Behold, Mila’s Daydreams

More precious photos at http://milasdaydreams.blogspot.com/

Also, from the FAQ of this blog, did you know that new mothers in Finland get a “Maternity Package” with everything one needs for a newborn – including some rather stylish new baby clothes? Amazing.

Heading South

Big news. Miss BirthandBloom is moving to North Carolina!

It’s a long way from Brooklyn, but I’m ready. More often than not, I find myself thinking, “… I’m so not going to miss this.” No, I”m not going to miss hauling my groceries home by foot or waiting in massive, cranky lines everywhere or dealing with stinky people on the sweltering Summer subways or auctioning off my organs to pay my rent each month.

You know what I’m really going to miss about living in NYC?

You. The birth community and culture of this city: the mamas, midwives, activists, midwives-to-be, bloggers, and doulas who are so damn committed to making birth better for New York families. I’ve learned that this is a powerful community that reaches a lot of folks and across a lot of differences.

This community has moved me; I know so much more from being a part of it. In just the past year, I’ve attended 16 normal births, taken pre-requisite courses and exams necessary to enter nursing school, began writing for this blog and twitter, read books upon books about midwifery, applied to said nursing schools, taken action for the Midwifery Modernization Act, become certified in CPR and Neonatal Resuscitation…did I mention that I also have a job and a personal life, and finished up a Masters degree this year?

I’m closer than ever to becoming the midwife I’ve considered becoming for a long time. Because of this community, I have a foundation of experience supporting normal birth and know more about what being a midwife requires (experience that is harder to find than you think!), and have learned about how I can continue to deepen my work. I am grateful for that.

And a little sad. Yesterday was my last day on call, and I don’t know how soon I’ll get to attend births again. The NYC experience I most regret leaving behind is my gig at our local Birth Center assisting the midwives there. Seasoned midwives, Brooklyn families of all sorts, badass birth assistant colleagues, and little babes at all hours of night and day? It’s bliss. I worked hard there and discovered that, even though I still have a lot to learn, I do have the grit to do this work. I’m grateful for that, too.

I believe that there are many, many births in my future. I know that there are so many others out there working to empower families and normal birth, and am hopeful that at least some of them I meet in my new home share my values for reproductive and social justice.

Birth workers in North Carolina, I can’t wait to meet you!

Baby Born on Subway Platform

Y’know, I’ve seen many very ripe mamas lumbering around in the NYC heat, and I wondered when this was going to happen!

I love how the NY Post clip captures that precious, critical moment when baby enters the world.

The woman was already headed to a Queens hospital because she was in labor — but the baby wouldn’t wait.

“I told the woman she needed to breathe,” Sykes said.

The woman responded, “we’re past that, the baby’s coming, the baby’s coming!”

By the time the 29-year-old woman’s fiancee helped remove her pants and shoes, Sykes had on a pair of rubber gloves and was ready to catch the newborn.

“I was just concentrating and thinking ‘don’t drop this baby,'” she said.

There were a few moments of suspense when it took the baby about a minute to start crying.

“But once she did, everyone started clapping,” Sykes said.

Sykes placed the baby in her coat and then switched the infant into the fiancée’s jacket.

via NY Post

Laugher and Labor, Follow-up

Some of you, particularly those of you who follow me on twitter, might remember that I spent about 20 magical hours at two consecutive births last Saturday. This was a very special occasion since they were my first births as a full Birth Assistant (no longer a trainee!). I am grateful to have learned a lot at these births, and have been reflecting.

Couple #1; ah, they were so lovely and such an incredible team. After baby was born and everyone was rested, fed, and happy, Mom kept saying that she had told her students on Friday to expect a test on Monday! Of course, she hadn’t expected to go into labor over the weekend!

As she recounted her afternoon the day before she went into labor, I began to think back to my post about Laughter and Cuteness in Labor (and SarahVine’s Using Comedy in Labor). They were in bustling Chinatown and came upon a fruit vendor who was hawking an enormous fruit that, he said, tasted like ice cream. Sold by the weight, couple #1 described this fruit as a heavy, expensive fruit. They opened it on the hot street and, as Mom explained with some shyness and hesitation, it smelled like… “balls. ELEPHANT BALLS!” She said it again and again, giggling, “it tasted like, just, BALLS! It really just tasted just like that – balls!” Mom speculated that the tourists ended up with the ice-cream-like fruits; but Mom and Dad, with the balls-like fruit, couldn’t stop laughing for the rest of the afternoon as they tried to eat it. And of course, the contractions came rolling in soon after.

I told her, aha! Laughing releases oxytocin! The fruit vendor in Chinatown induced your labor!

And then we laughed some more.

How to be a Good Ally to Queer Families

I started this post awhile back, after writing Lesbian Parenting 101. After starting it, I did the #1 thing a Good Ally should never do: I got overwhelmed. I combed my mind for every Good Thing a Good Ally should do, and very shortly convinced myself that I was leaving something monumental out that would result in poor outcomes for a queer family somewhere out there. Ok, obviously that’s silly. The point is that queer families need you; we don’t need you to be perfect.

And what follows is a very imperfect list of pointers, but just a few things to think about for birth support providers. I would love to hear from other providers and/or queer parents on this – please do leave more tips in the comments! Let’s keep this a living post that evolves and serves as a resource for others.

1. The classic advice on how to be a good ally applies here: don’t expect the queer folks you’re working with to educate you on queer 101. Read queer blogs, google things you aren’t sure about, or talk to your queer friends with whom you can converse more openly.

2. Provide sliding scale services to queer families if you can, and look for ways to make your services more accessible. If you read my post about lesbian parenting, you’ll see that making a baby is darned expensive for queer folks. This is especially true for women, women of color, and gender nonconforming or trans people. As we all know, white women earn 77 cents to the dollar, African-American women earn 61 cents, and Latinas earn 52 cents for every dollar a white non-Hispanic man earns. And trans folks face high unemployment and low wages due to discrimination — a study in the San Francisco Bay Area conducted in 2006 showed a 35% unemployment rate, with 59% earning less than $15,300 annually. Queer families need your flexibility in order to access your services.

4. Question your own assumptions about queer people, gender, and race. I recently read Peggy Vincent’s memoir, Baby Catcher, and I think it provides a teachable moment on this topic. While I loved reading the birth stories which were so loving, I bristled at Vincent’s portrayal of her patients who were of color, queer, or who were gender nonconforming. These parts relied on hackneyed, offensive stereotypes of folks that were such a huge turn off, and I found it tough to continue reading. But it’s not insignificant that Vincent so obviously cared about her patients, and I actually do believe that she would have wanted to describe them in a more respectful light had she taken the time to question her own assumptions and been more aware of how to deal with their differences. Bloody Show does a fabulous reading that is here.

5. Speak up to your birth activist and birth professional friends about queer issues. Did some heinous thing happen to a queer in the news? Bring it up. Is someone talking about gay marriage? Say something affirmative. These conversations need not be formal or awkward, and you don’t have to be any expert. Birth spaces are so by default hetero-oriented, and it really does help to bring any small awareness to your birth communities. Your hetero colleagues and friends will know where you stand and hopefully respect you more for it. Your queer friends and queer folks who hear you saying these things will feel safe around you.

6. Respect gender identity — ask about pronouns if you’re not sure. If insurance info, etc says one name and your patient asks you to call another, use the name they prefer and don’t make a big deal of it.

7. Be aware of alternative sexualities. Don’t judge, regardless of the kink or sexuality that comes up. If a client asks you a question about ‘is such-and-such safe while I’m pregnant,’ or ‘how soon after giving birth can I do so-and-so,’ or ‘we’re poly, can we bring our other lovers to the birth’ – don’t make stuff up based on heterosexual experience and knowledge of sexuality – just do some research and find some honest, straightforward, nonjudgmental answers to the best of your ability.

8. Don’t make your time with queer families about you and your quest to be a Good Ally. Not that you would.

9. Don’t give up! We need you, and making good faith efforts towards being a good ally will go a long way. Don’t be embarrassed if you make mistakes; just apologize, learn from your mistake, and move on.

More resources on being a good ally:

The Angry Black Woman/ The Do’s and Don’ts of Being a Good Ally

UC-Davis/ Trans Ally Tips

PFLAG/ 10 Things to do as an Ally

What else?! Please add your tips in the comments!

Support Midwives in New York

Doctors were in Albany yesterday lobbying legislators to oppose the Midwifery Modernization Act, a piece of legislation that would allow highly trained, highly skilled midwives to practice without legally required Written Practice Agreements with doctors. Their professional organization, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) has sent a letter of concern asking legislators to oppose the Midwifery Modernization Act (MMA). Readers of this blog will know that this is more likely motivated by turf wars since midwives provide a higher quality of care for low risk pregnancies at a lower cost.

Pregnant folks and their families deserve better; we deserve choices and access to the care that midwives provide.

Furthermore, this is our best chance to get homebirth back to families in New York City since St. Vincent’s closed.

Birthnet has been organizing supporters since Monday. PLEASE call and email legislators in New York today. More info:

As ACOG lobbies, let’s deluge Albany! On Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, let’s make sure that for every ACOG member they see, they receive a dozen e-mails, calls, and pictures from us. Let’s show them how limiting our access to midwifery by requiring a written practice agreement negatively affects our families, our health, and our communities.

TAKE ONE MINUTE TO CALL ON MONDAY, TUESDAY, or WEDNESDAY
1. Contact Senator Stavisky

Tel: (518) 455-3461

Email address: stavisky@senate.state.ny.us

Or use this easy contact form found here.

AND
Contact Assemblywoman Glick

Tel: (518)-455-4841

Email Assemblywoman Glick here.

(Note: We have learned that Assemblywoman Glick believes that this legislations “would make a significant modification to the practice of midwifery in New York”. This is simply NOT TRUE! When contacting Assemblywoman Glick please emphasize the following:

1. MMA does not expand a midwife’s scope of practice.

2. The midwifery model of care involves cooperation with doctors (of all types) and referrals when needed.

3. The only thing that will change by passing the MMA is the removal of the written practice agreement which is an unnecessary piece of paper that is directly prohibiting midwives from practicing all over New York State.

4. Midwives are highly trained, licensed professionals.)

Urge them to move the MMA – Senate bill S5007 / Assembly bill A8117 out of the Higher Education committee.
2. Contact your Senator and Assemblyperson.

You can find your Senator here and your Assemblyperson here. Contact them by email or phone and if possible make an appointment to visit their home office. You can also find more information about who is sponsoring the bill already and who the key players are at NYSALM’s website.

THREE KEY POINTS:

– let them know you are a constituent

– ask them to support, cosponsor, and vote for the MMA-Senate bill S5007/Assembly bill A8117

– Tell them that midwives are certified, independent professional health care providers. Refer to the talking points when you call or write your email.

************

Medieval Midwives

Happy International Day of the Midwife!

Thumbing through the most recent PMLA* (don’t laugh; I’m partnered to an academic), I happened upon a fascinating study by William D. Paden and Frances Freeman Paden called “Swollen Woman, Shifting Canon: A Midwife’s Charm and the Birth of Secular Romance Lyric.” The authors of the study argue that the tenth-century ‘charm’ from the south of France could be one of the earliest poems written in archaic Occitan, a Romance language.

“In “Tomida Feminina” (“A Swollen Woman”), a Tenth-Century Charm from the south of France, a birthing woman and her helpers intone the magical language during the most intense moments of childbirth. The poem permits us, with brief but uncommon intimacy, to imagine the lives of women long ago.”

I love the gravity and pace of it; it almost reads like a meditation. Paden and Paden explain that the “rhythmic incantations” were performed by supporting persons, midwives, and possibly the birthing mother to assist in childbirth at least as far back as the ninth century. They also speculate that the charm may have been recited as a relaxation technique that helped women regulate their breathing. Incredible!

Tomida femina
in tomida via sedea;
tomid’ infant
in falda sua tenea;
tomid[a]s mans
et tomid[e]s pes,
tomidas carnes
que est colbe recebrunt;
tomide fust
et tomide fer
que iste colbe donerunt.
Exsunt en dolores
d’os en polpa
[de polpa en curi]
de curi in pel
de pel en erpa.
Terra madre susipiat dolores.

A swollen woman
sat in a swollen road;
a swollen child
she held in her lap;
swollen hands
and swollen feet,
swollen flesh
that will take this blow;
swollen wood
and swollen iron
that will give this blow.
The pain goes out
from bone to flesh,
from flesh to skin,
from skin to hair,
from hair to grass;
let Mother Earth receive the pain.

I don’t mean to be a spoiler, but I’m so tickled by the authors’ closing line that I can’t help myself from sharing:

“It pleases us to think that an image of birth presides over the birth of secular Romance lyric.”

*The PMLA is the journal of the Modern Language Association of America, and generally contains scholarly essays regarding literature and languages.