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?