Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Breastfeeding With A Cleft Lip and Palate | It Can Be Done

I am proud to introduce to you my dear friend and our guest blogger, Rachel Morgan, here to talk about her experience nursing her baby through special circumstances, in which moms are told, "it can't be done."

One month ago, I gave birth to a beautiful baby boy. Like most soon-to-be mothers, I

envisioned bringing my nursling up to my breast moments after birth allowing him to root

around until he found just the right spot to begin suckling. This didn't happen. My little one

was born unable to breathe and needed medical assistance to begin his life outside of the

womb. He was taken from me and wasn't returned until an hour and a half later. We were

also surprised to find out that he had a unilateral, incomplete cleft lip and cleft palate. In the

seconds after his birth, I knew the odds were against us in our breastfeeding journey.

I was given 45 minutes to try to breastfeed him, we had some success but his blood sugar 
was still too low, so back to the stabilization nursery he went. I refused to allow bottle 
feeding to avoid nipple confusion, so I hand expressed colostrum and they spoon fed him. 
6 hours later I was able to try nursing again. 

During the wait I immediately Googled 
'nursing baby with a cleft' 
'tips to breastfeed a cleft affected baby' and 
'can you breastfeed a cleft baby'. 
After a couple hours of searching, I knew I was without support. 

Every article said it wasn't possible, it's too much work for both baby and mother, they'll
never learn to properly latch, and breast is best- just not at the breast but in a bottle. I was
not convinced. I nursed my oldest for 2 years, attended monthly La Leche League meetings, and have read countless articles about breastfeeding. I knew it could be done and I wanted
to give it a chance. I asked every nurse I saw about breastfeeding with a cleft; most were clueless, some were supportive of trying, but almost all offered a new bottle to try. A condition ofour discharge was to show that we could bottle feed him.

As soon as we got home I stuffed the bottles in a cabinet and settled in with my nursling to keep working on our latch. A week after being home he got sick and we spent another 10 days in the hospital. Once again I had bottles thrown at me left and right. We had to meet with a feeding specialist, even though his nourishment was completely unrelated to why he was there. I requested to see the lactation consultant, and sadly even she didn't really know how to nurse a cleft baby. 

The doctors would all tell me that it was great that I was trying, 
but when it didn't work out we could talk about supplementation. I would smile, nod, and 
continue to nurse. 

Of course, if baby wasn't thriving and couldn't gain weight, I wouldn't hesitate to 
supplement. But for now, all was well. He was gaining, slowly… but gaining, he had 
developed normal sleeping patterns, and was as alert as a newborn is supposed to be. 

Today, we met with his surgeon and, once again, bottle feeding was brought up. We were 
referred to a feeding specialist and even though they could see him latched, hear him swallowing, and see the milk dribble out of his mouth as he pulled away satisfied with a full belly, they were still adamant about using a bottle. Today, I left the office in tears. I chose the best surgeon in the state, I’m trusting him with my baby’s life; but neither he nor his team support me.

It's hard to hear day after day that what you're doing is great, but not good enough. 
Although I know my baby is thriving, it’s hard not to let my self-confidence 

This is why mothers with cleft affected babies don't nurse. 

They are told that they can't, so they don't. If they find out about the cleft while pregnant, 
they're automatically told not to try. Instead of learning how to position your little one just
so and hold your breast with one hand so it covers the cleft and using the other to press his 
head as firmly to the breast as possible while also hand expressing to the rhythm of baby's 
suck, they are told to buy special bottles and prepare to spend countless hours pumping. 
There is no support or teaching. Instead we’re told not to even try.
                    So here's what I've learned this past month –
  • Doctors are medical professionals who are trained to recognize a problem (a cleft) and fix it (bottlefeeding).
  • They want to monitor everything; weight gain and feedings. They don't like that they can't measure how many ounces and calories a baby gets from the breast.
  • They are intimidated by breastfeeding, most of them can't even look me in the eye if I'm nursing while they're talking to me.
  • Cleft specialists don't learn about breastfeeding in school. They learn about Habermans, Mead Johnsons and Pigeon Nipples - bottles designed specifically for cleft babies that allow the parent to squeeze the milk out of the bottle instead of letting the baby suck.
  • For so long, it has been taught that you just can't breastfeed a cleft baby, so many doctors just don't know otherwise and don’t support letting the mother try.
Luckily, I was blessed with a great milk supply and a great support system of other nursin mamas. None of them have babies with a cleft, but they have all been met with some sort of struggle in their nursing journey. So for any mom or soon to be mom of a cleft baby who mayhave stumbled upon thisblog, I'm here to tell you that it is possible; it can be done. Thedoctors don't always know everything.You don’t have to listen to all of their suggestions.Most of all, you are the mother, and you know yourbaby and his needs best.

It's a lot of hard work to nurse your cleft baby. They may only latch in certain positions. It'll likely take both hands to nurse. Your pump will be your best friend to help maintain your supply. You'll always have a multitude of pillows around you for comfort since you’ll like be spending hours working with your baby to perfect their latch. You will have a lot of self-doubt and will always question if your nursling is getting enough. But the weight gain, the milky smile, the satisfied slumber and your empty breasts will prove that you're doing just fine.

Since she wrote this, Rachel has continued to breastfeed her beautiful baby with much success! He is gaining weight like a champ and getting more and more adorable every single day!!

Sunday, November 2, 2014

The Social Inequality of Childbirth in America



Academic thesis on childbirth and social justice

African American Babies are 2-3x as likely to be born too soon, too small, too sick to survive.  African American Women are 3-4x as likely to be harmed or die during childbirth. (National Center for Health Statistics, 2004) (See Figure 1)  The prevalence of these health disparities are largely related to socioeconomic factors and access to proper healthcare. (Committee on Health Care for Underserved Women, 2005) (See Figure 2)

Childbirth is the very base of our humanity; it has lasting impacts on both the mother and the baby in terms of physical and mental health as well as a strong influence in the health of society that influence generation after generation. By improving health outcomes at birth, health outcomes for life can also be improved. In 2010, the United States spent $111 billion for pregnancy, delivery and newborn, 47% of which were billed to Medicaid (Childbirth Connection, 2012), all while ranking 60th for maternal mortality and exhibiting racial disparities in healthcare outcomes for African American women and babies. This paper will explore three models of social justice and how they each view this issue and what they would propose as a solution to the social inequality of childbirth in America. Evaluated in this thesis will be the social philosophies of libertarianism, utilitarianism and egalitarianism.
childbirth, social inequality
Figure 1

healthcare, childbirth,
Figure 2

Libertarian Philosophy, John Locke & Robert Nozick

The Libertarian philosophy focuses on the protection of self-ownership through civil rights. Philosophers John Locke and Robert Nozick assumed that all free agents have control rights, rights to compensation, enforcement rights, rights to transfer and ownership rights. According to Locke and Nozick, the government’s involvement in civil, economical and social matters should be limited. (Encyclopedia Britannica)  
A libertarian would see the prevalence of health disparities, socioeconomic factors and healthcare access, and view it as a circumstance that individuals could negotiate and be in control of rather than an issue where laws and government should intervene. Maryn Leister, traditional birth attendant and founder of Indie Birth, is a strong advocate of “women own birth”. There is a definite lack of care prior to pregnancy and as Leister argues, a lack of self-education and responsibility that sums up the problem as a strong libertarian would perceive it.
Locke would look at the ethnic disparities and the contract between healthcare providers and their patients and say, “if you’re unhappy with your contract, renegotiate it” and “if you’re not going to do anything about it, then don’t complain about it.”  It’s imperative that women practice self-prenatal care prior to conception in order to be set up for a healthy pregnancy and the libertarian would focus on the basic rights women are entitled to that would encourage them to practice self-ownership and examine this prenatal care they practice with themselves. Leister argues that traditional prenatal care in America is not working. (Leister, 2013)  She goes on to say that healthcare, such as that covered by today’s Affordable Care Act, is not improving birth outcomes.  In looking at the statistics we can see that since 1990, birth outcomes in American have exceedingly declined (Woods, 2008)  despite increasing interventions and excessive prenatal care in low risk pregnancies. “If prenatal care were a drug, it would not be approved by the FDA for efficacy.” (Strong, 2002)

Utilitarianism, Jeremy Bentham & John Stuart-Mill

Utilitarianism holds that an action is morally right if its consequences lead to happiness, noting that everyone’s happiness counts the same. With the utilitarian philosophy, Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart-Mill focus on the greater good, even if it may mean that a minority will suffer for the greater happiness.
Philosophers Jeremy Bentham & John Stuart-Mill would argue that the racial disparities in health outcomes for African American women and their babies could be fixed by care providers caring for the patients equally regardless of race or economic status; by providing care from a patient-centered approach and practicing under oath, the greater good would be served. Normative Ethics takes this particular issue a step further, noting the “impact that choosing the greatest good will have over the minority that will be negatively impacted…. That it is unavoidable that a minority will suffer for the greater happiness.” (Encyclopedia Britannica) When looking from the macro perspective, one would see an alarming disproportion of excessive healthcare costs, increasing poverty levels and bad outcomes, ranking the United States 60th in the world for maternal mortality rates – meaning 59 other countries are doing it better. (Reich, 2014)  While acknowledging that “black and Hispanic patients report lower confidence and less trust in their specialist than white patients… and that distrust of the medical community may also prevent the delivery of truly patient-centered care (Woods, 2008), the utilitarian philosophy does not overlook the higher maternal mortality rates for African American women, and the risks for their babies, but insists that equality is necessary to improve healthcare for all.
Under the utilitarian philosophy, the responsibility would shift from the woman over to the government and her provider. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) is an example of a utilitarian response to the problem of racial disparities in America. Under the ACA, signed into law under the Obama administration in March 2010 and enforced beginning January 2014, pregnant women have better access to health care. Under the ACA, health insurance companies are required to cover expectant women and “health plans may no longer discriminate against different types of health providers who are practicing in line with their professional licensing.” (Metcalf, 2013) 

 Social Justice Theory, John Rawls

            Strict Egalitarianism recognizes that economic disproportions is what creates the framework for society and a degree of inequality is normal for a society to function.  Furthermore, the difference principal of egalitarianism says “Liberty and opportunity, income and wealth, and the bases of self-respect – are to be distributed equally unless an unequal distribution of any of all of these goods is to the disadvantage of the least favored.” (Encyclopedia Britannica)
            Rawls would argue that this social inequality is due to a lack of tangible resources. While the Affordable Care Act has created the opportunity for these low income minorities to be covered 100%, many states have refused to expand Medicaid. (Reich, 2014) By limiting women’s access to healthcare prior to pregnancy, preventative measures and eliminating health clinics, with poverty rates are rising, we are giving these minorities excuses to not take responsibility for their own health; this increases the gap between what they have needs for and what they have access to.
            Rawls argues that the socioeconomic bar is set from the bottom and by benefiting those of lower socioeconomic status, meeting them where they are with healthcare access and education, we increase the level of benefit for all. An egalitarian response, stemming from the necessity of burdens of different economic distributions across society, would be to expand the access of free health clinics and for childbirth educators, social workers, doulas and the like, to provide free or reduced services for these at risk women.

Conclusion and Editorial

Something as intrinsically primal as birth cannot be fixed by government intrusion. The libertarian view makes the most sense, arguing that individual people should have the freedom to be responsible for their own births and health regardless of race or class.  Acknowledging that good health is a very important part of pregnancy and childbirth it is important to recognize that education and self-ownership are going to achieve that over government mandated health care (utilitarianism) or enabling people to become a result of their socioeconomic status or racial grouping (egalitarian response).  
To support the argument of birth being primal, I would like to bring forth the concept of the limbic system and its responsibility for primal learning. Limbic imprint creates how and why humans emotionally make decisions. “A baby absorbs information about the outside world from the moment of conception, including the moment of conception.” (Vitalis, 2014)  According to Elena, founder of Birth into Being, the problems with birth and neglected children began generations ago; she goes as far as to suggest this as a response to slave labor – subservient people who passed on this limbic imprinting of “learned helplessness”. 
We all have genetic memory of our foremothers being sold to their husbands before they even reached a childbearing age; or traded for some kind of commodity – women were currency. And it’s very difficult to give birth in ecstasy and pleasure if you are a slave in your husband’s household. (Tontetti-Vladimirova, 2014)
Taking into account the theory of the limbic system, genetic history and the history of slavery of African Americans, one may be bold enough to say, this is where their lesser health outcomes stem from. Any outward forces, such as those that may be suggested by egalitarian or utilitarian philosophies, can only make things worse as other interferences with birth have done.  More important than access to healthcare prior to conception and prenatally, is access to education and self-ownership. The libertarian philosophy I associate with, would challenge the providers, insurance companies and governments surrounding these women to allow them the civil rights to take birth into their own hands, having healthy pregnancies and even healthy moments of conception that would lead to more positive birth outcomes. Leister argues that most birth complications can be traced back into nutrition during pregnancy. (Leister, 2013) Both midwifery experts encourage women to take a conscious look at where they come from and own those issues, making decisions for their own healthcare, claiming responsibility for the outcomes they desire. This isn’t to say that health care isn’t necessary or situations in childbirth don’t arise – understanding your own healthcare and taking an active role as to deciding when to seek outside help is important – but first, women need to understand birth itself and what it was meant to be. (Leister, 2014) As a culture, if Americans didn’t place so much responsibility of their own health into the hands of care providers, preventative care – in the terms of healthy living – would prevail.
            The utilitarian response is difficult to support because while the ACA is in writing a “moral” response to creating equal opportunity, it in fact is not affordable to many of the working class, thus widening the gap between economic classes and in that sense becomes more of an egalitarian reaction. While the idea of socialized health care and equal opportunity for all is a potentially positive & moral solution, America is failing miserably at executing anything even close to that, while in fact limiting access to what could be better health care. In terms of better healthcare for childbearing women, if we take the focus off of preconception and place it onto the birth itself, in looking at European countries who have better outcomes, we see that the care is largely provided by midwives. Under the ACA, health plans may no longer discriminate against different types of health providers who are practicing in line with their professional licensing.” (Metcalf, 2013) – Rather than expanding access to a variety of providers, choice has been limited by the government interfering and deeming which “professional licensing” is appropriate to provide care and mandating what interventions and routine steps must be met. However, at the end of the day, is it really the health care during childbirth or that of before conception? As I’ve stated, I believe that birth is intrinsically primal and is best left undisturbed, agreeing with Leister- that nutrition, and Elena- that emotional well-being, are the primary sources for healthy pregnancy and birth. “Under a psychosocial interpretation, these health inequalities are due to negative emotions and engendered by perceptions of relative disadvantage.” (Lynch, 2005)

 Works Cited

Childbirth Connection. (2012, December). United States Maternity Care Facts and Figures. Retrieved from Childbirth Connection:
Committee on Health Care for Underserved Women. (2005). Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Women's Health. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, No. 317.
Leister, M. (2013). Breaking Tradition in Prenatal Care [Recorded by Taking Back Birth]. Sedona, AZ.
Leister, M. (2013). Pregnancy Nutrition Made Simple [Recorded by Taking Back Birth]. Sedona, AZ.
Leister, M. (2014). What the System Never Told You About Undisturbed Birth [Recorded by Taking Back Birth]. Sedona, AZ.
Lynch. (2005). Hierarchy Makes You Sick. In W. Bottero, Stratification: Social Division and Inequality (p. 195). New York: Routledge.
Metcalf, N. (2013, July 3). Will Obamacare Cover Midwives and Birthing Centers? Retrieved from Consumer Reports:
National Center for Health Statistics. (2004). NCHS. Retrieved from CDC:
Reich, R. (2014, May 12). How the Right Wing is Killing Women. Robert Reich.
Strong, T. (2002). Expecting Trouble: What Expectant Parents Should Know about Prenatal Care in America.
Encyclopedia Britannica (2014). Social Philosophy: Models of Social Justice. Class Handout.
Tontetti-Vladimirova, E. (2014, August 25). ReWilding Our Birth Experience. (D. Vatalis, Interviewer)
Woods. (2008, March). Racial and Ethnic Disparities in U. S. Health Care: A Chartbook. Retrieved from The Commonwealth Fund:


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

And She Gave Him Back to the Lord

Earlier this year I attended the sacred home birth of a baby too beautiful for earth. In honor of pregnancy loss awareness day and her beautiful baby, Lacy has asked that I share her story with you. Lacy found comfort in reading stories from other mothers and she hopes that if you are suffering a loss that you may find some peace in her words as well.  

My husband and I have three handsome boys, and earlier this year we had decided to start trying for our fourth baby. In March, I had noticed I was late so I took a pregnancy was negative. Feeling a bit discouraged I went about my routines, and figured it would happen eventually. After another week had passed and still no visit from aunt flow, I thought maybe I tested too early before, so, naturally I took another test. That too was negative. I knew something was going on so I decided to go to the free clinic to test....yet again another negative test. Nine pregnancy tests later, I decided it was time to go see my doctor since I still hadn't had my monthly visit from mother nature. Sure enough, the test from the doctor finally gave me the answer I knew deep down, WE WERE PREGNANT!!!!! I set up my first prenatal appointment and couldn't wait to begin our last and final journey of pregnancy. In mid April, I got my first ultra sound and saw our little peanut for the very first time... pure bliss. As a few weeks went by, I realized that my body felt different than my previous pregnancies, and my husband and I began discussing our plans for giving birth. It was suggested that we hire a doula because we were looking into the option of natural birth versus getting an epidural. We found two doulas within a few towns of our home and met with both. They were both wonderful, but one really captured our hearts and we had an instant connection with her. Things were moving wonderfully!!! We had our birth plan mostly mapped out, we had our amazing doula and baby was growing big and strong. By thirteen weeks we were able to hear the heartbeat for the first time.... MUSIC SWEET MUSIC!!! Baby was growing and healthy, we couldn't be happier. As we prepared and told our friends and family, our excitement only grew. Our boys were excited and we began discussing baby names. After only a few minor arguments we had our two names, one for a boy and one for a girl. At sixteen weeks we began our picture documentation, belly was growing and everything seemed fine. My seventeen week check came and I walked in everything seemingly normal, the doctor came in got out his doppler and pressed it gently to my stomach. Expecting to hear baby right away, there was nothing but silence... the doctor moved to a different spot... again, nothing... once more, and nothing. Trying to keep me calm, he turned to me and asked me to go to ultra sound and get checked, just to make sure things were ok, also informing me that sometimes, no heartbeat just means baby is really active. I went to ultra sound and there pops up the picture of our sweet babe. As she tech was taking pictures, she turned on the sound looking for a heartbeat. I will NEVER forget the silence in that room. The tech looked at me cleared her throat and whispered “I’m so sorry” and walked out. My heart sank, my body went numb and I burst into tears. I couldn't control what came out. I was expected to work that day and I went in asking for the day off explaining to my bosses the news we received. Almost immediately my brain went into overdrive, and I began calling the people who were important to us and broke the news. It was like I was a robot, I remember feeling as though I had left my body and was watching myself form above and wondering, why aren't you yelling, or angry, or anything. The next day I spent making our final phone calls and waiting. We had decided that we wanted to give birth to our sweet baby instead of having what would have been an abortion. This was still our child, despite what science says. On Thursday June 26th I woke up in a massive amount of pain and severe bleeding, so we went to the emergency room. While there I contacted my doula for some support, and she was there within half an hour. The very first thing she did was play some music to calm me down, and she sat with me and held my hand. After talking with the er doctor, we decided to head home and birth in privacy. Not more than five minutes after we arrived home, at 11:22am I delivered our sweet baby. A handsome baby boy, Austin James, who weighed .8oz and was 1.41 in long. I held our baby boy for two hours, crying, laughing, and enjoying this beautiful gift God had given us. Our doula, sat with me the entire time, comforting me, and helping with weighing Austin and getting his measurements. I've never understood why God took our boy to be with him in heaven, but I do know that from the moment I found out we had lost him, there was an unexplained peace in my heart. We may not understand why our baby boy had to leave this earth, but we know that he is safe in heaven. He watches over us and each day we tell him we love him. Rest in peace sweet baby Austin James! Mommy and Daddy and your brothers love you.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Why would we improve birth?

can't ban this vagina, vbac, improving birth, fundraising runs, 5kBirth is birth. It's perfect; without need of improvement. Right? Yes, of course. But, the care mothers and babies are receiving, here in the U.S., with our outrageous healthcare costs, during this beautiful part of life that sets the foundation for humanity, is in much need of improvement. Women deserve evidence-based care.

The mission behind the Rally to Improve Birth is not about convincing women to abandon the system. It’s not about hospital birth or home birth. It’s about bringing evidence-based care and humanity to childbirth – wherever that takes place.

There are some folks who refuse to be affected by the system; those who live off the grid and do choose their own path. Not everyone will birth their children unassisted, with no one else present. I understand the frustration with the system but the system isn’t all that it’s about – it’s about awareness. It’s about bringing the concept of evidence-based care to the average mother; the mother who might not realize she shouldn’t hire a surgeon for her normal, healthy, low-risk pregnancy; the mother who doesn’t know that 40 weeks is a guestimate and it’s common to go past; the mother who is told she is “not allowed” to have a vaginal birth.

As a vbac mom I know the frustration with the new statutesin Arizona and while I don’t agree with the changes in the system, it is at the very least something that has happened here; while they are nowhere near ideal, it has brought attention to the issue. Will I hire an LM under those regulations? I don’t know. Will I use our local birth center? I don’t know. Will I plan for an unassisted birth? I don’t know. Will I travel to Phoenix again, or Flagstaff? I don’t know. But look at that – I have options.

Every woman, in every situation has options. But so many don’t realize it. The Rally to Improve Birth, as it grows each year, is bringing attention to these very issues; the issues of induction and vbac and EFM and autonomy. It’s not just about wanting evidence-based care to be provided by health care providers but also about women understanding that there is such a thing as evidence-based care and that it is lacking in the U.S.
The theme this year, #breakthesilence is raising awareness to the birth trauma that happens every single day here! Women are #improvingbirthbecause they may have not received evidence-based care and they want now want to advocate for humanity in childbirth!

While some have thrown their arms up in the air and proclaimed their mission to be #abandonthesystem –not all women are going to do that and for those that don’t is sparking the change in providers, hospitals and consumers, which could bring evidence-based care and humanity in childbirth to the women who choose to remain part of the system.

Thank you for those who have shown your support and stand with the Rally to Improve Birth, bringing your wisdom and information to our rally attendees! I hope you'll join us for the first annual 5k Fun Run!!

evidence based care, childbirth, improving birth, 5k, fundraising runs

In love and service,

Rally Coordinator,

Saturday, August 9, 2014

It's Not About You {Don't Hate, Let's Educate}

Dear mother who had a cesarean,
It's not about you
Dear mother who had a natural birth,
It's not about you

It's not about you and it's not about me; it's bigger than us! It's not about your birth choices or mine, or anyone else's. We each make choices that are best for our own unique situations with the information that is given to us. The information that is given to us is what's so important.

The United State's ranks 60th in Maternal Mortality Rate while flaunting some of the worlds highest World Health Organization's recommended cesarean section rate of no higher than 10-15%, with an astounding rate of 32.8% that can vary greatly even among neighboring hospitals. ACOG has released guideline after guideline after guideline in effort to reduce the climbing cesarean rate and encourage vaginal birth [after cesarean (pg 6)]. What makes all of this a greater challenge, isn't the system, it isn't even the doctors who aren't following ACOG guidelines, it's society, perpetuating lies and fear throughout your community. There are obviously a variety of complex reasons for the high cesarean rate but each woman holds the responsibility to create positive change for our sisters, for our daughters and generations to come by speaking out with facts and encouragement for those around us. Too often I see women perpetuating the fears and the lies that many have come to believe; especially in regards to VBAC. I encourage you to take a class on VBAC and understand the real risks and benefits of a trial of labor vs a planned cesarean delivery. You deserve the facts and evidence based care. An informed decision is not one driven by fear; it is one made from statistics and access to all of the information.

Women deserve access to the safe and appropriate choice of VBAC and banning vaginal births is not in the best interest of babies and families.

acog, vbac, cottonwood az, hospital birth, cesarean section, journey of life, natural birth

I was recently confronted by a mother who felt attacked by the statistics; a mother who had chosen a RCS for the birth of her second child. I do not know her whole story but she was adamant that vaginal birth was very dangerous! [Perhaps she hadn't know the facts and was second guessing her decision or perhaps she just didn't like that I had personally made a decision that differed from hers or perhaps she was emotionally burdened because she felt that she didn't have a choice.] I don't know, but whatever the reason, this is bigger than her, this is bigger than me, this is bigger than you.

As a doula, I support any birth - I've supported natural births and medicated births, I've supported inductions, I've supported a planned cesarean section and emergency c-sections. I am well aware of the need for facts and evidence based information, especially in the face of our alarmingly high cesarean rate and climbing maternal mortality rate. Women need to be empowered and spreading false information or being denied all the of the information is damaging to society as a whole. The system isn't going to change, women need to be the change.
There is no room for spreading fears and falsehoods.
Each woman is tasked with the responsibility of taking charge of her health; making safe and appropriate choices that are right for their individual circumstances.

Your choice doesn't have to be the same as mine or any one else's. What's important is that your choice is made from fact, not fear; aka making an informed decision.  I further encourage you to give the women surrounding you the same courtesy of informed choice by stopping the wild fire of misinformation and sharing facts.

Had a cesarean? Don't freak. Know the facts.
If you're local to Phoenix of Tucson Give Birth offers a VBAC Workshop
If you're local to Cottonwood, Prescott, Flagstaff or other surrounding areas, yours truly of Guiding Angels Birth Services also presents a VBAC Workshop for Northern AZ. And be sure to check out these helpful links!

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Happy World Breastfeeding Week

It's been a busy week for breatfeeding mommies this doula! Mother's Nest is proud to bring you Verde Valley's nursing lounge! Haven't been yet? Come on by. There's play things for little tykes, comfy couches for moms and many pillows for your nursing comfort!

Mother's Nest is Verde Valley's Nursing Lounge

Guiding Angels Birth Services sponsored the BIG latch on event in Prescott, AZ! We had a booth where participants could come and "design a belly cast" for a chance to win a $15 gift certificate to Mother's Nest!

How have you celebrated World Breastfeeding Week?

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Man, I Feel Like a Woman

In July of 2014, two days after that epic super moon that was engulfed by monsoon clouds, something awesome happened!! My monthly cycle returned!!

Wait a minute, you're calling that awesome?

Yes, yes I am. Hear me out.

My last cycle had been in November if 2011, prior to the conception of my youngest child. I'm sure many people have gone longer, especially if they've conceived on their first ovulation after having been with child and breastfeeding and then continuing on to birth and nurse again, maybe even tandem nurse their new baby and toddler. But for me, nearly 3 years had been long enough. While still nursing my 1 & 1/2 yr old, my body was beginning to feel not my own. I wasn't a person, especially not a woman; I was merely a vessel that lived and provided for another. My husband and I had thought about trying for another baby and often I heard, "well, you could stop breastfeeding" but that wasn't what I wanted.  Our breastfeeding relationship still continues but having resumed a part of my being, a part of my womanhood, it is a much happier relationship.

I'm so happy I allowed my body to act in just the way it needed. Just like birth, ovulation and the shedding if those eggs is a very personal part of a woman's life that deserves to be celebrated.

I'm sure, one day soon I may whine about the monthly visit from Mother Nature - but, perhaps not, for this time around, I have discovered something amazing!

Get ready for it....

I no longer carry around tampons.

I no longer worry of leaks or when I last attended to my feminine hygiene product.

I no longer am putting toxins in my body.

I've learned the location of my cervix. (Sad that it took until this experience discover this!)

It's so much easier than I expected it to be!

Upon return of my monthly cycle, I trekked over to Zoolikins and purchased a menstrual cup!

I highly recommend it

This doula also recommends celebrating your womanhood. That night, I treated myself to a nice dinner and simply felt amazing as my body resumed it's reproductive abilities. I felt so happy to be a woman, to be capable of growing and giving birth to new life. I really hope some day to have a daughter and celebrate this time of coming into womanhood with her. What will you, or have your done, to celebrate this time with your daughter?

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Thank you!!

Thank you to all who participated in the survey for my ethnography project of routine infant circumcision in America!!
Thank you!
Thank you!
Thank you!

This was an anonymous survey designed to determine the beliefs and understanding of American parents surrounding Routine Infant Circumcision. Some people left their names and/or contact information and some of you did not. I will begin with just a couple responses to some of you I was just dying to chat with and so wish I had the opportunity!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Women Improving Birth {Don't Hate, Let's Educate}

Birth is in shambles. What are we doing about it? Not much, really. Well, it's time for change. For the longest time I've thought "if only the system would change" or "if only I could change the system" but it's not going to happen that way. WE have to change. Women have to be the change.

The question arises - why are women continuing to go to OB's who misrepresent themselves, who have no respect for women and their birth choices, who make promises they have no intention of keeping?

It's because women have no clue.

I didn't with my first birth - and its sad - I SHOULD have known more. I was raised by an OB nurse who was deeply skeptical of the system - never took me to Drs, distrusted pharma and healed us with herbs my entire upbringing.

And yet when I got pregnant I hired an OB right off the bat...because "thats what you do."

My big concern? That she was a woman. I figured she would be more sympathetic and really know what she was doing since she had kids of her own. I didn't do research, I didn't worry about anything because I DID believe birth was natural and would happen naturally, BUT I also, very paradoxically, had hired a surgeon to attend my birth.

Looking back it doesn't make a bit of sense, but at the time it did; because the idea of there being other options simply didn't exist to me yet. When I got high BP in the last few weeks I wasn't concerned - but I was induced - I didn't even KNOW thats what was happening until a nurse told me. I had a 36 hour labor and both Ian and myself almost died. And everyone said WOW its a good thing you were at the hospital with all those doctors!! They SAVED YOUR LIFE. And I believed that for a long time. It's hard to opt out of that mindset - and most women haven't yet.

We need to be careful not to blame other women - because in most cases they just don't know better - and even when you start to know better its HARD to break out. It takes baby steps sometimes - and some women will never make it there. We can't spend our time being angry at each other for not "getting it." Its time to focus all our attention on education and on changing the system - so when my daughters find themselves looking at a pink plus sign their first thought doesn't have to be "lets go hire a surgeon". Should they have that right? Sure. But they should also know that they can chose a midwife or just trust THEMSELVES to birth their child.

And maybe we can never change the "system" but we can change the story for ourselves, and our children and maybe those around us. My first birth isn't the story I want to give my son - but there isn't any going back. We can however go forward and when you know better - do better.

Guest blog post written by Crystal Billington of Aniron Photography.  
Want to learn more about Improving Birth← Click here!
Live in Northern AZ? Like Improving Birth, Northern AZ on facebook 
and contact Guiding Angels Birth Services to find out what you can do to inspire change!

Contact info

Jennifer Valencia | Labor & Postpartum Doula | 928.300.1337


Blog Directory