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Saturday, May 21, 2011

Doula Love and Midwifery Education Day

In the thick of the laboring night, a beautiful family I had the privilege of doula-ing for.
Know someone looking for a doula? Check out my profile at Mothertree Birth Services!

Saturday June 4th


Mint Tea
2014 Main St. Vancouver, WA 98660

I'm hosting a midwifery education day at the cool little bistro Mint Tea!

I'll be showing the documentary "The Business of Being Born," and you will hear from 2 rad homebirth midwives serving families in SW Washington along with first hand stories from some lovely mamas and papas about why they chose to birth with a Certified Professional Midwife at home and at a free standing birth center. And, snag some coupons for free fancy cloth diapers from Cotton Babies! (while supplies last)

I wanted to have this event because I am passionate about educating the public about birth, options, and discuss the very real fact that our perceptions of birth are shaped by our culture, fear, media.

There is a serious shortage of midwives in Washington state, especially the Vancouver area, and because this is my community where I want to serve as a midwife (somewhere in Southern Washington...the gorge is my most favorite place in all the world. And there are no midwives there as far as I can tell.)

I want to create a space where families can be honest, vulnerable, ask questions, and gain insight.

If all goes well this time around I will host an event like this again next month showing another birth related documentary and holding a discussion around it.

So come on out June 4th ! Spread the word.


Thursday, May 5, 2011

From Bones to Full Bloom

I just noticed that this tree in the backyard has become green and lush and exploded practically overnight!
Where there was bare bone branches, now there is bursting leaves of green life.
It was a sharp, spiny, barrenness.
A skeleton of a tree. Now, verdant emerald five-leafed fingers of greenery.

The rhythms of these seasons, so much like the process of birth.
Where there was nothing
but a promise of something.
Then the "something" unfolds into everything.
New life.
Three mamas in my community at my church,
full-of-promise, full of life
have birthed the fullness of life in the past week (one in the thick of labor, the process of blooming, as I write this).

And I'm on my way out the door to go to another mamas blooming right now...

May 5th: Happy International Day of the Midwife!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

How WIDE are the gates of normal

Just woke up from doula-ing at an amazing birth. A long fought for baby. This mama truly dug down deep and found those inner reservoirs of strength, and opened her body and spirit wide to bring a new human (a very adorable little human, I must say), into the world.
I love that when she was pushing, the midwife said "you are being initiated. From Maidenhood to Motherhood." And truly, this mama was.
Of course, EVERY birth is amazing. And every birth is so, so incredibly different. Even as I'm reading and studying my midwifery textbooks, the reality of birth makes me see that we play a losing game when we try to fit birth into a narrow time-limit, protocol, box. The gates of normal pregnancy and labor are WIDE. Because each mama, each baby, is different.
Each woman's birth is unique to her own body, and mental and emotional state.
I truly believe that labor is largely mental and emotional. Who truly knows or can tap into what each individual women needs to work through,
open up to,
fight for,
get past,
move towards,
let go of
in her labor. In her whole childbearing year!
And how much do we as care-providers strip away from a woman when we try to control her birth?
Even as a doula, I try to be aware of when I need to change the vibe. Back off. Get closer. Leave the room. Maybe I can be too encouraging. Too calm. Maybe this mama needs a kick in the butt (figuratively speaking) to really get serious about birthing this kid!
It's such intuitive work, birthing and being a part of birth. When do I counsel and when do I just stay quiet? Am I comfortable with silence? Am I comfortable with crying?
Maybe a mama just needs a good long, hard cry to let that wall that's holding her back crumple to the ground.
I've seen that happen.
No, birth is not packaged up neat and tidy in a textbook, class, or box.
Nothing will really prepare you for the raw, hilly, maybe mountainous journey that is birth.
Like life, birth takes trust, caring supporters, faith, intuition, and openness to what may come.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Blossoming: April Showers Bring May Babies, Placenta Plum Trees, and Flowers

The past few weeks:
New life blooming...lots of busy prenatal days with blossoming mamas. On-call now for a couple of anticipated births.

Sun showers, fresh flowers, new glorious color, SUNSHINE!..
Farmer's Market in full bloom. We rode down on our bikes on the first 70 degree day of the year. Lovely.
Spring in the NW.
We appreciate it more here since it is gray and rainy 80% of the year. But when the sun starts coming out, it brings the city to life again.

Planting, growing, budding, blooming...
Emmaus's plum tree we planted with his placenta on his 9 month birthday! The neighbors came over to join in the blessed occasion.
Placenta in the hole!

Emmaus helped throw in the dirt.And he really liked to eat the dirt.Shawn is reading him the blessing that he wrote for him on the day of his birth.But Emmaus just really wanted to swing from the branches of his plum tree.Our back yard.
Re-birth, digging in the dirt for the first time in my life!
My farm-girl roommate thinks it's hilarious that this is the first time I've planted anything. Ever. We planted 2 different kinds of peas, kale, spinach, more kale, all kinds of stuff...
Betsy and Shawn built that chicken coop. Pretty sweet. It's amazing to me that out of these tiny seeds we get a CROP of amazing food.
I'm such a city girl, I didn't even know how potatoes were grown until 2 years ago.

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Sexuality of Birth: Baby In, Baby Out

No this blog post isn't meant to be crazy or controversial. I know that talking about "sexuality" and "birth" seems outrageous to some, or it may seem like a moot point and even too risque to talk about in the same sentence. But as Ina May points out, we like to forget that women give birth with the same anatomical parts that are engaged in the sexual act that got the baby in there in the first place. It's a fact of life people! And Ina May is just so wise, so matter-of-fact about it, that one wonders why we are embarrassed to acknowledge the normal, created physiology of our bodies.
Part of the reason we as women are so fearful to birth is that we have lost confidence in the normalcy of the birth process. That our bodies are MADE to do this.(I love this pic from the move "The Business of Being Born", that shows the very moment of a normal, uninterrupted, unmedicated, joyful birth)

I've been touting Ina May's new book because I feel like it's SO important for women, men, and care-providers to know and understand the very real and practical function of how a woman's body is made to respond to the birth process. And, how much we as practitioners can GET IN THE WAY of a woman having her baby.
We really can and do get in the way.
I love that Ina May is so practical. It would behoove us all to learn (and remember) these things.
There is much talk of "orgasm" during labor, and instead of it being sensationalized and something to "aim" for (like women need the pressure of not only giving birth, but having an orgasm as well! Obviously that's not the goal!) Here are some particularly pertinent excerpts from her book. Everyone should knows these things!!:

"There is plenty of evidence that the process of different hormones secreted by women's bodies during labor explains the phenomena described above (that when a woman feels frightened or threatened her labor can and will stop, or even reverse. Get the book if you want to read about the falsity of "failure to progress" and "uterine dysfunction" ;).

Adrenaline is the hormone that is active when a labor reverses itself or stops. Most people have some familiarity with the effects of adrenaline--it makes us stronger and faster, and it is the "fight or flight" hormone that is activated when we perceive danger. When adrenaline (catechalomine) levels are high in a laboring woman's body, her pelvic muscles will be tense, and she will experience much more pain than she would if someone were able to assuage her fears.

Most people know that oxytocin is a drug that is often given in synthetic form to women in hospitals to make labor stronger, or is given after birth to prevent or stop excessive bleeding. However, they are less likely to know that women's own bodies are capable of excreting oxytocin and that this endogenous oxytocin not only causes uterine contractions (and thus keeps labor moving along and prevents excessive bleeding after birth) but that it's associated with feelings of love, trust, gratitude, and curiosity. While synthetic oxytocin can be effective in stopping hemorrhage by causing the uterus to to contract, it does not induce feelings of love, trust gratitude, and curiosity in the way that the mother's own oxytocin does. In addition, synthetic oxytocin when used for strengthening labor causes more painful contractions that often lack the painless rest periods of unmedicated labor.
When adrenaline levels are high, oxytocin levels are low, and vice-versa. (these changes, by the way, can take place almost instantly). The women who reported feeling their cervices open when words of love and encouragement were spoken were responding to levels of oxytocin in their bloodstream.

Dr. Kerstin Unvas Moberg and her team in Sweden carried out some of the most useful research of the late 20th century in the area of maternal-infant behavior (see: Kerstin Unvas Moberg, The Oxytocin Factor: Tapping the Hormone of Calm, Love, and Healing (Cambridge, MA: Da Capo Press, 2003). Their work effectively demonstrated that people's oxytocin levels rise significantly when they share a pleasant, delicious, and unhurried meal together, and when they are in the process of falling in love. But the highest levels of oxytocin of all occur in mothers and their babies during the first hour just following birth (emphasis mine). This is the time of bonding, when mother and baby are programmed by nature to adore each other and share moments that neither will ever forget." (Note from me: what are things that we do in our treatment of the third stage of labor that interrupt this time that are actually causing more harm?)
"Such moments should only be interrupted for medical procedures when a true emergency occurs; interruptions should not be routine. Interestingly, when such important moments are allowed to unfold without interruption, the risk of postpartum problems in mothers and babies is reduced. babies breathe better and their heart rhythms are more regular when they have skin-to-skin contact with their mothers' chest. Mothers are less likely to hemorrhage in these circumstances as well.
Beta-endorphins are a third kind of hormone relevant to labor and birth. Beta-endorphins are nature's opiates, and they have powerful pain-numbing effects. When we expend alot of physical effort, beta-endorphin levels rise correspondingly. They also rise when we are warm enough and, most importantly, when we are feeling secure. Being in love and feeling sexually aroused are also associated with high levels of endorphins.
I am well aware of how skeptical people will be about the strength of beta-endorphins. Sports physicians, however, are well aware of the threat of reinjury when an athlete is playing well--the pain of reinjury might not be felt because of the beta-endorphin rise caused by strenuous and successful play. People who have had to free themselves from traps in ways that involve the need for self-injury often report that they could bear the pain--another example of the potential strength of endogenous beta-endorphins.
It is important to remember that fear and negative emotions inhibit a rise in beta-endorphins. This is one reason why whining does not alleviate labor pain, whereas moaning may. There is an important distinction between these two kind of vocalization. Moaning is a sound that may indicate pain, but may also indicate pleasure, and is consistent with relaxation (while opening the throat, relaxing face muscles); whining indicates complaint and self-pity, is high pitched, and doesn't happen during pleasurable experiences.

Beta-endorphins, combined with oxytocin, explain why some women--strange as it may seem to anyone who hasn't seen or experienced it--experience orgasm during labor or birth. Orgasm, of course, is an experience we almost exclusively associate with making love--so much so that some women become offended and upset even thinking about the possibility of having such an experience while giving birth. I think this kind of reaction has much to do with the fact that the medical model of birth has successfully wiped from most people's minds the obvious fact that women give birth with their sexual organ. Further confusion results because women in our culture are not taught that their vaginal tissues have the ability to swell in a way that is every bit as impressive (and surprising, viewed for the first time!) as the change in the flaccid penis when it becomes erect.
Every man knows that erection happens because of blood that is trapped in the penis. The penis enlarges far more than it could it if were forcibly and hurriedly stretched to it's maximum. The trouble is that women don't have such an obvious way of knowing that vaginas do fancy tricks too and that blood can suffuse the vaginal tissues in a similar way in order to easily allow the passage of a full-term baby without tearing. High levels of both endogenous oxytocin and beta-endorphins are necessary for such swelling. Obviously, such hormonal levels are not possible when women are in great pain, feel threatened, pressured, or being subjected to constant interruptions---just as men don't get erections when they are terrified or being threatened with sharp instruments.

Too many women have been exposed to the myth that when a baby passes through the vagina, that organ will be permanently stretched and ruined. It is true that vaginas can be badly injured when babies are pulled through with vacuum extractors or forceps, just as they can be injured by rape. However, when vaginas are treated well and not subjected to routine episiotomy or forced pushing, they swell impressively, since these tissues have the ability to hold large amounts of blood when the mother's labor has produced the ecstatic hormones of oxytocin and beta-endorphins.
(note from me: this is why the atmosphere of a laboring woman's space in which she is birthing is of the utmost importance. It's not just about lighting candles and playing soft music...it directly affect the physiology of her body and labor. People and strangers rushing in and out, yelling at her to push, etc....could you have a bowel-movement if someone were in your face yelling at you to push and holding your legs apart? I didn't think so ).
Under these circumstances, vaginas function marvelously in birth, and when they become small again, they are no more ruined than is a penis when it softens and shrinks following an erection."

From Birth Matters, by Ina May Gaskin

Monday, March 28, 2011

A different kind of midwife, and The David Mayfield Parade

It's so, so good to be back home. Last week I got to be a part of a different kind of birth than I am use to. My roommate Betsy is a large animal vet who gets called out to farms in the area for all kinds of "large animal emergencies." I told her that I would love to help her out with anything birth related.I'm such a city-girl that I've never actually seen an animal be born.
Well I got my wish this week when she was called out to help a mama goat who had been in labor but wasn't progressing.
Betsy is no stranger to birthing a baby in a difficult position. You may remember Betsy from a post I did last year where I was her doula at her 70 hour (yes, I said 70 hour) labor. Her baby Emmaus was military ascynclitic, and birthing him was no small feat. She is still my hero. I had confidence she could help this goat.
We drove out to the farm prepared to possibly do a c-section on this poor goat. Or possibly pull a dead baby goat. I was really hoping I wouldn't have to.
We walked into the barn and found a BIG pregnant goat laying in the hay and moaning.
Dr. Betsy sprung into action with the scared farmer woman looking on. The poor woman was on the verge of tears. So during the goat mama's I.E, Betsy found that a goat was lying stuck in a transverse position blocking the other babies. She couldn't feel movement and wasn't sure if the babies were alive. Transverse position in a human baby means immediate c-section of course, but this goat mama was so HUGE and roomy that Betsy was able to manipulate the goats around into a hoof-first position. She told me to get a towel ready, and one by one pulled out 3 live, adorable, baby goats!
I don't have the actual action-shot birth pics cause I was too busy doing what Betsy was instructing me to do: vigorously rubbing the little goat bodies, picking them up by their hind legs and swinging them back and forth!!!..and taking a piece of hay and tickling their nostrils to stimulate breathing and sneezing to clear their airway.

Emergency goat birth is definitely different than human birth...although the irony was not lost on me. I guess in the 1950's it was normal practice for docs to pick babies up by their legs when they were born too.Yikes.

Anyway, The mama goat started licking her babies, the farmer woman and her 3 daughters were overjoyed. We were overjoyed. It was great.

The mama goat passed the bag of waters after the babies were out. That was interesting.

Baby goats are the CUTEST!!
So now I am a goat midwife as well.
When we got home Betsy's pager went off and we got a call to go help a poor sheep who had a prolapsed uterus! I was SUPER stoked to go do this, but last minute the farmer called and canceled. I guess he thought the placenta was the uterus. Betsy assured me that I will be able to see cow or sheep prolapsed uterus at some point. Yes!
Okay, I know. I'm weird.
In other news, every woman in my church is constantly pregnant, so I've been really happy to be bale to knit again. It was WAY to hot and crazy-busy in the Phils to knit. Here's some booties I made for my friend Sara's baby, Abe. I have the privilege of being her doula next month.
And this weekend I got to see the David Mayfeild Parade for free at Mcmenamins. We saw him twice. His band is THAT good. It was probably one of the best shows I've been to. Those Nashville guitarists really know how to work it. He is a CRAZY guitarist.Then at the end they had us all gather around as they sang a song acapella.Seriously, check 'em out if you haven't heard of them. They are going to be HUGE soon.

I'm off to the Midwifery Today Conference tomorrow. YAY! It's gonna be amazing.

Monday, March 14, 2011

“If a doula were a drug, it would be malpractice not to use it”

Quote above from this great interview.
So, I am going to continue to offer doula services as I finish my midwifery training now that I am back in the Portland metro area.
And look!...I even made a handy-dandy tab on this blog that shows my doula services info., philosophy, and fees!
Looking for a doula or know of anyone looking? Feel free to pass on my info! I'll provide a phone number soon as well.