Thursday, November 12, 2009

New pregnancy and birth post (and more!)

There are many more posts at the new blog - do you have it bookmarked? Come hang out with me there!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

New Website!

I am packing up and blogging permanently at
Please come join me over there! It's not quite "finished" and pretty yet, but it's good enough.
Hope to see you there!


Saturday, November 7, 2009

Tips for Disneyworld and Orlando with a Toddler

Be sure to check out my new site:
This blog will be shut down as soon as we get the new one fully functional!

We recently took a wonderful vacation to Orlando with our 22 month old. We were fortunate enough to stay for 7 nights, so there was plenty of time to see a variety of the sites in the area. This was our first major vacation with our toddler, so we were a little apprehensive about how he would do on such a long trip away from home. (Be sure to read this post for tips on packing and this post for tips on doing Disney on a budget.)

Our worries were unfounded, he had a great time! If anything, we were surprised that Kieran slept more than we anticipated (cutting his canines and/or two year molars probably played a part in that). With our relative success, I thought I would share my tips for vacationing in Orlando with a toddler:

1) Don't overdo it: give your toddler as much, if not more, time for naps every day as you would at home. With the extra running around you are bound to do, she will tire out faster than she does at home.

Kieran fell asleep at Magic Kingdom during the Haunted Mansion ride, and at Animal Kingdom during the Kilimanjaro Safari ride. Disney really wore him out!

2) Bring your carrier and full-sized stroller (the kind with the basket underneath): If your toddler is anything like mine, he'll be asking "up? up? up!" much more often than he wants to run off on his own. Busy theme parks and new places can be overwhelming for toddlers, they'll need to reconnect with you often. My Action Baby Carrier was a life saver (our Ergo would have worked just as well, but Tom prefers the ABC).
The stroller came in handy not for Kieran, but for our stuff. We brought a soft-sided cooler with us and carried it in the stroller at the parks (it stayed in the rental car at the beach, etc.). We also threw the backpack in the stroller instead of hefting it around. At Disney, there are places to leave your stroller at virtually every ride, and we never had a problem with theft. I guess since everyone is doing it, there is safety in numbers.

3) Don't restrict yourself to Disney: Orlando is within an hour of the East coast and Atlantic Ocean, and less than two hours from the West coast and the calmer Gulf waters. We visited both while we were there (Cocoa Beach twice and Clearwater Beach once), and I think Kieran's favorite days were at the beach. He loved splashing in the waves and jumping on our rented boogie board, and he spent hours building sandcastles and searching for seashells.
There are also dozens of state parks to visit in Florida, many within an easy drive from Orlando. We took a day trip to Blue Spring State Park, and Kieran loved taking a dip in the chilly spring water almost as much as he liked playing on the park playground after we ate lunch there.

On our last day (at Tom's insistence), we visited one of several fancy Orlando miniature golf courses. The boys had a good time hitting golf balls near a "volcano" and several water hazards.

And a few more Disney-specific tips:

4) Take advantage of the "Rider Switch Pass" and "Single Rider" lane options: We used Kieran's nap times to do roller coasters. Several of the big kid rides at Disney parks have "single rider" lanes that move at a much faster rate than the regular lines. At Animal Kingdom, Tom rode Mount Everest three times in a row in under 30 minutes. When he was done, I handed him the sleeping baby and took a turn on the roller coaster. Other rides have "rider switch passes." For these, the waiting adult gets a ticket and the riding adult gets in line, then you switch after the ride is over. The person who waited gets into the "Fast Pass" line with the switch pass and saves time in line.

5) Do the parades: Yes, Kieran enjoyed the Dumbo and It's a Small World rides, the Finding Nemo musical and the carousel. But his favorite part of the parks had to be the parades - we watched the entire Spectral Magic parade at Magic Kingdom (the night parade) and Mickey's Jammin' Jungle parade at Animal Kingdom, and we caught the last half of the 3:00 parade at Magic Kingdom. For all three Kieran stood at attention the entire time - waving, dancing, pointing, and interacting with the cast members and characters who came to give out high fives and comment on how cute he was (he wore a Superman t-shirt on Halloween and got several comments on it). The music is catchy and the cast/characters/floats are entertaining. We highly recommend the parades.

6) Take your own meals, snacks, and water into the parks: Like I wrote in my post on Disney on a Budget, you can save an enormous amount of money by bringing in your own meals to the parks. You can also save time - time spent waiting in line at food stands and waiting for tables at sit down restaurants. Afternoon showers are a perfect time to eat your own picnic lunch underneath one of the many shop awnings. Everyone else will be trying to get into the restaurants - you can eat quickly and queue up for the next ride.

Do you have any more tips for visiting Orlando and Disney with a toddler? Let me know in the comments!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Tips for Disneyworld on a Budget

I scoured the Internet when planning our Disney vacation for money-saving tips. A lot of sites had one or two helpful tips, but I never found a good comprehensive list. Here are several things we did to save money and have fun at Disneyworld.

Disney on a Budget

1) Travel during the off-season: Frommer's gives you an idea of when the best off-season times to travel to Orlando are. You will find much better rates on everything - from airfare to hotels - during off-season travel periods. For our late October/early November vacation, our hotel and airfare (booked together on totalled $640 after taxes - that included two adult round trip flights from Kansas City to Orlando and seven nights at our hotel.

2) Unless you plan on doing all Disney all the time, don't worry about booking a room in a Disney Resort property. We stayed at Comfort Inn Lake Buena Vista. It was a 10-15 minute drive to the parks (by car or by the free shuttle the hotel offered) and had all of the amenities we wanted (pool, fridge, microwave, laundry). We simply aren't at any hotel enough to justify the exorbitant rates we would have paid at a Disney property.
Our rooms at the Comfort Inn were newly remodeled and in great shape. The electronic billboard outside of the hotel said all rooms were $60/night; you would be lucky to book a room on a Disney property for less than $100/night, even during "Value Season."

3) Tour a resort to get reduced prices on your tickets: Our hotel "concierge" offered us tickets at almost half price in return for spending 1.5 - 2 hours touring a resort property. You can read a little bit about our experience in this post. One day tickets for a Disney park at the gate will run you about $85-$90, we got our tickets for $49 each (including taxes).
I would not trust the discount ticket booths you see all over Orlando - their agents buy the unused days from tourists with multiple day tickets and then sell the tickets back to you. There is no way to verify how many days are left, and often the Disney employees will ask you for an ID at the gate. You are not assured of getting in to a park on a recycled ticket.

4) Bring a soft-sided cooler with you and pack your own meals/snacks: Meals in the parks can add up quickly. Depending on the number of people in your family, you can save a significant amount of money by bringing in quick and easy meals rather than buying the processed food available at Disney.
I booked a hotel with a refrigerator and microwave, and we stopped at the grocery store on the day we arrived. We bought cereal and fruit for breakfast, sandwich fixin's and veggies for lunch, a case of bottled water, and I had packed lots of granola bars and crackers for snacks. We also ate dinner a few times at the hotel: rotisserie chicken, veggies steamed in the bag, and a delicious pasta meal that we cooked in the bag.
I packed napkins, plastic silverware, and Ziploc bags in our checked suitcase, and we bought a package of disposable bowls for the hotel room. We packed our cooler every morning using ice from the hotel ice machines, and it was easy to transport around the parks in our stroller. We also took the cooler with us when we visited both coasts.

5) Don't pay parking fees: Stay in a hotel that offers free shuttles, or park at Downtown Disney for free and take a free Disney shuttle to the parks. Parking on a Disney park lot will run you $14/day. That can add up if you are spending more than one day at the parks.

6) Bring souvenirs with you: Bypass the expensive souvenirs sold in the parks and bring some with you instead. You can look for better deals on Ebay, craigslist, garage sales, and your local stores. Once in Orlando, skip the big "Florida/Disney Gift" cheapie stores (most are huge blue buildings); their merchandise is very poor quality (and a lot of it is in seriously bad taste). There are a few Disney outlets that sell old/discontinued Disney merchandise, but we didn't find any Earth-shattering deals at the character outlet we went to.
One other thing to buy before you go - anything glow in the dark if you plan on attending the night parade at Magic Kingdom. We bought glow in the dark bracelets at Target - 12 for $1; we ended up handing most of them out to kids around us at the parade (I love the generosity of toddlers!!). We also bought Disney stickers and tattoos at Walmart, Kieran enjoyed those on the plane and at the parks.

Disneyworld is a fantastic experience for all ages, and you do not have to be wealthy to go. Just be smart, plan ahead, and take advantage of the money saving ideas offered by the veterans.

Have a magical day,

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Tips for Packing for a Family Vacation

We recently took an eight day/seven night vacation to Orlando, Florida. Packing was a bit of a challenge, so I wanted to share a few tips on packing for a vacation with a toddler.

Bringing a toddler on a trip sometimes requires you to haul around a couple of extra items. Since we rented a car in Florida, we brought our own car seat (I did not trust the rental company to provide us with a decent one). We also brought a full sized stroller (the kind with storage underneath), because we planned on doing a few parks and had brought a soft-sided cooler with us to pack our own lunches. A car seat and stroller are bulky and inconvenient, so I wanted to keep the rest of our luggage to a minimum. We ended up bringing one large suitcase to check, one small suitcase to carry on, and our backpack (which functions as our diaper bag). With this in mind, here are my tips to help you keep your luggage orderly and easy to pack and unpack.

1) Pack less and plan on doing a load of laundry: We were in Orlando for eight days, but I only packed for five. One of those outfits was a "nice" shirt for each of us in case we ate somewhere classier than Shoney's; I also kept an extra outfit for Kieran in our backpack. Halfway through the week we did a load of laundry at our hotel (I made sure to book a hotel that had laundry facilities). Most of what I packed for me and Tom were shirts - we have no problem re-wearing shorts or jeans several times between washings.

2) Pack outfits in bags by day: I packed our large suitcase with several bags. Some were marked with a date ("Wed. 1/28") - in each dated bag I packed one outfit for each of us (including socks, underwear, and extra diapers). I also had one bag marked "extra for Kieran" that had diapers, his Superman cape, his swim trunks, and his nice shirt, an "extra for Dionna," and one more for Tom (both with similar items). When I unpacked at the hotel, the outfits were hung in groups and there was never any scrounging around in the mornings for clothes to wear. After I did laundry, the clothes simply went back on the hangers in groups. Easy!
I reused the bags to pack the dirty clothes; any clean clothes I folded neatly. When we got home, I hung the clean clothes and took the bags downstairs to toss in the laundry. It made unpacking incredibly fast and painless.

3) Pack small toiletry items, especially liquids, in clear plastic Ziploc bags: If you really want to be fancy, pack them in logical groups. For example, toothpaste, toothbrushes, floss, and mouthwash together; contact case, saline solution, and glasses together; shampoo, conditioner, razor, and q-tips together; baby items together; etc. I put all of my toiletries in the inside zippered section of our checked suitcase. Packing toiletries in waterproof bags not only keeps your other belongings safe from spills, but it makes it easier to set everything up in the hotel and to put away later at home.

4) Pack all of your electronics in one location: We put all of our electronics (laptop, Garmin, camcorder) in our small carry-on suitcase and the cords for each in the carry-on's zippered section. Our camera and phones were in the backpack for easy access. We felt the electronics would be safer with us than they would being tossed around by airline personnel. After we'd been in Florida for a few days, it was nice to know exactly where to find all of the cords when it was time to recharge batteries.

We keep our camera handy for impromptu photo opportunities like this one: the Northwest Airlines pilots invited us to sit down in the cockpit after I told them how excited Kieran had been to fly and say hello to the "pi-pi."

5) Pack shoes and a couple of heavier items (like jeans) in the outside zippered compartment of your checked bag. When we weighed our checked bag at the airport, it was four pounds over the maximum allowed without an extra fee. We easily transferred our sandals and a pair of jeans from the outside of the large bag to the carry-on suitcase. We avoided a hefty overweight fee and the hassle of unzipping the main part of our suitcase and rummaging through it in the middle of the busy airport.

6) Pack anything you’ll need quickly in your backpack or diaper bag. In our backpack we kept: diapers, changing pad, and wipes; a change of clothes for Kieran; fun things for Kieran to do while traveling; our camera, phones, and wallets; a few “just in case” items for Kieran (Ibuprofen for teething pain, teething tablets, a burp cloth); snacks and a bottle of water.  (Even though TSA says formula or juice only, we were allowed to bring one bottle of water through security.)

7) Pack snacks and fun things for your toddler to do: We had a short layover and about three hours on the plane each way. Here is what we packed to keep Kieran occupied after the novelty of the plane wore off: stickers, construction paper, twistable crayons, a couple of new books, a stuffed animal, a Doodler Travel, and snacks (Annie's bunny crackers and some organic soft granola bars). The stickers were a hit - he enjoyed sharing them with a little girl across the aisle. The books were also a success, I got an "I Spy" book (to hold his attention) and a Dr. Seuss classic (long and engrossing). He never touched the Doodler or the crayons, but he has on other trips.

I hope these are helpful, feel free to share your packing tips and tricks in the comments!

Happy traveling,

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Pregnancy and Birth: The Cascade of Interventions (Part 1)

This post is a continuation of a series of pregnancy and birth posts. (Here is the first one.)
Over the next few weeks, I'm going to do several posts on pregnancy and birth. I hope to share a few things that were helpful to me; I hope they will help other parents as well.

Thoughtful, respectful discussion is strongly encouraged. My general disclaimer is this: I am not writing to condemn parents who do things differently. I only wish to share information that has influenced the way we live and parent. Perhaps it will give others something new to consider, perhaps not. I welcome your input, because I am always learning too. The important thing is that we are all doing our best to raise our children in safe, loving environments.

100 Years of Childbirth in America

At the turn of the twentieth century, childbirth in America took place almost exclusively in the home. The first maternity wards were connected with teaching hospitals, and only poor mothers gave birth in them. Physicians soon realized the value of all pregnant women as "teaching material," and they began a crusade to end home births. (1)

The doctors' campaign succeeded. By 1920, hospital birth was the new norm, and the standard of care included anesthetizing all laboring mothers. These drugged mothers were unable to care for their newborns, and so babies became secondary patients. Approximately 80% of mothers had hospital births by the end of WWII, and hospitals had to build large nurseries to house infants for the now mandatory post-birth observation period. Babies were further isolated by strict medical procedures put in place to keep the newborns safe from the infections that are ever-present in a hospital environment. (2)

It wasn't until the 1970's that women started to take back control of their bodies and birth experiences en masse. Many mothers refused anesthesia, opting instead for natural childbirth (or at least for pain relief that didn't render them unconscious). Babies were still taken from their mothers and admitted to the nursery to be weighed, bathed, and declared healthy by hospital staff, but mothers were given more time to bond with their newborns in the first 24 hours. (3)

Even with the surge of interest in natural birth in the 70's, the medicalization of childbirth has reached new levels over the last twenty years. Today, almost one-third of women receive a cesarean section ("c-section") - that number has gone up more than 50% since 1996. (4) More than one-third of labors are medically induced, and almost half of labors are medically stimulated. 76% of women are restrained in bed, most women are denied food, fluids, or both, and 86% of women are given drugs for pain relief. (5)

With the advanced technology and ease of access to modern medicine available to pregnant women in the United States, it would be easy to imagine that childbirth has become safer for mothers and babies. That is not the case.

The Cascade of Interventions (Part 1)

Without going into a discourse on every possible intervention practiced in medicalized childbirth, I'd like to briefly visit a few of the more common practices and list some of the reasons Tom and I decided to avoid them (I realize that emergencies do happen in a minority of cases, making interventions necessary).

     1. Induction

One of the most common reasons for induction is fear that the baby is "too big." Doctors scare parents with horror stories of shoulder dystocia (where the baby's shoulders get stuck during birth) and emergency c-sections in order to get the parents to agree to schedule induction. But the facts do not support the fear tactics. First, ultrasounds are notoriously inaccurate at predicting birth weight, so doctors cannot say with any confidence that a woman is carrying a big baby. (6) Second, shoulder dystocia is not tied to weight, and studies have shown that there is no greater chance of it occurring in a natural birth as it is in an induced birth. Finally, women who have inductions have a greater chance of undergoing a c-section than women who allow labor to occur naturally. (7)

Another common excuse to induce is that the baby is "overdue." There are several flaws with this argument. First, due dates are arbitrary. Due date calculations are based on the mother's last period, and the doctor assumes that the mother has a 28 day period with ovulation at day 14. If your cycle is different, your projected due date will be off. Second, the average pregnancy is actually longer than 40 weeks; nothing magical happens at week 40 that requires the baby be born at that moment. Finally, in the vast majority of cases, it is simply safer to let our bodies manage when labor begins. (8)

Studies have shown that induction increases your chances of many other interventions, including:
  • vacuum or forceps-assisted vaginal birth;
  • cesarean surgery;
  • problems during labor, such as fever, changes in fetal heart rate, and shoulder dystocia;
  • the laboring woman's use of an epidural or other drugs for pain relief;
  • low birth weight;
  • admission to the NICU;
  • jaundice . . . that requires treatment for the newborn; and
  • increased length of hospital stay for the mother and/or the baby. (10)
        Letting Labor Begin Spontaneously Is Ideal

Your body is miraculously designed to labor unassisted by artificial stimulation. In the last month of pregnancy, your cervix softens. Your uterus contracts to stretch and open your cervix and to help your baby move lower toward the birth canal. Your baby's lungs mature in the last few weeks, and his brain continues critical development through week 41. Some researchers have found evidence that it is the baby who releases a chemical that signals she is ready for labor. (9) When that happens, your body releases a surge of hormones to start labor. These hormones are present for two reasons: 1) to help you labor properly and 2) to help your "baby prepare for the transition from life inside the womb to outside and, especially, for breathing with his lungs for the first time." (11)

Experiencing contractions naturally allows you to labor in the most effective way for your body. Spontaneous labor is also healthier for the baby and allows him to be born when he is fully developed, while the chemicals introduced in an induction may have adverse effects on mother and/or baby. (12) If there is a valid reason for induction, there are many natural ways mothers can try to jump-start labor without resorting to chemicals. (13)

If your doctor is pressuring you to induce, ask her for evidence to back up what she is claiming. If she can give you any evidence, share your own research and let her know you wish to start labor without drugs. You have a right to refuse medical interventions, including induction. (14)

     2. Electronic Fetal Monitoring

Regardless of where you give birth, your provider will check the baby's heartbeat intermittently throughout labor and delivery to ensure the baby is not under too much stress. This can be done in several ways: with a stethoscope; a Doppler (a handheld device with a speaker); electronic fetal monitoring ("EFM") (an electronic ultrasound device strapped onto the mother's stomach); an internal monitor; or with telemetry monitoring (like EFM, but mother can remain mobile). (15) EFM has become a routine part of any hospital birth, regardless of whether the mother/baby are high or low risk. Unfortunately, continuous monitoring of the fetal heartbeat may have negative consequences.

"When EFM was first introduced, the initial goal was to identify fetal distress during labor and, subsequently, allow timely intervention that would improve birth outcomes." However, the use of early EFM does not lead to increased positive birth outcomes. (16) In fact, research suggests that the use of electronic monitoring actually increases the risk of cesarean sections, instrumental delivery, augmentation of labor, and epidurals. (17) And while expert panels in both the United States and Canada have recommended against the use of EFM for low-risk mothers, hospitals continue to routinely employ electronic monitoring for all laboring women. (18) And it is not only low-risk mothers that may be harmed by routine EFM. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force states that "[t]here is insufficient evidence to recommend for or against EFM" even for high-risk mothers. (19)

"The routine use of [EFM] does not make birth safer for women and babies. In fact, unless there is a clear medical reason for the use of technology or other interventions, interfering with the natural process of labor and birth is not likely to be beneficial and actually may be harmful. It is safer and healthier to allow labor to unfold and not to interfere in any way with the natural process, unless there is a clear medical indication to do so." (20) Not only does research show that EFM (either at admission and/or continuously during labor) may lead to more interventions, but one thing is also clear: babies born after continuous EFM are no more healthy than those born to mothers who were monitored intermittently. (21)

If you do not wish to be monitored continuously during labor, talk to your midwife or OB. Let her know that you would like to be monitored intermittently or even with Doppler. Show her the research that continuous (and admission) EFM increases the risk of further medical interventions.

(1) ("A Brief History of Hospital Nurseries")
(2) A Brief History of Hospital Nurseries
(3) A Brief History of Hospital Nurseries
(4) ("State of American Childbirth") (citing Hamilton, BE, et al. “Births: Preliminary Data for 2006” National Vital Statistics Reports, Vol. 56, No. 7, December 5, 2007. Available at
(5) State of American Childbirth (citing Declercq, ER, et al. Listening to Mothers II: Report of the Second National US Survey of Women’s Childbearing Experiences. New York: Childbirth Connection, 2006. Available at
(6) ("As the reliability of ultrasound estimation of fetal weight to detect larger babies was poor, the use of such an objective measurement in the management of suspected macrosomia in term singleton pregnancies should be avoided.")
(7) Goer, Henci, The Thinking Woman's Guide to a Better Birth at 51-52 (1999) ("Thinking Woman's Guide"); see also ("Elective Induction"); ("Induction to Avoid")
(9) ("Let Labor Begin on its Own") (citing Condon, J. C., Pancharatnam, J., Faust, J. M., & Mendelson, C. R. (2004). Surfactant protein secreted by the maturing mouse fetal lung acts as a hormone that signals the initiation of parturition. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 101(14), 4978–4983); see also
(10) Let Labor Begin on its Own (citing Goer, H., Leslie, M. S., & Romano, A. (2007). The Coalition for Improving Maternity Services: Evidence basis for the ten steps of mother-friendly care. Step 6: Does not routinely employ practices, procedures unsupported by scientific evidence. The Journal of Perinatal Education, 16(Suppl. 1), 32S–64S)
(11) Let Labor Begin on its Own (citing Jain, L., & Eaton, D. C. (2006). Physiology of fetal lung fluid clearance and the effect of labor. Seminars in Perinatology, 30(1), 34–43)
(12) Let Labor Begin on its Own
(14) Induction to Avoid
(15) ("Monitoring FAQ")
(16); see also ("Why Are We Using EFM")
(17); see also ("Revisiting the Use of EFM")
(18) Revisiting the Use of EFM
(19) Why Are We Using EFM
(20) ("Avoid Interventions That Are Not Medically Necessary")
(21) Avoid Interventions That Are Not Medically Necessary

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Wax Paper Fall Collages

This past Monday Fun-day, we made wax paper fall collages with our friends, Jax and Sarah. This was everyone's first time making wax paper collages, but they turned out nicely. I wasn't really impressed until I hung them in the windows - that was definitely the trick to making these beautiful. The sun shines through and makes the colors pop out brilliantly.

Here are the easy steps to make your own wax paper collages:

1) Gather fall leaves/grasses/flowers/etc. - anything that will lay flat once pressed. Most of our leaves were wet, and I think that the collages would have pressed better if the leaves were dry. (So you may want to let your pretties dry overnight.)
2) Get other things to decoarte with. We used glitter glue and crayon shavings (we just used a pencil sharpener).
3) Decorate your wax paper - this is the fun part! Kieran loved squeezing the glitter glue everywhere.
4) Put a second piece of wax paper over the first, cover with a very thin towel, and iron. We used the high setting on the iron, and it still didn't completely melt together (this is where I think dry leaves would have been better).
5) Hang in a window and enjoy!


Monday, November 2, 2009

Pregnancy and Birth: Midwives

Over the next few weeks, I'm going to do several posts on pregnancy and birth. I hope to share a few things that were helpful to me; I hope they will help other parents as well.

Thoughtful, respectful discussion is strongly encouraged. My general disclaimer is this: I am not writing to condemn parents who do things differently. I only wish to share information that has influenced the way we live and parent. Perhaps it will give others something new to consider, perhaps not. I welcome your input, because I am always learning too. The important thing is that we are all doing our best to raise our children in safe, loving environments.

As soon as we found out we were expecting, I did what many pregnant American women do: I started watching "A Baby Story" religiously. The dozen or so episodes I watched left me with a relatively unpleasant impression of labor and delivery.

Doctors, speaking with an impatient and detached authority, often paint their laboring patients as helpless and at the mercy of their own bodies. Women who are completely capable of delivering babies safely and naturally are forced into situations in which they feel as if their choices have been taken from them. The medicalization of birth has enabled doctors to place mothers into false dilemmas that lead to a snowball of unnecessary interventions. These interventions (induction, monitors, mandated delivery positions, c-sections, etc.) can be more harmful to both mother and newborn than the scare tactic alternatives waved around by doctors.

Searching for something different, I borrowed a copy of “Baby Catcher: Chronicles of a Modern Midwife,” and it completely changed my mindset about modern obstetrics. Baby Catcher exposed me to a completely different theory of pregnancy and birth. Birth should not be viewed as a series of emergencies; it is not a disease that needs to be monitored for signs of danger. The midwife model of care treats pregnancy and birth as normal, healthy processes. Midwives work with parents to empower mothers and make birth the joyous experience it should be. 

The majority of pregnancies are normal, and all women should be able to enjoy their birthing experience regardless of who is present at the birth (doctor, midwife, and/or birth team) and where the woman chooses to have the baby (at a hospital, a birth center, or at home).


Two of the major decisions women make when pregnant are 1) where to give birth and 2) who will attend the birth. Even though research has shown that births in hospitals, birthing centers, and at home are equally safe, a hospital birth is a given to most women. (3) In fact 99% of women give birth in hospitals. (4) We chose to have Kieran in a birth center with a midwife. I decided that I wanted to work with a midwife because we wanted a natural birth and more personal attention. When we have a second baby, we will opt for a home birth.

Only about 8% of births in the United States are attended by a midwife. (1) This number is drastically lower than the rest of the world, where more than 80% of births are attended by midwives. (2) If more women were exposed to the midwife model of care, I am certain that our numbers of midwife-attended births would climb rapidly.

The Midwife Model of Care

The midwife model of care is a much different approach to pregnancy and birth than the medical model. Midwives are committed to you: they spend more time with you during your prenatal appointments, they support your informed decisions about your care and birth plan, they strive to build your confidence, they are nurturing and empowering, and they reduce unnecessary interventions while helping you cope naturally during labor and birth. (5)

Midwife-assisted births result in fewer interventions including induction, rupture of membranes, episiotomies and cesareans; they also have lower rates of newborn and mother deaths. "These results reflect a fundamental difference in perspectives. Physicians are trained to look at pregnancy in terms of what might go wrong, and to intervene at the first sign of trouble. Midwives 'approach birth as a normal, natural, healthy life event . . . .'" (6)

In a recent study, researchers compared three groups of women, those with: 1) planned home births attended by a midwife; 2) planned hospital births attended by a midwife; and 3) planned hospital births attended by a physician. All women in the three groups were eligible for a home birth (in other words, they were all "low risk"). Among the three groups, the babies born at home had the lowest rate of perinatal death. Women who were assisted by a midwife (both at home and in the hospital) were significantly less likely than women assisted by a physician to have obstetric interventions (fetal monitoring, assisted vaginal delivery) or adverse maternal outcomes (perineal tears, postpartum hemorrhage). Babies born at home were less likely to need resuscitation at birth or oxygen therapy after 24 hours, they were also less likely to have meconium aspiration. (7)

Several studies have demonstrated that women who birth with midwives are less likely to need medical interventions such as episiotomies and cesarean sections. (8) While "obstetricians. . . . perform cesarean sections on 19% or more" of healthy low-risk women, only 3 to 4% of women with midwife-assisted births need a cesarean section. (9)

In addition to the physical benefits of having a midwife-assisted birth, there are also monetary benefits. "Americans could save $13 billion to $20 billion annually in health care costs by developing a network of midwifery care providers, demedicalizing childbirth, and encouraging breastfeeding." (10)

From a personal standpoint, I can attest to the patience and decreased intervention of a midwife. Kieran was posterior, and I found out later that my 30ish hours of back labor would have easily translated to a c-section at any hospital. Fortunately, my midwife allowed me to labor in my own time - first in bed, then in the tub, then with a half dose of Stadol (to help me sleep; it didn't work), then with nipple stimulation and a plethora of different labor/pushing positions, and finally on the birthing stool where Kieran was finally born looking up into my eyes.

My midwife made me feel like a mother before I held my baby in my arms. She helped Tom and I take ownership of pregnancy and birth, and she left us alone to labor together. I remember rocking freely back and forth in Tom's arms in the long, frozen hours of the night before Kieran's birth. At a hospital, I would have likely been hooked up to an IV and monitors, tethered near a barred bed. At the birth center I wandered wherever my contractions led me, and I received no internal exams until I wanted one - not in any of my prenatal visits, not until I had been laboring for approximately eight hours.

If you have never thought about anything except an OB and a hospital birth, you may want to reconsider. Try reading Baby Catcher; see if the stories Peggy relates move your heart. You have alternatives, and it is not too late to switch from an OB to a midwife (we did not meet our midwife until I was six months pregnant).

This site and this site contain resources to help you find a midwife in your area. This site contains some thoughtful questions you can ask midwives or obstetricians when you are interviewing potential birth assistants.


(1) ("Choosing Your Birth Practitioner")
(2); see also Choosing Your Birth Practitioner
(3) Choosing Your Birth Practitioner
(4) The sources I found revealed that 99% of women give birth in hospitals while only 1% of women give birth at home. Surprisingly, I was unable to find a number for babies born in birth centers, so I am unsure if they are lumped into the 99% statistic.,8599,1898316,00.html; see also
(8); see also ("Out of Hospital Midwifery Care");;
(9) Out of Hospital Midwifery Care

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Thank You, Thumper

We are vacationing in Orlando, complete with trips to Disney, both coasts, and a designated manatee refuge with 72 degree springs.

Initially, our only Disney plans were to spend one day at Animal Kingdom. We did not think Magic Kingdom (the traditional Disney destination) was necessary since Kieran has never seen anything Disney. The only introduction he had to Mickey Mouse and crew before Florida was the pack of stickers and temporary tattoos I got him at the store last week.

I guess that was enough.

Much to our surprise, Kieran has fallen in love with the Disney characters. Walt and his successors have done an excellent job of turning Orlando into Mickey's town. Even though we didn't do any of the parks until we'd been in town four days, we were inundated by mouse ears at every turn. I'll admit, it might have made even me a little mouse-crazy.

And so I talked Tom into a trip to Magic Kingdom.

Because we weren't planning on the expense of two extra Disney tickets, we had to get creative. In a very short amount of time. (There aren't a lot of legit options out there, by the way.)

Consequently, we pimped ourselves out as potential resort shareholders. It's not necessarily a route I would recommend to anyone with small children with no babysitter. Basically you eat a one star lunch, hear a two bit sales pitch, tour a five star resort, and have to refuse three or four offers before you are shown the door (and your much-reduced park tickets). It doesn't help that you are tag-teamed during the final push - their banter is reminiscent of the good cop/bad cop routine on cheesy TV shows. The strangest part in all of this is that the salesperson who was your best friend for the first 1.5 hours becomes almost hostile as soon as you give the final "no."

At any rate, we got our tickets and were shipped off to the Magic Kingdom. We arrived in time for the 3:00 parade, and we closed the park down after the last fireworks sparkled out over Cinderella's castle. Kieran rode "up! down! up! down!" on the Dumbo the Flying Elephant ride, fell asleep during the Haunted Mansion, and watched with wide eyes as the floats and characters passed in front of us during the Spectral Magic Light Parade.

The best part of the day was when Kieran finally got to meet Mickey and Minnie. He had talked about them for hours. As soon as I told him we were going to meet and perhaps hug Mickey, he had been repeating "hug Mickey? hug Mickey?!" incessantly. When we reached the front of the line, he ran up to Mickey and gave him a big hug. And then he kissed Mickey on the nose. It was incredibly sweet.

I must admit, it wasn't the only moment during our two days at Disney that I got a little misty.

I had another misty moment the following day at Animal Kingdom. Kieran loves animals, and I have been excited to see his reaction at something a little more flashy than the exhibits he is accustomed to. We are Friends of the Zoo at home, and Kieran never tires of visiting. He loved the exhibits at Animal Kingdom too, but we had to laugh when he fell asleep during the last few minutes of the Kilimanjaro Safari Ride (one of the most popular rides in the park). His favorite part of Animal Kingdom was the Finding Nemo musical. He was frightened at the beginning of the sharks' number, but once he realized they were harmless he kept (nervously) bebopping along to the music.

Before "Mickey's Jammin' Jungle Parade" started, we hurried over to meet a few characters. Kieran gave some loves to Donald Duck, and then he spied Thumper - the only Disney character he was actually familiar with outside of his new stickers and tattoos. My mom bought him a "Thumper Counts to 10" book last year, and it is a semi-regular read in our house. The pictures are beautiful, and he was set on kissing Thumper as soon as he made the connection.

Unfortunately, we were a few back in line when Thumper had to leave to join the parade. Kieran saw Thumper leaving and started crying as if his heart was broken. We tried to tell him that we would see Thumper in the parade, but Kieran wanted none of it - he started running after Thumper.


As he ran behind Thumper, he cried and sobbed "hug! hug!" I had no idea what to do. Thankfully, Thumper heard the distraught toddler losing ground behind him and took pity.

Thumper stopped to hug my baby. He hugged him long and hard, waiting for Kieran's tears to dry up.

Disney may be a billion dollar corporation, but it has instilled in its cast members the reason behind its success: