Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Book Review- Touching Bellies, Touching Lives by Judy Gabriel

Book review- touching bellies, touching lives

There is always a moment of awe when two things I love come joined together in a new way. Judy Gabriel's book, Touching Bellies, Touching Lives marries my two loves, anthropology and birth, in one volume chronicling the lives and wisdom of a dying breed of Mexican midwives.

My first introduction to anthropology also concerned birth. In Anthro 101 at the University of New Mexico I read the book, Nisa, about the life of a Kung bushwoman. Nisa free birthed her first baby squatting by a tree. This birth story was the first I ever read and colored all my views of birth thereafter.

Judy brings anthropology, the study of culture and people, back to birth with her book, Touching Bellies, Touching Lives.

Here is my book review of Touching Bellies, Touching Lives by Judy Gabriel

What I loved about it:

1) Judy is bilingual and spends what must have been years visiting and re-visiting midwives throughout Mexico to learn more about their art: midwifery. 

The story is truly the story of the midwives themselves. Judy is sure to quote these women extensively. There is great power in reading the real words of real women, rather than a scholars constantly regurgitated thoughts on such.

I love when the writer honors those interviewed and shares their words.

2) This book captures the words and wisdom of Mexican midwifery-

This knowledge is which is literally dying out. Gabriel returned several times to re-visit some of these women, and she often found that they had passed on. I am so grateful, and we all should be, that someone took the time to reach them before it was too late.

Too much cultural wisdom and history has been lost in our race forward. While not all that is old is good, we will never know if we forget it altogether.
Book review- Touching Bellies, Touching Lives by Judy Gabriel
Mexican midwife does a belly massage on a pregnant woman.

3) Mexico has recently had rapid shifts in the way maternity care works, where women give birth, and in the cesarean section rate. 

This is somewhat like the shift that occurred in the US but it is a more recent and speedy phenomenon there.
It is wonderful that it was documented somewhat in this book, but honestly, many more books could be written on this very subject. So glad that Judy Gabriel captured some of this.

4) Belly massages- 

When I first picked up this book, I shamefacedly admit, I thought the title was a little strange.

I totally get it now.

One of the big focuses of the book is the belly massages common to these midwives. They performed them regularly on pregnant woman. In fact, though most Mexican women now birth in hospitals, these belly massages are one of the things that brings them back to these old midwives.

Able to (almost always) turn babies to a favorable position through gentle means, this is important knowledge. Knowledge that, hopefully, may be better preserved because of this book. I see so many parallels to the modern external version (which is probably more invasive and less gentle) practiced by modern OBs, and even the Webster technique (which involves working on the round ligament rather than touching the baby and also includes an adjustment of the pelvis) practiced by modern chiropractors who specialize in care of pregnant women and babies.

I hope this wisdom can be preserved and that Judy Gabriel's book will be an impetus for more learning and documentation of the work done for centuries by Mexican midwives and which could potentially improve outcomes and lower cesareans in this country.

5) I love that Judy Gabriel is honest-

She seems to listen without judgment to the things that some midwives did to help labor. (Maybe this is what happens when a doula writes a book!) She talks about the strange things like drinking pee or drinking raw eggs- things that sound pretty weird to your average Westerner.

She does not stand in judgment nor does she seem to fully embrace them. I appreciate this. Often the writer either worships those they interview as though they can do no wrong, or views them through a more "knowledgeable" and "sensible" lens of superiority. Judy does neither.
I appreciate this immensely.
Book review- Touching Bellies, Touching Lives by Judy Gabriel
Judy Gabriel, author of Touching Bellies, Touching Lives

Perhaps my favorite thought from Touching Bellies, Touching Lives, comes on page 179. There is so much deep stuff here, I kind of wish I had written it.

Judy Gabriel lists a myriad of things that both modern OBs and traditional midwives have done to help ensure that babies are born healthy, from the cesarean section and episiotomy of modern times to narcotics, back rubs and rebozos. She even lists the seemingly ridiculous on both sides. Then she says this:
"And always...the baby is born and is, as far as we can tell, just fine. In that triumphant moment when we hear the baby's first cry, when we place the baby in the other's arms and share in her relief and joy, we experience the great satisfaction of knowing that what we did must have been exactly the right thing to do."
Doesn't this just cut to the chase of all the non-evidence based traditions of midwives and obstetricians, and even the nature of what we believe is evidence based?

Isn't it true that most of the time the baby is healthy and we love taking credit for it and believing that we had something to do with it? (Judy's interviewed midwives delivered healthy babies in the worst of conditions, in great poverty, and to what would now be considered incredibly high risk women.)

And yet, most of the time, as with today, the baby was fine.

This might be the greatest piece of wisdom I took from this book- women just work and their bodies just work and the birth process just works- most of the time.

Those that attend her love to take a little bit of credit.

In the end, maybe it is really the women and their babies that have something to teach us about life, control, luck, beauty, and birth.

So people- read this book! Buy this book! Share this book! Ask your library to get this book!

We can't do everything. I don't speak Spanish and I have never been to Mexico. But I do believe that if we share this book and the treasures within it, we can have a small part in preserving the memories and wisdom of the often forgotten and quickly disappearing past.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

If Men Couldn't Breastfeed

Photo credit: Carol Browne via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA

If men couldn’t breastfeed they would be really sad.

They wouldn’t just want to give the baby a bottle instead. They would feel like pumped milk in the bottle or formula in the bottle shouted failure at them.
They would wonder why their bodies couldn’t accomplish a natural and manly function.
They would wonder what went wrong.
They would get angry.
They wouldn’t want to talk about it.
They would pretend to breastfeed in public, while secretly bottle feeding under the cover.
All those famous edifices erected to celebrate the male breast would mock them: Coit Tower, The Leaning Tower of Pisa, The Eiffel Tower- they all seem to laugh at you when you are a man who can’t breastfeed.
If men couldn’t breastfeed, nobody would say things to them like:

“At least the baby is getting food. It doesn’t really matter how.”

Or, “You can still bond with your baby without breastfeeding,” because everyone would honor the loss of that experience for that man. Everyone would understand how important it was to him to breastfeed his baby from his own breasts.
The man’s partner would never say, “This is great! Now we can both feed the baby. So much more convenient,” because she would understand the sadness that comes when something we felt like we “should” be able to do doesn’t work out.

If men couldn’t breastfeed then there would be great outpourings of money searching for a cure so that all men could enjoy the benefits of breastfeeding as could their children.

There would be money, sensitivity, and attention paid to this important issue.
Over the years working as a childbirth educator I have seen plenty of women have trouble with breastfeeding. Sometimes that trouble is the ever common “latch” issues or a tongue tie that needs to be clipped.
I have seen women with painful mastitis in their breasts. Then, when they get treatment, they present with painful yeast infections that cause stabbing pain during breastfeeding.
I have seen women struggle to recover from an expected cesarean, only to find that breastfeeding was also negatively impacted by their hard birth experience. (Here are some tips for breastfeeding after cesarean.)
This only compounds their pain.
I have even seen women with Raynaud's of the breast that caused excruciating pain and which was difficult to diagnose.
I have seen women with IGT (insufficient glandular tissue) who simply could not make enough milk no matter how furiously they ate oatmeal and supplemented with fenugreek. They could reek of maple syrup and still not produce enough milk for their baby.

I have seen these women fight as hard as they could to accomplish something that they felt was biologically normal and which they felt was best for their babies.

I have seen their suffering as they tried and tried. I have seen women subject themselves to great physical pain in an attempt to breastfeed against great odds.

Some will blame these strong emotions regarding breastfeeding trouble on the “lactivists” of the world who needlessly “shame” women who bottle feed. There have even been articles in recognized publications like The Atlantic Monthly deriding the “supposed” benefits of breastfeeding. These people blame the pro-breastfeeding community for sadness or feelings of failure when women can’t breastfeed.

Of course, there are no men who breastfeed.

Breastfeeding isn’t something that men normally do.
But often, when a woman struggles with breastfeeding, the people around her are less than supportive. Maybe they are trying to help, to ease her burden, to get her to stop beating herself up, but I don’t think dismissing these strong feelings helps her.

And while there may be mean “lactivists” out there who work tirelessly to shame women who don’t breastfeed, I think they are more rare than some would have you believe.

When I talk to real women, in real life, who are dealing with breastfeeding struggles, their sadness comes from within, not from without. They genuinely want to nurse their baby at their breast. They are sad at what feels like a deep failure of their own body. This is compounded if birth did not go as they planned.

Let me be clear, I don’t think not breastfeeding by choice or need is a failure- but we should not discount the real feelings of failure that women sometimes have. These feelings are valid and very real and powerful for women.

So what if men couldn’t breastfeed?

Why did I talk about a world in which men breastfed?

Let’s look at the world of erectile dysfunction.

I think the comparison is apt.

If a man is having trouble with erectile dysfunction, nobody would ever say to him, “It’s OK. Your partner will still love you even if you can’t have intercourse. There are other ways to make this work and have a healthy relationship and intimate life. Don’t beat yourself up. It isn’t important anyway.”

Of course there is some truth in the above statement, but it is in no way helpful.

No, the ability to perform in this area is highly prized and applauded. There ARE buildings built in honor of the penis. There ARE drugs available in order to help things work in that department. They are advertised widely. Entire cultures have many natural and expensive remedies to encourage robust health in this area.

Yet, when a woman struggles with breastfeeding and cannot do so as she desires, we tend to be dismissive.

We tell her it doesn’t matter.
We tell her not to listen to the crazy “lactivists.”
We tell her that breastmilk isn’t that important anyway.
We fail to address the underlying birth culture of high cesareans, high interventions, and separation of mother and baby after birth that we know contributes to the myriad of problems with breastfeeding. (Research is clear- natural birth does help with breastfeeding.)

Who cares anyway? It’s not like men can’t breastfeed. That would be a serious problem.
I, however, refuse to act like breastfeeding doesn’t matter, isn’t important, and isn’t healthy and ideal.
It is.

Let’s not sweep it under the carpet and act like it doesn’t matter when it doesn’t work.

Breastfeeding matters to women and babies and it should matter to us.

We should treat breastfeeding difficulties in women with as much compassion as we would treat erectile dysfunction in men.

We should search for solutions to the underlying problems that occur in breastfeeding and then work tirelessly to address them.

Monday, November 23, 2015

An Australian Hospital VBAC- Birth Story

So excited to share another birth story! I haven't been sharing many lately, but I still love them and know they need to be shared. And so awesome to find people inspired by this blog and your other birth stories. Enjoy this Australian hospital VBAC birth story!

An Australian Hospital VBAC- Birth Story

Growing up birth was a normal and simple event in life.  

My Mum had eight babies. She birthed us all without pain relief and without any tearing. My older sisters married and between them birthed four babies in the same fashion. My oldest sister’s second and third babies were three hour water births.  

Not long after I married in 2011 I found Mama Birth’s blog and read almost everything I could find. Of course I wanted to deliver my babies in my husband’s arms in the bath. Five months after marriage we discovered that we were going to be parents. 

My pregnancy was a dream pregnancy until I hit 27 weeks. I began having regular painful contractions. When I hit 29 weeks we had a nasty episode with it and my mum called the ambulance…

Thankfully everything settled down and I was discharged from hospital three days later. We were living in an outback small town in Australia which was too small to deal with premature babies. Within days of being discharged we headed North to stay with my husband’s mother who lived near a big hospital that could deal with a 30 week baby if necessary. 

Due to regularly experiencing regular painful contractions I spent a lot of the next seven weeks on bedrest. I counted the weeks til it was safe for the baby to be born. Around the time I was 39 weeks I went into prodromal labour.  During this time I had acupressure and chiropractor appointments. Despite my hope that everything would happen, my baby was still baking at 41 weeks.  

A day or two later early labour began. Friday evening I couldn’t sleep due to contractions. We walked the street at 2AM hoping things would progress.  

Saturday I still couldn’t get any sleep but things were irregular and didn’t seem to be progressing.  As the sun set I called my birthing centre midwife, Suzanne. She encouraged me to come up to the hospital and we’d see what was going on. 

As we drove the hour to the hospital the contractions became very intense and regular. A foreboding sense told me that whatever happened I wouldn’t be leaving the hospital until our baby had arrived. Heading up to the labour and delivery unit we met our midwife. Unfortunately she was very ill and called in another midwife from the birth centre to care for me. 

A vaginal exam found that I was 4cm. The birth centre midwife ran the bath and told me I could hop in if I wanted. During the next four hours my contractions became irregular and the midwife urged that we agree to the waters being broken if I hadn’t progressed within two hours. At the two hour mark I was still 4cm. 

She broke my waters. Two hours later of really strong contractions there was still no progress. At this point the birth centre midwife transferred me to the public ward. Here they gave me an epidural and started syntocin to attempt to get progress happening. Naturally the syntocin overstimulated my already 2 min apart contractions and had to be turned off.  

At around midnight a VE showed I was 6cm. A couple hrs later I hit 7cm. It was at this point the young lady Dr found that my baby was posterior and a brow presentation. She shared with me that six months previously she had been in labour and her baby had been in the same position and she had had to have a csection. 

Mid Sunday morning I signed the consent papers for the csection. My Dr did another VE in theatre to check if there was any hope of the baby being born naturally. I was still 7cm.  At 1PM we heard our daughter’s first cry.  

I can’t put into words my devastation of being unable to move and unable to hold my crying daughter. 

Two years later my hubby agreed to try for our second child. A couple weeks later we discovered our second was on the way. Straight away we knew we would try for a VBAC. Once again I had a very easy pregnancy. None of the previous symptoms returned. The day before my EDD I went into early labour with our son at 7AM.  

We were on the way to the hospital for a prenatal appointment  As the Dr could see I was having contractions she offered to do a VE. She told me I was 3cm.  We headed to our doula’s place and hung out for the day as labour continued at 10PM I finally felt ready to go to hospital. 

I took three copies of my birth plan to ensure it wouldn’t get lost. I laboured in the dimly lit hospital room two hours before I permitted the midwife to do a VE. At 12:30 the midwife told me I was 4cm.  My contractions had become irregular after the Dr had done the cannula.  

5:30AM another VE found I was still 4cm. I headed into the shower and cried. My husband blocked the doorway into the bathroom so the Dr couldn’t see me. He was insisting that I have my waters broken. We managed to avoid him until his shift ended. 

 The dawn of day brought a lovely young lady Dr. After discussion with my husband and doula we decided I would have an epidural and have my waters broken. 

I asked my doula to contact my midwife from my first birth.  After the epi was done Suzanne walked in. Crying, I asked her what I could have done better. Heartbroken I told her of the screaming I’d heard in the night of the women and then the cries of the newborns.  Five babies had been born during the night as I had laboured.

Within hours of the epidural I could feel my baby descending. This again brought tears as I knew that our son would be born the way they should be born. Christine, my day midwife had had three c-sections but she cheered me on and was thrilled when I hit 10cm just as she had to clock off. She was so disappointed that she would miss the birth.  

She encouraged me to breath the baby down. An hour after I hit 10cm our lovely Dr came in for the pushing. An hour and a half later despite the epidural I was screaming “this is caning”.  Everyone assumed the epidural wasn’t working but it was my csection scar that was really painful.  

At this point I told the Dr I wanted her to do a ventouse (vacuum) delivery. In my memory it gets blurry what happened as I was so tired and had my eyes shut. I know she asked me if she could do an episiotomy. During this time I heard a snap and opened my eyes to see the suction cap fly off. Suddenly I found the room had filled with people. 

I thought I was hallucinating as I saw a man standing at the end of the delivery bed in street clothes. The Dr continued to encourage me to push with all my might during each contraction while she pulled. Finally I felt the incredible sensation of my son sliding out.  

In one smooth motion the Dr pulled the baby up onto my chest.  My husband was standing by my side cheering with teary eyes. Holding his hand I said “I’ve done it!” They quickly grabbed my son who was struggling to breath. At that point the man in street clothes congratulated me and quietly walked out of the room. We later found out he was the head of obstetrics for the hospital. 

Our little baby’s birth apgar was 2 and they took him away to the special care nursery. The Dr stitched me back up and very shortly afterwards they brought my little boy back. They laid him on my chest and he did the breast crawl and latched himself on.  

After he nursed, hubby and I enjoyed dressing our little one for the first time. As soon as I could move my legs the midwifes sent me for a shower. Struggling to hold my head up, sitting in the wheelchair, Suzanne came back and congratulated me on our successful VBAC. 

On our son’s second day of life, Ben and I were trying to finalize his name.  We’d been considering naming him Josiah Nathaniel. Ben asked me if I had ever looked up the meanings of those names. To my wonder, Ben shared that they meant ‘God’s healing gift’. We knew instantly that that was his name.  As I write this story, our little boy is 12 weeks old and he has been a very healing gift for me. 

Friday, November 20, 2015

The First Test- Where Did You Deliver?

I am excited to share a guest post today from Jessicca Moore. Jessicca is a filmmaker and nurse practitioner who actually lives right in my neck of the woods, in northern California. She is making a film about medical professionals who choose to birth at home. I am so excited for it to come out. I have had so many medical doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals in my childbirth class. Truly, home birth is awesome and not relegated to hippies like myself. 

Check out her post and then look for the movie! We can change birth! Movies help!

The First Test

“Where did you deliver?” It’s a common and benign question, but for some new mothers it can feel like a kind of test. Are you one of us or one of them?

It’s a natural tendency to want to label and categorize. It’s part of how we understand our world. It can also distance us from one another. Before there is breast or bottle, there is birth.

When people find out I had my children at home, many make some automatic assumptions: I don’t like doctors, I don’t vaccinate my children, I have an abnormally high pain threshold and care somewhat less about the health and safety of my baby than my counterparts who choose to give birth in the hospital. The problem is that none of these are true.

A mother who chooses to have her baby at home isn’t necessarily any different than the mother who chooses to have her baby in the hospital. Maybe the mom who gave birth at home didn’t have insurance and home birth was the cheaper option, but she would have preferred to be in the hospital. Maybe the mom who had her baby in the hospital wanted a home birth, but her insurance wouldn’t cover it and she couldn’t afford it otherwise.

With layers of inequality in our maternity care system, place of birth doesn’t tell you anything about a mother except where she physically had her baby.

So, am I one of “those” moms? Divisions on this point just don’t serve. There are more things that unite us as mothers than divide us. Regardless of where you choose to give birth, we all want the same things. We want to be supported and respected. We want to be heard. We want a safe delivery for mother and baby and a positive experience. These things should not be limited to one setting. They should be available to all women at home, hospital, and birth center.

In the US the predominant demographic choosing home birth in recent years has been white, college educated, and middle class. It isn’t because these are the only women who want to give birth at home or even the ones who have the most to gain from it. It’s because our system is setup to support and encourage birth in the hospital. Even the language used to describe home or birth center birth as “out-of-hospital” birth reinforces the idea that hospital birth is the standard and everything else is compared to the institution.

The cultural and financial barriers to accessing home birth are huge. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

All kinds of moms choose to give birth at home and for all kinds of reasons. Home birth moms are young, old, Black and white. Some are mountain climbers and some get altitude sickness.

Some had a terrible experience in the hospital with their first birth and are looking for a better experience. Some value privacy and can’t imagine giving birth in a strange environment with people they don’t know. Some choose home birth for religious or cultural reasons.

Some read every childbirth book they could get their hands on and some didn’t read a single book, but intuitively felt that home was where they wanted to be. Some don’t have a high school diploma and some graduated from medical school.

The choice about where and with whom to give birth is a decision that can’t be reduced to artificial categorization. I was able to make a choice in alignment with my values. A choice that met my needs and those of my growing family. I felt supported and empowered and enjoyed a safe and healthy delivery.

My birth experience has stayed with me and strengthened me throughout my journey as a mother. Regardless of where you choose to give birth, I hope you can say the same. We are all that kind of mother.

Jessicca Moore is a family nurse practitioner, filmmaker, advocate, and home birth mother of two. Her first feature length documentary, “Why Not Home?” tells the stories of doctors, nurses, and midwives who attend birth in the hospital and choose to have their own children at home. Expected release date is February 2016. To watch the trailer and for more information visit her website, www.whynothome.com. Follow the project on Facebook for the latest screening information and sneak peeks at www.facebook.com/whynothome. If you’d like to host a screening in your community, or pre-order your DVD or digital download, click here: bit.ly/whynothomenow.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Kim Kardashian Hates Pregnancy- And That's OK

Kim Kardashian Hates Pregnancy- And That's OK

kim kardashian hates pregnancy and thats ok

The news is out- Kim Kardashian hates pregnancy and she isn’t even ashamed to admit it publicly.

Kim is easy to hate with her round booty, her too tight (non) maternity wear and her famous, pampered life. And now she dares admit that pregnancy sucks- oh- and postpartum too. She even went so far as to tell the world about postpartum blood loss!

The reactions to a woman who admits she hates pregnancy are pretty typical. Cries over how she should appreciate the opportunity that so many yearn for but never get will erupt. Talk of her weight gain that could be easily controlled with her countless servants who could surely whip up quinoa pudding with black bean sauce (with some organic avocado on the side) rise up, up, up to the atmosphere.

I have no room to talk about the Kardashians. Despite their pop culture pervasiveness, all I know about them I learned from standing in supermarket checkout lines as I secretly peruse tabloid covers (and hope my kids can’t read) and from a single ½ episode of their notorious “Meet the Kardashians” show that I once guiltily watched on a plane.

And I must say, while it wasn’t that entertaining, I have never in my life seen a man as drunk as some guy on that show was. I give him kudos for having a liver to withstand that kind of abuse. I would definitely be dead and in a gutter with that kind of alcohol consumption. Wow. Time for a trust circle and some tough talk, ya know? INTERVENTION.

But, I’m going to talk about Kim anyway and her pregnancy hate despite my lack of knowledge. Because that is what you do when you are a blogger. You write about stuff because people might Google it.

You know what- Kim is right about some of this pregnancy stuff-

Women are often afraid to admit that pregnancy isn't all awesome.

Sometimes they are even ashamed. We all know that some women struggle with infertility and loss. It seems harsh and ungrateful to complain about pregnancy when it is a gift denied many.

And yet… for lots of women pregnancy isn’t bliss.

Before you start on how she hates pregnancy because of her diet, inactivity, and sinful Western life, hold up for a minute. I have seen plenty of uber healthy, meticulous about their diet and exercise women have miserable pregnancies.

I agree that we should all be grateful to be pregnant. I also agree that pregnancy is often kind of miserable. And it’s OK to admit it. We shouldn’t disregard women who speak up about their horrific birth experiences and we shouldn’t disregard women who speak the truth about hard pregnancies.

Even if they wear a lot of white spandex.

We should strive to be grateful for life experience, even the difficult ones. But this is a hard life lesson that takes years to learn.

Kim is pretty normal in her SHOCK over postpartum realities.

She states, Do you know you basically have to wear a diaper for two months afterwards?!”

Women bleed after birth and it often goes on for about two months. I myself have worn a diaper after birth! And as I have taught countless natural birth classes, I have met many an intelligent, accomplished, and informed woman who had NO IDEA that we lose blood after birth.

We are very hush-hush about the realities of birth and postpartum. I always say in birth class that we will talk about things that your mother and your bestfriend won’t ever mention, and we do.

Nobody wants to talk about how sex changed, how your vagina changed, how your breasts sag, and how you shamefacedly bought big girl diapers whilst claiming you were shopping for your grandma.

I think we need to talk about this stuff. There is actually NO SHAME in the realities of birth and postpartum. To act ashamed of this just makes it seem dirty when it is normal and common typical and healthy.

Kim admits that pregnancy makes her feel less than pretty.

I was pregnant four times. I gained from 40 -55 pounds each time. I exercised. I ate as well as I could (except for with my fourth. Too many donuts!) I never felt pretty. I don’t think anyone else thought I was pretty either, unless comments like, “Are you having TWINS?!” and “You look ready to pop!” are secret code for, “You are so sexy.”

I have to admit that this was not my favorite. I don’t make any commercials or have any televisions shows, and thank HEAVENS my spandex clad pregnant butt has never graced the cover of "US magazine", but it was still hard to feel like a cow. It was made harder by those who pointed my girth out to me on a regular basis.

When it comes to the tabloid trashing of pregnant celebrities, I just feel AWFUL for these women. Can you imagine being at your most vulnerable and pregnant and having every outfit, every bump, every ripple, photographed, talked about, and blown up in social media?
kim kardashian hates pregnancy and that's ok
Add caption

Oh, and did we mention that you make money (in part) because of your looks? No pressure.

It’s horrendous what we expect from women both emotionally and physically during pregnancy, when I submit that hormones make us all a little more sensitive.

If I were Kim Kardashian, this alone would make me loathe pregnancy. Loathe.

So Kim Kardashian hates pregnancy- and that is OK. I would strongly suggest that she take an awesome online childbirth class to prepare. It might help her feel better on a lot of levels and embrace some of what she hates.

There is a lot of power in knowledge and a lot of fear in ignorance, especially when it comes to birth. Good for her for speaking up and raising awareness about the need for lady diapers postpartum and all the other junk nobody tells you.

Photo credit: Kalumba2009 / Foter / CC BY-SA

Photo credit: Hollywood_PR / Foter / CC BY

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The Reluctant Midwife- A Book Review

The Reluctant Midwife- A Book Review

I love getting birth books in the mail. I love reading them and then adding them to my library. Though I strive for minimalism in my life, I can't seem to wean myself from birth books. I justify this by sharing them with others in my birth classes and in the community. 

I have been remiss in this review. I received, The Reluctant Midwife in the mail some time ago. It is the second in a series of novels by Patricia Harmon, author and midwife. I enjoyed her first novel, The Midwife of Hope River and reviewed that book some time ago. 

In the meantime I also listened to her biographical book, The Blue Cotton Gown on audible. I should review that one too, in the mean time- I loved it. The Blue Cotton Gown is a great read on the struggles of modern midwifery practice, insurance, business, clients, and all the joys and sadness that goes along with it. I highly recommend it. It made my nightly walks that much more beautiful as I listened. Good books on tape encourage exercise!

But on to the task at hand- a REVIEW of The Reluctant Midwife!

The Midwife of Hope River follows the "becoming" of midwife Patience Murphy as she starts a midwifery practice in West Virginia during the depression. The Reluctant Midwife focuses on Nurse Becky Myers, a friend of Patience. In The Reluctant Midwife, Patience is practicing less, since she is a busy mom, and Becky Myers must take over as the local midwife, despite her general squeamishness around birth. Thus the title, The Reluctant Midwife.

The book is rich with nods to depression era history- CCC camps, forest fires, unions, miners, penny auctions and communities rallying together during times of hardship- which I always enjoy in a book. Some of the author's political leanings shine through a little here!

But the real richness of the novel is the relationship between Nurse Becky and her ward, seemingly crazy ex physician Dr Isaac Blum, who she has also reluctantly taken under her wing. 

This was my favorite part of the book- their relationship and their growth as they work through their own issues to eventually become better versions of themselves.

There is - of course - plenty of fodder for birth junkies. Both standard "easy" births, told with the accuracy of a practiced and experienced midwife, and some more dramatic. (One VERY dramatic birth- but I won't spoil it for you! You have to read it!)

While I enjoyed The Midwife of Hope River, I have to admit that I loved The Reluctant Midwife. I loved the complexity of the characters, the growth, the surprises, and the healing that all occurred in this book. And, I liked the ending better. Dramatic, happy endings where everybody forgives each other- I am a sucker for them. (As are all Jane Austin fans. Am I right?!)

I truly loved The Reluctant Midwife. Another great novel to recommend to birth professionals who need some fun reading- and learning- at the same time. Check it out-

Friday, August 28, 2015

How To Write For The Internet And Survive

How To Write For The Internet And Survive

how to write for the internet

I started blogging many years ago and have since written millions of words. (Well, maybe...I am not that good at counting.) I have around 800 posts on this blog alone and countless others in a variety of places. I have had the privilege of being published in several magazines, and even had a few articles in a small birth story book last year. I write regularly for Mothering Magazine online and I handle the content for Birth Boot Camp.

I can actually say at this point that I get paid to write. I didn't think that would ever happen.

I see so many people say that they want to write but are afraid. Some are afraid to do even a few posts for their business website. I wanted to share a few thoughts on this subject because... well, you need not be afraid.

First, let's discuss the all the things that are wrong with me and my writing.

  • Full disclosure, I am not a "real" writer. I have no degree in writing or English. 
  • I am a notoriously bad speller. 
  • Grammar...I didn't learn to diagram a sentence until high school and I didn't really get it.
  • Proof reading? That's for sissies.
  • Nobody has ever accused me of being a perfectionist.

Never fear. I am well aware of my faults. And yet, people give money to write for them. Are they nuts? Possibly.

Here are my tips for writing for the internet and surviving.

1) Don't Worry So Much About What Other People Say-

One of the main things that I find people are scared of is criticism. I have been criticized many times. Actually, thousands of times. (And I am not exaggerating.) I even wrote a blog post filled with my favorite negative comments on my blog.  I have seen hundreds of other negative comments on Facebook and various other places.

I can't say that I care too much what they think. 


Of course, I am not a sociopath so I care to some degree. But I don't care enough to let it stop me from doing something I love. 

Here is how I look at negative comments:

First- Are they right? 
Negative comments give us reason to re-evaluate and re-think our position. Sometimes, upon reflection, I find that I was wrong and they were right. Sometimes there are things I didn't know or just overlooked in my passion. This isn't fun, but it is a growing experience.

Second- Did they misunderstand me?
Sometimes negativity comes when I didn't express myself well. Then, a reader felt I was saying something that I didn't intend to say or didn't mean. This helps me chean up and clarify my writing so I can be more effective. What first seems like negativity can actually help make me do better.

Third- Do they matter?
Some critics are just mean, unhappy, or processing their own negative experience. Whatever it is, I hope it helps. But I don't know if it really matters what they think if their reaction is not so much to me, but to the content. There will sometimes be voracious negativity when you are dealing with birth and parenting subjects.

Do I really care what they think? Probably not.

Fourth- Don't read them-
Nothing says you have to read the awful things people say about you. If I am not in the mood for self loathing, I just skip it. I don't need the approval of a stranger to feel good about myself and neither do you.

2) Take Advice-

Now there are people whose opinions matter, even if it sometimes hurts to hear it.

I have had lots of smart people give me good advice on writing for the internet. It is actually very different than writing in college and it must be learned. 

Some of the most advice I have been given for writing for the internet-

-Short Sentences- 
People reading online do not read how they read when they cuddle up with a real, paperback book by the fireplace. They read in the grocery line or at school pick up. They want things quick, readable and easy to scan.

Keep your sentences short. Break things up. Use your headings. 

-Know Your Audience-
This pertains to the above, but it matters in more than just formatting. Depending on where you are writing, adapt your style to your audience. If you are writing for potential clients, keep it professional. If you are writing purely for clicks and shares, then consider what it is that people like. For example, naked pictures are great click bait, but they don't work great for promoting a professional business (unless...well, you get the picture.)

I write very differently depending on who I am writing for, Here, I am often conversational, but when I write for Birth Boot Camp childbirth education, I try to keep things a little less emotional and professional. 

3) Get Edited

As you know, grammar and spelling aren't my strong suits. I am busy and constantly overwhelmed with work and home. I often do things fast and dirty, just so I can get them done.

So don't be afraid to ask for editing. It is much easier to see someone else's mistakes than it is to see your own. I can read something I wrote over and over and not see my mistakes, but spot them immediately in someone else.

My dear dad is my frequent editor. I also share the things I write with my fellow natural birth instructors and doulas over at Birth Boot Camp. We share all of our posts with each other and not only does it help reach more people, but they give great feedback. So share the things you write with others and get feedback!

If I am writing about something that is admittedly not my expertise, then I reach out to an expert. Their comments and quotes add more than I ever could with my limited knowledge. 

Don't be afraid to bring in other people, get edited, get expert advice, and learn.

I guess my "advice" is full of contradictions. My point is to be confident, go forward, and do something rather than nothing. I have written tons of stuff that is total junk. It is a little embarrassing. But it was also worth it.

Photo credit: Foter / CC BY


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