My Bond Was Stolen From Me: Odent was Right

Photography: SpiritualMidwifery
I’ll start with a little background story. I experienced my first battle of depression/post partum depression when I was 16/17 after the premature birth and subsequent death of my first son, followed by my being on birth control for the first time in my life. Upon discontinuing the pill, I found myself depression-free until I got pregnant with my second son in 2012. I gave birth to a beautiful perfectly healthy baby boy 18 months ago at a local hospital. It wasn’t the home birth that I wanted, and though it wasn’t “the worst” as far as hospital births go, it also was nowhere near the best. Essentially everything that I hadn’t wanted, I was “forced” to have, including saline drip, antibiotics, and electronic fetal monitoring (EFM). I was group-B strep positive, and at the time not knowlegable of any alternatives I did consent to receiving antibiotics. However, before going into labor I was told that I would not have to stay hooked up to a saline drip and that they would just keep the IV base in my hand and hook me up whenever I needed a dose of antibiotics. Upon arrival at the hospital, this was apparently not the case per instructions of the “current on-call CNM”. I was also told beforehand at a doctor’s visit that I could request “intermittent fetal monitoring” with a doplar instead of EFM also known as “continuous [electronic] fetal monitoring”. Again, upon arrival at the hospital, that wasn’t going to fly. Now bound in bed by a blood pressure cuff, an EFM belt, and an IV tube, my desire to get in the shower during labor was essentially made impossible, and at that point I wanted nothing else than to just lay there on my left side (I did this, except for a trip to the bathroom, until it was time to push). I thankfully only had to labor at the hospital for about an hour and a half or so (my total time from start to finish was just shy of 3.5 hours). My partner and my mother were there with me the whole time. I remember the nurses constantly asking me for information to put in the system, asking for signatures on papers I hadn’t (and couldn’t) read during contractions… it was overall an unpleasant experience. So this is where we begin to get into how my bond with my son was affected for the worse, and what I believe contributed greatly to my Post Partum Depression.

Just after my son was born. Photography: SpiritualMidwifery
During pushing, I was in (what I now know to be) a very poor position choice to prevent tearing of the perineum. I was in the semi-upright sorta-seated position that most hospitals have their mothers in now-a-days. I was not allowed an easy, slow, take-our-time pushing phase. And even though I could feel myself tearing, I could feel everything and wanted to slow down, I wanted to stop for a moment, the CNM kept yelling at me to not stop, to keep pushing, particularly once his head was out. Once he was born, my son was placed immediately on my stomach as requested. Of course, the nurses were scrambling to remove the EFM belt and get it out of the way, which I hadn’t even wanted in the first place. The next few minutes are hazy. I’m not sure when exactly they clamped the cord, even though I had requested delayed clamping. I’m not sure exactly when my placenta came out, I just remember her tractioning it. Whether it had detached and she was just helping it out or not I have no idea. Though my recollection is fuzzy, I don’t think it was more than maybe ten minutes or so for all of that. While she was tractioning the cord I remember her saying I had torn, and she’d need to give me stitches. I have never received stitches before and I was really nervous. I was already shaking uncontrollably at this point and was afraid of holding my baby while she stitched me for some reason. (I also don’t remember much of my son through any of this, though I never received any drugs to my knowledge). So, I handed my son off to my partner (I hadn’t even gotten him to my chest from my belly). He got to hold him for a minute or two then handed him off to the nurse to wipe him off a bit, measure and weigh him, and stamp his feet. At some point they asked if I wanted to wait to take him to the nursery until I was done with my stitches. I didn’t know what to do so I let them take him, my partner close behind while my mother stayed with me. At this point I had to pee terribly (I despise saline) and since my privates were practically numb I had an accident with the bedpan and needed a shower. This whole time I’m receiving texts from my partner that the nurses were getting impatient– they wanted to give my son a bath.

His First Bath. Photography: SpiritualMidwifery
My partner managed to hold them off until I got into the nursery. Then we stood by and watched while someone else washed our baby. Afterwards instead of letting us take him to the room, they said they had to put him in the incubator to bring his body temperature up. Which according to the machine, never dropped, so he didn’t stay long. By this time it was around 11:30 pm. We finally got to the room and settled in. I didn’t get to hold him much until the next day, and first thing in the morning they took him to get circumcised. We had planned on waiting at least 3 days, but I had wanted to wait at least 7-8 days to make sure his clotting factors were established, but they said they liked to do it the day before discharge so that they could monitor them for 24 hours. They refused to allow my partner to accompany him, and so we sat, quiet and sad, for over 2 hours waiting for my son. They finally brought him back to us and left without a word. His first pee after surgery was a horrible experience for all of us (without going into a full-on anti-circumcision tangent, I will say that we have decided to never circumcise another boy). Now I should say at this point I still had not breastfed my son.

Photography: SpiritualMidwifery
My son did not nurse for the first time until he was almost 24 hours old. It took us almost two days to see the lactation consultant. He had a poor latch from the start, which became a major contributing factor to my PPD. When we finally got home, it was hard. I would stay up most of the night every night with my son balling my eyes out because he wouldn’t nurse and would just cry, or when he did finally latch it hurt so bad I couldn’t stand it, and I was just. So. Tired. I felt alone, like I was a poor mom. I felt like I had failed, and I didn’t feel the bond that I knew I should have been experiencing with my newborn. It wasn’t there. I loved him, but there was this distance between us that broke my heart. And to this day, my son now 18 months old, I still feel the same. My birth-right was stolen from me. The crucial bond with my child, was stolen from me. For the last 18 months I have struggled with fatigue, depression, thoughts of just disappearing, feelings of disdain and anger, of betrayal and loneliness. I have struggled with breastfeeding, I have finally understood why people shake their babies. Truly, understood how they could do something so atrocious. I can say that I never crossed that threshold, but I stood at it and looked over the edge. The sound of my son crying still puts me on edge and makes me grit my teeth in anger. And that scares me. It breaks my heart. That I have no patience for my son, that I get so angry with him. At 18 months postpartum I am still battling the remnants of depression, and our bond is still lacking. And yet the thought of not breastfeeding (he’s still mostly breastfed, which I am very proud of), or not having him in my life, is heart-wrenching.

It has been a constant fight, one that I was not prepared for, one that hundreds of mothers are not prepared for nor cared for and supported through properly if at all. Our partners don’t know what to do, our mothers think we’re just complaining, our friends feel sorry for us or just think we’re exaggerating. That’s if we even talk about what’s going on in the first place, which many of us don’t.

I now know what Michel Odent is talking about. I now know why he advocates so much for facilitating the maternal-fetal bond, for not disturbing birth or the early postpartum (first 1-3 hours after birth). I know the evidence is there, but I hadn’t really realized the seriousness of the situation, the true need to really and truly make sure the maternal-fetal bond is preserved and nourished, until I experienced (and actually realized what had happened) first hand the repercussions of not doing so.

Post-partum depression and maternal-fetal bonding are topics for concern that should be at the forefront of every birthworker’s mind. Women need support, they need answers, they need alternatives. They need to be left alone in birth and facilitating bonding needs to be a top priority. This isn’t just some radical opinion. This is real life. For all those mothers out there who are experiencing this, or who have in the past, know that you are not alone. There are others out there who are going through the same thing, there is help, there are options. Reach out to the women around you. Talk to your partner, your midwife, your doula. Get your placenta encapsulated if possible. Try herbs, yoga, meditation, counseling. Eat a good healthy diet with plenty of vitamins, minerals, and healthy saturated fats. Get sunlight. For moms who are pregnant, stand up for your rights, stand up for the bond between you and your newborn. And if you think you may be at risk for PPD, I cannot express the importance of placenta encapsulation, healthy diets, and a good support system.

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Article Review: My Take on the Maternal Care in Malawi

There is a great website called Good.is that I get e-mails from. In the last digest was a link to an article about using solar panel-powered lighting in birth clinics in Malawi. Interest piqued, I followed the link. But as I read, my face fell. The idea, is amazing. Superb even. But the details in the article (which was written by a female Obstetrician) were heart-wrenching, and made my stomach twist in knots as Birth Fear was, consciously or unconsciously, spread further by the author’s words.

“Pakati,” she told me. “What does that translate to?” I asked. “Between life and death.”

This caught my attention. It was the first thing at the beginning of the article. I immediately knew the rest of the article was going to be in regards to maternal mortality. But birth IS just that. It is a woman’s Journey, her Shaman’s Quest. She is the walker-between-worlds. When she enters the Delta brainwave state and goes into a kind of trance, she leaves her body and crosses the threshold, “Between life and death”, to meet her baby and bring them back. But in today’s world, the meaning behind the word for “pregnancy” has come to mean a very good chance of meeting Death on the day of the your baby’s birth, as the author pointed out with the WHO statistics for Malawi:

In 2010, the WHO reported the Maternal Mortality Ratio for Malawi was 470. That means that for every 100,000 live births, about 470 women will lose their lives. And my Malawi colleagues on this trip suggested the risk in rural areas is significantly higher. In fact, a young woman in Malawi faces a 1 in 36 lifetime risk of dying from pregnancy-related complications.

I would put money on WHY their rates are so high. The author claims lack of adequate prenatal care and access to birth clinics and technology for assessing and remedying complications. Lack of adequate prenatal care is surely part of it. But I would argue against the need for birth clinics and technology. They both have their place, and are at times indeed needed. But, I believe, adequate nutrition and over-all health of women before conception and during pregnancy, plays the biggest part in the occurrence of complications. There are of course multiple factors at play here: poverty, lack of resources, lack of adequate nutrition and food sources, lack of clean water, lack of properly trained health-care workers (that you don’t have to trek for miles to see). Without all these things, and without good nutrition and over-all health, then yes women are going to have higher rates of complications and have higher rates of needing clinics and technological interventions.

The greatest threats to life: hemorrhage (excessive bleeding); obstructed labor (inability of the baby to fit through the birth canal); eclampsia (high blood pressure leading to convulsions); and sepsis (disseminated infection)—usually manifest close to the time of delivery. These conditions may not be preventable, but they are certainly treatable with proper medical and/or surgical care. They need not result in death. But appropriate treatment does require skilled clinicians capable of providing immediate emergency care.

This particular comment stuck out to me the most, and stirred an anger deep down inside of me. Wrong wrong wrong. The wording of this quote makes it out to seem that these complications (though very real and very serious) can ONLY be treated with medical and techno-cratic methods. Which is far from the truth (except perhaps treatment of sepsis, but the prevention of it can be alternative). Again, multiple factors are at play here (those previously mentioned) but when those factors are not at play, it is actually very rarely that any of these complications result in the need for obstetric (usually surgical) intervention. And again, in a rural, poverty-stricken country with tremendously less-than-ideal situation in regards to health care/disease prevention and nutrition, these cases are in deed higher. But that is where we should be focusing, fixing the root of the problem.

In Malawi, community health workers and village leaders are called upon to encourage pregnant women to deliver in a health center. The law now forbids home births. This means that women must be able to reach functional health centers: facilities stocked with clean equipment, medical supplies, trained health providers, and something that is often overlooked—light.

The law now forbids home births. Yes, you read that right. Let me repeat that: The law now FORBIDS HOME BIRTHS. My heart broke when I read this. I couldn’t believe it. I had heard that some places had unofficially outlawed home births, like Peru (they make it very difficult for mothers to have babies at home). THIS IS NOT THE ANSWER. Making home birth midwives illegal, making HOME BIRTHS illegal, is the complete opposite direction that we should be heading. That kind of thinking is leading us further down the tunnel towards darkness– higher intervention rates, and higher maternal and fetal mortality rates.

We’ve designed the WE Care Solar Suitcase to help address this problem. The Solar Suitcase is an economical, easy-to-use portable power unit that provides health workers with highly efficient medical lighting and power for mobile communication, computers and medical devices. It was originally designed to support timely and efficient emergency obstetric care, but can be used in a range of medical and humanitarian settings.

It might seem like I’m totally bashing this author. That’s not my intention. I know she’s an OB, that’s what she knows. She seems like a humanitarian-type person, and her article is well-intended. That doesn’t mean that it’s not entirely correct, and doesn’t keep it from adding to the spread of birth fear. But their innovative idea is definitely something that can help us work towards a better outcome for mothers and babies. For the instances that clinicians and the techno-cratic mode of care is indeed needed, light is paramount. And their solar powered portable lighting and charging unit (for cell phones and laptops) is an amazing thing that should be made widely available.

On this trip to Malawi, we travel for hours to reach each clinic. As our four-wheel drive carefully maneuvers muddy dirt roads with deep trenches of water, I ask myself if I would choose to make the trip by foot if I were in labor. Would I be willing to leave the security of my home to arrive at a clinic shrouded in darkness? In Malawi, clinics lacking electricity expect women to bring their own candles and matches as part of their birthing kit. For a woman living in poverty, even the price of a candle can be a deterrent to obtaining skilled care.

They traveled for hours, in vehicles. How many villagers have vehicles, or bikes? The majority of women have to walk to these clinics, and as she said– in the dark. Imagine going that while in labor, fearing that you may have your baby before you get there, or that something could happen or go wrong during the trip. “Would I be willing to leave the security of my home…” That line just makes me shake my head. Why should these women be FORCED to do just that? I would be willing to put money on the hypothesis that women having to undergo these stressful and potentially dangerous journeys just to deliver their babies in a clinic that has no lighting (if at night, which most women naturally go into labor at night), is a large part of why these women are having such high levels of complications and need for interventions.

So many women make a calculated risk. They stay home. They make the same choice their mothers made, and try and deliver by traditional means. They take their chances. And, in places like Malawi, where skilled health care is far and clinics are often in darkness, many of them are unable to obtain the care they need when problems arise. And pregnancy tragically does become a period of time “between life and death.”

This is another quote that makes me grind my teeth. When a reader comes across this, what else are they to think but that home birth is dangerous? When they don’t realize why there is the potential for danger for these particular women? (Risk factors mentioned previously). Home birth has been shown time and time again to be as safe or safer than a hospital birth. These women are at risk because of a multitude of factors, and it is wrong to put out to the masses the declaration (whether blatantly stated or left for the assumption to be made) that home birth is dangerous. “They take their chances”. Staying home is a “calculated risk”, that is not true for all women. Or even, for these women if they had trained village home birth midwives to attend them.

I think about the thousands of babies I have delivered in the United States, and wonder how I could have functioned without the entire hospital infrastructure in place.

To be blunt, this quote shows the obvious lack of knowledge in regards to alternative birth practices and the midwifery model of care. There is so much that can be done to care for women without hospital structures or obstetrical “medicine”. I understand that with her training, as an OB, she would seem out of her comfort zone. But there is so much more outside of that…

I pull out the bright yellow suitcase that is the reason for my visit. When I open it and turn on the lights, the room becomes visible again. And now Fanny has a wide smile on her face. She immediately realizes that she will no longer rely on cell phones or candles at night. That her cell phone can always be charged. That the fetal Doppler we include with the Solar Suitcase will make it easier for her to hear the fetal heart beat.

This is a beacon of light in the darkness. A small glimmer of hope. But it is only one step. But it does not address the root of the problem. Not fixing the root problems are letting these complications arise in more serious mannerisms than would normally occur. Not fixing the root of the issue, and as the issue arises treating it with a techno-cratic model of care/procedure is only putting a bandaid on a wound that will continue to fester, continue to not heal.

–Start at the family and community level and work up, not backwards.
–Work on implementing village midwifery training or volunteering midwives to villages to overlook home births.
–Work with families and the community to make sure families and mothers are getting adequate food supply and nutrition.
–Teach women (and their partners) about their bodies and methods of facilitating labor (vertical birth, alternative positions for pushing, etc.)

http://www.good.is/posts/surgery-lit-by-a-cell-phone-this-solar-lantern-saves-lives-during-childbirth/

Lazy Lady Living 2013 Permaculture Design Certification Class

Lazy Lady Living Permaculture Design Course

Krista Joy Arias, owner of Tierra Soul and teacher of the MamaMuse (un)Midwifery Mentorship program, has chosen a select few to be Village Builders and help spread the word about her new class, the 2013 Lazy Lady (and Lad) Living Permaculture Design Certification Program. I was one of the selected Village Builders and am posting here because I think some of my readers and followers may be interested. I took the last class and it’s wonderful! Lots of wonderful information and Krista and her husband are great people.

Come join the Lazy Lady Living community and be a part of something different. This course is about sustainable sustainability, and getting the most bang for your lazy buck. Interested in Permaculture, Traditional Nutrition, and Urban Farming? This is the class for you! It’s an 8-week 100% virtual course with the option to complete extra work (additional assignments and a Permaculture Design project) to receive a Permaculture Design Certificate.

The 16 Topics in Lazy-Lady Living:
1. Permaculture Philosophy & Ethics
2. Weston A. Price & Nutrient Density, Value added farming
3. Anthroposophy & Biodynamic Agriculture
4. Trauma, Initiation & Myth Mending
5. Patterns & Design Elements
6. Cultivated Ecology & Wildlife
7. Urban Ambrosia, Backyard Milk, Meat, Eggs and Honey
8. Urban Apothecary, Lazy-lady soap, salve, tincture and tonic
9. Sacred Slaughter & the Vegetarian Myth
10. Soil & Trees
11. Water & Aquaculture, ponds, dams & bridges, Water catchment, Grey water & composting toilets
12. Recycling, waste streams & DIY pitfalls, Diverse climate solutions
13. Earth Rhythms & Seasonal Celebrations, Advanced Simplicity
14. Undisturbed Birth & Home-Funerals, Sacred Union & Family Harmony
15. Ethical Business & Investing, Licensure vs. Free Marketplace, Personal Abundance & Giving Back
16. Energy, Climate & Catastrophe

Enrollment begins on May 15th and runs for 2 weeks only closing on May 31st. As a Village Builder, I get a commission for every person whom I get to enroll in the class.

**What will my commissions be going towards? My self-sustainability fund to get off-grid and have a place for people to come and do “farm stays”, learn about sustainability and permaculture, and also as a place for women and mothers to come experience with-women care and support throughout the childbearing cycles. I am also wanting to have a birthing hut built on the property for families to come have their children if they like, and also a Moon Lodge.

For those who sign up through me I will be helping and mentoring as I can if any questions or needs arise during the class and will be here as a collaboration partner. Follow the link below to sign up with your e-mail to receive information as Krista sends it out. She will also be making some videos that will be sent out to everyone on the mailing list as well between now and the start of class.

The cost of the course is $897 and there is a payment plan of $350/month for 3 months. Krista is also offering scholarships and the application will be announced on the 15th(ish) as well.

Here is my affiliate link so that I get the commission when you sign up, but remember enrollment doesn’t start until May 15! Be sure to sign up soon so that you don’t miss any information::

http://www.lazyladyliving.com/NaturoMomma/1

Touching Further on “Safety” in Birth

I shared my previous post on “safety” in birth in the group for my MamaMuse (un)Midwifery program mentored by Krista Joy Arias and she made a comment that spurred a new thought process. My view point on “Unassisted Childbirth” has ebbed and flowed through various thought processes, view points, and opinions since I first discovered the terminology (and the ever-growing movement) but that is for another post. We had talked some on UC in our class and I had made a comment in regards to UC being counterproductive. Krista asked in regards to my last voiced stand on UC how it related to my post on “Safety in Birth”. This was my response:

I feel that if one can go into a UC (here meaning having no one, midwife or otherwise… i.e. someone other than a midwife more experienced in birth than yourself… at your birth to “assist you” in the instance of an “emergency”) with the frame of mind that whatever happens, happens, and feel that they can be present with that and just let birth BE, that UC may be the best thing for that mother…. However, I still feel that it is counterproductive all around, whether for “safety”/”positive” birth outcome or for spiritual growth/enlightenment/what-have-you, to go into a UC planning to “be the midwife” trying to learn as much as you can and practically train yourself to be a midwife, to be able to recognize complications and be able to handle them, WHILE giving birth and being in a completely different state of mind (or, this weight and responsibility you have put on yourself is KEEPING you from going into that essential, primal, state of mind)… this is the route that I see most often in women who seek UC. I feel that it is OK to have people with you. You don’t NEED to be by yourself, to “prove” that you can do it, that your “natural”, or anything like that. I think that women have been giving birth surrounded by women, for millenia. And yes, even though they had women who were more experienced in birth, whether a great-grandmother and their grandmother and their mother (who all had 8+ children), or a midwife, or all of the above… they still knew that even if something happened and no one there knew what to do, or something happened and someone there DID know what to do, and it still didn’t help or salvage the situation and the baby or mother died, that was accepted as the way of things. There was allowance for acknowledgment in this, and allowance of time needed for grieving. But it was known to be a possibility and was accepted as such…. I think that’s the key. Not seeking safety as the goal, or throwing safety out the window. Not seeking to know as much as humanly possible to keep something from going wrong or throwing experience and knowledge out the window, but instead using what we have to the best of our ability (our skills and knowledge) and if what we had to give was not enough (or the mother did not want what we offered and so we met her in that place and acknowledged her right to chose and her choice), and regardless of the outcome let it BE. Acknowledged it, was present in the moment, and took nothing for granted. That, is the key.

The Big Three (Actually, Four): Part II

The Midwife: Whapio Diane Bartlett
Website: http://www.thematrona.com/
Authored Books: N/A
Biography/History: Whapio has been a midwife for over 30 years. In the 1990s she was teaching classes about childbirth and midwifery and in the early years of 2000 she put together all of the information she had learned over the years and created her program, The Matrona. “As a young midwife I knew that my approach to childbirth was different than many of my peers. I apprenticed for three years with the midwife who helped me birth my two children. I adored her and learned incredible amounts from the births I attended with her. But my real apprenticeship began when I was called to assist women who were having large families and these intrepid women allowed me to sit at their feet and really see how birth unfolds when women are acting in accordance with their own authority and birthing in their organic rhythms. They invited me to apprentice with them and with birth itself.” (3) Whapio studied Quantum Physics and applied it to midwifery and birth and has integrated it into her teachings of “Quantum Midwifery”.

Beliefs:
Ability to Birth: “…these intrepid women allowed me to sit at their feet and really see how birth unfolds when women are acting in accordance with their own authority and birthing in their organic rhythms. They invited me to apprentice with them and with birth itself.” (3)…… “Over the years, countless women taught me that they don’t want or need to be managed. They were wise and capable even when I thought they weren’t. They were patient and caring with me and I was respectful and integral with them and we collaborated in birth. They taught me that as women we can call into question that idea that we NEED someone to assist us in birthing our babies. They explained that they want to be attended through childbirth, they prefer companionship and witnessing but that they were capable of birth without management, unnecessary support and interference, no matter how loving and compassionate the interference seemed.” (3)
Licensure, Accreditation: “I’ve been an independent midwife through all my years and I never felt it was necessary to belong to any particular organization as a midwife or as a midwifery education program. MEAC is good for those who want it, but to me it feels like a linear, left-brained way of supporting the age-old tradition of midwifery that is steeped in an intuitive and non-linear mode of expression as well as a practical model. Naturally there is a blending of the academic and the intuitive in midwifery and I would prefer to support organizations that facilitate mystical intelligence.” (3)……
“Trust Birth”/Unassisted Birth: “Paramount to communication and collaboration among midwives is the willingness to set aside our ideologies concerning what’s right and wrong and realize that there is a place for everything. There is a place for drugs, for unassisted birth, for yoni exams and for no yoni exams. For me, the key is that each of us finds our own self-directed way to accessing what can facilitate birth and consciousness in this world.” (3)
• “I feel that the fear we see surrounding birth that effects young midwives during their education is created by political and societal concerns rather than a fear of birth itself. It’s an artificially created fear because it’s based on responsibility for outcomes. As caregivers, I believe that we are responsible for the process and not the outcome. We are responsible for the time we spend, the nurturing we offer, the integrity we bring – all the aspects of unfolding the birth process with a woman and family. But it is not my privilege to know the destiny of another human being or to control or be responsible for the outcome. Birth, like healing, is a relationship between mother, child and the greater powers. Naturally, we endeavor to facilitate fulfillment and subsequently safety for mother and baby but we cannot mandate the outcome. When we try to do that we get the practice of defensive medicine. We also need to address the temptation to practice defensive midwifery.

Read the full interview here: http://www.thematrona.com/#!__literature – Interview with Whapio

My Take:
Whapio is another midwife that I look up to and adore. Her thoughts, her past, her beliefs. Her “Holistic Stages of Labor” is a must read (and can be found on her website). Her school, the Matrona, offers Holistic Doula and Quantum Midwifery training which I will be attending. One of my current mentors, Krista Joy Arias, bases a lot of her teachings and beliefs off of those of Whapio and her style and beliefs feel that they mesh very well with my own. But it is up to each woman and midwife to find their way, who they look up to, etc.

Sources:

(1) http://www.thematrona.com/#!__literature
– Interview with Whapio

Note: As I come across further information, this may be updated.

Safety in Birth

As I was traversing Pinterest I came across a blog here on WordPress called “Outlaw Midwives” and while skimming the articles, I found this one: http://outlawmidwife.wordpress.com/2011/03/30/on-safety-and-consent/; shortly there after I re-read an article also touching on “safe birth” by my mentor, Krista Joy Arias over at MamaMuse: http://www.mamamuse.com/2011/05/trust-love/.

They sparked a thought process in my head that I hadn’t considered before. An idea, a philosophy, that so many mainstream midwives, pro-homebirth (*cough* midwife-attended homebirth) campaigners, etc. would be furious at. Especially when it challenges their biggest ideal: “trusting birth”, that birth is “safe”. My thought process was similar to that of the Outlaw Midwife’s, supported by Ms. Arias’s points.

What is “safety in birth”? Why do we seek “safe birth”? Is it just a ploy by pro-midwifery-licensure campaigners to gain more support? They are trying to not “scare” anyone. “See, look! Birth IS safe if you don’t receive interventions!” But that’s just it. We find comfort in “safety”, even if it is just perceived– which can be dangerous in itself. Our culture, our society, fears death. It fears it, and it is taboo to not fear it, to accept it as an every-day Right of Passage. We fear it, so we fight it with medication and technology. We fight it down to our very cores, though there is a place in our souls, in each of us, that knows Death, and accepts it. But we fear letting that part of ourselves, that part of our humanity, out into the light of day.

To me, Death is a part of Midwifery. It is a part of Motherhood. It is a part of Life. There is no escaping it (though we like to think as much). And the rituals and chants, the songs and whails surrounding the Rite of Passage that is Death (and all other Rites as well, really) are being forgotten. But there are those Rogues who are grasping at the slipping rope, trying desperately to pull it back up to the surface before all is lost to the sea of modernization and technological advancement.

Consider the following taken from the blog over at Outlaw Midwives:

“this idea of safety is so ubiquitous that even the controversial ‘trust birth‘ movement says, birth is safe, interference is risky, as if the question on the table is, how do we have the safest birth possible?  do we follow medical protocol, mainstream midwifery protocol, more ‘hands off’ protocol…which one is safer?

but i want to question, why is safety the goal?  why do we first tout how safe a procedure, before we talk about whether the mama has given informed consent?  and why when we talk about informed consent, we often boil down to whether or not the mama consented to this procedure, despite or because of the risk or safety of the said action?  feel me?

what is safety?  being alive?  fitting into the normative ideas of healthy and average?

and how do we determine safety?  through clinical studies?  medical tradition?  anecdotal evidence?  expert opinion?”

Really consider that for a minute…. “What IS safety?” ….. “WHY is safety the goal?”

In the words of Krista Arias:

“So, when I hear someone say, Birth is safe or Trust Birth –your body knows how to give birth, something in me rebels.

“That’s not true,” it says.

“Birth is anything but safe.”

Birth may not be a medical emergency, but that does not mean it is safe. It is a serious and intense rite of passage that can shake us to our depths. Persephone’s trip to the underworld was not safe. Safe is a cop-out in life, and in birth.”

Let me repeat that: Safe is a cop-out in life, and in birth.

I feel that women, midwives, mothers… that they should not focus on “safety” and “what-if” and “Where did we go wrong” or “What could have been done to make it safer”. Instead, they should focus on allowing what is to be, allowing the birth to unfold in the manner of which it is meant to. Even if you attempt to do what you can with what skills and knowledge you have, and the “best outcome” doesn’t happen, accept that. Accept it as it is. Be present, be responsible, and own the part of the story that is yours. Meet mothers where they’re at. Do not hold judgement. Know the rites, know the rituals, know the words and the way of life and death and you can accept it as it comes, and help mothers and families to do so as well.

Another thought from the Outlaw Midwife:

“i guess it is because i think of safety/security as an illusion.  there  are no guarantees in life.  and playing the statistics game (deciding  ones protocol based on what has proven to be statistically safest or  most effective) is a fools errand.  because you can easily find yourself  in a situation where you do all the right things and the outcome is  horrible.  and you can do all the wrong things and in the end everything  turns out just how you wanted.
and if something is 99 percent  effective, and you turn out to be that 1 percent, do you really care  that 99 other people had difft outcomes?  and what if you are the mama  and you lose your babe, because you are the 1 percent?  is your grief  any less? probably not.
but yr grief probably is harder if you were told to go against your own motherwit, because the stats said xyz.
and  if you did follow your intuition, and the outcome is not what you  expected, then at least you can take responsibility for what happened.   rather than blaming mw’s and obgyns etc, ppl who have little  accountability to you, and will go on doing their jobs barely  remembering you existed a couple of weeks or months later.
i dont  know.  i tell mamas, look, everything will not be perfect.  but if you  follow your own sense of what to do, then you are taking responsibility  for your own life and choices.  everybody has to be who they are.
and  from what i have seen if you follow your own sense of what to do, then  you will have more self-respect, self-love, self-empowerment.  and the  more that we value ourselves, the more we are able to value others  around us, including/especially our children.”

 

Rogue Midwifery: By Kirsten Andergerg

I stumbled across this article by Kirsten Andergerg on the Susan Weed herbal ezine website and wanted to share it with you all. I think that she brings up some really key points that I hadn’t thought of before– lower class treatment, Spanish (or other language) speaking midwives, really helping others and being there for women– whether they are poor or rich, white or brown, Single or Gay or in a Heterosexual monogamous relationship, etc. [Here is the link for the Susan Weed article site: http://www.susunweed.com/herbal_ezine/December04/index.htm ]

Childbearing & Mothering … 
Rogue Midwifery 
by Kirsten Anderberg

Rogue Midwifery: Birthing Babies on the Sly 
By Kirsten Anderberg 

Women helping other women deliver babies is as old as humanity. It makes sense. So why do mainstream doctors and hospitals act like midwifery is some radical, dangerous, medically-irresponsible quackery? In Scandanavia, the UK, and the Netherlands, female midwifery is a thriving occupation. Yet in America, it has been constructively outlawed as a profession, for 100 years. While I was in labor, during my home birth, I actually asked the midwives, “Are you sure this is okay to do at home, and not in a hospital?” They said, “Kirsten, think about it. THIS is the way women birthed for thousands of years before doctors and hospitals.” That made sense, but I had to ask, due to my years of American medical brainwashing.

My midwives were rogue outlaws, in many ways. They fully understood the political activism involved, they fully appreciated the anarchist nature of what they were doing. They birthed approximately 200 babies in the Seattle area, between the years of 1980 and 2000, and they did so with no licenses, and no medical credentials. They delivered my baby at home, illegally, and I am eternally grateful. When I gave birth in 1984, there were no hospitals allowing midwives to birth in them, no insurance plan would pay for a midwife, and Swedish Hospital was the only hospital in Seattle “experimenting” with birthing rooms. There were no single or gay mom childbirth classes, so I quit going to childbirth classes, as they were filled only with middle-class, heterosexual couples.

One of my midwives, Miriamma Carson, was bisexual, spoke fluent Spanish, was a radical activist and feminist, and she offered me a safe place, when nowhere else felt safe. For $300, I was given private childbirth classes with other single moms, and pre/post natal exams, as well as a 30 hour labor and home birth attended by two midwives. When I had trouble paying it, Miriamma let me barter cooking dinners for her kids instead. I could never have afforded such superior health careunder the status quo, for-massive-profit, medical system.

Both of my midwives, Miriamma and Barbara R., had sons living at home while they were midwives. And they helped homeless teens often. One night Miriamma’s son woke her up at 3 am, saying he had stumbled on a teen girl, in a car, behind the 7-11, in labor. She would not leave with him, so he asked her to wait, and said he would send his radical midwife mom to help her. Miriamma grabbed her birthing kit, and charged out the door towards the 7-11. Miriamma delivered the baby, in the car, in the middle of the night, with dignity, no questions asked. The girl refused to leave with Miriamma, but Miriamma invited the girl to her home, and gave the girl her home phone number before she left. I am wildly impressed by this. Some would say that was irresponsible of Miriamma, and that she should have called the cops, or CPS, or forced the mother into a hospital. But Miriamma understood the difference between trauma and empowerment, and via her gift of birthing assistance without authority trips, she often saved women unnecessary trauma, allowing the joy of birth to prevail.

Once Miriamma had a woman who only spoke Spanish, in labor, in her car, trying to drive her home for the birth. They got stuck in a traffic jam. Miriamma called her nearest friend and told her to prepare a room in their home for a birth. She got off at the next exit and drove to the friend’s house, where the woman had a healthy birth. Miriamma spent years living in poor Mexican villages, and she knew there had been mass marketing of corporate baby formulas in Mexico, as well as in the U.S., shaming poor moms away from breastfeeding. So Miriamma asked the friend whose house they had landed at, to start breastfeeding in front of the new mom, who just delivered, to set a positive tone for breastfeeding. Miriamma was very good at finding healthy ways for moms to learn from each other.

These midwives were also incredibly gifted at networking. They led me to Doctor David Springer, one of the first M.D.’s to graduate from John Bastyr’s Naturopathic College (www.bastyr.edu/), with an N.D. He became one of Seattle’s finest holistic health pediatricians and took grand care of my son for 18 years. They hooked me up with La Leche League (www.lalecheleague.org), when I had breastfeeding problems. They taught low-income moms about the WIC program. They facilitated safe homes for domestic violence victims. They arranged safe abortions when asked. As a matter of fact, Miriamma took me to a safe abortion clinic, when I asked, years before she attended my birth. She bought the equipment abortion clinics use, and hid it in her basement, when she feared abortion may become illegal again. Miriamma is from a long line of radical women who saw access to safe birth control, abortion and delivery, as a woman’s right. Emma Goldman took formal training in midwifery in 1895, and was saddened by the plight of women with unwanted pregnancies, as a matter of fact.

Long have the fields of midwifery, women’s health care, witchcraft, and feminism, been associated. In the article, “Witches, Midwives, and Nurses,” (www.blancmange.net/tmh/articles/witches.html) by B. Ehrenreich and D. English, they say, “Women healers were people’s doctors, and their medicine was part of a people’s subculture. To this very day women’s medical practice has thrived in the midst of rebellious lower class movements which have struggled to be free from the established authorities. Male professionals, on the other hand, served the ruling class…

Witch hunts did not eliminate the lower class woman healer, but they branded her forever as superstitious and possibly malevolent.” Calling self-help, preventative and traditional medicine a “radical assault on medical elitism,” traditional healers named “King-craft, Priest-craft, Lawyer-craft and Doctor-craft” the “four great evils of the time,” according to the article. By the 1840’s, medical licensing laws had been repealed in almost all of the states. But by the 1900’s, racism was also playing into the sexism, classism, and medical elitism, and since it was mostly immigrant and poor women who were having and assisting home births, white women of the Victorian brand, were asking for the white male doctors in sterile hospitals for birthing help, not poor immigrant midwives with birthing experience and herbal knowledge.

And elite, white, women doctors, such as Elizabeth Blackwell, turned on the women midwives too. The article says in 1910, 50% of all babies born in America were delivered by midwives. And although traditional medicine was primarily a political and economical issue, the mainstream medical profession tried to say it was a medical and/or scientific issue. The medical profession has attacked the autonomy of midwives as health care providers, yet DIY women’s health care continues, as a liberating force.

When I was about 20 hours into labor, I started wimping out, and asked to go to a hospital for drugs, as I was exhausted, and sick of the pain. But my midwives reminded me that if I went to a hospital, the midwives would be locked outside, I would be forced to do a lot of authoritative things I would want to rebel against via doctors, and it could end up in a C-section. Those threats kept me at home trying to birth naturally, which finally did happen. And I am so thankful for them talking me through it. Miriamma died in the mid-1990’s, due to cancer. It was an emotional loss for the community.

Her memorial had a cast of hundreds. Woman after woman bore witness to how Miriamma saved her life when in crisis, giving her dignity and comfort, when many of us had felt like “untouchables.” Whether we were homeless teens, battered wives, single welfare moms, gay moms, Spanish-speaking moms; we were all welcome on earth, according to Miriamma’s open-arm policy. We all deserved superior health care. We all deserved safe births and breastfeeding without stigma. Due to these beliefs, my midwives were two of the most radical anarchists I have ever met.

My friend Beth, in Santa Cruz, Ca., gave birth to her daughter, at night, on the sand, at the beach, with the help of her friend/midwife Moon Maiden. Birth is a tremendously powerful event and being drugged in a sterile hospital with paternalistic doctors is not the ultimate birth experience for many of us. Many of us want to birth, with our friends and families, in nature, without drugs. And such freedoms around birth are barely legal, if at all. So rogue midwifery continues on, under the radar of the mainstream, as political activism, as feminism, as alternative health care. Even with the recent advent of birthing rooms and licensed midwives, this field is a rogue one at best. Even mainstream midwifery resources, such as Midwifery Today magazine (www.midwiferytoday.com ), and Midwives Online (www.midwivesonline.com ) have a very anti-authoritarian tone. Doctors are not women’s bosses, and radical midwives understand this. Groups such as the Radical Midwives group (www.radmid.demon.co.uk/ ) in the U.K., see midwifery as a political issue, as well as a health issue. Midwives have been doing this as long as humans have existed. No laws can change it.

 

Kirsten Anderberg is the mother of a draft-aged son, an activist, feminist comedian, and prolific journalist/writer. She discusses police accountability, midwifery, accommodating vegetarians at winter holiday events, teens’ rights to political dissent, street performance, medicinal uses of stinging nettles, and much more. You can find her articles in Infoshop.org, Alternative Press Review (altpr.org), Utne.com, Zmag.org, Adbusters Magazine, Hipmama.com, Slingshot Zine. 
Here’s a link to many of her articles: angelfire.com/la3/kirstenanderberg/