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





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.

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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.




Taking the Woman Out of Childbirth

16 09 2015

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For those of us who have been fighting for women’s liberation and autonomy, in and out of the maternity field, Woman is a powerful word. It’s something we fought to feel good about, as we reclaimed our bodies and our freedom. But the world is changing. Politics are changing. Before women have fully finished liberating themselves, the definition of their selves has changed. But I ask you this– how do you liberate a people who were oppressed specifically for their reproductive power  (which is what sexism is) if you cloud the language of who exactly they are trying to liberate and from what/whom?

Vagina. Uterus. Menstruation. Goddess. Women. These were our power cries. Now, we are told, they are offensive and exclusive. Well, yes, the oppression of females has been a pretty exclusive club for eons. That’s kind of the point. We weren’t oppressed when we stated we were women, nor were we left alone if we chose to state we were men. We were oppressed whether pretty or ugly, fat or thin, able or disabled, white or black, straight or lesbian. Reclaiming the goddess and being proud to be a woman and all that comes with it– including growing and nourishing a child from our own bodies, was and continues to be an uphill battle and pride movement (like all other pride movements, including black pride and gay pride). But now it’s time to throw that all away, because there’s a new sheriff in town. And it’s finally made it to the frontier of the birth world, the last place we would ever expect or hope woman-talk to be scrubbed from the pages of history.

Here is an interaction I had on a birth page on facebook that has in the past supported feminist, woman-based, radical birth autonomy.

one2    two2Now I’ll expand those replies for you.

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They said it was trans erasure while literally erasing women.

Is it time to have a literary cleansing, or maybe burn a few books? We want to make sure the populace feels nice and safe and cozy. I know how traumatic “she” and “woman” can be… !

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The birth page said the above, sorry I forgot to mark it in editing.

99.9% of the time childbirth literature does mention women and mothers, because it’s you know… sane. And for as much as many trying to be good trans activists argue that defining a woman by their genitals is wrong, we have now effectively reduced women to their parts in literature. “Uterus-haver”. “Vagina owner”.

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The above quote begins me again. ^

For the uninitiated, TERF is a word used now that is supposed to mean “Trans exclusionary radical feminist”. However, it is always applied to women who don’t feel they exclude trans people and even fight for their rights. What they don’t do is throw women or any other minorities under the bus in the process, and that’s a problem for some people. The slur is placed on people who acknowledge that biological women and trans women (or biological men and trans men, less frequently) are different groups with their own unique needs. All are oppressed under patriarchy.

Basically, people who stand up for women and don’t erase them. And this doesn’t even mention how so many TERFs are also trans people, gay, lesbian, and otherwise “queer”. TERFs are your most radical feminists. Other “feminists” are very liberal, fun, party time, choosy choice, patriarchy-catering. College professor approved postmodern manfeminism. You know, bullshit. Playboy and blow jobs for everyone.

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COGNITIVE DISSONANCE: psychological conflict resulting from incongruous beliefs and attitudes held simultaneously.

Like when you say you love women, but you actually don’t, and are complicit in making them disappear.

“My reality is not the same as other’s reality”. My reality is that women are oppressed and need to name themselves and wield the language to empower themselves. My reality says we shouldn’t take that away. Is this not reality to you? Women are used to hearing that their realities are super unique or fantasy (“imagined”), and that they have no shared interest together as a class, or that there are more important people to consider. That’s called gaslighting.

Transphobic? I’m not transphobic. I’m not afraid of trans people nor am I pro discrimination against them. I am just not for discriminating against women. If that makes me transphobic, that is repulsive. I shouldn’t have to choose between if I love women or trans people. If you are going to force my hand, I’m going to continue to prioritize women. Misogynists will hate that. But I believe we don’t have to have contests. Call me crazy, but I think we can stand up for many groups at once, without acting like one is not oppressed or one is so much more oppressed than the other.

No one is going to argue that trans people are oppressed. I care about their oppression and recognize that they are in an oppressed minority. In fact, they are very much a minority– a small sampling of the population, while females themselves make up over half the world’s population while still being oppressed!

My feminism is about female-bodied people and the fact that having a female body is the defining factor in why women have had it so hard historically. A woman until fairly recently was “an adult, female bodied human”. Now we are supposed to toss that out. Don’t even say the word. Don’t talk about genitals in relation to oppression. Huh?

That’s like saying “stop bringing race into racism”. And I know people like that, you know, the ones who “don’t see color”– they think the people who recognize racism are the real bigots.

“People are whatever they say they are”– fine with me socially (more or less), but medically? This means you might have a vagina and uterus and might be capable of giving birth, choose to use these functions of your body, live as a man at the same time… and yet be mad that the books describing this say “woman”? Was this news to you? I ask you, what is so important about rejecting a female identity, only to grow a fetus in the womb you know you have? How much more female does it get? Is “woman” such an ugly thing that pretty much THE defining quality of womanhood– the capacity to give birth— is still okay as long as you don’t call it anything “girly” like “woman”? Like they’d assume the walls of your womb, when they say (retch) “woman”, are pink and frilly? In other words, if you adhere to gender norms like pregnancy, what exactly do you find so offensive about being referred to as a “woman”? I thought you wanted to reject the norms and roles of womanhood in the first place? And if you want to be really forward or progressive in carrying and birthing a child while not having a womanly gender, shouldn’t you also be mentally sharp enough to know that you are the exception and not the rule, and all of society isn’t going to stop and change their lingo just for you? While bucking the system, are your feelings actually that fragile that the majority of human female existence offends you on a personal level? I want to know who is more triggered by the word woman than the undeniable, active reality of giving birth out of your uterus and vagina after your egg received sperm? Has anyone ever heard the sticks and stones adage? When labels are more meaningful than reality! My god. We can cope with actual, lived events– we’ll just call ’em something different! That ought to do it! There, safe and sound, no triggers. Phew! Thank god we took care of THAT!

I fully support gender nonconformity, but not fantasy as the forced reality, and not woman hate. To act as though men or males give birth too is fantasy– it can only be true on a very unique socially-designated technicality. To be opposed to the word “she” while doing what all mammal “she’s” do is woman-hate. This whole thing is an exercise in heavy denial, not inclusion.

You see, there are 2 definitions of woman. The first is the traditional one that makes sense for most of us which I mentioned before– an adult human female. The second one is mostly new and refers only to the gender role of “woman”, and not the sex. The gender role, however, is the superficial surface one created by patriarchy. It’s everything we’re supposed to be (because of our sex). The one that says looking pretty, being fragile, wearing dresses, cooking meals, and sucking dick are womanly things to do. Therefore, if you like those and the color pink too, you are a woman. (Radical feminists reject that– as if being a woman were that simplistic and offensive.)

I personally believe either woman definition is fine when it comes to how a person chooses to self-identify. I believe you can refer to grown adult female humans as women in a generalized manner and it shouldn’t hurt any feelings. (Do you know how many lesbians get referred to as “sir”? Life goes on for them as usual, and surprisingly few suicides over it.) And, also, you can refer to people who assume the societal role of woman as “women” and “she”. To me, a trans woman can easily be she, her, woman, and Sally. So what exactly is the fucking problem?

The problem is that some folks want it to be only definition 2, not the other, and your lack of submission to these new terms means you are being an offensive bigot.

Trans men and non binaries and women give birth. Mostly it is women, if woman is merely some role people do or don’t take on. If we mean woman in the biological sense it has meant throughout history, it is only women who give birth– identity politics and hurt feelings aside. And mature pregnant persons already know this.

I would never call a trans man a woman, even while they are giving birth. I would never want to disrespect them. There’s no point to it. But, I also don’t expect all of our childbirth literature to refer to social constructs (gender) instead of biological realities (sex) to appease feelings of a really minute part of the birthing population. Birth is about biology, not personality! And I don’t feel that we are leaving trans people out when we say women give birth any more than we leave out amputees when we admit that human beings are bipedal.

MANA, Midwives Alliance of North America, started replacing their language, erasing woman and she for pregnant persons. But any organizations under the thumb of The Man, Medicine Inc., as they are– can kiss my ass. Your NAME is fucking MIDWIVES. Just as the old tradition. Midwife means “with woman”. Change your fucking name if you’re only “with person”, you wolves in sheeps’ clothing.

So you see, even the supposed naturalistic and woman loving traditions are giving the big “fuck you” to womankind. I say supposed because they’re still very medicalized and not traditionalists and don’t advocate actual and total birth freedom, but I digress.

I used to think “wombyn” was silly, new agey (even if I am a little myself), and pretentious. Now I see it as a radical protest and I may use it a little more, just to see how it feels. Just to piss these misogynists and men’s rights activists off. Because that’s what they are. I AM a goddess, and goddesses give birth. It was birth goddesses we talked about throughout time and in recent birth movements, not birth gods. Those are the people who prefer the label “obstetrician”.

Do you have any doubt this is The Man’s Patriarchy? And you call this the right side of history?

Here are some more examples from their page, their double standards, their hypocrisy, where they did not scream “transphobia” at every pro-woman reference, they did not scrub all the she’s out of existence. But like she said, she’s only human– just give her time and maybe we won’t have to hear the goddess celebrations in relation to female bodily functions anymore. Women aren’t taboo or oppressed, they just need to shut the fuck up because trans.

How absurd it all is. One thing is for sure– no one knows just what woman is any more, but we know we need to be really careful how we use that word, lest we offend. We need to keep our big mouths shut and stop asking questions, stop asserting girl power and our authority, and just do what we’re told. “Feminism”.

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What about black men? Why are we talking about breastfeeding, it’s so cissexist! Men nurse too! What about fatherhood! Etc.

Jesus, Honore de Balzac sounds like a real transphobic prick. He and all of civilization.

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Breast milk? Fathers give birth, too. This is a hate crime. “Natural” news? I’m triggered.  WHERE was the trigger warning?

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Taking the women out of birth is a political issue.

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Women’s rights as female rights in an ongoing, crucial battle are so obvious when we talk about the misogyny they face in the patriarchal institution of medicine. All of their abuse, the abuse and trauma done to their female bodies, arguably happening for all of recorded memory as rulers and leaders advocated ownership and taming of our bodies, is about to have its language of protest dismantled. This is what they call “cis privilege”. As a woman who knows she’s a woman and has been treated as a female her entire life, I apparently have it. Our rape, molestation, kidnapping, murder, domestic violence, lack of rights in education and to our own bodies is now privilege. Think about that. Think about everything females go through in and out of birth. How you will dare to call the sexism we face privilege, I will never know. That any woman or female bodied person or female born person would ever want to deny us this power speaks loudly of internalized misogyny, perhaps even more acutely among those who “do not identify as women”, as if any of the rest of us are perfectly happy with that designation in this fucked up society. So ladies, hand birth back. It isn’t ours anymore. We had a nice run, sort of. Almost.

I love everyone and I don’t care what you wear or who you fuck.  But stop trying to keep me in my place. The time for women being polite and quiet is done. We can all be free; stop being against my empowerment and undoing the things which attempted to give it back to me. That was my progress. You’re taking away the keys to women’s progress.

A child builds a sand castle.  A second child who didn’t have a chance to make one for themselves yet arrives and knocks the first one’s down and starts building on top of the same site. On a beach full of sand. And they call it that first child’s sand castle too. They try to call that sharing. It isn’t my sand castle. It’s yours. Well I worked hard building that castle and I didn’t build mine on your heartache, so why do you hate it so much? Don’t smash everything I’ve done and call that equality.

Stop erasing women from the books. It’s unnecessary and it’s erasure. YOU WILL STOP TAKING ME OUT OF HISTORY. I am saying “no”. No means no. Listen to women when they say no. Do you get it yet? Do you know whose “side” you’re on?





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.





Letters About Birth #2 (Midwives): Your Voice Counts Day

21 11 2012

Your Voice Counts Day is a day going around the internet on which, for Thanksgiving, we are supposed to submit letters to our caregivers regarding our labors. We mail or hand them in to let them know how terrific or horrible our experiences were in the hopes that it raises awareness for the level of treatment we are receiving. I’ll be doing mine here, in a series of 3.

The reason I hesitate to actually send these consists of several reasons. One, I believe that mainstream people will disregard me. Two, many people are mentioned, and it isn’t overall praise or blame for the whole, and some are nameless.

Image by Flickr: Wonderlane. Contains a parable on the Buddha and praise/blame.

Three, some of these people already know how I feel. Four, at the end of the day, I’m not sure if this is more for me, or for them. Or maybe it’s for you. It’s not that I think I can’t make a difference, but it’s about too much wasted effort in one direction that feels like barking at the wind. Anyway, this series will stand here, and maybe it will help you, or maybe those people will actually find their way here and it will matter to them.

Just like in my book, names have been anonymized in part or completely to protect real identities. For those who read my book, this may be a nice accompaniment, but it’s not a prerequisite to appreciate this.

Dear D & L, LK, & Hospital Staff,

You are the main reason I do not believe in midwives anymore. I went this route which was meant to include homebirth because, inexplicably, I still believed in myself and my body. The prior hospital experience had crushed my spirit and proven me wrong, yet something inside me would not let go of the idea that I was meant for this and it was attainable and preferable. My experience with you I believed would empower me, and instead it sent me further into the abyss.

I don’t know if I can “blame” you. I think all in all there is a system problem, and you (just like all health care workers, including doctors) probably truly want to help people, and feel you do so every day. Just like OBs, you receive praise and adoration for your great works, but through my eyes it is not without its casualties.

After “40 weeks”, I had to undergo the hospital non-stress tests, even though the due date was not based on my body’s rhythms, but on flawed measurement tools. One flawed measuring tool, the ultrasound, indicated my fluid *might* be low. I wish you had listened to me and not these tests or guidelines. I was fine, the baby was fine, yet talk of induction began. You knew I didn’t want this. Yet you gave me less than 24 hours to drink water and take baths to replenish fluid you can’t even measure right or I was going to be admitted to the hospital for mandatory induction? I wish you hadn’t given me that ultimatum. It was dehumanizing.

I had waited forever for you, LK. I was hungry and angry at the thought of my birth being dictated to me. I didn’t even know you, we hadn’t met. You came to check my dilation when I was ready to walk out the door after so many hours. I never do that, by the way. I’m a good and obedient patient, to my own detriment. But you arrived just after my husband told them we were leaving… I guess that prompted you to drop whatever was keeping you and check me out. What I thought was just a dilation check became you stirring my membranes. I remember you saying, “I’m just going to stir things around down there,” with your fingers inserted already. I remember the pain, and I remember I said, “Okay,” not yet understanding what that meant, as it was happening. I thought you were being rough, because cervical checks were not always this painful. Then it was clear. You were doing me a favor, supposedly. You were trying to stir the membranes to manually induce labor, to “give” me the homebirth I wanted in time, before being coerced into a hospital induction.

I was furious after I left, when I understood what was happening to me. I didn’t want your “help”! I didn’t want to be induced at all! I wanted this baby to choose their own birthday! Don’t any of you get that? Why would you ever do that without making sure the person gave their full consent? I felt violated. You had done something to my body in a position of trust that was against my will. Later I was spotting blood and losing my plug. Even though membrane stirring is not proven to start labor (and is proven to introduce bacteria, cause pain, and create spotting), you did the practice on me anyway without my agreement in an act of trying to be *merciful* to me. You were wrong.

On the way home I called you, D, to tell you. I was out of breath, struggling with words, but obviously upset. I said that LK’s “help” was “not cool”. You agreed… because you had just been to a birth and were so tired, you wanted a chance to catch up on your sleep first before my baby came! D, that’s not at all the problem. I felt like an animal while everyone but me manipulated my body and made choices about it for me, without my consent.

The rage I felt that night, I cannot describe to you. I paced. I ranted. I processed. I confided in you, I trusted you, so I brainstormed out loud with you on the phone my plots. “We could just say I went into labor, and that the homebirth was still on, and that later on we figured it was false labor. We could just keep doing that until it’s the real thing, and they’ll never have to check or admit me or try to induce. ” After all, “false” labor happens all the time. As much as I hate lying, I was willing to do it to save myself. You told me D, that we couldn’t do that, and that if I tried to do that you would no longer be allowed to care for me.

No longer allowed! I would be completely without assistance for labor, simply because I told the hospital something which could or could not be truthful and no one would have any way of knowing. Except you, D, of course, if you were privy to this confidential choice by me. But you would admit it, or tell. I guess you would be scared… scared if something went wrong, it would come back on you, I would blame or sue you. Well, I wouldn’t have. I wouldn’t. I know you don’t know that, but I wouldn’t. I’m honorable. All I wanted was a healthy birth, and one that didn’t traumatize anyone, but that isn’t what I got. You were lawsuit-free but it broke me. It changed my life and caused a giant scar inside of me. It almost altered the future of my family. The consequences of these things are so much more severe than legal troubles or even job or money loss. It’s so much deeper than that. What was at stake for me was greater.

So that night, as more of an act of protest, I had sex to induce labor. I didn’t want even THIS manner of induction, but I had to take matters into my own hands. I had to feel in control again. Other people would NOT tell me what to do with my body, would not put their hands in or on me to make anything happen that I didn’t consent to. I did it because I wasn’t going to let anyone push me into a corner. I did it because if anything was going to induce me, it was going to be me. Immediately after, contractions began. I’ll never know for sure if it was the stressing rage I felt, the membrane stirring, the intercourse, or any combo of these, or maybe even none of these at all… but it seems like labor was indeed “induced” and that I may have been the one to effectively create it. That is bittersweet, because I will never know, and because I was put in a position to do something I didn’t want, but at least I was still in the driver’s seat and not going to let them take it away from me. I was going to have this baby naturally and at home. I would NOT be going to the hospital this time!

But that didn’t happen. I called you D, in the early morning, to let you know I was excited to be contracting all night and this was the day. I was feeling good. Sleep was nice. Labor so far was easy. I called D first because I was scared that you, L, would be too hands-on even though you were my primary. You were closer to me and you had asked to be called before D and we went against that. At the time we thought that D would give us more choices and more time. D after all had been the “fade into the woodwork” one, which I truly sensed I needed. When you were both here, it was intense. I was in hard labor. I needed to be alone but you wouldn’t leave me alone! Getting on my back for a check was excruciating but you “made” me anyway. Why? I was *this* close to having the baby! Let me do my thing, please. I was stripping off my clothing right in front of you, didn’t you notice I was almost there? If I tightened up, I’m sure it was the tension of being around people, being in painful positions, and submitting to checks.

Then that damn meconium showed up (possibly normal, possibly due to the stress), and you “had” to transfer me. Ugh! Legally, maybe you did, I don’t know. But it sucks. I know now that it is NOT an emergency, and while I know you would not want to be held liable if anything were to happen as a result, or maybe you’d get in trouble with the state or the hospital if anyone found out, this was even worse for me. This was the worst day of my life. I had to put on clothing, because the ambulance was coming. You might as well have asked me to tap dance. I had to crawl down the hall covered in piss, fluid, and blood because you thought the paramedics couldn’t fit the stretcher down my hall. If that’s true, DAMN, it still was an ordeal. Twenty minutes felt like an eternity. Could you have dragged me? Maybe you thought this was my last shot to be alone, my last shot to have the baby at home, and if so, I do appreciate that. It felt like I was in Hell, it was torture, and I’m not being dramatic. I wish you would have left me alone completely and let me labor in peace. I would have had a great birth and produced a healthy baby for you in no time. I wouldn’t have lost faith in myself and carried recurring memories with me to haunt me.

I needed quiet and solitude, and trust in me and my body and my instinct. I hope you can give more of that to other women you help. I hope you will take that away from my story. Some women don’t need to be encouraged or touched or told how good they are doing. Some women need to just be left the fuck alone, or it is like you are killing them just to be there. But that’s just the labor aspect. We do not need to be held hostage by the legalities of an archaic maternity system. We don’t need to be threatened into submission.

To the female paramedic, thank you so much for honoring my wishes and being a gentle spirit. You were so respectful and I could feel your mercy, and you let me lay on my side like I needed. I felt your kindness and gentleness. I wish I was in a position then to say so to you. I wanted to write you a letter and I did send a message to the hospital, so I hope it got to you. You made a huge difference.

To whoever covered me with a blanket when we entered the hospital doors, THANK YOU. My eyes were closed but I still didn’t appreciate my ass hanging out. That was very considerate and meant a lot.

In the hospital, the baby was right there. He came right away. No meconium aspiration, of course. Good fluid amount. Everything okay. He was perfect, sturdy as an ox (is that an expression?), and as angry as I felt inside. Just as soon as they were taking him away to check him, they were giving him right back. My husband and daughter missed the birth. My husband missed the birth of his first son.

I had a million strangers around me holding my legs, prepping the room in a hurry, and LK, you were there to deliver. You told me (ha!) to put my chin to my chest and push, and not to make any noise. As if you had any control at that point! Had you never seen the involuntary fury of a woman delivering without drugs? I did the opposite. I couldn’t have listened to you if I wanted to. I couldn’t have even tried. I DID make noise and I put my chin away from my chest, and I wasn’t pushing on your command, I was pushing because my body could do nothing else. You and your nurses were rough with the matter of placenta delivery and subsequent uterine massage. Your pitocin afterwards for bleeding was bullshit and unnecessary and only added to my pain. The aftershocks were hard. If you thought my blood loss was excessive, don’t do things that make people bleed. Please read more about a relaxed and natural third stage delivery. Thanks for not sewing me up too tight, even though I could feel you stitching me. You are an example to me of how just because a practitioner is a woman does not mean they are delicate.

Midwives: I know you have lives of your own and professions to protect, but you are supposed to be “with woman”. Who knows what I need better:  me, or the state of Florida? I needed you to believe in me and without you I no longer believed in myself. I gave my body and my trust over to you, and I deserved your trust in return. To understand horror truly and deep in your soul is a rare thing and should be rarer.

Hospital — please teach your staff how to handle with courtesy the patients. After what for me had been a horrific day, I needed sleep. I was in a lot of pain and trying to find the right meds to let me breastfeed but also sleep, and baby occasionally woke to be nursed. People calling me to demand I choose something from the menu waking me and the newborn up is not necessary. Please train your staff in appropriate behavior or hire people who are good with people.

I get shit for this one occasionally. People who’ve read my book or an excerpt act like I’m some diva slapping a tray out of someone’s hand, thinking myself precious.  No. Talk about missing the point because you feel like it. Like I’ve said before, I’m a timid patient and customer. I’m the type that can’t even send food back at a restaurant if something is wrong with it. All things in perspective. Those people don’t really deserve a response, but in the spirit of defending myself, let me clarify.

So– I’m in tons of pain with a newborn, and we are both trying to rest after the worst day of my life. It’s 6 am or so and still pretty dark when the phone startles me out of an already fragile sleep. Groggy and worn, I can barely detect the mumbling on the other side of the phone that I fumbled just picking up. “Huh,” I was like. And the lady on the other end, with an obvious chip on her shoulder and I’m guessing no clue what my state of health or mind was, yelled back, “Watchoo WANT for breakfuss??” I was at a loss for words. “I don’t even know what you have.” I said. Then she started listing shit off a menu. I had to interrupt her. “We’ll just get something to eat later.” I said, and hung up. That’s all paraphrased of course, ’cause that was like 3 years ago, but I trust that’s pretty accurate (albeit condensed).

Now, I’ve given birth at a hospital before. I’ve never had someone call me up at the crack of dawn just to ask me about food (and, it didn’t happen again, during my stay there), and with an attitude like I was inconveniencing them. People quietly enter and exit your room, to check on you and your health, to check on the baby. People don’t loudly make fusses or wake you out of needed sleep. Maybe my previous hospital was better, had more of a clue. If people want food, they’ll go get it or fill out a little paper or something, or call for it by phone or by nurse. If they’re in recovery, they don’t want to be dialed up over cheerios. That was all I meant.

Some have said, “it’s not their job to know what you’ve been through.” Oh, isn’t it? But apparently it is their job to call up every room and take orders? That’s an odd job duty. In fact, part of the reason I always thought nurses took care of our food for us was they knew how we were doing, what kind of allergies we had, what kind of medication we were on, etc. It’s not their job to know? So you mean to say if they call up a room with a coma patient, and the phone rings endlessly but no one picks up, that’s a smooth running operation– a hospital that really has their shit together? Whatever. The point is, if hospital staff (including cafeteria workers) have access to any recovering patient, yes they absolutely should know the patient’s status or condition before trying to engage them in anything. Don’t have access to reach me or affect me if you don’t know my condition or needs. That seems reasonable. And nothing they do should be jolting or disturbing, in the hospital, of all places! That’s how people get better.

So yeah, I was pissed that I got woken up and pissed for my baby too, big deal. (lol) And for the record, I never bitched anyone out about it, I just described my frustration over it in my book about my births, so excuse the hell out of me for recounting the memory. >:) *End rant*.

One more thing, Hospital. You “let” me go home early, because, you know, I wanted that homebirth, after all. How kind, right? Let me tell you something. If you have a hospital experience, the recovery and being taken care of is sometimes the best part. I think that very concept is what keeps some people from homebirthing at all. In my mind, how I felt, I needed that recovery. I had a scary and painful experience and had already had the lesser parts of the hospital birth experience; the upside was supposed to be the “vacation”. It was well earned, that’s for sure. Even though this hospital was sub-par compared to my last, I’ll be honest… I was reluctant to go home. I was hurt. I was sensitive. I needed the rest, the break, needed to be babied, and you cut me loose. Leave it up to the patient next time. They might actually want or need the standard stay.

Everyone, overall the fuss made over me was unnecessary and the commotion gave me an excruciatingly painful labor like nothing I would ever wish on anyone, and the psychological damage I am still astounded today that I had the strength to heal. Birth became my enemy that day, not just because I didn’t get what I envisioned, but because the pain itself was felt in the most terrible way as to test the very limits of what one thinks they are capable of enduring (and has no choice not to). And now I know it didn’t have to. The damage that implies is so utterly tremendous I cannot convey this with words. Birth doesn’t have to be anything at all like that. That birth was not special, not dangerous, but it was made so.  I know you feel you help a lot of people, but the standards and procedures are so very flawed. Care needs to be individualized to the woman, not based on arbitrary bullshit. Attentiveness to up to date science (not to be mistaken for “medicine”, which is its own category and a business) including acknowledging that we are mammals with specific needs and responses in labor is critical! Those MUST be honored and worked with, not against, or we are hurting women and babies. Please know that even if I’m only reflecting 1% of those you see, of every 99 women you help, you may be brutalizing 1. I have a feeling my story resonates with more than 1%, though.

I don’t want you to think I hate you, because I don’t. We’re all doing what we have to do and what we think is right, right…? Things have to change, though.

Sincerely, Elizabeth






Getting Qualified Care: After A Loss

18 01 2012

First, let’s consider what makes a person healthy or unhealthy in the grieving process.

If you suffered a loss, what kind of care would you seek? Does suffering a loss alone make one qualified to mentor another who has suffered a loss, too?

Mental health and emotional health are serious. If you are suffering a loss, it is very important to get help on a professional level, particularly if your grief is intense. At the minimum, you do want to make sure that the person you have helping you is in a healthy mental state. Even with the loosest interpretations of what makes one “qualified” to provide appropriate care, most of us can agree on this basic starting point. Please be careful whenever you are selecting any form of help or care.

Joining me again is Michelle, a pregnant mother of 4 who has experience with natural birth, home birth, and loss. I have watched Michelle come under fire by other loss moms in the anti natural birth groups for not automatically placing blame on her caregivers when her loss occurred.

Deb O'Connell is a CNM with Carrboro Midwifery in the area of Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

The same camp has taken offense to some of my writings about healing and trauma as well. The philosophy seems to be that nothing can heal you from the loss of a child.

I am reminded of one attacker in particular who told Michelle that she did not love her child not only because she had come to terms with it in peace, but mainly because she did not blame her midwives for her child’s stillbirth. In fact, what had begun as a peaceful conversation took a swift turn for the worse when the woman started in with obscenities and accusations, all a reaction to Michelle’s take on loss and the sharing of her own experiences.

Doulas ARE very natural childbirth-minded... most people don't find a need for doulas outside of that practice, because it would be too "woo". Most people giving birth in the mainstream don't feel so much of a need to have a doula; they have their doctors, nurses, significant others, and family members as their support.

This same woman wants to be a doula for women expecting a loss, and also has signed up to mentor loss parents through a program called Stillbirthday (featuring and run by people who are part of the anti natural birth movement). Are people with these philosophies in a good position to be offering qualified care to the bereaved?

Let’s start with a simple question:

How do you counsel the bereaved? What is best for them? What kind of guidance do they require?

Michelle says: Having been to a REAL therapist to deal with things like my loss, my childhood, and my abusive ex-husband, I have a somewhat good idea of what they do and why they do it that way. My therapist never projected anything on me. She listened to me and what I had to say and then ask questions which made me look at myself not anyone else. I think it is good for loss mothers to have a place to say how they feel and express some of the normal stages of grief ( and anger can be one of them). However, if what they are looking for is healing then I would recommend a professional who can deal with the psychological aspects of loss and its effects on people.

I do believe we are all entitled to enlist the help of those who we feel are best to serve us. To me, this goes beyond training and credentials and is a personal choice. I’ve made that quite clear. When it comes to birth, anti-NCBers cannot be more opposed to this philosophy, but do they extend the same strictness to mental health?

The importance and seriousness of good care does not end for the mother and child once the baby is born.

Most healthcare professionals could probably tell you that people become consumed by, addicted to, their grief. It’s a hard process and takes years of therapy for some to cope well. Surely nothing can be as devastating as the loss of a child, so it would be totally understandable to think that this could mentally and emotionally damage someone more than possibly anything. When a person is in pain, they are capable of inflicting pain on others, sometimes as a way of projecting their self-loathing. If a person is so deeply affected in a negative way by a crushing loss, are they in a position to help others in a truly healthy way to cope themselves?

To make a comparison, would we expect someone suffering from severe alcoholism– who admitted they saw no hope in sight for finding peace– to be an ideal mentor (or even “buddy”) to someone just entering Alcoholic Anonymous? When do two people suffering from the same disease no longer serve as a support system, and instead become the blind leading the blind?

Putting oneself in a position of sensitivity and responsibility to those in need when your own psychological needs are not being met and, in fact, one believes they cannot be met, may not be the quality of care the grieving deserve. However well meaning, if you were to fail at your responsibility, you are affecting lives and have the potential to do more harm than good. This would be like if a good midwife who means well were still not qualified enough to do her job. The results could be disastrous.

This is what I want to examine, and you’ll see that before I’ve even had a chance to get an answer to my questions, I am causing great offense for looking into this subject matter. But, in all earnestness, what could be more important than a mother’s mental well-being? You could have a dozen successful births of healthy children, but if the mother is unable to receive right care, everyone loses.

This is one of the anti natural birth pages, and the bottom comment is from the would-be doula and mentor for grieving mothers. She is seen here participating in the manner normal for her within these groups.

While we believe that you should be able to choose whomever you like for any form of your own care, regardless of title or degree, we do always urge that you exercise caution and common sense. Anti natural birth groups insist that certain classifications of midwife are unfit to practice, but they seem to feel that any laypeople in various stages of intense grief make good mentors to those who are just beginning their path. They do not seem to require any special qualifications– no degrees, no higher education, and not even psychological evaluations to conclude that said individuals are sound enough to be assisting the grieving.

In Search of the Perfect Birth and Michelle both ask,

Why the double standard?

To be continued…