Home Birth Advocacy, Reviews

“Birth Story: Ina May Gaskin & The Farm Midwives” Review

No Comments 09 December 2012

My eyes welled up more than a few times while watching Ina May Gaskin’s new documentary, Birth Story: Ina May Gaskin & The Farm Midwives. I felt emotional throughout, for several reasons, which I’ll explain in this article and review of the film.

Last week, Birth Kalamazoo and Birth Alternatives Midwifery held a benefit screening of the film with proceeds to Friends of Michigan Midwives.

The women behind the scenes making the event happen were my friend and two-time doula, Jessica English, and midwife Linda Healey (who also happened to by my two-time midwife). As SW Regional Coordinator of FoMM, I helped out by gathering silent-auction items from local businesses.

That night, I was surrounded by the energy of 50+ local birth-advocate women and their families. I felt the full room. Safe to say this was an integral factor in my emotional state.

In the film, three natural home births were depicted beautifully, which were woven seamlessly within the story of how The Farm came to be.

Ina May Gaskin was of course a reocurring character. One the audience couldn’t get enough of. We felt lucky to be guests into her past through iconic photographs and film footage of the most famous midwife in the United States. Coming in and out were scenes was her husband, Stephen Gaskin.

And those two lovebirds are the next reason why Birth Story was a big tear-fest. When Stephen said, (paraphrasing) “I’m glad just to be her Sherpa. The Sherpa gets to join you on your way up the mountain.” ?? Enough. said. #meltmyheart

I learned plenty of lessons, some of which I was learning all over again, and some for the first time.

  • As always, natural birth is so stunning, it takes my breath away and fills my heart
  • Peace and love, and not just in that hippie cliche, (but also that) helps babies come out
  • Passion + a good cause + hard work = incredible, life and world-changing results (I want to be like the go-givers in this film!)
  • Birth is a normal and natural process
  • Women are so f*ing powerful!
  • I happen to work best in large groups when I have a task – that night, I sat at the greeting table, accepted donations and re-secured sharpie lids while welcoming each person into the room. I got to say hello to everyone without stumbling drunken-sailor style around the room. Score!
  • We need more positive films like this one. Rather than make me mad, I felt inspired and courageous

Make it to a screening of Birth Story or host your own. I highly recommend it. Watch the Birth Story trailer here.

Home Birth Advocacy

I am a Friend of Michigan Midwives

2 Comments 23 October 2012

I recently joined the board of Friends of Michigan Midwives as the Regional Coordinator of Kalamazoo, MI.

Because I believe in this organization and our cause, I’d like to take a moment to introduce you to Friends of Michigan Midwives and what we’re currently working on.

Friends of Michigan Midwives, or FoMM, is a non-profit organization dedicated to educate and inform the public about the Midwifery Model of Care, promote and support the profession of midwifery as well as safe and legal access to out-of-hospital birth for families in the state of Michigan.

We at FoMM support licensing midwives and are currently in the throes of supporting Senate Bill 1310, companion to House Bill 5070, a bill that will license Certified Professional Midwives.

While I’ve only had a handful of opportunities to talk with consumers directly about this bill is important, I’m proud to report each acquaintance has walked away in support of of SB 1310!

Over the next year, I will be hosting several local fundraising events. Keep an eye out, SW Michiganders!

I’d like to take this great opportunity to share why I support licensing midwives with you.

Personally, I am in support of SB 1310 because I know many midwives, doulas and birth advocates have put in countless hours over the past few years crafting it.

When it comes to my health care options, I want to be able to trust the bill in place was written with me in mind, by people who know me. I trust the bill because I trust the women and families who have been working on it’s careful wording. I love knowing my midwife – the woman who helped bring our two precious babies into this world from the safety of our home – will be protected by law with the passing of SB 1310. She currently is not recognized by law, and that makes me feel uneasy.

Licensing makes midwifery an accredited profession attractive to midwives and consumers alike.

Those who are inspired to become a midwife in the future will know their career choice is viable and respected in our state. Licensing will set a standard of training. Right now, Direct Entry Midwives, (DEM) may go through long periods of time without studying the most recent evidence-based practices. While some may be up to date, there is no real way to know.

Midwives who have earned the CPM credential are required to earn continuing education credits, and licensing will ensure that all midwives meet that requirement.

This means a great deal to families interested in finding and hiring a midwife, as licensing CPMs will set into place a trustworthy, respected base of knowledge. I value accountability and training, and take those things into consideration when hiring any care provider whether they be a chiropractor to massage therapist, pediatrician or dentist.

Take action to provide state recognition to midwives and enhance the profession of Midwifery in Michigan today by visiting the official Friends of Michigan Midwives website.

Please click the link to visit their site and learn more and take your own action steps to support licensing midwives. The profession of midwifery in Michigan will grow and this bill will ensure families the right to birth where they choose.

If you feel strongly about this issue and would like to volunteer your time, energy or donate to the FoMM, please email me, (Kaitlin) at BringBirthHome@gmail.com and we can talk! 

Home Birth Advocacy, Pregnancy

The Delicacy of a Woman’s Power During Labor and Birth

2 Comments 16 October 2012

Women have power.

I visualize internal power as a soft glowing ball of light radiating within our chest walls. It can sparkle like the sun in the faces of our friends and warm the deepest crevices. How it feels so invigorating to achieve. Pride in accomplishments. It’s the best.

When you hand over your power, you dim that light. When you hand over your power, you’re giving someone, (who you may deem as more qualified) permission to make important decisions on your behalf.

Whether we shine through or are snuffed out can be in the middle of a “right of passage” moment in life.

Women sometimes find themselves in this position during pregnancy, labor and childbirth. We enter into uncharted territory and might feel nervous about making decisions. Doubts arise. It feels good to have a guide – someone whom you trust to help navigate.  This is why I so strongly advocate choosing the right care provider.

The incident might in the moment seem insignificant or minor. A simple assessment phone call during labor to discuss your progress peppered with advice about what to do next. Or feeling the iv cord bump into your thigh with each step. Suddenly feeling irritated and taken out of your “zone.”

During labor, distractions can be downright dangerous.

Each time a laboring woman is distracted, she is pulled from her animal-intuitive brain to her human-thinking brain. Complex thoughts and the actions that follow, as well as near constant monitoring by person or machine, releases adrenaline (this is our fight/flight response). Adrenaline opposes oxytocin, the hormone responsible for contracting the uterus.

As a result of these hormones butting heads, labor slows down. Due to this “failure to progress,” further interventions might be “needed” to induce labor, speed up labor, alleviate pain from overly powerful contractions due to induction and/or augmentation, and in some cases, cesarean section.

A woman just lost her power.

Keep your inner light lit by dreaming up and planning for a beautiful birth experience. Build a birth team filled with support. Don’t save the space for distractions and interference (at an absolute minimum). Stay away from negative press and conflicting philosophies that your feel might compromise your experience , during pregnancy, labor, birth and postpartum.

Start with trust.

Labor and birth is for a woman the process of letting go and going in, if we allow it. Trust your Self, your body and of course, birth and the entire life cycle.

That is a lot to trust, and to have faith in. You are a lot to have faith in. I know from experience it can be hard to call yourself “worthy” of your own time and respect. But you are. No matter what you’ve done, or what kind of challenge you think you can’t endure, you are human mother giving birth to a human baby. And that is a normal physiological, yet utterly amazing event in our lives!

Looking for more empowered birth posts? These topics relate:

There is Light at the End of the Birth Canal

Natural Birth Relaxation Techniques

Why Birth Matters – An Introduction 

Home Birth Advocacy

Beautiful Home Birth Photos

No Comments 25 September 2012

Home birth is beautiful!

Thank you to the Cole family for sharing your photos with us!

Home Birth Advocacy

There is Light at the End of the Birth Canal

2 Comments 20 September 2012

It has been said that the hardest part of the journey takes place right before the breakthrough or transformation.

This is the position in which I see childbirth in the United States and around the world.

Everywhere, there are uprisings. People taking to the streets, reclaiming their power, strengthening their resolve, beckoning with their voices. No matter where, or what the reason, there is a similar tune: freedom.

Tonight I was part of a viewing of Freedom For Birth, a documentary film by One World Birth, and sat on a panel discussion after the film.

The entire event was exhilarating for me to be a part of. Although I had already seen the film earlier this week to prepare for the panel discussion, the depth in which I appreciated it’s content was just as, if not more, powerful as I’d felt watching for the first time.

Freedom For Birth is a film that will outrage you, that is for sure. The statistics and stories told from around the world about the abuses to women during childbirth are completely unacceptable.

But the film is also incredibly inspiring in that one can answer with confidence that change is not only necessary, I’ll go as far to say it’s on the horizon.

We’ve hit the bottom of the abyss. (I’m paraphrasing Michel Odent said in the film.) His statement is followed by this question, written out for us on the screen: How do we climb out of the abyss?

The same way our children come into the world. Pushing against what feels like nothing, twisting and turning, feeling stuck and then moving another inch. Sometimes backward an inch too. Yet all while, on some deep instinctual level, we are moving forward toward the light.

Our journey to reclaiming birth as a fundamental human right will be long and hard. But there is a very bright light at the end of the tunnel. That light signifies freedom. As long as each person who believes in birth lets their voice be heard – on a micro and macro level – there is nowhere to go but upward.

My final message is in these few action steps you can take to #1, ensure you have a choice in creating your ideal birth experience, and #2, how women and families can take back the power of childbirth.

  • Have a vision for your birth. Dream about your birth. Draw your birth. Meditate over your birth. What does it look like? How do you want to feel? What is the best way to bring your baby into this world?
  • Find the right care provider. I’m talking the perfect fit. You must know like and trust that person with all your heart and know your entire gut instinct says they are the one. Interview as many as you need to.
  • Share your positive pregnancy experiences and empowering birth stories with everyone you can. The world needs to hear about beautiful births. The balance is currently tipped in the favor of negative and fear-based tales. Let’s change that!
  • Get involved on a local, statewide, and even a national level to help change the conversation in a positive direction. What organizations can you become a part of? For me, it’s FoMM, and attending screenings like the one tonight (and BBH of course!).

I’d love to hear from you in the comments below. What action steps do you think we can take as a nation, or as a planet of human beings, to change the culture of birth for the better?

Guest Writers, Home Birth Advocacy

Not Your Mother’s Labor: Water Birth Part I

2 Comments 07 September 2012

Among the gems of pregnancy “wisdom” passed from generation to generation and still hanging on today, one of the most stubborn is “Don’t get in the tub after your water breaks, you’ll get an infection!”

Is it true? Does dirty tub water get siphoned up the vagina, delivering a direct dose of microbes to the uterus? Or is it a misnomer that should go the way of “If you put your arms over your head the baby will strangle!”

Photo courtesy of birthersage via CC license

Since many home births, or at least labors, take place in a birthing pool, you’ve likely thought about this issue at some point in your research and/or birth planning.

Whether you’re just mildly curious about the level of risk or you have deep concerns about laboring or birthing in water, a look at some of the available data will bring into focus the scientific truth about this popular pregnancy tale.

I began writing this post with the notion that I’d fit everything I wanted to cover into one post. Well…that’s not going to happen because there is so much delicious info and I don’t want to skimp on sharing details, so it’s going to be a two part series. Besides, if I tried to cram it all into one blog post I wouldn’t have room to share part of my own water birth story. :)

So, here we go – let’s begin with the findings of ACOG in their Committee on Obstetric Practice opinion on warm-water immersion in birth:

The Committee feels there are “insufficient data, especially concerning rates of infection, to render an opinion on whether warm-water immersion is a safe and appropriate birthing alternative.”

While ACOG’s opinion usually needs to be taken with several grains of salt, it’s a useful jumping-off point – how much data is enough? There is actually a fairly significant body of evidence on outcomes, including infection, and water labor/birth.

Dr. Siegel’s Tampon Experiment

This body begins in 1960 with the work of Dr. Peter Siegel. Dr. Siegel posed the age-old question, “Does bath water enter the vagina?” In his experiment Dr. Siegel had women place tampons into their vaginas then sit in a potassium iodide bath for 15 minutes, then did an iodine reaction test on the tampons.

There was no sign of the tampons, therefore the vaginal vault, having exposure to the water at all. What’s more, five of the women were in the last two weeks of pregnancy and five were in the first three days postpartum. Only one of the women had had fewer than 4 children, and most were parity 6-10, making Dr. Siegel’s results that much more astounding.

Dr. Siegel’s conclusion read:

Thus, the fear that bath water may infect a pregnant or puerperal woman is not founded on fact, since normally no water enters the vagina. Therefore, restrictions on bathing during and after pregnancy are not warranted on this basis alone. Moreover, this teaching represents another classic example of error.

Not only does it represent an example of error, it also represents another in a long list of common sense findings that somehow escaped being adopted into standard of practice over the years, although the reasoning has changed, as evidenced by this telling statement on a nurses’ forum:

Unfortunately, with the lawsuit-happy public these days, it would take only one case of “tub acquired” infection to ruin an OB’s practice and put the tubs in mothballs.”

Sadly that’s the truth about most common obstetrical practices these days – it’s all about liability. Fortunately that’s not such an issue with home birth, however it’s still prudent to know what the research says so that we go into birth armed with information and ready to refute antiquated nonsense that may be slung our way.

In this first installment on water birth, I will cover a couple pieces of research that look at infection, one of which focuses specifically on GBS (Group B Strep). In part two, we’ll talk more about data on general outcomes of water labor and birth, encompassing other aspects of maternal/fetal well-being in addition to infection risk.

The Cochrane Review

Firstly let’s take a look at what is considered the largest overview of labor and/or birth in water, the Cochrane Review: Immersion in water in labour and birth, Cluett ER and Burns E., out of University of Southampton in the UK.

This is a review of a group of 12 “randomised controlled trials comparing immersion in any bath tub/pool with no immersion, or other non-pharmacological forms of pain management during labour and/or birth, in women during labour who were considered to be at low risk of complications, as defined by the researchers.”

There were a total of 3243 women included in the comparison, which found no statistically significant difference among the water birthers and land birthers with regard to:

  • neonatal infection
  • maternal infection
  • APGAR scores
  • neonatal unit admissions

There was, however, a significant reduction in epidural/spinal anesthesia in the waterbirthing group as well as one trial which revealed a birth satisfaction rate in the immersed moms of four times the rate in the control group.

The reviewers conclude that while more research is warranted:

There is no evidence of increased adverse effects to the fetus/neonate or woman from labouring in water or water birth.”

Judy Cohain’s Stunning GBS Findings

The second piece of evidence I’d like to look at is a paper by Judy Slome Cohain, CNM published in the Winter 2010-11 issue of Midwifery Today Int Midwife, “Water birth and Newborn GBS disease”. 

Cohain found one – yes one – case of early onset newborn GBS in 4432 hospital water births. To understand how astounding this number is, we’ve got to consider that the accepted rate of GBS among births on land, with antibiotic prophylaxis, is approx. one in 1450.

As Cohain points out, there are a number of possible explanations for this incredible reduction in risk – from the water washing the microbes off the baby, to the benefits of kangaroo care, to lower levels of intervention causing a decrease in transmission.

If I were the betting kind, my money would be on a combination of factors resulting in these amazing outcomes, but one thing is as clear as a freshly-filled birth pool – water birth, whether at home or in a facility, likely offers benefits beyond what we’ve even dreamed.

More to come in part two on water birth. Please share your thoughts and experiences with us in the comments…


Misha Safranski is mother to five beautiful children, birth mother to a sixth, VBAC mom, unschooling parent, intactivist, lactivist, and freelance writer. In addition to working full time for a major online media company, Ms. Safranski publishes an advocacy blog on birth and intuitive parenting issues called Creating Dissonance. She resides in Michigan with her children and furbabies.


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