The Evidence-Based Parenting Toolbox, aka: How Not To Lose Your Sh*t With Your Kids

Let’s start by talking about the broken neon sign that I discovered last night as I was ushering my kids into bed in anticipation of solitude and wine. This particular neon sign was given to me and my husband when … Continue reading

IS a Healthy Baby All That Matters?

“Wow, that sounds like such a scary experience. At least you got a healthy baby out of it, though. That’s really all that matters.” We’ve all heard that phrase thrown around over and over. It generally follows the news that … Continue reading

Stop the Mama-Shaming Madness!

I’m a member of a Facebook mom’s group that’s based in another city. Part of their mission statement is that their intent is to be a “safe place” for discussion about pregnancy and birth. Just this past week I witnessed … 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

The Aha Moment That Turned My Gremelyn Around

Somewhere in the Universe, two storks were matching babies to mommies-to-be… Manager: “Cindy Adams gets a blonde girl. Betty Jones gets twin boys. Bet she quits making fun of cankles now. Renae Rose….give her one of those new experimental models.” … Continue reading

Educate Before You Procreate

I was unbelievably excited when I found out I was pregnant. After being married for only six months I somehow convinced my husband, who was set on waiting at least a year, to try for a baby. “It’s not like … Continue reading

It Takes a Village

There’s a saying that you’ve no doubt heard a thousand times; ‘It takes a village to raise a child’. Most of us hear this and automatically think that the village is there to benefit the child. But it has application for parents as well. If you’ve considered this in the past, then you may be wondering who the village is for, and where your village is.

In our culture (the US, specifically), we’ve lost the wisdom in this maxim. We’re so wrapped up in our own lives and pursuits that without sustained effort, many of us have little time to visit our relatives, much less worry about an entire village. As we’ve become more focused on our little nuclear families, we’ve lost the knowledge of how to both build and sustain that village.

When we say ‘village’, what comes to mind? Most of us think of a small, close-knit community. Maybe this community is made up of relatives; perhaps it’s an intentional community of like-minded people who’ve come together for a common goal. In either case, it’s clear that the members of that community belong there. Each individual member is committed to the common goals, and benefits from being involved in it.

Much of the same is true about your village. As a parent, we have ‘villages’ around us as well, made up of the same types of people – family and friends, and the communities around you that you intentionally involve yourself in through the internet, playgroups, hobby groups, mommy groups, church groups, exercise groups and the like. For most of us, especially if we’ve lived in the same area for a while, it’s easy to access some of those groups. Small towns (or medium-sized towns that feel like small towns), like Beaumont, tend to be somewhat church-centered, and so for many women as new mothers, a MOPS group, or other mom-focused group is often the first step into the ‘mommy village’. We find older moms who’ve been there, done that, we find moms who seem to have everything together and make motherhood look like a breeze, and we find kindred souls who know our particular struggles intimately – and we start making ‘mommy friends’.

Mommy friends are different from your ‘regular’ friends. These are women who band together for commiseration. You may find what my small circle of intimates call ‘platonic life partners’ – BFFs for life, and that’s a wonderful thing – but it’s much more likely that you will meet women who are in your life for a season. These women serve a specific purpose in your life – to support and nurture you as a mother. As your children get older, you will find that you fulfill that role for younger mothers.

 

The shift from being the supported to being the supporter is amazing. When you’re a new mother, seeing those women around you who seem to have it all together is both awe-inspiring and enviable. There’s always the mom who embodies everything we want to be as a mother, and that can be really intimidating. Forming a relationship with her lets you in on the secret: She has just as much trouble as you have. That’s the big secret, isn’t it? We’re all struggling – and yet talking about it is taboo.

So here’s what I’ve learned, both from being the mom who needed the village, and being a mom who helps maintain one:

  1. Reach out. our culture likes to isolate new moms. As interdependent creatures, we need to be around other moms. Get out there! Look up playgroups, storytimes, or local eateries with a playland to meet other moms. Don’t underestimate the value of ‘mommy groups’. They’re popular for a reason!
  2. Get help. If you have depression, anxiety, social issues or PPD, a fellow mother might be your first sympathetic ear. So many moms struggle with these issues, and they can help you. There is hope. You are not alone.
  3. Share your joys – and your hardships. Motherhood is fraught with doubt and unrealistic ideals. Being honest with yourself and your village about your successes and failures helps us all to keep them in perspective. It helps us grow and learn new or better ways to accomplish what we set out to do with our kids.
  4. Don’t leave the village just because your kids are older. New mothers need the wisdom that more experienced moms can share. Listen to the newer moms in your circle and be there for them when they need you.
  5. Mom’s Night Out. Don’t underestimate the importance of nurturing yourself! Whether it’s date night with your partner, or a girls night out, or Mom’s Night Out with the local playgroup, nurture yourself. Recharge so that you can nurture your children.

Heather Thomas

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