5 Reasons Why Your Birth Can Affect Your Baby & Parenting


While I didn’t write this article I think it is so amazing and I have to share it. I wish every woman on planet Earth had this information before having babies. We aren’t really told how even the most (seemingly) minor choices throughout pregnancy and birth can affect every aspect of us and our babies. Imagine how wonderful our world would be if most every mother had an empowered physiological birth and all babies were able to come into the world with their feelings and bodies acknowledged and respected. Humanity would thrive, crime rates would greatly reduce, and we would all be so much more well-adjusted. Imagine :)

5 Reasons Why Your Birth Can Affect Your Baby & Parenting – by Sarah Ockwell-Smith, mother of four and owner of www.babycalm.co.uk

“When I meet a new mum, dad and baby  for the first time at a BabyCalm workshop I always start with the same question:

“tell me about your birth”

Mostly it’s met with confusion, wrinkled eyebrows and exchanged curious looks, very often they ask me “why?” straight back. After all they haven’t come to see me to talk about their birth, they’re here to see me to work out why their baby cries so much. To me though the two are so inextricably linked it is impossible to understand the issues they are having with their newborn unless we go back to the beginning (sometimes the cause goes even further back – I’m very aware of that!). So, here’s why I ask that question and why I believe that any baby calmer working with new parents MUST consider the baby’s birth in order to really help:

1) The birth can have lasting physical consequences for the baby

If a baby is born by C-Section, ventouse or forceps my ears always prick up immediately, especially if the labour has been long and involved malpresentation. I work very closely with a local chiropractor who specialises in working with new babies and over the years I have learnt an awful lot from her. Imagine if your head had been crooked at an unusual angle for several weeks, then imagine that somebody was pushing your head into that position even harder for a whole day, you’d have a headache and neck ache right? I have seen babies in obvious discomfort, several with torticollis unable to turn their head – aside from the discomfort this can also have an effect on feeding – several mums have said “he just won’t feed from that side and cries whenever we try” – they hadn’t considered it might be painful for their baby to turn their head to do so. Also when you start delving into the world of cranial nerves even more the whole issue becomes more complex. During labour the baby’s cranial bones move and overlap (think of a cone headed newborn!), this is normal and the bones usually return to their normal position over a few days after the birth, mostly via the process of the baby sucking (and the movement of the upper and lower jaw) which stimulates the base of the skull via the palate. Sometimes however things don’t return to normal and often abnormal skull compression becomes noticeable via the baby’s feeding habits and need to suck much more than usual. If the baby’s vagus nerve (the nerve directly linked to digestion) is compressed this can also have noticeable effects on a baby’s digestive system causing pain. All of this is more likely to happen if the labour is long, the baby is malpresented (I often notice babies who laid in an asynclitic presentation during labour are more fussy) or is born via emergency section, forceps or ventouse. Visiting a good chiropractor or cranial osteopath can make a profound difference for some new parents and babies. I believe in this so passionately I believe it should be available on the NHS, after all we check a baby’s hearing after birth – why not his skull and spine?

2) The birth can have lasting physical consequences for the mother.

Again, in my utopian world  all new mothers would be visited by a chiropractor or osteopath. Having suffered from hideous SPD (now known as PGP) during pregnancies 1 and 2 it wasn’t until no.3 I discovered that – hey pregnancy didn’t have to hurt! I was literally  changed woman. I was lucky in that I only suffered during pregnancy, but I have known plenty who continued to suffer after the birth, this affected their posture, but standing and seated and the constant discomfort slowly begins to erode into the psyche, along with the discomfort experienced whilst breastfeeding, often meaning babies are latched poorly – and we all know where that leads. It’s not just the pelvis and spine that matter though. I have met too many women suffering with perineal trauma, poorly stitched episiotomies and the like which not only cause great physical discomfort, but emotional too – which naturally has a knock on effect long after the event.

3) The birth can have lasting psychological consequences for the baby

Even those that have gone supposedly “well” or have been “natural”. The two big culprits to look out for here are the use of exogenous oxytocin (aka syntocinon/pitocin depending on where you’re reading from!) and what happened immediately after birth. Let’s start with the  artificial oxytocin. It’s impossible to talk about this without mentioning Michel Odent. In his article “If I were the baby: questioning the widespread use of synthetic oxytocin” Michel discusses the blood flow from mother to baby via the placenta and states the permeability is higher in the mother-foetal direction than vice versa (i.e: blood travels from the mum to baby via the placenta easily – so too therefore does whatever substance is travelling in the mother’s blood), Michel’s concern is the “oxytocin-induced desensitization of the oxytocin receptors”. “In other words, it is probable that, at a quasi-global level, we routinely interfere with the development of the oxytocin system of human beings at a critical phase for gene-environment interaction”. What does this mean in reality? well we know that when artificial oxytocin is put into the maternal blood stream during labour so to it enters the babies and can have profound and lasting consequences on the neurophysiology of the baby for the rest of their life.

Michel goes on to say “we now have scientific evidence that explains how the capacity to love develops through a complex interaction of hormones, hormones that are secreted during many experiences of love and close human interaction including sexual intercourse and conception, birth, lactation, and even sharing a meal with loved ones. The role of oxytocin, the “love hormone,” is particularly important. Natural oxytocin delivered by human touch, but not synthetic oxytocin delivered by an intravenous drip, has important effects on many organs in the body, including the brain. “  Those important effects, Odent theorises, can cause the baby to grow with damaged oxytocin receptors which he links to raising levels of autism, anxiety, stress and disturbed ”self loving” – including higher levels of anorexia, drug and alcohol dependency.

Not to mention on another level how traumatising birth is for babies – and here I am not implying birth needs to be traumatic for babies, when I trained in baby massage with Peter Walker he said to us “what if the process of birth was the very first massage we receive? what if birth is a pleasurable experience for the baby?” this really made me think – it’s what they are born into that is more traumatic – bright lights, rough handling, scratchy towels, cold instruments, latex gloves, cord clamps, silly hats and scratch mits, injections or bitter tasting oral drops. It’s no wonder babies cry when born!

I was intrigued to learn of the importance of amniotic fluid in calming babies. When you think of this more deeply it’s kind of obvious – a baby spends 9mths in amniotic fluid – it is what you might  call “a constant”, naturally then the scent of the fluid on their skin (and that of their mother) after birth will be calming to them, reminding them of home you might say – yet, what do we do? we wipe it off, dry them and wrap them up in a rough towel – despite the fact there is sound scientific evidence to suggest this is the wrong thing to do – babies whose amniotic fluid is not wiped off after birth cry significantly  less (ref: H. Varendi et al., “Soothing effect of amniotic fluid smell in newborn infants,” Early Hum Dev (Estonia) 51, no. 1 (Apr 1998): 47-55) – and this is without even discussing skin to skin to contact (which we’ll do below).

4) The birth can have lasting psychological consequences for the mother.

On a continuation of the above theme. We know that the blood brain barrier prevents artificial oxytocin from entering the brain – this may not seem important when you are told that you need an oxytocin drip to “speed up” or even start your labour – or when you are told it’s best you have an injection to deliver your placenta and prevent blood loss (all of which contain synthesised oxytocin) – but when you understand that this results in a direct lack of oxytocin circulating the maternal brain we begin to realise quite what catastrophic effects the usage off these supposedly “safe” chemicals can have upon the bonding of mother and child and the initiation (and even long term succcess)  of breastfeeding. We know oxytocin is the hormone of love and if we are depriving mothers of this in their brain it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work out how we may be  damaging the love process between mother and baby. So often I work with new mothers ashamed to admit that they still dont know if they really love their babies or that it took them a long time, that there was no instant “rush of love”. I have experienced it both ways. My first two births were syntocinontastic, the first one I had “failed to progress” (or they had failed to wait – you decide!) and thus it was deemed my failure of a body couldn’t get my baby out without a drip to ramp up my contractions, I was then injected with syntometrine against my consent (i.e: I wasn’t even asked for consent – “I’m just giving you the injection for the placenta now dear” – jab and in it went before I had a chance to say anything) – my second birth was an induction for pre-eclampsia and I was told I HAD to have syntometrine because I was ill/had been induced (yes I know – I was young and naive, I know a lot more know and only wish I could turn back the clock!). Did I fall instantly in love with those babies? No. My first  adored by about the age of 3 weeks, my second, well if I’m honest I still feel as if there is something chemical missing between us, of course I love my children all the same – but there’s something not there with us. Which is no surprised considering my induction – the fact he was whisked away by paeds because of meconium, given back to me fully swaddled and kept on the ward for observations for 4 days after the birth. Everytime I brought him into my bed to sleep I was told he was not allowed to sleep out of his fish bowl and on several occasions I woke to find he had been taken from my arms and put back in the fish bowl. I realise now we had no skin to skin at all until 5 days after birth, no small wonder I ended up with PND and only breastfed for 3 months…..and then there was Rafferty and Violet. Rafferty arrived at home, in a birth pool, in my dimly lit living room (see photo on the right) with an incredibly respectful midwife who didn’t touch us at all. Nobody, but me, laid hands on Rafe until he was 3 days old. Oh my goodness now I knew what they meant by “love at first sight”. within 30 minutes of his birth (still in my arms in the pool) I would have died for  him, I  didn’t just love him though, I love everyone – it was as if I was a bubble of golden, warm love. I have never felt so high, drugged or drunk in my life. THIS is how it should be and this was how it was for my last baby, Violet. No small wonder they are both super calm and confident, why I have never stopped breastfeeding since Rafe was born in 2005. The love was chemical….and it wasn’t there the first two times. I look at photos of my first two births and my eyes are empty, dead, hollow pools of  sadness for the natural birth I had lost, the pain and indignity I had suffered, the trauma I had endured. I didn’t feel love, I felt nothing….relief it was over maybe, but that’s all and feelings of inadequacy, grief and confusion that lasted for years after the event. Is it any wonder why so many new mothers find it hard to bond with their baby? hard to interpret their cries? hard to hear their instinct? we strip so many mothers of the chemical euphoria they should experience and pay no attention to the after effects.

5)  The birth can have lasting psychological consequences for the father.

All too often we forget about the dads, but birth can be – and is – an immensely emotional event for the father, both positively and negatively. Nobody seems to care about the dads though, nobody holds their hand and tells them they are doing well, nobody hugs them and listens to their worries or tells them “it’s OK” to cry. We expect them to be a tower of strength and support – yet where is their support? the sooner we catch onto this the better. As a doula I now firmly believe my role is 10% supporting the mum (if birthing women are left alone they pretty much don’t need help from me or anyone else) and 90% support the dad, it’s funny but a lot of expectant fathers are reluctant when it  comes to the idea of employing a doula, the mothers are  often much, much keener and the dads worry that they will feel left out. In reality it couldn’t be further from the truth and research indicates at  births with a doula present the partner is more supportive and more involved. Anyway, I’m starting to digress, my point here is that when birth goes well it can be  an amazing high for the dad too – it can help him bond with his baby almost as instantly as the mum, but when it goes bad……….oh when it goes bad….I have been at a couple of ventouse births and episiotomies now, sitting at “the business end” and sometimes the visions and noises still haunt me – how must it feel to see your partner in distress – being cut or having a baby pulled out of her with great force? and then being sent home, alone, 2 hours later if your baby was born outside of visiting hours, yet we don’t seem to understand how traumatic witnessing a birth such as that can be for a dad – and the impact that can have upon his transition to fatherhood. Indeed we know when dads are supportive of breastfeeding the mother is much more likely to be successful and feed for longer, the birth can have a big impact on the  dad and thus impact on the support he is able to give to his partner.

There is so much more I could write here, but I’m wary that I’m up to 2500 words already so I’ll revisit this some  other day.

What do I do with the information that is given to me about the birth from the new parents? most of the time, nothing (sometimes I’ll suggest a visit to a chiropractor, breastfeeding counsellor or birth afterthoughts midwife or a telephone call to the birth trauma association but rarely) – I listen and I listen some more. For that mum or dad it may be the first time somebody has listened and never underestimate the impact that feeling listened to can have on somebody’s state of mind.

Next time you meet a new mum with a colicky baby – think about asking her about her birth.”

Sarah Ockwell-Smith, mother of four and owner of www.babycalm.co.uk

Twitter: @babycalmclasses

Link to original article can be found HERE. Go show her some love!


What Happened to ‘Excerpts From Space’?!


If you are here, you are most likely a former follower of Excerpts From Space and thinking, “Where on Earth did that awesome website go?”. Well have no fear, all of the articles and your comments are still here, we just have a new name. When I began Excerpts From Space, I had no idea it would ever become a blog with – gasp- subscribers! The name was superfluous but now that I am finding my niche as I travel down the road as a woman’s health professional, I have made connections and discovered themes that I couldn’t see before. As such, the name just didn’t quite convey that message of what this slice of internet is all about: Women, our cycles, and how we are inherently connected to nature and the more we understand and connect to it, the healthier and happier we can be, especially in pregnancy and as mothers.

I have recently begun my journey of Natural Family Planning (NFP). I knew about it for quite some time, but the fear of losing track of my cycle and getting pregnant by mistake was not something I was willing to risk. I felt more and more pushed to do this as the hormonal birth control I had relied on for so long began to wreak havoc on my system. After many late and missed periods (which of course brings its own special kind of stress, confusion, and a torturous kind of anticipation), I decided to make the jump and begin charting. Throughout 5 years of research, I have learned the ways in which the Moon is directly connected to us as women. For example, A pregnancy is 10 lunar months. In astrology, the Moon rules emotions and Moon Goddesses in every culture symbolize the feminine, fertility and cycles. Many women who are in touch with the Earth will ovulate during the Full Moon, when emotions are high and we feel wild. During ovulation our pheromones pulse from our pores and we even have subtle changes in our facial features that makes us more attractive to males, making this the the perfect time for procreation. 2 weeks later during the New Moon, a time that promotes introspection and isolation, women will either bleed or discover they are pregnant.
After charting for only 2 months, I discovered that my body followed that exact rhythm: ovulation during the Full Moon (this month’s Supermoon) and ‘moon-time’ beginning the day of the New Moon (this month’s solar eclipse). It is amazing to see my body follow the rhythms of natural world and how wonderfully they are connected.
As a Pisces, I have always felt a deep connection with the moon, the way many cultures worship the sun or the stars. I have always thought of myself as a moongazer. I can watch her for hours and be entranced with her light, depth, and beauty. It was this connection that led me to our new name.

You may have also noticed that there have not been any Weekly Headlines (or any other posts for that matter) this month. I have been on a wild ride and haven’t had much computer time! I traveled to Sedona, AZ for the second time this year which was a powerful and transformational experience. A mere week later, Ashley and I traveled to a friend’s home in Eastern Oregon (read: middle of nowhere) with the intention of scoping it out to potentially move there. The change of pace was very much needed and the small community is tight-knit, creative, and filled with so many genuinely good souls. The land is breathtaking, impossibly green and currently washed over in fully-bloomed wildflowers. Eclipses always represent endings and beginnings and the day of the Solar Eclipse/New Moon we received Universal confirmation 10 times over that we are meant to migrate there. So, come September, we will be the newest residents of the Grande Ronde Valley. Just a few days before we move, I will complete my training to become a certified Prenatal Yoga Instructor and I cannot wait to bring that service to the town for the first time! I am bubbling over with ideas in regard to what I want and can offer to the community. I feel so wonderfully optimistic and hopeful. My yearly horoscope was dead on: I will move and it will be a good move.

Regular posts will be back in full swing shortly. Thank you for sharing in this journey with me and continuing to support this site with your views, comments, subscriptions, and love.

On the deck of our new home. Tell me that’s not a gorgeous view ;)

The Grande Ronde Valley a.k.a. The Valley of Peace

Headlines of the Week – April 25, 2012


Drew Barrymore Correctly Predicts Her Baby’s Gender

After announcing her pregnancy, Drew Barrymore exclusively revealed to Life & Style magazine that she is indeed carrying a girl! Like a true intuitive Pisces, Drew said in the past, “I feel I’m sort of surrounded by children and I do feel I’m going to have a child at some point. Maybe a little girl. I feel it, but I don’t know if it’s going to happen. We’ll just have to wait and see.”

Megan Fox is Pregnant!

After weeks of speculation and precariously placed handbags, Megan Fox has officially announced that she and husband Brian Austin Green are expecting! I’m not sure if she knew she was pregnant at the time or not, but in this month’s issue of Cosmopolitan, she said of future children, “I want at least two, probably three kids … I’ve always been maternal.” She even told E! News last month, “I’d love to have kids. I mean, it’s going to happen when it’s going to happen, but it’s not something that I’ve planned against or for… I’m just leaving it out there for the universe.” More mommy intuition, perhaps?

Giuliana and Bill Rancic (Finally) Pregnant via Surrogate

After years of struggling with fertility, breast cancer, and a miscarriage, Bill and Giuliana Rancic have chosen a surrogate and finally get to be parents! This makes me so happy since fertility issues can be devastating, especially when accompanied with the loss of a baby, and I can’t even imagine what its like to battle cancer in the midst of it all. Giuliana and Bill have been very open about their difficult journey on their reality show and I am so happy for this family!

Uproar Over Oreo Ad With Breastfeeding Baby

One MSNBC writer criticized the ad by saying it was “kind of… icky… about the way this ad blatantly sexualizes breast-feeding” and declared the ad to be of the “women-being-objectified” sort. I don’t know about you, but I see nothing sexualized or objectified here. It is a baby being fed the way nature intended. What really bothers me is the fact that a 6-month-old baby is holding such a horrendously sugar-packed unhealthy treat. I have so much to say about this ordeal that I’m making an entire post about it. Stay tuned for that one ;)

Florida Governor Funds Crisis Pregnancy Centers, Vetoes Rape Crisis Centers
“…despite pulling funding from multiple health care providers as a means of balancing the budget, [Governer] Scott still found $2 millionto give to deceptive “crisis pregnancy centers” dedicated to talking women into continuing pregnancies they consider terminating.” This comes from the same state that may fine and/or arrest you for having sex in a position other than missionary, oral sex, premarital sex if the couple loves together, or kissing your wife’s breast. It is also illegal to sing while wearing a swimsuit in a public place. Clearly Florida has its priorities in order…

Eating Meat Speeds Reproduction In Early Humans ~ via LA Times

“When a mother eats meat, her breast-fed child’s brain grows faster and she is able to wean the child at an earlier age, allowing her to have more children faster, the article explains. That provided a distinct competitive advantage for early humans when limited resources and a small population made it difficult for them to thrive. “Eating meat enabled the breast-feeding periods and thereby the time between births to be shortened,” said psychologist Elia Psouni of Lund University in Sweden. “This must have had a crucial impact on human evolution.”

The Economic Value of Breastfeeding ~ via Mothering.com
“In six months, 13.3% of US women produce breast milk of equal economic value to nearly two  years of formula sales. If 50% of moms were exclusively breastfeeding at 6 months as the American Academy of Pediatrics and Healthy People 2010 recommend, the total yearly economic value of US breast milk would be at least $28 billion.”

Prenatal Exposure to PAH Linked To Obesity

“[The] study strongly suggests that a common urban air pollutant — Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons, PAH for short — could be playing a role. PAH’s are released into the air from the burning of coal, diesel, oil and gas, or other organic substances such as tobacco. Trucks and buses are the worst polluters as they use diesel fuel, not gasoline. Previous research at the Center indicates that exposure to PAH’s poses a number of hazards. Prenatal exposure to PAH can negatively affect childhood IQ’s and is linked to anxiety, depression and attention problems in young children. Also PAH are known carcinogens and has been shown to disrupt the body’s endocrine system — which is instrumental in regulating mood, growth and development, metabolism, sexual function and reproductive processes.

The “5 S’s” Eases Infant Post-Shot Pain Better Than Sugar Water

“…The “5 S’s”:  swaddling, side/stomach position, shushing sounds, swinging and suckling. If babies were doing four out of five of these “S’s,” they would usually stop crying within 45 seconds after the shot, according to a new study published in the journal Pediatrics. Harrington says the babies who only received the sugar solution were still crying 2 minutes after getting the shot.” If you’re not familiar with the “5 S’s”, the system designed to calmly soothe babies by mimicking conditions in the womb, has been popularized through the book “The Happiest Baby On The Block”. Watch below to see these daddies calming their babies down like pros.

This Week’s Birth Stories:

A Peaceful Home Birth With A True Knot In The Cord ~ via Mama Birth

HBA2C; 50 Hours Of Labor After SROM ~ via Birth Without Fear

A Successful Home Birth After 4 Cesareans (HBA4C) ~ via Birth Without Fear

A Sacred Orgasmic Birth After 2 Miscarriages ~ via Birth Without Fear

This Week’s Headlines – April 18th, 2012


This has been a dismal week for Women’s Health. Thankfully there has been some light, but unfortunately the War on Women has reared its ugly head this week and it’s time for me to get political.

P.S. Since there has been some confusion, simply click on the title of each headline to view the respective article.

Miracle Baby Found Alive In Morgue
News of a Argentinian family whose stillborn baby was later found alive in the morgue has captured attention all over the web this week. Their miraculous story is filled with joy, love, and horror. Not only is it heart wrenching to think that such a tiny baby essentially spent a week in a freezer and everything her mother has gone through, but it has been reported that the baby girl, named Luz Milagros (meaning light and miracles), has suffered cardiac arrest and is currently in critical condition. She is now receiving her mother’s breastmilk which will hopefully help with her stability. I truly hope this family receives the support they need.

U.S. Ranks 41 In Global Childbirth Deaths, Behind Many Developing Countries

“The USA spends more than any other country on health care, and more on maternal health than any other type of hospital care. Despite this, women in the USA have a higher risk of dying of pregnancy-related complications than those in 49 other countries, including Kuwait, Bulgaria, and South Korea.This is not just a public health emergency – it is a human rights crisis. Women in the USA face a range of obstacles in obtaining the services they need. The health care system suffers from multiple failures: discrimination; financial, bureaucratic and language barriers to care; lack of information about maternal care and family planning options; lack of active participation in care decisions; inadequate staffing and quality protocols; and a lack of accountability and oversight.”

Mitt Romney Slams Stay-At-Home Moms In New Book, ‘No Apology’
“And it conditions the children of nonworking parents to an indolent and unproductive life. Hardworking parents raise hardworking kids; we should recognize that the opposite is also true.” Yes he really wrote that and yes, his own wife Ann is a stay at home mom. I can’t help but laugh at Mitt Romney. Mostly because he’s a fucking idiot, but also because I’m trying not to imagine what our world would be like if he were elected president, because that is a terrifying place.

Uzbekistan’s Policy of Secretly Sterilizing Women
~ via BBC
“…evidence gathered by the BBC suggests that the Uzbek authorities have run a program over the last two years to sterilize women across the country, often without their knowledge. “Every year we are presented with a plan. Every doctor is told how many women we are expected to give contraception to; how many women are to be sterilized,” says a gynecologist from the Uzbek capital, Tashkent. “There is a quota. My quota is four women a month,” she says. Two other medical sources suggest that there is especially strong pressure on doctors in rural areas of Uzbekistan, where some gynecologists are expected to sterilize up to eight women per week.”

Babies Are Needy – Does That Bug You?
~ via Psychology Today
“Human baby helplessness increased over the course of human evolution as humans shifted to bipedal walking. So much so that humans are born 18 months early compared to other primates. It’s really important to get straight on what babies need before having one. For some reason, U.S. society seems to have forgotten what babies need to grow good bodies, brains and minds. We need to get our minds around the needs of babies. Here is a short list of those needs.”

Slings and Heroes
by Mayim Bialik
~ via Psychology Today
“It’s especially important to learn your child’s signaling in the first weeks of life. The mother-infant relationship around 3 or 4 months—how responsive the mother is—predicts all sorts of child outcomes later. Responsive care leads to better health, intelligence, social smarts and compliance with maternal wishes. This really makes sense. Why should a child be compliant with someone who has ignored their signals? And how reliable does the child learn the world is if people can’t pick up its signals? It makes for a lot of confusion and misplaced energy for self-protection that is otherwise used to build intelligence and social skills.”

New Study: How Long Can Labor Safely Be?
“… labor averaged even longer in the physiologic groups without doing any harm to the newborns. … the midwifery data blow active management concepts, now enshrined in partograms, out of the water. Setting 1 cm per hour as the threshold for abnormally slow progress—which allows 6 hours to go from 4 cm to 10—means augmenting first-time mothers dilating faster than the average rate! The CSL investigators point out that half the cesareans in the entire CSL cohort were performed for “failure to progress” or “cephalopelvic disproportion” and reference another study of the cohort finding that “a large percentage of women” had cesareans prior to active-phase labor… Among first-time mothers with spontaneous labor onset who had cesareans for delayed progress, more than a quarter of them (28%) had the surgery at 5 cm dilation or less. Among induced labors, the percentage soared to half (53%)”.

Community-Based Doulas: A Good Investment In The Future
~ via HuffingtonPost
“The Community-Base Doula Program has produced some amazing results including c-section rates nearly half the national rate and breastfeeding initiation rates 25% greater than the national average. It’s harder to quantify parental bonding, but we listen to what the young mothers in the program have to say. “I don’t really have a support system anymore,” says one girl, “but I can always call my doula because she still comes around and helps me when I need her.”

Melinda Gates Calls For Universal Access To Birth Control
“one of the simplest and most transformational things we can do is give everybody access” to birth control… Sub-Saharan Africa and poor regions in South Asia have the largest need for contraceptives. She called for a goal of “universal access to the birth control that women want,” which requires “rich and poor governments alike [to] make birth control a priority… We are talking about giving women the power to save their own lives and their children’s lives — and to give families the best possible future”.

Teen Birth Rate Has Reached Lowest Point Since 1946, CDC Report Says

I also find it interesting to note that the 10 states with the highest teen birth rates are also states that are known for being the most conservative and religious (AL, AZ, AR, DC, KY, LA, MS, NM, OK, GA). Its unfortunate that our uptight-ness and strict religious ideals (influencing the prevalence of abstinence-only sex education) is affecting our children in such a way. If you don’t think inadequate sex education is the culprit, take one look at Yahoo Answers or The Virgin Diaries. Hell, go ask a teenager on the street about safe sex… and prepare yourself to be appalled.

Like I said before, this week has not been a good one for women’s health. Regardless of your political party and who you plan to vote for, this election is crucial for our future and I so wish that everyone who is actively involved in unjustifiably limiting our bodily autonomy (which includes everyone who supports these ideals) soon wakes up and realizes that without our participation, they wouldn’t exist and neither would anyone else. While in an unfortunate and backward way, we as women have the opportunity to vote on our bodies and freedoms that no man should have the authority to vote on, so make your vote count for yourself and your daughters.

And now for some positivity, This Week’s Birth Stories!

A Spiritual HBAC (Home Birth After Cesarean) – via Mama Birth

Hypnobabies mom, “bored with her Braxton/Hicks pressure waves”, finds out she is 8-9cm!

A Painless Birth ~ via Mama Birth

The Homebirth of Leila Maree ~ via Invisible Midwives

The Birth of Zen ~ via Blossoming Woman
As Mom describes, “The Birth of Zen … or in other words, my blissful, orgasmic, euphoric, sensual, unassisted freebirth waterbirth homebirth lotus birth of our little boy”

A Harder Second Birth ~ via Mama Birth
I love this story because it shows that all women are different and the way our bodies bring our babies into the world are just as unique as each one of us.

My Interview With Birth Photographer Lynsey Stone


If you’re not familiar with Lynsey Stone, take a trip over to Google and you will see that she is widely recognized as being one of the best, if not the best birth photographer out there. She is certainly the most popular, receiving recognition from National Geographic, Midwifery Today, Improving Birth, BirthPhotographers.com, Squat Magazine, and praise for her photos can be seen on countless blogs all over the web. She has a wonderful talent for capturing the rawness,  the joy, the pain, the LOVE and the beauty of birth. Dads crying, moms working hard for their babies, grandparents and siblings meeting the new baby, that other-worldly space traveler gaze newborns have… you name it and she is an expert at capturing it. After the first birth she photographed (a surprise baby girl named Cedar) she has gone on to immortalize precious moments for families in the Dallas/Fort Worth area for over 5 years. I was curious to gain some insight about her stunning work and I feel very privileged to have been granted an interview with the famed photographer.

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Were you always interested in becoming a birth photographer or is this something you sort of stumbled into?
When I started doing this there was no such thing as a “birth photographer” so it was definitely not something I set out to do, it just sort of fell into my lap! I already had a strong interest in childbirth because of my own history with my children ~ my 1st child was born by cesarean and then my 2nd and 3rd by VBAC and home waterbirth. *Birth* was one of my favorite things, 2nd only to photography! After Cedar was born I went home and told my husband that I wished I could do that again ~ it was so exciting for me to be able to combine 2 things that I loved so much! We never thought I would actually get paid to go to a birth and take pictures again though. The very next month, however, I was contacted again! My business grew slowly the 1st year, but I seemed to meet all the right people and had a lot of support from the birth professionals I worked with.

Do you have a favorite type of birth (waterbirth, for example)?
I don’t really have a favorite type of birth… I do love waterbirths because they are so beautiful, I love cesareans because I enjoy being able to capture something for the family that they might not be able to otherwise see being behind the drape and not having as much immediate contact with their baby. I really love the variety of different birth experiences. I am not a childbirth snob.

Do you have children? If so, did you have a photographer at your births? 
I have 4 children, they are 13, 9, 6 and 2. I did not have an official photographer at any of my births. With my youngest I did have 2 friends come and take some pictures for me, but typically I am too private to want very many people around. I would never hire a professional.

What do you love most about attending and photographing births?
I LOVE trying to take beautiful pictures that will enhance the mothers feelings about her birth. I feel like they can be such a blessing, especially for some women whose experiences didn’t go exactly as planned.

What do you think is the best photograph you have ever taken – birth or otherwise? Do you have a favorite picture or memory from the births you have attended?
I don’t know that I have *one* favorite picture ~ I usually have several favorites from each birth I go to! I know that the women that follow my work definitely have a favorite though ~ it is a photo of a husband and wife, the husband is catching the baby and the wife has her head thrown back screaming. Most people, when they see the photo, assume that she is screaming in pain or terror, but what they don’t realize is that she actually screamed “I love you baby” as he was being born. Click here to view photo.
One of my favorite memories is from this past January. The mother was pregnant with twins and planning a birth center birth. The father was away at para-rescue training, I believe, and wasn’t able to leave to come home until her labor began. Watching her labor in the birth pool, pray for her husband to arrive before the babies were born, and thank God for these 2 precious children was one of the most moving, humbling, beautiful experiences of my entire life. The paternal grandmother had picked the dad up from the airport after he flew in and everyone was texting back and forth as they drove closer to the birth center. The entire birth center staff, all of the family, the photographer, EVERYONE was in tears as he pulled up, ran inside and embraced his wife. Very shortly after, she began pushing and delivered the 1st of the twins, a son.

What do you do in order for a woman to feel comfortable with your presence? Do you try to stay out of sight or diffuse your energy?
I do try to stay very quiet and out of sight when I am at births. I prefer to not even move around much, but that doesn’t often work out very well. I know what I prefer when I am in labor so I keep that in mind when I am at others.

What is the best compliment you have ever received about your work – either from a mother or a fan?
I have been told a few times from clients who didn’t have their ideal birth experience that their photos were the “highlight” of their births ~ that looking through the pictures they were able to see what was beautiful about it, how hard they worked, the support they had… This means a lot to me because I have also had a particularly disappointing birth experience and only wish I had something to help me see the good in it.

Do you have an idea of where you would like to take your work in the future, or are you just going where the wind blows you?
I would like to continue to do birth photography as far into the future as possible, but I hope the wind blows me far away from the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex and all over the entire world!

And for a fun one, what is the cutest baby name you have ever heard?
Mina Salome!

A BIG thank you to Lynsey Stone for this interview and for what she does for women and families.
You can check Lynsey out online here and here.

This Week’s Headlines – April 11th, 2012


Kaitlin Olson Has Second Baby At Home!

Kaitlin Olson and her husband Rob McElhenney, both of ‘Its Always Sunny In Philadelphia’ fame, welcomed their second son Leo Grey McElhenney on April 5th at 1:15 AM after “23 very very long hours. We’re in love.” Leo is 19 inches long and weighs 8 lbs. 5 oz. This is the second son and second homebirth for the co-stars, who tweeted above photo of baby Leo (right). The couple released a statement announcing his arrival, adding “We are overjoyed”. Congratulations Kaitlin and Rob on making a baby with the cutest nose ever!

Ashley Judd Tells Everyone To Suck It

Okay, so maybe that’s not the actual title, but I wish it was. I love Ashley Judd. She kicks ass in everything she does, not to mention I think she is so classically beautiful. After a media frenzy where she was accused of looking bad, then looking too good, then having plastic surgery, she decided to set the record straight and at the same time brings up a very poignant issue:  “The Conversation about women’s bodies exists largely outside of us, while it is also directed at (and marketed to) us, and used to define and control us. The Conversation about women happens everywhere, publicly and privately. We are described and detailed, our faces and bodies analyzed and picked apart, our worth ascertained and ascribed based on the reduction of personhood to simple physical objectification. Our voices, our personhood, our potential, and our accomplishments are regularly minimized and muted.” Preach it, sister!

Whooping Cough Outbreaks Higher Among Children Already  Vaccinated

“New research reported by Reuters reveals that whooping cough outbreaks are HIGHER among vaccinated children compared with unvaccinated children. This is based on a study led by Dr. David Witt, an infectious disease specialist at the Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in San Rafael, California.”

The New Age of Puberty For Girls is 10 – Thanks to BPA and Other Chemicals

“BPA is a colorless solid chemical compound which has two phenol chemical groups and is widely used to make polycarbonate polymers and epoxy resins used to make plastics. Prolonged storage as well as high heat cause BPA to leech out. When BPA is leeched into the human body, it mimics estrogen and can offset the delicate hormonal balance in the developing child.” After following the effect of hormone-injected poultry on early puberty onset for years and then recently hearing about a 10 year old girl who gave birth in Colombia (which is awful for about 1,000 reasons), I am not surprised to hear this, but disappointed that it has gone this far.

Arizona Bill Declares Women Pregnant 2 Weeks Before Conception

I’m honestly not sure about the validity of this article or the site it is hosted on but it is things like this that really grinds my gears. In the midst of a shattered economy, crooked political climate, astounding poverty, increasingly damaged planet, and inexcusable rates of obesity and other preventable deaths, the people who have been handed the power to create real, lasting change instead choose to spend their time and money lobbying to rob people of basic freedoms which have absolutely nothing to do with them. The War on Women is real, vile, and I am terrified of how the changes that are made now will effect future generations and their bodily autonomy.  I don’t know about you, but I just love when politicians blatantly ignore science (sarcasm). Based off both knowledge and behavior, I’m convinced that most of Congress never made it past 3rd grade.

Shop-Bought Baby Foods Lack Vital Nutrients Essential For Growth And Protection Against Illness

This isn’t exactly news, but I am happy to see this issue is getting attention.  Researchers from the University of Greenwich analyzed the nutritional content of eight popular baby foods given to children aged six to 12 months” and found that “meat-based jars contained on average just three per cent of recommended daily supply of calcium while the vegetable-based types provided 7 per cent of zinc and 6 per cent of iron.” Dr Nazanin Zand, whose study is published in the journal Food Chemistry said: ‘These babies are have limited capacity to eat therefore it is crucial that their foods are as nutrient dense as possible.

Women’s Abdomen Catches Fire During C-Section, As Surgical Tool Ignites Antiseptic

“[The mother] is suing Brown and Crouse for medical malpractice, claiming the doctor and nurses failed to follow the manufacturer’s recommended procedures for using an alcohol-based antiseptic that was applied to her skin in preparation for surgery.” Surgical fires are surprisingly common. According to SurgicalFires.org (does anyone else find that funny? No, just me? Okay) “…there are approximately 100 surgical fires each year, resulting in up to 20 serious injuries and one or two patient deaths annually.”

New Study On Best Ways To Relieve Pain During Childbirth

“Women seeking a more natural childbirth can use several pain management methods that don’t involve drugs, including water immersion, relaxation techniques, acupuncture and massage. Women reported pain relief and better satisfaction from all four methods. Relaxation and acupuncture also reduced the use of forceps, and acupuncture reduced the number of caesarean sections.”

Scientific Studies Support Spiritual Enlightenment In The Birthing Process

“The study, published in the spring issue of the Journal of Perinatal Education, found that understanding the spiritual dimensions of childbirth is essential in clinical settings.”  This article published by Lamaze International continues as follows: “While having a safe and healthy birth is typically a primary concern for pregnant women, new research shows that most women view childbirth as a spiritual experience as well. The just-published research shows that women across diverse cultures correlate having a baby with “growing closer to God.”

Woman Defies Odds and Gives Birth To Two Babies From Two Separate Wombs

There is nothing I love more than woman proving doctors wrong. “‘They could see that there were two babies in my two wombs and they were both alive. But they couldn’t understand how the other baby had managed to get in there. The doctors were baffled. They couldn’t even guarantee that they had been conceived at the same time – I may have fallen pregnant twice, two weeks apart.’… The doctors warned her that it was unlikely that both babies would survive to full term…” Her twins are now beautiful4 year olds :)

Dirty Kids Are Healthy Kids – The Hygiene Hypothesis

“Research shows a lack of exposure to microbes at an early childhood age increases susceptibility to some diseases because the lack of exposure suppresses the body’s immune system. The study does more than just support the notion, it also may explain the whys and hows of the process.”

The Power Of Saying ‘NO’ And Why Its So Important In Labor

“…Setting boundaries and saying “no” is an important part of taking charge of your birth experience. When giving birth in a hospital setting especially, there is a good chance that you will have to use the word “no” in order to stick to your beliefs and choices.”

Sacred Mother and The Honorary Witness of Her Process – The Doula

This is a fantastic piece written by my doula trainer Ana Paula Markel for the launch of Sacred Pregnancy, a wonderful new resource for women who seek a more connected pregnancy and birth experience.  “A pregnant mother exhales the beauty of nature. Human Beings doing the work of procreation. And there she is walking by, a healthy grim in her face, shiny hair and extended womb. It is impossible not to notice a pregnant woman, possibly because consciously we know that if we exist, one day someone carried us just like that too. There is a sense of respect and reverence.”

Birth Stories of the Week:

Dr. Bradley Would Be Proud – via Allie B. Photography Blog
You may want to grab some tissues for this one. This birth story features beautiful pictures of a mama’s natural hospital birth (nothing graphic, I assure you). I think it is easy for men to feel lost at the birth of their children, but this is a perfect visual to share with your spouse, brother, friend, etc. to show them how they should strive to support their lady in the process.

A Story of Healing After Grief – A Homebirth After Cesarean – via Gregarious Peach

Madeleine’s Birth – A HBAC VIDEO – via Gregarious Peach

Sunny Side Up and In The Caul – via Mama Birth

Each Birth Is Different – An Easier Second Birth – via Mama Birth

Ali Jo’s HypnoBabies Homebirth – via Mamas and Babies

Left Hospital To Deliver Breech At Home – via Know Mommy
Birth stories like this are my absolute favorite. Mamas taking charge for themselves and their babies kick ass.