Birthing While Black. There, I said it.

I am disgusted by the systemic racism in maternal care after reading this shocking report just released by Amnesty International. Not only does this report describe how broken our birthing industry is, it describes a dark side that my look-at-me-birth-so-ecstatically white self is embarrassed by.

“The awful truth behind the shocking numbers is that at least half of these deaths could have been prevented.

Women in the United States are more likely to die in pregnancy or childbirth than in 40 other countries. More than half of these deaths occur within 42 days of giving the birth because of issues like accessibility, affordability and lack of oversight in maternal health matters. The story only gets worse when you look at the rates of pregnancy-related deaths among minority women. African-American women are nearly four times more likely to die of pregnancy-related complications than white women.

But in a country that spends far more on health care than any other country in the world, we should be able to guarantee every woman’s right to a safe childbirth.”

Read the Summary or the Full Report and TAKE ACTION

Creatively Financing Your Home Birth | Central Florida Green Guide

Some great ideas in this article. Below is an excerpt that I think puts this event in perspective. Ladies so much care into planning their wedding day, but act like a child’s birth is just happening to them and it’s beyond them to actually craft it into a sacred homecoming. Of course, you can get hitched at the courthouse, like you can give birth at a hospital, but something a bit more custom crafted for our individual personalities is a good thing.

“According to the “American Weddings” study conducted by The Fairchild Bridal Group in 2005, it was $26,327with an average planning time of 1 year.  So much goes into planning this one very special wedding day, but when we become pregnant, all of a sudden we are okay with paying our $15.00 co-pay and take what we are handed at the hospital without question. Many do not even spend time choosing their doctors, opting to go with their old stand by GYN, or pick randomly from an insurance provider list to save money.”

I would add to the article that if you make less than 24,000 a year, your homebirth would be covered 100% by the state of Florida medicaid program.

Read article in full here: Creatively Financing Your Home Birth « Central Florida Green Guide.

10 Centimeters

Exploring the Sacred Art of Giving Birth

Written by Julie Norris | Photos by Cristy Nielsen

Exploring the Sacred Art of Giving Birth

Photo By Cristy Nielsen

Ten centimeters — the golden labor measurement. Being informed and believing in your body’s natural ability are the first steps toward exploring the many approaches that offer a kind and gentle experience into motherhood. Documentaries such as Ricki Lake’s The Business of Being Born and the almost unbelievable Orgasmic Birth have left many women questioning the status quo and pressing for more information on the nature of giving birth. We’re lucky to live in an area with a full spectrum of well-established care options and an advocacy community for some of the lesser-known alternatives. Here’s a local guide to empower you to choose the best path to get you to your 10 centimeters.

[Read the full article in the Spring 2010  Edition of PLAYGROUND Magazine. Found around town as well.]

NYT: Lessons at Indian Hospital About Births

Wow, the New York Times…awesome!

“The Tuba City Regional Health Care Corporation is different. Its hospital, run by the Navajo Nation and financed partly by the Indian Health Service, prides itself on having a higher than average rate of vaginal births among women with a prior Caesarean, and a lower Caesarean rate over all.

As Washington debates health care, this small hospital in a dusty desert town on an Indian reservation, showing its age and struggling to make ends meet, somehow manages to outperform richer, more prestigious institutions when it comes to keeping Caesarean rates down, which saves money and is better for many mothers and infants.”

Read the Full Article here: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/07/health/07birth.html

Mamamorphosis

The article below appears in the March/April edition of Velocity Magazine which was dedicated to the topic of the Divine Feminine. I had a dickens of a time writing it, as alluded to here and this post helped validate and clear-up my thoughts on the whole domestic issue. Anywho, here’s the article in full. I recommend you grab a copy around Central Florida as there is lots of good insight on this topic! (Or read it online, should be up soonish).

Photo by Cristy Nielsen

I flicker between realities, between times, between belief systems. I am immersed, surrounded, confounded by the Divine Feminine. The elusive lady finally allowed me to slip into her divinity in the timeless moment my daughter slipped into the birthing waters beneath my gaze this past summer. The metamorphosis of me has gone unexplored by my thinking brain as I’ve simply just allowed myself “to be.” Observing my daughter’s awakening into being has been fascinating enough without taking a moment to observe my own self emerge anew. As I watch her come into her body, I integrate the resonance with which all parts of myself came together in order to bring her into this world. I finally understand through this experience what it means to be the embodiment of the divine feminine and it is really turning my perspective of what it means to be female on end.

My thoughts on being female are so tied up with myths of feminism in my learning, I’m really having to reshuffle and review all that I have assumed to be true. Lets start with the first thing I learned about being a woman, direct from the Bible: “I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception; In pain you shall bring forth children” (Genesis 3:16) In the past, I certainly questioned almost every aspect of this statement, but I never questioned if childbirth hurt. Everyone knows it does. Except… it didn’t, not really (read this for the full story). And a small minority of women in the United States have a similar experiences. Along with a lot of women who belong to cultures which do not fear birth. And every animal I’ve ever seen has quietly, calmly, matter-of-factly done the same. Interesting.

My mind sorts through feminist theory rejecting parts of it I never questioned, dives into indigenous cultures and their stories about the goddesses, stomps around American workplaces and mass media, peeks into natural childbirth culture and finds myself agreeing that a woman’s place is with her child, should she choose to have one. I’ve always been a radical conservative, and now I’ve got the sewing machine to bear witness to the revolutionary epiphany that being “domestic” is not a bad word, as I’ve always gotten the sense. It’s so closely associated with the phrase “domestic violence” and is synonymous with being a servant, and everyone knows servitude is THE WORST. Except for those who understand true service, of course. Very few present domesticity through the lens of nurturing and tending to the home for the health and well being of the self, families and into the community. I am shocked this is so revolutionary and wonder how the heck I bought this most basic myth of all. The result of being a child of the 80′s, I wonder?

But none of that stuff has anything to do with the divine feminine, I suspect. It just keeps interfering with the practice of being divine. I’ve been writing this article for six weeks as all that and more wanders through my head. And yet, I have no words to define or discuss what this new reality of mine is like. My old reality finds it egotistical to claim direct knowledge and experience with the divine feminine. The new me knows better. In fact, the new me just knows. I am more: sensual, graceful, present, playful, appreciative, purposeful, cunning, nurturing, loving, intuitive, grounded, neutral, sure. I am less: fearful, doubtful, confused, hesitant, victimized, self-deceptive, self-depreciating, manipulative, controlling, overly-apologetic. I am less concerned with what other people think and more concerned with what my own counsel tells me. I know when to speak my truth & when to hold my tongue. I’m even beginning to practice discipline.

Yes, I’ve met Lady Divinity. She’s empowering & inspiring & authentic. And she’s rising up all around these parts, big time. Chances are, she’s the lady in the mirror, looking back at you.

Heard it on NPR: Home Births Rise, Mostly By Choice

During five o’clock rush hour traffic yesterday, came this news:

“There was a five percent increase in out-of-hospital births in 2005, says an analysis just out from the National Center for Health Statistics. The proportion of births outside hospitals held steady in 2006. That year, more than 38,000 babies (of more than 4 million babies born) came into the world somewhere other than a hospital.”

Read it: Home Births Rise, Mostly By Choice – Shots – Health News Blog : NPR.

Meet the Radical Homemakers by Shannon Hayes — YES! Magazine

Yes!!!! The article I’ve been waiting for, from my most favoritest magazine – aptly titled, “Yes!” I had no idea there was a name for the movement I yearned for. Radical Homemakers. I like it!

“Long before we could pronounce Betty Friedan’s last name, Americans from my generation felt her impact. Many of us born in the mid-1970s learned from our parents and our teachers that women no longer needed to stay home, that there were professional opportunities awaiting us. In my own school experience, homemaking, like farming, gained a reputation as a vocation for the scholastically impaired. Those of us with academic promise learned that we could do whatever we put our minds to, whether it was conquering the world or saving the world. I was personally interested in saving the world. That path eventually led me to conclude that homemaking would play a major role toward achieving that goal.”

Read the whole article:  Meet the Radical Homemakers by Shannon Hayes — YES! Magazine.

Need your input on the role of community in birthing!

Hey ya’ll. So, I need your expertise. I’m writing an article with a central theme of the role of community in birthing (thanks Amber for the idea!) and while I have some serious ideas of my own, of course, I’d like to ask ya’ll your opinion on the subject.

I’d like to see: how sharing my birth online has affected your views on birthing, as well as: what you think the communities role should be like to support expecting parents on their journey and/or postpartum, and, perhaps: how community supported you during your babytime. Other random thoughts that come to you are welcome as well. Please just comment to this post, or on facebook or send me a private message through the contact page.

Please don’t be shy, your voice or thought is important, no matter how small you may think it is :p Thanks in advance!

Two Million Angry Moms and One Sociologist: A Review of Free for All

Early in Free for All: Fixing School Food in America (University of California Press, 2010) former Texas Agriculture Secretary Susan Coombs declares that, “it will take 2 million angry moms to change school food.” Based on what we now know of the dreary state of our children’s cafeteria fare, there must be at least that many mamas, as well as a good number of papas who are ready to storm the barricades. Fortunately for them and America’s 55 million students who gulp down something resembling a meal every school day, they’ve been joined by Hunter College sociologist Janet Poppendieck who gives us the best reasons yet for unconditional school food reform.

Read the Review here: Civil Eats » Blog Archive » Two Million Angry Moms and One Sociologist: A Review of Free for All.

I’m not engaged. Or married, thank goddess!


I’ve long admired the work of Brian Feldman & was glad I got to participate in a portion of this latest work of his. It’s probably his most important statement to date. As I was standing there, baby strapped to my chest, contemplating getting married for some reason other than love, joking about whether or not Brian had money or health insurance, watching pregnant women filing for a license, I was strangely unconcerned with the fact that I’m a single mom. I’m actually quiet happy this way. I thank myself every day for having the strength and wisdom to not get caught up in a false relationship or marriage just because I had an unplanned pregnancy. I imagine I could feel ashamed or abandoned or sorry for myself. Instead, I feel empowered, wise and totally fulfilled.

At the event, I also saw an ex-friend (the only ex-friend I have, read on for why) for the first time in about a year. In the course of casual conversation at a public space last year, this person chastised me for deciding to go through with the pregnancy since her biological father was not in the picture very much. He felt I was irresponsible and a bad mother. He was quite loud and angry about this point, much to the terror of onlookers, some of whom tried to intervene. It was quiet disturbing. Interesting how he turned the man’s irresponsibility and lack of interest and blamed me for it, the only person actually taking responsibility for the child growing inside. As he laid eyes on Maya for the first time, an angry bubble surfaced and I wanted to ask him if he still thought she was better off as medical waste. (Sorry, that’s horrible, but that is the point).

I know this man-child’s history though, and I feel compassion for him that his relationship with his father was so messed up he would be so deranged as to yell at a pregnant women and call her selfish for not having an abortion. Hopefully he’s had time to reflect on his actions in the past year. Maybe he’s realized his mother isn’t to blame for his father’s emotional unavailability. Dark episode’s like this replicate the shadow side of his father. And, perhaps, he should stop drinking.