Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Re-framing Birth

The typical first time mother forgets that birth is about so much more than just her labor and birth experience. It is about her baby's experience too. She gets so caught up in "planning" her birth, practicing her labor "tools" and focusing on all the people and things she thinks she needs to travel this incredible, transformational journey. She forgets about her most intimate traveling partner; the baby she carries inside her. Birth is not an isolated day of importance. It is part of a continuum which started from conception and will continue a lifetime. The mother/baby dance of love and learning begins at the beginning; in utero. Labor and birth is a unique opportunity to teach your baby about how to handle stress and fear through the power of love and connection which should flow seamlessly into those first golden hours and days immediately following birth.

Think about your baby during your birth. Send him or her waves of love and reassurance. This is your first act of motherhood. Listen to Dr. Nils Bergman on how to proceed once your baby is in your arms.

Nils Bergman, MD, MB, MPH, CHB, DCH on the Social and Emotional Intelligence of Infants

"Babies are brilliant, inexperienced people."
Diane West co-author of The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding and Making More Milk.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

A Positive Cesarean Birth

Approximately 10% of women will truly need to give birth to their babies via surgery. For most of the women in this country this is far from a positive experience. Their babies are born behind a screen and then are moved to a plastic box, called an isolette, far enough away the mothers can't really see them. Once they are checked over and determined to be breathing ok, they are wrapped up so only their tiny faces are visible and given to their dads sitting next to the mothers' heads. The mothers who are lying flat desperately want to at least see their babies' faces. The dads try to find a way to accomplish this with their floppy newborns. Mothers crane their necks trying to catch a glimpse of their babies' gaze. They are biologically driven to look deep into their babies' eyes and connect. In just a few minutes dads and babies are whisked away to a nursery. All the other normal biologic functions which kick into gear as soon as the mothers have given birth are disrupted. These are called claiming behaviors. We are meant to smell our babies, kiss our babies, touch our babies. We are meant to look them over from head to toe and to count each tiny finger. And of course to put the baby to our breast and begin the breastfeeding relationship. Our senses and our babies are heightened at the moment of birth. We are both exquisitely aware of each other. We are meant to connect on a deep emotional, biological, chemical level; a connection which will last a life time. But for most mothers around the world having cesarean babies they get none of these. By the time they get to really see their babies they have been washed and dressed and are deeply asleep; too sleepy to breastfeed for  hours.

For a different perspective on the cesarean birth experience please watch this video. Then talk to your doctor, your midwife, your doula, your husband, and your hospital. You and your baby have a right to the most natural positive birth possible. You can make this happen!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

"Whole"istic Mamas Support for After Your Baby Arrives

You are invited to join my "Whole"istic Mama and Papas parenting support and social group! 

For the last twenty years I have been asked by moms who had attended my birth classes if  I would please start a mom support group after their babies came. Unfortunately I was too busy raising my son, being a wife, birth educator, doula, foreign exchange student teacher/coordinator and horse trainer and community birth advocate to say yes. In 2012 I finished my La Leache League leadership training and finally decided they were right. Moms who were choosing to parent from an attached perspective needed more support in our community. 

Because I have always viewed parenting as a dynamic constantly evolving experience I purposely chose to not call the group "attachment parenting". I wanted to encourage a broader spectrum of mamas to feel welcome. So I created the term "Whole"istic Parenting which I felt better reflected my views of parenting the whole child. At our meet ups and in our face book group I encourage mamas to make conscious choices for their child's physical, intellectual and emotional health. Research shows these are not distinct areas but are forever inseparably intertwined. 

The group offers mama-to-mama support and information sharing, as well as a social outlet with several park or play dates a month. The conversation is free flowing, covering whatever is on the minds of the attending mamas from sleep issues, balancing family needs, extended family, nutrition, traditional and alternative health providers, education, communication and more. As a veteran working mom, past home and public schooling parent, and La Leche League leader I gently offer guidance and resources. I ultimately believe mamas know the right path to choose for their unique family situation when given a small amount of nonjudgmental information and encouragement to listen to their heart. To receive invitations to our Blanket Babies & Toddler Time meet ups and join the on-line group feel free to friend me on face book and request to join.

Sunday, November 11, 2012


Supporting women in labor I have come to believe this with all my heart. Even when birth takes a dramatically different path than the one envisioned, we can heal ourselves from it if we were treated with love and respect for our bodies and our spirits throughout the process.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

I am Proud to Say I am an Attached Parent

Occasionally I ask a guest to write a piece for my blog. For Attachment Parenting month I posted a simple question in my Holistic Mamas and Papas group. What does Attachment Parenting mean to you? One of my mamas wrote such a lovely paragraph I asked her to expand on her ideas for my blog. Then I invited her to be my guest on the radio to discuss parenting more. Since Emily is a fairly new mama, Lucia is still under one, I also asked  a veteran mama, Shelly Candelario, to join us on the show. Both these mamas exhibit such thoughtful caring and commitment to their kids my heart was deeply touched. They also spoke candidly about the struggle to create balance in their personal, family, and professional lives. As a veteran attached parent myself this is a very personal subject to me. I could write volumes on it and still not be done. Instead I invite you to read Emily's post. Then listen to our discussion on the radio. Next read a book, visit a La Leche League meeting or join my Holistic Mamas and Papas. You'll find all that info at the end of Emily's piece. First let her inspire you.   


Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Get Inspired

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world; indeed it is the only thing that ever has." Margaret Mead, woman, daughter, wife, mother and controversial cultural anthropologist.

Inspired? Join the Birth & Baby Resource Network or International Cesarean Awareness Network. You can find the info about meetings in the side bar under Meet Me or go to my Labor of  Love Virtual Rally event page and find out the next step.

Friday, August 24, 2012

A Visit to Grandma and Grandpa Stover

Joe was screaming. His cries pierced my heart and filled my head with panic. It was our first long car trip. My son was about 8 weeks old and we were on our way to Walnut Creek where Grandma Jo and Grandpa Al lived. We had started out feeling fresh and excited to be going to visit family and show off our beautiful new baby. What could be more cozy and family-like than this? Family was still so new to us we reveled in all its many nuances and traditions.

Now after several stops to nurse and change diapers we realized that a simple car ride of 5 hours could stretch incredibly long if you have to stop every 2 hours for 30 to 40 minutes. Would we ever get there? Then disaster struck. 
Click here to find out what you as a parent should NEVER do!

Friday, August 3, 2012

I am a Community Lactivist

I believe in breastfeeding both for the healthy growth of a child and the healthy growth of a mother. When a new mother breastfeeds she learns to watch and listen to her child's cues. These simple facial expressions, body movements and vocalizations which trigger our innate response to nurture are the start of a life long conversation...

See community lactivism in action and read more about why as a doula and La Leche League leader I support breastfeeding women.Here. 

Saturday, July 21, 2012

I Grew up on Wonder Bread Sugar Butter Sandwiches; the confessions of a birth educator

Starting from Scratch 

I grew up on wonder bread sugar butter sandwiches; except it wasn’t even butter but soft margarine from a tub. I'd like to tell you otherwise. I'd like to say we only ate the freshest of the fresh, that my mom was an organic gourmet chef who had all the time in the world to spend in a kitchen and garden creating the healthiest food on earth. Instead my reality was a divorced mom who was trying to work and raise 4 kids. Yes she knew how to grow food, can food and cook food from scratch because she grew up on a farm in the Missouri Ozarks. That was part of the reason why she didn't do any of that anymore. She embraced the modern conveniences which blended science with abundance. I was a part of the "Tang" generation. Mornings were challenging getting all of us ready and out the door. Sometimes breakfast was Nestle Quik she had put a raw egg into stirred up and called an egg shake. This was better than the beer shake (same recipe just substitute beer for Quik) my dad sometimes had as a boy in Germany right? Once she even made us oatmeal cookie dough for breakfast. She was just glad to get the oatmeal into us without argument. We thought it was the greatest breakfast ever. Captain Crunch came camping with us and spaghetti from a can was often for dinner. So it's pretty ironic that I teach pregnant moms how to eat in my Healthy Beginnings classes and carefully peruse the food logs I require of my doula clients so I can counsel them on optimal nutrition for pregnancy. You could say I have had a long road to travel to become a healthy eater. Understanding my journey may help you tackle challenges on your nutritional road with less stress from guilt. Remember we are replacing cells in our body all the time so we can literally recreate ourselves. Click here to read the rest of my confessions.

What My Husband Didn't Do

Months ago I was asked the question how did my husband show his support of my choice to breastfeed our son? I am ashamed to admit that I couldn’t think of a single thing my husband had done or said. Recently I turned this question inside out and took another look. What had my husband not done? When viewed this way it became blindingly clear all the ways my quiet husband had been my mainstay throughout my breastfeeding experience and parenting. Read about it here.

My Classes


Healthy Beginnings/Healthy Choices: Get your pregnancy off to a great start!

Why Should I Take Classes? If you are planning a homebirth, using a midwife or have a doula already on board you may be wondering if you need classes. Besides isn't birth natural?

Heart, Mind & Body Birth Preparation: My series blending the best of many "methods" to give you the tools to create a positive birth uniquely right for you.

Intro to Parenting 101; a prerequisite to Parenting 102: Read what a class is like.

Basic Class InfoThe who, what, when and how


What My Clients Say

My Classes are featured in a book! 
Read Baby Daddy to get one of my dad's thoughts on my birth classes.
Support for After Your Baby Arrives: My "Whole"isitc Mamas group

Friday, July 20, 2012

Birth Stories

Learning from Our Birth Sisters. Why I have begun my birth story project.

A Safe Place: Stories Can Help Us Heal. The importance of sharing, listening & honoring women's birth stories.

Baby Comes in a Rush: Twin Cities Birth for Second Time Mom. Hear Jackie's story.
First hospital water birth in the county!

Shasta's Birth: Sierra Vista Birth of one of my doula clients. Hear Jora's story.

A Perfect Birth Experience: First Hospital Waterbirth in the County. Hear Kim's story.

A Doula's Story: a Homebirth in Florida. Read this beautiful piece about birth & being a doula.
This bundle decided to be breech.

Breech Birth: Turning Her Plans Upside Down! Hear Colby's story.

Out-of-hospital Birth Center Waterbirth. Read a dad's perspective & watch a video!

A Quick Homebirth. Hear Billea's short & sweet birth & story.
Filled in as doula for this sweet birth.

Parker's Santa Lucia Birth Center Birth: A photo essay

The Challenges of Being in Labor While Being a Mommy. Hear Kelly's humorous homebirth story.
Kelly's second birth was not at all what she expected.
Finding Your Path;
two women's stories. Following your heart while making birth choices.

Bodie's Birth; a cesarean story

Keeper of the Space. A beautiful poem birth story by a doula in Florida. 

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Parenting Issues, Ideas & Choices

My Parenting Group: For on-going support after your baby arrives.

Re-framing Birth: Thinking about birth from your baby's point of view.

To Clamp or Not to Clamp? That is the Question!: Video demonstration of the importance of waiting to cut the cord.

Your Baby's First Latch: video of initiating breastfeeding via breast crawl.

Baby's First Bath: rethinking this bonding tradition.

Deciding about Giving Vitamin K to Your Newborn?: Learn the pros and cons, why, when and how.

The Social and Emotional Intelligence of Infants: The mother /baby dance of life-long love and learning. 

Deciding about Circumcision: Hear what a pediatric urologist has to say.

Food for Thought: Baby Bonding and Attachment

What My Husband Didn't Do: How a dad can make all the difference when it comes to breastfeeding.

Food for Thought: How Labor Pain Medication Affects Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding & Kangaroo Care: One woman's neonatal intensive care unit story.

Speaking out for breastfeeding: Hear me interview our local La Leche League Leader about the challenges and benefits of breastfeeding.

New Research into Bonding with Your Baby: Latest info backs up what our hearts have been telling us.

More Good News About Breastfeeding: Latest studies on health benefits for mom and baby & it's financial impact.

Family Bed: Learn About the Latest Information on the Benefits vs. Risks of Sleeping with Your Baby.

A Visit to Grandma and Grandpa Stover: Important safety information about traveling with your baby.

Mothering as a Spritual Quest: Something to think about as you are about to embark on the most incredible experience of your life: motherhood.

Why African Babies Don't Cry: A Kenyan woman shares her grandmother's wisom on mothering.

New Mothers Grow Bigger Brains: Study shows significant brain development in women after giving birth

Need a Laugh? Every parent needs to use humor to help relieve the normal stress of parenthood.

Breastfeeding and Working: I did it and you can too!

Inspiration: La Leche League my inspiration to start the South County Holistic Mamas.

Your Baby or Toddler's Exposure to Toxic Flame Retardants: Learn about this commonly overlooked carcinogen.

I am Proud to Say I am an Attached Parent: Learn more about Attachment Parenting. Listen to 3 moms talk on the radio, be inspired by a new mama and gain resources for going more in depth into this topic.

Vaccinations; a Hot Topic! I will be compiling a variety of my writings and links to others writings on this important parenting decision.


The best reason to take care of yourself!
Food for Thought: Posts from my Facebook series designed to get pregnant couples thinking.

Pregnancy the First Step into Motherhood: Dr. Zoe Wells, ND talks about many pregnancy issues.

Why You Need to Create a Healthy Balanced Pregnancy: How your choices can effect your child's health the rest of their lives.

Ideas for Creating a Healthy Pregnancy: Info on various local wellness resources and why they are important for your pregnancy.

Your Nutritional Path: I Grew Up on Wonder Bread Sugar Butter Sandwiches; confessions of a birth educator

The amazing Courtney
from Cook Well
Pregnancy Nutrition: Here's the right way to do it.

Courtney's Low Sugar Recipes to Boost your Protein and Iron.

Consider Chiropractic Care: Learn why this should be part of every pregnant woman's self prenatal care.

Massage Therapy-More Than Just Pampering: Learn how prenatal massage can promote a healthy pregnancy and support women experiencing difficulties.

Prenatal Water Massage: Help for the aches and pains of pregnancy, as well as, high blood pressure & sciatica. A blissful way to learn deep relaxation, breathing & movement for birth.

Why Does Birth Feel Like This?: Wonderful quote on the process of becoming a mother and mothering.

Making a Baby Shower Special: Advice on Creating a Heartfelt Experience.
Read their story in Finding Your Path

Finding Your Path: two women's stories

Making the Decision about Where to Birth; Hospital or Home: Read one woman's story.

Making the Decision about Where to Birth; part 2: Parker's birth at Santa Lucia Birth Center

If Your Baby is Breech: Turning your baby, new research on safety, & decisions to make.

If Your Baby is Arriving Early: Latest study says c-section may not be the way to go.
Class client whose husband wrote
Baby Daddy.

Get Educated: A Midwife's Reading List

More Education: My Reading List

Baby Daddy: a book just for him.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Consider Chiropractic Care during Pregnancy

I would like to introduce you to a resource I rely on for my doula clients, Erin Parsons,DC owner of San Luis Obispo Chiropractic. Over the years I have reached out to Dr. Erin because of the quality care she provides and her gentle personality which my pregnant clients love. Some chiropractors are not comfortable adjusting pregnant women. Others do not have the specialized training required. On top of all of that Erin is a mother just like you. She has been through pregnancy and birth. She believes in your body's abilities to birth naturally. Each time you go for a visit you will get a boost to your confidence about your coming birth day. I am positive you will like her as much as my client who traveled from Paso Robles for optimum pregnancy health or another who drove up from Santa Maria for help in turning her breech baby.

I asked Dr. Erin to please explain how chiropractic care should be part of your plan to thrive in pregnancy and this is what she said.

Pregnancy, Chiropractic, and Pain

Do you think Chiropractic care is ONLY for back pain? Have you been told it is dangerous to be adjusted while you are pregnant? Not True!! While Chiropractic is GREAT for back pain, neck pain, and headaches (to name a few) in ANY PERSON of ANY AGE... it is also a fantastic way to help pregnant women. If you think about it for a minute, what is a common thing people know about being pregnant... You shouldn’t take
medications; including common headache and back pain relievers.

So what is a woman to do when her belly is sticking out so far she can't see her feet and her center of gravity is so far off balance she has to arch her back even further to stop from falling over? This change in posture can quickly irritate the low back, as well as, cause neck stiffness... and don't forget the hormones!! The fluctuation of hormones is one of the main causes of headaches and morning sickness.

Now remember, NO MEDICATIONS!  Should you suffer? No Way!
Chiropractic is not only good for the overall wellness lifestyle, it is also great for pregnant women to alleviate their back pain, neck pain, and headaches, and minimizing morning sickness. Adjustments put the spine and pelvis into proper alignment taking pressure off of the nerves which are usually causing the pain. After
everything is lined up properly, the muscles can relax, and everything functions better.

Pregnancy, Chiropractic, and Prevention

Waiting is a common mistake. Many women wait until pain comes on. They may think, 'I feel fine, I don't need Chiropractic care'. But getting regularly adjusted before, during, and after pregnancy prevents pain from coming on and keeps pain away.

Most of us don't think of our nervous system as being part of the creation process but our central nervous system regulates all the systems in our body. When you have a misaligned vertebra and/or a pinched nerve your entire nervous system is being compromised while your body is busy creating this fragile new human being. Doesn't it make sense that you would want this baby to have your full nervous system potential to help him or her grow to their full potential?

Pregnancy, Chiropractic, and Labor

Regular Chiropractic care throughout your pregnancy helps encourage a faster labor and delivery by promoting looser, more mobile pelvic bones. The three bones in your pelvis need to be as mobile as possible to be able to expand during labor and delivery while the baby is descending. To give you the best chances of a quick labor, I recommend a full evaluation of your spine followed by developing an individualized treatment plan for you to follow throughout your pregnancy. Typically a healthy woman with minimal spinal misalignments is recommended to get adjusted once a month for the first 6 months, 2 times per month for her 7th and 8th months, and every week thereafter until delivery.

Special Pregnancy Situations

Unfortunately, there are times when the baby is not in the optimal head down position. The baby can be either sideways, or in the head up/bottom down breech position in the womb. The Webster Technique is a special chiropractic adjustment that has successfully encouraged babies to turn into a better position. The Webster Technique has a specialized treatment plan to optimize your chances of success.

To learn more about Dr. Erin visit San Luis Chiropractic's web site.
You can contact her at info@sanluischiropractic.com or call 805-541-BACK(2225) to make an appointment.

Visit here for more ideas on how to thrive during your pregnancy.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Speaking for Midwives at SLO's Historic Celebration

This is Nora Lewis the certified nurse midwife who caught my son at Sierra Vista Hospital in 1990. That birth changed my life forever and set me on the path to becoming a doula. When it was over I had many hurt and angry feelings and a million questions. After being part of many women's births over the years I have grown in my understanding of what occurred during my own labor and have come to a new perspective and deep appreciation for my midwife. Working side by side with many different midwives has given me a great respect for the women who answer the midwifery call and dedicate their professional lives to helping women all around the world. I was honored to give a speech about midwifery at the Birth & Baby Resource Network's historic celebration for the International Day of the Midwife and I was very grateful to be able to publicly thank Nora Lewis for her courageous stand with me that long ago August day.
My Speech.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Midwifery; a David and Goliath Tale

The story of midwifery in America is a classic power struggle for women’s rights, respect and choice; a tale of the clash of women’s culture and values with the male dominated spheres of science, medicine and finance. It is an ugly story laced with racism and class war fare. This struggle continues to walk the halls of political power and sits in insurance industry board rooms today.
It began as the eighteenth century was drawing to a close and the science of medicine was on the rise. Men for the first time began to move deeply into the privacy of the birth room, a place that in most cultures around the world is traditionally populated almost exclusively by women. This slow and determined encroachment into what had previously always been a woman’s world began the battle.

Before men became involved American midwives had always held a place of respect within their communities. Their skill at helping women during the birth process was of vital importance to all in the community. Women were encouraged to stay mobile as long as possible during the birth, the pain of the process was recognized but not believed to be insurmountable, the passage of time was noted but there were no standardized graphs labors had to abide by, and women utilized up-right physiologically sound positions for pushing a baby out.

When male doctors took over this all changed. Pain relieving drugs were used as an inducement to have doctors attend women’s births. These medications changed the balance of power forever; stripping the woman’s innate abilities. She became an object to practice medicine upon; someone who needed her baby delivered to her like a pizza instead of using her own physical power to bring her baby forth. Soon untested scientific “theories” blended with necessities created by using pain medications and women were routinely being cut and babies were being pulled out with forceps.

As the prestige of the medical profession rose, so did their power. In the end it came down to dollars and cents. In order to corner the market doctors began a campaign to stamp out midwifery. First they created a belief that birth was a medical event which could only be safe if attended by a physician. Doctors traveled in the upper circles of society. They convinced bankers, lawyers and other prominent society men to avail themselves of the best that the science of modern medicine could offer for their wives by using a physician. Men controlled the medical schools and women were not allowed to attend so female care providers slowly began to die out. In the early twentieth century not satisfied yet, they convinced the government to begin a propaganda campaign slandering midwives as dirty, illiterate, and ignorant. Eventually only poor women or newly arrived immigrants were still turning to midwives for care.

Meanwhile another huge shift in health care in our country was taking place. Hospitals were on the rise, with their bureaucracies, standardizations, schedules and sanitization of birth. Women were told it was best when labor began to leave their homes, where they had some control, and travel to a hospital, where they had no control. Hospitals lead to the immediate separation of the newborn from its mother and scheduled feedings. These disruptions in the process along with the drugs created babies who could not suck effectively, needing to be force fed from bottles. Soon the women of America thought their bodies were so defective they couldn’t even breastfeed their own children. Meanwhile the practice of midwifery was outlawed in most states.

But it’s hard to hold good women down. It is hard to stop women from answering the call to serve women; especially women in need. In the 1920’s nurses began to step forward to get additional training in the skills required to help low income women, the rural and urban poor. These were women who couldn’t pay doctors and hospitals, therefore providing them care did not threaten the medical establishment’s monopoly. They eventually founded specialized nurse midwifery schools and associations. From this branch was born the certified nurse midwife. In the 1960’s couples living on communes had turned their backs on many forms of the “establishment”. These female rebels began to birth their babies at home with the help of other women in their communities. The daring women who answered this call eventually became highly trained homebirth midwives. It took courage to be a midwife, to practice midwifery without a license. Not only could you lose everything, your home and your practice, you could be thrown in jail. In our county one traditional midwife was brought up on charges and convicted in 1982. Over time this branch of midwifery also adopted standards for training, created associations and worked hard to become legal once again. In California the legal battle culminated in 1993 in the creation of a system to license out of hospital midwives but it took 4 more years for the first group of midwives to be licensed by the state medical board.

All midwives are still fighting for the right to work as autonomous, respected members of the birth provider community. Whether they are CNMs who have made the choice to work in a doctor’s practice under his supervision because even if they could find a company willing to cover them medical malpractice insurance is prohibitive, or the LMs who can’t get insurance company’s to reimburse their clients for basic care the struggle continues. The California Medical Board is currently reviewing whether to change the language in the regulations governing LMs to allow them to order the life saving medications and tools they need to attend birthing women. And so the struggle continues.

This year on May 5th, the International Day of the Midwife, the women and their families who have been cared for so well for so many years by our community’s midwives will gather in Mission Plaza to honor 41 courageous, tireless, and caring professional women. The Birth & Baby Resource Network along with the co-sponsors of this year’s Birth & Baby Fair wish to invite you to join us at 10:30 for this historic event in the annuls of San Luis Obispo women’s rights.

Participate in BBRN’s on-line Midwifery Project at: www.bbrn.org.
Learn More about the History of Midwifery:
A Midwife’s Tale; Martha Ballard her Diary by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich
Motherwit; an Alabama Midwife’s Story by Onnie Lee Logan
Listen to Me Good; the Life Story of an Alabama Midwife by Margaret Charles Smith
Birth Matters; a Midwife’s Manifesta by Ina May Gaskin
A Short History of Midwifery: from Midwife Info an independent internet resource 
I am a Midwife, a movie trailer by the Midwives Alliance of North America
Fiction with Midwifery themes:
The Midwife's Apprentice by Karen Cushman
The Red Tent by Anita Diamant
Midwives by Chris Bohjalian
A Midwife's Story by Penny Armstrong and Sheryl Feldman

Monday, April 2, 2012

Homebirth & Saving the Earth: a Natural Fit

Many women who birth outside of a hospital setting are changed by that experience for the rest of their lives. It begins in pregnancy as they educate themselves about the choices they are making surrounding birth. In discussions with their midwife, a subtle paradigm shift happens which puts the pregnant woman in charge. A good midwife guides them to see that they need to look beyond what the medical institutions have presented as ‘truth’, and find their own. During a natural, unmedicated, and uninduced birth a woman must listen to her own rhythms of contraction and expansion and learn to work in harmony with them. She taps into a power within herself that until now has been hidden from her. It is an awe-inspiring power that deeply connects the woman to generations of women from the past and the future. From that time on, she knows this power lies within her and she can rely on it. The confidence this brings helps her to look at the world with new eyes. She may make new choices, such as deciding to have her baby sleep in bed with her and her partner even though her best friend says it is dangerous. She may simply feel more able to stick with a choice she already made, such as breastfeeding, even though the first several weeks are rough going.

So how does this help the earth? Well, first there are her choices surrounding parenting in the first weeks and months of her baby’s life, such as sleeping with the baby. Co-sleeping means no trees were cut down to build a cradle or toxic chemicals used to build a crib. On top of that, no fuel was spent to ship it to a store and then get it to your home. No energy was used to run the factory or store. No lights were used at home while putting the crib together.

Breastfeeding, though natural, can be challenging at first. Midwives traditionally promote breastfeeding and are an ongoing resource for nursing education and support. The impacts it can make on our environment are varied. First, it requires no excess packaging, processing, or shipping. There are no bottles to buy, transport, wash, and eventually throw away. This is a huge energy savings, plus there is no damage to our environment from the making and disposal of plastics or glass. Because breastmilk is nutritionally superior to formula, it grows stronger, healthier people who are less likely to need pharmaceuticals or mercury-laden fillings. The fats contained within breastmilk spur more brain growth than formula. We need smarter kids to help us out of the environmental dilemma we are in. On top of all that, exclusive breast-feeding prevents more births than all other forms of contraception combined, which helps slow our ever-climbing population explosion.

Empowered birth creates an empowered woman who has confidence in her physical and psychological abilities. A woman who knows she is capable and has the strength to follow through on those out-of-the-norm decisions, such as cloth diapering. Let’s face it: cloth diapering is a bit more work than disposables, but the small amount of effort required is easy compared to filling up our landfills.

Home birth creates a mother who listens to her own innate intuition. She can listen to herself as a guide instead of relying on ‘authorities’. She will make her own best choices for the survival of her children, even if that means making different choices than mainstream America. She might decide not to fill a prescription for antibiotics which end up in our water supply and create super bugs, and instead rely on rest and mommy love to get her baby through a cold.

Then there are the less obvious connections. A positive birth experience imparts to the couple confidence in parenting to the couple. It creates a solid foundation and unites them in their parenting journey. Midwives often encourage the couple to explore the components of Attachment Parenting, such as baby wearing, responsive parenting, and immediate bonding after birth. This style of parenting creates confident kids with a different world outlook. They tend to think about what the group needs, instead of feeling they would be better off looking out for themselves because no one else will.”

Who knows where a woman’s new-found sense of accomplishment will take her? Perhaps she will decide to roll up her sleeves and plant an organic garden, saving her kids from pesticides and lessening the world’s fuel consumption, or decide to take on the local water board when she finds out there are unsafe levels of chemicals in the tap water her family drinks. Maybe she will confront her local school board on buying more local organic fruits and vegetables for the lunch program. Perhaps she will start her own recycled kids’ clothing store, or get active with her local Earth Day committee. Perhaps she will sponsor a local kids’ sustainable community garden. These are just a few of the things I have seen local mothers do. The power and energy a positive out-of-hospital birth unleashes is tremendous. The possible choices of what to do with that power are endless. The positive effects that might bring for our planet are immeasurable. As a doula, one thing I have learned is to never underestimate the power of a mother!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Parenting in Labor

The Decision to Use Pain Medication in Labor:

For most of us from the very beginning being a mother is hard. It requires you to give of yourself in ways you never dreamed possible. It requires you to make difficult decisions every day. We make these decisions on the best information we have at the time and what we judge as the best balance between our needs and our child's. At the end of the day we need to try to let go of mistakes we may have made and understand we are human and mothering is hard. 

Parenting begins in earnest once we are in labor. The more a woman can stay connected to her baby throughout the process the better she will be able to understand and accept what her body needs to do.

If you decide to use pain medication: "Even if medication becomes necessary later on in labor, the longer a mother can postpone it, the better it will be for the baby and for her and for their recovery afterward. Each hour without it is a step in the right direction." ~  "On Becoming a Family" by T. Berry Brazelton, M.D. (pediatrician)

I love this quote because instead of feeling like a failure if a mom decides at some point in labor she needs pain medication she can focus on the hours she gave to her baby drug free. Mothers need to start mothering with as little guilt in their heart as possible. We will load ourselves down with guilt a plenty in the days, weeks and years of mothering to come.

Labor Pain Medications Affects:  Have you ever wondered how women were able to successfully breastfeed before there were lactation consultants? As much as I love our local lactation consultants and their passion for helping women and babies you need to understand why so many of your friends all needed professional help to achieve what should be a normal biologic function.

"The evidence that drugs given to relieve labor pain affect breastfeeding outcomes is rapidly accumulating." ~ 'The Impact of Birthing Practices on Breastfeeding' by Linda J. Smith & Mary Kroeger

"For breastfeeding to succeed, the baby must emerge from its internal gestation ready and able to feed, the mother must be able and willing to let her baby feed, and the stages of lactogenesis must proceed normally."  ~ Smith & Kroeger

For many years I have listened to anesthesiologist tell mothers not to worry because an epidural won't affect her baby, doesn't even reach her baby. I wish this were so but the uncomfortable truth is that this has been disproved in studies starting back in 1995.

"The route of administration-local, IV, or injected into the epidural space-has less influence on drug transfer to the fetus/infant than previously thought. IV drugs quickly enter the infant blood stream via placental profusion. Local injections also reach maternal circulation in a matter of seconds and are detectable in the newborn's urine at high levels. Injections into the epidural space are quickly detectable in cord blood." 'Impact of Birthing Practices on Breastfeeding'

Did you know that what goes into an epidural are the same drugs that go into an IV for labor pain relief? The only difference is where they are putting it in your body. For you it feels profoundly different but not so much for your baby.

Understanding Risk

Whose Risk are We Talking About?

"We must never underestimate the power fear of litigation holds over obstetricians. In my experience, as a motivational force it over shadows their desire to lower the maternal mortality rate." 
~ Dr. M. Wagner

The "Risks" of Home Birth: Why haven't we heard about this? 

"We now have good, solid scientific evidence that makes clear that planned home birth attended by a midwife is a perfectly safe option for the 80 to 90 percent of women who have had normal pregnancies...This study is by far the largest scientifically valid study of planned home birth ever conducted...In summary this prospective, highly reliable study, which followed the course of more than 7,000 pregnant women planning home births attended by CPMs (Certified Professional Midwives), collected data on more than 5,000 who intended home birth at the initiation of labor. Among these women, the obstetric intervention rates were far below the rates reported in low-risk hospital births. The combined intrapartum/neonatal death rate (babies dying during labor, birth or shortly following birth) was as low or lower than rates reported for low-risk hospital births. And the maternal mortality rate was zero." ~ Dr. Marsden Wagner Born in the USA

When I looked up this study I found that 12.1% of the women ended up needing to be transported to the hospital but many of the transported women still didn't need a cesarean. Of the total low-risk home birth women in the study only 3.7% needed a c-section. How does that compare with our hospitals? Visit my Hospital Statistics post to find out.

If this study was published in the Boston Medical Journal in 2005 (six years ago!) why don't more people know about it? Why isn't the whole medical community talking about it, trying to understand what this means about how hospital-based birth is conducted? Why aren't they trying to understand the lessons that can be learned from home birth and how to incorporate those lessons into their practices? To read more about this study visit the Boston Medical journal web site. 

Which Local Hospital is the Safest?

Why would the same OBs who delivered babies at Sierra Vista for years, before they had a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, now being telling women that French Hospital is unsafe because they don't have a NICU? They never told women in the past they needed to go out of town to a hospital with a NICU to safely deliver their babies. Just saying??? Did you know both hospitals have special baby respiratory therapists at births as a safety precaution? Did you know the same pediatricians and neonatalogists will go to either hospital if a baby arrives in need of their services? 

Hospital Versus Home Birth: Accepting the fact of risk

"If the obstetric tribe says that out-of-hospital birth is not "safe", the implication, of course, is that a hospital birth is safe, which is not true. Newborn babies die in hospitals every day, sometimes because someone made a mistake. When the obstetrics establishment implies that this doesn't happen, the family naturally feels deceived when it does happen." More from Marsden Wagner's 'Born in the USA'.

One of the hallmarks of a good out-of-hospital midwife is that she explains that there are risks to birth and is clear that the parents need to be willing to accept those risks. The reality is with life comes the risk of death no matter where you are or who you are. 

Inductions & Due Dates: Things to think about for the women of San Luis Obispo!

Listen to Ina May Gaskin, master midwife, author and recipient of the Right Livelyhood Award, shares her wisdom about  induction and due dates.

Convenience Masquerading as Risk: Have you ever thought about induction from the doctors' and hospitals' management perspective? 

~ Marsden Wagner, MD "Induction of labor is an important convenience not only for obstetricians but also for hospitals, as it allows hospitals to organize an induction assembly line, with slots into which doctors can fit their patients."

Let's face it, spontaneous labor is inconvenient in lots of ways; from doctors’ sleep, time off and office hours interrupted, to hospital staffing, room availability, and work flow. This was made blindingly clear to me years ago. I had a doula client who was between 41 and 42 weeks pregnant. At her prenatal visit her Certified Nurse Midwife told her how dangerous it was for her to continue simply waiting for spontaneous labor to start. After a long discussion and lots of pressure the pregnant mother gave in and agreed to be induced. The midwife went to call the in San Luis Obispo hospital to schedule the induction for later that day. When she came back into the room she said there were no rooms at the hospital, so my client couldn't be induced that day. She said she was scheduling her for 3 days later. Why? Because we were there on a Friday and it wasn't convenient to induce her on the week-end!

My thoughts: What happened to the danger? If there were no rooms for an induction what were they going to do with women who spontaneously came into the hospital that day in labor? To schedule an induction means having enough nurses to cover the more time and labor intensive work of an un-natural, drug driven labor so perhaps it wasn't room but staffing that was the problem? I was angry, as was my client, and so grateful to be given a reprieve to go home to Grover Beach. We worked hard on creating the elements she needed to go into labor spontaneously and were rewarded with a spontaneous, un-medicated vaginal birth before Monday.

Due Dates~Inductions~Cesarean Sections: making the connections

Dr. Marsden Wagner's "Born in the USA"
"Now we are in big trouble, because forty-one weeks is entirely within normal pregnancy limits, and when we start inducing at forty-one weeks, we put large numbers of normal pregnancies at risk with an unnecessary procedure. At this point we have a situation in which the treatment is worse than the disease." 

Connecting the dots: This book was published in 2006. When I was pregnant with my son in 1990 my nurse midwife told me to EXPECT to go to 42 weeks, that this was NORMAL for first time mothers. Over the last 2 decades this assumption of 42 weeks as being normal has been replaced with an ever increasing fear based medical perspective for each day that the mother goes past 40 weeks. Perhaps it is just a coincidence that since 1990 the national cesarean rate has been climbing every year until reaching a rate of a whopping 32%! I don't think Dr. Wagner thinks it is just a coincidence. Do you? Compare my cesarean rates to our local hospitals in San Luis Obispo, Templeton and Santa Maria.

Baby Bonding and Attachment: Getting parenting off to a good start.

Food for Thought: "In the early months, in most families, the mother-infant attachment is more obvious and more intense than that between father and infant. This does not mean that fathers do not become deeply attached to their babies, but it is a different type of attachment. It's neither of lesser quality than a mother's nor better. It's just different." 

~ William Sears, MD and Martha Sears, RN, ‘The Attachment Parenting Book’. 

It is important to encourage both parents to connect with their baby, each in their own unique way. Each parent brings something wonderful to the growing relationship, something a child will treasure for a life time.

Doctor or Midwife: How to Chose Which is Right for You

Food for Thought: I have thought a lot about how women decide whether to use a midwife or doctor for their birth. I think it really comes down to life perspective. Do you focus on what can go wrong in life or on what can go right? This will be the defining reason for your choice. You will seek out and feel most comfortable with a care provider who mirrors your view of life. 

Here is Marsden Wagner, Ob-Gyn on the different perspectives of doctors and midwives. "Though midwives know what can go wrong during pregnancy and birth and know how to identify problems early and to cooperate with doctors in managing complications, their focus is on birth as a life-enhancing experience." This makes midwives a good match for women who naturally gravitate to a world and personal life view of staying in touch with everything that is right in the world and their bodies.

"Obstetricians, on the other hand, tend to focus on what can go wrong during pregnancy and birth. All doctors are trained to look for trouble (diagnose a problem) and decide what to do about it (decide on a treatment), and that is what comes naturally to obstetricians." So if your way of interacting with the world is to keep your eye focused on what can go wrong in life so as to prevent it from happening, then a doctor is a better fit for you.

Each choice can come at a price though. For a woman choosing a midwife it can be very difficult if the midwife finds an actual problem with the pregnancy or birth. The pregnant or birthing woman may have a hard time switching gears to focus on the problem in order to address it. Here is what Dr. Wagner says about the price the woman choosing a doctor pays, "In prenatal care they [doctors] take the same approach, focusing on what can go wrong and ordering numerous tests and screening procedures. This attitude casts a shadow over the maternity care a woman receives. When an obstetrician runs a test or gives a preemptive treatment, it is an unspoken vote of no confidence in the woman’s body.” I know women often feel each prenatal visit is like a pass/fail test. This is especially stressful on women who are high achievers. If they run into a perceived “failure”, at an office visit it can shake their confidence to their core and they may become obsessed with their fear of failure. This can lead to a rise in stress hormones which can spiral into more “failed” tests.  

I am a Community Lactivist

I believe in breastfeeding both for the healthy growth of a child and the healthy growth of a mother. When a new mother breastfeeds she learns to watch and listen to her child's cues. These simple facial expressions, body movements and vocalizations which trigger our innate response to nurture are the start of a life long conversation.With support the new mother comes to trust her baby's ability to know when they have a need and what it is they need. As she learns she can meet these needs through breastfeeding she gains confidence both in her mothering abilities and her baby's abilities. As she learns to let go of the need to quantify these abilities through weighing, measuring or lines on a chart she starts down the path of mothering wisdom. This path can teach her to relax. It can teach her to rely more on her child's wisdom than on professional experts. It can teach her she is more a witness to her child's life unfolding than a director. She is more an access to the resources needed  for her child to play their unique heart song than the leader of the band. Breastfeeding can be the key to a new way of parenting for life.

It is because I believe this in my heart that I am a Community Lactivist. I express my commitment to all the breastfeeding mothers out there by being an active member of several organizations that support breastfeeding in our community; La Leche League, Birth & Baby Resource Network and Central Coast Breastfeeding Coalition. I am proud to say San Luis Obispo has a very high breastfeeding initiation rate. Unfortunately like most of the country there is a steep drop off from the second week to two months. We have lots of support groups and resources in our community and yet women still can't seem to make it through the challenging first six to eight weeks and into the months of breastfeeding bliss. As Lactation Consultant Julie Merrill said at Thursday's Farmer's Market, "It breaks my heart to see so many babies in strollers with bottles." The Coalition has just printed a new breastfeeding resource brochure full of places, people, books and web sites mothers can turn to for guidance and encouragement. Look for their green and white cover around town, at your doctor or midwife's office and baby stores. 
This baby wants all new mommies to have this brochure!

Stepping out of the shadows
Breastfeeding mothers need our support. We need to step out of the shadows and take a stand that breastfeeding is normal; formula feeding is abnormal. Babies need to feed when they need to feed and mothers need to feel comfortable attending to those needs; even in public. This is a national health issue. By continuing to pay money to formula companies we are draining our economic resources, environmental resources and our nations future health. Don't be blinded by the "Well I was formula fed and I turned out ok", way of thinking. Look around you we have an obesity epidemic, while cancer, diabetes, and heart disease run rampant in our nation. We are overly dependent on antibiotics and medications. While these may not be the direct result of formula feeding the studies clearly indicate that all of these could be lessened if we only chose to breastfeed for the first few years of our children's lives. I firmly believe some day we will look back on these years of our nation suckling at the teat of the Nestle Corporation and compare it to the time of America's romance with cigarettes.

Our bodies grow smarter healthier babies.

August is National Breastfeeding Awareness Month. If you see a mom nursing her child, give her a thumbs up and a friendly smile. Each day she chooses to breastfeed she is giving her child a wonderful gift and performing a patriotic duty.

We gave a new meaning to "flash" mob at SLO's popular Thursday night Farmer's Market.An special thank you to Robyn Berry Photography.

Lactivistas come in all ages.
Educating the public on the benefits of breastmilk.

Demonstrating the miraculous work our breasts were perfectly designed to do.
Every baby deserves a booby!
Learning one generation to the next.
 Thank you to the mamas who chose to bare it all last night to demonstrate what breasts were actually designed to do.

Inspiring a new mommy.                BREASTFEEDING It Rocks!
Read about how I managed to juggle working and breastfeeding here.
This month's La Leche League meetings:
Monday, August 13th at 10 am:
Santa Lucia Birth Center 4251 S. Higuera Street in San Luis Obispo
Topic: Nutrition and Weaning

Monday, August 27th at 7 pm:
Santa Lucia Birth Center
Topic: Baby Arrives

Look for Los Osos meetings to start back in September!