What's in you nursing basket?

Preparing you Nursing Basket
By: Sandi Hoover of Roots Prenatal Yoga in Des Moines

In all the wonderful ways you are preparing for labor and birth, here is an idea to help prepare for the first few weeks at home with baby. For all the time you will spend feeding your little one you may find it extremely helpful to have a portable basket (a bag works, but I like a basket to easily see and get to contents) to have for when you are nestled in for a nice long session of feeding baby.

Here are a few things you may consider having in your kit:

nursing nest basket~Water bottle – It never failed that when I was in bedroom my water was in the living room, or when I was in nursery water was not there. My sweet husband could almost anticipate my, “honey, could you please bring my water bottle” a minute after baby latched on and my thirst kicked in.
~Breast pads and nipple cream (Newman’s Nipple Ointment is the BEST and can be prescribed by your provider to be compounded at your pharmacy)
~Burp cloth(s)
~Nail file, hand creme – for you. My nails never looked as good as they did those early days of nursing!
~Chapstick, or better yet coconut oil that you can use for yourself and baby.
~Positive affirmation – this could be on a notecard or even on your phone. Some affirmation ideas: “I may not be perfect, but I am the perfect mother for this baby” “My baby and I are getting to know each other more each day. I take motherhood day by day”, “I give myself space and grace to get used to being a mama”.
~Baby nail clippers – I found it easiest to clip baby nails when they were asleep, which is often after they nursed.
IMG_2211~Your phone – while it is nice to check email or social media from time to time I hope you will leave at least one feeding session media free where you can just relish in the wonder of your baby. You will not regret this special time together.
~Kleenex – I was so emotional those first few weeks and just smelling my baby and remembering their birth story could easily bring on the waterworks.
I’m sure there are more things you could pack your basket with, but I’m a simple gal. Personalize your basket to suit you. I would restock my basket before I went to bed for the night to feel ready for the next nursing session. Blessings! I bow to you mamas.

Finding the Right Provider for YOU

Written by: Holly Figueroa

When you find out that you’re pregnant, one of the biggest and most important decisions you’ll be faced with is which healthcare provider to see throughout your pregnancy.  There are several different types of providers that you can choose from depending on the type of care you’re looking for.  For some a traditional obstetrician (OB) is the right fit, others seek the more natural approach taken by midwives.  

The first step is to evaluate whether you are considered a “high-risk” pregnancy or not.  If so, you’ll probably see a perinatologist, a doctor specializing in high-risk pregnancies, such as having a medical condition such as diabetes, high blood pressure or genetic disorder, or who have had complications during previous pregnancies.

For women who are having a low-risk, or routine pregnancy, most consider either an obstetrician (OB) or a midwife.  According to the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology an OB is a specially trained medical doctor who specializes in the care and surgery of women, specifically related to pregnancy.  Obstetricians follow a more medical course of action throughout the pregnancy and always deliver in a hospital setting.  

Advantages to using an OB:

  • Trained to handle medical complications that may arise during pregnancy such as preeclampsia, placenta previa and preterm labor
  • Have undergone specialized surgical training and therefore have the ability to perform a cesarean section of necessary

Disadvantages to using an OB:

  • Increased risk of medical interventions such as an episiotomy, induction, epidural and cesarean birth
  • Must give birth in a hospital rather than a birth center or at home

According to Midwives Alliance of North America, a midwife is a “trained professional with expertise and skills in supporting women to maintain healthy pregnancies and have optimal births and recoveries during the postpartum period. Midwives provide women with individualized care uniquely suited to their physical, mental, emotional, spiritual and cultural needs. Midwifery is a woman-centered empowering model of maternity care.”

Advantages to using a midwife:

  • Decreased risk of medical interventions such as an episiotomy, induction, epidural and cesarean birth
  • Decreased risk of preterm birth, infant mortality and perineal tearing
  • Increased satisfaction with quality of care

Disadvantages to using a midwife:

  • Some midwives aren’t permitted to deliver in a hospital setting (but some are!)
  • Unable to treat some complications so a transfer to an OB may be necessary
This graphic was included in the 1st and 2nd editions of the Iowa Birth Resource booklets.

This graphic was included in the 1st and 2nd editions of the Iowa Birth Resource booklets.

Things to consider when making your decision:

  • The type of birth you desire: natural or medical interventions
  • Where you wish to deliver: home, birth center or hospital
  • Whether or not you have a preexisting medical condition that may cause complications during pregnancy
  • The provider’s philosophies in regards to pregnancy, labor and delivery and whether they fit with your own beliefs
  • Training/certifications the provider has
  • The provider’s induction and cesarean section rate
  • If the provider is in a group practice, will you have a chance to see all of the providers prior to delivery
  • Do you plan on writing a birth plan?  If so, will the provider respect and follow your wishes
  • Does the provider have professional or patient references
  • Protocol that will be followed should you go past your due date and does that plan align with your wishes

One of the most important decisions that you will make during your pregnancy is the person whom you choose to care for you and your unborn baby.  To find someone who respects your wishes, aligns their practice with your pregnancy beliefs, empowers you as a woman and mother and supports you choices in terms of your pregnancy, labor and birth experience is invaluable.

IBO Care Provider


American Pregnancy Association

Midwives Alliance of North America

American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology

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!

Launch: Resource Guide 2.0

I cannot believe I'm about to say [type] this, but we're ready to launch the Iowa Birth Resource Guide 2nd edition, or as I'm calling it 2.0!

Guide 2015

Iowa Birth Organization's Inaugural Birth Resource Guide

Our mission was to create an eye-catching booklet that allowed evidence-based information to be easily accessed and shared.  Overwhelmingly the feedback we've received has been positive and reinforced that overall, we were quite successful.  We published over 5000 copies of the Birth Resource Guide in the early winter of 2014 and have been working to distribute them across the state since.  In the process of creating the guide we learned many valuable lessons.  We knew that there would be hurdles and challenges that we couldn't anticipate, and boy were we right!  However, we kept pressing forward knowing that the first time you do something is often the hardest. We're taking all that we learned and we're ready to make the 2nd edition even better!

Here's the plan for the 2nd edition:

  • Publish more copies.  Aiming for 10,000 (1/4 of the births that happen in Iowa annually).
  • More specific and strategic plan for distribution.
  • Clearer guidelines and stricter deadlines for advertising and article submissions.
  • Release date: Labor Day!

Advertising: We have 4 size options available

  • Full page, qty 12
  • Half page, qty 15
  • Small, qty 20
  • small square, qty 50
  • Visit our shop to purchase advertising.

Directory listings: Our directly listings are free, and always will be! We have an extensive online directory and it's consistently expanding and updating.  If you'd like to list your business or organization in this directory, please complete this form.

At this point our leadership team is determining whether or not it is valuable (as a resource and a financial investment - number of pages) to publish the directory listings in the Resource Guide.  The discussion revolves around the necessity of print phone books - they just are not used in the 21st century, websites are.  The alternative plan, if the listings are not published in the print guide, would be to pepper the guide with reminders about the online directory resources.

Cover Image Contest: Anyone is welcome to enter as many photographs as they would like.  There is a $25 entry fee per image (purchased in our shop). Entry deadline is July 1, 2015 at midnight.  Full rules and entry guidelines here: Photo contest rules and guidelines.

Still looking to get your hands on some of the 1st editions?  There are a still a few hundred waiting to be snagged up and spread around.  Here are some locations (if these don't meet your needs let us know, we want these to be in the hands of the people who can use this information):

Information leads to safer decisions

The following post is a copy of a letter written to major media outlets in central Iowa, regarding the coverage of infant deaths that occurred in May 2015.  We believe the summary of information may be beneficial to our followers; therefore, we are sharing it with you here.

andrew_sketch_final_lowresIn the wake of extremely tragic events we urge you to please take the opportunity to educate the public on safe sleep habits. Informing parents that sharing a bed with their baby is unsafe is not just inaccurate but only serves to promote fear. Certainly, there are instances when bed sharing is not recommended, in smoking homes, when baby was not born full term, when the baby is bottle fed only, but to indicate it is always unsafe is truly a disservice to the public.

Many families share a bed with their baby (co-sleep). In many other countries around the world, it is the social and medically accepted norm. This sleeping behavior is neither new nor dangerous, it’s a normative behavior that is as old as humankind. Culturally, we shifted away from co-sleeping based on the best information available to us at the time, but now we know better, and it’s time to realign.

From what limited information I have been able to gather through media reports on these recent cases it seems clear that unsafe sleep habits played a significant role in these tragedies – not co-sleeping, but unsafe co-sleeping. Making this distinction is crucial. When an infant death occurs in a car accident and it appears to be due to improper or unsafe use of a car seat, tips for safety in the car are provided, not recommendations to never take a child in a car. Similarly, when a drowning occurs the message is not “do not swim,” but rather “here’s how to stay safe when you do swim.” Giving such recommendations, in a world where taking infants in the car or going swimming are quite normal, is extreme and a public disservice.   Providing current evidence and suggestions for increasing safety in this circumstance is no different.

Health psychologist and an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant, Kathleen Kendall-Tackett, reports that her research has shown that fear of co-sleeping actually increases the likelihood that parents engage in dangerous activities, like falling asleep with baby on a couch or recliner. This is why we urge you to not make statements that claim co-sleeping in unsafe, but rather to provide the public with information about how to do so safely. Informed families are then better able to make their own decisions about what is best for them and their babies.

There are many reputable professionals and organizations that support safe co-sleeping. La Leche LeagueLLLI Safe Sleep 7 International, a world-renowned organization dedicated to supporting breastfeeding, published their first book on this subject in 2014. The book, Safe Sleep, is a thorough and current review of the evidence for safe co-sleeping. They provide several excellent research summaries, including the Safe Sleep 7: Smart Steps to Safer Bedsharing and Rhyme for Sleep Time on their website. According to La Leche League International’s findings, if these steps are followed a baby is as safe as in a crib. Dr. Bill Sears, a well-known author and practicing pediatrician for more than 30 years states, “Instead of alarming conscientious parents, sleep advisers should be teaching parents how to co-sleep safely.”

James J. McKenna, Ph.D. Professor of Biological Anthropology, Director, Mother-Baby Sleep Laboratory at the University of Notre Dame, and author of Sleeping With Your Baby: A Parent's Guide To Co-sleeping, provides the following guidelines on his website:

  • Safe infant sleep begins with a healthy gestation, specifically without the fetus being exposed to maternal smoke.
  • Breastfeeding significantly helps to protect infants from death including deaths from SIDS/SUDI and from secondary disease and/or congenital conditions.
  • Post-natally safe infant sleep begins especially with the presence of an informed, breastfeeding, committed mother, or an informed and committed father.
  • Infants should sleep on their backs, on firm surfaces, on clean surfaces, in the absence of smoke, under light (comfortable) blanketing, and their heads should never be covered.
  • The bed should not have any stuffed animals or pillows around the infant and never should an infant be placed to sleep on top of a pillow.gorilla-co-sleeping-with-newborn-gorilla--9136
  • Sheepskins or other fluffy material and especially bean bag mattresses should never be used. Water beds can be dangerous, too, and always the mattresses should tightly intersect the bed-frame Infants should never sleep on couches or sofas, with or without adults wherein they can slip down (face first) into the crevice or get wedged against the back of a couch.

Home Birth: What you need to know

Home Birth: What you need to know

Monica Basile, PhD, CPM, LMT

Home birth is a safe and reasonable alternative to hospital birth. For many families, home birth provides optimal conditions for achieving physiologic birth in a familiar and intimate setting, with personalized and expert care.

How common is home birth?

The CDC reported in 2012 that home birth is on the rise nationally.[1] While less than 1 percent of all births in the United States take place outside the hospital, the number of these births increased by 3.5 percent between 2003 and 2006. The CDC reports that Iowa’s rate of home birth is significantly higher than the national average. Approximately 500 women give birth at home every year in Iowa.

Why do people choose home birth?

Photograph submitted by the family.

Photograph submitted by the family.

People choose home birth for a variety of reasons based on physical, emotional, cultural, and spiritual factors. Those who decide to birth at home span socioeconomic classes and they come from every demographic,  profession, and religious and political affiliation. A 2009 study in the Journal of Midwifery and Women’s Health reported on the motivations people cite for choosing home birth.[2] The most common were:


  • Increased safety (24%)
  • Avoiding unnecessary interventions (24%)
  • Previous negative hospital experience (23%)
  • More control and autonomy (22%)
  • Comfortable, familiar environment (19%)
  • Trust in the birth process (16%)

 Is home birth safe?

Many peer reviewed, scientific studies have found that for healthy women who experience normal pregnancies, a planned, midwife-attended home birth is just as safe as hospital birth, with far lower rates of medical interventions.[3] While the nationwide cesarean rate is over 30 percent, the rate of transfer for a cesarean during a planned home birth is only 3.8 percent. The safety of home birth has been affirmed by public health organizations such as the World Health Organization and the American Public Health Association.[4]

 What type of care do home birth midwives provide?

Home-birth midwives specialize in providing primary health care in out-of-hospital settings, and in supporting women to maintain a healthy pregnancy and birth. They provide comprehensive prenatal, birth, and postpartum care to low-risk women. Home-birth midwives can also recognize deviations from the norm and they will refer care to other healthcare providers when appropriate. There are several types of midwives who attend home births: Certified Nurse Midwives (CNMs), Certified Professional Midwives (CPMs), and Traditional Midwives.

The average length of a prenatal visit with a physician is 10 minutes, whereas the average length of a prenatal visit with a home-birth midwife is about an hour. Home-birth midwives value respectful treatment, personal attention, informed decision-making, appropriate monitoring and risk assessment, instilling confidence in a woman’s body, natural techniques for comfort in labor, family-oriented care, and parent-child bonding. Six weeks after a home birth, more than 90 percent of mothers are breastfeeding successfully.[5] The midwifery model of care is holistically oriented, seeking to enhance the physical, psychological, and social well-being of the mother throughout the childbearing cycle. Midwives also offer excellent continuity of care.

What about complications?

Photograph by Laura Eckert, A New Creation Photography

Midwives screen clients carefully and care for only healthy, low-risk women. Midwives are trained in emergency skills such as neonatal resuscitation, and in facilitating a safe transfer of care, if needed. The vast majority of transfers during labor, from home to a hospital setting, are non-emergent.



Is home birth for everyone?

No. Home birth is contraindicated for women who have risk factors for certain health conditions, or for those who develop complications arising during pregnancy. Also, it is not for women who have a personal preference for birthing in the hospital.


[1] MF MacDorman, TJ Mathews, E Declercq. “Home births in the United States, 1990–2009.” NCHS data brief, no 84. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2012.

[2] Debora Boucher, CNM; Catherine Bennett, RNC, BSN; Barbara McFarlin, CNM, PhD, RDMS; Rixa Freeze, PhD, MA “Staying Home to Give Birth: Why Women in the United States Choose Home Birth” JMWH, Vol. 54, No. 2 (March/April 2009), p. 119.

[3] Kenneth C Johnson and Betty-Anne Daviss, “Outcomes of planned home births with certified professional midwives: large prospective study in North America.” BMJ 2005; 330:1416 (18 June); S Vedam, K Stoll, L Schummers, C Fulton, “Home Birth: An Annotated Guide to the Literature, 2013.

[4] American Public Health Association, “Increasing Access to Out-of-Hospital Maternity Care Services through State-Regulated and Nationally-Certified Direct-Entry Midwives (Policy Statement)”. American Journal of Public Health, Vol 92, No. 3, March 2002; Maternal and Newborn Health/Safe Motherhood Unit of the World Health Organization, “Care in Normal Birth: A practical guide.” World Health Organization, 1996.

[5] Kenneth C Johnson and Betty-Anne Daviss, “Outcomes of planned home births with certified professional midwives: large prospective study in North America.” BMJ 2005; 330:1416 (18 June);

VBAC Supportive Care

Like many moms out there, I’d never expected to be part of the “cesarean club.” Surgery didn’t exactly fit my natural birth plan — so much so that the hubs and I pretty much snoozed through that whole portion of the labor and delivery class offered by a local hospital. Things quickly changed upon the discovery that my firstborn was breech at my 37-week prenatal appointment.

Despite trying everything I could, she would not turn. At that point, I’d never heard of family-centered cesareans, and my providers never offered one as an option. However, I had a good cesarean and recovery. But it was a far cry from the natural birth I’d dreamed of.

It seems silly to admit this now, years later, but when I was pregnant with my firstborn, I selected where she would be born and who would deliver her largely based on convenience and ambience. I say silly because I ended up going to great lengths, including a transferring my care at 39.5 weeks and driving two hours to have my second child delivered by providers who practice evidence-based care that supported my wishes.

When I discovered I was pregnant with Baby No. 2, I searched for a provider who was supportive of VBACs and delivered in a hospital, our preference at the time. Unfortunately, no midwives offered VBACs in hospitals in central Iowa, where I live. So I chose a group with an OB our pediatrician said was VBAC-friendly.

Each physician with whom I met started off my prenatal office visit with, “You’re an excellent candidate for a VBAC.”  However, at my 17-week appointment, the ARNP said something that raised an alarm inside me. She said they’d do a “routine” ultrasound at 38 weeks to check my baby’s size given my firstborn was so “large” at 8 lbs., 10 oz. (for reference, my husband’s 6’4’’ and I’m 5’ 10’’).

This made no sense to me, so a friend suggested hitting up the local ICAN (International Cesarean Awareness Network) group for advice.

An ICAN leader told me about the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists’ (ACOG’s) guidelines for VBACs, which included that my firstborn did not meet its definition of macrosomia (a big baby) and that the group concludes that mere suspected macrosomia shouldn’t put a halt to the possibility of a VBAC. She was very supportive and mentioned some other options to consider, one being transferring my care to UI Women’s Health Center’s Midwifery Clinic (UIHC). However, at the time, I honestly thought driving two hours in labor sounded crazy.

At my 19-week visit I asked one of my OBs about the 38-week “routine” ultrasound. She said that so long as I was measuring normally, I wouldn’t have to have it.

During my following prenatal visits, I waited until after all of the other physicians said I was measuring right on schedule. Then I started asking them questions and began getting red flags when they did not concur on a definition of a “big” baby. One told me the ultrasound was mandatory and that if the results showed my baby was 9 lbs., I’d have to have a scheduled cesarean. Given the margin of error with ultrasounds, I wasn’t comfortable having a routine cesarean solely because of size, when I could be carrying an 8 lb. baby. Another physician made other comments to me, including suggesting another ultrasound at 35 weeks, which led met to believe we definitely did not have the same plans for the birth of my baby.

Then I learned that physician was known for pushing cesareans and that the group as a whole was known to “pull the rug” from plans for VBACs toward the end of pregnancy, leaving moms to feel like they have no other options.

At my 37-week appointment, after measuring right on schedule, the same physician whom had assured me the routine 38-week ultrasound wouldn’t be necessary so long as I was measuring on target tried to push the test on me three times within the short visit.

At this point, I was a mess, feeling like I could not trust all of the physicians in the group to honor what I believed to be in the best interest of my baby and me. So I called the physician in the group whom had delivered my firstborn and with whom I was the most comfortable to discuss my concerns.

After speaking with her, I came to the conclusion that I would continue to be an “excellent candidate for a VBAC,” should all the stars align (I happen to go into spontaneous labor before my due date, the right physician was on call, my labor progressed quickly, etc.). And for me, the answer I needed to hear was, We will support your VBAC and your wishes to withhold interventions so long as you and your baby are doing okay.

So I called the UIHC midwives who thankfully accepted me as a patient at 39.5 weeks. During my first and only prenatal visit there, the midwife told me, “In your case, it would be a real shame not to try for a VBAC.”

I went into spontaneous labor three days later. Despite having been in labor for 15 hours with mostly frequent, intense contractions, I was at two centimeters dilated upon admission. However, because I was a VBAC mom, the midwife on call wanted to admit me. I expressed my concern about “being on the clock” by being admitted so early, and she said, “We don’t have those clocks here.” And she meant it!

The next day, seeing my exhaustion after 31 hours of labor and going on a total of eight hours of sleep in two days, the midwife suggested Pitocin. Despite it being a “no” in boldface type on my birth plan, she said otherwise I could be one of the moms who labors for days. But she never pushed it on me, saying only, “I would offer you this…,” which made me not think twice about it. Had I not elected to receive the drug, I know I could’ve continued to labor there without being pushed into unnecessary intervention. But because of ACOG’s “immediately available” VBAC guidelines, I know in my heart that I would’ve been pushed into another cesarean, had I stayed in Des Moines.

I traveled to Iowa City because it was the only place I felt I could be guaranteed evidence-based care for my baby and me that supported my wishes. But the person-centered postnatal care at UIHC was far superior to my experience in Des Moines as well.

Mom and baby skin-to-skin immediately after birth.

Mom and baby skin-to-skin immediately after birth.

I’ll forever be indebted to the UIHC midwives, ICAN of Central Iowa and my doula for the blessing of holding my baby immediately after she was born for as long as I wanted, my birth “war” story, being able to pick up my firstborn (and shower upstairs!) upon returning home and for reduced risks, should we decide to have another child.


The “silliest” part of my VBAC story is the fight I had to put up to have it.

 More VBAC resources:


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:

Intern Birth Blog: Babywearing for Beginners

This week I wanted to look into all things babywearing! My interest was sparked by a cousin of mine who started showing up at all of our family gatherings carrying her daughter in beautiful pieces of cloth. Every time I saw her, she had a new carrier and even started buying them as gifts for other family members when they were pregnant. She went on and on about this new trend of babywearing and has been doing it for the last 3 years.

In order to learn more I got in touch with with Suzi Lang of Babywearing International of Central Iowa. So, for those of you who are not aware of what this babywearing is all about, have no fear, I think I've figured it out!

What is babywearing?
Babywearing is the practice of wearing or carrying a baby in a sling of another form of carrier. Although this is a recent trend here in America, babywearing has been around for centuries and is done all around the world. There are four main kind of carriers which range in price anywhere from $40-$300.

1.) Soft Structured Carriers
babywearing soft structured (180x281)







2.) Wraps
babywearing wrap (600x600)





3.) Ring Slings/Pouches
babywearing ring sling





4.) Mei Tai

babywearing mei ties






This whole concept can be a little confusing at first for us beginners, so here's a video if you'd like a more clear image of how exactly a wrap is worn.  This is one of the many, many ways a wrap can be worn. Caregivers can carry babies up to any age as long as they feel comfortable doing it, and baby is wanting to be carried.

What are the benefits of babywearing? Beyond the trend…
Besides the fact that all these wraps and carriers can be super cute accessories, there is much more to it than that! Babywearing has countless benefits for both mom and baby:

Hands free what mom doesn't want that?! As someone who works at a daycare facility, I know there are times a baby needs to be held, yet I have a million other things I need to get done with two hands. Babywearing allows the mother to have the baby close to offer that comfort, yet both hands free to complete tasks.

Suzi filled me in on a few more benefits:

• “Happy Babies.
It’s true...carried babies cry less! In a study published in the journal Pediatrics, researchers found that babywearing for three hours a day reduced infant crying by 43 percent overall and 54 percent during evening hours. “

“Healthy Babies
Premature babies and babies with special needs often enter the world with fragile nervous systems. When a baby rides in a sling attached to his mother, he is in tune with the rhythm of her breathing, the sound of her heartbeat, and the movements his mother makes—walking, bending, and reaching. This stimulation helps him to regulate his own physical responses. Research has even shown that premature babies who are touched and held gain weight faster and are healthier than babies who are not.”

• “Confident Parents
A large part of feeling confident as a parent is the ability to read our babies’ cues successfully. Holding our babies close in a sling allows us to become finely attuned to their movements, gestures, and facial expressions. Every time a baby is able to let us know that she is hungry, bored, or wet without having to cry, her trust in us is increased, her learning is enhanced, and our own confidence is reinforced. This cycle of positive interaction deepens the mutual attachment between parent and child, and is especially beneficial for mothers who are at risk for or suffering from postpartum depression.”

•” Loving Caregivers
Baby carriers are a great bonding tool for fathers, grandparents, adoptive parents, babysitters, and other caregivers. Imagine a new father going for a walk with his baby in a sling. The baby is becoming used to his voice, heartbeat, movements, and facial expressions, and the two are forging a strong attachment of their own. Baby carriers are beneficial for every adult in a baby’s
life. Cuddling up close in the sling is a wonderful way to get to know the baby in your life, and for the baby to get to know you!”

•”Comfort and Convenience
With the help of a good carrier, you can take care of older children or do chores without frequent interruptions from an anxious or distressed infant—which helps to reduce sibling rivalry. Baby carriers are also wonderful to use with older babies and toddlers; you can save those arms and go where strollers can’t. Climbing stairs, hiking, and navigating crowded airports all can be done with ease when you use a well-designed baby carrier!”

Okay, what's the catch?
There isn't one!  If mother and baby are both content and mom is practicing safe babywearing techniques, there are no proven physical or emotional negative effects. This graphic includes the main babywearing techniques:
babywearing abcs

Get Connected:
Great news, there are several babywearing groups in Iowa right here in Iowa!  There is even a babywearing retreat happening in April.

I hope you're learning something along with me. Please do not hesitate to comment below with your babywearing experiences, or any questions. Lastly, if you or someone you know would like to be featured in my next blog, email me at

~ Intern Marianne

Birth Blog: Intern Edition Introduction

Intern MarianneHello all!

Welcome to the birth blog: intern edition. My name is Marianne Hart and I am a senior studying Child, Adult and Family Services at Iowa State University. I have the privilege of interning with Iowa Birth Organization this semester and am so excited for all the learning opportunities which lie ahead.

A little bit about me: I grew up in Eldridge, Iowa in the eastern region of the state along the Mississippi. I am the youngest of 3 children and a lover of cats, outdoor activities and baking cakes. Ever since I can remember, I have been fascinated by pregnancy and birth. As a child, I was the "weird" girl who would put a blanket under to shirt, pretending to be pregnant, only to later give birth to a doll and create crying sounds as I tended to it's needs-- not your average 5 year old. This passion has only grown with age and I hope to work in the birth industry post graduation this coming May.

With that being said, I will be updating this blog bi-weekly; these blog posts will pertain to birth related topics as well as information I gather from interviewing birth professionals in Iowa. This blog will serve two purposes: 1) informational for those reading it and 2) enabling me to explore hot birth topics and hopefully steer me toward the right career path!

If you are interested in being featured in a blog post or have a topic you would like to see covered, please comment on this post or email and I will get back to you as soon as possible.

Until next time,

Breastmilk: Our Donor Milk Story

8 years ago I made the decision to have a breast reduction surgery. I was in my last year of High School and my breasts we're a size F, my body just couldn't handle that much weight, I had a lot of back problems and this was really my only option. When I talked with my surgeon about the risks that came along with this procedure he told me there was a 30% chance that I wouldn't be able to breastfeed my children so I was aware that it was a possibility that I would not be able to breastfeed although, at age 17, that was not a huge concern for me.

When I became pregnant a year and a half ago, I started to panic. Breastfeeding was something that I really wanted to be able to do. I talked with my midwives about things I could do during pregnancy that would help my milk come in. Towards the end of pregnancy I had all the signs that it was going to be okay. My breasts were engorged and I even had a few drops coming out here and there! The midwives told me that since it had been so long since my surgery that hopefully my milk ducts had realigned themselves and I would hopefully have minimal issues.

When my little boy finally decided to enter the world his father and I were overjoyed. We had not bought formulas or bottles because that just wasn't an option for us. The day after we got home from the hospital I called my lactation consultant and went and saw her because I was worried my milk was not coming in. She told me to relax and that it was perfectly normal to only be making a quarter ounce 3 days postpartum. So I waited and waited and waited and my milk never fully came in. I was heartbroken. I felt as though my body had failed me and I in turn had failed my son. I was scarily close to postpartum depression. I did make the transition from colostrum to milk but I could not pump more than an ounce at a time. At my highest point I made 4 ounces every 24 hours. I joined a breastfeeding support group where I was introduced to donor milk.

At first, I tried to go through a milk bank. The regulations for the particular milk bank I went to made it very hard to receive milk. I had a prescription for donor milk but the insurance company would not cover it and we could not afford it (almost $150 daily) so we looked for alternative ways to find breastmilk. I found great resources online. I joined both Human Milk 4 Human Babies and Eats on Feets. These groups are for informal breastmilk donations. Each state has their own regional group. The way it works is a mama will post either a request or a donation and connections are made. The recipient replaces the milk storage bags but other than that nothing besides milk is exchanged.A baby and his donor milk stash

There were a few factors to consider when making the decision to use donor milk. It did make me nervous at first when I thought about the fact that the milk I would be giving to my son was   untested, unlike milk coming from a milk bank, our milk was coming straight from the source. This worried my partner more than me but I empathized with his concerns. The first large donation we received we paid to have a small amount tested for the basics... drugs and infectious diseases. It took a couple of months to get my partner on bored with feeling completely comfortable about using donor milk. We established a relationship with each one of our donors. If we ever felt uncomfortable about a donor for whatever reason we would politely decline the milk but this is yet to happen. I feel like donating milk is such a labor of love. It takes an incredible amount of time and energy to produce and pump the milk and than going through the effort to donate it takes time too so I feel like it would be very rare to receive unsafe milk. I have no doubt that our donors have all had beautiful intentions and that they play a huge part in the fact that my son is the healthy and vibrant little boy he is today. Donor Milk Stash

Our first donation came from a local mother, she gave us around 70 ounces and I was so incredibly grateful, it was the most milk I had ever seen in my life! To date we have had 23 amazing donors. We have traveled to Nebraska, Minnesota, Illinois and all over the state of Iowa to pick up donations. We have made life long friendships along the way. It has been such a special and humbling experience for me.

We have met donors from all walks of life. These mothers have made such a huge impact on me and my family's lives. I would like to think we have made an impact on some of theirs as well. There was one donor in particular whose story I would like to share.

We drove 3 hours to meet her and she drove 1.5 hours. When we went to meet her we went to a restaurant to grab a bite to eat. I had no idea what her story was at this point. She told me she had lost her daughter to still birth and that she had been pumping for the sole purpose of donating her milk. She explained that this had been very healing to her in her time of grief. She was feeling very uncomfortable after the long drive and had forgotten her pump. My son had been bottle fed for 4 months now and had refused to nurse from me when I tried. He latched onto this sweet mama like a champ and I sat there and watched him nurse from her for close to an hour. I truly believe in that moment my son and this mama needed each other. I got an email from her the next day saying she stopped pumping.

I am so proud to say that we have made it to 1 year on donor milk! We have not needed to supplement with formula. Our freezer is full and we have no plans to stop anytime soon. This has been such a beautiful experience for us and we are forever grateful. I did the math a week ago and my son has consumed around 77 gallons of donated milk. It's overwhelming to think about how much time and energy and love has went into that milk. We treasure every drop. How do you thank another woman for nourishing your child when you are unable to? All I can say is thank you. Thank you to all of our donors for this special gift. We truly could not have done it without you.

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.

How to improve birth without becoming an activist

I know you’re out there, those of you who care about birth, but don’t see yourself holding a sign and chanting, “Women do this every day!” You wonder how you can make a difference. How can you make things better when it comes to birth without getting the lobotomy it would require to create such a major personality change? I know this, because in many ways I am like you. I wanted to hide behind the shrubbery at the capitol building during our last rally when my comrades started chanting. And I know this because I’ve met you. I hear you quietly tell your story of why you care and how you try to spread the word and how you fear stepping on toes. So, this is for you my more introverted sisters (and brothers).
How can I improve birth without becoming an activist?
  1. Continue to inform yourself. Keep reading, researching, and learning. There are many websites, Facebook pages and blogs dedicated to sharing empowering and accurate information about birth. The more you know the more ready you’ll be to improve birth by sharing a resource or encouragement when the time comes.
  2. Share your story. What do you have to say about birth? What led you to caring about birth? Mom’s share your birth story. Dads, share your birth story, your experience of your child’s birth. If it was a supported and empowered experience, you will let others know what is possible. If you weren’t treated well, if you weren’t yet informed of your options, you let others know it’s ok to speak up and encourage them to advocate for themselves and inform themselves in advance. You don’t have to stand on a stage, you don’t have to even say it out loud, but you can write it and share it with a friend or two, post it in a Facebook note, share it with a birth blog. If even one person has a second thought about the state of birth in our country, you will have improved birth.
  3. Be the voice of normal birth when media portrays it otherwise.  We’ve all been there, with our friends and family, watching a movie or a TV show that portrays birth in inaccurate and unhelpful ways. All we need to say to make a difference in that moment is, “That’s not how it really is” or “It really doesn’t need to be like that.” For whomever is listening, you’ll have planted a tiny seed. A seed of doubt that media’s got this birth thing right and a seed of hope that birth doesn’t mean an embarrassing pool of water under your legs in the line at the supermarket followed by 12 hours of lying on your back and screaming. If one less person believes this to be a ‘normal’ birth experience, you’ve improved birth.
  4. Educate your children. You’re gonna have to have “the talk” with them and you’ve probably been thinking about since before the first time they noted that mommy and daddy look different, so go ahead and include birth in your conversations about reproduction. Here’s a great time to share their birth stories (and yearly on their birthdays as well:). Share some empowering birth videos. Do what it takes to let them know birth is normal, that it doesn’t need to be scary and that women’s bodies were made to do this. Not just your daughters, but your sons too; their future wives will thank you. We are talking about empowering your family for generations to come. This is some serious work! and
  5. Get involved. There are many quiet ways to get involved in the work of a birth activist. You can find them here:
I share this list with you, because finally finding my voice in the world of improving birth has been empowering. I hope you will find something above that works for you and that you will soon be rewarded by hearing someone say, “I wouldn’t have… known that was an option/ hired a doula/ taken that class/ trusted birth/ chosen a midwife/ chosen a family friendly hospital/ tried for a VBAC/ shared my fears… if it weren’t for you.”
~Michelle Gossen


I want to share some thoughts with you on midwifery legislation in our state.  Midwives are consistently supported by evidence to be the best providers for normal birth.  When I say this it does not mean that other providers are bad—quite the opposite.  Other providers have a place and are a very necessary piece of the modern birth puzzle.  Supporting midwives is not an effort to eliminate other providers.  

I believe that birth is a normal physiological function of a woman’s body.  I do not believe that pregnancy and birth are pathogenic (e.g. disease or illness).  Therefore, I do not believe that birth requires the practice of medicine.   Under this assumption I do not believe that midwifery is the practice of medicine.  Midwives support normal birth and I love them for it!  That being said, I also believe that we live in a society that largely does not agree with this, despite significant evidence to the contrary.

So what should we do when it comes to legislation?  Do I wish we could declare the practice of midwifery “not medicine” and decriminalize it?  Ultimately, yes.  That would give power to the consumer to make informed and educated decisions about their care provider(s).  However, where we stand currently there are no legislators in our state willing to support that.  That’s where we stand.  This leads me to lend my support to the licensing of Certified Professional Midwives (CPMs).

A little history lesson to elaborate on my stance:  One of the HUGE reasons we are in this “midwife mess” in the first place is because in the late 18th century men, with their new medical degrees out of Europe, started to attend births.  They called themselves man-midwives, because what else would you call a birth attendant!  The man-midwives (doctors) wanted to build their businesses, and one of the ways to do this, as we know all too well, is to eliminate the competition.  In this case, that meant eliminating midwives.  This was largely done through propaganda campaigns against midwives.  WE ARE HAVING THIS CONVERSATION TODAY BECAUSE THESE CAMPAIGNS WERE SO SUCCESSFUL!   One of the reasons the campaign against midwives is said to have been so successful is because the doctors grouped together.  They formed alliances and guilds and grew in number and power. This also improved their ability to communicate and present a unified front of the midwife “issue.”  For whatever reason, the midwives weren’t able to organize on a large scale and present a unified front.   Some writers have suggested that the midwives didn’t really see the doctors as a threat.  Perhaps they were thinking along the lines that I am, “birth is normal; therefore non-medical, and for all of history women (midwives) have attended other women in labor – we’re not worried.”  Let’s not underestimate the issue of power here.  Even in the areas where midwives did organize, at this time in history a group of women held little power when it comes to business, politics, and policymaking.

Let’s not make that mistake again. 

The history of birth in this country that tells me we need to unify around the issue and take action.  I’m unifying around the idea of increasing access to midwives.  I’ll always hold out hope that someday my education and change efforts will reach the tipping point and all will come to recognize that birth is normal.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not giving up that fight – not at all.  Supporting midwives and the consumers who want to legal access them does not change the need to continue to educate and promote ongoing change.

Where we are right now: We are organized. We have the support on the legislative front.  And we have SCIENCE.  Yes, the evidence is also on the side of midwives. My belief is that licensing midwives in our state is a positive and necessary step for consumers of maternity care in our state and (in my opinion) for the midwives too.

One of the things that also happened in our collective birth history is that the man-midwives, who later declared themselves obstetricians, gained power over birth; previously it belonged exclusively to women. In doing so they also took it upon themselves to start naming and defining things.  The power to name and define is huge.

Imagine: for all history this thing that I am sitting on has been called a chair and has been sat on.  Then, rather suddenly, a group of people holding significant power come along and tell me that this is no longer to be called a chair and it is no longer for sitting.  If anyone wants to sit in it, there will be consequences.  If you want to use this chair properly, and without consequences, you must do so through us.  A few folks wanted to keep sitting in chairs so the group “allowed” this, but only under their regulation. 

The fact of the matter is that they have the power.  They are still able to name and define.  And until we enter into their realm and gain a seat at the power table we will continue to struggle. We have to play that game.  This legislation would mean a seat at the table, to be part of the naming and defining conversation.  It’s not ideal, but it’s better than being ignored and persecuted. It is a step in the right direction.  It is acknowledgement and recognition for midwives and their valuable role in society.  Someday I’d like to see the tables flip.  I’d love if the United States would figure out that the birth outcomes in countries where midwives are the primary birth attendant are not a fluke occurrence.  I’m going to continue to do the work I do to educate people under the belief that someday we’ll get there.  I feel confident in supporting this legislation because I believe it is a necessary means to keep moving us forward.

For more information about where midwives stand in Iowa and across the country check out The Big Push and Friends of Iowa Midwives.  

- Mandi Hardy Hillman, PhD, LPC, CD(DONA), ICCE

* When I contribute to this blog (or any blog) I always sign my name.  That means these are my thoughts.  Although, often they align with those of other IBO leaders and “fans,” they may not always.  

On becoming a birth activist

IBO logo2

By: Mandi Hardy Hillman

How did I become a birth activist?  It’s hard to explain.  I think the best way to sum up my evolution to activism is with a quote from Albert Einstein, “The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but by those who watch them without doing anything.”

Let me translate.

I did a little research – okay, I did a lot of research.  I wrote a dissertation on the feminist history of birth in America – and I discovered that we have drifted a bit off course.  I came to understand that the way we do in birth in America is not normal.  We are not treating pregnancy and birth as though they are normal biological functions of a woman’s body.  As a consequence bad things are happening to our moms and babies (and the rest of their families) in this country.  And when I say bad things, yes, I am talking about morbidity and mortality.  We’re not looking good here folks – not at all.  Here’s the bottom line for me: I cannot know what I know – about the oppression and silence of our collective birth story – and do nothing.  That’s how I became an activist.

So, that’s simple enough, huh!

Well, here’s the second part of the problem.  I’ve  spent a lot of time trying figure out how to tell people this truth. How do I sum up all that reading and research in a way that clearly communicates how we got here and what it means for women and babies?  And then, last week, there it was.  I was reading a book that shared this story describing the state of our educational system.  I couldn’t help but recognize how it perfectly reflects the current state of the maternity care culture in our country.

There once was a cage that held four gorillas.  In the middle of the cage was a box.  Every morning, the zookeeper hung beautifully fresh bananas above the box, and the gorillas climbed the box to get the bananas.  One morning, the first gorilla climbed the box, and as soon as he was atop, fire hoses shot out of the walls and painfully pummeled all four of the creatures.  A few minutes later, another gorilla climbed the box, and the same thing happened.  A few tries more, and the gorillas decided to bananas weren’t worth the pain that day.  After a few days of the same, they quit even trying to climb the box.  If one of the gorillas forgot and started even looking at those beautiful bananas, the other gorillas would gang up and beat him.  Eventually, the poor beasts never approached the box or looked at the bananas.  Then the zookeeper replaced one of the gorillas.  The new gorilla was so excited when he saw the box and the bananas.  As he swung his long arm toward the box the other three gorillas pummeled him while screaming.  He hung his head and ran to a corner.  Every morning, as he got excited over the fresh bananas, the other gorillas began the torture.  Once that gorilla was trained to stay away from the box, the zookeeper substituted another new gorilla.  He repeated substitutions until all four of the original gorillas that had been painfully hosed were gone and there were four new gorillas.  The new gorillas had never been hosed, but they continued to beat each other if anyone we for the box and the bananas.  They had no idea why they did what they did, but it was all they knew so they continued. 


Yes my friends, this is where we are.  Most of us have no idea why we are doing what we are doing, and yet we do it anyway.  We assume it’s for our good, but we’ve truly never known any other way.  We’ve been told any other way is “bad” or “dangerous” so we [generally] comply without asking “why?”  We’re in a mess.

Keeping this story about the gorillas in mind here’s another quote I’ll share with you that might help you [re]think the current climate of the maternity culture in America.

Hedegmony: The way in which dominant classes control and exploit subordinate groups by consent, thereby masking exploitation by convincing the exploited that their condition was natural to them, even good for them (Madison, 2005, p. 53).

How’s that sit with you?

If it doesn’t sit well, maybe you’re an activist too.  But, fear not, you’re not alone.  There are many of us, and we’d love to have you!

This blog was originally posted by the Birth Activist Collective on July 17, 2013.

Metamorphosis: no going back

I’m getting frustrated with our culture’s constant talk about when women (and dads too) are going to get “back” to their old (fill in the blank….life, body, self, etc.).   Becoming a parent, by whatever means you become one, is a metamorphosis.  It is a change, a life-altering change.  You were one thing – now you are another.   There is no going back.  You are something entirely new.  You are still you, but you are something completely different too.

We do not ask the butterfly when it will be a caterpillar again.  Instead, we look at the butterfly with awe and reverence.  We respect and appreciate the butterfly for what it has become, what it is now doing, and what it will do.  We reflect in awe and wonder at the process that has taken place in order that it could become this new thing – the metamorphosis.

Something New

The notion of a woman should return to something she once was – and can truly never fully be again – is counterproductive; in fact, it can be harmful.  Rather than a focus (through both language and behavior) on what was, how might we instead promote a new sense of respect and admiration for what was done (the change, the morph) and what now is (the mother, the parent)?   What would that sound like?  What would it look like?  Can we do that?  Can we shift our cultural paradigm from regression to progression?  Can we, as a society, be more forward focused?

None of this is to say that a parent should never “hit the town,” or “spend a day doing….,” but rather to say that we must stop insisting on it.  We must stop implying that this is both feasible and a necessary return.  For some, this may mean a mourning phase – this can take many healthy forms.  It is necessary to recognize that with this new thing you have morphed into, there had to be something that was left behind.   I will never again “hit the town” in the same way I did when I was not a parent.  It’s simply not possible.  I am a different person.  I’m still fun, I’m still silly, I’m still a wild-and-crazy gal, but I’m different too.  I’m a lot different.  I think differently, I feel differently, I “hit the town” differently.

My point is this: let’s honor that difference, rather than judge it by wishing it away.  Let’s talk about the change, the metamorphosis, in a positive way. Let’s focus on, support, and encourage all the things I am now.  Look at me, the new mother—a beautiful butterfly, with awe and reverence, rather than question when I’ll go back to being the caterpillar I was.



Lowering our Expectations is not the Answer

When doing work related to birth, I often hear people say that high expectations about birth set us up for disappointment. Some people (including myself at times) seem to think the answer to disappointment in birth is to lower our expectations or to hold our expectations loosely.

“I don’t want to be disappointed, so I have no expectations.”

Being informed is most likely going to increase a woman’s expectations. After becoming informed about how normal birth is, how great it can be for the whole family, how well people can take care of you during this important time, a woman comes to hope for those things. Now, the fact that she has to ‘hope for’ evidence-based family centered gentle care while a baby is coming out of her body is a whole other issue that you’ll hear plenty about from our IBO team, but today I want to talk about a different solution to disappointment.

Rather than lowering our expectations and rather than telling a mom ‘at least she and baby are alive’, lets offer moms time to talk about their disappointments. And lets do this without leaving any room for guilt. Caring for a baby has it’s challenges. We let moms (and dads) complain about lack of sleep without adding after every sentence, “But I do love him and am happy he’s here and healthy.” So what if we start to respond to other disappointments and challenges of parenthood, including labor and birth, with the same understanding? Rather than saying to someone, or telling yourself, “But you have a healthy baby and that’s all that matters” lets try saying some of these things:

“I felt _______ also.”

“It’s okay to feel disappointed about your  (unplanned intervention).”

“It’s normal to feel sad when ____.”

“You’re right, the care provider shouldn’t have _____. I’m so sorry that happened.”

Saying these things to others and to ourselves, and meaning them, will open the door for dialogue about life’s real challenges. It will help us to connect with each other and will fight off one of our worst post partum enemies- loneliness.

Moms, you gave birth, you did great. If you weren’t treated well and supported fully, if it didn’t go as you’d hoped, if you feel bad about some aspect of your birth or becoming a mom, that’s okay. And we are here for you.

-Michelle G



What Birth Taught Me

There is something I learned through the birth of my son, that I didn’t recognize until a week before his third birthday. It’s something that changed me, that healed me, and that empowered me, yet I didn’t fully understand it until watching Midwife- the documentary. One of the birth stories shared was a VBAC2 . The woman in this story was strong. She had two cesareans and was working for an out of hospital vaginal birth with a midwife. I was her biggest cheerleader as I sat in the theater with my hands over my mouth holding my breath. She worked hard as she was supported by her husband and birth attendants. And then she did it! She had her VBAC and I cried (of course). Later in the film the midwife returned to the VBAC2 momma for a post partum visit. The mother became her own cheerleader for a moment as she exclaimed, “A baby came out of my vagina!” and high-fived her husband. Again, tears. This woman realized that her body wasn’t broken and, watching her celebrate, I realized that these last three years I have been living out of the joy of having discovered, without knowing it, that neither was mine. 

After three miscarriages, I was a bit mad at my body. Why couldn’t it do what it was supposed to? Why did it fail me, and my family, time and time again? I had so many questions and I may never know the answers to those questions. But… the day my body opened up and pushed out our baby boy, after doing a great job keeping him safe and growing him for all those months, I forgave it. I forgave my body and I appreciated it. My body is not broken; it is amazing. And so is yours. And that is what birth taught me.
best. moment. ever.
three years later
-Michelle G
Originally posted at on November 15, 2013.


“Where there is unity there is always victory.” 

- Publillius Syrus

  • Did you have a rock star birth?
  • Did you feel strong, capable, confident, and empowered?
  • Did you feel afraid and alone?
  • Did you feel supported?
  • Did you feel tricked, manipulated, or coerced?
  • Did you feel that you and your baby were at the center of the birth experience?
  • Did you feel that you were the key decision-maker?
  • Did you feel you were given information about the risks and benefits of doing or not doing something?
  • Did you feel happy?
  • Did you feel sad?
  • Did you feel loved?
  • Did you circumcise your son?
  • Did you leave your son intact?
  • Do you think birth is “no big deal?”
  • Do you think birth is more than just one day?
  • Did you have to fight to have the birth you desired, with the provider you chose, in the location you wanted?
  • Did you breastfeed with ease?
  • Did you choose to bottle-feed?
  • Did you plan for an induction?
  • Did you carry past 42 weeks?
  • Did you schedule your cesarean?
  • Did you have a VBAC?
  • Did you have a TOLAC turned repeat cesarean?
  • Did you think long and hard about who your care providers were going to be?
  • Did you choose a care provider because that is who your insurance would cover?
  • Are you a provider who feels overworked and underpaid trying to provide respectful evidence-based care?

Did you answer yes to any of the above questions? Welcome. You are welcome here. You are wanted here. Whatever your story, whoever you are, whatever your reason; we are glad that you’re here. We firmly believe there is not one-size-fits all birth experience. In fact, we believe that the one-size-fits all attitude is how we got into this crazy messed up maternity care crisis in the first place.  We are not here to tell you what you should do. And most of all we are NOT here to judge you for the choices you made – ever.  We are here to support, love, and appreciate you for who you are and for the experiences you’ve had. You are welcome here. Your path and your journey is your own. We appreciate and honor you. Mother, father, sister, brother, aunt, uncle, neighbor, friend. We believe that if we are going to impact maternity care in this state (and beyond) we must stand together. If you’re here I bet we can agree on this: moms and babies deserve better!  That’s our common ground folks – let’s stand there. We must unify and not divide. We cannot walk alone. We are stronger together.a3df6-stewart-monica-unity

There is a lot of talk these days about “the mommy wars.”  And although it’s a bit cliche (okay, major cliche) I firmly believe that we can “all get along.” We MUST, get past the notion of a war between women.  When we share information about experiences and about what our science is telling us about birth and the primal period in life we are NOT judging you.  Yes, how you give birth matters, for a multitude of reasons.  Each of those reasons is as varied, just like the woman giving birth.  However, know this: how you give birth does not equate with how  you love.  Never.  Those are two different things.  Often women feel that they are being judged or that their birth experiences (and their parenting choices) equate with how they love their children.  All to often I’ll hear a woman say, “but I’m not a bad mom because….”  We’re not talking about good or bad mothers here folks.  We promise.  This is a soul thing, mothering.  Our feelings about being a “good enough” mother lie deep within us.  These feelings about mothering reach to the very depths our being to places we didn’t know existed.  It’s easy to see, and feel, how we might connect our experiences with our loving and our “good enough” status.  Because these feel to us to be so deeply interwoven that we often struggle to separate them.  However, please know we do not believe them to be the same.
Here’s the big questions I’m left with:  Can we change the world without offending someone?  Can we remove all value-laden and judgemental language and still have honest, necessary, and very real conversations about the state of things?  I’d like to think so, but I’m an eternal optimist.  My job here, at Iowa Birth Organization and on this journey through life, is to love you.  Not to judge you.  I’m not doing what I am doing here because I think any one of your was right, wrong, good, or bad in what you did when you gave birth to your babies.  I’m here because I think our system, our culture, needs to change in how we treat women during their transition to motherhood.  I think we are way off course and as a result we are all caught in the current (and may not even know it).  When we say, “we can do better!” we don’t mean that you were wrong.  Nope.  We mean that our culture CAN provide equal access to respectful evidenced-based maternity care.  And will provide that if we (the consumers) require it of them.  That’s what we’re after here.  That’s what we want to change – the culture – not you! We think you’re great.
We are not here to judge you friends.  We are not at war with you.  That is misguided and unproductive.  There is no mommy war here.  There is a great big love-in happening.  We can do better.  We can love more and judge less and then love some more.  We can provide support through our listening.  We can provide education about evidence-based care.  We can stand up for those who have no access to this type care.  We can unite to make the world a better place for our mamas, their babies, their families (partners we don’t forget about you in all of this), and our culture! It is my greatest hope that every child will come to this earth, and their first breaths be that of love, joy, and peace.

Dear mommy friends, let’s not fight.   I am not at war with you and I never will be – that is my commitment to you.

In love and peace, Mandi Hardy Hillman

(Originally posted at on Aug 31st, 2013)

Why I’m Improving Birth

My first birth was great.  I had the midwife-assisted-unmedicated-hospital birth I had hoped and planned for.  My son was 10.6 pounds.  He nursed easily.  We asked to be discharged less than 24 hours after he was born and our request was honored.  We felt respected and cared for.   I didn’t experience postpartum depression, post-traumatic-stress-disorder, or even the blues.  All was well.
When my son was 7-months-old I became a doula.  When he was 1-year-old I went back to school, already having a master’s degree, to work towards my doctorate.  I had been working in the mental health field as a therapist and was passionate about the primal period (pregnancy, birth, and the first 3-years of life).  When I had to define my area of emphasis in graduate school it was clear to me that focusing in this area made the most sense.
The first study I conducted was a qualitative study exploring maternal experiences with pregnancy and birth.  Some of the statements really stood out to me.  Many women shared a similar response when I would ask them why something occurred during their births or why they did what they did. They would say, “I don’t know, it’s just what you do.”  This left me puzzled.  How could so many report such a lack of information and understanding about what had happened to them, their bodies, and their babies during their pregnancy and birth experiences?  So I set out to find the answer to this question: how did “just what you do” become well, just what you do.  Basically, I started to explore the history of birth in our country.  How did we get here?  My research in this area and the implications on modern-day families became the focus of my dissertation project.
It was because of my research, the science, that I decided that if I was experiencing a healthy pregnancy (meaning I was low risk) home birth was the option I would chose for any future births I would have.  I was 12 weeks pregnant with my second child when I successfully defended that dissertation and earned my doctorate.  About 6 months later I had another great birth experience.  I had the midwife-assisted-unmedicated-home-birth I had hoped and planned for.  My 2nd son was a 9.2 pounder.  He nursed easily.  We felt respected and cared for. I didn’t experience postpartum depression, post-traumatic-stress-disorder, or even the blues.  All was well.

I feel it is important for me to communicate that I did not come to this movement because I was hurt.  I’m not angry.  I’m not seeking some redemption from a bad experience. 

I am here because I know the truth about how we got here.  And I know what it means for moms and babies that we are here.  I am here because I know that if we stay on this current course things are not going to get better, they are going to get worse, much worse.  Most of all I am here because everyone deserves to have experiences like I had.  No, not because I think I did it “right” or that everyone should make the same decisions I did.  No, not because I think I’m better than anyone, but because EVERYONE – EVERYONE – deserves to feel respected and cared for during their births.  And when I say everyone I mean the mother, the partner, the baby – everyone.  The truth is my experiences are the exception not the rule and that is not okay with me.
I am here, a part of this movement to improve birth, because I know that it’s not too late.  I am here because I know that it wasn’t long ago that we veered off course, and I believe that it’s not too late to STOP, backpedal, and get back on track.  I am here because just one woman saying that she felt  disrespected, silenced, or worse assaulted is one woman too many.  I am here now because I know that one person can make a difference.  I am here because I know that my voice matters.  Most of all I am here now because I know that we can do better, but only if we demand better.  I am here to demand better.
I am improving birth because I know the truth and I know that we need change now.
Photo by the amazing Andrea Shandri of Blessings Photo and Birth
~ Mandi Hardy Hillman

Originally published at on Wednesday, September 4, 2013.

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