Personal Moment

There's been a lot in the news lately that relates to birthing, breastfeeding, moms and babies, but I haven't been home long enough (without other more pressing needs to attend to, like school) to blog on these.

However, right here I want to take a moment, before I have to leave yet again, to brag about my family.

My daughter sold her first photograph. She is a fabulous photographer already (at 17) and I know she will be selling many more, but this was her first and it was a big deal. Thanks, Ashly, for supporting her work!

Next, my husband was just notified that he passed his (hugely difficult) test to be designated a Six Sigma Black Belt. This is a big deal! When we married, he was a laborer on a factory floor. While supporting our family, solely after our only child was born, he worked his way through college. He's currently very near completion of his Master's. Anyone who has been through college knows how hard it is to take on a full course load, work a full-time job, and still make time to maintain the relationships that make for a strong family. He's done all that. This year we celebrated 23 years together.

So, I just wanted to make this non-birth related announcement because I'm very proud of my husband and child, and wanted everyone to know how great they are!!!


Angelina's Controversial Breasts

Sometimes I just can't believe what people choose to complain about.

Angelina Jolie's breasts are fine for public viewing unless they are being useful? Jolie has a fabulous body that she works hard to maintain. I don't blame her for showing it off a bit, and I don't blame people for admiring it. But of all the sexy images of Jolie, I think the absolute most stunningly beautiful one I've seen yet is the one that is currently causing controversy, and that could be the cover of W magazine with Jolie breastfeeding one of her twins.

It is a gorgeous photo that her husband took. In it, there is less visible breast than I've seen here or here. It is obviously not a sexy photo, but one in which mom is flooded with oxytocin and prolactin; mothering hormones. Just look at the serenity in her face!

People, this is the intended use for breasts! Whether you believe God (Goddess/All that Is) put them there, or that we evolved just like all other mammals (mammary glands/breasts=mammal) the human female body makes the perfect food for new human babies; always warm, always sterile, never needs mixing, highly portable, safe (and attractive )container and best of all FREE.

And this is controversial?


Blaming Mothers?

Today Slate Posted an article titled Womb Raider: Do Future Health Problems Begin During Gestation?

There are a few things that amaze me about this article. The first is that it took so long for such research to be done. The second is that such research should need to be done at all. The body that that the baby will have for his or her entire life is built from two single cells that come from the mother and father. Every single thing that a mother eats, drinks, smokes and thinks builds that body on a daily basis. How anyone could think otherwise seems ludicrous to me when there is so much research out there. I just attended a conference where we were shown how the baby reacts (via ultrasound) when mother and father fight, and it should come as no surprise that it stresses the babies out!

The Association for Prenatal & Perinatal Psychology & Health has been looking at the impact of maternal hormones and lifestyle choices on the fetus and newborn since 1983. In Birth As We Know It Elena Tonetti-Vladimirova explains this as being immersed, quite literally, in the mother's 'juices'. She speaks to the limbic imprinting that is taking place during birth and immediately after, as does What Babies Want and Orgasmic Birth. Sarah Buckley explains the physiology of ecstatic birth (and why it is important to both mothers and babies) in Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering. Likewise, Dr. Micheal Odent has been doing research for over 20 years. Dr. Fred Wirth took complicated information on 'fetal brain architecture' and made it understandable in Prenatal Parenting.

Besides all of that, it just makes sense for crying out loud!

So, this article was specifically about whether or not a mother's weight gain in pregnancy had anything to do with later obesity in the child. It did, says the study. However, some questions I would ask (that were not addressed in the abstract, which is all I had access to) might be: Did the women gain weight eating a healthy diet or a diet high in empty calories (like sugar)? Did the mothers breastfeed? What was the child's diet like in the 3 years that they were followed?(Wait! they are thinking of recommending that mothers gain less weight in pregnancy based on the prediction...after only three years of observation...that these kids will be fat adults?!)

Besides the study being poorly done, from what I could see, there is the reaction by the Slate author. He says that this information has a 'blame-the-victim' quality. I guess I see it more as a call to better educate and support mothers. How can we help mothers and babies enjoy their journey more if we don't tell them how current choices impact future outcomes? How can we create programs to support under-served populations if we don't acknowledge that there is a problem that has a solution? He says,

"That impulse is understandable. It's easier—for parents, doctors, educators—to say an obese toddler has a slow metabolism than to teach the family better eating and exercise habits."

I guess what I don't understand how telling a mother she needs to eat better and exercise more in pregnancy is any different than tell her she needs to make sure her kid eats well and exercises. Either way, isn't the mother blamed (by the logic of the Slate author)? She's a bad mother if she lets her get fat by eating junk and playing video games, or she's a bad mother if SHE eats junk food and plays video games. The difference, as I see it, is that IF there MIGHT be a correlation between how them other takes care of herself in pregnancy and the predispositions the baby may have, we can prevent those issues by educating her early. Oh, and in the process nearly eliminate pre-eclampsia and pre-term birth, since those are nutritionally based problems as well.

Of course what our babies are exposed to while they are being built has future implications. Of course how they are birthed and handled immediately after birth matters. How could it not? When are we going to start making the changes that will allow mothers and babies to optimize the gifts nature provided to make the transition to the outside world smoother, instead of denouncing the research as guilt inducing?


HypnoBirthing Conclave

Here I document the ever eventful adventures of...well...me.

First of all, I'll state outright that I hate traveling alone. I’m also not overly enamored with pre-dawn morning. Or, if you want to look at the glass as have full, I love sleep. Either way, this adventure started at 2:45 am on Thursday night, er…Friday morning. (It was dark. There were stars. In my opinion, it was still technically the night before.)

Now, originally my husband and I were going to fly together. We determined that was going to be too expensive. Then, we were going to drive. But it was going to require too much time off from work for him, and it really wouldn’t be less expensive with that time and gas as high as it is. So, off I go to TX.

Yes, it is my business trip, my CEUs, my commitment to make a presentation. Really, he goes spelunking while I’m working and keeps me on track when he gets back to the hotel. He books the trip details; he makes sure I get from point A to point B, etc. I CAN do it all myself. I just prefer it when he is my personal assistant. :-)

Despite all that, I arrived without incident; no TSA hassles, my flights were all on time, and I made it to my seat before take off at my connection. (Please notice that all probable issues relate to commercial air flight. I’m starting to wonder if it wouldn’t just be easier to either get a pilot’s license or get rich enough to hire private planes.) I also didn’t sit trapped in metal tube on a runway with someone hacking up a lung, making it obvious that I was breathing contamination, so that was nice.

When I got to the airport, my worries about the next leg (my anxiety revolves around getting lost in big cities) were totally put to rest because Heather Hilton and her merry band of kidlets came to my rescue! How better to start the weekend than to meet 5 wonderful children (who were absolute angels!) and see Heather (likewise an absolute angel, as well as wonderful midwife and friend) again, knowing that I didn’t have to find the right shuttle, wonder if a cab was clocking extra miles, banking on my ignorance, worrying about getting lost, or that we’d actually get to the right hotel of a similar name. If you can’t tell, none of my fears are irrational. They are things that have happened to me, usually while alone. (I know, I know…I need to change some belief pattern and stop manifesting this stuff.)Or as a guy I know would say, "Tap on it!" (He knows who he is.)

Heather got me to the hotel and I finally relaxed a bit. Well, to be honest, I fell asleep. I did say this journey began in the middle of the night, right? I later went downstairs to join the festivities.

It was so nice to see so many familiar faces! It was nice to meet new practitioners too, to be sure, but this year especially, since a beloved practitioner’s passing, it was good to see people who have been around since I started attending these things in 2003.

The conclave team did a great job. Thank you so much for those of you who worked so hard to make this happen! The workshop selections were wonderful. I think I learned more at this conference than any past HypnoBirthing® conference.

Friday night we had a lovely reception, followed by a viewing of Orgasmic Birth by Debra Pascali-Bonaro (www.orgasmicbirth.com). It was phenomenal! I heard people saying it was too long, and indeed some people got up and left. Considering the content was so amazing, I’d have to guess they left not because they didn’t like it, but because their butts were tired of sitting, after a day of travel for most of us. I’ll have to watch it again when I’m not whipped and see. In any case, it is a must see! (Review to come.)

The conference kicked off with a presentation by Karen Strange, who is a dynamic speaker. Her presentation was Birth’s Perfect Design. There was so much in this presentation that it was almost too much to take in, but Karen’s personal style kept us engaged. I was especially interested in the Neonatal Transitional Physiology. She explained how and why the placenta, cord and blood therein belong to the baby, and why disruption of the birth sequence, including the birthing of the placenta and the initiating of breastfeeding which completes the sequence, are detrimental to baby. She also went into great detail in explaining how neural pathways are created through those first few moments after birth. She explained that it causes the brain to ‘fire and wire’ and that the first latch is more than just feeding, it is ‘brain wiring’. I now know what I want to research for my psychology class!

I didn’t attend anything in the next session, as I was presenting something myself, but Pat Sonnenstuhl , CNM did a presentation on Sexuality in Pregnancy and Birth that I would have attended if I could, so she shared her notes and handouts with me.

My presentation went well I think. At least I got decent feedback. I was excited about the topic anyway, so if that ignited others about the reaching more people, I’m happy. Half the workshop was a primer on communication with different ‘publics’ and what we need to know about them to expand our influence. Included was a tiny bit about how different audiences process information, which I’ve written about here on the blog before, so I won’t go into it again. Suffice it to say when you get a room full of 25 or 30 bright people and toss out an idea, the idea grows into something incredible. I expect we all left that room with some ways we might bring HypnoBirthing further into the mainstream, particularly how we might benefit from the influence of HR departments trying to cut costs in the area of health care.

I was pulled up short by one attendee who pointed out that none of we covered in the second half was applicable to her, since she was from the UK and their PR problem would be completely different. She was absolutely right. I didn’t even think about the fact that this was an international conference. We had people from Ireland, Canada, the UK, Singapore, India, and I don’t even know where else. I know at past conferences Mexico, France and Australia have been represented. In any case, shame on me for not thinking about that. I’ll have to learn more about how maternity care works in other countries to see if I can have a wider perspective at the next conclave.

I then attended a workshop on Rapid and Non-verbal Hypnotic Leads with Teresa Van Zeller and it was GREAT! I am so excited to put these techniques into practice!

The dinner Saturday was good, topped off with chocolate decadence. The entertainment was not something I was into, but everyone else seemed to be having a good time. I could have been tired, or it just wasn’t my thing. I don’t know. I only stayed because there was an East Indian group prayer for Mickey and Gene (the founder of HypnoBirthing and her husband) that I felt was important and wanted to attend.

Sunday was a busy day. I had planned to start out my morning with Laura Shanley’s presentation on unassisted birth. I’ve spoken with her online and really wanted to meet her, but I got caught up in something else and didn’t make it.

I did get to Diana Durocher’s class on Endorphin Production for an Orgasmic Birth. I actually had heard enough about orgasmic birth by this time, but I love Diana! She’s so smart and funny I just had to attend her session. There will be at least one line from her presentation that will be pilfered (and she has approved said pilfering) with attribution.

My next session was with Jackie Foskett on how to get HB into hospitals. I think some people had expectations for this presentation that were other than the presenter intended, if some of the questions and comments I heard were any indication. Jackie’s presentation and notes were quite detailed, and I would think quite successful in getting into a hospital to teach…if the hospitals were ready to invite HypnoBirthing in. I think some people wanted to know how to break a sort of invisible barrier that keeps administrators from seeing HypnoBirthing as valuable to their clientèle and the bottom line (which of course it is to both). Jackie was clear that if that barrier exists, it simply isn’t the right time to approach the institution.

I retreated to my room after that last session. As an introvert, I charge my batteries by being alone, or surrounded by a known environment. I didn’t have my husband, my knitting (because my sock needles are so obviously a terrorist threat) or a known environment, so I had to get time alone to breathe whenever I could. That time was limited from Friday night until Sunday afternoon. When I did get to my room Sunday evening, I sort of cocooned and tried to absorb all that had come at me over the weekend.

Unfortunately, as nice as the public areas of the hotel (Double Tree Hotel in Austin, TX) were, spending more time in my room only made me realize the filth I'd been sleeping in. The room was disgusting. I had noticed it wasn't very clean right away. At first I thought I was just being nit-picky at the peeling plaster and stickiness on the baseboards. So what if the bed didn’t have that nice bleach crispness; I pulled back the sheets, and the only nastiness was on the comforter, which is typical. Gross, but typical. (Sometimes I can’t stop myself from watching those investigative reports on Dateline even when I know the information is going to creep me out.) I didn’t flip the mattress, but also didn’t see obvious signs of bed bugs either, so I just made ‘you have a strong immune system’ my mantra and reminded myself that I wasn’t camping with the scorpions and I did have a hot shower. I didn’t want to complain and have housekeeping clean the toilet with my toothbrush or something. (I also rarely return food to the kitchen for fear someone will spit in it. Perhaps that’s too much information about my paranoia? I’ve worked in restaurants. Believe me, it’s not paranoia.)

When I had first arrived at this room, I noticed a snag in the carpet…or so I thought. On the last night (after my room had been ‘cleaned’) I realized, that wasn’t a snag in the carpet; it was a small pile of what could have been omelet (maybe…I didn’t dare get too close to inspect) that just happened to be the same color as that part of the carpet. Knowing that the room couldn’t possibly have been even vacuumed the entire time I’d been there, despite having been ‘serviced’ made me wonder when the last time it HAD might have been. I remembered the muddy footprint my foot made on the floor-towel after walking through some water I dripped on the tile in the bathroom the day before. At the time, I didn’t think about it, but I had shoes on the entire time I’d been out of the room. Any dirt on my bare feet had to have come from walking around in the room. I called my husband just to share the ‘ick’ factor, and of course he told me to change rooms, but considering I was leaving the next morning, I just checked the bedding more closely and packed. I didn’t sleep well that night though.

All in all, the conference made it all worthwhile. It really was that great. For any HypnoBirthing instructor who hasn’t made it to a conclave yet, you really must go. So much work goes into providing us all with the opportunity to share and grow and better serve our communities! It is a wonderful place to take your teacher training because you get to meet experienced practitioners and immediately learn about how to make the most of your new practice. You leave feeling so energized and ready to go out and share the wonders of HypnoBirthing with everyone you meet!

Dog Food Recall

I have wonderful stuff to share from the HypnoBirthing(R) conference I just returned from, but this post is more urgent.

About three weeks ago, our dog started doing weird stuff, like she wouldn't walk with us. She'd stop after a block and plunk her butt down and refuse to continue. She's got a bit of an attitude, so while it was odd, it was within the realm of her personality to be uppity.

She began itching incessantly. She's had allergies before, so we did what our vet had said to do before and gave her Benydryl, but it didn't seem to help. Ultimately, it was another expensive vet bill to get a stronger anti-histamine and an antibiotic so the spots raw from itching didn't get infected. The vet said at that time she seemed to look great other than that.

Next, she had the runs, and she vomited a couple of times, not long after, but she also often does that. She's had intestinal issues since we brought her home from the pound, and anything from emotional upset to snarfing something up in the yard can set it off. Honestly, she would have been dead along time ago if we weren't constantly pulling garbage out of her mouth. So, again, we didn't worry too much.

But then she had a day and night of A LOT of vomiting, this time bile, and she didn't look so good. Not connecting all of the stuff that had happened in the last week or two (because remember, this dog has issues and none of any of that was abnormal, taken alone...and we've spent more money on vet visits for this dog than we did in 10 years with our pure bred German Shepard and we've learned to recognize and deal with the issues)we figured it was a doggie bug of some sort, so we stayed up with her most of the night and fed her ice cubes to keep her hydrated and hoped she would make it to morning for another vet visit.

I left for the conference the next day. My husband kept an eye on the dog. He cooked chicken and rice for her all weekend, and gave her plain yogurt periodically, but she didn't eat or drink much. This is diet usually snaps her out of it when she gets sick. And he said it did help a little , but still, she's not herself and there are times when she seems to be in pain. It is at this point we finally start to wonder if this isn't just the 'usual' pain in the butt stuff, but if she is really sick. The last few weeks start to connect and look like one symptom picture instead of a bunch of typical days in life with Dharma. As I'm telling this to my aunt, she suggests it might be Dharma's food. Now, we bought Nurto food because she had problems with wheat, and she's eaten this food since she was a baby because anything else makes her soooooo sick. But my aunt tells me there is a dog food recall and suggests I check it out. I do.

It is then I find this:

Dog Food Recall

and this:

Dogs and cats getting sick and dying on Nutro

With this in front of me and in hindsight, it is now easy to see what is wrong with my poor dog!

I hope we caught it in time. Some of these people spent thousands in vet bills and still lost their precious friends because it seems there's nothing to do but stop the continuing damage and try to reverse the damage that's already been done.

We are now cooking for our dog. I looked up proper proportions (40% lean meat, 30% veggie, 30% starch) and we are feeding her the homemade stuff. However, last night, she was up puking again, and then again this morning. She hadn't for a few days, but then again, she wasn't eating or drinking much.

If we caught this in time, we could be on a slow road to recovery. Otherwise we are just keeping her comfortable and less hungry while she walks the green mile. People with pets, if they are acting funny, think about contaminated dog food before anything else! If Dharma wasn't such a sickie on a regular basis, we might have thought to do so sooner, but now that we know what we do, maybe it can help someone else.

Dharma appreciates any healing thoughts you'd like to send her way.


2009 HypnoBirthing Schedule

I'm embedding my Google Calendar here, which will include events and class schedules. You can also find a calendar and registration forms on my website.



Now back to our regularly scheduled Birth Bitch:

I’ve been doing some research for a psychology class I’m taking. I chose to look at the impact of birthing practice on postpartum depression/post-traumatic stress disorder (PDD/PTSD). My reasoning is thus: if we know the perception of trauma in birth increases postpartum mental health issues, and we know how to make birth not just less traumatic, but actually an ecstatic experience, we can reduce the rate of maternal adjustment issues that impact not just mothers, but babies, families and society.

I made this decision because I had just watched Monty Python’s Miracle of Birth from the Meaning of Life.

It struck me (as it has every time I watch this) how odd it is that comedians in 1983 could plainly see that inserting routine, useless and potentially harmful technology into the birth process, while disengaging the mother because she’s ‘not qualified’ to participate, could contribute to ‘PND’ (Post Natal Depression-British for Postpartum Depression). I wanted to see if an idea commonsensical enough to be present in satirical humor 25 years ago had been seriously examined.

One would think that if there was research to suggest certain procedures were unnecessary or harmful, they would be discontinued. Unfortunately, one would be wrong. We already know that invasive, routine birth interventions disrupt bonding and breastfeeding. (The Impact of Birthing Practices on Breastfeeding; Delivery Self-Attachment; What Babies Want) Yet, practices persist. It would stand to reason if the processes of birth and bonding were disrupted, the mother and baby would be affected as we know other mammalian mother-babies are.

Prevalence and Predictors of Women’s Experience of Psychological Trauma During Childbirth (Soet, Brack & Dilorio, 2003; Birth 30:1) examined how often women experienced trauma during birth, what caused the trauma, and to look for ways to prevent such things.

Of the 103 women in the study, 34% felt traumatized by their birth experience. 1.9% of those met the criteria for PTSD diagnosis.

A PTSD reaction included “…nightmares, intrusive memories, depression, anxiety, difficulty bonding with the infant, fear of sexual intimacy and avoidance of future childbearing…” and possible “…long-term bonding problems.” Other studies were cited that put the rate of a PTSD reaction as high as 6%.

There were three pre-existing factors contributing to trauma were lack of social support, previous sexual assault and the expectation of pain.

Other predictive factors were pain (although 74.8% had epidurals), feelings of powerlessness (Monty Python nailed it) “expectations, medical intervention and interaction with medical personal”.

I was confused by the part that said, “A sick (n=15) or stillborn infant (n=1) was delivered in 17.4 percent of the cases. By the time of the follow-up interview, all [emphasis mine] babies who had initial complications were at home and were described as healthy by the mothers.” I get that a sick or stillborn infant would be a significant factor in a negative perception of the experience, but how is a stillborn infant then described as healthy?

The title of the next one, Psychological trauma symptoms of operative birth(Gamble & Creedy, 2005; British Journal of Midwifery, April) is pretty self-explanatory. At the time of publication, US cesarean rates would have been around 24%. They are now at 32%, even though as the article correctly states, the World Health Organization recommends no more than a 10-15% rate.

The study of 400 women found that those who had emergency cesareans or “operative vaginal delivery” (most likely referring to episiotomy, but perhaps forceps or vacuum extraction as well…unless I missed it, it was not specified) to be more likely to suffer PTSD, with cesareans being 6 times more likely.

The conclusion? “Results of this study provide evidence that the use of obstetric procedures during childbirth significantly contribute to the presence of acute trauma reactions in the postpartum.” It goes on to cite other studies that have come to the same conclusion as far back as 1979. In fact, studies done in 1979, 1980, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1997 and 2000. And yet here we are in 2008 with rates of intervention just as high, and operative deliveries even higher…with NO improvement in outcomes. Hm.

Two others, Post-traumatic symptoms after childbirth: What should we offer?(Slder, Stadlmayr, Tschudin & Bitzer, 2006; Journal of Psychosomatic Obsterics & Gynecology 27:2) and Post-traumatic stress following childbirth: A review of the emerging literature and directions for research and practice(Bailham & Joseph, 2003; Psychology, Health & Medicine 8:2) came to similar conclusions, but this is depressing the hell out of me so I’m not going to comment on them. It’s not just that we’ve known all this for so long and haven’t acted on it, thus dooming millions of women, babies and families to suffer needlessly. That’s disgraceful, of course. But I find it appalling that the US doesn’t even seem to considering these studies worthwhile enough to look into the possibility that routine obstetrical interventions applied with such a cavalier attitude are harming our most vulnerable. All of these studies were from Europe. One more reason to seriously consider the life of an ex-pat.

Finally, Shelia Kitzinger commented on PSTD in birth in her commentary, “Birth as rape: There must be an end to ‘just in case’ obstetrics.” In it, she compares the descriptors rape victims and PTSD victims use. Sadly they are nearly identical. She also notes that it is unnecessary routine obstetrical intervention that is causative in the perceived trauma in birth, and notes that while we know which routine interventions are harmful or useless, in obstetrics it takes an average of 15 years before evidence changes practice. Though, the Monty Python bit was done 25 years ago. The research began 30 years ago. Why are women still being brutalized in birth?