If you are in the Boston North Shore area, here is your chance to attend one of the world premiere screenings of the documentary MicroBirth. Birth Philosophy is hosting a showing of the film at the awesome Cinema Salem (voted best theatre on the North Shore!) in Salem, Massachusetts on September 20, 2014 at 10am.
How the human microbiome is formed and/or compromised is, without a doubt, a huge HOT TOPIC these days. Toni Harmon and her husband Alex Wakeford are the filmmakers at One World Birth are are exploring questions about how birth affects the microbiome seeding of a newborn baby. The way a child is born and whether or not they are breastfed or have skin to skin contact immediately with their mother all play significant roles in this highly complex process. A person’s immune system is either helped or hindered based on all of these factors. The documentary features a large number of experts from around the world who share some really fascinating information and opinions about an incredibly important topic for public health.
I invite you to come on over to the theatre to watch this extremely interesting film. More information and ticketing link here. And if you are not in the area check out the trailer and website to see if there is a screening near you!
Working through the multitude of childbirth care options and decisions during pregnancy and labor can be a daunting task. Pregnant women and their families can often be overwhelmed when faced with some of the various tests, suggested procedures or interventions that are offered or recommended to them prenatally or while laboring.
Rebecca Dekker, PhD, RN, APRN is one of those women whose first time through the gate left her feeling uneasy, so she started asking questions and seeking answers. Rebecca felt that some of the restrictions that were in place during the birth of her daughter had not worked in her favor. She began to wonder if they had truly been needed. Was it really imperative that she not be allowed to eat or drink during labor? Was the risk of cord prolapse great enough to justify the bed rest that kept her from being more upright and active during labor? Being a researcher and a nurse herself, Rebecca set to work investigating the basis for some of the recommendations that she took for granted were based on clear evidence. It turns out that the evidence was scant for some of the policies and procedures she had assumed were necessary and that realization prompted her to do things differently with her second child.
Armed with new information based on the all of the good quality research she could get her hands on, in her second pregnancy, Rebecca placed herself firmly in the driver’s seat and sought out care that was supported by medical evidence. After her son’s birth, she felt the opposite of uneasy, and instead, she felt she could do anything! She followed her gut and turned her newfound bursts of inspiration into something that would help others gain information to more easily navigate the birth care maze. Rebecca’s story is not uncommon. Many women have their minds and hearts jostled a bit during their first birth experience when things either don’t go as planned, or the overall experience is not what they had envisioned. As a long time postpartum support group facilitator, I have personally seen countless new mothers do a lot of rethinking of the choices they made, especially in regard to interventions or care they felt they had no choice about or did not quite understand the real risks or advantages of.
All of this questioning and examination usually yields good results. And, fortunately, for all of us out there who care about improving maternity care and providing pregnant women with quality information to help make decisions about their care, Rebecca used her experience, skills and research and took big action. Her website, Evidence Based Birth™ , is a virtual treasure trove of birth related research, distilled down into forms that the non-researcher can easily understand and utilize.
The EBB website offers, a long list of articles in Q & A blog format, printable documents, video-based online classes that include continuing education credits and a newsletter. Subjects are well organized and can be accessed using an alphabetized topic list.
I had the opportunity to speak with Rebecca on the phone and was able to ask her a few questions about her new venture, which has garnered a fair amount of attention in a short amount of time since she launched the site in 2012. Some of the recent or upcoming topics she is working on which include Vitamin K for newborns, moxibustion for turning a breech baby and the oft cited ‘failure to progress’ as a reason for birth interventions.
When asked what she felt was one of the best things a pregnant woman could do with the content available on her website as far as taking action, Rebecca said that using the data and information to choose a care provider that they feel will provide evidence-based care was at the top of the list. I agree wholeheartedly with this because a woman who exercises her power to purposefully choose a care provider that supports the vision she has for her birth is a key element to a positive experience. In addition to birthing women, Rebecca’s EBB website resources are highly desirable and useful to childbirth educators, doulas and other birth and medical professionals in the work they do with clients prenatally, during birth and postpartum.
With less than stellar maternal and infant mortality rates here in the US, there is much discussion in the birth world about finding ways to improve these results. It is challenging finding a balance between expecting the maternity care system to take responsibility for ensuring, quality, evidence-based care for all while simultaneously urging pregnant women to take responsibility for learning as much as they can in order to make informed decisions about who and how they are cared for when they give birth. Both of these things are important. I love that Rebecca has made it easier for all of us to access and understand the research that is out there in order to get a clearer picture of the path that seems best for a woman in her own unique situation. So if you are trying to find your way (or help others) to the birth you desire and feel lost and uncertain about which way to go, bring your questions to Evidence Based Birth™
and you may just find the answers you are looking for.
Note: My interview with Rebecca was the inspiration for an article I recently wrote for Peggy O’Mara’s website about evidence based medicine as it relates to birth. Click here to read it. As the long time editor of Mothering magazine and founder of mothering.com, Peggy has been a tireless advocate for women and families as well as the author of several wonderful books. At her new self-titled website, she continues to curate and create great content about natural family living, social justice and making healthy choices. I highly recommend this site as a place to spend time reading about and digging into issues that are near and dear to all of us who want to live well and support positive change in the world.
What an event! Gail’s workshops are very popular and the attendees universally rave about them, so I knew that the information and format of the event would be good. The focus of the day was on fetal positioning, a comprehensive look at how to support optimal positioning, and the best methods to assist a mother in making space for her baby to ‘spin’ into a better position for birth.
Anatomy, posture, exercises for releasing ligaments, muscles and fascia,labor patterns, real life stories, aids and tools, complementary body work suggestions and related research and were all part of the discussion. To be honest I was blown away by the vast amount of really useful information I had never heard before and it was clear that Gail is in command of her subject!
To give you a sense of it, here are a few things that stood out to me in regard to why this was such a quality continuing education offering.
Gail had a very approachable presentation style that really showcased her extensive experience and high-level knowledge. Although it was clear that she has done the day-long workshop many times, Gail worked through her material like a talented musician would give a concert. She moved in and out and around her script and adjusted the presentation to the attendees in the room and the questions presented with ease and kept us engaged.
Gail also is clearly a creative thinker so her talk was filled with really well though out visual aids and props that were an amazing part of her ability to convey (and help me to easily visualize and remember) what she was explaining.
There was also a noticeable element to Gail’s overall outlook and approach to birth that included a strong dose of intuition and recognition of the mother’s emotional state as a crucial element of all that is in play when a woman is laboring. Being someone that feels that it is essential to look at physiologic birth in a holistic way, this resonated with me.
I was thrilled to get this great photo of Gail and I at the end of the day.
To summarize: If you are out there helping mothers birth their babies and haven’t been to one of Gail’s workshops, run, don’t walk, to the nearest upcoming event. And for anyone interested in learning more, take a look at all the great content on her website including this great article on belly mapping.
More and more quality online continuing education offerings are popping up out there and I wanted to highlight a few coming up that look really worthwhile.
Evidence-Based Care for Suspected Big Babies:
Rebecca Dekker, PhD, RN, APRN of Evidence Based Birth has launched her first video-based class entitled Evidence-Based Care for Suspected Big Babies. This is an in-depth course with several video lectures and handouts that is worth 2 nursing contact hours. More offerings are slated for later in the year so keep an eye on her site or sign up for her newsletter if you want to be in the know on what the upcoming topics will be.
Social Media for Lactation Professionals: Skills to Maximize:
These are just a few of the online lectures, courses or webinars that I have seen available Fall 2013. I love in person conferences and seminars but the internet makes hearing the latest info from leading professionals out there easy and convenient. Check them out!
I was the “birth girl” in college– which actually, at Wesleyan, wasn’t so strange. Most college students don’t have their birth plans at the ready or procrastinate by researching rebozos and lactation classes, but I’ve been amazed at how interested my peers often become when I discuss birth. Birth is one topic for which everyone has a story; we all come into this world in different circumstances, some fast and some slow, some alone and some with many siblings. I was recently cooking dinner with five male friends, and we began talking about a birth that I recently attended as a doula. Two hours later, these college guys were still asking me questions, telling their own birth stories or those of their siblings, and joining me in lamenting the injustices of America’s health care system. Birth is not a niche interest; it is everyone’s first story.
I am drawn to birth because of its universality, its emotional weight, and its capacity to reveal women’s own power to themselves and to their families. I knew from age seven that I would somehow be involved with what I perceived as the magical and secretive process of pregnancy; I stayed with a neighbor after school every day who, during the stretch of time I was regularly present in their home, had several babies. I watched her grow and change, practice babywearing, attend birth classes–but I wasn’t allowed to know the whole story of pregnancy, which of course, starts and ends with a naked woman. I suppose I initially wanted to know everything about birth because birth was hidden from me. So, from then on, I secretly learned as much as I could about birth, and told my parents when I was eleven years old that I would be a pediatrician.
I finally decided, at age 18, that I would be a midwife, and have since spent four years at Wesleyan preparing for this dream. I became a birth doula and volunteered at San Francisco General Hospital for a summer, where I attended my first twelve births. Finally working in the “birth world”, particularly with the midwives of that hospital, felt like home. I needed to share this feeling with my peers at Wesleyan, but wondered if anyone was interested. Along with some classmates, I helped organize a lecture and discussion facilitated by Maureen Whitman of Birth Philosophy and Maire MacLean of New Family Nurture, regarding birth and breastfeeding in the context of the current culture, media and medical models. The event was well attended, attracting a group of over 40 students.
Realizing that the students at Wesleyan would be interested in a more in-depth exploration of these topics, I then applied to teach a credited Wesleyan class on the politics of birth and reproductive justice in America. I had to turn down dozens of people trying to join the seminar! This is something that so many young people care about, once we’re exposed to the debates surrounding birth in America. Just as I’d felt in second grade, I realized that this topic can sometimes remain silenced in the college atmosphere, assumed as something that we’re “too young to worry about”. Yet, I do worry about birth because it will affect most of my friends, and affects the majority of women and families. The seminar went amazingly well, and another student is hoping to teach it again in the coming school year. This past year, I became an abortion doula as well as a postpartum doula and am currently starting my own postpartum doula business practice in Burlington, Vermont (see doulahannah.com). I will soon be applying to graduate school to become a Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM). I hope to continue to find ways to help women realize their own power by being in control of their reproductive decisions, and ways to make birth a conversation topic for everyone!
Hannah is a recent graduate of Wesleyan University, where she mixed Feminist/Gender/Sexuality studies, biology, and anthropology to learn about social justice and healing through many lenses. She currently works as a postpartum doula and counselor in Burlington, Vermont, and plans to become a Certified Nurse Midwife.
The third and final gathering of the Summer Series for the Birth Philosophy Meetup Group was chock full of really interesting info and conversation! Here is a brief report of what we covered on July 28th over at the Life Alive Café in Salem, MA.
Jennifer, a doula, shared information about a group she and Kira of North Shore Birth and Beyond are hosting that allow people to process their birth if they have any lingering feelings of disappointment, anger or trauma. What a great offering. This type of circle can be really healing and important for those who might need it. The next gathering of this group is Thursday, August 29th in Salem. Click here for more details.
Also, this duo is holding a Meet the Doulas event at Hip Baby Gear in Marblehead this Saturday, August 3rd. That is tomorrow! Get more info here.
Kira is also offering a Fertility Awarness Meetup for anyone in the area to get together and discuss fertility awareness method for birth control, or for achieving pregnancy. This is incredibly valuable information to have for women at any stage of their life so hats off to Kira for offering this peer to peer sharing group. We discussed how we wish that more younger women could have access to information about these type of options for managing fertility, particularly for those who might like to avoid hormonal birth control for various reasons.
And, I have to say, I really also love that Kira also has her own lending library of books on midwifery, parenting, women’s studies, pregnancy, fertility, birth, breastfeeding etc. I love this! There are so many interesting threads and topics to explore in regard to these topics. Digging deeper into some of the great books out there is how all of us really get to know more about some of these areas. A movie screening of A Birth Story (August 8th @ 7PM) and a breastfeeding support group at Hip Baby Gear in Marblehead are also events that Kira is hosting in the near future so check out her site for more info on these events or if you want to track her down to borrow a book.
Kathleen of Side by Side Doulas gave us an overview of the many services that she and her partners offer. They include Hypnobirthing, Wavework, Belly Casting and Mapping, Lactation Support, C-Section Prep and Doula Mentoring in addition to Birth and Postpartum Doula services. Kathleen also works for WIC. Check out her website here.
Nicole and Kathy drove up from the South Shore with small people in tow, which was great! We were so glad that they made the trek. Kathy is a nurse and Nicole is a doula. We talked about the challenges of pursuing our careers as birth workers and balancing that with family and mothering and all the rest. Always a great topic.
Group members Chris, a newer doula, and Maire a local IBCLC in private practice and Nursing Mother’s Counselor were also in attendance. Below is a picture of the group as we were occupying the back seating area enjoying our tasty food and conversation. If you are in the area, do join us for the next gathering. Thanks to everyone for coming out and sharing about the important work you are doing. I will post the dates for the Fall Meetup Series as soon as they are set.
In the meantime, if you want to keep discussing and sharing the latest news and happenings in the world of birth, sign in to the Birth Philosophy Facebook page. Or if you like to read articles at a faster pace, definitely follow me on Twitter.
Enjoy the great month of August. I’ll be hitting the beach as much as I can while the getting is good.
One of the goals of Birth Philosophy is to seek out and highlight young voices who are taking the initiative to learn and share about birth related issues. Many have always been interested or fascinated by birth. Others are questioning some of our systems and cultural beliefs and hope to be social change agents. Not surprisingly, some end up planning careers that will allow them to continue this work into the future. Today I would like to introduce you to one of those people. Enjoy the following guest post from Randi McCallian (and read her bio at the end of the post).
I will have my babies at home. I have known this for many years. I have had ample time, experience, and education to know what my birth choices are – and where and with whom I feel the most comfortable giving birth. I learned about birth far in advance of embarking on such a monumental journey… giving birth and becoming a mother. I believe every woman needs to know more about birth BEFORE she becomes pregnant!
I first began researching my birth options when I overheard a close relative discussing her elective cesarean delivery. In her first pregnancy her doctor had determined that her pelvis was too small to deliver vaginally…then he said, ‘once a cesarean, always a cesarean’; and she eventually had 3 scheduled cesareans. Being a petite woman myself, and knowing very strongly that I wanted to be a mother one day, I was terrified about having to deliver my babies surgically. I was determined to understand the physiology of birth and how to have my future babies vaginally.
We all need to take responsibility for our reproductive health and our reproductive rights, and the perfect time to begin is a lot earlier than most might think. We need to support young women and men learning about their body, hormones, desires, pleasures, sexual organs, and the process of reproduction. We need to have access to family planning methods and the knowledge of how to use them. It is unrealistic to expect a girl to become a woman if she is not given the capability to make decisions about her reproductive health, and for that woman to become a responsible mother if she is not trusted with the ability to make informed decisions about her body, baby, and delivery.
Culturally, our current expectation of women is that they learn about pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding, and infant care in the few short months between discovering the pregnancy and delivering the baby. This is unrealistic and it has led to a great majority of women (and men!) who don’t know what to expect from birth and new motherhood and then they are completely lost and disappointed by their birth and postpartum experience. This puts mothers and babies at a disadvantage. We can change this.
We should encourage women to become familiar with pregnancy and birth physiology; the various choices in childbirth location, provider, and labor management techniques; hospital and provider practices in their area and how to advocate for their best birth… and much of this can and should be considered well BEFORE a woman is pregnant. If a woman enters pregnancy and new motherhood with ample information and knowledge in her ‘toolbox’, then she enters this new journey with the confidence to make decisions for herself and her new family. She becomes an empowered mother.
As a sister, daughter, friend, peer, community member, and MCH professional, I strive to inform those around me about the current state of the maternity care system and what this may mean for their birth, or chosen birth environment. I encourage everyone to research and ask questions about the practices that interest them the most and to follow their gut when something doesn’t feel right, even if it means changing providers! I encourage all women to understand the common delivery practices of their hospital and provider; and I always recommend a doula.
We need to support the process of women becoming mothers, and long before they are pregnant. We can do this by fostering a culture of open-communication and shared ideas around motherhood and birth. Ideally a young woman will take responsibility for her family, long before she intends to have one; a young woman who is educated about her body, family planning, and the resources that are available in order to make the best choices for her situation.
As an emerging public health professional I have been charged with the mission to prevent. Whatever the circumstance, when it comes to health, prevention is key to a healthier and happier society. Right now there are large numbers of uninformed women who are unjustly more vulnerable to a disempowering birth and postpartum experience. I would like to prevent that. All women deserve the knowledge, opportunities, and resources necessary to make empowered decisions and to advocate for herself and her family. Young women who are supported and empowered very early on to be responsible for their reproductive health will become responsible mothers who own their body, their birth, and their family!
Randi McCallian has been an advocate for mothers, babies, and families for almost 10 years and is completing her Master’s degree in public health, with a concentration in maternal and child health at the University of South Florida. Her background includes in-home therapy with children on the Autism Spectrum, in-home parent education for low-income families, certification as a labor doula and lactation counselor, and a bachelor’s degree in Psychology, with a minor in Biology, from Drake University. Randi currently works for the Florida Perinatal Quality Collaborative as a research assistant on a project to eliminate non-medically indicated deliveries before 39 weeks of gestation in the State of Florida, as well as being an intern with the Hillsborough County REACHUP where she leads community support groups and improves maternal and infant health in her community through action and advocacy. She has been awarded the Maternal and Child Health Leadership Trainee Scholarship at USF and is a former President elect of the Maternal and Child Health Student Organization. Check out Randi’s blog at Wisdom and Birth.
Birth is an important and defining life experience. And yet, unfortunately, after many years of counseling and working with women during pregnancy and in the postpartum period, I saw far too many women struggle to come to terms with birth experiences that they were unhappy with. Despite the vast amount of quality information and resources available on healthy pregnancy and childbirth, many women do not begin the process of learning much about how to navigate this time period in their lives until after they discover they are pregnant. And, more often than not, 9 months is not nearly long enough for a pregnant mother to formulate a clear and confident philosophy of birth to base her decisions on.
Many women solidify their own personal birth philosophy after having one or more births that were not so great. Through trial and error, they finally take control, start to trust their instincts and gain confidence in their natural abilities. But wouldn’t it be better if they were in control from the start?
A mother that directs her own birth experience by taking an educated and active role in decision making is much more likely to be satisfied how things unfold: even if things do not go as she had planned. It is never too late to read, learn about and develop a personally tailored approach that supports the unique vision a woman may have for her birth. Buy why wait?
Once she has peed on the stick and seen a positive result, the clock is ticking and the pressure is on. It is hard to be objective when the situation is so personal. So even though most childbirth education is aimed toward families actively planning or already expecting, I started asking myself why these topics couldn’t be discussed much earlier. And I couldn’t come up with a good reason. I noticed that most of the young, non-pregnant people I talked to about my work as a breastfeeding counselor and childbirth educator were quite interested in birth related issues and very open to concepts and ideas that they may not have previously been aware of. And, since being pregnant was not personal to them, they felt free to explore, question and consider all types of options without being self conscious, defensive or pressured to make a ‘right’ decision.
So that is how Birth Philosophy was ‘born’. I felt that young women (and men) would respond positively and take advantage of the opportunity if they had a place to go where they could ‘study’ and discuss all of the great books, resources, blog postings, articles and research BEFORE they were anywhere close to planning a pregnancy. They didn’t need to be pregnant, they just needed an invitation. (And a bit of reassurance that even though society might send the message that they don’t really have permission to go there, they do!)
So, if you are a young person interested in birth from a medical, political, societal or historical perspective~this is the place for you. Your voice is important! Or, if you are already a parent or a birth professional, and you agree that mentoring and reaching out to a younger and wider audience is a key to improving outcomes here in the US and beyond, then welcome aboard and I look forward to having you as part of the Birth Philosophy community and network.
So, without further ado, let’s get started….
Thanks for visiting and spread the word: Birth: It’s not just for pregnant people anymore!