Fast & Furious: Catch #2

No, it’s not about cars.

It’s about a labor, and the magnificent mama overrun with the power of her uterus, on the edge of her ability to cope.

Contractions started with a bang. Her partner called soon after, asking whether they should come in.

We hemmed and hawed, concerned about the dwindling number of beds, asked to her wait a little while longer at home.

Not long after, partner calls back: Things are hot and heavy over here, she really wants to come in.

We manage to find a room, not the largest on the unit, but it will do.

They arrive, we check her, our fingers barely making it in before reaching a baby’s head.

Baby’s coming, just breathe, you can do this, you’re almost done, stay with us, mama, you’re so strong!

She glistens with sweat and power and the primal smell of birth. Uncontrollable, unstoppable, unbelievably strong. My breath catches in my throat with awe.

Hands poised, trembling, ready for the moment when inside meets outside.

My heart is racing, but then, hands steady as I breathe again and remember what I’m here to do.

Catch.

Baby’s here, beautiful, healthy baby’s here, up to mama, right where they belong.

From start to finish, two hours.

I can’t stop grinning all day long. Really. Really?! Really?!! I can’t believe I get to do this.

[Friday Wrap Up]: 27

Doula care in low-income communities, an awesome new children’s book on where babies come from, a pair of articles exploring infertility, a rocking birth story, thoughts from a 20-something who’s tired of being asked when she’ll start having kids, and a gorgeous photo essay of Muxas, or ‘third’ gender folks in Oaxaca. Another beautiful week of vacation reading that left me inspired, provoked, intrigued and more.

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The Amazing People Who are Changing How Low-Income Moms Give Birth

A great article exploring the rise of doulas in low-income communities and the ways in which doulas can improve birth outcomes in these communities.

You should really pair this with Miriam Perez’s great blog post earlier this spring about the future of the doula movement. I appreciate the hard questions she asks about the intersections of doula care, sustainability, finances, etc. The real question is…as we move more towards seeing Medicaid reimbursement for doula care, what does that mean for the way in which the doula role might shift?

What is the end goal of the doula movement? What are we working toward? Many doulas would likely say—and I would have been among them just a few years ago—that the end goal is to have a doula at every birth. But I no longer believe that’s the right goal.

I think doula work is valuable and important, and I also don’t believe the essence of doula work—non-judgmental and unconditional support for pregnant and parenting people—needs to be locked away in a system that says only a certain amount of training, certificates, or other paperwork bestows upon someone the right to provide this support. We run the risk of replicating the model we’re trying to revolutionize. And I don’t think that is where real social change happens.

What Makes a Baby

An awesome new book by Corey Silverberg. In his words:

What Makes a Baby is a children’s picture book about where babies come from that is written and illustrated to include all kinds of kids, adults, and families. 

Geared to readers from pre-school to about 8 years old, it teaches curious kids about conception, gestation, and birth in a way that works regardless of whether or not the kid in question was adopted, conceived using reproductive technologies at home or in a clinic, through surrogacy, or the old fashioned way (you know, with two people and some sexual intercourse), and regardless of how many people were involved, their orientation, gender and other identity, or family composition.

Just as important, the story doesn’t gender people or body parts, so most parents and families will find that it leaves room for them to educate their child without having to erase their own experience.

Fertility Diary (a new Motherlode blog feature by Amy Klein)

This I.V.F. stuff is hard. It is my first time in the trenches, but I already feel as if I need some sort of medical degree to do this — or at least a medical technician degree to give myself daily shots. Some women I know hire nurses to come to their homes to do it. Other women have to take two shots a day.

and related to this, an editorial called Selling the Fantasy of Fertility:

As former fertility patients who endured failed treatments, we understand how seductive that idea is. Americans love an uphill battle. “Don’t give up the fight” is our mantra. But the refusal to accept physical limitations, when applied to infertility, can have disturbing consequences.

It’s no wonder that, fueled by magical thinking, the glorification of parenthood and a cultural narrative that relentlessly endorses assisted reproductive technology, those of us going through treatments often turn into “fertility junkies.” Even among the patient-led infertility community, the prevailing belief is that those who walk away from treatments without a baby are simply not strong enough to run the gantlet of artificial conception. Those who quit are, in a word, weak.

I LOVED this birth story, from Mutha MagazineS. LYNN ALDERMAN’S Ugliest, Beautiful Moment (Or, Fuck Ina May): 

But inside my head, I could not believe what was happening. How painful it was. How terrifying. I felt helpless. And degraded and humiliated by there being witnesses. And at the same time, I felt so, so alone.  I remember at one point saying, completely out of my mind, “I don’t understand why no one is doing anything to help me! Please help me!” Della reminded me that what I was feeling was the baby coming. That I was doing just what I was supposed to, having the baby, right then.

26, Unmarried, and Childless

This post comes from a Christian-focused blog. I found the perspective quite intriguing. I grew up in a Catholic family, in which having children was seen as a way of manifesting God’s love and fulfilling our God-given role as men and women. Reading this article brought up a lot of memories of arguments with family members about this argument can lead to hurt feelings for those who experience infertility…or simply don’t want to have children or be parents.

Instead of relishing in the freedom, blessings and limitless possibilities that this stage of life offers me, I am left frozen, feeling like I’m not enough. Like what I’ve done doesn’t really matter or that I’ve accomplished nothing. I’m an outcast. I’m defective. I’m panicked. When you comment on my life stage as if there was something I could do to change it, it makes me feel inadequate. Most days I truly do love where I’m at right now, but when people question my marital status, I think I’m messing up my chances to do anything worthwhile with my life.

Striking Portraits of Muxes, Mexico’s ‘Third’ Gender

Before Spanish colonization blanketed Mexico with Catholicism, there were cross-dressing Aztec priests and hermaphrodite Mayan gods; gender flexibility was inherent in the culture. In much of the country now, machismo prevails and attitudes toward sex remain relatively narrow. But things are different in the southern state of Oaxaca where more pliant thinking remains. In the Zapotec communities around the town of Juchitán, men who consider themselves women—called “muxes”—are not only accepted, but celebrated as symbols of good luck.

Two for One!

I had my first back-to-back birthing experience this weekend…was called to a birth Friday evening, was with them through the wee hours of the morning as they welcomed their son into the world, and then headed across town to be with another sweet family as they had a triumphant VBAC and welcomed their second daughter on Saturday afternoon. I was with this second family for their first birth, and it was such a humbling and powerful moment to be with them as their daughter was born.

Both of these mamas were just so amazingly strong in spirit and body, and I came home last night feeling such a high of emotion.  I know there will be hard days as a midwifery student and as a midwife…but it’s worth it for days like this.

 

First Catch!

Well, sort of.

As mentioned earlier, I was down in CA visiting a friend of mine over spring break last week…she was due with her first wee one…and even though I was not getting my hopes up that I would be there for the birth, she did actually go into labor while I was there!  It was an incredible birth, and the highlight for me was that I was in the right place at the right time to catch the babe’s head!

The doctor had left the room, and I had been holding perineal compresses, and then, the head was born very quickly.  Everyone else quickly swirled into motion, getting things ready, calling the doctor, moving out of the way…even my friend (somehow) managed to shift from the birth stool where she had been sitting to hands and knees on the bed.

But me?  I just stay right there, with my hands very close to this baby’s head, just in case.  And in that moment of complete chaos, I had one of the most beautiful and profound moments I’ve ever experienced at a birth–that moment of stillness that comes when you see a new being for the first time.  Everything slows, for a split second, and you are overcome with the knowledge that you are truly witnessing a miracle.

After what seemed like a long time, the doctor came back in and caught the rest of the baby…so it wasn’t a full catch…but still, pretty amazing. I’m not sure when I’ll next have an opportunity to feel a not-fully-born baby’s head without gloves again…but this memory will remain with me for a long, long time.  I feel incredibly honored that I was able to be a part of such a momentous, intimate experience, and I am so tickled that my first “catch” is someone whose mama I love dearly…

Pseudostratified columnar epithelial cells…and a birth

I can see how it’s easy to lose sight of the big picture when you’re in eyeball deep in pre-nursing or nursing classes.  We’ve just finished week three of the winter term, with our first mid-terms around the corner next week, and all I’ve been looking at all week are my flashcards and histology slides.  I actually really love histology.  I was that kid growing up who always wanted my own microscope, a la Annie Dillard, from American Childhood, who would spend days and days investigating all sorts of squirming amoebas under her magical microscope.

This past week it’s been different tissues–epithelial, connective, muscular and nervous–along with the integumentary system (more commonly referred to as skin).  I’m loving every moment of this, because it means I’m really, truly on the path to becoming a midwife.  To make things more official, I’ve formally declared myself an associates transfer major at the local community college where I’m taking classes (which will boost my standing for registration next term!).

But.

Connective tissue is not the end goal, as dizzingly diverse as it is.  It’s good to have reminders of why I’m doing this work, and it helps keep me grounded.  Last week I had the privilege of attending an absolutely amazing birth with a doula partner…this was a second time mama who’s first baby was born via cesarean, and was hoping for a hospital VBAC.  And after 44 hours, 7 of those pushing, she did indeed give birth to a wonderfully healthy little girl.  The energy in the room was indescribable–exhaustion, relief, joy, all at once.

And again, this birth like the several I’ve attended this fall, affirmed that I am making the right choice in moving into midwifery.  While I love my work as a doula, and think it provides much needed support, every chance I had, my eyes were on the midwives.  Since this was a teaching hospital, I got to watch a student midwife and her preceptor work together to support my client…and it was an exhilarating moment when I realized that in a few years, hopefully that will be me in the blue gown, ready to soak up all the wisdom I can from the experienced midwives.

But in the meantime.  Back to pseudostratified columnar epithelial cells (which line your trachea, by the way, and are goregous!).

Pseudostratified columnar epithelial cells