Wednesday, September 24, 2014
And while I can freely admit that there are many things making options in childbirth appear diminished or even non-existent (lack of funds, insurance limitations, doctors orders, proximity, health concerns, etc) that doesn't scare me near as much as another much more common problem.
Women, in general, do not believe that they have options regarding how they birth their child. Sadly, we are often our own worst enemy when it comes to choices in childbirth.
The (empowering) truth is this: there are options when it comes to birthing our baby. Some of them may be unpleasant, some scary, some seemingly out of our reach- but they are there. Those options, however, no matter what they are, become instantly invisible when we ourselves deny that they exist.
I don't know how many times I have heard women say things like this:
"I have to birth at this hospital."
"I can't afford a (insert) doula, midwife, home birth, childbirth class, etc."
"That birth center is too far away from me."
"My insurance doesn't cover it."
"I don't have time for XYZ."
"I am too late in my pregnancy to change care providers."
The list goes on. I get it. These are all legitimate concerns. They are also very limiting when we ourselves believe that they are the only thing possible.
I have also been around long enough to see women travel to different states to have a baby with a care provider who believed they could VBAC. I have seen women scrimp, save, trade, or beg in order to afford a care provider or support person or childbirth class that could help them get the birth they wanted. I have seen them make sacrifices in an effort to get the best possible birth for themselves and their baby.
Making the sacrifices, hiring the midwife, paying the doula, doing the childbirth class, reading the books and all these things don't actually guarantee the outcome you want. But they do guarantee one thing: no matter what happens YOU will know that YOU did all you could for this birth. You can look back and know you did your part.
There is comfort in that and there is power in that. There is great peace in knowing that we did the best we could.
We talk a lot about empowerment in birth circles. I have to admit, it isn't my favorite word. I think it is over and misused far too often. Empowerment however is a very real thing. But empowerment NEVER comes to those who refuse to own their own choices, refuse to make their own sacrifices, and refuse to believe that they actually get to play a role in the choices surrounding their births or their life in general.
You always have options, as long as that baby is in you.
The current obstetric climate can be hostile. We all know this. But it isn't all bad. There are wonderful OBs out there. There are amazing midwives who do great work. There are good hospitals and affordable birth centers and people willing to work with you to help you. You can blame the system, but know this- blaming the system (or complaining or being angry or hurt) DOES NOTHING TO CHANGE IT.
YOU have to try. I am tired, (sick and tired), of women throwing up their hands in submission before they have even begun to fight for their best birth. We are often the limiting factor when it comes to getting the birth we want.
Did you hear that?
Yes, at the risk of offending every woman on the planet I am going to say it again. YOU have choices, but YOU have to make them. They won't be easy but they are yours. Stop listening to your own excuses and start working towards getting what you want. Don't be the person who stops you.
Monday, August 18, 2014
There are lots of “mainstream” guides to pregnancy and birth. From the “What to Expect When You Expect Everything to Go Wrong,” series to the beloved, “Girlfriend's Guide to Bad Advice You Could Get at a Baby Shower,” the bookshelves are full of mediocre, fear mongering, prepare for your cesarean, fluff.
But entering from stage left, something a little bit refreshing- “Natural Birth For The Mainstream Mama” by Lauren Rauseo is a new kind of “mainstream” birth book. Full of basic, solid advice on achieving a natural hospital birth without the woo present in many other birth books more directed to the home birth crowd, this is a volume that a regular gal just considering natural birth wouldn’t be afraid to pick up.
Lauren’s style tends towards the sarcastic, which makes a subject that can be sensitive for many (natural birth) seem a lot more approachable and normal for your average gal. (There is a possibility that we are long lost sisters since I have been called the most sarcastic person ever...) The information in "Natural Birth For The Mainstream Mama" is solid and covers the basics needed to start on your journey towards a natural birth. She hammers home the most important points in a way any birth teacher would appreciate.
The book is pretty short, so I think additional reading would be great, but it is an excellent start for anybody interested. Lauren also does a nice job citing her sources so you can check out studies that back up some of the more valuable assertions regarding the evidence based care that many women birthing are looking for. (This is really nice actually because many people are under the impression that anything that involves a needle is safer than the alternative. Lauren manages to get some good sources out there for people to peruse without getting too technical or turning us off.)
Lauren presents things in a manner that is easy to understand, amusing, and incredibly concise. Each chapter ends with some bullet points letting you know what you most needed to glean from it.
Lauren ends the book with her own birth stories, which I think is a nice touch. Her birth stories aren’t necessarily “ideal”. By that I mean that she doesn’t have a textbook, perfect, natural birth. But she does achieve pain-medication free hospital births even against some pretty stacked odds.
This is a powerful reminder of much of what she has taught: that preparation and education for your natural hospital birth are not just nice, they are absolutely necessary. No matter how much you try things don’t always line up like you dream, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have a great unmedicated birth in the hospital. And frankly, I love personal touches. Evidence is a fabulous thing, but we learn so much from the experiences of others and it helps us know that we too can accomplish hard things even if everything isn't perfect or as we planned. Women will remember her birth stories and they will give them strength for their own births.
While I do think other preparation is necessary for a natural hospital birth (what can I say, I just wish everything was a big advertisement for Birth Boot Camp classes) this book is a perfect start. Personally, I feel that we need more things like this out there that are accessible to your basic woman just starting to consider a natural birth but who is freaked out by the placenta eating talk so often bantered around. (Not that I see anything wrong with placenta eating. It is actually one of my favorite things. That is why I couldn’t write this book, I am too far gone to crazy town.)
If you know you want a home birth, then you may be happier with something a little more crunchy since Lauren definitely seems to feel more comfortable with hospital birth. But, you know what, that is what the vast majority of women feel comfortable with! And I for one am glad that hospital birthing women now have a great resource at their fingertips with some good info that can realistically help them achieve a fabulous and natural hospital birth.
This book would frankly make a great gift too. It isn't too pricey and it is so easy to read without ever being confrontational or too "out there" that you could hand a copy to a relative or friend without fear of offending them. And what a great conversation starter at a baby shower?!
Check out Lauren Rauseo. You can buy her book HERE, (it is also on Kindle and a super great price) find her on Facebook HERE ,
PS- Lauren DOES mention this blog AND Birth Boot Camp in her book so that is pretty special to me. WOOHOO! BUY THIS BOOK! Maybe for a friend! Seriously, they would like it!
Tuesday, August 12, 2014
|Amanda Devereux, a successful doula in New Orleans and co-creator of the Birth Boot Camp DOULA program.|
There is something that happens in the natural birth community that we don't talk about often. It happens among birth workers and it is called burnout.
Burnout happens for two main reasons, both tragic to witness, especially among those once so dedicated to a profession and a work.
The first is financial. It is a fact of life that living takes money. We all have bills to pay, families to feed, and a finite amount of time in which to do it all. It can be hard to make a living teaching birth classes or working as doula or midwife. Few teach a small business class for birth workers so they know how to make it, how to charge for something they might want to give away, and how to turn passion into a sustainable business. Any small business owner can tell you that running a successful and sustainable business is hard in a plethora of ways.
The second reason for burnout among birth workers is simply how difficult it can be to watch birth in the modern obstetric climate. Birth isn't always easy, the hours are sporadic if you attend births, you deal with many people and different types of families and relationships all at an exciting, but often stressful part of life.
How do you handle this without guidance, the ability to decompress, or just somebody to talk to who understands?
I have sat in a room with birth workers more than once and heard a doula say that she can just no longer handle attending births- they are too disturbing for her and she can't keep bringing that home to her family anymore. She also just needs to make a living.
|Maria Pokluda, an experienced DFW doula and co-creator of the Birth Boot Camp DOULA program.|
There is a better way!
The world NEEDS doulas and childbirth educators who are skilled, compassionate, who can pay their bills and who are finding joy and fulfillment in their profession. It is possible to do this.
I love the words of a doula friend of mine and childbirth educator, Tashina Benning-Witter. She openly talks about making a change in the way she practiced as a doula when she committed to herself that she would require a full length birth class of some type for any of her moms. She also decided to openly tell them that she was a doula for natural births.
She found that when she said this, women embraced it. They were WAITING for someone, just one someone, to believe that they could do it. Suddenly she found herself happier as a doula and (pay attention, this is the important part) her clients were happier too. They were having better birth, breastfeeding, and even parenting experiences because of the high level of service she was able to provide for them.
I hope you aren't tired of me talking about Birth Boot Camp. It is my job, my passion, my way to make birth better from the ground up. I love what we are doing in childbirth education. Childbirth education matters. But it isn't enough. We have always included doulas as an important part of the birth team and a person that we encourage every couple to have on their side. Now we are doing more than encouraging doulas, we are now training them.
Yes, we have just expanded into the doula territory. Maria Pokluda and Amanda Devereaux have created together a doula program beyond any other out there. What does it have?
-It specifically trains doulas in supporting natural birth AND the partner that we value so much at Birth Boot Camp. Of course they can handle any kind of birth that comes their way, but for women who know they want a natural birth, a Birth Boot Camp DOULA
-Our doulas will be mentored by other experienced doulas who can answer their questions and help them through tough times.
-They include a comprehensive marketing training so that the doulas can actually run a business successfully. Plus, they can go back and access this marketing information later when they need it. This marketing info is taught by a marketing specialist (Shannon Blackwell, who has years of experience in small business marketing and who has helped launch Birth Boot Camp as a company.) Our marketing training is uniform for all doulas going through who train with us.
-In-depth lactation training is included in the doula training. (And taught by none other than the incredible Mellanie Sheppard.)
-Childbirth education classes to attend are included in your doula training so you don't have to go finding them on your own.
-All your materials for yourself and your clients are professionally printed, beautiful, and ready to go so you don't have to make photocopies or scrounge up your own paperwork.
The requirements and the work involved in becoming a Birth Boot Camp DOULA are significant, but the benefits are incomprehensible. This program is amazing. I truly believe that the more women we have out there with the knowledge and the skills to help women have empowering, positive birth experiences, the more change we can make.
The cesarean section rate can be lowered. America can have healthier babies and women. We can help make that happen. I truly believe that this starts with us. This however, is a big job and we need TOOLS to make it happen. We need experienced birth workers to blaze a trail and teach us how to make this happen.
Women are ready for change. Women want and deserve to have great births. We can be part of making birth better, healthier, and more beautiful. Birth Boot Camp DOULA is one way we can make this happen.
Monday, August 4, 2014
|By David J Laporte|
I have been thinking about this post for a long time.I’m not sure if I should write it even now. Talking to women in my birth classes, many plan on having their mother present at their births- or even their mother-in-law. (Do you even need to ask what I think of this?!)
Question is, is this a good idea?
Answer is, it probably depends on a lot of factors. But the truth is, I don’t feel that many people want to honestly answer these questions for fear of offending people. Nor are many willing to re-evaluate this choice in the middle of labor.
Some things you might want to remember:
1. Your mother is not your doula.
No matter how experienced your mom is or isn’t with natural birth, if she isn’t a professional doula or midwife, she does not have all the skills that might be needed to help you in labor. A skilled doula can literally work miracles when it comes to emotional support or position changes for mom and baby.
You may feel that you only want people at your birth who know you and changed your diaper at some point, but that isn’t really a skill set that necessarily translates well in labor. A well chosen midwife or doula who knows what the Gaskin maneuver is or can skillfully apply a double hip squeeze or wrap a rebozo or who knows what the word “uterine catheter” refers to, is priceless.
2. Your mother has a huge emotional investment in your birth AND your pain.
Let’s say for a moment that your mom is wonderful and you want her at your birth. Let’s say that she is also really experienced in natural birth and is excited for you to have one. This is fabulous!
This doesn’t mean she will feel that way at the birth!
Sometimes the noises and things that a woman does in labor aren’t fun for a loved one to watch. I encourage classes for the significant other for this reason: if dad doesn’t know what to expect, it can be frightening when she is vomiting and is sure she is going to die.
If dad has a great birth class then I think he can hang. But your mom, the woman who changed your diaper and fixed your booboos, she might have a harder time watching you “suffer.” (Hopefully a supported woman in labor doesn’t ever suffer, but it might look that way to a person who wants to “save” you.)
I know that for many people the idea of hiring a “stranger” as a doula sounds crazy. Thing is, sometimes the emotional distance provided by a “stranger” is a good thing, not a negative.
As a mother I certainly want to save my kids from unnecessary pain. If you are planning a natural birth and your mom feels like an epidural or a c-section will save you from suffering, how do you think that will impact your birth?
Be honest. This is an important question.
3. You might change your mind in labor about who you want there.
This goes for lots of people involved in your birth, but especially for family. While your bestfriend/mom/dad/relative/etc might sound like somebody you “need” there when you are pregnant, in labor they might throw off a very negative vibe and maybe you will want them to leave.
It is OK to change your mind and have them leave. (Mom should not have to do the dirty work.) The thing with family is, there is often some serious emotional blowback when you ask them to leave an event as momentous as your birth.
Can they handle this? Can you? For the rest of your life?
I know that this is a hard subject. I won’t even share my experiences and fun stories with it. There are too many. But don’t think that the people at your birth won’t impact it for the better or worse. Every person there will take a side- either supporting you or hindering you. There is no middle ground in birth. Do you know where your loved ones stand? Can you speak to them truthfully?
Mother-in-law jokes aside (you know those are my favorite kind)- I have heard birth stories where the family in attendance seriously stalled things out and resulted in interventions because of the emotional impact they had on the environment.
Food for thought.
Sunday, July 27, 2014
Telling Women They Can't Talk About Their Awesome (or Upsetting) Birth Experience- THIS Needs to Stop
Yes, I have come out of my blogging coma to write a tiny bit of angry tripe aimed at some other blogger. Look at me go!
So another childbirth educator I work with shared this little gem on a private group I am on:
"Pregnant and new moms who boast on social media: It's time to stop"
If you manage to make it through this annoying piece of "I'm so offended you had a great birth," bit of fun then congrats, you did better than I did.
What is wrong with this article? Well, many things. I have contemplated listing them in alphabetical order or in order of importance, but I am just going to go ahead and start.
1. Finding JOY in other people's JOY is a sign of character.
Being annoyed when somebody else is happy about something awesome that happened in their life...well, let's just say it is a sign that you don't have character. And yes, we should try to find joy in the happiness of others EVEN IF they are happy about something that has been denied us. That is what we try to do when we try to be good human beings.
Is this always easy? Absolutely not. That doesn't mean we shouldn't make an effort and it certainly doesn't mean we are RIGHT when we are grumpy about every good breastfeeding or birthing experience (or job or graduation or family vacation or any of the other numerous things that people post selfies of on social media).
Being a stick-in-the-mud when something good or triumphant happens for another person doesn't just make us grumpy, it makes us jerks.
|This mom is overjoyed at her natural birth. GO HER! (shared with permission.)|
2. Keeping our mouths shut because we might offend and injure the precious flower that is the ego of woman is downright stupid AND it takes feminism back to the dark ages.
So, let me get this straight...Women are liberated. They want good jobs. They want to make choices regarding their health care and their reproductive organs. They run companies, countries, homes, and tons of other things. They are smart and strong.
But WAIT! Don't post about your great birth on instagram! You might offend one of these powerful women and then she will cry and hate herself!!! OH NO!! You hurt her FEELINGS!
OK. Give me a break. Seriously. I am a woman I can tell you right now that I am way tougher than this. If I can handle the right to VOTE, then I can handle an instagram selfie of somebody who did something I didn't do.
Get off this RIGHT NOW. Because when you talk like women can't handle it when another woman "brags" then you are acting like we are all idiots who basically don't have the basic ability to survive waking up in the morning.
And we do. For goodness sake, give yourself and all of us more credit than that. This makes me absolutely ill.
3. Claiming that women shouldn't "brag" is ludicrous.
|This woman had a VBA3C. Yeah, I think she should brag about it.|
You know, I read another article recently too. It was in the Atlantic and it concerned the "confidence gap" between men and women. The authors claimed (and had some decent data to back themselves up) that women lack confidence in general and tend to NOT pipe up with their abilities, ideas and expertise when they should.
The result? They don't get promotions, they don't move ahead in the business world, and this is one more reason women lag behind men in certain areas. Not lack of ability, but lack of WILLINGNESS to TALK about their ability.
The worst part? Women are just as bad or worse at putting the smack down on confident women.
You know what- I am acquainted with many men. And you know what else, it is not unusual for them to have an inflated sense of self. Why are we OK with this in men and not OK with this in women?
I am just going to go ahead and give women everywhere the go-ahead on this one. You do something that makes you proud? Brag about it. It just might get you promoted.
4. Assuming that because women have pain relief or c-sections means they wanted it means you just don't get it.
Yes, some (many?) women want and like their epidurals or cesareans. That is just fine with me.
But you know what? Many women are not happy with those things in their birth.
I love birth and an interesting thing happens when I talk to women. When I tell them I teach birth classes, they tell me about their birth.
And I listen.
I listen if they had a c-section or an unassisted birth. I listen to what they have to say. Because I love birth and I think women have a DEEP need to talk about their births.
You know what I hear when they talk to somebody who is just sitting there listening?
I hear a lot of pain.
Just the other day I talked to a woman who told me she had needed two cesareans for the births of her children. She told me why. She then expressed sadness over those births.
Her sadness wasn't based on an instagram pic she saw of some celebrity after a home birth. She was sad within herself because SHE (nobody made her feel this way) felt like SHE should be able to give birth naturally.
I didn't impose this feeling on her. I did not PROJECT disappointment in her. Nobody did.
And this is the case for many women.
Yes, some are perfectly at peace with surgical birth, but not all. And this sadness (I believe) is not inflicted by the natural birth community. I mean seriously, almost NOBODY has babies naturally! We are a freak sideshow. Women have an inborn NEED and desire to birth their babies the way women have for generations.
Should they feel broken or like failures because they couldn't? Absolutely not and nobody thinks they should! But women DO feel this way, and when we say they only feel this deep sadness and regret because somebody "made" them feel that way, we both discount the free will and power of women everywhere, we also totally discount their feelings regarding their own birth experience.
Frankly, this makes me ill. Again. This article made me feel ill twice.
5. Assuming that women had cesareans or pain relief because they NEEDED it also makes you a fool.
The author assumes that BECAUSE something happens a lot means it is NECESSARY. Ahem...not so. The fact that something happens a lot just means that it happens a lot.
"So, if the majority of women need intervention or pain relief when giving birth" says she.
Sorry cowboy, not true. Just because something happens doesn't mean it HAD to happen. Do I really need to go further with this one? I mean where the heck does this false logic come into play and gain acceptance?
"Well, people in America drink milk every day THEREFORE people in America MUST NEED to drink milk everyday."
I am getting ready to bang my head against the wall right now. GAH.
There is NOTHING that justifies a c-section rate over 30%. NOTHING. So don't say that again. There is nothing that justifies the claim that all women (or 80% or so) NEED pain relief in labor. Nobody likes pain in labor, but seriously, that never killed anybody. Other stuff in labor, yes. Pain, no.
~~In conclusion, (I feel like I am writing an essay in the fourth grade. I just said "in conclusion.") can we just stop this? I mean really.
I had four babies naturally. They were great experiences. I have done lots of other things in my life that make me happy or that were goals that I worked for and then accomplished. I breastfed for over six years, I have been published, I finished college, I stayed married for 14 years, etc, etc, etc.
I will admit that I don't put that stuff on twitter or Facebook or whatever. That isn't my style. But I don't begrudge other women for sharing their triumph over something awesome.
When a woman has a natural birth (or any kind of birth!!!!) it is a big deal! Birth is hard work. It hurts. It takes a long time. It is an enormous effort. And we have EVERY right to brag about it and talk about it and share our joy!
Our real friends won't tell us to keep it to ourselves or "stop it". They will celebrate with us because they love us. Those that do otherwise...
Well, thank goodness for the un-friend option.
Monday, June 30, 2014
Melek Speros, founder of Black Women Do VBAC and Birth Boot Camp instructor in Austin, TX, nurses her VBA2C baby.
At the recent birth roundup in Tarrant County, TX, I had the pleasure of meeting Dr Kathleen Kendall-Tackett, author, IBCLC and book editor and publisher at Praeclarus Press. Her presentation table was filled with books about birth I had never read but knew needed to be shared with others. Dr. Kendall-Tackett was kind enough to send me on my way with a healthy stack of books for my reading pleasure.
The first one I chose to read was titled “Free To Breastfeed” by Jeanine Valrie Logan and Anayah Sangodele-Ayoka. I had recently done an article on breastfeeding resources and was able to find very few books dedicated specifically to supporting Black women in their breastfeeding journey.
Black women have some of the lowest breastfeeding rates in the country. According to the CDC,
“Black infants consistently had the lowest rates of breastfeeding initiation and duration across all study years. Black mothers may need more, targeted support to start and continue breastfeeding.”
Not only are breastfeeding rates among Black women even lower than the dismal national average, infant mortality is worse. Knowing the positive impact that nursing at the breast can have on both infant health and the mother/baby dyad, we must find ways to encourage and support breastfeeding among all women, especially those who are the least likely to nurse. It seems as though there is a need for more literature in this area.
“Free to Breastfeed,” is a book full of information, positive stories, quotes and wisdom. Written by dozens of women and quoting dozens more, it combines the voices of many to help the individual succeed in breastfeeding.
I no longer breastfeed anybody and probably never will again. Nor am I a Black woman searching for support. Still, I loved this book. It was easy to read, peppered with inspiration, and filled with diverse voices of all different kinds of women. Those with cesareans, VBACs, natural births, single children, numerous babies, and all different kinds of lives told their stories.
I think we as women almost NEED to hear the birth stories of our peers. The diverse stories of birth help us understand the miraculous nature of something which is different for each yet shared by all mothers.
There is also a need for breastfeeding stories. Like birth stories, these tales of breastfeeding help us understand that each journey is as different as the woman on it and these differences, joys, hopes, and disappointments, can help us on our own way. Probably at no time have these stories of breastfeeding been as important as they are now. With increasing virtual connections but disappearing real ones and with generations in a row where the blessing of nursing was lost, books such as this are needed.
“Free to Breastfeed” is a wonderful book. While written by and for Black women in particular, it deserves a place in the library of any birthing/breastfeeding woman. It will have a place in my lending library where it can reach more women, tell more stories, and help more people than just me understand how differently each of us experience the dance of breastfeeding.
You can find “Free to Breastfeed” here, from Dr Kendall-Tackett’s publishing website (Preclarus Press). I wouldn’t limit it’s power to women of color; it is useful to anybody seeking healing or success in breastfeeding. An excellent addition to the library of any birth worker, I highly recommend this volume of knowledge and inspiration.
Saturday, June 21, 2014
|This is Freud. He was a therapist.|
Some place her on a pedestal, others vilify her as a witch.
Those that love and choose midwifery care sometimes make them out as sensitive, floating apertures of real midwives, perfect versions of what they "should" be but cannot possibly be in a real world.
If we are being fair, you can't possibly expect your midwife to be everything on the list below:
-your BEST FRIEND FOREVER!
-you personal trainer
-your life coach
-your childbirth educator
-your own personal charity
-your massage therapist
or many other things that midwives are often expected to be.
The Midwives Alliance of North America defines a midwife as,
"Midwives are experts in normal birth and adept at ensuring excellent outcomes for women and infants. "Pretty cool, pretty important, but certainly not a catch all for filling every possible emotional and physical and spiritual NEED that a pregnant and birthing woman may have.
I really love midwives. But I have to admit that we as women often expect more from them than they can give.
They are human. They have bad days. They make mistakes. They also lack the ability to be everything to everybody in every situation. Have you ever TRIED to be one person's everything, to make them completely happy and fulfilled all the time? Trying to do so is a great way to make yourself absolutely miserable. (This might explain midwife burnout.)
We cannot expect somebody to listen to your every complaint, brush your hair, comfort you in every possible way in labor and do it for dirt cheap or for free.
A midwife exists to catch your baby, to watch your birth and make sure it is as safe as possible and to make the call and get you somewhere else if that is what is needed. That is about it. THIS IS A HARD AND SOMETIMES THANKLESS JOB.
Frankly, the way women sometimes treat and talk about their midwives who give so much for so little just makes me ill and feel a little ashamed of my gender.
It is not her fault if your birth isn't perfect, if you husband is a jerk, if you don't get exactly what you want or if (heaven forbid) you feel pain in labor.
Yes, hold them accountable when they are negligent, stupid, unprofessional and unethical. This should happen to everybody in every profession. (Yet midwife witch hunts have not disappeared. They are alive and well online and in our communities.) But expecting consequences when there is a serious breech of ethics is NOT the same as trashing on somebody because they couldn't give you something that frankly, nobody can.
For goodness sake, give these women a break. (This goes for all medical providers- YES- including OBs!.)
Photo credit: Psychology Pictures / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)