17 December, 2008

obstetric rape at Rush

sad story about a woman who suffered needlessly during the birth of her fifth child.

the doctor, who was not her regular OB:

-belittled, intimidated and verbally abused everyone around him: residents, nurses, colleagues on the phone, and the patient and her husband.

-chatted loudly on his cell phone about abortions and a woman who "has no business being pregnant", while in his laboring patient's room! I have heard countless nurses and midwives make unnecessary side chatter during labor, even midwives who claim that they never talk during labor, but this guy wins the insensitivity prize by a mile.

-deliberately withheld pain medication after it had been requested by the patient AND the anesthesiologist had already been called to the floor

-deliberately placed the patient in an uncomfortable position, causing her great pain and stressing a preexisting injury

-performed a rough and painful vaginal exam despite her pleas for him to stop

-artificially ruptured membranes without patient consent, and then lied to the resident that they had ruptured spontaneously

-repeatedly told the patient that she was going to hemorrhage (based on zero evidence) and that she and her baby would die

-inserted a catheter during a contraction, ignoring her requests to wait until it had subsided

-continuously exhorted the patient to "shut up and push" after he determined her cervix to be 8 cm dilated, rather than waiting for it to open completely and a spontaneous pushing urge to develop (I would wager he has rarely, if ever, witnessed a spontaneous pushing urge!)

-nearly dropped the baby

-would not allow the mother or father to hold their healthy baby immediately

-called for a larger-gauge needle than is normally stocked by that hospital's L & D for injecting local anesthesia into her perineum. periurethral repair was performed in a very painful manner. requests for more anesthesia were ignored.

-told a nurse he had denied this patient any analgesia because "sometimes pain is the best teacher."

I am 'trying real hard to be the shepherd', i.e. trying not to proclaim that what this doctor needs is a hefty dose of his own medicine. An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.

This, folks, is why some women will not set foot in a hospital to give birth. Is anyone listening?!

note: some of these details come from the official complaint filed in Cook County Circuit Court.

15 December, 2008


been up late web-browsing & indulging my X-files-loving aspect, reading all about Nazca Lines, Ica stones, cosmology, mythology, hidden archaeology, and well, this just blew my mind.

12 December, 2008

another chance to ignore the evidence

tonight I wax cynical.

a cautious thumbs up to this bit of research stating it is perfectly normal for the active phase of first-stage labor to "stall". Often the stall is viewed as abnormal, a reason to hasten surgical delivery. I'd prefer the authors use the more positive term "plateau" in lieu of "stall". Semantics aside, defining a "stall" or "plateau" is predicated on the near-universal obstetric assumption that progress=cervical dilation.

there are different ways for this quite normal plateau phenomenon to play out. contractions may continue with full vigor and frequency, or they may space apart somewhat, or they could stop completely. in each of these scenarios, cervical dilation ceases for a while (our wondrous cervices can even reduce in dilation, per the brilliant Ina May Gaskin's Sphincter Law).

what else could be happening during the "stall"?
-baby is rotating into optimal alignment with mother's spine and pelvis
-an asynclitic (cocked to one side) head is centering
-the uterus is gathering its strength for the work ahead
-the baby is descending
-adrenaline and oxytocin are waging an inner battle for dominance
-the woman is craving/receiving some much-needed nutrition & hydration
-the woman and her partner, or mother, or sister are working through some emotional blockages

The study authors exclaim: "we found that just by being patient, one-third of...women could have avoided the more dangerous and costly surgical approach." So perhaps Friedman's curve mandating 1 cm dilation per hour can now be cast aside as a terribly outmoded and ridiculously machinistic view of human physiology. Perhaps.

But change is slow. practitioners often stick with the first approach they learned (old dogs/new tricks & all). being patient works fine in a low-volume setting where the staff and beds are plentiful. yes, surgical birth is costly--costly to women's postpartum quality-of-life and future obstetric choices. costly to insurance companies. but it sure is one heckuva money maker for hospitals and doctors.

Even if practitioners and hospitals consider change, what of the birthing women who hear story after story of disempowered birth, who do not trust the process, do not trust their bodies, who were brought forth from their own mothers by unnatural means and have no cellular memory of normal birth? What of these modern birthing women who are inculcated in a culture of birth fear? how to rouse our sisters' somnolent warriors?

I'd like to think the admonition to "be patient" could resonate within the heart of every compassionate birth attendant. I'd like to see a reversal of the alarming upswing of unnecessary cesarean births. Just not sure this particular drop in the bucket will quench my thirst.


07 December, 2008

informative health journal?

while browsing through a pregnancy magazine for "older moms" at ye olde corporate booke store, wondering if they might be interested in some holistic-minded articles, I flipped back to the index:

M, m, m, let's see....magnesium sulfate, massage, mastitis, meconium, medications, membranes, methergine, milia, milk, miscarriage, molding, morning sickness.

midwife, where is midwife?
not one entry for midwife in the entire publication??!!

calm, mocking voice in my head, responding to my Id's outrage: "put the magazine down, back away slowly..."

02 December, 2008

creativity at altitude

when you are flying with a 4-year-old and you have read every book and magazine at your disposal, barf bags and pens make awesome hand puppets.

30 November, 2008

adventures at altitude

Exciting news: in January I will be catching babies in Cuzco, Peru, and attending midwifery classes with one of my favorite teachers. I plan to blog my adventures, so stay tuned.

And for any Matrona detractors out there, I leave you with the wisdom of ol' Robert Zimmerman:

Come mothers and fathers
Throughout the land
And don't criticize
What you can't understand
Your sons and your daughters
Are beyond your command
Your old road is
Rapidly agin'.
Please get out of the new one
If you can't lend your hand
For the times they are a-changin'.

Seek the source, heed not idle gossip.


1. My sister, the educator, pointed out a misspelled word on this here blog. Duly noted, and corrected. Thank you.

2. Months ago I questioned the meaning of "natural" on a natural food store's in-house line of ice cream. This small chain is advertising its dairy to be rGBH-free. Yet the ingredients of Vanilla Ice Cream are Milk, Sugar, Cream, and "natural vanilla flavor". Ingredients of Chocolate are Milk, Sugar, Cream, and Cocoa. Ingredients of Strawberry are Milk, Sugar, Cream, and Strawberries. Nowhere on the label does it say anything about rGBH. I would love some clarification.

09 August, 2008

Right on, dude.

McConaughey to plant son's placenta in orchard

The fact that this is considered newsworthy makes me chuckle. Maybe it will normalize placentas for more people. Ya think?

18 June, 2008

a present

(this actually happened 2 weeks ago)

We were driving home and little J pointed out the window:

"Mom! I see the moon! It's a present-shaped moon."

"natural" ice cream?

In a bid to become competitive with other grocery stores, a certain healthfood store chain has begun to sell its own line of foods, including canned beans, pasta, olive oil, and "natural" ice cream. The ice cream ingredients are on par with haagen-dazs or breyer's: milk, cream, sugar, maybe some carrageenan. Because there are no additives or colorings or artificial flavors, it gets to call itself "natural".

Is this misleading the masses?

The company's overall product philosophy reads quite pristine.

So what's the truth with this ice cream?

I wonder where the milk and cream comes from, if the cows have been given rBGH, antibiotics, GMO and pesticide-ridden feed, or cardboard for dietary roughage. I wonder if the cows are factory-farmed under fluorescent lights, if they stand upon hard concrete floors in their own excrement all day long, if they ever feel the breeze, get rained upon, eat anything fresh and green.

09 April, 2008

just desserts

My son and I enjoyed some lawn-wildcrafted violets this evening. How my heart does backflips when his wee voice says "thank you violets!" When I joined him outside I noticed he had something green in his mouth. "What are you eating?" "Chickweed!"

I always envisioned sharing my love of herbs with a child. But I couldn't fully imagine the joy. And violets are especially yummy in mint chocolate chip ice cream. (Take note, FAK!)

07 April, 2008

the original organic health & beauty aid

We are among a select few species of mammals that don't practice placentophagy. Some cultures revere it as a potent and powerful medicine. The Japanese company making these products removes "all traces of blood, hormones, toxins and disease agents." If you remove the hormones, then what is the point of ingesting placenta? And if the placentas are in need of such extensive screening, that suggests they are not from healthy creatures who ate a pristine diet and had an unmedicated pregnancy and birth. Oho! They are from pigs. (Pig placentas are quite structurally different from human/primate placentas. Fascinating stuff, if you go for that sort of thing: Placental Structure and Classification)

The linked article claims placentas are "vegan". Not anywhere close. Yes, there is the "meat which comes from life and not death" argument. However, a placenta is an organ. It would be like saying that liver is a vegan food. Even if those pigs ate a completely organic diet, roamed free in sun and mud every day, sniffed lilacs, conversed with the moon and stars and spiders named Charlotte, eating their placentas is not something any self-respecting vegan would do.

Some cultures consider the placenta to be the baby's twin. Now how vegan is that?

I do wish placentas were revered for the amazing, life-sustaining, miraculous organs they are. We were all attached to one in utero and likely stroked its tree of life surface before we could form conscious memory. I try to make sure my clients have an opportunity to see their placentas and I praise them for growing a healthy one.

Here are two websites that celebrate the wondrous placenta: http://placentabenefits.info/index.asp

Placenta remedies are old as time. German Midwife and waterbirth guru Cornelia Enning has written a small book detailing placenta lore with recipes for food, medicine, and topical treatments.

You can still order powdered human placenta from some Chinese herbal companies. Called Ziheche, its medicinal actions include: to warm the kidney, to replenish vital essence, qi and blood. Reinforcing the kidney and nourishing the sperm, reinforcing the vital energy and enriching the blood.
It is used to treat poor health, night sweats, impotence and premature ejaculation, sterility, emaciation, a hectic fever, and poor milk production. Also indicated for cough, shortness of breath, and poor appetite accompanying a long-term illness.

To staunch an immediate postpartum hemorrhage, a small piece of placenta may be placed inside the mother's cheek. TCM considers it a galactogogue. It is nature's best medicine for women suffering from Postpartum Mood Disorders. And it's FREE!

Mothers and mothers-to-be: if eating placenta or making medicine from it freaks you out, consider taking this precious "cake" that was once a part of you and returning it to the earth. It is not medical waste any more than your baby or your moonblood is medical waste. I implore you to honor it and complete the cycle.

23 March, 2008

on the pulse, in the flow...

my mom said "Oh I read something in the paper today about Agave."
love it when this happens!

Blowing the lid off Agave Nectar

Health foodies and diabetics beware! The short version: Agave Syrup/Nectar is NOT a health food item and is NOT good for people with impaired insulin & glucose metabolism.

Here's the longer version:
Agave syrup/nectar is 90% fructose and 10% glucose. (For some companies it's 97% fructose.) High fructose corn syrup contains anywhere from 55-90% fructose. Table sugar, or sucrose, is a dimeric molecule comprised of 1 glucose monomer plus 1 fructose monomer.

Fructose is the sugar molecule found mostly in fruit and a little in honey. When you eat fruit, you get vitamins and minerals, plus fiber which slows down the absorption of sugar. When you drink pasteurized fruit juice, you are drinking a pretty-colored fructose cocktail, perhaps with a few nutrients that survived the pasteurization process (Vitamin C is destroyed by heat). Sugars consumed without their associated minerals actually pull minerals from our bodily stores during their metabolism. Zoikes, scoob!

For thousands of years, human biochemistry evolved to process relatively low amounts of fructose. Fruit was consumed in season, when available, and as a whole food. Honey was a rare treat, not a pantry staple.

Onto the glycemic index. Agave syrup is often touted as healthy due to its coveted low-glycemic status. The glycemic index is a measurement of how a food affects blood glucose levels in comparison to glucose, as measured 2-3 hours after consumption. Glucose has a glycemic index measurement of 99 or 100, and is the sugar molecule our cells use most effectively as a direct energy source. Sucrose (table sugar) has a GI of 58-68. Fructose is anywhere from 11-25, and Agave Nectar about 10-11. So yes, Agave's fructose is considered low-glycemic when measured in this fashion. Because it cannot be processed by most of our body's cells, it doesn't immediately affect blood sugar metabolism.

Instead fructose must be catabolized by the liver, where it is turned into smaller molecules which bypass the body's glucose-regulating mechanisms. The fructose breakdown molecules readily enter the glycolysis (glucose metabolism) and lipogenesis (fat-producing) cycles. One result of this is an over-production of triglycerides (indeed this is the favored pathway--no other sugar converts to fat as readily as does fructose). Another result is the conversion of fructose into glucose. Interestingly, fructose also activates glucose uptake and metabolism.

Consuming regular, large amounts of isolated Fructose raises serum Triglycerides and Low Density Lipoproteins (and Very Low Density Lipoproteins). This also raises total cholesterol and adversely affects the HDL:LDL ratio. Not only does it alter blood lipids for the worse, fructose consumption also causes cells to be insulin-resistant, sending a message to the pancreas to pump out even more insulin! What happens as a result of insulin resistance and hyperinsulinemia? The body stores fat, primarily around the abdomen. And you crave more sweets--an addictive, vicious cycle. This condition is called the Metabolic Syndrome or Syndrome X, AKA Pre-Diabetes.

What other hidden effects does Fructose have?
-elevates uric acid. In one study, two servings of fruit juice per day increased a person's chances of developing Gout almost twofold over the placebo group. (Underwood BMJ 2008 336: 285-286) Elevated uric acid is also related to heart disease.
-especially contributes to insulin resistance in women who take oral contraceptives or HRT
-does not raise leptin levels comparatively to other sugars, so you don't feel satisfied after eating and may overeat.
-makes you lose minerals! Fructose consumption increases urinary output of calcium, magnesium, and phosphorous and intestinal (fecal) output of magnesium, iron, and zinc.
-may cause gastrointestinal upset and diarrhea
-raises levels of C-reactive protein, a marker for inflammation
-raises levels of homocysteine, an amino acid associated with cardiovascular disease
-contributes to atherosclerosis
-long-term use contributes to cirrhosis of the liver
-inhibits copper metabolism. copper is essential to connective tissue health, including collagen, elastin, bone, and arterial strength. it also plays a role in blood sugar metabolism. hmmm...
-between 1/10,000 and 1/50,000 people have hereditary fructose intolerance. Fructose jams up their glucose pathways and severe hypoglycemia results.
-Fructose may be especially problematic for people with high blood pressure, insulin resistance/metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, bowel disorders, and postmenopausal women.

Now my brain is spinning from processing more biochemistry than I've read in 15 years! I think I need a shot of fermented Agave...

22 March, 2008

Doula-ing & Birth Plans

Huge epiphany while vacuuming last night: I don't need to look at another birth plan. Even if I were to land in the midst of a couple's birth with no prior knowledge of them, their provider, or their fervent hopes & dreams, I could be a fabulous doula for them.

Birth plans are most useful for a mom and dad-to-be in honing their options and communicating their wishes BEFORE THE BIRTH. They can bring the plan to a prenatal visit with their midwife or doctor and hold a frank discussion about routine procedures, episiotomy statistics, etc. It can be a good way to assess if your care provider and you are seeing eye-to-eye, or if you're getting red flags about opening up and birthing with this person. As a dear friend and wise lady says "You can't order spaghetti at McDonalds." You have to order from what's on the menu. For example, if you envision a hands-off birth while your doctor believes that it is her role to provide perineal massage while your yoni is stretching around your baby's head, how are you going to achieve the birth you want?

I have a list of common events/interventions/ medications etc. that I review with parents prenatally to see if they have any questions or want more information. A birth plan helps me eyeball what their choices are or if they even know they have choices at all. But it's not necessary. We can have our discussion, they can convey their desires to me prenatally and at the birth without the magic paper. And their choices can change in an instant!

There is one OB/CNM practice here that offers its patients a pre-formed birth plan with checkboxes. It's the same mentality I use when offering my three-year-old "choices". Ultimately I am controlling the outcome while giving only the illusion of choice.

So how can I be a fabulous doula if dropped into a stranger's birth from a time machine? (Wow, can I wear a cape, too?) I can continuously reflect what I see happening back to the couple. "I see the doctor wants to place an internal fetal monitor." I can ask them if they have questions. "Do you have any questions about that?" I might even ask if they give consent if they have not indicated yes or no. "Are you okay with that?" Or ask them if they want time to mull things over. I can offer them comfort and love, mothering the mother (and father if need be!). And I can release my "stuff", my expectations, my shoulds, because it's not my birth.

I do realize that asking these questions means using lots of words, which engages the neocortex, taking a woman out of her instinctive primal birth zone. By not knowing a couple's wishes or vision I might need to use more language. However, if they are birthing in a place where I need to be talking so much, chances are there is already other chatter happening that has pulled mama away from her inner wildebeest.

21 March, 2008

B***y Bars

Local healthfood store (that term gets looser & looser all the time) now carries a certain nutrition bar designed for pregnant/ postpartum women. They claim to be "natural" and are even endorsed on the Today Show by a nutritionist and a celebrity "chef" (again applying the term loosely to a lovely woman who cooks with store-bought tomato sauce. So do I, 99% of the time, but I don't purport to be a chef. but I digress).

Let's take a look-see at the nutritional content:

Brown Rice Syrup SUGAR. The number one ingredient. Cleverly disguised as a whole food and touted as being "healthier than sugar" but once you isolate and purify it, it's maltose + glucose!

Toasted Oats, (Rolled Oats, Honey, Soybean Oil) Oats alone ain't so bad. Cooked honey (more SUGAR) creates toxic accumulations in our bodies, according to the ancient wisdom of Ayurveda. Soybean oil is high in inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids, and is a new item in the long history of human food consumption. Like most vegetable oils, highly processed and not heart-healthy.

Soy Crisp (Soy Protein Isolate, Rice Flour, Calcium Carbonate) Calcium carbonate is chalk. It also neutralizes your stomach's hydrochloric acid, making protein digestion and mineral absorption damn near impossible. Ironic, yes? Soy protein has a whole host of issues: highly estrogenic, goitrogenic (affects thyroid activity), inhibits trypsin (protein-digesting enzyme), binds to minerals making them hard to absorb, and since it's not organic, the soy is probably genetically modified and doused with pesticides. Yum. We need all the nerve and endocrine-disrupting chemicals we can get when gestating our babies, gals! Visit The Weston A. Price Foundation for information about Soy that just might rock your world.

Crisp Rice (Rice Flour, Malt Extract, Rice Bran, Calcium Carbonate) rice elements have been separated, treated with high temperatures and pressures (destroying any nutrients), and then sprayed with malt extract to replace missing fiber and more chalk (calcium carbonate)

Almonds a whole food, yippee!

Soynuts (Soybeans, Sugar, Natural Flavors, Sunflower Oil, Salt, Caramel Color) more sugar. "natural" flavors are anything but. Soy: see above.

Graham Pieces (Wheat Flour, Sugar, Canola Oil, Salt, Sodium Bicarbonate) More sugar and inflammatory, highly processed omega-6 oils. Canola oil is NOT healthy, folks. Dump yours out and don't look back. Sodium bicarbonate is baking soda. Like calcium carbonate, it neutralizes hydrochloric acid. Now you can't digest whatever nutrients your body can find in this product.

Nonfat Milk Powder Note this is not organic milk. It likely contains antibiotic and pesticide residue, as well as recombinant bovine growth hormone. Milk that is dried and powdered via high temperature processing is also oxidized, creating rancid compounds that wreak havoc on our arteries. Nitrites created by high-temperature drying are potential carcinogens. Read your yogurt labels: if they contain "powdered milk", put the yogurt down and very slowly back away.

Palm Kernel Oil Plant-based saturated fats supply energy and are not stored as body fat. Plus they contain fat-soluble vitamins. Traditional peoples around the world feed their pregnant mamas delectable fatty treats such as fish eggs because they know this helps grow a healthy baby.

Milled Flaxseeds Fiber, a little omega-3's, all right.

Vitamins & Minerals: Calcium Carbonate, (Calcium), Magnesium Carbonate (Magnesium), D-Alpha-Tocopheryl, Acetate (Vitamin E), Elemental Iron (Iron), Sodium, Ascorbate (Vitamin C), Ascorbic Acid, (Vitamin C), Folic Acid (Folate), Beta Carotene 10% (Vitamin A), Zinc Oxide (Zinc), Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, (Vitamin B6), Cyanocobalamin (Vitamin B12).

The minerals calcium, magnesium, and zinc are bound to cheap compounds and are very hard to absorb in this form. Elemental iron isn't bound to anything--I am wondering how our bodies will know it is food? We don't have receptor sites in our intestines for rust. In general these vitamins and minerals are USP, isolated, synthetic, lab-created molecules. Not organic molecules which are found in living tissues, and which sustain life.

So what we have here is essentially sugar, sugar, and more sugar; highly processed hard-to-digest protein, highly processed fats, and synthetic isolated "nutrients" wrapped in plastic. And we are supposed to grow LIFE from this toxic amalgam? "Baby wants chocolate"? Please!