Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Domestic Violence Awareness Month

Domestic violence was the first social justice cause in my life that I became deeply committed to. Though I haven't worked in battered women's shelters in quite a few years now, and the focus in my life has become birth activism, I still care a great deal about family violence prevention--which, obviously, is tied strongly into why I care so much about healthy, respectful, humane births for women and babies! Violence against women is a public health issue.

Three women each day in the U.S. are murdered by their husbands or boyfriends and 500 women each day are raped or sexually assaulted. Knowing this, I can't help but wonder why the AMA finds it worthwhile to target homebirth and issue a resolution against homebirth. It seems more logical to issue a "resolution against marriage" or "a resolution against having a boyfriend."

In the fall 2007 issue of CfM News, Susan Hodges had a sidebar in my article (Domestic Violence During Pregnancy) about violence against women in medical settings. Given that October is domestic violence awareness month, I wanted to share a quote from her sidebar:

"While the situation is different from domestic violence in some ways, it is also similar. Abuse in the medical setting is also about power and control, the pregnant or laboring woman is often blamed for her situation, and verbal and emotional abuse can be similar. Because we are taught to “trust your doctor”, and in fact there is an explicit assumption of trust in the “fiduciary relationship” between the woman and her doctor who is an “expert”, most of us do not think about the possibility of abuse, and many of us stay with the OB or feel we have no choice about our health care providers or settings, especially when we are in labor. Also, the doctors and staff generally are not even aware that their behavior or actions are abusive."

I get an informative e-newsletter called Speaking Up from the Family Violence Prevention Fund (On a related side note, when their supplies are in stock, this organization also provides free due-date calculator wheels that are printed with domestic violence screening questions as a reminder to maternity care providers to ask their clients about DV). I wanted to share some information from this last newsletter:

"October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month (DVAM) and across the country, advocates are joining health care providers, business leaders, policy makers, faith-based groups, college students and others at events and activities designed to educate the public about domestic and sexual violence. Events include national campaigns, statewide activities and community events."

"The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports 1,200 deaths and two million injuries to women from intimate partner violence each year.

• According to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, on average three women a day are murdered by their husbands or boyfriends in the United States. Women are 84 percent of spouse abuse victims, 86 percent of victims of abuse at the hands of a boyfriend or girlfriend, and three in four victims of family violence.

• Almost 500 (483) women are raped or sexually assaulted each day, on average, in the United States. [U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics]"

Monday, September 29, 2008

Birth Film Thoughts

At the end of the week, I posted about the Orgasmic Birth film screening I went to (and shared my reservations about the title) and also posted about MANA 2008 conference blog. In a convenient coincidence, as I later scrolled through the conference blog I found that they actually addressed the title issue as by quoting from a newspaper article about the title of the film:

"First, she announced her working title, "An Ordinary Miracle: Global Models of Care."

Sit back down, they told her.

Then she tried "Ecstatic Birth." Still not good enough.

Finally, a friend Pascali-Bonaro had brought along for support whispered an idea in her ear. "Just go for it," she urged.

The fledgling filmmaker stood up and announced:

"Orgasmic Birth!"

Now they were interested." (see original article)

Though my reservations about "fringiness" still stand, I do understand the publicity maneuver of the titling choice.

And, can I just say again how very much I enjoyed this film. It has really lingered with me and I find myself referencing it in conversation. I've also had some great conversations prompted by the issues and themes it raises.

Speaking of films, here is a link to a trailer for a film for fathers coming out in 2009. Called The Other Side of the Glass, it looks like it covers a side of birth--specifically, medicalized birth--that hasn't been addressed in this way before. The trailer definitely makes me want to see more.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

MANA Conference

Back in July, I posted briefly about the MANA conference this year (I was commenting on their great logo!). However, when I posted about conferences I've received emails about recently, I should have mentioned MANA again, since it is coming right up! The Midwives Alliance of North America is holding its 2008 conference in Traverse City, MI on October 16-19. Two of the CfM Board members will be attending.

The conference features Jennifer Block, Suzanne Arms, and many other dynamic speakers. It also has CEUs available from ACNM, MEAC, MI Nurses Association, and DONA. Of interest also is the MotherBaby Film Festival that will take place October 15th-17th with Ricki Lake and Abby Epstein in attendance. You can read more on the event's interesting blog. (and, of course, don't forget to make note of the conference's super cool logo. I'm especially fond of it :-)

American Association of Birth Centers

Early this month, CfM President Susan Hodges attended the American Association of Birth Centers (AABC) Birth Institute and gave a brief presentation about CfM. It sounds as if the conference was very educational and valuable. Many people feel that birth centers may be the best hope at bridging the gap between the midwives model of care and the medical model. Membership in the AABC is not for birth centers only but "for anyone who is interested in pregnancy, birth, labor and delivery, and other women’s healthcare and reproductive issues. We are an association for parents, parents-to-be, and expectant families; we are also an association for health care workers including midwives, OB/GYN doctors and nurses, and professionals who specialize in pre-netal and post-natal care."

Speaking of Susan, we recently learned that she was chosen to received the "Midwifing Midwives Award" from the Midwives College of Utah at its annual President's Banquet. The nonimation stated that "this special award is given to a person that exemplifies MCU's definition of a midwife, and has shown great dedication to supporting, nurturing, educating, and promoting midwives." Susan definitely meets this description and I'm excited to see her recognized for it!

Orgasmic Birth Film

My local Friends of Midwives chapter held a fundraising screening of the new documentary Orgasmic Birth this past weekend. The film was beautiful! Even after seeing it, I do continue to have serious reservations about the choice of title for the film and wonder if it will hinder the films ability to realize its full potential. (I fear the title keeps it on the "fringe" and in the "choir.") It is a beautiful and impactful film. Very well done and the message is profound. The title does not seem to accurately portray the births and messages about birth in this film though. Ecstatic, euphoric, pleasurable, or joyful all seem like more appropriately descriptive words.

One element that particularly stood out to me in the film was how active and engaged the fathers were with the birth process during the home births shown. They were right there holding and loving their wives through their journeys. this was a stark contrast to the hospital births in which the fathers nervously held their wives hands and occasionally patted their backs. "She was in entirely too much pain, so the epidural was very welcome," says one of these fathers, shown earlier as his wife discussed their plans for a natural hospital birth. The sense of power and exhiliration is markedly diminished (or even absent) in the hospital settings shown.

This was a deeply moving film and I hope it reaches the audience it is meant for because it has a powerful message to share about the joy of birth and potency of the birth experience.

Friday, September 26, 2008

International Midwifery

There is so much going on with midwifery and birth issues in the U.S. that it can be hard to keep up. And, this means sometimes I forget to look at what is happening across the world! Two organizations came to my attention recently--Mercy in Action in the Philippines and Birth India in India.

Mercy in Action
is a ministry involved in creating midwifery clinics and providing public health services. They welcome donations to help keep their birth centers running as well as donations of baby supplies.

Birth India is a new organization founded in 2007 by five women--some who were spurred to action by very traumatic birth experiences and others by very beautiful ones. They are creating Birth Networks to educate women about natural birth and to discuss birth trauma. I love the closing line of their About Us statement: "Birth India is here because we believe the birthing woman is a force to be protected and loved. "

Back to the U.S., for those keeping up with the Big Push for Midwives campaign, The Big Push now has a Facebook account you may wish to check out!

Friday, September 19, 2008


I've received a lot of conference news recently as well as information about BOLD performances going on across the country and I wanted to link to some interesting events. I wanted to make sure to remind conference organizers, BOLD planners, and event table staffers, that Citizens for Midwifery has tons of fact sheets/handouts available as pdfs online for free. Though we do not have the person-power or financial wherewithal to provide packets of print information for free, you can access our materials online and create your own packets! The fact sheets are great for printing off and having on your conference table, or to place on dining tables during a fundraising events, etc. You can also order Midwives Model of Care brochures affordably in CfM's online store. We do have two-color fliers about CfM available for free via the store as well.

Okay, so on to some of the conferences I've heard about recently! In Ventura, CA, the Birth Action Coalition is holding an event called "Speaking Out for Birth Choices" on October 4th.

In Milwaukee, WI, on October 12th the CARE Network of Milwaukee and the Well-Rounded Maternity Center are bringing a portion of the Safe Motherhood Quilt Project to Milwaukee as part of a program on the Causes, Prevention and Treatment of Postpartum Depression.

Then speaking of Milwaukee, I also learned that ICEA and Lamaze are teaming up for a joint conference there in 2010 (Sept 20-Oct 3) to honor both of their 50th anniversaries. I think that is incredibly neat and is sure to be a not-to-be-missed conference!

Coming up much more rapidly, on Oct. 10-12 of this year, the International Center for Traditional Childbearing will hold their 6th annual Black Midwives & Healers Conference in New York, NY. I like the motto on the conference annoucement: "healthy babies are everyone's business."

I'm sure there are also many other exciting things going on around the country (and the world!). This was just a snapshot. It is exciting to me to look at how much action is going on all over the place in support of birthing women.


Friday, September 12, 2008


I am leaving shortly for the Friends of Missouri Midwives annual retreat this weekend. I'm presenting two sessions--one on "Birthing Room Yoga" and the other on "Planning for Postpartum." I have a special interest in postpartum and encourage people to plan for a special time of "cocooning" with their newborn, rather than rushing to rejoin "normal" life. A vital part of making cocooning possible, is having a good support network. I think back to the care I received from my midwife postpartum--it really mattered to me. The time she spent gently sponge bathing off my arms and legs, cleaning the living room rug, doing laundry. The fact that she returned (20 mile drive for her) at about 12 hours postpartum, 2 days postpartum, and a few more times thereafter (plus phone calls!), to check on us and to offer her support and encouragement. This kind of care is irreplaceable and not the kind of care that you can ever expect from an OB or for an out-of-home birthing environment. Many midwives return at 1 day, 3 days, 5, days, and one week postpartum!

An element I also emphasize is the importance of making a written postpartum support plan. DONA has a great example on their website and there is a good handout about postpartum planning on this site (I especially like the final page in the document that is "A Request for Help After Baby is Born" with accompanying "tear-off" section for people to fill out and give back to with the things they are willing to do for you postpartum).

Postpartum is a time for you to reach out for support and to let others "mother" you for a change. Though of course you could do it all alone if you had to, now is not the time to be "superwoman" or to prove how competent and independent you are. You and your baby will both benefit from an extended period of rest and recuperation, nuzzled up together in your own bed, marveling at what has just happened.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Lady's Hands, Lion's Heart

I just finished reading a wonderful new midwife's saga by midwife Carol Leonard. Called Lady's Hands, Lion's Heart, this book is a phenomenal read. I enjoyed it immensely. It was compelling, engaging, exciting, and also sad. The book chronicles Carol's personal experiences over a period of 13 years with tons of riveting birth stories, but it also explores the development of midwifery as a profession in New Hampshire and also the birth of MANA. My full review will be in the forthcoming issue of CfM News, but I urge you to pop on over to Carol's site and just buy it for yourself!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

GRN: Big Push for Midwives News: ACOG ups effort to eliminate home birth midwives

Dear Friends,

The Big Push for Midwives Campaign continues to put out PushNews and PushAlerts. (If you haven’t heard of the Big Push for Midwives Campaign, look up Grassroots Network Messages from earlier this year, or read more at the website

Today’s PushNews notes that the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) has moved gettting rid of home birth midwives up to the #2 spot on their list of State Legislative Issues for 2008! You can see the whole list here.

I have copied the PushNews (which includes some great quotes) below. It is not yet posted on the Big Push website. If you are interested in receiving PushNews and Push Alerts, contact Steff Hedenkamp

Citizens for Midwifery supports the work of the Big Push for Midwives Campaign!

Susan Hodges “gate keeper”

PushNews from The Big Push for Midwives Campaign
CONTACT: Steff Hedenkamp, (816) 506-4630,
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Monday, September 1, 2008

Number Two With a Bullet
Critical Women’s Health Issues Neglected as Physician Group Yet Again Sets its Sites on Midwives

WASHINGTON, D.C. (September 1, 2008)In the newest phase of its ongoing effort to deny women the right to choose their maternity care providers and birth settings, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) has announced that eliminating access to midwives who specialize in out-of-hospital birth is now the second most important issue on its state legislative agenda. This move puts restricting access to trained midwives ahead of such critical issues as contraceptive equity, ensuring access to emergency contraception, and the prevention and treatment of perinatal HIV/AIDS.

“ACOG claims to be an advocate of women’s health and choice, but when it comes to the right to choose to deliver your baby in the privacy of your own home with a Certified Professional Midwife (CPM) who is specifically trained to provide the safest care possible, ACOG’s paternalistic colors bleed through,” said Susan M. Jenkins, Legal Counsel for the Big Push for Midwives Campaign. “It is astonishing that an organization that purports to be a champion of women’s healthcare would put a petty turf battle that affects less than one percent of the nation’s childbearing women ahead of pressing issues that have an impact on nearly every woman in this country. If this is not dereliction of duty, I can’t imagine what is.”

In recent years, ACOG has led a well-financed campaign to fight legislative reforms that would license and regulate CPMs and has now teamed up with the American Medical Association (AMA) to promote legislation that would prevent families from choosing to give birth at home. Despite these joint efforts, the groups have not been successful in defeating the groundswell of grassroots activism in support of full access to a comprehensive range of maternity care options that meet the needs of all families.

“Wisconsin is a good example of what ACOG and the AMA are up against,” said Jane Crawford Peterson, CPM, Advocacy Trainer for The Big Push. “Our bipartisan grassroots coalition of everyday people from across the state managed to defeat the most powerful and well-financed special interest groups in Wisconsin, all on an expenses-only budget of $3000 during a legislative session in which $47 million was spent on lobbying. When you try to deny women the fundamental and very personal right to choose where and how to give birth, they will get organized and they will let their elected officials know that restrictions on those rights cannot stand.”

Noting these successes, ACOG has recently launched its own grassroots organizing effort, calling on member physicians to recruit their patients to participate in its “Who Will Deliver My Baby?” medical liability reform campaign.

“ACOG itself admits that we’re facing a critical shortage of maternity care providers,” said Steff Hedenkamp, Communications Coordinator for the Big Push. “They certainly realize that medical liability reform is nothing more than a band aid and that increasing access to midwives and birth settings is critical to fixing our maternity care system and ensuring that rural, low-income and uninsured women don’t fall through the cracks. Midwives represent an essential growth segment of the U.S. pool of maternity care providers, but instead of putting the healthcare needs of women first, ACOG would rather devote its considerable lobbying budget to a last-ditch attempt to protect its own bottom line. This is not a happy Labor Day for our nation’s mothers and babies.”

The Big Push for Midwives (
http://www.TheBigPushforMidwives.org) is a nationally coordinated campaign organized to advocate for regulation and licensure of Certified Professional Midwives (CPMs) in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, and to push back against the attempts of the American Medical Association and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists to deny American families access to safe and legal midwifery care. The campaign plays a critical role in building a new model of U.S. maternity care delivery at the local and regional levels, at the heart of which is the Midwives Model of Care, based on the fact that pregnancy and birth are normal life processes. Media inquiries: Steff Hedenkamp (816) 506-4630, steff@thebigpushformidwives.org.