Talk It Out

Many women researching natural birth will hear about the ills of medical providers, their responsibilities and shortcomings towards their patients… but what about YOUR responsibility as a consumer?

A positive consumer understands that, when it comes to healthcare, they are an active participant, having an ethical and personal responsibility to make sure that the medical care provider that they hire will work hard for their choices and beliefs. You heard right, you hire your care provider.

Would you allow a landscaper to make all of the decisions regarding your lawn or would you research what you want your lawn to look like, be like, and produce like? Would you turn your lawn over to that landscaper and, when (s)he let you know their plans, mutely nod even if you didn’t like what was being planned, or would you tell them your expectations and desires, plans and hopes? Likewise, although your lawn might not turn out exactly like you had planned with your landscaper, if you trust them fully, you can trust that it will come as close as your soil and your property allows for.

Consider this: your doctor or midwife has a responsibility to give you factual information, practice unbiased and evidence-based medicine, and to treat you as a whole woman, not simply a patient. They have a responsibility to let you know their policies, procedures, and standards of care – what they expect from you as a patient.

But, as a patient, it is your responsibility to be open and honest with your care provider. Withholding your feelings, beliefs, desires, and fears breed distrust on both sides of the proverbial fence. It is vital that, as a patient, you be able to speak up about your choices regarding your health care, even if you and your care provider do not see eye to eye on some issues.

The relationship that you have with your care provider is not their sole responsibility - it is a two way street. If you are fully open and honest with them and don't feel it is reciprocated, perhaps they are not the caregiver that you want to trust to handle your body and baby during the most vulnerable event of labor and birth.

If you feel they have ulterior motives beyond your health and wellbeing and that of your unborn baby, if they are not fully supportive of your choices (whether or not they agree with your choices), or if you simply do not make a good team (yes, you two are a team), perhaps it is best to look for another care giver. It is never to late to make the change.

For additional information, please take a look at the links below:

first posted in 2008


    Birth of Scarlett

    I absolutely love this video - it is such a cool way to do a birth video. Mom is narrating her birth story with stills and video interspersed.


    Naturally Born

    I am happy to let you all know about a new site online. Naturally Born is brand new, but they are going to be a great resource, I can already tell. If you are a past client of mine, I would welcome a testimonial/review/'like', just go to the site and search for my name.

    I am also going to be an expert contributor. :) Very cool!


    Moms of Multiples are Freaks of Nature

    Yep, that is the title of this video... and I have to say, I love it. As a mom of twins, I have heard nearly all of these.. I found myself rolling with laughter (and even woke up my youngest from nap). Enjoy this comedy break.


    Meet The Doula / MaterniTea - April

    Saturday, April 30 · 3:00am - 4:30am

    Young and Restless Boutique
    3468 Ella Blvd.
    Houston, TX

    More Info
    Calling all pregnant women! Ever wonder how a doula can help you in pregnancy, birth, and beyond? Have questions about breastfeeding, midwives, diapering, local hospital policies, or different childbirth methods?

    Come to our MaterniTea Party!!

    It is a fun and informative gathering offered to you, the expectant couple, while also giving you a chance to get together with other moms and moms-to-be. Attendees will hear from local expe...rt speakers and will be pampered with yummy food, samples, and more.

    This month's speakers will be Shannon Stellhorn and Catrice Harris. Catrice will be talking about how to put together a baby plan and Shannon will be talking about birth options in the Houston area.

    Also, enjoy checking out the consignment shop and their large supply of new and used cloth diapers!

    The parties are FREE and open to anyone interested in attending. Space is limited, so please RSVP to reserve your space.

    Be sure to wear comfortable clothes that you can move in and feel free to bring your partner, spouse, or other support person. We look forward to seeing you there!


    The Conscious Family

    In  the month of April, I am planning on a month long theme of the Conscious Family.

    During this month, I will be showcasing different bloggers who write and advocate for conscious parenting choices as well as businesses who believe in the same concepts. Many of these businesses will also be donating items for giveaways throughout the month of April. 

    If you are interested as a business owner or as a blogger, I would love to have you join me.

    If you would like to join me in this series, consider some of the topics you might blog about:

    • Single parenting
    • Co-Parenting
    • Intactivism
    • Breastfeeding
    • Baby wearing
    • Stay at Home Dads
    • Pregnancy Choices
    • Birth Options
    • Sex Education for kids
    • Eco-Conscious living
    • Raw, Vegan, Vegetarian, and/or Organic lifestyles
    • Nomadic living
    • Attachment Parenting
    • Intuitive Parenting
    • Cloth Diapers or Elimination Communication
    • Simplistic Living
    • Home/Un/Montessori/Waldorf schooling
    • Apprenticeship
    • Spirituality
    • Teaching positive consumerism
    Or any other topic that fits in with the theme. If you know of anyone who would be a great contributor, feel free to pass this on.

    I do hope to see many of you join in the event, and let me know if you would like more information.

    Throughout Time, Throughout the World: Birth Partners

    This is the fourth installation of our Throughout Time, Throughout the World Series. The other posts can be found here:
    Childbirth Practices
    Baby Wearing

    Since the dawning of time, it has been the traditional role of women to attend other women in labor and birth. 
    2100 to 2000 BC Cyprus birth and breastfeeding vessel
    Midwives were the doctors, the counselors, the shaman, the healers, the pediatricians, the birth professionals, the mashkiki and the midewikwe. Doulas were the women-helpers; women of age who had been-there-done-that, were old enough to understand the work being done, the servants of the heart and body.

    Midwives and Doulas are the two roles as taken by the women attending other women during their labor and birthing times. From the earliest manuscripts and portrayals of birth, we see one, if not more, women attending the woman in labor. In this post, we are going to look at the global and historical roles of these beloved women.

    Birth of Edmund c 1433
    The Hebrew people called her yalad - meaning 'bringing forth'. The Latin term cum-mater, along with the Spanish/Portuguese term comadre, all mean 'with woman'.
    Childbirth from Al Maqamat by Al-Hariri circa 1054-1122
    "The ancient Jews called her the 'wise woman', just as she is known in France as the sage-femme, and in Germany, the weise frau and also Hebamme or 'mother's adviser, helper, or friend'. The English 'midwife' is derived from mid wif, or 'with-woman'" - J.H. Aveling
    References to midwives are found in ancient Hindu records, in Greek and Roman manuscripts, and even in the Bible:
    "And when she (Rachel) was in her hard labor, the midwife said to her, 'Fear not, for now you will have another son.'" - Genesis 35:17

    "Therefore God dealt well with the midwives: and the people multiplied, and waxed very mighty." - Exodus 1:20
    In ancient times, a midwife was considered both the magical/mystical/holistical practitioner, and the medical/herbal practitioner. She was often revered as a necessary part of the community, sometimes considered a leader in the community. Other times, depending on the social and political climate, she was considered someone to be feared, tortured, or even killed.
    Angkor Wat Cambodia
    Early civilizations always had a resident female healer to attend to colds, infections, birthing women, newborns, and more. They were knowledgeable of plants, herbs, poultices, and, most importantly, the human body - what was right, normal, and good, and what needed to be remedied. They were responsible for the health and well being of their communities.
    Nativity, Antonio Veneziano
    For this reason, leaders often sought their advice on planting, moving, marriages, remedies, and the like. They had influence. They were often compensated for their time and help by communities building them homes, offerings of crops, meats, chopped wood, bolts of cloth, and heirloom trinkets. They were, by no means, rich, but they were taken care of by the people in their communities.

    "Childbirth" Antonio pur Gonzalez, Mayan painting
    They were herbal and medicinal healers, knew how to bring down fevers, slow a hurried pulse, set a bone, bring forth a stubborn baby from labor, diminish rashes, stop diarrhea, and bring on periods. And they did it all while counseling the families personal and emotional needs as well.

    Der Frauen 1513 book by Eucharius Roeslin Renaissance

    Unfortunately, the Middle Ages brought the infamous witch hunts of Europe. These spread, primarily, from Germany through to England. The Medieval Church and civic authorities (often one and the same) mandated that citizens turn in anyone suspected of 'witch-like' behavior. In fact, if you lived during that time and you did not accuse at least one person of witchcraft, you were at risk of accusation, excommunication, or banishment.
    "... Because the Medieval Church, with the support of kings, princes and secular authorities, controlled medical education and practice, the Inquisition  constitutes, among other things, an early instance of the "professional" repudiating the skills and interfering with the rights of the "nonprofessional" to minister to the poor." - Thomas Szasz
    Medieval artwork of midwife preparing pennyroyal

    From the standpoint of the Medieval Church, they touted that witches, those deserving of death, were not only those known to murder and poison, commit sex crimes and conspiracy ( which included 'thinking independent of a man'), but even those who were known to help the less fortunate and needy, those known to be healers. 
    Cypress Childbirth Statuette
    ""And if it is asked how it is possible to distinguish whether an illness is caused by witchcraft or by some natural physical defect, we answer that the first is by means of the judgement of doctors..."... Whereas, "If a woman dare to cure without having studied she is a witch and must die." - Malleus Maleficarum
    Because midwives were not from rich families, and their knowledge passed down from woman to woman, generation to generation, and because the majority of midwives were illiterate and willing to barter their wisdom for food and clothing, midwives served the people, regardless of class or wealth.
    Roman 4 AD
    Likewise, they were also usually not in high esteem with those who refused to serve and heal the community if the community could not pay. As such, the wealthy and influential church and government at their day with midwives. 

    Chinese print of women attending mother
    Although Europe eventually gave up the hunt for witches, lay-healers, literate women, and the like, the damage was done. We were already on to the Age of Enlightenment.This time was marked with a desire to know all that could be known and, as the Medieval Church had already put strict manacles on the feminine sex, women were not invited to this party.

    Childbirth Scene of Or San Michele Florence, Italy © David Lees
    Men dominated a new formal education program called the University. This 'place of higher learning' delved into the mysteries of mathematics, astronomy, astrology, alchemy, theology, geography, and politics.

    Subversively, midwives still practiced their craft, as there were still those who did not have the means to pay the wealthy, male professionals. And, even when they did, generations of midwifery-attended birthers refused to go quietly into the night as more aggressive and less educated 'doctors' sought to lift the skirts of local women.
    Roman Relief
    There were glimmers of hope, during this time, as the story of Louise Bourgeois shows us.
    "Louyse (or Louise) Bourgeois (c. 1563 - 1636) was a medical pioneer who paved the way for the modern profession of nurse - midwifery. As royal midwife in the early 16th century to King Henry IV of France and his wife Marie de M├ędicis, Bourgeois raised midwifery from folklore to science. For many years she delivered the babies of the top echelons of the French aristocracy, accumulating knowledge of the anatomy of childbirth and asserting the value of the knowledge of midwives as compared with that of the male surgeons who controlled the childbirth setting. Possessed of strong scientific instincts, she wrote voluminously, making important contributions to obstetrics. But at the root of her methods were common - sense convictions: each birth, she felt, was an individual experience unlike any other, and natural processes ought to be trusted, with birth attendants in most cases intervening, if at all, only to help nature along." - Encyclopedia.com
    Roman birth sculpture

    As the new doctoring professionals started to realize that they would not be able to take over this profession, instead they began taking charge of the profession. Governments and universities began regulating the education and training of midwives. Even though most of the knowledge continued to be passed through apprenticeship, early licensing and training began to take a more formal route - which, duplicitly, allowed for the male-dominated field of sciences to begin to get a glimpse into the world of birthing women.

    chinese home birth

    As early as 1560, Parisian midwives had to pass a licensing examination and abide by regulations to practice. During the 17th Century, France started a school for midwifery, while dutch midwives were held in high esteem, protected by surgeon's guilds and practicing under strict rules and regulations.

    Juedisches Ceremoniel J. G. Puschner 1716  Germany
    In 1671, Jane Sharp became the first woman to publish a midwifery manual in English, explicitly addressed her guide to her “sisters,” the “midwives of England,” and, while she
    “cannot deny, that men in some things may come to a greater perfection of knowledge than women ordinarily can by reason of the former helps that women want, yet the holy scriptures hath recorded midwives to the perpetual hour of the female sex. There being not so much as one word concerning men-midwives mentioned there that we can find, it being the natural propriety of women to be much seeing into that art…" - The Midwife's Book.
    Italian scodella, Francesco Xanto Avelli, ca 1486-1582
    England began requiring a more strict and verifiable apprenticeship before allowing a fledgling midwife to be on her own. Midwives also began to slowly win the favor of the church, as the Bishop's Court began appointing midwives to baptise infants not expected to survive. Likewise the church admonished that midwives should be women of utmost character, being neither too old or too young, be willing to denounce sin, and to stand as a witness to the mothers testimony of the child's father, at the height of labor.
    Hindu birth art
    Many midwives followed the ships bound for America, and colonial midwives found a high place in early American society. Likewise, they found that their Native American counterparts were just as prevalent in their respected cultures.
    Indian Birth Art from Kalpa Sutra The Birth of Mahavira, c 1375-1400
    As Europe was already formalizing training of midwives, but European colonized America was still in it's infancy, midwives once again found themselves the settlements first go-to for ailments, bumps and bruises, and, most of all, births.
    Gustave Witkowski, Pioneer Birth Scene, 1877
    One American midwife by the name of Martha Ballard practiced midwifery in Main between 1785 and 1812.  Her detailed diary gave us great insight into the magnitude of a midwife's multifaceted role in her community.

    Wisconsin College of Midwifery
    In 1716, New York City became the first part of America to require a midwife to be licensed; and, in late 1700's, the first large city hospitals opened. Also in the late 1700's, doctors began opening midwifery courses. Very few women attended, as it was deemed socially improper for them to do so, but many aspiring male-midwives did.
    French oil painting c 1800
    As colonies became cities, and cities became overpopulated, doctors began marketing themselves as the safer route to go. Doctors of the 'New World' followed suite from their European counterparts, but much more aggressively, and, in a male-dominated society, once again men were calling on other men, who were considered more educated and more competent, to deliver their wives.

    The 17th Century Birthing Chamber - by Lawrence Alma Tadema
    By the early 18th century, obstetricians were beginning to dominate the field of childbirth, as populations became larger cities, and the affluent were seen as the most knowledgeable. The advent of pain medicine for birth, forceps, and obstetrical training meant that midwives were paid less and less. Midwifery payment was unregulated and the amount equated to what level of expertise the man of the house thought the service-person possessed.

    Midwife Mary Gerrard, 1886, at her clinic - http://ebling.library.wisc.edu/historical/wi-women/index.cfm
    At the same time, infection ran rampant for lack of knowledge of microbiology and such life saving measures as washing of hands, and the public suddenly viewed childbirth as an ailment, something to be saved from.
    Granny Hill, 1920's, midwife, photo courtesy of Mrs. Echol Smith

    By 1900, physicians attended around half of the nation's births. Midwives were reserved for those who could not afford a doctor. Prejudices ran rampant and the name of midwifery once again became muddied by bigotry, greed, and hatred. Doctors soon saw that there was much money in the field of childbirth, not just a science to conquer, and began a smear campaign, building on the prejudices already in place.

    Granny Midwife Albany, GA, 1952. Courtesy Robert Galbraith
    By the early 1900's, public health and medical partnerships saw an increase in the amount of people now able to afford the 'painless' childbirth offered only in hospitals. As the Victorian age saw women as frail (and kept them as such), midwifery faded into the background, with only a small following continuing to use the ancient art of woman to woman care.
    1944 midwife in FL
    It wasn't until 1944 that America began taking a critical look at it's childbirth practices and looked, once again, to Europe for guidance. 11 years later, the ACNM was founded, and, between 1963 and 1969, a large resurgence of midwifery was marked, although it was still only a pebble in the pond of American obstetrical medicine. The 'hippy' generation rekindled the desire of women to take care of one another through a holistic approach.

    The Renaissance of the Apprentice-trained Midwife in North America ~ One Midwife’s Saga, Carol Leonard
    From that point forward, midwifery has slowly been making a come-back in America. Working diligently to dismantle the prejudices that have been in place since Medieval times, women who believe in the ancient art of woman to woman care are teaching their daughters, once again, to trust their bodies, the process, and the womanly art of birth.

    I have heard many women talk about how doulas are a new fad in our culture. Yet, when you look at the artwork throughout this post, you will see that women surrounded themselves with other women during labor and birth. They had a midwife there, yes, but they also had other women there to help them on the journey.
    Hellenistic Cypriot from the temple at Golgoi ca 310 30 BC (see the hands at her head and at baby)
    These women were always there to set food on the fire, take care of the other children, give massage or apply a cool washcloth, help in and out of positions to labor in, fetch the midwife's tools or herbs, give emotional support and encouragement, and give tips and tricks for what had worked for them during their labors.
    Isola Dell'Sacra Ostia 1st Century AD
    Oftentimes, these women were sisters, mothers, grandmothers, cousins, neighbors, friends - any woman who understood birth and could help another woman through it. 
    "You are a birth servant. Do good without show or fuss. If you must take the lead, lead so that the mother is helped, yet still free and in charge. When the baby is born, they will rightly say: "We did it ourselves!"' - Lao Tzu, "Tao Te Ching", 6th Century BC 
    Italian The Birth of Cupid School of Fontainebleau ca 16th century
    The modern doula takes her name from the ancient Greek term, originally 'female slave'. Interestingly, Grecian doulas call themselves birthworkers or labor companion. Old English termed the women godsibs. Women from the community (good neighbors) would converge on the house and keep the house in order while the woman labored. And, just as women do when they get together, they would talk and talk and talk - which is where the term gossip comes from, godsib.
    Hellenistic relief from late 4th early 3rd century BC Ibrahimieh Necropolis Alexandria
    This same practice was common from the times of ancient Egypt, as we can see when Mary went to be with Elizabeth as her time drew near (sometime in her 6th month), on through to the age of Colonial America (emphasis' mine):
    "at Cowens Still, Shee unwell yet. Jonas Clearks infant had a fitt; they Calld me to See it. mrs Cowen Calld her women together this Eving. was Safely Delivd of a Dafter about ye middle of ye night & is Comfortable. fee & medisin 10/. May 5, 18001 recd 10/ by his Dagt [bitsy]." - Martha Ballard
    isis giving birth with the help of demi gods
    Doulas, by any name, have been at women's sides as long as midwives. Nurturing, loving, and providing complementary companionship to the midwife's skills of herbs, measurements, holistic introspection, emotional counseling, anatomy, and biology.

    In Conclusion
    Science, again, is slowly coming full circle to realize what we, as women, have known since women first squatted in the dust of the earth. Women who are supported, encouraged, and educated by other women have the healthiest and safest outcomes.
    Indian Matrika
    When women can be caressed, loved, whispered to, touched, massaged, protected, and coaxed - women open willingly and easily, uninhibited, to the birth rhythms necessary to promote safer and more productive labor and birth. This occurs, most easily, with other women who understand normal, physiological labor and birth and trust it themselves.

    Further Reading:
    Witches, Midwives, and Nurses
    History of Midwifery
    Renaissance Woman: A Sourcebook
    The History of Midwifery and Childbirth in America: A Time Line
    A Short History of Midwifery
    No Catty Bitches
    Doula Support and Attitudes of Intrapartum Nurses: A Qualitative Study from the Patient's Perspective
    Normal Childbirth
    Birth Psychology
    Womb Ecology - The Masculinisation of the Birth Environment
    Womb Ecology - the physiological reference



    Unassisted Birth and NRP


    If any of you out there haven't yet read Rixa's birth story of Inga, you really should. Not only is it beautifully amazing, wonderous, and peaceful, but she has the ability to teach us at the end of the birth story.

    Her daughter entered secondary apnea, a deviation of normal neonatal respiratory efforts. During primary apnea (which occurs rather commonly), a baby can quickly begin respiratory efforts from drying, stimulating, a little puff ON the face, etc.. During secondary apnea (which occurs less commonly), stimulation alone will not help, baby needs actual AIR. 

    She got it all on tape, which is awesome, and she was provided with a teaching moment. Please, even if you aren't looking to become NRP certified, take the time to read this valuable information.

    I am an NRP and CPR/AED certified doula. It is important to me that I have the tools and education to help families, in the event that I am witness to a birth where baby requires a little extra help. If you are a doula or midwife and are not certified, please consider certifying.
    • For more information on Neonatal Resuscitation see here
    • For more information on a midwife coming to Rixa's defense from the internet criticism, see here.
    • For information on how you can become certified, see here
    • For a more holistic approach to NRP certification, see here
    • For a read through of the NRP program, see here


    Chelsea Rose Fine Art

    I just happened to stumble upon this awesome blog by the artist, Chelsea Rose.

    She has some amazing work that can be seen on her official site, her blog, and her etsy shop. She truly is a one-of-a-kind artist with a very distinct palate and form. I love her body painting series that can be seen in her book, a sample of which can be seen below:

    Finally, the post that had me stumbling onto her site? A Maternity Body Painting session commissioned by a local photographer. I LOOOVE this. If I were ever to become pregnant again, I would so want Chelsea to paint me. :)

    Thank you, Chelsea Rose, for allowing me to share your art with my readers. You are truly talented!


    MamAmor, 2 Giveaways, and an Interview

    As you might have figured out by now, I am completely, irrevocably, smitten with the MamAmor dolls made by Adriana.

    Right now, Adriana is hosting a great giveaway right now, at her blog, and I encourage you to go and enter to win. It's a FABULOUS prize.  

    Not only is she doing a giveaway right now, but she is also going to be donating a MamAmor doll for International Doula Month in May, right here on Bellies and Babies, so be sure to become a follower so that you will see the giveaway when it is posted (shameless self promotion, I know).

    And, as it turns out, the more I get to know her, she is not just a fabulous artisan and crafty goddess, she is also an amazing person! For that reason, I asked her a few questions, and a lovely interview came out of it.

    How did you get into this line of work:
    Three years ago, when I was training to become a Birth doula, one of the trainers showed me an old birthing doll. I liked the idea so much that I decided to use my sewing skills to make a birthing and breastfeeding doll for my own children. I've got such a great feedback from family and friends that I decided to start making more dolls, and more dolls and soon after I was so busy making and selling dolls that I almost didn't have time to work as a doula anymore!
    What makes your heart skip a beat, hold your breath, or sigh with happiness:
    On the personal level, my children milestones and achievements are huge for me, I love seeing them happy and confident, they make me feel a very proud mama. On the professional level, I love helping parents get ready to meet their babies; I treasure every moment of being at a birth. 
    I adore my dolls! Each one is very special, I put many hours and love into making them, my favorite part is watching them to become "unique mamas". They are like us, all different. It is also very special when I receive feedback from mothers, doulas, midwives, telling me how happy they are with their dolls, how useful they are for their work, and how educational they are for their children.
    If you had to choose one item that you sell, what is your favorite and why:
    I make and sell dolls and accessories for the dolls, but of course, my favorite items are the dolls. These mamas can be pregnant, they can give birth to their babies and they can breastfeed them. They are not only a wonderful educational tool but also a great toy for children of all ages. They represent natural - normal birth and they bring the message that breastfeeding is normal and a human right, and the bonding is essential to raising confident and trusting human beings.
    You mentioned you trained as a doula; when you think of a doula, what do you think about:
    A doula is a person who constantly gives, not only by listening and by educating, but most important, by being "present". Each time a doula goes to a birth, she leaves her personal issues and believes at home, and work very hard to make sure that her clients feel supported and safe, so they can speak their mind. A doula is like an birthing fairy....and she never forgets to bring her birthing fairy sparkles.
    Consequentially, what do you think of birth practices in the U.S. right now:
    I don't know much about doulas in U.S.- I live in Canada- but I would assume that the situation might be a bit similar. Doulas in Canada are growing and they are being seen more and more in hospitals in the last few years, but they are still not considered fundamental part of the parents birthing team, there is along way to get there.
    Anything Else that you would like us to know about you:
    I make custom dolls as well. People can choose eye, hair and skin colours, as well as styles of clothing and accessories.

    Thank you, Adriana, for your time and your beautiful dolls!

    To visit MamAmor:

    MamAmor Main Website


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