Thursday, 21 August 2014

Obstetrics - Bastion of misogyny


by Barbara Kruger
Misogyny (miss-odge-a-knee) literally means 'hatred of women' - but just as we understand that a paedophile doesn't really 'love' children, so the term misogyny has come to refer to having an inherent prejudice towards women, usually to their detriment.

I get that referring to obstetrics as a bastion of misogyny is a strong statement to make - Didn't huge numbers of women die in childbirth before maternity wards and hospitals and operating theatres? What is wrong with that? You don't become a gynaecologist or obstetric nurse unless you want to help women, right? How is that missy-, misod... hating women?

This has been a very difficult post to write. It is a real challenge to get the balance between describing the misogyny, if not outright abuse that women are experiencing under obstetric care, whilst acknowledging that there are many care providers who do not intend to practice in this way. I would like to put forward the idea that it is not every individual in the obstetrics industry that is consciously misogynistic (although some are), but that the institution of obstetrics itself utilizes deeply entrenched misogyny as its foundation. For one example, see here.

Therefore even those who are not personally invested in the practice of misogyny feel stuck in a system that cannot function without it.

If you are still a wary, let's try something. I found this site (among others) containing a list of the characteristics of a misogynist. If we personify the obstetrics industry, how many of the characteristics of a misogynist does it fulfill?
Before you read the list below - please remember this is not about doctors vs midwives or men vs women - I have seen internalised misogyny practiced and perpetuated by midwives and doctors, male and female. I believe we are dealing with a system that is inherently misogynistic, but is allowed to continue as such because women are told that the misogyny is for their own good. 

Characteristics of a misogynist:
  •  Controls women by destroying their self-confidence
    • 'Are you sure you don't need an epidural?' (x10)
    • *checks dilation* 'You are only 3cm dilated.'
    • 'Failure to Progress.'
  •  Needs to ensure that women are always less powerful than he is
    • Stirrups
    • Lithotomy position
    • 'My gynae said he/she will/won't let me...'
  • Intimidates women by constantly finding fault with them
    • 'Let's see if this naughty cervix is behaving.'
    • 'This perineum is far too small - we'll need to do an episiotomy.' *head not even visible*
    • 'Be quiet - You're making too much noise!'
    • 'What size shoe are you?'
  • Humiliates women in public and devalues their opinions
    • *Calls the doula over to show her why the episiotomy will be necessary and why more time won't help by demonstrating how 'small' the mother's vagina is with his two fingers while she has full sensation and without her consent.* (Mother is on her back. Ends up cutting three times.)
  • Must ALWAYS win in a discussion with or about women – all encounters with or about women are seen as a battle to be won.
    • 'Well if you want to have a doula you'll have to find another gynae...'
    • 'Well, you can either listen to me or you can have a dead baby.' - otherwise known as playing the 'Dead Baby Card'
    • 'You know you can't trust Dr Google,' when a mother tries to present a peer-reviewed journal article on how delayed cord clamping may be beneficial.
  • Blames women for failings that are in no way related to them
    • 'Failure to Progress' is often more a case of 'Failure to Wait'. When a mom is strapped to monitors and not allowed to stand up and eat and be normal it is no wonder that labour stalls!
    • 'We'll have to give formula because your milk hasn't come in yet.' *Less than 24 hours after birth.* Anyone who knows the least bit about breastfeeding knows milk only comes in at around three days after birth. 
    • 'It seems your pelvis is too small to deliver this baby.' Said by the same person requiring the mother to be on her back in the position most likely to restrict opening of the pelvis.
  • Blame women for his own failings and shortcomings
    • 'The Caesarian rate is so high because women's pelves (pelvises) are getting smaller.'
  •  Denies women's feelings and makes them wrong for feeling them
    • 'It wasn't that bad. At least you have a healthy baby!'
  • Makes jokes or derogatory comments about women and then ridicules any woman who gets offended or upset
  • Belittles or ignores women's accomplishments
    • 'It must have been the atarax.' *After mother reached 8cm from 3cm dilation in 3 hours through some Rebozo sifting, moving around and changing positions.*
  • Has no remorse or guilt for the pain he causes women
    • 'But I saved you!'
  • Tries to keep women from doing things they are qualified to do
    • Like being able to make decisions about what they do with their own bodies.
  •  Selectively quotes authorities to substantiate his views and positions on women
    • 'Cochrane Review? Pfft! I only trust the British Medical Journal on these matters.' i.e. the extent of his research is on how to do better surgery, not on how to avoid surgery to begin with.
  • Will confuse issues by changing the subject, denial, word jugglery, lying, twisting the facts or acting as if nothing happened
    • 'If you tear, it will be jagged and we will have to cut the jagged edges off and then sew it together.'
    • 'Your baby will drown if you give birth in the water.'
  • Is preoccupied with sex and is sexually controlling
    • Ever heard of the 'husband stitch'?
    • 'Don't you think your husband would rather you had a Caesarean?'
  • He has problems with authority figures in general and women in authority in particular.
    • Outspoken and experienced midwives (as opposed to obstetric nurses) in general and private midwives in particular are often seen as the enemy and are accused of giving women all sorts of crazy ideas.
  • Has a Jekyll and Hyde personality - Nice to you in public, but cuts you down in private
    • 'My gynae is very pro-natural.' *When I know his CS rate is over 85%*
    • 'My gynae is very happy for me to try for a vbac.' *When I know the success rate of VBACs in that hospital is less than 5%*
    • 'My gynae said I can have a water birth.' *When the midwife on duty says she's never seen this doctor allow a first time mom to deliver in the water.* 
Hover over the image to 'Pin It' on Pinterest
So before you start roaring at me in ALL CAPS saying that birth attendants aren't all like that, I totally agree. I know some truly incredible birth attendants and caregivers who have utmost respect for the birth process and birthing women. But they struggle in a system that does not represent these ideals. Read Dr Gauri Lowe's account of her obstetric training as a GP here: Thoughts on expecting natural birth service from your doctor...

Even though all the quotes above are actual quotes or situations I have heard / experienced / read, I understand that they do represent extremes, and yes, I understand that many individuals do not consciously perpetuate these misogynistic language and behaviour patterns, but until someone calls them out, the abuse will continue. A woman should feel safe and secure and supported no matter what her race or social class or education or risk category. 

Edited to add:
In describing obstetrics as the last outpost of misogyny, I don't intend to minimise other expressions of misogyny, both explicit and implicit, but I do feel that obstetrics is a particularly well guarded bastion of the ideology, because it is one of the most widely accepted and widely justified areas of misogyny. In short, 'It's for their own good.'

Further reading: 
Birth: A surprising history of how we are born by Tina Cassidy (On Takealot)
Dr Robbie Davis-Floyd (Anthropologist) - Articles on Childbirth and Obstetrics

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Birthing Day...

When a baby is born, so is a mother. 

Photographer: Karen E
I always thought that was a cute, if not trite, little saying. Until I had my own babies.

I have come to realise that having children entails a massive core identity shift for many women - more so than getting married or a first menstruation or any other of life's transitional experiences. The shift often takes us by surprise in its nature and its magnitude. 

Ask any mother which she remembers in greater details, her wedding day or the births of each of children. Almost all the women I have asked have far more acute memories of the triumphs or tragedies of their birthing days than their wedding days. (I'm not sure of the equivalent life experience to ask about for women who haven't been married - if you have any ideas let me know!)

Three years ago my youngest daughter was born and even though we celebrate this day, the 18th of June as her birthday it was, as cheesy as it sounds, a birth-day of sorts for me too. 

I birthed my first daughter in a drug free natural birth in a private hospital in Pietermaritzburg. I was on my back doing purple pushing, but for most of the nurses there it was the most natural birth they had seen in many months - especially considering the number of nurses who came in to congratulate me with awed whispers of 'We heard what you did!' 

My gynae told me it was one birth out of a thousand and that totally freaked me out! To me it was a normal birth, an 'average' birth, an example of how most women could and did give birth but I have since discovered that there is far too much hospital policy, often not evidence based, and not enough support for moms (read: doulas) for this to be the norm.

It was an intense experience for me. I have never broken a bone or dislocated anything or had kidney stones or anything like that, so it was the most painful thing I had ever experienced. But I felt confident, I felt supported and at no point did I feel as though I was suffering. 

I learned a little more over the intervening years and chose to have a water birth at home for the birth of my second daughter. That was an utterly life altering experience. Here is a link to the full story: Eloise's Birth (will open in a new window)

I essentially had an unassisted birth with a midwife in the room. I had said to my midwife, Sr Arlen Ege, that I wanted to do as much myself as I could, unless I asked for help or unless she could see that intervention was necessary, and she gave me the gift of respecting my wishes. So I had an exquisite physiological birth after a week of on-and-off labour (check the link for more details) and it was a highlight of my life. 

I was high on endorphins and oxytocin for what seemed like weeks afterwards and I truly felt like I could take on the world! 

And so I firmly believe that when both my babies were born, new facets of who I am today were birthed at the same time. 

Photographer: Karen E
My babies showed me how to think of someone else before myself, how to nurture and how to love. They showed me reserves of strength and patience that I had no idea I had. They also showed me my limits and my weaknesses - and I have been able to grow through those times. They brought out the fierce mama bear in me - the wild woman who roars in the face of danger and hardship. 

They have also drawn out my softest tear-blurred gazes and inspired my proudest heart-busting moments. 

One thing that I adore about being a doula is that I have the privilege of walking alongside women as they make this transition. I get to witness the birth on so many levels!

So today everyone celebrates my daughter's birthday, and rightly so, I have had many of my own! But on this day I secretly celebrate my own birthing days, those hallowed moments of encountering the exquisite juicy rawness of human life. 

I give them gifts, as parents do, but no book or toy can come close to the gifts my daughters have brought me - the gift of becoming more fully myself, the gift of finding my calling, the gift of becoming a mother.

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Love Makes Things Grow...

A little lightheartedness... (teehee)

Love Makes Things Grow

At the place where I work they had to dig up some pipes at one stage and before there was a chance to replace the tar, this patch of grass happened.

As I walked past it on my way to my car one afternoon the words 'Love makes things grow' just popped into my head and I've been ruminating on them ever since.

So please feel free to share this pic, or Pin It and spread it far and wide because everyone needs to know that love makes things grow!

Pinning Tip: If you hover over the image a 'Pin It' button should appear.

Monday, 2 June 2014

Hindrances to Natural Birth #37: Mobile Phones

(This is the second post in a series on Hindrances to Natural Birth. The first was a post on how tickets specifically, and time pressure generally, can get in the way of natural birth.)

If you have a mobile phone, cellular telephone, or any other kind of mobile device that you can receive messages on that beeps or buzzes or whatever - then this post is for you.

Even if you aren't pregnant yourself... actually... *especially* if you aren't pregnant yourself - please take note!

Mobile phones can be great. I love my mobile! It helps me keep in contact with my clients, stay on top of emails, do research on the spot, listen to music, take pics of my kids, make to-do lists... I think I'd be lost without it. Mobile devices make our lives easier in many ways - but constant connectivity can have its problems too.

We've read the blog posts about being present in our actual real-life flesh-and-blood lives, we've watched the videos about 'looking up' - that is not everything this post is about.

I can't tell the number of times I have been with a mom resting beautifully between contractions, breathing splendidly through them - serene, undisturbed - and the mobile phone goes off. Buzzing or beeping - both intrude equally on silence.

As if the noise wasn't enough, someone feels compelled to check - to reply - to repeat the question the sender is asking - How far is she? How long to go? How is she doing?

Someone tries to answer the impossible questions - within earshot of a mother who previously was utterly self contained and calm.

'She's only 4cm.'
'It will be at least another 6 hours.'
'She seems to be coping well at the moment.'

Every statement is innocuous on the surface, but carrying an undertone of measuring her up against some fictional standard of how birth happens.

I get that labour can take a long time. It can get boring. Dads can feel awkward and useless in the labour process and checking the news on an iPad helps pass the time.

But like I said in my previous post - oxytocin - the hormone that initiates labour and keeps it going - is a shy hormone. Its release is hindered when a mom feels like her performance is being measured. Those messaging her do so innocently out of concern for the mom and baby. Everyone is understandably excited when a baby is on the way - especially grandparents! But often messages, even the loving and encouraging ones, can be perceived as pressure to do well, to perform.

I know how I am whenever I hear someone is in labour! I'd love a contraction by contraction update. But I also know the possible negative consequences.

Imagine if you had to give a moment by moment update of your honeymoon night... Such an exciting time! A night of new beginnings! Still not keen? I don't blame you.

But what if everyone with an interest in the birth knew that their excitement, and their incessant messaging and even calling could be hindering the mother's intentions for a natural birth? Mothers and close female friends and relatives often bring their own baggage around birth into their interactions with a birthing mom - their own bad experiences, their own cultural anxieties - both of which are unhelpful.  

Every mom needs her team to show their unwavering confidence in her ability to do this birth thing. You are responsible for the energy you bring into your interactions with her. Remember that.

As soon as baby is born, partners are often so busy messaging everyone all the vitals that they can miss out on some of those precious moments of witnessing a baby experience gravity and texture and temperature and light all at once for the very first time.

Image by George Ruiz on Flickr
It's not the partner's fault. He is the link between the mom and the outside world - rather him than her - and there is absolutely nothing wrong with spreading good news! He is meeting all sorts of expectations from family and friends to make sure they are the first to know every bit of progress as it happens. And they have even less of an idea of how long birth takes than he has!

This is a sacred moment. Be there. Whether you send the message now or in an hour's time - it won't make a huge difference to them - but it can make a difference to you and your baby.

Some solutions:

  • Set up a messaging group on something like Whatsapp. Any and all labour updates and questions go through the Whatsapp group. No exceptions.
  • Warn people beforehand that you will be totally out of contact during labour - and even during the last few weeks of pregnancy - outside of the messaging group.  Set the expectation that you will give information as things happen - no news is good news. When a mom is feeling uncomfortable at the end of her pregnancy, getting 15 messages a day asking her is the baby has arrived yet is just not helpful!
  • Set any mobile devices to silent *without* vibration. Check your mobile device/s when it is convenient for you. Make sure technology is your servant and not your master.
  • Get a doula. Some partners think that having a doula there will give you less to do, but doulas often help dads to feel far more relaxed and less likely to feel the need to 'escape' into Candy Crush or Minecraft - and doulas help partners to anticipate mom's needs and give ideas on how to help her. Most doulas are also really good at taking pics so dad's hands can be free to help mom.
  • Be okay with waiting. Sitting holding the mom's hand for 2/4/10 hours straight may seem boring to you but just your quiet presence can mean the world to her. You only get one chance at this. Be there.

Please share your thoughts and solutions with us!

Friday, 30 May 2014

Hindrances to Natural Birth #52 : Tickets

Image courtesy of Arvind Balaraman /
I'm pretty sure that if I were to ask you about some of the top hindrances to natural birth, 'tickets' would not be high on your list. Pitocin, lithotomy position, hospitals, a medical model of care, our culture of fear around birth: these are all pretty obvious. But I believe some of the real hindrances to natural birth may be somewhat more banal.

Labour is a shifty thing sometimes. One of the hormones that keep labour going - oxytocin - is considered to be a 'shy' hormone. It is not easily released under pressure. It is the hormone most intricately involved in lovemaking and released during orgasm. It is also the hormone that causes 'let down' or a fast flow of milk when breastfeeding. In short, oxytocin is the hormone of love, labour and lactation. 

Couples struggling to get pregnant who have to do the 'baby dance' on a particular day or even at a particular time will often attest that being 'forced' to make love on schedule kind of kills the vibe. 

Let's take it a bit further. Imagine you are in the middle of lovemaking and someone knocks on the door, peeks around it, and switches on the main light, just to check how you're doing. Are you there yet? Shall we check to see how far you've got to go? It seems to be taking some time. If you're not done in x amount of time we may need to help you along. I'll be back shortly. As you were. Toodles! 

Vibe. Officially. Dead.

Now that sounds ridiculous when applied to lovemaking, but the same hormone, oxytocin, is what induces and keeps labour going. 

So imagine: you are at the end of your pregnancy and your mom has booked her ticket from across the country, or across the globe, for the day before your expiration due date. She only has three weeks off work. The pressure is on. The clock is ticking.   

The thing is, when a pregnant mom has a perceived time limit within the labour process, her body is far less likely to release sufficient oxytocin to keep labour going effectively. On a larger scale, when a mom feels under pressure to go into labour to begin with, it actually makes it much harder for her to do so. 

And so she starts looking at induction options. Inductions can be helpful when there is a genuine medical need for them, but often then lead to a cascade of interventions as illustrated below.

There is lots I could say about inductions that would give some evidence for the diagram above - but that is a whole other post on its own! Let's rather look at some solutions to avoiding inductions altogether. Firstly, let people know that 'estimated due dates' are just that, estimates - there is about a 4-6 week window of 'normal'. I've got another post in this series looking at the notion of due dates as a hindrance to natural birth. I'll link to it here once it's up.

I know you get better prices if you book tickets long before the time and I know grannies-to-be would love to be around at the when babies are born - but I would really encourage you to find a way to not have time pressure around the time of your birth, especially if you are aiming to have a natural or low intervention birth.

Do you have creative ideas on how to avoid time pressure around your labour day? Please share them with us!

Thursday, 24 April 2014

The doula as a witness

I love that I learn from every single birth I have the privilege to attend. Each family and each birth requires different things from me - different words, different actions, different energies. Part of the skill in being a doula is knowing when to use which words, actions and energies. 

At times I stand by as a quiet presence, at other times I am in constant contact. Some moms prefer silence, while others want distraction. I rub feet, hands, hips, legs, backs and shoulders, I stroke hair,  I whisper encouragement, I turn down the lights, I turn up the heat, I fill the pool, I bring cool washcloths, I hold the space, I keep everyone fed and watered - doing my best to remove any hindrances to the birthing mother. 

I do all these things, but I feel they are all secondary to my role as a witness.   Of anyone involved in the birth process this one is almost unique to doulas. Partners are present but the birth is their own birth experience too. The midwife, the nurse, the doctor - they have their own responsibilities that often involve papers, numbers and tools - they have additional concerns that I don't have to carry. I am able to be there - truly present - with all my energy and attention focused on the birthing mom. I know midwives who choose to be fully present with the birthing mother, but these are rare.

And so I often get to see the things that others don't. I witness a birthing mother glowing serenely through yet another wave; the gentle interactions between a mom and her partner; the dad's face as he marvels at what he and his partner accomplished. I witness the mother's triumph as her dreams and expectations are clothed in flesh.

I am there for the disappointments too. I witness the moment when the gynae orders a second caesarean section after a long battle for a VBAC. I am there when her wishes are disregarded and her body violated with impunity by those with greater authority than me. 

In those moments something in the depth of me rages.  I don't dispute the medical justification for their actions, but too often there is little to no acknowledgement of her desires, her struggles, her strength, her autonomy, her personhood

Something in me rebels at the idea of being complicit in a system that routinely disregards evidence-based care in favour of convenience, that favours policy over personhood.

While this system rolls on, someone has to mop up the emotional fallout after institution has done its work. While there is little I can do on my own to improve the care women get while giving birth in our birthing institutions, I can bring empathy the ability to sense, understand and share the feelings of another - because I was there.  

So to all my doula moms, thank you for the privilege of allowing me to witness your journey...

I was there when you believed you couldn't go any further but you did anyway. I was there when you felt your body would split itself apart but you kept it together. I was there when you found and accessed that primal power deep inside. I was there when you pushed past exhaustion. I was there when your hopes were shattered, when your deepest healing was won, when your darkest moments were met, and overcome. 

I saw what you did. 

Your triumph. Your power. Your vulnerability. Your pain. 

I saw it all.

And I want you to know: you are magnificent, you are fierce, you are breathtaking. 

I know because I was there, and I remember. 

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Mother's Blessing - Alternative Baby Shower!

A group of women stuff their mouths and try to outdo each other's horror stories. They play some games that may or may not involve chunks of chocolate cake floating in a potty full of orange cordial and watch the mom open a mountain of gifts and pretend to be ecstatic about yet another pack of wet wipes while everyone makes comments about how the pile she already has will last her less than a week. Ha ha. 

'There must be more to it than this!'

Have you ever felt that way at a baby shower? 

So what if there was an alternative? What if we could create a space for women to come together to celebrate motherhood and to honour and encourage the mom-to-be? If that sounds like something you might like, then you will love the idea of a Mother's Blessing! 

I have had the opportunity to organize two Mother's Blessings for friends of mine and both have been very well received - even by the more conservative, less hippy-dippy ladies attending!

Usually a Mother's Blessing will be attended by a close circle of female friends and relatives. The idea is to create a safe space for the mom to share her fears and doubts, and for the women present to share their stories.  

The shape a Mother's Blessing might take:

  • General Introduction - It is helpful to introduce the idea of a Mother's Blessing so that the women have an idea of what to expect. I usually mention that many women experience having a child as more life changing than getting married and we really should honour that rite of passage. It is a joyful but challenging time. When you get married, you know who you are getting, because you chose them! But when you have a child there is much more uncertainty involved. Women spend so much time comparing and competing that it is important to set aside time to honour and encourage and let the mother know that she is not alone, that she has a circle of women around her who will support her in this transition.

  • Personal Introductions - Have each woman introduce herself and perhaps mention how she is connected to the mother if the group is large. Women can also introduce themselves as a link in a lineage of women - mine would be, 'I am Leigh, mother of Amelia and Eloise, daughter of Tracey, grand-daughter of Nancy, great-grand-daughter of Betty.' There is something special about seeing yourself as a link in a chain of women giving birth through the ages. 
As a side note: Something I find fascinating is that by the time a girl-baby has reached 20 weeks gestation she already has all her eggs! So when you are pregnant with a girl you are also carrying half the DNA of your grandchildren! So half of me was already present in Nancy's womb all those years ago... Doesn't that give you goosebumps?
  • Pampering - There are a few things you can do to make the mother feel special. Here it helps to have some inside knowledge of what the mom enjoys. It may be an Epsom salts foot bath with some pregnancy-friendly essential oils for one mom, for another it may be a hand massage or a head massage - again just make sure that the person doing these is aware of the guidelines for massaging pregnant ladies. Someone close to the mother can brush her hair for her, ready for her flower crown...
To make this flower crown on the right I used florist tape - that green stuff that is stretchy but not very sticky. Start winding around one or two flowers and every 2cm or so add another flower and keep winding and adding flowers until you reach the right size and join them in the same way as would add another flower.
  • Beads - Each woman attending brings a bead or trinket to be strung onto a necklace or bracelet for the mom to wear in labour, or just to wear for fun. Some also bring beads for the baby as well. At the most recent Mother Blessing I organized we asked each woman to bring a bead that signified something about the mom for them - and we also supplied a varied selection of beads for those who didn't have a chance to get one before the time! So, for example, a clear bead with a gold core could signify that you see the mom as transparent in her dealings with people, and that you believe she has a heart of gold. This is also good if there are ladies who can't be there - they can send a bead and a message and still be included! In the image below, a guest strung Tara's necklace on the spot so she could wear it straight away.
Tara's Flower Crown and Bead Necklace
  • Encouragement - The idea of being a mom can be very overwhelming. I think it is important to remind the mother of qualities she already possesses that will help her in her parenting journey. So, as each woman gives her bead, she can tell the mother something she has seen in her character that will help her in her parenting journey. For example, the one mother I organised a blessing for had spent some time with my children and I was always impressed at how she treated them with patience and kindness and respected their individuality - so I reminded her of a time where I had seen her do that. This idea is also relevant for subsequent Mother's Blessing (i.e. for 2nd and 3rd babies) - the women can tell the mother about things they admire about her parenting.

Further ideas:

  • Foot washing - Recently I organised a Mother's Blessing for a doula client so I washed her feet as a symbol of how I would serve her in her labour, and also on behalf of the women around her who had committed to serve and support her through this life transition.
  • Candles - Each guest can bring a candle for the mom to light while in labour, or alternatively, the host can supply candles that each guest can take home to light when they hear the mom is in labour. 
  • Henna - If there is someone in the mother's circle of friends and relatives who is handy with that kind of thing it can be really lovely to have the mother's belly decorated with henna. Each lady attending could have a henna motif done on a hand or a foot as well if there is time.
  • Belly cast - A belly cast is a lovely way to remember a pregnancy and a great way to get everyone involved. The mother may not be totally comfortable with having everyone coming into contact with her naked torso, so a bikini or smooth bra can help, or the belly cast could be done before the time and decorated at the Mother's Blessing. Click here for my belly cast tutorial.
String - Towards the end of the blessing time it is a lovely gesture of unity to have the attendees stand in a circle and each put one hand in the circle. A ball of yarn is then passed around and each woman wraps it twice around her wrist and passes it on to the next lady. The yarn is then cut and each lady can knot the yarn around her own wrist to be worn as a reminder of the pregnant mother. The string is then cut when the mother goes into labour. For those women for whom this is not something they would do, I have offered to braid the string onto a keyring or onto a zipper as a bag tag - anywhere that they will see often. 
  • Food - In this day and age I think it is not out of the bounds of good manners to ask close family and friends to bring a plate of eats to share. You could specify sweet or savoury on the invite to get a reasonable balance. 
  • Flags or quilts or stones - At a Mother's Blessing I organised recently we made a strip of bunting in the colours of the nursery (see image on the right). We then had guests write single words or short phrases in fabric marker on the individual flags so that one day when mom was having a hard time she could look up at the bunting and see what all her friends had wished for her and be encouraged. No one can be sad while looking at bunting! Sometimes guests use fabric markers to write on pre-cut quilt pieces than can then be made into a quilt or playmat for the baby. Alternatively, you could provide river stones that guests then write their words on.
  • Quotes and Poems - Each guest can read out a quote or poem about motherhood, and then write it in a blank book provided so that the mother can read them afterwards.
  • Freezer Stash - A great idea is to get some of the mother's baking pans and casserole dishes before the time and have them available for the attendees to take home. Then at some stage before or after the baby is born they can bring the mother's own dish back - full of yummy food of course! This certainly saves the mother the inconvenience of having to return baking dishes when she is trying to focus on her baby. Alternatively have attendees who are willing to provide meals write their names on a list to be contacted when the time comes. 
  • Positive Birth Stories - Moms can share their positive birth stories, or if their stories were not so positive, they can share how they overcame difficulties they experienced along the way.

Some tips if you are organizing:

  • Be sensitive - As much as a Mother's Blessing is for the mother, be sensitive to the women attending the event when planning. Not everyone wants to smooth wet plaster strips across another woman's naked breasts! But, having said that, don't underestimate how far women will go to show their love for the mom-to-be!
  • Pick and Choose - There are so many lovely things to do at a Mother's Blessing that it may be hard to choose - but things often take longer than you think so don't feel you have to include absolutely every idea. Try to choose those that the mother would appreciate most and leave some ideas for future pregnancies! 
  • Enjoy yourself too - So often event organisers are so concerned that everything must be perfect that they forget to enjoy themselves. Don't let that happen to you! There is no 'perfect' Mother's Blessing anyway, so go with the flow!
If you like the idea of a Mother's Blessing please do share this far and wide - if you hover over any of the images you will see a 'Pin It' button - feel free to use it!

For the sake of future moms, let's start an alternative baby shower revolution!!! 

Sunday, 2 March 2014

'Two Cent Pearls' presents...

'Two Cent Pearls' is me adding my two cents to the cacophony of voices on the InterWeb, in the hope that some may find some pearls of wisdom...

So if you ever wanted to match a face, voice and some crazy eyebrows and weird facial expressions to a name, now is your chance. At the moment I am recording them on my built in webcam, with a desk lamp for light and a mini microphone for sound, but as time goes on and I get better at this I'm trusting that the quality of video will match the quality of the words spoken...

So here is my introductory video:

And my first 'feature' - 'Your Body is not a Lemon' which includes some musings on a quote by Ina May Gaskin from her book 'Ina May's Guide to Childbirth.' (Getting clever with adding some tchoons!)

Please share these videos if you like what I have to say, and even if you don't necessarily like it, but it got you thinking. Also, subscribe to my channel if you would like to stay up to date with new posts! You can find a link to it here: 'Two Cent Pearls' YouTube Channel

Feedback is always welcome! And if there is anything you would like me to talk about, please do let me know!

Until next time, please do remember: