Saturday, November 24, 2007

Unassisted Childbirth at the Trust Birth Conference

I’m excited to announce that I’ve been asked to speak at the Trust Birth Conference! As some of you know, Carla Hartley, the founder of Trust Birth, is very supportive of UC. While there will be workshops primarily designed to appeal to midwives, doulas and childbirth educators, there will also be some geared more toward UCer’s and other “lay people.” In addition to my talk titled “Believe Your Way to a Better Birth,” I’ll also be on two panels, “Writing about Birth,” and “Why Women Stay Home....Alone.”

Many other UCer’s will be speaking at the conference also, including Mindy Goorchenko, Rixa Freeze, Heather Cushman-Dundee (Hathor the Cow Goddess), Heather Brock, Melissa Collins, Shelia Stubbs and Sarah Buckley. Several UC supporters will be speaking as well: Pamela Hines-Powell, Jody McLaughlin, Michel Odent, Raquel Lazar-Paley, Gloria Lemay, and Carla Hartley. For more information about the conference please visit the web site.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Unassisted childbirth on PBS

This past week, Lynn Griesemer, author of Unassisted Homebirth: An Act of Love appeared on the PBS show To the Contrary. Lynn spoke beautifully about unassisted birth, but I was very disappointed in the discussion that followed. Host Bonnie Erbe and four panelists commented on Lynn's statements, and all agreed that women who choose unassisted birth are selfish and irresponsible.

Below is a letter I sent to Bonnie Erbe. I actually could have written much more, but I suspect I'd be wasting my breath! I can always hope.

To listen to a podcast of the program click here. The segment starts about 19 minutes into the show. While the show was disappointing, I was encouraged by the fact that anyone on American television chose to deal with the subject. Hopefully more shows will follow.

Dear Bonnie,
As an unassisted childbirth (UC) advocate, I was pleased to see this subject discussed on “To the Contrary.” Lynn’s comments were excellent, but almost all of the statements made by your panelists were inaccurate, and revealed a misunderstanding of the true sources for the problems some women encounter in birth. I would be very surprised if the panelists researched UC at all. Thankfully most of the women who choose this option have done their research. This is not a decision they make lightly, and it certainly isn’t made for selfish reasons. We believe that for most mothers, UC is the best and safest way to give birth, both for ourselves and our babies.

A case in point: The biggest cause of infant death is prematurity, yet according to Midwifery Today magazine, the biggest cause of prematurity is induction of labor. Doctors are inducing women before their babies are ready to be born. This is only one of the many dangerous and unnecessary interventions taking place in hospitals today. Many studies show that babies that are delivered by C-section have a much higher rate of death than those born vaginally. As you may know, the C-section rate in this country is now over 30%. In addition to the dangers of the procedure itself, recent studies show that babies are having serious health problems as a result of the pain medication given to mothers recovering from C-sections. The medication is passed on to the babies through breastmilk. These babies have already endured drugs during labor, as it is a well-known fact that drugs easily pass through the placenta. So I would have to ask, who is being selfish – the woman who chooses to take drugs in labor fully knowing it will be passed on to her baby, or the woman who chooses a drug-free unassisted birth?

Your question about babies dying in hospitals was promptly dismissed by Dr. Healy. She claimed it rarely happens, yet in truth, babies die in hospitals every hour of every day. They also suffer numerous injuries as a result of medical intervention. Two to six percent of babies are cut during C-sections, others are cut during episiotomies or injured during forceps or vacuum extractions. None of this was mentioned in the segment. Instead hospital birth was touted as safe, and UC was dismissed as dangerous and selfish.

The comments made by Eleanor Norton about birth not being enjoyable were simply wrong. Countless women have enjoyed their births. I encourage her to read the articles and stories in this section of my site.

As far as Dr. Healy’s statement that women who are giving birth to their first child are not doing it unassisted, this too was wrong. Here is the unassisted birth story of my first child, John. There are many women who choose UC for their first birth.

If you truly want to understand the UC movement, I would encourage you to devote another segment to the subject. But this time I would suggest that the panelists research UC, and in the interest of fairness, I would also suggest that you invite a UC advocate on the program who would actually get to respond to their comments or questions.

Best wishes,

Laura Shanley
Bornfree: The Unassisted Childbirth Page

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Unassisted childbirth in the New York Post

The New York Post published an article about UC today in their Page Six magazine. I thought the writer, Annemarie Conte, did a nice job! She really allowed the UCer's (and one woman planning a UC) to share their thoughts, and they all had great things to say!

This article actually wasn't typical in that it primarily focused on a woman who is planning a UC basically because she must choose between a repeat C-section (after two successful VBAC's!) and a UC. No doctors or midwives are willing (or perhaps legally able) to take her on.

Of course there were the usual comments from those who don't approve. One doctor who was interviewed said UC was "scary, scary, scary." I was disappointed to see this comment from writer Jennifer Block, author of the wonderful new book "Pushed: The Painful Truth About Childbirth and Modern Maternity Care." She said, "The presence of someone who's trained is what makes homebirth safe." Even some midwives I know would disagree with that statement.

I will be curious to see if the article generates any more publicity for UC. There are lots of media people in NYC. But then again, up until now, most members of the US media (or their higher-ups) have had no interest in the subject. We'll see.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Unassisted childbirth article in UK newspaper

Sunday Express

Unassisted childbirth continues to be a hot topic in the UK. This article was recently published in the Sunday Express (it isn't online so I scanned it in). I thought the writer did a nice job! What's unfortunate is that most of the women that were interviewed did not feel comfortable giving their last names. While having an unassisted birth in the UK is not illegal, it's illegal for anyone to "act as an attendant." Since the law does not define what this means (if the father catches the baby is he acting as an attendant?), some women are concerned. In any case, a growing number of UK women are choosing to give birth this way, and I'm thankful to them for sharing their beautiful stories.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Censorship on YouTube

I try to be a positive person. It takes a lot to make me mad. But when a birth clip I posted was deleted by both YouTube and Google I got mad. Below is a letter I sent to YouTube today. I welcome comments from anyone that has had a similar experience.

To Whom It May Concern:

Many wonderful childbirth videos have been deleted by YouTube supposedly because they violate your obscenity policies. Homebirth and natural childbirth videos are specifically being targeted, yet many are far less graphic than hospital birth videos which show close up images of vaginas being cut by doctors (episiotomies) and other interventions. Perhaps when birth is presented as a medical event it is viewed as acceptable but when it is presented as a natural, loving act between a woman, her baby and her partner it is viewed as sexual and therefore obscene.

My lovely video that was deleted by YouTube is now posted on my site.

Can YouTube tell me why my video was taken down yet these were not? Clip 1 and Clip 2

Censorship at YouTube is currently being discussed on message boards such as this one.

Those who have complained to YouTube have received letters of denial:

----- Original Message -----
From: "YouTube Support"
Sent: Saturday, June 30, 2007 10:06 AM
Subject: Re: YouTube Support

Thanks for your email.

Actually, we are not taking videos of natural birth down. If you could
please provide the URLs to the videos in question, I'll be able to look
into this matter further.

The YouTube Team

The letter above was sent on June 30th. I received the letter below on June 23rd.

Dear Member:
After being flagged by members of the YouTube community and reviewed by YouTube staff, the video below has been removed due to its inappropriate nature.

An unassisted childbirth:

Please refer to our Terms of Use and the Community Guidelines for more information on what video material is not permitted on YouTube.

The YouTube Team

YouTube has also deleted videos containing footage of mothers breastfeeding their babies. I understand that there are people that find natural birth and breastfeeding offensive and no doubt they will continue to flag these videos. I have no problem with these videos being flagged, as all one has to do is click a button stating they are over 18. But I see no reason to delete them entirely. Giving birth and breastfeeding a child are NOT obscene acts. YouTube should welcome these videos with open arms, as they are helping to break down society’s fears and misconceptions about these most natural and life-affirming activities.

Laura Shanley
Bornfree! The Unassisted Childbirth Page

* * * * * *

Postscript: Aug. 29 - today my video suddenly reappeared! I ended up sending 3 letters to YouTube (including the one above), so perhaps they decided to reconsider their position on homebirths! Hopefully it will stay up!

Update: March 2009 - The video remained up until July of 2008 when YouTube deleted it once again (see my blog posting about it here). This time they sent me a message telling me that my account would be permanently disabled if I reposted the video again. This seemed quite harsh, considering I had never reposted the video, they had. In any case, they did not respond to my request to repost it.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Unassisted Childbirth on UK TV

There continues to be a growing interest in unassisted childbirth in the UK. In fact, I recently discovered that 45% of the traffic to my web site comes from the UK, while only 20% comes from the US. And so I wasn't entirely surprised when I received a call last month from Dani Ellis, a producer for the Richard and Judy Show, a TV talk show that airs nightly on Channel 4 in the UK. Dani asked if I would be willing to go to London the following week and appear on the show. I said yes, and a few days later I was on my way!

The day of the show I was standing in my hotel room with my hair wrapped in a towel when the phone rang. A woman at the front desk told me a car was waiting to take me to the studio! How could I possibly have gotten the time wrong?! Somehow, twenty minutes later, with dress in hand and hair dripping, I managed to make it downstairs and off I went to the show!

Forty-five minutes later I was ushered into the "green room" where I was introduced to the two lovely women and baby shown above. Both Natalie (on the left) and Julia (with baby Madeleine on the right) are UK mums who have had unassisted births. Both were excited to be on the show. After a brief conversation, we were off to hair and make-up.
One thing I have noticed about make-up artists that work on television shows - they have excellent under-eye concealer! All evidence of my recent sleepless nights was gone! (I would love to be one of those people that can sleep on planes - or even relax on one - but flying is a challenge for me, as is sleeping the night before a trip, and ummm, on a trip. If only I could sleep as easily as I give birth!)

After hair and make-up it was back to the green room. I nodded hello to the other guests that would be appearing on the show - a group of young, sharply dressed men and women (well, to me, boys and girls) who had been on the show Big Brother. One of them was apparently writing a book about the experience. Naturally (of course) I tried not to listen to their conversation but I couldn't help but overhear a few bits and pieces:

"I couldn't believe how she always wore her bikini and high heels in the house."

"Well, YOU wore your bikini in the house."

"Yes, but not my high heels! And I didn't go out to the pubs with my knickers hanging out!"

"Well, we all want publicity. I saw you were in the papers."

"Yes, but who wants to be in the papers for being bad in bed?"

Meanwhile the staff was in somewhat of a tizzy. The Spice Girls had just announced they were reuniting, at least temporarily! Somehow the story had to be squeezed into the show. Dani, the producer, ran into the room to make sure we were ready, and brief us on what could and couldn't be said on live television. Apparently Janet Jackson's wardrobe malfunction did not change the way things are done in the UK. Live means LIVE. There is no delay at all.

"Please, no swearing," Dani explained.

"Can I say the word 'orgasm'?" I asked, "I like to make analogies to sex." Off she ran to ask about orgasm. Minutes later she was back, giving us more details about how we could respond to questions.

"Don't be afraid to speak your mind or interrupt. We like to keep the conversation lively!" she said, and then realizing she had forgotten to ask about the potentially forbidden word she said, "Oh - orgasms," and ran back out of the room.

Moments later she returned with a verdict: no orgasms.

"This is a family show. We don't want a child at home asking, 'Mummy, what's an orgasm?'"

"What about 'climax' or 'excited'?" Natalie asked.

"Yes," we were told a few minutes later. We can say "excited"!

At last it was time for our segment! The three of us were led onto the stage where we met Richard and Judy just seconds before they said "action!" or "we're on!" or whatever it is they say when the cameras start rolling. I actually wasn't nervous but for some reason I don't remember much of what happened once we went on the air. Later that night I remembered that when I said to Richard, "The same consciousness that knows how to grow an egg and a sperm (can I say sperm?!) into a human being, knows how to complete the process" he said, "That's ridiculous." Overall the man was not receptive to our ideas!

But Julia and Natalie were brilliant (which is a word people use a lot over there but in this case it's true)! They talked about how empowering their births were, and the problems they endured in their previous midwife-assisted births. I managed to get in a few words about the dangers of hospital birth, as I was essentially put on the defensive. I barely got to talk about unassisted childbirth, although I believe I may have mentioned my breech birth.

And then before we knew it, it was over and we returned to the green room for wine and h'orderves. There was one sobering moment when I said to Julia that I would have liked to have told Richard that 2-6% of babies are cut into during C-sections (I rarely bring up hospital birth statistics during interviews but Richard was so ademant in his belief in the safety of hospital birth). At that point, Julia pointed to a scar running down her cheek and said, "How do you think I got this? The doctor who did my mother's C-section was drunk and cut right into my face." I only wish I would have had this information PRIOR to going on the air!

I'm looking forward to watching a tape of the show (one is supposedly on the way). I've heard from two friends, Patrick Houser and Veronika Robinson (who just happened to catch the show!) that all of us were "brilliant"! Veronika also wrote about it in her blog.

The rest of my trip went well! I met with friends, roamed around London by myself (and only got lost once) and took a beautiful train ride through the country-side. I'm already looking forward to going back!

I suspect that interest in unassisted childbirth in the UK will continue to grow. This past week I learned that a major UK TV station has just commissioned a documentary on the subject! The producers are hoping to find three couples, either in the US or the UK, that are planning unassisted births in the next eight months and are willing to be interviewed both before and after the birth. Those of you who are interested in participating (or would like to learn more) can contact me at and I'll put you in touch with the producers.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

A Challenge to Hollywood

Kate Kelland’s article about unassisted childbirth (also known as freebirth) was published last night - Freebirthers dismiss fear and bring babies home. I thought Kate did a nice job! The article has been picked up by quite a few newspapers and web sites around the world – ABC News, CNN, Scientific American, China Daily and others. It’s exciting to think that many people are being exposed to UC (unassisted childbirth) probably for the first time.

But here is my concern – and it really isn’t as much of a concern as it is a prediction. Knowing Hollywood, it is only a matter of time before some character in a television drama, sitcom, or feature film intentionally has an unassisted birth. Will they show a woman blissfully catching her own baby? Perhaps even with a smile on her face? Or better yet, as she sighs with pleasure rather than pain? Is there anyone in Hollywood who will dare to present intentional unassisted childbirth in a positive light? Or will they continue to perpetuate the idea that childbirth, left to its own devices, will naturally go wrong? This, of course, is the prevailing view held by medical professionals around the world.

“Dr. Crippen” a British National Health Service doctor who was quoted in the article claims that "giving birth is the most dangerous thing that most women will do during their life....Does a mother not owe a duty of care to her baby? Should a mother not take reasonable care to protect the baby when she gives birth?”

Actually doctor, a mother should take reasonable care to protect the baby – which is why I chose to have all of my children at home, unassisted. Not only does research prove that childbirth is not inherently dangerous, it also proves that hospitals are NOT the safest place to give birth. According to an article in the Journal of the American Medical Association (Vol. 284, July 26, 2000), 250,000 people die each year due to iatrogenic causes (iatrogenic is defined as "induced in a patient by a physician's activity, manner, or therapy").

While the study does not say how many of those deaths are birth related, the fact that childbirth is the most common reason for hospital admissions leads me to believe that thousands of mothers and babies are dying as a result of a physician's treatment. In his book, The Five Standards for Safe Childbearing, David Stewart, PhD, asserts that every 29 minutes a baby dies unnecessarily in a US hospital. Anyone who claims it is safer to give birth in the hospital than it is at home simply hasn't done their research. There is something very wrong with our medical system today - both here and abroad - and women around the world are starting to take notice.

Certainly a homebirth with a midwife is a step in the right direction. But few midwives can legally allow a woman to give birth in her own way and in her own time. In most countries, midwives are required to intervene throughout labor, despite the fact that research shows that intervening in birth causes problems.

And so the question remains, will anyone in Hollywood have the courage to tell the truth about birth?

Thursday, May 17, 2007

UC article on Salon

A friend of mine found this on Salon today - Extreme childbirth. The article is short, and the author isn't exactly critical of UC (although she isn't supportive of it either). Her criticism is aimed more at the author of the Westword article than it is at me (some of the comments at the bottom of the article, however, are directly aimed at me!). In any case, it's bringing more attention to UC (and lots of traffic to my site!). Perhaps Salon will eventually do a more comprehensive UC article.

Unassisted birthers Mindy and Alex Goorchenko were interviewed on Alaskan TV on Tuesday, and a clip of their DVD Psalm and Zoya: The Unassisted Homebirth of Our Twins was shown. Here is a transcript of the segment, and here is the video.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Article in Canadian national newspaper

As promised, the Globe and Mail published an article today about UC: DIY delivery by Adriana Barton. Once again there were the obligatory negative comments from doctors and midwives, but I thought the reporter did a nice job! Marie Claire in the UK also published a UC article: The women having 'extreme births'. Short but nice!

Monday, May 14, 2007

Media month in the Shanley household!

May has been a month of unprecedented media attention, both for Unassisted Childbirth and for my family in particular! May 1st the Boulder Daily Camera published an article about my daughter Joy: A model of good health: Local model enjoys career as a size 12. The following week, I was quoted (and unfortunately misquoted) in two articles about Unassisted Childbirth: Going it alone by Viv Groskop for the Guardian (UK) and Baby's Day Out for Westword (Denver, CO) by Jared Jacang Maher. The Guardian article has generated a lot of media interest from the UK! The Westword article has generated absolutely no interest from the US! I'm actually not surprised. :)

This morning I was interviewed on Irish radio, and tomorrow I've been told another article about UC (Unassisted Childbirth) will be published in the Canadian Globe and Mail, with a Reuters article soon to follow. Today my son Willie (professionally known as "Will") had two articles on the front page of the business section of the Denver Post: What price internships? and Better hunting, bigger salaries greet graduates. Very exciting!