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.