Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Homebirth Photo Essay

    Greetings!  Today's post is short on words and long on lovely images.  Here are some photos of Toni Rae being welcomed into the world by parents Kristin and Chad, and big sister Charlie.   These are not labor photos but shots taken immediately after the birth, and then two hours later, during the newborn exam done on the bed with the family.  These pictures capture one of the benefits of homebirth - after the hard work of birth, the family is in its own comfy bed to relax and take in the joyous miracle of their new baby.  No strangers coming in and out, no machines beeping or nurses taking the baby to assess, wash, or "warm".  Just uninterrupted bonding time.  Enjoy!

Welcome Baby Toni!   She is placed right into her mother's arms, where she gives a good cry to open up her lungs.

Happy father embraces them both.  Note the bliss on Kristin's face as she admires her new daughter. That look of utter delight often accompanies the completion of natural childbirth, a combination of "yes, I did it!"  and "Oh!  What a love!"

Excited sister Charlie loved seeing her baby born!  She sat right beside me as the baby emerged.

Now a weepy Grandma takes a look... "did that really just happen?  Right here?"

Kristin responds to her baby's cues that she is ready to nurse.  This image shows how cozy the family is as the baby enjoys her peaceful first hours of life earthside.

After the initial cry, home-born babies are usually alert but relaxed, taking in their new environment from the warmth and safety of mother's chest

"Oooh...that is what those are for!"

"My turn!"

Giving the baby a thorough exam

includes weighing

and measuring

and footprints...

and finally a first diaper

Definitely a keeper!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

The Little School that Could

   Many of us in the homebirthing community embrace alternative education for our young ones.   If we folks are conscious about choosing how and where we give birth, it  makes sense that we will also  consider how to school our young.  Waldorf education, homeschooling, and unschooling are some examples of these kinds of choices.  My first daughter was born in Santa Cruz, California, and when she was a wee nursling tucked in my sling, I saw Rahima Baldwin speak about Waldorf education and the young child.   It was music to my ears - an approach to education that seemed like homebirth midwifery for the child's mind and heart!   Rahima Baldwin, by the way, had been a foremother of American homebirth midwifery and wrote Special Delivery, a classic homebirth book .  Then she became a Waldorf educator, and her book You Are Your Child's First Teacher is one I recommend to new parents.  I knew what I wanted for my children.
    Waldorf education weaves art, music, handwork such as knitting and crochet, reverence for nature, and movement into reading and math.  Waldorf classrooms are softly colorful, lessons are poetic, all materials are natural such as wood or wool with NO plastic, and all the children sing and learn music, including string instruments starting in third grade.  "Accept the children with reverence, educate them with love, send them forth in freedom"  says Rudolf Steiner, Waldorf founder.  All subjects are introduced when developmentally appropriate, and the wonder and magic of childhood is nourished and left intact.  
   We moved to Chico in 2002 when Clarabel was two.  Lo, and behold, Chico had a fledging Waldorf Charter School!  Charter means public and tuition free, not private.  Open to everyone, by lottery.  The school was tiny, just one kindergarten class, but it would grow by one class each year until it was K-8.  Clarabel started kindergarten there when it was K-2.  There were about 50 students.  Over the next several years the school slowy grew and blossomed into a beautiful community of families and teachers.  We moved three times as we grew.  The final move was last year into a closed-down Blue Shield Call Center that was built to look like an Ivy League campus on the outside, and was an ugly cavern on the inside.    We transformed it into a beautiful school, tore up the asphalt parking lot,  and built a playground with our own hands.  Then we had to double our school size in one year to fill and pay for this giant new space. Now we had 350 kids, and a year of growing pains as we adjusted to so much change. 
      Then, this year, we almost lost our charter.  I won't get into the details of the politics that led to this, but our charter was denied renewel by our original authorizing agency.  So we wrote a new charter and took it to the Chico Unified school board for approval.  Over the last several months we have worked hard to raise community awareness about our school, align our curriculum more closely to the standardized tests that are considered the "bottom line" to determine a school's success, and waited to see if our school would stay open.   Last night, the board voted.  After two hours of tense discussion, it was looking pretty bleak.   The first motion of the vote was to CLOSE the school!   It was quickly seconded.  Then, by a miracle, one board member stood up and talked to her peers about looking beyond test scores, to other aspects of what an education is.  She moved to give us our charter, and the motion was carried, three to two.  It was incredibly emotional.  Teachers, parents, children, all crying together with joy and relief that our blessed school would stay open.  It felt like that moment of relief when we finally meet a baby, after a long, complicated labor.  Bravo Blue Oak School, a beautiful, joy-filled school for our children, now for many years to come!

Monday, April 4, 2011

The Midwife in Hot Water

   In the midst of a busy birthing season, I have been harboring a secret fantasy;  zipping off to a hot springs resort for some solo relaxation time.  These days my practice is so full that someone is due as soon as someone else gives birth - no time off for me until July, when I don't deliver babies.  Except last week, when a tiny miracle unfolded for me.  Instead of the one expected birth, I attend two in two days - someone went a couple weeks early!  As I rolled out of bed in the dark of night  to attend this birth, I realized - hey!  I'm going to be off-call this weekend!   I was fried, but I would be free.
    Friday afternoon, I popped my little bag of snacks and my little bag of clothes into my car, and I was off on a weekend retreat to Harbin Hot Springs .  Its funny how in the midst of raising a family, even the act of tossing ONE bag in the car for a trip seems so light and carefree.  My hubby and the girls would have a great weekend here in town, and everyone would appreciate a happier, de-stressed Mom!  I had known for a while I was in need of a break because everything was starting to feel heavy - the responsibilities of work, keeping house, the cooking, and the kids' activities, and on and on.  I believe in BALANCE as a guiding principle in my life - when things are big and heavy in one direction, we need to swing a little in the other direction.  Some carefree bliss was in order.
   So what did I do during this weekend away?  Relaxed profoundly.  Soaked and soaked and soaked in the hot pools.  Sunbathed.  Received a knockout massage and a Watsu treatment.  Got away from cell phones, computers, and cameras which are all NOT allowed at Harbin.  Ahhhh....a midwife not checking her cell phone every half hour, how bizarre.  I ate meals in the restaurant - organic and delicious, and had spiritual, uplifting conversations with fellow weekend Harbin-ites.  For a mother to take 48 hours off cooking and tending to others - it is amazing!  I read an inspiring book called A Woman's Worth by Marianne Williamson