The Positive Birth Book Review

Milli Hill, creator of The Positive Birth Movement, has written the most refreshing and updated pregnancy book you can currently get your hands on!

I reached out to Milli Hill with a long lost hope that she would respond to my little email about being a contributor for our upcoming book, The Many Faces of Home Birth. I couldn’t believe her willingness to be a part of the project especially as she was working on finishing up her own book. I stalked all things The Positive Birth Movement and anxiously awaited the release of her book, The Positive Birth Book. 

On March 16th, the book was released and magically showed up on my Kindle! I spent the evening reading through Milli’s engaging and entertaining words. After three home births we are done having kiddos, however, the desire to learn and know as much as I can about birth never fades. I still get excited when I get to read any birth story or when I get to hear a positive perspective regarding birth- any birth. That is really the soul of Milli’s heart. Milli’s goal is to help all women experience the birth they wish to have. I love that! The goal isn’t to try to get every woman to have a home birth; the goal is to provide women with resources and information that is positive, accurate, and welcoming. When women have choices and resources to explore and plan the birth right for them and their family, everything about their perspective on birth changes. The fear fades and excitement takes over.

One of the greatest aspects of The Positive Birth Book is the overwhelming feeling that you are about to be welcomed into a group of women who are empowered by their birth choices, confident in their choices, and supported for those reasons. Because at the end of the day, it’s YOUR birth. No one else is going to be pushing that baby out or having the Cesarean. It’s all about you and your birth team.

Isn’t it exciting to know that YOU are in charge. Never before have women had the opportunity to be so educated about their births. Never before have I heard women sharing so openly and honestly about birth. Please join in the conversation, no matter what stage you are at in your family planning- it’s never too early to get educated and it’s never too late to share your wisdom:-).

Love,

Shantel

 

 

A Mother and Daughter Midwifery Duo

Dear Readers,

I am thrilled to introduce you to my wonderful midwives, Mary and Pita. The narrative below is written by Mary! If you would like to hear more about their wonderful care and my experience with both Mary and Pita as my midwives, check out my home birth stories here and here. As always, I’m so happy you are here, and I hope you enjoy!

Best, Shantel

Midwife Blog Home Birth Mary and Pita


I have been involved in the birth field since 1973.  First as a Bradley instructor attending births and then as an apprentice midwife.  I started out in Long Beach, CA and then in 1976 moved to Washington State.  Before becoming a Bradley instructor, I worked as a civilian employee for the US Army as an ammunition clerk at Ft MacArthur in San Pedro , CA. I had to keep track of all ammunition used by the 6th Army Reserves and National Guard.  Before computers.  Gah!  I was also a long distance telephone operator for Ma Bell, and I worked for LA County as a dispatch operator for the LA County Sheriffs Dept.  Never in a million years did I ever expect to be a midwife until I had my second baby, Pita, in 1973.  Even then I just wanted to tell people that the Bradley Method works and that there is a better way to have a baby than to be drugged up and managed.  Knock ‘em out, drag ‘em out was how Dr. Bradley put it.  Through the birth classes I taught, I attended so many births.  Mostly the births I attended were in the hospital as a doula/photographer, but also home births.  There I met midwives and doctors that did home births.  In 1970 and on it was an uphill battle to change the way things were done.  Most births were medicated, you had to stay in bed, no food or water for the duration of labor, IV’s always, episiotomies always, spinals or epidurals always, hands strapped down, legs strapped into stirrups, no husbands in the delivery room, and no rooming in.  You got your baby 24hrs AFTER delivery and only to feed them every 4 hrs.  If they got hungry before that, the nursery would give formula.  Oh, and everyone got a high soap suds enema at the beginning of labor and a shave.  Glorious right?!  The only way things changed was that women were being educated about birth by going to childbirth classes and learning about birth.  Then the moms would request the most outlandish things like no medication, having their husbands with them at birth, no episiotomies, etc.  When we found a Doc that would oblige these mom’s, everyone would switch providers to get what they wanted.  After a bit of time and mothers requesting these things and taking their money elsewhere, the hospitals got the hint and slowly started to change their thinking.  By the time I left Long Beach in 1976, it was totally changed to a more natural approach.  Almost all of those routine procedures were gone.

Then came Vancouver, Washington.  April 1976.  I started doing public film showings at the library.  I showed the Bradley film, “Childbirth for the Joy of It” and the Brewer film, “What Every Pregnant Woman Should Know”, which people loved, and the Navy Training film that showed a normal hospital birth and all that that entailed, and also scared the bejeezes out of everyone.  What a contrast!  I was discouraged when I moved to Vancouver because the only hospital that was offering maternity care was doing everything that I fought to change in California.  They thought I was a lunatic.  Maybe I was, but I was sick to death of how the birth scene was here.  I started teaching Bradley classes and attending births and at one home birth I met the coolest lady ever, Hazel Woodward.  She was a direct entry midwife, which I had never heard of, and she told me about a midwifery school that had started in West Linn, Oregon.  I applied and was accepted and graduated from there.  Some of my class mates were Gail Hart and Patricia Edmonds among other like minded women.  Our teachers were midwives, naturopathic doctors, and chiropractors.  Some of these had been catching babies for 50 yrs or more.

What a wealth of info they had.  Way before water birth caught on, we were taught by Dr. Babnick, who was at least 80 then, to put women into a hot bath to help with labor. We got them out to births, but we learned so much from those good hearted, wise teachers.  How to not interfere with the normal process of birth.  How to listen to mothers and how to feel baby’s position with our hands and not ultrasound.  How to get baby to turn into a better position before birth to avoid problems in labor.  Dr. Jack taught us to not be afraid and to go with what we see, not the what if’s of fear based decisions. We learned herbal remedies and properties of the plants. Homeopathics also.  It was a great education and made me hungry for more.  After I graduated from midwifery school I apprenticed with Hazel for a year and then started on my own from there.  I’ve been catching babies in SW Washington and the Portland area since then.

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Conceiving Naturally With Acupuncture

I like to say my acupuncturist helped get my baby into me and helped get my baby out of me! I won’t hesitate to go back to see her when my husband and I are ready to try for our next baby.

conceiving

Missy is so kind to share her experience with acupuncture and her pregnancy journey. Enjoy!

I was diagnosed with PCOS at age 33 in 2012. At the time, I knew I wanted children, but was not in a relationship, so I decided I would do everything I could to get myself in the best shape I could to be ready to conceive once I was in a position to do so. I began taking Metformin and started a workout program. I lost about 20 pounds, but still had long, irregular cycles. My husband and I got married in 2014 and were immediately open to getting pregnant. As I was already 35, I gave us 6 months of no interventions to try to allow nature to take its course. After 6 months, I was going to return to the doctor who had said I would probably need Clomid to conceive.

Around this time my trainer mentioned that his wife had used acupuncture in their efforts to conceive. As I was hoping to avoid more invasive fertility treatments, I was willing to give it a try. I met with the acupuncturist and after reviewing my history, we developed a plan. I saw her twice a week in the beginning, and then after several weeks we went to once a week. Although I didn’t know it at the time, I conceived after about 6 weeks of treatments (after my first period I had after I started treatments). I continued treatments until I realized I was pregnant (approximately 11-12 weeks of treatments). Unfortunately, I lost my first baby between 6 and 7 weeks. After consulting with my acupuncturist and midwife, we agreed I could resume treatments after my first cycle post-miscarriage. I conceived again on that first cycle. I fully credit acupuncture with helping me get pregnant twice in 4 months.

After an uneventful second pregnancy, I sailed past my due date and was at 41+3 when I had reached my breaking point. I thought to seek out my acupuncturist again and see if she did anything for induction. She mentioned she had an induction protocol and could see me that night. I conferred with my husband, who said “What’s the worst that could happen?”, and I left immediately to see my acupuncturist. She told me that if the session worked, I would most likely wake up in labor the next morning, but that it could take several sessions. I went to sleep that night around 2 a.m. (not my smartest idea) and woke up in labor at 5 a.m.. I had a long but steady, 20 hour hard labor and gave birth at home to my 9lb 8oz baby girl in May 2016. I fully credit acupuncture with jump starting my labor, although I know it would not have worked if my baby wasn’t ready.

I like to say my acupuncturist helped get my baby into me and helped get my baby out of me! I won’t hesitate to go back to see her when my husband and I are ready to try for our next baby.

Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth

Ina May's Guide to ChildbirthAhhh, the gold standard for expecting home birth mamas! It’s true, everyone should read this gem of a book to explore the wisdom of Ina May Gaskin. In Guide to Childbirth, Gaskin uses birth stories and informative narrative to instruct expectant moms and midwives on natural childbirth. Once again, the beauty is in Gaskin’s language circling birth and the choices women make around their birth(s).

Chapter Four, Sphincter Law, was my visual guide during my first birth. I’m positive it was also my midwife’s gauge during the pushing stage. Of course many women find that the birth stories provide invaluable information and inspiration.

Chapter Three focuses on how we view pain and fear during childbirth. After three home births, I am consistently asked how I managed the pain of childbirth. In America, the images of childbirth that are in mainstream media, told around the kitchen table or  shared in the workplace are often riddled with horror and pain. Gaskin paints a different picture of birth and the pain associated with labor. As my birth teacher says, “It’s pain with purpose.” Yes and yes!

Ina May also suggests many tools and techniques to cope with the pain and fear often associated with childbirth. Gaskin provides evidence and potential side effects if one chooses to medicate in an effort to avoid pain associated with birth. This is key. I hear many women share that they didn’t realize what would happen after they chose medication during childbirth. Ask questions. Always.

Although the information and stories in  a Guide to Childbirth are timeless, approachable, and accurate, I do wish the stories were more contemporary and encompassing of a variety of women. Again, this isn’t a criticism, just an observation that frankly doesn’t matter as I was initially inspire to take the home birth journey thanks to Ina May!

Pushed

 Pushed   : The Painful Truth About Childbirth and Modern Maternity Care by Jennifer Block is a must read for anyone who cares about maternity care = everyone. Block explores maternity care with an incredible balance between credible research and anecdote. Her voice consistently searches for the truth while maintaining a focus that aims to shed light on the experiences of modern women navigating the shockingly muddy waters of having a baby in modern America.

I especially appreciate Block’s investigation that pushes back against the damaging and infuriating phrase, “The only thing that matters is a healthy baby!”. Of course a healthy baby matters, but so does a happy mama and family. As anyone who has experienced a traumatic birth, nearly 85% of women in the U.S., this simply isn’t true (Northrup, MD). In a modern society, we can do better for our mamas, babies, and families.

Not only is Pushed a history lesson for many, it has the power, through knowledge, to instill confidence  in women when discussing their birth options with their healthcare provider-no matter where or how they choose to birth. On a deeper level, Pushed can also be a tool in opening conversations with our mothers and grandmothers regarding their birth experiences.

Pushed is the updated and evidence based resource I was looking for during my first two pregnancies. I read it throughout my third pregnancy, and I still regard it as one of my best resources for discussing home birth with those who have questions and/or concerns. It did take a bit to get through as several sections are dense with statistics. Get your highlighters and pens ready to take notes! I would also suggest a few post-it notes. Enjoy!

Emily’s Home Birth

emily-home-birth_I figure I had better get Emily’s  home birth story written before she is 21. First of all, it was amazing. Her birth was amazing due to all the wonderful support we have in our lives… I’ll get to all that.

After several, four, horrible experiences at The Woman’s Clinic of __________, Ryan and I decided to seek out a midwife and have a home birth. We were already 21 weeks into the pregnancy and a little worried. My best friend’s sister had two home births with the same midwife team that delivered herself, my best friend, and two of her brothers. I quickly got her info, and Ryan and I met with her at Starbucks. We fell in love. Mary and Pita are a mother and daughter midwife team. Mary has been catching babies for over 30 years and exudes a calm, confident understanding of birth . We could not have felt more sure of our choice. Mary came to our home for all prenatal appointments. How cool is that?!? She has a holistic approach to health and is a firm believer that pregnancy is not an illness. Our thoughts exactly.

I will say that my pregnancy was wonderful. I loved every minute of it. Ryan and I feel lucky to have had such a great experience while I was carrying Emily. For me, enjoying the pregnancy was half mental. If you have the mentality that your body is made to create this life, you are more apt to not think of the changes in your body as an illness. I also think that getting up early, moving, working, eating well, and living life as normal as possible is so important. Our birthing classes reinforced the idea that pregnancy is natural. Our midwife, Pita, and her friend, Amber, taught our Bradley birthing class. It was a ten week series that set us up for the successful birth of Emily. (Off soapbox).

We wanted to have a non-medicated birth at home. I knew I would not be relaxed and/or comfortable in any other setting besides our home. I wanted to be free to move and labor however I felt most comfortable. I didn’t want anyone checking my progress or filling my head with fear/doubts about my body’s ability to give birth. Our birth team was behind us 100%. Not only that, but they love births. Everything about them. Continue reading

Mary Beth’s Birth

 

Weighing in at six pounds 12 ounces.

Born April 4, 2013 at 10:17 AM

I thought I was going into labor the night before it actually happened. I was on spring break, and we had moved into our new place the weekend before. We also had a contractor coming in the morning to finish our hardwood floors. We seem to remodel when we have babies… not doing it a third time (the remodel, not the baby). So, when I woke up at 5 AM with contractions, I thought it best to not wake Ryan. I timed them instead. The contractions were kinda strong and 10 minutes apart. I thought I was just having some joint pain. This was a common sensation the second time around. However, the “joint pain” was fairly consistent. I decided to wake Ryan when they were eight minutes apart. Good thing too. The contraction were quickly 7 minutes, then six, then… you get the point. We called our Midwife, Mary.

Correction: Ryan called Mary while I called my mom to ask if we could have a baby in her living room. I laugh as I type this, because it sounds so crazy. I couldn’t have a baby  in our new house because I wanted those floors finished ASAP. My mom said to come on over. I packed our bags, jumped in the shower, and prepped for having a baby (mentally). It’s all  mental, folks.

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