#Childbirth

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!

 

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!

#THISISHOWIWASBORN with Tanya Wills

 
 

For those of you local to the NYC birth community you definitely know who Tanya Wills is, and for those who aren’t, well, you Wills now (sorry, we couldn’t help ourselves). She is a real force with just about the entire alphabet after her name: MSN, LM, CNM, WHNP-BC, IBCLC. She’s an educator and Doula turned Certified Nurse Midwife turned Homebirth Midwife and Lactation Consultant. And is known to all as someone who gets shit done (and aces whatever she does). And while Tanya is more so in the 'conception phase' of birthing whatever comes next for her, it was very invigorating to meet with a woman who refuses to be small and who believes, that just as birth is BIG, so will be whatever comes next for her.

So, here’s Tanya on finding her voice and how we can support birthing women to do the same.

HOW WERE YOU BORN?

TW- I actually don’t know a lot about how I was born. I asked my mother about her births when I became pregnant. She said 'Oh! Just listen to your doctor and you will be fine.' I was born three weeks early I’m told. My mother claims that she had no drugs when she had all of us but she did say that they put a mask on her face and she doesn’t know what that was. I’m like, 'Thanks Mom! Did they numb you? Did they do something?' She’s like, 'Nothing, nothing... except for the mask!'

WHAT WAS THE EXPERIENCE OF ASKING ABOUT YOUR BIRTH LIKE?

TW- I think my mom had her kids and never thought about her births ever again. It was because of the process of having my son that I became interested in childbirth, a topic I knew nothing about, and couldn’t help wondering, 'How this is happening!?' And I think the answers are too big for us.

BB- That was part of the impetus to start Brilliant Bodies and this interview series - to start reaching people before they are pregnant, to start connecting people to birth before it happens to them so that they can deeply trust their bodies and their selves and become active participants.

What are your thoughts on reaching women sooner?

TW- I’m asked this all the time and I think the answer is that we have to get them as girls and address how they view themselves and their bodies and what their bodies can do, probably will do. Something like 88% of women are going to have babies. This is not alternative stuff. It doesn't get more mainstream than this! What is happening during births now is a kind of oppression, oppression because we don't know any better. There is no good reason why no one in the system can't help women breastfeed. There is no good reason that people are separated after having their babies... why partners can’t stay in the hospital overnight without paying $900. There is no good reason why women can’t hold their babies after having a c-section. I assure you, I’ve been in that room. There is NO good reason - she’s awake during the surgery, don’t tell me there is a good reason she can’t hold her baby! Women are not cupcakes - tell them the truth!

This is a blanketed statement, and there are definitely hospitals with better practices, but generally speaking, what is happening now is that hospitals are controlling births - even if there's no IV, there’s some unnecessary intervention that happens because they feel they have to do something. How many times have I heard students tell me they couldn't push effectively? One student told me once she felt like she was a dancer and her doctor the choreographer and she couldn't figure out the moves.

how can we empower these women?

TW- The thing is, babies are SO GOOD at being born, and we are SO GOOD at birthing them. So what happens when we start honoring the experience of what she is doing which is so ordinary and so extraordinary at the same time? This life force is SO POWERFUL. What happens when we just allow ourselves to work with it if we need to and otherwise just stay out of the way? What happens when we stop measuring outcomes by if everyone came out alive? 

Women tell me all the time 'I was changed [from my birth experience].' I personally didn't have a home birth because I was looking to have a spiritual, transformative, beautiful, peaceful experience… but I was changed. I sat with my baby and was like 'Whoaaa! That was so much bigger than I thought it would be.' There is this wall that you get to, this self-doubt. I believed with every pore of my being that this was impossible.

So what happens when we say, 'She will find her way' in our own minds? 

BB- She will find her way!

NOW TELL US ABOUT WHAT YOU’RE CURRENTLY BIRTHING?

TW- For me right now in terms of what’s next, I feel I am standing at a cliff. What’s next for me is not something I envisioned before and that is so big, SO HUGE.  I have my hand in a lot of things which is great. I thought that when I graduated from midwifery school that I would be there but now I know there’s no there. I graduated and I thought that things would get smaller and fall away and become sane. And that is not what has happened. And I don’t feel willing to get smaller right now. There is a part of me, as a mother, a wife and a friend where I feel pressure to get smaller as far as my work goes. But every other sense that I have is to get bigger and that is scary because I don’t know what that is. I am very interested in having the largest amount of influence that I possibly can. That’s what I feel I am here for - to help people. My work as an activist is the way that I live now.  

I don’t know if I am going to be able to lower the overall c-section rate but where do I lower it? On the front lines - with my own hands. And I can help lower the rate by encouraging people to have their babies with folks that have low c-section rates, and help those practices be so busy that the change is totally consumer driven. I feel part of what I am called to do is to ignite the consumer to ask for what is right. It’s going to be some bigger influence to get people to hear this issue, I’m just not sure what the portal will be just yet.

IT SOUNDS LIKE YOU’VE FOUND YOUR VOICE. WHAT HAS THE LABOR OF GETTING TO THIS POINT BEEN LIKE?

TW- I’ve been told that I take up too much space. I feel OK about that now, but in my first year as a doula I didn’t. I felt I wasn’t playing the role as this person that has more experience than me thinks I should. And that was challenging for me. The good news is that I had some terrific mentors that told me, 'They are afraid of that...This is about you and if you’re taking up space you must have something to say.' Stepping into that is BIG.

WHAT'S NEXT?

TW- Where are we right now? Ina May is retired, we have her book - half of her book is totally dated and doesn’t speak to what’s happening in the hospital. And the other half of her book is about people having their babies on The Farm, which I personally did not identify with as a pregnant New Yorker whose favorite food is Doritos.

                  Sign on Tanya's door at her home in NY

                  Sign on Tanya's door at her home in NY

                                                       #MidwifeBrain

                                                       #MidwifeBrain

So where are we? I am interested in knowing who is speaking to pregnant families right now - it’s kind of no one!

BB- Other than friends and family sharing scary stories right when you’re about to hit your due date, of course.

TW- Right. So what is the change that needs to be made and how can it be made boldly? And I don’t think it’s going to be made in the political organizations. It’s going to have to be a personality who moves this forward and it is going to have to be with consumers asking for what they want, and specifically with consumers asking for what they want for things that there is no reason we don’t have. Somebody approachable has to talk to them and be available for them. Someone who’s feet are on the ground. I feel a lot of the birth visionaries that are out there have excellent messages that have carried us all and have paved the way, but I think that we’re ready for somebody regular. We’re ready to talk about birth and labor as it is. I don’t think it needs to be a special place in Tennese or an orgasm. It can be something regular. And what is wrong with that? 

BB- Boom. So exciting!

ANY #BRILLIANTBITS YOU WANT TO SHARE?

TW- Your body is going to birth the baby, it's your mind that will not go along for the ride, it's your mind what will try to screw you every time. 

                                                                                                                   Tanya with her daughter Violet

                                                                                                                   Tanya with her daughter Violet


To learn more about Tanya and keep up to date with everything that she's birthing (or if you want her to catch your baby) head over to:

MANHATTAN BIRTH + MARCY TARDIO HOME BIRTH + INSTAGRAM + FACEBOOK

Plus checkout her new class CHILDBIRTH FOR EARLY BIRDS that's coming up on March 17th!