Tag Archives: birth

#BlackBirth: Not Without Our Fathers…

Welcome to the Second Edition of the Black Birth Carnival. Hosted by Darcel of The Mahogany Way Birth Cafe and Nicole of Musings From The Mind of Sista Midwife.

The Topic: Not Without Our Fathers. So often we talk birth in women circles. We celebrate birth within the feminine community and forget that without the fathers our birth experiences would be non existent. June 17th marks the day many will celebrate fathers in this country. With that in mind we came up with our topic for this installment of the Black Birth Blog Carnival.

This post you will be updated with live links by Noon, linking back to the other participants posts.

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Twitter Hashtag #BlackBirth

Around the country in less than one week, millions will honor the men in their lives on Father’s Day.  Father’s Day in my world for the most part comes and goes like every other Sunday.  My lack of enthusiasm is probably due, at least in part, to the fact that my father is… ummm…. well….. let’s just say he would never win the “Father of the Year Award.”  LOL

Regardless of my personal connection, or lack thereof, to father’s day, I understand the importance of fathers when it comes to birth. Over the years I have been blessed to witness many births.  The absence or the presence of the father is not unique to any one race, creed, or religion.  Many women give birth alone or with female support only and there are a multitude of reasons a man may be absent from the birth of his child.  Whenever the father is not present I like to know why.  Not just for the sake of knowing but rather because I have witnessed the father/birth connection and understand that who the father is and his presence or absence can have a profound affect on the birth process. 

While the presence or absence of a father during birth can directly impact the birth experience, little research has been published about fathers and birth.  As I prepared to write this post, except for discussions about slavery, I couldn’t find anything specifically about Black Men and their perceived role during birth.  (As an aside…  I did come across this interview.  And while the book is not specifically about #BlackBirth, it does seem to be a good read.  If you have any feedback on this book I would love to hear it)

Black Men often get a bad rap when it comes to involvement with pregnancy, birth, families, etc. They are often wrongly depicted as the proverbial absentee father, available only to plant the seed.  The reality is Black Birth is filled with stories of black fathers being present, strong, powerful and supportive.  Not only are black men present for birth, I know black men who have personally held their hands out to  catch their newborn as their women gave birth. Yes Black men are present… catching, loving, sharing, and experiencing birth as intently and as passionately and as importantly as the women they are supporting. 

As I do outreach, and speak with Black Men about birth I find that they are VERY interested.   They show genuine concern when they learn about the disproportionately high rates of infant and maternal mortality in the black community. They are by nature protectors and healers and they want to help and support their wives, girl friends, sisters, mothers and daughters.  They want to know how they can get involved; how they can help.  Unfortunately because birth is often considered “women’s work” they are often shut out of the conversation.  In order to change our perinatal outcomes however, we MUST include the fathers of our children. The men in our communities must not only be present at the table as we discuss #BlackBirth, they must be actively engaged as a part of the solution.

Many don’t realize, that men, just like women, LOVE to share their birth stories with anyone who will listen.  Have you ever listened to a man tell HIS birth story. You should try it sometimes. They are full of life, animated and often hilarious filled with a multitude of emotions.  The sparkle in their eye is unmistakable and you know that they too are transformed during birth.  I challenge you today, tomorrow, or maybe as a part of your father’s day celebration to speak with a father about HIS birth story.

I don’t have any children and as I approach the ripe young age of 40 I think more and more about what my pregnancies and births will be like.  When I visualize my future birth experiences, I can see my home birth, where I am surrounded by more than one sister friend, midwives and doulas… a few of them, all around supporting me.  I also I envision my male partner, the father of my baby….  Ever present, strong, loving and supportive. I visualize him rubbing my back, stroking my face, giving me kisses, speaking kindly and reminding me at all times that he is right there with me.  Who this man will be, I am not yet sure but I pray when I do have my next birth experience, I will proudly say my birth was wonderful and it was not without the father. 

Do you have a story to share about #BlackBirth and fathers? Share your story and link it up to our carnival. I would to hear it! Let’s continue to celebrate Black Birth!

Please take the time to read and comment on the other participants posts.

Shahmet at Adia Publishing: A Father Before Birth

Reggie at WhatrUWorkinon?: They’re All Miracles

Nicole at Musings From The Mind of Sista Midwife: #BlackBirth Not Without Our Fathers

Darcel at The Mahogany Way Birth Cafe: Are Men at Birth Important?

Alexis at The Ivy Expansion: A Fathers Love

Mavhu at F.W. Hargrove: I Birth At Home

Twitter Hashtag #BlackBirth

Don’t Take a Detour Miss Harris…

In December, The Grio posted a few of articles re: doulas and home birth.  One of them was:  Home birthing helps black women reconnect with African roots. The title, the article, and the accompanying video left a LOT to be desired.  None-the-less, I was happy to see that homebirth was being discussed in a forum widely read by African American women. The way I see it, the more we talk about it, the more women will know that they have options and alternatives.

Last week, I came across another article, a response of sorts to that Grio piece:  If Natural Homebirth Brings Me Closer to My Roots, I’ll Take a Detour.  Intrigued by the title, I read it and shared the link.  The reactions to the article were strong, and we were all concerned about the lack of informed information presented in the article.

Initially, I was simply going to make a comment at the end of the article.  Then I decided it deserved more time and attention. My response follows below. But before you get to it, let me clarify that while I am a natural birth advocate and supporter of home birth, I understand that not everyone will, nor should everyone deliver at home.  And, I don’t believe we can make any blanket statements re: homebirth having anything to do with “going back to ones roots.”  The reality is, regardless of race, a woman should birth where she is safest and most comfortable. FYI, the hospital may or may NOT be that place.

Now on to the above mentioned article. Per Miss Janelle Harris… “Our foremothers may have been able to stretch out in their homes with a supportive doula by their sides, but they also weren’t battling external stressors like money and relationships and health care and family medical leave and jobs and transportation issues.  It was a different, simpler world”  

*Coughing and choking* HUH??? So I guess slavery, Jim Crow, abject poverty, segregation, discrimination, mutilation, lynchings…. None of those were external stressors.  And while I suppose picking cotton for Massa did come with a sort of “job security,” I don’t think it was accompanied by a stellar salary or medical benefits. Transportation? Yep walking was always a sure fire way for our foremothers to get from place to place.  Relationships?? Between the selling, and lynching of chosen partners, and rape from others….  Yea… a  “different simpler world.”

Miss Harris preceded that statement by saying:  “But most of Black women’s issues lie not in the hospitalization during labor, but the health risk we suffer leading up to childbirth”  There is one truth here. Yes, many African American women have health risks leading up to birth.  What I can assure you however is that there are MANY things that take place INSIDE the hospital to high and low risk mothers alike that affect outcomes. And African American women with no medical risk factors, high soci-economic status, great prenatal care and good education suffer at the hands of the medical obstetrical establishment. Don’t believe me? Check out  When the bough breaksEpisode 2 of the ground breaking PBS documentary “Unnatural Causes, Is Inequality making us Sick”

One of the things that annoyed me most while reading this article was Miss Harris’ lack of knowledge about the preparation, training, and skill sets of doulas, midwives, and obstetricians. She says:  “I don’t discredit the wisdom and ability of a doula to do what a doula does or a midwife to do what a midwife does, folks go to medical school for a reason and learn things you and I and madame doula and midwife wouldn’t begin to know because that’s not our training”

The reality is Madame Harris while it may not be part of YOUR training it is a part of MY training and you my sister are WRONG.  In fact, Midwives are MASTERS at normal birth. Obstetricians on the other hand are educated in intervention, surgery, and problems. In theUnited States1 out of 3 women has a cesarean section not all because she originally needed one or because her pregnancy was high risk. It’s often because those “folk” who go to medical school learn about surgery more than they learn about labor and quite frankly they enjoy the pay check that comes from a 30 min surgery instead of helping a mother with a 16 hour labor. As a midwife, I have taught many a physician a thing or two or three about normal birth.  Midwives not only BEGIN to know more about normal birth than OB/GYNs we FINISH knowing.  And for the record, midwives are trained and are VERY knowledgeable and skilled to handle birth emergencies.

I found it quite interesting that as Miss Harris shares her personal birth story, she tells us that she had plans for a natural child birth: “I’m not knocking natural birth. I had my daughter naturally… I didn’t pop so much as a Tylenol before she made her grand debut.  That was always the plan way before I went into labor.”  She did not share with us why that was her plan, but it leads me to believe she did some research and then made an educated, conscious decision to avoid meds during pregnancy AND labor. Kudos Miss Harris for that!!

Like most first time laboring women, after 16 hours of labor and getting to transition, during a car ride to the hospital, she found herself asking for medicine. This is not uncommon. Anyone who is in the birthing profession has seen this happen many times. Transition ain’t easy and without proper support from a doula, midwife, or family member with natural birth experience this happens often.  Per her account, she was unable to get medication because by the time she arrived she was ready for delivery.  She has no idea how lucky she was.

It’s so interesting to me that Ms. Harris labored at home without a midwife or a doula. She arrived to the hospital just in time to give birth but has a negative response to the idea of home birth. The way her story reads, a few minutes more and she would have been having her baby on the side of the road… She was moments away from a Free Birth which is in fact an out of hospital birth without a trained provider.

I challenge the notion she gives in her article that the hospital means rapid, appropriate, safe help is within immediate reach. From the article:  “When it comes to bringing my baby into this side of life, I want it done as safely as possible.  The moments when things go wrong are precious.  I want someone there who knows how to handle them. Like right there. In the room, not a hop-in-the-car or cab ride away”

I am not sure how many labor and delivery units Miss Harris has worked on but I can tell you from almost 18 years of experience, it’s a RARE occasion that any physician, except in a teaching institution is like “right there.”  I have been the person making multiple calls, and placing many pages to a physician who is asleep, out to dinner, at a party, etc who takes their sweet ole time to hop in a cab or car to get to the hospital. Most often in these cases, what is now an emergency in the middle of the night is the direct result of the medications and procedures ordered in the name of a safe hospital birth.

Madame Harris, my dear sister, you had the wonderful opportunity to labor at home.  You did not LABOR in the hospital.  You were not strapped to a bed for more than 24 hours because your provider decided to induce you before your body was ready. You were not denied movement, drink or food. You were able to ambulate, and to go to the bathroom as you wished.  While you did not birth at home you actually had a totally unassisted/unmonitored labor which is actually more radical to some than a having a home birth with a trained professional.  The great part is as a result of you staying home you were able to listen to your instincts; to listen to your body; and do what was needed to ensure your baby moved through your pelvis safely and normally.  Believe me when I tell you… in the hospital that would not have been possible.

So I say to Madame Harris and to all the women who don’t understand the realities of hospital birth… while home birth is NOT for everyone, PLEASE don’t be fooled by the false security of the hospital.  The VAST majority of emergencies that happen in hospitals happen because we cause them. We restrict movement, we give meds, we starve women, we rupture bags of water, we use continuous monitoring and ALL of these things can cause problems. Miss Harris, I ask that the next time you make a decision to write an article about the value of hospital birth you do a bit more research, and may the information you find help you to Birth Something Beautiful™

In Birth and Love
Nicole

Stop Bey Bashing and Focus on Helping Women Birth Something Beautiful™

WOW!!! So much is being said re: Beyonce’s birth. I didn’t even know she had given birth until I got to my computer this afternoon.  And folks have been goin HAM.  I guess I have been too busy dealing with the issues in MY life to know what was happening. But after a few tweets and FB postings I was FORCED  ;-) to read an article or two, or three LOL…

But seriously folks… every woman has a right to Birth Something Beautiful™ in the way she thinks is best for herself and her family.   I want a home birth. Some think that’s crazy. She had a c/section  and unless HIPPA laws have been broken that’s about all we really know. (UPDATE… apparently we know little to nothing… Sooo  she didnt have a c/section per this article… which is one of my points anyway)  So lay off… get a life…  and let’s focus on the mothers and babies that  NEED our attention; The ones that can’t afford to block off an entire hospital floor.  The babies too numerous to count that never reach their first birthdays. The mothers that remain virtually nameless in our larger society because so few of us really KNOW a woman who died from complications of childbirth.  Let’s lend our attention, our focus, our blogging, our voices  to the real issues around birth. Stop bashing Beyonce for the decision she made (especially since we don’t know the details of her experience) and let’s focus on  educating as many women as we can so that they will have the information THEY need to make wise choices for themselves and their births.  Now take a listen to Glory as father Jay-Z celebrate lyrically the birth of his daughter. 

While you are listening… think about the REAL issues and ask yourself what have YOU done TODAY to help make sure that the pregnant girl down the street or the pregnant woman in your office building has the information SHE needs to make informed decisions.   As Birth Advocates who are against the unnecessary medicalization of birth, our job is not to spew hate, make accusations, and judge. Rather we are here to help, to love, and to support women Birth Something Beautiful.  Let’s go make THAT happen! :-)

In Birth and Love
Nicole ~ Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter @SistaMidwife

Do you need an Intervention??

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the need to identify and surround yourself with your personal cheerleaders. Since that time I had another personal revelation and realized I needed what I have been calling a personal Intervention. Two different concepts that I’ve heard often over the years kept creeping into my head. ONE: You have to get out of your own way… and TWO: You have to stop blocking your blessings.

I believe in many ways, I won’t provide details here ;-) that I have been doing both. That self sabotage monster has been eating away at my energy, my focus, my action. As I began to accept this I began to stage a personal intervention. In fact a few nights ago, the intervention caused me to get on the treadmill at 1:00 AM and do three miles. Trust me when I tell you… I did NOT want to do it, yet I found myself having one of  THE  BEST  three mile work outs in months. I felt great afterwards. I followed it with a long hot shower including a sugar body scrub, watched a little TV and slept like a baby.

Once your intention is in the right place and you truly, legitimately begin to focus on that positive intention, the universe begins to put things in front of you to help you with moving forward so that you can give your gift to the world and you can receive your blessings. The people you need to meet, the contacts you need to make, the messages you need to hear… all of them begin to come forth naturally, in order just as you need them too. As this happens, and as you surround yourself with positive people, like those cheerleaders I mentioned, you keep moving forward. As I orchestrate my personal intervention, I am watching this happen in my world. The things happening so far may be seemingly small to some but to me they are NOT insignificant.

We have to be ready to “Bloom where we are planted.” We have to accept where we are while understanding this does NOT mean settling. We have to open our eyes, because once we get out of our way and stop blocking them… the blessings, the lessons, the energy we need and the answers we seek are right in front of us.

We are all here to Birth Something Beautiful. And just like in PREGNANCY… in LIFE, if we want the best, we have to nurture our bodies our Spirits and our Souls. We have to listen and we have to learn. We have to grow physically, mentally, spiritually. We have to rest, eat well, exercise and take care of ourselves. We have to get out of our own way and let life happen. We have to learn to deal with what is, accept it in the moment, and then figure out what position changes to make that will make it all a little easier.

While in BIRTH, you can’t fight the contractions. In LIFE you can’t fight… well LIFE. (Technically you can… but fighting only makes it more difficult.) You don’t just sit still and take it. But, you do have to sit and examine it for a minute. Mediate on it. Focus. Re-group and then you MOVE!!

In LABOR… your baby and your body will tell you what position you should take next if you focus and listen. In LIFE… your Spirit and your intuition will tell you what position to take next if you learn to focus and listen. Either way… you have to learn to ride the rushes and allow them to move you to your moment of truth. As you do, the right people, the right doula, the right midwife, the right messages, the right encouragement, the right touch, the right nurse, the right circumstances, will manifest in your world and the outcome… the result… the miracles that can and will happen are indeed wonderful. You will see the proof that YES!!!! you can truly indeed Birth Something Beautiful.

I want to share with you two quotes from Ina May Gaskin’s Spiritual Midwifery that recently spoke to me:

From the story of Noah’s Birthing:
“Learning how to integrate the rushes was like climbing a mountain-just when I’d get to a place where I could integrate them pretty well, they would change and get a lot heavier, and I’d have to learn to integrate them again.”

This told me: Just when we think we know where life it taking us, something happens. Our plans are overturned, we hit a bump in the road (cancer, a job loss, death, a natural disaster…) and we have to regroup and get re-fouced again. Or like in my current case, we have to stage a personal intervention.

From Timothy, Andrew, and Angelo Figallo’s Births:
“From birth you learn about the people around you, the people you are close to, the people far away, the people who came before, and those yet to come. You deepen your understanding of what it really means to be All One. When you value something, it’s valuable; when you share love, there’s more. It’s a sweet moment you wish could last forever. A miracle every time. You know if everyone could just get it, what a wonderful, peaceful, worth-it world it would be.”

This reminded me: YES… we are All One. We are Uni-versally connected. Life is a special miracle and if we could all just be in tune to love, we could all get out of our own way, Birth Something Beautiful and YES!!! “what a wonderful, peaceful, worth-it world it would be” INDEED!!

Are you blocking your blessings? Do you need to get out of your own way? Is it time for  a personal intervention or is it simply time for you to move. Either way… the time is NOW! Lets make it happen.

Lets all get out there and Birth Something Beautiful!!!

Nicole
Psst…. Don’t forget to follow me on twitter @SistaMidwife  :-)

Monday Musing ~ Who are Your Cheerleaders?

Over the weekend I had the opportunity to have a great time sharing ideas, thoughts, and ummmm a couple of drinks with Jill from The
Unnecessarean.
 I assume most, if not all of you know her. If not,  I suggest you  get over to her blog and take a read…

Anyway…..Let me back track and then bring you up to date…  A few weeks ago, I had a REALLY bad experience at work. I cried, NO… actually I sobbed uncontrollably the entire 30 minute drive home.  I felt at the time I really had
no-one to share my FULL feelings with.  I did share the experience with my mother and my co-workers of course were there and while they did what they could to be “supportive,” they just don’t always “get it.”  They don’t  “FEEL it” the way I do if you know what I mean.  The truth is, outside of us birth junkies, not many do.  This is not the first time this has happened, but for some reason it was one of the hardest times in a very long while.  (perhaps I will tell the story another day).

This experience in an instant, reminded me why I really don’t like working in the hospital. It also reminded me that it is important for individuals in this birth advocacy work to stay connected to others in birth advocacy work.  It reminded me that we must continuously remain in contact with and surround ourselves with people who are supportive of our experiences, and can understand our hurts and setbacks.   Success and business coaches always say things about your
circle of influence. They remind you that if you want to be a successful entrepreneur, you need to have successful entrepreneurs in your circle of influence. You needto have mentors who have been successful, and you need to have a “team” that is supportive of what you are doing; individuals who will ultimately be your cheerleaders, your pep squad, and advocates.

So what does all this have to do with Jill you may be asking.  Well Thursday I read an email and knew that she would be in town for a minute and wanted to connect on Friday night.  I had the opportunity to go to work at the hospital and while I don’t like the job, it is a temporary fixture that pays my bills so I tolerate it and thank the Universe for it! I could have certainly used the money.

What I realized I needed more in that moment, was an infusion of positive birth energy. I need a hug, a smile, to remind me that what I feel, where I stand on birth, and what I believe are not crazy thoughts. I needed to be reminded that I don’t overreact to things at work and that YES! the birth system in this country is VERY warped.  I needed one of my “cheerleaders” to remind me that the work I am doing and trying to do is not in vain.  I needed to be reminded that sometimes it is slow moving, sometimes, it’s hard, and sometimes you feel alone and then a  simple email, a hug, conversation, shared ideas, a few drinks and lots of laughs  can remind you that we are all in this together.  I am DEFINITELY one of Jill’s cheerleaders. I think she is one of THE best Birth bloggers out there.  After we met in October in at the ICTC conference in Long Beach I think it’s safe for me to say she became one of mine :D  It was so great to hang out with her Friday. She gave me a much needed boost of birth energy to keep moving forward.   Our time together reminded me that I need to remain more connected to the birth advocacy community and I need to speak more often to my mentors, women who have been doing this work LONG before I even thought about it.  I need to also stay more connected to my cheerleaders.

Who are your cheerleaders?  We all need them. We need individuals who love us, who appreciate us, who support us. We need people who can give constructive criticism and advice. And we need individuals to provide the shoulders that we cry on and lean on.  Making room for naysayers, for haters, for negative people and small minds does not advance our cause. Instead that holds us back and creates self doubt.

I have come to find this is true in life, in business and as I always like to point out… as it is in life, so it is in birth…. Who is on your birth cheerleading squad? Do they support your birth ideas or are they naysayers?  Be careful of who you allow in your birth space – More on this later….

Now… Lets all Go Forth and Birth Something Beautiful!!

Nicole
Don’t forget to follow me on twitter @SistaMidwife