The Light Speed Homebirth of Gwen

When my husband and I started talking about having a baby, he knew how badly I wanted a homebirth. He supported me in everything I wanted. I was so happy he was on board for this. From the moment I … Continue reading

The Season of Now

Single. When are you gonna start dating? Dating. When are you gonna get married? Married. When are you gonna get pregnant? Pregnant. When are you gonna have the baby? Baby. When are you gonna…. It never stops. Our entire culture … Continue reading

New Year, New Baby: The Birth of Hazel Addie

The day before Hazel was born I had a midwife appointment at 1pm. Jackie, my midwife, checked me and I was 4cm dilated. She stripped my membranes and stretched me to 5cm. I was 10 days overdue and she suggested I … Continue reading

Nursing a Baby With a Little Something Extra

  Our journey started October 9, 2014. I gave birth by C-section to a little boy named Anthony Joseph (AJ). AJ was born with a little something extra- he was born with Down Syndrome. AJ has a big sister, Bella (with no … Continue reading

Listen To Your Mother – Auditions

Submissions are now being accepted for the 2015 Southeast Texas ‘Listen To Your Mother’ show! If you haven’t heard of Listen to Your Mother, then take a few minutes to check out their YouTube channel, here. The show is a … Continue reading

At the Expo: a FREEBIE, a Seminar and other fun!

WMC

Whole Mothering Center made an appearance at The Cumulus Baby and Family Expo this past Saturday. WMC doulas, Amy Jones and Emily Ochoa, were there to meet and talk with new and expectant parents along with WMC founding mother, Heather Thomas and our featured blogger, Anna Sites. This was Whole Mothering Center’s first year participating in the event and we were so honored to have been asked to present a seminar on “Preparing for Birth and Beyond”.

We drew for and gave away a $575.00 value doula package during the expo. Lots of hopeful familes entered to win and a very sweet first time expectant mom, Dorian Chapman, won the package. Emily and Amy are looking forward to working with her as she prepares to meet her new baby girl in a couple of months. We will be following Dorian in our blog as she gets closer to her due date and updating you all with frequent blog posts after our meetings with her and her husband. Dorian is planning a natural, intervention-free birth in a Beaumont area hospital with Dr. Kevin Waddell, who just happens to be one of our favorite local OBs. Dr. Waddell stopped by our booth at the expo and spent a bit chatting with us and we were all so pleased to see him. Dorian’s going to have a great birth with him and we’re excited to have the opportunity to work with her and offer her support in achieving her goal of a natural birth! As a bonus, we’ll be photographing her birth and we’ll share those photos in our blog as soon as we can get them uploaded once her baby arrives earthside…all of us at WMC are eager to meet Miss Avery Ryan sometime in October!

During our seminar, we began with talking about Whole Mothering Center’s history and services that we offer to the local community. We moved on to speaking about birth plans, including how to write one, why they’re important and how Whole Mothering Center helps our clients work through writing a birth plan. We discussed different pregnancy and labor providers like doulas, midwives and obstetricians, how each of those providers serves pregnant and birthing women, how their roles overlap and how to integrate each into pregnancy and birthing experiences. Informed consent was a primary focus of our seminar and we defined it, talked about how it is obtained, how to revoke consent, what the responsibilities are of the provider who obtains informed consent from a patient as well as what the responsibilities are of a patient granting it, and how doulas can help their clients as they grant their medical providers their informed consent. We also presented birthing location options available to local women. For Southeast Texas, these include birthing at home, at a birth center and at area hospitals which have labor and delivery units. We talked about the pros and cons of each location and what services providers who work in those locations can provide to birthing women. Finally, we stressed the importance of women surrounding themselves with a supportive community as they move through pregnancy and into new mommy-hood. Finding a tribe is such an important part of becoming a mother and Whole Mothering Center offers several free opportunities for local women to find like-minded mama friends who can mentor them and offer advice as they navigate all the scary “firsts” that come along with becoming a new parent! For more information, visit our services page!

How TLC Damages Birth

Without fail, it seems that the moment a woman learns she is pregnant, the first thing she does is start watching TLC and Discovery Health shows like ‘Deliver Me’, ‘A Baby Story’, ‘Birth Day’ and the like. Shows, that for the purposes of this article, we’re going to lump into one and call them collectively ‘birth shows’.

Have you ever thought about how birth shows have impacted our culture? Do you have any idea how many women ‘learn’ about birth from those shows? Do you understand what they are learning, and what that means for birth?

First of all, a clarification must be made. Birth shows are not documentaries, which are usually made for the express purpose of teaching someone about something. Birth shows are entertainment only. That is important, so I’ll say it again: Birth shows are not educational. They are entertainment.You cannot learn about birth from a birth show any more than you can learn about fighting crime by reading comic books.

In order for a show to be entertaining, it must be exciting and in many cases, have conflict. Have you ever been to a ‘normal’ birth? (I hesitate to even use ‘normal’ in this context because our perception of what is normal has been so altered, in part, by birth shows.) In reality, labor is not terribly exciting. In fact, for most of it, it’s pretty boring for everyone but the birthing woman (who is probably working harder than she’s ever worked in her life) and her immediate support person (husband, partner, doula, etc). It’s not until the actual birthing part that things start getting exciting for the spectators – including the doctor! If things go as they should, then the doctor really just catches while Mom does the work. But a television show can’t really market hours of clock watching and moaning/rocking/walking with the laboring mom – though if they did, it would help women and their support team understand how labor works and what a laboring mother needs to do her job effectively better than what they are showing now.

However, if there is a problem, then suddenly there are nurses who have to be bustling around the room, monitoring things. Doctors come rushing in, white coat flowing behind them – everyone is doing something. It becomes exciting – and marketable. Now, just to clarify, we’re not saying that birth always goes as planned or that there isn’t a need for a qualified care provider. Indeed, that’s why most of us opt for some type of care provider to serve as the ‘guardian of life’, because we do know that sometimes, interventions can be life-saving. But that does not mean that the number and increased invasiveness of the interventions we’ve come to accept as ‘routine’ and ‘normal’ have produced better outcomes – just the opposite, in fact.

So right off the bat, you can see that any birth that is out of the norm and therefore exciting to watch automatically gets preference over a normal, non-exciting one. Oh sure, they throw in a couple of normal births – even home births now and then, but the overwhelming majority of births are in the hospital and full of interventions and ’emergency’ c-sections. What ultimately happens is that the percentage of births shown are skewed – we see more ‘abnormal’ births than normal ones. Because we see more abnormal labors and births, we start to believe as a culture that birth is amedical condition that needs to be managed.

How is this damaging? Well for one, we get scared. Because we are scared, we start letting fear dictate our decisions instead of educating ourselves and making choices that are research-based and logical. We start to loose faith in the natural process of birth and that our bodies (with rare exception) were designed to give life. We forget (or don’t learn) how a woman’s pelvis expands (and how her position affects that) and how a baby’s skull bones move in order to work together to let the baby out. We start to believe that our bodies are not capable of giving birth without a team of hospital staff members to ensure the outcome. We forget that there are no guarantees in life and whatever our choice is,  we’re just trading one set of potential risks for another. Combine that with a handful of unethical obstetricians who realized that they could capitalize on that belief by offering ‘working hours’ c-sections to women and you have exactly the culture we have now: skyrocketing cesarean rates and a body of women who view invasive, unnecessary, major abdominal surgery as just another ‘choice’.

Birth in birth shows is almost always portrayed as a process that cannot safely take place without the intervention and management by a doctor. Women are portrayed as inactive subjects from which a baby must be rescued – almost never as active participants who give birth. The process of a doctor working with a laboring couple is never shown. You never see a doctor coming into the room and informing a mother or couple of their options, alternatives and risks (also known as educating them so they can provide ‘informed consent’) and allowing the parents to choose what happens; instead a doctor comes in, makes a recommendation or gives a command and the couple agrees. You never see instances where the mother disagrees with or chooses something other than what the doctor wants. That, too, is damaging because it subtly conditions us to be ‘good little patients’ and do what we’re told.

One of the most tragic issues with this whole mindset is that we’re losing the knowledge about why vaginal birth is good for you, body and spirit, and why it’s good for your baby. There’s little mention of the hormonal shift after a natural vaginal birth that assists in bonding and breastfeeding, or the pressure that passage through the birth canal puts on baby’s lungs that has been linked to less risk of respiratory issues later in life. There is little mention of the correlation between bad (traumatic, victimized, powerless) birthing experiences and post-partum depression and post-traumatic stress disorder – and yet both are on the rise. Do a Google search on “benefits of vaginal birth” and it’s pages and pages of ‘benefits of VBAC’ – in part because so many women now are having c-sections with their first birth. Combine that with the ban many hospitals (including our own, Southeast Texas!) have placed on VBAC and the relatively few doctors who will even deliver a planned VBAC (NONE in Southeast Texas!), and you have a group of women only just realizing how their lack of real education about birth haspermanently affected their reproductive futures.

We’re also being further conditioned through birth shows to believe that a hospital is where babies are born and that doctors are the only acceptable attendants. Rarely are other birthing locations shown (despite the abundant research that says that birth center and home births are as safe, if not safer, than hospital births and that midwives have better outcomes than OBs do for women with low-risk pregnancies), or alternatives offered. The few shows that did highlight midwife-attended, birth center or home births have been quickly cancelled – and it begs the question, ‘why?‘ Could it be that if women were routinely offered the opportunity to see birth in a more normal context, that the cultural expectation would shift and hospitals and OBs would start losing their income because women would start demanding more freedom from the assembly-line births we’re offered in hospitals now? Already there are more and more women choosing to birth at home or in birth centers with midwives because they’re realizing how much their options are limited when they go into the hospital. They’re becoming educated and empowered – and that’s a threat to the current Establishment. And that’s awesome.

I’ve singled out TLC in this article, but the truth is that several networks are causing just as much harm. Discovery Health is just as guilty. Sensational shows about pregnancy are always on, and the commentary in shows like “Pregnant at 70” and “I Didn’t Know I Was Pregnant” have as much fear-mongering as the birth shows do.

We jokingly forbid our clients from watching birth shows. Though we of course cannot ‘forbid’ our clients from anything, the sentiment is sincere. Watch them if you like, but recognize them for what they are – entertainment, and know that this is what is helping to shape your view of birth. For everything you see that bothers you or scares you, do some research! The internet is full of articles about the normal processes of birth, and how typical hospital policies and procedures often cause the very problems that the introduction of modern technology into birth that they were supposed to prevent. Please educate yourself – let knowledge help you make your decisions, not fear based on what you ‘learned’ from a TV show.

~h

Dad’s Perspective on Home Birth

There isn’t a lot out there that written by dads about home birth. Something we often hear when a woman decides against homebirth is that her husband wasn’t on board with that idea. While we understand and support the need for a couple to be united in their birth choices, we do want to make sure that those choices are made based on information and research and not misconceptions about birthing at home. There is a lot of misinformation about home birth, and many of us started out being wary of having a baby at home. But after educating ourselves through reading and talking with midwives and parents who’ve experienced it for themselves, ultimately decided that birthing at home is a viable option that is, at least is as safe as birthing in the hospital, and at best is safer.

While ‘real’ information is vital, we also want to support fathers who voice their experiences! We came across this article written by Ven Batista after his wife had their second daughter at home, and we just had to share it. It’s posted at Homebirth.org.uk, which is a homebirth site that’s in Britain but that has a ton of great information if you’re considering homebirth.

For more information about birth, visit our newly updated Birth Page!

~h

Getting Sneaky with Your Veggies

Christmas is just about upon us. A time for cookies and carols, eggnog and earrings (diamond ones, we hope). A time to gather round with loved ones and enjoy the company. And gorge ourselves. Again. As with Thanksgiving, a mere month behind, Christmas dinner and holiday parties can be somewhat lacking in the veggie department. The theme is usually all about cookies and candies and pies and hot chocolate, and comfort food to give us the warm fuzzies. Besides the cream of mushroom-smothered green bean casserole (covered in deep fried onions), how many vegetable sides can you name that you’ll be eating on the Big Day? Candied yams? Actually…. That’s all I can really think of. Sure, there are probably a few chunks of celery floating around in some stuffing somewhere, maybe even a sad little salad off to the side, but with all the other crazy-good vittles, are you going to be getting your 5 servings? A better question may be- Are the kids getting theirs?

The battle between children and anything green is epic. It’s no secret that there’s no love lost between the two. And on Christmas Eve it can be even harder to convince them they won’t die if they eat a veggie. As with any other day of the year, you’re probably going to have to get sneaky.

My favorite trick to use any time I can is baby food. Yes, my daughter is 4 and has long since given up the Gerber jars, but other than being marketed to the diaper set, it’s really just pureed vegetables. You can even go organic if you like (I like Beechnut). The two flavors I use the most are carrot and squash, respectively. The carrot I use in pretty much everything- soups, pasta sauce, it can really go anywhere. If you use a lot it will indeed give you a carrot-y flavor, but it generally just makes the dish a bit sweet. The squash I always use in home made macaroni and cheese. I’ve used it with the boxed variety, but I don’t like it as much. The squash flavor doesn’t blend well with the orange cheese powder taste. But used in the cheese sauce of a yummy home made mac & cheese, preferably oven baked, it is oh-so good. And I promise the kiddoes won’t even notice. You can use any flavor you think will mesh well with your dish. I tried the peas mixed in a green chile soup once and didn’t care for it. But then, I’m not a big fan of peas, and Idid know that I put it in there. I also like to use the fruit purees, especially mango, in things like smoothies, slushes and breads.
I also like to use the fruit purees, especially mango, in things like smoothies, slushes and breads.
Something my mom has been doing for years is putting spinach in her cornbread dressing. It is totally fantastic. So good, in fact, we make her make it for both Thanksgiving and Christmas. She just makes her dressing (no, you cannot have my Mama’s top secret dressing recipe, but I’m sure you can find one almost as magical online) and adds in one package (depending on pan size) of thawed, drained, chopped frozen spinach. Other than the lovely dark green streaking through, you hardly notice it’s there.
Of course, this is just the beginning of tricking your unsuspecting children into eating something good for them. Add cooked carrots to sweet potatoes (yes, even the caramelized sugar-covered kind) before mashing. Slip some cauliflower into the regular mashed potatoes (or replace them all together! I’ve heard it’s awesome). And don’t forget those desserts. Apple sauce in place of oil in brownies and cakes, all-fruit spread in place of sugary jam in the filled-type cookies. Maybe some zucchini bread? Get creative! Tis’ the season to enjoy ourselves, and trick the kids a little (we all know who’s really eating those cookies left on the mantle….).

~AnnA

Creating Tranquility in Your Home

I don’t know about you, but sometimes it seems like our house just has a funk. Not a less-than-clean funk (which does occasionally happen), but an overall vibe that is less than pleasing. I’m always envious of tv commercial homes where everyone is always smiling (even when the 4 year old just poured and ENTIRE jug of juice on the floor. Again.) and it seems for all the world like someone pressed the “easy” button… That’s just not real life! At least, it’s not MY life. Not that we’re ogres or anything, but sometimes, it seems like everything is stressful and too fast-paced when I really want it to be serene and totally zen-like.

How do you get there? Here are some suggestions:

1. Set a good example.
CHOOSE to be happy. CHOOSE to see the bright side of things. In today’s world of anti-depressant laden parenting, it’s HARD sometimes to just choose to be happy, or in a good mood. As a mom who does take anti-depressants, I know first hand how difficult it is to pull yourself up by the bootstraps and make a choice NOT to be grouchy. As the mom, it usually does fall to us to take the lead in attitude, and knowing that makes it both harder and easier to lead by example. It is worth it though if you’re the one who tends to set the tone in your home. Being concious of that fact and making the choice to be cheerful can help drive that negative energy away.

2. Focus on the positives
Start with yourself. Take a couple of minutes every morning (or evening – whenever) and concentrate on the things in your life that are positive. It may be something small like, “I totally resisted the urge to have an extra donut at breakfast” or “I am so glad that the kid’s aren’t counted tardy until the 8:30 bell” 😉
From there, work on your family. Pick a time and make it a habit – at a mealtime is a good one, and have each person take a turn to share something positive or interesting they learned, saw, did, or thought about. Use that time to be encouraging and uplifting. Start small – once a week if every day seems like a big-undoable-thing. Don’t let it get overwhelming!

3. Clutter causing your funk?
We sometimes don’t realize how our home’s physical environment can affect mood. My personal philosophy on “stuff” has become (with LOTS of work), “Whatever is in my space should be something that I LOVE, that makes me HAPPY, makes me feel GOOD or BEAUTIFUL.” That has helped me (major packrat that I am) to let go of things that I’ve been hanging onto that don’t conform to the above!
If there is a mess in the main living areas (or even your own spaces), or you have clutter causing problems, work together to clear the space. Start a “5 minute family clean up” time focused on one problem area. We call ours the “10 Second Tidy” (from that show, “Big Comfy Couch” – even though it’s longer than 10 seconds). Set a timer, play some energetic music (Tejano/Latin/Salsa music is GREAT for motivation!) and either let the kids decide what to contribute to cleaning, or assign tasks. Make it a game… Start out doing it once a week, or once a day, and build from there. There are several schools of thought about the placement of things in your home, or the colors that you use to decorate having an effect on your moods too. Even if you don’t subscribe to those reasonings, everyone enjoys a change of scenery once n a while. If all else has been eliminated and the funk persists, try changing things up a bit with different furniture placement or paint colors.

4. Focus on enjoying your time together.
Family togetherness – just enjoying being together as a family without the outside world intruding is a great way to improve the vibe in your home. You can start small – family dinnertime (or whatever meal works best for all of you) – Dinner Games are a great way to get into a new routine. Advance to Family Game Night, Family Dance Party (each person picks a song and dances however they want to the music; after everyone has a turn, put on a different song and have everyone dance together), Family Craft Night or whatever floats your boat. If you’re more of an outdoors-y or techie family, find activities that fit your family’s style! It may take a while to find a good fit, but you can make the journey part of the fun.

5. Need less pressure?
Try this: simply BE with your kids. Turn off the TV, put away the PC, throw your schedule or agenda out the window and just BE with them, doing what they’re doing. If they’re in a bad mood, just observe – be in the moment with them. Don’t try to cajole them out of it, just BE. If they’re in a good mood, great – let your kiddos lead.

6. Count your blessings – literally!
Tack up a big poster board and start counting your blessings. Each person contributes one item on the list. It can be as plain or as decorated as your family wants to make it, but the focus should be on all the positives.

7. Get a motto!
If you’re spiritually inclined, put up a verse or saying that makes you feel good in a prominent space and let that be the “reminder” for your family. We have a big chalkboard in our kitchen that often has song lyrics or something funny that one of us said written on it. You can get a cheap “whiteboard” or “dry erase” board by taking a piece of posterboard to Manning’s and having it soft laminated. Make it easy!

8. Fill your home with love.
Give lots of hugs and kisses and cuddles, and say lots of “I love you”s. Remind your spouse that s/he hung the moon for you. Make sure that your kids know that they are the EXACT children you asked for. Leave little love notes tucked into random places for your family members to find. Never underestimate how much positive feedback and self-esteem building little things like that can influence the atmosphere in your home. Happy people make happy spaces.

9. Create a cleansing ritual for your home.
Talk with your family about how to improve the funk. Kids love words accompanied by action! Grab a broom and sweep, sweep, sweep the negativity out the door. Make your house smell great – bake some bread or cookies, try potpourri, scented oils, essential oils, incense, Renuzit, Air Wick, whatever makes you inhale deeply and smile. If you’d like some spiritual help, try burning some sage (if there are not respiratory issues), sprinkling some scented water, reciting a poem, reading a verse or saying a prayer…whatever speaks to you and yours.

10. Practice being kind to each other.
It’s okay if it’s exaggerated so long as it becomes a habit. Don’t underestimate the impact that silliness backed by sincerity can have on your kids. Expressing appreciation for the kindness received or witnessed is sure to build confidence and regard.

11. Have a Family Meeting
If you’re feeling funky, then you can bet that your family is, too. If your kids are old enough to communicate, then they may have some valuable suggestions for improving things, too. Giving them a forum to be heard can drastically alter the way that they see things and can make a positive impact on your home’s vibe.

Whatever you decide to do, doing something on purpose to positively affect the energy in your home is going to net some kind of benefit for your family. Making your family part of the process is even better.

(Inspired by a thread from MDC, here. Thanks to fritz for the bulk of these suggestions!)