Monday, August 11, 2008

A loss for Missouri women

Last Tuesday, the State Senate race for District 7 was decided in the Republican primary. The district is strongly Republican, so the primary decides the race. Despite strong grass-roots support, Gina Loudon lost.
With Loudon's loss, Missouri women lost the loudest voice in the Capitol speaking out for our right to choose a midwife, and for our right to give birth at home with a qualified attendant.
With Jane Cunningham's win, the medical associations gained another pawn in their fight against pregnant women's autonomy. Cunningham has been a representative for eight years. Years ago, she twice voted in favor of midwifery. Since then, however, the doctors' unions convinced her to switch her loyalty from constituents to contributors. In return, the medical lobby financed Cunningham's campaign for State Senate. They now control two Missouri State Senators, Cunningham and Graham (D-Columbia).

Friday, June 6, 2008

Hardball tactics

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) is strongly opposed to licensure of Certified Professional Midwives in any state. Don't be fooled by "college" in the name -- this is a trade union, not an academic organization. In a 2007 statement the describe the grassroots supporters, from all political categories, who come out to the Capitol day after day to ask legislators to give us access to midwives. How have these bills been defeated? From ACOG's statement:

"For example, in Missouri, 'lay' midwife bills get introduced year
after year. These bills have been stopped -- up to now -- mainly by
deft political maneuvering and hardball tactics employed by the State
Medical Society, not by any persuasive testimony about comparative
safety or quality of care."

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Dreams of interrupted birth

My friend Erica describes a dream from early pregnancy:
I went to a talk about birth in a poor mostly black neighborhood, we were all sitting on the ground in a little city park listening to the talk when all of a sudden young men with machine guns suddenly ran up and started firing at the front of the crowd. I grabbed the grandmotherly old lady next to me and laid down flat with my arm around her. Suddenly all the shooters sat down peacefully and everyone else sat up and started asking questions, it turned out no one was hurt except someone had gotten hit with a blank in the head and needed some care. I was confused and afraid to sit up and one of the young men said "it was just a government excercise" As the dream ended I noticed that all these people were creeping out of their houses with baseball bats and brooms and such, obviously scared out their wits, but shoppers and people who clearly didn't live in the neighborhood weren't phased and just went about their shopping. I got really mad and was like "I don't care if it was a government excercise, obviously no one told these people and its just as traumatic as if it were real, even if no one was killed." Anyway the old grandmotherly woman said something like "oh they've done worse" and then I woke up. ....Too much news before bed? What a bizarre parable like thing to dream especially since the topic of the talk they interrupted was "birth".

It is fitting: women gather about birth. The government interrupts to cause pain and trauma. Then those who cause pain consider themselves participants, who have harmed no one. Those with a vested interest are traumatized and fearful. Other observers don't see any problem. As long as no one died, the establishment has no problem with causing physical and psychological pain to women. Even the women don't see a problem with it -- after all, it could have been worse. They're used to being abused and ignored.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Maternal Mortality Map

The World Health Organization (WHO) has this lovely summary of maternal mortality rates. The US is green. Take a good look at which other countries are green. Ask yourself why the US isn't blue. Keep in mind that we spend three times as much on maternity care per birth as any other country. What is all that money buying us?

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Robots give birth

For almost a century now, doctors have been trained in obstetrics by practicing on patients in teaching hospitals. Finally, there's a new way to learn and practice without working on a real, live mother and baby: a pregnant robot. The robot labors and gives birth, with all kinds of programmable complications simulated on the monitors.

While it's great to get some experience without disturbing a real birthing mother, this seems like it will reinforce some trends that are hurting mothers throughout this country. First, the nurses and doctors in training obviously aren't looking at the robot's expression or listening to its words. All eyes are trained on the monitoring instruments. The robot has a pulse and blood pressure, but no emotional or psychological barriers. Its contractions have a intensity and frequency but no discomfort. This reinforces the trend to look only at instruments and the numbers they provide, not at what matters to the laboring woman. Second, the robot doesn't care whether it has an episiotomy. It doesn't care what it jammed into its vagina or screwed into the baby's head. It doesn't have goals for the birth related to empowerment, personal integrity, and modesty.

The birthing robot is great for practicing the mechanics of interventions and complications. It is terrible for teaching people how to help a woman give birth. I wish for all the people who are in training the opportunity to see a woman give birth physiologically, without intervention or interference. They're trained in the ways a woman's body could fail -- they need to see the many ways a woman can succeed.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Mothers have a branding problem.

In The State of Discontent, Jaelithe and Johnson and Johnson executive Ray Jordan suggest that "Moms have a branding issue."

Moms, especially stay-at-home-moms, are much more educated, intelligent, and motivated than common perceptions suggest. The stereotypical mom is wrapped up in her children. She hangs on their every word and disregards the world outside. She is mildly delusional, convinced that her children are above average and that her family is the center of the universe. She obsesses over household chores and parenting books, and argues with other mothers in the "Mommy Wars."

Mothers these days are not June Cleaver. We're not willing to follow a script laid out for us in mainstream advertising. Mother who stay home with their children are often college-educated, experienced career women. Scientists, executive vice-presidents, accountants, lawyers, and thousands of other career paths are well-represented in the homes of America. Even mothers who didn't go to college know they're capable of it, capable of making decisions just as important as those working men make. These women are thinkers.

So we're obsessed with our children. That's an asset. That's a motivation to be involved in politics, in environmentalism, in activism. We're not thinking just about the economy of the next few years, or about how much fun we can have or money we can make right now.

Mothers who are not working full-time have ambition and time to devote to causes commercial and political. They have networks of friends who vote. And now they have blogs and the internet, to connect with each other and promote our common agendas. We vote and we speak out.

Society at large has not yet recognized that the new stay-at-home-mom is an ambitious career woman, even if no one pays her for it. This is our branding problem. The mother who strives for cleanliness and on-time dinners has moved on. We're striving for goals much bigger than our household, and we will have an impact.

Mothers have the brainpower, the initiative, and the means to impact the way this country moves. Watch out, political establishment. Mothers are no longer complacent, and we're growing increasingly influential. You'd better start pandering to us.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

The birth world is a mirror

This is a reflection from my friend Heidi, a midwife.

The birth world is a mirror of larger, weirder, scarier things in our culture -- about how we regard women, mothers, mother earth. When the mother is harmed, how can she care for her babies, and how does a society of motherless children -- not nursed, given no breast milk, knowing no comfort but left to cry it out -- how do they function? I feel like we are a society of motherless children, separated from love, from our ability to be self referring, separated from trust in our own instincts and trust that we will be cared for, by our mothers, and by extension -- by God. I believe that how children experience their mother in early life is how they experience God. If you can not trust your mother, if she does not care for you, then you do not trust God will care for you or that your needs will ever be met. And people that do not trust that they will be cared for act crazy in lots of ways.Mother-Earth, that is a very deep idea. It is a powerful thing to be able to intervene and break the bonds between mother & child, and take away the feminine power of the mother. It is the fundamental sickness in our world to me. I think the strangely out of proportion opposition to midwives -- the venomous, irrational hatred of midwives -- is a reaction to that deep seated, underlying issue.

When women have control of birth, when mothers and midwives are in control of something as important as birth, we hold the power to something that can change society completely: LOVE. We learn love at home. On a body level we get that love or lack or love from our families, and the quality of the love we get in our family is the quality of love we have to share the world. I think opposition to midwives is an old archetypal battle of male vs female energies, of warring culture vs loving culture. I think that with out even consciously understanding their motives and reactions people in power want to stop the mother, and they want to stop the midwives. And I think its why so many women are attracted to birth work, is because we suspect that we are doing more than helping women have babies -- we are healing a rift in the planetary consciousness when a mother-baby makes it through all that with their instincts intact and in love.