Saturday, December 25, 2010

Naitree enchantee

This is such a beautiful film! It is birth with acceptance and without fear. It's simplicity speaks volumes. It is in Arabic, French, Spanish and English. The labor is enchanting and her vocalizations through contractions are musical. Gentle, peaceful, spontaneous, and joyous - a birth to be watched by all women. My favorite part is the cat ears poking up towards the pushing phase! Enjoy and happy holidays!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Dua (Supplications) for Pregnancy, Labor and Conception

This has been going around lately, but I thought some of you might benefit. Unfortunately, I'm not sure who put it together so I can't give credit where it's due. For those of you who don't know the Arabic terms, apologies! I should probably put a glossary on here somewhere, but for now if you have any questions just ask. Enjoy!

Bismillahir Rahmanir Raheem

Here is a brief list of various things that we were told to recite and do during pregnancy and labour.

Please pass it on for anyone who you feel may benefit from it.

Muhammad, peace be upon him


- Surah Inshiqaq (Surah 84) – to be recited daily throughout the pregnancy

- Surah Luqman (Surah 31) – to be recited daily during the 1st trimester when the baby’s brain, mental faculties and nervous system are developing

- Surah Yusuf (Surah 12) – to be recited in the 2nd trimester when the child’s physical appearance is forming

- Surah Maryam (Surah 19) – to be recited in the 3rd trimester as labour approaches

- “Ya Lateef” – to be recited 129 times every morning and evening

Muhammad, peace be upon him

7th month only

- The husband should recite Surah Inshirah (Surah 94) 152 times on the baby

Muhammad, peace be upon him


- The first ayat of Surah al-Fath’ (Surah 48)

- “Ya Lateef”

- Surah Maryam (Surah 19)

- Surah Inshirah (Surah 94)

- “As salaam Alaikum ayuha-nabee wa rahmatullahi wa barakatu”

Muhammad, peace be upon him

General advice

- Shaykh Muhammad Ba Shu’ayb once advised, for the sake of any children we are to have to recite all our adhkar and awrad everyday and to ensure that we pray as many prayers in congregation with our spouse.

- Read as much Quran as possible.

- Try and do as much salawat on the Prophet (saw) as possible – in particular Salat al-Tunjina’ and “As salaam Alaikum ayuha-nabee wa rahmatullahi wa barakatu”

- As babies are said to be able to recognise certain sounds and music from their time in the womb, reading certain texts such as the “Book of Assistance” by Imam al-Haddad, is advised in order to bring about recognition.

- One of the Habaib advised pregnant women to look at pictures of the Ka’aba when she was too tired to actively engage in ibada.

Muhammad, peace be upon him

For those trying to conceive children

Habib Umar has recommended…

- Recite Surah Fatiha (Surah 1) 41 times in between the sunnah and fard of Fajr prayer.

- Recite verse 38 of Surah Imran (Surah 3) as many times a day as possible.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Another Homebirth Video

The Homebirth of Lucia Mae from Sara Janssen on Vimeo.

This video has some darling , colorful pictures. I love the portrayal of the daughter's role in her sister's birth. It is also a testimony to the family's affection for their midwife, she's like a part of the family! To read more on the lasting impression a midwife makes through a woman's lifetime (i.e. beyond the childbearing years), check this out, Midwifery Care: Reflections of Midwifery Clients. Be sure to download the full text.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Mom I Am

I couldn't find an author to credit for this poem, so whoever you are, thank you! This is humorous and right on. Enjoy, and enjoy your weekend!!

Dr. Seuss for Nursing Moms

Would you nurse her in the park?
Would you nurse him in the dark?
Would you nurse him with a Boppy?
And when your boobs are feeling floppy?

I would nurse him in the park,
I would nurse her in the dark.
I’d nurse with or without a Boppy.
Floppy boobs will never stop me.

Can you nurse with your seat belt on?
Can you nurse from dusk till dawn?
Though she may pinch me, bite me, pull,
I will nurse her `till she’s full!

Can you nurse and make some soup?
Can you nurse and feed the group?
It makes her healthy strong and smart,
Mommy’s milk is the best start!

Would you nurse him at the game?
Would you nurse her in the rain?
In front of those who dare complain?
I would nurse him at the game.
I would nurse her in the rain.

As for those who protest lactation,
I have the perfect explanation.
Mommy’s milk is tailor made
It’s the perfect food, you need no aid.

Some may scoff and some may wriggle,
Avert their eyes or even giggle.
To those who can be cruel and rude,
Remind them breast’s the perfect food!

I would never scoff or giggle,
Roll my eyes or even wiggle!
I would not be so crass or crude,
I KNOW that this milk’s the perfect food!

We make the amount we need
The perfect temp for every feed.
There’s no compare to milk from breast-
The perfect food, above the rest.

Those sweet nursing smiles are oh so sweet,
Mommy’s milk is such a treat.
Human milk just can’t be beat.

I will nurse, in any case,
On the street or in your face.
I will not let my baby cry,
I’ll meet her needs, I’ll always try.
It’s not about what’s good for you,
It’s best for babies, through and through.

I will nurse her in my home,
I will nurse her when I roam.
Leave me be lads and ma’am.
I will nurse her, Mom I am.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Right Side Up - Breech Babies

The women in the above photo are trying to right a baby. This directionally challenged baby is coming bottom first. The method they are using to try to turn the baby, hard to decipher in this photo, is called moxibustion. Moxa, or mugwort, is heated and, like acupuncture, used over certain pressure points to induce heat to the region, and thereby blood flow. It works incredibly well for turning babies upside down, exactly where they need to be in order to be born.

Four percent of all babies present breech at term, or 37 weeks of gestation and beyond. How do you imagine that those four percent are born? Does the doctor or midwife, pull them out by their feet? What is the danger of a breech birth? Why do we never hear of babies born breech anymore?

A recent study in Tel Aviv has challenged the wisdom of late that breech babies should be born via Cesarean section. In the 'old days' the skills to deliver a baby coming breech, feet or butt first, were taught in medical school. After 2000, this was no longer the case. The Term Breech Study, the largest of its kind on breech births, found that breech babies delivered vaginally had a 1% increase of death in the first six weeks of life. The study also found that for mothers there were more benefits to a vaginal birth. From then on, the only doctors to attempt breeches were the old school doctors who had learned from experience that babies born breech, stubbornly do just as well as their head first counterparts. There were many issues with the 2000 Term Breech Study including research bias, and the fact that it's near impossible to randomize such a study.

The Tel Aviv study is urging medical schools to reintroduce the skills of delivering breech babies. Their research shows that there is no increase risk to a baby born breech vaginally and that mothers do better with morbidity and mortality when delivered vaginally. Professor Glezerman, a researcher on the trial, states that a C-section is no minor event in a woman's reproductive life, that it impacts future pregnancies, uterine health, and subsequent labors.
Although, not mentioned in the study, increasingly the research is pointing towards health effects of babies born by C-section as well. In one of the more recent findings, babies born by Cesarean section are at a higher risk of developing celiac disease. Another reason to avoid unnecessary surgery, who would want to assign anyone to a diet that prohibits bread, pasta, cookies!! Poor baby.

So how do you reconcile the lack of skill of the current docs with a pending breech birth? Look at the photo above for some inspiration - you make all efforts to turn the baby before delivery. Here are some tips to get you started:

  • Acupuncture/moxibustion is a powerful tool for breech babies. Do the moxa each day while squatting and making figure eights with your hips. I'm not kidding! One time I had an acupuncturist for a client, with a persistent breech presentation. She tried everything under the sun, before turning to her chosen profession, to turn her little girl. Two nights of these contortions and the babe turned!

  • Pulsatilla 200C one time. My little girl was breech until about 35 weeks. I never resorted to this, but I was ready to. It was suggested to make it a one time event, and to do it consciously. Light some candles, pour some tea, put your hips up, and take the pulsatilla. Engage with your baby, visualize his little head snuggled tight in your pelvis. This can be a really powerful way to turn a baby.

  • The breech tilt. This is an old recommendation, but really useful. The idea is to elevate your hips higher than your pelvis, to disengage the baby so that when you stand up, the baby will realign itself the proper way. You can do this by laying an ironing board angled against a coach and laying down, with your feet up and head on the floor. Or you can make a stack of pillows and put your hips atop the pillows. Do these for at least 15 minutes twice a day. Talk with your baby and shine a flashlight starting at the top and moving to the pelvis, "For now and always baby, follow the light."

  • Webster's Technique is a chiropractic technique that is often employed to help turn breech babies. It's not really 'turning' the baby, it's addressing tightness and torsion, among other issues in the mother's pelvis. Let's be fair after all, there are two players at work here, it's not just the baby choosing to be breech. Fibroids, cysts, and other issues in the mother's pelvic can force the baby into a breech position. Webster's technique can address some of these problems.

  • One of the interesting theories about why babies are breech is not a physical reason. There is a theory that babies who are breech do so out of a need to get their mother's attention. It's as if they are saying, "Hello, remember me, I need you to pay attention." It could be this lack of attention that is causing them to swim close to mama's heart, a gentle pull on it's strings, those tiny fingers dialing your number before you've even heard them cry. It's a sweet thought and one I found bore a lot of fruit for women who were breech beyond 35 weeks. It tended to happen to women who worked, worked, worked right up until the end, women undergoing a lot of stress, and women who maybe had some hesitancy about becoming a mother. Overall tension also produces lots of tension in the pelvic region, which can be a culprit in breech presentation. If you are breech these themes are worth exploring through journaling, art, conversation, etc...

  • If none of that works, there is always frozen peas. Put a pack of frozen veggies on your babies bum. They won't much like it and will soon get the picture that that's not where they should be hanging out and will head to, uh, warmer regions!

The most important thing with breech delivery is the skill and experience of the practitioner. If none of the above work, seek out someone experienced with breech births. These tend to be the older male obstetricians and older midwives. Trust your instincts, as always. And encourage medical schools to teach the skills of delivering babies who for some reason, want to land in this world, feet first.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Hakima Midwifery at Eco-Fair

EcoFair Button Tomorrow, November 6, from 11-4, the MCA in Santa Clara, California is hosting it's annual Eco Fair. I'm going to have a booth there with lots of giveaways, including Erba Organics mom and baby body care products. I think I might even have some chocolate to give out too. So, come and say salaam, there will be children's activities, a mini farmer's market, demonstrations, a book and hijab exchange, and more. Come and support the Muslim Green Team!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

What Luke Said

Home births don't always happen at home. On average around 10% of attempted home births end in the hospital. This is the story of one such birth and the feelings and raw emotion such a transfer can evoke. This acute disappointment and sense of failure is the domain of women who attempt natural birth and don't end up with one. They are the brave ones, the ones who risk, struggle, go out on a limb, and after their labor, in this case two days of it, end up in the place they had hoped to avoid. Unlike women who intend a hospital birth and well, end up with one, women who attempt a home birth and then end up in the hospital have the extra burden of processing what went 'wrong'. Another curve on the long road of motherhood.

Maceo was my client. She is an example of the intelligent and thoughtful women who choose out of hospital birth. A talented writer and warm presence, she brought joy to her pregnancy and was one of the rare women who enjoyed the pregnancy more and more as her belly swelled, all the way up to and past her due date! She will always have a special place in my heart as after my own baby was born, in her fifth month of pregnancy, she brought me delicious Cuban food and her cheery presence. We measured her belly on my couch with my two week old sleeping nearby. During her first night of contractions, I slid my sleeping daughter into the car, and drove the mile to Maceo's house, my daughter never waking the entire night. This type of shared motherhood is the glue of friendship and community. Thank you Maceo!

So without further ado, here is a re-posting from Maceo's own blog,
Dripping River Water, which of course, you all must go subscribe to right now, as I'm sure there is much forthcoming mama wisdom from this source! And welcome to the sweetest Omar!

There is a table in the lobby. It is long and wooden positioned right below a big mirror. There people leave things they no longer want: old fax machines, magazines, sneakers, books. I am the resident manager and this leaving of things annoys me only when no one takes it. I am left to throw away these items. Things that could have easily been given as a donation, somewhere else, not in the lobby of my building. There was a pocket sized New Testament once. I picked it up. This is a book I couldn’t throw out, I couldn’t leave it on the sidewalk, I couldn’t give it to a random person. I had to keep it and for a year it lived between my Moroccan Arabic Phrasebook and El diccionario de sinonimos y antonimos bought in Venezuela when I was there in 1996.

My son is now 5 weeks old. He has lived his days between arms of those who love him. I have only been away from him minutes at a time, missing him and calling my mami to see how he is doing. Yesterday I went for a walk with my friend. I left my mami with 5 ozs of my milk. I gave her instructions and hoped that it wouldn’t be too hard for either of them. The sun was out. Its rays hit my toes. There was a chill in shady areas. I was afraid to catch a cold. I thought of myself confined in my bedroom pumping milk, sweating and sick, not able to see my son.

We went to Arizmendi. I was treated to pizza and a root beer sitting outside. I watched the beautiful people of Oakland pass by. I saw the mamas pushing the strollers or carrying their babies on their backs. I saw the dogs. The endless amount of dogs take over the sidewalk. I wondered if my skin would darken sitting outside of Arizmendi. I have been home for weeks looking out the living room windows at the trees and the birds. The root beer was good. It became my new favorite. There on the table was the cap. It had writing. In the inside it read, Luke 1:37. I thought the root beer bottling was more hipster than religious. Or maybe it was both.

For the past five weeks I have only written in my head. I write books and plays while I nurse my son in his sleep. I wish that the words would leave my mind and walk unto the page. Any page. Somewhere else. But the words don’t. They are locked away and I wonder if I will be able to write. Then I read stories of writers who have shared similar nights. Perhaps not nursing their sons but still in bed writing words on the walls with their pupils.

For the past five weeks I have begun learning what it is to be a mother. I have learned what it is to remain still, to be totally dependent. There is a scar above my bikini line. It is black and sometimes it is sore. All throughout my pregnancy I was pleased not to have any stretch marks. Instead I got a scar where they pulled my baby out. That scar reminds me of my imperfections and my failures.

I wonder sometimes why I couldn’t give birth at home. Sometimes I have a hard time completing things. The end is always so hard. I go through my over fifty hours of labor at home and four days in the hospital. I try to figure out what exactly went wrong. I know everything is God’s will but somehow I feel at a loss. I wonder if somewhere in back of my mind I was too scared to finish the job. I couldn’t give birth naturally in a birthing tub, in my kitchen because it meant I actually had to complete something. I needed help. Like heavy drugs to soothe me, to make me relax, to actually fall asleep. I went to the hospital, a place I still don’t want to give birth in again. They helped me. I had sweet nurses who gave me more pillows and filled my water bottle. I knew that with a touch of button someone would be at my side. So the whole time I had to not be upset. I had to take everything in stride because I had my baby in my arms. And if I got frustrated at the nurses constantly coming in and asking me the same questions, at them grabbing my breasts without asking me anything to see if my milk was coming out, at my son being picked up all hours of the night to be weighed, I would have made it worse for myself and I would have been ungrateful. I still have to write about that. All of that. But I am afraid that it will make me cry.

On my bedside table there is a tube of Barq’s root beer lip balm. I don’t like that root beer but I like the taste on my lips. I put it on last night before getting into bed. Then I remembered. Luke 1:37. I went to the living room to the shelf where the pocket size New testament lived. I took it into bed. My husband perplexed. I have not read the Qur’an in weeks and here I was with the Bible. I opened it to Luke right away. There I read: “For with God nothing will be impossible.”

Sighs and smiles.

the end.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Good Bacteria

This article came out a few months back, but time has not diminished my amazement! Of the myriad species specific qualities that breastmilk possesses, one of the more fascinating is the 'probiotic' qualities. A newborn, born with a very sterile gut, lands in a world full of bacteria, good and bad. The probiotic qualities of breastmilk, or the good bacteria in breastmilk, sufficiently protect newborns from a host of sometimes lethal gastrointestinal diseases. The recently discovered, bifidobacterium longus, passes through breastmilk to the infant, and on its way out, coats the babies intestine with a protective coating, thereby serving the role of stomach acid, a substance babies don't yet possess much of. This coating acts as a decoy to potential bacteria and viruses, coaxing it to bypass the baby's gut.

Dr. E. Stephen Buescher
, a pediatrician and scholar of breastmilk's many anti-infective and ant-inflammatory qualities, has an interesting theory as to why this protective coating not only benefits the gut, but also may contribute to the dramatic reduction in ear infections in breastfed infants. He had an exclusively breastfed son who spit up, a lot. After watching a plethora of spit up episodes, ones that sometimes exited the nasal orifices, he reasoned that the breastmilk when spit up was coating the upper respiratory tract with all of it's soothing and protective qualities, just like it coats the intestine. Embrace the spit up. It's better than an ear infection!

Scientists are beginning to understanding that breastmilk can serve as a lesson plan for how to nourish and protect the human body against pathogens, not just in babies. It is after all a food, specifically designed for humans, and the most vulnerable, swiftest growing of humans. The researchers aren't sure what happens, or where these bifidobacterium bacteria hide out in adults. But probiotic supplementation in America is a booming business, sales of it tripled between 1994 and 2003. Perhaps we could save our children some money in their future, by breastfeeding them now. As one of the researchers so eloquently summed it up, "It’s all there for a purpose, though we’re still figuring out what that purpose is,” Dr. Mills said. “So for God’s sake, please breast-feed.”

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Nursing on Both Sides

And because I love this life

I know I shall love death as well.

The child cries out when

From the right breast the mother

Takes it away, in the very next moment

To find in the left one

Its consolation.

-Rabindranath Tagore
from Gitanjali

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Guardian Angels

afghanistan midwife

NPR just posted a story on Afghanistan's midwives. The training of midwives in a country with the second highest maternal mortality rate in the world (approximately 1600 women for every 100,000 women who deliver die) is proving to beneficial, not only for the women who deliver at these midwives hands, but for the midwives themselves. It is an occupation accepted in a society with deeply entrenched customs concerning women and work. With midwifery, everybody wins. The head of woman's affairs in the province of Badakshan, recently declared that the midwives are like, " angels for infants and mothers."

A world away, here in America, a world where woman's rights are supposedly sacrosanct, we are also struggling to make midwifery safe and legal. Illinois is currently debating the role of midwives in their state, a state with a large rural population, who sometimes end up delivering with no licensed practitioner attending them. Rural areas could grealty benefit from legal midwifery. It allows access to qualified health care providers, something all women should have the right to, during pregnancy and childbirth. Time magazine recently detailed the lengths some women have to go to in order to have a licensed midwife at their birth. It is reminiscent of the what some women used to go through in this country in order to obtain an abortion.

It astounds me how similar the struggles of a woman in rural Afghanistan and a woman on the 'El' train in Chicago truly are. Both are entitled to safe, smart, professional care during their childbearing years. Why then, can we laud such care for Afghan women, but fear or deny it for ourselves? It's time America realize all of the benefits of midwifery care, and it's time we stick up for woman's rights on our very own soil too. For as the head of woman's affairs summarized, midwives really are guardian angels for mothers and infants. Don't all mothers and infants deserve such a watchful, tender eye?

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Labor Popsicles and Lactation Cookies

Eid Mubarak! Maybe because the past few days have been all about food, I've decided to bring you a food post, replete with recipes! Let's start with the labor pops. This is a simple way to stay both hydrated, and nourished throughout labor. Many women experience nausea with contractions, and these labor pops are a great way to head that off. The coolness is also refreshing and easy to take in.

You'll need:

1-2 oz of dried red raspberry leaf
1 quart of water
Quart size jar with lid
Honey and lemon to taste
2-3 1mg calcium tablets
ice tray

To make the labor pops, steep 1-2 ounces of red raspberry leaf in a quart of water for at least 20 minutes up to four hours. Strain and sweeten with lots of honey and lemon, these will add much needed calories and lemon can help ease the nausea (as well as the red raspberry leaf). Crush the calcium tablets and add to the tea. Calcium is a muscle relaxant and can help with some aches and pains during labor. Pour the mixture into the ice tray. When labor commences, eat throughout the labor. They really are easy to eat when nothing else sounds to good!

Lactation cookies purportedly can increase and/or maintain milk supply. I find them more of an excuse to eat cookies, but, oh what a great excuse! They are also nice to just have around to snack on, or take with you while on the go; an easy way to up your calorie intake while nursing. And they happen to taste really, really good. Here is a recipe that I like and that makes enough to feed everyone in your house. Just don't tell them they are 'lactation cookies'!

  1. Preheat oven to 350°.
  2. Mix the flaxseed meal and water and let sit for 3-5 minutes.
  3. Beat butter, sugar, and brown sugar well.
  4. Add eggs and mix well.
  5. Add flaxseed mix and vanilla, beat well.
  6. Sift together flour, brewers yeast, baking soda, and salt.
  7. Add dry ingredients to butter mix.
  8. Stir in oats and chips.
  9. Scoop onto baking sheet.
  10. Bake for 12 minutes.
  11. Let set for a couple minutes then remove from tray.

I hope you enjoy these recipes as much as I have! Finally, here's a beautifully portrayed home birth of one Leo Hart. Scroll down to see the video, it's well worth it. Have a great weekend!

photo: watermelon and cucumber popsicles by rakka and cookies by ilmungo

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Mother Roasting

Please check out my article entitled, "Mother Roasting" at Rhythm of the Home's fabulous and inspiring online parenting/craft magazine. My article contains a how-to on preparing a nurturing postpartum gift basket, or experience for you or a friend. It also speaks a bit about postpartum practices worldwide, where warmth and nourishing of new mothers and babies is an art form.

There are some intriguing articles and craft tutorials from this season's edition that I can't wait to dive into. If you've been directed here from Rhythm of the Home, welcome and thanks for visiting!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Womb and Mercy

The Tao of Islam: A Sourcebook on Gender Relationships in Islamic Thought

Some of my Ramadan reading has entailed the above, The Tao of Islam by Sachiko Murata. It is only through the materially deprived yet,spiritual uplifting state of fasting, that I can even hope to make sense of most of this book. She uses the Taoist formulation of yin and yang as a lens to look at Islam's theology around gender relations. It's fascinating. She has a most amazing chapter entitled, "The Womb." One of Allah's 99 names, ar-Rahman, or the Most Merciful one is closely related to the word for 'womb' in Arabic. There is so much depth and reflection on that alone, but for one more qualified than I! I wish to leave you with a few quotes relating ,of course to pregnancy, birth and mothers, all of which can be a wide opening into understanding the nature of the One who created.

There are four main sayings by the Prophet Muhammad, called hadith in Arabic, regarding the womb, which Murata uses towards the end of the chapter to exemplify the relationship between the nature of women, and Allah's Mercy. One of these that I particularly like is:

"God said, 'I am God and I am the All-merciful. I created the womb and gave it a name derived from My own name. Hence, if someone cuts off the womb, I will cut him off, but if someone joins the womb, I will join him to Me'"

The following passage on the station of mothers, was aid by Ali ibn al-Husayn, the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad.

"The right of your mother is that you know that she carried you where no one carries anyone, she gave to you of the fruit of her heart that which no one gives to anyone, and she protected you with all of her organs. She did not care if she went hungry as along as you ate, if she was thirsty as long as you drank, if she was naked as long as you were clothed, if she was in the sun as long as you were in the shade. She gave up sleep for your sake, she protected you from heat and cold, in order that you might belong to her. You will not be able to show her gratitude, unless through God's help and giving success." (pg 213)

In reflecting on gestation and birth and how it relates to the grave and death, and the life after this, Sachiko Murata writes:

"Human beings develop in the womb in a manner that parallels the order followed by God in creating the macrocosm. In the womb the infant grows to completion and reaches deliverance by dying to the womb in order to be born into the world. In the world the human being grows to spiritual perfection and reaches deliverance through death to this world and birth into the next."

In keeping in this vein of reflecting on birth in this life with birth in the next, Murata quotes a Rumi poem. Here, he is comparing pregnancy and birth to a death, and encouraging us to live by the quote of Ali to "Die before you die", this of course, referring to the death of the ego. Like labor, this is an incredible challenge on all levels.

"Although the mother suffers the pain of childbirth, the embryo breaks out of prison.

The woman weeps at the birth: "Where is the refuge?" The child laughs: "Deliverance has come!"

Until mothers feel the pain of childbirth, the child finds no way to be born.

The Trust is within the heart and the heart is pregnant: all the exhortations of the saints act as a midwife.

The midwife says, "The woman has no pain. Pain is necessary, for it will open a way for the child."

I hope these quotes inspire you in these waning days of Ramadan. Please remember me and my family in your prayers!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Blessed Births and Beginnings

Motherhood by bagath makka

My Ramadan post has taken a back seat to, well, my Ramadan! Next year God willing, I will post something! In the meantime, I have found a lecture, again by Shaykh Abdul Hakim Murad, on motherhood. He talks about many of the mothers mentioned in the Quran, the mother of Moses, Mary, and others, and mentions the significance of this. That each time we speak about greatness, we mention the mother, and that this in turn deserves an immense amount of respect. He mentions that starting with birth, a mother is given blessings; that with each contraction she is given the reward of freeing a slave. Each contraction! One reason to be grateful for a long labor! If you are celebrating Ramadan this year, I pray that it is one of enormous benefit to you and your family. Look for more frequent posting in a couple of weeks!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Born into Ramadan

"Metabolically and internally, Ramadan knocks the stuffing out of us. Like all the basic practices of our religion, it is an idea as simple as it is shattering. The body and spirit respond at their deepest level. The ego squeals with pain. To the extent that we are still babies, we cry and cry.

There are some elemental human experiences where the body, detecting its limits, transforms the spirit. Making love, famously, is one example. But there are others. Once, walking in the Alps, I passed a lake as blue as cobalt, formed from the meltwater of a glacier which towered over it. No-one was in sight, so I stripped off and ran straight in. The shock of that freezing water around me was staggering, and I could feel my heart straining. Coming out, shivering uncontrollably, I felt like a king. All of life seemed to be shivering around me, and the world seemed to have become strangely sharp and bright.

The experience of being born must be similar. From a comfort zone we experience the pain of delivery, and the outrage of new existence in an external world of bright lights and strange sounds. The baby screams, but its pain is its first experience of true life. Spiritually, it has begun its career.

The fast blasts us, and exhausts us. We feel the laughable flab melting away, and start to remember the important fact that we are alive. Life is a symbiosis between our bodies and the world. We are alive when we feel that interaction and dependency at work."


By Sh. Abdal-Hakim Murad

Please consider donating to the Cambridge Mosque, the first fully eco-friendly mosque in Europe, of which Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad is a part of.

Photo by The Alpine by kern.justin

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Home Birth Videos

I bring you two home birth videos. The first is a first time couple, birthing at home on their Oregon farm. It is a mini-documentary and one of the most modest home birth films I have seen, yet very real and moving. The second is from a documentary I have blogged about before, The Doula Film. It is a second time mom birthing at home in the UK. She is incredibly calm and composed throughout the birth, particularly whilst pushing. Enjoy.

I hope to post on Ramadan for pregnant and nursing moms in the next day or two. Ramadan begins here tomorrow so we are making goodies and preparing today. There is a sister conducting a study on whether or not fasting in Ramadan while nursing impacts baby weight gain, and/or milk supply. She is hoping to get more participants. If you are interested please email her at - until then enjoy the videos and Ramadan Kareem!!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Birthing With Reverence
img_2798 by eyeliam

I found the following passage, about birthing with reverence from midwife Carolina Wise, to be eloquent and thoughtful. She does a wonderful job of extrapolating our current state of our highly technological maternity care system to our understanding of the meaning of sacred in society. May we all be more reverent. Birth is a litmus test for a society's treatment of women and for it's application of the sacred. A rising 32.8% Cesarean rate (and rising) leaves much to be said for America's view of women.

Birthing with Reverence

Midwives can create a spirit of beauty at a birth or they can desecrate it. They can create a sacred space around a birthing woman that drives out fear and inspires the mother’s belief in herself, which ultimately determines the outcome of the birth. Midwives can be a channel of Grace in ways they never imagined and in doing so they create a spirit of reverence. Reverence in these days and times is not a common thing.

As a midwife there were times after births that I was overcome with awe, which is another term for reverence. It seemed appropriate for the sun to stand still in the sky, and the traffic to stop, and the whole universe to pause for a minute of awe in acknowledgement [sic] that something astonishing had just happened. It just seemed appropriate that all of creation should have taken notice. Perhaps, in the unseen world, it did.

Unfortunately in America there appears to be little reverence for much, especially not women or birth. This is not surprising given the history of the oppression of midwives, the rise of the medical model and the objectification of women’s bodies. The sacred has not just been drowned out at births but in our lives as a whole. In fact, reverence is not part of our public vocabulary at all. Yet, there are a few things that Americans do revere. Reverence for money comes to mind.

If you follow where the money goes it will reveal the short list of things that Americans do have reverence for. Large amounts of money are funneled into the pornography industry. Women are not revered in that industry. In fact, they are desecrated as an object of fantasy, not to be loved, cherished and honored, but simply to be used and discarded. Therefore, lust is revered, and as a result we have become a pornographic culture in which women are routinely desecrated.

Desecration involves an act in which a sacred thing is pillaged, or dishonored. The opposite of desecration is reverence. Reverence acknowledges and honors the sacred. Women and that which has to do with them, namely birth, are sacred. But they are not sacred at this place and this time. In fact, who among all the industrialized nations are reverent about women and what they do when they give birth?

Midwives have been given a sacred trust and a great honor to stand by as a witness to a miracle. Birth is not a small miracle. It is an extraordinary miracle. We are created for reverence and our work demands it. But when birth became a medical procedure our culture became so far removed from the beauty of it that it became commonplace and unimportant to the larger community. In the process of our irreverence we lost sight of our beauty as human beings.

Caroline Wise
Excerpted from "Birthing with Reverence," Midwifery Today, Issue 82

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

World Breastfeeding Week

Piknikas by c r z.
Piknikas by c r z

Happy World Breastfeeding Week! Every year, the first week in August is World Breastfeeding Week. Among other things, the purpose of this week is to highlight the ten steps to successful breastfeeding, which are part of the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative. The World Health Organization and UNICEF started this initiative in 1991 to encourage hospitals to engage in birth and immediate postpartum practices which encourage exclusive breastfeeding. Of the 19,000 facilities worldwide, the US has a mere 63.

If a hospital birth is in your future, I strongly encourage you to consult this list of the US Baby Friendly hospitals and deliver there. At the birth center, we take our transfers to one of two Baby Friendly hospitals in the Bay Area. It is a display of excellence in maternity care. Women and babies are treated as they should be, an inseparable dyad (unless, of course, medically indicated). Because un-medicated, natural, vaginal births have higher rates of success in regards to initiating breastfeeding, these hospitals tend to support natural births, and offer less interventions. Here are the 10 steps to successful breastfeeding:

1. Have a written breastfeeding policy that is routinely communicated to all healthcare staff.

2. Train all healthcare staff in skills necessary to implement this policy.

3. Inform all pregnant women about the benefits and management of breastfeeding.

4. Help mothers initiate breastfeeding within an hour of birth.

5. Show mothers how to breastfeed, and how to maintain lactation even if they should be separated from their infants.

6. Give newborn infants no food or drink other than breast milk, unless medically indicated.

7. Practice rooming-in - allow mothers and infants to remain together 24 hours a day.

8. Encourage breastfeeding on demand.

9. Give no artificial teats or pacifiers (also called dummies or soothers) to breastfeeding infants.

10. Foster the establishment of breastfeeding support groups and refer mothers to them on discharge from the hospital or clinic.

Sounds an awful lot like what we do at a home birth!! Maybe that's why our exclusive breastfeeding rates this past year were 99% at 'discharge' and 85% at six months, well above the national average. Enjoy the rest of the week and pat yourself on the back if you're breastfeeding. Way to go mom!!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Midwife's Apprentice

book cover of  The Midwife's Apprentice  by Karen Cushman

One thing I have managed to squeeze in over the past few weeks is some easy reading. The young adult novel, The Midwife's Apprentice by Karen Cushman, a 1996 Newberry Medal winner, tells the story of a homeless girl, Alyce, in an old English village, who is recruited by the local midwife to do the drudgery of birth work under the guise of an apprentice. She collects herbs, boils water, and is ordered to stay out of the room at the actual time of the birth, so as not to be divulged of the midwife's secrets! In the beginning the girl is grateful for a warm place to sleep and two square meals a day in exchange for her help, but eventually she succumbs to the magic of birth. Oddly enough, the first time she realizes that she has a knack for birth is at the delivery of twin calves. The mama cow is frightened and so Alyce starts to pet her and whisper to her, and soon the miracle of birth occurs. She is smitten.

"One morning as they sat under the old oak tree eating their breakfast bread, Alyce told the cat again about the birth of Tansy's twins. 'All shiny they were and sticky to touch. I did not even know them, but I loved them so much."

I'm sure most women who attend births experience this instantaneous affection for the baby as well. I often feel as if the baby's otherworldly secret lingers with me for days after the birth. Alyce thereafter was hooked. At the next birth (of a human this time) that she attends, the midwife gets called away to another (better paying) birth. She is left alone with a thrashing, miserable, laboring woman. Her success with calming the laboring cow resurface and so she:

"...took another deep breath and returned to Joan's side. She gave her mugwort in warm ale to drink and spoke soothingly, calling her Sweetheart and Good Old Girl. She warmed oil over the fire and rubbed her head and belly, as she had the cow's. She did not know the spells or the magic, so gave Joan all she had of care and courtesy and hard work."

And that is the essence of being with women in labor, coaxing babies through the darkened portal into light, bringing a woman 'round the bend to motherhood just takes a little courtesy, care, and hard work. It makes such a difference to have a hand to hold, a soft smile, and someone to laugh with when it's all said and done. These are the midwives, the ones who sit with women on the threshold of pain, and walk with them over it to joy, who bring them through this rite of passage again and again with dignity, wisdom and grace. I hope that there are midwife apprentices forever.

Give this book to the young women in your life that they might be inspired. And when you do, consider that there is a global Call to Action to strengthen midwifery around the world. Maybe like Alyce, more young women will look inside themselves and feel the call to serve women with that ancient, gentle midwife's touch. Far too many women in this world never know respect and compassion when they need it most, when bringing a new life into gravity's pull. We deserve better.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

The Frog Leg Position

Sling Baby by N.R.

Dear readers, I'm so sorry for my absence these days! I am in the midst of studying for a big exam, not to mention being mama to my new babe! I hope you are enjoying the hot summer. My exam is over at the end of the month, so in the meantime, a little tidbit on baby wearing. Enjoy!

Soon after my daughter was born I received this sling as a gift. Besides being a phenomenal (and pretty!) way to carry your baby, it comes with a slew of information on the benefits and justifications for baby wearing. One of the most fascinating arguments for why babies should be carried is simply physical. They title it, The Frog Leg Position. The idea is that babies physical bodies are a sign to us that they should be carried, rather than bumped around in their car seat all day. And, that their frog legs are developmentally geared towards being carried. Their rounded backs, frog legs, and palmar grasp reflex, are cues to us clueless parents, "Carry me!"

To quote from the Didymos booklet, "....infants are especially adapted to being carried on and against our body. Thus, it is possible to make a statement about the carrying position: with widespread flexed legs, slightly rounded back and oriented towards the carrying adult." This is a good proof to me that babies were created to be carried. Ever try stuffing a baby in their car seat, they don't fit so well. And they don't like it!

Recently, there have been a spate of sling recalls. Mothering magazine addressed the issue in an hour long podcast found here. Slings are becoming increasingly popular in America and with that popularity, there has been an increase in sling manufacturers. Most of the slings recalled are the slings newer to the baby wearing market, the slings that have not withstood the test of time.

There are so many benefits to wearing your baby. I recall being in Senegal, where women wear their babies on their backs constantly, starting from the day they leave the birthing clinic until they are about two, and not being able to hear a baby cry at all. In the middle of the rural Senegalese street, you couldn't hear a pin drop, much less a baby cry. I would attribute much of this to the ubiquitous baby wearing. Strollers and car seats would be greeted with riotous laughter there. Here are some more great benefits that result from baby wearing. This is a picture of my son as a babe, being carried by one of the midwives, Khadija, in Senegal. See how much he liked it!! I hope you and your babies enjoy lots of baby wearing, those days go so fast. Here's a good website with lots of different types of slings, and the pros and cons of each. I'll be back regularly in a couple of weeks. Thanks!!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


Zoe's Delivery - July 25, 2005 by Mwesigwa.
Zoe's Delivery by Mwesigwa

VBAC (Vaginal Birth After Cesarean), or lack of it, is one of the major reasons for America's steadily (or should I say, alarmingly) rising Cesarean rate - currently a whopping 32.8% of all Amercan births end with an incision. Recently Richard Waldman MD, the president of the powerhouse medical organization, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, made a powerful statement concerning his colleagues quick jump to surgery. This year, at their annual conference he said:

"In 2008 the cesarean delivery rate reached another record high—32.8% of all births. There is a community not far from my home in which 45% of the newborns are delivered via an abdominal incision. [...] Liability dampens our spirits but unfortunately, it is also starting to define our specialty. [...] Let us recommit to do everything in our power to perform surgery only when necessary. Let us recommit to induce only when indicated and let us vow to never electively induce or perform an elective cesarean prior to 39 weeks. Any time we are tempted to take the safe path but not the righteous path, we should all say, “not on my shift."

It is a refreshing statement, one I hope holds up to the testing grounds of hectic and busy maternity wards. In our modern world it often seems that Cesarean is the only "choice" women have in the hospital to keep them and their babies safe. But our bodies have not changed since 1975 when the US Cesarean rate was 10.4%, obstetric training and practice has. Midwives have always been on the side of women and their bodies, learning and studying normal physiological birth in order to safely deliver women, and even now are often the only option for women who desire a chance at vaginal birth.

VBA2C refers to Vaginal Birth After 2 Cesareans. It is an unfortunate fact of life that many women now are in the situation of having had more than one Cesarean, but still long for a vaginal birth with a subsequent pregnancy. ACOG has in its guidelines on VBAC, allowed for a trial of labor with 2 or more Cesareans if a woman has had a vaginal birth before. Now a recent study has shown that even if a woman has not delivered vaginally before, she should still be allowed a trial of labor, even if she's had 2 prior surgical deliveries. In their findings VBAC in these cases, was successful 71.1% of the time. Uterine rupture, of course the sole reason for not allowing for VBACs, increased to 1.36%, which is roughly double what it would be in a woman who has had one prior surgery. But the tone of the researchers was encouraging and prompted practitioners to also caution their patients about the risks of a third repeat cesarean, in the light of these findings. Now that's informed consent.

This is great news for many women. Check out the video below to truly see the joy a successful VBAC can bring to a mother's face. If you want more information on VBACs in general check out this enlightening Cesarean fact sheet.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

A Noisy Postpartum

crying-baby by bbaunach.
crying-baby by bbuanach

After I had my daughter, my midwife checked both of us out, and satisfied with the health of me and my girl, tucked us snuggly into bed to rest. She then walked down to our local coffee shop and picked everyone up a latte. I got freshly picked wildflowers in lieu of the caffeine. We then proceeded to snack on fresh berries, cheese and crackers while chatting. There was a soft morning breeze blowing through my window and I could hear the pigeons cooing.

That was after my home birth. If I had had a hospital birth, it would've not only looked different, but it would have sounded different. My labor would have been accompanied by at the very least, the thumping rhythm of the fetal monitor, the beep of aforementioned monitor when the paper ran out, and the constant introductions of nurses, doctors, and pediatricians. My postpartum room most likely would have been shared with another mother, who may or may not have had a slew of visitors, and who may or may not have had a penchant for television watching. And again, there would be a new face and name introducing itself, at least every 12 hours or so. The coffee would have been terrible, and the flowers an elevator's ride away.

That's to mention nothing of the cries of not only my baby, but possibly my roommates baby too. Recent findings are now claiming that the noise of the hospital can be detrimental to health, not to mention recovery from birth. Take a look at this brilliant study and analysis of the decibel level of labor and delivery, and postpartum units in American hospitals. I love her idea of a postpartum lounge for new mothers to congregate in after they birth their babies. Although, I think even this might be a bit much for new mothers - it takes a considerable amount of energy to interact with strangers, especially in the precious moments after one has a baby. Still, I think that her nod towards other postpartum cultural practices, and their strict emphasis on calm, quiet, and rest for the new mother and baby, is an important and lacking one here in America. For most women here, it's back to 'normal' at about seven days postpartum. In contrast look at these practices from around the world.

  • In Sudan mothers are treated to 40 days of rest, and beautification, treatment very similar to what a new bride in Sudan receives. They are served a fenugreek pudding, believed to encourage breast milk production and make one fat, something desired in Sudan! The treatment is thought to allow them to exit their 40 days feeling beautiful and rested.
  • In Indonesia, the mother does not enter the kitchen or wash until the umbilical cord has shriveled and fallen. This ensures rest for her. The husband does not sleep for three days as he must guard the mother and baby. How about that for a taste of sleep deprivation for the partner!
  • In India trained women come to the house and perform warm oil massages for mother and baby. It is believed to reduce colic in infants and preserve a woman's life long health. They also believe in resting for 40 days. Their are many special foods associated with the postpartum period.
  • It is Holland I believe, who takes the cake for postpartum care. There a women receives a kraamverpleegsters, a postpartum nurse, who comes to the house all day long for eight days. This is paid for by the government. She helps with everything from breastfeeding, advising on infant care, to laundry and cooking! She even manages the flow of visitors.
With all of this care, I'd be surprised if a baby ever cried in these countries! I hope that hospital administrators and anyone involved with postpartum mothers, would look at the above examples for inspiration and guidance on how mothers should be valued. Ask any mother what she wants, and I hedge that a good portion of them would say, "Some peace and quiet". Wishing that for you and yours!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Spirituality and Childbirth

Gold Dome Masjid by TeeJe.
Gold Dome Masjid by TeeJe

The Prophet Muhammad is reported to have said that Paradise lies at the feet of your mother.

Much of a woman's allure, is not in the color of her eyes, or coquettish smile, but rather, lies in the layers of tissue, muscle and fat which conceive, nourish and birth her children. It has been written about and allegorized since pen was put to paper, probably even before. Women themselves ponder its meaning and symbol. Rightly so, for it is hard to find a greater sign on this earth of something more powerful, more majestic, more intelligent, than a mother's growing girth and the subsequent perfection of her rose mouthed babe.

Many women find themselves in a more reflective state while gestating their young. Who will this little one look like? Boy or girl? When will the labor begin? How long will it be? Will I be able to breastfeed with success? With so many unknowns it is no wonder that many women turn to a Higher Power to make sense of it all. It is calming and reassuring knowing that with all the uncertainty and upheaval that this new life has brought, that it is the same Power who called its soul forth and into your womb, the One who will bring the contractions, who long ago rendered the gender of your baby, and who has brought many, many women to the other side of this childbearing experience. What a glory to participate in a child's creation!

And now modern science has proven it. A study was recently published in the Journal of Perinatal Education which showed a connection between childbirth and a woman's spirituality. They looked at data collected from 250 culturally diverse women over the past 20 years and concluded that many women experience a richer spiritual experience during the childbearing and mothering experience. Among other things they found:
  • Childbirth as a time to grow closer to God.
  • The use of religious beliefs and rituals as powerful coping mechanisms
  • Childbirth as a time to make religiosity more meaningful
  • The significance of a Higher Power in influencing birth outcomes
  • Childbirth as a spiritually transforming experience
Based upon their findings, the researchers are recommending that health care practitioners ask their patients, "Do you have any spiritual beliefs that will help us better care for you?" There is no time like the birth of a child to ask that question. I hope that all of the above come true for you dear readers!!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Ina May's Guide to Breastfeeding

I realize that there have been a few breastfeeding posts in a row, but seeing as I'm spending much of my days and nights doing just that, I guess it's on the brain. Recently, I read Ina May's Guide to Breastfeeding. Ina May is a woman's woman. Reading her is like having a chat with your auntie about breastfeeding. She peppers her writing with illuminating anecdotes and funny asides.

Ina May's Guide to Childbirth is famous for its birth stories and one of the best aspects of this book, is it's breastfeeding stories. There are breastfeeding triumphs and losses, long unheard of stories of wet nursing, nursing multiples tales, and more. These are stories that allow women to see that breastfeeding is above all, simple and accessible. It is almost like reading about a different time and place, but these stories all take place in the here and now. Ina May is a student of cultures, and the stories, or "forgotten lore" as she calls them, are no accident. For, it is from lack of these stories in our lives, that Americans have lost so much knowledge of breastfeeding.

The highlight of the book is a chapter entitled "Nipplephobia". It is a brilliant and humorous analysis of why Americans, unlike other cultures, are so uptight about a woman's breasts being used for anything other than sex. This prudishness gives way to a dislike of breastfeeding in general. Nipplephobia is defined, identified, and cured in this chapter. She looks at other cultures and their examples to lead the way towards healing America's nipplephobia. I am especially fond (and I guess somewhat flattered), that towards the end of the chapter she cites examples from Muslim cultures where women who are covered head to toe, still have no trouble breastfeeding their baby, when their baby is hungry. One such example is from a male friend of hers who lived with a group of Bedouins during the '60's. Here is his experience in a culture where women covered head to toe:

"...but what really had an effect on me was the time when one of these Bedouin women raised her robes, exposing her breasts to me as she fed her baby. She acted as if everything were perfectly all right. It was only I who was taken by surprise. I realized that in cultures in which women breastfeed their babies, everyone in that culture grows up seeing breasts being used as they are meant to be. They have a natural attitude toward them. It's only in cultures like ours, where you almost never see a woman breastfeeding, that breasts become the object for something else, usually something to lust after."

She also cites Norway's example of moving towards a pro-breastfeeding culture, and gives reasons why they were able to do so while we weren't. It is a thought provoking chapter. The book as a whole is great with lots of information and tips about breastfeeding in the early days to weaning. The last two chapters, "Shared Nursing, Wet Nursing and Forgotten Lore" and the previously mentioned "Nipplephobia", are what makes this book so unique and memorable.

Friday, May 28, 2010


I remember when my oldest was a newborn, feeling that a divine grace was permeating our house and our beings. It felt as if angels wings were enclosed over us, creating a nest of safety and peace. As a midwife, I encounter that same sentiment when doing the postpartum visits, there is a deep sense of contentment and joy in the house, and all emanating from this one tiny, bundled creature! Recently, I came across this hadith which might provide a clue as to what that feeling exemplifies. In one hadith (sayings of the Prophet) the Prophet (pbuh) said, “If it weren’t for nursing children, bent-over old people and grazing animals, catastrophe would descend upon you like a flood” (Heysemi, Mecmau’z-Zevaid, X, 227). Thus, he pointed out that “sabiler” (babies in the nursing stage) are the first factor preventing divine wrath." The first factor in preventing divine wrath, isn't that amazing?

The following is a public service announcement from Puerto Rico encouraging breastfeeding. I think it is such a visual image of the grace and beauty that flows between a mother and her nursling. It shows babies of all ages and toddlers nursing. I could not imagine a public service announcement like this in America, our culture is so obsessed with breasts as a sexual image that we could never air something like this on television. But how effective it would be if we could...

The following is a trailer for a film, Formula Fed America, which portrays the low rates of breastfeeding in America in the context of a public health crisis. And if we look at the above hadith, I suppose we could think of it as a spiritual crisis as well!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Home Birth on the Rise

on Flickr - by christyscherrer

Using birth certificate data from around the United States during 1990-2006, the CDC has just released a report on Trends in Out of Hospital Birth. It is a promising report detailing the uptake in out of hospital births in 2005 and sustained in 2006. Here are a few interesting and encouraging findings:

  • Home births were less likely than hospital births to be preterm, low birth weight, or multiple deliveries.
  • An increase in out of hospital birth also took place in Canada in the years studied.
  • Women who are non-Hispanic white, over 25, and married, were more likely to have an out of hospital birth.
  • Women born outside of the US were less likely to have an out of hospital birth than those born in the US.
  • In 2006 64.7% of the out of hospital birth were home births and 28% took place in freestanding birth centers.
  • 61% of home births were delivered by midwives - 16% by Certified Nurse Midwives and 45% by other midwives (which would most likely be Certified Professional Midwives, although the report doesn't specifically state their titles)
I hope this upward trend in out of hospital birth continues. For healthy moms and babes, there is nothing more joyful and empowering than welcoming your baby into this world, in the comfort and serenity of one's own home. For more information on midwives in your area, check out the Midwives Alliance of North America website, where you can search for a qualified midwife in your area and learn more about the Certified Professional Midwife educational process. Happy birthing to you all!!

Friday, May 21, 2010

The Great Gelatin Divide

Still basking in my newborn's light, so meanwhile, check out my non-midwifery related blog post at Trust me, this was written long before I had my baby!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Fatimah Elaine

If you noticed that I haven't posted lately, look above for the best excuse ever! Welcome to my baby girl Fatimah Elaine, named after her two great grandmothers. Here are her stats:

  • Gestated one full month longer than her big brother.
  • First contraction to last push was two hours.
  • Born in the water in our bedroom with one amazing midwife and her wonderful student..
  • Birthed in four pushes.
  • 14" head (!)
  • 7'13"
  • 21" long
  • Loved and adored by many.
Thanks for all of your support. Posting will be light for awhile. If you are a midwifery client, I am taking clients with due dates of September and beyond. Thanks again. Keep us in your prayers and good thoughts!!!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Poem - Happy Mother's Day!

Pregnancy_010 by bethykae

Happy Mother's Day to each and every hard working, laughing, loving mother out there. May every day be filled with the recognition and gratitude that mothers deserve! My gift, a Rumi poem (don't be swayed by the title, there is a moving reference to mothers). Also, head over to Seeker's Guidance for a wonderful poem by Baraka Blue, "To Mothers". Enjoy!

Joseph in Prison

Joseph in prison asked a fellow prisoner,
"When you leave here, your affairs will prosper
with the king. Please mention me to him
and try to obtain my release."

One prisoner cannot free another prisoner,
and except for rare cases, every human being
is a prisoner, waiting.

Joseph asked a low, prickly shrub
like camels graze on, for help,
and he was punished for it.

The prisoner forgot Joseph's name completely,
and Joseph spent several more years confined.

In bright sunlight, don't ask a bat for directions.
If you're an ocean storm, don't look to heat-mirages
and sand for assistance. Dont' make a brace
from rotten wood.

God punished Joseph, or seemed to.
Actually He totally absorbed him
in such an intimate joy that
the dungeon disappeared.

There's no more restricted place
than the bloodwalls of the womb,
yet in there God opens a window
into the Presence, and your senses grow.

They blossom out of the body.
The delight is so profound in the womb
that you never want to leave.

You pull towards your mother's spine,
and away from the labia door.

The way of spiritual treasure is inward.
Don't look for it outside in property or wealth.
Setting means nothing. One man sits ecstatically
in a bare stone nook. Another is sad
in a beautiful rose garden.

At the wine-feast the drunkard
is most happy when he passes out.

Look at his smile. Be a ruin.
This body-house is full of imagery
Demolish it. Those fantasy art-works
keep you from union.

But the beauty of the pictures
comes from the radiance of the soul!

That light-filled water produces
the bubbles that obscure its surface.

That which blocks us from seeing
is from a deep vision-source inside.

Let your bats fly into that sun
and lose their batness!

(Mathnawi, VI, 3400-3431)

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Happy International Day of the Midwife!

Indeed, the world needs midwives now more than ever. Maternal mortality rates are a scourge in our time. In Afghanistan a woman dies each half hour of pregnancy, or childbirth related causes. Over 90% of these deaths occurs in developing countries, many of them Muslim. And in California, the maternal mortality rates have nearly tripled in the last decade! Midwives are oft touted as a large part of the solution when it comes to the crisis of maternal mortality. Take today as an opportunity to increase your understanding of midwifery and what midwives do. There is a fascinating and informative free online seminar taking place all day. There are some great sessions for expecting mothers about nutrition and yoga, as well as more academic sessions for midwives. And in an exciting step forward in terms of midwifery and home birth in the Gulf region, there was a recent article in The National opening up the conversation about home birth options there in UAE. Blessings to all the midwives who get up in the middle of the night, worry over their mums -to- be, and take great pride in continuing the tradition of women taking care of women.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

First Birth in Medina - Abd Allah ibn al-Zubayr

Masjid-An-Nabawi #17 by Huda M Elmatasani

Asma bint Abi Bakr, sister of Ayesha (May Allah be pleased with them both), made the Hijra while pregnant. During her hijra, there was a rumor spread that any Muslim baby born in Mecca, would be slain. Imagine, not only fleeing for your life, but fleeing for the unborn life within you.

SubhanAllah, Asma must have been a very strong and courageous woman. She was also the one to bring food and water to her father, Abu Bakr (May Allah be pleased with him) and the Prophet (peace be upon him), while they were hiding in the cave. This was no small physical feat, and took a bravery I'm not sure many of us possess.

Then, to make hijra, a long and arduous journey while pregnant, also took an incredible amount of prowess and determination. Let this be an inspiration to those of us who are pregnant (or not pregnant, for that matter) next time we make an excuse for not exercising. May we be inspired and prodded by the strength of Asma!

Asma made the emigration safely, and not long after began to feel the pangs of labor. It must have been a relief to feel them in a place where she knew that she and her baby were safe and protected, and where the blessing of the Prophet's presence must have been palpable. Soon, her son was in her hands, the first son of Medina, Abd Allah ibn Zubayr (May Allah be pleased with him). He was the first Muslim baby to be born in Medina. Both the Emigrants to the city of Medina, and those Muslims of Medina who generously welcomed them, celebrated this birth with enthusiasm.

It was a sign of hope, the next generation of Muslims born in Medina, the newly adopted home of the community. Abd Allah was brought to the Prophet, who took a bite of a date, then removed it from his blessed mouth, and rubbed it over the baby's gums, all the while making lots of du'a for this child. The people of Medina paraded him through the streets, and it is said, made a sort of tawaaf of the streets of Medina with him! What joy and happiness babies bring!

JazakAllah khair to Ustadha Eiman and those who make her Saturday morning class possible for giving us the splendid details of this event!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Babies Suck

Pacifiers at Frederiksberg Have by zaxer

Babies do suck, as attested to by the pacifier tree above, lots of them, and they seem to like it. This interesting article in Salon, follows the history of pacifier use, and the subsequent guilt it evokes in parents. I would advise skipping pacifiers for at least the first month or so, not because of nipple confusion, but because it can inhibit a mom's milk supply. The more the baby sucks on something besides the mother, the less signals her brain and body are receiving to produce milk. If you have sore nipples and all of that non-nutritive sucking is giving you blisters, try offering your clean finger nail side down. If you ultimately decide on a pacifier go for a BPA-free one with a silicone nipple. If your baby is in the NICU, pacifiers have been shown to be useful in extending the breastfeeding relationship. I think to extend that conclusion, as he does in the article, to full term, vigorous and healthy breastfed infants is fallacious. In the end pacifier use, like all parenting issues, is a personal decision.

If you'd like to learn more about the wonderful pacifier tree tradition that they have at this Denmark park, read here. It's such a sweet tradition, and shows what meaning these tots give to their pacifiers, what a strong attachment!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

From War to the Womb

This is an excerpt from a new film out about my favorite midwifery organization's efforts to bring Palestine and Israeli midwives together. It's unbelievable to think that a Palestinian woman has to wait 3-4 hours to reach her midwife because of checkpoints. I wonder why there are not more home births that happen there. I've blogged about these efforts before, but I think this clip is comprehensive in detailing the problems of the two countries midwives, how they are similar and how they differ.

COHI Coexistence Project
Uploaded by aldermanjessica. - Have a look at more lifestyle videos.

In other midwifery inspirations, I wanted to include this quote that was recently posted at the Citizens for Midwifery blog. I think it is a testament to the beauty of midwifery care, home birth, etc... Shouldn't we be striving for this beauty in our lives, even in birth?

While shopping [one] day, I noticed hand-dipped chocolates, homegrown vegetables, hand-spun wool, homemade preserves, cottage-industry soaps—all at premium prices, since they were made with care, individually, by hand, at home. I reflected, too, on how "old-fashioned" doctors, famous for house calls and compassion, are remembered fondly as part of the "good old days" and praised for their one-on-one caring. I mused how our society honors unique, special, one-of-a-kind items and services.

Yet when it comes to maternity care, it seems the bigger and busier, the better: high-tech procedures, standardized treatment, massive patient loads, in-and-out, assembly-line-style facilities. We are urged to leave the clean peace and quiet of home and go, instead, to a large, centralized center and entrust ourselves to a system of detached and often distracted institutional workers whom we've never met and may never see again. I find it hard to believe that anyone would consider hospital care preferable, if they really thought about it.

High-tech or hands-on? The choice is not new. In many cases, of course, mechanical and technological advances have been just that: improvements. Other advances, as we all know too well, have resulted in lasting harm.

Judy Edmunds, excerpted from "A Grand Triumph," Midwifery Today Issue 37