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.”

Friday, April 10, 2009


Last night was the second sedar in the Jewish tradition of Passover. This has always been a favorite holiday of mine. I like how communal and participatory this celebration of freedom and spring is.

Among the personal hi-lights of last night was a joyful account of a recent New York home birth and an interesting discussion about what would happen to birth rates with the recession (more on this later...)

My role in the sedar is to try to infuse the traditional telling of the Exodus story with bits of feminism. This is a great resource for some alternative traditions that you can bring to your table.

My favorite reading comes with explaining the inclusion of an orange on the Seder plate:

Orange Reading

By Aggie Goldenholz and Susan Pittelman

And, there are those who add: The orange carries within itself the seeds of its own rebirth. When we went forth from the Narrow Place, Mitzrayim (Egypt), the Jewish people passed through a narrow birth canal and broke the waters of the Red Sea. As we women step forward to claim our full role in Judaism, we too can be full participants in a Jewish rebirth. Our place in Judaism will be as visible as the orange on our Seder plate.


And thus we were born into the world. The wisdom of women who were midwives, like Shifra and Puah, made that birth possible.

-From Our Community Women's Seder, Milwaukee, WI

Teen Mothers

The New York Times has a lovely slide show in their One in 8 Million Series on a teen mom in Brooklyn. It provides a realistic portrait of what young motherhood looks and sounds like:
Elizabeth Cousins: The Teenage Mother

One resource that is listed at the end of the slide show is The Brooklyn Young Mothers Collective.
"The Brooklyn Young Mothers’ Collective provides disadvantaged young mothers with a comprehensive set of services focused on their educational attainment and social development to help them to become self-sufficient adults."

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

A bit about me and this blog

While I was brainstorming my doula business I came up with an "About me" section and a "Mission statement". Let me share parts of them with you:

About me:
Holding a profound respect for the entire continuum of women's reproductive health choices, Kate is hoping to eventually become a midwife. She maintains a true commitment to supporting and nurturing all women in their birth choices with compassion and positive energy.

My Doula Mission Statement:
I deeply believe that birth is a rite of passage- powerful, beautiful and intense. My personal intention for every birth is that the mother feels empowered and supported, no matter what.

As my birth career is progressing, I am realizing more and more that my interests extend way beyond natural birth. This blog has been a marvelous tool for allowing me to actively research these other fields of study and to gather up the best resources on the topics at hand.

Not all birth professionals tackle some of the stickier subjects but, recognition and support of this continuum feels essential to me. I am not here to only advocate for natural childbirth or home birth or VBAC. Actually, I am not here to advocate for any thing but merely to inform. Reproductive choices from abortion to birth to assisted reproductive technologies are all ultimately choices about parenting. All are rites of passage to respect and honor. This blog has certainly covered all of these subjects before but, I thought I would just state my intentions and thus, leave the doors wide open for any exploration that may happen.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

In the news (breifly)

For a quick dose of some recent reproduction news:

From Boston: check out what the economic down-turn has inspired: Recession spurs egg and sperm donations. (from Egg Donation and Surrogacy blog)

From the New York Times: The Claim: Birth Complications are More Likely with Boys.

Monday, April 6, 2009


Apple has some neat technology:
Pregnancy Calendar
Ovulation Calendar
Moon Phases

Friday, April 3, 2009


Couldn't resist posting this poster image that I found while searching for images of "womb". It's called "Cosmic Womb of Creation". It's powerful.

To Watch

Some science and history:
PBS's American Experience: Test Tube Babies

Spring calendar

Some events to mark down for this coming season:

Planned Parenthood's Sexual & Reproductive Health Training Calendar. They have a great assortment of classes that touch on a wide variety of topics including youth, HIV/AIDS and advocacy. I'm considering the Birth Control Options and the Facilitation workshop.

Wednesday, April 8th @ 7:30pm:
ALL MY BABIES at the Anthology Film Archives. This sounds so lovely:
"Mrs. Mary Frances Coley, an African-American midwife in Georgia, demonstrates her skill and loving kindness in a 1952 film...Currently active midwives will be present to discuss their struggle to preserve their profession against the assaults of other branches of medicine."

Tuesday, May 5th @ 6:30pm: Well-Woman Care During Pregnancy, Labor & Delivery and Postpartum at the Brooklyn Central Library.
"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 postpartum trauma and depression."