Rate your doctor, midwife & hospital on The Birth Survey

If you’ve given birth in the United States in the past three years, you are eligible to participate in The Birth Survey. Thanks to The Birth Survey: Transparency in Maternity Care, “women can now give consumer reviews of doctors, midwives, hospitals, and birth centers, learn about the choices and birth experiences of others, and view data on hospital and birth center standard practices and intervention rates.” If enough women take this survey, it could have a serious impact on maternity care in the U.S.

The survey was developed by The Coalition for Improving Maternity Services or the CIMS. “Our goal is to give women a mechanism that can be used to share information about maternity care practices in their community while at the same time providing practitioners and institutions feedback for quality of care improvement efforts.”

tbs_button1_5×2.jpgFrom The Birth Survey:

We are dedicated to improving maternity care for all women. We will do this by 1) creating a higher level of transparency in maternity care so that women will be better able to make informed decisions about where and with whom to birth and 2) providing practitioners and hospitals with information that will aid in evaluating and improving quality of care.

Can I just say I really wish this type of resource had been available when I was pregnant with my daughter? If I had been able to read about my OB’s episiotomy rate for one, I think it may have helped me pass her by and find another doctor who’s intervention rates were more in line with the type of birth I was hoping to have. My doctor may be a great surgeon, but I felt that she was cut-happy and performed an unnecessary episiotomy that I still doesn’t feel right 4+ years later. Since my daughter was born more than 3 years ago I cannot complete the survey to rate this particular doctor, but boy, oh boy, do I wish I could to help other women with their choices.

However, on a positive note, I was able to rate the midwife that was in attendance for my son’s home birth 20 months ago. She received a glowing review from me and I am hopeful that the information I shared in the survey will influence women as well, just in the opposite direction.

The survey itself goes into quite a bit of detail about your prenatal care, labor, birth, and postpartum care with a doctor or midwife as well as asks you to rate the hospital or birthing center in which you gave birth (though you may complete it for home births as well – as I did – you just aren’t rating a facility in that case). I believe it took me about 30 minutes or so to complete. A very nice feature, especially for busy moms, is you have the option of saving your answers and returning to it later, something I definitely took advantage of.

I believe The Birth Survey has the potential to make a real impact on the maternity care in this country and I hope that many, many women will take advantage of it to share their experiences and their knowledge with other women. I really feel it is every woman’s duty to share her experience in an effort to educate others and, in turn, hopefully improve the quality of care. As Citizens for Midwifery points out, “For years, consumers have enthusiastically shared online reviews of movies, restaurants, products and services, but readily available information about maternity care providers and birth settings was nearly unattainable–but no longer.” Doesn’t it just make sense that there should be some sort of resource to compare care providers so that we can all make educated choices for our health and the health of our babies?

Heather at Meet the Heathons shares my excitement and optimism about the survey:

I am SO excited that this is FINALLY getting done. It was my dream as a public health graduate to do something like this. I’ve heard rumors that there are efforts to do this sort of thing for ALL types of medicine. So that say you needed a knee replacement, you could look up the hospital/doctor and see their success rate, compare prices, methods, etc… How AWESOME would that be. It would be one step towards changing health care in America– but I won’t get started on that one!

Giving Birth With Confidence says, “Hats off to the Coalition for Improving Maternity Services, the incredible women working within community based birth networks throughout the US, and to all the women who are sharing their birth stories. Finally, there is hope that birth, and women’s decisions about care provider and place of birth, will no longer happen ‘in the dark.'”

Upon completion of the survey, I found it interesting and helpful that there were additional resources listed for women who may have experienced negative feelings about their birth while taking the survey. Had I been taking it for my daughter’s birth instead of my son’s, I am sure a lot of the anger and negative emotions I have had in the past about the care I received during that time may have been brought to the forefront. (Heck, I’m experiencing some of them just writing the little bit that I did about it.) While it sucks that women may experience these feelings, it’s good to know there are resources available to help them deal with them.

If this survey brought up traumatic feelings for you regarding your labor, birth, or postpartum experience we encourage you to seek help from a licensed mental health professional who specializes in birth trauma. The following resources may also be helpful to you www.postpartum.net, www.ican-online.org, and Solace for Mothers.

Now let’s spread the word. Activistas says, “Share your story, voice your opinion, mamas. It’s important, and it feels really good (kind of like having a baby!). If you don’t, how will your experience help others?”

If you’ve given birth in the past three years, will you take The Birth Survey? Will you forward it on to your friends? Will you add a button to your blog? Let your voice be heard!

Other bloggers who have written about The Birth Survey:

Think Mama Think
Faith Walker
Mama Knows Breast
Finally Living Deliberately
…And a doula, too

Cross-posted on BlogHer

I CAN do it : Learning how to preserve foods

I’ve been wanting to learn how to can food for at least a couple of years now. I’ve done the freezing thing with veggies, soups, casseroles and spaghetti sauce, but I feel like my options are limited with freezing and it’s time to branch out. Oh, what I would give for a jar of delicious strawberry jam, made fresh at home, which is where, of course, canning comes in.

Mason jarsAbout two years ago some of my friends organized a “learn how to can” get together. We made grape jelly and each got to take a jar of it home. (Yum!) It was fun, but I really didn’t pay that close attention to the whole canning process (sorry, Nicole and Julie), and thus haven’t attempted it on my own yet knowing I still need to learn more about it.

I’d actually hoped I might get a one-on-one canning tutorial from my mom during our vacation to MI, but the blueberry farm that we hoped to visit didn’t open until the day we flew back home. Bugger.

A few months ago I started saving Mason jars from our spaghetti sauce, as well as jars from jam and other foods determined that this would be the year I would start canning. I have accumulated a pretty good collection of jars, but I still haven’t canned a thing. However, all of that is going to change this weekend!

strawberries.jpgWhile the organic strawberries I have growing in my little garden are great, or so I’m led to believe (my kids gobble them up just as soon as I pick them), I only had four plants to start out with this year and they aren’t nearly prolific enough yet. So when my friend Melissa said she and her family were planning on going to Berry Patch Farms to pick organic strawberries this weekend and wanted to know if anyone wanted to join them, I was chomping at the bit. I had hoped to visit that farm earlier in the season, but then a bad hail storm apparently wiped out their early crop. So now the plans have been made. The kids, Jody and I will be picking a slew of strawberries and I’m bound and determined to make them into jam. Lots of jam. (Oh, and they have raspberries and peaches too. Whee!)

Today or tomorrow I’m heading over to Ace Hardware where my canning goddess friend assures me they will have “everything I need” to get started. :) Then, in preparation, I’ll be reading my new Ball Blue Book and about making jam.

I’m so excited! I hope the strawberry patch is full and ready for us Saturday morning (oh, and that I can get myself and my family out of the house at a decent time – that will be the real trick!). I’ll be sure to report back how the experience goes.

Have you done any canning? What are your favorite things to can? Have any tips for a newbie like me?

Slowing down to get well

Ever since getting back from Michigan, my family and I have been sicker than dogs. I’ve had a cold, then the stomach flu, then a return of the cold, then the stomach flu again. Ava’s puked, Julian’s puked, and Jody’s had stomach issues as well. Of course in the middle of all of this we’ve had friends from Georgia staying with us (fun for them) and Jody’s now traveling for work for the next several days. It’s been, um, interesting.

I think I’m finally over the worst of it and the kids are on the mend as well, but needless to say, blogging hasn’t been a priority. However, you can read something from me today about how going green has sometimes forced me to slow down and why this is a good thing over at 5 Minutes For Going Green. I’m also moderating over at API Speaks this week. If you haven’t been by there yet, I encourage you to check it out for lots of motivational, interesting, sometimes silly, and often sweet gentle parenting stories.

A bright light, boat, and beautiful flowers

Here are a few more pictures from our vacation to Mackinac Island. There were some breathtaking views and gorgeous flowers on the island. I only wish I would’ve had more time to take pictures of them all.

If you missed the other vacation pictures I posted last week, you can see them here.

Lighthouse Mackinac Bridge

Freighter in the straights of Mackinac Roses
The last one is my best shot. Which one is your favorite?

Head over to Mother May I to see everyone else’s best shots.

Because no baby should have to grow up without knowing her mother

Cross-posted on BlogHer

While wondering today how I would segue into writing about model Christy Turlington and former Spice Girl Geri Halliwell’s recent campaign for maternal health, I unexpectedly came across a blog post about that very subject that stopped me in my tracks and left me in tears. The post was on Single Mom Seeking by guest blogger Matt Logelin who lost his wife and mother of their child just hours after she gave birth. It’s called Forevers.

Matt’s wife Liz died of a pulmonary embolism before she even had the chance to hold her daughter Madeline. She was on her way to see her baby girl after spending 24 hours in bed following her c-section when she said she felt “light-headed” and passed out. The doctors and nurses were unable to revive her.

Although I’d never met any of them, I started crying for Liz, her husband Matt and their now 4-month-old daughter, as memories of my own daughter’s birth came flooding back. I had lost a fair amount of blood after Ava was born, and after holding her for a minute or so, I too uttered those words, “I feel light-headed.” My husband Jody took Ava and the nurses immediately sprang into action and reclined my bed as far back as it would go, putting my feet in the air. I remember feeling very strange and scared as Jody and my sister coo’d over my new baby girl, and I didn’t know what was going on with me. But ultimately I was OK. I am OK. I am alive.

I was so moved by Liz’s story that I shared it with my husband this evening. We talked about how sad it is and upon overhearing that part, Ava (4 years old) asked what was so sad. I’m generally all in favor of honesty with my children and considered for a second telling her the truth, but quickly decided against it. She’s not old enough to bear that kind of weight – that sometimes (actually much more often than should be the case) babies lose their mommies.

No baby should have to grow up without having ever known her mother. No partner should have to bury their loved one during what should be one of the happiest times in their lives. Which is why the work of mothers Christy Turlington and Geri Halliwell is so important. When we hear a statistic like “a woman dies every minute of complications from childbirth,” it might sound shocking, but ultimately it is hard to wrap our heads around. Unless we personally know someone who has died from giving birth, we assume it’s happening to women elsewhere, in other countries, across the world. And while that is more often the case than not, stories like Liz’s show that it’s happening here in North America as well and help put a face and a name with a statistic, making it a little more real.

According to ParentDish and EcoRazzi, Christy Turlington and Geri Halliwell are campaigning for maternal health and attempting to get the U.S. government to provide more resources to women around the world during childbirth. Christy, who is the mother of two with actor Ed Burns, says “I’m really involved in maternal health. I’ve been working in Washington to help raise awareness. I’m a mum, so maternal health is very important to me.” She is also an ambassador for CARE – a humanitarian organization fighting global poverty – and adds, “I’ve had safe deliveries for both my children because I have had access to skilled medical care. Yet for too many women in the developing world, pregnancy and childbirth is a serious life-and-death issue.”

Both Christy and Geri also campaigned earlier this year for legislation to help fistula survivors. Obstetric fistula is a devastating injury of childbirth in which the baby usually dies and the mother is left with a hole either between the woman’s vagina and bladder or vagina and rectum (or both), resulting in the leaking of urine, feces or both.

You can read more about Christy, including her quest for maternal health and myriad other topics, in an interview with Betsy Rothstein on The Hill.

If you want to make a difference in the lives of women and children around the world, BlogHer’s partnership with Global Giving is still accepting donations.