Birth Without Fear

'They felt comfortable knowing that they had two knowledgeable and experienced midwifes and a doula to support them,' explained Ms Dives

Photo credit: Jackie Dives

I came across a beautiful set of photographs this morning, in the UK Daily Mail and wanted to share them with all of you. Check out the full article and photo series here.

Taken by fellow doula, Jackie Dives, these pictures really capture the beauty of a home birth. There is a level of bliss that seems only attainable in birth when a woman is truly comfortable, cared for and respected. It’s a pretty hard thing to achieve in a hospital setting but I see it every single time at home.

Obviously, home birth is only right for those who really want it – in other words, if you’ve done your research and you feel you’d be more comfortable in a hospital, then that’s where you should be – but for those who prefer it and who work with their midwives and are deemed good candidates for home birth, let no one call their choice “wild or erratic” again.

To learn more about home birth and the studies that have been done to determine its safety, check out my post (Home)Birth. Is. Safe.

Don’t Believe the Hype

This article from The Wall Street Journal provides some great historical information that connects meaningfully with my previous post (Home)Birth is Safe.

The author, Nathaniel Johnson notes that,

In 1923, Mary Breckinridge started the Frontier Nursing Service in rural Appalachia….Within a decade, the astonishing impact of that care was apparent. The women the Frontier Nursing Service cared for, who were desperately poor and usually gave birth at home, were 10 times less likely to die in childbirth than the average American at the time. The nation as a whole wouldn’t catch up until the 1950s, after the widespread acceptance of antiseptic and the discovery of antibiotics.

Given that antiseptic practices and the use of antibiotics are available and in use in midwife-attended home births today, it makes sense that, as Sheila Kitzinger has argued, it is not a high level of medicalization that makes birth safer – it is overall health: access to good pre-conception, prenatal and postpartum healthcare, good quality nutrition, access to clean water and access to skilled birth attendants. This has been borne out the world over, regardless of whether women are typically birthing at home or in hospitals. Access to medical interventions for the few women who actually need them is important, which is why midwives are thoroughly trained to detect possible complications before they become problematic and why they only support home births for women who are not at risk. Obstetricians are trained to deal with problems when they arise, but midwives are far more likely to be able to prevent them in the first place. Continue reading

Take Action!

jordyn_contract

Since April 1, 2011, 25 000 babies have been caught by midwives in Ontario. Since then, the midwives of this province have been working without a contract. Today is the Social Media Day of Action. Email the Minister of Health and Long-Term Care, tweet #backtothetable and urge @DebMatthews to restart negotiations with @OntarioMidwives! For more information and ideas on how to make an impact today, visit http://www.ontariomidwives.ca/support/backtothetable

Prenatal Classes at Women’s College Hospital

Women's College Hospital - Health Care for Women, Revolutionized

As many of you are already aware, I was recently hired to teach prenatal education classes at Women’s College Hospital here in Toronto. I’m very excited about this opportunity as I hope that it will allow me to reach many more women and their partners, from more diverse walks of life. I firmly believe that education is a vital component of a healthy pregnancy, a positive and empowering birth experience and a strong start as new parents. Taking group classes over a six-week period gives you the opportunity to make new connections with other parents-to-be and affords you the time to absorb the wealth of information and ensure that your questions are addressed.

Another reason that I am excited about teaching at WCH is that they are permitting me to run the courses using my own curriculum – in other words, the content will be the same as  it would be in any other location where I teach. This means that my students will not have to worry about anyone else’s agenda interfering with the education they need to make informed choices. All of the content in my courses is firmly based in current, reliable evidence and respects a woman’s ability to know her body and to give birth with confidence and strength.

Unlike most other hospital prenatal classes, you do not need to be a patient at WCH. Regardless of where your midwife or doctor has privileges and whether you are planning a hospital birth or a home birth, you are welcome to register.

For more information or to register, please visit the WCH website. My courses are on Wednesday evenings at 6:30 pm (until 9). The first series begins November 14th.

Freedom For Birth – FREE Screening

On Thursday, September 20th, 2012 there will be hundreds of screenings worldwide of the new documentary Freedom For Birth. Twyla Kowalenko, a local mother and passionate birth advocate and I will be screening the film at the Centre for Social Innovation, Annex at 7pm (more details on location below) as part of the global premiere. Continue reading

Your Birth Choices: Yours and Yours Alone

Just finished reading this great post on epidural rates in BC as compared to other provinces. I really like this blogger’s take on the issue, which, in a nutshell, is that as long as the women who want epidurals are able to access them, it doesn’t matter whether you choose a natural childbirth or a medicated one. What does matter (and what people should be concerned about) is that you are supported. It’s so important that women feel informed and respected in their decision-making and I’m saddened by the amount of judgement that flies around whenever any birthing mama states what she has decided to work towards for her birth. Women who choose homebirths are accused of being selfish and ignorant (despite the fact that we know that homebirth is safe or safer for most women in Ontario), women who choose to learn the sex of their baby prenatally are accused of being gender-biased, women who decline ultrasounds are accused of being ignorant “hippies”, women who choose epidurals are accused of being wimps or dupes who bend to the whims of their authoritarian caregivers. Enough! These are all individual, personal choices that different people make for a wide variety of reasons and none of them are anyone’s business but the birthing woman’s and, in some cases, her partner’s (though I would argue that the choice to medicate for pain or not lies solely with the woman in labour).

All the guilt that is heaped on moms for making their choices (and it really does seem like you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t, doesn’t it?) leads to this bizarre impression that there is a wide gulf between natural birth moms and epidural-choosing moms. Not only is that gulf a complete fiction, but it is a harmful fiction. It leads people to believe things like “only women who want natural births need doulas”, which is just plain crazy. Every birthing woman deserves unconditional, continuous, one-on-one comfort and support; every birthing woman deserves a doula.

Sure, I believe passionately in the power of natural birth – I know that women’s bodies were designed to do this work and that those who wish to experience it should have the right to try without being chastised, mocked or frightened (and that if they are given that right, they are much more likely to succeed). But just because I believe that you can do it, doesn’t mean that I think that you ought to do it. That is the clincher. If you hire me to do be your doula I will make it my top priority to ensure that you are knowledgeable and confident and that you feel supported and cared for in whatever choices you make, even if they bear no resemblance to the choices I would make for myself.

It’s your body, your birth, your baby, your choice.

Related: http://offbeatmama.com/2012/03/doula-at-hospital-birth

Technological ≠ Scientific

There was a really excellent article by Alice Dreger in The Atlantic that made the rounds a couple of weeks ago. The article, entitled The Most Scientific Birth is Often the Least Technological Birth was rightfully celebrated by birth advocates who believe in evidence-based practice as the best way to improve obstetrical outcomes AND maximize satisfaction for individual women with regards to their birth experiences.

A lot of the time – and not just when it comes to birth, though I will be coming back to that topic (of course) shortly – we have a tendency to see things in terms of conflicting pairs, what semioticians call binary opposition. For example Light//Dark, New//Old, Good//Evil, Presence//Absence, Male//Female, Science//Nature, etc. Contemporary communication theory explores the way that these pairings in language are embroiled in how we see and construct our world (i.e. culture). Essentially, we can only understand ‘good’ in the context of its pairing with ‘evil’ for example, or ‘light’ in terms of its relationship to ‘dark’. Without the opposing term we are unable to define either. Driven by the psychological urge to categorize and order our world, we find comfort and satisfaction in these constructs. Unfortunately, as post-structuralist theory demonstrates, in every pair one of the two terms tends to assume dominance (culturally speaking) over the other. Quite often this privileging is determined by prejudicial assumptions of the larger culture (that is, it is often imbued with values that are tainted by ethnocentric or gender-biased perceptions of reality).

So, how is my nerdy fascination with language and culture connected to birth, you ask? Continue reading