Modern Medicine Vs. Superstitious Savages

10 09 2016
People get so mad when you talk about traditional healing or medicine, natural remedies, or things that aren’t modern Western medicine sometimes. Why? How do you think modern medicine got some of *its* healing properties? Some people seem to think those old methods don’t work, and that’s the reason we have modern medicine… that it was a necessary improvement. Hallelujah, “science”.
(Which this philosophy, btw, has a firm basis in white patriarchal empire– to act like other more “primitive” methods are inferior, that wise women are a threat to be gotten rid of… and to steamroll these, using both damning ideology and resource theft, plus rape and slaughter, erasing the cultures and the old ways into oblivion…)

They think these old medicinal methods are only silly myths which are a fad, despite the fact that some have been used for thousands of years. Modern medicine, on the other cigarette-ads-asthma-cigarettes-stanford1hand, has kept methods for decades at best. And it keeps changing, seemingly coming in and out of style, with new and improved “evidence”. Depression drugs that lead to suicide, surgical cures for being in the “wrong body”, female Viagra, restless leg syndrome, institutional lobotomies for various forms of “hysteria”, leeching, twilight sleep. Two-thirds of OB/GYN guidelines are not based on scientific evidence but on outdated medical *beliefs* held by doctors, and the CDC shreds documents if they come to inconvenient conclusions about what a vaccine is doing to children. Especially brown children, like the MMR, or females, like the HPV vaccine. Doctors used to recommend smoking. Define fad again?

Lack of effectiveness of time-honored remedies was never the issue. These newer methods weren’t devised on the basis that none of the others worked… Manufacturers know they work– they incorporate some of their properties (either synthesized or natural) in their products. These methods were really devised for purposes of mass production of medicines. For industry. For convenience. Because there was $$$ to be made in convenience. And sure they’re full of other synthetics and cause side effects that more natural cures do not, but quit being so sore about it. Lighten up, baby. Get with the times.

Just like a controlling, insecure, power-hungry man to say to a woman (an indigenous woman, a wise woman, Mother Earth, or Mother Nature)– “whatever you can do, I can do better!” He then takes credit for her work even though his special touches fuck it all up. Obstetrics is a glaring example of this. This is the ultimate in institutional level mansplaining and whitesplaining, dominion over our very bodies and well-being…. and how disconcerting that it is not seen as such by more feminists and other activists. The industrialization of the natural world gave us some conveniences but isn’t necessarily an improvement.

Think about it– if one single herb could cure and treat a host of ailments effectively, you can’t put a patent on that. You can’t sell it to people if people can grow it themselves. (Well, you can try, like Monsanto, and they are doing their best to own everything under the sun and stop you from utilizing it independently, just like how Nestle wants to privatize water while undermining African breastfeeding by providing them with formula– which requires water, in places they know has… contaminated water. And maybe one day we’ll have to pay to breathe air.) You can’t have a monopoly on the cure if a well known natural cure exists.
You *have* to indoctrinate the public into a belief that your way is the only real or proven way, that everything else is “witchcraft” (hello again, misogyny), that people not on board 105-a_suspected_witch_before_the_tribunal_of_the_inquisitionare primitive “savages” (white supremacy and imperialism), and it’s surprisingly easy to do when people are so obsessed with manmade achievements and futuristic living. It feeds the human ego and arrogance, our desire to be godlike and immortal and transcend anything animalistic about ourselves, and it reaffirms the modern industrial lifestyles we’ve been able to assume of laziness, consumerism, leisure, and instant gratification. So it promises us we can be indulgent and we’re superior, and nice and safe and protected too, basically. It promises comfort and no thought.


But in many ways we’re sicker than we’ve ever been. There is a price to pay for that trade off, and for trusting people over nature. For putting the power of our lives in the hands of strangers with careless motives, rather than being strong and knowledgeable within and for ourselves. Maybe if we can resume taking responsibility for our thoughts and our bodies, we could truly grow and evolve as whole beings. Maybe then we’d be strong and healthy of mind and body enough to protect one another. I bet we’d finally find peace there. The question is if we are willing.

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


The Wolf Connection

15 12 2013

Wolves are interesting animals. I am serendipitously finding many connections with them during this pregnancy.

Wolves are among some of the only mammals who are monogamous. They also are extraordinarily skilled at communicating through facial expressions (compared with other animals).

In ancient Rome, childless women would attend the festival of Lupercalia (lupe = wolf) in the hopes of achieving fertility. Women would also go to be whipped during the feast, partly on the promise that childbirth pain would be eased.

On a personal note, my expected arrival comes at the time this festival would happen (mid-February). I also discovered that my baby is due on the full moon.

In the Middle Ages in Europe, wolf-derived ingredients were used to try to ease pain in childbirth.

Before any of this knowledge or this dream, we decided on a name for our baby that has a wolf meaning. I also now come to the realization that that had been my second werewolf dream (that I can recall) in this pregnancy. One earlier I had was very cinematic in which I was somebody else (a man), fighting werewolves, I had made some mistakes and had cowardly let some of my friends get killed, and seemed to maybe become a werewolf by the end of the dream. I was happy, redeemed, and the “bad guys” were gone.

Now, just for fun, What if Women Gave Birth Like Wolves?

  • “A healthy woman is much like a wolf: robust, chock-full, strong life force, life-giving, territorially aware, inventive, loyal, roving.”  – Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Women Who Run With The Wolves
  • “Like in childbirth,” Megan said. “Women can give birth in fear or they can give birth free like wolves.”
  • Pregnant women will begin to remember their relationship with the wild feminine, which has been totally neglected and outlawed by culturally acceptable ways of giving birth, and no longer understood. Pregnant women may have forgotten this calling, but in their bones they know it. The wolf archetype is ultimately the track they want to follow to give birth.

And, Wolves by Strangers, “The Miracle”

  • When you really stop to think about it, the very notion that two individual beings can come together and create a new life that is wholly separate and independent from either of them is truly beyond words. I would not trade my place as a male, but I sometimes jealously wonder what it must feel like to experience the creative and selfless power that resides in giving life to another through birth.
  • I do think that if we value the process of our procreation and view it in a similar light to that of animals, we may learn to have a deeper love and respect for the creatures that we share our planet with.
  • I know that there is no bond that truly compares to that of a human mother and child… but to consider the wolf mother… to know that she as well has held her young ones in her belly… to realize that she as well would die for her young… would kill for them… would do anything to protect them… surely this counts for something.
  • >UPDATE: We gave birth in late February, unexpectedly to a girl. 🙂 She did not receive a wolf name. Here is the birth necklace from myself and friends. 100_7764

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.

A Perfect Birth! Freebirth After Previous Induction & Epidural (Guest Post: Birth Story)

6 12 2013

The following is a guest post from a first-time UC-er (unassisted childbirth). She has had one previous birth, with medical assistance (epidural and induction). She was joined by her supportive husband and older daughter. Names* have been changed.

Sorry for lack of times in the story. it was all too quick for me to check the clock. The whole thing was only 3 hours.

I woke up around 4:30 am Saturday morning having some stomach pain. This was not an unusual occurrence as I have been waking up in the middle of the night like that for weeks. Usually once I emptied my bladder I felt better. My husband heard me get up and asked if I was ok. I said I don’t know. He said are you in labor? I said if I am then this won’t take long because there wasn’t much breaks between the pain at all.

I went to the bathroom and closed myself up in their alone. I was trying to figure out if I was in labor or what was going on. I felt like I had a stomach virus, I was on the toilet with diarrhea 3 or 4 times. The pains didn’t come in measurable waves at that moment. My husband says he knew I was in labor lol. So I started to try and clean up the bathroom a bit. If it was labor I wanted to be able to birth in a clean bathroom lol. So I threw a load of laundry in, cleaned the toilet and lastly cleaned the bathtub. All this was quite difficult to do because i had to stop and breath through the contractions. The contractions were now coming in definite waves and there wasn’t much time in between. It went too quick to actually time it. I would say maybe two min a part. I filled the bathtub. My husband kept checking on me and I said I was fine.

I asked him to bring the laptop in and put on a CD my friend Rowan* gave me at my Blessingway. I had previously listened to it about a week prior and I liked the sound. It was beautiful and meditative. He put the music on for me, and lit some candles. He only came in the bathroom and spoke to me between contractions. I liked that he gave me my space. I didn’t need him there I could get in the zone better by myself and he picked up on that. He told me to call him if I need him.

He said he was going to run up to 711 and buy eggs and bacon, lol. Him and Sloan* were hungry, haha. She woke up and was very excited. I asked him to buy me two coconut waters when he came back I was in the bathtub laboring. He brought in my drink.

The contractions were intense, but in my head I never referred to them as “pain” and I never let fear creep into my zone. I just listened to my body and moved around with whatever position felt natural. I was mostly hands and knees. At the point that I got in the bathtub is when I switched from concentrated breathing through the contractions ( which is what I did though out the bathroom cleaning and prepping ) at that point I started moaning through. I honestly didn’t think I would moan like that but it really did help. I remember other friends telling me to try and keep the moaning at a low octave , so I did …

My back started hurting so I drained some of the water and turned the shower on instead to let the water run down my back: it felt nice. But standing was so intense. I just told myself the gravity would help and to just do it. Once it became too much to continue standing I let the bathtub fill up again and got back down. I have a standard tub so it was small but the water still felt good. The water started to get cold so I hopped out of the tub it was hard to move from place to place.

I asked Tony* to get me the birthing ball. I leaned on that for a bit, I was on my knees leaning over the ball. I rocked back and forth moaning. The rocking was good. All I can say is contractions were intense and yes I guess painful, but I kept thinking back to my induction, where there was no break in between the pain, there was no peak, it just felt like my body was being torn in half. So compared to that this was nice. Yes i got the epidural eventually but I still remember being confined to the bed and the machines and the pain. I liked how I could tell that the peak was reached and the sensations started to decrease from there. The breaks in between even tho short were heaven and made it bearable.

At this point I told Tony to get the bed ready. So he made the bed. Protecting underneath with plastic. Sloan helped move my drinks in there, I would have to haul ass to the bedroom. My house is tiny but there was so little time in between contractions. So once one was done, I got up and went to the bed. My lovely husband had more candles lit the bedroom cleaned up and ready and my music. I got up on my bed, hands and knees and this is where it got bad. I think transition. My back hurt a lot so Tony massaged it for a while, he also put massage oil and peppermint oil on it. This felt good during contractions. Sloan fetched the heating pad and we used that on my back too. Sloanie was so much help she got towels and stuff too. I started to whimper and whine and drop a few f bombs. And then apologized. Tony laughed.

I was talking to myself and told myself to get it together. Tried to keep deep growling moans, thought that was better then me starting to Cry. I begged my body for a break, because I wasn’t getting much of a break any longer. Tony ran and got the large pads we got to lay under me. I told him I didn’t know if I should push or what. I was afraid of pushing too soon because I know that can cause a cervical lip, but Tony said I think your pretty close babe, try to push. I still didn’t quite feel an urge, but it hurt so bad that I didn’t know what else to do. At this point I started saying “it hurts, it hurts” LoL. ” I’m crazy for wanting to do this!” Then I just started pushing. And then my water my broke. That was kinda my confirmation of like ok it’s time. So I began pushing and holy hell it hurt. I was definitely screaming.

I knew I had to push harder but I knew I was going to poop lol. Tony was like its ok, he had those pads under me, he was very encouraging, and told me I was doing great and to go ahead and push. I would say a few pushes and she was down there. I started to feel the ring of fire. And Tony and Sloan screamed they could see her head. I was like yeah, I know!!!! Haha. I was scared to push her out it hurt so bad. So she went back in a little, and then I pushed a little , I did this a few times. I told myself that it was good to do it that way anyways I wouldn’t tear. Finally I got the balls to push her head out.

Tony didn’t see a cord. I had to wait for the next wave to come because it felt I was going to need to really try to get the body out. So I waited for a wave, took a deep breath and pushed with all my might and the rest of her body came out. Tony picked her up and handed me her through my legs, he said its a girl!!

She was perfectly pink , let out a cry and starting breathing right away, so I was not worried. We just were looking at her and admiring her in front of us.

Tony asked about the placenta and I said I wanted to try right away, I gave a good push and out it came. Inspected. Looked whole. Sloanie got warm towels from dryer, Tony sterilized the scissors and string. When the cord was done pulsing , we tied and I cut. I tried to breastfeed right away but she wouldn’t, so I went to go clean myself up. I didn’t bleed a lot on the bed. But into the bathroom, throughout my shower and after I kept bleeding, thin red blood.

I was starting to worry even tho I didn’t feel faint or weird, I took two doses of anti hemorrhage tincture my lovely friend Miette* made me, then I made my way back in to be with my girl. Tony cleaned up the mess real quick as I gazed at our little girl. Beata Fayruz Fikru* was born at 7:20 am. Unfortunately the scale I got keeps giving me different readings but she averaged 9 lbs. still haven’t bothered to measure her length lol.

It was literally a perfect birth, exactly how I imagined it. Tony worked perfectly together with me. I was so worried that I should have him do more reading or tell him how to be there for me but ultimately I knew that we knew each other well enough, I knew he would be great. I love him so much. He never doubted me or had any fear from the moment I mentioned unassisted. His faith in me carries me through always


To learn more about the following subjects that were involved in this birth story, please see the following links! -Elizabeth

Pushing and Knowing When/If/How to Push

Pushing For First Time Moms, by Gloria Lemay, Midwife Thinking
Birth is better left alone and pushing should be at the mother’s cues.

Don’t Push the River, It Flows by Itself, by Laura Shanley (an excerpt from her classic book Unassisted Childbirth), Peaceful Parenting
It is more a matter of “allowing” it to happen rather than “making” it happen.

Pushing: leave it to the experts, Midwife Thinking
A birthing woman is the expert regarding when and how she pushes.

Cervical Lips (Pushing With/Against)

Pushing: leave it to the experts, Midwife Thinking
The most common reason for telling a women not to push is that her cervix is not fully dilated.

The Anterior Cervical Lip: how to ruin a perfectly good birth, Midwife Thinking
Telling women to push or not to push is cultural, it is not based on physiology or research… It does not require management and is best left undetected.”

What You Don’t Know About Your Cervix Can Ruin Your Birth, Birthologie
Not everyone dilates to 10 cm when their body is ready to expel the baby, and you dilate in an ellipse, not a circle.

At some point in labour almost every woman will have an anterior lip (meaning the top of the cervix isn’t completely dilated) because this is the last part of the cervix to be pulled up over the baby’s head.”

I Call For a Return to Primal Birth Wisdom

22 10 2013
from La Razón

from La Razón

Woman in Mexico gives birth on the lawn of the hospital after they refused to admit her while in labor, telling her to come back tomorrow. Irma Lopez was obviously planning a hospital birth, and so understandably was fearful of this unplanned UC. NOT the ideal, at all.

“I didn’t want to deliver like this. It was so ugly and with so much pain,” Lopez told the Associated Press.

Apparently this is an example of the treatment indigenous people in her area are accustomed to. A lot of them are “forced to give birth at home”… wouldn’t it be great if we could help them give birth at home, wean them from a system that mistreats them and which they don’t need? Wouldn’t it be great if we could reconnect them to primal, natural birth so they could actually deliver with less pain and more joy? And there’s an excellent chance we could help them have better success and health in childbirth in terms of outcome, too.

In America, there is a similar problem with the indigenous and minorities receiving less than stellar hospital treatment, having higher maternal/infant mortality and morbidity rates than those in the majority, etc. The assumed connection is that their lives are treated with less value. They are not taken as seriously. It could be argued that their quality of life during pregnancy suffers when compared to the majority, which contributes to poorer birth outcomes, and this also may play some part. Either way, it becomes a racial/cultural/socioeconomic issue that we need to address. This is where birth being an issue of feminism, human rights, and racism all coincide.

Can we foster autonomy for women in childbirth which is rooted in the return to traditional wisdom? Can we re-emphasize the solemnity of birth and honoring your inner wisdom and instinct? Do we do this merely by trying to spread the word?

If so, let’s try.

At the very least, if every woman (regardless of background) were prepared for an unassisted birth (even just in the event that help is not available), she could do so in a much more calm and less feared way than this poor woman endured.

Here, print this book out. It’s a great start.

The following are excerpts from Red Medicine: Traditional Indigenous Rites of Birthing and Healing, by Patrisia Gonzales (which can be purchased here, courtesy of The University of Arizona).

This Indigenous woman’s declaration of the sacred act of birth as a ceremony led me into a terrain of practices, of forms and symbols surrounding birthing squats, of umbilical cords, placentas, and trees of life as I looked for further expressions of this ceremonial knowledge.

During ceremony, we must rely on something beyond our cognizant powers and allow spiritual matter to appear, produce, recede, return.

As I helped Native women birth at home or in hospitals and clinics, the reminders that birth in North America has become increasingly medicalized would present themselves in phone calls. A Native woman would want help to prevent a threatened induction because Western time measurements that dictate clinical protocols asserted that she was overdue…

In the 1970s, US women challenged the medical model of pregnancy and childbirth as they sought to reinstate lay midwifery and traditional midwifery care, which had been banned or made illegal in numerous states from the 1940s onward. Indigenous communities especially experienced a loss of communal ownership and a loss of individual sovereignty for women and families as births moved from home to clinics and hospitals. The ceremonial knowledge surrounding birth became restricted by clinical settings and protocols. And yet, as I would explain my research to Indigenous elders and ceremonial leaders, they would nod quite matterof- factly that “birth is a ceremony”-as if it were so obvious it did not need to be stated.

I have interviewed hundreds of elders from across the Americas regarding Indigenous knowledge, establishing a narrative record of ancestral memories. Beyond the medicine of words, I also began to learn and follow medicinal teachings, exposed again to the teachings of numerous elders.

These birthing narratives demonstrate an Indigenous understanding of birth as a process that is larger than delivery of a baby.

These symbols reveal how pre-Columbian peoples associated sacred powers with birth, particularly feminine powers. These powers continue to be called upon.

“For Gonzales, a central guiding force in Red Medicine is the principal of regeneration as it is manifested in Spiderwoman. Dating to Pre-Columbian times, the Mesoamerican Weaver/Spiderwoman—the guardian of birth, medicine, and purification rites such as the Nahua sweat bath—exemplifies the interconnected process of rebalancing that transpires throughout life in mental, spiritual and physical manifestations. Gonzales also explains how dreaming is a form of diagnosing in traditional Indigenous medicine and how Indigenous concepts of the body provide insight into healing various kinds of trauma.

Gonzales links pre-Columbian thought to contemporary healing practices by examining ancient symbols and their relation to current curative knowledges among Indigenous peoples. Red Medicine suggests that Indigenous healing systems can usefully point contemporary people back to ancestral teachings and help them reconnect to the dynamics of the natural world. ”

The Himba, Namibia, & the Birth Song

22 04 2013

Alicia recently shared a link with me about an African “birth song”. She thought I might enjoy it since I talked about having dreamt all my children. I really loved it and shared the link on my page. An excerpt from the story goes:

[T]here is a tribe in Africa where the birth date of a child is counted not from when they were born, nor from when they are conceived but from the day that the child was a thought in its mother’s mind. And when a woman decides that she will have a child, she goes off and sits under a tree, by herself, and she listens until she can hear the song of the child that wants to come. And after she’s heard the song of this child, she comes back to the man who will be the child’s father, and teaches it to him. And then, when they make love to physically conceive the child, some of that time they sing the song of the child, as a way to invite it.

Kristyn pointed out that some of these stories that get passed around aren’t authentic, even though this one in particular was very nice. I decided to look into it a little more and here’s what I found. The link is pretty much word for word of the last link, and credits the source as being from Welcoming Spirit Home: Ancient African Teachings to Celebrate Children and Community New World Library, from Sobonfu Some.

Elizabeth commented on the interesting red-brown skin color of the woman in the picture (the first one pictured in this post). It’s actually not natural, but comes from a paste applied. This is done by the Himba of Namibia.

More about their distinct appearance, in an excerpt from New African Frontiers:

The characteristic ‘look’ of the Himba comes from intricate hairstyles, traditional clothing, the use of personal adornments in the form of jewellery, as well as the use of a mixture of red ochre, butter and resin from the Omuzumba shrub. This paste is known as ‘otjize’ used as protection against the weather and a skin lotion. It is rubbed on the skin, into hair and onto traditional clothing.

And more from that site, this time about birth:

When a woman is ready to give birth, she will be accompanied by a group of women outside the homestead. They will assist her during her labour. Immediately after the child is born, the women return to the homestead. The mother and child then spend a week at a special shelter built to the side of the headman’s hut, near the sacred fire, under special protection of the ancestral spirits. After the week has passed, the child is brought to the sacred fire and introduced to the spirits of the ancestors by the headman. The child is given names from the patrilineal and matrilineal lines, ensuring that the origins of the child are known.

Were the people of Namibia the same people with the “birth song”? The retellings of the story are so ambiguous with their whole “somewhere in Africa” lore.

This blogger reports of hearing the same sort of story told, and yes, specifically about the Himba people of Namibia. One of her links goes back to this post, which says the tale comes from the Ubuntu tribe while showing a picture of a Himba woman. Yet, Ubuntu is a philosophy, not a tribe (as far as I know). The ultimate source here is quoted as being from Tolba Phanem, African poet. I can’t find anything else about this poet, except for this story being circulated. An excerpt of the blogger’s retelling goes:

When a woman of the Himba African tribe knows she is pregnant, she goes to the jungle with other women, and together they pray and meditate until they find The Song of the Child. When a child is born, the community gets together and they sing the child’s song. When the child begins it’s education, people get together and the child sings their own song. When they become an adult, the community gets together again to sing it. When it comes to your wedding, you hear your song. Finally, when their soul is going from this world, family and friends are approaching and, like at their birth, sing their song to accompany it in the journey.

I’m still not sure about the Birth Song story, but it’s going around a lot, and is often credited to the Himba (when it even specifies). It might be accurate.

Buy Elizabeth McKeown’s radical book about her birth journeys, In Search of the Perfect Birth, on Kindle or with Amazon in paperback.

Make Memories & Make it Count

13 03 2013

As I approach the two year anniversary of my UC, thoughts turn to the future child we intend to have.

Parents of multiple children– have you ever felt like you really wanted to make sure you were making the most out of these times in your life, before they pass you by?

We have three children already, and we will probably have one more. And you know, it’s funny… looking back on three different pregnancies and three different births, even three different parenting experiences– all really different and unique in their own ways– we have experienced so much diversity in the way things have gone. And I’m so grateful for that! The richness of experience gives me the understanding of a little bit of everything. It helps me know what works best for me, and in a way, truly live.

So, here is a list of things I’ve never done that I’m wondering whether they’d be worth it to experience next time, since this will be possibly my last chance. Some of them I’m almost sure to do, and others are really iffy, but worth considering.

  1. Not take a pregnancy test (just know naturally that I am growing a baby inside me).
  2. Have an unassisted pregnancy (none of the unnecessary prodding or testing, except probably a mid-pregnancy ultrasound to watch for any conditions which may require medical intervention). Just have a stress-free pregnancy where I look after myself and enjoy the ride.
  3. Not announce my pregnancy to anyone. Just let people discover when I’ve got a baby.
  4. Take pregnancy announcement photos with a professional photographer.
  5. Get my pregnant belly painted, and/or get henna.
  6. Not have any kind of shower or blessing; maybe have a celebration party instead (before or after birth)
  7. Get people to donate frozen meals for after birth instead of making a registry or wish list for me and baby.
  8. Finally baby-wear!

    found at Healthy Mama Info

    I’d really like to try an Ergo Baby Carrier.

  9. Get Hypnobabies and see if it really works to eliminate pain in labor.
  10. Join a due date club.
  11. Blog through my whole pregnancy and birth, and open up, be myself and more personal. Let the readers/fans take the journey with me.
  12. Form a special due date club just for people “due” around the same time I am, for readers/followers of ISOTPB. Give presents, exchange birth beads for birth necklaces, etc.
  13. Be much more physically active during pregnancy.
  14. Really not find out the sex this time (and not accidentally observe it during ultrasound).
  15. Be open with most people about my intentions to birth unassisted before it actually happens.
  16. Not set up a crib this time around. Last time we hardly used it.
  17. Share my pregnancy journey with private birth support groups that I trust.
  18. Get adorable newborn photos with a professional photographer. You know, the kind with props and owl hats, that look like they belong in magazines.
  19. Announce my pregnancy right away, to everyone.
  20. Let everyone in on the name right away (rather than keeping it a secret until birth).
  21. Give everyone a fake baby name the whole pregnancy. >:)

Those are just a few of the things off the top of my head that I have thought about. But here’s the thing– when you’ve had a few kids, and you know that time in your life could be drawing to a close, you have to make it count. These are the memories we will look back on when we’re old with so much fondness, and I want to make sure that I’ve done everything that I really want to do in these departments before that chapter closes.

This is an exciting and thoughtful time, full of possibility and planning.  🙂

Responsibility in Birth: What it Does & Doesn’t Mean

28 09 2012

“I’m taking responsibility for my body and birth now.”

So, you’re having a home birth or a UC (unassisted childbirth, freebirth). You’ve said adios to the medical model and the conventional hospital birth via OB.

“I take full responsibility now.” Has that sentiment been misunderstood? What does and doesn’t it mean? While I can’t speak for everyone, I know that in speaking for myself I will be echoing the voices of many.

It does mean:

  • I’m done letting other people make choices about my body or baby to our detriment.
  • I see the fallacy in mainstream literature which has been filtered and misinforming.
  • I know that Science and Medicine do not always align.
  • I know that doctors are not always right.
  • I, therefore, see the need to educate myself on a point of view contrary to those who may be incorrect.
  • I will recognize that no one cares about me and my baby like I do.
  • I understand that even doctors/midwives with hearts of gold and my best interests at heart are capable of being misinformed or indoctrinated into systems which lie.
  • I know that I contain in me maternal wisdom that cannot be learned by professionals while in college or in practice, and I honor that.
  • I will listen to my intuition in pregnancy and birth; if something doesn’t sit right with me and I ignore it, I know that only I could be responsible for the outcome.
  • I admit the illusory nature of being “under someone’s care”. By giving over my body and health to another individual, however well-trained or well-meaning, I mistakenly believed to have opted out of learning how to manage my own health and have taken a child’s role in my own health. I am not an infant and childbirth doesn’t have to be a surgical procedure, so I will take care of myself.
  • I fully accept the reality that I am the true authority over my life. I am truly the first and sole protector of my baby, as we are connected in a way that can only be felt personally to be best understood. I can no longer deny that I am in the driver’s seat and pass the buck to someone else, who may make the wrong move.
  • I trust myself. I am in tune with my body and intuition, and baby.
  • I recognize that others do sometimes make the wrong moves, and that a lot of that time, they are just doing their best. It is not always their fault, but I reject their best.
  • I accept my best instead.

It doesn’t mean:

  • I’m fully aware of the fact that I’m risking my baby’s life and that if they die, it was all because of me.
  • If the tragic occurs, it is automatically my fault, even if the tragedy were unavoidable.
  • There is no such thing as unavoidable tragedies.
  • All baby or mother deaths or injuries were “meant to be”.
  • I will be at liberty to blame everyone else for whatever happens, immediately revoking my own authority upon bad outcome.
  • Everything magical is automatically promised to me.
  • God loves me so much and my trust in “Him” is so great, that my baby and I would never die in birth.
  • I’m just going to listen to and surround myself with certain people and get sucked in by everything they say, and take their words for everything.
  • I’m not going to prepare in any way, mentally, physically, or educationally. I’m just going to leave it all up to God and accept whatever outcome “He” provides.
  • Medicine and C-sections are never necessary in birth, and I will avoid them at all costs.
  • I have no idea how birth works, natural birth just sounds really cool.
  • I have no emergency plans in place. That’s how I roll.
  • All’s well that ends well!

Being responsible means that you open up your eyes and you take in the various truths from whatever direction. They aren’t always nice or convenient, and sometimes they rock and shake your world views. Being a mature and evolving adult means having to accept that, and adapt.

If you cannot accept your role in a bad outcome when you made choices that had an obvious negative affect on your birth, that is not responsibility. If you were not totally helpless and you knew something was wrong, you had the responsibility to act on it. If you were just ignorant as to what to do, it is your responsibility to rectify that so that it doesn’t happen again.

If you can understand that this universe is a mysterious place and that life is sometimes full of senseless suffering of which sometimes truly no one is to blame, you may not only have responsibility for yourself, you may also possess tremendous grace. Not every tragedy is explainable.

I’m known for recommending homebirth and UC to any and everyone, but it comes with a catch:  first, you must be balanced. Everyone can prepare, and UC or homebirth can be for almost everyone. However, if you go into it without the appropriate intellectual or spiritual fortitude, it could be a recipe for disaster. If one is psychologically unwell or ill-prepared beforehand, and doesn’t have their ideas of what their responsibilities truly are firmly in place, the hospital may actually be their best bet. You’ll still be responsible for choosing the means, but trusting another may be more suitable for your state.

The good news:  you don’t have to start there. You don’t have to accept that. A severely out of shape person may be unfit to run a marathon today, but with training and in the right time, they become able. Get right in the head if your heart is set on homebirth. Meditate, read, learn, grow, and you’ll be ready to understand what your responsibilities are and embrace them happily.

What Will You Take Away From Your Lessons In Birth?

26 07 2012

Everything that we are and have been through… the culmination of our experiences, our education, our choices, our good and bad luck, our destiny, and yes, even our intuition… what has it taught us? Do we understand it and direct the flow ourselves, or are we tossed back and forth in choppy seas, like clueless pieces of debris?

I had a dream last night.

I was pregnant again with Eve. Eve is 8 right now. In the dream she was a baby again just for the sake of being pregnant with her, as if she had to be inside of me temporarily to be protected. I was in a hospital room holding baby Eve, giving her a pacifier– something I’ve never done with any of my kids– but

these circumstances were different. I just needed to keep her happy for a moment. I had no fear of dependence or long term effects or how pacifiers are just ways to get babies to shut up without feeding them, because this wasn’t going to impact anything for the future. And then suddenly she was in my belly and I was 9 months pregnant.

That very day, I knew, I was scheduled to have a C-section. When it was just me and my husband in the room, I started to cut into my abdomen myself, but I stopped when I realized she wasn’t ready yet. I left just shallow, non-bleeding wounds. Totally unrealistic, just dream-stuff.


My husband and kids were there, and even my parents and maybe my sister, which was weird. It was a large hospital suite for birth with plenty of room, and an attached bathroom. Staff would occasionally come in and out. It was a sunny day and light was coming in from the windows. I went to go use the bathroom and as I closed the door, I heard a nurse come in talking about she was going to need a urine sample. I opened the door and tried to make myself available, because I just barely had to pee as it was… if she was going to get a sample from me, it was going to be now or never. When I opened the door, she was talking to my family, empty handed. I looked on a nearby tall cart for any signs of a specimen cup, but could only find a plastic cup with some water at the bottom. I picked it up questioningly, and glanced up at Dr. W. Dr. W. has been my kids pediatrician since Eve was a newborn. In this dream, I suppose he was the obstetrician. He quietly commented some words to let me know that he had no idea if the nurse intended me to pee in this cup. I was frustrated because I did have to pee and I didn’t feel like waiting on these people to get their shit together. You know how it is when you have a full term baby right on your bladder. Even a little bit of pee can sometimes feel urgent. I might have closed the door and decided to pee, anyway.

Eve at age 5

It is at this point that the thoughts start to creep in… is this what I am supposed to be doing? Yes, this situation is very different, but I was here to have a C-section? Was I sure that was the right thing to do? Was I about to submit to multiple unnecessary hospital treatments, or could I finally this time keep some control over the situation?

From in the bathroom I could hear another person enter. He was there to insert something or place something in me. I had the feeling it was like a catheter, but they were calling it something else. I exited the bathroom and faced him to hear what he was telling the others. He was irritated. It was the end of his shift or something and he wanted to do this quickly. I started to get twitchy, because this attitude was the last thing I needed right now, and I wasn’t sure I even wanted this thing. When I was in labor in the hospital with Eve (who was an induction at “41” weeks, for fear of placental deterioration) I had a catheter placed, but I had had the epidural and was close to delivery, so I didn’t care and I felt nothing. At this point in the dream, I hadn’t even had any sort of anesthesia. I’ve never had a catheter-type thing placed without it, and this guy was the last person I would want doing that– if I needed it at all.

Apparently I had been crying in the bathroom, because I realize that my face is streaked with tears, but my manner is firm. I interrupt him so as to not waste his time. I ask, “Is this thing totally necessary?”

He answers me with unexpected kindness, “No, it’s totally up to the charisma of the patient.”  Dreamspeak for “discretion“? If it’s up to charisma, I might be in trouble! 🙂

“Good,” I reply. “Is this something I can reject now?”

“Yes, just sign here,” he said as he handed me just a couple of forms. I gladly did and handed them over. I noticed I signed yesterday’s date on them. He left the room. My son Cian (who is 3) shot imaginary Spidey-webs at the man as he left, like he is prone to do in real life. I hugged my son and laughed with him and thanked him for being a good protector.

There was a feeling of a change in the air, the room was quiet, and everyone was looking at me. I sat in a chair by the window. Next to me was a man I don’t know in real life, but he felt important to me in the dream, like a guide or a father figure. My face was still wet with tears but I wasn’t crying. He said to me, “Now that was a very different Elizabeth from what we saw before.” And I nodded. There was a feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment. He said, “You’ve come a long way.”

It may sound basic, but I’ve learned and grown a lot from that 21 year old girl who gave birth the first time. Trusting, submitting to authority, naïve.

This led to a whole new realization, and I pondered it aloud to all within the hospital room– should I really be getting a C-section? I was happy they were not inducing. That I wasn’t going to allow. They were just going to go straight to a C-section. But, perhaps I was wrong!? If I let them give me a C-section, would I be missing the opportunity for getting it right? “This isn’t like the last time,” I said. “She’s already been born!

This time, I really was worried that letting labor come naturally could be too late. Would labor even come? She’d already been born. This was not like a natural pregnancy and labor. This was unnatural. I was worried that not doing the C-section might actually kill her. Or, was this my chance to finally get it right, and by doing the C-section I’d be missing it? I was pacing and saying all of this and crying, trying to figure out what to do. I sat in the hospital bed and cried and talked some more, but no one really offered their input, only listened. It was so sudden to make a choice. I hadn’t had a full 9 months to consider the significance of this and figure out what the right choice would be, and it was just suddenly thrust upon me in one day.

In the midst of my tears, my open hospital room door was approached by a large group. “Heeyyyy!” I heard a loud friend of mine who I am barely friends with in real life say as she entered with her posse. She had been acting as a nanny for a Japanese family, and for some reason this entailed her bringing in several full grown Japanese women with her. She came to me and hugged me, as if unaware I was in the middle of a personal crisis, and started making light jokes about pregnancy and birth. Hardly the time! Now the room really was full, of people close to me and strangers alike. I feel like it was a coincidence she found me here, but I totally didn’t invite her, and now she’s making herself at home. Soon after they came, I said, “Hey. This is too chaotic. I am really just looking for peace. Can we maybe move some of the people who are right behind me to somewhere over there?” I motioned towards further into the room, closer to the door. A couple of the Japanese women got up from behind me and sat over there.

I went into the bathroom. I am not sure if I really had to go or if I was just trying to get away. Over and over again this whole time, trying to find my center, I am mulling it over in my head to try to arrive at the right conclusion. What am I going to do? The bathroom doesn’t look like a private bathroom anymore, it looks like a public restroom (even if it still isn’t… it’s my private bathroom). Over at the sinks, a girl is putting on heavy make up. Was she part of my friend’s posse? She is all done up as if she is getting ready to go some place special. A friend of hers is in the room with her. I’ve had it with all these people and I need to start getting people out of here, so I decide I’m going to start with her.

“Hey, I’m about to give birth soon, and there are really just too many people here. You’re gonna have to go,” I say.

“No.” She ignores me and keeps doing her make up in the mirror. She has this really elaborate metal compact, with multiple mirrors in it and compartments for various cosmetics.

“No, seriously, get the fuck out,” I say. I’m pretty sure her friend has left by now, but this lady isn’t taking me seriously. I take the compact and throw it. Glass shatters on the floor. I immediately see the glass as a weapon, which is a threat, and I’m not going to let it get to that point. She doesn’t get to turn to confront me– I grab her by her weave and escort her out the door. Finally, a moment of peace. But then she sends a male friend in. He’s playing with a lighter. I don’t know what exactly he thinks he’s going to do, but he’s not going to win. For a moment I marvel at how weird it is, to try to hurt a pregnant woman. I have a piece of glass in my sights. Is he going to cut me? How weird, to inflict a wound on a woman who will give birth soon. It’ll be superficial, unnecessarily messy, and pretty thoughtless… as if pregnant or laboring women need any additional problems.

This part gets fuzzy and I’m not sure how it resolves, but I think I scare him into leaving. When I exit the bathroom, the room is busy with people. There are at least two long cafeteria dining tables in the room, people seated at them, and some walking around. I don’t recognize most of the people. I see an ex-boyfriend sitting at the table, looking longingly at me. I wonder if I am especially pretty to him since I am pregnant. I pretend I am looking for something under the table to avoid making eye contact with him. The room is so busy, and night is here, and I’m still feeling unsure of what I’m going to do, but surely someone will be in the room soon to begin the procedure, or try to offer some other unnecessary medical intervention that I will likely reject.

Like so many of the people who are locked in some kind of opposition with me over my beliefs, I would not dare not learn from my life lessons, lest they be in vain. When put to the test and faced with an unexpected choice, I would be a fool to relive the same pain and prove to the universe that I had been no better or wiser for it… that I hadn’t learned anything. Forced the replay the same roles, again and again. Not me.

Elizabeth and baby Eve

In waking life, had this been a real-life scenario, I might have gone with the C-section. Unnatural circumstances cannot be counted on to be worked out through natural means. Forcing a baby who has already been born to stay inside the womb could lead to death (I would imagine), and the price of that is more heavy than if I were to miss my chance at redoing the first birth right. In other words, I would gladly repeat my mistakes if it meant my child lives. Would it mean the same thing in the dream? Is that the real test– to see if I know enough to separate life’s patterns from a unique life or death choice?

The dream never concluded one way or the other.

So, what about you? Do you have dreams about previous (or future) labors that haunt you? If you had to do it all over again– literally– what choices would you make?