FROM THE BIRTH ROOM: THE FARM

We are continuously fascinated by different birth practices around the world. There's a funny dichotomy: the more we are exposed to, the more we are reminded that birth is birth no matter if you are in Texas, Australia or Guatemala. The more obvious it also becomes just how much the birthing person's feelings of trust, respect and security, influence outcomes and their overall sentiments about their experience. And it's how those feelings are either fostered and supported or neglected, that really differ from practitioner to practitioner, institution to institution, culture to culture.

For all the lack of access to care and evidence-based information, obstetrical violence and denial of informed consent that's out there, there are also some really inspiring people and places that are setting the groundwork with practices and models that we can all learn from.  

From the Birth Room highlights the people and places working hard to make all facets of care and support around reproductive health better.

BIRTH AT THE FARM

While on a family trip to Nashville, Ash recently stopped by Ina May Gaskin's famous Farm Birth Clinic in Summertown, TN. She was psyched to simply stand on the grounds of this seemingly magical place, but also really interested in investigating what parts of their practice could be emulated in other places: As, let's be real, most of us are not birthing in any place like The Farm.  She met with Farm midwife Deborah Flowers to find out. 

The first thing that really struck was that The Farm is not actually a Birth Center. While the midwives here catch about 120 babies per year, they operate as home birth midwives. When women birth here, they are having a home birth, just at someone else's home. Why is this relevant? Because this designation, or lack of, allows them to have much more lenient construction standards and insurance/liability needs - the two things that make opening and maintaining a birth center so difficult in many places.

And it truly is quite homey there. When people come to birth at The Farm they drive up a long, secluded road and are welcomed to a birth house which is nestled in the woods. Each house has a kitchen, tub and large bed. The entire family is welcome to stay throughout the labor and birth. And some families stay for weeks, even months, leading up to their birth (and sometimes after) - especially if it's someone who has traveled across the globe to be there. With such a peaceful, inviting and inclusive atmosphere, it's no wonder they are willing to make the trek. And treks truly are made! Most recently, two women came from Turkey -where some practitioners have a c-section rate of 90%- and one from Senegal -she had all three of her children at The Farm after her doctor told her the very first time they met in her first trimester, that she'd need to have surgery. (She gave birth vaginally just fine.)

And while they may be taking birth refugees from OB practices around the world who are telling their clients that, "You must want your baby to die" (no joke)  or "Your pelvis is too small to birth vaginally", The Farm midwives are also working hard to collaborate with the medical community at large. For example, a new policy was recently passed that requires an oxygen saturation test to be performed at the time of the newborn screening to help prevent against congenital heart disease. In the past, newborn screenings were performed by the midwives, but the saturation tests were not. So, local doctors actually invited the midwives to attend hospital trainings so that they were able to perform this test at The Farm. Additionally, The Farm receives infant resuscitation trainings from a local nurse, who also started an Angel Ambulance (like a NICU on wheels) that would come to The Farm (and other outlying areas) in the rare case a baby was in need, so she could be treated while en route to the nearest hospital. And, to even better build relations and trust, Deborah shared that she will sometimes go with a client to her doctor's appointment so that she can meet him or her face to face.  At times she'll even bring her resume to show them her license, experience, training and expertise. What a difference this can make if a transfer is needed!

Because The Farm is such a staple in the birth community, they have been able to have a great impact on policy too. CPMs (Certified Professional Midwives) are now legally able to practice with licensure in Tennessee, thanks in large part to Farm midwife Carol Nelson. In some states only Certified Nurse Midwifes or CNMs, can practice. The CPM is a more direct route to becoming a midwife that can only practice in a birth center or home setting. And, last year, they hosted a group of doctors, nurses and midwives from Alabama (where CPMs can't legally practice) so that they could learn more about how legalized midwifery works and to create a greater conversation and collaboration around working together. 

                                                                                                                            Ash and Deborah Flowers

                                                                                                                            Ash and Deborah Flowers

So what can we take away from their practices?  Thinking about the language we use and the environment a women is laboring in is a great place to start. What can we do in other birth settings to create more of a sense of privacy, quiet and calm? Maybe it's as simple as ensuring curtains and doors are closed. Maybe it means keeping lights dim, or playing music or soundscapes. How can practitioners communicate so that they are building trust and respect over time instead of making birthing people feel like they are ill, or stupid, or like they are simply a container? 

The other important thing we can take from The Farm's practices is their willingness and ability to bridge gaps and open lines of communication with the birth community at large -political, medical, advocacy based- all of it. Because at the end of the day, we can provide the best care if everyone is working together to make the birthing person feel honored and supported every step of the way. 

In Response to Tuteur's "Why Is American Home Birth So Dangerous?"

As we are constantly sharing about the brilliance of the human body, we felt inspired to take the time to respond to this article in the opinion section of the Times. Especially since it seems like this will be just the beginning of what we hear from Amy Tuteur, with her book tour en route (Her new book, Push Back: Guilt in the Age of Natural Parenting was just released).  It's important to note that we are not promoting home birth here. We are promoting people having access to information that has not been sensationalized by the media. We are promoting access to evidence-based and non-fear based information so that people can choose the birth setting and team that is appropriate for them.  And actually, this article does bring up some good food for thought, but the way it is presented (the headline alone says it all) is highly problematic. 

Now we may be mere laypeople by Tuteur's standards, but we are totally the women she is calling out to to get informed about C.P.Ms and the dangers of home births in America. So consider this us getting informed.

We must first begin with who this woman is and the perspective from which she writes this article as it certainly colors it all. Tuteur opens her article by calling childbirth "...inherently dangerous, and if an emergency occurs, the baby or even the mother may die." So off the bat we know that everything Tuteur has to say will be tainted by the fact that she first views childbirth as an opportunity for death instead of life. (That's like saying crossing a street is inherently dangerous because if a car were to hit us, we could die. Except, of course, we have been biologically programmed to give birth since the beginning of our species. Should we all avoid crossing a street unless we are wearing a helmet and bubble wrap? )

Also, her blog suggests (and it pains us to have to point you there) our "obsession" with natural childbirth might be a form of body dysmorphic disorder.  She refers to breastfeeding and natural birth as being industries, as well as suggests that c-sections might be the safest way to give birth.  She also believes "The best statistic for assessing obstetric care is perinatal mortality." Which leaves no room for trauma, overall patient care, patient rights, the effect on our economy (and we can go on and on) to play into the picture at all. Obviously, perinatal mortality is a major issue, but it is certainly not the only issue in assessing obstetric care.  

So let's just take a moment to remember, for those of us that scanned this article and walked away with the feeling that any woman who gives birth at home in America is putting herself and her child in danger, that this article is in the opinion section of the Times. And her opinion just doesn't seem to be taking all facts into consideration. 

Let us go through a couple of her points, shall we?

Tuteur states that it was the "switch from home birth to hospital birth over the 20th century that was accompanied by a more than 90 percent decrease in neonatal mortality and nearly 99 percent decrease in maternal mortality".  

This point is pretty funny if it weren't so sad because the 19th century was actually the century when female midwives were being replaced by male "obstetric" providers for the first time (if you could even call them that). This is what the birth landscape looked like: Prudery and modesty ran the country and so men were delivering babies having never performed vaginal exams in their lives and literally never looking at the woman's vagina during the birth.  Forceps were newly invented- and then experimented with on birthing women. This meant shoving forceps into the birth canal, no matter how much (or, in most cases, little) the baby had descended, hoping for the best. As you could imagine, it usually didn't end up "the best." "Doctors" were also giving ergot to cause uterine contractions with no antidote available and puerperal (childbed) fever was at epidemic proportions. So yeah, it doesn't take much to beat the mortality rates of the 19th century. Go back further and historians have estimated that even if all the women in the 17th century Plymouth who died during childbearing years died because of birth complications, birth was still successful 95% of the time.**

No one is arguing that modern medicine isn't of great assistance and has certainly helped better mortality rates. We are forever grateful for the advent of antibiotics and epidurals and surgery. They can be enormous tools and indeed, life-savers. 

But, in the 19th century not only were so-called doctors literally practicing on live, birthing women, none of the aforementioned tools were available at all yet in the places they could have been useful. So to give credit to hospitals alone for better mortality rates from the 19th to 20th century is just silly. Advances in medicine? You bet. Doctors no longer experimenting on their patients? Absolutely. 

As even the author admits, the truth is that home birth presents no higher risks of mortality for mom or baby than a hospital birth. But, Tuteur's point is that this is not the case in America.  That in America, home birth is just dangerous.

How does she come to this conclusion? Let us look at the evidence she provides.

The study (Yes, that is a singular study from one state, with information taken over one year and only looking at a little over 2,000 home births total) she uses to make her case states within it that:

"Women who planned out-of-hospital births compared to women who planned in-hospital births were more likely to have no prenatal care (2.8% vs. 0.4%) or inadequate prenatal care (9.8% vs. 4.8%), and less likely to begin prenatal care in the first trimester (63.6% vs. 76.6%)" 

So for her to say that racial or economic differences, or poor prenatal care aren't relevant is simply false.  It isn't about looking at our mortality rates against Canada's, as she suggests. We have to look at our own numbers and see what the breakdown is within them. The maternal mortality rate is 3 to 4 times higher for black women in America and obviously a woman who is not receiving prenatal care is at a higher risk than one who is. 

(It is worth it to point out here that the U.S has one of the highest maternal mortality rates as well as infant mortality rates in the industrialized world. With only a tiny more than 1% of births occurring in the home setting total, we wonder how this plays into the conversation.)  

In addition, both her and this study totally neglect the number of births that occur in rural areas that have no quick access to medical facilities in the case of an emergency even if proper prenatal care was provided. And it does not distinguish between high risk and low risk pregnancies. 

Moving on:

Tuteur also says, "Many studies of American home birth show that planned home birth with a midwife has a perinatal death rate at least triple that of a comparable hospital birth." 

This is actually just one study she points to in which numerous holes are poked here.

But, if you strip away the fear-inducing stats she uses totally out of context, what she is asking for here isn't entirely crazy: She asks that we, "Demand that all American midwives meet international standards; keep women at increased risk of complications from giving birth at home; insist on transfer to a hospital at the first hint of potential problems; and require that midwives have hospital privileges."

Art by Elle Luna

Art by Elle Luna

Most of that actually makes a lot of sense (though we obviously shouldn't be "keeping women" from choosing the provider of their choice).  The biggest issue here is that instead of this article focusing on how to better integrate home births into our current medical landscape, the entire article is spent making you feel like if you give birth at home in America you are putting yourself and your child in danger regardless of where you live and risk level. 

Tuteur also asks for us to do away with the C.P.M designation (or the "poorly trained laypeople with watered down credentials" as she calls them).  How we should better integrate home birth midwifery into our current system is a topic for a whole other day (and one we are not at qualified to partake in) but here is what we do know: There is no solid evidence to show that C.P.M's mortality rates are any worse than C.N.M's mortality rates as there are far too many factors to point to their training as the cause of death. We haven't been through C.P.M training (and neither has Tuteur) so can't really speak to the quality of the education involved, but we can certainly leave room for the idea that the training can be better and more standardized. 

So sure. We can certainly focus on informing pregnant women about the risks of home births in certain scenarios (key words: certain scenarios). But we should also be focusing on informing women that home birth for low risk pregnancies is a safe option.  We should also be focusing on increasing access to better nutrition and prenatal care.

And most of all, we should be focusing on informing women that they have the right to birth how they choose; That they are allowed to be active participants in their care; That they should always question and that ultimately, they should trust their selves and their instincts above all else in finding the birthing place and practitioner that is right for them. 

**From Lying In: A History of Childbirth in America by Richard W. Wertz and Dorothy C. Wertz

 

#THISISHOWIWASBORN with Jesse Israel

Bringing all genders into the birth conversation has always been important to us, so we are very excited to have our first male-identifying guest on #thisishowiwasborn. Meet Jesse Israel, creator of The Big Quiet, a mass mediation for modern people made possible by community collaboration, that's taking over NYC (and the world).

We first met Jesse through Medi Club, his monthly gathering for people to well, meditate, and were impressed by his real gift of bringing people together and creating such a vibrant community in such a short amount of time (The Big Quiet was started less than a year ago and is now filling spaces as big as Lincoln Center). We sat down with Jesse to talk about how he was born and his move to make meditation mainstream with the millennials.  And since we're stopping by Medi Club on 5/4 to talk about our Birth Gathering coming up on 5/7, it's perfect timing for us to introduce the Medi Club community to all of our Brilliant Peeps.

Here’s Jesse on how he was born, a man who had 90 babies, and being cool with not pleasing everyone. 

 
 

HOW WERE YOU BORN?

I was born via c-section. My mom had been going to childbirth ed classes and she had it in her head that c-sections were bad. When she went into labor, her water broke and she was really committed to trying to have a natural birth. She was in labor for 36 hours, in a lot of pain and a lot of emotional distress. Eventually she decided to go ahead with the c-section. She was very relieved that she did it because I came out happy and healthy. She has no regrets around doing that. She actually said that one thing she wishes she had known beforehand is that it was ok to have a c-section, that she could have enjoyed the process more if she had allowed herself to trust that it was going to be ok. She had a VBAC 4 years later with my little sister.

Did hearing your story teach you anything about your mom?

I was surprised that she was willing to go through so much pain without taking pain meds. My mom hates pain and she likes to be pampered. It was a reminder of how much she loved me even before I was even born and how she is willing to put me first.

Wanna see pictures?

BB: Yes! Whoa, these are amazing! It is so rare to have pictures of c-section births, especially from the 80s.  That is a photo of you literally coming out of your mom’s uterus!

J: Did you guys make senior pages in high school? Well everyone had pictures of their friends etc. and I was the weird artsy kid who used pictures of this.

BB: Love it.

J: Look at this one. I was born a Buddha baby.

BB: You were born meditating. How appropriate.  

What comes to mind when you think about 'Birth'?

I am a little obsessed with birth right now actually. My cousin just had a baby. I was with her over Christmas break when she was 9 months pregnant. She was carrying so much life and radiance. She was a glowing figure of feminine wonder! I had never spent so much time with a pregnant woman before and being with her was so eye opening; I was so drawn to her. Since then I’ve been doing all this research about birth and found some really fun facts.  Now I am dying to be around more pregnant women. One of our circle leaders at Medi Club just told me she’s pregnant and I’m really excited. I just want to be around her all the time.

BB: Sound like you're ready to be a dude-la.

What fun facts about birth did you learn in your research?

I learned about the youngest woman to ever be pregnant. She was 5 years old. She never revealed who got her pregnant but they think it was her father. She started getting her period when she was 9 months old. Her son lived to be 40. She’s still alive and lives in Peru. Imagine being 5 years older than your mom? Crazy!

Another crazy thing I found was this Russian farmer who had 90 kids, just with two women! One had about 20 babies and the other had the rest. What is interesting is that both of these women had a lot of multiple births. I think it was like 6 sets of triplets or something. Must have been something in his sperm.

BB: That's so wild. We're definitely going to to look more into that!

Tell us about what are you currently birthing?

I am creating community and businesses around bringing meditation and personal growth to young people in ways that feel modern and easy to access. I am currently doing that through mass mediation experiences where lots of people come together to share silence. The idea is to also create space after meditations for the community to have conversations and share things that we are dealing with in our lives that are preventing us from living a life of fullness.

 
 

What gave you the "final push" to start this community?  

I was running a record company and tech investment fund for 9 years and was just feeling a very strong calling to move on. It was no longer fulfilling and hadn't been for a while, and there was some strong intuitive pull to do something else. I spent 9 years, grew and learned a ton, but the growth period ended and I felt it was time to step into the role of why I'm here on Earth and do something different. I came to that through a meditation practice which gave me the courage to act on it. So that was it. I just took a leap and didn't know what I wanted to do for a while. I started experimenting with Medi Club and now it's been about 2 years since I left.

What has been the labor like?

It was tough and scary and gratifying. I used to have big fears of speaking in public, and that is a big part of what I do now, so that was really scary at first. Mediation is such a sensitive thing for a lot of people, some see it as weird or self-helpy, so to come out to the world and say this is something that I stand for and what I'm doing was huge. To be public about it felt like coming out of the closet in some ways because initially, it was something I didn’t feel comfortable sharing, which was very challenging for me and my ego. And then organizing groups, wanting people to have a good time, wanting people to be comfortable and have a certain experience, hoping that they like me or they like what I say - I've dealt a lot with my ego and with releasing the control of making sure everyone loves me and has a good experience. Letting go of this control has been a really cool process. Now I know not everyone is going to like this and not everyone is going to like me. And as long as I am being authentic and really committing myself to the work, it’s ok. 

 
photo by Jenna Duffy

photo by Jenna Duffy

 

What's next?

We just brought on a new business consultant to help out with Medi Club and The Big Quiet. We have some real experts who are helping and I'd like to be able to go deep and nail the system here, with the leaders, the circles, The Big Quiets and an understanding of how we can go to other cities. Eventually I'd love to have a co-working space where we come together with these values and then bring it to other cities. But you know, it’s going to take time. But I really believe in the work we're doing. And the main thing is that I love it, and now I've come to terms with the fact that I am not making the money I would have been making if I had stayed at my company, and it feels fine. But it was really tough for my ego for the first year.

BB: Yes, we’ve been there. But once you start going down your path, there is no going back.

Any favorite #BrilliantBits?

My meditation practice has been more than a relaxation technique; it’s helped me understand what I stand for. (Inspired by David Gelles)


To join Medi Club go here. Follow The Big Quiet on Instagram and Facebook for updates on their mass meditations.

To RSVP to the upcoming Medi Club in May go here

 
 
 
photo by Felix Kunze

photo by Felix Kunze

 
 
photo by Felix Kunze

photo by Felix Kunze

 

#THISISHOWIWASBORN with Carolyn Gregoire

The ties between the creative process and the creative process (if ya know what we mean) and what we can learn from these experiences of releasing into the unknown, is at the core of what this whole #thisishowiwasborn series is about. Many experts in creativity note that “staying loose” is the way to embrace the uncertainty inherent in the creative process, which is what we try to instill in our clients all the time. 

So, when we found out that our friend Carolyn Gregoire's book on creativity had just been released (with rave reviews from The New York Times) we were pretty stoked to sit down with her and learn some of the conclusions on creativity that she came to in her research. 

Her book, Wired to Create: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Creative Mind with co-author Scott Barry Kaufman points to the idea that we don't have to "do" anything to be creative.  It's not about being a painter or a fiction writer. We are all inherently creators because as humans, we are capable of being so many different things at the same time. And this is what they found to be the common factor in creative people; that they allowed themselves to be multiple things and personalities at the same time. Their minds were expansive and messy and creation wasn't about creating something new, so much as connecting the dots of things that already existed. 

Here's Carolyn on her own expansion and coming into, and starting to trust, her own abilities as a creator. 

 
 

HOW WERE YOU BORN?

I was born on my due date. It was a 7-8 hour birth; It started in the afternoon and I was born right before 9 pm. My mom had an epidural. 

I was born in the same birthing room as my brother a year and a half earlier and since it was the only room left in the hospital, she was pretty grateful to get it. She said she had a lot of trouble pushing - that her pushing was not "adequate". When my brother was born they had to use a vacuum, so my mom really wanted to avoid that this time. They ended up threatening her with the vacuum so she pushed as hard as she could and boom I was born!

She didn’t know I was going to be a girl, and says that was the best part of it. The hardest part was that my brother didn’t take it well. He sobbed for a week! 

Did you have feelings about birth before the conversation, And did they change after?

I know I want to be a mother but I definitely have had some fear around childbirth. However, knowing that my mom -who has a very low pain threshold- managed to do it twice, makes me think I can probably handle it too! Hearing the story made me feel more confident. I know I won’t die and it won’t be horrible and I will be able to push. 

well, you just "birthed" a book so maybe that was good practice?

A lot of people compare the process of writing a book to giving birth. I suppose you can say that about any creative project, but specifically with a book there’s this seed of an idea and then a period of creation, which in my case happened to be 9 months!

BB: Perfect.

C: And then a period of waiting and editing before the publisher approves it, which takes a while (it ended up being about a year and a half total). Writing my book definitely felt like a birth, getting this thing out into the world that had been inside of me for so long. And even the postpartum of it - I just finished the PR and now I have this strange now what feeling that’s probably similar to what you feel when you have a baby. Creating this book was a really cool experience; bringing something that didn’t exist into the world, and then letting it take a life of its own.

HOW WAS THE LABOR?

It was a challenging. I never thought I would write a book and never considered myself a creative person. I am a science writer and I studied philosophy. Writing this book challenged me to look at my own views about creativity. We (myself included before the book), tend to think of creativity as something that only some people have: people who are artists are creative and other people are not. This is a big myth that we tried to unravel in this book. Creativity is a lot broader than that. 

 

BB: How cool that you came into yourself as a "creator" during this process on so many different levels! 

WAS THERE A SPECIFIC MOMENT WHEN YOU WERE ABLE TO LET GO OF THAT "I’M NOT A CREATIVE PERSON" DISCOURSE? Shall we call it, your final push?  

I didn’t see myself as a creative writer. I've always told myself that my strength isn't colorful storytelling. But as I was looking at different types of creativity, I came across scientific creativity and I was able to let go of that and realize that my strength is to take complex ideas, engage with them and make them intelligible for people. And that is creative. It's just not what I thought creativity was supposed to look like.  

The whole book is based on the premise that we contain multitudes. Creative people have a broad sense of themselves. They are introverts and extroverts, can be very mindful but also very absentminded and dreamy, be serious but also have a strong sense of play. There are all these things that in many people are very segregated, but what we found after looking at the lives of all these creative people as well as a lot of research, is that they seem to have all of these opposites contained within themselves.

WHAT KIND OF RESEARCH DID YOU COME ACROSS?

There was this famous study done in the 60’s at Berkeley where they invited all these creative people (including Truman Capote and a bunch of amazing archetypes, scientist and eminent creative minds) to live in a frat house on campus. They had them do all these personality tests and analyzed them for days. They found that they scored in the top 10% of the general public of tests for mental illness and that they also scored in the 10% of tests for mental health.

So that’s what we were trying to make sense of: How can anyone be more mentally ill and at the same time more mentally healthy than the average person? The idea is that they are drawing on things that we as a culture define as mental illness, like magical thinking, imaginativeness and unusual perceptions. But also on things that define mental health: these people are resilient and they work very hard. They are bringing all these things together.

We then looked at how that’s reflective of brain function. What neuroscientists have found is that when you look at the brains of creative people, there are connections between opposing brain networks. Usually people have a more dominant network or more dominant prefrontal cortex or executive attention network at different times (they use one or the other)  - meaning you’re either day-dreaming or paying attention to what you’re are doing and the networks don’t really interact. But creative people use both at the same time. They are engaged to what they are doing outwardly but also interacting with and internally processing things.

It's this idea of synthesis between things that are usually not synthesized. It ties to the definition of creativity (not so much as giving birth to new ideas) but as making new connections between things that already exist. This is seen in the level of their personality, and their brain, and also in the creative process which is not linear, they are jumping around between many different things. 

 
 

Any advice for people trying to be more creative?

The book doesn’t tell people how to be more creative, what it shows is that the human personality is creative in nature because we have the capacity to do so many different things. We’re creatures that contain all these paradoxes and are not boxed into being one way or the other. It's all about embracing this, connecting those dots of the different parts of ourselves, which allows us to naturally open up to our own creativity.

BB: Like creating new constellations in the sky - all these stars (dots) all over the place that you can draw connections between. 

C: It’s all about integration, trying to break out of habitual ways of thinking by creating opportunities for an unusual synthesis process to happen, by breaking away from the ways that you usually think. And being aware of when you’re falling into a trap or box of how you usually think, how you do things, how you see yourself.

Any #BrilliantBits to share?

In the moment just before a flash of creative insight, the brain's visual cortex briefly shuts down, suggesting the mind is "going dark" and shutting out the outside world. And when the insight pops into awareness, the visual cortex reactivates - like a literal lightbulb turning on in your brain!

BB: Fascinating. We literally always have to go into the darkness to see the light!


Don't miss Carolyn's book Wired to Create: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Creative Mind! To learn more about Carolyn you can head to her website and follow her on Instagram and Facebook.   

THE BRILLIANT BREAKDOWN- week of March 28th

Jamie Oliver is "Mansplaining" the Benefits of Breastmilk

The celebrity chef has decided to take on a new revolution: promoting the need for more mothers to breastfeed in Britain- and people are POed. Namely, Adele who is screaming that this campaign is shaming moms who can’t breastfeed and to stop telling women what the fuck to do. Others think a man shouldn’t have a say in the matter. But some are backing the dude up, expressing that because he has kids, he has been involved in the breastfeeding process and that one doesn’t need to have direct experience with something in order to campaign for it. Britain has some of the worst breastfeeding rates in the world, with only one in two hundred children being breastfed until 12 months of age. Jamie's response to the backlash confirmed he is not starting a campaign and that he would get a 'kicking at home' (from his currently-pregnant wife) if his intention was to offend women or mums - sounds about right! 

LEARN MORE HERE

 
                                                                         art by Marion Fayolle

                                                                         art by Marion Fayolle

 

When rape victims have to co-parent with their rapist

'This is not a family, this is a felony' was the argument of one of the lawyers defending a rape victim who was ordered to go to family court to hatch out a co-parenting plan with her rapist. Sounds crazy but it happens often and 14 states don't have any laws that protect rape survivors from having to share custody with their attackers. But it used to be 15. Iowa is now off that list as a new bill was passed which would allow for a rapist to lose parental rights to their victim’s children. This comes after the Rape Survivor Child Custody Act, which was signed by President Obama last year and incentivizes states to create or reform their laws to, "Allow the mother of any child that was conceived through rape to seek court-ordered termination of the parental rights of her rapist with regard to that child, which the court shall grant upon clear and convincing evidence of rape." Similar laws are in effect in 24 states, including New York. However it gets tricky, because often times there is no 'clear and convincing evidence' of rape, especially since a large percentage of rapes occur with someone who was familiar to the victim. No conviction is required to terminate parental rights in Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Louisiana, Missouri, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, Vermont and Wisconsin. Hopefully the 14 remaining states will follow Iowa's lead soon. #rapeisrape and parenthood is a privilege.  

LEARN MORE HERE

 
                                                                          art by Frances Waite

                                                                          art by Frances Waite

 

Patience may be all it takes to start lowering c-section rates in the U.S

Shocker. A recent study shows that when women were given just one more hour to push, C-section rates went down by roughly half! The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists gives first-time moms about three hours to push, if they’ve had an epidural, two if they haven’t, and beyond that, they’re thought to be experiencing a "prolonged second stage of labor." 

These time limits in place came from expert opinion from the 1800s (we kid you not) and since then, there’s only been retrospective data used to validate these guidelines. The researchers also found no evidence that giving women more time put them, or their babies, at greater risk.

While the study was small, overall, 43.2% of the women (all on epidurals) who were given the typical three hours to push ended up having a C-section, as opposed to 19.5% who were given four hours instead of three. 

The study honors that c-sections saves lives; The aim is not to challenge that fact, but rather help ensure that the current guidelines most doctors rely on are based in clear, strong evidence.

LEARN MORE HERE

                                                                                                 art by Virak

                                                                                                 art by Virak


+ some #brilliantbits

Must See

The art of catching breech babies has been lost at large, but these images catch a badass midwife doin' just that and they are AWESOME.

Geek out

Can you wiggle your ears? Footprints of evolution on our bodies!

Remember him?

It is indeed a beautiful day in the neighborhood- especially since it's apparently breastfeeding-friendly. Who knew that Mr. Rogers’ had an episode that featured women breastfeeding?!

In honor of world Doula Week…

Check out this photo series that honors the work of doulas!

 

#THISISHOWIWASBORN with Alex Fine

Back in the day Alex and Ash used to have co-conception sessions as they started to plant seeds for their visions to materialize. Ash recently even found a scrappy old notebook with 'Eva' scribbled all over one of the pages- the christening of Dame Products' signature sex toy!  So here we are. Alex's vibrator is a real live thing, and her company is creating toys to openly empower the sexual experiences of womankind. Eva is the first Hands-Free, Strap-Free, Non-Intrusive Couples Vibrator. Sounds like fun, huh? How cool to come back together, talk about the power of our holes and learn about how she was born!

How were you born?

Here's how I was blossomed into this world: I was a full month late. And in case you are wondering, that makes me a Pisces with a Leo moon and Libra rising. I'm super stoked about my zodiac sign. Your rising is who you are trying to be, your moon is your internal being.  So I come across as Pisces and really chill but I'm not chill. There is nothing really chill about me. I've got fucking opinions and I'm proud as fuck. And my rising is a Libra- I'm always trying to be fair and balanced and it drives me crazy. 

But anyway, I decided I didn't want to come out of that hole. I wasn't dropping, I wasn't making moves to the outer world so my mom had a c-section. She was delirious at first so she didn't hold me after. She told me that my grandmother had told her that breastfeeding was disgusting so I wasn't breastfed. I came out all ugly and crackly because there wasn't much fluid left- maybe that's why I have such dry skin till this day.

I hear now-a-days they only give you two weeks before inducing. I would have been a totally different person...my natal chart would have been totally different!   

I definitely feel like your birthing experience has so much to do with who you are as a person.

Were your brothers born via sections also?

No. She went to a few doctors until she found someone who would support her doing it vaginally. It's weird to think of my mom deciding this was important enough to go to more than one doctor because she is usually just so trusting of doctors. It is interesting that it was such a thing for her. I left an awful scar. I bet you that's what it was, knowing my mom.

On another note...

I found my cervix the other day.

BB: Thats exciting! How did that come about? 

A: Gyno Training Associates came into the office to try Eva. 

BB: What is a Gyno Training Associate?

A: Cervix models! No, but seriously. They get hired as part of med school training to help doctors learn how to talk about gender and sexuality while they practice examining their vaginas.  

We used speculums and everything. My cervix was hard to find. It was really high. But I loved doing it.

BB: What did you love about it?

A: It's the door to life and you never see it! 

What are your thoughts on giving birth?

It's gonna be the coolest thing that I as a woman ever do and I'm definitely gonna do it the all natural way. But then after that, I don't know... I guess I'd wanna continue doing it that way. I'm so torn. Thinking about sex toys for example (this will come full circle, I promise) people are always telling me, "Do you really want to be using a sex toy? Don't you want to be having a natural experience?" And I'm like, "Yeah, I want to have a natural experience, but sometimes, I just want to have a different experience."

I don't walk everywhere; I most certainly use tools of technology to get from point A to point B sometimes. I don't like it when people don't acknowledge that's part of a vibrator. They are efficient tools. They can really help you get from point A to point B faster. People always ask why I talk about efficiency when I'm talking about sex. Well, sometimes, I only have so much time... and that's okay. And is that ok with birthing too? Sometimes I feel I wanna do this once because my body can do this amazing thing but after that it just seems kinda inefficient and maybe I can plan it and get on with my life. With other things I'm like, boom boom boom and sometimes I think it would be great for birth to be like that too. And I think that's okay. But we will see. Is that somehow unfair to my children? I know I really want to hold my child immediately after, and I don't want to be in a hospital.

BB: #Brilliantbit: your body takes care of that efficiency for you.  Typically, second time moms have much shorter labors.  So maybe if you let nature take over you might get to that boom boom boom too!

What are you currently birthing?

Sex toys. Making sex toys better. Eva is a hands free clitoral vibrator that a woman can wear during penetrative sex. It has these bendable arms that go under the labia majora and move with the body. 

So right now we are making it water proof and making it work better. I'd love to get more woman to come in to the place and let us take pictures... that's the real info we need to make it better.

WE ALL HAVE BRILLIANT IDEAS BUT ACTUALLY TRUSTING OURSELVES ENOUGH TO MAKE SOMETHING OUT OF THEM IS WHERE A LOT OF US GET STUCK.  WHAT GAVE YOU THE FINAL PUSH?

I got fired. So that was a real push. That made me have to decide, okay I'm gonna try and do this thing and not try and look for another job. And I made a prototype that stayed in place okay. I had a moment of clarity: an orgasm.  

home-left-right-image-1.png

BB: A good push!

A: People say you can orgasm while giving birth! Actually if pigs are sexually stimulated, while being inseminated, it makes them more fertile so maybe there's something to it. 

What has the labor been like?

It's a slow process... very slow. But there's always a solution.

BB: That's what we say about labor :)

A: It's definitely my baby. I don't like when people refer to their company as a baby but here, it makes sense. 

BB: Why not?

A: If your company is failing I think you should kill it. Not the case with a real baby. 

Whats next?

We are launching our new site in March... will take on some investors. Hire up. "Birth" new products. 

Any favorite #brilliantbits?

Your vagina can double in length when you get aroused!

Also, I feel like I can squeeze my pelvic floor muscles enough to orgasm without touching myself. I'm gonna try that tonight.

BB: Let us know how that goes


Get your Eva and learn more about Dame herE!

FOLLOW DAME ON INSTAGRAM AND FACEBOOK

 
 

HOW A COMADRONA IS BORN

Ash recently had the great privilege of studying with a couple of midwives (comadronas), in Guatemala.  She went via an organization called Dar La Luz whose goal is to improve the health and quality of life for women and their families during pregnancy, birth and postpartum through health education programs and hands on support. Most of their work centers around Honduras, but they are expanding to Guatemala as well, and Ash was sent to start building these relationships.

While doula care in Guatemala is starting to pop up in some of the larger cities, it is overwhelmingly still unknown to the region and it seems the comadronas may benefit as much as birthing women. It is not uncommon for comadronas to experience abuse by their husbands and/or their clients' husbands because they “roam the streets” alone at night. Doulas would make it so these women aren't traveling alone and therefore less of a target. Dar la Luz is always looking for extra support. So all you doulas and midwives out there who are interested in working abroad, check this organization out! And for everyone else, consider making a donation if it is within your means.

While Ash could spend pages recounting her experience, the ups (temazcal, a traditional sweat lodge, ceremonies!) and downs (eating an entire bowl of pasta with globs of mayonnaise) and everything in between, we thought it might be more fun to share the story of one of the comadronas herself.

Meet Angelina. She is K'iche' and lives in Tecpan with her husband and four grown children. She is a home birth comadrona, and in fact, she organizes all of the midwives in Guatemala!  When she’s not busy catching babies, or organizing everyone who does, she works for the Women’s Presidential Ministry helping to protect women's rights and the traditions of the indigenous. So yes. She basically does it all!  

How were you born?

A: My mom had an unmedicated vaginal birth and I was 12+ lbs when I was born! I am the second child but the first one died when she was born; My mom was 16 at the time. She then spent eight years trying to get pregnant again. When I was born it was a party, everyone came to visit my mom and celebrate that she had finally had a baby. My mom says they gave her many gifts because everyone was very excited. After that she went on to have two more kids; I have a brother and a sister.

Why did you become a comadrona?

A: I am a comadrona because when I was born, the comadrona that my mom worked with, told her that I was going to be one. She was actually a partera, not a comadrona.

BB: What is the difference?

A: Parteras don't use the temazcal and they can use injections. My mom chose to work with a partera because during her first birth the comadrona she had worked with kept drinking in the temazcal and uncovered the baby when she was born in the caul, which according to my mom was why she died.

I was also born in the caul. The tradition here in Guatemala is not to just uncover it. When a baby is born in the caul it is because she has a special mission. We save the caul and give it to the parents so they can keep it. The partera told my mom: "Your daughter is going to be like me, she is going to be a comadrona." My mom says I was born with the mission. Comadronas are born, not made.

For how long have you been catching babies?

A: I started practicing when I was 17. Then I went to nursing school. I told the director of the school that I wanted to catch babies.  She believed I had the calling and supported me and I started attending births at the hospital. I only worked at the hospital for one year. I then worked for the Public Health Department in a rural community for 21 years where I had the opportunity to attend home births with other comadronas.

How many births have you attended?

I’ve attended thousands of births. No baby nor mother has died. Only once a baby girl died after 5 days of being born. 

Are there more risks in the hospital or AT HOME?

It’s the same. But here in Guatemala women are afraid of going to the hospital because they won’t get their tea, the medicinal plants and other traditions that are very important for them. People think there are more risks of death in the hospital than at home, but the risk is the same.

BB: How interesting. It is the exact opposite for most people in America.

Are there any specific Mayan traditions that you use during the births?

Here in Guatemala we have a very spiritual connection with Mother Earth and the Fire. There are many rituals that we do for families that come from the Mayan tradition. One of them is the placenta ceremony. You build a fire and add incense, flowers and sugar and put the placenta on top surrounded by flower essences. It’s a ritual to give thanks to the ancestors and the Creator for the flower of life. In Guatemala we call the placenta the flower because it's where the baby grows. It’s the mother of the baby, where the baby was born and developed, so it is very sacred.

There’s also the Temazcal ritual. When a woman is pregnant she goes into the temazcal twice per week. If the woman wants to give birth in the temazcal then we have the birth there. After the birth there are 5 temazcales, every other day for 10 days. On the 13th day after birth we have the Ash Ceremony in the Temazcal. We do a cleansing bath to call the ancestors to the temazcal so they can protect and help us. At the end of the ceremony we offer alcohol and tobacco (smoke) to the ancestors (by pouring it on the ground). We also make food to share (if we have enough money we eat chicken, otherwise just tamales with egg and salt). The food is shared with the ancestors; that’s how we say goodbye to them and release them so they can go somewhere else. We also clean and purify all the impurities that the mother might have accumulated during the 13 days she has been in bed. Because our ancestors sometimes bring bad energies, we have to get rid of them too. We use flowers, pine and incense and give a bath of medicinal plants. After this ceremony there’s more balance and the woman can take good care of her baby and get out of bed.

After 40 days we do the Introduction Ceremony where we introduce the baby to the sacred Fire. 7 years later we have another Introduction ceremony that marks the beginning of childhood. At 13 years there’s another special ceremony in front of an altar with flowers and many offerings, as well as a big party. It’s a ceremony in which the child thanks her parents for the gift of life and gives away all her toys. In exchange she’s going to get her work tools. This ceremony marks the beginning of adolescence. She now has responsibilities to help at home and to work. It’s a beautiful and very emotional ceremony that can be a little sad too. It’s the beginning of womanhood.

After this we keep celebrating cycles every 13 years. At 26 years old the woman is ready to be a mother, she has the next 13 years to give birth. The next cycle starts at 39 when she starts prepping to be a counselor and an elder. At 52 she receives the "authority stick" which is when she can start holding council.

 
 

What is the most important thing women can do to prep for labor?

It starts with pregnancy. There, are two main things.  The primary one is the emotional state of the mother. In our case this can change depending on if it is a wanted pregnancy or the result of sexual violence which unfortunately is very common. Another very important aspect is nutrition, the mother has to eat well and get enough nutrients to be strong enough and healthy for labor.

What are you currently birthing?

There are two main projects. One of them is to create an ancestral maternal health center where we can gather all the Mayan traditions and practice the values we have lost in the hospital setting. There are many places where women are choosing the hospital because the traditions are becoming too foreign. The idea is to go back to the traditions from our ancestors and use all those grandmother secrets that are so useful and preventative. For more than 37 years of catching babies I’ve wanted my home to be a place where women can come and give birth on their own terms. It doesn’t matter what I want or what Western medicine wants. What’s important is for women to be comfortable and follow their instincts and choose how she wants to give birth.

 
 

The other project is to educate and train comadronas. I am the National Representative of the Comadronas and have been teaching for many years around the country. My goal is to create a national network of comadronas so we can all exchange secrets and wisdom. The idea is to combine both projects so we can have exchange programs with other countries, and invite guests from other places but also travel and see what is being done in other traditions and countries.

Any #Brilliantbits to share?

It’s not about the body but about the spirit. I am always inspired by the exchange of wisdom with our ancestors which I’ve felt many times. There’s a connection with what I call the aura. It’s an energy that comes and takes over us, it makes us part of the cosmos and the universe, and a wisdom exchange is made.

The comadronas wisdom is abstract, you don’t see it but feel it. We connect that ancestral energy and let our elders work through us. We ask for permission to the Creator before we work with women. That’s the essence of the comadrona life.


Don't forget to checkout Dar la Luz and consider making a donation if you can!

THE BRILLIANT BREAKDOWN: week of march 14

A LITTLE BIRTHING UTOPIA IN TUBA CITY

There are many reasons why c-section rates are so out of control in this country. One reason for these sky high numbers is because the rates of VBACs (vaginal birth after cesarean) are still abysmal even though there is no evidence to support that a second cesarean is safer than a vaginal birth. Well, to start doctors have a profit motive for performing surgery (that’s right, they make more money for performing C-Sections) and insurance companies can increase their premiums or withdraw coverage if doctors allow VBACs. Plus, because ACOG recommends that an obstetrician and an anesthesiologist be “immediately available” during labor for patients who have had a previous Caesarean just in case, smaller hospitals are unable to pay these practitioners to just hang around.

Enter Tuba City (who doesn't want to live in a place with that name?). Tuba City's hospital is run by the Navajo Nation and sees about 500 births per year. What’s so revolutionary about this place? The hospital and doctors are insured by the federal government and paid a salary, not per procedure. MIND BLOWN.

This is HUGE. This means these doctors are free to, “Think about what’s best for the patient and not what covers our butts.” Which one would think should be par for the course. But as you can see, it’s not always the case. Our system just makes it too easy for some (not all!) doctors to put liability, profit and convenience ahead of our physical and emotional well being.

READ MORE HERE

 
                                                                                  Art by Soosh

                                                                                  Art by Soosh

 

HB2- THE LAW THAT SOUNDS LIKE A VIRUS... BECAUSE IT Is.

As you know, the Supreme Court was rather busy this month looking at a crucial constitutional challenge to two provisions in Texas’ HB2 law. While this bill is chock full of goodies making it highly challenging for women in need to get access to safe care, the two provisions being challenged are:

  1. That doctors must obtain admitting privileges from a hospital 30 miles from the clinic where they perform abortions.
  2. Abortion clinics must comply with the same building regulations as “ambulatory surgical centers.”

What's absurd about it:

  1. Admitting privileges are at the mercy of the hospital administration so they can decline access solely on the basis that they themselves are against abortion and even more on point, abortion is one of the safest medical procedures out there, so there is no basis, no evidence, no nothing to demonstrate why this is necessary. 
  2. Unlike Texas state Rep. Dan Flynn (R) suggests (go to 2 min and 11 sec in), there is zero need for hallways in abortion clinics to be able to fit stretchers because, stretchers aren't used in an abortion clinic. There is zero need for procedures to be done in a room set up identically to a room for brain surgery because there is no operating during an abortion.

If these provisions go into full effect, Texas would see a 75% reduction in the number of clinics serving 5.4 million women of childbearing age and this would open up a whole can of worms for states to pass similar bills - like this ONE and this ONE.

The constitutional question at hand is whether having 10 clinics to serve all these women, including many who would live 200 miles away from the nearest facility, represents an “undue burden” on the right to abortion deemed impermissible after the Casey decision. For now, it has been recommended that the Supreme Court remand this back to the lower courts for hearings, to address questions about the capacity of the remaining clinics to fill the state’s needs. Round and round we go.

READ MORE HERE

 
                                                                       Art by Frances Cannon

                                                                       Art by Frances Cannon

 

DEFINITELY NOT ESSURED

The FDA isn’t taking Essure, an alternative for permanent birth control, off the market just yet even though complaints include reports of the device breaking, moving and causing side effects ranging from chronic pain and bleeding to autoimmune disorders such as psoriasis and lupus. While the government seems to have a right to control our bodies when it comes to abortion, one of the safest procedures out there, they have no problem leaving it up to us as to whether we’d like a perforation of the uterus or fallopian tubes (also known side effects of this birth control). Wow. #takeessureoffthemarket

READ MORE HERE

 
                                                                      Art by Katy Zimmerman

                                                                      Art by Katy Zimmerman

 

JUST THOUGHT WE SHOULD THROW THIS OUT THERE:

Pot-infused feminine products? Enough said. We're all for innovation but we also ALWAYS take caution when sticking something in any of our holes. We prefer to go au naturel - if your period cramps hurt too much, listen to your body, is there some kind of hormonal unbalance that's causing extreme pain? Willing to give Foria Relief it a try? Please report back.

READ MORE HERE + HERE

 
 

A great summary of why due dates are hooey and some pretty solid evidence of “convenience births” being a real thing.

READ MORE HERE

 
                                                                          Art by Mona Chalabi

                                                                          Art by Mona Chalabi

 

+ Brilliant Reads

Imbeciles: on the Buck v. Bell case which allowed for 70,000 state mandated sterilizations.

+ Brilliant Views

Trapped. This documentary does a fantastic job of spelling out the consequences of HB2 and how it is truly affecting our country.