Monday, November 17, 2014

Aquarium Nets and Naked Men

Or, Laughing Through Transition. Every birth, every woman, every family and every baby are different. Some birth songs are fierce, some are soft, some songs are shy and some are boisterous. Each one is unique. The wonderful Ina May Gaskin has noted that the cervix and the mouth/jaw/throat are intimately connected during labor. If we can relax the throat and mouth it can often have a positive impact on the cervix. Nothing relaxes the throat better than a good laugh. As a midwife, I have seen this principle in action many times. I recently had the pleasure to attend a birth where laughter was the best medicine.

The couple was beautiful; connected, strong and confident in each other. The picture they painted was blissful. They worked through the labor together, walking around the center, bouncing on the birth ball and finally while she was in the birth pool.

I have to give some background now. At our birth center, we have a class called the 34 Week Midwife Chat. It is required for all of our families and covers things like when to call the midwife, what to expect when you get to the birth center, labor, birth and postpartum processes and transfer protocols. Talking about transfers is always a heavy conversation. So after we cover those, we like to end on a positive note and talk about the “Rules” at the birth center. The Rules are a little silly and are intended to make the class attendees giggle. Examples include; No naked people other than women in labor and newborn babies, No pot smoking at the center and No pets (dogs, cats, ferrets or iguanas) allowed. All the rules were created in response to actual situations….

So, this woman is in the birth pool, transition is imminent and her husband asks me to share the reasons why we have the “no naked people” rule.  There are two stories, both are true and may or may not have happened at our center. They both involve the male partners of a woman in labor. (There are other stories that involve other people but I will save those)

Story One (for our protection): A woman is in the birth pool, the midwife is kneeling in front of her, face to face with her. Behind the midwife the soon to be Dad is very excited and asks, “Is it time for me to get in the pool too?” The midwife replies that sure he can get in now. Remember that her back is to him as he prepares to get in the water. The next thing the midwife knows, the very naked man is literally stepping over her to join his wife in the pool….she literally got an “eyeful” so to speak.

Story Two (for your protection): A woman and her husband are in the birth pool. They are both naked. Often, in the second stage of labor women will pass stool, this is completely normal and actually a wonderful sign that everything is progressing normally. When this happens, we use a little aquarium fish net to discreetly scoop “things” out of the water. Well, a nurse thought she saw something in need of scooping at the bottom of the pool and used the fish net to try and retrieve it. Let’s just say that it was not what she thought it was. It was actually something firmly attached to the soon to be Dad and not something in need of retrieval.

These stories had the woman laughing and laughing, right on through transition. I think her husband knew that laughter would help her through this part of labor and wisely asked me to tell these stories. And shortly thereafter we all welcomed a sweet water baby earthside.
P.S. We buy our aquarium nets from a local pet supply store. One of my nurses was getting some and the cashier (a young man) asked her why she was buying so many. She politely told him that he really didn't want to know. He persisted and she finally told him, in full detail, what the nets were for. He very seriously replied, "You're right, I didn't want to know that."

Friday, November 14, 2014

Our Government in Action?....

I recently attended the national American Association of Birth Centers (AABC) conference in Washington DC. Part of the conference was a Lobby Day, where attendees visited their state representatives in person to educate them on birth centers and issues that we face.  It was a great experience, myself and the owner of our birth center were able to meet with one congressional representative and both of our Senators. We had prepared packets of information about us specifically as well as the materials that the AABC had put together on birth centers in general. We did have an experience, however, that I believe is a lovely metaphor for the dysfunction in our current government.....

We first visited with a Congressman. After we checked in I realized that I had accidently left the extra copies of one of our documents at the hotel.  I asked the Intern at the desk if it would be possible to get two copies of this one sided, standard sized page. He was very polite and said that he could. This Intern looked to be in his early to mid twenties, was dressed very professionally and I assume that as a White House Congressional Intern is either in the process of, or has just finished a high level of college education. For the next 20 minutes, in my peripheral vision, while waiting for my appointment I watched him attempting to make me two copies. He went back and forth between a copy machine and fax machine and eventually had another Intern come help him. Between the two of them, the confusion seemed to increase. Eventually, he approached me very apologetically to say that he was only able to make me 1 copy. Now, in my opinion being able to only make one copy is kinda worse than not being able to make any.....I graciously took my one copy and thanked him for his effort.

Next, we went to the office of one of our Senators. This office also had Interns, this time they were female but also appeared to be in their early to mid twenties and I assume also are/were in process of upper level education. After checking in for our appointment, I asked if it would be possible to get one copy of my document. I was very politely informed that the Senators office does not make copies for the public.

So, there ya go. One group wanted to help me and tried and was only able in the end to partially help me. The other group just wouldn't help me. What do you think? Does that sum it up nicely?

Tuesday, August 26, 2014


This life is not for the faint of heart that is for sure! Here are some examples of issues often not talked about....

My low beam headlights are out, they have been out. I have been driving at night with the high beams. When will I be able to make it to a garage to have them fixed? Good question!

My oil needs to be changed, see above....

My daughter had her first day of third grade last week, I was not able to drop her off or pick her up. Daddy and Grandma were there, but I was not.

I think I have friends...somewhere out there in the regular world. It has just been a while since we have seen each other.

At my birth center, we have to fight everyday to stay open. Insurance companies don't want to pay us, hospitals are threatened by us and can make life very difficult. The relevant government agencies don't support us and seem to actually hurt us.

My bank account is sad. I make significantly less money than my peers who work at hospitals and don't even get me started on student loan debt.

I wish that I could serve more women and that getting paid didn't matter, but it does. I have a family to support as well.

And yet, to me I have the best "job" possible. I don't want to whine too much, after all, I made a very conscious decision to follow this path and answer this calling. I believe that there are much more important things in life than wealth, however, that does not mean that the struggle doesn't get exhausting sometimes. Why should supporting women and their families be so hard?.....

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

#LifeOfAMidwife: Fluidity

The phone rang, I am hopeful that it is a woman in labor. It has been a couple weeks since I was able to catch a baby, and I feel the urge tickling in my fingers.

I can tell instantly from her voice that this is not the reason for her call. She is early in her pregnancy and experiencing spotting, she is nervous and concerned. We talk. I offer her reassurance and comfort; based on her symptoms this could be nothing or it could be everything. After our discussion, we hang up the phone with plans for her to call me with any needs or changes in her symptoms.

Mere moments later, the phone rings again. This time it is a Mama in labor. Her man is the caller and I can hear her in the background working with her labor. We talk. It is still a little early in the process, so I offer reassurance and comfort. We review labor patterns, I encourage good hydration, eating a light meal and movement. We hang up the phone with plans for them to touch bases with me soon.

Another call, the first Mama. Her bleeding has increased, she is crying, she has questions. We talk. I offer her comfort and a shoulder to cry on; I tell her that now her symptoms are likely a miscarriage happening. Based on those symptoms and the timing of her pregnancy, I recommend that she go the hospital for an evaluation, she agrees.

A short while later and the phone is ringing again. The laboring Mama is ready to come in. When they arrive, she is beautiful, alight in that sweaty glow of labor.  She and her man are working together in such a sweet way.  She progresses well and has a sublime waterbirth to welcome her babe Earthside. It is a birth that feeds the soul of the world. They are then snuggled up in bed, safe and warm.

A final call, the other sweet Mama is now home from the hospital. She has indeed lost her baby, she is heartbroken. We talk, mostly I listen. There are no magic words for these experiences, the only healing is through time. Having someone to listen and simply be present is the support we can give. We then schedule an appointment for her to come in, so we can give her more love and help her through this process.

This is the life of a midwife.....

Tuesday, June 3, 2014


I have to admit that I am pretty much out of the "hashtag" loop, but I couldn't resist....
I have been having a lot of random thoughts lately, so I decided to just list them all together as things that you experience, say and feel as a midwife. Perhaps it will become a little series. Hope you enjoy installment #1 :)

  • Midwives talk about sex a lot; sex to conceive, sex to not conceive, sex during pregnancy, sex after pregnancy, sex during menopause...I think you get the idea here. I recently had one of these sex conversations with a pregnant couple. They were concerned that recently after sex, she had a "long but mild" contraction. We then had a discussion all about oxytocin and orgasm and I said that besides just having sex, they must have had really good sex! Oh boy, the bright red blush x 2 that happened in that room; priceless.

  • When you are at home and doing laundry, you have to wonder "Is this blood or meconium or amniotic fluid or adult stool or...." You get the point.

  • Speaking of body fluids, there is nothing quit like being showered, sprayed, anointed, and getting soaked through your clothes with amniotic fluid during the birth process. I have had amniotic fluid in places I don't care to mention!

  • Experiencing the honor of having the soon to be Mama, who is working so hard, place her head on your shoulder, or place her head forehead to forehead with yours,  to have her lean on your shoulders, to have her clasp your hand in hers, or to be there for her when she opens her eyes looking for comfort and strength. Time can stop in these moments and leave you breathless.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

We Had Prepared

We had prepared everything for her transfer. Her sweet baby was apparently very contented to remain nestled up in her warm womb. All measurable signs and tests were done and everything pointed to a happy, healthy babe. Mama and her family were hanging in there, anxious to meet this little one, but willing to be patient....

Every birth center has regulations to deal with and work within, we are no exception. I agree with many of our regulations; no Mama's with hypertensive disorders, no twins, no Mama's with major preexisting medical conditions like epilepsy or severe heart diseases to name a few. And then there are regulations that I do not agree with; no Mama having their sixth or more baby and no VBAC's. These examples are by no means a complete list of our regulations, just the first that pop into my head. Our regs were originally written in the early 1980's and can be very restrictive. We struggle with some of them to even remain open to serve our families. Part of the reason why there are so few birth centers in my state (mine, one on the other side of the state and one in the process of opening) is the restrictiveness of these regulations....and we seem powerless to change them.  There is no desire on the part of the state to re-open them. It would literally take an act of (state) congress to make this happen and unfortunately the care of Mama's and Babies falls to the bottom of the priority list when budgets are tight. This is so wrong and is such a travesty, but it is the reality that we currently have to function in. So, we struggle on, we make personal sacrifices and we fight the fights so we can be here to care for our families. And sometimes we have to make decisions based on these regulations that we may not agree with. However, my goal is to remain open and to serve as many families as possible so I must "follow the rules" and walk the line.

We had prepared everything for her transfer, the very next day she was scheduled for an induction as she would be two weeks past her "due" date. The reports had been given, the records has been shared and all was set. Then in the last possible hours, blessedly, her babe decided to make the move.  The birth was beautiful; a wonderful messy mix of strength, perseverance, radiance and sweaty work. Then I got to make one of my favorite phone calls; to the provider who was going to do her induction, and cancel it!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Midwifery Today

Wow! I am very excited to share that two articles of mine were accepted for publication in the magazine Midwifery Today. For me, this is a huge honor. As fledgling nurse and then midwife, this publication was a powerful source of inspiration for me.  There are no electronic links to the articles in this magazine, but you can learn about this organization at their website

If you are interested, you can order single copies of the magazine, my articles appear in the current issue #109, Spring 2014. Of course, you can also subscribe to receive the magazine regularly. (And as a disclaimer, I received no payment for my articles nor any percentage of sales.)