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Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Re-post: 5 simple ways to be a Peaceful Mom

 

This is a delight to read! Sorry to have been absent for so long, I have so many unfinished posts I should get down to it’s hard to focus! But I’ll get there :)

Have a beautiful post-summer day!

5 simple ways to be a Peaceful Mom

We all admire those calm, cool and collected moms who handle with perfect grace a misbehaving child or a surprise dinner guest.

Sometimes it feels like they are a different breed.

But they aren’t. We are all capable of being peaceful moms, all it takes is practice. Here 5 simple things we can do today to be more peaceful.

1. Acknowledge our role.

Peaceful moms remember that THEY are the mom. We are the grown ups.

It’s goofy, but I like to imagine being a “wall of jello” absorbing all of my kids’ crazy childhood emotions. I think it’s so helpful when we remember that our children need us to be calm and not simply shoot even more emotion into each situation.

We succeed when we focus on responding to our children, rather than reacting. We have the impact we desire when we focus on averting power struggles, instead of simply winning them. And we show our strength and bring peace to our homes when we model the attitude and facial expressions we want our children to have.

Simple start: Today, test yourself to see how long you can remain calm. 10 minutes? 1 hour? 2 hour? Half a day? The whole day? Do whatever it takes to stay calm for longer stretches each time and note the things that set you off.

2. Get prepared.

Peaceful moms are prepared. I love what Ann Voskamp says, “Only amateurs are in a hurry.” “Life isn’t an emergency.” Too often we hurt our children in our hurry. Peaceful moms, put down their book a little sooner, wake up a little earlier, start the project now instead of later.

Instead of hurrying our children when it’s time to go, peaceful moms hurry themselves when it’s time to begin.

Simple start: Start everything 15 minutes early today. You’ll be amazed at how that little bit of preparation impacts your attitude and your home.

3. Give grace.

Peaceful moms don’t give up on themselves. They recognize each day is a fresh start. Peaceful moms give grace to their children as well. “Let’s try that again…” is often heard in their homes. Peaceful moms don’t worry about what they did wrong today. They focus on what they could do better tomorrow.

Simple start: Instead of issuing consequences today, try asking your children, “How could you have done that differently? Now try that.”

4. Believe the best.

Peaceful moms believe the best about their children (and themselves). People rise up to what they think others see in them. The peaceful mom, hopes the best, expects the best and believes the best about her children.

Simple start: Tell your child 3 things through out the day that you admire about them. Watch them rise up.

5. Give thanks.

A peaceful mom is thankful for her children and as much as possible her circumstances and situations. By living with an attitude of thanks, we increase our contentment and peace.

Simple start: Start a gratitude journal today. Write down 3 things that you are thankful for regarding your home and your family. Consider that there is always someone in the world who dreams of being in your situation.

Anyone is capable of being a peaceful mom. You are certainly capable of it! All it takes is one simple step at a time.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Re-post: 10 things no one tells you about birth

I found this article very concise and true. In so little words it gives vital info which one can look up further to be fully informed. Consider it as a starting point if you’re new here.

My notes are in red so you may be able to see my thoughts on each point. 

 

10 THINGS NO ONE TELLS YOU ABOUT BIRTH

  • The contraction pain doesn’t end when the baby is born. Your uterus will contract for days, weeks and even months after birth. The pain is especially bad during breastfeeding in the first week or two, some women describe it as feeling like their uterus is going to fall out! This is otherwise called “afterpains”. With each birth they get more and more noticeable (helas, it’s the one thing that doesn’t get easier with “experience”). Although the contraction pain is real during breastfeeding and the first days after birth, it’s hardly anything like the pain experienced during birth. It’s a sort of discomfort for the most and after a while you may not even notice. Still, it’s present.
  • Your vagina will look different…not just from a tear or episiotomy scar (if this happens) but different in color…it will be a darker shade of the original color in most cases. I’ve never actually looked… so I wouldn’t know 😛
  • Your baby will breastfeed WAY more than you can imagine…so don’t be surprised when you spend half of a 24 hour period breastfeeding. Growth spurts are a whole different issue, thankfully they often don’t last longer than 7 days. True but these first few days go by soooooo fast. Keep in mind you’re going to miss them a lot before you even know it.
  • If birthing in a hospital they more often than not will give you synthetic oxytocin after the birth whether you need it for heavy bleeding or not (prevents hemorrhaging). Discuss this with your careprovider…if you don’t chances are, you will be administered this via IV or a shot in your leg (as baby is crowing) and you won’t notice it. This disrupts your body’s natural process of making Oxytocin the much needed love hormone for bonding and establishing milk supply. Sad but true, make sure you have a birth plan that explicitly prohibits anyone to give you synthetic oxytocin (aka pitocin) without a valid and PRESENT medical reason. Usually, the breastfeeding procedure is enough to make your uterus contract to help it come back to its original shape and size.
  • Your baby’s umbilical cord will be clamped immediately at birth in most hospitals and routinely cut shortly after. This may not surprise you, but learning the benefits ofdelayed umbilical cord clamping, how it’s recommended by the WHO and how hospitals still routinely early clamp regardless of the benefits or potential harm caused…may surprise you. In order to get stem cells, the umbilical cord needs to be clamped quite prematurely. Please do get informed and try to examine cost-benefit ratio where it comes to stem cells and early cord clamping. Some scientists strongly advice against early clamping for stem cell collection with the argument that the placenta retains 2/3 of the baby’s blood during the “going-through-the-birth-canal-process” to facilitate it. Then once the baby is out, the placenta starts pumping the blood back to the baby. If this process is disrupted for stem cells collection you may end up with a baby deprived of the “good stuff” out of this valuable blood, while the “treasure blood” is taken away and saved in a bank for the future use by someone else (stem cells are thought to be useless to the one who provided them). Please do get your info straight before deciding anything. 
  • The foreskin that is routinely cut off of many newborn boys has a very important purpose and up until recently circumcision was performed without anesthetic: they didn’t believe young babies could feel pain. This procedure hardly ever takes place in European countries, unless the parents ask for it. So, you needn’t worry if you live on this side of the Atlantic.
  • Induction before 42 weeks is often not necessary unless you have health complications. Induction can mean a variety of things from a membrane sweep to pitocin through an IV. An induced labour is the most painful type of labour you can have, with no naturally occuring breaks and a lack of hormones that occur naturally. It is also particularly hard on the baby and often causes fetal distress from no break during contractions. Sad but true, most doctors induce on the presumed “due date”. Make sure you get your facts straight on what a “due date” means and how it can be misleading for most pregnancies.
  • Epidurals come with serious risks that most women do not have explained to them prior to the epidural being administered. This can’t be stressed enough. There are serious risks connected to epidural administration. Please do get informed. 
  • You do not NEED to tear or have an episotomy to birth…with time and patience breathing baby out, MOST babies regardless of size can be born vaginally with minimal trauma. Most doctors in Greece perform routinely the episiotomy. Your birth plan can be your saviour in such a case. Make sure he gives you valid enough reasons if he needs to perform it. 
  • Breach baby or previous cesarean doesn’t necessarily mean a cesarean section is needed. Another myth-breaker. There actually is such a thing called VBACK (vaginal birth after caesarean delivery). Look it up. 

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Beignets: A New Orleans recipe (with a healthy twist)

 

 

One of our favorite movies lately has been the Princess and the Frog, from Disney back from 2009. We keep watching it over and over and over and maaaaaan do I get cravings for those beignets shamelessly exposed again and again on the diner scene. I looked the recipe up and it seems, well deep fried dough… hmmm, I’ll think it twice before tasting it – I’m sure it’s yummy but it’s also ugh fried in a whole lotta oil… So I googled it under the word “healthy” and this is what came up:


“OVEN-BAKED Beignets

Ingredients:

1/4 cup warm water (about 40 degrees C)

1 packet active dry yeast

3 cups all purpose flour

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

1/4 cup sugar

5 T cold butter, cut into small chunks

1 egg

3/4 cup buttermilk

Directions:

Combine the yeast, warm water and a pinch of the sugar in a small bowl and set aside for five minutes. The water will start to look foamy and bubble a little bit. That’s normal.

Meanwhile, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and sugar in a large bowl. Using your fingers, cut in the butter and work mixture together until it resembles coarse sand.

Mix together the egg and the buttermilk. Add to yeast and then add to dry ingredients. Stir together to form a soft dough and then continue to knead (or use your Kitchen Aid) until dough becomes smooth and elastic. If using a Kitchen Aid, keep your speed on medium and beat with paddle attachment (or dough hook) for 6-8 minutes until smooth. If using your hands, make sure you are working on a lightly floured surface. The dough will feel smooth like pizza dough when it’s done.

Spray a bowl with cooking spray and drop in your dough ball. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest for 15 minutes. Then, roll out dough into a large rectangle or square on a floured surface. Cut square into five long strips and then cut those strips into squares. Place squares on a lined baking sheet, spray with cooking spray and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise for 45 minutes.

Preheat oven to 200 degrees C. Bake beignets for 10-12 minutes or until lightly golden. Dust with powdered sugar and eat warm.

Time:

1 hour
**To learn more about working with yeast, read this.

My daughter keeps asking again and again for this, I am sure that once it’s made it’s going to be as tasty as her imagination led her to believe just watching the Princess and the Frog! I’ll try it asap! :)

 

Friday, June 1, 2012

Fruits for toddlers

I recently found out that the days of carefree and healthy feeding of my baby toddler are long gone. Now he has a strong opinion about everything entering his mouth… the first bite being the key. Whenever something strange texture-wise is inserted in his mouth he just opens up and pulls it back out saying something like :”aaahhhh”. This is especially important when it comes to fruit. Up to now he would just nibble on winter fruit like apples and pears. He gave up raw bananas long ago :(  But now with all these amazingly tasty summer fruit this little guy is in no way eager to taste any of the colourful strawberries, cherries, apricots or peaches… Such a bummer I tell you! The season change happened to coincide with his ability to try to control what gets in his mouth.

What I’ve learned:

Tip No1: The first bite is the crucial one. Make it as familiar as it can be. If your toddler is used to creamy texture in fruits try smashing  the first bite with your fork. Or let your toddler take the lead and decide whether he/she prefers to take the bite or not and then smash or process the fruit salad.

Tip No2: Make the first bite small. That way the toddler will be able to familiarize better with the new taste, if he/she’s up for it.

Tip No3: Let the toddler play with the food. He/she will familiarize with the new taste in his/her own pace.

Personally what I’ve come up with is: If he (my toddler) ain’t up for it, smoothie it. What my Philippe didn’t wanna taste when in small cubes (ie strawberries and peaches) he very willingly and eagerly drank it all up when they were processed.

My uncle from the US had brought me a nice smoothie sipper from Dr. Sears’ range and I am very very happy with it and so is my toddler. It’s a pretty and colourful sipper, with a relatively wide straw that cannot be removed by the toddler, there is a stop mechanism when the toddler draws the straw out in an attempt to remove it he/she fails. This is a no-mess sipper tried and tried and guaranteed.

Anyway, the new seasonal fruits are many and yummy so I hope that our little ones will join us in indulging for fruit salads or at least fruit smoothies.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

International Week for Respecting Childbirth in Greece

 

ENCA Hellas is the hellenic branch of the European Network for Childbirth Associations. Every year ENCAs all around Europe engage in various activities to pay homage to the International Week for Respecting Childbirth.

Last year it was a first for ENCA Hellas, to follow and organise an open week full of non-profit activities, speeches and raising awareness actions for the respect to natural childbirth. It was a great success and this year we could hardly wait for it to announce the programme of activities.

Please note the BirthVoice meeting, tomorrow 23 May, especially rescheduled to be a part of the Open Week.

So, here it is, reposted, as late as already 2 days after the official inauguration of the Open Week for Respecting Childbirth (I do apologise, I’ve been busy at work… not easy political times around here I suppose, I got caught up I admit).

I can’t recommend all the actions enough. If you’re pregnant and need a good way to start learning about the pleasures and challenges ahead, this is a great great opportunity for you, one that can’t be missed.

In festive mood

PS For those of you English speakers who still can grasp a few Greek, please do not suffice yourselves on the English briefing. Only english-speaking activities are mentioned, and they’re certainly not enough. If you do understand a bit of Greek please refer to the detailed Greek programme to check out all the fun stuff for you to follow, where, I guarantee, language is not much of an issue. For those that do not understand a word in Greek, you are always welcome in the BirthVoice gathering, tomorrow, where English is the main means of communication anyway.

 

Open Week for Respecting Childbirth – May 21-27, 2012

International Week for Respecting Childbirth
Programme for open events

 

The theme for the 2012 International Week for Respecting Childbirth is «The Economics of Birth»however all actions with the perspective of respecting childbirth are encouraged. During the 2012 International Week ENCA Hellas co-ordinates the Open Week for Respecting Childbirth with numerous events and actions, all offered free of charge.

Open events, services, workshops, talks, conferences, meetings
on pregnancy, post-natal period, breastfeeding,
empowerment of mothers, fathers, children and families 


The time has come to open-up the issue of respecting childbirth in Greece. And we do so,with dynamic action, with our will and persistence. Open Week for Respecting Childbirth is the time for all of us to share our knowledge and experience, to offer services and information. From May 21 to May 2012, numerous open events and talks on pregnancy and natural birth, on motherhood and breastfeeding will take place all over Greece: in Athens and Thessaloniki, in Patra, Ioannina, Trikala, in Corfu…

Mothers and families, individuals, childbirth professionals, organisations and associations, they all participate to the 2012 Open Week for Respecting Childbirth, which is co-ordinated by ENCA Hellas. The common aim is to re-connect with the natural powers of pregnancy and keep a safety distance from unnecessary medical interventions that affect mothers, their babies and their families, in physical, psychological and economic terms.

More information…

Detailed programme (in Greek)
Programme Briefing (in English)
Press Release (in Greek)
Photos and Banners
Poster (2012) Hi Res – Low Res

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Greek Doula Website

 

For anyone willing to know all the news on the doula scene in Greece (otherwise called as “Motherhood assistants” or “Voithoi Mitrotitas”, as the term “doula” although Greek, sounds odd in Greek) may I present a new website made by doulas in order to raise awareness about the role of a doula to the Greek audience. Not many Greek families know the role and importance of a doula during birth or postpartum and this is a great platform begin.

Anyone interested in enjoying doula services may contact the editing team for more concrete info on doula services locally.

Here here, to initiatives of this sort.

 

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Happy Belated Mother’s Day

It has been a while since I last posted something on my dear blog. I really have been busy with various this and that. Now with the upcoming International Week for Respecting Childbirth I thought that it was a good incentive to make my comeback.

But before discussing the Open Actions for the aforementioned International Week I’d like to take this chance and send my wishes to all mums out there the best for the recent Mother’s Day. Unfortunately I was away from my little buddy and Marysa was just too busy to realise what this day really meant for us two, so she just blew me a kiss and went on with her very busy business of make-believe with Jessy the Cowgirl and Peter Pan  :), but I guess that’s part of the fun of it too.

May we be strong, happy and cared for to give our little ones the best there is. May we be acknowledged for whatever we give and give up for our loved ones and may we enjoy it to the very last bit. Mum’s life is full of little and grand pleasures, may we always be wise enough to see them and take advantage of them cause once a mum every day and every precious moment counts.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Re-post: Natural childbirth I: is home birth more dangerous than hospital birth?

I have taken some great pictures lately from Easter holidays that I was about to share but need to get a handy card reader for my laptop. So, no pictures yet. Instead I found this following article quite informative for any pregnant ladies who consider having a natural childbirth. So, yes, yet again another re-post. Some more food for thought.

Χρόνια Πολλά to all who celebrated Easter lately.

Natural childbirth I: is home birth more dangerous than hospital birth?

In this series we’re going to explore natural childbirth (home birth) as an alternative to industrialized childbirth. Industrialized childbirth could also be called “disturbed birth”, which Australian family physician Sarah J. Buckley, MD defines as follows:

Anything that disturbs a laboring woman’s sense of safety and privacy will disrupt the birth process. This definition covers most of modern obstetrics, which has created an entire industry around the observation and monitoring of pregnant and birthing women. Some of the techniques used are painful or uncomfortable, most involve some transgression of bodily or social boundaries, and almost all techniques are performed by people who are essentially strangers to the woman herself. All of these factors are as disruptive to pregnant and birthing women as they would be to any other laboring mammal – with whom we share the majority of our hormonal orchestration in labor and birth.1

Buckley embraces an evolutionary perspective on pregnancy and childbirth. Such a perspective affirms the natural process of gestation and birth and recognizes a woman’s genetically inherited capacity to give birth without medical intervention.

In the same way that we evolved to eat a species-appropriate diet (i.e. paleo), we evolved to give birth in an undisturbed environment.

This innate system of birth has been refined over 100,000 generations. It involves a complex, finely tuned orchestration of hormones that prepare both the mother and baby for a successful birth and catalyze profound neurological changes that promote the bond between a mother and her new baby.

And just as we experience health problems when we stray from the evolutionary dietary template, women are more likely to experience complications and difficulty in labor when they stray from the evolutionary template of “undisturbed birth”.

Natural childbirth is in our genes

Throughout the vast majority of human history, women have always given birth in a familiar place, with family members or other trusted companions.

Even now, babies are still-born at home in most places around the world. And although the move from birth at home to the hospital began in the 18th century, home birth was the norm even in westernized countries until the 1950s.

Think of it this way: humans have been giving birth at home for 999,998 generations, and it’s only in the last 2 generations that hospital birth has become common.

This means that women have given birth at home for 99.998% of human history.

Yet in the U.S. today, fewer than 1 percent of births happen in the home. This abrupt and almost complete transition from natural childbirth toward industrialized childbirth has had profound repercussions on mothers, babies and the culture at large.

My wife Elanne and I have chosen to have a home birth with our first child (who is, as of this writing, due in about 2 weeks!) It has been fascinating to watch people’s reactions – outside of our close friends, who have almost all had home births – when we tell them this.

Some come right out and say “that’s brave!” Others are more suspect, using words like “interesting” or maybe even wondering out loud if it wouldn’t be a better idea to use a hospital midwife. Still others are more direct in their opposition to our choice.

This is evidence that the medical establishment has done a fantastic job convincing people that hospital birth is “normal”, in spite of the fact that home birth has been the default choice for 99.998% of human history.

Doctors and the medial have also managed to convince most people that hospital birth is safer than home birth. But is that really true?

Another myth bites the dust: hospital birth is not safer than home birth

In the Netherlands, where 1/3 of babies born at home under care of midwife, outcomes for first babies are equivalent to those of babies born to low-risk women in the hospital, and outcomes of second or subsequent babies are even better.

A UK analysis found that birth at home or in small family practice units is safer than birth in an obstetric hospital for mothers and babies in all categories of risk.

Other studies have shown that modern obstetric interventions have made birth more dangerous, not safer.

In fact, in terms of outcomes for mothers & babies, studies show that planned home birth has perinatal mortality levels (the numbers of babies dying around the time of birth) at least as good as – and often better than – hospital figures, with lower rates of complications and interventions.

A landmark study by Johnson and Daviss in 2005 examined over 5,000 U.S. and Canadian women intending to deliver at home under midwife. They found equivalent perinatal mortality to hospital birth, but with rates of intervention that were up to ten times lower, compared with low-risk women birthing in a hospital. The rates of induction, IV drip, episiotomy, and forceps were each less than 10% at home, and only 3.7% of women required a cesarean (c-section).

Other studies have shown that women who plan home birth have around a 70-80% chance of giving birth without intervention. And because of low use of drugs, home-born babies are more alert and in better condition than those born in the hospital.

Contrast this with the 2002 and 2006 Listening to Mothers surveys which examined 3,000 births in conventional settings. They found “virtually no natural childbirth” in either survey.

In the 2006 survey, around 50% of women were artificially induced; almost 75% had an epidural; and 33% gave birth by c-section.

Finally, in a review of the safety of home birth by the esteemed Cochrane collaboration, the study author states:

There is no strong evidence to favour either home or hospital birth for selected low-risk pregnant women. In countries where it is possible to establish a home birth service backed up by a modern hospital system, all low-risk women should be offered the possibility of considering a planned home birth…

I agree with the author’s conclusion that hospital birth is no safer than home birth. But if you consider the statistics above which suggest that having a natural, undisturbed birth in a hospital setting is exceedingly difficult, I would argue that there is strong evidence to favor a home birth.

Birth complications are more likely to occur in a hospital environment

A common defense of hospital birth by medical professionals and laypeople is the assertion that it’s necessary to be in a hospital during birth in case something goes wrong.

While it is certainly true that complications may arise during labor that require medical intervention, what is often ignored by proponents of hospital birth is the fact that such complications are more likely to occur in the hospital environment.

In other words, the distortion of the process of birth – what Buckley calls “disturbed birth” – has come to be what women expect when they have a baby and in a way has become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

As Buckley states:

Under this model women are almost certain to need the interventions that the medical model provides, and to come away grateful to be saved no matter how difficult or traumatic their experience.2

TV shows almost always depict birth as some kind of medical emergency, with the woman being rushed down the hallway on a gurney or connected to machines and wires in the delivery room surrounded by medical personnel. Since most people have never witnessed a home birth (or any other birth) before giving having a child themselves, their impression of what labor is like comes almost entirely from television.

It’s easy, then, to understand why people are afraid of birth and feel the need to be in a hospital setting in case something goes wrong. But that doesn’t mean giving birth in a hospital is safer. The studies I’ve presented in this article demonstrate that it’s not.

I want to be clear: no matter where birth takes place, complications may arise that require medical intervention and I am 100% in support of it in these cases.

When the mother or baby’s life is at risk, we are fortunate to have access to surgical techniques that can save lives or prevent serious complications.

The point I am making in this article, and will make in more detail in the articles to follow, is that the scale of medical intervention in birth today is not only far beyond what is necessary, but is contributing to the very of the problems it attempts to solve.

If you’re interested in learning more about natural childbirth, I highly recommend Buckley’s book Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering. I’d also suggest checking out her free eBook called Ecstatic Birth and her eBook/audio package Giving Birth At Home.

Note: this series will very likely be interrupted by the home birth of my own child. Elanne is due on the 17th of July, so the baby could be coming anytime. When that happens, I’ll be taking some time off to spend time with my new family. I’ll pick this up again when I return from paternity leave.

Articles in this series:

Natural childbirth I: is homebirth more dangerous than hospital birth?
Natural childbirth IIa: is ultrasound necessary and effective during pregnancy?
Natural childbirth IIb: ultrasound not as safe as commonly thought
Natural childbirth III: why undisturbed birth?
Natural childbirth IV: the hormones of birth
Natural childbirth V: epidural side effects and risks
Natural childbirth VI: Pitocin side effects and risks
Natural childbirth VII: Cesarean risks and complications
Buckley, Sarah J. Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering: A Doctor’s Guide to Natural Childbirth and Gentle Early Parenting Choices. Celestial Arts, 2009. pp. 96 ↩
Buckley, Sarah J. Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering: A Doctor’s Guide to Natural Childbirth and Gentle Early Parenting Choices. Celestial Arts, 2009. pp. 96 ↩”

Monday, April 9, 2012

Re-post: … aka What to look out for when birthing in a hospital

The original title is a bit controversial, in my humble opinion and this is why I didn’t use it in my own title. It seems that a whole article can be “tinted” solely by its title, people who read it are naturally predisposed positively or negatively according to title, trust me, I’ve had several responses lately on posts based on a certain misconception of its title. So, the reason why I am re-posting this excellent article is because it is well-founded, true and not necessarily what its title implies. One would think that by stating the “dangers” of a hospital birth, one is automatically demonizing birth in a hospital which is not, in my opinion, what the author is doing in the following article, nor my intention whatsoever. The information is valuable and I suggest that if you are like me, and prefer to give birth in a maternity rather than at home (for psychological or other reasons) you may want to read on and know what to expect and what to fight for in order to fulfil your right to the birth that you want and deserve.

Dangers of Hospital Births: Why Birthing in a Hospital Can Cause More Problem’s than it Solves

There’s a saying that birth is as safe as life gets. There are times when birth can become dangerous for the baby or, very rarely, for the mother. This is when hospital-based maternity care really shines, and we’re able to save mothers and babies who a hundred years ago might have died. Thank goodness that there are skilled surgeons who can come to the rescue when truly necessary.

There’s also another saying: When you’re holding hammer, everything looks like a nail. Likewise, for hospital-based birth attendants, it is easy to become accustomed to treating every birth as a disaster waiting to happen. Many obstetricians have lost touch with the possibility of normal birth, so much so that even labor that includes a pitocin induction with an epidural, a fetal scalp electrode and a vacuum extraction is called a “natural” birth. Some hospital staff seem offended by the idea of minimizing interventions, as if preferring not to have a needle the size of a house nail inserted near your spine is the same as declining to have a second piece of Aunt Sally’s fruitcake. Sadly, some of today’s younger doctors may never even have seen a truly physiological labor and birth—a birth completely without medical intervention.

This is how the saving grace of the hospital can become the scourging disgrace of maternity care. In their rush to prevent problems that aren’t happening, hospital personnel may aggressively push procedures and drugs that can actually cause problems. Pitocin can cause uterine contractions so strong that they stress the baby and cause fetal distress. IV narcotic drugs can affect an infant so strongly that he might not breathe at birth— a second drug is used to counteract the narcotics to help these drugged babies breathe. There is considerable debate as to how epidurals affect the progress of labor, but they certainly diminish a woman’s ability to get into a squat, which opens the pelvic plane by 20 to 30 percent; anyone can understand that this could affect the possibility of the baby’s fitting through the pelvis. Epidurals can lower the mother’s blood pressure so that the baby isn’t getting enough oxygen through the placenta. This can cause fetal distress and the need for an emergency caesarian section to rescue the baby.

In addition to the specific dangers of individual obstetric intervention, hospital births suffer the effects of any form of institutionalized care. Perhaps the best-known risk of hospital birth is hospital-acquired infections. The people most susceptible to such infections are those with compromised immune systems, such as newborns. In particular, a baby is born with a sterile skin and gut that are supposed to be colonized by direct contact with the mother’s skin flora. If antibiotic-resistant hospital germs colonize the baby’s skin and gut instead, the baby will be at high risk of becoming very sick from infections that are very difficult to treat. The overall infection rate for babies born in the hospital is four times that of babies born at home, and these infections are more likely to be antibiotic-resistant.

Ninety thousand people die every year from hospital-acquired infections. That’s more than from all accidental deaths put together: 70,000 people die from motor vehicle crashes, fires, burns, falls, drownings and poisonings combined. An additional 98,000 people die each year from general medical error.


Division of Labor

Another obvious risk of institutionalized care arises from the piecemeal nature of the care. Because there are so many different kinds of personnel performing so many different procedures, there is a lot of potential for miscommunication about critical matters. In an astoundingly progressive admission of institutional shortcomings, Beth Israel Hospital in Boston published a paper about a tragic miscommunication that resulted in a baby’s death. To their great credit, instead of covering up this horrible mistake, Beth Israel used it as a wake-up call to revise their protocols, in an attempt to reduce miscommunication and increase safety. Unfortunately, other hospitals are slow to adopt their reforms.

One of the most dangerous aspects of hospital care is that those providing most of the direct care (i.e. nurses) are hierarchically subservient to those managing the care from a distance (i.e. doctors). This power structure can prevent knowledgeable nurses from mitigating potentially dangerous actions of a misunderstanding doctor.

Many people feel that a hospital must be the safest place to give birth because of all the equipment it has. But equipment is only as good as the people using it. In many hospitals, there are not enough registered nurses to cover all the patients, so they use medical technicians, who are trained to perform procedures but not necessarily trained to interpret fetal heart tracings. Most labors start at night, especially for women birthing second or subsequent babies. This is the time when the senior staff are off-duty, because their seniority allows them to opt for the more desirable daytime shifts. A recent study confirmed that birth outcomes are worse during the night. Even the most sophisticated equipment is useless in the wrong hands.

(For the record, many homebirth midwives now carry equipment that is as sophisticated as that in most hospital birth rooms. This includes continuous electronic fetal monitors and equipment for performing neonatal resuscitation if necessary.)

Institutionalized care also suffers from the economic pressures of running an efficient organization, regardless of how this might interfere with the normal process of labor and birth. Sometimes doctors recommend pitocin without true medical necessity, simply to hasten the birth. This may be due to a need to free up a birth room to make room for other patients, or because the doctor has other responsibilities elsewhere. Stimulating labor artificially overrides a baby’s ability to space out the contractions if the labor is too stressful. This increases the risk of fetal distress.

Hospital staff have a strong bias towards confining laboring women to the bed and requiring them to push in a reclining position. This often puts a baby’s weight on the placenta or umbilical cord, possibly restricting the baby’s supply of oxygenated blood from the placenta. In contrast, upright positions put the baby’s weight downward, toward the open cervix and away from the placenta and umbilical cord, reducing or eliminating fetal distress caused by cord compression.

A rush to clamp and cut the umbilical cord within seconds after birth is one of the most dangerous hospital practices. This premature severance of the umbilical cord cuts the flow of oxygenated blood to the baby before the baby has established the lungs as the source of oxygen. Premature cord clamping also deprives the baby of the blood that would naturally fill the pulmonary vasculature as it expands in the minutes immediately after the birth. This practice has been documented to increase the risks of neonatal hypoxia, hypovolemia and anemia, thus increasing the need for blood transfusions.

There is some very new research showing that placental tissue itself may be a rich source of pluripotent stem cells (cells which can give rise to any cell type) in addition to the blood stem cells in blood drawn from the umbilical cord. We do not yet know whether premature cutting of the umbilical cord halts the migration of pluripotent stem cells from the placental tissue into the baby’s body to repair damage from even minor birth trauma.

Separation Anxiety

Perhaps the most egregious and unnecessary interference with the normal birth sequence is the separation of mother and baby immediately after birth. Even a ten-minute separation is too long during this critical first hour after birth—it prevents the natural nipple stimulation that increases the mother’s oxytocin, which will contract the uterus and prevent a postpartum hemorrhage. Instead of baby-provided nipple stimulation, hospitals are now routinely using synthetic oxytocin by IV or injection after the birth to control bleeding.

Similarly, early cuddling of mother and baby stimulates oxytocin production in the newborn, thus raising the baby’s body temperature to help with the adaptation to the extrauterine environment. A mother’s body is a newborn’s best warmer.

Because different personnel are involved in providing piecemeal care for mothers and babies, providers do not always see how their actions in one area may cause problems in another. For example, because obstetricians are not involved in breastfeeding issues, they may not realize that cutting an episiotomy hampers a woman’s ability to sit comfortably in order to nurse her baby. Likewise, pediatricians may not realize that separating the mother and baby right after the birth in order to do a routine newborn exam also interferes with breastfeeding. Nursery nurses often do not seem to appreciate the importance of minimizing the separation of mother and baby, and thus also unwittingly interfere with breastfeeding. They tend to ignore the World Health Organization’s recommendations to delay initial bathing of the baby until at least six hours after the birth, even though bathing can cause a baby’s temperature to drop so dangerously low that they do not return him to his mother for an hour or more.

I emphasize the hazards to the breastfeeding relationship because breastfeeding is so vital to a newborn’s well-being, reducing infant mortality by 20 percent. This is a huge health benefit, and hospitals should be taking the lead in tailoring their routines to support breastfeeding. But because the functions of caring for mother and baby are separated into the roles of maternity nurses (who care for the mothers) and nursery nurses (who care for the babies), sometimes the mother and baby are also physically separated. Most of the time, there are no lactation consultants in the hospital—they are often only available during weekday business hours. But babies need to be fed around the clock, and if a lactation consultant isn’t available to help a struggling mother/baby pair, it might become necessary to feed the baby artificial breastmilk with a bottle, which further interferes with successful breastfeeding.

Because the entire model of hospital birth is based on birth as a medical procedure, hospital staff seem to miss the fact that they are interfering in a delicate time in a new baby’s life. Perinatal psychologists describe the first hour after birth as the “critical period,” during which the baby will learn how to learn and whether or not it is safe to relax and to trust the outer world. This has tremendous implications for mental health and stress-related disorders.


A Natural Process

There was a time when caesareans were acknowledged to be a risky surgery reserved to save the life of the mother or baby. Now even cesarean surgery has become almost routine. Some obstetricians and hospital administrators are advocating for a 100 percent cesarean rate as a solution to liability and scheduling problems that are inherent in providing maternity care. Unfortunately, cesarean surgeries increase risks for the mother and child. They also increase the risk for subsequent pregnancies, with higher rates of placenta previa and placenta accreta, and introduce a small but non-zero risk that a pre-labor uterine rupture could result in the baby’s or even the mother’s death.

When someone needs to be in the hospital receiving medical treatment for a lifethreatening condition, the risk-benefit trade-off comes in heavily on the side of benefit. But for women who are hoping to have a drug-free birth, it makes no sense to expose themselves and their baby to the various infection risks associated with simply being in the hospital.

Most people know that it is unwise to take a newborn baby out and about in public because of the risk of exposing the baby even to ordinary germs. It is an even worse idea to expose the baby to the antibiotic-resistant strains of germs commonly found in hospitals.

When a woman planning a homebirth needs medical care and care is transferred to a hospital-based provider, the phrase “failed homebirth” is often written in her chart, even if she goes on to have an outcome that is better than if she had started out in the hospital. I would like to propose the concept of a “failed hospital birth” as any birth where hospital procedures specifically cause more problems than they solve. When you consider hospital infection rates, surgical complications and the damage to the breastfeeding relationship caused by routine separation of mother and baby, we might find that close to 95 percent of planned hospital births are failed hospital births. They failed to support the mother in an empowering birth experience to better prepare her for motherhood, and they failed to satisfy the baby’s overwhelming need and desire to enter and adapt to the outside world as nature intended.

Our society has an obligation to improve maternity care services as much as possible. Consider that the countries with the safest maternity care rely on midwives as the guardians of normal birth, reserving risky medical procedures for cases of true need. “In the five European countries with the lowest infant mortality rates, midwives preside at more than 70 percent of all births,” reported Caroline Hall Otis for the Utne Reader. “More than half of all Dutch babies are born at home with midwives in attendance, and Holland’s maternal and infant mortality rates are far lower than in the United States…”


A Return To Midwives

The United States needs to return to a model of midwives as the default maternity care providers, reserving the surgical specialists for the highest-risk patients. We need to educate pregnant women so that they understand that the choices they make about drugs during labor affect their baby, just like the choices they make about drugs during pregnancy. We need to offer women realistic pain relief alternatives to dangerous pharmaceuticals; warm water immersion during labor provides risk-free pain relief that many women find as satisfactory as an epidural. (Mothers who are uncomfortable with the idea of water birth can easily leave the tub to give birth “on land,” while still deriving the tremendous comfort and safety benefits of laboring in water.) Hospitals need to develop new routines that protect mother-baby bonding and the breastfeeding relationship as if they are a matter of life and death, because they are.

Obstetricians would do well to practice according to the wisdom contained in the phrase, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” This means supporting healthy women with normal pregnancies in birthing at home if they choose, and encouraging women planning hospital births to work with them to minimize interventions that turn normal births into risky medical procedures.

Ronnie Falcão, LM, MS

About the Author:

Ronnie Falcão, LM, MS, is a homebirth midwife practicing for twelve years in and around Mountain View, California. A direct-entry midwife trained through a homebirth apprenticeship and a residential internship at Casa de Nacimiento birth center in El Paso, Texas, she was licensed in 1997 under the California Challenge Process through the Seattle School of Midwifery. Ronnie is editor of the Midwife Archives at gentlebirth.org/archives.

Her personal web page is gentlebirth.org.”


Friday, April 6, 2012

A new camera!

My good friends Vanghelis and Grahi  (both virtuosi of photography) are supporting me in my quest to creating beautiful memories through the lens. After having browsed through Mamarazzi  (definition of the term here) I have started to be more and more interested in taking better pictures of my kiddos’ first tender years and got interested in experimenting with an SLR. My point-and-shoot Poweshot G10 is great but it doesn’t give that edge that I’ve been looking for (or I haven’t really looked for a way to work wonders with my G10). So Vanghelis eased things for me and endowed me most graciously with his old SLR, the Canon 300D rebel, a rebel in its time and a classic ever since. I got it repaired, bought two lenses (Canon 50mm f/1.8 and a Tamron 18-200 f/3.5-6.3) and started clicking away.

Of course I need to replace the battery pack since the original one has been worn out by Vanghelis’ years of successful shooting and won’t last more than 10 clicks in a row – and a tiny bit of browsing through the shots. I’m expecting the new battery in the mail any day now, I can’t wait.

Soon, I’ll be back with my first exhibits of little faces with this new digital pal.

Thank you Vanghelis for this wonderful gift and thank you Grahi for giving me how-to tips whenever I’m in need (quite often I must say)!