Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Homebirth on ABC's "20/20" Jan. 2nd

Jan. 2nd I will be speaking about unassisted childbirth on ABC TV's "20/20" as part of a segment on homebirth (both unassisted and midwife-assisted). There will also be segments on orgasmic birth and long-term breastfeeding. This week, several articles in connection with the program have been posted on the ABC news web site:

Unassisted childbirth and homebirth with midwives: Mothers-to-Be Saying No to Modern Medicine

Orgasmic birth: Labor Orgasms Called 'Best-Kept Secret'

Video about long-term breastfeeding: Extreme Breastfeeding

As usual, there will be negative comments from those who disapprove of these practices, but hopefully some truth will get through. If nothing else, it should get people talking!

Thursday, October 09, 2008

"Freebirthing" to air on the Discovery Health Channel

The unassisted childbirth documentary originally titled "Outlaw Births" and now renamed "Freebirthing" will be airing on the Discovery Health Channel on Oct. 21st. As far as I know, the only things that have changed are the title and perhaps the narration. I enjoyed the British version, but as expected, there were numerous unsubstantiated comments from medical professionals about the supposed safety of hospital birth and the dangers of homebirth (specifically unassisted homebirth). In my interview with the producers last summer I addressed many of their concerns but most of my comments ended up on the cutting room floor.

I've posted clips from the British version of the program on a web page I put up called To see the Discovery Health Channel's page about the program click here.

It will be interesting to see what, if any, changes will be made to the US version. A producer from Discovery Health contacted me a few weeks ago to see if some of the "facts" presented in the program were indeed facts. I wrote him a long letter telling him more than he probably wanted to know! I've included some of my comments below. I'd actually be suprised if any changes were made to the program, but we'll find out soon!

Dear Emil,
I’m glad to hear it will be airing in the US. Overall I thought it was good, although I felt they were wrong to say that 50,000 UK women hemorrhage each year, without adding that much of this is due to medical intervention – epidurals, pitocin, aggressive management of the third stage of labor, c-sections, etc. Without bringing in this fact, it makes it appear that large numbers of women will naturally hemorrhage if a birth isn’t medically assisted.

Nine pregnant women were actually interviewed for the documentary (although most weren’t featured), and all nine went on to successfully give birth unassisted. None of the women hemorrhaged, and only two sought medical care after the birth – Heather, for a placenta that was slow to come out (but came out without assistance in the hospital), and another woman who tore and decided to get stitches. Heather is now sorry she went into the hospital, as many women that give birth at home deliver the placenta hours (and occasionally, days) after the birth with no problems. There really was no reason for concern. And so I would dispute the narration that accompanied this segment, as they implied (if not outright stated) that Heather was in serious danger.

Regarding the statement that “80% of women say that childbirth is more painful than they ever imagined," I googled “childbirth more painful than imagined” and found several references to a UK study from 2002. However, the article states that of the women in the study, “Almost a quarter had had a Caesarean and 96 per cent gave birth in hospital with a variety of technical assistance including forceps, suction and epidurals. Only 6 per cent reported having a 'completely natural birth.'”

As far as the accuracy of the comment in the end of the program that "For Laura Shanley the responsibility rests on the medical community to offer a different kind of support to women," this actually bothered me, as I would never make a statement like this. I believe the responsibility rests on women. If women truly want to have a better birth experience, they need to educate themselves as to why birth can sometimes be problematic. From the research I have done, I believe it can be traced to three main causes: poverty, unnecessary medical intervention, and fear (which triggers the fight/flight response and shuts down labor). We cannot depend on the medical profession to “save” us from birth, as we really don’t need to be saved – and their idea of saving (inductions, c-sections, etc.) brings with it a new set of problems that are actually causing an increase in both maternal and infant mortality. And so I encourage women to overcome their fears, believe in their own abilities and allow their bodies to work the way they were designed.

The producers of the documentary did ask me what doctors, midwives and doulas can do, and I told them they can help women to believe in themselves (and this is the clip they showed after making that statement). But I would never put the responsibility on the medical community, as I do not believe birth is a medical event. Contrary to what many reporters are saying, the unassisted childbirth (UC) movement isn’t simply a reaction to over-medicalized birth (although that’s certainly a factor). I think interest in UC is growing because women are wanting to take responsibility for themselves in all aspects of their lives. They no longer feel comfortable turning themselves over to the “authorities.” The idea that “doctor knows best” doesn’t sit right with many people anymore. Yes, doctors are necessary and sometimes their services are needed. But when it comes to birth these days, I believe they are creating more problems than they’re fixing.

Please let me know if there’s anything else I can do. Dare I say, there were several other statements made in the documentary that I didn’t agree with – and actually addressed in the hours of interviews I did with the UK crew. Unfortunately, most of that ended up on the cutting room floor. Still, I’m thankful that I was able to say as much as I did (I did a 4-hour interview with the Seoul Broadcasting System a few years ago, and when the documentary aired a year later my part was 15 seconds long). I also felt the British did a nice job presenting the women’s stories. I don’t object to them including negative comments from doctors, but many of the comments made simply weren’t true.

Best wishes,
Laura Shanley

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Reviews and clips of "Outlaw Births"

The unassisted childbirth documentary “Outlaw Births” aired in the UK on Wed. night and by all accounts was an interesting program! As usual, there were numerous negative comments throughout from medical professionals but that’s to be expected. There was also too much emphasis (by most accounts) on the problems one American woman, Heather, had on delivering her placenta. The placenta was slow in coming so Heather went to the hospital. While this actually wasn’t an emergency, it was presented as such in the program. Still, in most people’s minds this didn’t overshadow the beauty of Heather’s homebirth.

Two clips have been posted on YouTube. The clips feature UK UCer Clair and her partner Yasmin, but in the beginning of the first clip you’ll see 2-second shots of 2 other UC’s – Josephine’s and Monique’s. There is also a shot of my friend Cassie looking euphoric as she holds her baby just after the birth, and a few shots of Heather and another UK UCer, Clio in labor. Click here and here.

I’ve already received numerous letters from people around the world who would like to watch the program. Unfortunately at this point it isn’t for sale, although I’ve been told that eventually it will be shown in other (as of now unknown) countries. Those who live in the UK can view the program free here.

I’m enclosing two reviews below, one from my UK friend Cassie, and another by a writer for the Guardian newspaper. Unfortunately the production company has yet to send me a copy so I can’t add my own comments.

From Cassie:
Channel 5 is one of 5 channels available to everyone within the United Kingdom with a TV set. I was extremely pleased and impressed by the program overall. Three births were shown. Clair, our very own Heather and also Clio of Evolution Expands Consciousness.

It started out badly edited really, chopping between Clair (ex nurse in London planning a UC) and three medics - one head midwife from Colorado, a male consultant here in London and a female consultant also based in London. The three medics were obviously saying how dangerous it was, how women die, how "interventions make birth safe" and that the tools they have prevent mothers and babies from dying in childbirth. They also said about 50,000 people each year suffer from PPH (post-partum hemorrhage) in the UK. Didn't mention the fact this was probably due to them yanking out placentas and cutting women up with episiotomies whilst they were strapped to their backs and immobile through epidurals....

The program hinted for a good part of the hour long documentary...that the practice may not be legal in the UK. They even avoided having their own film crew at Clio's birth...just in case the film crew was prosecuted. This continued right up until Clair went to see Beverly Beech, Chair of AIMS (Association for Improvements in Maternity Services). At that point Beverly said quite clearly that anyone telling a pregnant woman that UC was illegal was either 'ignorant or lying.' The program misquoted the wrong piece of legislation associated with possible prosecution...saying it was 1997...when in actual fact it's 2001.

Clair I felt was featured most centrally. She is an ex nurse and also a lesbian. They didn't make as big of an issue out of this as I had expected them to, which was nice. She put herself across on the documentary quite well, being very honest in her fears and her hopes. She went for a class with the British Red Cross...and the man who gave her lessons on how to resuscitate a baby did not at all seem phased when she pointed out there would be no midwife at her birth. He just made sure she understood what he had taught her and seemed quite confident he had equipped her with the knowledge to save her child, should the occurrence arise. She birthed at home with her partner alone. Bit of screaming when the head crowned, but she was ecstatic and far happier it seems with this birth than her previous two experiences.

Clio - was AMAZING. Quiet, serene, peaceful. Positively empowered and never uttering once about negativities.

Heather - beautiful! Was filmed with our dear Laura at a gathering that was held at Laura’s home with other women. The birth was beautiful. Unfortunately out of all of them, this is where the negative spin came when Heather still hadn't birthed the placenta. The ominous narration of 'this is the most dangerous time and Heather is seriously at risk from PPH and infection of her and her baby.' It was the only time I yelled at the TV. Of course everything was fine but it almost gave the impression of 'thank god...see how lucky she is.' It also showed Heather, checking her blood pressure in Wal-Mart lol, and her meeting with a midwife to learn how to resuscitate a baby if needed. The midwife was quite negative when interviewed afterwards and said she needed more support. I wanted to slap her a bit lol.

Laura was interviewed. The website shown and have a 'cult' following. There was footage shown of Laura’s birth back in 1978. The interview bits that were shown of you were not as choppy as some of the others done with 'experts.' You probably got as much if not more coverage as the female UK medic. A basic view of UC came across very nicely from you, as well as your additions on what you hoped Dr's, midwives and doulas should learn about supporting women. ALSO the UK female medic acknowledged the fact that women were turning to UC because the standard of care they received in NHS hospitals was poor and that needed to change!

So it wasn't a parade of freaks as some of these documentaries tend to do. It portrayed 3, educated, empowered and confident women giving birth to their babies without assistance. It showed their fears, concerns, hopes and dreams through their plans and births. It also addressed the legal and medical concerns surrounding UC. I said....a very good piece on unassisted childbirth.

It also has the net in a spin. I have been dropping hints about the programs on a number of mainstream boards. They are buzzing about it. Even though many of them wouldn't personally choose to go UC themselves, they admire the births, do not condemn women for choosing to go UC. I can count on probably 1 hand the negative comments I have seen made after the airing of the show (so far) and all of them can generally be put down to that individual’s own personal horrific hospital experience. Well done and congratulations to everyone who was involved in the making of the program!

From Anne Pickard of the Guardian newspaper:
The women in Outlaw Births weren't criminals. They just delivered their babies their own way
Thursday July 10, 2008

Anyone wondering if childbirth really is as painful as everyone says would have found their answer in Extraordinary People: Outlaw Births (Five). In at least two out of three cases, yes, it really did look that painful. And messy. And not for the squeamish. But it was at least a real and unflinching portrait of natural childbirth - as well as a reminder of how unusual it is to see uncensored images of women giving birth and breastfeeding on primetime TV.

Of course, to get it into the schedules, it had to be given a stupid name. Outlaw Births? The programme highlighted the fact that unassisted births in the UK exist in a legally grey area - but "outlaw"? I half-expected to see mothers popping out little black-hatted baddies with sawn-off shotguns shouting: "Put 'em up, this is a robbery!"

Clair MacVean, a quietly passionate ex-nurse, was sad that her friends thought her mad and that her grandmother would worry. But she wasn't to be shaken out of her opinions. "Births are overmanaged, over-medicalised and midwives seem to have lost their empathy," she said. When her NHS trust refused her a home-birthing kit after she refused their midwife, she took herself off to a medical-supplies shop to buy sterile scissors for cutting the umbilical cord. "And who's going to do it?" said the nice lady in the medical-supplies shop. "Me, probably!" Clair replied, cheerfully. "Oh!" said the nice lady, lost for words.

Two other women shared their experiences and, even though you sensed that nothing bad was going to happen, you knew that it could. And you knew they knew, too. Clio Howie gave birth in the company of her husband and children in a remote cottage in Wales, half an hour from the nearest doctor. In almost complete silence, her baby slipped into the birthing pool and emerged the right way up, the right colour and softly crying as he was laid on her breast.

Clair and the third freebirthing mother, Heather, fared less well. They spent hours screaming and contorted, but both ended up with a tiny, perfect person. Every now and again, an obstetrician or a high-ranking midwife appeared and said: "Our problem with this is that it could be dangerous and someone could die and we don't want mothers to put themselves and their babies in situations of unacceptable risk."

Their unsupportive attitude became shockingly clear when Heather, worried that the placenta had not followed the baby out, took herself off to a hospital. There she was treated with disdain. "Well, what do you expect us to do now?" her doctor said. Still, whether you believe these women are taking unacceptable risks or not, their calm dedication made for an absorbing film. "I've had several cups of tea, he's had several little breastfeeds; it's been a lovely morning - wake up, have a baby, and ... " said Clair, waving her hands, "this is the way it should be. Birth is part of life."

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Outlaw Births

The British documentary “Outlaw Births” will be airing in the UK tomorrow (July 9th) on Channel 5 at 9pm. The film deals with unassisted childbirth (also known as "UC," "unassisted homebirth," and "freebirth"). I was interviewed along with nine pregnant women who were all planning on giving birth at home, unassisted. I'm pleased to say that all nine succeeded! The film focuses primarily on three women, Clio, Clair and Heather. Footage from all of their births will be shown.

An article about the documentary was published today in the British newspaper The Independent. The article features lovely photos from Clio's recent UC! In the months to come, the documentary may be shown in other countries. I'll be sure to post information on this as soon as I get more details.

Concerning the title, the term “outlaw” refers to the fact that women who choose this route often feel ostracized by friends, family and society. While the UK laws are vague, technically it is not illegal for a woman there to have an unassisted birth.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

The Homebirth Video That's Too Hot for YouTube

The amazing disappearing lady has disappeared once again. For the third time in less than a year, YouTube has deleted one of my unassisted homebirth videos because it "violated their community guidelines." They've also threatened to permanently disable my account.

WHAT IS SO OFFENSIVE ABOUT THIS VIDEO ??? While it's currently posted on Jumpcut, it's already been flagged, although not deleted (yet). Google, MySpace and several other video hosting sites deleted it within hours of my posting it. When I've asked friends about this I've gotten the following responses:

-It makes people uncomfortable because it's too sexual. It takes place in a bedroom, and the sounds she's making are similar to those of a woman having sex. She almost sounds as if she's enjoying giving birth!

-It makes people uncomfortable because they're afraid to see birth outside a hospital setting. Most people are convinced that birth is inherently dangerous, and needs to be managed and controlled by "experts."

-It makes people uncomfortable because the woman is far too independent. No one is there telling her what to do. She actually has the audacity to think for herself and believe in her own abilities.

Of course, I'm not the only one that has been targeted. As I wrote in my previous post about Censorship on YouTube, other homebirth videos - both unassisted and midwife assisted - have also been deleted. Hospital birth videos, however, no matter how graphic (and disturbing, as far as I'm concerned) are perfectly OK. Click here and here.

The upside of this is that I no longer have to spend time everyday deleting angry comments from people who didn't approve of the video. On the other hand, I no longer get to read the lovely comments from people whose lives were changed for the better after watching this beautiful and inspiring NATURAL event.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Breastfeeding on Tyra Banks July 3rd

Well, not on Tyra Banks, but on her show! My dear friend Veronika Robinson will be sharing her thoughts on "full term" breastfeeding (breastfeeding beyond infancy) on Tyra's show this Thursday. Nursing in public will also be discussed. From what I understand, it would probably be best to take a few deep breaths prior to watching the show. Not everyone agrees with Veronika's theories (although I certainly do). Here is the description of the show that's posted on Tyra's site:

“Motherhood Controversy”
With her audience filled with mothers, Tyra hosts a no-holds-barred conversation about the pressures they face today. Tyra speaks with a woman who defends her controversial decision to breastfeed her kids until they were 8 years old, and a woman who believes it is acceptable to breastfeed her children in public. Then a young woman explains her desire to be a stay-at-home wife and mother -- even though her own mother raised her to be a career woman. Next, emotions get heated when stay-at-home mothers debate working moms on who makes the better parent.

If you're not familiar with Veronika's work I'd encourage you to visit her web sites, The Mother Magazine and Veronika frequently speaks about full term breastfeeding, homebirth and attachment parenting on television and radio programs in the UK, but I believe this will be her first US appearance. She and her family were also featured in the UK documentary "Extraordinary Breastfeeding." Click here to watch a clip of this controversial program.

While the reaction from Tyra's guests (and perhaps from Tyra herself) may be less than positive, hopefully at least a little bit of truth will get through!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Associated Press TV segment on Unassisted Childbirth

Tomorrow, March 24th, somewhere in the world, at some point during the day (am I being too vague?), the Associated Press TV segment I was interviewed for will air. Stations around the world that subscribe to AP video can air the 3 to 5 minute segment if they choose to. They can also air part of it, or show the footage but with their own voice-overs. I believe there will also be a 2 minute segment which can be posted online by newspapers that subscribe to AP video. I’m hoping that if it doesn’t air locally (or even if it does) I/we can view the video online, but I’m not sure if that will be possible. In addition to a short interview with me, the segment will also include an interview with my friend Liberty, and comments from a physician (I think we all know what to expect). It’s hard to say how many stations will choose to air the segment, but if anyone out there sees it please let me know. A short blurb about the segment is posted here.

Interestingly enough, this segment was 9 months in the making, and tomorrow is my husband David’s birthday. It seems very fitting to me that it should air then, as David was the one that started me on this path. While he only witnessed the birth of one of our children, he was very much with me in spirit each time, and like me, views this as his life’s work (actually, our work is much larger than UC, but this is our primary focus right now). My book, Unassisted Childbirth, was very much a joint creation. Certainly David hasn’t been as vocal about birth as I have, but he’s slowly coming out of his shell. He was interviewed by the AP TV producer (as were two of our children, John and Joy), but unfortunately their comments weren’t included. I hope you will be seeing more of him in the years to come. The man has read thousands of books in the past 35 years, and is a walking encyclopedia.

In other news, I added two lovely, inspiring videos to my main page this past week, “My Birth Path,” by Sarahjeanne, and “My Birth Journey,” by Reyvene. Stop by and have a look!

Postscript: The Today Show in Australia aired an edited version of the segment. Click here to view it.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Two new articles about unassisted childbirth

For the past month or so I’ve been hearing about a UC article that was published in the UK magazine Junior Pregnancy and Baby. Yesterday someone finally sent me a copy, which I scanned in.

In addition to some nice quotes from me, there were several wonderful quotes from the lovely and talented Veronika Robinson, editor of The Mother magazine, and many excellent comments from our dear Dr. Michel Odent. “For decades, women have been told that they need a guide to tell them what to do and when,” says Odent. “But the basic mammalian need is for privacy. To give birth, women must release the key hormone oxytocin, and it is a shy hormone – if there are people around it doesn’t appear. These women are teaching us what is most important.” Wow! Thanks, Michel! British mum, Julia Wilson spoke beautifully about UC, once again. Julia is one of the women that appeared with me on the Richard and Judy Show last summer.

Another nice UC article was just posted on the iparenting web site. I enjoyed talking to writer Kelly Burgess, and felt she accurately stated my views on the subject. But of course there were the usual quotes from a doctor and midwife (as there were in the British article). It’s too bad they don’t have a place for comments, as I would have liked to comment on this one.

Dr. Ronald Librizzi, chief of maternal-fetal medicine for Virtua Health says that “even in a population that appears to be glowingly healthy, in about 20 percent of all pregnancies something will go seriously wrong and require medical intervention. Only a trained professional, he says, can recognize those at high risk.” Of course I question this statistic. It was also cited in the New York Times article on UC in 2002. Jack Travis, M.D. disputed this figure in a letter he wrote to the Times which was never published. I did, however, post it on my site.

Mairi Breen Rothman, a certified nurse-midwife and a consultant with the American College of Nurse Midwives was more understanding of women who choose unassisted birth, but likens it (says the writer of the article) to “swimming in the ocean without a lifeguard. You don't have to pay any attention to the lifeguard while you're swimming, but it's nice to have someone on the beach watching for dorsal fins.” I like Mairi, and corresponded with her briefly after we co-hosted a discussion on the Washington Post web site last July.

But the “lifeguard” analogy doesn’t sit right with me. Swimming is generally a social activity. Most swimmers are comfortable having other people around, and an occasional glance from a lifeguard isn’t an intrusion. But birth is an intimate, private act. How comfortable would most of us feel having sex in front of a lifeguard? Chances are a couple that wanted to have sex on the beach would find a secluded location.

I agree with Mairi when she says "If you give birth in the natural, normal way and Mom is completely relaxed she'll go to a place I like to call the 'birth planet' where you're just being your animal self” but she loses me when she goes on to say, “and you shouldn't be thinking about things like tying off the cord, or maybe wondering if you should call 911. Even coyotes have a midwife in the pack that stands outside the hole to keep the other animals away. Bringing in a professional is something that's perfectly natural in our birthing history."

When I was in labor I never thought about tying off the cord. What’s to think about? It's a very simple procedure that can be performed by anyone with a pair of scissors and a string. I did think briefly about calling 911 when my second baby was coming out feet first, but decided against it. I relaxed, didn't interfere physically or psychologically, and everything turned out beautifully.

However, had a midwife been there I certainly would have been transported to the hospital, as midwives in Colorado aren’t allowed to do breech births. Of course, a midwife might have detected the baby’s position prior to the birth and either tried to turn him (which I wouldn’t have wanted) or told me I needed to give birth in a hospital. As far as coyotes having midwives, another member of the pack may indeed keep other animals away, but how does this apply to women giving birth today in the safety of their homes?

Besides, midwives generally don't stand "outside the hole." In Colorado, not only aren't they allowed to leave the mother's side, they must do vaginal exams in labor (which puts them literally in "the hole"), take the mother's temperature and blood pressure on a regular basis, and check the baby's heart tones every 5 to 10 minutes during the second stage of labor (among other things). Many women find it difficult to go to the "birth planet" (i.e. relax into an altered state of consciousness) when they're continually checked and monitored.

Regarding Mairi's comment that bringing in a professional is something that's perfectly natural in our birthing history, this simply isn't true. Judith Goldsmith writes in her extensively researched book Childbirth Wisdom From the World's Oldest Societies that midwives are actually a recent phenomenon. "Many students of childbirth, however, speak of the midwife as woman's first helper. In reality, though, even the midwife is a relative newcomer on the scene. In those tribal communities where birth is aided, the assistant is most commonly the woman's own mother.....A casual reading of anthropology does not always make these close family ties apparent, because often the European writer, seeing things in the light of his own background, referred to the person assisting the mother as the ‘midwife’ whether or not she was called this or considered as such by her own society. Further examination, however, reveals that the so-called midwife was very often a close relative of the mother, with no more special knowledge of birth than any other mother in the tribe. This underlines an important point: in a large part of the world, except in difficult cases, a birth required no more specialized help than the members of a woman’s own family could provide."

I'm not anti-midwife, and I understand that most midwives genuinely have a woman's best interest in mind. But when midwives claim women in labor need "lifeguards" or use phrases “keeping other animals away” they perpetuate the idea that birth is dangerous and women need protection.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Reflections on the Trust Birth Conference

I’m happy to say that the Trust Birth Conference far exceeded my expectations! It was wonderful to connect with so many people I had corresponded with over the years but never met in person. All the sessions I attended were excellent. Each of the speakers stayed true to the Trust Birth slogan: Birth is Safe; Interference is Risky. Speaking of which, apparently the sign we had posted in the lobby (which bore the slogan) did not go over well with some of the hotel guests. A group of surgeons complained to the management, and asked that the sign be taken down! The surgeons felt we should not be able to make a political statement (dare I say, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet?!). Fortunately, the sign remained. :)

I wish I could say I took lots of pictures but I didn’t. The reasons for this are as follows: when it comes to photography, I suck, and I truly wanted to immerse myself in the experience and not be concerned with documenting it. Believe me, I was there! Thankfully other people took pictures. Click here to see Brenda Capps’ pictures, and here to see Gloria Lemay’s.

One of the MANY highlights for me was the panel discussion on “Why Women Stay Home...Alone!” Several of us on the panel had been a bit concerned that we might endure criticism from midwives, but I can honestly say that not one of the midwives in the audience had anything negative to say about UC (unassisted childbirth). After my fellow panelists (Melissa Collins, Heather Cushman-Dowdee, Jody McLaughlin, Rixa Freeze, Heather Brock and Emily Reeves) and I shared our reasons for choosing UC, the discussion turned to how we can build a bridge between UC and midwifery. I was thrilled to learn that there are many midwives who truly want to help women in their quest for a UC, whether that means being a back-up, doing prenatal care, offering knowledge and support during the pregnancy and/or checking on the mom and baby after the birth. I never felt I needed this but I understand that some women do, and so I’m thankful there are midwives who are willing to provide this service. The discussion was so productive that midwife and UCer Kristi Zittle set up a Yahoo group with the following description: “An elite group of women joining together to find a common bond between hands off midwifery and the power of the unassisted birthing woman. Our goal is to meet the needs of all women without interfering with the natural processes of birth; and, through the dispelling of birth fears!” To join the group click here.

Of course I know that not all midwives support UC, and even some who do are reluctant to help those UCer’s that request it for fear of losing their licenses should something go wrong with the birth. This is why my midwife friends (and I suspect many of the midwives in the audience) have tended to fall into the following categories: no longer practicing (either by force or choice), unregulated, underground, or licensed and regulated but willing to break the law. As several of the midwives pointed out, a midwife basically has to decide who she’s going to answer to: the woman or the state. Those who decide to answer to the state may be able to help women that have text book labors, but they will hinder women whose labors deviate from “the norm.” Does a woman truly need to transfer if her water has been broken for more than 12 hours, or her placenta isn’t delivered within an hour of the birth? In most cases, I don’t think so. But a midwife who answers to the state will do this in spite of the fact that she knows it's unnecessary.

There is so much more I could write about (and so many people I could thank/praise) but I’ve been home for a week and I'm still trying to catch up on email, work, etc. To those who would like to read more about the conference click here.

As you’ll see, I’m not the only one who didn’t want it to end! In fact, conference organizer Carla Hartley (who will forever hold a place in my heart) is already talking about having another conference in 2010. I’ll keep you posted! For those of you who weren’t able to attend (and even those who were) recordings of the sessions will soon be available for purchase here.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Requests from the Media

A major US television network is exploring the possibility of making a documentary about unassisted childbirth. I spoke with the producer for over an hour the other day and she seemed very receptive! She's interested in speaking with pregnant women in the US who are planning on giving birth unassisted sometime in the next 6 months. If you’d like to participate, please send me your name, phone number, email address, location and a paragraph or two about yourself, and I’ll pass it along to the producer –

* * * * * * *

I’m passing this along for Lynn Griesemer, author of Unassisted Homebirth: An Act of Love: A reporter from a prominent US magazine is doing a story on unassisted birth and would like to interview someone in the Northeast or Mid-Atlantic who recently gave birth (within 6 months; planned, unassisted) or is currently pregnant and planning an unassisted homebirth. The reporter is particularly interested in a couple whose first or second child was / is going to be an unassisted birth. The magazine's desire is to visit in person, interview and take photos. Contact me if you'd like to participate. Lynn Griesemer,

* * * * * * *

I’m passing this along for Anna Edwinson, a producer for Granada Media (participants need to be either in the US or UK): Channel 4 is making a documentary called “Wet Nurse” for one of the UK’s most acclaimed networks. We want to make an informative, thought provoking, fair and compassionate film exploring the need of a wet nurse in today’s modern society.

Now with health scares about formula milk, an increase in plastic surgery and women who can’t or won’t breastfeed – a wet nurse has its use. This added with gay couples – especially since the law changed allowing them to adopt – could a wet nurse make a comeback and become culturally accepted?

What I’m particularly looking for are women who can’t or won’t breastfeed and are currently engaged in casual or paid wet nursing. I’m also looking to speak to women who are currently cross feeding or wet nursing. It’s a complicated issue and I need your help to make sense of it all. You can email to discuss further.

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(This next one isn't from the media but I'm including it anyway.)

I’m passing this along for midwifery student, Clare Singleton: My name is Clare and I am a midwifery student at Yale School of Nursing. I am interested in Unassisted Childbirth and would like to do a case study. I am looking for women who would be interested in participating which would include filling out questionnaires once a month throughout their pregnancy and 2 weeks postpartum. All information provided will be kept confidential and no identifying information will be used in the final paper. I am currently working with my faculty to determine if written consent will be necessary.

My aim in conducting a case study to not only more learn about Unassisted Childbirth on a personal level and as a future health care provider, but also to present an objective view of the practice to the midwifery community. Those women who would like to participate can contact me at

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Please feel free to repost or pass these requests along to anyone you think might be interested.