Tag Archives: women

American Women Die in Childbirth

As a natural childbirth teacher and doula, I know all this already. But this article in Quartz is a credible and accurate summation of the seriousness of America’s problem.

This post is not intended as a scare tactic for women. I simply want to point out that it’s a serious issue that has not been exposed enough.

I’m going give you one quote from the article, that says all the important points beautifully:

Jennie Joseph, a British-trained nurse midwife who has been practicing in the US for the past 26 years and runs Commonsense Childbirth, a birth center which offers midwifery prenatal care in Orlando, Florida, sums it all up effectively: “It’s racism, it’s classism, it’s sexism: All of these things are at play and […] the intersection with capitalism and power,” she told Quartz. “[Women] are dying of a system that’s broken.”  (I added the bold).

Americans – especially American politicians, along with the religious right – want a country where women have no access to birth control, no access to abortion, no access to adequate pre-natal care and even less access to post-partum care, no societal support in the form of visiting nurses, doulas, lactation consultants, no help in raising the children they give birth to, and NO RIGHT TO COMPLAIN ABOUT ANY OF IT.

Women are not heard in American medicine. This is a real and known problem. Reproduction is just one part of it, but it’s a huge part. Please read the article.

 

 

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ACOG Makes New Recommendations

Holy cow. Is it April 1st? No really, tell me if it is, because this is almost TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE: Approaches to Limit Intervention During Labor and Birth.

Just to have the new recommendations safely in more than one place, here they are, straight from the document:

  • For a woman who is at term in spontaneous labor with a fetus in vertex presentation, labor management may be individualized (depending on maternal and fetal condition and risks) to include techniques such as intermittent auscultation and nonpharmacologic methods of pain relief.
  • Admission to labor and delivery may be delayed for women in the latent phase of labor when their status and their fetuses’ status are reassuring. The women can be offered frequent contact and support, as well as nonpharmacologic pain management measures.
  • When women are observed or admitted for pain or fatigue in latent labor, techniques such as education and support, oral hydration, positions of comfort, and nonpharmacologic pain management techniques such as massage or water immersion may be beneficial.
  • Obstetrician–gynecologists and other obstetric care providers should inform pregnant women with term premature rupture of membrane (PROM [also known as prelabor rupture of membranes]) who are considering a period of expectant care of the potential risks associated with expectant management and the limitations of available data. For informed women, if concordant with their individual preferences and if there are no other maternal or fetal reasons to expedite delivery, the choice of expectant management for a period of time may be appropriately offered and supported. For women who are group B streptococci (GBS) positive, however, administration of antibiotics for GBS prophylaxis should not be delayed while awaiting labor. In such cases, many patients and obstetrician–gynecologists or other obstetric care providers may prefer immediate induction.
  • Evidence suggests that, in addition to regular nursing care, continuous one-to-one emotional support is associated with improved outcomes for women in labor.
  • For women with normally progressing labor and no evidence of fetal compromise, routine amniotomy need not be undertaken unless required to facilitate monitoring.
  • To facilitate the option of intermittent auscultation, obstetrician–gynecologists and other obstetric care providers and facilities should consider adopting protocols and training staff to use a hand-held Doppler device for low-risk women who desire such monitoring during labor.
  • Use of the coping scale in conjunction with different nonpharmacologic and pharmacologic pain management techniques can help obstetrician–gynecologists and other obstetric care providers tailor interventions to best meet the needs of each woman.
  • Frequent position changes during labor to enhance maternal comfort and promote optimal fetal positioning can be supported as long as adopted positions allow appropriate maternal and fetal monitoring and treatments and are not contraindicated by maternal medical or obstetric complications.
  • When not coached to breathe in a specific way, women push with an open glottis. In consideration of the limited data regarding outcomes of spontaneous versus Valsalva pushing, each woman should be encouraged to use the technique that she prefers and is most effective for her.
  • In the absence of an indication for expeditious delivery, women (particularly those who are nulliparous with epidural analgesia) may be offered a period of rest of 1–2 hours (unless the woman has an urge to bear down sooner) at the onset of the second stage of labor.

Do you have any idea how amazing this is? Women have been fighting for DECADES in this country, to have these very things be standard medical practice for the average woman with an average pregnancy. I spent years training expectant parents how to navigate the American medical system in order to BE LEFT ALONE DURING LABOR, unless something is actually wrong. I taught them how to negotiate with their doctor so the laboring woman could stay out of bed, move as much as she wanted, in whatever position helped her, and to deliver in whatever position helped her. To not be put on an arbitrary time table with the threat of C-section hanging like a club over her head.

And now, out of the blue… it’s here. Have we won the war? Will this actually happen? Will doctors take it to heart and incorporate it into their practice? Will medical schools begin to teach students how natural, intervention-free labor can be? Will they let their students see intervention-free labors during training? Will newly-trained obstetricians actually UNDERSTAND that birth is a natural process?

I’m almost hyperventilating, I’m so excited.

As long as it’s not April 1st.

 

 

 

 

A Guest Post: #Voice for the Voiceless, 1

For this post, I’m starting something different. There is someone I know whose life is a testament to struggle, bad choices, and pain. It is not pretty. It is not easy. But I want to give her a voice. So as often as she can write something, I’m going to post it here. These posts will always appear under the heading you see above: #Voice for the Voiceless.

I will not edit the posts unless she asks me to. This is her life and I don’t want my edits to add or detract from that. For her safety – and frankly, for mine, too – she will remain anonymous.

There is no order or reason to the posts. These are her thoughts. Her life. My blog is simply a vehicle.

_______________________________________________________

#Voice for the Voiceless, 1

Thank you for the listings. I contacted them myself, as well as many others. Also, the woman has done this as well and is on many waiting lists.  As she puts it, the funding is there but the actual services never come through. In fact Alameda County has a homeless information system they us to streamline homeless services and homeless clients. If they contact one program, they contact them all. Yet the agencies are simply not meeting the needs. In Berkeley alone there are over 300 homeless Families. Not singles. Families. Yet Berkeley has shut down almost all of its family shelters. I believe as of January there is only one shelter that accepts mothers and children. And they only have room for 4 of that family type. Berkeley recieved more bulk grants and funds than any other city in Alameda County. For families.
The numbers in Oakland are even higher. Sadly, the few places that take children do not take both parents as well. None take fathers and children. Or thebshelters are in communities where you might as well give up living unless you have a car a job a house and retirement package. So if you get blessed with a shelter spot, and you have a whole family unit, that unit either separates or stays on the streets.
According to the Federal government, Alameda County failed to disperse services to homeless that YOUR TAX DOLLARS paid for. Quite simply, those funds went to alameda county paychecks instead of where they were supposed to. As of January 2017 our county was ORDERED TO CORRECTLY DISTRIBUTE THOSE FUNDS TO THOSE IN NEED. They were told to literally go find the homeless and give them exactly what they shouldve already recieved. Real help.
This woman in particular has been severely traumatized, both physically and emotionally. She was assaulted in our city of Oakland, and then left to survive on the streets with her baby. Not one of the city, county, state or federally ran services aided her. I asked for evidence of this and she gave it to me. That homeless information system, has her listed as an automatic denial for services. Her and 800 other homeless people. Automatically denied aid. No reason. Services get the tax money, and pay themselves or put in “trust funds for the future”. What right do they have, not spending the money on the exact things its given to them for, at the exact time its given to them?
Honestly I believe that this woman was so severely wronged by society, that, we her society owe her an apology, among other things. Not every homeless person on the steeets is choosing to be there. Not all of them are junkies and indigents. In reality there are hundreds that quietly hide in the shadows and try to blend in with us, hoping to one day return to being, us. She is one of the few I have found that does not hide and is not quietly hiding from our eyes.
Her sign says it and when her child is out there with her, you hear it even more loudly. Alameda County, Oakland, Berkeley, if we dont like the homeless problem, we need to start fixing it now. She doesntbneed shelter information. She needs a home. A stable solid building that her son can believe he belongs in. Studio apartments, small single level homes with a yard. Not expensive. Not hard to build. Easily self maintained by the tenant. Lived by the family in it.thats what my hometown streets should look like. My tax dollars got used up by somebodys greedy budget. Now my streets have a partially blind mother with a very young little child, living among the needles and trash of all the others that were ignored. If each of us takes a small personal stance and a bigger public stance to help her and others like her, things might someday calm down. Ignore her and read her or her childs obituary someday soon. Or worse step over that pile of trash and realize its not trash. It might end up being them.
I hope that when you read this, you dont take offense. Just understand that reality isnt what it seems. Its more sick and sad and almost always, the chaos is caused by greed.
At least acknowledge her with gentleness.

 

Female Protagonists, Part the Second

Okay, then. I promised a post on this. If you didn’t read the linked article from Friday’s post, you can go do that now. Or, not. It’s not a surprise to anybody that well-rounded, non-stereotypical female characters are mostly absent in the starring role, whether we’re talking about books, movies, TV, or whatever.

As a kid, I read lots of books with female protags. I don’t remember thinking these characters were inferior to their male counterparts. I also never questioned if they “should” be doing or saying the things they were doing and saying, or if those things were more appropriate for men. I sort of took the world as it appeared to me and didn’t try to read nefarious meanings into things.

Well then, of course, I grew up. What a shock that was.

Written for Their Time

But let’s talk about a hero of my innocent youth: Nancy Drew. She had all kinds of smarts, was a strong leader, fair, and good. I don’t remember her ever asking for permission for anything. It’s true, she WAS dependent on a man (her father) for her support, but hey, she was only 18 years old. She had a boyfriend who occasionally helped out with mystery solving, along with her two girlfriends and their boyfriends. But Nancy ran the show. The guys never showed up and took over for the ladies. They were strictly sidekicks. I don’t think they were even in every book.

It’s true, no one actually dated, and everyone was unfailingly polite. There was never a mention (that I remember) of anyone going to college or having a job. The books were sort of unrealistic in that way, or maybe my memory is hazy. Everyone was also white, good looking, and wealthy. This was the early 60’s and written with 60’s sensibilities. I believe the series continued to be written for many years. Maybe they improved.

Anyway, as a hero, Nancy rocked. She saw what needed to be done, and she did it. Or delegated. She understood the strengths of her people and she let them use those strengths. She never apologized for being a woman or even for being young. For me, this was very empowering. I internalized that, whether I realized it or not. So I grew up confident in my abilities. Sadly, I didn’t have a script to follow, and neither did the people around me. Especially the people around me. If they’d only known their lines, things would have gone a lot better for me back then.

Writing Female Protagonists

Of course, in thinking about all of this, I decided to go back and look at my own writing. Now, I do have female protags and I think they’re pretty strong characters. It’s important to me that I write women who live full lives and have equal status in the world. But each character is different and has to come to this in her own way.

Casey  – The Time Travel Journals: Shipbuilder

Casey was my first female character and she’s part of an ensemble cast. But she has  a real battle to wage for equality. We don’t meet her before the accident that takes her back in time to 1906, but she makes it very clear who she was and who she expected to be. Born in California in the late 20th century, she had no doubt of her equal status with men. It was in her blood and bones, and there was nothing Edwardian Ireland could do to convince her otherwise.

Shipbuilder was mostly about Thomas Andrews, and Casey’s story is wrapped up in his. The book ends  at the resolution of the Titanic sinking. But if I had a chance to write about the rest of Casey’s life in the early 20th century, we would see that she never backed down. Women were fighting for equality, dying and imprisoned in that battle, and our Casey would be right at the front, not just leading the charge, but with knowledge of how to make the fight better and more inclusive of ALL women, of any race, nationality, or sexual orientation. She would have confronted the Church and the government about the Magdalene Laundries, and insisted that women’s equality included the right to say NO to forced sex, and even the right to choose whether to bear a child. She would join the fight for better wages and working conditions for men and insist it applied to women too.

Oh, our Casey had red hair for a reason. She was a firecracker. If I ever get around to finishing the third book in this series, you just may get to see some of this.

Moira and Sarah – The Time Travel Journals: Bridgebuilder

Sarah is one of my favorite characters. She’s Casey’s granddaughter, born in an alternate  universe changed by the presence of time travelers. In 1980, Sarah is an engineer like her grandfather was, except she builds spaceships rather than ocean vessels. Thanks to her grandmother, Sarah never had to fight to get a science education or a job just like a man with her degree would have. It’s just the way the world is.

Sarah is happiest when she’s tinkering in the lab, figuring out how to create working machines. She’s MacGyver with overies, a hacker of chemicals, computers, machines, and neutrons. More than her male co-characters, Sam and Andy, Sarah is the real “bridgebuilder” in this book, the person who builds the machines that do what Sam or Andy want them to do.

Moira, on the other hand, has to fight for every step she takes. She’s a 17-year old school girl in the first universe, living on an unstable Earth in 2080. Much of the planet has become uninhabitable for humans. Governments have fallen apart, puppets of religious leaders and war lords. As the step-daughter of a politically powerful and violent preacher, Moira is destined for early marriage and a lifetime of beatings and bearing children. It doesn’t matter that a teacher called her “the next Einstein or Hawking.” On this Earth, women do what men tell them.

I know that seems excessive and perhaps it makes the story sound cliché-ish. But I’m only extrapolating from the rumblings of many of today’s religious extremists. Hey, I’ve been a religious extremist. I know the kind of world they want to see, and it’s a writer’s job to explore what life can look like if we follow certain paths.

Moira needs a lot of help to escape her prison, so she is not your usual, strong, kick-ass heroine. But this is what happens in real life. Moira doesn’t have super strength or a top-notch talent with deadly weapons, or even great courage. She does have a brilliant mind, intense curiosity, big dreams, and tenacity. And she has people who love her and see her potential. Some of those people put their lives on the line to help her, but here’s the thing: she doesn’t let them down. Even with help, the only way to escape a prison is to make the effort, and take the chances you get. And the best way to stay out of a prison is to build a new life, and Moira shines at that. She’s got her eyes on the stars and she’s not stopping until she gets there.

Oy, look at the time, and I’ve only covered two books! This is longish, too, so I’m going to publish it and give you a part 3.

Who are your favorite heroines? What do you look for in a good female protagonist?

 

Reblog: Despite a Supreme Court victory, it could take years for Texas abortion clinics to reopen

I’m greatly heartened by the Supreme Court decision that firmly tells Texas pols they can’t interfere with a basic right. But as this article points out, the situation in Texas won’t improve overnight. “Some clinics may never reopen…”

http://www.vox.com/2016/6/27/12038934/supreme-court-texas-whole-womans-health-closed-clinics-reopen-years

So instead… let’s do this: Let doctors be doctors. OB/GYNs need to offer abortion as part of the standard of care. If a patient needs one, the doctor can get her the medication early in the pregnancy, the doctor can continue to oversee the patient’s care, the procedure is cheaper and safer. If abortion needs to be performed later in pregnancy, but early enough for an office procedure, the doctor can schedule it and all should be well.

There should be no need for separate abortion clinics. Just doctor’s offices, health care clinics, and hospitals. They should ALL include abortion as part of the necessary care. It’s done if needed, and not done if not needed.

Simple for everyone.

 

 

Australian scientists discover new treatment for pre-eclampsia

Here’s a bit of hopeful news. Malnutrition can be a cause of pre-eclampsia, and for years, doctors have said they just don’t know what causes it, but lately, studies have been focused on the placenta. There’s been real progress with this. I hope this treatment works.

http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/australian-scientists-discover-new-treatment-for-preeclampsia-20151221-glsoi9.html

Rant: The Pregnant Village

You’ve heard the phrase “It takes a village to raise a child.” I take that a little further in this post. To start, here’s an interesting article about a recent discovery about the microbiome of the womb.

Word of warning: The article linked above is a short piece that makes no claims about anything. I’m just going off on a tangent in this post. It’s how my mind works.

Scientists are finding out that microbiomes exist in the developing fetus, which they previously thought was sterile until birth. To me, this is a case of science discovering what common sense already knew. I teach natural childbirth, a method that stresses the importance of good diet and lifestyle before birth, or even before conception. Mom’s health makes a big difference to baby’s health. Dad’s health does too, both for healthy sperm and a healthy home environment, but mom is the biggest contributor.

This idea has gone the full pendulum swing, from mom being completely responsible for the fetus’s intrauterine experiences (don’t smoke! don’t drink! don’t have any stress or fright!), to mom being no more than a container for a separate, sterile being.

Sadly, the first idea opens the door to societal restrictions on pregnant women, up to and including criminal charges for miscarriages or stillbirth. At the very least, it’s a good excuse for controlling women and keeping them from full participation in society, such as not hiring or promoting them for a great many jobs.

So here’s what I think.

Women, like men, have control of their own bodies. Like men, they must be responsible for what they do to, and with, their bodies. They decide whether to eat well or poorly, whether to smoke, drink, or take drugs. They decide whether or not to have sex, use birth control, or use protection from STDs. They make medical decisions about their bodies. Men make all these same choices.

Women have one or two further choices to make: whether or not to get pregnant, and if pregnant, whether or not to complete the pregnancy.

I truly believe this is the woman’s choice and that she must have safe, legal, and thorough access to all the information and medical care she needs to accomplish any of these choices. Most women in stable relationships will also take her partner’s wishes into account, but in the end, the choice is hers.

Here’s where it gets complicated, because pregnancy puts a woman in a unique position. She has agreed to lend her body to another human being for 40 or more weeks. I think that a woman who makes this choice must agree to accept the responsibility that goes with it. She must do all she can to be as healthy as she can be. This requires all the choices we all know about when we (male or female) consider our own health.

Mom’s Responsibility to Baby

  • We know that smoking is harmful, all the time under any circumstances. There is no case where this is harmless.
  • We know that drugs are harmful, even prescription drugs. Any drug the woman takes requires her to understand what it is for, it’s effect on the fetus, and understand whether or not the benefit is worth the risk. Some drugs are necessary for the mother’s health, so she must take them. She still needs to understand the effect on her unborn baby.
  • Recreational drugs are never necessary.
  • Alcohol is a recreational drug.
  • Too much sugar , as in “added sugar,” is harmful. “Too much” is a very small amount.
  • Preservatives, pesticides, and herbicides are harmful. Avoid them as much as possible.
  • Regular, moderate exercise is essential to good health.
  • Eat plenty of good and healthful food, drink plenty of water, and get plenty of rest.

Again, there is nothing here that is not good for all of us to follow in our own daily lives. It may be bothersome to give up wine for nine months, but it’s not really a big deal. Really.

I think of this as a contract between mother and fetus.

Is Miscarriage or Stillbirth a Felony?

Should any of this be criminalized if a woman makes poor choices? What about a meth addict? An alcoholic? What if a woman likes to skydive or drive race cars? What if she works with radioactive materials or travels constantly for her job? Gets a ticket for speeding?

Where should society draw the line between “not good, but okay,” and “this is a felony?” What should the consequences be? If a baby is born addicted to cocaine, should the mother be prosecuted? Should she be prosecuted during her pregnancy?

We have to be very careful. Already, some states have laws that penalize women for miscarriages. There are women serving time in prison right now, because they had a miscarriage.

Is there ever a case where that is right? Because I don’t think so.

We already have laws against the use of certain drugs. I do think a pregnant women who breaks these laws can and should be prosecuted to the same extent that a man is. But should she face additional charges because of the fetus? Child endangerment, perhaps? Feticide?

Because I believe women should act responsibly during pregnancy, I want to say yes. But I can’t. It’s too steep a slippery slope. It opens the door to complete patriarchal control over women’s bodies. We have too much of that still in place in our legal system and societal judgements, and as I mentioned above, it’s getting worse. We need to draw a thick, dark line in the sand and declare that women have personal control of their own bodies. Even if there is a fetus in it.

Chase is born
Grandson Chase. Our babies are precious. They deserve the best start in life we can give them.

We need a society that makes it easy for women to control their bodies. A society where all women of childbearing age have access to effective birth control. Where they have convenient access to health care, including safe, legal abortion. Indeed, abortion should be a standard option of care, provided by every OB/GYN in every hospital or doctor’s office. It shouldn’t be a “separate” treatment delegated to “special” clinics, which encourage shaming and secrecy, not to mention setting up patients and staff to be targets of terrorists.

We need a society where both women and men participate fully in all aspects, and at all levels of business, politics, the home, education, healthcare, sports, technology, and science. We need a society that honors reproduction and breastfeeding, and considers these to be natural and essential aspects of women’s lives, without reducing women’s participation in any part of society. We need a society that honors families and childrearing, that allows and expects the full participation of fathers as much as mothers in these endeavors.

In such a society, abortion would be nearly non-existent. Women in difficult situations such as poverty or addiction would have all the help they need, whether it’s to prevent pregnancy, end a pregnancy, or continue one with the medical and psychological assistance required to bring forth a healthy child.

Yes, as it turns out, the womb is not a separate, sterile ecosystem. The mother’s health, diet, environment, and activities affect the life growing in her womb. It’s a serious undertaking. Let’s build a society that supports it, instead of one that hinders it.

Blogging 101, aka, Back to School

Every New Year, WordPress sends out a report about how your blog did during the previous year. It’s always a lot of fun, with statistics like if everyone who read your blog got on a cable car, it would take 60 cable cars to hold them all. Really, it’s a hoot.

It’s always nice to know that I’m not just talking to myself over here. I know I tend to wander around like I’m lost in Topic Land, but I really am interested in a lot of things and I like the idea of throwing out an idea or a current issue, or something and see what happens with it.

More often than not, nothing happens. One or two people might “like” the post, and sometimes you dear regulars will say something, but in general I get back a big resounding NADA. Now, that’s not your fault. I know you’re busy. I read a LOT of blogs and I don’t leave comments very often myself.

But I do hope to have interesting conversations with my readers. Better yet, I’d like to see them having interesting conversations with each other in my comment section. It’s not happening and I’d like to learn how to fix it.

Hence: Blogging 101, an online course offered by WordPress to help lonely bloggers improve their presence. Everyday, we’ll get an assignment to do something with our blogs and somehow this will all coalesce into real wisdom. Or something like that.

Today’s assignment is to post what my blog is for, what I want to accomplish with it, and what its purpose is.

To wit:
My blog’s main purpose is to let the world know about my books and where they can purchased. I gotta make a living you know.

Visitors to my blog can learn pretty quickly about my books. They’re all right there on the first page. But I want you to stay and chat. So I talk about a lot of other things. They are things I’m interested in, because it is MY blog after all.

So on my blog, we’ll talk about, in no particular order of importance and certainly not limited to only these topics:

Women
Feminism
Pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding
Raising kids
Politics
Religion
Humanism
Science
Climate
Food
Agriculture
Travel (especially my travels)
Community
Paganism
Holistic Living
And oh yeah, writing, publishing, and when am I gonna finally finish another book????

What I want to see happening this year on my blog: conversations with my readers.

So go ahead. Drop me a line.