Every Wise Woman

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Filtering by Tag: Real Birth

Radically Natural Giveaway: Ina May's Guide to Childbirth

To celebrate the successful completion of my first academic round of midwifery studies, I am giving away a copy of homebirth guru and midwife extraordinaire Ina May Garten's book, Ina May's Guide to Childbirth.

This book is fun, educational, inspirational, and necessary for all pregnant and hope-to-be-pregnant ladies.  I can attribute my least painful and easiest birth to a bit of wisdom I garnered from reading it.  (I'll give you a hint...OPEN...visualize it, say it, be it...)

To enter, just sign in to the Rafflecopter entry below and answer the question...tell me one reason to plan a homebirth.  Thanks for participating and enjoy!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

When to Be Thankful for Medical Intervention

[The following will be the most personal and emotional post I have ever shared, and may contain some cathartic rambling. I need to work things out in my head and it helps me to write...in a sense, this is my personal “de-briefing” brain dump. I apologize in advance for its length, scope and potential circumlocutions. Thank you for being my “sounding board.”]

It is no secret that I am concerned about the broken modern medical system that can create problems rather than heal disorders/malfunctions/ailments and promote lifelong wellness. Yes, there are doctors who break out of the mold of their conventional training; they question the establishment’s paradigm and pursue holistic education, learn Real Medicine, and adopt skills and a knowledge base that can be of genuine value to ailing people.

But these practitioners seem to be the exception, not the rule. The medical industry is dominated by drug companies and “little gods in white coats.” Corruption, ego, profit-seeking, as well as protocols and treatments driven by limited paradigms and legal pressures conspire to create a bloated system that is impotent to effectively treat ailing health, systemic malfunctions, chronic illness, autoimmune disorders, and more. Truly, the system needs more groundbreaking doctors like the late Dr. Mendelsohn, a self-confessed medical heretic who upheld holistic principles of wellness and healing, and who encouraged parents to eject from the system, taking direct control of their children’s health.

[Here is the cliff notes version of a planned post that will likely not see the light of day: In my opinion, well child checks are a waste of your time and money. You can and should learn to be your child’s own pediatrician, you just need some study and basic tools (books, otoscope, stethoscope, blood pressure cuff, basic herbal and homeopathic kits, etc). Maternal instincts are divine...hone them, trust them. Save yourself the headaches of fighting the fear-based, drug-driven system and protect your child from unnecessary treatments and vaccines. Learn to follow your gut; should you feel you need to do so, seek help for your child if he is seriously ill/suffering beyond what you can diagnose and remedy at home. This line will vary for people depending on knowledge base, acquired skills and confidence. But keep learning and practicing and you’ll feel the need to seek help less and less.]

I have long vocalized my vexation with the modern medical system’s limited paradigm of the human body’s functions, responses and healing powers; its approach to wellness and illness; its eagerness to categorize as “idiopathic” whatever malfunctions do not fit into its paradigm or cannot be solved by its limited tools (“WE don’t know what causes X, ergo there IS no cause…”). I am concerned with harms caused by an overblown, malpractice-driven, sometimes fraudulent system. Some elements of the system are downright dishonorable, others simply misguided. There exists a tendency to apply extreme unnecessary interventions or “one-size-fits-all” protocols to every situation. The error of the allopathic technocratic approach is to apply toxic bandaids of drugs and surgeries rather than to achieve healing through effective cures, such as botanical and homeopathic medicines, nutritional healing, and noninvasive physical therapy modalities (acupuncture, reflexology, chiropractic, hydrotherapy, craniosacral and massage, etc.). For as much as the “system” thinks it corners the market on medical knowledge, there are vast mysteries still to be uncovered. The more we know about the workings of the human body, the more we realize we have so much more to learn.

Rather than taking personal responsibility for wellness, people rush to obtain treatments and procedures they don’t really need that won’t truly help. This is not healing, it is not establishing wellness. Unfortunately, such behavior contributes to the perpetuation of a faulty system. People should eject from the regular use of the medical establishment and should studiously take their health into their own hands, establishing and maintaining wellness through a non-toxic lifestyle, genuine nutrition, and botanical medicine.

But within the afflicted conventional medical system exists caring individuals, well-meaning practitioners, and certain emergency procedures and technologies for which we can be thankful. It has always been my opinion that emergency medicine is a necessary and legitimate arm of the modern medical system. While I don’t agree with all its practices and treatments, I find lifesaving medical technologies overall to occupy worthwhile space on the spectrum of healing arts.

The specialized skills and modern technology involved in lifesaving procedures and trauma treatment are often quite advantageous. They can mean the difference between life and premature death. It would be wonderful to see our system enlightened to incorporating nontoxic, natural medicine and modalities into its emergency care system. A multitude of potent, fast-acting herbal and homeopathic medicines exist. Herbal antibiotics can be just as effective, and are certainly safer, than their synthetic pharmaceutical counterparts (which contribute to toxic load and flora disruption); bugs don't easily develop antibiotic resistance to botanical medicines as they do to drugs. But conventionally trained doctors don’t know how to use these herbal medicines. And as long as the medical industry is deeply profit driven (i.e: pharmaceutical companies), these beneficial botanical medicines will not be employed as they should be.

Not all traumas require conventional medical care. Herbal first aid is incredibly potent. When you become intimate with botanical medicine, build a knowledge base of anatomy and physiology, and become confident with healing and triage skills, you can treat most accidents and illnesses at home without suffering the negative side effects of conventional medical treatments. We can often successfully remedy minor breaks and dislocations, wounds and poisonings, infections, even cardiovascular and respiratory malfunctions and much more.

But sometimes the nature of accidents and ailments require emergency medical treatment, the legitimate protocols and technologies of the modern medical system. This is when modern medicine can serve a valuable purpose. I have long said that if my husband were to cut off his arm in a chainsaw accident, I would take him to the ER and pray for a competent surgeon. But I would perform post-op wound and infection care at home (you would be astounded to see the power of certain plants, like plantain, comfrey, shepherd’s purse, cayenne, garlic and usnea).

A particular pet peeve of mine is the fear-based birth industry, whose standard protocols...driven both by a flawed technocratic paradigm and inflated legal concerns...suppress and subvert the normal physiological processes of labor and birth. The perpetual medicalization and technological intervention of normal birth violates women and babies. The system treats all births as potential traumas and subjects laboring mothers to practices and interventions that hinder the natural physiological process of birth, which can lead to negative birth outcomes. But within this system are valuable skills and technologies that are appropriate for the minority (approx. 5%) of at-risk women and unforeseen pregnancy and birth complications.

The current system is backwards and needs an overhaul so that our medical culture expects, upholds and encourages the power and beauty of normal birth. As in some European models, our birth system should be one where midwives are the primary caregivers and women are expected to birth normally and naturally, supported by midwife (“with woman”) attendants. But OBs, as complication, trauma and surgical specialists, play an important role in serious emergent conditions of both pregnancy and birth. The OB would be an assisting member of the midwife-led team, prepared to attend to the minority of women who require more invasive medical care. This would be a valuable system that provides appropriate care for all unique women; when the rare occurs, and what is ordinarily a natural, risk-free physiological event becomes a life-threatening trauma, a solution exists.

Professional midwives are pregnancy and “birth as a natural physiological process” experts. While we embrace a holistic paradigm of natural physiological birth that requires little interference and often only support and assistance, well-educated and well-trained midwives can competently manage and treat many difficulties that arise during pregnancy and birth, even traumas to mother or baby (such as hemorrhage or neonatal resuscitation). Typically a holistic midwife sees herself as an assistant to the birthing mother, an emotional encourager and physical attendant responding to the mother’s needs, and as a lifeguard sitting by and carefully observing. But a well-trained midwife has tremendous technical abilities and instincts, with her hands, her observational skills, and her intimate knowledge of her client serving as her most important tools.

Rather than relying on sometimes unreliable and potentially harmful diagnostic devices, a midwife uses her hands to assess a woman’s pelvic capacity to birth, the size and position of baby during the stages of pregnancy, and more. A homebirth midwife can manually perform procedures for birth complications that in a hospital setting would often result in a surgical delivery, such as assisting a woman to birth her breech baby, or resolving a shoulder dystocia during birth. Midwives have the skills to assist prolonged and difficult labors, helping to shift malpositioned babies and encouraging the laboring woman to choose a position that facilitates the birth process and preserves the perineum (hint: the typical hospital position for pushing, semi-reclined with knees drawn to chest, feet to buttocks, is detrimental to the perineum and can slow baby’s birth progress). As opposed to the industrial protocol episiotomy, a violation of a woman’s body and natural birth processes, the midwife performs perineal support when needed to allow those resilient tissues to stretch and accommodate baby’s descent. And when a perineal/vaginal tissue tear occurs (which is far less common with proper birth position and perineal support), the midwife has the tools and skills to repair it. If faced with a difficult birth, a skilled and knowledgable midwife can stop hemorrhages, perform bimanual uterine compressions if necessary, treat shock, and even resuscitate a nonresponsive newborn. I could go on, but I think you get the picture. If unanticipated complications occur, the midwife is prepared. And this preparation includes the wisdom to know when to seek outside assistance.

For a healthy woman assisted by a skilled midwife who has provided intimate, continuous, hands-on prenatal care, the home is the optimal birthplace: safe, comfortable, risk-free (from both foreign pathogens and the cascade of unnecessary interventions). The majority of women can pursue birth as as the beautiful, natural, empowering event for which our bodies were designed.

But there are times when complications can occur beyond a midwife’s toolbox of skills and equipment. There will be potential clients who should be screened out as homebirth candidates because of health risk factors. There may arise complications during a pregnancy that require medical treatment, such as pre-eclampsia. As disappointing as it is, there are times when a technocratic setting may be the safest birth route for the at-risk woman and baby. There will be times when nothing but an emergency technology will do. OBs are trauma and surgical experts. If you are a member of the 5%, the technical obstetrical approach can be helpful, even necessary.

I have a “passionate” personality. I become easily indignant at injustice. In large part, portions of the modern medical system and the modern birth system are unjust, even harmful. But despite my frustration with this system, I have given intellectual assent and neutral respect to the careful use of lifesaving emergency medical procedures. But now, I am personally thankful for the appropriate use of medical technology because on February 12-13, 2013, it saved my life.

On February 12, I suffered my third miscarriage. This one was shockingly fast. I had no major impending signs, only a few spots of brown (which means “old”) and pink-brown blood throughout the day...nothing more, no cramping, no increase in bleeding. So, I was devastated when my water unexpectedly broke early Tuesday evening and I instantly birthed my lifeless 14-week-old baby boy. Immediately, I began bleeding like a slow faucet and soon after started slipping into shock.

This was unlike my other miscarriages. It was violent and traumatic. I felt myself losing consciousness as I bled and passed clots...this was all within five minutes. If I had been treating “the client,” I would have immediately dosed with aconite, cayenne and shepherd’s purse (anti-shock and anti-hemorrhagic remedies). Maybe it would have worked...it has done before, in other situations. But I was not in a position to treat myself. And I knew that I was hemorrhaging too quickly beyond what I could control...that I needed help. As someone who does not use the medical system, I do not take this lightly. But I know enough from my midwifery studies to know that losing consciousness while hemorrhaging is highly undesirable and potentially fatal. This was the only reason I would consent to a transport to the hospital...I felt my life was seriously at risk. My husband got me down on the bathroom floor and called an ambulance. The rest of the event is a bit of a blur.

The average woman has eight to ten pints of blood in her body. A blood loss of 40% can cause death. A massive hemorrhage is defined as a loss of total EBV (estimated blood volume) in 24 hours, or a loss of half of EBV in three hours. Blood transfusion is necessary to avoid death. “Obstetrical hemorrhage is often acute, dramatic, and underestimated. Postpartum hemorrhage is a significant cause of maternal death.” (Society of OB/GYNs of Canada, Hemorrhagic Shock document)

Medical professionals agree that blood loss, something difficult to visually assess, is regularly underestimated. We estimate that I lost two pints of blood before the ambulance arrived. At the hospital, between the time I arrived hooked up to the saline IV and the time I quickly began crashing, the blood loss was approximately another two pints. Between those events, sensing my husband's concern at the possibility of inappropriate interventions (such as hysterectomy), the OB did not push us into immediate surgery. However, the ER team erred initially by not administering what should be standard protocol for a woman who arrives in a state of hemorrhage...anti-hemorrhagic uterine clamping drugs, such as methergine, pitocin, cytotec.  Most medical professionals would agree that this error did contribute to the crash that followed.  (Such is the risk of living in a small town with a small hospital.)

Our bad situation turned worse quickly as my bleeding increased and I went from mild to moderate hemorrhagic shock; my husband knew that despite the “vitals” looking semi-reasonable (BP, pulse, etc), I was slipping away. Diagnostics are limited. Machines and tests can tell us only so much about what is going on inside the body. In diagnosing any ailment, labs can look “normal,” stats can appear acceptable, and you can still be very ill. These tools are imperfect, limited indicators of what is going on physiologically; they are not flawless representations of reality, they have neither God-like knowledge nor x-ray vision. My body rapidly degraded from a Class 3 to a Class 4 hemorrhage, but because my husband’s instincts made him insistent, I was not lost.

The man who knows me best observed me and knew I was dying. I knew it, but was not lucid enough to participate, and I believe that the OB saw it as well. (They told me later that my pallor was alarming...that I was “whiter than a sheet,” that I looked like a body in a casket. The OB told me she was instantly concerned when she observed my blanched lips.) The OB seemed relieved that my husband insisted upon whatever emergency lifesaving measures were necessary (of course wanting to avoid hysterectomy), and that he did not bat an eye at the course of blood transfusion.

The Bible says that the “life is in the blood.” I have never before understood that fact so intimately. As I lay in the ER, my body suffering the shock of a major hemorrhage, I felt myself dying. It was a physically painful and emotionally horrific experience. In addition to the physical experience (extreme coldness, shaking, loss of sight and sound, gushing blood), I felt my life leaving my body with all that blood. It is an experience I am unable to adequately express with words, the feeling of my life force ebbing away.

I remember at one point that my husband was leaning over me, speaking urgently to me, telling me to stay awake. I was losing consciousness, and I knew that if I closed my eyes, I would never again open them. I have never been so scared, despite my trust in God. I was not ready to die. I struggled to remain...and then I was taken to surgery, of which I gratefully remember nothing due to the anesthesia. My body continued to bleed aggressively.  The OB worked with difficulty for two hours to stop my uterine hemorrhage while they began my blood transfusion (my husband says the young OB seemed shaken but relieved after the surgery; she later expressed how intense the situation had been). In addition to the difficulty in halting the hemorrhage, during the surgery, my heart suffered arrhythmias. No doubt!

The OB told me later that despite making multiple passes through my uterus and removing all its contents, despite giving me every drug she could to stop the hemorrhage and get the uterus to contract; despite performing bimanual compressions...the bleeding simply would not stop.  She had the ER doctor come in to do ultrasound while she went through the uterus again, hoping to find something she had missed, to no avail.  She said she was mentally preparing to begin a hysterectomy (which she knew we did not want) to save my life when the bleeding finally just slowed and stopped.  What an answer to the prayers of my husband, pacing alone in a waiting room!  It was a miracle that saved us from the limitations of "rural medicine," as our local hospital does not have the expertise or the equipment to perform procedures that can arrest uterine hemorrhaging far less detrimental, invasive and permanent than hysterectomy, such as B-Lynch suturing, uterine arterial ligation, or uterine arterial embolization. 

Before being released from the ICU two days later, I had received six pints of blood along with additional platelets and plasma; even after that, my hemoglobin and hematocrit levels were lower than normal and I still feel weak. Under normal circumstances, it takes 90 days for the human body to replenish its red blood cell levels. After traumatic blood loss, it takes the body longer to return to "normal."  I should be “renewed” in four to six months. The life is absolutely in the blood.

The medical technology of a blood transfusion restored my life. Risks? Side effects? Sure...of course...risk of allergy to the blood during transfusion. Fatal risks of overuse of the fluid resuscitation (saline IV). Risk of future infection from the blood transfusion (yes, blood products can be dangerous...at this point, I cannot read anymore articles about the risks I endured on that front; it was our only choice to avoid death). Risks of iatrogenic death simply due to my being subject to all those procedures. Risk of contracting an illness or infection from spending time in the hospital. Side effects of having my body subject to numerous chemicals and drugs. But I was dying. And now I’m alive. I survived the risks thus far and cannot allow myself to fear any others.

Yes, I’m radical about natural living. But I wasn’t ready to die, so compromises were made. Lifesaving emergency procedures were taken and then I awoke and spent observation and acute recovery time in the hospital. The situation demanded that I be subject to particular protocols. Would I have chosen therapeutic doses of usnea and garlic, vitamins D and C, rather than the pharmaceutical antibiotic insisted upon to “ward off” potential infection after the procedure? You bet your bottom dollar. But that wasn’t a protocol fight I could fight at that time. (I immediately began dosing myself upon returning home.) Acceptable compromise. At least no one tried to give me a vaccination. That would have been a fight I would refuse to lose.

Sure, now I need to add an intense couple weeks of GAPS Intro into my recovery scheme, to combat the pathogenic overgrowth I’m already feeling. But I know the drill. The anesthesia drugs that were given to me to put me out for the two to three hour desperate, multiple pass D&C procedure? I’m not going to regret that; I’m glad to some degree that I wasn’t awake and aware (though I do feel the need to understand everything that happened to me while I was “out”). I’ll happily add some extra liver detox boosts and juicing during my GAPS Intro recovery boot camp. I need to consider it a small price to pay for defying death. I will take time now to heal, to detox my body, to re-establish flora and gut health, to use nutrients and anti-infectious herbs to support my immunity. I would prefer to see the emergency medical system rely less on pharmaceuticals and more on healing botanical medicines for certain aspects of treatment, but that is not their way. With the good (but not without its risks) lifesaving technology comes some bad… But I’m here to talk about it, and that’s what matters to me today. The appropriate use of medical skill and technology can save lives.

I will continue my studies and training to become a knowledgeable, skilled, professional midwife, acquiring the techniques and instincts to assist and empower women to birth their babies naturally at home, and to attend to any complications and traumas that I can. But I have a renewed understanding about the importance of carefully screening homebirth candidates and providing intimate continuity of care during the prenatal year (watching diligently for anemia, malnutrition, and other underlying health complications). I understand in a very personal way that some women might suffer complications that cannot be treated without medical intervention.

In future, when I encounter a genuinely high-risk client or acute life-threatening trauma that only specialized technology can treat, I will be thankful to have a working relationship with a respectful and skilled (and hopefully holistically minded) OB. Words cannot express how saddened I am to think that I may never become pregnant again.  Of course, this is not something that I or anyone can know with certainty.  The unusually aggressive D&C procedure likely scarred the interior of my uterus, which can make it extremely difficult for the embryo to implant.  This is the devastating reality of my survival.

Life has a way of educating us, and I pray that my experiences will become valuable to others; my pattern of hyperemesis (extreme nausea and vomiting) during pregnancy no doubt lead to anemia, increasing risk of hemorrhage. I experienced this with my third birth, but we were able to control the hemorrhage at home and all was well after my recovery. My miscarriage this September left me weak, likely anemic, and the hyperemesis of this (quite unexpected) pregnancy undoubtedly contributed to further anemia, spurring the hemorrhage, which seemed out of my control. Might I have stopped the hemorrhage with aggressive use of herbs and manual compression? Possibly, if I had been in a state of mind and body to tend to my own care. But that didn't happen, and without the blood transfusion, I would have died. 

Can I safely become pregnant again? Possibly.  Will my uterus be able to accept and support another baby?  I don't know...  Will this traumatic event throw my hormones into havoc and possibly bring on early menopause?  Quite possible, even probably.  But I still hope to have another child.  If my body can get past the hurdles and conceive again, the greatest risk is of another miscarriage while anemic.  As opposed to a full term pregnancy, the body's blood volume is not great enough in the midst of a pregnancy to compensate for traumatic blood loss during a second term miscarriage.  The uterus is fuller and the placenta does not birth directly after the baby; the process is much more drawn out, which means significant and constant bleeding from the uterus.  The uterus cannot clamp down/contract closed while products of pregnancy are yet retained.  The extreme bleeding, coupled with anemia, set the scenario for deadly hemorrhage.

I don’t know if I can heal the underlying malfunctions causing my pregnancy difficulties. I am hopeful but not prognosticating.  I am praying for wisdom and healing.  But I am so thankful that I have three live children, my miracles, whom I love beyond telling.

Now, I recover. It’s strange, but I’m feeling like I’ll never be normal again. I’m sure that will pass in time. I can’t quite put it into words, though, but I feel like I’m not all here...that some part of me didn’t come back with the rest of me. I have no doubt that the emotional and physical losses will take time to heal. I just feel...different. I don’t think I ever before fully comprehended how fragile life can be. Things look and feel different to me now. Perhaps I have a new lease on life, as they say...a renewed sense of purpose. It is time for me to seriously assess how I should live the remainder of this life. In the last six months, I turned 40, lost two babies to miscarriage, and almost died. Needless to say, I’m entering an intense life re-evaluation mode. I believe that means more undistracted time with my children and husband, and a simplification of my pursuits. I don’t know when I might write again, but I thank you all for your support and I pray that God blesses you!

ACOG Continues to Wage War Against Birth Freedoms

My ire was kindled this week by information shared in a news email I received from the Citizens for Midwifery:

ACOG Rejects the Ethic That Autonomy Is a Fundamental Human Right

The newsletter describes yet another attack by the ACOG (American College of Gynecology) on homebirth and patient-centered pregnancy care in the United States.  An October 2012 article in the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology outlines the faulty ACOG position.  The article actually coaches OBs on how to counteract the "resurgence" of homebirths, and on how to deal with mothers who express a desire to birth at home.

CFM summarizes the issue well:
The attack is based on poor research and runs roughshod over established rights to bodily integrity. 
This article was “Presented at European Congress of Perinatal Medicine, Paris, France, June 13, 2012.”  So not only does the article attack home birth, it also represents an attempt to “export” to the rest of the world a position that the obstetric profession, not mothers, should have the final decision on birth, at a time when that isn’t even legally defensible here in the United States.   
The primary author, a Fellow of ACOG, faculty member at Cornell University Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, should be aware of American jurisprudence supporting patient autonomy and right to informed consent.  We can also assume that he is aware that systems of midwife attended homebirth are well established and integrated into the health delivery systems of many European countries.  And yet, it is the decision of the 2010 European Court of Human Rights case that seems to have prompted this "critical evaluation."  This was a case where obstetrician, Agnes Gereb, was imprisoned for attending home births in Hungary.  Her story is told in the movie “Freedom for Birth,” produced by One World Birth.
The authors’ conclusions are the height of hubris: “We urge obstetricians, other concerned physicians, midwives and other obstetric providers, and their professional associations to eschew rights-based reductionism in the ethics of planned home birth and replace rights-based reductionism with an ethics based on professional responsibility.”  In other words, reject the ethic that autonomy is a fundamental human right.  
Fiduciary responsibility is, by definition, putting the needs of the patient first.  If fiduciary responsibility was the same as professional responsibility, this would not be an either/or proposition.  The author defines professional responsibility as a model of decision making where “the patient has the right to select from medically reasonable alternatives.”  Who gets to decide what is reasonable?  Why, the obstetrician, of course.  And if the patient opts for an alternative the obstetrician has not deemed reasonable, then the obstetrician is justified in placing the “rights of the fetus” ahead of the rights of the first patient (the mother), although what is actually being asserted is the obstetrician’s own agenda over the rights of his/her patient. 
Buried in this article, and lost in the conclusion, is one very true statement: “The first professional responsibility of obstetricians is to ensure that hospital delivery is safe, respectful, and compassionate.” The author goes on to describe what that needs to look like, and in an easily overlooked fashion concedes that hospitals aren’t always safe places either.  In fact, both infant and maternal mortality are on the rise in the United States, at a time when hospitals have a near monopoly on birth.  
This failing falls squarely at the feet of ACOG and the collective actions of its Fellows, which calls to mind this quote:
“ACOG no longer has the moral authority to set standards in maternity care…. It has made too many self-aggrandizing and self-protective recommendations (e.g. against home birth, videotaping birth, and VBAC) that limit the freedom of American women and families.” (M. Wagner, Born In The USA, 2006, University of California Press, p. 32)
Overlooking this reality completely, the author also overlooks the most reliable research on the safety of home birth, while noting that ACOG “accepts the findings of Wax et al,” a thoroughly discredited piece of published research that does not stand as prima fascia evidence against the safety of home birth.  Even Amy Tuteur (no friend to home birth) says this AJOG article is “poorly researched, relies on bad studies and is woefully paternalistic.” 
One contradiction stands out as the authors call for “safe, respectful, and compassionate” hospital delivery.  No hospital birth can be truly respectful if the birth is happening in the hospital because the physician disrespects the woman’s right to an alternative and has rigged the system to eliminate access to all legal alternatives.

This is quintessential ACOG behavior, displayed regularly in the war on Real Birth.  The ACOG's desire to eradicate homebirth is not only fear-based, bad "medicine," it is an assault on our fundamental human rights to make our own life and health decisions.  Pregnancy is not an ailment and birth is not an emergency medical condition.  Anything less than autonomy in this realm (just as in the ream of food choices) is nanny state tyranny.  We are not wards of the government or the food and medical industries.  

We are free, thinking beings; our health and well-being choices belong to us alone. Contrary to ACOG propaganda, homebirths are not the bogey man OBs would have you believe.  Hospital births routinely end undesirably to some degree for mother and/or baby; such is the cost of unnatural, profit- and policy-driven interventions.  The majority of homebirths are beautiful, natural, empowering, spiritually enriching, safe experiences.  (Can we say the same for the industrial birth system?)  Whether at home or in hospital, even in the most blessed of circumstances, unhappy twists can occur.  Such is reality.  But the rare instance of undesirable outcomes certainly does not justify the vilification and outlawing of mankind's successful historical, traditional birthplace: the home.  If that is to be the case, the same measuring stick must be applied to the birth industry itself and hospital births must come under fire.

The fact is that we do not need (nor should we desire) to be protected from ourselves, especially not by the medical industry.  Doctors, of any persuasion, are to be our consultants IF we desire their input...they are not our dictators.  It is neither logical, nor reasonable, to allow the exception (women who suffer pregnancy complications) to define the rule (normal birth).  

Yet, the non-evidentiary technocratic model of birth rules the day.  And the "little gods" in white coats are not content to wield their power over the women who volunteer for their regime.  These practitioners of overplayed intervention seek to exert political power over us all, working to ban the practice of traditional midwifery and homebirth.  Just like Monsanto, the power-hungry conventional birth industry OBs are not content with their market share...they desire to annihilate the competition.

We can fight to stem this tide.  Check out the Citizens for Midwifery website to learn more and see what you can do to help.

Laboring Under Delusions: How Fear Facilitates Our Broken Birth Culture

I am glowing this week, as I just discovered I am pregnant with whom we hope will be child number four. I have a history of infertility and miscarriages, along with debilitating nausea and vomiting that lasts the entire gestation, so each pregnancy is met with prayerful anticipation. My births, however, have been wonderful, natural, empowering events...that necessitated commitment, preparation and hard work on my part. And I can promise you, Ladies, home waterbirths are every bit as wonderful as you’ve heard. I’ve had a land birth and I’ve had waterbirths...and you couldn’t pay me to give birth out of the water. They don’t call it the “aqua”dural for nothing! (Check out the myriad advantages of waterbirths for Mom and baby at the Waterbirth International website.)

So, on the heels of my positive pregnancy test, I wanted to resurrect and consolidate some essays I’ve penned previously on my passionate concern for our broken birth culture. I’d like to take some time to share my heartfelt conviction regarding the damage being perpetrated upon women and their babies as a result of our technocratic, fear-based, factory birth system.

We’ve all seen the quintessential cinematic or television portrayal of birth: Surrounded by monitors and equipment in a brightly lit room, a screaming woman lies in a hospital bed, begging for drugs. The room bustles with nurses and an OB or two, the scene is rife with panic. Someone yells, “PUSH!” or “I see a head!” in a voice edged with terror that should be reserved only for a devastating catastrophe like an impending Tsunami wave about to engulf an entire village. What drama! What trauma! What rubbish! But this is the typical version of birth we serve to society. The message is that birth is damaging, dangerous and an event to be feared.

The fear of birth is the beginning of intervention disaster. Our culture (the industrialized world, primarily the United States) teaches women to fear birth. Fear is paralyzing...it is powerful...it is profitable. Fearful parents are more easily led down the lockstep of “standard procedure” interventions. A fearful woman in pain has trouble making wise decisions. So much of birth is a mental exercise. Just like an athlete, you must “get your head in the game.” Attitude has a significant impact on outcomes. An attitude of fear debilitates. An attitude of peace, understanding, acceptance and a sound mind empowers. Fear-based decisions are faulty decisions. When you fear or fight the pain of birth, the laborious activity of birth, you impair your body’s natural ability to work with the baby and the process to achieve a positive outcome. Women who do not fear birth, who have not been indoctrinated to do so, who do not fight or interfere with the process, have much higher likelihoods of positive, natural results. What you believe about your body and your ability to birth has a tremendous impact on your birth outcome. Attitude is one of the most crucial elements to a successful birth.

Our modern birth system is a technocratic system. A technocracy is a society controlled by an elite of technical experts. Much of our society, including the entire medical industry, is technocratic. In the pregnancy/birth realm, the technocratic model defines the female body as broken...a compilation of defective parts that creates a dysfunctional reproductive process necessitating medical and technological intervention. This could not be further from the truth! Our bodies were designed for birth. The female body is not inferior and every human body is a wonderful, incredible organism of holistically integrated members.

“Anybody in obstetrics who shows a human interest in patients is not respected. What is respected is interest in machines.”
— Rick Walters MD, February 1986
We exist within a broken birth culture. We are told we cannot birth on our own. We are told that pregnancy is an illness and birth is dangerous. We are told that we are broken and we believe the lie. We are told that we need to be saved from ourselves when neither evidence nor experience supports that claim. Even women who desire and pursue “natural birth” often operate with ingrained presuppositions fed to us by the industry. The majority of women (and men, too) labor under a (sometimes subconscious) fear of the process, “giving ear to the voices of doctors, tests and technology that assert birth is dangerous and needs highly skilled assistance ‘just in case something goes wrong.’" (quote from Anne Frye, CPM, prominent midwifery educator)  That fear is unnatural...it is something in which our society has been indoctrinated over many decades. The assertion that hospital births are the safe option and that homebirths are risky is simply fallacious. An honest assessment of the evidence-based data refutes that claim. We must stop the hypermedicalization of birth (to borrow a phrase from the great birth liberator Ina May Gaskin).  There is no such thing as a safe drug, nor a risk-free surgery.  Both carry side effects and complications that corrupt our bodies.

“I’ve always had a special place in my heart for those women who choose home birth. The reason for this is that these women trust themselves more than doctors and hospitals.”
— Christiane Northrup MD, Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom
If you are one of the five percent of women who has a legitimate physiological/anatomical difficulty/malfunction that precludes you from normal birth, that necessitates medicalized birth, you have my genuine sympathies and my respect for battling your impediment and bringing your baby into the world. You are the minority...the rare exception...for whom the protocol of emergency/technological birth measures are prescribed. But for the industry to apply that paradigm to the rest of us...to seek the medicalization and enforced technological protocol for all normal birth...is criminal. Normal birth is NOT a medical event.

OBs who desire to normalize “abdominal” birth have completely lost touch with the reality of the human form and its natural function. There is no such thing as abdominal birth (aka cesarean section) without the risk-bearing tools of the factory birth system. A c-section is not a birth process at all...its “intent” is to be an emergency, last ditch effort. To elevate the c-section to a place of normalization along with natural vaginal birth borders on insanity. A c-section is an invasive surgery, not a birth. A woman is restrained to a table, she (and consequently her baby) is drugged, and her abdomen is sliced open, her internal tissues, musculature and an organ cut into, and her baby forcefully removed. As a genuine lifesaving, RARE procedure, we can accept such a violation. But let us never accept or promote it as an elective, normal birth option. Christiane Northrup, in her book, Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom, describes OBs that believe the c-section model to be the preferred baby delivery system. These doctors, at best, are deluded. According to their paradigm, it’s nothing short of miraculous that the human race made it to the 20th century.

“We do not see childbirth in many obstetric units now. What we see resembles childbirth as much as artificial insemination resembles sexual intercourse.”
— Ronald Laing, Psychiatrist
The industry seems blind to the fact that women have been populating the earth into the billions for millennia before the medicalization of birth. To claim that birth can only be safe and successful as a result of our modern, technocratic system is both arrogant and ignorant. The United States boasts the most technological birth system in the world, yet suffers one of the worst infant and maternal mortality rates in the developed world.  In California alone, the maternal death rate tripled between 1996 and 2006.  Nationally, cesarean sections are a significant factor in maternal death.  And rather than doing some serious self-reflection, the ACOG spends its time and resources vilifying homebirth. Even the CNM paradigm has shifted through the years to become aligned with the ACOG version of reality. So many CNMs now are just mini-OBs. Some know very little about botanical and nutritional therapies and do not advocate the complete pursuit of the instinctive, unfettered birth process.  I recently heard a student CNM rail against homebirths, saying she would never support a woman’s desire to birth outside the hospital system. “Babies die at home!” she said. Well, it is rare, yet sadly, it can happen. I grant you, life can be harsh. We despair to see a baby die in any environment. Bad things can happen, sometimes out of our control. But let us not be ignorant of the facts. Babies die in hospital births. Moms die in hospital births. Why does mainstream media neglect to seriously report the plight of maternal deaths as a result of the hospital birth system?

Hospital L&D protocols and procedures create a cascade of interventions that routinely results in harm (from mild to severe) to mothers and babies. The typical crisis outcome is the c-section, which accounts for 33% of births nationally (some states are at 40% and some hospitals are at 50%).  Too often, the hospital instigates the cascade of events and policies (epidurals, pitocin, fetal monitoring, mom in bed, etc.) that leads to birth complications, ends in a risky surgical delivery, and later the OBs thump their chests, claiming to have "saved" you and your baby. Well, it's partly true...they did save you...they saved you from the harm they caused you, significantly adding complications to you and your baby's birth and postpartum recovery. Yet the birth industry "experts" profess that they are providing the best, safest care...that they are protecting you. From what is the ACOG so desirous to protect women and babies? Peaceful, empowering, health-promoting, drug-free vaginal births? The fear-based, “broken body” paradigm causes industry practitioners and protocol makers to see every pregnancy as an illness and every birth as a disaster waiting to happen. They foolishly apply a (profitable) “one-size-fits-all” approach and work to convince all of us that it is sound practice. The industry needs to take a step back and begin to accept and practice what I believe is an essential, needful mantra: “Just because you CAN doesn’t mean you SHOULD!”

The birth industry applies the emergency procedure approach necessary for only five percent of women to all pregnant women. They treat all infants at birth like the endangered babies of drug-using, disease-riddled mothers. These presuppositions determine hospital birth policy. When was the last time you knew a pregnant mom who had gonorrhea? Not common. Yet the industry has made it standard treatment to fill ALL newborn’s eyes with chemical gunk to "protect" from that disease. How many moms do you know who are prostitutes or IV drug addicts?  Not too many?  Yet industry policy is to vaccinate ALL newborns for Hepatitis B.  The industry’s policies are not evidence-based necessities. The ACOG-driven policy of punishing midwives...of vilifying, outlawing and delegitimizing homebirth...does not stand on evidence-based science; it can only be compelled by profit and/or a desire for control and conformity. The ACOG stands ready with PR pitbulls and regulatory buddies to attack the moment they perceive (or design stories of) anything going awry in the homebirth realm. But where is that fire in the belly for publicizing and prosecuting those responsible in the hospital system when babies and mothers are harmed...even killed...by their interventions and procedures?!

“Birth matters. It matters because it is the way we all begin our lives outside of our source, our mothers’ bodies. It’s the means through which we enter and feel our first impression of the wider world. For each mother, it is an event that shakes and shapes her to her innermost core. Women’s perceptions about their bodies and their babies’ capabilities will be deeply influenced by the care they receive around the time of birth.”
— Ina May Gaskin, CPM, Birth Matters
The birth industry operates with a factory widget approach. Because of this flawed technocratic paradigm, the OB system sorely lacks good prenatal care. Good prenatal care involves a genuine relationship (including quality and quantity time spent) between the pregnant mother and her chosen support practitioner...it is more than tests and technological monitoring. It is not common for OBs...or even many CNMs, sadly...to educate women about how to be truly healthy during their pregnancy and to prepare for their best possible birth outcome (nutrition, exercise, herbs, lifestyle, etc). Birth industry practitioners don't tell women about the wonderful red raspberry leaf that strengthens, tones, then repairs the uterus, and helps to alleviate postpartum depression. They don't teach women about how to avoid posterior baby positioning that leads to labor complications (even c-sections), and what you can do to rotate a posterior baby before/during birth. They don't teach women about the optimum exercises and practices for birth preparation, nor do they encourage women to move into and explore the best birthing positions during labor/birth. In general, typical OB care includes vast unnecessary (and problematic) technological interventions, viewing all women the same, giving them all the standard protocol...it is the factory approach to childbearing, and it doesn't work. This birth culture disempowers women, keeps them disconnected from their bodies, babies and the birth process...it keeps women steeped in fear and self-doubt...and it perpetuates the lies to the next generations.

“The gap between actual obstetric practices in the Unites States and what scientific evidence indicates obstetric practices should be continues and will be slow to change until there is sufficient pressure—from women, scientists, politicians, and the media—to force more evidence-based practices.”
— Marsden Wagner MD, Born in the USA

Any perspective, finding or practice outside the established accepted industry norm is routinely vilified, slandered, mocked, or suppressed. If you don't walk to their beat, you're out of line. The minute someone questions "conventional wisdom" and it gets big enough to make ripples, the hounds are released. It's so typical and common that it's humorous. Someone comes close to rocking the boat and the PR dogs bark out their mantra..."that cannot be proven," "that is unsafe," "that is not approved." And when the establishment gets caught with dirty hands, caught in deceptions, caught altering results, caught with egg on their faces, the response is first silence, then more mud-slinging at those who are outside the box...the hounds just shout their mantras louder: "Unproven, dangerous, unproven, dangerous! We are the only truth, we are your only hope." As if saying it will guarantee their continued stranglehold on society. 

In 2007/8, there sprang forth a handful of exposes on the birth industry, including Ricki Lake's documentary The Business of Being Born, Jennifer Block's book Pushed and Marsden Wagner's book Born in the U.S.A.  Their message was neither new nor revolutionary (the flawed technocratic, medicalized, for-profit American birth model is rife with problems), but perhaps it was the frequency or consolidation of the voices that created ripples in the sea of public consciousness. As a result, growing numbers of women began to question the "party line" and sought alternatives. My friend, a licenced midwife in California, told me that she had never busier. As the seedlings of this rogue enlightenment nudged their way to the light of day, the threatened status quo responded in typical form to squash any growing opposition. The ACOG came out with its bald-faced lie...um, I mean statement...that homebirths are dangerous. This was followed by a bout of propaganda in which news outlets ran stories about the horrors of out-of-hospital births. My then-pregnant, homebirthing friend told me, with infuriated passion, "It makes me so angry that I want to go outside, squat in my front yard and just push this baby out!" My sentiments exactly! 

After a significant study was published in 2009 that showed planned homebirths with professional midwives were "just as safe as hospital births," the ACOG released more negative press, decrying homebirth. This kind of defensive fear-mongering flies in the face of the historical facts regarding the safety and desirability of the age-old natural birthplace...the home. As the interest in homebirth and empowered choice has grown, so has the establishment's mud-slinging. The message is clear...you cannot birth without us. The birth industry chants this disinformation as loudly as it can, using various mediums to do so (including popular television series, corporate media "news reporting," advertising, control of the medical journals, etc.).

“Women were...telling me they’d felt tremendous pressure from their medical providers to go against instinct and research—to induce labor, to schedule a cesarean, to lie back during labor when every cell in their body felt like moving. Women are supposed to push their babies out; instead, they felt they were being pushed around.”
— Jennifer Block, Pushed
One of the most irksome segments for me in The Business of Being Born was the OB interviewee who likened homebirth to driving without wearing a seatbelt. Not quite! Driving without a seatbelt in the birth realm is a couple who refuses to become informed consumers. It is a mama-to-be who doesn’t take advantage of the essential therapeutic modalities (like botanical medicine, chiropractic care, acupuncture, exercise and nourishing diet) that create a healthy baby and positive birth outcome. I’m turning the tables on the OB’s statement. Homebirth is akin to driving without a seatbelt? Nonsense.  Let's use an analogy to describe the risks women take when they enter the hospital birth industry. That scenario is akin to a woman being tranquilized, strapped into a straight jacket, shoved into a giant hamster ball and pushed toward a cliff.

The system says, “You can’t do it.” The system says, “Our way is the only way. Our drugs are safe...this procedure is necessary...you have no alternatives...those other options are dangerous, unproven, ineffective, blah, blah, blah. Trust us. Believe us. Obey us.” We listen to the voices and we make ourselves victims.  Why do we listen to the lies?  Truly, there is no substitute for the care of a well-trained, knowledgeable midwife (literally "with woman").  The birth industry cannot offer you anything that comes close.  The birth industry's drugs carry significant risks to mother and baby. Epidurals are anesthetics derived from the Caine family of drugs, such as bupivicaine (a relative of cocaine), and are often combined with opioids and narcotics.  These drugs are certainly not benign; neither is pitocin (which is not even approved for elective inductions). The birth industry's standard protocols (such as constant electronic fetal monitoring
) do not facilitate the birth process, have not been proven to improve outcomes, and often lead to unnecessary and undesirable complications. Babies are negatively impacted by drugs and procedures used during hospital births...a possibility that is avoided with homebirth.  The placenta is not an impenetrable fortress through which no toxins pass.  Women understand this instinctively and work during pregnancy to protect their babies from drugs and toxins.  So why would we expose our babies to a dose of extraordinarily potent and toxic drugs during birth?

Fundamentally, it is a distrust of our bodies that makes us vulnerable to the factory system. Why do we listen? Our bodies DO work...it is a rare event that they need medical help.  We need to understand that good midwives can alleviate many undesirable acute situations that could emerge during birth at home (such as shoulder dystocia or neonatal resuscitation).  Midwives also know to recognize the signs of impending complications (both prenatally and during labor) and seek help if necessary.  But above all, midwives RESPECT and support a woman's choices in pursuing her best birth.  We need to redesign our paradigm.  We need NOT be led by fear and expect undesirable outcomes.  Expect success, work for it, and you will be amazed at the results.

As a society, we choose how young women view birth...either with fear, or with awe and confidence. The tragic irony is that for all our modern female liberation and empowerment, American women allow themselves to fall prey to the patriarchal technocratic baby delivery system that is founded on the erroneous belief that our bodies are flawed and broken and that we need to be saved from ourselves. We allow ourselves to be abused by a misuse of technology. As a culture, how far will we stray from the natural processes of life? How long will we continue to disempower women in this most natural feminine realm? Why are we allowing them to destroy our right to choose how to birth our babies? How many of you know a woman (perhaps yourself) who regrets her industrial birth outcome? How many of you know someone, mama or baby, altered or harmed by the standard procedures? Ladies, if you want to be empowered, start by taking back birth! Our daughters need not be victims of this system. We have the power to change the factory birth model and our cultural attitude...one birth at a time.

For citations, statistics and information:

The Technocratic Model of Birth

Differences Between Technocratic and Holistic Models of Care
Birth "attacks" against women
BMJ Study:  Outcomes of Planned Homebirths with CPMs
Canadian Study: Planned Homebirths Safe
The Rituals of American Hospital Birth
Midwifery Today Responds to ACOG Homebirth "Study"
Technology in Birth: First Do No Harm
The Truth About Epidurals
Risks of Epidurals
Epidural Epidemic
The Truth About Pitocin
Cesarean Rates and Information
Benefits of Waterbirth
Medication During Pregnancy Causes Fetal Damage
US Infant Mortality Rates
Deadly Delivery: Amnesty International Report
The Safe Motherhood Project
Maternal Death Rates Linked to C-Sections
Risks of High-Tech Births
Wombecology by Michael Odent
Ina May Gaskin
Midwifery Today

Pushed: The Painful Truth About Childbirth and Modern Maternity Care by Jennifer Block

Born in the USA: How a Broken Maternity System Must Be Fixed to Put Women and Children First by Marsden Wagner
Birth as an American Rite of Passage: Second Edition by Robbie Davis Floyd
Birth Models That Work by Robbie Davis Floyd
Obstetric Myths Versus Research Realities: A Guide to the Medical Literature by Henci Goer
The Thinking Woman's Guide to a Better Birth by Henci Goer
Ina May's Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin
Birth Matters: A Midwife's Manifesta by Ina May Gaskin
Birth without Violence by Frederick LeBoyer
Childbirth without Fear by Grantly Dick Read
Gentle Birth Choices by Barbara Harper
Birthing Normally by Gayle Peterson
Expecting Trouble: What Expectant Parents Should Know About Prenatal Care in America by Thomas Strong

Celebrating Crunchy Mamas and the Dads Who Love Them...

This radically natural mama wanted to give a round of applause to MamaNatural and her funny bone tickling series of videos highlighting those oh-so-comically wise things we crunchy mamas say (and do).  How many times have I said so many of these things?!  My kids were thoroughly entertained, blurting out, "that sounds like you, mom!" more than once.  Their favorite clip was (spoiler alert) what they now just call, "Run!  It's the FDA!"  The final video in the series (thus far) is a little bravo for the crunchy dads who support (and even echo) us.  My hubby enjoyed identifying with some of the all-too-familiar banter.  Hooray for the crunchy natural parents everywhere!

Radically Natural POV: Yes, Breast Always IS Best

I am a huge fan of the work of Weston Price and the WAPF; I fully support traditional diets and applaud the work the foundation does to education people about health and true nutrition...I'm a WAPF member.  But I acknowledge that the WAPF is not perfect.  Gasp!  Shocking?  Of course not...no one is perfect, not even me.

Recently, as I was reading through some post comments on one of my favorite blogs, I was reminded of some less-than-desirable breastfeeding advice shared by the WAPF.  Instead of being privately frustrated, I wanted to take a few moments to briefly address what I consider to be errors in WAPF's perspective.  But I also acknowledge that I could be misconstruing the foundation's advice, so forgive me if you feel I have improperly interpreted the information.

First, I want to say that I agree with the basic presupposition that WAPF shares in its breastfeeding information:  that it is crucial to properly nourish the mother in order to nourish the baby.  I also understand that in atypical cases, a woman is physiologically or anatomically unable to produce adequate breastmilk (I have a friend who struggles with natural milk production), but we need to understand that such a condition is rare.  If you are such a woman, feel free to skip the rest of this post, as I have no desire to cause contention or disconcertion to you.  I am addressing the "norm" here.

OK.  Now to address the problems I see when reading the breastfeeding info presented in WAPF writings.  One particular article seems to advocate early weaning, formula feeding, early introduction to solids, seems to downplay the superiority of breastmilk, and spreads seeds of doubt about the incomparable benefits of breastfeeding.  Whether those opinions are completely intentioned, they can be inferred from the writing.  We should never degrade breastfeeding just because some women have difficulty with it, and we should not gloss over the superb and essential benefits of breastfeeding because many women in the world (including the Unites States) are malnourished.

I'm sure we can all agree that feeding mama nutrient dense foods is the key to making good breastmilk.  And I know that WAPF is not in favor of commercial formula, but rather provides recipes for a more nourishing Real Food formula.  However, formula, even made from liver and grass-fed raw milk, can never equal breastmilk.  Not only is breast best, it is the perfectly designed food for humans.

Just as cow's milk is the perfect food for baby cows and zebra milk is the perfect food for baby zebras, mother's breastmilk is the perfect food for baby humans.  A baby's nutritional needs can be met by breastmilk alone for the first year of life.  Early weaning and/or early introduction to solids can create a host of problems for baby's immature digestive system, primarily gastro-intestinal upsets and subsequent allergies/sensitivities.  It is important to better promote long-term, nutritious nursing and to educate women about how to nourish their bodies.  A few weeks (even a few months) of nursing is hardly adequate to build a strong, healthy baby with vibrant immunity and robust digestion.  The worldwide "natural age" for weaning is somewhere around 3 years, yet our culture seems aghast when mamas (like myself) nurse for two years or longer (my current toddler is 30 months and has no interest in weaning).

While colostrum truly is liquid gold, extremely high in active antibodies and full of super nutrients, immunity strengthening antibodies (like IgA molecules) are passed on for well beyond the first months of breastfeeding.  [Antibodies seem to be most potent in the first six months, but they do not become nonexistent with time, they just diminish.]  These antibodies are unique to humans and unique to you for your baby.  Your breastmilk will carry some amount of antibodies as long as your body makes breastmilk...antibodies to illnesses you suffer.  I have often noted how my nursing baby/toddler is least afflicted when our family comes down with a cold/flu.

Baby's flora population depends much on breastfeeding; passing good flora to your baby is a boon to her health.  In addition to the probiotic bacteria found in breastmilk, the oligosaccharides in mama's milk feeds the beneficial bacteria in baby's gut, helping to establish good gut flora population.  The skin contact during nursing also passes your flora to baby (from nipple to mouth...flora lives on your skin, too, not just in your gut and mouth).  Be careful, however, of imbalanced pathogenic flora...consider doing GAPS to alleviate this condition before pregnancy.  

Baby's brain development relies heavily upon intake of omega fatty acids, and mother's milk contains the EPA and DHA perfectly suited to baby's needs.  The fatty acids unique to human breastmilk have an important impact on brain chemistry and on retinal and cortical development and function.

Extended breastfeeding provides more than physical health benefits to baby; the emotional bond of breastfeeding nourishes the heart and soul of both baby and mama.  Extended breastfed children tend to be more independent and confident.  Yes, at times all that nursing can be wearying, even inconvenient and painful, but it also provides joy, humor, and moments of relaxation.  In the end, this precious experience is such a short phase in our entire lives.  I wouldn't miss it for the world.

My desire would be to see WAPF partner with extended breastfeeding advocates and lactation groups to educate women on how to be nourished.  Don't give normally functioning women the comfort of thinking a formula short-cut is the same as (or better than) breastfeeding their babies.  The focus needs to be on feeding mom!  If the well-intentioned people at WAPF can teach women to make baby formula with coconut oil, liver, grass-fed raw milk, CLO, etc., they can certainly encourage women to eat those foods themselves, thus allowing mamas to provide nutrient-dense breastmilk for their babies.  Mom, if you have those foods around, put them in your body, not a baby bottle.

For more information and facts about the benefits of breastfeeding:

How Breastmilk Protects Newborns

Human Milk Is Optimal Food for Brain Development

Breastfeeding Effects on IQ

Breastfeeding and Later Cognitive and Academic Outcomes

Duration of Breastfeeding and Developmental Milestones... (scholarly abstract)

Benefits of Breastfeeding

101 Reasons to Breastfeed

Breastfeeding Past Infancy Fact Sheet

Role of Breastfeeding and Baby's Gut Health

Food Freedoms and Parental Rights Fall Prey to Tyranny and Greed

Yes, once again the little dictators are out of control...trampling our inalienable, fundamental, natural rights; running roughshod over our personal freedoms.  Read on for this week's "tyranny in review."

Pastured Pork Comes Under the Gun

As reported by the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund, "In a brazen power grab threatening the livelihood of hundreds of small farmers, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is using the state Invasive Species Act to expand its jurisdiction beyond hunting and fishing to farming operations. On April 1, 2012 an Invasive Species Order (ISO) that DNR issued in December 2010 prohibiting the possession of a number of different types breeds of swine will go into effect." (emphasis mine)

And from Hartke Online: "The Michigan Pork Producers Association is endorsing a radical move on the part of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR). The DNR has declared feral pigs an “invasive species.” Under its interpretation any domestic pig can be considered feral. The DNR is putting fine-dining chefs and the farmers who supply them on notice. Heritage breed pigs may soon be off the menu, and prohibited on pasture-based farms. Also affected will be the many Michigan families who choose to buy humanely raised meat for their family table." (emphasis mine)

This is nothing more than an attack on pasture-based clean food farmers.  Well, it is more...  This is also an attack on consumer choice--on your ability to purchase clean food from small, responsible, humane, healthy farms.  Once again, the dirty food industry (in this case, the pork industry) is vying for complete control of consumer choices and is using the government to accomplish its agenda.  The Michigan DNR does not even have jurisdiction over farming operations!  Naturally raised heritage-breed pigs are already a rarity in this country.  If Michigan has its way, those numbers will continue to decline.  Which other states will use this as precedent and follow suit?  First it's the natural, historical, free-range, pastured pigs.  What's next?  Jersey cows?!

Dominoes by whoaitsfrancesca
This may seem like a small issue to anyone not living in Michigan or anyone not eating pastured pork.  But little things breed big things.  It only takes one domino to topple the entire structure.  Those of us who have raised or are raising pastured, heritage breed pigs know exactly what is at risk.  Heritage breed pigs can be difficult to procure and quite expensive (certain breeding pairs, such as the Mangalitsas, can cost as high as $3,000).  Anyone who cares about Real Food freedom and consumer choice; anyone who understands the essential need to keep community, pasture-based farms in business; and anyone who desires to consume healthy lard should be very concerned about this potential threat.

Heritage breed, as defined by The American Livestock Breeds Conservatory, "typically means the traditional livestock breeds that were raised by our forefathers. These are the breeds of a bygone era, before industrial agriculture became a mainstream practice. These breeds were carefully selected and bred over time to develop traits that made them well-adapted to the local environment and they thrived under farming practices and cultural conditions that are very different from those found in modern agriculture."

Historical breeds have not been manipulated for the CAFO industry.  Heritage pigs retain their natural traits and instincts, are better mothers (unlike their unnatural CAFO-reared cousins who have a reputation for smothering to death their young), and are better adapted to living outside, foraging, and thriving on pasture.  For a pastured pig, diet includes anything growing on top of and under the ground.  Pigs are amazing plow-snouted, digging "machines" and will unearth and devour all types of roots.  As Joel Salatin points out, the natural pig is a fantastic friend to the farmer or anyone who needs to have ground turned over (even stumps removed).  This exercise, exposure to sunshine and fresh air, and vegetative diet produces healthy pork and lard, the king of fats.

Elvis, a Tamworth from Bone Dry Ridge Farm, WA
Last year, my husband decided to raise two heritage-breed Tamworth pigs on our little "homestead."  I can assure you they are neither feral nor dangerous, but they are far removed from modern industrial confinement pigs.  Tamworths, nicknamed the Irish Grazer for their propensity to thrive so well on free-range pastures, make great bacon.  Our pigs lived happily outside on pasture, rooting to their hearts' content, and were fed only organic, raw veggie and fruit scraps, and select organic (mostly sprouted) grains (no soy or corn).  The Tamworths provided our first exposure to rearing, butchering and eating our own clean pork.  It was even the first time in my life that I had prepared pork...and it has been delicious!  I rarely ate pork through the years because of my concern about the health and safety of commercial pork products; anytime I ate industrial pork through the years, I suffered terrible GI distress.  I have found the reverse to be true while consuming our pastured pork...I feel wonderfully satiated and suffer no adverse affects from eating our pigs.  Industrial pork is an unhealthy food riddled with problems of toxicity.  Pastured pork, however, fed its proper raw diet and raised outside in sunshine with earth to turn, plants to eat, and room to roam, is a fantastic food.

The best part of raising our own pigs was the opportunity to render the lard.  Pastured lard is the second richest source of vitamin D.  Clean, organic, pastured

Michigan farmer Mark Baker of Baker's Green Acres farm, who raises a rare breed of pig that he sells to fine chefs and artisan charcuterie producers, has filed a lawsuit to stop the implementation of the onerous and illegitimate ISO.  Baker's Mangalitsa hogs (yes, those $3,000 pigs), considered by many to be the consummate gourmet pork, would come under threat...as would any heritage breed pigs on any farm.  As Baker notes in his complaint, "close examination of the wording of the ISO reveals that it outlaws the entire pig species, then makes an exception for pigs involved in ‘domestic hog production."

As a result of this unjustifiable, despotic move, Michigan pasture-based clean food pig farmers could lose their entire herds.  Confused and upset farmers demanded a meeting with DNR.  The farmers, some of whom had driven more than six hours to get to the meeting, were met by armed men, one wearing a Kevlar jacket, that were sent to "monitor the proceedings."  The farmers were given a six-minute presentation, after which the DNR refused to take questions.  Wow!  Totalitarian tactics and armed men?  What kind of threat did they expect to encounter?!  What's the message here?  "Comply or be silenced?"

Is this for real?  Sadly, it's not the stuff of Orwellian story telling...it is happening right now, right in our "land of the free."  Please read the truth for yourself and please contact Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, demanding (er, I mean, encouraging) that he repeal the ridiculous and fraudulent DNR ISO that will take effect April 1.  Also, please consider joining the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund and even supporting farmer Mark Baker in his fight against the Michigan DNR.

Related links:
Newborn Kidnapped by Social Workers and Hospital Staff, Mom Tossed Out
As reported by NaturalNews, " Another shocking case of tyrannical, overzealous social workers and hospital staff has unfolded in Pennsylvania, where a mom who just gave birth in an ambulance to a healthy baby girl was threatened by a government social worker and accused of not allowing her child to receive "medical treatment." (A claim which is factually false.) In reality, the new mom, exhausting from giving birth in an ambulance, was merely asking questions and trying to determine how her newborn daughter was being treated by hospital staff."

After being bullied and threatened (and remember, the woman had just birthed her daughter) for noncompliance, Jodi Ferris was thrown out of the Hershey, PA hospital and her baby was vaccinated against her parents' wishes.  Of what crime were this baby's parents being accused?  What abuse had they perpetrated against their newborn daughter to warrant CPS and police intrusion and action?  This baby, minutes old, was seized and kept from her parents and violated by the medical establishment because her mother dared to question the system and refused consent for a vaccination.  Read it and weep!  That's a crime worthy of losing our children over now!  Absolute insanity.

Ferris is a homeschooling mother in a state known for its onerous interference and regulation.  She is a homebirthing mother (if only she had remained at home to birth her child, as originally planned...) in an age of the "one size fits all" medical system.  Independent thought and action has become an increasingly unpopular and threatening "subculture" in America.  As Ferris's story reveals, individuals pursuing an alternative path fall under the ire of the technocratic, profit-mad hospital "birth" machine.  My midwife sees clients who (for whatever reason) transport to the hospital come under fire and harassment, even threatened for noncompliance.  It is a mournful and not uncommon scenario.  These abuses of power by government workers and the unnecessary, unsafe interventions and personal violations by the medical establishment seem to be par for the course in America today.  We are a nation run by bullies, fueled by corporations and industries with limitless financial and political power.  They want absolute control and we are meant to obey.

What's the message here?  "Some woman planned to give birth to her baby without our technocratic interference? How dare she!  Some parent refuses our vaccinations...inconceivable!  We must make an example of them."  The medical elite is ready to punish you for ejecting yourself outside the system.  Personal freedom?  Not on their watch.  It's like a life-sized medical mafia version of "whack-a-mole" perpetrated against nonconformists who step outside the box.  The medical industry has set its agenda and determined what is acceptable for you and your children.  The message is clear:  Disobey at your own risk.  

I do not believe for one minute that the hospital's actions were spurred by malpractice concerns.  This is about control and conformity...the program may not be breached.  Myriad individuals regularly refuse coercive medical procedures and their desires and rights are being disregarded and encroached upon.  Would it make a difference if every nonconformist who ends up pitted against a doctor, nurse or hospital worker played a stronger hand?  "I'm the consumer...I write the checks.  You are the service provider, you work for me!  This is my body (or my baby/child) and I do not consent to your intrusions, drugs and/or procedures.  Anything short of compliance to my wishes is an assault and I will call the police and my lawyer."  That's the way it should work.  Does it?  Will it?  Could it?  One can only hope.....

Thankfully, lawyers from HSLDA (vigilant defenders of homeschooling and parental rights) are determined to fight this case on behalf of the Ferris family.  Let us all hope and pray that the case is won and sets new precedent protecting parental rights for us all.  Please consider contributing to HSLDA for this cause, as it is a donations-based organization whose lawyers do not charge client fees. 

Related links:
These disturbing stories strike a personal chord, as mine is a homesteading, heritage-animal raising, homeschooling, homebirthing family.  I hope you all are as outraged and concerned as I...together, we can resist and perhaps even turn the tide.

FDA Lunacy...Attacks on Real Food and Real Birth

This installment of Radically Natural Living is brought to you by the popularly overworn phrase, "Seriously?!  [Warning: the information contained within this post mingles with some sarcastic incredulousness.]

Today we are going to look at a couple examples of how our government regulatory agencies are crossing the line and continuing to erode our liberties not only as Americans, but as human beings.  For those of you who read Real Food blogs, the first item will not be news.  But I believe it important to broadly disseminate the truth about the Real Food culture war so that more Americans can be spurred to thought and action.

I have no intention of re-inventing the wheel here, so I will link to the articles that have already described the recent outrageous behaviour of our government agencies.  Please read and pass along....

"You're under arrest!"
If you were unaware, on August 3,  the FDA and CDC raided an organic raw milk buying club in southern California.  The owner was arrested, as was an organic farm owner and her employee (who also happens to be a WAPF chapter leader).  These people were charged as felons.  That's right, felons.  And the food was confiscated and/or destroyed.  OK, say it with me now...Seriously?!  

This is about food!  Real Food!  Raided...arrested...charged...confiscated...destroyed...!  Food and the people providing it!  Food made available to a public that wants to consume it!  That knowingly chooses to buy and consume it!  This is criminal activity in our country?!  Seriously?  You have got to be kidding!  This is the best use of our society's resources (time and taxpayer money)?  Arresting and prosecuting organic farmers and food sellers?  Wasting resources in a continued attempt to outlaw a simple, pure, natural food?!  How is this anything other than lunacy?

We have allowed our government, which was to be of the people, by the people, to grow into a beast that believes it has the right to control everything we do, including what we eat.  The simplest thing like choosing Real Food is now a battleground, complete with a criminal trial.  Among a long list of other offenses, the FDA and the CDC constantly bombard the public with manipulative messages that raw milk is dangerous...we must save you from yourselves...it could kill you!  (*We will look more closely at the basis of these claims in my next post.) These taxpayer-funded agencies (and others) have become dictators.  The FDA has actually said that Americans have no right to any particular food, nor the right to physical health!  Seriously?!  Don't take my word for it...read the brief for yourself.  The behaviour and policies of the FDA are egregiously offensive and fundamentally wrong.

Grass-fed organic raw milk
First of all, we do not need to be saved from ourselves...we have every right, endowed to us by our Creator and affirmed by natural law, to make our own decisions, especially regarding what food we eat.  We have become a culture so accustomed to being controlled by nanny government agencies that we have forgotten what liberty is.  And now that we are here, will we willingly remain?  Where is our American revolutionary spirit?  Our love for independence?  We need to go back and read our nation's founding documents.

Secondly, even if, through improper farming/milking practices, raw milk were to have a negative impact on a few individuals, that in no way comes close to the despicable damage, illness and death being caused by the industrial franken-foods and pharma drugs that are regularly pushed on American consumers.  Where are the raids on the processed food aisles of American grocery stores and their pharmacies?!  Why is the FDA not confiscating and destroying palettes of corn-syrup-ladened, adulterated, modified, fake food...the stuff that is causing millions of Americans to suffer with chronic illness and early death?!  Regulatory agencies certainly are not inhibiting people's freedom to stuff themselves full of soda, alcohol, twinkies, corn chips, cigarettes and psychotropics.  

If the free market were allowed to regulate itself and consumers continued to become educated about how Real Food needs to be produced (ie: don't drink raw milk from grain-fed, confined cows; and make sure you know your local farmer and insist he use sanitary milking conditions or he loses your business), we would have a plethora of safe Real Food available to all the people who desired it.  

Our government allows and encourages Americans to poison themselves regularly with "regulation-approved" foods (I use the term loosely) and drugs.  Why the blatant attempt to remove Real Food from our spectrum of choices?  Various theories have been postulated, the answer is undoubtedly multifaceted.  One factor I believe fundamental to the discussion is the potential loss of profit to the commercial dairy industry.  As more Americans become independently educated about Real Food and responsible farming practices, they will begin to expose the dirty dairy industry for what it is...and eschew its products.  The desire to keep consumers in the dark and protect their ability to irresponsibly, inhumanely and unhealthily produce food is the likeliest reason that industrial ag-friendly lawmakers have introduced bills to make it illegal to photograph farms.  

This is out of control.  The expenditure of taxpayer resources to attack Real Food and its producers/sellers...the absolute abuse of power...when there are actually real criminals at foot, perpetrating real crimes against humanity every day...it defies reason.  Where was the FDA when Vioxx was killing thousands of Americans?! 

My first birth tub (Target kiddie pool)
In another gestapo move, the FDA in late May raided an Oregon warehouse and confiscated inflatable birth pools...the kind that many of us have used to enjoy the numerous benefits of home waterbirth.  And it gets worse.  The FDA actually stated that pregnancy is an illness and that birth tubs are an illegal medical device.  Seriously?!  What's next?  Confiscating and destroying all the blow-up kiddie pools at Target?  Outlawing pregnancy altogether?  Oh, wait...that would damage the profitable medicalized birth industry.  Rather, let's just continue to erode freedom of birth choice and force-funnel all women into the technocratic factory birth system.  Make no mistake my friends, this is a war; this latest FDA lunacy is only one battle.

Second birth tub, a la waterbirth.org
[Ladies, pregnancy is NOT an illness...normal birth is NOT dangerous...you are not a broken machine requiring modern technology and regulation to save you and your baby from yourself.  The rare exceptions to normal pregnancy/birth are no reason to create an illegitimate birth climate that views this natural and beautiful process as something to be feared and medically managed.  No government agency, nor doctor has the right to tell you how to birth ... to restrict your freedom of choice in how you bring your children into this world.  Nor should we continue to allow the industry to perpetrate fraud upon women, convincing us that there is no other way but the industry's way.]

These agency actions against food and birth choices cut to the core of a civil and human liberties battle that should enrage us all.  Why, as a culture, have we chosen to acquiesce to such dictatorial treatment by governmental agencies?  These people work for us!  But this is the America in which we all now live.  And I ask again, why are we allowing this?  

Lest we believe that we need all these "protections" and that we must inherently trust these agents of control, we should remind ourselves that control is exerted more often through fear-mongering than through honest examination and revelation of fact.  (*More on this in my next post.)  

Some final food for thought (yes, yes...pun intended):  If the FDA is truly concerned for the welfare of Americans and desires to catch the bad guys, perhaps it should turn its gaze inward.

I will leave you with these cogitations for today...please, share and discuss amongst yourselves.

For further reading:
The Revolution Will Not Be Microwaved: Inside America's Underground Food Movements
Everything I Want To Do Is Illegal: War Stories From the Local Food Front
The Raw Milk Revolution: Behind America's Emerging Battle Over Food Rights
The Untold Story of Milk
Born in the USA: How a Broken Maternity System Must Be Fixed to Put Women and Children First
Pushed: The Painful Truth About Childbirth and Modern Maternity Care
Web links:
Real Food Media
Organic Pastures Raw Grass-fed Dairy
Eat Wild
Real Milk
Raw Milk Facts
Waterbirth Int'l

EWWHerbals                                                                              "Every wise woman builds her house..."  Proverbs 14:1

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