, so I decided I would go ahead and push with the next contraction as she had asked. Stacey also asked me to do some scalp stimulation, which I did.  My hands were down there anyway, supporting the top of my perineum as the burning was very intense at the top.  I kept saying that it hurt so much up top; that it really burned.  In that moment I was wishing for a warm compress, but I knew there wasn’t time to get one so I didn’t bother to say anything. At 8:18 Stacey wasn’t able to find the FHR, but I wasn’t concerned as I knew that was relatively common for this point in the birth.  When the next contraction came, I took a deep breath and bore down.  Because of having played a wind instrument & having vocal training, I knew how to bear down without holding my breath so that’s what I did.  (Lol. The vain part of me didn’t want to be an ugly purple pusher with bloodshot eyes & cracked lips later.)  I knew I was pushing effectively because I could feel the baby move, and the pain at the top was increasing.  I was pretty sure I was tearing, and kept my hands on my perineum for support as I pushed through it. Stacey didn’t think I was pushing though because I was still exhaling, and at 8:19 am as she looked up to tell me to push, the baby’s head, then whole body slithered out onto the bed.  Stacey unwrapped the double nuchal cord, then scooped baby up onto my belly and I held on to the new little one while I breathed a big sigh of relief: It was over!  Our baby had arrived.

I was confused at first, because I could feel two arms and two legs, but couldn’t figure out what the fifth thing was that I was feeling – then I remembered it was the umbilical cord.  Lol. After a minute or two I asked Nathan “Who do we have?”  Nathan looked “We have Levi!” Nathan cried with joy…. I closed my eyes and just rested.  After about 10 minutes Stacey was a little concerned that the placenta hadn’t delivered yet and wanted to clamp & cut the cord, and have me push.  I wasn’t having any contractions, and I really wanted to leave the cord attached until it stopped pulsing, or for 20 minutes, whichever was longer.  Stacey was nervous that blood could be pooling behind the placenta though, and wanted to deliver the placenta.  I understood that she was probably anxious about the potential of dealing with a hemorrhage on her own so I agreed to let the cord be clamped & cut, and to push out the placenta while she assisted with gentle traction.  Because I didn’t have any contractions I had to make more of an effort to push.  Kim put her arms behind my head to help me curl up a little and push, while Stacey worked the placenta out.  I felt it release and said aloud that it had released.  The placenta was very small but healthy, and it was birthed at 8:37pm – 18 minutes after the birth.  Stacey & Kim bagged it up for me and stored it in the fridge so I could encapsulate it later.  Melissa arrived at 8:40am, and after getting acquainted with everyone did the newborn exam while Stacey put in some labial stitches.  My perineum was intact, but my labia had a small first degree tear at the top (where I had felt all the burning).  Once that was all done we got settled into breastfeeding, snuggling, and meeting baby Levi;  Kim went out to clean up the bathroom, do the dishes I’d been worried about, and get our prepared food out of the freezer; the midwives did their paperwork.    Melissa left at 10:20am, and Stacey left about 11am.  Nathan asked Kim to stay a little longer – she was with us until about 1pm.  Nathan, Levi & I cuddled in bed as a new little family for the next hour, before we started making phone calls to family & friends.  It was a whirlwind!  But all was well.


Posted in Birth Stories, Good Enough to Share, Homebirth | Leave a comment

Holy Work

I’ve been reading a lot of birth poetry lately.  For reasons which I can’t quite yet delve into in this moment (still keeping things on the down-low, if you know what I mean), I’ve been revisiting my calling to midwifery, and finding that it is still singing it’s siren song, as strong as ever as I begin to explore new paths.  Renewed, revitalized, I’ve been posting pictures to pinterest which move to my very soul, and have been finding poetry which does the same.  There are two amazing poems I wanted to share here.  When I first began my journey as a new midwife, my midwifery classmates and I performed a Hand Blessing ceremony, and I dedicated my hands to doing the work of the Goddess on this earthly plane,  helping mothers to bring new life into the world.  Some days, in the hospital, it’s so easy to forget, which is where the poetry comes in to play as a gentle reminder to NEVER forget: we are doing holy work.  To stand at the entrance, at the very gate of life, in that moment where the veil between the worlds is thin and a new soul is manifesting–to stand with a woman as she digs deeper than she has ever dug before, breaking down the very core of her identity until she can’t even remember who she is, only to rebuild herself again the instant that she gives birth not only as a woman but as a mother–to watch her do this, and support her through it–this is holy, indeed.  Below are two poems which I feel express this very thing so perfectly they made me both cry.  Enjoy!

Incarnation, by BlissRipple

My prayer was, “Help me,
Help me,”
prayed to Him—
the Emerging.
Knees bent, pooled in water,
arms pressed hard against
the smooth white-wall
before me.

Back-arched & aching, thighs shaking
with one last guttural hum,
Ohm Shakti

The thick velvet veil was torn.
That bathtub was transformed
into the Holiest of Holies.

Down He rode in His chariot of fire,
a crimson wave
of red sea parted.
My God,
blue as Krishna,
to lay idol heavy
upon my chest,
flush pink and heaving.

Rose raindrops streak
ivory pillars now stilled
from the quaking.
At their arch evidence
of His exalted exodus.

He who delivered me,
carried me to the gates of Isis
and scrawled “Mother” across
my bearing  breasts.

From that labyrinth belly
I emerged
my inner chambers bare.
And on the platter of my chest
the bearer of first communion served
salted milk— in the robes
from which we came:


Blessed Be, by Leigh Steele (author of This Holy Work, which is where I was most recently reminded again of the holiness of what we do)

If you’ve ever wondered what it looks like to see a poem write itself, kneel on a warm floor and watch a mother unfurl herself to make way for the passage of her baby.

If you’ve ever pondered what a poem sounds like, close your eyes and listen to the song that fills every empty space in a room as a woman rains down her tune in birth.

If you’ve ever wondered how a poem moves from stanza to stanza, then pull up a chair to the wild eyes behind the sweaty hair of a maiden morphing into a mother.

And if, by chance, you’ve ever wondered what a poem tasted like on your tongue, kiss the head of a babe fresh from from the womb and then the temple of the woman who just brought her forth.

If you’ve ever thought about what it means for the invited to be the one serving, sit on your hands and see if you can hold back tears at the image of a woman standing in her own circle of power.

Blessed be this holy work that has allowed me tender entry.

Posted in Birth Art, Good Enough to Share, Labor and Birth, Myth, Folklore and Ritual | Leave a comment

The history of Planned Parenthood

This is a few weeks old, but it’s absolutely fascinating: Jill Lapore’s article Birthright: What’s next for Planned Parenthood in the New Yorker chronicling the history of  Planned Parenthood and the birth control movement, and how that movement became politicized, and then later violently attacked, and now so deeply partisan and entrenched in the public consciousness that it seems we’ll never be able to get around it.  So many very vocal critics have gotten its history so wrong. Amazingly, the history of Planned Parenthood itself has never been written, although histories of many of its founders and leaders have.  In order to write the article, Ms. Lapore had to go through the archives at the Library of Congress (where Margaret Sanger’s papers reside), Smith College (which houses Planned Parenthood Federation’s records), the Houghton Library at Harvard (home to the records of the American Birth Control league, which later became Planned Parenthood), and Radcliffe’s Schlesinger Library for the History of American Women.  Ms. Lapore’s journey is chronicled in some amazing photos which are also up in a slideshow at the New Yorker.

When members of Congress (i.e. Rep. Tom Price) can say with a straight face that “there’s not one woman” who can’t afford her birth control in the country right now, it’s amazing to discover that it was actually Republicans who were some of the staunchest supporters of federally funding birth control clinics in the beginning.

Here is where we are. Republicans established the very federal family-planning programs that Republican members of Congress and the G.O.P.’s Presidential candidates are this year pledging so vigorously to dismantle. Republicans made abortion a partisan issue—contorted the G.O.P. to mold itself around this issue—but Democrats allowed their party to be defined by it. And, as long as Planned Parenthood hitches itself to the Democratic Party, and it’s hard to see what choice it has, its fortunes will rise and fall—its clinic doors will open and shut—with the power of the Party. Much of the left, reduced to a state of timidity in the terrible, violent wake of Roe, has stopped talking about rights, poverty, decency, equality, sex, and even history, thereby ceding talk of those things to the right. Planned Parenthood, a health-care provider, has good reason to talk about women’s health. But, even outside this struggle, “health” has become the proxy for a liberal set of values about our common humanity. And it is entirely insufficient

It’s good to be reminded of the real history, whether you’re pro-choice or pro-life.


Posted in Choice, Contraception, Feminism, Politics, Women's Health | 1 Comment

Ina May in the Sun

The Sun Magazine has a fantastic article in their current issue (Jan. 2012) interviewing Ina May, who’s recently come out with a new book Birth Matters: A Midwife’s Manifesta, about the medicalization of birth.   While the online version of the article is truncated, it’s still a fascinating read, complete with the history of how and why vaginal breech births fell out of practice (as dictated by insurance companies, no less!  I had no idea!).  Nothing earth shattering, but Ina May is always concise and insightful, and always, always a good read.  Enjoy!

Posted in Homebirth, Labor and Birth, Midwifery, Vaginal Birth | Leave a comment

The 10 Commandments of Getting Pregnant

This was shared with me, I felt compelled to share it all with you.  Totally cracked me up, but SO TRUE!!!!

Getting Pregnant with
Posted in Fertility and Conception, Pregnancy | Leave a comment