Transforming Horror Into Survival

26 07 2011

Bad experiences happen for a reason, but we don’t have to like them. If we cannot change the past, but we must admit that the past shapes us, we can at least learn from it. Let it shape you into the best person you can be and make stronger choices in the future.

I’ve said before that I wouldn’t wish my 2nd labor on my worst enemy. If I could go back and save myself, I would. Yet I must acknowledge that if I changed that part of myself, I would probably not be talking to you now. Therefore, my suffering serves a purpose.

But, was my suffering deserved? Does anyone deserve to suffer? Who may judge this? What consolation is it?


An unfortunate one is a rootless ghost,
His walk a mad angel’s gait.
Insolent steps of one thrown from heaven
To toil in red dust,
As if he had not had enough
In a thousand previous lifetimes.
Where is his heart? Where is his soul?
To call this heaven’s will
Is a cheap answer.

There was once a god who committed a crime. His punishment was to be thrown back to earth to suffer the misfortunes of being human.

When you see those less fortunate than yourself, whether they are the homeless on the streets or simply the ugly and unpopular, can you be sure that they are not like that god flung back to this mad planet?

Is their misfortune their own fault? Or do you explain with references to morality, destiny, reincarnation, and cosmic justice? Even the words of saints offer no relief for their suffering, so it hardly seems fair to blame them.

Let us not hold ourselves above our fellow human beings, no matter how great the disparity. To withhold your scorn is already beautiful. To see how we are all of one family is compassion.

-365 Tao

Withhold your scorn. Wow. Could we? Could we try?

When I think of this, I think of it in its purest form:  survivalist training. Respect is deserved, because when we are trying to survive, we are trying to be strong and make the best out of horrific situations. This is a worthy cause. So many of us learn from our pain, or take good out of bad situations. We have to. We extract it and compartmentalize it, even if we wish would could discard the rest. In so many ways, in and out of childbirth, we transform the horrors we have faced into a new awakening geared at survival.

How many of us have learned from the cruelest people or experiences what it means to survive? Maybe some of us had parents who taught the virtues of self-sufficiency, but hurt us in other ways. Or maybe you were in a relationship that taught you a lot but also caused you pain.

In that sense, the very things that harm you now may later save your life. Why it ever had to hurt, I don’t know. But, blaming each other we must not do. We must try not to judge and instead, reach out a hand, offer strength if we can, and try to be strong ourselves. This is what healing people of their past births is all about. This is what preventing people from suffering through horrific birth ordeals is about.

I see a lot of women turn their suffering and pain into more pain. They use their losses and grief and horror against other women. They do like the 365 Tao describes, and they look down on others, or even act against them with contempt or ridicule. They have lost their compassion.

I see other women judge the pain of others, calling it the will of God, or chastising them for not coping better with their pain, and for not rising up and battling it with better ease when they themselves did not know such suffering.

What will you do with your pain? What will you do with the pain of others? Who will you let it make you become?

When Is It Okay to Complain About Birth?

25 07 2011
In Search of the Perfect Birth: A Journey From Hospital to Midwife to Unassisted Birth
0615481701Elizabeth McKeownPerfect Birth Books, Ltd.In Search of the Perfect Birth: A Journey From Hospital to Midwife to Unassisted BirthBooks
An alarming trend of selfishness
The first line of Ms. McKeown’s book sets the tone for the rest of it…in which the author declares that most women are traumatized by their birth experiences…whether we realize it or not! In the interest of full disclosure, I will say that I didn’t finish the entire book. I read about 2/3 of it in online excerpts and, after reading what I did, I wasn’t interested in purchasing a copy of the book for myself to finish it.I am amazed at the arrogance of that opening statement. And unfortunately it colored the way I read the rest of it, because I couldn’t ever get over that amazement or the recognition of the author’s arrogance.When I was pregnant, my greatest hope and prayer was that I would have a healthy baby when it was all over. NOT that I would have the perfect birth experience for myself. I think this focus on the “birth experience” and “how can you achieve this perfect birth experience?”….and all the rhetoric about “medical rape” and being traumatized and resentful because your birth experience wasn’t exactly the way you had hoped it would be….I think that to have this be your focus and/or attitude as a pregnant woman is incredibly selfish.
The goal of being pregnant is to have a baby…not to have a wonderful, empowering experience for the mother. Where this gets tricky is when you acknowledge that giving birth IS empowering for most women. For me, I’d never felt more alive or more strong than I did after I birthed my daughter. I was very clearly thinking, through the entire process, that “this is the most important thing I have ever done, or will ever do”. I don’t want to discount this, because it’s very real.
Also, I have to agree with some of the other reviewers about the comments on some of the reviews here. I think it’s extremely unflattering and unprofessional for an author to respond to her negative reviews and engage in arguments with the reviewers about them. People are entitled to their opinions. I feel that the author must know this or else she wouldn’t have felt the need to self-publish an entire book full of her own opinions. andie
July 23, 2011
  • Overall: 1.0 out of 5 stars5
Your initial post: Jul 25, 2011 3:56:51 PM PDT
Elizabeth McKeown says:
Hi Andie. Time for me to be “unprofessional” again and address your concerns. 🙂 I am thinking you’d prefer I did not, but I would just like to clarify my feelings and intentions, in case anyone else is confused. 🙂
I think that the most important thing to get out of a birth experience is a healthy baby. That is first and foremost and should go without saying.I also think that how the mother feels and labors is of extreme importance, not just for herself but also for her baby. It is generally accepted that the health and well being of the mother also affect the baby, so a mother choosing the best and healthiest birth she possibly can is not an isolated, selfish decision… the baby is still the primary reason and focus. I do not, however, think we should ignore any wrongs being done only because a healthy baby may be the end result.
I don’t think you are in a position to fairly judge how selfish women are who’ve been hurt by their birth experiences if you had such an immensely empowering one.

If you came out of it feeling amazing and incredible, maybe that’s how you think all women should feel. They should, but unfortunately that is no longer standard. Your attitude seems to blame the mother for not having the awesome experience you say you have. It isn’t due to selfishness that she may be traumatized; it’s due to a lot of things, but most are traceable back to a broken system.

Judging the pain of others when you said yourself how great your experience was seems dismissive and ignorant. I hope you never have to experience a “medical rape”.

If it is causing women undue pain, hurt, stress, or trauma, I don’t want women to merely go with the flow. I want them to know they can have a healthy baby in ways that do not hurt them or scar them psychologically.

I hope that helps. Thank you for taking time to read some of my Amazon excerpts. If you would like to discuss “birth trends” or any of the topics you take issue with from the book, I would be happy to continue in the discussions section of this Amazon book page.

So, what do you think? Do you think that if you had a bad experience in the hospital, that you should just shut up as long as you have a live baby? What if you don’t have a live baby, or if your baby was injured… is it okay to talk then? When IS it okay to talk about your sad story? Just when is it okay to stand up against what happened to you and say you find it unacceptable and will not let it happen again?

How Birth Method is Never a “Choice”

19 07 2011


One side of a ridge is cold and foggy,

The other is hot and dry.

Just by choosing where you stand,

You alter your destiny.

Every choice you make changes you.

No matter how minor or how great, you must make choices each and every minute that passes. The irony of life is that it is a one-way journey. You cannot go back, you cannot make comparisons by trying one way and then another. There are no double-blind studies when it comes to your own life. Therefore, only wisdom will suffice to guide you.

via 365 TAO – No. 200.

I know you’ve been there– listening to your friends or acquaintances talk about pregnancy and birth, biting your tongue a little… speaking up when you can, sharing an article here and there. I hear people tell my friends not to let their babies come to term or get “too big”. I hear people tell my friends about “natural” induction methods that may or may not give them painful diarrhea. Disagreement or clarification can easily be viewed as a disrespect to one’s choices in birth. Everyone likes freedom, and everyone should be entitled to make the choices which are most right for them, right? So why am I disputing “birth choices”? Just what is a “birth choice”? Some women go to the hospital, some birth at home. Some choose docs, some midwives, some no one at all. Some get elective c-sections, some go totally natural. Are these choices?

I propose that it usually is not. Having a choice implies that there are multiple, potentially equal options. I no longer believe this is true, as undiplomatic of me as this sounds. This isn’t like choosing chocolate or vanilla, or preferring to wear a red shirt to a blue one. It isn’t tomayto, tomahto, preferences are swell! If only it were that simple.

You can almost predict what is going to happen to whom just based on conversations. One friend will try for a natural birth in a hospital and thinks this is achievable, avoiding all inductions and interventions. Another thinks that using a midwife will be the key to having all her wishes respected, and that she calls the shots. One thinks that she will only be induced “if necessary”. One seems just fine scheduling her repeat C-section a few weeks early. The list goes on, and you can almost tell exactly what is going to happen to whom, based on their “choice”, their personality, and their location. This one will get a C-section for “failure to progress”. This one will endure a hard labor in a medical environment because their husband wants her to. This one will take the drugs and intervention, but beat herself up over it. And, all may put on a happy face while holding their babies… and the next time they get pregnant, they will do it all over again like nothing is wrong, even if inside things didn’t feel right to them. Many, many women are pushing it all way down and suffering in silence, thinking their births were just “normal”. Hey, “normal” doesn’t make it right.

Take heart– We almost ALWAYS go into it naive. It doesn’t matter how smart or educated or caring you are. Don’t be offended if I insinuate you are or ever have been naive. I was naive. We have ideas that don’t ever get challenged until its our turn at bat, and then we are shocked into compliance. It’s fun.

I know it’s not Song Saturday, but I can’t help but think of and include this:

We always have a choice… Or at least I think we do. We can always use our voice– I thought this to be true … it’s not always that clear. I’d love to give my self away, But I find it hard to trust. I’ve got no map to find my way Amongst these clouds of dust.

Choices without information aren’t actually choices. I see the illusion of “choice” as the problem, rather than our ability to observe and predict what will “go wrong” in each other’s labors. The illusion of choice and the fight about it is dividing us, when the goal ever only was and should be to extend a hand to rescue each other. I don’t feel women really have a choice if they weren’t aware of their options when they decided. I don’t feel women really have a choice when they are aware of the options, but those are marred with common misconceptions and never get further explored. If your information has been filtered or controlled (and you didn’t even know it), or if you don’t seek to know more all on your own, how much of a choice did you really have? Most people think that homebirth is dangerous, and that birth in the hospital is always safest. What would you say if I told you that the reverse is true? What if I pointed you to information that blew your mind, and made you question every little thing you were ever told about pregnancy and childbirth? What if I could prevent a lifetime of regret, or a day of trauma?

There I go, sounding like a “UC Evangelist” again. I can see why the comparison would be made there. Both are zealous, both want desperately to save people. I like to think that’s where our similarities end. 🙂 I have heard “you’ve got to let people find their own way, Elizabeth”— which is very Tao of them, only I can’t get the memory of feeling like I was dying an excruciating death out of my head. Another Taoism– not regretting the past. A folly for sure of mine, birth regret! What can be done about the past? Why waste time regretting anything, particularly if it made you who you are today? But my motivation for helping people lies in not ever wanting anyone to have to learn the hard way these lessons I have learned. Sure, “choices” made me who I am today, and yes I am awake, alive, teaching, and happy. However, the severity of these things is not something I would wish on my worst enemy. You don’t have to make the “choices” I made. There has got to be another way to reach spiritual and physical truths other than that. And I seek to end suffering.

So, here I am, shouting out, hoping someone is listening…

It is with heavy hearts that we tread lightly with our friends on topics like “birth choice”. We feel such a sense of responsibility to inform people. We so want to shake them and tell them all the “nevers”, dispel the lies… but they do have a choice to walk their paths. Even if that choice hurts them. If we step on toes, we will likely be disbelieved anyway, and possibly lose friends over it. That wouldn’t help them, either, would it?  The conclusions will be any of the following:  a) you are just fanatical, b) my birth will be different, c) I just have different needs than you, d) I am better and stronger than you and thus will not be affected. Even if any or all of these are the case, it doesn’t actually promise one a better birth or mean the “fanatic” is actually wrong. So, what?

Some people will live their whole lives in denial. Most women will wear smiles and tell you nothing was wrong with their births. I think it’s a lot to process, and most people aren’t comfortable with living life in a way that forces them to face inconvenient truths.

I’m treading carefully as I can with people I know or love. I think that pregnant people get SO much advice, and everybody’s got an opinion, and most of them are damn strong ones… but, coming from my own personal place of pain, of course it kills me to see anyone go through what I went through, or worse. I just don’t know if most people are ready to hear this or not. If they are ready, conversing will flow easily. If not, I step carefully to let them be the directors of their own destiny, dropping little hints of enlightenment where I can along the way.

But for the most part, I preach to the converted or those who stand on the edge, readying themselves to jump in. 🙂 Here’s to hoping we are all creating less pain in the world!

My past choices were never choices. The only birth choice I made was THE only real choice for me, and that was to be free. It was something I had to do, and the only singular thing, so maybe that wasn’t even really a “choice”, either. See what I mean? It seems to me that birth method is never really, actually, honestly a “choice”.

Hugging, or Strangling, Destiny?- Elizabeth

Tackling the Newbie Q: “COULD You Freebirth?”

18 07 2011

Allow me to be blunt. Of course you could. Anybody could. Let’s be clear– birth isn’t something that requires permission of a man in a white coat. Birth just happens. If you relax your body and mind, it can happen quite gracefully. Most women try desperately to stave off birth until Mr. Dr. White Coat can green-light them, but he is not the magical birth fairy,  his presence does not automatically sanction your labor or save the day, and in fact may be detrimental. (In general:) You were never in any danger, but you increase your risk of this when you add more dimensions, more complications, to the essentially simplistic birth process. This is a mental and physical panic you will cause yourself (perhaps without knowing), and the surgeon will be happy to make himself useful and do what surgeons do best– medically manipulate using drugs and instruments.

Don’t need that? Not an emergency? Welcome to Freebirth.

It’s called “free” not because it doesn’t cost you anything (which is nice, too), but because you are doing it on your own. It’s a liberation. Liberation from a system. A system which is fairly new in our society, is founded on misogyny and business acumen (#1 reason to go to hospitals today in the US), and does not have your best interests at heart.

The very position they have you deliver in is an illustration of this. They aren’t doing these things for you, they are doing it for them. And, it is hurting women and babies every day.

Need examples? Here are a few from one of my favorite sites ( I want you to keep in mind that this is common stuff happening to women every day.

In fact, you probably have your own examples, if you’ve ever been pregnant. (Feel free to share them if you like.)

Unless you are having an honest to God emergency (which are rare, mind you), ask yourself– do you really need a hospital or a doctor? Or will childbirth happen with or without their say so? Hospitals and doctors are for sick people. Obstetricians are surgeons; surgeons perform surgery. Pregnancy is not an illness, and labor is not a complex procedure. It is an act of nature, or God, if you will.

I know a lot of women feel strongly that they need to deliver in a hospital “just in case”, but how much of that is conditioning? The conditioning being, that is, that it is almost inevitable that we will need outside help from some authority figure. Are we experiencing our own form of being “institutionalized”? I urge women to start seriously considering if this is our reality today.

It’s a false sense of security, seeing as how most interventions and just medical presence in general is a hindrance on normal physiological birth. It interferes with your primal state and puts your body in a panic mode, stalling or prolonging labor and creating more pain. That’s just the way of childbirth, naturally. We never get taught this, however. We only get taught to walk into the hospital and put it all in someone else’s hands. Then if something goes wrong, we don’t have to be held responsible. Seldom do we know that walking in the door was the first thing to cause a series of bad events, and the catalyst for possible crisis in any birth situation. Losing your responsibility is an illusion, and a doctor being your savior is an illusion and a false sense of security, in an environment that your primal and birthing mind feels more endangered within.

We stay at home because we want to play it safe. Know where the real dangers lie. De-condition your mind. Free birth from a freed mind.

We turn to UC, many of us, after learning the hard way. I myself have had 2 managed births, and 1 freebirth. We wish you could learn from our experiences. We honor our knowing. We have awakened. Honor your knowing.

You Know You’re a Hippie Mama When (My Version)

17 07 2011

I came across this blog and was intrigued, because hey– I’m a hippie mother, right? I just knew I would relate to the post, and then surprised myself in that I differed a bit more than I thought. Below is their list (italics = theirs), and I’ll do cross outs to tweak it to better fit me. Maybe it will better fit you, too?

* you rent bought a birthing pool

It wasn’t even a birthing pool, it was a kiddie fish pool.

My reasons: 1) Why rent when you could buy? After all, if it’s something you can reuse, you can give birth in it again. 2) Where was I going to rent from? I couldn’t do this from midwives… I no longer had any. 3) I had it on good authority that the kiddie fish inflatable pool was just as good as (if not, better than) the ultra expensive birth pools. Those cost just as much to rent as to buy the kids pool. If you want to buy them outright, that’ll be hundreds.

(Granted, my experience had some ups and downs that I don’t care to repeat, so I may fork over the hundreds next time, after all.)

* you are intent on using hypno-birthing over an epidural Hypnobirthing sounds okay, but it also sounds like just another indoctrination into a particular method of birthing or coping, which doesn’t appeal to me exactly (like Lamaze, Bradley, etc.).

If hypnobirthing works for you, that’s cool. I almost tried this. Before my midwife asked me to leave her care, she was going to give me some CDs or downloadable files, because she thought it would help me get through labor more easily. Of course, I never got this info after we “broke up”, so I guess I’ll never know. It’s not something I’m seeking on my own, but am not opposed to learning more about it.

I’ve had an epidural before and can tell you that it is both great and sad. Still, I do advocate not getting the epidural if you can help it.

I advocate birthing naturally, and to me, hypno and epi both seem to be a little more involved than I find necessary. I’m an advocate for birth as simple.

*you have a doula or had a homebirthing midwife

Never had a doula. Had a few homebirth midwives. That experience was one of my traumatic births (my “wake up call”), and then we broke up before I did my third birth, the unassisted one.

* you secretely wish Ina May could be with you at your child’s birth

I don’t want anyone to be with me at my child’s birth! I don’t care how cool they are, I don’t need anyone.

* you know how to tie a moby

Nope. No idea. I think this is babywearing, right? I think it’s kind of cool as a naturally assumed method, for sure. I’m not too big on it as a craze, or a lifestyle gimmick. I’ve always wanted to carry my babies around in something like a papoose, but I never learned how. I would be open to this, though. It probably wouldn’t be part of a club, clique, or contain a name brand, I’m guessing.

* you regularly wake up with a kick to the stomach or a baby ‘self-serving’ from your left boob

This one is fairly true! And I dig it. It’s kind of cool. And, it usually is the left breast. Weird.

* your doctor speaks to you slowly (like you must be from a foreign planet) when you decline their vaccination schedule

My doctor did try to dissuade me from declining vaxes. He’d been with us before our change of heart, so he’d been the one administering some of the first vaccinations. We didn’t have a lengthy talk, but I said what I had to say and he said what he did, and then he didn’t push it. And hasn’t since. Now all three of our kids see him, as we have when we started over 7 years ago. Pretty cool, huh? Having a doctor who will respect your choices and not hold a grudge about it is a nice find!

* you have been carrying around a potty since your child was a newborn

I think portable kid potties are kind of gross. (Sorry!) I take my kids to the toilet. And yes, even my infant, who has peed there a couple of times successfully.

* your baby’s first food is a big ol’ chunk of veg (not a puree) mashed potatoes.

Each baby! Will try on #3 in a month or so.

* you have a pail full of stinky (cloth or compostable) diapers in your house

The only thing that smells is the diaper genie housing the disposable diapers. Ew.

I have a couple of small wetbags for the cloth that I’m using on our newborn (I’m a cloth diaper newbie… third time’s a charm!) and they never smell. I did, however, buy a trash bin to use as a diaper pail. Now I just need some diaper pail liners.

Does anybody have a favorite? Something cool, stylish, easy to use, no-smell, etc.? Let me know what you like best and why. Here are some I was seeing on the internet. If you have an opinion on them, tell me what you think.


* you do a dance for joy when your kid does their first sign

I always wanted to teach my kids signs, but never got around to it (just like a number of foreign languages I hoped they’d learn). I have signed and sung the manual alphabet since they were babies, but not in a way that was often enough, or ever caught on. We communicated in ways which were specific to us. I understood their “language” when others didn’t. I understood their looks, their nonverbal cues, gestures, and ways of expressing things. My daughter was a late speaker and yet we had no problem talking with her for the first few years of her life. We do have a sign language book that she has been reading now that she is older, however.

Anyway, what we have done was our thing and it has worked for us.

* your child’s toys are Waldorf approved

I don’t know nor care about Waldorf. Is that wrong? I’m sure it has its value as does most any thing or method, but it always comes across as gimmicky to me, and again, I’m not looking for indoctrination.

Plus, I like things that light up.

* your back aches from carrying your one year old round in a sling

My back aches anyway. The only slings I ever owned were store bought and had a cut-off at 20 lbs.

* you are always being told how cute your kid looks in that amber necklace

I only recently found out about the amber teething necklaces. At first I thought it seemed weird, gimmicky, or maybe a slight bit nutty. But, like many things that strike me nutty at first (unassisted childbirth, anyone? eating the placenta, anyone?), just that spark of interest and inquisitiveness gives way to learning and inspiration. I would really love to try am amber teething necklace on Sage.

And, it will look cute on him. He’s already my little Buddha, so he’ll be extra hippie-ish in his necklace. But, I wouldn’t be doing it just because it is cute, and not all babies look cute in it. (Sorry.)

*you are breastfeeding a child who can speak in whole sentences

Extended breast feeding is just really not for me. My 2 year old is just starting to speak simple, complete sentences, and I stopped breastfeeding him about a year ago.

If it works for you, I won’t judge you, but it’s one thing I’ve never really been that into, personally.

* you teach your kid that gluten dirt is yucky

And, they still get to play in dirt. They don’t have any allergies or conditions, so, we’re good.

* you find yourself singing along to the ‘hello song‘… even though there is nobody else in the car

I have no idea what the hello song is, but I have laughed at myself for realizing I was, alone, singing children’s songs to myself.

Even better, my kids and I listen and sing to music their parents like, because it’s cool.

* you think Mayim Bialik rocks  is okay and that tiger-mom is a bit doolaley   demented

WTF is a doolaley?

* you think exposing your kid to germs is good for him  but pesticides are hazmat

I’m not a germophobe or germophile. I like to keep my kids away from sick people and nasty stuff, but I don’t carry around sanitizer with me. I use natural methods of cleaning as well as toxic ones. I get organic stuff when I am able. I’m not overly committed to or against either one, but I see the points of each. I think there’s a balance we have.

* you eat your placenta

Not the whole thing, and never thought I would… but I did!

How many of these can you tick? Frankly, two or more and you are a hippy-mamma! I know, I know, you don’t think of yourself as a hippy…  I do. the question is ‘do other people?’ For the record, I am not the hippiest hippy in the valley, I tick 14 out of 20 of those. Now, fess up and leave a message if any of these sound like you :p Feel free to add your own on, too! via You know you are a hippy-mama (or papa) when… « Loving Earth Mama.

So, obviously hippies come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and like most of this stuff, it’s interesting and usually harmless to compare and contrast. I just wanted to color in my shade of hippie for you, since some of it was too mainstream for me, while other stuff was too unusual for me.

All in all, I think you are a hippie mother or father if you do things because you feel you are in tune with nature and the needs of your children, and are trying your best to fulfill them without sticking to the rigid standards and expectations of others in society (and that includes other so-called “hippies”).  🙂

[I did like the blog post from Loving Earth Mama, and felt that it was done from a peaceful place. My two cents here are just to sort of spin-off of that and are in no way coming from a mean-spirited place.]

The Partner’s Burden

10 07 2011

This was a comment left on another blog in response to comments about unassisted birth. I felt it warranted its own post.

My husband was present at my unassisted birth. We were both educated on what normal physiological birth was, and on variations of normal, and on what to do in certain emergency scenarios, etc. WE TOOK THE RESPONSIBILITY UPON OURSELVES. That’s powerful. We didn’t expect other people to shoulder our responsibility (“burden”) for us. They failed that miserably in the past, anyway, so it was up to us.

What we can never forgive ourselves for in REALITY, is the consequence(s) of letting these so-called “trained” “professionals” interfere with our births. That was far more damaging and detrimental to my body and our babies than the peace and serenity of birthing unassisted.

So, the burden we are placing on our mates is an illusion, because that any of us ever lacked that ultimate responsibility in the first place was an illusion. It’s not a burden. It’s a liberation. If he were NOT educated in birth and supportive of what I needed to do (birth unassisted), if he INSISTED I see a trained professional even after the birth traumas I faced, that WOULD be a situation where I would know his feelings for me and my safety were not strong enough or informed enough. And it would hurt our relationship. You can’t tell a victim of torture or abuse to go back and trust the abuser. He would never ask me to do that.

Luckily he learned along with me, and we both understood that birth is not as dangerous as medical pros want us to think. He wanted me and baby to be safer, so he chose for us to DO safer. That’s not a burden, it’s a healthy choice and a liberation.

I know if he had made me go to the hospital despite my new feelings and knowledge [not that he could have, anyway], he wouldn’t have been able to bear THAT guilt when whatever “went wrong” inevitably did. Just like in our births before.

Like Vanessa (another poster) said, women do NOT go into UC lightly. We aren’t ignorant trend followers or stunt birthers. Do the research.

We Are All Accountable.

6 07 2011

POWER can be uncomfortable, but it’s yours,

whether you like it or not.

Meet my kids.



Each one of them, born differently.



She was a hospital birth. I had a birth plan and wishes for natural delivery, but with an OB/GYN. Things happened in that birth that I will forever question myself on, and things with my daughter’s health as a result. If only I had just spoken up, if only I hadn’t just taken the doctor’s word for it, if I only had chosen differently.

That is my burden, but in context of my life and my personal evolution, I made the choices then that were most fitting of me, and given my awareness of my own naivete and ignorance, I have forgiven myself. In other words, I did the best I could at that time with what I had.


He was born in the hospital, although it wasn’t at all how I’d planned. By this point in my life I had grown stronger, more aware of our systems, more resistant, but I still wasn’t quite all the way there yet. My outrage at the positions I would be put in, at the things that were done to me without my consent and without respect for my feelings, would ultimately catapult me into learning the truth about birth that I carry with me today. The horror and disgust taught me some very hard lessons, and valuable ones.

Despite what others did from the outside, despite any chance at legalities I may or may not have had claim to for some actions, I was still an adult capable of making choices (although I wasn’t strong or smart enough yet to make the right ones). I was accountable.



Wrestling with my thoughts, trying to figure out what the medical industry had to offer me that I hadn’t yet tried, trying to figure out how to outsmart the system, find the secret formula of care I needed and how I could get people to agree to let me, I discovered their answer for me:  nothing. No one was going to save me. No one was going to speak for me. I had to save myself.  After going more than half the pregnancy not having a clear idea of what I needed to do, the dawning which occurred to me left me without any health care providers. I was both scared and liberated, emphasis on the liberated.

I had finally spoken up. I had finally said no. I had finally realized and  exercised my accountability. And now, under the birth which went only in a way that I had chosen, I had no one to thank nor to blame but myself, and it was good. I was healed, the birth was the healthiest of all of them, and I understood my own strength. The truth is, the power had been mine all along. I just hadn’t understood that.

I had forgiven myself of the past mistakes I had made, and did not place the blame solely on my care providers. While I still have my feelings about what should have been, I also realize that I had been an accountable adult all along. In fact, I had been THE primary accountable one. All my mistakes were my own, and anger and hurt feelings aside, the weight was not just to be placed on all the medical pros ever “responsible” for me.

There’s a strong anti-natural and anti-home birth movement out there. A favored evocative tool of that group is the anti-homebirth story, often wrought with tragedy. The end tone is usually that it was somebody else’s fault. I can’t help but think the whole time listening to these that there were other accountable adults there in these seemingly avoidable events. There were people with nagging intuition telling them something wasn’t right. They did nothing. There were uncomfortable mates wanting strongly to seek emergency help but doing nothing. There were quiet birth support friends shaking their heads in the corner, making meek suggestions while watching on, doing nothing. Sometimes there were even other experts giving their okays but then passing the buck. Are you seeing a trend here?

And somehow… it all comes down to the midwife– homebirth’s favorite extreme. Exalted wrongly as the hero as much as wrongly demonized as the villain.  When a bad outcome happens in a hospital, we take for granted that a doctor is educated and did all he could. Occasionally there is a lawsuit, but more often than not, there is respect and forgiveness and understanding. In a homebirth, the midwife gets the opposite of this– the opposite of the benefit of the doubt. Why? Because it’s easier to blame them? Because society takes them less seriously? Because in the backs of our minds, we doubted them and natural birth somehow, all along?

I am not saying that midwives or any medical professionals are not and should not be held accountable for their choices. No sir. But, they do not shoulder the blame alone. Wherever you could have a say, wherever you could have made a choice, so do you. We are all accountable.

I shoulder the blame for any time I did not exercise my right to say no and right to choose, and the med pros who saw me shoulder blame for anything they ever did which was against me. The times they did things against my knowledge or will, the times they would not give me what I wanted out of only policy-keeping, the times they acted in any way not like a friend, the times the information given to me was untrue, the times things were only done for their comfort or their convenience, etc. And, I forgive myself for my part in not calling out the BS, and made peace with that. Now that I know better, I will DO better. I make a promise to myself and I keep it. I will protect myself, because don’t be fooled– nobody else is looking out for you; nobody else has your best interests at heart. I can’t be mad at myself for who I was back then. I meant well. I thought I knew what was right. But, I lived and I learned and now I’m taking those lessons with me and moving ahead.

If you choose to place all the accountability and blame into someone else’s hands, that is an illusion. Even if you always allowed someone else to make those choices for you. If you had a voice to use and did not, you played a part in your experiences in life, whether you like that fact or not. Don’t assume that just because someone is a professional and has seen more birth than you that they know better than you. If you don’t agree with something, or something doesn’t feel right, it is your duty to yourself and your baby to act on that intuition.  Stand up and be accountable for your birth. Whether you make a choice or don’t make a choice, that is still a choice.

This is NOT advocating “blame the victim” mentality; it is advocating the cessation of setting yourself up to be the victim.

Once you accept your accountability, you can forgive yourself for your past choices and move on. At the end of the day, you really must be able to forgive yourself or you will not have peace and healing. Let yourself off the hook.


How Music Can Hinder, Not Help, Your Labor

5 07 2011

Dr. Michel Odent talks a lot about the primal labor state and the neo-cortex. When giving birth naturally, the laboring woman enters a different state of consciousness. It is essential for us to allow ourselves to become immersed in this state in order to have a fearless, unhindered, natural labor with as little pain as possible (in some cases, none at all, and entering the realm of orgasmic).

Stimulation of the neo-cortex is then, in the case of a natural labor, the enemy.

The neo-cortex is the center for what we commonly consider our intellect. It is the part that allows us to be logical and also creates our sense of inhibition, giving us our civility and our modesty. When we are being stimulated intellectually or feel we are being watched, the neocortex is active. This is not conducive to a laboring woman getting in her right birth state. This leads to birth tensions and complications.

It is inadvisable to engage in discussion with the birthing woman. Mammals and females in labor need no distractions. They naturally focus inward and shut out the outside world. Dark, warm, quiet surroundings are critical for her to maintain this space of consciousness safely and have the best possible labor and birth experience/outcome. This is the physiology of birth that I am keen on referencing often. To not heed this would trigger her adrenaline, fight/flight, and lead to unnecessary complications and interventions.

Whether she intends to be stimulated or not, whether she consciously feels threatened or not, the presence of certain stimuli will trigger the woman to refrain from fully engaging in the appropriate state as a means of instinctive protection of her vulnerability in the primal physiological birth state. What this means is that even too brightly lit of an environment can hinder her from birthing naturally in a peaceful way.

If discussion stimulates the neo-cortex, what other things will? Television, where there will be narration and dialogue and perhaps jarring noises and rhythms. Light, as we’ve already discussed. Feeling cold. Feeling observed, so onlookers or even the presence of video cameras.

What else? Music.

Is music required during labor? Many women prefer it. When planning for our natural births, the question comes up all the time. “What do you listen to during labor?” We like to set the mood, feel we are creating a personalized soothing birth experience for ourselves. People exchange ideas on what to listen to ranging from religious music to nature sounds, world music, yoga CDs to tribal drumming, etc. And then there are people like me, who dared to merely place their iPod on shuffle. [If you want to know how that turns out, it’s in the book!]

Certain beats and lyrics, however, may cause– without the woman’s total awareness— a stimulation of the neocortex. The effects can sometimes be felt violently. If beats are too aggressive or up-tempo, the neocortex is activated. If lyrics are sung, a woman in labor may unwittingly be drawn into listening to them or giving them even the slightest attention, keeping her from the true meditative nothingness of the primal consciousness her birthing body seeks.

Odent states:

Our neocortex is originally a tool that serves the old brain structures as a means of supporting our survival instinct. The point is that its activity tends to control more primitive brain structures and to inhibit the birth process (and any sort of sexual experience as well).

The neocortex is supposed to be at rest so that primitive brain structures can more easily release the necessary hormones. That is why women who give birth tend to cut themselves off from our world, to forget what they read or what they have been taught;  they can find themselves in the most unexpected, often primitive quadrupedal posture; I heard women saying afterwards: ‘I was on another planet’. When a labouring woman is ‘on another planet’, this means that the activity of her neocortex is reduced. This reduction of the activity of the neocortex is an essential aspect of birth physiology among humans.

This aspect of human birth physiology implies that one of the basic needs of labouring women is to be protected against any sort of neocortical stimulation. From a practical point of view it is useful to explain what this means and to review the well-known factors that can stimulate the human neocortex.

Language, particularly rational language is one such factor. When we communicate with language we process what we perceive with our neocortex. This implies, for example, that if there is a birth attendant, one of her main qualities is her capacity to keep a low profile and to remain silent, to avoid in particular asking precise questions.

via WombEcology by Michel Odent – In-labour physiological reference.


Odent is clearly saying that we need to drastically cut out neocortex stimuli; yet music, one of the favored relaxation tools of birth, is a such a stimulus.

If you absolutely insist on having or trying music during your labor, the best kinds which will be far less likely to provoke thought and cause inadvertent stimulation of your neocortex would include anything down-tempo, without lyrics, and with relaxed, unobtrusive rhythms. Yoga CDs, nature sounds, and mild tribal drumming will probably be the most likely to do the trick. Avoid anything that may surprise you, trigger memories, or cause you to think. Static and calm from the external are the keys to entering your best physiological state. The external needs to be able to fade into nonexistence, for you. You need to be able to tap in to your more instinctive self, so give yourself the best tools you can to achieve this. Like most things in birth, less is more.

If you think your body will know what it is doing and birth this baby no matter what music you have on, you’re right… but having the wrong music versus having no music could be the difference between pain and pleasure in childbirth.

Song Saturdays: NIN Block

2 07 2011

Ever feel this way?

This world never gave me a chance… I don’t believe in your institutions!… Something inside of me has opened up its eyes… I never was a part of you.

Sometimes, a little comfort, a promise. This is for mothers, for babies, for ourselves.

We’ll find the perfect place to go where we can run and hide. I’ll build a wall and we can keep them on the other side, but they keep waiting, and picking…

It’s something I have to do! I was there too! Before everything else, I was like you.

I won’t let you fall apart.

Birth, Validation, & Hurt Feelings

1 07 2011

Some things I want to talk about on this subject:

1. Women who judge each other’s pain.

2. Birth professionals and their roles in birth.

1. Why would a woman ever want to give birth in a hospital? at home? by herself? We all have our reasons for the choices we make. Some of them are basic, like when we go to the hospital “just because”… because, what else would we do? But some, especially if they seem more extreme, happen for very, very good reasons. “Good” is a relative term, but it’s safe to assume that when someone makes a seemingly radical choice, something drove them there. People don’t just come to extreme conclusions by accident. This is so very true in birth.

So, why isn’t that good enough for some people before they judge?

There are some women out there judging the kinds of choices that women not like themselves make. Let’s take UC as the obvious example. I have been very vocal about the fact that I came to my position and decision about UC because of hard experiences for me– dare I label them “birth trauma”. What I find here is that radical individuals get excused for their choices, but not radical groups. Hey, here’s a thought… a group is just a collection of individuals. So what gives? Assume we all have a valid fucking story, bitch.  “Oh, well it’s understandable why you chose XYZ, you definitely had it bad. But that doesn’t excuse those other people who like it.” <– I hear this every so often, and I don’t think it’s fair. Oh, so because someone tells you their tale of woe, you graciously permit and validate them in their choice? Or is it that you’re just too much of a coward to tell someone to their face that they are also lumped in with the stupid? I shouldn’t get a pass just because you agree with (or pretend to agree with) me. Other people are dealing with the same shit as the person with the “valid” story you heard.

Here’s a newsflash, in case you missed it:

most women turn to UC because they “had it bad”.

Talk to any UCer and she is more than likely to have a traumatic story to tell you that drove her to this. And, it’s not all just fear based. It’s about overcoming adversity. Like any strong survivor of trauma, there is a driving force in a human being that pushes them to preparation. Determined not to ever let that happen to them again, they read and research and dig deep into their soul and mind to make sure they are doing the utmost to protect themselves. You may liken this to victims of sexual assault going to therapy, taking a martial arts class, and getting a gun. Hopefully you wouldn’t be ridiculing their position, too.

And let’s not even go there and have yet another Mommy Wars pissing match over whose pain is greater and therefore worthy and excusable for their birth method. You can’t judge my trauma. You can’t tell me to suck it up. There are people who have had it “better” than me and “worse” than me, but you know what? It’s all completely relative and we are all doing what we have to do to recover and take care of ourselves. Give people a break! If I’m not stepping on your toes, don’t step on mine.

Just as I understand how some people have been driven to hospital births due to tragedies they have faced, I understand what drives one to UC. Have a little god damned sympathy, please. And try to give credit to someone, a little benefit of the doubt, that if someone is moved to do something you consider extreme, it does not come out of the blue on a whim. It has meaning and purpose. You don’t have to “get” it.

It’s another human being’s life, so don’t be so damned judgmental about what drives them. If you can excuse one of us, extend the courtesy to all of us or stop lying about getting it for any of us.


2. Over at another birth page on Facebook, one discussion that just popped up lately is that of how a birth professional should speak to a woman about her birth after the fact. One resounding feeling amongst the women was: acknowledge us and our pain.

Wow. So many women have been traumatized by their births. This isn’t just something I fictionalized. Huh? Whattayaknow? I mean, just looking at all the responses and my starting premise in the book didn’t seem so outlandish, after all.

The thing that we all seemed to cry out for is– validate me and what I went through. Tell me what was hard about my labor. Tell me where I did good. Please don’t just ignore me and treat me clinically. Talk to me about it. Don’t just ask me how breastfeeding is going and check on my postpartum body. Ask me if I want or need to talk about my birth. Tell me your impressions of my birth and the experience, in detail. And for god’s sake, admit to me if you think something should not have happened to me or should have gone differently. We need to hear it.

One woman said that she went on and on for hours with her midwives after the birth, just trying to understand it, getting it all out. A part of me wanted to cry. “I needed that”, I thought.

Women need to know that the hurt isn’t all in their head, their burden alone, some whacked out interpretation of events from a delusional mind. I can’t tell you how long it took me to discover that my births had “traumatized” me… like how dare I use that word! Even today, I hesitate to describe it like that in person because the potential for confrontation over that word would crush me. I retreat. But, inside, psychologically and logically, I understand that that is precisely what it is, whether others are willing to validate that for me or not. Women need their caregivers to be their support and their shoulder, not the “other” side.

When people complain that homebirthers, natural childbirth advocates, or UCers are too anti-medical establishment, this is a large part of the reason why. We are not creating the Us/Them, we are responding to it. We didn’t all start out this way, you know. Some of us were just as conventional about birth as the next woman. When I am told I will be dropped from care if I do not comply with medical interventions I do not believe in, you have chosen your side. Well, it forces us to stand strong as our own best advocates. This is why we are turning away from the system.

There are a lot of hurt feelings going around from us to our professionals and back again. We count on them to do what is best for us, and especially with midwives we hope for their comfort and guidance. They are maternal figures, often viewed as protectors of maternity and birth and womanhood. When we get what we believe to be the opposite of that, the opposite of “trust birth”, or “you can do this”, and when we don’t hear “That wasn’t right” when warranted, where else can we turn but to ourselves? Women need to be protected and loved and supported. They need to cry it out if they are hurt. There is an emotional need here that is not being met and women are walking away empty. Confused.

I told my midwives I didn’t want them to read my book. I pretty much call midwives unnecessary in In Search of the Perfect Birth. I try to encourage women not to rely on others, because even those who do exactly as you wish are an accidental hindrance on a natural birth. Because of how entrenched in identity midwifery is, I did not want my midwives (whom I still associated with and considered friends, despite it all)  to be offended. I liked them as people. And, under the surface, my fear was that they too would judge my trauma (like the women in #1 who judge others). The last thing we need when we’ve been through this kind of pain is a medical professional firsthand witness to invalidate your experiences and emotions. We need a hug and a friend, not a judgment or criticism. I was trying to avoid all of us hurting each other’s feelings, truthfully.

One of them inquired about it to me and after I told her she shouldn’t read it, she didn’t speak another word of it to me.  She and I are still friends. One I deleted from Facebook a while back because we never really spoke and I didn’t think she’d miss me, but I still felt friendly towards her. She later ordered a signed copy of my book. And then one, whom I’ve never discussed the book with, deleted me from FB without a goodbye. This made me sad, even though I was prepared to expect this and worse. I must have hurt her with the book somehow, but the sense of rejection and invalidation from all the past things I’ve gone through with her and my birth is still real. I guess she just couldn’t understand why I felt that way. Maybe we all took everything personally.


The bottom line in any this is: we as women need to honor each other’s hurt in birth trauma and talk about it, heal it, and not grade and compare it. We need to listen to each other, and see ourselves in one another.