Category Archives: Uncategorized

Cover image by: New Creation Birth Photography, Cedar Rapids/Iowa City

The Iowa Birth Resource

Cover image by: New Creation Birth Photography, Cedar Rapids/Iowa City

Cover image by: New Creation Birth Photography, Cedar Rapids/Iowa City

It’s here, it’s finally here!!!  The second edition of The Iowa Birth Resource is published!  


Once again, this publication was a true labor of love that required the efforts and talents of numerous individuals.  This booklet is our annual big education campaign and we think we hit it out of the park this year.  We didn’t do it alone.  Here are some of the people we need to thank. 

We owe a huge thank you to Rachel K., who appeared like an angel at the 11th hour (seriously, we were a day or two away from saying, “print it”), and took over the design of the booklet.  She donated her time and talent to take this publication to the next level visually and we’re grateful beyond words.  A most sincere thanks to you, Rachel!   Also to Christian Printers in Des Moines Iowa who were, again, a pleasure to work with.  Thank you for your patience and outstanding customer service!

This publication was once again 100% funded by the generous support of advertisers.  Because of your generosity and support we were able to publish nearly 10,000 copies of this information and provide it FREE to the public!

 Platinum sponsors: 

Gold Sponsors:

Silver Sponsors:

Bronze Sponsors:

Photography Contributions:

Additionally, we must thank the authors of the articles within the booklet.  This is the heart and soul of the publication and reason it was created – to get this information into the hands of expectant families.  We are grateful for the contributions you’ve made.  Without them we, quite literally, wouldn’t have this book!

Finally, Where can you get your hands on some?  Here is a list of current public business locations that have copies of the booklets.  If you’re a business and you’d be willing to keep a box (or 2) at your location for public pick-ups please contact us at and we’ll make arrangements.



Central Iowa

Southeast Iowa



Peace. Love. Birth

mandalaHere it is:  We are proud to debut the first t-shirt in support of access to safe, respectful evidence-based care in Iowa.

Peace, Love, Birth – that about sums it up.  We debated for quite a bit about what the perfect quote would be, but in the end we realized two things: 1) simple is usually best and 2) these 3 words really sum up what we’re all about.

We commissioned Iowa henna artist Sarah Norman, of Alternative Artistry to create this mandala for us and Iowa screen printing company, Eight Seven Central (the same shop that prints for Raygun) to do the printing.

These t-shirts are a fundraiser campaign for IBO.  We are running the campaign between June 3-17.  The funds raised from the sale of these shirts will go towards filing fees for non-profit status (estimated to be around $500) and general operating fees.


What are they made out of?  50/50 Poly-Cotton (“super soft”) blend shirts.  This is the uni-sex design.

What colors? There are 3 color options (shown below).  Black Aqua, Heather Vintage Green, and Heather Lieutenant.


Heather Vintage Green

black aqua

black aqua

Heather Purple

What about size? These are American Apparel brand UNISEX shirts.  View the size chart here.

How do I order? Use the form below!


I don’t want a shirt are there other items with this artwork? We understand that not everyone is a “t-shirt person,” we get it.  ight now we are only printing on t-shirts, but if we have a good fundraiser we’d like to consider other items.  We’ll stock those in our shop if/when that happens.

Help us spread the word: Since FB has made it harder and harder for businesses to share information about fundraising we need your help to spread the word.  Every time a post is liked and/or shared it makes it more likely that folks will see it in there feed.  Therefore, if you “like” this post and you share it you’ll be automatically entered to win a FREE shirt!


When Stars Align

When Stars Align (and Evidence-Based Care is normal)

By: Andrea Shandri, M.Ed, CD(DONA), CCCE
Mercy Medical Center, Des Moines, Iowa

© 2015 Blessings Photography & Birth Services, LLC

Amanda McClannahan holds daughter for the first time.

Although a statement typically reserved for pure-luck instances, when stars alignis a phrase that makes us think of a lucky, blissfully decadent, once-in-a-lifetime occurrence, with little chance of naturally happening again. As a birth worker, there are many examples I could think of that fall under this .whats the word.phenomenon of star-aligning events, when enough prayers are said, or when the lucky get luckier. Lack of intervention during a highly medicalized event, spontaneous start of labor when the induction date is set, or complete belief in a womans body to birth a baby on her own, by her own power, are events that many of us dream of seeing.

© 2015 Blessings Photography & Birth Services, LLC

Daughter Emily bonds with mom Amanda following Cesarean birth

To think of the things a birth worker (specifically a doula) would love to see on a regular basis is easy: start with the natural process of labor and identify those critical elements that allow the process of birthing both a baby and a mom to not only happen, but flourish. For many doulas and birth workers, those critical elements typically include waiting for labor to start on its own, delayed cord clamping, immediate skin to skin, and breastfeeding. But what if labor doesnt start on its own? What if a Cesarean birth is the only viable option a mom has? Do the processes of bonding and elemental birth that help a mom and baby flourish get disregarded?

The stars aligned today.

Those evidence-based elements of birth that we know are safe, combined with an inspirational care team, created an astronomically unpopular, yet so incredibly important, birth experience.

© 2015 Blessings Photography & Birth Services, LLC

Amanda McClannahan holds her daughter for the first time following Cesarean birth

A woman was treated with dignity and respect. She was valued and felt she had a say in determining the course of her birth. Although for many reasons she felt forced into a repeat Cesarean, she knew she could still have a say on some elements that were critically important and valuable to her and that would lead her to feel more involved in the birth of her baby and help ensure a healthier postpartum recovery. Amanda wanted to be a participant in her birth (to see her baby born) and she wanted to hold her and nurse her immediately (skin-to-skin) after birth. She valued these and knew these were important elements for both her and her baby. Most of all, she knew they were still possible to have, even in the event of a cesarean birth.  However, Amanda also knew that, sadly, she wouldn’t be automatically offered these critical element, despite the fact that they are supported by evidence. She knew policy and protocol many times override evidence-based practice. So what’d she do? She worked hard to learn her options. She interviewed multiple care providers to determine which one would respect her desire for a family centered cesarean. She trusted her intuition, prayed, and even changed her surgery date based on the provider who agreed to support her wishes for this birth. On the morning of the scheduled Cesarean, feeling overwhelming anxiety, she trusted herself, reminding herself of the abhorrent birth of her first daughter, and asked for what she wanted.

“Honestly, I just wanted to hold my baby. With my last pregnancy, not being able to hold my daughter for four hours affected me greatly, even to this day. No baby, no matter how they are brought into this world, shouldn’t be ripped away from their mothers- the only thing they know- for hours on end unless it’s a true medical emergency.”

The stars aligned and she got everything she wanted.

© 2015 Blessings Photography & Birth Services, LLC

Family Centered Cesarean made possible in part with the cooperation and support of nurse Lauren

With the help of Dr. Massey with West Des Moines OBGYN, Dr. Touney with Mercy anesthesiology, and nurse Lauren, Amanda experienced a fundamentally different birth with her first cesarean, and one that not many mothers have gotten to experience in Des Moines (if at all). This approach to a cesarean birth supports both physiologic and emotional importance of birth experiences. Family Centered Cesareans value the mom and partner in the process of the birth of their baby.  Amanda was “allowed” to: see the birth of her baby (surgery techs dropped the sterile surgical drape), have delayed cord clamping (beneficial to any baby just born), have immediate skin to skin on the operating table (temperature, blood pressure, and hormone regulation) and breastfeed while she was being sutured.

© 2015 Blessings Photography & Birth Services, LLC

Baby Emily enters the world

As Amanda’s doula, I encouraged her to not only research what she wanted to happen, but also have the trust in herself to ask for those things while being prepped for surgery. Amanda and her husband were confident in their requests and verbalized them to their nurse, Lauren. She not only listened, but encouraged the requests! She validated and shared in their desires. Lauren was the first star that was aligning. The second star of the morning, Dr. Massey, not only agreed to do Amanda’s c-section earlier in the week, but also agreed to let Amanda’s husband videotape the surgery. Not only that, she agreed happily to hold baby in the sterile field while the umbilical cord stopped pulsing. Dr. Tourney (anesthesiologist), the third star that aligned, agreed wholeheartedly to allow Amanda to hold her baby after the NICU team checked her out, but also keep her skin to skin and initiate breastfeeding. During the surgery, I made sure to beam ecstatically through my face mask, hoping that my body language would signal my complete and utter shock that this gentle Cesarean was even occurring. Dr. Tourney mentioned, “This never happens.” I replied, “I know. You’re changing lives.” It was true, and I still don’t know if he fully understood what the impact of his support truly means.

© 2015 Blessings Photography & Birth Services, LLC

Amanda McClannahan watches as her daughter is born

This monumental composition of factors hold so much importance to Amanda and her husband, more than anyone will ever understand. The difference in the postpartum experience this time around that Amanda will feel over the next few weeks is undeniable…her perceptions about her birth experience are so much more positive than the birth with her first daughter, and that’s what I’m most concerned with as a doula.

So the stars aligned. Amanda participated fully in her birth instead of just experiencing it.

The big question here is, why did Amandas experience have to be a star- aligning event?

Amanda’s care team was quick to mention that this only happened because “the stars aligned”… each care provider “happened to be working that day”, because otherwise no other partners in either the OB practice or anesthesiology practice would “agree to do these things”.
But why do the stars have to align for a mom to hold and smell her baby? Why do the stars have to align so perfectly to allow a baby to breastfeed undisturbed minutes after birth? Why are normal, physiological functions so easily dismissed or less valued in a cesarean, leaving moms to agonize over being told no after asking for these evidence-based practices? Without Amanda’s determination, she could’ve been left alone on the operating table, while her baby was removed from the room for ‘medical observation’, and not given a chance to breastfeed for hours.

Amanda was the reason her stars aligned, “Even though having a repeat c-section wasn’t ideal, my c-section was picture perfect in the terms of getting exactly what I wanted. I knew this was an answer to prayer that I had prayed for nine months. All that was important to me was a healthy baby, no matter the delivery, and that I would be able to hold her immediately. This shouldn’t be such a dramatic request, it should be part of standard protocol. Hopefully, someday it will be.”

© 2015 Blessings Photography & Birth Services, LLC

Daughter Emily nurses for the first time, still in the OR

For astronomically beautiful events to take place, stars have to align just once. Cosmic shift
happens much like tidal waves that start from a small wind. What butterfly effects will this Family Centered Cesarean have? How many moms will ask their care providers to be treated as the one birthing, worthy of attention, after reading this article?

Be a part of the cosmic shift.  The voice of the consumer is an extremely powerful tool when it comes to promoting change. Share this article and make sure to tag your own local provides, but also those mentioned here (West Des Moines OBGYN and Mercy Medical Center) to say thank you for providing evidence-based care.  We’d love for these providers (and others) to see what family-centered cesareanan impactt their family-centered care is making.  Every time a page is tagged on FB they get a notification – a way that they’ll see that folks want this type of care and that they [might be] willing to switch to a provider who supports it.  Let’s show these providers what an impact the care they provided is making. Events like these do not have to be star-aligning events. If we persist, if we are vocal and if we question “protocol”, we can change the birthing environment for many.


I know you can make the stars align for you too.

Watch Amanda’s full birth video

The Birth of Emily McClannahan from Andrea Shandri on Vimeo.


Andrea Shandri, M.Ed, CD(DONA), CCCE, is a certified doula, certified childbirth educator, and birth photographer. She is the owner of Iowa Doula Agency and Blessings Photography & Birth Services, LLC.

For more information on how a doula can help encourage evidence-based birth practices, please follow Iowa Birth Organization and ICAN of Central Iowa on Facebook, or write to Andrea at:

Big News!

The inaugural Iowa Birth Resource Guide is here.

2015 Iowa Birth Resource Guide

This is a project we’ve been talking about since we founded IBO in 2012. We launched in July and were hopeful for a fall release; however, as inaugural projects go, there were many many twists and turns, more surprises than I can remember, and plenty of mistakes (and lessons learned). But today is a day to celebrate – it’s finished!

This resource guide turned out to be more than we could have imagined. The content – the informational resources – were always the highest priority for this publication and we are thrilled with the results. What we’ve created is a tool. At best, we’d like to think of it as a tool to promote social change when it comes to birth. Information is powerful and the results of getting all this diverse information, concisely and creatively in one spot has the potential to create a lot of change.

Here are a couple of sneak peeks.   

20141121_123505 20141121_123515 20141121_123525




So, the big question – How do you get your hands on one?

Distribution Plan

For starters, let’s be clear, this publication has been produced for the public for free. The advertising we sold funded this project, 100%! There are a little over 40,000 births in Iowa every year. We’d love it if every single person that gave birth had access to the information we’ve complied in this publication. We know it’s a lofty goal, but we like to aim big. That being said we were only able to print 6000 of these guides, not bad for our first year! All this is to say we don’t want these to sit in boxes and on shelves, we want them in the hands of the public. We plan to distribute/restock over the entire year – this is not a one time distribution.

Phase one: getting the guide into various regions of the state.

Here is a list of locations that we are shipping boxes to this week. Was this means, is that over the next week or two you’ll be able to make arrangements to pick-up some for yourself from these spots to pass on to your friends, clients, etc. We are looking at these spots as being mini-storehouses for the guide.

  • Cedar Rapids: Baby Time 4341 1st Ave SE, (319) 531-6401
  • SE Iowa (Mt. Pleasant):
  • Iowa City (Mother and Child Midwifery Clinic): 221 East College St, Suite 211
  • Cedar Falls / Waterloo: details coming
  • Central Iowa (Blessings Photography & Birth): 120 5th St., STE C, #202 , Valley Junction, West Des Moines
  • NW Iowa: Location Needed
  • SW Iowa: Location Needed

Phase Two: Small Business Distribution

Once we have a supply of the publication in the “corners” of the state we expect that other maternity care service providers (the doulas, the childbirth educators, photographers, lactation consultants, midwives, etc.) will stop by these locations to grab copies for their clients.

Phase Three: Big Box & Other Retail Outlets

Since this publication never existed before it wasn’t exactly an easy sell to some of the big stores – heck, it might have even been a tough sell for some of you! We know that most pregnant women are likely to shop at Target, Buy Buy baby, and other places. These stores often give out freebie bags to moms who register in their stores. We’d love it if the Resource Guide were one of the offerings in these type of bags. For this to happen we first needed to be able to show them what we were talking about. Now the Guides are real and tangible, we’ll be able to make a better “pitch.” In addition to trying to land the publication in these goodie bags, we’re also planning to bring them to general retailers like Hy-Vee stores and request that we put them in their free publication racks. We’ll keep you posted on the status of all of this.

Can’t wait (or aren’t able) to get to one of the regional distribution centers listed above to get your copies? We’ll mail some to you, but there’s a small catch (a request, really). We used all of our funds to get as many of these guides printed as we could. If you’d like a box mailed to you we ask that you please cover the cost of shipping and that you ensure that you are able to get the guides we mail to you out to the public. Here are the options we have (for now):

  • 50 guides (plus rack and business cards) – $15
  • 100 guides (plus rack and business cards) – $20
  • 200 guides only – $25

If you are interested in this option please use our paypal account (links below), you will be asked to provide your mailing address when you checkout.

We are grateful for your patience with this project. We are also grateful to those who generously funded this project, we’ll be thanking you in another post soon.


Box of 50 $15.00 USD
Box of 100 $20.00 USD
Box of 200 $25.00 USD


We are grateful for your patience with this project. We are also grateful to those who generously funded this project, we’ll be thanking you in another post soon.

Pregnant while Brown and Queer in Iowa

Image from Rudicil Photography

Image from Rudicil Photography

We moved to Iowa on December 4th, 2012. My wife and I made a decision to move here, because we were looking for a good legal environment for gay families that is also affordable. When you combine those two factors, you come up with Iowa. It also helped that my wife grew up in Iowa, and she had some family here. I knew very little about the Midwest before packing our U-haul truck. We had been living in northern California for two years, which we loved, but it quickly became more expensive than we could afford, especially once we started trying to expand our family.

I quickly learned about the culture of “Iowa nice.” At least at first glance, no one seemed to blink an eye when they met my butch-looking wife and me. But then, I slowly started to see past polite and notice the not-so-subtle hetero-normativity that exists here. I was surprised that people seemed more interested in (and stared at) my butch wife than they did at my brown skin. I figured it’s not PC to treat me differently. I think people want not to see race in our new “post-racial” America. But, it’s quite fine to openly puzzle at my wife’s non-gender confirming appearance.

As soon as we moved here, I felt like I did when I first started dating women. I had to come out to everyone all over again, because being next to my wife clearly indicated that I am a lesbian. We were no longer living in a city where there were plenty of couples like us. We stood out like a gay, multiracial thumb. Don’t get me wrong – I have never been closeted. Within two minutes of meeting me you know that I have a wife, and it’s not because I carry a rainbow flag. It’s because you ask me about my husband, and I have to correct you.

The fertility clinic was one of the first places where we bumped heads with the hetero-normative dominant paradigm. After we spent months preparing my body for insemination and pregnancy through lifestyle changes and alternative approaches, the clinic treated us like a hetero couple with fertility issues and expected us to follow a very medical protocol. They weren’t interested in hearing about our understanding of insemination timing, which is different when using frozen sperm versus fresh sperm like many of the couples there were using. We didn’t have many choices given there is only one fertility clinic in the area. In the end, we got pregnant by insisting on what we knew would be best for my body.

It took over 9 months to get pregnant, but once we did we had one less thing to not worry about, and a million new things to worry about. We decided to use midwives, because we agreed with their approach to pregnancy and labor. It pleased my heart when upon first meeting me and my wife, the midwife noted that there were two moms and no dads. They never asked that pesky question about the donor. They noted my wife’s name and always treated her like an equal and parent to our growing child. Even with this wonderful experience with the midwives, I realized during my pregnancy that I felt like an outsider not only because I’m a lesbian but also because I’m Latina.

At about 6 months, I went back east to visit family and friends. During that trip I realized that very few people in Iowa had touched my baby bump. Being from an affectionate culture, and now living in a culture where people are physically distant, it didn’t occur to me how little people were physically interacting with me until I was back home. At first I thought it was just the culture in Iowa, but then during a birthing class, I overheard another pregnant woman complain about the constant rubbing she has experienced at work and home since she started to show. It made me wonder, were people afraid to touch my belly because I was brown or queer? I hate those thoughts, but they do cross my mind, because I am not a member of the dominant culture group.

Image from Rudicil Photography

And that was my biggest challenge while brown, queer, and pregnant in Iowa. I have always lived in places with a significant number of people of color. I’ve always been able to find people like me, who share a culture and/or worldview. But suddenly I felt like a (pregnant) fish out of water within a culture I didn’t understand and in which I didn’t feel like I fit in. I know that my presence scares some people or makes them uncomfortable; I sense it and it’s real. I am not paranoid. And frankly, I am not the kind of person to make people feel more comfortable by acting overly nice (trying to convince you that I am a nice, safe brown person) because they aren’t sure how to act around me, because I am not like anyone they have been around. As a pregnant person, I was even less willing to cater to these fears, given that I was dealing with my own physical and emotional changes.

In the end, we have found a select few really amazing sources of support. These people don’t see me as just an “angry brown woman” now, and they probably wouldn’t even after reading this. There are elements of having had our baby in Iowa for which we are very grateful, such as my ability to be a stay-at-home mom because of the low cost of living. My wife was fairly easily able to get her name on our son’s birth certificate, thanks to marriage equality and the fights of a few couples that came before us. But mostly, living in a white dominant culture, with an overwhelming politeness that reduces discomfort and rudeness but that also inhibits real connection, has been hard on me and my family.

This has been my personal experience in Iowa as a pregnant human being. I don’t claim to represent all queer Latinas from the east coast because, frankly I don’t. I would challenge readers, particularly those from the dominant culture, to examine how they feel about my experience and question why they feel this way. Am I just an angry, paranoid, brown lesbian? Or, am I a human being with a different life experience and different perspective struggling to navigate this culture? More importantly, how can you empathize and/or relate to this experience, if at all?

The Birth Resource Guide

Info Guides

You’ve all seen these free publication racks at the grocery stores, right?  It’s time there was a birth resource guide among them and Iowa Birth Organization is going to make that happen!!!

An example of a birth resource guide from the Tarrant County Birth Network.

The Details

This guide, which will be made available to the public for free, is intended to be an exhaustive resource of the available information, services, and supports available to Iowa families when it comes to pregnancy, birth, and the postpartum period.  Publication and distribution is planned for fall 2014.

To reserve your advertisement spot or to confirm your basic listing visit our website at or contact us at Deadline for advertising is July 31, 2014. 

Can you help  us? 

We need allies across the state to help us make this successful.  Here is a list of some of the ways that you can volunteer to help:

  •  Donate: Although advertising will contribute to the printing and distribution costs of this project it is still a big project and any donation amount will still help us meet our goal.
  • Become a regional contact: we will need at least 1 person from each of the 5 regions across the state to help check, double check, and contact [unidentified] resources in their area to help ensure we’ve created an exhaustive list.
  • Connector: Help us spread the work about this project.  Forward this blog post (or email if you’d like a pdf., website form coming soon) to any and all resources you know to make sure they are aware of the project and they can confirm their information.
  • Design & Editing: If you have graphic design or editorial talent, we would welcome your contribution to this project to ensure the final product is of the highest quality. From page design, set-up, and content review any contribution would be appreciated.
  • Project manager: This person will help the IBO leadership team keep track of all of this great information and will provide essential organization of the content.
  • Distribution: At the end of this project it will be necessary to ensure that the resource guide is able to be accessed across the state.  We’ll utilize our regional contacts to help identify some of the best places to distribute, but we will also needs volunteers to do the physical work or making sure these locations are stocked.

If you have other ideas about how to pull off this big, but necessary task, please let us know – we are open to listening.