Sofia’s Birth

Hosted with permission:

Wednesday morning(April 18th) I had contractions that were so strong they hurt, though they would come regularly and then disappear for a while before returning. The doctor’s office told me to head to labor and delivery anyway and see if I had made progress. We got there around 1:30pm; they checked me and I was 4cm dilated. The doctor showed up and examined the printout of my contractions. He almost sent me home, saying they weren’t strong enough, but he didn’t like the way the baby’s heartrate looked during the contractions and decided to admit me and augment mylabor.

After I was taken to a delivery room they started the pitocin drip. I dilated to 10cm within about two hours and had really bad back labor. The anesthesiologist came and gave me my epidural. Eventually my doctor returned and they allowed me to start pushing. After about 2 hours of strong pushing and the baby coming down I still couldn’t get her out. She was turned slightly so that her forehead was against my pelvic bone, and she was stuck. Her heartrate dropped with every push and they finally decided to do a c-section. At around 7:20(I think?) I was taken to the operating room. I was pretty frightened and cried as they were wheeling me through the hall but I tried to suck it up and act like everything was fine. I didn’t want to be a wimp.

While they set everything up, the anesthesiologist held my hand and talked to me to put me at ease. He was so sweet. I was shaking like crazy from the epidural and fluids running through my body. They set up for surgery and then brought my husband in. He sat next to me and held my hand, and my eyes started to well up again. He wiped my tears and I squeezed his hand and felt better knowing he was right there. When it came time for the pinch test I could still feel it just enough that I was afraid I’d be in pain when they made the incision. I begged the anesthesiologist to turn up the epidural, and though he was hesitant because he wanted me to be alert enough to hold my baby, he finally gave me an additional medication in my IV that made me a bit foggy.

After the incision was made I could feel lots of tugging and pressure. It turns out baby was lodged quite firmly in my pelvis and they struggled a bit to get her out. After what seemed like an eternity I heard her cry- at 7:45 pm my daughter was born! They briefly brought her to my side of the curtain so I could see her… I remember thinking that she looked purple and that something was wrong, but the OR staff promised she was healthy and perfect! She had some bruising over her eye and cheek on the side of her face that was pressed into my pelvis, but this healed and faded away within the first week or two.

The recovery period from surgery was far from fun… I was incredibly sore between the normal post-birth cramping that occurs and the pain in my incision area. My husband had to help me shower the first two times because I seriously just wanted to curl up on the floor of the shower and cry.

Nursing was fine for the most part. My baby latched very well from the first time we tried to breastfeed, but my milk took a frustrating 5 days to fully come in and she was so ravenous and grumpy! When my milk did finally arrive it showed up in full force, and we were able to very successfully establish our nursing relationship. We battled a gnarly, painful thrush infection soon after going home because of the antibiotics from the surgery but it did eventually clear up. So nursing was initially a bit more of a challenge than with my firstborn (a vaginal birth) but we were able to get through it all just fine.

With regard to my hospital experience, I was (and still am) very disappointed that I ended up having a c-section but the hospital staff were wonderful and took fantastic care of me, my baby, and even my husband, who stayed overnight with us throughout our time there. Aside from my experience with my boneheaded doctor (a long story for another time), I felt like my family and I were in good hands during our stay at the hospital.

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Midwives for Haiti

January 27, 2010 Leave a comment

There are some local midwives planning on traveling to Haiti very soon to help out, and they are in need of funds, as well as supplies.

What is needed?

Everyday supplies
Clean Twin sized sheet sets (new/gently used)
Pillow cases
White cotton nightgowns
21 HP inkjet printer cartridges
Iron Supplements
Prenatal Vitamins (preferably with iron)
Ibuprofen & Tylenol (in sealed, new, non-expired packages)
Newborn Onesies
Cloth diapers
Diaper Pins
Bars of Soap
Non-Sterile Gloves

Medical Supplies

Magnesium Sulphate
Vitamin K
Umbilical Cord Tie and clamps
Sterile blades, stainless steel #10
Soap, anti-bacterial
Povidone/Iodine prep solution
Alcohol Swabs BD 100
Doppler and ultrasound gel
Blood pressure cuff (sphygmo)
Tape Measure(60”)
Gestation wheel
Sterile gloves pair
Curved Kelly clamps
Blunt scissors pair
Episiotomy scissors (long/curved)
Needle holder
Ring forceps (sponge-holding)
Toothed (tissue) forceps
Metal box for instruments
Bulb syringe
Urinary catheter (disposable)

PayPal donations can be made through and Any amount can help.

Address to ship or drop off supplies to:
Bella Vie Gentle Birth Center
13160 Jerusalem Hill Rd NW
Salem, OR 97304

Bella Vie Fundraiser information
Silent auction to help raise money for a group of midwives from Bella Vie Gentle Birth Center who are going to Haiti with the Midwives for Haiti organization. There will be great auction items, desserts, music, and a giving tree.

Sunday, January 31, 2010 from 2:00PM – 4:00PM
Praise Assembly Church
189 Monmouth Ave N.
Monmouth, OR

Also, HERE is some information about donating breastmilk for babies in Haiti.

Midwives for Haiti on Facebook.

Obstetric Fistula: What it is & How You can Help

September 29, 2009 Leave a comment

We are so lucky in our country to have access to midwifery care and emergency obstetric services when needed. In some parts of this world, hundreds of thousands of women are unable seek help when it is needed. These women can labor for days and days, and many times in these terrible situations, their babies are born still. As a result of their traumatic labors, many of these women develop obstetric fistula.

What is a fistula?

“A fistula is a hole. An obstetric fistula of the kind that occurs in many developing countries is a hole between a woman’s birth passage and one or more of her internal organs. This hole develops over many days of obstructed labor, when the pressure of the baby’s head against the mother’s pelvis cuts off blood supply to delicate tissues in the region. The dead tissue falls away and the woman is left with a hole between her vagina and her bladder (called a vesicovaginal fistula or VVF) and sometimes between her vagina and rectum (rectovaginal fistula, RVF). This hole results in permanent incontinence of urine and/or feces. A majority of women who develop fistulas are abandoned by their husbands and ostracized by their communities because of their inability to have children and their foul smell. Traumatic fistula is the result of sexual violence. The injury can occur through rape or women being butchered from the inside with bayonets, wood or even rifles. The aim is to destroy the women and the community within which the sufferer lives. Once committed the survivor, her husband, children and extended family become traumatized and humiliated.” (Fistula Foundation)

  • Fistula used to be present in the U.S. and Europe, but was largely eliminated in the latter part of the 19th century and early 20th century with improved obstetric care in general and the use of c-sections in particular to relieve obstructed labor.
  • The World Health Organization estimates that approximately 2 million women have untreated fistula and that approximately 100,000 women develop fistula each year. Fistula is most prevalent in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia.
  • There are an estimated 100,000 women suffering with untreated fistula, and another 9,000 women who develop fistula each year.
  • Less than 6 in 10 women in developing countries give birth with any trained professional, such as a midwife or a doctor.When complications arise, as they do in approximately 15% of all births, there is no one available to treat the woman, leading to disabling injuries like fistula, and even death.
  • The root causes of fistula are grinding poverty and the low status of women and girls. In developing countries, the poverty and malnutrition in children contributes to the condition of stunting, where the girl skeleton, and therefore pelvis as well, do not fully mature. This stunted condition can contribute to obstructed labor, and therefore fistula.
  • But, fistula is both preventable and treatable. For instance, the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital has treated over 30,000 women over 33 years. Their cure rate is over 90%. Fistula can be prevented if laboring women are provided with adequate emergency obstetric care when complications arise. (Fistula Foundation)

The Addis Adaba Fistula Hospital provides these surgeries for women in need with donations. For $450, they can provide one woman with a fistula repair operation, high-quality post-operative care, a new dress and bus fare home. What they are giving these women is their life back, and that is an incredibly amazing gift for such a low cost.

How can you help?

You can help by donating any amount to the Fistula Foundation. You can also join their Love-a-Sister program, and donate $450 (either the full amount or 12 monthly installments of $37.50) to ensure that one woman will get the help that she so desperately needs and deserves. If you are unable to donate yourself, please take the time to pass on this information to others. By educating ourselves, we can all work together to support these women, and change the lives of those who are not so different from ourselves.

Also, please take the time to view “A Walk to Beautiful” – this amazing documentary on obstetric fistulas filmed in Ethiopia. The Addis Adaba Fistula Hospital is featured, and you can see the amazing work that they do, as well as witness the incredible transformation these women go through once they are cured.

For more information:

Campaign to End Fistula

The Worldwide Fistula Fund


Fistula Foundation

Placenta: Medicine, Rituals & Art

September 25, 2009 3 comments

The benefits of your placenta do not have to end after you give birth. This complex organ is revered in many cultures, known as the “tree of life”, the baby’s “first mother”, sibling or friend. There has been little research on placenta to date. However, what is out there supports the theory that consuming placenta may benefit women postpartum. By eating your placenta, you are able to reclaim what is lost due to pregnancy and birth.

Placentophagy may possibly:

  • Stimulate uterine contractions
  • Slow postpartum hemorrhage
  • Replenish nutrients after birth
  • Curb postpartum depression
  • Increase your milk supply
  • Help your uterus return to pre-pregnancy size faster
  • Replenish depleted iron
  • Decrease fatigue
  • Decrease likelihood of insomnia or sleep disorders
  • Enhance pain tolerance
  • Ease of menopausal hormone fluctuations

What does placenta contain?

  • Your own hormones
  • High in vitamins and minerals, such as B6
  • Iron and protein
  • Blood stem cells
  • High levels of prostaglandin
  • Small amounts of oxytocin

One important study of the placenta showed a possible link to postpartum depression:

Placentophagia may also increase a mother’s blood levels of a hormone known as CRH (corticotropin-releasing hormone), a known stress-reducer. This hormone is normally secreted by the hypothalamus. According to a study performed by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), “During the last trimester of pregnancy, the placenta secretes so much CRH that the levels in the bloodstream increase threefold. However, it was also discovered that postpartum women have lower than average levels of CRH, triggering depressive symptoms. They concluded that the placenta secreted so much CRH that the hypothalamus stopped producing it.” (PBi, Medicinal).

Photograph courtesy of Rachel Radtke

Photograph courtesy of Rachel Radtke


Your placenta can be ingested in many ways. Those who worry about or experience postpartum hemorrhage may want to cut off and ingest a small piece of their placenta right after the birth. You can also stick a small piece under your tongue or on the side of your cheek, and remove after about five minutes. “Studies have shown that eating the placenta triggers the release of oxytocin into the bloodstream, enabling the uterus to quickly heal and tone itself after childbirth.” (PBi, Medicinal Benefits.)

Another great way to reap the benefits of your placenta is to eat it raw, such as in a smoothie. Many say that adding fruit, such as berries, masks the flavor of the placenta very well. By eating the placenta raw, you are retaining much of the vitamins, minerals, and hormones that can be lost when the placenta is frozen, cooked, or processed in any other way.

A growing trend is to encapsulate it, which involves steaming, drying, then grinding it up. This method appeals to many who feel that they will not be able to stomach their raw or cooked placenta. Another interesting way of preserving your placenta is to make it into a tincture that can be taken by dropperful, by either you or your child. This tincture, or “essence”, is a remedy to be used at times of stress, illness, to boost the immune system, and whenever one feels so inclined. Placenta essence can last for years and years as long as it is stored properly.

Proper Care & Handling of Your Placenta

As soon as possible after the placenta has been birthed, it needs to be placed in a food-grade container (glass or ceramic is best, but double bagged Ziploc will also work), sealed tightly and refrigerated. If the family wants to delay cord cutting, this can be done up to three to four hours later, and then the cord must be severed, and the placenta quickly refrigerated in order to safely ingest the placenta later. Please note that you will be unable to have a lotus birth (leaving the cord attached until it detaches on its own) if you want to safely encapsulate your placenta.

If you are having a hospital birth, make your wishes known ahead of time regarding your placenta. They should refrigerate it right after birth, but to be prepared for the unexpected, you should bring a cooler with you to the hospital. If every one is too busy to take care of it quickly, place the packaged placenta on ice within the first hour or so. This will keep it cool enough until the staff has time to take care of it. The cooler is also a good idea for taking the placenta on the ride home. Read more about how to best handle the release of your placenta from the hospital HERE, and download a hospital liability release form HERE.

The placenta encapsulation process should begin 24-48 hours after the birth. It can be done up to 7 days later, but the capsules will not be as effective. If it is not possible to process the placenta within 48 hours, it should be double bagged in Ziploc freezer bags and frozen. Before encapsulation, the placenta should be completely thawed, which takes about 24 hours. The capsules can be frozen, which extends their shelf life from weeks to years. Read more about the care of your placenta HERE.

The Encapsulation Process

Shortly after birth, the placenta can be enapsulated by your partner, friend, family member, or a professional. The placenta can be steamed following the traditional Chinese medicine guidelines, then sliced and dehydrated. Another option is to skip the steaming process altogether. Once dehydrated, the placenta is ground up using a coffee grinder, mortar and pestle, blender or food processor. After the grinding, the placenta powder is placed into empty capsules, and there you have it! The number of capsules depends on the size of the placenta, usually around 150 or so.

After the Postpartum Period

Placenta still has benefits even after the initial weeks following your birth. Some women will save some of their capsules in the freezer for when they feel they really need it. Others plan to save theirs for when they reach menopause to ease the transition of hormonal fluctuations.

Beyond the postpartum period, the capsules are beneficial for any stressful transition. Having to leave the baby to go back to work, a job loss in the family, or a move can cause stress that can be helped with placenta capsules. Since the capsules also help with fatigue and milk production, they can be taken any time the mother feels worn down or needs to increase her milk supply.” (PBi, Keeping).

Rituals & Ceremonies

Many families choose to plant their placentas after birth. You can freeze your placenta for as long as you need, even holding a ceremony later on your child’s birthday to honor the placenta and birth. This ceremony can be the closure to your child’s birth, as well as healing any unresolved feelings you have. For ideas on how to create a unique ceremony for your family, take a look at this site’s suggestions.

To plant your placenta, dig the right size hole to hold your placenta and plant. Score the sides of the hole, so that the roots of the plant can take hold easier. Place the placenta at the bottom of the hole, cover with about an inch of soil, then place the plant in the hole and fill it on up. Water your plant according to its needs, and as your baby’s placenta breaks down, the plant will be nourished by it. If you choose to grow a fruit tree, the tree will bear fruit that has grown from your baby’s placenta. This fruit can then go on to nourish your family.

Placenta Art

Placenta prints are another beautiful way to commemorate your child’s birth. You can do this with a fresh or thawed placenta; simply place the placenta vein side down onto paper of your choice. Press down, and then lift up. The blood will act as a paint, and create a lovely tree of life painting. You can also wash the blood off, and paint it with all sorts of colors to make a variety of prints. These prints can be framed to keep as a keepsake of your birth. Read more about how to create placenta prints HERE.

Further reading and viewing:

Placenta Medicine: My Story by Tiffany Rosenbrock

The Placenta in Lore and Legend

Placenta encapsulation video


Medicinal Benefits of Placentophagy

MoonDragon’s Placenta Disposal Suggestions, Rituals, and Recipes

Placental Remedy dot com

Proper Placenta Care for Placenta Encapsulation

Scientific research compiled through PBi

The Care and Keeping of Placentas

Milk Sharing

September 16, 2009 4 comments

All through history, sharing breastmilk was seen as normal, and sometimes the only way for babies to survive. Many moms had a wet nurse, or relied on another woman every now and then to nurse their children, which is known as cross-nursing. Now-a-days, if a woman is unable to breastfeed her child, she usually turns to formula. Donor milk from a milk bank is another option, but is very expensive if you have to pay out-of-pocket. Still, there is an alternative way to nurse a child that more and more women are turning to, which is known as milk sharing. The benefits of breastmilk are plenty, and many mothers feel strongly that even if they cannot supply all of their breastmilk for their baby, that they should still be able to receive the benefits of breastmilk.

While supplementing with donor milk, a mom can use an at the breast supplemental nursing system, known as a SNS (made by Medela), or the Lact-Aid System. These systems “consist of a container for the supplement (either a bag or a

bottle), which hangs on a cord around mom’s neck and rests between her breasts. Thin tubing, leading from the container, is taped to the mother’s breast, extending about 1/4 inch past the nipple. You usually see the tubing going directly from the bottle (between the breasts) to the nipple. You can also wrap the tubing down & around the breast before bringing it up to the nipple.” (Kellymom, supplementer)

A SNS is a great way to supplement, because a baby will be able to still have the close contact with the mother. By still nursing at the breast, the baby will help increase the mother’s milk supply. Other alternative ways to supplement include: finger feeding, using a cup/dropper/spoon, and/or using a bottle. However, introducing an artificial nipple may cause nipple confusion for some babies, and they may refuse to breastfeed afterward.

How to find a breastmilk donor:

There are many resources available to help you find a milk donor. Websites include:

If you are unable to supply your baby with all the breastmilk she needs, partial weaning and combination feeding is an option that may work out for you. Breastfeeding part-time still has great benefits for you and your baby:

  • Comfort, bonding, skin-to-skin benefits. Mom can provide 100% of these even if very little breastmilk is being obtained during nursing.
  • Oral development. The type of sucking required for breastfeeding improves your baby’s oral development (even if he gets little milk).
  • Disease, allergy-prevention, immunological benefits. Research has shown that the benefits of breastfeeding are generally dose-related: the more breastmilk, the greater the benefit. But even 50 ml of breastmilk per day (or less – there is little research on this) will help to keep your baby healthier than if he received none at all. In fact, the immunities in mom’s milk have been shown to increase in concentration as the quantity of milk decreases
  • Nutritional benefits. There are components of mother’s milk which cannot be duplicated – even a small quantity of these can be invaluable to your baby. (Kellymom, weaning-partial)

If you have a low-supply of breastmilk, you can supplement with donor milk while you work on getting your own supply back up. Please check out Kellymom’s information on increasing low milk supply if you feel your milk is low. Milk supplies can drop many times during a nursing relationship for a variety of reasons (hormones, illness, working situations, etc), but in my own experience, I was able to raise it back up again using a variety of methods to increase my milk supply.

Photo courtesy of Tiffany Abrahams

The big question that you will always hear when it comes to milk sharing is: “Is it safe?”

Most risks can be minimized if a relationship is formed with the woman donating. La Leche League suggests these guidelines for mothers who donate milk (however, they do not support milk sharing unless it is through a milk bank):

  • She should be healthy, well-nourished and taking no medication. Ideally, she has an infant about the same age as the one she would be cross nursing.
  • She should be screened for tuberculosis, syphilis, hepatitis-associated antigen, cytomegalovirus, herpes virus, HIV and other infectious agents.
  • She should not smoke, drink alcohol, or consume large amounts of caffeinated or artificially sweetened beverages.
  • Her own infant should be healthy, gaining well and free of all infections. (LLLI, wet nursing)

Being unable to fully supply your baby with your own breastmilk can be extremely frustrating and upsetting for any mother. Solutions to breastfeeding issues can be pieced together and hopefully solved through community, knowledge, and mother-to-mother support.

*Please note, I am not a lactation consultant or a doctor. Just a mom with years of experience nursing my own children, and a great interest in breastfeeding.

For further information:

Human milk banking and other donor milk – Kellymom

Using a Lactation Aid by Jack Newman, MD, FRCPC


Writing again.

I definitely want to. I have been on a sort of hiatus all winter from writing about birth, though I have been reading and thinking. I just attended a lovely HBAC last week. Wonderful support all around, and it was so great to be apart of!

I have a lot of topics I want to write about – from milksharing to pelvic organ prolapse. I keep looking at all that I want to write about, and it feels daunting, but really, I think I just need to start doing it again, and it will all come together.

So, for now, I’ll leave you with the video I’m watching:

Cut: Slicing Through the Myths of Circumcision

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Birth story | Amelia’s Unassisted Birth

November 21, 2008 1 comment

I wrote a month ago about my experience at my first unassisted birth, and I was given permission to post a link to Laura’s personal story of the birth of her daughter, Amelia, here. Definitely check it out! I love reading uplifting birth stories, and they helped me immensely when I was pregnant with Oliver.

HERE is her story 🙂