20/20’s Extreme Motherhood falls short, disappoints

As I found myself watching and live Tweeting the 20/20 episode on Extreme Motherhood on ABC Friday night, I felt disappointed that once again mainstream media had let me down. It didn’t come as a complete surprise, but I really had hoped for better from them.

The show, for those of you who were occupying your time with better things (wise choice), consisted of segments on Orgasmic Birth, fake babies – women who buy Reborn dolls and treat them very much like real babies (um, yes, it was more than a little freaky), long-term (extended) breastfeeding – including a mention of 2 1/2 yr old twins still nursing (uh, what’s extreme about that?) as well as a few older children, serial surrogates, and home birth. The majority of the time seemed to be spent on the fake babies and the serial surrogates, with lesser amounts devoted to the rest. The least amount of time (and what I felt should have received the most) went to home birth.

The home birth segment had very brief interviews with Ricki Lake and Abbie Epstein (producers of Business of Being Born) and Laura Shanley (author of Unassisted Childbirth). There were no interviews with any midwives. There was no talk of the training midwives go through or the preparation that women who choose unassisted birth generally undertake. It all seemed very much focused on fear rather than offering up real information. The AMA says blah, blah, blah – nothing we haven’t heard before.

One of my main issues with the show was that it was not objective journalism at all. The correspondents spewed a lot of shock value comments instead of asking intelligent, thought-provoking questions. Maybe I’m naive to expect better from them.

twitter fail whale for 20/20Overall, I have to say I’m sorry I wasted my time watching it. I felt it was very exploitative. 20/20 gets a big ol’ Twitter Fail Whale from me. I don’t feel the show gave much, if any, useful information, except maybe some women will seek out Business of Being Born or Orgasmic Birth (which has a lot more to it than the name implies) after watching 20/20.

For those of you who are looking for some real information, you might be interested in reading my thoughts (and others’ thoughts) on orgasmic birth – Giving Birth can be good, ecstatic and even orgasmic or long-term breastfeeding Breastfeeding until age 3, 4 or 5 – more common than you think? – including a list of moms who have breastfed older children. I’ve also written about planning for a home birth and my home birth story.

Orgasmic birth on 20/20 this Friday

Update: The show has been pushed back. The new tentative air date is Jan. 2 now.

Just a quick note to let you all (but especially the birth junkies) know that ABC’s 20/20 is doing a segment on Orgasmic Birth this Friday, Dec. 12.

Have no idea what I’m talking about? OB-GYN Dr. Christiane Northrup, midwife Ina May Gaskin, and childbirth educator Debra Pascali-Bonaro all agree that under the right circumstances, i.e. when a woman is relaxed (and in my opinion very comfortable with her body), and due to the huge hormonal changes that occur in the body during labor, a kind of birth ecstasy is possible.

To learn more about the 20/20’s Orgasmic Birth, check out Labor Orgasms called ‘Best-Kept Secret’ – Moms, Experts Say Relaxation is Key to Pleasurable Childbirth. Then be sure to tune into 20/20 on Friday. I’ve already got my DVR set to record it.

What do you think? Is a segment on ecstatic birth “a bit too much information” as one woman on Twitter called it or, in a largely-medicalized, fear-based birthing society, just the kind of information women need?

Additional resources:
Orgasmic Birth, the film
Orgasmic Childbirth: The Fun Doesn’t End at Conception! by Laura Shanley
Pioneering midwife touts ‘orgasmic birth’ on MSNBC

Edited to add: I want to point out that it does not appear they are not saying all women will have an orgasm or that an orgasm should even be the goal. I think the point is moreso that birth can be a good experience.

For women who hope to create a similarly happy ending for their labor, Pascali-Bonaro hopes they realize that it’s possible, but the goal is not necessarily an actual orgasm.

“I hope women watching and men watching don’t feel that what we’re saying is, every woman should have an orgasmic birth,” she said. “Our message is that women can journey through labor and birth in all different ways. And there are a lot more options out there, to make this a positive and pleasurable experience.”

The truth is often stranger than fiction

Just a few frightening strange odds and ends from around the world:

  • Baby formula in China tainted with melamine has resulted in the death of two children and more than 1,200 others have fallen ill with hundreds hospitalized. Melamine is a trimer of cyanamide.

    Melamine has also been found in yogurt in China.

    All the more reason I’m glad I was/am able to breastfeed my children and know exactly what they were ingesting. PhDinParenting feels similarly. Makes me think I should buy my own cow though, like my sister-in-law and family have done. If only we had the land for it (and chickens, ‘cuz by golly, I still want me some chickens).

  • Dr. Phil apparently wants to make a mockery of home birth and is asking for negative home birth stories. The home birth community, rightly so in my opinion, has been in an uproar over this.From Dr. Phil’s site:

    Did you have a child at your home?

    Did you want to have a soothing experience where you were in control and could bond with your child?

    Did it not go the way you planned?

    Do you regret having a home birth?

    Do you regret using a midwife instead of going to a hospital?

    Did you have your second child the traditional way in a hospital?

    If you or someone you know regrets having a home birth please tell us your story below.

    Be sure to be specific and include details!

    A response from the home birth community: Many of us are instead using this form to a) tell our horrible hospital stories, b) tell our great home birth stories, or c) just plain let Dr. Phil and his staff how bad we think this show concept is.

    Based on the number of emails I’ve received about this, I figure everyone under the sun is probably aware of it by now, but just in case that’s not the case, I’m passing it on. I still need to weigh in over there myself.

  • The Corn Refiners Association has created several ads about high fructose corn syrup – watch them here – to prove that it’s “natural” and “OK in moderation.” I don’t know what your take on HFCS is (I’m against it), but if you check your labels, you’ll find it in just about everything. (Have you seen King Corn yet? Check it out.) Jody was shocked to come home with a loaf of bread the other day only to discover that it, too, had HFCS in it! For the record, the bread we usually buy from Costco does not have it.

    Anyway, there’s a great article over on BlogHer debunking the ads and sharing more information. And at 5 Minutes for Going Green, Beth writes that HFCS is the “Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing” and brings up the environmental concerns as well.

What do you think about all of this? Kind of a lot to digest in one post, eh?

Guest post: The Longest Birth Story Ever

While I’m on vacation until Aug. 9 (and quite possibly for the day or two after I get back), I’m featuring several guest bloggers. Today’s guest post comes from Sonja from Girl with Greencard. Sonja shares the birth story of her son Noah who was born just weeks ago.

The longest birth story ever

The plan:

Midwife-attended, natural home birth, potentially in the water.

The Husband and I made this choice for many reasons, but mainly because a normal pregnancy is not a disease and does not need to be medically managed. We wanted to have control over the parts of the birth process you can have control over, like avoiding routine interventions, knowing all the attendants, being comfortable in our surroundings, and making choices ourselves rather than having doctors or nurses make choices for us. On top of that, I was radically and irrationally afraid of being admitted to the hospital. I haven’t been to a hospital in the last 15 years or so without becoming lightheaded – and that was just when I visited others!

The preparations:

Find a midwife.

Take Bradley class.

Take many a supplement.

Buy lots of plastic sheeting and cheapo towels and set up birthing tub (sans water, of course).

Prenatal care and due dateapalooza:

After we had found a midwife and decided on the home birth, I saw both her and a midwife at Kaiser for prenatal appointments. Generally speaking, the appointments at Kaiser were awful (low iron! too much weight gain! scary big baby stories!) and the appointments with The Good Midwife (TGM) were great. I was low-risk, happy, healthy, and progressing normally. From the get-go, I had two different due dates: June 17th from Kaiser and June 19th from TGM. Then, Kaiser did the 2nd trimester ultrasound, and on the print-out it said that my due date was June 23rd.

Forward to week 35 of my pregnancy, when the baby dropped (I carried my belly between my knees all of a sudden), and TGM told me that first babies usually arrive four weeks after they drop. So now I considered my “due date” to be between June 12th and June 23rd.


I didn’t have a baby on June 12th. Nor on the 13th, the 14th, or even on the 23rd. TGM went to a conference in Canada (leaving me in the capable hands of a very sweet stand-in). She was due back on July 1st, which was also my “due date + 8” (first time moms on average deliver 8 days past their due date) from June 23rd. I dealt with some crampiness and mucousiness while she was gone, but I had decided that I would have the baby on July 1st (because at that point I had STILL not gotten it into my blonde head that this was NOT UP TO ME). Starting on Thursday (June 26th), the crampiness progressed into nightly occurrences of pre-labor (or false labor), which was exciting, but robbed both me and The Husband of sleep. And… it didn’t progress into anything serious at all.

I didn’t have a baby on July 1st. Nor on July 2nd. I was getting a little desperate. Okay. A lot desperate.

Finally! Labor! Wooohooo!

Thursday night, July 3rd, I could tell my contractions were different. The Husband and I decided that FINALLY! I was in labor, and called TGM to giver her a heads-up. I took the birthday cake out of the freezer. In between my contractions we talked about how our baby had just waited so he could have parades and fireworks for his birthday every year. Needless to say, we were excited. Of course, being obedient Bradley students, we went to sleep. That is, The Husband went to sleep. I realized that real contractions are a heck of a lot more painful lying in bed that in pretty much any other position, so I walked around and dropped to my knees a lot.

Towards the morning, I felt increasingly annoyed with the contractions and got in the birth tub. This of course slowed the contractions waaaaay down, but I managed to wedge myself in so I could take a floating nap, which was great.

TGM arrived around daybreak. I was only 3 cm dilated and incredibly discouraged. She recommended resting and distracting ourselves during the day and felt sure that my contractions would pick up again at night.

The next night went much like the night before. When TGM arrived at the house early the next morning, I was 3 cm dilated and clearly not in labor. Also ready to jump off a cliff – angry, annoyed, and just way too pregnant to deal with still being pregnant.


That Saturday was a long day. Saturday night was the first night in over a week that went by without so much as a single little cramp from ye olde uterus. Sunday morning, I had a really hard time peeing. By 9am, I couldn’t really pee at all even though I had been drinking water and juice like crazy. I figured that this was just a new nuisance of being extremely pregnant – baby is putting pressure on my bladder (because BOY did I have to go!) and simultaneously sitting on the exit. It wasn’t until I dissolved into tears trying to pee at church around 11am that it dawned on me that something was not right (I’m real bright sometimes, what can I say!). We went home. I called TGM who phone diagnosed me with a UTI (a diagnosis that proved accurate though I shrugged it off as preposterous because it didn’t feel like a UTI) and sent me to urgent care.

Of course, when we got to the Kaiser hospital, we were re-routed from urgent care to labor and delivery.

I was asked to pee in a cup (HAHAHA!) and actually managed to squeeze out a few drops. I had to exchange my clothes for the breezy gown and was hooked up to a fetal monitor. A surly midwife scolded me for not having come in for a biophysical profile at 41 weeks. And this, my dears, is when I found out that Kaiser only adjusts the due date based on the 2nd trimester ultrasound if it is more than two weeks different from the due date based on LMP (which I think is sound medically – I just wish I had asked that question back in January!). In other words, June 23rd had never actually been my due date, which now put me at almost 43 weeks pregnant. I felt like a giant fool. But not for long, because of the commotion – baby’s heart rate dropped! Dramatically! To the 50s! Nurses rushed into the room, The Husband was pushed out of the way, and an oxygen mask was pressed on my face. As soon as the monitor had been adjusted, baby’s heart rate was fine again, but this “random decel” turned into another Big Deal, though I am convinced that it only happened because the monitor moved on my giant belly.

An ultrasound determined that I had next to no amniotic fluid left (not good) and an exam revealed that my bag of waters had ruptured – unbeknownst to me. It had quite possibly (and likely) been ruptured for three or four days (really not good).

So here I was – with premature rupture of membranes, too little amniotic fluid, a “random decel” of baby’s heart rate, a UTI, and 2 weeks 5 days past my due date. Oh, and without any contractions. We agreed to induction, happy that they were offering it rather than arguing for a c-section right away.

Intervention carnival:

Before I knew it, I had an IV with fluids and antibiotics. My bladder was catheterized (oh, sweet relief!), fetal monitoring was done internally (sorry baby!), and I got an infusion of amniotic fluid. Once everything was situated, they hooked me up to Pitocin.

Fast-forward about 12 hours. I was stalled at 7 cm but felt veeeery pushy with each contraction. Baby’s head was tilted (not good) and his heart rate continued to have “random decels” (Pitocin side effect). TGM had come to the hospital to support us, and at this point, she recommended I get an epidural to give me the chance to continue dilating without having to try not to push, to relax me so that perhaps baby’s head would move into a more favorable position, and to allow me to get some rest. I went for it, and it really helped. I dilated to 9 cm while I took a little nap. Baby’s head turned. I got a second wind. But… I had to keep the oxygen mask on at all times to prevent baby’s heart rate from dropping (and take slow, deep breaths). Baby had turned posterior (no wonder – I had to labor on my back!) and I stalled at 9 cm with my cervix stuck between baby’s head and my pubic bone.

We decided that at that point, a c-section would be the best option to get the baby out safely.

Noah was born at 10:15am on Monday, July 7th. He was covered in meconium, but had APGARs of 8 and 9. His daddy fought the nurses for skin to skin contact while they were cleaning and suctioning him and then stayed with Noah until they had sewn me back up. I was able to hold and even nurse Noah in recovery – before I could even wiggle my toes (or actually really feel my boobs).

The aftermath

Healing from a c-section is no picnic. Getting into and out of bed was nearly impossible for the first few days – even in the hospital. At 16 days post-surgery, I still cannot carry Noah and the diaper bag at the same time. I don’t stand a chance lifting the stroller into or out of the trunk of the car. Sneezing, coughing, and blowing my nose are extremely painful – I feel as though those things rip me apart at my incision.

Healing emotionally

I’m actually doing pretty well emotionally. I certainly have learned a lot.

One of the reasons why I chose a home birth was my fear of hospitals. I didn’t want to have to assert myself and to fight for the natural birth I wanted. In many ways, home birth was the path of least resistance for me. Not only did the hospital turn out to be very accommodating of all of my special little requests, but I never felt judged for my decisions (like refusing the eye treatment and Hep B vaccine for Noah). My wishes were actually respected (I told the first nurse I did not want pain medication offered to me and nobody ever mentioned it after that.)! I felt well taken care of the entire time I was in the hospital, and I realized how strong I was. I was able to get what I wanted without having to drop-kick anybody (or even arguing for it).

I know that I did everything I could to have a natural delivery. I feel that all interventions were medically necessary. Sure, the Pitocin led to the random decels in baby’s heart rate which ultimately led to the c-section, but I did need the Pit to get me to go into labor. The stalling at 9cm and baby’s poor position could have been avoided (or remedied) had I been able to move around while in labor, but again – with the issues I came in with, laboring on the bed was my only option.

And so I learned that the hospital is not an evil place (though choose your hospital wisely if you’re planning to birth there), that I am stronger than I thought (I sort of want to cross-stitch “12 hours on pit with not pain meds” into a pillow), and that even though it can sometimes appear as though they are, medical professionals are NOT the enemy (but… do your research! I’m always amazed at people making decisions based on little to no background info. One of the nurses actually asked me if I was a nurse because of how much I knew about labor and birth.).

And to end the longest birth story ever told (which is fitting since it felt like the longest pregnancy known to womankind), here are some photos:

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Girlwithgreencard is the pseudonym of Sonja. She is a retired elementary school teacher and new SAHM living the high life of smog, terrible traffic, and crazy hot summers in Southern California. She has a green card because she came to the States from Germany eight years ago to get married to this guy she fell madly in love with. Sonja likes the smell of rain and her baby’s blissed-out smile when he comes off her boob. She very much dislikes crumply sheets and people talking on cell phones in public restrooms.

Sonja chronicles her daily life at Girl with Greencard and shows off her crafting endeavors at Girl with Fabric.

Home birth is a choice that the AMA wants to outlaw



Whether or not you’ve had a home birth or would choose one for yourself in the future, I think most women would agree that they should have the right to choose where they give birth. Just as every woman is unique, every baby is unique and every birth experience is unique. What works best for one woman will not work best for the next. Some women feel the most comfortable giving birth in a hospital with an OB. Some feel comfortable birthing with a family practitioner or midwife in a birthing center. Others feel comfortable birthing with a midwife at home. All of these are options are safe choices, so why is the American Medical Association (AMA) trying to outlaw home birth?

Are they scared that Ricki Lake is raising awareness that women have options with her movie The Business of Being Born? They specifically cite Ricki’s and other celebrities’ home births in the media. “There has been much attention in the media by celebrities having home deliveries, with recent Today Show headings such as ‘Ricki Lake takes on baby birthing industry: Actress and former talk show host shares her at-home delivery in new film.'” Ricki responds to the AMA here, and, over on the Huffington Post, Ricki, Abby Epstein and Jennifer Block have posted Docs to Women: Pay No Attention to Ricki Lake’s Home Birth. Are they scared that women might question the establishment and demand better care for themselves and their babies? Are they scared that they might (gasp) lose money? Are they scared that women might take back birth?

I’ve done a lot of research over the past few years regarding home birth and, of course, came to the conclusion that it was a good choice for me and my family. I’ve also written extensively about my research regarding home birth and my own home birth story as well. I would never say that it is the right choice for every woman, but it do believe it’s a woman’s right to know what her options are, do her research and decide what is best for her and her baby. I do not believe it is the AMA’s right or the ACOG’s (American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists) right to tell a woman where she has to give birth. As Steff Hedenkamp from The Big Push for Midwives states, “a law dictating where a woman must give birth would be a clear violation of fundamental rights to privacy and other freedoms currently protected by the U.S. Constitution.”

So what now? What can we as women, or men who support women’s right to choose, do? You can sign the Keep Home Birth Legal petition and I also encourage you to spread the word about this. Feel free to grab the button (which links back to this post) and put it in your sidebar or blog about this on your own blog. Get the word out there that the AMA is trying to take away our rights. Home birth is a choice. Let’s keep it that way.

I’ve been trying to get the code for the ‘Home birth is a choice’ button to work, but to no avail. If you’d like to add the button to your sidebar please email me – amygeekgrl AT gmail DOT com – and I’ll send it to you directly.

And if you feel like a debate today, check out the lively discussion on this topic going on over at BlogHer.

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