General Articles

Recommended Reading List

A Child is Born. By Lennart Nilsson & Lars Hamberger, Delta, 2004.
Bountiful, Beautiful, Blissful: Experience the Natural Power of Pregnancy and Birth with Kundalini Yoga and Meditation. By Gurmukh Kaur Khalsa and Cindy Crawford, St. Martin’s Griffin, 2004.
Having a Baby, Naturally. By Peggy O’Mara. Atria, 2003.
Pregnancy, Childbirth, and the Newborn: The complete guide. By Penny Simkin, Janet Whalley, and Ann Keppler, Meadowbrook, 2001.
The Complete Book of Pregnancy and Childbirth. By Sheila Kitzinger, Knopf, 2003.
The Naturally Health Pregnancy: The essential guide to nutritional and botanical medicine for the childbearing year. By Shonda Parker, Loyal Publishing, 1998.
The Natural Pregnancy Book: Herbs, nutrition, & other holistic choices. By Aviva Jill Romm, Ten Speed Press, 2003.

Birthing From Within: An extraordinary guide to childbirth preparation. By Pam England, Partera Press, 1998.
Gentle Birth Choices: A guide to making informed decisions about birthing centers, birth attendants, water birth, home birth, hospital birth. By Barbara Harper, Inner Traditions, 1994.
Heart & Hands: A Midwife’s Guide to Pregnancy and Birth. By Elizabeth Davis, Celestial Arts, 2004.
Homebirth. By Sheila Kitzinger, DK Pub, 1991.
Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth. By Ina May Gaskin, Bantam Books, 2003.
Special Delivery: A guide to creating the birth you want for you and your baby. By Rahima Baldwin, Celestial Arts, 1990.
The Birth Partner: Everything you need to know to help a woman through childbirth. By Penny Simkin, Harvard Common Press, 2007.
The Thinking Woman’s Guide to a Better Birth. By Henci Goer and Rhonda Wheeler, Perigee, 1999.

After the Baby’s Birth
After the Baby’s Birth: A complete guide for postpartum women. By Robin Lim, Ten Speed Press, 2001.
Natural Health After Birth: The complete guide to postpartum wellness. By Aviva Jill Romm, Healing Arts Press, 2002.
The Year After Childbirth: Enjoying your body, your relationships, and yourself in your baby’s first year. By Sheila Kitzinger, Fireside, 1996.

The Breastfeeding Café: Mothers share the joys, challenges, and secrets of nursing. By Barbara Behrmann, The University of Michigan Press, 2005.
The Nursing Mother’s Companion. By Kathleen Huggins, Harvard Common Press, 1999.
The Ultimate Breastfeeding Book of Answers: The Most Comprehensive Problem-Solution Guide to Breastfeeding from the Foremost Expert in North America. By Jack Newman and Teresa Pitman, Prima Lifestyles, 2000.
The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding. By La Leche League International, Plume, 2004.

The Attachment Parenting Book: A commonsense guide to understanding and nurturing your child. By William Sears and Martha Sears, Little, Brown, 2001
Everyday Blessings: The inner work of mindful parenting. By Myland and Jon Kabat-Zinn, Hyperion, 1998
Natural Family Living: The Mothering Magazine guide to parenting. By Peggy O’Mara, Atria, 2000.
Naturally Health Babies & Children: A commonsense guide to herbal remedies, nutrition, and health. By Aviva Jill Romm, Ten Speed Press, 2003.
The No-Cry Sleep Solution: Gentle ways to help your baby sleep through the night. By Elizabeth Pantley, McGraw-Hill, 2002.
The Baby Book: Everything you need to know about your baby from birth to age two. By William Sears and Martha Sears, Little, Brown, 2003.

Books for Children
I Watched My Brother Being Born! Including children at birth. By Anne Vondruska and Katarina Vondruska, Trafford Publishing, 2005.
Nasce um Bebe… Naturalmente (A Baby is Born… Naturally). By Naoli Vinaver, Mercuryo, 2005.
Welcome With Love. By Jenni Overend, Kane/Miller Book Publishers, 1999.
My Mommy’s Midwife. By Trish Payne and Hayley Holland.
A Ride on Mother’s Back: A day of baby carrying around the world. By Emery Bernhard, Gulliver Books, 1996.
I’m Made of Mama’s Milk. By Mary Olsen.
Breastmilk Makes My Tummy Yummy. By Cecilia Moen, Midsummer Press, 1999.

A Woman’s Book of Herbs: The healing power of natural remedies. By Deb Soule, Citadel Press, 1995.
Everybody’s Guide to Homeopathic Medicines. By Stephen Cummings, Tarcher, 1997.
Herbal Healing for Women. By Rosemary Gladstar, Fireside, 1993.
Homeopathy for Pregnancy, Birth, and Baby’s First Year. By Miranda Castro, St. Martin’s Press, 1993.
Homeopathic Medicine at Home: Natural remedies for everyday ailments and minor injuries. By Maesimund Panos, Tarcher, 1981.
Homeopathic Medicine for Children and Infants. By Dana Ullman, Tarcher, 1992.
Mommy Diagnostics: The naturally healthy family’s guide to herbs and whole foods for health. By Shonda Parker, Loyal Publishing, 1999.
Rosemary Gladstar’s Family Herbal: A guide to living life with energy, health, and vitality. By Rosemary Gladstar, Storey Publishing, 2001.
The Herbal for Mother and Child: Essential home remedies for a healthy pregnancy, a trouble-free birth and everyday childhood ailments. By Anne McIntyre, Thorsons, 2003.
Wise Woman Herbal for the Childbearing Year. By Susun Weed, Ash Tree Publishing, 1985. *Note: This is a classic herbal for pregnancy, childbirth, lactation, fertility, and birth control. However, some recommended herbs have since become endangered and only cultivated varieties should be used.

Women’s Health/Fertility
The Garden of Fertility: A guide to charting your fertility signals to prevent or achieve pregnancy – naturally – and to gauge your reproductive health. By Katie Singer, Avery, 2004.
Our Bodies, Ourselves: A new edition for a new era. By The Boston Women’s Health Book Collective, Touchstone, 2005.
Taking Charge of Your Fertility: The definitive guide to natural birth control, pregnancy achievement, and reproductive health. By Toni Weschler, Collins, 2001.

Twenty-one years ago, a seed was planted…

Midwifery Today, Issue 82, Summer 2007 Twenty-one years ago, a seed was planted…

Twenty-one years ago my mom's water broke while we were at the annual Memorial Day Weekend Johnson Family Pig Roast. Our family of 5 piled into the station wagon and headed home. We were full of anticipation and excitement as we pulled out our stopwatches (we were all competitive swimmers at the time) and started timing mom's contractions. About 18 hours later (don’t worry, we didn’t submit my mom to timing contractions the whole time!) on May 26, 1985, my strong and steady mother gave birth to my sister, Michelle Leigh, in the new birthing suite at our local hospital. And I was there. And thus, in retrospect, a seed was planted and I began my path to becoming a midwife. And so, here I am.

The night before Michelle’s 21st birthday, I decided to try to find the essay I wrote my senior year in high school reflecting on the impact and experience of being present for Michelle's birth—this was the same essay that I polished and edited to use as my writing sample for my college applications. While I was unable to find the college application version, I did find a binder of my autobiographical essays from AP English, including a draft of the essay about Michelle's birth (along with lots of other interesting stories from my life up until that point!).

Given the work I do now as a homebirth midwife, and the beliefs I hold close to my heart about the enduring and powerful impact of birth on women, men, babies, children and families, I wanted to share this story. In doing so I hope to honor and celebrate my sister's 21 years on the planet, my parents' openness in letting their young children share in that experience, as well as the beginning of my journey to be 'with woman', and to revel in the miracle of birth and its transformative power as a frequent but always magical part of my day-to-day life.

Below is that essay from September 1990, written when I had just turned seventeen, while the midwife in me was quietly gestating, waiting to bloom.

September 1990

Sometimes a person undergoes an experience that has such a dramatic effect on her life that it indirectly influences every action that person takes from that time forward. Often a person doesn’t have this experience until late in life, and in many cases not at all. However, when I was only eleven years old I experienced such an event when I witnessed the miracle of my baby sister Michelle’s birth.

The last few weeks before the baby was due, I began to have second thoughts about whether I really wanted to be there for the birth. My friends had frightened me so much with their stories about how gory and disgusting it would be, that I almost decided to wait outside until everything was all cleaned up and the baby was in my mother’s arms. Luckily, I didn’t listen to my friends.

Contrary to my peers’ beliefs, Michelle’s birth wasn’t gross. It wasn’t dirty, bizarre or anything of that sort. Rather, it was amazing. It was awesome in the true sense of the word, the most naturally magnificent event that ever could occur. Michelle wasn’t bright red, wrinkled and bloody as I was told all newborns are. Instead she was pink, smooth and almost immaculately clean. After the doctor checked her out, counted her fingers and toes, he put the baby in my mother’s arms and we all gathered around her. Then my brother and my grandmother came in from outside the birthing room, and we all were around the bed marveling at the new addition to our family. The love and unity in that room at that time was so intense and so genuine, I have yet to experience it to such an extensive degree and I’m not sure if I ever will again.

Within the first hour of her life I was able to hold Michelle in my arms. I was very nervous! I was sitting in a big yellow vinyl chair and I remember my father carrying her over to me. He told me to support her neck and to be gentle and then he said something to the effect of: “Michelle, meet your big sister Christy. Christy, meet your new baby sister Michelle.” Then he placed her in my arms and left us together to get to become acquainted. As soon as I felt that little body in my arms my nervousness was replaced by a complete sense of peace. I looked down at Michelle’s face and forgot that anything bad had ever happened to me and got completely entangled in the inherent goodness of that moment. I smiled brightly and as I looked around the room, beaming, a chill went down my spine. My father had already fallen asleep on the couch, exhausted from the 18-hour labor. Next to him, my aunt, who had also stayed up all night with my mother, likewise slumbered. My famished mother was in the midst of trying to break the world record for eating a large cheese steak. Laurie and Frankie, my other siblings, were seated on either side of my grandmother. For once this seating arrangement was not an attempt to hinder them from fighting, but just the most convenient way to engage in a group hug. Everyone in the room was in a state of complete and total harmony. After one final glance at my mother (she had finished the cheese steak by now), my eyes moved back to Michelle’s face, and I found she had fallen asleep. I began to cry.

To this day I’m not really sure why I cried. I don’t think that it was solely because of sheer happiness. I guess I was overwhelmed in realizing that in just one hour Michelle had brought so much love into my life and into the life of my entire family, without even trying. As great as that love was in that moment it seems almost insignificant when contrasted to the tremendous amount of love Michelle has given me since then. Her existence has made such a great difference in my life that I honestly don’t know what kind of person I would be today had she never been born. She brings an innocent perspective to everything that I am involved in, which often causes me to re-evaluate my decisions and straighten out my priorities. I love her so much that it sometimes hurts. The day of her birth has been the happiest day of my life so far, and I know that whatever the future holds for me, nothing will ever take the place of that day in my heart.

Making Informed Choices

Making informed choices As a family choosing a homebirth and midwifery care, you will need to make a number of choices and decisions during your pregnancy, labor and birth, as well as for your baby. As your midwife, I want to equip you with the information you need to make informed choices. Making informed choices involves weighing the benefits and risks of any decision or course of action while taking into account your intuition, personal experience, individual circumstances, advice and opinions of trusted sources and evidence-based practice.

The value of a risk-based approach Statistics and research are one tool in the decision-making process. When considering statistics, it is important to remember that they reflect a population-based risk assessment. They consider what occurs across a given population. In many ways, in the reality of an individual's life or one's family, it does not matter if the odds are very great that nothing bad will happen if you are the one in some great number that statistic applies to, as well as vice-versa.

The value of evidence-based research I also want to emphasize that, while research is important, the vast majority of the research around issues and practice pertaining to childbirth to date is designed, implemented and reported through the lens of the medical model of care, and thus reflects the assumptions, biases and limitations of that model. Often, the studies from which we currently have to choose in making evidence-based decisions as midwives, parents, and consumers are from their inception asking the wrong questions and grounded in a different paradigm and belief system than that of families and providers choosing homebirth. Therefore, while they can and should be considered in decision-making, the weight you give them should be taken in that context and be balanced by the other influences and factors named above.

Making your own choices Some decisions are cut and dry; others choices involve navigating through much more of a gray area. I ask that in reading through any informed choice document, including those from our practice, you remind yourself why you are choosing a homebirth and why you are following this path and journey for your pregnancy. I also encourage this same approach when you are reading an article on a specific topic, or engaging in a discussion about decisions for you, your baby and family.

I don't believe there are right or wrong answers to any given question that applies to everyone. I support you in making informed choices. This is a cornerstone of my practice philosophy, as is the very real belief that you know what is best for you and your baby and family, and that you are responsible for those decisions. No matter what you choose, as your midwife, I can make no guarantees as to the outcome, but rather continue to offer my deep trust in you as the birthing woman and my belief in the beautifully designed process of birth.

Peaceful birth, peaceful earth!

Women’s choices about where and how to give birth to our babies are being threatened, while women’s belief in the inherent ability of our bodies to give birth is being eroded. This is a dangerous combination for our planet as well as for mothers and babies! Amongst midwives there is a saying that "a woman births like she lives." The birth culture in a society is a microcosm and reflection of the priorities, hopes and fears of the larger world we live in. In birth and in our mainstream society there is an over-reliance on technology, a reluctance to question authority, a willingness to be a passive observer rather than an active engaged participant in one's life and community, use of fear as a means of control and power, and limitations on personal choices and freedoms in favor of a perceived guarantee of safety. To combat this cultural current, we can act in ways that offer an alternative in all areas of our lives. We can: QUESTION AUTHORITY, get to know our neighbors, know where our food and water come from, take time to really breath, support local businesses, drive less, seek out alternative sources for news and current events, be mindful of our responses to information and events designed to scare us and strive to make decisions and reactions based more on love and openness, than fear and self-protection.

The most powerful weapon in the world is a mother's love for her child. As mothers, as midwives, as women, we have this weapon, this tool, at our disposal in great quantities. Let us use it to work for change and to create a peaceful healthy world for our children and their children. May our daughters inherit from us a deep, abiding trust in their bodies’ ability to give birth. Let us create a culture that recognizes that how a woman gives birth to herself as mother and to her baby does matter! Peaceful birth, peaceful earth!