5.17.2009

Mass Media and Birth

I guess I wasn't the only one thinking about how media influences our expectations of birth! Vicki Elson actually probably got the wheels turning before I even started working on my communications degree because she's written about the topic for ALACE. However, I'm very excited to order her new DVD, Laboring Under an Illusion: Mass Media Childbirth vs. the Real Thing, which can be seen here:



I am especially excited because I just wrote a paper on this very thing a couple of months ago. (I can't say I was excited about my sucky grade, but I thought I'd post it here simply because it is relevant.)


The Impact of Mass Communication on Women’s Perceptions of Birth
Kim Wildner, April 15, 2009

Mass communication both reflects and shapes the cultures in which it exists. It seems logical that women’s experiences of the important events in their lives would likewise be reflected and shaped by mass communication. Birth is one such experience.

Perhaps since the invention of the printed word, mass communication has been integral in determining the core beliefs that will impact a woman’s perceptions of her birthing experience. Indeed, by accident or by design, for better or for worse, mass communication has been very influential in changing the way birth is viewed, and not just by women.

The Bible was probably the first book to mention birth, even before the advent of the printing press. Though it would be unlikely that women themselves were reading the text, it would have served as instruction none-the-less, as it would have been the guide by which clergy ministered to their flocks.

The printing press made the Bible more widely available in the 1400s and 1500s. The availability might have qualified it as ‘mass communication’ at this point, but it would still take time for literacy rates among women to catch up. Still, it is important to explore what the Bible actually says about birth because it is an instance where mass communication profoundly influences women and their birth experiences.

It is commonly thought that painful birth is the curse for Eve’s sin of eating the apple in the Garden of Eden. Genesis 3:16 tells us, “Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.” (King James Version)

John 16:21 also tells us that birth is painful. In fact it is mentioned several times in the Bible that birth is painful. Yet, as Helen Wessel discovered when she researched the original biblical language in writing The Joy of Natural Childbirth: Fifth Edition of Natural Childbirth and the Christian Family, the word translated as ‘pain’ (estev) for all the passages regarding birthing is used elsewhere in the Bible…but translated as ‘toil’. Wessel asserts that before interpretations beginning between in about 200-400 A.D., there was no mention of Eve’s curse. (Wessel, 1994)

Before the Bible, women got their information regarding birth from the village ‘wise woman’ or midwife. Knowledge was passed from woman to woman, mother to daughter. However, in Witches, Midwives and Nurses, A History of Women Healers, a sinister plan is revealed. (Ehrenreich, English, 1973) The Church set out not only to reinforce the idea of women as evil and birth as a curse, but the beloved midwives were demonized as well.

The Malleus Maleficarum, or “The Hammer of the Witches” was written in 1486 by priests James Sprenger and Henry Kramer. These men decried midwives as the greatest threat to Christianity and declared them witches, in part for the heresy of helping women find comfort in birth, because according to the Bible, suffering in birth was God’s will.

The Malleus Maleficarum, as translated by Montague Summers in 1928, is still available through major booksellers, and according to Merskin in Witch-Hunts, and Persecution of the Other, (Merskin, 2007) has sold 60.5 million copies in 44 languages. Granted, despite these eventual numbers, this would not have been a work read by the laity then or at any other point right up to the present. However, with the leaders of the Church well versed in the evils of women through the work, it very much would have influenced the culture in which they lived.

Efforts to influence women through mass communication became more refined in the early 1900s. Dr. William Sadler, a prominent physician who wrote for women’s magazines of the time, published a book in 1916 titled The Mother and her Child. (Sadler, 1923) This book was intended for a mass audience, and he emphatically cautioned against use of midwives, portraying birth as a very dangerous medical event with a physician the very minimum requirement, preferably in attending women in the hospital. (Sadler, 1916)

The problem is that at the time, infant mortality was higher for doctors (and highest yet for hospital births) than for midwives. Dr. Levy, in the American journal of Obstetrics and Diseases of Women and Children (Kosmak, 1918) stated:

Of the babies attended by midwives, 25.1 per 1000 died before the age of one month; of those attended by physicians, 38.2 per 1000 died before the age of one month; and of those delivered in hospitals, 57.3 per 1000 died before the age of one month. These figures certainly refute the charge of high mortality among the infants whose mothers are attended by midwives, and instead present the unexpected problem of explaining the fact that the maternal and infant mortality for the cases attended by midwives is lower than those attended by physicians and hospitals. ( pp. 44)


So, if midwives had better outcomes, why would Sadler and other doctors utilize the mass communication tools of the time to exert a considerable effort convincing women then were in grave danger at home with midwives? Doctors had decided they needed more ‘teaching’ material (i.e. women) and that the midwives were interfering with their access. Meeting notes from the American Association for Study and Prevention of Infant Mortality (1913) explain:

Another very pertinent objection to the midwife is that she has charge of 50 per cent of all the obstetrical material of the country, without contributing anything to our knowledge of the subject. As we shall point out, a large percentage of the cases are indispensable to the proper training of physicians and nurses in this important branch of medicine. (Study and Prevention of Infant Mortality, 1912. Paragraph 2 of ‘Elimination of the Midwife’)


The mass communications campaign to disparage the midwife and drive women into the hospital to birth so that doctors might use them for teaching purposes was so successful that most women to this day give birth in the hospital, thinking the reason they should choose the hospital is because it is safer and that the reason birth moved to hospital was for safety reasons.

In fact, even today, it is not safer to birth in the hospital than at home. In 2005, the British Medical Journal published a study by Johnson & Daviss, Outcomes of planned home births with certified professional midwives: large prospective study in North America that supported previous findings, which were that mortality (death) outcomes for women attended by midwives at home and doctors in the hospital were essentially the same, except that in the hospital women and babies were injured (morbidity) more often. (Johnson & Daviss, 2005)

This study came on the heels, and was possibly a response to, a study that was published in the U.S. and widely publicized through assorted mass media outlets. That 2002 study was titled Outcomes of Planned Home Birth in Washington State. (Pang, Heffelfinger, Huang, Benedetti & Weiss, 2002) However, just as in previous attempts to discredit safe birthing alternatives, devious tactics were used to sway public opinion.

Just as in the early 1990s, when infant deaths that occurred under a physician were attributed to a midwife if she’s been anywhere near the mother in labor, and in 1978, when the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) issued a press release declaring “Out-of-hospital births pose a 2-5 times greater risk to a baby’s life than hospital births,” using health department statistics that included stillbirths, late miscarriages, infant abandonments and infanticide (Stewart, 1981, pp 222.), the Pang study, as the 2002 study become known, was intentionally misleading by basing conclusions on flawed methodology.

For one thing, the title doesn’t just insinuate, but flatly states outcomes of planned homebirths. The authors actually admit right in the paper however, that since Washington state birth certificates (the source of their statistics) do not identify planned home births, that the authors defined ‘planned’ for themselves. They also clearly state that they include babies from 34 weeks gestation. However, midwives do not attend births less than 37 weeks gestation at home. Births at 34 weeks gestation would likely be precipitous (fast), premature babies with no birth attendant at all. As in the 1970s, any out-of-hospital birth is included, because the birth certificates do not include a way to differentiate between midwife-attended and taxi cab births. (CfM, 2002)

Interestingly, results of another homebirth study were also released in 2002 by the Canadian Medical Association. (Janssen, Lee, Ryan, Etches, Farquharson, Peacock, & Klein, (2002). They concluded, as other researchers have, “There was no increased maternal or neonatal risk associated with planned home birth under the care of a regulated midwife.” Somehow, this study didn't make it to major news outlets.

But the propaganda persists. Again, more recently ACOG and the American Medical Association (AMA) used access to major news outlets and the internet to ‘inform’ the public that homebirth and midwifery are unsafe, despite all of the evidence from around the world to the contrary. (Hunter, 2008; Wagner, 2006)

Again, we could ask ‘why?’ when 100% of the countries with better outcomes than the U.S. have midwives attending birth? (Wagner, 2006) Economics provides one answer.

Rikki Lake is making women stand up and take notice of their viable birthing options with her DVDThe Business of Being Born. (Scelfo, 2008.) In this documentary, Lake explores how women ended up in hospitals, tethered to IVs and electronic fetal monitors, submitting to a plethora of interventions that not only do not make birth safer for mothers and babies, but in some cases inflict pain and introduce complications. (BBC News, 2009; Enkin, Keirse, Neilson, Crowther, Duley, Hodnett, & Hofmeyr, 2000)She followed this with a just released book, Your Best Birth
followed by a just launched web community called My Best Birth.

But Lake went further. She initiated a media blitz that has been so effective that originally, she was named in the position statement issued by ACOG, and later by the AMA, that once again deemed homebirth and midwives unsafe, forcing Lake to respond in a Huffington Post blog. (Lake, Block & Epstein, 2008)

At a time when cesarean rates are rising due to skillful manipulation of women through the media (Park, 2008; Reichman, J., (2007), and mass communication is informing women that breastfeeding confers insignificant benefit to babies (Celizic, 2009) when science refutes that on a regular basis (Madden, 2008) it is essential that parents begin to recognize how successful the media is at shaping the beliefs that will impact their children’s lives forever.

The average woman doesn’t tend to read the books like Obstetric Myths versus Research Realities by Henci Goer, or Born in the USA: How a broken maternity system must be fixed to put women and children first, by Marsden Wagner. She reads What to Expect When You’re Expecting, because it’s handed out at their doctor’s office as a continuation of the mass communications machine. My personal observation is that they don’t read the books that will actually help them make good decisions because the last 100 years of constant and effective use of mass communication has convinced them there is nothing wrong with the system, despite the fact that infant mortality rates are some of the worst in the developed world, with 45 countries losing fewer babies (CIA, 2009), and maternal mortality rates worsening as well (Medical News Today, 2007).

Birth is portrayed negatively in books like Midwives, (Bohjalian, 1998) where there is just enough fact mingled with fiction to make an impossible story plausible for the reader, and in movies and television, too.

Unarguably, birth is horrible for a large number of women, so some would say the media is only reflecting reality. Yet we’ve just seen that our expectations are subtly imprinted with what others want us to believe. What if there are other voices that have gone unheard; voices of women who have birthed safely, and in ecstasy, sometimes even painlessly?

There are, and their always have been, around the world and throughout time. Judith Goldsmith give us many examples in Childbirth Wisdom: From the World's Oldest Societies. (Goldsmith, 1994) of women briefly stopping work to birth their babies easily, then returning to their tasks; of labors so short and painless that women birthed even while asleep.

Dr. Lamaze, Dr. Bradley and Dr. Grantly Dick-Read, in the 1940s and 50s would all come to believe that birth didn’t have to be painful, after seeing painless birth in other cultures where the women didn’t expect to feel pain. The incident involving Dick-Read that led him to come to this conclusion is that as a new doctor, he attended a poor women in labor and offered her chloroform. She refused, asking “It didn’t hurt. It wasn’t meant to, was it?” (Grantly-Read, 2005). These voices were present, but not heard, largely because there was no concerted mass communication effort.

Today, movies and the internet are making women question what they thought they knew. Born in the U.S. A., a documentary that critically examined routine intervention in birth, was actually shown on the PBS program Independent Lens. What Babies Want: An Exploration of the Consciousness of Infants brought in the ‘star power’ of Noah Wiley (of E.R. fame) to help us understand that what babies experience in their earliest developmental phases actually impacts their entire life. Pregnant in America: A Nation’s Miscarriage used a Michael Moore type approach to investigative reporting on the Nation’s maternity care, and Orgasmic Birth: The Best Kept Secret not only showed women that birth can be blissful without drugs, but got airtime on ABC’s 20/20. (ABC, 2009)

Women have been assailed with magazine articles, books, movies, and propaganda issued as 'press releases', all telling them that one of the safest options they have is unsafe. The indoctrination is so complete that the lie has become accepted as a self-evident truth, and to question it paramount to heresy.

So we come to the 21st century with firmly entrenched beliefs that birth must be painful and very dangerous. Is this the truth, or is it the result of carefully crafted mass communication; disseminated information meant to keep women fearful, manifesting the painful, frightening experience it in the process? For the one thing that most assuredly will create pain and complications is fear, by the mechanism of introducing adrenaline into the mammalian birth.

Circumstances are different now than they were 100 years ago. Women are smart, savvy consumers with far more available resources. Exposed to an idea with merit, they have the ability to research their options. They can vote, they have buying power and they have decision-making power over most of their reproductive options. It remains to be seen if they will choose to make decisions based on a very successful mass communications strategy, or will they become part of a new wave of critical thinkers who can rise above the noise and make decisions based on solid evidence. At least now, for every contrived ‘news’ story like, Are Home Births Dangerous? AMA Says Women Should Use a Hospital-Some Doctors Disagree, which aired on ABC News to bolster ACOGS position (Hunter, 2008), there is usually a credible source to refute it, like Lamaze, Intl. who posted, Is Home birth safe? Talking points related to: ACOG Statement on Home Birth on their website. The question is, will families bother looking if they don’t recognize the effect mass communication has on them in the first place?

ABC, (2009). Birth orgasms: Women speak out. 20/20. Retrieved April 9, 2009 from
http://abcnews.go.com/Video/playerIndex?id=6569030

American Association for Study and Prevention of Infant Mortality: Transactions of The Third
Annual Meeting, (1913). Digitalized notes found April 9, 2009 at
http://www.archive.org/stream/americanassociat011384mbp/
americanassociat011384mbp_djvu.txt
The quoted text is approximately half way through the document in the second paragraph
under the subheading ‘Elimination of the Midwife’.

BBC News, (2009). No risk from eating during labour[sic]: It is safe for most healthy women to eat during labour[sic], research has found. Retrieved March 25, 2009 from
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/7961689.stm

Bohjalian, C., (1998). Midwives. Vintage Contemporaries.

Celizic, M.,(2009). Is breast-feeding really best? Some women are questioning whether the
health benefits are worth it. Today Show. Retrieved March 16, 2009 from http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/29718562/

CfM, (2002). “Planned” home birth study misrepresented in the press. Citizens for Midwifery
Fact Sheet. Retrieved March 30, 2009 from http://cfmidwifery.org/pdf/PangStudy.pdf

CIA, (2009). The World Fact Book. Retrieved April 12, 2009 from
https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/rankorder/2091rank.html

Ehrenreich, B., English, D., (1973). Witches, midwives and nurses: A history of women healers. Feminist Press.

Enkin, M., Keirse, M., Neilson, J., Crowther, C., Duley, L., Hodnett, E., & Hofmeyr, J., (2000).
An Effective guide to pregnancy and childbirth, Oxford University Press. Retrieved March 28, 2009 from http://www.childbirthconnection.org/article.asp?ClickedLink=329&ck=10218&area=2

Goldsmith, J., (1994). Childbirth wisdom: From the world's oldest societies. Talman Co.

Grantly-Read, D., (2005). Childbirth without fear: The principles and practice of natural childbirth. (4th ed.) Pinter & Martin Ltd

Hunter, A., (2008). Are home births dangerous? AMA says women should use a hospital-
some doctors disagree. ABC News, retrieved March 28, 2009, from http://abcnews.go.com/Health/Story?id=5340949&page=1

Janssen, P., Lee, S., Ryan, E., Etches, D., Farquharson, D., Peacock, D., Klein, M., (2002). Outcomes of planned home births versus planned hospital births after regulation of midwifery in British Columbia. Canadian Medical Association Journal, retrieved April 12, 2009 from http://www.cmaj.ca/cgi/content/full/166/3/315

Johnson, K., Daviss, B., (2005). Outcomes of planned home births with certified professional midwives: large prospective study in North America. British Medical Journal, 330:1416.

Kosmak, G., (1918). The American journal of obstetrics, and diseases of women and children. Pp. 44. Digital copy archived; retrieved April 6, 2009 from
http://books.google.com/books?id=4OxXAAAAMAAJ&pg=PA44&lpg=PA44&dq=present+the+unexpected+problem+of+explaining+the+fact+that+the+maternal+and+infant+mortality+for+the+cases+attended+by+midwives+is+lower+than+those+attended+by+physicians+and+hospitals&source=bl&ots=jVhiYU9QRI&sig=UP7wSm8gqiAz1mCtAlif5-_2Vjg&hl=en&ei=5ArhSarGPMjvnQe9uP2nCQ&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=3#PPP9,M1

Lake, R., Block, J., Epstein, A., (2008). Docs to women: Pay no attention to Ricki Lake's home birth. The Huffington Post. Retrieved March 30, 2009 from, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ricki-lake-jennifer-block-and-abby-epstein/docs-to-women-pay-no-atte_b_107845.html

Lamaze, Intl. (2009). Is Home birth safe? Talking points related to: ACOG Statement on Home Births, February 6, 2008. Retrieved March 30, 2009 from http://www.lamaze.org/ChildbirthEducators/ResourcesforEducators/TalkingPoints/IsHomeBirthSafe/tabid/654/Default.aspx

Madden, C., (2008). Breast milk contains stem cells. Science Network, Western Australia. Retreived March 27, 2009 from http://www.sciencealert.com.au/news/20081102-16879.html

Medical News Today, (2007) Maternal mortality rate in U.S. highest in decades, experts say. Retrieved April 9, 2009 from http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/80743.php

Merskin, D. (2007) The Malleus Maleficarum, Witch-Hunts, and Persecution of the
other" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the International Communication Association, TBA, San Francisco, CA Online . Retrieved April 4, 2009 from http://www.allacademic.com/meta/p170386_index.html

Pang J, Heffelfinger J, Huang G, Benedetti T, Weiss N., (2002). Outcomes of Planned Home Birth In Washington State: 1989-1996. Obstetrics & Gynecology, 100(2):253-259.

Park, A., (2008). Choosy mothers choose caesareans [sic]. Time Magazine. Retrieved March 30, 2009 from, http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1731904,00.html

Rooks, J., Mahan, C., (1999). Midwifery and Childbirth in America. Temple University Press.

Reichman, J., (2007). Why so many women have C-sections: About 30 percent of U.S. births are Cesareans, but are they necessary? Today Show. Retrieved March 28, 2009 from,http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/17796664//

Sadler, W., Sadler, L., (1916). The mother and her child. A. C. McClurg & co. Chicago
Archived copy found April 4, 2009 at http://www.scribd.com/doc/2396329/The-Mother-and-Her-Child-by-Sadler-Lena-K

Scelfo, J., (2008.) Baby, you’re home. New York Times online, retrieved April 11, 2009 from http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/13/garden/13birth.html

Stewart, D., (1981). The five standards for safe childbearing. NAPSAC Intl., MO

Wagner, M., (2006). Born in the USA: How a broken maternity system must be fixed to put women and children first. University of California Press, CA.

Wessel, H., (1994). The Joy of natural childbirth: Fifth edition of natural childbirth and the Christian family. Bookmates International Inc.

5.06.2009

Service-Learning

The year is slipping away from me!Between work, school and the transition of my daughter graduating,it's been a crazy ride so far!
I'd like to say all that is keeping me away from blogging, and in part it is, but quite honestly Facebook is to mostly to blame! It is so easy to pick up a news item, that at one time I would have put on here to kvetch about, and just hit the 'share' button on FB. It's great! Through other people I've been keeping up on so much more that's going on 'out there'. However, that means I'm reading more and writing less.
In any case, one of the things I have had the opportunity to take part in was a Service-Learning project.
Service-Learning is a program wherein students volunteer to help provide service to the community in such a way that it also augments their curriculum.

This year, I was invited to participate by pairing with nursing students.

The students decided to prepare materials for women seeking out information on water birth to that might be included on this page as a local resource.

The students were Amanda Rasmussen, Michelle Babiash, and Faye Lindert. They each researched a different aspect of water birth (i.e. risks/benefits, details of finding a provider, technical aspects, etc.) and then created a Power Point presentation, a brochure and a handout.

The following link should bring up the Power Point version of their work.

These young women did a great job and I am honored to have been able to work with them to serve our community in this way.

WATER BIRTH

3.06.2009

Events at the Fond du Lac Center for Spirituality and Healing

I have been too darn busy to post anything here for awhile, but it's all because exciting things are in the works!
I have been assisting in the planning of some great events at the Fond du Lac Center for Spirituality and Healing
We have a Mom's Movie Night, for mothers and others interested in seeing birth as it is meant to be.
We have a Natural Parenting Series, which focuses on natural wellness from pregnancy through the first three years. In these times when so many people are either out of work or lacking insurance, staying well inexpensively is of paramount importance!
Finally, we have a presentation on the Mind/Body connection, which explains how to minimize stress during these trying times.
The schedule can be found on my web site where there are also links to the posters with all of the pertinent information.
Soon, I'll get back to commentary on current birthing news! I've been collecting all sorts of tidbits over on Facebook. :-)

2.09.2009

Welcome Baby Rowan!

Rowan was born October '08, but as noted before, I'm still catching up with all of the '08 babies.

I don't have pictures of Rowan or the official birth story yet, but I did talk to his mom, Lisa, and she was very happy with her HypnoBirthing(R) experience. Her body went into labor spontaneously the day before a date scheduled for induction. It was a natural birth, on again/off again for some time, then 'really intense' at the end. I'll post more when I know more.

I have to give a big thanks to Kiko and Emily for bringing Hanako and sharing their birth story with the class that just concluded.

This is Hanako Lily at 3 months:



Emily was on the computer during labor, not sure if she should call Kiko at work or not. She did, and they arrived at the hospital at 7 cm. Hanako was born pretty quickly thereafter. They never even had time to get the cameras and stuff out of the car, so no pictures of the big day! I have such gratitude that they shared this experience with the expectant parents, because as they shared the story they positively glowed. Thank you again!

Zanna was born in MAY! She looks so much like mommy in this picture you wouldn't believe it!



Zanna's mom, Jamie, also states that she was pleased with her birth. They arrived at the hospital at 4 cm with surges that were, "...not painful, but caused to me to take a minute and catch my breath." Jamie states, "If we wouldn't have come to HypnoBirthing I don't think I would have been as calm about the whole process or as
informed about the choices that I could make."

1.31.2009

Midwifery Today Widget

1.19.2009

Baby Pictures!



The above photo is of baby Natalie, November 2008 HypnoBirthing baby and her pretty mommy Dawn.



This is Jackson, October HypnoBirthing baby, who is a great example of the idea we use in class of 'If you are taking a trip to Florida, you plan a trip to Florida, not Mississippi. If however, you end up taking a detour into Mississippi, you deal with the detour.' (Or variations thereof)

Jack also has a cute-as-a-bug mommie, BTW, but I LOVE this picture of Jack and she just doesn't happen to be in this one.

Anyway, Jack's mom did a bang up job of growing a nice-sized boy who was probably almost 1/10th her size by the time he was born. (I said she was cute as a bug, and not much bigger besides.) This might not have been a problem; in fact, I had no doubt he would enter the world in the usual way. However, he also decided to come into the world mooning everybody. His dad is quite a funny guy, perhaps he got that from him? There just wasn't room for the little guy to move into a better position, so he was born by cesarean. He and mom did great.

Jackson is such a sweet, mellow little guy! And I don't think I'm biased just because I'm rather fond of his parents-who are friends of ours-too.

I have some pictures of some of the other babies born while I was peddling fast to keep up with life, but I have to get permission from parents before I put them up. I hope it will be soon! I think some moms will want to share stories too.

1.13.2009

Without us, this study will be meaningless!

There is a new study about to commence that will follow children's health from life in utero through age 21. Read more here: Largest-ever study of U.S. child health begins Hope is to see how environment interacts with genetics to impact health
Ostensibly, the reason for the study is to figure out what plagues our youth.

However, if they only study 'what every body else does', they will never figure out how to make our children healthier! They need a substantial group of selectively vaccinated, home-birthed, breastfed, organically fed, attachment parented, holistically doctored kids if they want to know how to avoid ear infections, diabetes, autism, etc.

Who do we need to contact to make sure this happens?

1.04.2009

Orgasmic Birth on 20/20

I would have titled this post "Happy New Year" considering I'm doing a bit of catch-up before I blog about the show and the chatter resulting from the show, but the new year is already 4 days old!

I've been such a slug about posting here of late. It's been weeks since I originally found out about the ABC show and shared the news. I will say that for most of December I was working my butt off and was nowhere near my computer (and if I was, research or cogent thought were beyond my capability at the time). After that I was on the road for a few days, then sick, then preoccupied with Wii. That's the update in a nutshell.

I did not teach any classes over the last couple of months. I think the Universe knew that would push me over the edge with work and school. The last HypnoBirthing(R) baby reported to me was a home-birth on November 20th. Welcome Natalie Marie!

Aiden James and Jackson arrived in October (two other babies were due on October, but I have not received birth announcements so I have no names as of yet), Hanako Lily in September (likewise, no birth announcements on the other two that were due that month), Brittany Faith in June (one other due that month), Zanna Lirien in May, and Lillian Grace in March. There is one baby due any time now also. When I touch base with the other families with new arrivals, I'll post. I'm vowing to do better and welcome these babies here in a more timely manner in 2009!

Oh, and I've been preoccupied with Face Book. I originally joined just to keep up with some wonderful friends in New York who have little boys who are growing up way too fast. Then Sheri Menelli discovered the birth-work networking capabilities. There is no stopping Sheri once she gets going! Once I 'friended' her (because she really is my friend) I met all sorts of well-connected people who are keeping me in the birthing loop, which is how I even found out about the ABC 20/20 program on Orgasmic Birth.

The entire program was about birthing and parenting options that don't often get a lot of exposure. I thought all were were fairly represented...and the responses to the pieces revealing.

I would think that women would be at the very least intrigued by the idea of ecstatic birth. Even if they aren't interested in what can make birth pleasurable instead of agonizing so they can have an orgasmic birth, I would think they'd at least be curious as to why it happens or why nature would provide such a 'hormonal blueprint of labor', what the benefits to mom and baby might be, and what is sacrificed when it is interrupted.

But some of the comments were downright hostile! Not only are some women saying orgasmic birth is impossible despite the fact that women in the film spotlighted in the 20/20 piece are enjoying themselves very much, but other comments I've seen say that elective paraplegia is better! I was astounded when I read that! The woman who wrote that had two horrific natural births and one with an epidural. And of course since her experience is the definitive word on what is possible in birth, that's the end of that discussion.

One person commented on how gross it was for the child to grow up thinking their birth was enjoyable for their mother. Yeah, so much better for a child's psyche to grow up being told your birth was the worst possible, tortuous thing your mother ever endured.

The same person who said feeling nothing is better than feeling pleasure also commented on the segment regarding home-birth, saying that women who give birth at home are selfish and ignorant because hospitals are so much safer. Another echoed that, saying that her baby was born not breathing and would have died if born at home.

There were others who were concerned that the segment implied that homebirth equals unassisted birth. I didn't come away with that perception, but the title was misleading. It read, "Mothers-to-be saying no to modern medicine" which is not the case at all. Giving birth at home does not mean that a woman wouldn't transport if a complication arose. Choosing to birth at home does not mean that a woman (or her family) doesn't believe in modern medicine, or even that she does not take prenatal care seriously. It simply means that she understands that hospitals are for the sick and injured, we go there when we get sick or hurt, and birth is neither an illness nor injury.

In any case, often when I tell people my daughter was born at home, I hear comments about how 'brave' I was, followed by some dire birth emergency someone narrowly averted only through the quick action of the doctor.

"The cord was wrapped around my baby's neck and he would have strangled if he was born at home." (Babies don't breathe though their windpipes yet, they don't strangle. If the cord is around the neck, as it was with my daughter, it's not such a big deal; we just unwrapped it.)

"My baby wasn't breathing! Without the doctor, my baby would be dead!" (Maybe. But maybe the mother took narcotics in labor which depress breathing efforts. Maybe the doctor immediately cut the cord instead of waiting for it to stop pulsing and the baby wasn't ready to breath, but now that his oxygen source has been cut off, he needs help.)

"My baby had a life-threatening infection! We needed to be in the hospital!" (OK, but consider this: a baby is immune to the germs in his own home, but is very vulnerable to the super germs in hospitals, especially if his gut is colonized with them instead of the good healthy bacteria from his mom, and the colostrum to fight the bad germs.)

"My baby was premature!" (If naturally premature, a legitimate reason to be in the hospital. If the baby or babies were removed early because of induction or surgery, intentionally--as is often the case with healthy twins--or unintentionally because the ultrasound was wrong, as it very often is, then the doctor/hospital created the disaster before they fixed it. This is of great concern to the March of Dimes, who is trying hard to prevent premature births. Reporting on this, the St. Louis Beacon points out in an article with a section titled: Early induction of labor and Cesarean sections




"Pregnancy is popularly spoken of as lasting nine months. Therefore, many women think term is at 36 weeks, when really normal term is between 39 and 40 weeks. They will schedule delivery at around 36 weeks at their or their physician's convenience, believing that the baby will be fine.

However, according to Dr. Dave Stamilio of Washington University, late preterm births are much riskier than full term births. These babies are 4-7 times more likely to have feeding difficulties, respiratory distress syndrome, temperature instability, or other medical conditions.

Physicians and hospitals should schedule deliveries only when the baby is determined to be full term by such standards as fetal lung maturity. At the symposium, one audience member suggested a public campaign emphasizing that the brain does most of its maturation in the final weeks of pregnancy. Publicists could point out that "the womb is the best bike helmet."" (Seltzer, J., 2008. St. Louis Beacon.)


People need to keep something in mind: an obstetrician, the most sued professional in the US, is not going to tell you he messed up but then he fixed it, even if that is indeed what happened. Most of what is considered 'routine' technology for birth in the US has been shown to be useless or harmful for healthy women and babies, so the chance that an emergency was created and not encountered are pretty good.

But there are a couple of reasons he won't tell you this. For one thing, he's trying to avoid being sued. In this litigious society, people sue doctors for things that aren't even their fault, so if something IS, why would they own up to that?

For another, if he can convince you that without him your baby would have died, you will adore him. Not only will you pick him as your caregiver next time, you will be convinced that anyone who doesn't do the same is crazy, and you'll say so on message boards whenever you hear about anyone who has made another choice. I'll give you an example. Just the other day I heard the 'reason' it was 'a good thing I was in the hospital' was because the birth was a 'dry birth', meaning the amniotic bag released some water. She knows this is a bad thing because her doctor told her so...even though there is no such thing as a 'dry birth', Amniotic fluid is continuously replenished as long as the mother is hydrated. You'd be surprised how often this particular one comes up, often with part of the story being that the doctor broke the water! In any case, the purpose of the amniotic fluid is NOT to 'lubricate' the birth canal. It is to protect the baby.

That is not to say that doctors don't save lives (because invariably, when anyone dares to say that doctors are human, someone else will insist that means to acknowledge it is obviously anti-doctor), but to say that people should do some research if they are going to comment on a subject.

Because here's the irony: homebirth couples typically do far more research about birth, both here and abroad, then the people who call them selfish and clueless. Ask a homebirth mom and she'll tell you about every risk and benefit of her decision, and back it up with statistics. She has a plan for every contingency, and she takes responsibility for her actions.

Ask a healthy mother off the street who is choosing to birth in a hospital where the US ranks in infant or maternal mortality. Ask her what the possible immediate and/or long-term affects of pitocin, or cytotec, or nubain, or stadol are. Ask her how accurate a late ultrasound is in evaluating 'due date' or fetal weight. Ask her what the effects of early separation are on her infant. She doesn't know or she wouldn't be there, unless she is taking a HypnoBirthing class (because we teach families how to effectively and respectfully communicate with caregivers who may be unfamiliar with natural birth, and support them in finding a better fit if that proves non-productive) or has a really special physician who practices evidence-based care.

Another women felt the need to remind those poor, selfish homebirth mothers (who I guarantee are more informed than she) that there is another person to consider here...the baby. Like they never thought of that. Homebirth mothers I know made their decision to birth at home BECAUSE it's not only safer for baby, (for I'm sure the commenter knows that 41 countries have better infant mortality rates than the US and they all include midwives and homebirth as options for safe maternity care) but far less traumatic for baby. She stated that if 'one baby' was saved by being born in the hospital, it should be standard of care. Using that logic, I wonder if her stance would change if she considered that hundreds of babies die needlessly every year BECAUSE they were born in the hospital, due to some of the routine interventions mentioned above. Born in the USA: How a Broken Maternity System Must be Fixed to Put Women and Children First, by Marden Wagner, one of the doctors featured in Orgasmic Birth breaks it down to real numbers that represent real babies and moms.

I believe that everyone has the right to choose where and with whom they will birth. I just believe that they owe it to their baby to actually make truly informed decisions.