Friday, April 27, 2007

Different better

It's a different kind of labor than someone headed for a hospital. Different better. And I'm really not a sensationalist. Nor do I consider myself way-holistic, or uber-natural in other parts of my life.

I was walking and talking with friends and my husband. Wearing my feathered and jeweled "birth crown" (hah). Wearing my water-backpack for hydration. And wearing a skirt, (which I never wear), for comfort and for femininity. Knowing I had nowhere to be. No schedule to keep. It was my second home birth.

I am the one who never dreamed of having my first baby at home--let alone a second. My mother swore by her epidural. Her painless journey had a happy ending. But the more I read about birth, and the more friends of mine, and friends of friends, who fell victim to the c-section check-mate of modern hospital/interventionist birth game--the more uncomfortable I felt with my original plan to follow in my mother's birth-steps.

With the first few sessions of our east coast Bradley(tm) Class under our belts and the book "The Baby Catcher" clutched tightly in our hands, my husband and I waded into the idea of a natural birth, and we ended up with a full-on home birth. Twice. One in D.C. and one in San Francisco. After all--what sense would it make to have a natural birth all hooked up to machines and/or in an aseptic hospital environment with (sometimes) cranky nurses poking and asking you if you're 'ready to give up on that natural birth yet?'

'Oh, but the doctors and the medicines and the intervention in case of disaster would be there', you say. But no... not so much.

The doctors are never there--not until "the end"--after hours of pain and questions, confusion and second-guessing. "The end" is a fleck of time. It seemed like a millisecond compared to the rest of labor.

As it turns out, doctors really know nothing of how to care for a woman in labor. It's simply not what they are trained to deal with or care about. I was so stunned when I finally figured that out. So if your labor is normal--you never see your doctor. A midwife is there with you during labor, by your side for hours, sometimes days, helping you cope, reassuring you, giving you (or helping your partner give you) what you need and keeping away all things you don't. Right through to the birth. And then for hours after that. Not to mention the pre- and post-natal care that builds you up and backs you down to and from the moment of birth with 30-60 minute appointments that are 5 parts therapy, 3 parts hanging-out-with-a-new-best-friend, and 2 parts healthcare.

Then there's the medicines--It turns out, there aren't really any medicines you need. The best medicines are comfort and family and security provided by the caregiver that's been by the side of hundreds of women through hundreds of complete labors--telling you that all is going well. She's seen this pain before. She's seen this stage, this moment, this struggle. She knows. And then you know. You can do it too. Just like all those other women before you. And there is nothing to fear. So different from the kind of feedback that western medicine offers women who labor in hospitals.

Then there's the intervention in case of emergency: And there's some truth to this. But the other truth is that nearly all serious conditions requiring medical management at birth can be predicted during gestation. Your caring midwife would see them in advance and graciously, gently transfer your care over to a physician--and she will stay with you even then. And in the rare case that something would present itself during labor, that same wonderful woman--ever vigilantly observing and monitoring--would hear, measure, or sense that it was time to transfer this birth to a hospital. And by your side she would travel. You would never be or feel alone.

For all these reasons and realizations. We chose a home birth. Twice.

Read this part:
To be cared for by a midwife is decadent.
Go back and read the line above again.

It's the kind of healthcare you can only dream of. It's how you've always wanted to be treated. I've done it twice now, and I still can't get over how much care was lavished on me and my sons. Two different midwives. Opposite sides of the country. Same standard of care.

Midwives are amazing.

Thank you to Eileen and Maria. You are both amazing amazing women. I loved my births. -- Bradee

Ian Gregory

Eli Sydney

Ian and his midwife, Eileen. She's giving breast-feeding pointers during his first post-partum visit

Eli and his midwife, Maria. He's getting is weight checked at his first post-partum visit

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Like Nothing Else

Our homebirths were two of the most beautiful, profound, momentous occasions of my life. Both were very different from each other but both were amazing, awe-inspiring, and empowering like nothing else. – Heidi Coffer, mother of Forrest and Raven

Three boys

Birth is amazing!
After two days of labor and eventual surgery for my second child, I was so nervous that our third birth would be difficult. After seven hours of labor and excellent coaching from my midwife, Joshua was born at home in the birthing tub with no complications to a happy completely healthy Mama. -- Alex Nangle, mother of three beautiful boys

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Mother love

Birth is the portal through which two lives emerge, one new and one transformed. A baby, precious and new, has joined your life. As a new mother, you have been changed forever.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Ecstatic Birth

Birth is joy, birth is power, birth is love. Birth is ecstatic. Welcome Michael Fern!
A complication is whatever you're not prepared for. --Diana Paul, Executive Director of Sage Femme,

Friday, April 20, 2007

Welcome Oona!

Oona Jane was born on Tuesday, April 10, surprising us with her quick arrival (one hour of active labor), her birth (in water), and herself (we were sure she was a boy). Welcome, little one!

--Jennifer Lynch

Willow Tree

I am a willow tree,
Strong, yet fluid
I can bend with the wind,
but my roots are
Opening to birth my child
flowing with the wind:
from a
soft and gentle breeze
to a
stormy gale
back to a
soft and gentle breeze.
My body is
strong, but flexible.
It is my friend, it knows how to
I am a friend to my body
eating well, walking, and
loving myself.
I shall birth
safely, freely, openly . . .
among my
loved and trusted ones.
I am the willow,
beautiful resilient
with the power of surrender
to the wind rustling through my leaves,
my branches.
My roots reach
deep into Mother Earth
Anchored in Her strength
I bring forth life

---Anonymous, submitted by Rachel Yellin, doula, childbirth educator, yoga instructor

Tuesday, April 17, 2007


If we hope to create a non-violent world where respect and kindness replace fear and hatred, we must begin with how we treat each other at the beginning of life. For that is where our deepest patterns are set, from these roots grow fear and alienation-- or love and trust. -- photo and quote by Suzanne Arms,

Monday, April 9, 2007

Birth Warrior

Mya is the birth warrior. She is strong and powerful. She is in charge.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Thank you Amanda!

What an incredible moment to have a young woman come into my office today who I caught almost 18 years ago! Amanda is a senior in high school and also goes to culinary school, specializing in the pastry arts (see post "A Surprise Visit from Gloria and Amanda"). She brought me this amazing fruit pastry tart that she whipped up! Birth has the power to create powerful connections and relationships that last a lifetime. We looked at her birth photos that I keep at my office. It certainly doesn't seem like that long ago. Thank you Amanda for the visit and the amazing tart!

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Oh sweet spontaneous birth....

Here is Chanti's post before Wednesday mom's group--

oh sweet spontaneous birth.... begins one of my favorite poems by e.e. cummings.
oh sweet sensual soft and powerful birth, sweet calm and rocking, sweet surges of joy and pain and surrender, oh how you inspire me to live my life with passion and awe.

As a student, attendant, midwife, and lover of birth I take pause and give thanks for the beauty that I witness. Mothers, babies, fathers, partners, doulas, midwives, friends, and family woven together in moments of time --breathing, reaching out, reaching in, holding space.

The little ones know what to do. The mothers know what to do. Feeling safe and supported, they work together in their journey from one to two.

This miracle, this love-- may it be protected, experienced, and witnessed by all desiring sweet spontaneous birth. -- Chanti Smith, student midwife, mom's group facilitator

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Safe Delivered

Welcome to the world to Camilo Durruti who was born at home on March 31, 2007 into the warm water and loving hands of his Papa, Evan Henshaw-Plath. Mama Gabriela Rodriguez fue en su poder y encargado de todo. Todos son alegres y cambiados por la magia y milagro de nacimiento.

A Surprise Visit from Gloria and Amanda

For me birth was like surfing, when you catch a wave you have to ride the in between. You can't force it, and you can't fight it. You just have to ride it out. I've had the blessing of seven beautiful children, one in heaven and six here to remind me of the lessons that life has to offer. Often similar but not as intense. Birth is a right of passage, and the only political thing I've ever done to empower women, my four daughters included. For me they are north, south, east, and west. -- Gloria Figueroa, mother of Amanda, born at home almost 18 years ago