Never give up

February 20, 2013 at 5:29 pm

We must not, in trying to think about how we can make a big difference, ignore the small daily differences we can make which, over time, add up to big differences that we often cannot foresee.  -Marian Wright Edelman

Back in January of 2010, I got a surprising email from a local friend.  I discovered:

1) She was pregnant with her first baby.

2) She had been following my birth blog.

3) She had chosen a practice of fantastic nurse-midwives.

She also said, “I’ve loved reading about your home birth… I just am not ‘courageous’ enough to go that route on a first (maybe our next?).”

All of these discoveries made me giddy with excitement.

Then at the end of April, she and her husband attended my “Birth Coach Boot Camp” where I shared what I believed were the best ways husbands can help their wives in childbirth.  Her due date was right around the corner, so I sent her home with my birth ball and my copy of The Birth Partner, by Penny Simkin.  And then we waited.

Give the gift of survival

November 23, 2012 at 4:46 pm

“We continue because marginalization continues, we continue because we cannot turn a blind eye to the suffering of women and children.” -Dr. Robert Lokong, volunteer doctor

This year my dad and stepmom are doing something different for Christmas. They asked all their children and grandchildren to select a project from Global Giving, and they will donate $10 for each person in the family. My family has selected to donate to the Onura Maternal Survival Project and Hope Ofiriha maternity clinic in South Sudan. From the project website:

The maternal mortality rate in South Sudan is one of the highest in the world. An absence of trained healthcare staff, structures, and paved roads means the small, rustic maternity clinic Hope Ofiriha runs in the Onura settlement is the only medical facility about 3,500 area women can turn to. . . . The clinic isn’t fully equipped to handle deliveries, so many mothers needlessly die giving birth.

Since there are six of us, that means $60 for the project. I am thinking of talking to our children about finding some other projects to donate our Christmas money to. I’ve had a hard time feeling the “Christmas Spirit” for the past few years, but this just might be what I needed to pull out of that funk.

Sending you my love, mothers and babies of South Sudan. I wish I could do more. Maybe someday I will.

Gift

October 22, 2012 at 3:11 pm

Saturday was my birthday, and I was given a wonderful gift at the end of the day. I received an email from one of my readers, sharing how my essay “Unity with Providers of Care” (in the Unity chapter of our book) had a positive impact on her. She also shared a beautiful spiritual experience she had after reading my essay. With her permission, I share it today. -Lani/Busca

I’ve been reading your blog for a while now, and have been making my way through The Gift of Giving Life, and I wanted to tell you how much your book has helped me.

Long story short, I was very unhappy with the hospital care I received with my 3rd child. While I like the Ob/Gyn I normally see, they have about twenty doctors that rotate at the hospital. With my 3rd child, I played Russian roulette with this system and ended up with two very horrid doctors who threatened and yelled at me for giving birth the way I wanted to. So I have been hoping to find—and not have to pay for—a better option for my 4th child.

Yesterday I had a very important meeting with the head OB for the insurance provider we have to discuss whether or not I could get a referral to a birthing center.  I’d been waiting for a month for this appointment and was very keyed up about the whole thing, so I went to bed the night before knowing that I probably wouldn’t be sleeping well…

Read the rest of the post HERE.

Angel whispers

March 17, 2012 at 4:25 pm

My mother-in-law was born in New Zealand, the daughter of a transplanted cockney naval sailor, the son of a London midwife named Ann.

When I learned a few days ago that my children’s great-great-grandmother was a midwife, I was giddy. I’ve long harbored a wish that I would find a midwife in my own ancestral line. This isn’t quite the same, but it’s the closest I’ve come (besides having a registered nurse grandmother who attended births). And it makes me feel more than compensated for the fact that my children also have the blood of a turn of the century rapist running through their veins. (That’s another story.) A midwife’s blood so totally overpowers that. So much. Yay.

Prenatal photo tour

March 3, 2012 at 9:11 pm

I’ll never forget a conversation I had with a friend a few years ago.  We were at a baby shower, and somehow we got on the subject of belly buttons.  I mentioned that my son had a kind of funky belly button (’cause he sort of did at the time), and this friend said something like, “Could that be because of the home birth?”  I was very perplexed and said, “What do you mean?”  She asked, “What do they do with the umbilical cord?”  Then I explained that they use the same umbilical cord clamps hospitals use, and cut the cord with sterile scissors, just like they do in the hospital.

As much as I was stunned by this conversation, I have to cut my friend some slack.  Home birth really is so foreign to most people.  So there are a lot of misconceptions out there about what it’s like and about midwives also.  Toward the end of my last pregnancy, I decided I’d bring my camera along and document the visit, partly for memory’s sake and partly so I could do a little bit of demystifying about midwives and home birth.

I realize that prenatal appointments are going to vary considerably depending upon who your midwife is. Some midwives come to your home for check-ups. Some have their offices in their own homes. Some have their own offices, like my midwives. I don’t presume to believe that this is the way all midwives practice. But I still thought it might be helpful to show what a typical visit is like with a home birth midwife like mine (Mary at Beyond Conception Midwifery).

So, here’s a photo tour of a February 2011 prenatal appointment with my midwives…

For them I could

December 12, 2011 at 4:20 pm

Over the weekend, I attended a Neonatal Resuscitation Program (NRP) training taught by Karen Strange. My mind is still trying to process all of the information we were given in those ten hours together. So much to think about and practice! One of my main reasons for taking the class was that I wanted to be prepared to assist pregnant mothers and newborns in a potential disaster situation.  I wanted to know how to help women on the side of the road, in an elevator, in a disaster relief camp, etc. Karen Strange’s NRP class focuses on neonatal resuscitation in an out of hospital setting, so I knew it was going to be the best choice for my purposes. I’m so grateful for the tools we were given to not only help new babies come into life but also to keep ourselves calm and grounded as we encounter those sometimes intense situations.

Rubbing shoulders with all those lovely midwives, doulas, and mommas was wonderful, of course. And it had me asking myself, once again, am I heading toward midwifery? Then, last night, midwife Robin Lim was selected as CNN’s 2011 Hero of the Year. I am so inspired by Robin and midwives like her who offer their love and skills in behalf of those who are desperate for true caregiving. As I pondered my weekend and Robin Lim, I kept thinking of this post I wrote on my old blog in April of 2010. I do think I will end up catching babies. And this is why…

Cervical scar tissue and cesareans

September 12, 2011 at 9:13 pm

One of my most popular blog posts is one I wrote just over a year ago called “Cervical scar tissue.”  In that post, I shared important information about how scar tissue from various procedures (LEEP, D & C, etc.) can potentially impact future birth experiences, causing labor to stall for hours or days if the scar tissue isn’t massaged by a caregiver to help it release and allow the cervix to dilate completely.  I also said:

I have a hunch that cervical scar tissue is likely contributing greatly to the rising cesarean rate. . . . Unfortunately, doctors aren’t usually around while their patients labor, so massaging the scar tissue rarely happens. Instead those women far too often get stamped with “failure to progress” after a long, exhausting labor, and sent to the operating room.  Many spend the rest of their lives believing they’re incapable of giving birth vaginally. (Cervical scar tissue)

And now I’m even more convinced than ever that a large percentage of today’s cesareans and “failed” VBACs are happening as a result of cervical scar tissue. A comment from Lauren on my post has alerted me to something alarming:

Old school Birth Faith

August 25, 2011 at 6:13 pm

I was just scanning through some posts on my old blog, reliving blogging memories… sigh. Maybe you’re new here and didn’t know I used to post over in Blogger (2007-2010).  It’s sort of crazy to me that I’ve been blogging for longer than I spent in college.  And, honestly, I’ve learned and grown more since I started blogging than I think I learned and grew in all those years of higher education! Ha.  Starting my blog was, most definitely, one of the best things I ever did for myself, my family, and (I hope) for all you wonderful readers who think that reading what I have to say is worth your time.  I love you!

Here are thirteen of my favorite old Blogger posts (and excerpts to entice you), if you’ve got some time to kill and want a peek into my blogging past. Starting with the more recent and moving to the earliest…

1) Rejoicing with a friend

Never stop sharing, my friends!  Never give up.  We are making a difference.  Maybe only for one woman here and another woman there, but those women are worth it.  And so are their babies.  And there is nothing in the world like rejoicing with them as they bathe in the joy and empowerment they feel from their positive birth experiences.  Nothing in the world.

Surrender, part 5

May 22, 2011 at 8:34 pm

I’ve debated off and on whether to post about this. I guess you can tell which of my inner-dialogue teams won.

My birth story didn’t end with my daughter’s birth. Some things happened afterward that I would say were an extension of that birth. They’ve been sitting on the back burner in my mind, waiting. I suppose I’ve been holding them back because I just wasn’t quite ready to process them yet. Pondering and writing this post was an intense journey of realization and discovery and spiritual revelation. I don’t know exactly why I feel like I need to share it, but I do. What follows is a little graphic and a lot personal. If you choose to comment, please be respectful. Here goes…

My uncle somehow always seems to know when I’m pregnant before I make it public knowledge. This last time, after we shared the news, he said, “I think you’re having twins.” We laughed.

Surrender, part 4

March 28, 2011 at 12:43 am

With my three previous births, the transition from 7 to 10 centimeters took me deeper and deeper into the inner recesses of my consciousness.  As I pulled further and further into myself, I would dig for any reserves of strength and endurance.  Simultaneously I would be taken up and outside of myself to distant spaces somewhere between earth and heaven, almost completely oblivious to my actual physical surroundings and anyone in them.  Between contractions, I was typically extremely relaxed and motionless with my eyes closed.  Basically, during transition, I’m usually simultaneously high and sedated from the influence of massive amounts of natural opiates (endorphins).

But there I was… nine centimeters with baby #4…  and my head was still firmly on this planet?  I’d never experienced anything like this before.

After checking my cervix, Mary suggested that I get up on my knees, leaning over my birth ball, to encourage the baby to descend, and do some nipple stimulation to get some good “mean” contractions coming.  In retrospect, I can tell you how wise and merciful it was for her to encourage those “mean” contractions.  Endorphins are an important part of the birth process, and they’re released in response to pain.  Minimal pain, in my case, translated to minimal endorphin release—not the ideal way to prepare for a mini-person to squeeze through my lady parts.  Pushing has always been the easiest part of childbirth for me because I’m usually swimming in natural opiates.  This time, Mary could tell (and I could tell) that I was most definitely not swimming in opiates.  So, nipple stim we did.  That’s when my doula arrived with her camera and started snapping pictures.

Knowing how soon the birth would be upon us, we also called for my five-year-old daughter to come upstairs.  Before I even became pregnant, she told me she wanted to be my doula the next time I had a baby.  She’s my little “birth junkie” and could watch birth YouTube videos with me all day long. 

Surrender, part 3

March 16, 2011 at 12:28 am

I needed to take my time writing this birth journey. In part, because it felt like writing it down was placing it squarely in the past, and I didn’t want it to be totally over.  But also because it has taken me all this time to process the experience, and yet I’m still processing it as we speak.   Birth is unpredictable, raw, and real.  Sometimes it can be just as traumatic as it is beautiful.  How do we convey all that complexity of experience with words?  How can we describe it?  These words in a blog comment from Kassandra were so spot-on:

There are so many layers to your birth story because there are so many different parts of yourself experiencing it.

It is such an incredibly rich spiritual experience, a full on physical sensation and accomplishment, and an emotional rollercoaster changing from moment to moment, with a different focus depending on what part of it you are trying to convey. Is it about the outcome? Is it about the moments? Is it about how you felt during, or afterwards? It’s everything… and it will change depending on who you are telling and why.

This birth was, at once, the absolute easiest and the absolute most difficult of my children’s births.  It was both gentle and jarring.  As I mentioned in part 1, I was initially disappointed.  There was no dreamy, on-another-planet, endorphin-filled build to a climax—something I’d become addicted to since my first birth.  It felt sort of like I got cheated out of one of the best parts of giving birth unmedicated.  Robert Louis Stevenson has said, “And the true realism, always and everywhere, is that of the poets, to find where the joy resides, and give it voice, far beyond singing.”  Coming to peace with this birth has been just such a poetic process… finding where the joy resides and figuring out how to give it voice and make it sing.

Surrender, part 2

March 12, 2011 at 1:41 am

As I mentioned in part 1, much of the magic and spiritual richness of my daughter’s birth happened in the cushion of time surrounding the actual birth experience, particularly the weeks leading up to her birth.  While all my other children came 5 to 10 days early, this baby chose to make her appearance 5 days “late.”  As we waited, wondering when our baby would be born, we were once again called upon to “surrender.”  I took comfort in reading the words of a wise and wonderful nursing professor, Lynn Callister:

Waiting denotes an active process . . . requires continual self-examination, constantly trying to become more worthy, and ever-deepening and progressive discipleship of a broken heart, a contrite spirit, a yielded will and consecration of self. (“They That Wait Upon the Lord”)

And the words of my friend and book collaborator, Heather:

In Hebrew the word ‘wait’ is also the same word for ‘hope.’ . . . A woman waiting for a child . . . has a unique opportunity to put her faith and trust in the Lord and demonstrate her willingness to wait upon the Lord’s timing. When she learns to be patient and hopeful she opens herself up to receive miracles and great spiritual gifts.

Growing, Glowing, and Going: Midwife’s Orders

January 31, 2011 at 6:45 am

During our home visit last Thursday, my midwife, Mary, mentioned that the baby is still “really high.” Since two of my births have started with my water breaking, we definitely don’t want the baby’s head high much longer since the cord could easily prolapse. She told me to do lots of walking to coax the baby down into my pelvis.

We went on another hike at South Mountain at the beginning of January, but I haven’t been getting much exercise since then. So Mary’s advice was just the nudge I needed to get myself back out there and “going” again.

The weather was gorgeous here in the Valley of the Sun today. Can’t beat 72 degree weather in January. So we took a nice two mile walk/bike ride before dinner. It felt really good to be getting some fresh air and exercise again. The forecast is threatening rain and cooler temperatures this coming week, but I’m hoping we can get some more walking in. Come on down, baby. Pretty please?

Emergency Preparedness

January 29, 2011 at 4:56 pm

Regardless of what type of disaster may strike or how severe it is, there will always be pregnant women in need of special assistance. Pregnant women are among those most at risk in disaster situations, in part because severe stress can trigger premature labor, but also because so many women are forced to give birth under precarious circumstances. When hospitals may be over-flowing with sick and injured survivors, roads or transportation inaccessible, and electricity likely unavailable, women who would otherwise have given birth at the hospital will have to seek alternatives.  It is also a possibility that hospitals will only have resources for the most high-risk pregnant women, leaving low-risk mothers to give birth with little or no assistance from staff.   Even in the absence of a large-scale disaster, on just an ordinary day-to-day basis, sometimes a birth happens too quickly to make it to the planned location or before a qualified birth attendant can be present.

Robbie Prepas, a certified nurse-midwife, saw many such births first-hand during the Hurricane Katrina disaster.  She delivered five babies in the New Orleans airport, twins in an ambulance, and provided impromptu care to hundreds of pregnant and postpartum women, checking fetal heart tones, etc.  She explains, “There were no policies or procedures in place to care for pregnant women or mothers and their babies after Katrina.  We even lacked such basics as diapers, formula, baby bottles and clean clothes” (“Disaster Preparedness for Mothers & Babies: Getting Prepared”).  Midwife Mary Callahan, CNM, MS, also assisted in the Hurricane Katrina relief effort, providing midwifery services to displaced women in a large shelter and assembling emergency birth and prenatal kits for use in other area shelters (“Chicago Midwives Travel to Baton Rouge”).   While we may be fortunate to cross paths with a doctor, midwife, or paramedic with birth supplies in an emergency childbirth situation, we can’t be certain of such luck. Given all of the possibilities, the best course is to have plans and supplies in place so that we can meet our specific needs in emergency situations.

Fear containment

December 1, 2010 at 7:20 pm

A little over two years ago, I wrote a post about facing my deepest fear surrounding my upcoming home birth: a dead baby. It’s interesting how each pregnancy is different, and the things we worry about can also be very different.

Yesterday morning, I woke up to pee (again) sometime after 5:00 a.m. My kids were all still sleeping, so I headed back to bed, but I couldn’t fall back to sleep. Suddenly I was overcome with wave after wave of fear rolling through my head. I’m afraid I’ve “used up” all my positive birth luck. I’ve had three great vaginal birth experiences. For whatever reason, I feel like I can’t expect them all to be good. I’m afraid I’m “due” for a difficult birth experience. I’m afraid it’s my turn to see the other side of birth… the complicated side where unexpected things happen and you end up going to places and doing things you never dreamed you would.

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