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.