Monday, May 24, 2010

Hooter Hiders

I started to write a post last night, but to be honest, my heart just wasn't in it. This morning, the topic of Hooter Hiders has been brought up a couple of times, and I've gotten fired up.

If you are not familiar with the term "Hooter Hider," (still sexualizing the breast by referring to it as "hooters" and implying that they should be hid for the purpose of breastfeeding) you are probably familiar with what they are. I've seen them called different things - Udder something-or-other (we are not cows and we do not have udders), etc. -- but they are all pretty much the same thing. It's a piece of fabric that ties around a mom's neck and acts as a cover-up while she breastfeeds her baby. They have become quite trendy, like an "accessory" I heard one mom describe, and this is my concern.

One of the reasons I am such as advocate for breastfeeding is because of the closeness this provides for both mom and baby. Baby gazes up into mom's eyes and often smiles while nursing -- getting emotional just remembering this tenderness -- and mom can look into her baby's eyes, stroke her baby's hair or cheek. It's a very comfortable exchange.

By putting this cloth between the two of you, you miss out on that exchange. It becomes only about nourishment, not "nursing." Breastfeeding is hidden, but everyone knows what she's doing. I feel more uncomfortable around a mom using one of these cover-ups than I ever felt with her casually nursing her baby.

Have you ever heard that when a woman nurses her baby around other women, it gets oxytocin flowing in the other women? I love to see a woman nursing her baby, stroking her baby's head, so in love with this baby. In contrast, when I know a baby is under there, all I can think is how hot he must be (I had a baby that sweat like crazy every time he nursed) and how sad it is that he can't look at his mama and she's not looking at him.

So, are women that embarrassed of nursing in public? Are you afraid of offending people? Are you afraid of people seeing part of your breast for a split second? Or are you afraid of the roll of fat hanging over your jeans? (I was always much more conscious and concerned about that!) What has driven women to start using these cover-ups?

I should quickly point out that I would much rather see a mom using a cover-up than a bottle, whether it's breastmilk or formula. If you really can't get over the embarrassment factor, by all means...

I would just like to see women taught by other women how to breastfeed comfortably without all the cover-ups. Breastfeeding should be casual and comfortable for mom and baby. I can't imagine that either one is very comfortable with this cover-up situation, especially baby. Mom might feel more emotionally comfortable, but I highly doubt that she is physically comfortable. Let's get to both places.

There are lots of companies that sell nursing clothing. A few of my favorites include: Motherwear, Expressiva, and Glamourmom. Ladies, this is much more empowering to be able to have a simple opening in your clothing to have access to your breast to nurse your baby. You don't have to lift any clothing. No blankets or cover-ups. No sweating. Your baby will thank you.

Ultimately, let's not hide breastfeeding. Let's make it casual and comfortable, as it's meant to be. Happy nursing!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

"Standing Outside the Fire"

So, I'm cutting onions and jalapenos this morning. No one is home. I have a Garth Brooks box set playing (sorry Tim!) with videos, concert clips, and interviews. I've had it for years but never watched it until this morning. It made the time go so much faster.

They showed the video for "Standing Outside the Fire". I love the song, but had never seen the video. I am such a sucker for sap! I want you to watch the video and then come back to me... (Yes, I have put videos on the blog before, but I can't remember how to do it, but if you click on the song, it'll take you right to the video.)

OK, did you love it? Are you bawling your eyes out? I was really a mess with all the onions!

Everything in my life relates back to birth. But before I went there, I couldn't help but be in awe of this mother's support for her child. The love was so evident and he had so much confidence because of her love and support. It made me think of my own children -- do I support them in their talents and ambitions? Some yes, some, not-so-much. It was a good moment for me as a mom.

Next, I couldn't stop thinking of a woman who plans and prepares for an unmedicated birth. She doesn't want to take the "easy" way out. Nearly all women will "stumble" in labor -- even if it's not obvious, maybe it's thoughts in her own head. What happens from there depends so much on her support team. Do they run to her? Do they cheer her on? Do they tell her, "Get up! You can do it!" Do they tell the doctors to "back off! Let her finish the race!"

What if this young man's parents had just sat in the stand? What would that boy have done? Do you think he would have finished the race? I do not believe he would have. It was his dad's encouragement -- the one who thought he would fail or get hurt -- who was at his side telling him he could do it! The look in the boys eyes -- my dad believes in me! -- was priceless.

And then to finish the race, running into his mother's arms, so proud. The prize at the end of labor, to hold your baby, knowing you did it!

Moms and Dads, it is not just about what mom is able to do. It is so much about her support team (doulas, nurses, midwives, doctors, mothers, mother-in-laws, sisters), cheering her to the finish line. Who would have thought that a Garth Brooks song would lead to such as inspirational birth song and post this morning! Sorry for all the crying. I hope you'll ponder this video and it's meaning in so many areas of our lives. Gotta love Garth! Now get on with your day.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Due Dates

I just wanted to make a couple of comments about due dates. I've had two students -- one who is a Bradley instructor now -- give birth this weekend. Both were "overdue." There was some anxiety leading up to the actual birth day, which I believe was inflicted by society's expectation of when the baby should be here. Surely it's dangerous to go past 40 weeks, right? 40 weeks is considered overdue in some circles these days.

I always joke that the baby doesn't have a little calendar in the womb with a little red pen with his/her due date circled like you do. You've probably heard the numbers on this one: only 5% of babies are actually born on their due date. And yet, so much hinges on that date.

If you have been given more than one due date, you always want to go with the later one, not the earlier one. This buys you time at the end of pregnancy. You may not think this is a big deal right now at 21 weeks -- surely you'll have your baby early -- but as 40 weeks comes and goes, it becomes a big deal.

You need to know your care provider's policy on going past 40 weeks. Maybe they won't even allow that to happen (red flag - get out of there!). Maybe it's one week, 10 days, or maybe they'll "allow" you the full 2 weeks. What if you have 2 dates that are, say, 4 days apart. At the end of pregnancy, every day is significant. This all goes back to believing that your body knows what it's doing. There is evidence that shows that it is the baby that triggers labor, so that must mean that the baby comes when he/she is ready. Labor will be better and baby will do better when he/she is born.

One of these moms that had her baby today had been induced with her other children. What I usually see in these situations is that the mom truly believes that her body is incapable of starting labor on its own. That was not necessarily the case with this particular mom, but I see/hear this quite often. Induction really does a number on a mom's confidence with future babies. This mom declined having her membranes stripped and water broken because she believed in her body. After weeks of contractions, her water broke last night, contractions picked up, they headed for the birth center, and had their baby 6 hours later. Beautiful.

The other mom I referred to, had her first baby at 42 weeks and was quite convinced that this one would come early. Needless to say, she was inching very close to that 42 week mark again! She may have all her babies closer to 42 weeks than 40. All 4 of mine came between 39 and 40 weeks. The more regular your cycle, the more likely you are to be closer to 40 weeks. I am exactly 28 days.

My favorite example when talking about due dates is comparing babies to popcorn. We pop popcorn every Sunday night for dinner in a Stir Crazy popcorn popper. You'll always hear a kernel or two pop much sooner than the others, but generally, they all pop real close together. Despite being exposed to the oil and the heat the same amount of time, there will always be several kernels that pop after all the rest are finished, even when I'm pulling the plug on the popper. And so it is with babies. They generally come around the same time, but it's impossible for the kernels to pop all at once -- that would be quite a sight in the popcorn popper! Some babies need more time than others, some a little less. Let's be respectful of the time they need to "cook." I know that some women truly believe they would have stayed pregnant forever, but I promise, it just ain't so!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Forced Into a Hospital Birth or Unassisted Homebirth

One of my former students-turned-Bradley-Instructor asked me a question this week on Facebook, in light of all the midwifery issues going on in NY.

If Donna Ryan was forced to have a hospital birth, or an unassisted birth, which would she pick? This was my answer.

First, there are many things to consider. I believe in prenatal care. If you choose unassisted birth, you are likely choosing no prenatal care. A Licensed Midwife evaluates each woman and pregnancy and determines if she is a good candidate for homebirth. Most women are.

I know everyone thinks my answer will be a resounding "Yes, go unassisted!" It's not that simple. I believe in having a good midwife at your side, no matter where you are giving birth. Women have the right to a midwife and they have the right to birth where they feel safest. For many women, this is at home, and for many, it is in the hospital. Educate yourself and make the best decision for you and your family.

As far as what is happening in NYC, the problem is that they are shutting down the hospital where most of the out-of-hospital midwives have backup from an OB. In order to be a LM in NYC, you have to have an OB back you up. St. Vincent was a very midwife-friendly hospital, and they have shut their doors. The midwives cannot practice, legally, without that backup. So, they either need to find other OBs to back them, not practice anymore, or do it illegally.

One of my friends birthed a baby at home in ID before it was legal for midwives to practice openly. (It is legal for them to practice in ID now.) There are still a number of states where homebirth is illegal, but midwifery is alive and well. You know the risks as a midwife, but also as a consumer. I just talked with a local midwife this week who is originally from Missouri, where homebirth is illegal. She would love to go home, but she said she's not ready to deal with the risks of practicing illegally. The state of TX has some great laws in place for out-of-hospital midwives.

So my point is, that a woman doesn't really need to be forced into the hospital if she doesn't want to be there. She also doesn't have to choose an unassisted birth as her only other option. I've known women who have jumped state lines. There are midwives that are willing to risk their own hide so that women have access to homebirth.

I will never tell a woman I think she should have her baby unassisted. That is a risky position for me, as a childbirth educator. I do not give medical advice, but I think my opinion is weighed pretty heavily by a lot of my students. If you know me, you know that I am so NOT a fear monger (trust your body, trust in birth), but I've seen strange things happen in labor, birth, and immediate postpartum. Things that I would want a midwife attending to. I know women who have had unassisted births and everything was great, actually with all of them. And I do believe that it will be fine most of the time. I still like to see a midwife by all womens' side, no matter where they are giving birth, and whether they are practicing legally or illegally.