Monday, November 9, 2009

Bits and Peices

Happy Monday!

Just wanted to share with you a couple of wonderful events that are happening in the coming weeks:

Thursday, November 12 at 6pm, The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, & Transgender Community Center:
Lesbian Family Building
What women need to know about having babies: practical and emotional issues in family building for single women and lesbian couples. This informative workshop will cover the medical, emotional and legal elements important to women when pursuing parenthood. The following issues will be addressed: how to choose a reproductive clinic, using a clinic vs. a gynecologist, carrying each others’ eggs, how to find the right sperm donor, legal rights, second-parent adoption and more!

Wednesday, November 18 at 7pm, Book Court
A reading and Q&A with the author Michelle Goldberg, hosted by Planned Parenthood of New York City Activist Council.

Also, just to pass along a link: The New York Times discusses the closing of the Bellevue Birth Center.

Thursday, November 5, 2009


Did any of you see the trailer for this amazing movie, Baby(ies), before Where the Wild Things Are? I couldn't find a trailer on-line (I guess others have had a similar problem). From the limited internet information and from what I could tell from the trailer, it seems to be a documentary portrait of four babies through the first year of their lives from four different countries. Pretty sweet- can't wait to see it.

On another note, yesterday I had the privilege of meeting two very wonderful new babies. A special congrats to a beautiful midwife mama and her darling new one.

Friday, October 30, 2009


In a way, every birth is full of "firsts" because no two births are ever exactly alike. There are certain "bigger", though not more important, firsts: my first water birth, my first transfer, etc. Last week, as I mentioned, seemed to be full of more these kinds of firsts that usual- trial by fire. But, this is how we learn and I feel more competent and confident than I did previous to this group of births. I also, more fully know now, how to expect the unexpected.

One instance that I did not expect was a retained placenta. It was a particular long, hard seemed like hours of transition, talking the mom through each contraction. Once the baby was out, we waited for the placenta. And waited. And nipple stimulated. And waited. And squatted. And waited. And gave some pitocin. And waited. And catheterized. And waited. The placenta clearly was not coming. One of the unique things about the birth center is that one of our doctors lives upstairs. As you can imagine, this is very convenient and can save us from a hospital transfer. In this case, she performed a manual removal.

I'm not sure why the placenta did not fully separate from the wall of this particular uterus. It is possible that, due to the long labor, the uterus was just not contracting well. A manual removal is exactly what it sounds like: Once pain medication is administered (a removal can be very uncomfortable), the attending doctor places her hand in the uterus and peels back the remaining stubborn membranes. One midwife said the analogy used in school was like "turning the pages of a book". The placenta came out in-tact and all was well!

I tried to find a YouTube video or instructional animation that could show me what this procedure looked like from the inside but, couldn't. The diagram from Moon Dragon's Retained Placenta Guidelines at the top of this post should give you some idea.

What are some of your more memorable "firsts"?

Wednesday, October 28, 2009


OK, so Halloween has always been a conceptually important yet, anti-climatic holiday for me. I really like to think up (semi-obscure) Halloween costumes and tell everyone about them (and then usually end up doing nothing on Halloween)....Sometimes I am inspired by where I work. Case in point: when I worked at an auction house I dressed up like an ironic, ionic column. A few years ago while working at the Center for Reproductive Rights, I thought everyone should dress up like their favorite method of birth control (no one did). But last year, a good friend of mine from CRR opted for my idea of dressing up like "abstinence"- she looked amazing (all in white, with a halo and chastity belt).

Apparently, others in the reproductive rights fields have similar thoughts. Check out 'NYC Unrated and Unfiltered's list of pro-choice costumes. They're really good.

Just in case you're wondering, I'm not dressing up like a baby or a pregnant mom or a sperm this year. I was thinking more along the lines of a Moon Bear.

What will you be going as?

The break and back

Well, I'm back... and happy to be here.

My past week has looked like this:

Birth, class, class, sick, sick, class, class, birth, birth, apple picking, class, birth, birth, class, class. Punctuated with some long stretches of sleeping.

When it rains, it pours- recently this has been literal and figurative. The rainy October weather seems to have given me intense, double back-to-back births.

I feel like I earned most of my Birth Assistant "Badges" this past week. The last seven days have presented me with a few situations that helped me understand that I really will be able to handle being a midwife*. I am grateful to my wonderful families, my birth-assistants-in-training for being there and my incredible midwives who know how to beautifully take charge of a situation. I am also grateful to my sweet husband for putting up with phone calls in the middle of the night and listening to his semi- delirious wife unload all of her birth details in their full gory glory.

How has your past week been, friends?

I've got lots to share with you about what happened during my blog break.

* For example:
I can take fetal heart rates like a champ.
I can be surprisingly high functioning on little or no sleep.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Boy or Girl?

On a tip from a pregnant friend, I took a little field trip to the CVS in my neighborhood but, to no avail. Except that now this treasure hunt seems even more elusive and mysterious than when I first started.

The object of my desire is called "Pink or Blue: Early Gender Test Kit". This is a home blood test (with results sent into a lab) that can, supposedly, predict the gender of your baby after 7 weeks of pregnancy. Here's the thing: most "predictive" ultrasounds are done between 16-20 weeks and the most accurate testing to indicate gender, amniocentesis (sampling of the amniotic fluid which contains baby's DNA), is usually done within the same time frame. This test seems a little fishy to me (and a bit expensive) but, I don't know any one who has tried it- do you?

I prefer charming folk methods, such as the Chinese Gender Prediction Calendar, if you're looking to DIY your baby's gender (except I would strongly advise against the Draino method).

Here and here are two comprehensive lists about gender predicting lore and "methods".

Monday, August 17, 2009

Themed links, Part II

Brooklyn is the theme this time.

Interesting article about a typical day at New York Methodists Advanced Women's Imaging and Prenatal Testing Center.

Finally, a new New York cloth diaper service!! Much needed from what I've heard.
Also, you can meet these ladies in person at the Brooklyn Flea on Saturdays.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

A growing baby and blogs

The thing that these two links have in common is "series".

The first:
A series of photos of a baby's first year. Watch how long, chubby and toothy he gets!

The second:
A series of thought provoking and inspiring blogs:
Top 100 Natural Birth Blogs


Last Wednesday night was a full moon and boy, did I know it. As a fellow birth assistant said "It was a hot night". One mom even had her baby in the car! The Brooklyn Birthing Center was certainly a bustling place.

Once all of the business had subsided and all babies were on their ways home, I was chatting with a co-worker about the "Business of Being Born". She said that after the movie came out BBC surprisingly did not seem to have the same spike as New York home birth midwives. I mentioned Dooce. Alot of birth bloggers have been making a big deal of this "mommy blog" lately because of the recent telling of her birth story: Part I, Part II, and Part III. "Dooce" is one of Forbes magazine's "Most Influential Women In Media" for 2009. To make a long story short "Dooce" was convinced by reading "Your Best Birth" by Ricki Lake and Abby Epstein to have a natural birth.

Birth has always had trends. For example, chloroform became a widely used and popular from of pain relief after Queen Victoria used it. As Tina Cassidy states in her marvelous book "Birth: The Surprising History of how We were Born", : "Women on both sides of the Atlantic finally embraced what became fashionably known as chloroform a la reine".

I wonder what the impact of this very popular blogger will be on our current natural birth movement?

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

'Goodnight you princes of Maine, you kings of New England.'

My dad was adopted. His birth mother was a young teenager when she gave birth to him. I think I remember hearing that the birth father was much older but, the details remain murky. She later went onto marry and had no other children. My father had three other adopted siblings, all were raised with happy memories childhoods of playing baseball on dairy farms, summers on Lake Michigan and finned, teal colored automobile- quintessential life in the 1950's. While I was in college my father decided to find his birth mother. He discovered that she was old stock American, her family having lived in America at least since the time of Lincoln. Although most of the rest of the details about her life were unremarkable, she did share with my dad that no one else in her whole life, except her and her mother, knew about her pregnancy. There is much to the story that I have forgotten, or didn't ask or wasn't told but my biological grandmother's life and decisions much more made sense after I read the book, "The Girls who Went Away: The Hidden History of Women who Surrendered Children for Adoption in the Decades before Roe v. Wade" by Ann Fessler.

Please read this book if you have not already. I think it is fair to place this book in the category of "books that have changed my life". Not only did it make my own family history seem less strange but, it literally gives voice to those who had no choice and, for me, reaffirms why it is so vital to appreciate and continue to fight for our reproductive freedoms. Additionally, it explains away the rationale for why women should give their babies up for adoption rather than having abortions. Our physiological process of childbirth has evolved to bond a mother to her baby and visa versa. Deciding on adoption is an completely different kind of choice than choosing to not have a baby.

A quote from the book:
"The girls who went away were told by family members, social-service agencies, and clergy that relinquishing their child for adoption was the only acceptable option. It would preserve their reputation and save both the mother and child from a lifetime of shame. Often it was clear to everyone, except the expectant mother, that adoption was the answer...They were simply told they must surrender their child, keep their secret, move on and forget."

While on the topic of adoption, I'd like to mention a wonderful New York City program, The Doula Project. It provides doulas to those who cannot afford douals, doulas for women having abortion procedures and doulas for births in which the baby will be adopted.

And lastly, the title quote is from John Irving's novel The Cider House Rules. A novel that deals much with choices of abortion and adoption pre Roe v. Wade.

Thursday, July 9, 2009


Hello friends, just peeking out from under my rock to share with you two excellent resources. I am an intensely visual learner and so, if you're anything like me, these two maps of our reproductive rights "landscape" will make good sense to you.

The Center for Reproductive Rights created this map in 2007 to illustrate the world's abortion laws.

Mapping Our Rights has an amazing interactive map that discusses, in great detail, each of our 50 stats laws and policies around sexual and reproductive rights, in particular abortion access.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Generic vs. Brandname

In college, I was introduced to the NuvaRing. I had tried birth control pills but, felt like they were making me moody plus, I wasn't always 100% consistent with taking them. The NuvaRing seemed to be exactly what I was looking for: low dosage hormones and no need to worry about taking something at the same time every single day. Another bonus was that my health clinic only charged $5 for birth control methods and often threw in free samples.

Once, out into the real world, I realized that I would have to pay a lot more. Even at Planned Parenthood, with their marvelous sliding income scales, it cost almost $40/month and my health care wouldn't cover it. Why? Because it was too new of a product and a generic version had not yet been created and supposedly can't be until 2018(!) Eventually, I decided to stop this method but, that had more to do with side effects (intense breast tenderness) though, than cost. All this being said, drug costs have much more to do with brand name than anything else (such as chemical composition).

Last Wednesday, the FDA approved a generic version of the emergency contraception pill, Plan B. I think this is wonderful news- now this already accessible option will be even more accessible:

"A one-time use pack of the brand-name product, Plan B, currently costs $49.99 through the online retailer According to Bloomberg, generic drugs usually cost 30% to 80% less than brand-name versions (Larkin, Bloomberg, 6/24)." From National Partnership for Women and Families.

Have you had ever had any experience with expensive brand name drugs?

How do we know?

In doing a few catch-up/clean-up Friday tasks, I came across this beautiful deck of cards. I can't believe that I had forgotten about them- they seem almost perfectly tailor made for me. Combo of crafty images and facts about reproductive health. This deck is comprised of twenty card with a question on one side and, the answer, on the other.

Just in case the bottom image is hard to read, the scrap of paper says:

"In the United States, about half of all pregnancies are unintended, and 42% of unintended pregnancies are terminate by abortion. Worldwide, almost two in five women who become pregnant have either an abortion or an unplanned birth."

From the Guttmacher Institute.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Not Yet Rain

"Thunder is not yet rain".
Last week, I had the opportunity to attend a screening of "Not Yet Rain" by Lisa Russell. This documentary talks abortion access in Ethiopia. What I thought was particularly well done was the fact that the messaging and plot were very simple. The later half the film primarily follows two young women through their experience in the abortion system in Ethiopia. It reminded me a little bit of "A Walk to Beautiful".
The screening was followed by a short panel discussion by experts in international reproductive health representing IPAS, The International Women's Health Coalition and International Planned Parenthood.
A couple of facts that I was struck by: aborting was legalized in Ethiopia in 2006 (read more here) and abortion doesn't seem to face the radical opposition we experience in the US in large part due to the hospitalization of abortions (treated more medically than morally) and also the fact that many people actually don't know that it is legal.
You can watch the entire film on its website: or you can order a free DVD. This generous access makes it a very good tool for advocacy. Please pass the word along.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Inadvertent absence

Hello, blog! How I have missed you!
I've been to see Ina May speak twice. Both times she mentioned Abby's birth at the end of "The Business of Being Born". She said something to the effect of Abby's pregnancy and the creation of the film being badly timed- that one's body has a limited amount of energy to put towards "making".
I've been feeling a little bit like that lately-- too much energy and emotion going into one specific area of my life leaving leaving the rest "undernourished".
Apologies, I am trying to get my balance back. I have lots to tell you about!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009


I wrote this post on June 2nd and am just now getting around to editing it. My thoughts and feelings are still as strong as they were two weeks ago and the topic of the assassination of George Tiller will remain as important and pertinent for as long as pro-choice providers are being threatened and intimidated.

Early Saturday morning, I got my call: "We have a woman in labor, we need you to come". As usual, I hustled, got there, witnessed the beginning of a beautiful little family- it was a little boy. Such overwhelming joy. Such a pleasure and an honor to be present for the birth.

Late Sunday afternoon, I got the email that Dr. Tiller had been shot. Monday evening, I attended the vigil in Union Square. I was moved by the support and strength that the New York community brought to this tragic situation. It was a honor to stand among my peers to pay our respects to this hero.

Last year, when my mother told me that my grandmother had died, I attended back to back births of two baby girls. I have, now, a couple of times witnessed this line between birth and death, their close proximity and synchronicity- it is deep and profound.

Personally, I think I'm still processing what this murder means to me....Yesterday, one of the speakers recounted that after George Tiller had been shot in both arms in he returned to his clinic the next day. I hope that some day I can live up to his model of medical practice- that I will always be there when my patients need me. I am blessed to stand by women and to honor their choices about their bodies, lives and reproduction: to be woken in the middle of the night with birth calls and to, simultaneously, fully participate in the pro-choice and reproductive rights movement.

There has been an outpouring of sadness, support, and admiration in the blogs, in real life and in the media. Some of these words are so eloquent and insightful- I hope you had the opportunity to read some of them.
Here is what I have been thinking about today:
This prayer from last nights vigil.
The Dr. Georoge Tiller Fund
This letter from Planned Parenthood.

Monday, June 1, 2009

George Tiller, R.I.P.

Take a few moments out of your day to honor and pay homage to a great man who died yesterday. He made the world better and braver.

NYC vigil will be at 6pm, location: Union Square (bring your own candle).

Thursday, May 21, 2009


There are certain moments of enlightenment in my leaning that make me feel like I have totally missed the obvious boat but also make me tremendously excited.
Last week one of these "DUH" moments arrived to me in the mail : zines that addresses women's health.

The image above is from a very wonderful little publication called "Brainscan 22: a practical body modification" by Alex Wrekk. In her own words: "This zine is about reproductive health and birth control, specifically the IUD(Intra Uterine Device) After doing a lot of research it seemed like the best option for my partner and me. I got a lot of questions about my IUD so I thought I would make a little zine about it".

Another nice resource that I discovered while doing some internet-ing about feminist zines is ZineLibray where you can download and print a good selection of zines for free. Your might find these of particular interest: Herbal Aboriton: A Women's DYI guide , Jane: Documents from Chicago's clandestine Abortion service and Witches, Midwives and Nurses.

Monday, May 18, 2009

All My Babies

Weekends are good things. They are especially good things if they are full of farmers market rhubarb, sheep sheering demonstrations and "All My Babies".

I first heard about this amazing little film a few months ago when it was playing at the Anthology Film Archives. I didn't get a chance to see it then but, put it on my Netflicks account and, finally, got around to watching it on Saturday night.

The film was made in 1953 as an educational tool for midwives. It follows an African-American midwife, Miss Mary, in her care of two pregnangt mothers. So much of this film took me by surprise (in a really good way). The treatment of black midwives was respectful and the the film takes great pains to highlight how crucial these woman were within their rural communities. The film addresses issues such as depression in pregnancy, nutrition, and care of a premature baby. Additionally, the film shows a live birth! Much of the film focuses on the sterile techniques that the midwives practiced and it was a treat to see the contents of a "homebirth" bag in the 50's.

I would also suggest watching the "special feature" commentary, as well. Her grandson describes the phenomenal number of babies that Miss Mary caught as well as the deep dedication that she showed towards her mothers.

How you seen this film? What is your favorite birth movie?

Friday, May 15, 2009

week's end

Here are some of my favorites from the week:

Pink Parts: terrific anatomy diagrams (trust me, I should know, my anatomy and physiology professor spent 4 classes on the nephron and 1/2 class on female reproduction and embryology!)

Very sweet video about the role of a doula: Do You Doula from DoulaMomma

SUPER news for New York: Eli and Abby Manning donate funds for a new birthing center at St. Vincent's Hospital. YAY!

The Ike Baby Spike from NY Times Motherload. “This pattern jibes with traditional patterns of the ways fertility surges can respond to major events... be it the baby boom as linked to soldiers coming home from World War II to even the Oklahoma City bombing, which also had an associated elevation in births in surrounding Oklahoma counties.”

Thursday, May 14, 2009

To Watch

Quick post today:

Just thought I'd tell you about a NGO based in Brooklyn called Scenarios USA:
it "uses writing and filmmaking to foster youth leadership, advocacy and self-expression in under-served teens. Scenarios USA asks teens to write about the issues that shape their lives..."

Seemed like a nice resource to browse though on a gloomy Thursday afternoon. It would be very easy to pass the day watching these powerful films that deal with topics such as body image, teen pregnancy, safe sex practice, etc. Take a look at "The Choices We Make" and "Today I Found Out" but, really all are fantastic.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009


Last night while having dinner with some favorite friends, I got to catch up on all the baby gossip from her office (side note: despite logical indications that birth rates should slow way down, I personally know more women now who are pregnant than ever before). One of them had initially decided to go the uber-medical route and chose a "high risk" provider as her OB. But, recently something changed and she determined that she would much prefer a birth center setting. Sometimes, I get so excited that I forget to take off my doula hat, so I thought that an appropriate way to deal with my overly-helpful suggestions would be to offer this situation to the blog-dom. Here are the small hurdles in this particular case: 1) the mom is about 28 weeks 2) she feels most comfortable in a hospital setting (i.e. is not opposed to interventions) but prefers the comfort and vibe of a birth center 3) her insurance will not cover a private room 4) she lives in New York City. Apparently recently she looked at the birthing center at St. Luke Roosevelt and was told that all availability for July is already booked.

My advice:
- Check out Long Island College Hospital or Bellview Hospital- both have birth center options.
- Check out the Brooklyn Birthing Center. They are very good about accepting late transfers.
This is a good resource about Birth Centers in NYC.
- Talk to your provider about the availability of a bath-tub or shower, if you are "allowed" to eat and drink, and how fetal monitoring is done. I feel like these rules are some of the biggest differences between hospital birth and birth center birth.
- Get a doula. Her calm and nurturing presence will help mitigate some of the bright, busy hospital energy. The Metropolitan Doula Group has an extensive list of doulas with all experience levels and range of prices. Birth Focus is a doula group that offers a once a month "meet the doula night".
-Pack a BIG birth bag. Include beautiful objects that remind you of home. For example: comfortable slippers, pictures of your family or favorite places, a sheer scarf to put over some of the bright lights, extra pillows, a CD of your favorite music, Bach Rescue Remedy, a soft pashmina, a pretty colored washcloth, etc. Also, bring snacks for both you and your partner. Even if you're not allowed to eat in a hospital, someone can always "accidentally" give you a small handful of almonds.
- Make a birth plan. Pick three things that are important to you in the management of your birth. Tell your provider that these issues are very important to you. My favorite one is asking to wait to cut the cord until it stops pulsing. That way no one can run away with your baby.

What is your advice for this woman? What are other scenarios that you might like to discuss in this space?

Monday, May 11, 2009

Mother's Day!

Me and Ina May, mother of modern midwifery.

Apologies for being late to wish you a happy Mothers Day!

I'm not sure that I've shared one of the key parts of the story of my journey to midwifery ~ it has a lot to do with Mother's Day. When I was a senior in college and feeling very overwhelmed by the possibly of being out in the real world, I participated in a peer taught class on women's health on the recommendation of my best friend. It was comprised of a group of about 10 women that met on a weekly basis. I had never belonged to such a diverse group of women and, yet, this safe space that we had created helped me to feel anchored. The physicality that we talked about seemed like such a visceral contrast to all of the right-brained thinking that my courses required and seemed to resonate deeply, touching me to the core. We talked about all different facets of women's heath and took turns presenting (I did a pin-the-birth-control-on-the-lady game). The week we spoke about birth, one woman told the stories of her mother. Her mother's first baby was a straight-forward (possibly semi-traumatizing) hospital birth; the second pregnancy, while in an abusive relationship, resulted in an abortion. Her third birth, the birth of the woman in my class, was in a birthing room at a hospital, and when it came time to push the baby out, she intuitively got on her hands and knees. I remember having goosebumps while hearing about these different experiences. I also realized that I didn't know the story of my own birth.

At the same time, I was also taking a religion class on festivals and parades. We had discussed the history and development of our modern American Mother's Day holiday and how it was essentially exploited to profit the flower industry. I decided that Mother's Day should be given more meaning and determined that many people probably didn't know their birth stories either. Thus, my personal campaign for mother's day became "Tell Your Birth Story Day". Our society doesn't have many designated times for birth stories, other than baby showers which can often turn to horror stories. It is just as important for mothers to tell about the births of their babies as it is for children to be able to ask about the details of their births.

You know, the funny thing is that my dad wanted to talk more about my birth than my mom did. My mom didn't really want to go into details. But these are interesting tidbits that I did discover: I was born at 5:03pm (most natural babies are born late at night or very early in the morning) and I found out where I was conceived, in a 100 year old barn house in Maine.

What is your birth story?

Friday, May 8, 2009

Friday, Friday

Round-Up, Round-Up

Graphic-novel style birth story link from Public Health Doula

RH Reality Check answers the question: "If you had sex a week or days after your period can you get pregnant?" and talks about fertility cycles.

Look at this "The Rythmeter", an early device for the rhythm method!

Great post on Epidural Rules (these might be a nice resource for the birth bag) from Empowering Birth Blog (originally via Nursing Birth)

Beautiful placenta prints from Stand and Deliver

A Dressed Up Delivery Kit
posted by Radical Doula- I think it's gross, what do you think?

What is it like to be a baby? Article from Seed Magazine discusses.

Please Sign Petition Supporting Medicaid Payments to Birth Centers from Our Bodies Our Blogs. This is important- please pass this along.

Sign up for (or dream about signing up for) one of these amazing journeys with House of La Matrona

Take this quiz about what birth control method is best for you (from NYC Unrated and Unfiltered)

Ricki Lake on the Today Show promoting her new book, Your Best Birth

This Spanish Mattress Ad. (this has certainly made its rounds of the blog world and for good reason!)

Video of a C-Section for the birth of twins from Fit Pregnancy

Newscast on ABC: Keeping C-sections to a Minimum

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Alternative healing modalities

I attended the "Well-Woman Care During Pregnancy, Labor & Delivery and Post Postpartum" talk at the Brooklyn Public Library on Tuesday night. This is the description of the event:

Pregnancy is a singular time in a woman's life, and there is a wealth of choices available when it comes to care of ourselves and our babies. Homeopathy, acupuncture, natural herbs and nutrition are gentle, non-invasive and effective ways to relieve situations that range from physical ailments such as heartburn nausea and constipation - all the way to emotional anxiety, easing the birth process and post postpartum trauma and depression.

I left the event feeling exuberant and like my brain was stuffed to the capacity. I have much learning to do around these healing modalities.

I thought I would share with you some of the resources that the speakers offered as a good way to become introduced to their subjects and some more specific books and websites about using them in conjunction with pregnancy and childbirth.

Homeopathy: Erika Simonian, NY- Homeopathy

The Homeopathic Childbirth Manual by Betty Idarius, L.M., C. Hom
Homeopathy for Pregnancy, Birth and Your Baby's First Year by Miranda Castro
Childbirth Kit
Beyond Flat Earth Medicine by Timothy Dooley

Acupuncture: Laurel Axen Carroll, Ancient Current

Deborah Betts website
general books about Chinese medicine: The Web that has No Weaver by Ted Kaptchuk and Between Heaven and Earth by Harriet Beinfield

Herbs: Tioma Allison

Wise Woman Herbal for the Childbearing Years
by Susan Weed
Tioma also conducts walks thought Propsect Park on the uses of native plants.

Nutrition: Angela Davis, Nourishing Works

Wise Traditions website
Nina Planck website
Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon

I'm really looking forward to starting to learn more about all of these disciplines and how I can incorporate some of their techniques into my birth practices.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

May Days

Another important day in May: May 6th is the National Day to Prevent Teen Pregnancy.

In honor of today's important mission, I present to you a few great resources that have been created to help you talk to young people about sex.

From Planned Parenthood and their Adult Role Models program:

An article in the New York Times talks about using cell phone text messages for sex education. The article lists a variety of great online resources for teens to talk and ask important questions about sex including: Sex, etc and MySistahs.

Even Oprah had a recent episode talking about sex!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009



To each one of you midwives out there: your passion, creativity, intuition and talent inspires me. Thank you for each and every baby that you have caught, for each woman you have made feel safe and empowered and, for all of those sleepless nights. The world is a better place because of you.

Read more about this special day here.

Monday, May 4, 2009

A Walk to Beautiful

I finally had a chance to watch A Walk to Beautiful. I've been meaning to see it for a quite a while. I'm so glad that I did.

It is inspiring and sad, heart-warming and informational. Other than it being a condition related to pregnancy, I didn't know much about fistula before I saw this film. An obstetric fistula is a hole in the tissues between either the vagina and the bladder or between the vagina and rectum or both, leaving the woman incontinent. A fistula is caused by an obstructed labor. In the case of this film, Ethiopian women must perform hard physical work from the time that they are young girls. This coupled with under- nourishment produces small adult women with tiny pelvises. Women also commonly start having babies around the age of 14 or 15.

Because of their unsanitary condition and their loss of their abilities as a wife to provide children, these young women are ostracized from their community.

The "beautiful" part of this film is the Fistula Hospital in Addis Ababa. Through the skill and compassion of those running the clinic the women of the surrounding areas are given a new lease on their lives. The effects extend beyond tissue repair; the women are educated about their physiology and are given confidence through new friendships and the caring practices of the staff.

Learn more about fistula and support this wonderful project thought the Fistula Foundation.

This movie is available thought the Netflix "Watch Now" feature.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

A Quote of Eggs and Sperm


I was reading during a few free hours after a birth this weekend. This is a small excerpt from a book called The Pharmacist's Mate by Amy Fusselman. It though it was beautiful and thought I would share it with you.

Yesterday I was at the gym, on the elliptical trainer. I was thinking about my uterus. My uterus which, I have read, is almost infinitely expandable. And I was picturing my uterus, with its lining of blood, empty except for once-a-month when the microscopic egg bobs around in it like a single life preserver in the ocean.

And then I was picturing the dots and dashes of sperm, like the sudden eruption of a ship's SOS.

And I was thinking how strange it is that these tiny circles and lines Ping-Ponging around my uterus are powerful enough to burst into a life.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

TGIF (a little bit early)

Green Porno (from Swiss Miss)
Totally and utterly charming.
You can see the whole series by Isabella Rossellini. It features the sex lives of insects and marine creatures rendered with sly humor and beautifully collaged puppetry.

Weekly Round Up

Friday round-up. I'm going to try to post some of my favorite postings/ news stories from the week on a more regular basis.

Is Plan B Risky for 17-year-old girls- food for thought. What do you think?

Vote for your favorite woman's health hero at Our Bodies Ourblog.

Craft: DYI menstrual pads from LunaPads

Linking Swine Flu and midwives: "hospitals are an undesirable place for otherwise healthy pregnant women." Read post here.

'NYC Unrated and Unfiltered asks "why is it so rare to see stories about abortion (unless they're cautionary tales that is) in mainstream pop culture?"

Fascinating post on the history of birth control with some great resources from RH Reality Check.

Birth Affirmations from Talk Birth.

Prenatal Yoga blog discusses the difference between The Doctor, The Midwife, The Nurse and The Doula

Listen: NPR Examines Barriers to Contraception, Factors That Contribute to Unintended Pregnancies from Daily Women's Health Policy Report.

The New York Times talks about Reproductive Technology (there seem to be more and more possibilities...)

From a friend of mine, the best "status update" that I've ever read on Facebook:" Leila finds the relentless media coverage of swine flu hard to watch after spending the day with Ugandan activists trying desperately to draw attention to the thousands of women who die here every year from complications related to an exotic disease called pregnancy."

Some Upcoming Events:
May 4th from 7-8pm at Boarders Books in the Time Warner Center:
Your Best Birth book signing. New book from Ricki Lake and Abbey Epstin, the women who brought you The Business of Being Born.

May 27 at Babeland, Brooklyn:
Raising Sex-Positive Kids from the Sexy Mom Series (really incredible monthly series co-sponsored by Babeland and the New Space for Women's Health)

June 9 at 6pm, at Demos:
Book reading for an interesting new book: The Means of Reproduction: Sex, Power and the Future of the World by Michelle Goldberg

What does recession mean?

This is an issue I have been meaning to explore for a while- how does this recession affect our reproduction?

Just to give a bit of context: The Great Depression of the 1930's was a unique period in American history with regard to these same issues. Many couples delayed getting married, birth rates were very low (the lowest America has ever seen), and women were earning income, outside of the home, with greater regularity than ever before.

There are four key areas on which I would like to propose some thoughts: abortion, birth and briefly, assisted reproductive technology and breastfeeding.

Abortion: There are reports that abortion rates are up (as are vasectomy rates). This makes sense to me- women (and men) are concerned about the financial responsibility of having a child. However, I think it would be useful to see statistics on the demographics of these women. If women are loosing their jobs, not only do they have less money but, they also lose heath care benefits. Some health care plans do cover abortion but, even more importantly, most health care covers birth control. Without the reduced rate for expensive, monthly pills or other hormonal methods, are less women using birth control or using condoms instead? Also, with the uptick in abortions, is there more wait time for booking an appointment, does this push more women into the need for a (more costly) second trimester abortion? Other practical things to consider: non-profits such as Planned Parenthood have been hard hit which could mean less outreach and safe sex education. And finally, abortion funds such as NYAAF have been feeling the effects of our down-turned economy due to fewer and smaller individual donations. These funds are crucial to providing funding for women who, otherwise, can not afford abortions.

Birth: It appears logical that birth rates should go down (although we probably can't see the effects just yet). I heard today about substantial loss of business with-in the doula community. Clients need to pay less or else are deciding that doulas are non-essential for their birth experience.What does this mean for the recent popularity of the home birth movement? On one hand, it is less expensive to have a baby at home, but, on the other, there are many insurance companies that will not cover home births. Does this mean more women will attempt freebirthing? What about use of midwives in hospitals? Midwives cost less to employ than doctors because of their degrees. And finally, if young women are out of work does this unemployment provide for them a break in their careers during which they might have time to start a family?

With regard to Assisted Reproductive Technology, more people are looking to make extra money though the sale of their sperm and eggs. It seems as thought more women are also considering being surrogate mothers. But will the demand keep up with the supply? If less people opt for ART, will our Cesarean rates dip since this kind of technology usually yields "high risk" multiples and often caters to "high risk" older moms?

Lastly, a note about breastfeeding. Breastfeeding is certainly cheaper but, will working mothers go through all of the hassle of pumping at work? Are employees more afraid to ask for their breastfeeding rights for fear that it will jeopardize their job? Are employers cutting maternity leaves as a way of reducing costs? Or maybe some families can't afford to take a full maternity leave?

I have posed lots of questions. What are some of your questions regarding reproduction and recession? Do you have any answers or stories for any of the questions that I asked?

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Safe Spectrum

I know I talk alot about the "continuum of reproductive rights". This spectrum of individual choice is one of the tenants of my beliefs about woman's health. I also believe that we have great privilege as American women. Certainly, not everything is perfect- Cesarean rates are still too high, maternity leaves are too short and there are states still attempting to curtail access to birth control and abortion. But the breadth, quality and legality of our choices enable us to be safer and more empowered than the majority of the world's women.

Yesterday, due to a post on A Midwife's Tale I learned of yet another style of birth, freebirth. I had heard of women here and there expressing interest in such a thing but did not realize that it was a full blown moment. As neutral as I try to be, this one really pushes the limits of my compassion and flexibility. As a recent situation has shown, attempting to birth at home, unaided by a birth professional, is dangerous.

I understand that women have been traumatized in certain birth settings and situations, and certainly, an unnecessary c-section deserves angry feelings and grief for the loss of the intended birth experience. But to express the same sort of violent obstinacy ("my way or the highway") in opposition to the medical community does no good to anyone.

Birth happens unassisted, all the time, all over the world. But maternal and infant morality is a global tragedy that is deserving of the attention and resources of the UN (MDG5). These women don't have access to basic obstetrical skills and technology that would keep them and their babies safe. Birth is usual a very normal physiological process but just like anything, even walking across the street, there are risks involved.

One final thought: birth is the start of parenting. The strength and confidence that a woman can gain from her birthing experience gives her momentum for her job as a mother. An unassisted birth seems to set the foundation for irresponsible parenting.

What are some of your thoughts about the practice of free birth?

Tuesday, April 28, 2009


Recent, brilliant birth analogies that I've heard:

"It's like doing Vinyasa yoga with the flu."

"Birth is for women what war is for men."

1. At a birth this past weekend. A determined mother with french braids and freshly painted toenails was in the tub beautifully rocking with intense contractions looked up at her mother and came up with this (later she added "on the rack" to the end of the sentence- I think that was probably around transition).
The midwife talked her through her labor with metaphors of surfing cresting waves.

2. At a friend's birthday party, speaking with a new acquaintance about how and when people talk about birth. She used this eloquent phrase to describe the fact that there is an innate desire for women to speak about birth and men about war. Her most interesting point was that even if a woman or man had not gone through the experience there was still a deep desire to take part in the conversation and listen to the stories. I think this speaks to the importance of "rite of passage"; through fear and bravery an individual becomes bonded to their community.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Mid-Century Abortion

Yesterday, I watched Vera Drake and finished the book, Revolutionary Road. I'm always amazed when life lines up tidy coincidences. Both deal, fictionally, with the topic of abortion in the 1950's/ 60's; both make detailed note of the abortion procedure with a bulb syringe and both have semi-tragic consequences with in the context of the nuclear family. The two narratives are separated by about a span of about 10 years. Vera Drake is set in working class London. Vera is a selfless, sweet-hearted woman who "helps young girls out". Revolutionary Road is about an unhappily married "bohemian" couple who live in the suburbs of New York city. April, the wife of the protagonist dies at the end due to a self induced abortion that seems closer to suicide.

Here are a couple of my thoughts:
- Vera Drake does a wonderful job looking at the at how abortion experiences differ based on class. The movie shows an abortion process for a young woman of wealth who has been raped. We initially feel sorry for her because of the stern coldness of the doctor and psychiatrist who have to "recommend" her abortion. There is a lovely shot of the young woman sitting in her fancy room, awaiting the procedure, pulling out graceful, feathered bedroom slippers from her traveling case. Our first glimpse of Vera's house visits show her putting the kettle on as if to make tea. She is a gentle, compassionate figure who efficiently goes about her work. The viewer later gets clued into the system of procuring an illegal abortion and realizes that even with Vera's sweetness, these young women are still subject to much judgment through the "middle-woman", Lily.
- I was struck with how the two "eccentric" male characters in each narrative, Reg in V.D. and John Givings in R.R., can ultimately see the truth about the abortions in their respective contexts. Reg talks of his own home when he learns that Vera has been "helping girls" and says of his mother's six children "if you can't feed them how can you love them?". John tells April that he wouldn't want to be her unborn child.
-On this side-by-side comparison, the notion of entitlement is interesting to me. In V.D. all of the women seem to "have merited" an abortion: the rape victim, the single career gal, the mother with too many children, the poor, young, black woman, etc. The cinematic gaze is compassionate and the viewer knows that Vera is a fortunate option for these women who other-wise would have "ruined" lives. The tone in R.R. is entirely different. Through out the entirety of the novel April is portrayed as a unemotional, aloof woman. At end, her abortion and subsequent death are treated as prime neighborhood gossip and the reader is left with the feeling that this privileged, suburban woman was just being selfish.

Here is a bit more about the history of modern abortion; it's an excerpt from the book The Means of Reproduction: Sex, Power and the Future of the World, as posted on

Have you seen Vera Drake or read Revolutionary Road? What are your thoughts? Do you know any one who had an illegal abortion in this time period?

Friday, April 24, 2009

Happy Friday

So funny! (Via Jo who loves babies)

Choice Words

I had the pleasure of attending Words of Choice last night. Words of Choice is "dynamic pro-choice theater. Powerful stories of Women (and Men) and the Right to Choose". Creator Cindy Cooper, using three actors, has pieced together strong exposes of the Pro-choice movement to, literally, give voice to important issues such as teen-pregnancy, abortion in the mainstream media, and the risks abortion providers can face in their daily lives.

One of the most significant parts of the evening, for me, was the choice of venue. Performed at Judson Memorial Church, the play payed homage to the incredible history of the Clergy Consultation Service that was begun in that space. This collation of clergy and their founder, Rev. Howard Moody, provided women referrals for safe abortions before Roe v. Wade.

Another thing that I thought about is the recent, sucessful use of theater as tool for grassroots feminist activism. Take the V-Day campign or Birth on Labor Day. I heard a couple of women talk about last night "preaching to the choir". Would this theater pice be more effective if it could enter communitues in a more intimate way, allowing those women to customize the readings and add their own voices to the discussion? Making an annual celebration of the anniversy the Roe v. Wade decision on January 22nd?

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Giving to International Midwives

Here are three really nice ideas for Mothers Day or even to just celebrate a midwife that you know and love.

Bicycles for midwives through International Planned Parenthood (via the wonderful blog, Vancouver Doula)

Mayan Midwife Training through Seva Foundation.

Give a Birthing Kit (instructions to make one yourself or to donate funds for one) from UMCOR

Monday, April 13, 2009

New Mamas

I found this post through a blog string (Cup of Jo > Marvelous Kiddo > Gloria Lemay). I think it has very valuable advice and so I thought I'd repost Gloria's entry in it's entirety.

But, before we get started here is a very tasty and easy recipe that you can make for new parents: French Picnic Tart (via Whipped)

After the Birth What a Family Needs

“Let me know if I can help you in any way when the baby is born.” … “Just let me know if you need a hand.” … “Anything I can do, just give me a call.”

Most pregnant women get these statements from friends and family but shy away from making requests when they are up to their ears in dirty laundry, unmade beds, dust bunnies and countertops crowded with dirty dishes. The myth of “I’m fine, I’m doing great, new motherhood is wonderful, I can cope and my husband is the Rock of Gibraltar” is pervasive in postpartum land. If you’re too shy to ask for help and make straight requests of people, I suggest sending the following list out to your friends and family. These are the things I have found to be missing in every house with a new baby. It’s actually easy and fun for outsiders to remedy these problems for the new parents but there seems to be a lot of confusion about what’s wanted and needed…

1. Buy us toilet paper, milk and beautiful whole grain bread.

2. Buy us a new garbage can with a swing top lid and 6 pairs of black cotton underpants (women’s size____).

3. Make us a big supper salad with feta cheese, black Kalamata olives, toasted almonds, organic green crispy things and a nice homemade dressing on the side. Drop it off and leave right away. Or, buy us frozen lasagna, garlic bread, a bag of salad, a big jug of juice, and maybe some cookies to have for dessert. Drop it off and leave right away.

4. Come over about 2 in the afternoon, hold the baby while I have a hot shower, put me to bed with the baby and then fold all the piles of laundry that have been dumped on the couch, beds or in the room corners. If there’s no laundry to fold yet, do some.

5. Come over at l0 a.m., make me eggs, toast and a 1/2 grapefruit. Clean my fridge and throw out everything you are in doubt about. Don’t ask me about anything; just use your best judgment.

6. Put a sign on my door saying “Dear Friends and Family, Mom and baby need extra rest right now. Please come back in 7 days but phone first. All donations of casserole dinners would be most welcome. Thank you for caring about this family.”

7. Come over in your work clothes and vacuum and dust my house and then leave quietly. It’s tiring for me to chat and have tea with visitors but it will renew my soul to get some rest knowing I will wake up to clean, organized space.

8. Take my older kids for a really fun-filled afternoon to a park, zoo or Science World and feed them healthy food.

9. Come over and give my husband a two hour break so he can go to a coffee shop, pub, hockey rink or some other r & r that will delight him. Fold more laundry.

10. Make me a giant pot of vegetable soup and clean the kitchen completely afterwards. Take a big garbage bag and empty every trash basket in the house and reline with fresh bags.

These are the kindnesses that new families remember and appreciate forever. It’s easy to spend money on gifts but the things that really make a difference are the services for the body and soul described above. Most of your friends and family members don’t know what they can do that won’t be an intrusion. They also can’t devote 40 hours to supporting you but they would be thrilled to devote 4 hours. If you let 10 people help you out for 4 hours, you will have the 40 hours of rested, adult support you really need with a newborn in the house. There’s magic in the little prayer “I need help.”