Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Transformational Power of Birth

Powerful feelings
Feeling powerful

The power of change
Powerless to change
The power of acceptance

Accepting our power
Powerful birth
Birth's power
Birthing powerfully

Allowing the power
The power is outside of my control
The power is inside of me
The power is me.

Female power
Life giving power
Living a powerful life

Friday, December 18, 2009

Making a Baby Shower Special

Over the years as a doula I have been invited to many baby showers. Some have been traditional American showers with silly games, arrival date gambling pools, gifts and cake. Some have been more alternative or spiritual based Blessing Ways with ritual foot washing, adornment of the woman or couple, and blessings for the new life coming. Here are some of my favorite ideas.

Gifts are wonderful and are gratefully received. Most first time parents depend on their shower to help outfit the baby and the “nursery”, but to create a memorable shower material gifts should not be what a shower is all about. Equally important as these gifts is offering our collective wisdom on birth, parenting, and promises of future support to see them through the challenges ahead which will touch her heart and make her feel buoyed up by love and caring.

Here are some ways to create an atmosphere that allows the party goers to feel free to share their thoughts and feelings. Remember to bring a way to record all these wonderful gifts so the parents can listen to them whenever they need to feel your love and caring. I think audio is best because it is less intrusive.

For the Birth
Every first time mom feels a bit apprehensive when faced with the unknown quality of labor. No matter how many classes she has attended, or practicing relaxation she has done she has never labored and can’t really understand what labor is like until she has been through it and out the other side. Knowing people who care about her are holding her in their thoughts as labor approaches will surround her with positive & peaceful thoughts calming her anxieties.

Have all the party guests sit in a circle with the expectant mom, or expectant couple as part of the ring. Give the new mom a skein of yarn to hold. She keeps the string end and passes the rest of the skein to the guest sitting next to her. That guest wraps a loop of yarn loosely over their wrist and says some words of wisdom about labor and birth. She passes the yarn to the next person and they loop their wrist and share their feelings. This is repeated all the way around the circle finishing with the dad and finally he connects to the mom creating an unbroken tie. Now the new mom shares her feelings. Finally scissors are passed to cut the yarn between the guests. The guests are asked to continue to wear or keep this “bracelet” with them as a reminder of the love they all share for this new life and to keep the couple in their hearts in the coming days until mom and baby have passed safely through labor.

A similar ceremony can be done with candles. Pass out candles to everyone in the circle. Start by lighting the candle of the guest next to the new mom who uses that time to share her feelings. Her flame should light the next guest’s candle and so on around the circle finally lighting the new mom’s candle. Ask that each guest take their candle home and relight it each day to hold the coming labor in their hearts.

For Parenting
New parents really only need two things, physical help to get through the first draining weeks and confidence in their own ability to parent. Here are some easy ways to rally the troops to help during the first week. Create a dinner calendar. You can’t use dates because you don’t know when the baby will arrive. Instead mark the calendar first night home, second night, etc. Ask people to please sign up for a dinner and to put their phone number down. Everyone should make enough for at least two nights and bring it in a dish that can be frozen. From two weeks of dinners the couple will actually get four weeks. Once the baby arrives home you will need to call each guest and give them their dinner date.

Create a jobs list: laundry, grocery shopping, mowing the lawn, baby sitting etc. Cut the list into strips with one job on each strip. Have one less job than players. Play any elimination game, such as, Musical Chairs. Each person eliminated must draw from the jobs bag. The winner gets to choose the job they want from among the all the jobs already handed out and then the big job swap can begin!

Initially confidence comes from knowing other people see the strengths the new parents bring to this difficult task, as well as, knowing there is lots of parenting wisdom out there for them to tap into when they aren’t sure what to do. Here are three ways to encourage guests to open up and share.

Ask all the guests to bring an item that can be strung. It is a good idea to give them an idea for the diameter of the hole, i.e. strung onto string, or thread or cord. These items should symbolize something they would like to impart to the new parents about parenting. Not every guest will be a parent but remind them they have all been parented. Sit in a circle and pass a bowl from person to person. Each guest should hold up their object and share what it represents before placing it in the bowl. After all the items are collected give the mom the bowl and something to string all the items. As she strings them one by one she has an opportunity to respond to all the positive energy coming her way.

Here is a wonderful activity if you have a quilter as a resource. Buy white muslin and different colors of fabric paint. You might want the paint colors to match the nursery color scheme. Before the guests arrive wash and dry the muslin and securely tape it down onto a large piece of plywood. Lay the plywood on a table or over some sawhorses. Use fabric tape to divide the cloth into squares. As guests arrive ask them to please paint their thoughts and good wishes on a square. After everyone has had an opportunity to paint, gather everyone around the table and have each guest explain their square. Later your quilter will decide how best to turn the art into a quilt to hang in the baby’s room. Don’t know a quilter? Alternatively this could be done as a less permanent piece of wall art by using a roll of butcher paper. Bring a way to “mount” the finished piece when you are done.

Do you need help pulling off either the craft side or ceremonial side of the event? Get help from The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pots! This is a wonderful local business that specializes in making personal events memorable and from the heart through the medium of candle creation. They help people tap into their childlike creative side which allows them to feel safe expressing their hopes and dreams for the baby and new parents. They will talk to you about creating a ceremony unique to your new parents and their guests. Let the Sisterhood help you truly honor and bless the miracle of this birth. Contact them at

Showers are an important tradition. A time to honor the new family about to be born and recognize the power of the transformative process they are entering. Shower them with gifts. Shower them with friendship. Shower them with support. Shower them with love.

Jennifer Stover
Doula & Childbirth Educator

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Danielle's Birth Class Testamonial

Jennifer Stover's classes worked for me not just once, but twice. Why? The first thing that drew me in was how Jennifer promotes Natural Birth. This was something I desired, but taking a series of Bradley Classes was just not going to work for my time schedule. I was able to pick and choose the classes that I was most interested in. Jennifer came to my house, and houses of other couples in the class, which made it very convenient. This also made it comfortable and helped my husband to relax a bit more and get involved in the curriculum. I love the graphic nature of Jennifer's classes. They are hands on, and the video's and pictures she shows are very real. It was empowering to me, to see real women in the throws of labor coming off victorious, having the Natural Birth they wanted. I feel that Jennifer's classes did just that for me. Her scientific approach to the way our bodies work and are made to do this, gave me the confidence I needed to have both of my babies the Natural way. If I were ever to find myself pregnant again, I would surely take Jennifer's classes a third time.

Dannielle Clemens

Intro to Parenting 101 a Prerequisite to Parenting 102

Sitting in the inviting warmth of Colby and John's holiday decorated living room sharing food, sharing friendship, sharing stories. Listening to the buzz around me of women exchanging tips on where to buy used baby clothes, making arrangements to meet for yoga in Grover Beach, or talking about how helpful an alternative health care provider was for them. Watching the expectant parents watching Hattie, Sarah and Ryan's beautiful little blond haired toddler, interacting with Hurley, Colby's friendly little dog. Seeing the dawning of the realization that soon they will be parents too. Seeing Sarah and Renee never miss a beat in their conversations as they confidently latch their babies on and breastfeed in front of everyone, even the dads. Hearing the stories. How Kate, from Santa Maria, changed care providers during the last week of pregnancy in order to ensure she would successfully birth her twins vaginally with the midwives in Dr. Krumhout's office. How Sarah's Hattie was born at home with a Licensed Midwife but her youngest Tillie who was supposed to be born at home needed to be born at French Hospital and how Ryan caught on the bathroom floor there because Sarah said no to moving to the bed and Dr. Goodrich and the nurse were fine with that. How Jennifer, a professor at Cal Poly, is still processing why she made the choices she did during her first birth but accepts and understands it more now through the eyes of her second birth. How Renee, from Pismo Beach, had to learn to give in to the idea that labor wasn't something she could control and in that process how close she came to getting the epidural she had sworn before labor began she didn't want. So much learning going on effortlessly, person to person and seeing my couples drinking it all in; about to go through the initiation that is the key to joining the Parent Club, their ticket to the greatest adventure of their lives.

This was the final class, the Returning Parents Potluck. I love this class. I get to reconnect with my past clients and see their adorable babies. I get to listen to how they are growing as parents, the challenges they have been facing and the sweet sweet bliss of those first days, weeks and months of babymoon time. I get a glimpse into how their births affected them as women and men, mothers and fathers, husbands and wives. None of them are the same people I met at our first class. Doorways in their hearts have opened creating new selves, forever.

I love teaching my birth class series. I have come to believe that preparing for birth has many dimensions. Yes, understanding the biological process is important. Yes, learning coping skills and relaxation techniques is important. Yes, learning how to be a good birth consumer and the importance of standing up for the birth you want is important. But there really is something more, something that isn't easily imparted in a larger more institutional setting. An intangible something that is at the core of what I try to impart to my couples. Pregnancy, birth and parenting is a time of amazing growth and in my classes I try to facilitate that growth. I try to create a safe place where all choices, thoughts and feelings are respected. A space where over the weeks bonds between couples spring up naturally. A space which encourages open communication between partners. We do simple thought provoking class work that spills over into discussions and sharing that continues beyond class and into cars or bedrooms. The time spent brings us all closer and creates a sense of community. I guess in my classes I am "doulaing" the birth of these new families.

Thank you to Sarah and Ryan, Renee and Travis, Kate and Tim, and Jennifer for giving the gift of your wisdom by sharing your stories.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Colby's Comment

AGREED! Even though I ended up planning a c-section due to a breech baby, Jennifer's classes were very useful even though I did not get the natural birth I was hoping for. She is very thorough, expicit, educates soon-to-be parents on the entire process from pregnancy to labor to having a newborn. She is also a fabulous resource to have and will tirelessly support you in your journey.

Thanks, Jennifer

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

A Team Effort

Jennifer, Jennifer, Jennifer. . . What I would give to articulate to families the wonder of your work. We believe you are a rare treasure and have been blessed with a gift: a gift of clarity, wisdom and connection to a complex and beautiful process. You believed in us as a family, and encouraged understanding at every turn. Your presence allowed for a greater sense of peace for us all. You relieved my husband of the conflict a birth partner sometimes feels to be supportive and soft, as well as, protective and strong; you helped us to inform our families and hospital staff of our birth choices with love in our hearts; and most of all, your knowledge-whether faced with the 'standard' pressures of delivery or the unexpected; letting us know we had a choice! If there were documented risks, questions we might want to ask, and reminding us that in some cases we even had the right to ask for privacy while making a decision. . .yes doc, that means delaying something a moment while we absorb what you've just said!

We had a wonderful team both times around and we always felt just that way; What a team!

Thanks, Coach!
The Engelmanns

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Family Bed

Many of my parents would like to sleep with their infant but have concerns about safety. Some end up sleeping with their baby anyway, some choose a crib and some choose the hybrid co-sleeper arrangement. I am a believer in figuring out what works best for your family; in other words, what way allows everyone the best sleep. Sleep is of vital importance for all of you. New mothers need sleep to be able to keep up their milk supply and their sanity. New dads need sleep to meet the demands of keeping up at work and doing a new shift at home. Babies need sleep to grow and thrive. No one benefits from being cranky!

For many families "family bed" is the way they all get the most sleep. Babies were meant to breastfeed 24 hours a day but at night they float up out of a deep sleep to a light sleep and, if mom is within snuggle, latch on and feed without ever coming fully awake. Moms too can learn to drift awake pull the baby in to nurse and fall off to sleep again during nursing with as little disturbance to their sleep pattern as possible. Dads may not even be aware that mom and baby are nursing because there was no loud crying to waken them. So for all the parents who are thinking they would like to try family bed here is a great article dissecting the relative risks of sleeping with your baby or not sleeping with your baby by Dr. Mercola.

Some things to remember:
No parenting decision is set in stone.
What worked today meeting everyone's needs may not work tomorrow.
Listen to your parenting heart it will rarely lead you astray.
What the experts say will change from year to year.
I have been involved with "family bed" families for twenty years and I DON'T KNOW ANY TWENTY YEAR OLDS WHO ARE STILL SLEEPING WITH THEIR PARENTS!!!!

Thanks to Marilyn Lund from Arroyo Grande for forwarding Dr. Mercola's article to me!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Courtney's Low Sugar Recipes for Increased Pregnancy Needs for Iron, Digestible Protein, & Calcium

Don't forget there are more recipes on her website at:

Sprouted & Simmered Whole Grain Millet & Amaranth - powerhouse grains for hard workers & people with increased iron needs: Soak 2 cups millet and 1 cup amaranth overnight under an inch of filtered water in the large saucepan you plan to cook it in. The next day, pour off the soak water and refill the pot so that the water level is about twice as much as grain (3 inches or so above the level of the grain). Bring to a boil, stir in 1 tsp whole sea salt, reduce to very low heat, put the lid on the pot at an angle so the steam can escape, and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring twice during the last 5 minutes to make sure there’s enough water in the bottom of the pan to prevent burning - feel free to add a ½ cup or so of water if it’s all evaporated before 30 minutes. It’s better to have more water and just pour the excess off at the end, than to not have enough. Mil-amaranth is great stirred into vegetarian chili as faux ground beef.

Black Eyed Pea & Shitake Stew (a one pot meal to store & reheat for your busy week): Soak 4 cups dry black eyed peas for 24hrs under 6 inches filtered water in a large (6 - 8 qt.) pot. The next day, rinse off the old soak water and replace with fresh filtered water (enough so the beans are covered by at least 3 inches of water). Bring to a boil, skimming excess foam off the top for the first few minutes. Reduce to simmer, then after 20 minutes of simmering put the lid on at an angle and simmer another 40 minutes. When beans have simmered for 1 hour total, add 3 Tbsp ground cumin, ½ tsp cayenne, and 2 Tbsp each ground coriander and ginger. Stir and simmer another 5 minutes. Add 4 cups chopped carrots, 2 cups chopped shitake mushrooms, and a large handful dried arame sea vegetable. Simmer 3 more minutes, and add 4-5 cups (or as much as will fit in the pot) greens such as chopped kale, collards, savoy cabbage, bok choy or mustard greens. Turn off heat and stir in 1 Tbsp each dried dill, marjoram and sage or tarragon. Add 5 Tbsp ghee or olive oil, and 3 - 5 Tbsp each shoyu or tamari soy sauce, balsamic vinegar, and lemon juice. Stir in some leftover cooked grain at the end if there’s room in the pot. And a nice salad on the side makes this a perfect meal. Enjoy!

Dilled Eggs w/Oysters and Cayenne On Toast: This recipe sounds weird, but it's high in protein & the flavor will knock your socks off! In a small skillet on low heat add 2 Tbsp olive oil,1/8 tsp cayenne, 1 can drained Crown Prince smoked oysters in olive oil, and 2- 4 large eggs. Saute until eggs are almost done (still wet looking), then turn off the heat and add 1/4 tsp dill, ½ tsp whole sea salt, and plenty of lemon or lime juice. Toast 2 pieces of sprouted grain bread, butter them, and top with oyster-egg saute. Serve with plenty of greens (ex: stir fry w/kale in winter, salad in summer). This amazingly tasty meal packs a great iron and protein punch. Enjoy!

Hormone Balancing Plantain Bananas: Just place a ripe plantain banana or two (with black spots or all black) on the oven rack and bake on 350 degrees for 1 ½ to 2 hours. The plantain’s peel will turn charred black and it’ll split open. When the meat inside turns a nice copper color, it’s ready! It goes with any breakfast foods (soaked nuts, brown rice, carob powder, yogurt or kefir, etc.) Eat between 9 -11AM according to Solar Nutrition.

Courtney’s Killer Egg Tacos: Grate a large carrot, chop some fresh cilantro and 1/4 two limes and set aside. Saute on med. heat in 1tbs olive oil: 1/3 chopped yellow onion, 3/4 cup grated zucchini, 1 cup finely chopped kale or collard greens, and throw in ½ cup sun dried tomatoes with a pinch each of whole sea salt, dried rosemary, sage and parsley. Flake 1 drained can of Bella Olaho sardines in olive oil into the pan and mix in 5 beaten eggs. Stir continuously until the eggs are almost done (slightly wet looking - they’ll finish cooking in the hot pan - overcooked eggs loose their flavor) then remove from heat. Stuff into Ezekiel sprouted grain tortillas with the fresh, grated carrot and chopped cilantro, and top with lime juice and a drizzle of Cardini’s Ceasar salad dressing. Mouth watering!

Cultured Turkey Stew (easily digestible protein meal): The day before hand, mix 1- 1.5 lb. ground turkey with 1 cup plain goat yogurt and store in the fridge covered. The next day soak a large handful of chopped Kombu sea vegetable in a small bowl of water and set aside. Then, in a large pot, sauté 2 chopped carrots, 1/4 lb. chopped green beans, and 1 small chopped fennel bulb in about 5 Tbsp olive oil and 1/2 cup water on med heat, stirring for 3 minutes. Sprinkle in 2 Tbsp ground cumin, and 1 Tbsp each ground ginger and coriander, stir, and add the cultured turkey and 1 bunch chopped mustard greens. Cook another 5 minutes, stirring. Pour in the bowl of Kombu along with 2 - 3 cups water. Bring to a boil and simmer 3 minutes, adding 1 tsp each dried dill, tarragon and ground sage, and either 2 tsp Celtic sea salt, or 3 - 4 Tbsp Tamari soy sauce. This stew is building for the weakened body and easy to digest.

Calcium Absorption Breakfasts: ~10 soaked almonds, 3 raw brazil nuts, a cup or so of soaked and cooked brown rice, and a pear or a banana
~ OR, 15 soaked almonds, a cup or so of soaked and cooked brown rice mixed with1tbs raw carob powder, a splash of almond milk and a sliced banana all mixed together

Iron Absorption Breakfast: 10 - 15 soaked almonds, a few raw nuts (ie: walnuts, pecans, macadamia or Brazil nuts), a cup of soaked and cooked brown rice, 3 - 5 soaked prunes, and fresh kiwi or stone fruit like plum, peach or nectarine (no citrus or melon).

Sesame-Wakame Calcium & Protein Rich Snack: Toast 1/4 inch thick layer of unhulled sesame seeds in a medium cast iron skillet on medium heat, turning with a spatula for 7-10 minutes until they pop and brown slightly. Turn off the heat and place them in a ceramic or stainless steel bowl. Into the still-hot skillet place a layer of dried wakame sea vegetable that's been cut with scissors into 1/2 in. pieces. The heat from the skillet will cause the wakame to dry out so that after 15 minutes or so, you can crumble it into the sesame seeds and mix them together. Store this mix in a glass jar and eat spoonfuls of it as you desire or sprinkle on salads or on crackers with tahini. 1/4 cup of unhulled sesame seeds = 40% of you daily value of calcium!

Calcium Rich Dinner: Saute ½ chopped onion, 1 grated zucchini and 1 grated carrot, ½ bunch chopped kale or collard greens, 1/4 cup soaked (for 30 min) wakame sea veggie, and 1 tsp each sage, rosemary and dill in 1 tbs ghee or butter in a skillet. Pour 5 beaten eggs over veggies, add 1-2 tbs Shoyu soy sauce OR ½ tsp whole sea salt, and flake 1 can sardines with bones into the mix. Remove from heat just before they’re done cooking (they’ll look a bit wet), as the heat from the pan will finish cooking them (overcooked eggs lose their flavor). Serve over soaked and simmered brown rice.

Three Calcium Soups:

1) Soak 2 cups whole barley (not “pearled”) for 24 hrs. Pour off soak water and either simmer for 50 minutes, adding kale, whole sea salt, ghee and spices 10 minutes before it’s done, OR sprout barley for a couple of days (rinsing it every 6 hrs. in a sprouting jar) and simmer for ten minutes with kale, whole sea salt, ghee, and spices (yellow curry, tarragon and dill tastes great).

2) A soup cooked with beans and sea vegetables is considered good for the kidneys and therefore good for the bones in Chinese Medicine. Both beans and sea vegetables are high in magnesium and calcium.

3) For those of blood type O, any bones from organically raised animals are broken, then cooked into a soup at low heat for a few hours with acid vegetables (tomatoes, lemon juice, etc.) to extract the marrow and other minerals. Good for weak or frail individuals needing building, strengthening foods. Amaranth Flour

Stevia-Sweetened Cookies: I recommend culturing the 2 cups amaranth flour 24 hrs ahead of time. Mix until just blended: 2 cups fresh ground amaranth (or packaged amaranth flour) with 1/2 cup water and 1 cup plain, cultured yogurt OR 1tsp acidophilus powder or two capsules of refrigerated probiotic opened & mixed with 1.5 cups water. Let the mixture sit for a day, covered, at room temperature so the yogurt cultures can neutralize the phytic acid in the whole grain flour and break down the complex starches. It’s much more digestible & the nutrients are better assimilated this way. The next day, make your cream mix in a small saucepan with the oil, egg, water, stevia & extracts (ingredient amounts in paragraph below). Just add the rest of the dry ingredients to the cream mix (salt, baking soda, & spices), blend it with the cultured flour mix, then add any nuts, fruit, coconut, chocolate chips, etc. If you don’t have time to culture the flour, you can do it this way: Dry mix > 2 cups amaranth flour, and ½ tsp each aluminum-free baking soda & whole sea salt, 1tsp ground coriander, & ½ tsp nutmeg. Sift & set aside. Cream mix > In a med saucepan on low heat, melt 1 ½ sticks butter OR 2/3 cup virgin coconut oil. Remove from heat & stir in 15 drops Nu Naturals brand Vanilla Stevia,1 tsp almond extract and beat in one egg. Mix dry & cream mixes together well. Then add 1 cup each fresh nuts of choice (pecans are great!), unsulphered coconut, and dark chocolate chips if you like (preferably malt-sweetened) or carob chips. Place heaping spoonfuls on a buttered baking sheet and bake at 375 degrees for 12-15 minutes. Also, instead of nutmeg/coriander/almond extract/dried coconut/nuts/chocolate chips, you can get creative and use: pumpkin pie spice & allspice/ vanilla or almond extract/Sweet Leaf brand English Toffee stevia/finely diced fruit like apple, pear or persimmon OR coriander/vanilla extract & vanilla stevia/fresh, dried or frozen berries.

Apple-Raspberry Spice Rice (better for you than apple pie, and tastes twice as good!): In a small saucepan over low heat add 1 cup Pacific brand oat milk and 2 cups freshly simmered (or leftover) brown rice, 1 medium diced fresh apple, 2 Tbsp butter or ghee, ½ tsp whole sea salt, 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice and ½ tsp allspice. Simmer & stir for 3 minutes or so, adding more oat milk if it’s too thick for you). Turn off heat & add 12 drops Sweet Leaf brand English Toffee stevia (1 Tbsp grade B maple syrup or raw honey if not using stevia). Stir until mixed well & enjoy warm, with individual servings topped with pecans and raspberry drizzle: in a small bowl mix the juice of 1 ripe lemon (Meyer lemon is best), 8 drops Nu Naturals vanilla stevia & 1 cup mashed raspberries from fresh or frozen. Wow!

Courtney's Recommended Reading List for Nutritional Health

The Self-Healing Cookbook by Kristina Turner (best primer on Macrobiotics)

Healing With Whole Foods by Paul Pitchford (deep study of Macrobiotics & modern nutrition - great as reference for any ailment)

The Body Ecology Diet by Donna Gates and Linda Schatz (for cancer, AIDS, and autoimmune deficiency and candida/yeast sufferers to boost immunity and alkalize the body)

Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon (ancestral wisdom on whole foods preparation such as culturing flours, meats, etc.)

Eat Right For Your Type by Peter D Adamo (blood typing systems for four different diets & lifestyles)

Your Body knows Best by Ann Louise Gittleman (synthesis of several systems to further individualize your diet & lifestyle)

The Metabolic typing Diet by Trish Fahey and William Wolcott (helps with regulating metabolism for weight loss or weight gain)

Shocking Article in Huffington Post

As is often the case things are not as simple as they may at first appear. I posted the article below immediately after reading an article from the Huffington Post. I have since done some more research of my own and although this case is still shocking it is about as clear as mud.

The hospital, St. Barnabas, in New Jersey has a 49.3% cesarean section rate and wanted the laboring mom to sign a consent to a cesarean surgery as soon as she arrived! The also wanted a consent for an epidural, fetal scalp monitoring, an episiotomy and other procedures. This in and of itself is shocking to me and sends up many red flags.

On the other hand it is possible this women is suffering from mental health issues. Having been with many women in labor, which most psychiatrists or psychologists have not, I do not feel a woman's mental health should ever be assessed during labor. However this woman suffers from a diagnosed pre-existing condition: post traumatic stress disorder. The feelings of labor paired with the actions of the hospital may very well have provoked an episode of some sort. I have witnessed this myself with women who have suffered a trauma in the past. Labor opens many doors into the heart of a woman and sometimes her demons come out. Labor is an extremely vulnerable time. A woman with a history of trauma must be supported with understanding for her unique situation. On top of this I feel that how many hospitals treat women can bring on post traumatic stress disorder. We don't call it that; we call it post partum depression or an inability to reconcile with their cesarean experience.

Here is a link if you want to read further into this sad story after reading my original piece below.

OMG!!! I just read a stunning article about a woman who refused a c-section and although she gave birth vaginally to a healthy baby she had that baby forcibly taken from her afterwards and placed into state foster care. This is so wrong on so many levels that I am having trouble collecting my thoughts enough to write anything coherent. Tragedy; a tragedy for women's civil rights, a tragedy for this child, a tragedy for this family, a tragedy for all the women out there who may want to take a stand against their OB's "advice" but will now have this fear in the back of their minds. I am telling you the push back from the entrenched medical community against the rising tide of natural birth is very ugly indeed. It is coming at us on all levels; through the media (a ridiculous piece on the Today show against homebirth), through individual hospitals (telling women they can't give birth there if they use a doula or write a birth plan) and through individual birth practitioners (steering women into hospital based birth preparation classes and away from educators who advocate for natural birth).

Please educate yourself by reading this important article by Louise Marie Roth on Huffington Post "Is a Woman in Labor a 'Person'? New Assaults on Pregnant Women's Civil Rights in a NJ Case". Prepare yourself because this article is shocking and disturbing. Click on the Link in my Great Resources section. Continue further by reading "Controversy Sparked by a Sign on a Door", also on my Resources Links. Add that to the situation that I wrote about in my Informed Consent article. Then think about a Certified Nurse Midwife in our community, whom I respect, telling a Bradley educator during a public forum that Bradley teaches women to not "trust" their care providers. I believe this is because Bradley teaches women to be good birth "consumers"; to question, choose what they think is right for them and their baby, and to be prepared to stand up for their choice against opposition.

So why is this happening now? Money, power and fear come to mind. Could the current political climate come into play here as well? Is the right to life movement, which is something completely different, be spilling into other issues surrounding a woman's right to choose what is best for her body in other ways? For the first time women in the 'alternative' birth community are speaking up on the national stage, whether it is Ricki Lake's video The Business of Being Born or The Big Push for Midwives Campaign rallying women to speak to their legislators on Capitol Hill to be sure to include Certified Professional Midwives in the current national health care bill. The Internet is connecting women in a way never seen before and the younger women in the birth community are taking full advantage of it. Remember ordinary obstetrics is a huge money maker for the medical community but if you add in the money for inductions, epidurals, c-sections and extra days in the hospitals for moms and babies in neonatal intensive care units the fees skyrocket. On top of that birth is considered a gateway procedure. Women tend to return to the same hospital for additional births and other health issues as well as bringing their husband and kids when they have problems. That adds up to lots of money over lots of years! So what happens if women start saying no to their doctors "advice" to be induced simply because they are at 40 weeks, or work hard to not choose an epidural, or say no to having major abdominal surgery? There is so much to be lost or gained on both sides.

Please read the complete Huffington Post article then send my link on to family or friends you think would benefit. I really want to hear your thoughts on this issue after you have read the linked articles. Post a comment here.

Thanks goes out to the women at ICAN who told me about the Roth article!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

A Mom & a Dad's Perspective



Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Swimming to the raft really helped, along with moving around and trying different things, (shower, rocking chair, hot tub, etc.) Gus is a happy drug free boy as a result!




This is a big thanx for helping us bring Gus into the world. There were times I really wanted to go home, crawl into bed and hide under the covers...


Sheila & Marks Thoughts

Dear Jennifer,

We would like to thank you for the time and energy which you put into our weekly sessions. It was a very good thing to be so well equipped with information on procedures and interventions. We required very little in terms of explanations as our ordeal unfolded. You are very, very good at what you do, Jennifer. You burst with both knowledge and enthusiasm and possess a wonderful ability to transmit information. Many thanks,

Sheila and Mark

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


I am so lucky. Through the birth community I have come to know many amazing women. Women who inspire and uplift me; who keep me afloat while I do this incredibly draining work. Oh yes being a doula is wonderful and enriches my life but, make no mistake, to do this work well means giving totally of yourself both physically and emotionally. The amount of concentrated focus moving through me into the laboring woman and her partner leaves me exhausted. So how do I replenish my soul? Through my family, through my husband, and through 'the sisters of my heart'. I never know when one of them will suddenly enrich my life once again with meaning and purpose. I will be introducing you to my wonderful sisters from time to time.

Today I want to share with you a wonderful woman who asked me to participate in an inspiring occasion a few days ago. Jennifer Everett is a Bradley Childbirth Educator and Assistant Midwife in Grover Beach. She is my right hand woman in the Birth & Baby Resource Network. On top of this she is the mother of 3 great kids, one born in the hospital & two at home, all born naturally! She is a brilliant organizer and was the coordinator for last year's Birth & Baby Fair. Crazy woman that she is she has offered to organize it again this year and has some innovative ideas for new events we will be running in conjunction with this year's Fair. (I'll keep you posted on those.)

None of that is why I am writing about her today. Today I am writing because she let me be present when she gave her fifteen year old daughter the sweetest of gifts; a party in her honor to welcome her into the community of women. Inspired by the book "The Red Tent" by Anita Diamant, a must read for women, she created a Red Party and gathered a group of women young and old to eat, to drink, to laugh and to share. Everyone wore red, we ate red food including a scrumptious red velvet cake (my first!), her home was decorated with red balloons and gorgeous bunches of deep red roses. Jennifer asked everyone to bring index cards with lists of favorite female: authors, books, movies, singers and songs; as well as, cards to pass on what we have learned about being a woman in today's world. Then she put them all together for her in a photo album; a treasured keepsake of the moment.

None of that is why I am writing about her today. It is the party "activity" she chose and helped create which lifted the occasion to another level for me. Jennifer hired a wonderful woman, Janice Devine Patterson, who has started her own business (yeah!) called The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pots. I think this woman is brilliant!! She has taken a simple activity, the creation of candles, and imbued it with a child-like energy and the creation of a joyous ritual which taps into people's hearts and facilitates the giving and receiving of the gift of feelings. With a bit of guidance from the host she spontaneously works with the theme of the ocassion to create a completely unique experience. This would work beautifully to mark any of life's passages, jubilant or sad: baby or wedding showers, graduations, new careers, memorials, divorce, or struggling against illness.

None of that is really why I am writing today. I am writing because Jennifer did me the honor of asking me to be present when she gave her daughter a cherished gift; the gift of community, the gift of being valued by her mother and the women of her mother's world, the gift of saying such heartfelt feelings they brought tears to all our eyes, the gift of a mother respecting a daughter. These are powerful life long gifts. I feel blessed to have been a witness to the giving.

To learn more about The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pots visit:
Have you read "Sister of My Heart" by Chitra Divakaruni? It was one of the books on my index card of favorite Chick Lit. It was given to me as a thank you by another amazing woman I'm sure I'll end up introducing to you someday.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Client Connections!

This space is used to keep my clients connected and connect you to my clients. If you are a client and have family news, business news, or you're moving and would like to let people know I'd be happy to post it. Do you have an Internet presence? I will be posting links here. Just write me at or pick up the phone. I'd love to chat and catch up!

Over the years I have been blessed with so many fascinating and fabulous people coming into my life through my birth business. Becoming parents spurs growth within ourselves and a new perspective. We worry about our planet, our community, and our kids. Many of my clients transform this new perspective into new commitment; shouldering new responsibilities, tapping into their creative side, and working toward improving the lives around them. Below you will find what these incredible people are doing and links to get you connected into this energy.

Jennifer Henderson is busy! Not only does she work for the Parent Participation Program taking kids on field trips around the county she also homeschools her kids, teaches for the adult school, teaches at Cuesta and writes travel stories. Check out all the great programs Parent Participation sponsors:

What fun it was to open the Parent Participation site's Outdoor page and see a pregnant Colby Lindeman in a group of Tiny Hikers! She has told me several times how much she enjoyed this activity; meeting other moms, getting outdoors, getting exercise, doing the interacting with baby games.

Colby Lindeman took her fitness expertise and turned it into an exciting new business helping moms get back in shape with their babies in outdoor settings. To see what they are up to:

I spoke to Lisa Ann Dillon the other night. She is busy teaching at the San Luis Classical Academy, a support program for homeschoolers and teaching her oldest child at home. Hard to believe he is in Kindergarten already! To learn more about the Academy go to

Chiropractor & past client, Leslie Kasanoff, invited me to an interesting nutrition lecture. It was about the importance of phytonutrients in our diet and how to obtain them. Of course I was most interested in how it relates to healthy pregnancies and births. I've asked her to write about this topic soon. I decided to try Juice Plus for myself and I am a convert. Even though I am a healthy eater and eat fresh local organic produce I still noticed a difference after being on Juice Plus. I had more stable usable energy. Check out Leslie's web site to learn more. or

Shannon Len is expecting her first baby this month. I am so excited to support her at the new Santa Lucia Birth Center. Somehow she has managed to get ready for their new arrival while staying on top of her commitments to the art community and her jewelry business. To see her elegant jewelry designs:

It was fun to open the Tribune on Tuesday and see Carolyn Eicher and her lovely daughter Sabina donating kid's books to their local library. Sabina was born at General Hospital and it looks like all the hard work Carolyn put in that day has payed off! Currently Carolyn is busy with a nonprofit she started called SLO Grown Kids. Their mission is to improve the health of the San Luis Obispo community by educating students and their families about healthful eating and the origins of food. Check it out at:

Congratulations to Jenny Appell who is now teaching African Dance. She went back to performing with the local African Dance Troupe not long after each of her babies was born. My son and I had a lot of fun when we were studying Africa visiting her class. Her talented husband Rob, quilt artist and owner of The Cottonball in Morro Bay, has a new Endangered Species Quilt Project. To view the beautiful quilts and purchase patterns to support the animals:

Speaking of dance Jenna Mitchell is back at work running World Rhythm & Motion Studio. They teach an eclectic group of dance classes from around the world. To see what might spark your interest:

Congratulations to Amy Engleman who has bought a home in Templeton. Her son Chase is enjoying working on a pottery wheel at Santa Lucia school. He was inspired by a small pot my son Joe made when he was young which Amy purchased from Joe at a craft fair a long time ago. Amy is very busy volunteering at the school. find out more:

Dawn Feuerberg besides keeping on top of Morro Bay's drinking water, being a mom of two now and continuing to teach Spanish at Cuesta has started her own business. Summers she is taking families south of the border on a family Spanish language & culture learning adventure! Interested?

If you haven't heard about Acholi Beads yet please visit This is Jessica Connolly's brilliant business idea which combines business, women and social justice. Although she has moved to San Diego in our hearts she's still with us on the Central Coast.

A late congratulations and you go girl goes out to Kambria Doherty for her successful V-BAC at home of an over 10 pound baby boy. Dreams really can come true! And on her new business Kahuna Kids; an eco-friendly kids store in Paso Robles. To see what they offer visit:

Congratulations to Erin Tullius for being chosen to apprentice with Jack Canfield, the founder of the Transformational Leadership Council. I can't wait to see what springs forth from that alliance. Update! Erin is an author! Check out her book about diet & health:

Congratulations to Dr. Steve Tullius on his on going free workshops on women's and kid's health issues. His talks are very informative and full of information I wish everyone knew. On top of that he is constantly doing tings to benefit non-profits, such as, the Women's Shelter & BBRN. When my son went for a new patient chiropractic visit it was free if we brought in a bag of food for the Homeless Shelter! Check out his workshops:

Thursday, November 19, 2009

A Safe Place: Stories Can Help Us Heal

Telling your story has the power to transform you. Sharing your pain and confusion and/or guilt through your voice can help to heal your heart. Even speaking your feelings to a blank wall is productive; just like writing in a journal.

What happens though when we talk about our truth to someone who dismisses it or tells us our "perspective" is wrong? I listened to a woman at the ICAN meeting share an experience that deeply saddened me. She had prepared for a natural vaginal birth and instead ended up having a c-section. Burdened with a whole host of confusing feelings and questions she struggled to recover from surgery as well as take care of a newborn. At her postpartum visit with her doctor she reached out. There is a great need to unburden oneself after a birth goes very differently than we had fantasized it would. Instead of communicating in a way to bridge the gulf that lay between them the doctor became defensive and created a wall that stands cemented in place between them to this day.

Why doctors become defensive is an important question to be explored another day. Today I am exploring the power of stories. What happens internally when we are told or led to believe that our truth is untrue? What happens when there is a disconnect between our feelings of sadness and loss after a surgical birth and everyone around us telling us we should be happy our baby is healthy? What happens when a person stops listening to their inner voice that tells them when something feels right or wrong? Well we know bad things happen to kids that don't listen to their inner voice and let someone in a position of authority who is bigger, stronger, older and "wiser" talk them into doing something that they know in their gut is wrong. We know bad things happen to women who don't listen to their inner voice and start dating a person that convinces them they are inept and their only worth comes through being in a relationship with their abuser. We know bad things happen to men when they don't listen to their inner voice that alerts them to danger and put themselves into a vulnerable position where they can be physically assaulted and have what they value robbed from them. Women often feel if they had just listened to their inner voice during their birth this story would never have happened. They blame themselves for not listening, for not being stronger, for not using their voice during birth to speak up and stop the train wreck of their experience. So what happens to that woman when she is told once again during the vulnerable postpartum adjustment that her "truth" is not the truth; that she needs to stop listening to her truth and that she definitely needs to stop speaking her "truth"? How damaging! What an opportunity for healing through validation and support lost. Can't we be allowed to be sad about our births and at the same time happy to have a healthy baby in our arms?

The simple truth, that many people are uncomfortable talking about is, many mothers are experiencing grief in the midst of being overjoyed and overwhelmed by their newborn. Why? Because as a wise friend once explained to me; grief happens whenever our fantasy and reality don't match. This could be the fantasy of sharing next Christmas with a loved one who dies in November, or the fantasy of being able to fix a bad marriage only to be faced with the ugly reality of divorce. Unfortunately women's birth experiences are not living up to their fantasies and instead often live up to their greatest fears. The importance of validating the mother's feelings of grief and loss, so that she can heal and move forward, are tremendous.

Grief comes in many forms or phases: sadness, anger, blaming, denial, asking why me. These are all normal grief reactions that we pass through. They carry with them strong emotions that many people are not comfortable being around. They will try to "fix" an unfixable or deny or answer "why me" which can't really be answered. ICAN is a safe haven where women can experience their grief and only receive validation. It is a form of therapy that can help transform confusion and pain into clarity and acceptance. Most of the women their have gone through this same experience, felt these same feelings. They share a common bond and when they express to a newcomer that they understand how she feels she knows they really get it. They allow her truth to be her truth and actual healing can begin.

My hope is that in the future when a doctor or midwife is faced with a mom's expressions of grief after their birth they will say to them, "I can see you are really upset about how your birth unfolded. I'm not really the best person for you to talk to about this but I know a place you can go. The women there can help you heal from this birth and prepare for future births." Then they would hand her an ICAN brochure or a telephone number.

So what happened to the mom who shared her story? She is a committed member of ICAN and she rewrote her story through her next birth because yes SHE CAN!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

A Safe Place

Last night I attended the monthly meeting of our local chapter of the International Cesarean Awareness Network or ICAN. This resource restarted in our area about 3 years ago and I am very glad they have.

In the 90's when I first became part of the birth community in San Luis Obispo County ICAN was just closing down in our area due to lack of interest. I believe this was because on a national level women and groups such as ICAN had been successful. They had created change. They encouraged women to stand up and speak up and say "yes I Can have a vaginal birth after a cesarean." So many women successfully and safely V-BACed that it became the medical norm to "allow" women to "try" to V-BAC.

So why is ICAN re-emerging as a necessary and vital local resource? Because the medical community changed their minds a few years ago and put so many restrictions on trying to have a vaginal birth that many doctors and hospitals simply won't "allow" women to even "try". We are back to "once a cesarean always a cesarean."

I few years ago I had attended my one and only ICAN meeting as a presenter. The topic was doulas. Yesterday I decided I really needed to start going and getting to know these women and find out more about them. And I am so glad I did! What a wonderful group of thoughtful, insightful, inspiring and caring women. They spoke about their desire to get more connected to women in our community and wanting to get the word out about V-BAC as an option. They had ideas about how to connect in a positive way with our medical community and on how to become a more valued resource. Most of the women are successful V-BACers full of inspiring stories and powerful information about how you too can birth vaginally! They are a safe and accepting place to come and explore your feelings about your cesarean experience and your hopes and fears for future births. They will share, answer questions, laugh with you or cry with you and maybe, just maybe they will rejoice with you in the future.

Their monthly meeting is on the 3rd Tuesday of the month at 7:00 at the SLO Library. Yes I know its late, but put your baby to bed with Dad and come out to get some much needed validation for your feelings surrounding your cesarean.

Yesterday's blog was about stories and coming soon I will talk more about the importance of stories as it relates to ICAN.

ICAN’s Mission Statement

To improve maternal-child health by preventing unnecessary cesareans through education, providing support for cesarean recovery, and promoting Vaginal Birth After Cesarean (VBAC).

ICAN’s Vision Statement

A healthy reduction of the cesarean rate driven by women making evidence-based, risk appropriate childbirth decisions.
local contacts:
Mary Knudson or Jennifer Kaplan at

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Birth Stories

Yesterday I posted Kim's birth story. Congratulations to Kim! Not only was she the first mom to give birth in water at one of our local hospitals but she was the first mom to send me her story.

I love stories. I have always loved stories; stories that were read to me as a young child, stories I read that opened the world or opened my eyes to possibilities, stories that got me through bad times. There are books and characters from my childhood that are dear to me like treasured friends, Jo from Little Women, Bilbo from Tolkien's Ring Trilogy and of course Laura Ingalls from the Little House series. I learned so much by seeing the world through these wonderful authors' eyes.

A few years ago my mother, a retired children's librarian, took me to the National Story Telling Festival in Tennessee. I can't tell you how much fun I had just sitting in the damp Autumn cold and listening to expert storytellers share their craft. I could have happily sat there for a week. Some told folktales or children's stories. Some told historic tales or far fetched and nonsensicle stories. But the ones I think I enjoyed the most were grounded in the storyteller's personal history, culture or tradition. These are the important stories. The ones that pass down who we are and how we feel about it. These are the stories that preserve a time or place through oral tradition.

Birth stories are important. Your birth stories are important. They are critically important to share; woman to woman, decade to decade, generation to generation. This is the stuff that is at the core of us. Yes I know there is more to a woman than birth, but is there anything more important than birth? My guess is women have been sharing birth stories ever since the first woman was given speech. We have shared them around fires, at quilting bees and baby showers. Ina May Gaskin has included a enlightening section of birth stories in both of her books. A collection of stories on a single topic which includes many different perspectives and experiences is a powerful learning tool.

So I will be posting your birth stories. Telling your story, speaking your truth, unburdening yourself of your pain or grief, or expressing your delight, surprise, power or joy is important for you, for pregnant moms, for all of us. Imparting your wisdom woman to woman through a story.

I believe in the personal touch. I have been resistant to embrace all the technology driven "social networking" avenues out there today. I think there is nothing that can replace, or should replace, face to face, eye to eye, person to person communication. Especially when it comes to birth and birth issues. Birth isn't an impersonal experience and it shouldn't be dealt with in an impersonal manner. Having said that, I know that for most young women in our current culture this is the social medium they use and are most comfortable with. If I want to reach these women to share with them the significance of birth then I must meet them where they are.

If you would like to be part of this project please e-mail me your birth stories. Let me know if I can include your first name. I would like to always include where and when you gave birth. Please include the name of anyone you felt helped you through the process in a positive way. If you want you can also include the names of people who you feel impacted your birth experience in a negative way or you can chose to speak about them without attaching a name. I will label these stories as Birth Stories, Birth Stories My Doula Clients, or Birth Stories My Class Clients.

Make your story count!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Guest Lecturer

For many years I have been invited to be a guest lecturer at Cal Poly in their department of Psychology and Child Development. I present information in the Infant and Toddler Development course which starts out with pregnancy, prenatal development and birth. I speak about current birth practices, our culture, the history of birth in our country and the impact of birth on bonding. I always look forward to sharing with these impressionable young women. To have the opportunity to possibly make an impact on their beliefs and understanding about birth & to set them on the road to empowerment feels fabulous.

Listen to what they say they learned...

Julie: "I had no idea that childbirth was so controversial and so diverse!"

Katie: "Our decisions with birth have a lot to do with our cultural values. Unfortunately for us, the United States values do not correlate well with the process of giving birth."

Michelle: "Her talking about the relationship between birth and our culture surprised me because I didn't realize the importance of money, time, risk management, and how pain is perceived as a negative."

Erin: "I had never really seen the connection between birth and our culture until she pointed it out."

Lauren: "I had such a vivid picture in my mind when she was talking about the 1950's and what it was like to have a baby in the hospital during those times."

Robin: "What I loved most about Jennifer was that she spoke objectively and did not push her beliefs on us."

Stacie: " Our country has really lost its way in childbirth."

Allison: "Her information gave me so much knowledge and taught me that if you have that knowledge you will be able to better make a wise decision on your part and not what you are pressured into doing!"

Leslie: "Jennifer was really fascinating to listen to."

Katie: "I found Mrs. Stover's theory on pain very interesting. She stated how most challenges we encounter in life provoke growth and allow us to develop as individuals through pain."

Leslie: "This class has made me think about things that otherwise would
never have crossed my mind."

Sarah: "Listening to Jennifer speak I thought of several questions to ask my mom about my birth."

Allison: "A c-section has never so graphically been described to me. I now know that a c-section is not an option I wish to take unless it is to save either myself or my child from serious injury or death...This intrigued me to call a friend of mine who recently had a c-section and ask her some questions."

Robin: "It was the first time I had heard about the origins of labor procedures. I enjoyed it immensely because I was able to see what factors and events evolved the procedures to what it is today."

Heather: "Thanks so much to Ms. Stover for being so open with us, and discussing with our class issues that don't seem to be talked about often.

Stacie: "Jennifer Stover's class discussion really caught my attention. It was refreshing because she informed us of the variety of ways a woman can choose to give birth, while not imposing her own beliefs on us. I was not intimidated by what she said nor made to feel ridiculous because I had differing convictions."

Erin: "It actually makes me sad looking at how much humanity is lost for some women during the birth process."

Leslie: "I want to tell all the women I know about what I have learned because there are so many uninformed people."

Michelle: "She definitely opened my eyes to a new way of thinking and made me aware of different birth options so I can make an informed decision when having a baby."

Laureen: "When Jennifer talked about the benefits of natural birth for the baby I really thought about how much sense it made."

Carrie: "She was a wonderful guest speaker. I could tell that she is very educated about childbirth and that she is passionate about what she does for a living."

Angela: "I was able to talk to Jennifer Stover after class, and the information she gave will be useful in my future."

Katie G: "I found what she said about the religious and scientific conflict concerning child birth pain to be very interesting. Being a strong Christian myself, thinking about the pain in those terms somehow makes it less scary and more bearable. I never thought about religious beliefs being a valid reason for not accepting pain killers during labor."

Erin: "Going through the history of birth opened my eyes to how women have been viewed and treated."

Michelle: "Jennifer also cleared up several myths about birth history, physical abilities of women during birth, and the U.S.'s mother and baby outcomes."

Claire: "My mom had a horrendous labor with me, and ended up having a c-section, so I always assumed that I'd be having a c-section too. I'm glad to hear that women are most often equipped to deliver their babies. It gives me hope that a natural birth is still an option for me."

Robin: "Jennifer Stover was a wonderful resource."

Katie G.: "I liked that she made it very clear that the choice you make is not as important as the fact that it is your own choice and it is right for you and based on information and fact."

Carrie: "After Jennifer's talk with our class, I have decided that I would really like to have a home birth with a midwife and a doula. I have decided this because as long as I have a healthy baby, I think my baby deserves to come into the world fully aware to a mother who is fully aware."

Brianne: "I would definitely like to hear her speak again!"

Heather: "Jennifer made me feel more confident about having a baby. Hearing things like, 'almost every woman is designed for a vaginal birth,' and that the size of your body won't make much difference during delivery, helped me to feel like I will really be able to do it when the time comes. Being small framed, people have always commented on how it will be hard for me to have kids...which is scary! But I feel now, that I will most definitely be able to have my children safely."

A Perfect Birth Experience: First Hospital Waterbirth in the County

This birth happened at General Hospital in San Luis Obispo in 2002. Kim chose Certified Nurse Midwives: Linda, Lisa and Miday to be her care providers. Although this birth took place nearly 8 years ago, Kim's story has so much clarity because she wisely chose to write this during her first days back at home with her baby.
Second pregnancy, same as the first
When I found out I was pregnant a second time, I scheduled an appointment with the same doctor who delivered my first baby. I had my first 5 months of prenatal appointments, and pre-registered at the same hospital where I had gone before. My second pregnancy was easy, just as it was the first time.

Dramatic change in worldview at 5 months
About 5 months into the pregnancy, however, a friend loaned me a copy of "Misconceptions," a book by Naomi Wolf that completely changed the way I think and feel about childbirth. This started me on a journey toward wanting to do this second birth naturally, which is totally different than the way I felt when I was pregnant the first time.

Learning everything I can
I began reading voraciously about natural childbirth, and talking with my girlfriends who had gone through the experience. These women were crucial in giving me information, support, encouragement, and inspiration. In January, at about 6 months pregnant, I switched from my previous doctor to a group of midwives, who gave me such personalized and supportive care, I was able to work through my feelings about the first birth, and gain confidence about doing this naturally the second time around.

Waterbirth as an option
At our first meeting with the midwives, they mentioned to my husband and I that they were planning to begin offering waterbirth as an option; they were buying a tub to put in one of the labor and delivery rooms. I was immediately drawn to the idea, and shortly thereafter my husband and I attended a workshop that the midwives hosted with Barbara Harper of Waterbirth International. After the workshop, I was even more convinced that waterbirth was what I wanted, so we worked with Barbara to rent our own tub just in case the one purchased by the midwives had not yet arrived at the hospital or was occupied by someone else when I went into labor. It turns out that this was a critical decision, because the midwives' tub wasn't completely operational by the time I needed it, so we ended up using the tub we rented.

Planning in earnest
As the birth approached, my husband and I spent a great deal of time making preparations. We hired a doula(Jennifer Stover) and met with her three times before the birth -- to discuss our past experiences (especially with the birth of our first child), and our hopes for this second birth. We also attended childbirth classes with our doula, and learned a great deal about how to prepare for and manage a natural birth. My husband and I both continued to read, discuss, plan, and make arrangements for the birth. We packed our bags, brought the tub to the hospital, etc. I was feeling confident and excited, and we both felt that I would probably have the baby on Thursday or Friday after my Wednesday due date.

Beginning of labor
Sure enough, I began having more contractions on Thursday than I had been having before that day. By late afternoon, I was contracting several times an hour. This was my last day of work, and by 5 pm I finished everything I hoped to get done before I went on maternity leave. The timing was perfect! My husband and I went for a brisk walk around dinner time, to see if we could kick start the labor.

By about 8 pm, the contractions were pretty regular, at about every 5 minutes, but they were mild and lasted only about 30 seconds. Within a few hours, they were coming more frequently -- about every 3 minutes -- but they were still mild and lasting only about 30 seconds.

A festive atmosphere

Our very good friends arrived at our house at about 9:30pm, which was again perfect timing. They had originally planned to arrive the next morning. However, they were able to get away earlier than expected and arrived just as my husband began keeping track of times for my contractions. At that point, I was slowly beginning to accept that this was in fact "it." I was so reluctant to accept that this was labor, because I didn't want to get excited and then be disappointed if it was only a false start. Shortly after our friends arrived, however, I did acknowledge that I was probably "really" in labor. The atmosphere was festive, and we had a glass of port together while we chatted, laughed, and discussed plans for the birth.

At about 11 pm, everyone went to bed -- I dozed between contractions until they became somewhat more uncomfortable. Then I got up about 1 am, lit a fire and candles, turned on some music, and did chores. I tidied up the house, balanced the check book, mended a shirt for my husband, cleaned up the kitchen, etc. I was very happy, excited, and confident.

My husband got up about 2 am, and we enjoyed being together. The contractions were still about 3 minutes apart, mild, and lasting 30 seconds. At about 3 am, our friends got up, so we sent the men to the hospital to set up the tub. This took them about an hour, and apparently all the nurses were excited that the first waterbirth would actually be taking place very soon.

While the men were gone, my girlfriend and I talked with the doula and discussed when to go to the hospital. I began to think that the contractions were building in intensity, and I called my parents to come take care of our first child. My girlfriend made noodles for me to eat, and muffins for everyone else. When my parents arrived, the atmosphere was again like a party. We had music on and ate muffins, and we all chatted and laughed while the men returned from the hospital. I was relieved that the tub was filled, warm, and ready for me.

Losing steam
Unfortunately, I started to feel that my contractions were losing steam. I became somewhat discouraged, and after a while we sent everyone back to bed -- and my parents back to their condo. My girlfriend and I went for a brisk walk (with stops for contractions) to see if we could boost my progress. When this didn't work, I took a very long shower to relax, and then laid down to rest again. Through the early morning, I again dozed between contractions and became increasingly discouraged when they failed to build momentum. At about 7 am, I talked with the midwife on call and my doula. Both gave the same advice, recommending a very brisk walk to move things along -- and if this failed, to take a long shower or bath and then try to rest. I settled in for a very long continued labor, or even a false start that would stop and then resume later. My girlfriend again went to sleep, and when she woke up at about 7:30 am, she made breakfast for me. We talked about my concerns, and discouragement. When my husband woke up shortly thereafter, I burst into tears, saying that I was exhausted, but not getting anywhere with the labor.

The power of a good cry
A good cry may have been just what I needed, because at about 8am it felt like the length and intensity of contractions increased quite suddenly. I felt that something had changed pretty dramatically, and it was definitely time to go to the hospital. My girlfriend called the midwife, doula, and my parents. The men helped me to the car.

Driving to the hospital
The drive to the hospital was very difficult, because the motion made it hard to concentrate on breathing and managing the increasing level of discomfort. I made my husband pull over to the side of the road, just around the corner from our house, and he was afraid we were going to have the baby right there! As soon as that contraction subsided, he pulled back out to drive (I didn't feel quite ready yet!), because he knew we had to drive in the few minutes remaining before another contraction hit. I was briefly enraged at the driver of a white minivan, who was driving *way too slow* in my opinion, but with my husband ignoring most traffic laws we made it to the emergency room at the hospital. I struggled to get out of the car, and into the wheelchair that someone rolled out to the parking lot for me.

Getting into the tub
Getting up to my room, I clearly fit the stereotype of a woman in labor from TV, chanting and moaning loudly as I was quickly wheeled into the elevator and down the hall. As I was wheeled into the room, I started sobbing uncontrollably, and I told my husband it wasn't from the pain -- I didn't know why I was crying. In retrospect, this must have been my “transition” phase and the start of really serious active labor. When I arrived, the nurse checked the baby's heartbeat and encouraged me to get into the tub. "That's what you got it for," she said encouragingly. I was afraid that getting into the water would stall my progress -- especially given the long night of slow early labor. However, the nurse assured me that it was okay. I suspect she could see that nothing was going to stop this baby from coming at this point. With some help, I climbed into the tub and the feeling of relief from the warm water was immediate. I got on my hands and knees, and felt like nothing was going to make me change positions from that point on.

Meanwhile, the midwife and doula arrived in the room, and took their stations. My husband and doula were positioned at my head, near the wall, while the midwife was behind me -- watching and waiting. My world was focused on my body, on the doula’s coaching, and my husband's loving presence. The doula helped me to keep my vocalizations low, and as my voice creeped higher I could feel the tension increase -- so she helped me bring the pitch of my voice down where it definitely helped me to relax. I could feel a dramatic difference with her help, pushing out the pain with my breathing and letting each contraction go while I rested in between. My husband gave me loving encouragement, and kissed me in between contractions. It was all perfect. My girlfriend was snapping pictures, and Handel's Messiah filled the room. I couldn't help but sing along at some points, because I love the music and it helped me to concentrate.

The urge to push
At some point, a very intense contraction ended with an uncontrollable urge to bear down and push. I could feel the baby moving, and I remember saying that the "baby is coming, baby is coming!" The feeling took me by surprise, because I didn't expect it to be time to push so quickly. I was afraid it would be too soon, and I didn't feel like anything could make me resist the urge to push. I was very relieved when the midwife did a quick vaginal check and said that it was okay for me to push.

Women have babies out here?!
Twice while I was in the tub, the midwife asked me to pull my belly up out of the water so she could check the baby's heartbeat with a Doppler. It was very difficult to change positions, although it was probably good to help the baby's progress, and it was incredibly reassuring to hear her say that the baby was doing well. I hated being out of the water, and I remember thinking: "Women have babies out here?!" The second I got out of the water, I felt an increase in discomfort with all the gravity and cold air. It seemed like the most natural thing in the world to be in the water, and it was a great relief both times when I sank back into the warmth.

Making progress

Now I was pushing hard with every contraction, and although it definitely hurt I remember thinking that it was definitely manageable. At some point early on, the feeling of the baby’s head was so intense that I insisted that the baby must be out. Of course, the baby wasn't even close to being out yet, and I snapped at the doula when she said that I was making progress and that baby was coming out. I remember saying that I didn't want to hear that I was making progress -- I wanted to hear that the baby was out! Fortunately, I didn't have long to go.

As pushing went on, I could better distinguish the progress of the baby's head, and the most intense feelings came as it moved toward crowning. Each push hurt quite a bit, but I deliberately pushed as hard and long as I could, hoping that this would be the last one. The doula continued to help me focus on my breathing and vocalizations, and helped me to grunt while I pushed. I was afraid I would forget to grunt, so I actually repeated the word "grunt" while I pushed -- which fortunately served the same purpose of helping my breathing and effort. Later, the doula laughed and said she had never had anyone actually say the word "grunt," instead of just doing it! I literally was afraid I would forget what I was supposed to be doing, and it worked just fine.

Crowning and birth
When the head crowned, I insisted that my husband go around behind me to see it, because I couldn't see it or feel the head with my hand while in that position. It was important to me that he watch for both of us, because it felt like that allowed me to see it as well. Then when the head finally emerged, I felt intense pain and an even more intense feeling of relief and joy that immediately made the pain irrelevant. I was so excited, and relieved, knowing that the worst was over and the rest of the body would be a piece of cake by comparison. After a long rest, with the baby's head submerged in the water, the next push brought the whole body slithering out, with a little gentle tug from the midwife.

Joy, triumph, and falling in love
There simply aren't words for the feelings of joy and triumph as I turned over into a sitting position (with the cord still attached), and they laid my brand new baby on my chest. The moment was pure ecstasy, as I looked at this new little person and kissed my husband. I couldn't believe how much this new baby looked like our first child! It was almost confusing, because it looked like I had the same baby again. It did make it even easier to fall in love with this new person, however, because it looked so much like my beautiful firstborn.

It’s a boy!
Immediately, someone put a hat and blanket on the new baby, and I was very concerned that it stayed warm. In fact, concern over keeping the baby warm kept us from wondering about the gender for a few moments. When we remembered, my husband and I fumbled with the blankets to check between this little person's legs. It was a boy! I was so thrilled, because I felt strongly throughout the pregnancy that this was a boy. Finally, this was our little boy, and I got to smother his little wet head with kisses. He was so cute! He had arrived at 10:35am on Friday, about an hour and a half after we arrived at the hospital. The birth had gone quickly, smoothly, and perfectly.

A perfect birth experience

Afterward, the midwife helped me to deliver the placenta, and gave me two shots to control some excess bleeding. I was thrilled when she did another vaginal exam and said that I had no tearing whatsoever. The nurse did an exam of the baby and helped my husband give him his first bath. Within an hour, my parents arrived with our daughter. I was so excited to see my little girl, and it was sheer bliss to have everyone I loved so much there in the room together. I could not have imagined a more perfect birth experienc

Friday, November 13, 2009

In the Spirit of Informed Consent & H1N1 Vaccine

I am not a medical health professional. I do not hold any medical degree. I do not tell women what choices to make concerning their bodies and their babies. I do believe women have the right to understand all the known benefits and known risks of any choice they are about to make. That is part of informed consent.

But what about possible risk? Risk that hasn't been completely assessed yet? Pregnant women have been told in the past that a drug they were prescribed by a doctor was completely safe, had no known risks, only to tragically find out later there was horrible risk. Anyone who has heard of Thalidomide babies knows this to be true.

How does this happen? Most women don't know that very few drugs are actually tested on pregnant women. After all who would want to volunteer? Doctors prescribe based on knowing the benefits, knowing the risk of not prescribing and knowing there are no known risks. Therefore we learn about true known risk to moms and babies only over time.

Today I was made aware of a disturbing site where women are sharing their stories of miscarriage and their belief it was caused by the H1N1 vaccine. This gave me pause. What if I don't tell women about this possibility and it turns out to be true? What if I do and a woman chooses not to get vaccinated only to die from Swine Flu complications? So in the spirit of informed consent I decided to arm pregnant moms with information and then let women make their own choice.

First let me be clear there is no proof, there is no study that has been done to show a causal link, currently there is no way to be sure if the vaccine caused these miscarriages. As far as I know there was no large study that was done on pregnant women before they started vaccinating them with H1N1 either. I don't know if anyone is even compiling the data on miscarriages and H1N1 vaccination since the medical establishment has decided to believe the vaccine is safe for pregnant moms. I do know it will take overwhelming numbers of miscarriages before anyone will listen to the mothers.

Remember over many years lots of pregnant women have had the annual flu vaccine though with no known harm to them or their babies. Each year the vaccine is reconfigured to match that year's flu. This year's flu is H1N1. Why would H1N1 be different? The answer is I don't know. I don't know if it is different, but I don't know they know for sure it is the same.

We do know Swine Flu is a risk to pregnant women.

So now we have known benefits vs. no known risk but possible unknown risk. Every pregnant mom needs to make a careful individual choice. Does she have other underlying health factors? Does she have contact with lots of people who might be potential carriers? Is she someone that gets sick with every new bug that comes around?

Life is full of risk. Usually we choose a path not without risk but one that has a risk we are more comfortable with. Only you can know which path that is.