I got into the car a few hours ago and was on my way to a postpartum visit. I heard some good news on the radio, or so I thought: In many public schools, high-sugar sports drinks and candy bars are going to be taken out of vending machines. Hooray! But then, the second part of the report: These items are going to be replaced by  "healthier" choices: diet drinks and  granola bars. Anyone think the diet sweetened drinks are healthy?? and have you looked at the ingredients in most commercial granola bars???

And then I heard another one of those " they didn't make it to the hospital" birth reports on another station. A couple had to pull over to the side of the road because the baby was coming. According to the report, the dad had to deliver the baby. That is false reporting!! THE MOTHER'S BODY DELIVERED THE BABY" you buffoons - lets give credit where credit is due!! The reporter, in a very solemn tone remarked that thank goodness, the baby was pronounced fine a little while later at the hospital and that everyone was doing fine.  Everyone was much better off with that birth than they would have been had they made it to the hospital with the chaos and bright lights and immediate cord cutting, etc. Smart little one, to avoid all the interventions. You go, girl. How I would have loved to do the commentating for this little segment so that everyone could get things straight. A natural birth in a car, in a row boat for goodness sake, is preferable for most babies than the kind of birth that they will have in most hospitals in the good ol' USA.




At The Pool

So,  yesterday I went to the outdoor pool at the condo to which I moved a few months ago. It was a warm, sunny day - the kind I dream about on the bitter cold, grey, frozen days of winter, which seem to last forever. There were only two people at the pool - and - you guessed it: they were both pregnant. 

This is a new complex and people seem to be very friendly. They introduced themselves and asked which apartment was mine. When I told them, they said that was where the car with the cute bumper sticker was: "Midwives help people out." I told them it was my car.

 "You are a midwife?" they asked, and I said, yes, and that I attended home births. Pregnant Woman #1 said, "This is my second, I had a natural birth last with my first." I was so delighted, as I rarely run into anyone who has had a natural birth - or - who even wants one ( with the exception of my clients who are seeking natural, home birth  - bless them).  She then went on to talk about how much she loved her doctor, who induced her, gave her pitocin, and then, when she wasn't dilating, put a balloon in her cervix to help her "get to ten."

Natural?? I wished her well and started swimming.

When I was turning around at the end of the pool and had just come up for a breath of air, PW#2 found her golden opportunity to tell me that she was already scheduled for a cesarean ( for NO GOOD REASON, trust me) in eight weeks and that she trusted her doctor and was okay with that decision. 

What a way to ruin a perfectly good swim....

Then, this morning, I went to do my water aerobics workout. Same pool, different day. A sweet little girl, Jasmine, was swimming in the pool. She asked if spoke Cantonese or English and when I replied that I speak English, she told me that she can speak both languages, a little bit of Mandarin, and one word of Japanese!  She announced that she was almost eight and going into the third grade. She told me that she lived with her grandmother and that her mother lived in China.

Jasmine then asked if I knew how to play "Marco Polo" and if I would play that game with her. I told her I only had a little time and had come to the pool to do my  water exercises.  As I was getting out of the pool, she asked if I could play with her. I told her that I would be happy to play another day but that I had to get dressed and work. She asked what was my work. I told her I was a midwife. She said she didn't know what that was, and I told her that I helped women who were having babies to help the baby be born. She said, " Oh, you cut babies out of the mother's bodies!"  

I want to cry. 

Someone, please hand me a pack of tissues to put in my bathing cap and in the console of my car, the one with the great bumper sticker.



I wrote this response to a man who emailed me telling me that he and his wife were thinking about circumcising their soon-to-be-born son. I have strong beliefs about how important it is NOT to know the gender of the baby before it was born, but as they had already found out, this was beyond the point. I share my response to him here:

This baby is not mine, he is yours. You get to make the decisions about your son and his care. I will do my best to give facts and supply information whenever it seems appropriate or whenever you ask.  I will be honest with you at all times as to where I stand. It makes sense that you know who your midwife is ahead of time, in case we aren't the right fit all the way around. To that end, it seems important for you to know that I do everything I can to educate couples about the violence inherent in cutting babies. I hope that you will stay open to keeping your son intact.

Routine, non-therapeutic circumcision is painful, violent, medically unnecessary, presents ill long-term health effects, and is surrounded by cultural misinformation and bias.  I have facts, LOTS of them. You can start with the Circumcision Resource Center here in Boston. I can also give you several DVDs, one of which is by, of all people, Penn and Teller, about the subject (which is also available online - you can find it simply by searching “Penn and Teller circumcision”). There is another one entitled "Whose Body, Whose Rights" and an older one by a group of nurses who bonded together and decided they would no longer assist at circumcisions, began educating their pregnant couples, and changed the policy at their hospital to a 100 % "Circumcisions Not Performed Here" policy  within just a few months - there had been an almost 100 percent circumcision rate before they began.

I have a family who had their first four boys circumcised.  After that, as they put it, "they got smart" and left their last two (they have six!) full-bodied. One of my friends had her first two sons cut. She left her third intact. When he was six, he asked her why his penis looked different than his brothers. She explained to him that she had learned about the value of the foreskin and had left his just as it had been when he was born. He ran over to her, put his arms around her and said, " Oh, Mommy, THANK YOU!"

I do everything I can to help insure that the woman with whom I am working have the best chance NOT to have to be stitched after their babies are born. They pay attention to their nutrition and they do not do any perineal massage,  which I find breaks down the tissue and makes tearing more likely. I do my best at the actual delivery to either keep my hands off - or - when appropriate - to provide good perineal support, sometimes with warm, wet cloths. I mean, after all, what woman wants to have stitches in that area of her body?? I ask the partner/husband if he would like me to do my best to take care that there is no tearing, the answer is always, of course, "Yes."

But then, if that same woman whose perineum I have just treated with utmost respect  is going to cut off a part of her own baby's genitalia, I wonder why I am spending so much time protecting HER body? When you do the research, you will find that the foreskin was not a mistake.  The foreskin PROTECTS the penis - cutting it off would be like taking the eyelid and removing it from the eye. God/Goddess/Nature/The Universe/Spirit designed this covering for good reason. Are fingernails superfluous? What about the enamel on our teeth? There are good reasons for foreskins!  I remember a bumper sticker that said that if a man is circumcised, he is not dealing with a full dick.

The daddies who come here are almost all circumcised themselves, but, bless them, they do their research and say "no more of this." They become the guardians of their boys from that point on. They realize that their own cutting was violent - removing skin that is THAT sensitive without even anesthesia- and that they have to eliminate this barbaric practice. The doctors who do the cutting are all circumcised themselves - and proudly announce that THEIR penises work just fine, thank you very much. If they only knew. The daddies who allow it, or push it, want their sons to look like them. Or they want their sons to suck it up and be a man. Hey, what's a little cutting? 

Are they kidding?

A little boy doesn't look like his father, body-wise, for at least fifteen years or more. For quite some time, there is no hair on his chest, no pubic hair. The little one has no teeth to begin with and no facial hair. By the time the child looks like his dad, if ever he does, he is old enough to be informed as to why the foreskin is so important and why the decision was made not to surgically remove it ( just because there is no anesthesia does not mean it is not a surgical operation). One woman said she has five daughters and not one of them looks the same when they are getting dressed. One has dark pubic hair, one light. Two have large breasts, the others are small-busted. One of my mentor midwives used to ask the dads, "If you had a cleft lip, would you destroy your son's palate so that it would look like yours?"

The "little" "snip" that they think is done when a circumcision is performed is not little and not just a snip. We learn from NoCirc that eliminating the foreskin removes the most sensitive parts of the penis and diminishes sexual feelings for both the male and female and that complications from this surgery are frequent and under reported. The penis of a newborn is  - even if the dad is, um, well hung - very, very small and there are oftentimes very serious, long-term and even life-long consequences of circumcising. Female genital mutilation has been outlawed in the United States, but, as NoCirc reminds us, this law is unconstitutional because it denies equal protection to males.

I had my son cut - I was so uninformed at that time!  I have apologized to him and explained what I have come to know, and, on each anniversary of the circumcision, I apologize to him in my heart. I thought it was medically necessary and that an uncut penis looked, well, weird.  I have come to understand that we have had indoctrinated into our very beings long-held misconceptions and half-truths. Now, when I see a little boy who has been cut, I am so sad. The circumcised penis looks.... wrong, exposed.  I can still hear my son's cry in the next room as he was being cut. "Where is my mother? Why is this happening to me?" The little ones are strapped down and cannot move.  If they don't cry it is not because it didn't hurt - it is because they have gone into shock.

And where was my maternal instinct to protect my son?? Is there another mammal who would sit by - or sanction - the cutting off of their baby's body part? In the bookBonobo Handshake, we hear about the fingers of the little bonobo monkeys being cut, one at a time, to put into soup.  Their mothers have been killed in the name of science, otherwise, trust me, they would have been doing whatever they could to prevent such things from happening to their little ones. Foreskins are used for a variety of "interesting"  "projects" also....

Thank goodness that some of our cultural mores are changing.  A few years ago the circumcision rate shifted so that more boys are left whole than those who are cut - hooray! At some point in our lifetime, boys will no longer be maimed! I think of the little newborns who have to spend their first weeks with a sore, red, sometimes infected penis - with diapers that chafe the area and rub against the raw tissue... and the urine that stings every time he pees. This is no way for a baby to have to spend his first weeks on this earth. There is a book written a while back entitled " Sex As Nature Intended It" -- I think it's too painful (pun intended) for many cut men to read it... but if they did, they would make sure their little boys penises never came close to a knife.  And for the women who read it or one of many other books written to educate the public, they will wish that they had had the information before they allowed their babies to become sacrificial lambs. All the information about circumcision being "safer" and preventing cancer - check this out with Ron Goldman of the CRC or Laurie Evans or Miriam Pollack or Marilyn Milos  - people who have spent many years researching the subject.  There are many organizations now dedicated to information about not-circumcising, and their cumulative voices are being heard. 

Babies arrive here dependent, vulnerable and trusting. To pick them up one day, then put them down and cut off a part of their bodies  -- how can they ever trust again?  How will they know that the next time you pick them up you won't maim them again? Jodi McLauglin, editor of The Compleat Mother, states that when the cutting of the little boys stops, many of the wars among men may cease as well. Violence begets violence. A peaceful life begins, in part, at birth. A gentle birth lasts a lifetime. 

We will be discussing fear and birth and boys and babies and family pressure and retraction of the foreskin (don't!) and all kinds of other subjects in our appointments to come. The prenatal visits become more frequent and as you know, they are all at least an hour long - there is so much to talk abut and we don't rush through anything.  I want you both to leave here feeling heard, understood, and respected. I want to educate/inform people as best I can, to have them check out what I say on their own and to see where they fall in terms of their own choices.  If I continue to be the right midwife for you, I will do everything I can to help this be a healthy pregnancy and smooth, safe birth. If I am not the right midwife for a particular couple, due to my strong views, ("I am opinionated because I am educated" as the saying goes!,) then we can agree to disagree and you can select someone who finds it easier to work with couples who remove the foreskin of their babies.

To begin your thinking about circumcision, please also read the information on the following websites:

If you still have any doubt, please find a few videos of the procedure on YouTube.  If you feel you must subject your son to the procedure, you should at least see what you are about to do.  I am sorry that I cannot provide a link for you myself, but I just cannot stomach watching it happen when I know that it is violent, systemically shocking to the infant, overwhelmingly painful, and entirely unnecessary.

You knew when you chose me that this would be my response - we talked about this from the beginning. And so, I offer no apologies, but I do offer, as you also know, much caring and warmth!




Recent Article: In the Last Days of Pregnancy

Here is a link to a recent article by Jana Studelska CPM/LM, and a bit to whet your whistle:

"She’s curled up on the couch, waiting, a ball of baby and emotions. A scrambled pile of books on pregnancy, labor, baby names, breastfeeding…not one more word can be absorbed. The birth supplies are loaded in a laundry basket, ready for action. The freezer is filled with meals, the car seat installed, the camera charged. It’s time to hurry up and wait. Not a comfortable place to be, but wholly necessary.

The last days of pregnancy— sometimes stretching to agonizing weeks—are a distinct place, time, event, stage. It is a time of in between. Neither here nor there. Your old self and your new self, balanced on the edge of a pregnancy. One foot in your old world, one foot in a new world.

Shouldn’t there be a word for this state of being, describing the time and place where mothers linger, waiting to be called forward? . . . " read the rest of the article here

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A Moment in Transition - by Alison Groves

A moment in transition....

   The dull ache in my back subsides for a time, but it wont be long, I realize, until I will feel the increasing push and pull of that experience again.

   I place a hand on the window-ledge to steady myself and take a cleansing breath.  The air is suddenly fine and sharp and tastes of antiseptic.  I push myself away from the darkened window, not unlike a swimmer pushing underwater away from the pool edge, trying to gain the extra momentum for the long shuffle to the bathroom door.

   "I have to pee." A voice, fuzzy from inside my head, speaking to no one in particular.  I am beyond exhaustion, and the concept of shifting my weight from standing to sitting drains me more, even in thought.

   "It's just the pressure.", the tinny echo of reason from somewhere outside of me.  And for a moment, I am startled, frantic, but without time to do.  The depth of feeling plunges in around my girth, spreading from the center of my soul and enveloping me into myself.

   Arms embrace me and I slump willingly into them as the power of being surges through me.  My back is spreading outwards, my hips straining the bonds of my skin and the hands there hold me together.

   In.  Out.  In.  Out.  One, two, three....

I am frozen in time, in agony, in power, in fight, in flight , in creation.
Again, the determination of my body's control recedes and leaves me shaking and breathless.

   "You're doing awesome.  You can do this."

   I don't believe them, those voices.  but the sound of it rolls in my head like a resounding mantra and lends me the strength I need to lower the bands of my body, coiled and tight with the promise of exahltation and purpose to the toilet.

   A voice again, this time from the floor, and my focus shifts breifly to the gentle promise of it's words, to the outside of me, and a face swims into view.  I study it hard and resolve to hold my eyes with those in front of me as the heat of the growing pull and push, now familiar to me, brings forth the power again, surging like light, wrapping my body, white-hot and blinding.  I am set on those eyes, that voice, and I moan in bliss and release with the surge.  I hold the eyes, they hold me.

   In.  Out.  In.  Out.  One, two, three...

   The urine makes a slow, burning, drip-drip into the water, the open chasm below me.  There is more, a thickness that has left me, but I am beyond knowing what purpose, what inner meaning it holds.

   I fall forward, not far, stopped short and solid by the expanse of my power and the shoulder in front of me.  That shoulder, connected to the face, those eyes.  The eyes that were my savior a lifetime ago are now my bitterest enemy, my driver, relentless.

   "You can do this.  You are so strong."

   I shudder and brace myself.  A deep breath again and something shifts.  My head is heavy and my tongue is thick.  It's been a breath too many and I feel the power begin, off-beat.

   New, full, strange, starting now at the center of my thighs, driving downwards pulling all I have, all my breath, with it.  I feel the pull between my legs, but I am a being of light now, mastering and mastered by the egotism of my own body.  Unable, willing, able and unwilling.  I don't understand, I don't think, I just do.  All of me tells me to do. 

   My mind yells and fights, "I CAN'T! I CAN'T!" was that outside of me?  My body does. There is no reasoning, only purpose.  No flight, only resurgence and need.

   The moment leaves me.

   And I have sudden clarity.  It is here!  It is now.  I have come.  I have learned and lost, and now I am the power.

   I stand, a sudden movement and my Mind, my Heart and me Body converge in reality.  The power is a part of me, not over me and I am locked in my need.  I push past the voices, the faces of people I have known and now know again.  I have resurfaced and awakened and the farthest reaches of the room are now mine in detail.

   Another moment, frozen, this time as if in crystal.  The bed waits in front of me, blues and whites in contrast with the deep tan and washed-out pink of the walls.  A blue vynol chair with faux wood armrests butts up against the wall, and the lights in the room are diaphanous, lending a yellow-gold tint to it all.  It glows off my skin, behind my eyes.

   I am amazingly aware.  The warm roughness of the linen against my thigh as I move to my side on the bed with urgency and centered calmness.  I am confused and certain of my need as a whole.  I recline like a plump goddess in a 16th century painting, glowing and cherub-like, mysterious and powerful, knowing and needy.

   A woman steps forward to speak, but her words are lost to me in the surge of tidal urgency I now feel,

   "I need..."  is all I can express, and a cool hand slips between my knees.  In a brief opening, I see in detail the knowing in her eyes, mirroring my own.   The nod of her head.

   And I do.

   I be.  I give.  I take.  

   There is a bursting forth and the overwhelming moment of relief and release, warmth and wetness surrounding me.  I burn.  It's too much.  It is the moment when your lover is holding you in thrall and you yearn and despair with the need for the next touch, the next thrust, when the ache is felt in your throat and you raise your hips to force him deeper into you.  To feel the depth that is painful, passionate and powerful.

   It is the push over the edge.  I exist in the heartbeat between pulling away and pushing through, seeking ultimate need and release.  

   Again and again, I build, I need, I see, I am crystalline in knowledge, I am tortured.  I feel this, I can see the faces around me - the table at my bedside, shining with chrome and steel on dark green cloth, alien and understandable, but no less significant than the window open while making love: aware that the sound carries, but raising past the point of caring until it just is.

   I look once into the eyes of the man who stands with me, awed and smiling.

   "You are so beautiful." he mouths the words and I am sent again over the edge, this time to the point of no return.

   A collective breath is held, and un-held  and in a moment of desperate and exuberant need, I feel the pressure spread down my thighs, and I move to accomodate.  I move and I bear down into the depths of my soul.

   The worlds splits in two, in four, into a million, and I split with it.

   An undeniable and primal scream resounds in a great and powerful song from the bottom of the world and erupts in triumph from my throat.

   And in a instant, I am empty.

   I am inside out with anguish.  With relief.  With an emotion that cannot be expressed by any language, in any world beyond the one that is created in my soul at that exact moment.   The world created for the wet, hot, smooth weight of him that lies against my breast.
                                                    I am alive.  I am power.
                                                       I am a mother.


- Alison Groves

Compleat Mother Magazine