Saturday, October 5, 2013

Modesty, Pornography and the Body

There has been a lot of talk about protecting our children from pornography lately. I really want to chip in my two cents on a subject that relates to this and I think is becoming a stumbling block to effectively teaching our children the difference between sex and pornography. I am going to talk about modesty. The following is a collection of ideas on modesty, pornography and the body.

Modesty is not a dress code. I am quoting from lds.org here: Modesty is an attitude of propriety and decency in dress, grooming, language, and behavior. If we are modest, we do not draw undue attention to ourselves. Instead, we seek to “glorify God in [our] body, and in [our] spirit” (1 Corinthians 6:20; see also 1 Corinthians 6:19). Modesty is an attitude and a way of life. It is living your life in such a way that you bring honor and glory to your Heavenly Parents and make them pleased with you. Modesty is not about cap sleeves, high neck lines on prom dresses or having short hair and a clean shaven face. These are all things that can be part of a life lived with modesty, but they are not modesty itself. 

Dress standards are a revolving door. We Mormons are often fond of talking about how the Lord has one standard of modesty. But dress and grooming are very much dependent on what is acceptable in a particular time and place. Many interpret that to be more or less BYU's dress and grooming standards. However, how you are dressed now would have been completely inappropriate to the pioneers. In Leviticus 19:27,  the Lord commanded that the priests not trim the corners of their beards. This wasn't because this style in and of itself was bad, but because it was worn by the idolatrous priests. Church leaders began moving away from wearing beards in the mid-twentieth century not because beards were sinful, but because they were closely associated with polygamists. And for that matter, Moroni's ultra comfy attire as described in JSH1:31 of a simple robe that leaves the chest open to view is not in compliance with most Mormons' view on modesty. That being said, God does not allow his representatives to appear in less than modest attire, so the problem must be us. (It makes you wonder if we were less hung up on hemlines if we might see more angels...) Men and women need to dress in such a way that they show respect for their bodies and do not present themselves as sex objects. But they also need to act that way too.


And speaking of BYU, the dress code there is very much lacking. When you are denied service at an institution of higher learning because you haven't shaved but can wear your pajamas to class, I think we need to re-evaluate our ideas of modesty. If BYU is concerned about the image they portray maybe they should keep in mind that Hugh Hefner is clean shaven and wears pajamas everywhere while the Savior wore a beard.


Styles and clothes change, but an attitude of reverence and glorifying God will always be appropriate and becoming. 


Our bodies are temples. And everything that entails. We do not hide our temples. We don't try to keep the temple a secret. We actually want everyone to be able to experience the ordinances of the temple, but we want them to be prepared and worthy because these ordinances are so sacred. The power in the temple ordinances doesn't come from others not knowing about them, it comes from us keeping them sacred. Once my husband's mother and sister were worrying over some new material about the temple ceremony that had hit the internet. I love how he responded. He said, "You can find out about the entire temple ceremony anywhere just like you can find out about sex anywhere. But the point isn't that other people don't know. The point is that I keep my covenants and don't reveal the things that I know are sacred."


And along this line, we need to ask ourselves if we are really treating our bodies as temples when we eat copious amounts of junk food, don't exercise and spend our time in banal trivial pursuits. Is a woman who wears a high neckline and a knee length skirt and abuses her body with unhealthy food and a steady diet of trashy television programs really modest?


The body is not pornographic. The body is not the source of sexual temptation any more so than the temple is a source of temptation. The body is God's most wondrous creation. It is inherent to the Gospel plan. People do not commit sexual sin because they see an unclothed body. They commit sexual sin because of where their mind is at. We have got to stop telling our young women that they need to dress "modestly" so that they keep boys from sinning. We have to stop telling our young men that if they see certain parts of the female body that they will not be able to control themselves. This denies agency. Every man must choose how he will treat women, regardless of how they are acting or what they are wearing. Please remember that Joseph of the Old Testament when faced with seduction by Potiphar's wife fled. It didn't matter what she was (or wasn't) wearing or how she acted, Joseph had made the decision to live with virtue and that was what guided his actions. When we are engaged holy sexual intimacy, we are as close as we can get to godhood and employing the sacred powers of procreation. This is something to be celebrated, not something to be ashamed of.


Dress standards have become a convenient cop-out for Mormons. Instead of addressing the weightier matters of true sexual purity, marriage, and a godly life we simply talk about hemlines and cap sleeves and think we have taken care of teaching our youth about modesty. We use it as an all too convenient yardstick to measure a person's worthiness. So let me share with you the story of a young man I knew whom I will call Cameron.


Cameron seemed to be everything that a young LDS man should be. He was the son of a bishop, grandson of a patriarch, a returned missionary, a BYU graduate, and a temple worker. He volunteered at the soup kitchen. Cameron took great pains to make sure that he was well-dressed according to BYU's standards and maintained his missionary haircut after he got back. He said that his mission president had told him that you could measure a man's righteousness by how well he followed mission dress standards and Cameron wanted everyone to measure him as a righteous person. But beneath surface Cameron was facing a battle that he dared not admit. Cameron had been molested by his father as a child and been introduced to pornography when he found his dad's stash of hard core porn and sex toys under the bed. Cameron began to act out the abuse he had experienced with other children in the neighborhood, but because Cameron came from such a good family and the other children were all so ashamed of what had happened, no one came forward. As he got older Cameron got further into pornography. He committed just about every sexual sin you can imagine with members of both sexes and even attempted to rape a male friend of his. When he was in committed relationships with girlfriends, he would still have sexual relationships with other girls as well. When the ecclesiastical endorsement interviews came around every year at the Y, Cameron would simply answer that he was morally clean. If anyone he had abused confronted him about it, he would defend himself by listing out his church work and his clean cut style and say that the abuse was just joking around. Cameron got married in the temple to a girl he he met at BYU.


So moms, do you want your daughter to marry a Cameron? Does it really matter how he wears his hair or what his Church resume is like if he abuses and mistreats women (and men)? If we teach our children to respect others and live lives of loving service to glorify God and not to cover their sins, those are the most important things. If we teach our children to follow the Savior and live lives of true modesty so that they humbly give glory to God, the dress standards will fall into place. If we continue to teach our children that modesty is hemlines and haircuts and covering skin, then what we will have is a generation who are concerned with a dress code- and little else.


Thursday, June 20, 2013

You Live Here: My Journey Through Birth Trauma

After finishing the entire series of Star Trek: The Next Generation, Malamute and I tried watching Deep Space Nine. Sorry to all of you DS9 fans who might be reading this blog, but we only made it through the first three episodes and then moved on to Voyager. But that means we saw the episode where Benjamin Sisko meets the interdimensional beings who keep bringing him to the moment that his wife died and say, "But you live here". I've come to realize just how accurate a representation that is for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

I didn't think I had experienced birth trauma until I started reading a book called The Gift of Giving Life that had an entire essay on it. I had a natural birth in a birthing suite with Duckling. I labored in a hot tub for part of the time and everything. Birth trauma happens to women who have unexpected c-sections, premature babies or horrible inductions. Not me.

After my positive pregnancy test with Snugglebutton though, a strange thing started to happen. I kept picturing myself in that moment when Duckling came out with his back open. I felt panicked. My chest tightened and lost my breath. I stayed up nights worrying about this baby having to face the NICU again, even though chances of that were about 1 in 100. I lost my appetite and had difficulty eating. I love being a mother, I love pregnancy, even labor is a challenge I looked forward to, but try as I might to be rational, I couldn't escape the fact that whenever I pictured another child emerging from my body, the only thing I could picture was that open back and the intense fear of some how losing my baby. I was living in that moment.

I continued to deny to myself that I had a problem. But as my due date loomed, I couldn't deny any longer that I was panicked about that moment of birth. I'd be hiking and people would ask me about my due date and say, "You're getting close! I'll bet you can't wait to be done!" and all I could think of was how badly I wanted this baby to stay inside of me forever so we could all be safe.

I think the turning point came when my husband told me that I needed to picture things turning out positively no matter what. Over the next week I did just that and though I still felt fear as I went into labor, I was no longer panicked.

My given name means victory, but I've never felt truly victorious until that moment when I saw my second child for the first time and saw that his back was fine. And not only was his back fine, he was perfectly pink and breathing beautifully. I had done it. I had faced that moment and it had come out just as I had hoped.

I remember reading a Readers' Digest article about a woman who had gotten disfiguring burns on her face as a child from a house fire. She ended up dating a firefighter who then arranged for her to face her fear by doing a firefighter training exercise. I've heard of veterans who go to shooting ranges to take away the emotional charge associated with gun fire and other loud noises. Since facing that moment of seeing my second baby for the first time, the panic associated with that moment I had been stuck in has left me. In its place I have felt a calm acceptance of that moment I realized I had a special needs child. But just because my first birth turned out that way, didn't mean that my second would. If I had never gotten back in the game, I never would have known for sure and that fear would have ruled me.

Monday, June 17, 2013

The Upside of Blaming Myself

People sometimes ask what caused Duckling's spina bifida. The truth is that all research shows that it tends to be a combination of genes and nutritional deficiencies. And then I freely admit that I wasn't eating nutritiously when Duckling was conceived. I did start taking a multivitamin, but depending on the conception date, it may not have been in time to prevent it. Usually, people tell me not to blame myself. I've been thinking about this lately and I've actually decided that I prefer to own this.

It's funny, but out of all the trauma and problems associated with the spina bifda, the fact that I probably had a hand in it has been one of the easier ones to deal with. I guess that's because I always felt that having a disability wasn't the end of the world for him and he could still have a happy and fulfilling life with it. The other reason is simply that it is there and there is nothing I can do to take it back now. If I keep beating myself up over the fact that his neural tube never sealed up fully, I'll never be able to help him thrive in the present.

You see, if I decide to think of spina bifida as a thing just happens, that I had no control over, then I become powerless. If I have no control over it, then I can avoid blaming myself, but the rules of the game are that I can do nothing to prevent it from happening again. If I own that spina bifida and embrace my role in it, then I am free to deal with the present and prevent it from happening again. When Snugglebutton was conceived, I was eating about 1,000-4,000 mcg of folate a day from legumes, greens, nuts and fruits. It seems to have worked since he came out just fine. (Yes, Baby #2 is going to go by Snugglebutton on this blog for now. It's sappy, but those of you who have met him know he is like a tiny little bundle of cuddles, so it fits.)

But if I had never made the decision to own my part in Duckling's spina bifida, I never would have been free to find the answers I needed to prevent it from happening again and act on them. And so, I willingly and happily blame accept that I had a role in my son's birth defect.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

If You're Pregnant, You'll Want This Post-Partum!!!!


I remember the first time I read about after pains. I was reading Susun Weed's Wise Woman Herbal for the Childbearing Year. I came to the part about remedies for after pains, and I thought to myself, "You mean I'm going to keep having contractions after the baby is born this time?!" I told myself that it couldn't be that bad. Oh the naiveté...

As some of you out there know, I gave birth to my second baby about a week ago, and I can now tell you that after pains are extremely painful. For the first day or so, the after pains kicked my butt. I kept thinking, "How do you c-sections mom do this? After pains and surgery recovery?! Ow, ow ow!" I didn't have any of the herbs around that Susun Weed recommends. So I hopped online before taking one of my naps though and found out that you can use helichrysum and lavender essential oils to help the uterus contract postpartum. I had both of them on hand and mixed 1 drop helichrysum and 3 drops lavender and rubbed it on my lower back and did the same for my abdomen. Lo and behold, the after pains started to decrease! 

By about day four postpartum, the after pains were gone. The other thing I found that you can do with helichrysum oil is use it to heal stitches and tears to the perineum and reduce postpartum bleeding. This time, I had some minor tearing. Nothing that needed suturing, but I was feeling a bit uncomfortable. Oh. My. Goodness. You would not believe how amazing helichrysm is for tears. It's like instant relief! Put a few drops on a pad. Where was this stuff when I was sitting on stitches in the NICU with my first?! It's nice and cooling. By day six, I was mostly healed up and no longer sensitive. 

If you're pregnant or know someone who is, I really can't recommend helichrysum oil enough for the recovery period. It has made a huge difference in my postpartum recovery the second time around.

Update December 2015: You can get helichrysum essential oil through DoTerra or Young Living Essential Oils representative. I also recommend Butterfly Express, Mountain Rose and Aura Cacia brands.  I have used both their brands and like them. I personally recommend buying off of Amazon for Butterfly Express. Butterfly Express was the particular brand I used postpartum, and I was obviously very happy with the results. =) After several difficulties using the ordering system from BE, I recommend saving yourself some hassle and buying off Amazon. The price differential isn't that significant, but it's sooooo much easier ordering BE's oils off Amazon than directly from their store. I also recommend Aura Cacia as another brand to try.

One thing to note about Aura Cacia is that they carry some pre-blended oils. These come already diluted with a carrier oil. I haven't tried these and I don't know what they would be like for after pains or tear relief. I like to dilute my own oils, personally. But if you're in a pinch and this is all you can find quickly, it might be worth a try. One of the nice things about Aura Cacia's oils is that they are often sold in local, regional and national health foods stores like Sprouts and Whole Foods, though the particular oils they stock can vary. If you need an essential oil immediately, you can often buy Aura Cacia oils with a quick trip to the store. (Been there, done that.) You can also buy all different brands online at Amazon. Here are some for comparison.

I have also had great experiences with Mountain Rose's essential oils. They don't carry many blends, but in my opinion, they are a great place to get singles like helichrysum. You'll note that their helichrysum is designated with the botanical name Helichrysum italicum while Butterfly Express' is designated by the botanical name Helichrysum angustifolium. Based on some research, it seems that the two names are synonyms and that they both have very similar healing properties. Here is a link to Mountain Rose's helichrysum single.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

But a GA Said...

Yeah, I've been gone for a while. Things got kind of crazy busy. They're still pretty crazy busy, but I think I might be back every so often. I miss blogging.

Something that has been weighing on my mind lately is the assertion that I have heard many a Mormon make that if a General Authority said/did it, that it must be the Lord's revealed truth for everything and everyone. Especially health matters. (Remember my post on what the American medical community could do to improve the abysmal rate of maternal and fetal death in the U.S.? One response I got on the post was that hospital birth was God's will because the General Authorities have said things in support of the mainstream medical establishment.) I believe the assumption behind this sort of argument is that General Authorities more or less have a direct line to God for every detail of life and that if we simply do whatever they do, we will be doing God's will. I believe a short look at Church history and doctrine as well as a little common sense should point to the idea that God would much rather we solve our own problems instead of expecting Church leaders to spoon feed us answers.

First of all, General Authorities are called as prophets, seers and revelators and the Lord has said that any prophet will be removed before he is allowed to lead the Church astray, but this doesn't mean that they don't have their own opinions, decisions, and even biases about how to conduct affairs in their personal lives or that they don't express their own personal thoughts and opinions. (I love President Hinckley's cheerful comment as to whether the the Brethren ever had arguments about Church policy: "Oh we never have arguments. We have spirited discussions!")

Even General Authorities have been known to make errors in judgement regarding things such as business affairs (the Kirtland Safety Society), and even on the reasons behind certain revelations on Church policies (a litany of pre-1978 quotes on blacks and the priesthood). The Old Testament tells of a Moses who had trouble delegating and sometimes spent too much time dealing with every problem the Israelites brought to him, sometimes straining his family life. Near the end of his life, Brigham Young wanted certain things included in the temple ceremony that the other members of the Quorum of the Twelve felt were Brigham Young's own thoughts and did not constitute revelation and had no place in the temple ceremony and thus were left out.

Obviously, being a General Authority is by no means some seal of perfection of understanding. I love this quote from Elder Bruce R. McConkie about pre-1978 speculation about blacks and the priesthood by General Authorities:

"All I can say to that is that it is time disbelieving people repented and got in line and believed in a living, modern prophet. Forget everything that I have said, or what President Brigham Young or President George Q. Cannon or whomsoever has said in days past that is contrary to the present revelation. We spoke with a limited understanding and without the light and knowledge that now has come into the world. We get our truth and our light line upon line and precept upon precept. We have now had added a new flood of intelligence and light on this particular subject, and it erases all the darkness, and all the views and all the thoughts of the past. They don't matter any more. It doesn't make a particle of difference what anybody ever said about the Negro matter before the first day of June of this year [1978]. It is a new day and a new arrangement, and the Lord has now given the revelation that sheds light out into the world on this subject."

I actually love the idea that everything a GA says or does is not God's personal opinion. The more I've lived, the more important the idea of agency has become. More wrong has been done in the world in the name of making sure that people do the "right thing" than has ever occurred from allowing people to choose to do good. If everything the General Authorities did and said was "doctrine" it would mean they're not learning and progressing and having to figure out their own personal lives. They would be like Borg drones, without free will, plugged into a collective and not progressing. Gratefully, we have prophets, not puppets, who speak for the Lord when they are acting in their calling as prophets, seers and revelators, but are left to make their own decisions about personal matters and even express their own opinions. I love the Church's statement on what constitutes doctrine

Over the past few years of I've had to deal with some of the most difficult experiences of my life and I've come to the conclusion that being a Latter Day Saint has never really been about lock-stepping into dogma or fulfilling a checklist. Rather, I've come to see it as an exciting search for truth. Truth is, after all, at the heart of eternal progression and the essence of intelligence, which is said to be the glory of God. Time and again, the scriptures carry examples of the Lord challenging His prophets to seek out answers for themselves and then consult Him. This, I believe is the example we are meant to follow. 

Searching for truth isn't nearly as easy as relying on someone else's actions or thoughts to order one's own life, but I have found it to be far more rewarding. My own personal search for truth on a number of different subjects has led me to make several wise decisions that earlier in my life I had scoffed at. Searching for truth means opening ourselves to new ideas and questioning long-held assumptions and ultimately standing apart from the world. But it's a peaceful and gratifying way to live. Whatever questions we have in life, as long as we earnestly desire and seek after truth, I believe that we need never be afraid of what answers may come.

Monday, January 7, 2013

What YOU Can Do To Have A Healthy (and Happy) Birth

A few of you read my post on how the medical community could lower rates of infant and maternal mortality. A couple of my friends very rightly pointed out that women need to educate themselves more  in order to have a birth that is both safe and happy. When I right my post on the medical community, I had a ton of ideas whirling around in my head, so I just started writing and what came out was that post. I decided to just focus on the medical community so that that particular post wouldn't stretch out into the world's longest birthing rights post, which this alone is in the running for. I have since been meaning to do a sequel on how parents can create a safer birth, but I've gotten side-tracked onto subjects such as birthing a baby with a birth defect, pants on LDS women at church, a ridiculous and preachy evangelical Christian movie on marriage, and Christmas candy. But I'm back now. On topic. (Wait! There went a squirrel...)

So in my extensive research, here are some things that you can do to lower your risks of problems cropping up during the birthing process:
  • Find a qualified attendant you feel comfortable with.  Whether you choose an OB-GYN or a midwife make sure that he/she is competent. Certification or med school alone doesn't mean someone can handle an emergency effectively. You can have a hospital birth with a doctor and your baby can end up severely brain damaged from a birth injury. (Before you scoff at this, please note that I have an uncle on my mom's side who is severely brain damaged from a birth injury. He was born at a hospital with a doctor. In the ward my husband grew up in, there was a boy his age who was severely brain damaged from a birth injury sustained at a hospital birth with a doctor in attendance.) On the other hand, I've seen Direct Entry Midwives who have been delivering babies for 30+ years who have seen it all: cord prolapse and malpresentation, meconium in the water, mother in shock, baby in respiratory distress, twins, breeches, VBAC's, etc. and have never lost a mother or baby and have c-section and transfer rates under 5%. Then there are midwives who mess up and cause birth injuries and OB-GYN's who are gung-ho for natural birth. It's a mixed bag. Questions you might consider asking a midwife:
    • What is your c-section and transport rate? Have you ever lost a mother or baby? Have any of your babies had a birth injury? Some midwives are very forthcoming with this information and even have it on their websites. If she has lost a baby, inquire about the circumstances. There are some midwives who have delivered babies who have terminal birth defects, for example, and I don't think that should be counted against them.
    • How would you handle a cord prolapse? Cord prolapse is rare, but is one of the most serious things that can happen in a home birth. Well, even in a hospital birth it can be very serious. Basically, this is when the cord is coming before the baby and the baby is lying in such a way as to compress the cord and cut off oxygen flow. It requires a c-section ASAP. If a cord prolapse happens, a competent midwife usually put the mother on all fours and hold the cord up to take the pressure off of the cord and provide oxygen flow to the baby and call the ER and have them set up the operating theater right away so that the mother goes into surgery as soon as she arrives at the hospital. The mother will stay in this position until she goes into surgery. A few babies have died from cord prolapse in transit. On the other hand, many others have born alive and healthy from a successful transport. If you are in the hospital, you may be able to get a c-section more quickly, but on the other hand the operating theater still may have to be set up or your doctor may be sleep deprived and moving slower. If you are on your back during the time it takes to set up the operating theater the risks to the baby increase. Nothing is for sure in birth, even in a hospital. But if an emergency arises at home and your midwife is prepared, it can save your baby's life and health.
    • What if I decide I want pain medication? Or I don't want to get in the hot tub? Or I want everyone out of the room? Your midwife is any good at delivering babies, she should be pretty accommodating. The birth suite I went to for Duckling's birth had a policy of "if mom wants to go to the hospital and get pain meds, we go". When I was in labor and starting to get too hot in the hot tub, it was the supervising midwife who asked me if I wanted to get out of the tub. I've heard of other midwives who have told moms that it's OK if they want to labor more by themselves and have the midwife just standing by in the next room to keep an eye on things. Labor, especially transition, does strange things to a woman sometimes and you really need someone who can flow with it.
    • Questions you might consider asking a doctor:
    • What is your c-section rate? Have you had a mother or baby die? Brain damage in a baby from a birth injury? Most OB's will probably be taken aback, but as a patient, you do have a right to know what an OB's history is, just as with a midwife. Inquire about circumstances if there has been a death.
    • What would you do if there is cord malpresentation? Cord malpresentation is relatively common, and actually pretty fixable if done properly. This is one where midwives often have better skills, as they usually handle it by unwrapping the cord from around the baby as he comes out so that oxygen flow isn't cut off. Doctors often have a practice of rushing in and cutting the cord immediately before the baby comes out, which cuts off oxygen flow and can cause the baby to go into distress.
    • What are your thoughts on induction with Cytotec? Cytotec (Misoprostol) is a drug for treating ulcers. Because it causes abnormally strong uterine contractions, it is also used to induce abortions for elective purposes or for missed miscarriage. It is commonly used by doctors to induce labor because it works faster than pitocin, though it has never been approved by the FDA for such use. When it first hit the market the label read that it was contraindicated for usage by pregnant women. After an alarming number of reports of uterine rupture and infant and maternal deaths where Cytotec was used to induce labor, Searle, the manufacturer of Cytotec, distributed a letter warning doctors not to use the drug for induction. The American College of Obstretrics and Gynecology there isn't enough evidence to conclude that Cytotec is unsafe and maintains that it is safe for induction. You can find the full text of Searle's letter of warning here, if you are interested. Obviously every woman must decide for herself if she is comfortable with the use of such a drug during labor.
    • How many unmedicated births have you attended? Many OB-GYN's have little experience with unmedicated birth, which means that they are very unfamiliar with a basic biological function of the female body. Since they don't know what natural birth even looks like, even normal occurrences in the birth process seem like emergencies and are treated as such.
  • Birth in a place you feel safe- Seriously, this is a big one, and you have to be really honest with yourself about where you are comfortable. In nature, if an animal feels threatened during labor, a stress hormone catecholamine will stop labor so that the mother can flee. We humans are the same way. If you feel threatened and overly stressed during labor, your body will start releasing increasing levels of catecholamine and stop labor. If you're at home or a birthing center, this may mean a transport to the hospital. If you are at the hospital and labor stalls, you will probably receive labor induction medication or a c-section. If you feel safest at a hospital, then without a doubt, you should choose a hospital birth. If you really don't feel comfortable in a hospital, then an out-of-hospital birth will probably be best unless you are especially high risk.
  • Don't rush off to the hospital too soon- Folks, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but real life  labor and birth are not like what you see in the movies and on TV. (And just being a ship captain isn't enough to legally give you authority to marry people. Sorry.) In the movies and on TV, a woman's water breaks and everyone starts running around like mad to get her to the hospital right away. In real life, that's usually not the best course of action. Reasons why:
    • Policies on time to delivery- Hospitals have time limits on how long you can be at the hospital from check-in to delivery. Your body and baby haven't read those policies and will move at their own pace. It's also very common to have slower, irregular contractions, and even stalls during early labor, just as a natural part of the labor process. Early labor can often go on a while and the thing is, you don't need to be at the hospital until active labor hits and you are close to delivery. For all the talk from OB-GYN's and anesthesiologists about how "things can change very fast", when the body is left to do its thing unhindered, they usually don't. (Now if you put a laboring woman on her back, a position which reduces oxygen flow to the baby and decreases the size of the pelvis, use drugs, and deprive a woman of food and water for several hours, then yes, things can go wrong very fast.)
    • Policies on eating- Hospitals also have policies forbidding the laboring woman from eating or drinking until the baby is born so that if medication or surgery are administered there isn't any chance of a reaction. It sounds good in theory, but labor is very athletic and hard work, which increases the body's need for glycogen (glucose) and even a few hours without food or water can send the laboring woman's body into ketosis, which causes the muscles- including the uterus- to function less efficiently, slowing or even stalling labor. And this is one problem with inductions is that you have to be at the hospital from start to finish.
    • Continuous electric fetal monitoring- I talked about this in my post on the American medical community and the high infant and maternal mortality rates in this country. There is no evidence showing that continuous monitoring is safer or more effective than intermittent monitoring, and there are plenty of problems with it. The longer you are on your back during birth, the greater the chance that you will have difficulty pushing the baby out or that the baby will go into distress.
    • And if you do have a "Hollywood" labor where your water breaks- Your greatest risk is infection if your labor kicks off with your water breaking, however, as long as you don't put anything in the vagina, this is a very, very, very small risk. But if multiple dilation exams are being done on you, there is a greater risk of infection
    • Okay, so when am I supposed to go to the hospital? The general rule is, of course, when the contractions are about a minute long and five minutes apart. It is possible that you could "hang out" in that type of timing for a while and the baby could still be a ways off. The late Dr. Bradley talked about the emotional signs of active labor being crucial in knowing when to leave for the hospital. Indecisiveness, inability to focus or carry on a conversation, not being able to smile or laugh, not wanting to move around much, are all signs that it is time to go. If mom can smile, laugh, walk around the mall, or pay attention to a TV show, it's too early to leave for the hospital. A tastier litmus test is suggested by nurse midwife Pam England in her book Birthing From Within: when you are in labor, start baking chocolate chip cookies. When the cookies start to burn because you are getting lost in labor land, it's time to go to the hospital. (Just make sure to turn off the oven first.)
  • Know the circumstances under which you really do need a c-section- Let's just say that if you are a highly athletic woman who teaches fitness classes and your doctor tells you that your ab muscles are just too tight to push the baby out (I kid you not, I heard this one), you can be pretty sure he just doesn't want to stick around and wait...
    • Position of the baby- Though most doctors are saying all breeches should be c-sections, breeches of all kinds have been safely delivered vaginally in hospitals and even at home with experienced midwives. (And as one couple and Illinois state trooper found, even a footling breech previously scheduled for c-section can be delivered safely by the side of the road.) In the US, if you are lucky, you may be able to find a doctor who will do a vaginal birth for a frank breech. In Canada and Australia, complete breeches are also considered safe for vaginal delivery, provided the baby has no other risk factors such as prematurity. If you really want to avoid a c-section for a breech and you live in America, you may have to find a midwife with lots of breech experience. I find it really sad that so many women are losing options on how to birth their babies here in the US. It's not so much a matter of how you end up delivering, it's more a matter of being able to choose, from my perspective. Transverse lie of a singleton or Baby A twin require a c-section.  (Transverse lie is not uncommon for Baby B twins. They tend to go head down once their sibling comes out.) There are risks associated with a vaginal breech birth, but there are also risks associated with a c-section. It's up to every mom to decide what is best for her and her baby. If you find out that your baby is in breech or transverse, take heart! You have options. Spinning Babies.com has loads of information on how you can prevent and turn breeches and transverse lie. ICPA.org has info about using the Webster Technique to turn breeches. The American Pregnancy Association has stated that the Webster Technique is highly effective and turns about 82% of breeches into vertex.
    • Placenta previa- It's pretty common for the placenta to float around during the first trimester and cover the cervix, but if it persists into the second or third trimester and is accompanied by severe vaginal bleeding, an emergency c-section with a classical scar must be performed to save the mother and baby. Sometimes the bleeding starts pre-term and isn't severe and goes away with bed rest, and then the baby can be delivered full-term via c-section.
    • Pre-eclampsia, eclampsia, HELLP syndrome- These require an emergency c-section to save the baby and mother. Knowing the symptoms of pre-eclampsia and related syndromes could save your life or the life of someone you love. Women with access to great health care are still dying from this disease here in America because it often goes unnoticed by medical professionals. If you are having symptoms of pre-eclampsia, you may have to be your own advocate to get the care you need.
    • VBAC after 2+ cesareans- Think you're out of the running for a VBAC because you've had multiple c-sections? Not necessarily. Medical reports show that moms who have had two, three, and even a whopping four or five c-sections can still successfully VBAC.  (You'll have to scroll down to the VBAC section). Repeat c-sections may increase the likelihood of uterine rupture or a repeat c-section with a VBAC. On the other hand, repeat c-sections carry their own set of risks too. Classical (vertical scars) are a rather mysterious thing. What I know is that the general consensus among doctors and midwives is that a VBAC should not be attempted with a classical scar because they have a greater chance of rupturing than low incisions (10% as opposed to 0.3-0.7%). What I have heard are rumors that it can be done and has been done, especially since classical scars used to be the only types of scars used and were what the first VBAC advocates had. Again, every mother has to make the decision about what is best for her and her baby.
    • Multiples- Roughly half of all twins and about 99% of triplets are delivered via c-section in the U.S. If you start researching, you'll find that many moms have had perfectly safe, full term, vaginal deliveries of twins (and even triplets) in and out of hospital- even as VBAC's. Apparently there is a Dr. Tate in Atlanta who believes in VBAC's so much that he helped a mom deliver her triplet girls (two vertex, one footling breech) vaginally and spontaneously at 38 weeks gestation. This woman delivered triplets as a successful VBA2C. Another story to knock your socks off, one mom who had genital herpes did a successful VBAC of triplets at home at- are you sitting down?- 41 weeks. So yes, you can make it to full term with multiples and do a natural birth!
    • Cephalo-pelvic distortion- If you genuinely are too small and the baby is too big, then you will need a c-section. CPD was much more common when abnormal bone development from rickets was widespread. However, when you are lying down, your pelvis becomes much smaller and it makes it much more difficult to push even a normal sized baby out. A good article on CPD is here under the "Can I have a home birth if..." link.
So there it is. My advice on how to get the birth you want. In closing, from an evolutionary perspective,  if birth really were so dangerous that there was a likely chance of death for every mother and baby who gave birth without several high-tech interventions, the human race would have died out a long time ago.  From a religious perspective, I believe that God designed our bodies and that He knows far more about the birthing process than any doctor or scientist. Either way, I believe that obstetrics needs to work with and not against the biology of the female body.