Saturday, February 27, 2010

Maternity Care Allegory

Have I mentioned recently that I love Childbirth Connection? Well, I do! What a wonderful organization offering so many helpful maternity care resources.

I recently wrote a long post on my other blog about "choices," listening to other women's stories, and thinking about how we tell stories of our own. As synchronicity would have it, one of my Facebook birth advocate friends shared a link this week from the current CIMS Childbirth Forum going on in Texas. The link was to a maternity care allegory by Childbirth Connection illustrating differences between current and envisioned maternity care systems. I thought the allegory was a very good illustration of an effective use of story--the stories spoke for themselves, no need to identify some choices as "better" or "worse," right or wrong.

Then, in another synchronous moment, I saw this Superbowl ad clip for the movie The Back-Up Plan. I do not have TV, so I am mercifully spared most advertising, but I conicidentally came across the clip AS I was writing this post--what a dramatic example of another kind of story and message about birth :(

CfM Blogger

Friday, February 26, 2010

Book Review: Birth Day

Book Review: Birth Day: A Pediatrician Explores the Science, the History, and the Wonder of Childbirth
By Mark Sloan, M.D.
Ballantine Books, 2009
ISBN 978-0-345-50286-5
370 pages, hardcover, $25

Reviewed by Molly Remer, MSW, ICCE

Written in a fast-paced journalistic rather than academic style, Birth Day is a biological, historical, and sociocultural look at birth in our species, highlighting the experiences and skills of the fetus and newborn infant. The focus of Birth Day is on childbirth, but as a pediatrician, the emphasis of the journey in this book is on the baby and its development, skills, and remarkable adaptations to the womb and to life on earth. The book contains frequent references to evolution, which is not a concern to me, but may be to other readers.

The author’s personal experiences and observations are interwoven skillfully throughout the book lending an engaging “human” component—I loved his wry and occasionally self-deprecating honesty and realistic sharing. We read about the births of both of his children (one a very long labor eventually with an epidural and the second a scheduled cesarean due to placenta previa), his experiences as a medical student, and his observations as a hospital and clinic pediatrician. Dr. Sloan has been present at over 3000 births as a hospital pediatrician and 20 births as the baby “catcher” (medical school OB rotation). There is no real mention of homebirth, but occasional, supportive references to CNMs and to doulas.

The author has a healthy respect for the process of birth, noting in his conclusion that “…the most striking thing to me after all these years is how often such a complicated process goes right.” As a breastfeeding counselor, an element that I loved in this book was the author’s complete acceptance and integration of the importance and normalcy of the birth-breastfeeding continuum as well as the assumption of breastfeeding present throughout (bottles and formula do not make a single appearance throughout the 370 pages). This presentation was both very refreshing and completely appropriate.

The content of Birth Day was reminiscent of Birth by Tina Cassidy, with the primary difference being the emphasis on the infant’s experiences. There were occasional instances of questionable data such as, “An unattended breech birth, for example, is nearly always fatal to mother and child.” (?!)

Fast paced and often very funny, the author of Birth Day has a knack for explaining complicated concepts in simple terms and using effective analogies. I learned some new facts about the history of birth and was pretty captivated by the whole ride.

Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book for review purposes.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Grassroots Network: Online Survey: Tell Citizens for Midwifery What We Can Do Better!

Dear Friends,

As part of our exciting transition, with new leadership and an expanded board ahead of us, we at Citizens for Midwifery are also thinking about how we can better focus our work to serve our members and friends: you! Please help us out by taking our online survey (information below). You can participate any time over the next two weeks, and the results will help inform CfM's mission and goals as we move forward.

Thanks so much for your time! We really look forward to hearing from you!

Arielle Greenberg Bywater, "sidekick"


Citizens for Midwifery Survey

Citizens for Midwifery is conducting a survey. Please check it out at www.surveymonkey. com/s/CfMsurvey1.

As Susan transitions into retirement this year, CfM is taking this opportunity to evaluate our communications, products, services, and membership. We'd like to identify what we are doing really well, and what value CfM brings to our members, supporters and the public in general. We'd also like to know what we could do better as we grow as an organization. So please take a few minutes and visit our survey at www.surveymonkey. com/s/CfMsurvey1. We want to hear your voice. Thank you.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Book Review: Birth Space, Safe Place

Book Review: Birth Space, Safe Place: Emotional Well-Being through Pregnancy & Birth
By Adela Stockton
Findhorn Press, 2009
ISBN 978-1-84409-165-2
102 pages, paperback, $14.95

Reviewed by Molly Remer, MSW, ICCE

Appropriate for first time mothers as well as women having subsequent children, Birth Space, Safe Place is a slim and succinct little volume with a sole center: emotional well-being throughout pregnancy and birth. This very specific purpose is what makes the book special. It focuses on creating the emotional space for a gentle birth as well as a physical environment conducive to gentle, physiological birth. However, there is a broad range of topics covered within this specific focus including pain, fear, support, the “cocktail” of labor hormones, avoiding physiological disturbances of the birth process, optimal fetal positioning, and blessingways

The chronology of the book flows from “conscious conception” through making decisions about birth location, preparing for labor, support during birth, “the spirit of birth,” and “early parenting joys and griefs” which addresses birth processing and postpartum recovery. The chapter on “cleansing the past” briefly addresses prior loss and bereavement, difficult previous birth experiences, and issues of abuse. Each section contains brief personal anecdotes, some from the author and some from mothers she has worked with. The exploration of each topic is brief, but is an adequate overview.

The author is a “childbirth homeopath” and so there are several sections about homeopathic remedies for specific symptoms or concerns. Aside from the homeopathic content, I did not feel as if I learned anything particularly new from the book, however it was very nice to have information about a specific element of pregnancy and birth preparation all pulled together into one nurturing place.

Birth Space, Safe Place is very supportive of doulas—for both labor and postpartum—and also of midwifery care and homebirth.

The book contains three appendices, endnotes, references, a glossary, and resource listing. The book is written in the UK (author is in Scotland), so National Health Service care is assumed and that system of maternity care, midwifery, and homebirth. The first appendix briefly addresses differences in US and Australian midwives compared to the UK.

Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book for review purposes.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Childbirth Connection Tribute to Susan Hodges

How delightful to see a nice tribute to CfM's Susan Hodges in the most recent issue of the Childbirth Connection eNews! This is a great e-newsletter overall and I suggest checking it out by scrolling down to the bottom of the Childbirth Connection homepage.

I am reprinting the tribute below.

CfM Blogger

A Tribute to Susan Hodges
Susan Hodges, co-founder of Citizens for Midwifery, has just stepped down after serving as the group’s president for 13 years.

We salute Susan for her many contributions to support the Midwives Model of Care, which includes:

  • Monitoring the physical, psychological, and social well-being of the mother throughout the childbearing cycle
  • Providing the mother with individualized education, counseling, and prenatal care, continuous hands-on assistance during labor and delivery, and postpartum support
  • Minimizing technological interventions
  • Identifying and referring women who require obstetrical attention.

Under Susan’s leadership, Citizens for Midwifery has supported such care by working collaboratively with like-minded organizations, maintaining a website, producing the Midwives Model of Care brochure, sending Grassroots Network email messages, publishing a newsletter, using social media, and many other means. We wish Susan and her family and Citizens for Midwifery well!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Remembering Viola Lennon

Viola Lennon was one of seven remarkable women who “challenged society, changed the culture, and taught the world that babies were born to be breastfed.” In Chicago, IL in 1956, a worldwide phenomenon was born as seven women gathered together to found a mother-to-mother support organization that would become La Leche League International. Begun in one suburban living room, LLLI has grown to have a presence in over 65 countries around the world.

Viola (Vi) graduated from Mundelein College with a degree in Economics. In college, she became involved with an organization called Young Christian Workers that sparked her interest in “doing things naturally.” Vi married her husband Bill in 1951 and they welcomed ten children into their lives (all unmedicated births and all breastfed!). Later, Vi delighted in having 18 grandchildren. Vi became interested in attending the first ever LLL meeting in 1956 because it was described to her as being about “mothering”—this caught Vi’s interest because it was a new concept at the time.

After the organization extended beyond local mother-to-mother support, Vi served as Chairman of the Board of Directors and later as LLLI Funding Development Director and still later with her role in the Alumnae Association and on the Founders’ Advisory Council.
Vi spoke to the power of breastfeeding and mothering when she said, “"Breastfeeding… led me to self-discovery and to a greater appreciation of the full humanity of the babies who were entrusted to me. Each woman needs to trust her own instincts, her own feelings, and her own sense of what will work for her with each baby."

Viola Lennon was born in 1923 and passed away in January of this year. She is remembered as a woman who had a profound influence on the entire world and she left an incredible legacy.

CfM Blogger

*This memorial was originally written for the CAPPA blog.
*Primary Source: The Revolutionaries Wore Pearls by Kaye Lowman, 2007.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Happy Valentine's Day!

Well, this post isn't actually remotely birth or midwifery related (though perhaps the romantic mood could lead to future births and babies?!)

I recently received a sample copy of the new book Sweeping Her Off Her Feet with Food: The Ultimate Guide to Romance and Seduction in the Kitchen and I felt like Valentine's Day presented the perfect opportunity to share one of the recipes (with permission, of course!) with the birth world :)

I have always been a fan of bread pudding and this recipe sounds GOOD! (especially the modification at the end with the addition of white chocolate squares.)

Enjoy and have a wonderful Valentine's Day!

CfM Blogger

The Best Bread Pudding She's Ever Had

1 loaf French bread, cut into cubes and dried 2-3 hours
2 1/2 sticks melted butter (1/2 pound)
5 eggs
2 yolks
3 1/2 cups heavy cream
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/3 teaspoon nutmeg
1 tablespoon vanilla
3/4 cup raisins

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place bread cubes in a 12” x 9” baking dish. Pour butter over bread cubes and mix together until butter is soaked into the bread. Combine next 9 ingredients in a medium-sized mixing bowl and whisk until well blended. Pour mixture (custard) over bread cubes and gently mix until all cubes are moist with the custard. Let stand for 3 minutes. Pour remaining butter over the top, then sprinkle brown sugar over that, making sure some of the sugar mixes with the butter. Place in center of oven and bake for 50 minutes or until pudding feels firm to the touch and a toothpick comes out clean. Top should be deep golden brown. Serve with Crème Anglaise (recipe follows) or Haagen-Dazs vanilla ice cream…I’m sorry I just love Haagen Dazs!

*Note: Though my girlfriend Trudi loves the this original recipe best, my favorite modification is to substitute the raisins with 1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen raspberries, 3/4 cup macadamia nuts and 1 bar of white chocolate rectangles (not the baking squares—more like the thinner chocolate bar) broken into pieces. Cut the cinnamon and nutmeg quantities in half. Also substitute White Crème de Cacao for bourbon in the Crème Anglaise. Oh yeah! … Can you feel me, bruh!?

Bourbon Crème Anglaise

4 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/4 cups milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
A shot of bourbon or whiskey (2 if you’re feeling thirsty--3 if you’re feeling thirsty and she’s feeling frisky!)

In a medium mixing bowl, combine yolks and sugar and whisk until well blended. Place milk, cream and vanilla in a medium sauté pan and warm on medium-high heat. When cream mixture reaches a soft boil, take 1/4 of the warm cream and add it to the yolk mixture, whisking gently until well blended. Turn remainder of the cream to high heat and slowly whisk in yolk mixture until sauce comes to a boil. Let boil no longer than 5 seconds while whisking vigorously. Remove from heat and let stand for 15 minutes; then chill in fridge for at least an hour. When sauces cools, stir in bourbon until well blended.

Serve when ready.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

New Blog: First the Egg

I've mentioned here before that one of the birth blogs I really enjoy is the Feminist Childbirth Studies blog. The author (another Molly, so she must be great ;-D) let me know recently that she has a brand new website and will be continuing her blog there. Called First the Egg, her tagline is "a feminist resource on pregnancy, birth, and parenting." Her explanation of "why feminist?" is great.

I recognize that women are drawn to birthwork for a wide variety of reasons and many birthworkers do not self-identify as "feminist" (though I think that many of them would actually fall into the category of "cutural feminists"--a branch of feminism that celebrates the female essence and the natural, complementary differences between women and men). For me personally, I was a feminist first, and my interest in birth is a natural outgrowth of my overarching interest in "women's issues." I love learning about what originally drew other women to work with birth. When I trace the thread back in my own life, I see that it extends all the way back to about age 12.

CfM Blogger

Friday, February 5, 2010

Grassroots Network: Citizens for Midwifery Starts Our Next Stage

Dear Friends,

Well, “the time has come” as the walrus said! Here is the official notice (see below): I have “retired” from being President of Citizens for Midwifery. It is time for me to start attending to some other things, and for others to step up!

Don’t worry, I’m not going to just disappear. But you will begin to see other people doing some of the tasks I have been responsible for in the past.

I hope many of you will consider giving some of your time and expertise to continue and expand CfM’s work in the future!

Susan Hodges, “gatekeeper”


Citizens for Midwifery Starts Our Next Stage

As we go into our fourteenth year, Citizens for Midwifery is entering a new stage of life: our beloved and long-standing President and Co-founder, Susan Hodges, has stepped down from being President and will retire from the CfM Board by the end of 2010. (See message from Susan below.) Effective January 1, 2010, board member Willa Powell is our new President. Willa has been a member of the CfM board and Treasurer since 1999. (If you have found CfM on Facebook, you may have heard from Willa recently!) Willa is a mother of four (one Cesarean section, one hospital VBAC, and two homebirths after Cesarean) and has served as a citywide elected school board member in Rochester, New York since 1997.

In addition, current board members Carolyn Keefe, Nasima Pfaffl and Arielle Greenberg Bywater are also continuing to serve, bringing their expertise, dedication, and passions­ ranging from research, writing and technological skills to interest in homebirth, VBAC and midwifery legislation­ to CfM.

Citizens for Midwifery has had many successes over the years, including:
§ our highly respected website, newsletter, Midwives Model of Care brochure and other literature widely used to support advocacy and activist work;
§ our Grassroots News Messages, which go out to over a thousand advocates on a regular basis to keep them updated on the latest maternity care news;
§ our Facebook presence, with over 2000 Group members and Fans and over 5000 Cause members; and
§ our current, instrumental role in the MAMA Campaign to impact national legislation to recognize and provide Medicaid coverage for Certified Professional Midwives.

Citizens for Midwifery is run by an all-volunteer board made up of regular citizens: consumers who care about the maternal wellness, childbirth and infant health issues that have always been vital to our mission. The board members serve from all over the country, coming together by phone and in person to write articles, fact sheets, and other documents for consumers, policymakers and birth professionals; support and unite with allied midwifery and other birth organizations; conduct outreach to other engaged consumers; and anything else we can do to promote the Midwives Model of Care. We work collaboratively, we work hard, we change the world­ and we have a lot of fun doing it!

We are currently in the exciting stage of refocusing our efforts and figuring out how best to move forward as an even stronger, higher impact organization. At this year’s annual board meeting, we determined that in order to keep our work vital, enjoyable and sustainable, we must expand our board and our volunteer base. We are looking for a few good women and men to join us in our fight for better access to the high-quality Midwives Model of Care for mothers and babies. We welcome anyone passionate about our mission to contact us to get involved: while people with expertise would be wonderful, we have a wide variety of ways to participate, from discrete tasks to larger roles and positions on our board. We’d love to have wider geographic and racial and ethnic diversity, and consumers of all ages are encouraged to apply. Volunteering for CfM is a great way to learn new things, keep your skills sharp, and connect with a great group of supportive, dynamic activists.

We are especially in need of folks with interest or experience in
· graphic design
· bookkeeping
· web design and content
· online social networking

We are also in search of two new Board officers: a Treasurer (responsible for our finances, sales, and other monetary issues) and a Secretary (responsible for preparing, documenting and archiving our minutes, agendas, and other aspects of our ongoing group history).

And we want to hear your ideas about how CfM can be even more effective. This year, for the first time, we’ll be hosting our Annual Membership meeting as a Webinar, an online seminar you can participate in from anywhere. The meeting will take place on Thursday, March 25, 2010 at 8 pm EST. Visit to register to attend. We will also soon be setting up an online survey to gauge your interest in various issues and topics and better target our work, so please look for that announcement and link!

Please contact us with any questions, ideas or comments, or to volunteer, at .

Farewell from Susan Hodges:

I have been President of Citizens for Midwifery since its beginning (13 years!). I am really proud of all that Citizens for Midwifery has accomplished over the years, but the time has come for me to move on. I have stepped down from being President as of the end of 2009. Our board is embracing this change as a terrific opportunity for CfM’s development. This is a chance for us to reflect on who we are, what we’ve been doing, and what changes we might make so we can grow stronger and be an effective advocate for midwifery in the years to come. This is a chance to let go, and welcome new people, new ideas, new ways to accomplish our goals. I have absolute confidence that the result will be a better-than-ever Citizens for Midwifery!

Hello from new president Willa Powell:

Dear Friends,

I’ve been on the Citizens for Midwifery Board since 1999. Not as long as former president Susan Hodges, but pretty long! I had thought about being President of the Board someday, and assumed that when that day came, I would feel ready. Well, guess what? That day came, and even with more than a year of forewarning, I don’t feel ready!

Susan Hodges is an amazing person and all of us on the Board relied on Susan’s years of experience and personal dedication, as she led us through the necessary relationship building that has made us a respected partner in the midwifery community. In addition, Susan had and has the gift of being able to recognize opportunity when it presents itself, and that is a skill that is not easily learned.

I recently participated in a Webinar on board recruitment when a board member said, “I shouldn’t be on this board; my boss’s boss should be.” That was a profound example of honest assessment that resonated with me. So, while I delight in stepping into Susan’s shoes, I realize this organization needs more than a caretaker. It needs a transformational leader ­ many transformational leaders. The current board is, of necessity, the transition team, and our job is to find those transformational leaders who can take our organization beyond our small but respected present to a future where we will be heard and respected in every policy setting body in the country.

Do you know a transformational leader? Please share the name of that person with us, so we can explore new territory with them. Are you that transformational leader? Most people are too modest to see themselves that way, but you may be one just the same. Perhaps you are like me, and feel much more comfortable with discrete tasks than with visionary stuff. That’s great! We need you too! So if you’ve ever said to yourself, “there must be something I can do” to support midwifery, please reach out to us. If there is a change agent in your circle of friends, who has a passion for midwifery, please share her/his name with us!

Looking forward to hearing from you,
Willa Powell

Book Review: 25 Ways to Awaken Your Birth Power

25 Ways to Awaken Your Birth Power
By Danette Watson and Stephanie Corkhill Hyles
Watson & Corkhill Hyles, 2004
Hardcover, Book & CD Set, $24.95.
ISBN: 0-646-44337-2

Reviewed by Molly Remer, MSW, ICCE

“If you have heard enough birth ‘war stories,’ advice, and medical information… If you are beginning to doubt yourself and to feel confused and worried about giving birth… It is time to focus on something simple, positive and inspirational. It is time to come back to center and listen to your own inner wisdom. It is time to Awaken your Birth Power.”

I was experiencing my third pregnancy when I received the book and CD set 25 Ways to Awaken Your Birth Power and was able to read and listen as both a consumer and a reviewer. I found both the book and CD very nurturing, enriching, and affirming. The book is a collection of 25 short breathing meditations each accompanied by a beautiful (and whimsical) drawing. The final section of the book contains brief sections exploring the body-mind connection, “what actually happens when you awaken your birth power,” a chart of characteristics awakening power and those that block power, and specific suggestions for how to use each of the 25 meditations in the book.

The enclosed CD has 3 tracks–the first is called “awaken your birth power for pregnancy” and consists of the relevant meditations from the book read aloud. The woman reading has a pleasant, soothing voice with a slight Australian accent. The second track on the CD is “awaken your birth power for labour and birth” and consists of 48 minutes of the relevant meditations from the book read aloud. The third track is an abbreviated almost 8-minute guided meditation. The CD would be perfect to listen to while in labor.

With its gentle illustrations and relaxing words, 25 Ways to Awaken Your Birth Power is a nurturing, confidence-inspiring, birth-power-enhancing, reflective, time-out for use during pregnancy or birth.

Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book for review purposes.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Book Review: Dance of the Womb

Book Review: Dance of the Womb: The Essential Guide to Belly Dance for Pregnancy and Birth

By Maha Al Musa, 2008
ISBN 978-0-646-48705-2
260 page hardcover book, $49.95 (AUS)

Reviewed by Molly Remer, MSW, ICCE,

Some books simply feel good to hold in your hands. Dance of the Womb is one such book: it is beautiful, both in content and appearance. While priced a little higher than some birth books, I cannot emphasize enough what a high quality book it is—-it is not a traditional trade paperback, it is of textbook quality and size. Hardbound with a lovely cover and endpapers, Dance of the Womb is packed with full color, detailed, step-by-step instructional photographs leading the reader through a “belly dance for birth” journey.

Dance of the Womb is divided into several segments. The first section summarizes the benefits of belly dance and explores the physiology of birth. The next section walks the reader through a series of gentle warm-up exercises while the following sections progress through a variety of different specific belly dance movements. Nearing the conclusion of the text is a segment about labor movements with positions. Each section of the book is lavishly illustrated with very clear, easy to follow, step-by-step photographs.

The author’s own journey through pregnancy, birth, and mothering is skillfully interwoven throughout the text as well as her own feminine passage into understanding herself as a complete woman. Interspersed with the photographs and belly dance instructions, is the exploration of the author’s pregnancy and birth experiences, her relationship with her own mother and her parents’ culture. The book contains her personal birth stories as well as perspectives on belly dance for birth from three midwives.

The author, Maha Al Musa lives in Australia. Her interest in Middle Eastern Dance was sparked by her Palestinian/Lebanese roots and birthplace as well as her pilgrimage to explore her heritage and reconnect with her long-separated mother. Maha has also developed a Dance of the Womb step-by-step instructional belly dancing DVD (sold separately, review to follow) that includes a video of her own homebirth journey with her third child. She is also developing a one day foundation course in “bellydancebirth” for birth professionals with a plan to go international in 2011.

Dance of the Womb is a great introduction to not just the basic physical elements of prenatal belly dance, but also to the spiritual aspects of giving birth and life as a woman. It is written with an intimate tone that makes the reader feel as if the author has reached out across the miles to form a direct, personal connection. This book feels like a rich treasure to hold and is a gentle, nurturing, encouraging, and enriching voyage for pregnant women or the people who serve them.


Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book for review purposes.