Mothering http://www.mothering.com/articles The Home for Natural Family Living Wed, 27 Apr 2016 23:28:15 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.2 The Home for Natural Family Living no The Home for Natural Family Living Mothering http://www.mothering.com/articles/wp-content/plugins/powerpress/rss_default.jpg http://www.mothering.com/articles Just Say No to Neurotoxins: There’s a Safer Way to Keep Bugs at Bay http://www.mothering.com/articles/just-say-no-neurotoxins-theres-safer-way-keep-bugs-bay/ http://www.mothering.com/articles/just-say-no-neurotoxins-theres-safer-way-keep-bugs-bay/#comments Wed, 27 Apr 2016 23:26:29 +0000 http://www.mothering.com/articles/?p=135881 If you’ve ever been driven to the brink of insanity by biting insects descending on your peaceful picnic or backyard BBQ, then you know how important a good repellent can be. And with summer drawing closer, outdoor activities will soon be the order of the day. When the tormentors arrive, and it feels like your … Continue reading Just Say No to Neurotoxins: There’s a Safer Way to Keep Bugs at Bay

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If you’ve ever been driven to the brink of insanity by biting insects descending on your peaceful picnic or backyard BBQ, then you know how important a good repellent can be. And with summer drawing closer, outdoor activities will soon be the order of the day.

When the tormentors arrive, and it feels like your only choices are complete misery or fleeing indoors, it can be difficult to resist the urge to just grab the nearest can and start spraying. In that moment you might wind up asking yourself — is mainstream insect repellent really that bad?

The short answer is yes.

Many common insect repellents use a chemical called N,N-diethyl-meta-toluamide, or DEET, as their primary active ingredient — which wards off a variety of insects, including mosquitoes, by confusing their odor receptors. Approved for use by the public back in 1957, this chemical was originally developed by the U.S. Army in the 1940’s to repel bugs in a jungle environment.

DEET works much in the same way as a pesticide or even a nerve gas, by attacking the nervous system of insects that come in contact with it, either directly or indirectly. But the destructive impact of this chemical reaches beyond its primary goal because DEET is neurotoxic to all living things, not just bugs. So, while insect repellents containing this ingredient seem to get the job done more effectively than some more natural alternatives, there is a very real cost.

The EPA conducted a review regarding the safety of DEET in 2014 and found that children exposed to this chemical are most at risk for being harmed by this substance, stating, “Adverse health effects have been reported in children and adults in records from poison control center telephone data and in case reports of neurological effects in children, with one of the most common adverse effects being seizures.” The report went on to say, “In addition, encephalopathy, tremor, slurred speech, behavior changes, coma, and even death have been reported in children (exposed to DEET).”  Pregnant woman and unborn babies were also highlighted as a population potentially harmed by this chemical.

Common sense tells us that applying a neurotoxic chemical to our skin, however effective it may be at repelling insects, is a poor decision. The good news is that there are alternatives that may be just as effective at warding off a variety of pests.

Research has shown oil of lemon eucalyptus and soy oil to perform nearly as well at repelling insects as DEET. There are also a variety of essential oils that have been found to have varying levels of effectiveness at keeping bugs at bay including citronella, rose geranium, cedar, peppermint and lemongrass.

Thankfully, there are many products on the market today that include these ingredients individually or in combination with one another. You can see some of them, with a full list of ingredients, here.

However, just because a product is natural does not mean it is safe for all ages, so be sure to follow product labels.

It’s important to remember that avoiding biting insects is not just about finding an effective repellent. Keep your yard free of standing water, as it breeds mosquitoes, and remember that if you’re planning a day at the lake or in the woods, overcast and rainy will always yield more bugs than hot and dry. Wearing proper clothing (like long pants and sleeves, hats and proper footwear) may also help you keep those bites to a minimum.

Image: farhad sadykov

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Midwife Rides Inflatable Swan Through Floodwaters to Deliver Baby http://www.mothering.com/articles/midwife-rides-inflatable-swan-floodwaters-deliver-baby/ http://www.mothering.com/articles/midwife-rides-inflatable-swan-floodwaters-deliver-baby/#comments Wed, 27 Apr 2016 23:09:57 +0000 http://www.mothering.com/articles/?p=135697 Last week Houston, TX was pummeled by rains for days, resulting in flooding of buildings and streets across the city. While many were certainly reminded of the power of unpredictable weather, surely none were more aware of this than a mother in labor and her midwife. The Katy Birth Center sits in the heart of … Continue reading Midwife Rides Inflatable Swan Through Floodwaters to Deliver Baby

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Last week Houston, TX was pummeled by rains for days, resulting in flooding of buildings and streets across the city. While many were certainly reminded of the power of unpredictable weather, surely none were more aware of this than a mother in labor and her midwife.

The Katy Birth Center sits in the heart of small town Katy, TX, just west of busy Houston. A beautiful, peaceful placed owned by Cathy Rude, a Certified Professional Midwife. She lives near the birth center but during the floods, her street was completely under water. When she got the call from an overdue client that labor had begun, she had to get creative.

She went outside and saw a neighbor floating on an inflatable swan and asked for a lift to a truck waiting on a clear street. So, she loaded up her things and floated to the expectant family’s rescue. A few hours later she delivered a baby via water birth in the aftermath of historic Houston flooding.

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The caption on her Facebook photo reads, “Midwives will do anything to get to a birth! Riding a swan to get off my flooded street and make it to the birth center!” They certainly will!

I would say I’m surprised, but I actually expect nothing less than this type of commitment from her. Cathy actually delivered my first baby. The day I met her she was so warm, wise and caring and I knew immediately she would make good on her promise to support me through labor, no matter what.

Many previous clients echoed the same sentiments in the comments on her Facebook photo. She has clearly made an impact on countless lives, but this example may be the most far reaching. Her photo and story have been published in newspapers across the country and as far as the UK. I can absolutely attest, no one deserves the recognition more.

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Traveling Mom Forced to Dump FIVE HUNDRED Ounces of Breast Milk http://www.mothering.com/articles/traveling-mom-forced-dump-five-hundred-ounces-breast-milk/ http://www.mothering.com/articles/traveling-mom-forced-dump-five-hundred-ounces-breast-milk/#comments Wed, 27 Apr 2016 22:12:06 +0000 http://www.mothering.com/articles/?p=135425 In yet another incident that proves the need for a vast overhaul in breastfeeding education, a nursing mom was forced to dispose of 500 ounces of breast milk while traveling at Heathrow Airport. In a viral Facebook post, breastfeeding mom Jessica Coakley Martinez described how she felt the situation was unjust, and an affront to breastfeeding … Continue reading Traveling Mom Forced to Dump FIVE HUNDRED Ounces of Breast Milk

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Image via Mikayla Peterson

In yet another incident that proves the need for a vast overhaul in breastfeeding education, a nursing mom was forced to dispose of 500 ounces of breast milk while traveling at Heathrow Airport.

In a viral Facebook post, breastfeeding mom Jessica Coakley Martinez described how she felt the situation was unjust, and an affront to breastfeeding and working moms. Martinez had previously been able to transport several ounces of breast milk, but this time she was stopped by security.

She says:

Being a working mother is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Trying to manage the logistics of drop-offs and pick-ups and conference calls and meetings and finding the time and energy to make sure both your family and work are getting ample amounts of your care and attention is both challenging and fulfilling, but mostly extremely exhausting and stressful.

When you’re fortunate enough as I am to have a job that involves travel, it’s an exciting opportunity, but it comes with even more extreme challenges when you have kids – being away from them, managing care back home from afar, and in my case, figuring out how you’re going to feed your 8 month old breastfed baby while you’re required to be away for 15 days and travel to eight different cities.

A busy working mom taking the time to pump 500 ounces of breast milk is one of the best gifts of health she can give her baby while away. Martinez illustrates how challenging this was, saying:

To help ease the personal guilt, I resolved to pump at every possible moment between my meetings, presentations, business lunches and dinners, taxis, flights, and long waits in airports. This meant pumping while sitting on toilets in public restrooms; stuffed in an airplane bathroom; in unsecured conference rooms, showers, and closets because certain office spaces didn’t have a place for a nursing mother – and then dealing with the humiliation when a custodial employee accidentally walked in on me.

It meant having to talk about my personal matters (my nursing schedule) with my professional coworkers and my supervisor in order to sneak away to said closet or public bathroom – a discomfort I had to learn how to swallow if I was to supply my son with breast milk.

Martinez acknowledges Heathrow’s rule regarding breast milk, which states that mothers can only carry breast milk with them if their baby is also present. The rule is nonsensical, considering that the time a mother most needs to pump and carry her breast milk with her, is when she is away from her baby.

But in some cases, following the rules doesn’t matter. A Texas mom flying with Delta posted her own viral open letter, describing how she contacted the airline beforehand to assure she had packed her breast milk correctly. She was told it had to be packed in a cooler with dry ice, and it needed to be labeled, as well as under 5.5lbs. The mother, ‎Vanessa Kasten Urango, followed these instructions exactly.

And still, the employees Urango had to deal with were clueless and unprofessional. ‎They first tried to charge her $150 extra to check the cooler. They then said they could not check the cooler because it did not have a special sticker signifying dry ice, although Urango had previously been told to simply use tape and a marker to label her belongings. She was then instructed to dispose of the dry ice (but not inside the airport), and she was forced to carry 18 days-worth of breast milk without any cooling agent, merely hoping that it would stay within safe temperatures. 

The TSA guidelines are clear:

“Formula, breast milk and juice in quantities greater than 3.4 ounces or 100 milliliters are allowed in carry-on baggage and do need to not fit within a quart-sized bag. Separate formula, breast milk and juice from other liquids, gels and aerosols limited to 3.4 ounces.

Ice packs, freezer packs, frozen gel packs and other accessories required to cool formula, breast milk and juice are allowed in carry-on.”

Clearly, there are issues with consistent training of airline employees, with heartbreaking results. It’s easy to say “Don’t cry over spilled milk” when you haven’t been working hard for days to pump and store said milk. Perhaps these airlines should take a lesson from Target, and retrain all of their staff on how to handle breastfeeding mothers.

Image via Mikayla Peterson

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What I Wish Every Woman Would Hear During Her Pregnancy http://www.mothering.com/articles/wish-every-woman-hear-pregnancy/ http://www.mothering.com/articles/wish-every-woman-hear-pregnancy/#comments Wed, 27 Apr 2016 22:03:03 +0000 http://www.mothering.com/articles/?p=135977 This is a Sponsored Post from Sarah Kamrath, Filmmaker and Producer of Happy Healthy Child With our increasingly jam-packed lives, most expectant parents are not taking childbirth education classes and many aren’t getting to the stack of books they had hoped to read. And, those who are getting their information about pregnancy and birth from … Continue reading What I Wish Every Woman Would Hear During Her Pregnancy

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This is a Sponsored Post from Sarah Kamrath, Filmmaker and Producer of Happy Healthy Child

With our increasingly jam-packed lives, most expectant parents are not taking childbirth education classes and many aren’t getting to the stack of books they had hoped to read. And, those who are getting their information about pregnancy and birth from the media are more likely to be scared than prepared – of course, to keep our attention the images and stories are often dramatic and traumatic. Unfortunately, this is resulting in many parents-to-be entering this beautiful time in their lives feeling fearful and unprepared and not ending up with the experiences they had hoped for.

Driven by a desire for all parents-to-be to hear inspiring, empowering, up-to-date, scientifically based information during their pregnancies, I decided to bring the wisdom and expertise of the world’s foremost experts directly to them. After becoming a mom, I became a filmmaker. A bit of background…

When I was pregnant with my first child, my husband and I had recently moved to Singapore for his job. So I found myself as far away from home as possible, with no friends or family nearby, and lots of questions.

Prior to moving, I had spent years as a senior research analyst for a multi-billion dollar investment firm; so I quickly shifted my focus towards researching what I wanted this next chapter of my life as a mother to look like. During that time, Mothering Magazine was still in print and it became my go-to resource. I packed multiple issues and carried them with me across the globe.

I devoured each copy. I loved the balance of evidence-based research with the trust in Mother Nature’s underlying wisdom, and the overarching theme throughout each issue of the crucial importance of always listening to and trusting our intuition as mothers and mothers-to-be.

As I read each copy, I wrote down the names of the authors and various featured experts and compiled a list of 20 books that I planned to purchase when I came back to the states for a visit. Months later, when I took this list into my local Barnes and Noble, I was shocked to discover not a single one of these books were to be found. What I did find were 15 copies of What To Expect When You Are Expecting or as I like to call it What To Expect When You Are Expecting The Worst! I quickly realized that although there are terrific resources to help a woman achieve her ideal birth, if she isn’t looking in the right places, she’s more likely to be bombarded by those focusing on her pregnant body as a medical disaster waiting to happen.

I wanted to focus on everything that could go right! I wanted to feel excited and joyful and inspired by the magic and the mystery of what my body was experiencing as it grew my child within my womb. I began ordering the books from these compelling authors. As I read them, my fears and anxieties melted away. I learned about nature’s design for birth and all of the hormones coursing through my body to support the process. I also explored what I could do to avoid the common and overused interventions faced by so many women. I began to contemplate the type of parent I wanted to be.

After the birth of my son, it became crystal clear to me that without all of the information I had learned, I would never have had the birth I hoped for. In addition to the birth of my baby boy, an idea was born.

I realized that so many parents-to-be don’t have all of the extra time that I was fortunate to have when pregnant. I also know that everyone doesn’t love to research and the idea of reading a 500-page book on natural pregnancy and birth at the end of a long day doesn’t appeal to many … especially men. I decided that I would go find these experts, doctors, midwives, anthropologists, educators, and scientists. I dove into their worlds. I traveled around the country and filmed interviews with them … 35 of the world’s foremost authorities. I then spent nearly four years scouring over, editing and weaving their expertise into a comprehensive four-part DVD series which focuses not just on the birth but also on how to have a happy, healthy pregnancy and early parenting experience. My goal was to make this invaluable information as easily accessible as possible.

The gems of wisdom and expertise that they shared are invaluable. They are exactly what I wish for every woman and man to hear as they embarked upon the adventure of becoming a parent.

Below are 10 of my favorite gems shared by the experts in the Happy Healthy Child: A Holistic Approach DVD series.

To learn more about the series, please visit www.happyhealthychild.com or click here to see a “sneak peak.”

1) “Nature’s pretty good. We shouldn’t be so critical.” – Ina May Gaskin, world-renowned midwife

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2) “When a mother is carrying a child in her womb, if she is happy, her baby is happy because the same chemistry of emotions that affects the mother’s system crosses the placenta and affects the fetus.” – Dr. Bruce Lipton, internationally recognized leader in the new science of epigenetics

3) “Women’s bodies are superbly designed for giving birth!” – Dr. Sarah Buckley, family physician and acclaimed author

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4) “I think women need to be taught how to trust themselves. Essentially, we need to unlearn everything we’ve learned about birth, in movies and in the horror stories we’ve heard, so that we can step out of our own way and let our bodies do what our bodies are actually fully prepared to do.” – Dr. Aviva Romm, midwife and Yale-trained MD

5) “Labor is designed to prepare you for the enormous job of motherhood. It is often hard but once you go through it, you know what you are made of.” – Dr. Christiane Northrup, MD, FACOG, best-selling author

And

“There is so much energy and so much beauty at the moment of birth that it opens a man’s heart in a way that nothing else can. That imprint helps glue a family together.” – Dr. Christiane Northrup

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6) “Mothers have an instinctual intelligence that is unlocked by the biochemistry of birth.” – Peggy O’Mara, publisher and editor or Mothering magazine for over 30 years

7) “Find a doctor or midwife who you trust and who trusts you! You want a provider who is going to acknowledge that this is your pregnancy and work with you, listen to you and guide you while respecting that you know the way you want your pregnancy and birth to be.” – Dr. Jay Gordon, nationally recognized pediatrician, nutritionist, and author of several books

8) “Your baby leads you into a new world of your evolving self. They come as your teacher. If you think of yourself as a soul and your baby as a soul then you will be in tune with your baby and you’ll begin to grow immediately upon the arrival of this spiritual being.” – Dr. David Chamberlain, psychologist and founder of the Association for Pre- and Perinatal Psychology

9) “Parents and parents-to-be need good, scientific information that is going to help them make educated, empowered decisions that are in line with their intuitive knowing.” – Dr. Lawrence Palevsky, pediatrician, author and acclaimed lecturer

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10) “Our children don’t learn from us being perfect. Our children learn from us striving to be aware and conscious and holding to an ideal that we are reaching for.” – Dr. Marcy Axness, author and leading authority in early childhood development

Sarah Kamrath is a filmmaker and the producer/director of the highly acclaimed childbirth education DVD series, Happy Healthy Child: A Holistic Approach. To learn more about all of the important information you need as you prepare to have a happy, healthy pregnancy, birth and early parenting experience, please visit www.happyhealthychild.com.

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New $20 Bill Tells the Story of a Mother’s Bravery and Her Daughter’s Historic Resistance http://www.mothering.com/articles/new-20-bill-tells-story-mothers-intense-bravery-daughters-historic-resistance/ http://www.mothering.com/articles/new-20-bill-tells-story-mothers-intense-bravery-daughters-historic-resistance/#comments Tue, 26 Apr 2016 00:44:09 +0000 http://www.mothering.com/articles/?p=135273 I don’t think I was the only person in the world who, upon hearing that former President Andrew Jackson would be removed from the $20 bill, hoped that the new face would be a woman. Women, after all, have made enormous contributions to the history and success of the United States — starting with birthing … Continue reading New $20 Bill Tells the Story of a Mother’s Bravery and Her Daughter’s Historic Resistance

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Harriet_Tubman_1895I don’t think I was the only person in the world who, upon hearing that former President Andrew Jackson would be removed from the $20 bill, hoped that the new face would be a woman.

Women, after all, have made enormous contributions to the history and success of the United States — starting with birthing and raising every future president whose face graces our currency. But our influence goes way beyond that.

Take the case of Harriet Tubman, the new face of $20 to be released in 2020.

As an aside, Harriet will not be the first woman to be featured on U.S. currency, though this is the first time a woman will be featured prominently on money that is in wide circulation.

In the next few years, it won’t be Jackson’s face who law enforcement study as they look for signs of counterfeit. It won’t be Jackson’s face shoppers see as they count out their payment to the store cashier. It won’t be Jackson’s face a high school senior sees when he opens his graduation card. It will be Harriet’s.

She is not only a woman, but an African American — who was a slave. She is a tribute to all who went before and after her working to protect human rights, especially the abolition of slavery but also in every situation where prejudice and discrimination once thrived, all the way up to and beyond women’s suffrage and what our country struggles with today in accepting each other’s differences, including how we view children and our parenting choices. Questioning the status quo creates a ripple effect. Without that first domino toppling over, the next domino in the line up would not have had the chance to fall, and on down the line of dominoes until where we are today.

I can think of no better way to honor Harriet than to simply retell her story.

Harriet was born in March 1822 as Araminta “Minty” Ross to Harriet “Rit” Green and Ben Ross. Rit was a slave cook to Mary Pattison Brodess and later her son, Edward Brodess. Ben was a slave to Anthony Thompson, Mary’s second husband, who owned a large plantation near Blackwater River in Madison, Maryland. Ben managed the timber work on the plantation. Minty was the fifth of 9 children to Rit and Ben.

In a heart-breaking situation that many of us can only imagine, Rit lost the oldest 3 of her children, all daughters, when Edward sold them. Rit hid her youngest child, a son, for a month with other slaves when she heard of Edward’s interest in selling him. She even confronted Edward about the sale. Finally, when Edward and the buyer came to the slave quarters to seize the child, Rit threatened to kill them if they entered her home. Edward reportedly abandoned the sale.

While Minty claimed that much of what influenced her life course was her Christian faith, rooted in the Bible stories told by her mother, certainly witnessing her mother’s heroic efforts to protect her son from being sold certainly was a huge influence to Minty’s future.

When Minty was 5 or 6 years old, she was hired out as a nursemaid to a woman who ordered her to watch the baby as the baby slept. When the baby awoke and cried — as babies do! — Minty was whipped.

Can you imagine how often she would have been lashed?! And for something as normal as a baby waking and crying for his mother?

But Minty wasn’t to be broken. Even then, she used the situation to resist: running away, wearing layers of clothes as protection against beatings, and fighting back.

As a child, Minty was also hired out to check muskrat traps, and as she grew older, she was given field and forest work, driving oxen, plowing and hauling logs. She was often beaten, and was hit in the head once with a heavy metal weight, which led to epileptic seizures and headaches.

Minty’s father, Ben, was freed from slavery in 1840 as mandated by a former owner’s will that he be freed at age 45. Years later, Minty had paid a white attorney to investigate her mother’s legal status. He found that her mother, too, had instructions that she be freed at age 45, as would each of her children, but the Pattison and Brodess families ignored that rule and the slave family had no means to challenge it legally.

In 1844, Minty married a free black man, John Tubman, and changed her name to Harriet Tubman. But because of her slave status, any children borne of their union would be enslaved and they had no children.

In 1849, Edward Brodess died and his widow, Eliza Brodess, began selling his slaves. Harriet managed to escape and used the Underground Railroad to travel on foot to Pennsylvania.

But then she heard word that her neice and her neice’s 2 daughters were to be sold, so Harriet went back and — working with free blacks and white abolitionists — helped them escape. She went back again and again into slave states to help slaves escape even as laws tightened in 1850 to increase punishment for escaped slaves, even requiring law enforcement in states that had banned slavery to help with the capture of escaped slaves — to the point where her nickname, “Moses,” was so well-known that certain religious songs about the biblical Moses were used as code in the wide effort of freeing slaves.

Harriet was later a scout during the Civil War, and became the first woman to lead an armed assault. Harriet also continued helping slaves escape during the Civil War, often en masse via steamboats. Newspapers even heralded her efforts. However, she was denied compensation for her service due to her unofficial legal status until 1899.

The Civil War ended in April of 1865, and after a few more months of service, she headed home on a train to Auburn, N.Y. There, she was ordered to move to a smoking car. She refused, explaining her government service, but the conductor grabbed her to drag her away. Her resistance led to her breaking her arm. While celebrated in her war service, white passengers on the train cursed at Harriet and shouted for the conductor to remove her from the train.

Harriet later married Nelson Davis, a Civil War veteran and bricklayer in Auburn. (John Tubman had remarried after Harriet first escaped Maryland.) They adopted a baby girl, Gertie. They lived in poverty, supported often by donations from others who admired her for her abolition efforts.

In her later years, Harriet joined the suffrage movement rallying for women’s rights alongside Susan B. Anthony. She died in 1913 from pneumonia at the age of 91.

It’s interesting to note that Jackson was a slave owner — not to mention the president responsible for the Trail of Tears, forcing Native Americans off their land and beginning what became generations of historical trauma that has culminated in many Native Americans living in extreme poverty with mental illness, addictions and emotional inability to care for their children — not unlike the alternate ending that Harriet’s efforts helped protect against among African Americans.

It’s about time we saw a woman on a major U.S. bill, and it’s about time we saw an African American on a major U.S. bill, and its about time we saw someone honored for not what they did as the most powerful person in the U.S. government but for what the did out of conviction despite their lack of financial resources and social status. Harriet Tubman fits all of these criteria, and she’s an inspiration to not only mothers and their daughters but also the whole of society to do what each of us can do in our own small way to move the world forward.

But more importantly, I hope that we each key in to what Harriet’s mother did not only for her daughter but for all African Americans and for all of us. In that act of protecting her son, she tipped a domino — one that went on to become a force all of its own: the end to slavery and the beginning of equality for everyone. Each of our actions, as mothers, has that same potential — to inspire our child to go on and become part of something larger than any of us know…to move our world further toward peace and harmony.

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17 Toxins On One Strawberry: Why Limiting Pesticide Exposure is Vital http://www.mothering.com/articles/need-limit-exposure-pesticides/ http://www.mothering.com/articles/need-limit-exposure-pesticides/#comments Tue, 26 Apr 2016 00:16:42 +0000 http://www.mothering.com/articles/?p=135225 Ask any kid to name their favorite fruits and, more likely than not, you’ll hear strawberries, apples or grapes on that list. And why shouldn’t they be? They’re tasty and chock full of vitamins, minerals and dietary fiber. In addition to their wild popularity, these three (along with nectarines, peaches and cherries) are also the … Continue reading 17 Toxins On One Strawberry: Why Limiting Pesticide Exposure is Vital

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strawberriesAsk any kid to name their favorite fruits and, more likely than not, you’ll hear strawberries, apples or grapes on that list. And why shouldn’t they be? They’re tasty and chock full of vitamins, minerals and dietary fiber. In addition to their wild popularity, these three (along with nectarines, peaches and cherries) are also the most pesticide contaminated fruits out there when it comes to conventionally grown produce.

According to the Environmental Working Group’s recently updated Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce, strawberries now take the number one spot for dirtiest produce available, bumping the reigning champs, apples, to second place.

Conventionally grown strawberries are shockingly contaminated with a variety of biocides. In their 2014 studies, the USDA found that 98% of all samples tested contained residue of at least one pesticide, with some being polluted with up to 17 different varieties.

In addition to the 60 different chemicals that can legally be applied directly to these berries during the growing process, farmers are also allowed to use fumigants to treat the soil prior to planting. Some of these gasses were developed for use in chemical warfare and are banned by the Geneva Conventions — but not for use in farming.

Produce items with such heavy loads of pesticides pose health threats to everyone but particularly to children and women who are pregnant or are planning to become pregnant. In a 2012 report released by the American Academy of Pediatrics, doctors urged parents, schools and medical professional to take action to protect children from the toxic effects of pesticides.

“Children encounter pesticides daily and have unique susceptibilities to their potential toxicity,” said the report, “Epidemiologic evidence demonstrates associations between early life exposure to pesticides and pediatric cancers, decreased cognitive function, and behavioral problems.” The study also warns against prenatal exposure to pesticides.

In a 2004 laboratory study, commission by the EWG, samples of umbilical cord blood from newborns were tested for the presence of agricultural chemicals. In all 10 samples tested, pesticides were found to be present. This demonstrates that pregnant women who are exposed to pesticides pass at least some of them on to their unborn babies via the umbilical cord.

We all know eating organic can sometimes be an intimidating (and pricey) endeavor but the facts speak for themselves,“People who eat organic produce eat fewer pesticides.” says the EWG, “…people who report they ‘often or always’ buy organic produce had significantly less organophosphate insecticides in their urine samples, even though they reported eating 70 percent more servings of fruits and vegetables.”

Thankfully, there are ways to make buying organic foods a bit cheaper if you do a little research ahead of time. The EWG’s Dirty Dozen and Clean 15 lists aren’t just great resources for people looking to reduce their family’s exposure to pesticides, these lists are a great way to single out the most important produce items to buy organic and save a few bucks on those least contaminated items, like sweet peas or avocados.

Another great tool is the EWG app, Food Scores, which offers on-the-go help with deciding on the best foods for your family by scoring 80,000+ foods based on three criteria: nutrition, ingredients and processing concerns. With over 20 categories, like baby food, beverages and cereals, this app is a handy way to choose budget-conscious foods that are high in nutrition and low in toxins.

Image: Nadja Tatar

 

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Healthy Foods on a Tight Budget? Here’s How to Make it Work http://www.mothering.com/articles/healthy-foods-tight-budget-heres-make-work/ http://www.mothering.com/articles/healthy-foods-tight-budget-heres-make-work/#comments Mon, 25 Apr 2016 23:46:02 +0000 http://www.mothering.com/articles/?p=134929 With the increase in knowledge about the documented effects of chemicals and additives in our food, many parents want to know what they can do to protect their family’s health, while still being conscious of their food budget. I’ve been on my healthy living journey for almost two decades now. I went from being a … Continue reading Healthy Foods on a Tight Budget? Here’s How to Make it Work

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food

With the increase in knowledge about the documented effects of chemicals and additives in our food, many parents want to know what they can do to protect their family’s health, while still being conscious of their food budget.

I’ve been on my healthy living journey for almost two decades now. I went from being a child-free healthy eater when I took my health into my own hands as a teenager, to a low-income single parent, struggling to figure out how to feed myself and my child the unprocessed, organic foods I’d grown accustomed to. Now as a family of four, my husband and I make our food budget a priority; we think of it as a big investment in our long-lasting health. My desire to learn more about natural, healthy living led to my certification as a wellness coach, with an emphasis on helping busy moms.

I have had to refine my family’s diet a bit in order to afford healthy foods that are, unfortunately, sometimes more expensive. But in many cases, you get what you pay for, and it truly is an investment.

The Standard American Diet consists largely of foods that are almost entirely empty of nutrients. We fill up on bread, cereal, cookies, pizza, pasta, etc. and fail to realize that a healthy diet — a diet which has been proven to extend and improve the quality of life — is mainly comprised of fresh, unprocessed fruits and vegetables, healthy fats, and nutrient-dense sources of protein.

I want to help others reach their health goals, so I’m sharing the main budgeting tips I’ve learned over the years. This article does not address the extremely important issues of food deserts, nor the impact that poverty has on dietary choices. These issues are critical components of fair access to healthy food, and there is admittedly obvious elitism in the “healthy food movement” (of which I am a part).

Instead, this article is aimed at those for whom this information is valid, those who may have some wiggle room in their budget, and those who are able to afford some amount of organic food, but may not be sure where to turn. Those of us who are able to can vote with our dollar, hopefully creating change that not only affects our ecosystem, but our fellow humans as well.

With that in mind, here are my top tips:

  1. Keep it simple
  2. Shop from your pantry
  3. Buy in bulk
  4. Buy frozen
  5. Keep the “Dirty Dozen” and “Clean Fifteen” in mind
  6. Eat to live; don’t live to eat

Keeping it simple is my biggest tip.  I don’t experiment with a lot of recipes that call for a dozen different ingredients, partially because I don’t want to be running around to a bunch of different grocery stores looking for organic versions of all the ingredients needed, and also because it gets more expensive that way.

Instead, I buy the same basics regularly and I “shop” from my pantry.  For example, on any given day, I will have chicken breast, rice, and a wide variety of spices.  Those basic ingredients could be turned into anything from Mexican chicken and rice to Asian chicken lettuce wraps to chicken, rice, cream of mushroom casserole.  I also keep organic ground beef on hand, with which I can make taco salad or burgers or spaghetti sauce.  Yum!

These are the foods you could find in my kitchen/pantry on a regular basis (all organic):

Protein:

  • Chicken (breast as well as whole chickens for roasting/making bone broth)
  • Beef (ground)
  • Eggs (lots and lots of free-range eggs– great cheap protein!)
  • Nuts (we get nuts in bulk at a local grocery store for a good price)
  • Beans (soaking dried beans is very economical)

Produce:

  • Frozen veggies (broccoli, green beans, corn)
  • Fresh veggies (carrots, potatoes, onions, garlic, spinach, kale, celery, cabbage, cucumber)
  • Frozen fruit (blueberries, mango, strawberries)
  • Fresh fruit (apples, bananas)

Grains:

  • Quinoa
  • Brown rice
  • Oats (I use oats SO MUCH!  Grind them for gluten-free baking flour, make oatmeal bake, bars, granola, batter chicken nuggets, etc.)

Sweeteners:

  • Cane sugar
  • Raw honey
  • Dates

Condiments/Miscellaneous

  • Salsa, non-GMO corn chips
  • Sea salt, fresh black pepper, herbs and spices
  • Butter, coconut oil, olive oil
  • Tamari, mayonnaise, mustard
  • Pickles, apple cider vinegar

Keeping it simple means I’ve cut out most of the non-essentials from my family’s diet, for our health as well as our budget. Pesticide-free foods and other “specialty” foods can get really expensive if you’re spending a fair amount of your budget on packaged snacks. Organic breakfast bars, crackers and chips, cereal, organic gluten-free mac-n-cheese, etc.– these will add up quickly without adding much nutrition to your diet. They certainly are handy to have around, but if you have the time to prep some healthy snacks to have on hand, it can impact your food budget quite a bit.

Every week I bake a batch of oat flour muffins, and I make a supply of homemade LaraBar-like energy balls, made with dates and nuts. I also make a big salad full of colorful veggies for the week. Chopped cabbage, lettuce, carrots, sprouts, and cucumbers with an Asian-style dressing is one of my favorites. I usually make a big batch of chicken salad, egg salad, or tuna salad to throw on some lettuce for a protein-packed, quick and easy meal. With  a simple breakfast of eggs, smoothies, or oatmeal, most of our meals are taken care of without much thought, and without extra expense.

For snacks, I make a lot of non-GMO popcorn at home with real butter and sea salt, which is a healthy and affordable option.  We munch on bananas and apples a lot, and I keep easy foods like hard-boiled eggs and salad fixings around.

Dates and raisins are a popular easy snacks in my household, and I will sometimes splurge on a treat like homemade coconut oil fudge, because the coconut oil and cocoa make it a nutrient-packed dessert, meaning we only need a small amount to feel satisfied, and it’s actually good for us!

I used to do gluten-free baking with almond flour, but while incredibly delicious, almond flour is one of the most expensive gluten-free flours out there.  So these days I use gluten-free oats, which I grind at home into flour with my coffee grinder.  Since I can buy oats in bulk, this saves a good amount of money.

My family eats a lot of eggs, because they are a cheaper yet wonderful and healthy source of protein and good fats.  I often make egg bakes, where I use plenty of veggies like broccoli, tomatoes, and spinach, a sprinkle of cheese, and bake it all together, or freeze it raw to thaw and bake later.  I make scrambled eggs, fried eggs, hard-boiled eggs, egg salad, omelets, etc.– I turn to eggs when I don’t feel much like cooking dinner.

I make a lot of soup as well, using homemade chicken stock, tons of garlic, onions, an assortment of veggies, herbs and spices, sea salt and black pepper, and usually some diced chicken breast from the chicken we buy in bulk.  My family loves soup during the cold season, and it is easy to make large batches to freeze some for later.  Soup and a salad is a nourishing, surprisingly filling meal for a good price.

Buying in bulk can be a huge cost-saving benefit. I get most of the foods listed above at Costco.  If you’re not familiar with Costco, it’s a store that carries a lot of bulk food (think: big boxes of mac-n-cheese), but it has started carrying a lot of organic options — hooray!

I apologize if you don’t have one near you, because it’s a great resource for organic food on a budget. I feel ambivalent about shopping at a chain store like this, I’d much rather support the smaller family-owned natural food stores in my area, but they are sometimes double the price.

The eggs, spinach, frozen fruit/veggies, and meat I get at Costco are in bulk, which feeds my hungry family of boys well.  We get a huge box of spinach to use in smoothies, with eggs, for salads, etc.  And we also regularly eat steamed broccoli and green beans, because I can find it organic, frozen, and cheap at Costco. Sam’s Club is also an option for organic bulk food.

Also refer to this Real Food Resource Guide for online bulk options.  Take some time to explore the guide– Swanson’s is where I get my coconut oil in bulk and it is much cheaper than buying at a regular store.  The resource guide also includes information about Community Supported Agriculture, farmers’ markets, and other options that can help reduce the cost of healthy food.  Be sure to check it out!

The fresh fruits I regularly buy are apples and bananas.  These are staples in my household.  We can get many more apples and bananas than fresh strawberries, for example.

Buying frozen fruits and veggies can help cut costs as well. I regularly buy big bags of frozen organic fruit; strawberries and blueberries are my favorite.  Wyman’s wild-picked blueberries are pesticide-free, but they are not certified organic, which actually makes the price cheaper.

Frozen fruit is going to be much cheaper than fresh fruit in most cases.  Apples and bananas suffice for fresh options, and we still get plenty of nutrients from our smoothies made with frozen fruit, or frozen berries mixed into yogurt.  Frozen organic fruit can actually be more nutritious sometimes, because it is picked and packaged shortly after, while fresh fruit is picked, then stored, then transported, then it sits at the store.

Frozen vegetables are a similar healthy and economical choice.  I get big bags of organic frozen vegetables like broccoli, green beans, and corn, for a great price at Costco. Buying in bulk whenever possible is a great way to keep food costs down.  Look for large bags of organic brown or wild rice, quinoa and oatmeal, either online or at your local bulk goods store.  I buy my coconut oil in bulk (in a 54oz tub!) because the price is significantly lower than purchasing smaller jars one at a time.

Couponing can work on a real food diet too!  This is a great resource for natural food coupons.

The “Dirty Dozen” and the “Clean Fifteen” produce lists are good to know if you are trying to buy pesticide-free food on a budget.  The Dirty Dozen are twelve of the foods covered in the most pesticides (so you’d want to get these organic for sure); the Clean Fifteen are foods that have the least pesticides (so organic might not be as important).  They consist of:

The Dirty Dozen:

  • Potatoes
  • Apples
  • Bell peppers
  • Nectarines
  • Peaches
  • Lettuce
  • Spinach
  • Strawberries
  • Cherries
  • Celery
  • Pears
  • Grapes

The Clean Fifteen:

  • Onions
  • Sweet peas
  • Cabbage
  • Pineapples
  • Avocados
  • Mango
  • Kiwi
  • Sweet onions
  • Eggplant
  • Cantaloupe
  • Watermelon
  • Grapefruit
  • Sweet corn
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Asparagus

So, if you have a limited budget for organics, choose from the Clean Fifteen list for less risk of pesticide exposure at a lower cost.

My final tip is: eat to live, don’t live to eat.  Food should be enjoyable! But not at the risk of your health nor your budget.  I have made sacrifices — for instance, I am a dairy fiend — I love cheese, yogurt, ice cream, etc.  But raw dairy is the most nutritious and it’s also very expensive, so I rarely get it. I have learned to do without, and be grateful for the healthy, nourishing food I can afford on a regular basis.

I try to make sure that 99.9% of my family’s diet is nourishing.  I want almost every bite we eat to be benefitting us.  Not just as a pleasing taste, but as a healthy choice for our bodies.

Living to eat means making food choices based on what tastes best, regardless of its impact on our health and our budget. Living to eat does not consider the effects of nutrition, but rather fulfills cravings, even at the detriment of one’s health.

Eating to live means making food choices that benefit us; choices that supply us with essential vitamins and minerals, heal our bodies, regenerate our cells. These choices are nourishing and delicious and help us live our best life!

I recently splurged on a bunch of fresh fruit like cherries, plums, and peaches. It was such a treat! Refining your diet for the benefit of your health and your budget can really teach you how to appreciate the simple things. The beautiful color of a strawberry; how cherries taste like nature’s candy; how romaine lettuce is so delightfully crunchy.

I hope these tips for budgeting for real food and simplifying your diet are helpful to you!

In good health,

Kristen

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To Cut or Not to Cut: Is That the Question? http://www.mothering.com/articles/cut-not-cut-question/ http://www.mothering.com/articles/cut-not-cut-question/#comments Mon, 25 Apr 2016 23:11:13 +0000 http://www.mothering.com/articles/?p=134241 Over the last couple of weeks I have been excited to have the opportunity to share different voices from different women about cesarean awareness. I was even more excited when LaQuitha Glass, former president of ICAN (International Cesarean Awareness Network) wanted to write something! LaQuitha is obviously an expert on the topic of cesarean birth and … Continue reading To Cut or Not to Cut: Is That the Question?

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To Cut Or Not To Cut: Is That The Question?

Over the last couple of weeks I have been excited to have the opportunity to share different voices from different women about cesarean awareness.

I was even more excited when LaQuitha Glass, former president of ICAN (International Cesarean Awareness Network) wanted to write something! LaQuitha is obviously an expert on the topic of cesarean birth and the myriad of issues surrounding it in the United States.

LaQuitha explores the idea, “To cut or not to cut – is that the question?” In the end – IF we should be performing cesareans on over 30% of women isn’t the whole question. There is so much more going on.

This isn’t a short piece; then again, this isn’t an easy or simple issue facing birthing women today. I encourage you to read it and explore for yourself the many layers of the modern cesarean section epidemic.

Thanks LaQuitha!

To Cut or Not to Cut- Is that the question?

It is 7 a.m., and a young mother walks through the doors of her local hospital. As she checks in at the front desk, she is filled with anticipation and nervous excitement, for today is the day in which she will meet her unborn child for the first time. After her scheduled cesarean for a baby in breech presentation both she and her husband enjoy comfortable arrangements and a celebratory lobster dinner before going home to start their new life.

~

Elsewhere, a mother walks in to labor and delivery, stopping every few minutes to concentrate through the powerful contractions that demand her complete and immediate attention. Not long afterwards, she is joined by her doula, whose quiet yet comforting presence infuses the room with a calm that envelops all of those within it. She is surrounded by people who fully support her birth wishes, including an OB who encouraged and respected her wishes to birth vaginally after a previous cesarean for a prior birth.

~

In another state, a mother, tired from meandering around the area close to the hospital while in labor but determined to see the process through, walks into the lobby. She walks back and forth along the first floor of the lobby for an additional hour just to ensure that she is really in labor. She wants to be sure because she traveled an hour and half to this hospital in order to avoid the high possibility of a cesarean that was scheduled for her while she was only 27 weeks along by the hospital nearest her house.

Even though she had already had a prior vaginal birth after a cesarean, she was given a deadline of 40 weeks and 5 days to spontaneously give birth to her baby, otherwise, she would have an automatic cesarean, which was efficiently scheduled weeks in advance. The staff felt it was being gracious to her by giving her an additional two days to birth, since she had already had a spontaneous vaginal birth at 40 weeks and 3 days.

~

Day after day, one by one, many other women walk through the doors of their hospitals, each following the trajectory of their individual birth experiences. Although each woman has her own story or experience to tell, the first three experiences all share one thing in common, varied though they may be.

The one thing that each of those experiences have in common is that they are the birth experiences of one woman, across three different states.

That one woman was me.

Hospital birth experiences vary greatly within the U.S. geographically, demographically, and even among individual providers. On first look, it would appear as if the wild variation of birth outcomes and experiences were a product of the wild, varied, and general uncontrollability of the birth process itself. However, on second look, there is something far more tangible at play.

One thing that varies greatly among U.S. hospitals is the cesarean rate for low-risk, first-time mothers. The rate of women who go on to give birth without surgery after a prior cesarean also varies greatly at the state and hospital level. With less than 2.5% of women actually requesting  an elective cesarean, what these widely varying cesarean rate are stating is that in some areas, as many as 68% of first-time, low-risk mothers are having emergency cesareans for issues such as ‘failure to progress,’ ‘too small of a pelvis,’ and any other number of reasons as noted on their permanent medical records.

On a personal and highly intimate level, this is a private and highly subjective matter subject to personal interpretation that will vary based on the individual perspective of the woman herself, and deserves to be respected as such. From a collective public health perspective, it is one that deserves the attention that it has been receiving from those tasked with analysis of our health delivery systems, as delving further brings many issues, social, political, and economic, to the forefront, yet very seldom truly related to the well-being of the individual birthing mother herself. For this reason, many birth professionals, mothers, and professional organizations recognize April as Cesarean Awareness Month.

To Cut Or Not To Cut: Is That The Question?

Originally introduced by the International Cesarean Awareness Network (ICAN), this month is a time to reflect upon the state of maternity care and to inspire changes that benefit all birthing women, regardless of how they birth. But, as with any movement that becomes an umbrella under which many seek cover, confusion and misunderstanding can take root, whether it be inadvertent or intentional. Regardless of which, it serves the same common good of instigating conscious awareness of this issue as it pertains to birthing women not only in the U.S. but also abroad.

Although Cesarean Awareness Month tends to be representative of many different things for different people as viewed through the lens of personal perspective, three words that embody the true spirit of Cesarean Awareness Month are awareness, balance, and liberty.

Awareness: knowledge of a situation or fact

Synonyms: consciousness, recognition, realization

The words ‘Cesarean Awareness Month’ can invoke a number of thoughts and emotions in the hearts and minds of those who perceive it. For some, it is perceived as a an acknowledgement of a maternal care system that does not always, for any number of reasons, act in the best interests of both mothers and babies. For others, it is a finger in the chest of a birthing mother or a woman who has given birth, a judgement of her; her body, her birth, her motherhood, her womanhood, as some sort of innate ‘failure.’ For others still, they most identify with the murky gray area in between.

The purpose behind Cesarean Awareness Month is to bring awareness to how the 500% rise in cesarean rate within the U.S. over the last 40 years, according to Consumer Reports, is tied to the ways in which birthing women are perceived and subsequently handled by our maternal care system. It is not about making women feel as if they are ‘less than’ or have somehow missed the mark because they are thankful for or loved their cesareans, or had no choice but to have one due to circumstances beyond themselves. It is about bringing to awareness the fact that although the U.S. spends the most money on maternal care, our country ranks 60th among its industrialized peers when it comes to maternal deaths in childbirth.

It is about the realization that our elevated cesarean rate does not always equate to better outcomes for mothers and babies, contrary to popular opinion. It is about the pregnant women only being told about the risks of uterine rupture during a vaginal birth after cesarean, but not being told about the risks of placenta accreta, hysterectomy, loss of fertility, or blood transfusion due to possibly fatal hemorrhaging, all of which can increase exponentially with each subsequent cesarean.  

It is about knowing that although cesarean is often touted as something that women are asking for, and which they should have every right to do in exercising their personal liberty, statistics show that about 3% of primary cesareans are actually elected by choice beforehand. It is about being consciously aware that of the reasons given by doctors for calling an emergency cesarean, “failure to progress” is the number one reason recorded in medical reports, even though it has been recognized by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) as more often being a “failure to wait.

It is realizing that that the Friedman’s curve and clock to which many women’s labors have been and are currently being subjected does not accurately represent the physiology of labor patterns for women of this century. It is about acknowledging that the majority of cesareans occur between the peak hours of 8 a.m. and noon of a regular work day.

It is also the realization that although the National Institutes of Health and ACOG state that vaginal birth after a prior cesarean is “a safe and appropriate option for most birthing women, including some women who have had two cesareans,” 57% of women who seek a vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC), are unable to find a supportive provider or hospital. Part of the reason for this is the implementation of hospital VBAC bans, both outright and by de facto, which vary by geographic location. It is about being keenly aware that a hospital policy that ‘bans’ vaginal birth after cesarean is a policy that usurps patients’ rights to bodily autonomy, forcing mothers to give birth by cesarean whether they want to or not, even if it is not medically indicated.

It is about being conscious that although a number of hospitals throughout the states have these bans in place, that VBAC bans are unethical and should be unenforceable as it violates patient’s rights. It is being aware of the intense efforts being made to further restrict women’s rights to birth how and with whom they choose, through the passing of bills and amendments to make homebirth illegal for some women.

It is about acknowledging that although roughly 10% of women who have a cesarean will go on to have a vaginal birth afterwards, 60-80% of those who make the attempt will do so, and of those who do not, less than 1% of them will experience a uterine rupture during delivery. It is also about recognizing that the cesarean rate affects different populations disproportionately, particularly African American women. Although African American women have the highest cesarean rate at around 35%, which is above the current national rate of 32.2%, African American women are almost four times as likely to die during childbirth.

To Cut Or Not To Cut: Is That The Question?
Cesarean and VBAC rates among Black women prove that c-section is a political issue.

Above all, it is about being aware that our current cesarean rate is reflective of something much deeper than just pregnancy and birth itself, something societal, economic, and political; and it must have light shone upon it before we can collectively move to improve birth for all birthing mothers.

Balance: a condition in which different elements are equal or in the correct proportions

Synonyms: fairness, justice, impartiality

When discussing the topic of cesarean, it is important to note that while the cesarean can be much overused without medical indication, as is often the case in our country, there are many countries who lack the resources that we do whose birthing mothers are suffering from the underuse of cesarean surgery to save the lives of themselves and/or their babies.

Likewise, for all of the mothers who felt forced or coerced into their cesarean, there are mothers who are sincerely grateful for their cesareans, whether they had one scheduled by choice or if they were unexpectedly wheeled back during an emergency while in labor.

For every medical provider who chooses not to respect their patient’s right to bodily autonomy or who chooses not to view maternal care as a respectful, collaborative partnership instead of an authoritarian dictatorship over the land known as the female body (because they are not ‘civilized’ enough to know what is good for them and rule themselves), there is a provider working overtime to support all of the VBAC patients in a practice because no one else wants to offer a choice other than an automatic repeat surgery.

There is a provider who walks on eggshells as he or she walks the hospital corridors, unfairly labeled a ‘lone wolf’ or ‘cowboy,’ because of a sincere belief and agreement with ACOG in their opinion that VBAC is “a safe and appropriate choice,” and that it is unethical to enforce bans or create circumstances in which women have no viable options beyond mandatory surgery. A provider who puts his or her livelihood and career on the line to honor patient autonomy and respectful care, even if he or she is the only one doing so.

For every woman who joyously celebrates the accomplishment of her goal to avoid a repeat cesarean, there is a mother grieving that although she was able to pursue a VBAC, and felt that she ‘did everything right,’ she found herself once again in the OR, struggling with the emotion of love and joy for a new baby while simultaneously mourning the birth experience. While some mothers are experiencing the high of oxytocin, the love hormone, as they cuddle and embrace the newest member of their family, a mother holds her baby for the first and last time.

Few things in life are truly a two-sided issue, black or white, right or wrong, and Cesarean Awareness Month is no different. Cesarean Awareness Month is not about declaring all cesareans as damnable abominations to the institution of birth, it is about acknowledging its overuse, specifically for women who have no desire to have one or who have no medical indication other than the misfortune of geographic location.

It is also not about the shaming of mothers who gave birth by cesarean, whether they chose one for personal preference or had one unexpectedly. It isn’t about venerating the roughly 70% of women who give birth vaginally as the ‘gold standard’ of bringing forth children into the world. Rather, it is about the 32.2% of women who give birth by cesarean, and the 90% of women who will give birth via surgery forever after that, whether they want to or not, whether it is medically indicated or not, and despite the risks of things like placenta accreta which grow exponentially with each surgery.

It is about the 10% of women, some of whom will have to beg, borrow, and steal, change providers in their last trimester, start petitions to lobby their state representatives, and protest outside of hospitals, just to use their vaginas to push their babies out of their bodies.

It is not about bashing doctors and trying to sow fear and distrust into the doctor-patient relationship. It is about holding doctors accountable for respecting informed consent and evidence-based practices. It is about not giving all power of autonomy to the medical institutions, but rather requesting and expecting to receive respectful care, and when it is not given and efforts are made to usurp it in the courts and through bureaucratic red tape, demanding it.

It is about recognizing and honoring those providers who do hold this tenet true in their respective practices, and who sacrifice personally and professionally to put babies and mothers first, in spite of the hands dealt to them by the current state of our maternal care system.

To Cut Or Not To Cut: Is That The Question?

It is not about making women who tried for a VBAC and ended up with a repeat cesarean feel as if they somehow missed the mark. It is about the recognition that whether or not a VBAC is attained, all women have an inherent right to that pursuit and all of the support and resources they need to help them along the way. It is about realizing that although there are many travelers on many paths with different destinations, it is our status as travelers on a journey that is our common bond.

Lastly, it is not about the silencing of mothers who lost babies because they did not have the cesarean that they needed or were not able to have. It is not about neatly dividing women into two groups, those who care about their babies and those who do not, based upon their personal preferences on how they give birth, whether it be via planned cesarean, emergency cesarean, vaginal birth, midwife assisted, doctor assisted, unassisted, hospital, birth center, car, home, outdoors, highly medicalized, physiologic, or any number of metrics by which we try to make birth a one-size-fits-all experience that must fit neatly into the personal paradigm of the one doing the separating.

It is about recognizing all of these iterations of experience while simultaneously recognizing that there is a problem with the system in which many women have no choice but to give birth. It is understanding that whether or not we had a similar experience, we must respect the fact that all women have the inherent right to exercise their liberty in choosing how, where, and with whom to give birth whether we would choose it for ourselves or not.

Liberty: the state of being free within a society from oppressive restrictions imposed by authority on one’s way of life, behavior, or political views

Synonyms: independence, freedom, autonomy, self-government, self-rule

Although ‘liberty and justice for all’ is a phrase that most would perceive as being synonymous with the very essence of what it means to live in America, the reality is that historically, ‘all’ has not always included everybody.

We have made quite a few strides since then, but every once in awhile, we are reminded about how far we have yet to go. One of the large usurpers of personal liberty for birthing women within the U.S. is the VBAC ban. A policy put in place by a hospital to prevent any woman from birthing vaginally if she has ever had a cesarean, it not only prevents women seeking a first VBAC from doing so, it also does not ‘allow’ some women who have had vaginal births in later pregnancies to continue doing so.

Upon realization of this, one may ask, “Why don’t you just go somewhere else?”

The answer is that some women do. However, for many, they are simply unable to do so due to financial or personal hardships that make it near impossible to travel hours across state lines weeks before an estimated due date, or while in labor, to a hospital that ‘allows’ women to birth using their own physiological body processes.

One may also ask, “Why let them do it? They can’t force you.”

The reality is that for some women, fighting a VBAC ban by going to the hospital in labor with the intent to have a normal, physiologic birth without major surgery can result in hostile reception and treatment by hospital staff, that can sometimes culminate in a court-ordered cesarean. Recently, a court ruled that the rights and liberties of the doctor to not assist in a vaginal birth trumped the rights and liberties of the mother who did not want a cesarean after she filed for an order of protection to prevent the hospital from forcing her to have a cesarean if and when she showed up in labor.

Another question that is often asked is, “Why don’t you just not go to a hospital?”

This is where the issue becomes slightly insidious. In some states, there are laws in place to prevent women from giving birth anywhere except in a hospital, and there are some which are pushing for legislation to make it illegal for some women to give birth at home if they have ever had a prior cesarean. Women who choose to do so anyway are left with the choice of birthing at home, unassisted and without the support of anyone to help them, or birthing in a hospital, some of which have banned vaginal birth for some women which means that they can either have a cesarean or go it alone at their house. It is not hard to imagine that many opt for the planned cesarean.

To Cut Or Not To Cut: Is That The Question?

This is a form of overreaching that goes far beyond a stern personal warning about ‘safety,’ a personal opinion about what one would or would not do, or the distribution of information and resources maligning homebirth as a choice for women. It is one thing to not agree or personally approve of how women choose to birth, it is quite another to create laws and impose policies that prevent women from birthing a certain way simply because one would not personally choose to do so.

Enforcing VBAC bans that uphold a system of mandatory surgery regardless of the medical history of the individual mother while simultaneously creating laws to make it illegal for women to birth anywhere other than said hospital(s) is a direct affront to the liberty of birthing women who have had a cesarean, as doing so almost directly guarantees that some women will give birth by cesarean regardless of whether it is in their best interests or not.

A system that puts the onus on pregnant, tired women to jump through hoop after hoop, transferring doctors, booking hotel rooms for weeks at a time, spending countless hours fact-checking and on and on, just to decrease their chance of an unnecessary cesarean that they do not want, is a system that does not put mothers and babies first. As it has been said by many people in many ways, a society is measured by how it treats its women and children.

Cesarean Awareness Month will most likely always embody different things for different people. However, in essence, it is driven by the fact that our cesarean rate, itself driven by how our maternal care system delivers care to mothers and babies, is artificially high. With research and studies being released on a regular basis to support this notion, it would seem that there would be a greater recognition of this reality within maternal care.

But, if it is true that it takes 17 years for scientific research to become accepted and implemented within greater society, the change will not come just through the institutions themselves. It will come from igniting a small spark in the heart and mind of a mother, a sister, a friend, or a family member, who will then contribute individually to the collective change that is needed to make birth better for all women, no matter how or where they give birth. But it starts with awareness.

 

laquitha

LaQuitha Glass is a mother of three, a birth advocate, and a childbirth educator in Mountain View, CA.

 

 

Photo credits: brettneilson via Foter.com / CC BYKelly Sue via Foter.com / CC BY-SAadrianvfloyd via Foter.com / CC BY-NDbradkeb via Foter.com / CC BY-NDLars Plougmann via Foter.com / CC BY-SA

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New Breastfeeding Cafe is the First of its Kind in the UK http://www.mothering.com/articles/new-breastfeeding-cafe-first-kind-uk/ http://www.mothering.com/articles/new-breastfeeding-cafe-first-kind-uk/#comments Mon, 25 Apr 2016 19:44:32 +0000 http://www.mothering.com/articles/?p=135337 A young mother in the U.K. is serving up a cozy space for families in her new breastfeeding café. Charlotte Purdie’s idea to open the café in Nottingham came after she gave birth to her first child, she explained to the BBC. Purdie kept looking for “clean or comfortable” places to breastfeed in her area, and … Continue reading New Breastfeeding Cafe is the First of its Kind in the UK

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A young mother in the U.K. is serving up a cozy space for families in her new breastfeeding café.

Charlotte Purdie’s idea to open the café in Nottingham came after she gave birth to her first child, she explained to the BBC. Purdie kept looking for “clean or comfortable” places to breastfeed in her area, and could find none.

Ignoring the naysayers who said opening up a breastfeeding café was a “crazy” idea, she drew up a plan, borrowed money from investors, and The Milk Lounge was born.

The Milk Lounge appears to offer that clean and comfortable space mothers like Purdie are looking for. It’s complete with toy stations for older children and solid meals for young ones who are on the road to weaning. There is also peer support available for mothers who might have breastfeeding questions.

Not wishing to exclude anyone, Purdie also made sure to have bottle warmers on hand, and says dads are “as welcome and as important as mums are here.”

Mothers and children in the U.K. could likely use nursing support in many forms. The country has the lowest breastfeeding rates of any developed nation. According to a major UNICEF study, only 0.5% – or one in every 200 – British babies are still nursing at 12 months of age.

What do you think? Could a surge in intentional breastfeeding spaces be a part of the solution, or do they undermine the idea that women should be able to nurse anywhere? How do we best support women in countries where breastfeeding rates are low?

For more information on The Milk Lounge, make sure read Purdie’s interview with the BBC.

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No Matter the Time Period, Love Refuses to Give Up its Grip on Mothers http://www.mothering.com/articles/love-refuses-give-death-grip-mothers/ http://www.mothering.com/articles/love-refuses-give-death-grip-mothers/#comments Sun, 24 Apr 2016 01:30:09 +0000 http://www.mothering.com/articles/?p=123762 We’re more alike than we are different and some things don’t change. A year ago my grandma found a pile of old Time magazines at a library book sale and brought them home to peruse, reminiscing about the old days. I joined her in this, expecting to find copious offensive advertising and copy– woman’s-place-in-the-home/find-your-life’s-purpose-in-making-your-husband-dinner type … Continue reading No Matter the Time Period, Love Refuses to Give Up its Grip on Mothers

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We’re more alike than we are different and some things don’t change.

A year ago my grandma found a pile of old Time magazines at a library book sale and brought them home to peruse, reminiscing about the old days. I joined her in this, expecting to find copious offensive advertising and copy– woman’s-place-in-the-home/find-your-life’s-purpose-in-making-your-husband-dinner type stuff. I was pleasantly surprised that the entire stack was severely lacking in puke-inducing material. The best incendiary bit I found was a Monsanto ad detailing the ways they make life better. That’s for another day.

As I was reading, I said aloud, “This isn’t as foreign-seeming as I anticipated……I guess people are just more alike than they are different–no matter the time they lived.” So I conducted a survey of mothers of all ages, both on and off-line.

Using what they told me about their experience being a mother, I’ve been writing about how motherhood has changed, and how it has stayed the same. For example, our child surveillance duties have changed enormously. In addition, there are perhaps different but fewer threats to our children. Almost universally, modern mothers with young children struggle with isolation. But for one of the questions I asked, not surprisingly, the nature of the responses was the same, regardless of generation.

What are the most rewarding aspects of motherhood?

Put most simply by a new mother of one: “The love I give, the love I get, and the joy in seeing them grow.”

The most common responses were: watching them grow and learn, breastfeeding, expressions of love, and time together.

A few thoughtful mothers wrote that having the perspective of a child has helped them enjoy life. An honest response about the rewards that come with “kids growing up and becoming more reasonable” will resonate with many mothers on the outside cusp of toddlerhood. Many of us have found some healing in our children. One mother remarked that being a mother let her truly understand her own mother for the first time.

Let’s look at some of the ways we find joy in mothering through the words on these mothers.

“Watching my child grow, achieve and become who he is today.”

“Cuddling with my kids, having fun with my kids, watching them make good decisions.”

“Morning smiles and hugs, seeing them excel at something, watching them make good decisions on their own.”

“Cuddling kids, breastfeeding, mother’s day out.”

“Giving birth, breastfeeding, watching my children play together.”

“The smiles, watching them grow and thrive, and being someone they can always count on.”

“Seeing the world through their eyes, learning new things with them, rediscovering old favorites.”

“My breastfeeding relationship, watching my children become little artists, watching my children’s relationship with each other grow and flourish.”

“Homeschooling my kids; seeing them blossom into real people; getting to play with them.”

“Watching my kids perform on stage, the little moments of giggles, going on vacations when we can focus on each other!”

“Smiles, hugs & kisses, unconditional love.”

“The kids ability to get along, breastfeeding and homeschooling.”

“Delighting in what they were learning, sweet hugs, the joy of them ” just being kids”/the silliness and energy and curiosity of childhood.”

“First time they said I love you, hearing oldest read stories to her brother, hearing their laughter.”

“Being loved unconditionally, watching them grow, and watching them become their own person.”

“Watching kids grow, learn, become their own person.”

“My son voluntarily giving me a kiss when I’m sad. Seeing my son’s personality develop. Observing his joy and sense of humor.”

 “The wonder of holding your own child, teaching them to read and learn, homeschooling.”

“Experiencing 100% true love, Laughing with my kids, Just hearing about their day when I pick them up from school.”

“Birthing. Breastfeeding. Watching them grow.”

“Crafts, family dinner, weekend sleep ins with my daughter when she climbs in my bed after she wakes up and we stay in bed until one of our bladders give out.”

“Snuggling, talking to them about their lives, watching them grow.”

“Creativity/imagination, finding out how much love was possible, watching joy of kids with grandparents.”

“Unconditional love, child exhibiting pride in something they know, recognition from other parents that my child is awesome (polite, smart, kind).”

“Doing fun stuff with the kids, watching them master a new skill unexpectedly, them getting older and more reasonable.”

“First smiles. Watching them figure out something new. Snuggles.”

“Seeing my children learn new things, being able to spend lots of time with them before they started school, understandinf my mother properly for the first time.”

“Breastfeeding, honor roll, laughter at the clever things some of my children would say.”

“Cuddling, breastfeeding, seeing my children discover and learn about the world.”

What’s your favorite part of motherhood?

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