Mary Lou Singleton- Extended Interview

26 12 2016

Radical feminist motherhood was the topic of the last edition I worked on during my time with WLRN (Women’s Liberation Radio News), which I left after finishing this edition. Mary Lou Singleton is a friend and radical feminist, a midwife, a real activist who has been very involved in the fight for women’s reproductive and bodily rights spanning decades. I interviewed her and we discussed a variety of health topics revolving around how women attempt to take care of our bodies in a culture that devalues us as women and as mothers at an institutional and systemic level, which typically goes unquestioned, even amongst serious radical activists.

mary-louMary Lou is a member who has been on the board of directors for WoLF (Women’s Liberation Front) which is suing the US government over Title IX changes removing sex-based protections to include ambiguously, “gender identity”. She is also known for being one of the co-authors to the Open Letter to MANA (Midwives Alliance of North America) regarding their woman-erasing language. She is also one of the contributors to the new book, Female Erasure.

Since WLRN is not hosting the Extended Interview, I felt it needed a home. And, since I run this radical birth (and feminism) blog, I felt that this home could be here, and in honor of Mary Lou’s birthday today. She is a lovely human being and someone worth listening to. I find her to be brilliant in a way that is incomparable in today’s culture of line-toeing and newspeak, where even those who rebel against corrupt systems unwittingly play into them.

She will challenge your thoughts and provoke you to critically analyze your preconceived notions– even if you are already a radical. She talks about cognitive dissonance in liberation movements, how Planned Parenthood is actually a patriarchal organization, abortion access, “doula, inc.”, the significance of undisturbed unassisted birth, hormonal birth control and ejaculatory sex, vaccines and the medical industrial complex that extends into gender and childbirth and every facet of a woman’s existence– designed to separate women from their own fierceness. And, so much more.

For more from Mary Lou Singleton, check out the following links.

Are We Women or Are We Incubators?Feminist Current
On Sacred Biology (with Michelle Peixinho Smith) – Deep Green Resistance repost from Transition Radio
How the Gender Identity Movement is Hijacking the Fight for Reproductive SovereigntyThinking Differently, feminist conference, London 2016
I Was Warned About ‘Stop Patriarchy’On The Issues





Birth Photography: The Elephant in the Room

5 09 2016

elephantI’m about to liken birth photography to pornography.

Now if you haven’t already accepted certain basic principles of birth physiology, you’re probably not going to appreciate this post. More details on what those are can be found here, and here.

If you’re still with me, you may be one of those who this is best geared for:  a very specific kind of freebirther, the fringe of the fringe, the most primitive. Hello sister.

I know it seems like I’m once again here to rain on your parades, but as we acknowledge that birth is part of the sexual continuum, and that birth has been hijacked by people who pretend to be helpers who don’t belong there and endanger us, it would behoove us to acknowledge that we are not fully unindoctrinated while we are still allowing outsiders into that sacred, private space out of a fear that we would miss out on something desirable as influenced by current social norms. What we end up really missing out on is a whole lot more.

After all, many people still birth in hospitals partly out of a fear of missing out on some things, certain things they have come to expect. Certain indignations normalized.

A small example:  I remember one of the things I believed I would “miss” was feeling like I was on vacation. Staying in a bed in a room, having food brought to me, being expected to rest, taking a break from the normal routines… That gets easier to break up with when you face that this kind of “vacation” is really a recovery from trauma the likes of which you won’t experience if you stay home and do it yourself. Most of us don’t chop off our arms to get a vacation, either. Well, not if we’re healthy of mind, anyway. Not to mention the fact that you can rest and be waited on at home, too; even though it doesn’t feel like “going away”, your baby belongs at home and your nest is the most appropriate place to nestle.

We’re so used to expecting certain things and having certain norms that we hesitate to part with them or we want to incorporate them into experience, like a tradition. But how many traditions are actually fads? This era holds that birth pictures and video are not to be missed out on, like wedding video and pictures. Only the photographer usually doesn’t stay to capture the wedding night, which birth is honestly much more like. And that’s the (big) difference.

When I say birth is part of the sexual continuum, I’m pointing out something that most natural birthers already acknowledge. That is that the life cycle starts with sex, ideally preceded by two people with excellent chemistry falling in love and having lots of trust (maximum oxytocin overload, pleasurable life, healthy setup for the future). And that is an act that is carried on by two people and two people only. For the act of creation and furthering of the species, this example takes a man and a woman. For them to feel fully secure and give in to the moment and all the beautiful chemical reactions awaiting them, they need to feel privacy.

(Voyeurism is not a part of this chain; it is a socially developed kink. I’m trying to get back to our roots, not away from.)

The people– but I’m going to focus specifically on the woman– need to feel that their guard can be completely let down in order to fully give in to feeling the way they are feeling with each other. That is the only way they can really be free. Part of this primal act being so guarded could be partly due to our instinct to be aware of predators. We would be especially vulnerable to an outside attack in these sensitive moments. It also may have to do with bonding, as anything that would interfere with or leech off of man-to-woman bonding in intercourse threatens the future of the family. The oxytocin in that moment is the seed, spark, foundation of deep trust and sense of love, that promises a strong attachment and furthers the survival and protection of any offspring yet to come. The more solidified and respected that bond, the higher the chances of success for our species on the whole.

(On a spiritual and romantic level, I also feel the privacy is extremely validated, but I will return to focus on the physical to be basic, fundamental, and not digress. I don’t have time to explain my philosophy to you right now, nor do I think everyone might care.)

What naturally follows, if impregnated, is birth. The emergence of the new life from the same portal through which the possibility of life had to enter. And the state of mind of the woman laboring or birthing is similar in that the thinking mind is shut off, giving way to the primitive mind and instinct and body taking over, and that any outsiders to this event are viewed as intruders– which will either hinder her response, endanger it/her, or temporarily stop the process altogether. Birth involves an altered state of consciousness, when allowed to proceed naturally. Birth is perhaps the most vulnerable naturally occurring moment to a human life and we are wired to be aware of the presence of those who do not belong in order to protect ourselves and our young. The same people at the sexual union are the people who are good candidates to be present at the birth. No more, and maybe less. To violate that puts the woman in fight-or-flight mode. There are plenty of references in literature to just how this is harmful to labor and you can read more about it and the Fear Tension Pain Cycle in books like Childbirth Without Fear, and Unassisted Childbirth.

As an aside, Michel Odent has given some great notes on how a man should behave *if* he is invited into the birth space, even if a woman trusts and loves him. Read any of his works and especially Birth and Breastfeeding for more information.

When the primitive, physiological self is allowed to take over for the thinking mind, without fear, in the absence of any intrusion, in sex and in childbirth, the result is ease, satisfaction, proper release of oxytocin for bonding and love and pleasure with whomever the deserving and receiving partner or life mate is, if around. This works for woman to man in intercourse, and man and woman and baby in childbirth, as the culmination of their act of love and the solidifying of the family unit. This was nature’s plan for human longevity, and it’s the brilliance of its design. It is built into us. A strong unit is formed, and strong tribes may form.

A woman needs to be able to tap into that deep place within herself that without societally-based fears and expectations, the likes of which are imposed on all of us regarding birth from a very young age. And she can’t do that as long as you are selling her products. She can’t do that when you’re telling her there is still something modern she will need, something extra and more than what she is that she should want, something she will regret not adding in because other mothers have it and it’s so important, and keep her further and further away from her original design and function. You’re keeping her from her purest and truest self and essence, and if you succeed, she will never know it in this life. Her body is an astounding work of creation, moreso than any camera ever could be. And we hinder that. Because we are delighted by the modern marvel more than the organic miracle. We keep reaching for shiny distractions and no longer respect when it is time to put those away.

In some parallel universe somewhere, there is orgasm/conception photography, for the same reasons as we do birth photographs now.

I look at birth video and photography much in the same way I would look at the concept of artistic orgasm photography. I appreciate the interest in capturing a moment. I appreciate the reverence for the look on the woman’s face, the awe in her rawness. And if I were watching someone have actual sex on video, even if “tastefully done”, I would have to admit it is really pushing it in terms of being a form of pornography.

Because… I’m not supposed to be there. This is private. I may be interested, I may be intrigued, but this is not for me to watch. Those are not my moments, those are not my chemicals. I’m an intruder, and this belongs to someone else. This is sacred.

And you can photograph sex and birth all you like, but you will never truly capture the reality of what the moment would look like if you were not there at all.

Imagine if the things people say about birth photography were said about intercourse photography?

“They’re a real pro, you won’t even know they’re there.”

“They silently stay out of the way and blend in with the background.”

“We have a mutual acquaintance that can really vouch for them, so I trust them.”

“The photographer is my sister.”

“You will be so lost in the moment, you will have no awareness that they’re even in the room. And you’ll be so ‘busy’ you won’t even care at that point.”

What about this is not creepy?

I know birth and sex are not perfectly synonymous, but that’s not the point. The point is that the woman is tapped into the same states of being with her body producing some of the same hormones, functions and effects, having the same physiological needs to make the effort a success. You can spoil one just as easily as you can spoil the other, with these wrong attitudes towards the acts.

And if you honestly believe when looking at any birth photos or vids (or ones of sex….) that what you are viewing would be exactly the same without the extra people and the cameras, you’re lying to yourself. Men who watch porn also think they are watching reality. Granted, pornography is often consciously a performance, while being taped in birth becomes more of subconsciously performing. You are not seeing an unhindered woman. The camera will always add the element of observation or performance, however subtle or inconspicuous it seems to the observer/observed. You are not getting the fullest, unbridled, wild, natural person who is free from being studied, judged, or captured. (Even just think about the language… she is “captured” on film. She is subdued, watched, controlled.) The woman will always be aware somewhere in her consciousness of your presence, because her primitive mind is keen and sharp to detect this as a rule, as a defense mechanism innate to her, and it *will* have an impact on her. And that impact is restraint and tension.

Here is the part where someone chimes in, “You don’t know me. Not all women are the same. Everyone has different needs.” Wrong. All women *are* the same. Let’s look at the hierarchy of needs.

Maslow's_hierarchy_of_needs

I imagine the resulting photograph keepsakes contribute to the tier entitled “Esteem”.



First we acknowledge that birth is a physiological, physical event. You don’t birth with your personality or your brain, you birth with your body. You are an animal. Then let’s address that the primal body is the one tasked with giving birth as it does instinctively, when not held back or restrained. Then let’s observe that stimulation of the thinking mind, or neocortex, keeps one from dropping deep into primal brain activity, and that the neocortex is stimulated by having company. In this we must admit that the presence of others serves functionally to restrain the primal woman, keeping her in the worst state of consciousness for an easy birth.

Now tell me you deny this and that you’re built differently from other women.

“But humans are social animals! I am a very social person!”

Your baby whom you are giving birth to is a person. This is an interaction between you and they. And sometimes, your partner, if invited to the birth space. These are all people.

What more in the way of social do you require?

You may be a social butterfly, but please note this is a psychological trait and not a primal one. Your primal self is the one giving birth, the one you need to honor, the one for whom all obstacles must get out of the way. If you glance again at the hierarchy of needs, you will note that physiology and safety are first, they are the foundation, and they are of utmost importance. Love and belonging to which I’ll assume the psychological wish to be surrounded by people owes itself, is secondary to those things. (Ironically, if you honor the physiological foundation first, you will find a deepening and intensifying of love due to all the oxytocin shared in earnest between you.)

Our physiology as women is the same. Our needs for safety as laboring mammals are the same: quiet, darkness, solitude, warmth. You can’t claim a psychological preference supersedes these. It is akin to saying, “But I really like the water!” to explain that you can be submerged and don’t need to breathe. You are not superhuman, your body is not made differently. We have basic needs. We need to breathe, we need to eat, we need to sleep, we need to not be obstructed or injured. Once those basic needs are covered, then we are able to move up to other less pressing wants, frequently formed by the thinking mind and not the primal one, such as being social.

If a woman’s psychological urges are so strong that she must obey those first, due to trauma, conditioning, or lack of awareness of the severity of these issues on our bodies, she will choose to be surrounded at birth. This is why I advise anyone trying to freebirth to conquer your psychological issues before birth, and ideally, before pregnancy.

I excuse these the same way I excuse elective Cesareans. Our trauma and where we are at in dealing with it will determine which choices we feel ready to make. For that I have sympathy, but with strong preference to trying to get women helped before their inclinations lead to more physical harm. In short, we all work with what we’ve got.

Your rational mind wants to be in control and will always find a way, always find fear and excuses. You cannot bargain with instinct, though. Instinct will be there whether you like it or not and you will not be able to rationalize with it. I recommend getting out of its way.

And not denying it.

To me birth vids and photography are like the big, voyeuristic, creepy, pervy, obstructing, restraining, intrusive elephant in the room. And elephants are apparently midwives, so that’s fitting.

When most natural birthers are looking at birth photos and vids and picking on things like,

“Oh, that baby is wearing a hat! Poor thing!”

“Look, they cut the cord right away.”

“OMG, how many hands are on that mama? And take off those gloves!”

Or even positive things like,

“Oh look, daddy caught!”

“What a fierce, strong mama in that birth pool.”

“I love your faces! You did it!”

“This is what birth is supposed to look like.”

No it’s not. You weren’t supposed to be there. You are getting a happy, joyous, or victorious fragment of her at best. You are viewing a fraction of her depth and what she would normally be capable of. And yes, even that fraction is beautiful to us, but our pleasure through her is ill-gained and of no importance. What she really deserved matters more. So I wince, like some of you wince and feel triggered when you see unnecessary Cesarean photos.

What repeats in my mind while even agreeing with their comments is, “have you noticed yet there was a camera/photographer there?” How much better might it have been for the mother and her baby if they weren’t some kind of show on display for us? As nice as it may be to have keepsake photos your baby’s delivery, might you be cheating yourselves when it comes to feeling something much more pure and unfiltered? Something potentially pain-free, non-injurious, untraumatized, and even ecstatic? Do you want to be one of those women who says immediately after, “I want to do it again”?

Another way birth is like sex.

The continuum of life, of sex, wants us to be rewarded. Our brains are supposed to feel good about these activities because this supports continuation of the species. Birth, like sex, is not “supposed” to be painful and we should stop promoting that it inherently is. Our pain is frequently connected to fear and control. We and our process and how we perceive it has been controlled and ideas fed to us and we are ruled and overcome by fear. I can only assume that, removing all this, our births would be mostly pleasurable. We will never know because even modern empowered women do not live in a vacuum. All of us are overcoming hostile influences. I want us to keep breaking away from these conventions so that one day our daughters might know this answer.

“And what about you, Elizabeth? Are you so perfect? You didn’t want photos and videos of your births?”

No, I fucked up, too. That’s why I’m here. My whole story is one of fucking it up, then getting it right, and then getting it a little bit more right, some more. If I can keep you from doing what I did and having to learn the hard way, that’s my dream.

My first birth in the hospital I videotaped and there were pictures. All kinds of people were in the room, strange men saw my ass, I vomited on people and cried. Bright lights and hooked up to machines, opiates and vaginal trauma… and I’m sure the recordings were negligible in influence after all that. But I’ve got it on record.

Birth 2 was too traumatic to have any recording devices out. I spent part of it in an ambulance, hoping to lose consciousness. Strange men saw my ass again.

My third birth when I was way more awakened, I went solo. I attempted to record video because I didn’t yet know any better, and the device failed to record, but it still acted as an “observing eye”. I was photographed in early labor which I suppose isn’t that bad while contractions are light. (In the sex analogy, this might be being photographed in a kiss.) I wanted to be alone through most of labor and only allowed pictures after the baby emerged in the pool. (Yes, I do think after-birth pictures in limitation are okay, and in the sex analogy, may be akin to an after-orgasm photo. Risque, a peek into something private, but still discrete. The body has done the hardest work after the moment of birth but you still want to be mindful not to disturb the mother in the third stage because she is still affected by needless interference and chatter.) This was an amazing birth and I do not doubt it could have been even more amazing without mechanical watching eyes. But the picture of me lifting my son out of the water of the birth pool and having achieved this triumph myself is one of the most beautiful images I’ve ever seen and may be my favorite picture of all time. You can see it on the back of my book, In Search of the Perfect Birth.

Birth 4 I knew better and we attempted no recording device and saved pictures for after baby was born. I cherish these because for the first time ever, the reveal of the sex was a complete shock and surprise (literally the opposite of what I thought I knew), and this moment and reaction was caught in a photo. Up until the pushing, this was also my absolute easiest and most manageable birth yet. Dark, solitude, warmth, relative quiet… it was downright blissful during most of it.

I wish you all the same successes and even beyond. We’re all waking up from the trappings of this machine.





When You Don’t Want to be Pregnant Anymore…

19 02 2015

Psychologically, I think if we say things to ourselves like, “I’m 43 weeks pregnant today,” there is often an element of “enough already” to that expression. If you factor in a sense of dread (or god forbid, fear) towards the labor itself, you’ve got yourself a recipe for psyching yourself out. It’s a self-sabotage in the making.

I remember about a year ago today I was wondering just how “overdue” my baby would be. “He” had already surprised me in being 5 days past my already late estimate (and would later surprise me by being a “she”). I’m usually right, so why was my calculation off? I waited an additional two weeks past when I thought the baby would arrive before she actually came… which she chose spontaneously, of course. It was possibly my longest pregnancy, depending on what method you use to measure it. Even though I had always guessed better than the medical professionals regarding my body (and certainly had this time… they would have felt I was at least a full 20 days past my due date at the time of birth), I was at peace with being wrong. I got off facebook and the internet, and I waited. I waited with the wisdom that the magic of nature summoning me into that birth space at its own right time was not something I wanted to miss. I had experienced it before and knew I would not go back to artificial ways again.

For mothers finding themselves in this familiar spot, I advise nesting according to instinct, retreat, and meditation. Trusting in your body’s and baby’s wisdom can seem counter to everything popular culture has instilled in us all. It can take some work to resist that. You may feel simply tired.

So what I’m saying is, maybe don’t care too hard how far along you are (it is an arbitrary number, after all), and try not to mentally grade what you feel is bound to happen to you when labor does finally occur, because if you don’t give yourself a chance to be wrong in the most beautiful way, it’s a missed experience/opportunity and an action possibly taken out of impatience and fear. Give yourself a chance! We are supposed to encourage and inspire one another, so hopefully we can create more hype around that natural beauty than hype around faulty preconceptions that dominate our birthing culture.

As someone who people listen to on the topic of birth, looking for knowledge and inspiration, I would be remiss to not say these things to you. I’m not going to lie to you and tell you that any choice is equal to any other choice just to make you feel better. You are a warrior woman and you are an earth mother, a goddess. You are powerful and you can do this. You know what is best for your body and baby and sometimes you just need encouragement to see it through in a world that wants to divert you to a lesser path, so I want to be that voice for you in case you are hearing it nowhere else:  You deserve to have a pregnancy and childbirth at peace with the natural order, and without fear.

For more about the way the baby leads the way in choosing its own birth date:

Length of human pregnancies vary by as much as five weeks
Fetal lung protein release triggers labor to begin

 





How to Avoid MAS (Meconium Aspiration Syndrome)

7 01 2014

About Meconium Aspiration-
Meconium aspiration is overhyped as conditions to create MAS (meconium aspiration syndrome) have to be right (or, wrong, as it were) for it to be an issue, and even then the attentive parent will observe problems with their neonate and be able to seek timely medical treatment if necessary.

“To date debates continue to rage regarding the optimum
obstetrical approach, resuscitation measures at birth and
subsequent management of the critically ill neonate with
meconium aspiration syndrome (MAS).” – (http://medind.nic.in/maa/t10/i2/maat10i2p152.PDF)

Risk Factors with Meconium Aspiration-
Babies that are being born in a disturbed environment or are experiencing a traumatic birth, particularly via Cesarean, are at greater risk for meconium aspiration. Almost exclusively, full term and post-dates babies are at risk of releasing meconium (not necessarily aspirating, but releasing). This can be stimulated or brought about just from normal stimulation of contractions. Seeing meconium in the fluid should not cause instant alarm and the more easy and natural the birth, and the more time the meconium has had to mix and circulate with the fluids present in baby‘s environment, the less of a threat meconium poses. Aspiration becomes less likely.

In one study of babies born with thick meconium-stained fluid, 39 developed MAS and 898 did not.
http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/002978449500124A

Another study from Australia and New Zealand says, “A higher risk of MASINT was noted at advanced gestation, with 34% of cases born beyond 40 weeks, compared with 16% of infants without MAS. Fetal distress requiring obstetric intervention was noted in 51% of cases, and 42% were delivered by cesarean section.”

“The incidence of MASINT in the developed world is low and seems to be decreasing. Risk of MASINT is significantly greater in the presence of fetal distress and low Apgar score..”, and “Death related to MAS occurred in 24 infants (2.5% of the MASINT cohort; 0.96 per 100000 live births).”
http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/117/5/1712

That same publication remarks on an increase in MAS amongst home births and indigenous (minorities) within the population, but this quite possibly has a lot more to do with how individuals are treated than medical and biological predispositions.

How Do Babies Aspirate Meconium?-
If the baby passes meconium in utero, it typically mixes with the fluids in the womb. The baby has been practicing swallowing these fluids and the fluids are being replenished. If meconium is fresh and thick and the baby is soon delivered, and the meconium is by or in the airways at that time, this would pose a threat of aspiration. Aspiration may then lead to MAS, and could require medical treatment at that time. A baby having a vaginal birth where the fluids have a better opportunity to be squeezed out of the lungs and airways at birth would have less risk for aspiration and MAS. The baby does not take its first real “breath” until after birth. The baby isn’t breathing in the womb. It “practices” breathing in the womb without actually inhaling. Any aspiration would occur upon delivery. Method of delivery and birth then becomes particularly important in the presence of meconium.

This link (http://kidshealth.org/parent/medical/lungs/meconium.html#) has some alarmist medical perspectives on meconium, but take note of the following quotes:

This image seems to show meconium already settled into the lungs before the baby has taken a full breath, still in utero.

“Normally, fluid is moved in and out of only the trachea (the upper portion of the airway) when there’s breathing activity in the fetus. “

“Although 6% to 25% of babies delivered have meconium-stained amniotic fluid, not all infants who pass meconium during labor and delivery develop MAS.”

“Most babies with MAS improve within a few days or weeks”

“In some cases doctors may recommend amnioinfusion, the dilution of the amniotic fluid with saline, to wash meconium out of the amniotic sac before the baby has a chance to inhale it at birth.”

This last quote also indicates how meconium which has had the opportunity to be diluted in or cleansed from the amniotic fluids poses far less a threat to the baby. Birth should not be rushed, and meconium present is not an indication that birth should be hastened. A natural physiological birth is still called for if there are no reasons to suggest the baby is in immediate distress. Remember that meconium itself does not equal distress.

Please take heed, this, though:
“However later studies reported that this procedure [amnioinfusion] was
not accompanied by any statistically significant reduction
in adverse foetal outcomes. Moreover this procedure
had fallen into disrepute for its increased association
with foetal heart rate abnormalities, operative/instrument
deliveries and infection. “  (http://medind.nic.in/maa/t10/i2/maat10i2p152.PDF)

“Although MAS is a frightening complication for parents to face during the birth of their child, the majority of cases are not severe. Most infants are monitored for fetal distress during labor, and doctors pay careful attention to any signs that would indicate meconium aspiration.”

And so do parents. Signs of difficulty related to MAS are obvious and will not escape an educated and attentive home birthing parent. These include:

  • Bluish skin color (cyanosis) in the infant
  • Difficulty breathing (the infant needs to work hard to breathe)
  • No breathing
  • Rapid breathing
  • Limpness in infant at birth

(http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/001596.htm)

That last link indicates that a low APGAR may indicate needing help breathing. This is not always the case. I was transferred for meconium in fluid from my homebirth. My baby was given a lower APGAR score for color. His color was naturally pale and he had no actual complications or health conditions.

“In most cases, the outlook is excellent and there are no long-term health effects.
In more severe cases, breathing problems may occur. They usually go away in 2 – 4 days.”

“Meconium aspiration rarely leads to permanent lung damage.”

The link goes on to state:

“If the baby is active and crying, no treatment is needed.”

This was true for my baby and he was almost immediately returned to me upon inspection.

I do not advise automatic hospital transfers at the sight of meconium-stained fluids. Hospital transfer increases risk of trauma from travel, and fear/distress to mother and consequently baby. Fear causes tension in the uterus and deprives organs and fetus of blood and oxygen which increases fetal distress (and meconium release). Emergency efforts are often exaggerated and can be found to exacerbate any issues surrounding meconium (and more). Keeping birth calm and peaceful in a comfortable setting and observing the newborn at birth will be the baby’s best chance of avoiding MAS.

Treatment of Neonates w/Meconium Aspiration-

“the current evidence
suggests that intrapartum suctioning of the oro/
nasopharynx may not reduce the risk of aspiration.”

“Subsequent tracheal
toileting which was earlier advocated has been
challenged on the precincts that it is only the depressed
neonate who runs the risk of MAS.”

“It is likely that MAS
will develop in a small minority of apparently healthy
meconium stained infants, but there is no way of
identifying these neonates at risk during childbirth”

“Meconium is almost always sterile. Yet
several workers routinely administer antibiotics to the
babies with MAS… the consensus opinion does not favour the
routine use of antibiotics in babies with MAS ”

“It is necessary to maintain an optimal thermal environment and minimal handling because these infants are agitated easily and become hypoxemic and acidotic quickly.”

“Several modalities of monitoring and treatment are available, but these are yet to be substantiated with quality scientific investigation.”

(http://medind.nic.in/maa/t10/i2/maat10i2p152.pdf)

Another Good Link:
Midwife Thinking: The Curse of Meconium-Stained Liquor
One highlight: “During labour and birth it is very unlikely that a baby will inhale liquor (and any meconium in it). This will only happen if the baby becomes extremely hypoxic and begins to gasp in utero in an attempt to get oxygen. So, meconium alone is not a problem. Meconium + a hypoxic baby = the possibility of MAS (Davies & MacDonald 2008).”

I am a lay person. I am a self-educated freebirther (unassisted birther). I have left the medical birth system because I have learned how to make birth safer myself, at home. Therefore, none of this constitutes medical advice– these are my observations and opinions as I continue to grow in knowledge.





The Importance of Excluding Onlookers From Freebirths

13 12 2013

If you’re going to be of service to women and want to be taken seriously, having a well-rounded education is important. There are many things you’ll want to know before you can safely feel adequate to provide “care”. One important thing to know on laboring women is, when it comes to witnessing their homebirth, UC (unassisted childbirth) is not a spectator sport.

ImageEven if you allege to be hands off, the problem of the observer is one hopefully known to all UCers and would-be UCers. It is one of the reasons (maybe even a main reason) why many women decide on freebirth at all. One of my favorite writers on natural birth, Michel Odent, talks frequently of the mammalian needs in birth. Of our four basic needs, privacy is one of them. Without it, the mother senses danger and this complicates the labor.

‘To give birth to her baby, the mother needs privacy. She needs to feel unobserved.” –Birth and Breastfeeding, Michel Odent. Any doula, midwife, or doctor should read this book. 

You can read more here: Do Not Disturb: The Importance of Privacy in Labor, Judith A. Lothian, RN, PhD, LCCE, FACCE, The Journal of Perinatal Education- Advancing Normal Birth, from the US National Library of Medicine- National Institutes of Health (PubMed Central). Sidenote: This link also discusses the fetal ejection reflex, for the interested.

Now some may argue that it is possible to give a woman a feeling (or an illusion) of privacy and still have onlookers or caregivers. I will not debate that at this time, but I will state that if one is trying to observe a birth to determine their own readiness to venture into the fields of midwifery and the like, this learning experience is a detriment to the mother.

“There is no privacy without a feeling of security.” –Birth and Breastfeeding, Odent.

Anything you bring into the birthing space, the mother can sense. Any fears, hesitations, reservations, doubts, lack of confidence, lack of understanding of anything, lack of skill, lack of intuition, she spots like a dog smells fear. She taps into her primal state and the neocortex (rational, human, intellectual thought) attempts to disengage. If she has the awareness in any aspect of her consciousness that you are here to test yourself, this can generate feelings of insecurity in the mother. This is particularly true if you are not in an intimate relationship with her. Feelings of insecurity and lack of privacy will, again, complicate labor.

“Most women who understand what is going on are keen observers not only of their own actions, but of the reactions of those about them to every fresh event or incident. I have laid stress upon the sensitiveness of the mind of a parturient woman; if you wish to deceive them, you will fail.”

Confidence rests upon the knowledge of perfect preparation.”

“During labor, women spot doubt in a doctor’s mind as quickly as a kestrel sees a rat in the stubble… However good an actor or however suave a humbug, confidence has no counterfeit.” – these quotes from Childbirth Without Fear, Grantly Dick-Read.

The woman in labor, sensing any lack or fear on the part of anyone present, is hormonally receptive to those suggestions. This initiates the Fear-Tension-Pain cycle. Labor becomes hard or even dangerous for woman and child.

It is more important that we honor and respect the birthing space of the laboring woman and her most basic, primal needs as a mammal than to use her as a test subject for our own reassurance and education.

There are other ways we will be able to give ourselves a proper education on birth and physiology in order to ascertain in what capacity we may be of assistance to birthing women. Like the saying goes, “reading is fundamental”. I urge people to read, read, read, and learn everything they possibly can about true physiological, natural birth and the actual needs of a birthing woman in labor.

Privacy is one very basic and simple method of providing safety in the birth space of a well-prepared woman. We live in a culture, though, where the most basic methods of prevention are overlooked in favor of the most technical hands-on repairs we can put our logical minds to. But, what if we could avoid those dilemmas?

For example– Instead of relying on knowledge of which massage, drug, or herb will treat a post partum hemorrhage, what about understanding the seemingly invisible causes? The brain-body connection has a lot to do with our most commonly feared childbirth complications, and yet our culture does precious little to recognize and avoid creating the issues to begin with. We must look to the interconnectedness of our systems, hormonal responses to environment and stimuli, etc. If we were to know the birth process from an unhindered, natural, physiological perspective, know the stages of labor through all non-intrusive signs, and respect the mother’s primal birth space needs, our shopping lists and interference levels would dramatically decrease. Healthy, normal births would be the result.

I have noticed that there are many UCers or those researching UC are preoccupied with the fix-it methods, though. They read almost exclusively midwifery and obstetrics texts (if they read at all), they focus on which tools or drugs or herbs can be used in a pinch to solve a dilemma or crisis. In the process, we are neglecting the very root of why freebirth is so important– the undisturbed aspect of birth only it can provide. When we more fully grasp what is primal and physiological, our tools and medicines become more and more useless and unnecessary. This is  such a worthy goal! To lose sight of that and to attempt to mimic health care professionals in all regards in many ways defeats the purpose. We aren’t trying to take over their work, we are trying to transcend their methods.

In other words… If I wanted a medical approach to my care, I would hire a medical professional. But, I digress. Because I associate onlooking with interference, I have touched upon the issue of hands-on as relating to eyes-on. Getting back on track–

For anyone questioning if they could handle the pressure of attending births for a living, I would strongly advise they find their confidence elsewhere than at a woman’s freebirth. I would suggest educating oneself to the utmost of one’s abilities, reading books like the ones quoted here (as opposed to a lot of the more mainstream, feel-good, interference-happy “natural birth” literature). I would recommend reading things which are very pro-unassisted childbirth, where lack of attendants is understood and encouraged on a scientific level, because this will provide technical and biological knowledge and a foundation for what makes this birth safe. That is knowledge that would become confidence-instilling for anyone of the right composition to attend women.

Even starting as a trusted doula for attended births of people you are personally close with (at home or in hospital) can give one an idea of their own abilities. Anything… anything to avoid adding hindrance to what could otherwise be an undisturbed birth. This would be one of the gravest insults to natural birth and the natural birthing woman. The needs of a woman in birth are more important than any education we hope to glean from their experience for our own gain.

In order to properly care for a woman, we must first be able to put her needs above our own wants. Anyone unwilling to do that already has the answer to their own question– they are not prepared to attend her. Let us not behave the way that doctors have which caused us to leave the hospital environment in the first place.

“Every woman is different, and so are her needs in childbirth,” you might say. Yes and no. Psychologically every woman is different. The complex thought processes that make up our personalities and make us especially human varies. On the primal level, however, all of our needs are the same.

We are all mammals, we have built-in instincts designed to protect ourselves and the species. We do not deny our other needs as “individual”– whether a woman needs food, water, oxygen, sleep, and shelter is not up for debate based on her individuality. We all require these things as our physiology dictates. As mammals, we have physiological and hormonal reactions to childbirth events and our environment– even over the subtlest of things– that may go unrecognized or misunderstood to the untrained eye. Since it is the primal nature which gives birth, not who we are psychologically, it is the primal which we should be careful to honor!

What a woman chooses is her right, but it sometimes becomes a battle of what she is willing to partake in on the psychological level versus her most primitive instincts. I would not want to battle with the instincts, personally. You cannot reason with them.

So, even if a woman planning a homebirth or freebirth is gracious enough to invite someone to her birth as an observer or onlooker, this does not mean it will not in some way have a negative impact on her birth. A woman would be unfair to herself to promise someone that she would be comfortable with their presence (and it would be unfair for the onlooker to accept, with that knowledge). The primal need for privacy and the intuition of the laboring woman will strongly overtake most conscious psychological desires she has to be sharing, educational, brave, outgoing, or accommodating. Even a peaceful, knowledgeable, and experienced freebirther may find such an invitation to be a naive and inhibiting undertaking in hindsight. Whether it becomes merely a nuisance or precipitates a crisis, the would-be birth attendant must ask themselves, “is it worth it?”

Anyone considering UC for themselves should likewise acknowledge and honor their deepest needs in childbirth and respect the science of the process. This is the way you give yourself the best, safest chance at the healthiest birth.





Charlene’s Homebirth With Husband, Midwives (Graphic Pictures)

4 06 2013

This mother had a calm birth, a happy birth. This was her 2nd homebirth and her 6th child. She was elated and proud of herself. She should be! This birth was a victory for her. I’m sure she feels like a rock star, and she should. I’m proud of her too and celebrate with her. It’s beautiful. She makes birth look easy! 🙂 It’s going to be encouraging to a lot of women. Birth can be done, and it doesn’t have to be horrible, and it can be done at home!

Since this is a blog (and page, and book) which specializes in educating women in how to have the best birth possible, it is my duty and responsibility to keep others reading informed. I saved that for the end, though. You have the option of reading only Charlene’s birth story. For more information and education relating to some of the things heard and seen here, read all the way to the end. This is provided so that mothers-to-be and others can know more about common birth practices and make their own informed choices when the time comes.

At 39 weeks and 2 days (39 and 2 by my ultrasound, I kept telling them I was OVERDUE & noone believed me that my due date was Feb 28th!) *1  I had called my midwife Sunday March 3rd to ask her to meet me at the hospital, I had came down with a NASTY stomach bug & wanted her to give me some gravol via a shot. So my husband & I met her over there, did the usual medical mumbo jumbo (heart rate, bp etc & a quick cervical check)*2. Being baby #6 and early previous births we wanted to make sure the vomiting wasn’t changing my cervix “nope your still at 3cms as I had been for weeks, even AFTER a membrane sweeping which ended up giving me 24 hours of back labor and NO baby!) *3 So home we went. She advised me not to be suprised that if and when my stomach flu stopped I’d likely go into labor (yeah RIGHT lol if only it were as easy as throwing up to make labor start). I complained and dry heaved all night with what I assumed was more of the stomach flu so I had next to NO sleep & I kept my poor husband up whining about it ALL night lol (sorry babe) 

 I get up the next morning (Monday March 4th) after sleeping a few mins here a few mins there with cramps in my stomach (which I’m assuming is still the stomach bug) around 7am, I get my 2 oldest kids off to school with the help of my lovely mom (who stayed over the night before to help out my husband with the kiddos) and just kind of relax…. 8 am they are off and out the door! I kept feeling slight aches and cramps and tried to disregard them because of the stomach flu. By 9am I told my mom “I think something isn’t right” and BOOM it hit me like a ton of bricks… She calls my midwife and tells her “I think Charlene is in labor” she could hear me moaning in the backround and tells her “SHES ON THE WAY!” (My last birth which was a home-birth was only 4 hours from my first contraction until she was born) So my midwife was a little on edge for this one JUST IN CASE! lol.
hubby hugs Mind you through all of this my poor husband is scared to death but VERY supportive of a home-birth all he could picture was blood and guts lol. He stumbled around making last minute preparations, tidying up, chatting & getting a quick bite to eat. Checking on me making sure I was ok, he was SOOO excited to finally meet the little person he had been talking to, singing to and loving for the past 9 months!
 
9:30 my midwife shows up and decides she better call her attending midwife incase like I said my last home-birth was fairly quick! She calls back and informs me that there is a student midwife who is supposed to be coming in today and was wondering if she could come with, and after double checking with hubby we agreed it would be fine I was all for letting her get some more experiance (we didn’t find out until after that we were her FIRST home-birth! *4) They arrive around 10:00 or so, greetings were had and they briefed each other about me, my previous births, etc… my husband and I went outside to get some air and make some phone calls to our photographer and close friends to let them know what was going on (my poor husband couldn’t make his phone work he was so nervous)

My contractions STARTED off at about 3 mins apart and were managable but still painful but I could cope, so here we sit in my living room in the middle of my floor folding baby clothes that I was going to give to my midwife to bring to a family who needed it. This was around 11:00, laughing, joking, chatting and having a wonderful time…. The contractions were spacing out and lessening in pain so I started to apologize and tell my midwifes I was sorry, I don’t think today is “THE DAY” None the less she said NO NO we’ll stick around JUST incase (she knew, they all knew but I was in denial) 

 After my contractions became a little more painful around 12:00 or so she suggested I go lay down in my room and relax which I reluctently did because I felt GREAT in between them but I agreed…. So we were sitting in my room, chatting, laughing etc and they became alot more intense and frequent…. I looked at my midwife around 12:30 and said today is going to be the day isn’t it, she nods her head and tells me YUP, I TOLD YOU!!! My mom had JUST head off to her work to midwifecheck on things and said she would be back in an hour or so and figured we had lots of time)  After she checked me and felt the baby I had asked her how dialated I was and suprisingly I was 6-7 cm (I was NOT expecting that at ALL) I asked her how big do you think she is (just out of curious nature) She says OH ABOUT 8lbs 6ozs… I kind of giggled and said she was crazy (my last was 8 11 and she guessed 8 10) I said I am NOT having another 8lb baby!!! *5

coloring
 My contractions became noticeably stronger so my attending midwife took my 4 year old out to the table and colored, drew pictures, etc… My neighbour from downstairs popped in and I asked her if she could please take her down to play as we would be soon having the baby and I didn’t want to scare her, so off she went!

 I had asked to be checked again at about 1:30 after laboring and feeling VERY intense and she REALLY didn’t want to but she did, and I was still at 6-7 with a HUGE bag of water (my water has NEVER broken on it’s own) *6 So I looked at her, she looked at me and I nodded… she knew to break the bag *7 ….(this was about 1:45) As soon as she broke the bag I had a contraction they were coming pretty fast and becoming very intense by then and I started feeling “pushy” (I thought I had bad gas lol) After watching me bare down for about 15 mins she decided to check me and when she did she could feel that I was dialated to 9 1/2 but there was a TINY lip that just wouldn’t melt away so with the next contraction she pushed the lip back *8 … This was at approx 2:07 I remember grabbing her and looking at her so intensely that she was all I could see at the moment…*9 I layed back and looked at my AMAZING husband who hadn’t left my side for a second and said your daughter is about to be here… he just looked at me, at 2:10 I hear my front door open and my mom say WHERE THE HELL IS EVERYONE!? And she came back into our room I looked at my husband and just pushed, at exactly 2:11 I yelled out SHE’S COMING IT’S BURNING and at 2:12 our beautiful daughter Araceli was born, she was VERY upclose blue facepurple and had her cord wrapped around her neck, the plan was for my HUSBAND to catch her but our student midwife (being her first home-birth panicked and grabbed her to unwrap the cord) the cord was NOT tight but it still frightened her… She was given directly to my husband (the look on his face is udder amazement & awe) *10
dad holds baby
He had held her akwardly in amazment for a few moments and she was then placed on my chest where the 3 of us just snuggled and cuddled. newborn head plus dadbaby rests moms breastWe layed there for a good 20 mins until we clamped the cord and my husband cut it. natural breastfeedingThe midwifes layed her back on my chest so she could snuggle some more and try to breast feed (she did with success) I then delivered a beautiful placenta *11placenta that we ooohhh’d and awwwwee’d at (it is NOT as gross as people think!) by then it was about 3pm and my kiddos were getting home from school!! (way to go to school and come home to a new sister!!!!) and after about an hour with new sibling meetings, nanny meetings, people dropping in the midwives weighed her, checked her over etc… she came in at (you guessed it) 8 lbs 6 ozs and was perfect! She was born at 39 weeks 3 days (and was ASSESSED AT OVER 40 WEEKS!! LOOKS LIKE I WAS RIGHT ALL ALONG!)

 This was my 2nd home-birth (my husbands first) and my 6th baby! It was AMAZING!!! It was so calm, relaxed, serene and wonderful! There is NOTHING like giving birth and laying in your own bed afterwards to bond, snuggle and get to meet your new little one!!!!!! ❤upclose newborn nurse
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1. Ultrasound is often incorrect at properly assessing gestation. Women seem to have the most luck when going by their own cycles and known conception dates. Health care professionals frequently disregard the woman’s knowledge and wisdom, however, in favor of the flawed ultrasound technique.
2. Remember, cervical checks don’t tell us a whole lot. Some women don’t dilate all the way to 10, others dilate well beyond 10 when they are finally ready to have their baby. If a woman is feeling tense or nervous about progress being graded, this can affect dilation negatively. Also, it provides a new opportunity to introduce bacteria into the vagina (and the womb!). For most situations, it’s simply better to pay attention to other cues when trying to assess the closeness or progress of labor.
3. Membrane sweeps are uncomfortable, often causing cramping and spotting. They are not proven to really “start” labor, either. They are another way of introducing bacteria into the vagina and womb, though.
4. Having people at the birth– especially strangers– can cause issues. Your logical mind may be for it, but your primal birth mind desires to protect you and will sometimes try to shut down or stall the birthing process. This can cause pain and tension in labor, and causes a variety of  complications. Medical professionals, including students, and photographers can inadvertently disturb births.
5. The 8 lbs. range is a really normal, average, healthy birth weight. The average birth weight for a “full term” (37-40 weeks, and EDD determined often incorrectly by professionals) baby is about 7 lbs. 3 oz. It is not uncommon for women allowing themselves to gestate longer (true natural being 41-42 honest weeks) and having a natural homebirth to have 8, 9, 10 pound babies. It also doesn’t determine how painful the birth will be or how hard pushing will be. Head circumference (and not weight of the baby) determines how much of a stretch mom has to make during delivery. Even then, true physiological childbirth where a mother is allowed to follow her instincts yields far fewer injuries. Women have birthed 11 pound/big-head babies unassisted with no tears, for example.
6. The bag doesn’t always break on its own! Those babies are born in the caul (when undisturbed).
7. Breaking the bag during labor will not be necessary. It has become routine for a lot of health care professionals. I would suggest that, unless you have a strong urge or instinct to do so yourself, that you leave the bag of water alone.
8. Cervical lips aren’t really problematic, and pushing on one (only if the mother feels the urge to push) is not dangerous. Manually adjusting the cervix can add pain and complication to the birth. Let the mother move instinctively and she will get in whatever position is needed to resolve many issues, if required. Birth is a dance between mother and baby.
9. The hormones flowing in the room and the tunnel vision of labor-land woman creates an intense bonding opportunity and chemical exchange with whomever is the trusted individual in the room/tending to the woman.
10. The student midwife obviously meant well. I would praise her for her quick-thinking and showing initiative. However, this was not an emergency, and she kept the dad from being able to have his moment.
11. The placenta appears to be being pulled out in the picture– ouch! Manual traction (pulling on the cord) to expel the placenta is typically not a good idea and can lead to postpartum hemorrhage. It can be uncomfortable, too. Letting the mom have a physiologic third stage is ideal to prevent trauma. For some women, their placenta is not birthed til hours later.







How Prevalent is Childbirth Trauma?

13 05 2013

Trauma in childbirth doesn’t necessarily have to be felt psychologically. It can be something the body experiences physically. When it’s classified as “normal”, it is not accepted as “trauma”, but it still is. This is how someone could feel totally satisfied mentally about their birth, but still undergo a level of trauma.

Obviously, the reverse is true too. You could feel trauma on a psychological or other level, even though it may not be apparent physically to some.

Now, because the brain and body work closely together (wink), where there is one type of trauma, there is often the other. If your body feels traumatized on a level you are not conscious of, you may still feel unexplainable psychological effects. When you confuse the body, the brain may follow. And vice versa.

The mammalian needs in labor/birth to have a true safe, physiological experience (as described by people such as Michel Odent) requires an undisturbed birth that honors darkness, silence, warmth, and (relative) solitude (or non-observation/interference).  Human beings are mammals, but we tend to give other animals more respect in birth than we give to ourselves and each other.

Plenty of women who have become mothers have unresolved issues or feel a level of imbalance and cannot trace the source. Trauma in childbirth is one reasonable leap regarding most. Most human beings have a plethora of “issues”, but childbirth and the ramifications of being traumatized during or as a result of is a colossal one– unmatched and practically universal amongst modern mothers. Not only can manifestations from trauma be traced to this one life-altering experience, but we also use motherhood as a way of identifying and defining ourselves. All of these provide for the perfect opportunity and cocktail for depression, emotional breakdown, mommy wars (reasons why women can’t just understand each other and be friends, constant comparison and cattiness), etc. If we felt no level of violence or trauma, and if we felt psychologically sound (in terms of being at peace with our choices, less defensiveness), we wouldn’t feel so threatened by others and so much of a need to fight against people who choose (non-abusive) different birth or parenting paths. Secure, well people do not fly off the handle in order to compete or attack with no provocation. Those who suffer from this would do well to receive assistance and support for healthy management of whatever issues or imbalances lie beneath the surface.

And this is just surmised through the observation of people who can articulate their thoughts. This says nothing for what the babies of traumatic birth feel and carry with them. Their first moments have lasting physical and psychological impacts, it would be logical to assume. Of course sometimes it manifests in an obvious physical way, but even more often it does not.

Looking around at the landscape in the parenting in birth worlds, I can answer my own question– it’s pretty damn prevalent. Looking around at the decay of society, which is the result in part to disconnect between women and children, overwhelming depression, economic and educational lapses, unwanted pregnancies, etc. … is it any wonder we see craziness everywhere we look? Healing the world is awfully hard when we’ve done all that we can to disrupt the natural hormonal and physiological beginnings of almost every new life entering this world.

Modern life and modern conveniences are not foolproof. We’ve made a trade-off when we’ve attempted to mechanize birth in lieu of comprehending birth mechanics.

There’s a reason for the phrase “peace on Earth begins with birth”. I take it quite literally. Helping others to understand it from this angle is my little part in trying to illuminate a pathway to more healing on this planet.