Friday, July 25, 2008


Short post about a tiny line, about a tiny egg and a tiny sperm and big consequences: the history of the home pregnancy test kit.
Thanks Abortion Clinic Days for the link.

Placenta Power

I had the distinct pleasure of Window Water Baby Moving by Stan Brakhage with some of my favorite (male) friends and my best doula friend. None of these men have children nor grew up on a farm (i.e. have never seen a birth). As you can well imagine, it was an amazing 12 minutes of much breath holding, eye covering, etc. (It really should be said that this video is pretty graphic as far as birth films go...)

One of the best moments for me was their reaction to the birth of the placenta: the placenta is huge! This was the very thing that most impressed both my doula friend and I in our first births. It makes logical sense that the placenta should be big- it sustains the growth of an entire baby but some how I was initially unprepared...I through it would maybe be like a kidney, about that size and "organ-looking". Instead, to me, the placenta seems more akin to something from the ocean like a dark red jelly fish or brain coral.

Placentas have long held their place in birth rituals saved for their nourishing and protective powers. Read about international placenta practices in this Mothering magazine article. Specific placenta rituals I've encountered include birth trees, encapsulation and placenta prints.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Sharing is caring

One of my moms recently said to me that she wished that she knew more about this whole childbirth thing when she was first pregnant. She said that her mother and mother-in-law gave birth in Europe and so, couldn't offer much advice in the way of the American birth experience. She wished that she had done more research or asked more questions. I told her that her learning curve would help her friends to feel strong and empowered in their pregnancies and much later, her own daughter. That she could begin to build language around her birth experience that she could share -- this single point of feeling of inadequacy could grow a full tree of knowledge.

It is important to share birth knowledge- to talk about it too much- to ask too many personal questions- to get our girls (and boys) familiar with this process early on. Grass root change starting with us. (for example: take The Birth Survey or read some birth stories.)

It goes top down as well: celebrities often have loud voices- here are two recent examples:
Christy Turlington spreads the word about maternal mortality
Ani diFranco talks about her home birth experience.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Womb with a View

I know a doula who starts off every one of her introductory conversations with the question "have you ever seen a birth"?

How do we know about birth? From stories told by our sisters, grandmothers, and mothers. Told by our best friends and co-workers and random people in our yoga class and at the co-op and on the subway. Told by our douals and doctors. Stories on the internet, on the TV and in movies, on the radio, at the Natural History museum. This is alot of information; maybe even overload. But have you ever SEEN a real birth?

I knew I wanted to be in the birthing field before I had ever seen a birth, I was positive that this was the right career for me but still there was a bit of trepidation...what would it actually look like? Scary, gory and painful? Would I faint?

By the time I had my first birth, I had already missed two (those babies just came so fast!) and so had seen the blood, placenta and tear repairs. My first one was so breathtakingly natural and beautiful- it made me (almost) cry. I felt part of something that was strong and intuitive.

A new feature on my side-bar is a list of birth/ baby films- under "Birth Media"- that I love and think are terribly important as visual resources for all expectant parents and birth professionals alike.

Monday, July 21, 2008

The Matriarchs

There is this scene in "I heart Huckabees" in which Jason Schwartzman is supposed to imagine people from his life sitting in a tree (in the movie it goes terribly wrong)...

In times of stress or fear, I conjure some of the smartest, strongest ladies I know sitting in a tree offering support and wisdom to me. I know it's a bit bizarre but the tree symbol is so powerful and reminds me that I am deeply rooted. I've already introduced you to one of my tree mavens, Ina May.

Here is another one: Dr. Christine Northup. She is deeply committed to bringing consciousness of mind/ body connection into our everyday lives. Her holistic wisdom eschews preventive health through an ideal of comprehensive wellness rather than the typical "knee-jerk reaction" medicine of much of our health care system today.

This is her "daily inspiration" from July 21st:
"Giving birth is a time of great opportunity for women to get in touch with their true power. We need to emerge from our labor beds with a renewed sense of strength and awareness that our bodies have just participated in a magnificent act of creation."

She will be the keynote speaker at the upcoming conference
"Women & Courage: Expressing Women's Wisdom in the 21st Century" September 12-14 at the Omega Institute.

* This drawing/photos is from a marvelous project by the artist Yeondoo Jung. He translates children's drawings into photographs.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

S.F. heart

You know you've become part of an obvious trend when the New York Times writes an article about it... in my case it is my passage
(“flowing in and out”, if you will)
between Brooklyn and the Bay Area: the two places [described] as the ultimate “idiosyncratic communities” in the United States.

I lived in San Francisco before I moved to New York. It is still the place that I most consider home (to the extent that I am loyal to my hairdresser and have a running grocery shopping list for things from Rainbow). I thought I'd share some SF resources for surely, as my demographic peers, you have a sister or friend or cousin that is going to have a No Cal baby.

Childbirth Classes:

Natural Resources is a lovely little shop/ resource center and offers many classes.

Resourceful Groups
San Francisco Doula group

Le Leche League of California
Bay Area Homebirth Collective

Sage Femme Midwifery and Wise Woman Childbirth Traditions

Birth Professionals:

Bitt Fohrman taught at my yoga studio and is also a doula and birth photographer.
Jane Austin, also a yoga teacher, is amazing (and featured in
the beautiful film It's My Body, My Baby, My Birth)

Social advocacy surrounding pregnancy in CA:
-an amazing and innovative Homeless Prenatal Program
-really great groundbreaking paid family leave policy

Friday, July 18, 2008

Become a doula

When people ask me why I have decided to become a midwife, my general response is "oh, long history.. feminist notions..mind". Yes, most importantly intuition. I do feel that helping a woman thought this rite of passage, this liminal event is my calling.

But what really confirmed it for me was becoming a doula. It was in my training workshops, surrounded by brave, compassionate, smart peers, that I felt centered and inspired. And important. I made incredible friends, have a
wise community from which to draw and feel like I am serving women in a tangible and significant way.

If you're in New York and would like to become a doula, on of my doula teachers is offering a workshop series in the coming weeks. It will be taught at the
Open Center and Celeste is offering a free intro class on this Friday, July 25th.

Please see details


Summer, Sex and Spirits at the Museum of Sex on Tuesday, July 29th - a Planned Parenthood event.
You should go! See invite here.

* a personal aside: In college I had a professor that talked about the Museum of Sex, alot. I think it might have had to do with museum theory. Regardless, several friends and I became obsessed with this interactive feature:
Mapping Sex in America.

Makes me happy

In light of the recent disturbing women's heath news of the past few weeks. I thought I share some positive current event stories:

1) A House subcommittee passes bill to increase funds for international family planning programs and to overturn the 'global gag rule'.

Excerpt from article by the National Partnership for Women & Families:

The House measure, which passed the House-State Foreign Operations Subcommittee, would provide $600 million for foreign family planning programs, a 30%
increase from FY 2008, including $60 million for the United Nations Population Fund. The Senate measure, which passed the full Appropriations Committee by a 28-1 vote, would provide $520 million for family planning programs, including $45 million for UNFPA... The Senate measure also would overturn the so-called "Mexico City" policy, also known as the "global gag" rule, while the House measure does not address the issue (CQ Today, 7/17). The policy bars U.S. funding to foreign nongovernmental organizations that, with non-U.S. funds, provide or pay for abortion services or counseling, or engage in advocacy on abortion-related issues.
RH Reality Check's coverage of this news, too.

2) Jessica Alba touts her natural childbirth experience: "I didn't scream. It was really Zen. I wanted to do it naturally. The labor was more like meditation. I did yoga breathing. I was focused."


Have you heard: birth control= abortionl? Amazing logic...

The Department of Health and Human Services and George Bush want to restrict funding for the provision family planning services. Even more, this proposal enables any health-care worker or institution to easily refuse distribution of birth control. One of the scariest parts about the wording of this rule is their definition of abortion which could be interpreted to include hormonal birth control.

From the proposed HHS rule:
Abortion: An abortion is the termination of a pregnancy. There are two commonly held views on the question of when a pregnancy begins. Some consider a pregnancy to begin at conception (that is, the fertilization of the egg by the sperm), while others consider it to begin with implantation (when the embryo implants in the lining of the uterus).17 A 2001 Zogby International American Values poll revealed that 49% of Americans believe that human life begins at conception. Presumably many who hold this belief think that any action that destroys human life after conception is the termination of a pregnancy, and so would be included in their definition of the term “abortion.” Those who believe pregnancy begins at implantation believe the term “abortion” only includes the destruction of a human being after it has implanted in the lining of the uterus.

“If the Administration goes through with this draft proposal, it will launch a dangerous assault on women’s health." Nancy Pelosi, California Congress Woman

“We worry that under the proposal, contraceptive services would become less available to low-income and uninsured women.” Mary June Gallagher, president of the National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association

Join the fight. We need your help- any small action of advocacy is powerful and important. Write a few letters (electronic templates provided on the following links):
Planned Parenthood
Physicians for Reproductive Health

For more reading on this topic, please take a look at these resources:
New York Times
RH Reality Check
Huffington Post
more from Women's Health News

It's the little things...

Just wanted to share two things that made my week. Not babies this time (none came my way).

1) Feist on Sesame Street

2) Encounters at the End of the World

Moon Shell

"Solitude, says the moon shell. Center-down say the Quaker saints...Why have we been seduced into abandoning this timeless inner strength of women for the temporal out strength of man..."

Gift from the Sea, Ann Morrow Lindbergh

It seems to be frowned upon in our contemporary Western society: to take a bit of time to day- dream. Almost to the point where we have forgotten how. I find my "yang" energy rises with me to greet my New York City day and urges me on to do and do. But sometimes it feels too hard too keep pushing and taking a firm stance, like I'm not really listening to me. I hear pregnant women complain of their "pregnancy brain". Your baby is softening your thoughts for you-- allowing your body to create and complete its deep internal work. There is little else energy to be spent being totally productive or socially present. Enjoy these fuzzy, dreamy times.

Intention for this weekend, for you and I: to take a few moments alone, to dip down into silence and stillness, to feel open and nurtured in a small and gentle shift of mind.

It is a full moon tonight, too.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Belly Telly

I don't have a TV. This is partly a conscious decision and partly laziness, really. While on one hand, it is probably good: so that I don't get sucked into watching Baby Borrowers or A Baby Story or The Secret Life of an American Teenager (not that this would be a terrible thing, except I probably would do little else). However, there are two things that I would very much like to see on the boob tube (how's that for a pun!):

1) Planned Parenthood's commercial against John McCain

Wide Angle: Birth of a Surgeon: Midwives in Mozambique

So, if you have a TV maybe you can tune in...or just enjoy the clips with me on the internet...