Saturday, February 20, 2010

Email to State Senator on SB 6517 (Promoting Early Learning)

The text of SB 6517 states one of its goals is:
"to develop a comprehensive birth-to-three plan to provider education and support through a continuum of options."

Early learning options was a strong theme in my Early Childhood Education Master's program. That was the height of the universal preschool push in California and across the nation. The bill I referenced above is Washington's effort in that direction, though not being billed as universal preschool). Here is the letter I sent to my local representative:
The options referred to throughout the bill imply that all options pertain to non-parental/custodial care arrangements, which neglects the percentage of Washington children who are cared for by one of their parents who are not in the work-force. To truly support all options when it comes to promoting learning of young children, provisions must be included to provide at home parents learning resources and programs that do not remove their children from their care.

In the first year of life, this is especially important given the significance of breastfeeding on child's health. Mothers who return to the workforce soon after the birth of a child are significantly less likely to breastfeed, and wean earlier even when pumping milk for their child. In turn, health care costs for formula fed babies are increased. Many mothers, if there were able to choose to stay home with their baby, would. The state can make at home parenting a viable option for more families by granting the same funding to at home parents as they to do child care providers. This completes the continuum of care options and provides young children with the biological care that is suited to their needs. The state of Minnesota has piloted programs granting funds to at home parents. Even better known is the funds given to at home parents by European nations like Sweden and France.

The state of Hawaii offers a model in a program called Tutu and Me, also called a Family Child Learning Interaction Program. In this program, the state funds early learning classrooms where parents stay with their children and participate in early learning activities facilitated by a skilled ECE professional. The professional models learning activities across the learning domains that at home parents can replicate with their children. Parents also receive a positive model for child guidance and discipline. A sense of community between families is also fostered. This program provides an opportunity for family life and parenting skills education in an hands-on setting, thereby strengthening family functioning and in turn communities. The Tutu and Me program is also a setting for exempt providers (family, friend and neighbor care providers) to learn early learning activities and effective child guidance strategies.

I would like to see provisions for at home parents be included in this bill to promote early learning. There are many economic and social benefits that can be derived from showing equal support to at home parents who care for their children by staying out of the workforce. By providing early learning options for at home parents, parents are given greater freedom of choice in care appropriate care settings for their children, rather than being obliged to place their child in non-custodial care in order to financially support their children.

As a stay at home mother, early learning educator and researcher, I can provide a strong case for the many reasons why this idea would be beneficial fiscally for our state.
Jenne Alderks, M.Ed.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Applying the MCFI to virtual maternity care

I'm finishing a project where I analyze whether maternity care providers provide mother friendly care based off the Coalition for Improving Maternity Services Mother Friendly Childbirth Initiative so this technique for analyzing birth care is at the front of my thoughts still. So when I came across this segment of RoboMom, I could not help by apply the MCFI steps to what I observed.

Based on the segment, these are the steps that I see were broken:

Step 1 A, B & C: Husband, family members, doula and midwife were not present.
Step 4: Freedom of Position was not encouraged or allowed.
Step 6A: IV and Electronic Fetal Monitoring were used; both procedures which are not supported by research.
Step 8: Baby was not given directly to mother for skin to skin contact, bonding and breastfeeding. Baby was unnecessarily moved across the room for newborn exam.

Also referring to the preamble of the MCFI which contains something like The Birthing Woman's Bill of Rights, it appears that the birthing woman's preferences were not respected because the "voice" for her did not grant assent to her leg being supported in the human stirrup.

It is unknown from the segment whether the birth was medicated or not and if it was the case that mother felt encouraged by hospital staff to accept pain medication, Step 7 was also broken. Also unknown was whether this labor was augmented or induced by Pitocin which would have been breaking Step 6B.

Good news, an episiotomy was not performed. And it appears that the mother was allowed to push when she felt the urge and was not coached (strongly) by the providers present.

Lastly, and this may not a fair critique since who knows how lifelike this robot is, the doctor should not pull on the baby or placenta while they are being delivered. Such practices have a strong likelihood for doing more harm than good including increasing the likelihood of hemorrhage, retained placenta, perineal tears and physical trauma to the infant. If this were a real situation and the doctor did that, it could also be coded as negatively abiding by Step 6.

This is a project that I would really like to do using footage from TLC's Baby Story. If you think this sounds like fun, let me know. I don't have access to TLC or full episodes, so if you have recorded episodes or know if you can by seasons online, tell me.

I even have the spreadsheet to quickly code for each principle and step for the MCFI on hand!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

MIA for a bit

I was really enjoying keeping my New Year's Resolution about regularly posting on my blog. I had even been doing really well with it! But I'm needing to take a break because I've got something even more fun to do with the birth world!

Next week, at the CIMS Forum in Austin, Texas, my colleague Nasima Pfaffl will be giving a presentation on The Birth Survey entitled "Thanks for Listening to Me: Trends and Patterns in the Result of The Birth Survey." I won't be attending but I'm assisting with the data analysis of the free text comments from the survey. It is in the comments where women are able to share some of the most valuable information regarding their provider's maternity care services.

Its a huge project with a tight deadline. I'm getting really creative about finding time in my day to work on it, and expecting some very short nights of sleep while I work on it.

In addition to analyzing and coding approximately 5000 free text comments, I'm also going to be putting together a proposal for the ACNM conference.

Its a lot of work in a short period! And as a reward, I'll go on a blogging spree by clearing out my drafts folder and then enjoy a couples massage for a date night with my husband (Valentine's Day has been rescheduled in our house!)

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Belle's First Step

was tonight!

We were playing on the living room floor when she stood up in front of me. The next thing I knew, she leaned towards me, took a step and grabbed onto my arm.

She has, previously, stepped towards me while lightly holding onto fingers. She was completely bearing her own weight when doing it, but using me for balance and perhaps reassurance.

And then tonight, she ventured a try without holding on.

Yay Belle! You may walk before your brother walked, after all. (Willem walked at 8 months 3 weeks).

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Kicking Off National Marriage Week

The week of February 7th through the 14th is known as National Marriage Week, an initiative to raise awareness on the potential benefits of marriage on families, individuals and communities.

The United States is not the only country to celebrate Marriage Week; Ireland, the UK, Germany, Australia and the Czech Republic also celebrate it.

An article was posted on entitled "Why You Should Care About Marriage In America." The article provides an excellent summary on the research that shows clearly the societal benefits of marriage.
[M]arriage is the best way to overcome poverty, and it is proven as the best circumstance for raising children. Research overwhelmingly shows that lack of marriage or divorce impoverishes women and children. In addition, boys reared apart from their father are twice as more likely to spend time in prison by age 32 as those who were raised in a married home headed by their own mother and father. Teenage girls who are raised by their own father are much more likely to resist the advances of boys or young men who do not have their best interests at heart. In fact, 35 percent of adolescent girls whose father left before the age of six became pregnant, compared to just 5 percent of girls who were raised by their mother and father. Research also overwhelmingly makes the case that married folks live longer, enjoy better health, greater personal happiness, more well adjusted children, and greater financial stability. (All research references can be found at

Feminists are quick to recognize the high percentage of women and children in poverty yet not as quick to recognize that a leading protection is marriage. It may be unpopular to say that women need men and marriage, in light of the traditional effects of patriarchy. Yet, many marriages are found on the ideal of equality with egalitarian sharing of duties and men respecting women for their capabilities as professionals, wives and mothers. Men and women can learn the skills needed to show the respect that each deserves while maintaining feminist ideals, and build a relationship of lasting happiness.

Additionally, "In April 2008, economists reported that it costs U.S. taxpayers a whopping $112 billion a year for divorce and unwed childbearing."

The public health implications of this are persuasive. Many of the human service dollars that go to juvenile and adult corrections, unwed pregnancy, even health care costs can be saved if more children are born and raised in households with married parents.

For years I have wanted to be involved in some grand National Marriage Week effort but have not found or had the means myself to establish a local group. But I can start small, with my marriage.

Each day this week, I'm planning to leave notes for my husband describing how much I love and value him. I'm recommitting to our nighttime routine of praying together and kissing each other good night.

I feel lucky that our half anniversary is two days before Valentine's Day and each year we celebrate the whole weekend as our Anniversary Weekend. With National Marriage Week, we can celebrate the whole week.

What can you do to strengthen your marriage this week? Do you know of any events focusing on marriage happening in your community?

One thing you can do to promote stronger, happier marriage is by posting about National Marriage Week on your blog. Here's a banner you can post:

Dry Days!

In Elimination Communication, a one diaper day is not quite the Holy Grail but its pretty special, especially the first one.

Friday we had a first one diaper day where Belle's diaper stayed dry all day long and all pees went into the potty. It wasn't entirely a miss-free day however because out of nowhere, she pooped on the floor. It was just that one though. So a one miss day is even special enough to celebrate. To make even a little more noteworthy, this dry day happened on a day where we took a road trip.

Then yesterday, in spite of a busy day with Willem's birthday party, we had an entirely miss-free, one diaper day! All pees and poops went into the potty.

I had been thinking recently that we were probably far off from a one diaper day and wishing that we were closer, and then, surprise! We did it!

At 8 months old, Belle has done all eliminations in a day into the potty!

Birth Activism Opportunity!

The Birth Survey postcards are an effective way of getting the word out about the survey. Our ambassadors carry them around in their purses and diaper bags and post one, a packet or stack of postcards when at a coffee shop, grocery store, or wherever they see a community board. The idea to keep in mind is: leave the postcards where new mothers and mothers of young children frequently visit.

We can get these postcards posted all over the country so more moms can learn about The Birth Survey.

With many of us receiving tax returns this year, this may be a special way to use a portion of it to support our goals as ambassadors of The Birth Survey and birth advocates!

One way we can do pay for printing the postcards is to get together as small groups and purchase large quantities of these postcards thereby splitting the cost and getting deeper discounts per piece.

The cost of 10,000 postcards is $305.

I don't know about you, but it would be very difficult for an individual to afford that price tag or to distribute that many cards!

If two people split the cost, each pays $155 and receives 5,000 cards.

Three people: $100, receiving 3,333

Four: $76, receiving 2,500

Five: $61, receiving 2,000

Six: $51, receiving 1,666

This can also be done with bulk order of 20,000 with the complete order costing $580.

Please respond in the comments by Feb. 24, if you are interested in sharing this cost and receiving a set of postcards to outreach into your community. The pricing I quoted is good until then with a discount code.

It would be even better to get a few of these small groups going!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Just responded to a CEO

Amy Romano at Science and Sensibility pointed me in the direction of a blog post written by the CEO of the hospital where a C-section was televised on the Today show, earlier this week.

Here's the clip of the video:

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Amy's response turned post and a link to CEO Paul Levy's blog

In response to Amy's post and others written by members of the birth community, Levy responded:

I understand many of the points that people have raised here regarding the rate of c-sections. That will be addressed over time.

But I have to admit to some concern that people here and at Amy's site are making judgments about this particular patient and her physician's advice. That, in my mind, is just not right. You cannot know all of the details involved in this case, and it is simply wrong to raise doubts like that about it.

Perhaps you think that the patient's decision to have the procedure on TV gives you the right to comment on her medical choices, but I would ask you to display some kindness and to consider the possible effects of your comments on the family.

My response:
At no point has a poster disparaged the mother who participated in the TV segment for her medical choices. The critiques have been directed to the woman's primary obstetrician and the one who performed the surgery (be they the same person or not). There was no indication in the segment that this was a maternal request c-section.

In all likelihood, the c-section that America saw was strongly recommended by the woman's OB who cited such misinformation like suspected macrosomia as an indication for cesarean, which it is not.

If one is to maintain that a woman's choices are being disparaged, then the only criticism that she can receive is that she trusted her doctor.

He still continues to maintain that posters comments and their "values and judgments about this topic could be interpreted as being critical of this specific doctor-patient decision."

On that he's right. I am critical of this specific doctor-patient decision, but not, like he is asserting, critical of the mother's decision. He seems to be equating the doctor patient relationship to the patient herself--like the patient assumes all responsibility for the unethical practices of her provider.

I think I feel a CODE MEC! coming on...

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

LDS Birth Insights

Its late, but they are still accepting submissions. Posted from Rixa's blog: Stand and Deliver
If you are LDS and have stories/insights to share about your pregnancy, birth, or postpartum experiences, please contact Felice Austin at The Gift of Giving Life. She's writing a book "to encourage women of [the LDS] faith to make conscious choices about pregnancy, birth, and beyond." I'm honored to be collaborating with her on this project. Your stories can be long or short and can cover a range of topics. Please send in your stories soon; she'd like to receive all stories by the end of January.

I am still preparing an essay to submit, adapted from my recent post "What Birth Means to Me". Oh the pressure of polishing a piece of writing! I may blog, but I'm not a writer. I may put together a good research paper but creative writing is a whole 'nother realm.

The Birth Survey Featured in The Nation

On January 14, the magazine, The Nation, featured The Birth Survey in its article, "Ten Things You Can Do to Improve Your Healthcare." The fifth tip states the following:
"If you are pregnant or looking for an obstetrician, keep in mind that the US rate of C-sections is more than double what the World Health Organization considers acceptable. You should not have this major surgery--with all its risks--simply for the sake of convenience. Read more at"

I wouldn't say that advocating against unnecessary C-sections is the main thrust of The Birth Survey, but its great publicity to be included in a top ten list regarding health care.

Have you seen other mentions of The Birth Survey in media? Please let me know if you do!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Muscle Testing: Have you tried it?

A friend from an online forum recently told me about muscle testing. It was described as a way to "help us tap into what our bodies can tell us about what might be standing in the way of our goals."

Basically you stand with your weight balanced on your feet (you can do it in shoes but not heels). It may be helpful to close your eyes and somewhat zone out--so you're not paying attention to anything around you. Then say the following script inserting your goal in the blanks. You can do it out loud or in your head, so long as you make a clear statement.

The script:
I am free to demonstrate life through truth and love, which supports my divine blueprint.
I am ready, willing, and able. I am safe. I am worthy. I am supported by others. It is healing for others. I have time. I have energy.
Then we applied it to our goal as follows:
I am free to ______ [meditate every day]
I am ready to _____ [meditate every day]
I am willing to ______[etc]
I am able to ______
I am safe to ______
I am worthy to _____
I am supported by others to ______
It is healing for others for me to ______
I have time to ______
I have energy to _______

If your body says 'yes' you'll get a forward motion--usually you'll find that your weight is on your toes, or sometimes your knees go forward.

If it's 'no' then you'll get a backward motion--weight on your heels etc.

Let me know if you try it. I want to hear your experiences.

Review of Food Inc.

Today as a family we watched the documentary Food, Inc. In part because we wanted to have a visual representation for Willem to see of where our food comes from and also because its a topic that my husband and I are interested in. If you ask him, my husband would likely say that he doesn't have time to make the changes in our habits, being a PhD student and father to two young ones. Lucky for him, he has me who uses quiet time to learn about ways we can be more respectful of the world in which we live.

Pleasantly, I found that Food, Inc. is available to watch instantly on Netflix so we were able to add it to our list last night and watch it today.

If you don't know what Food, Inc is about yet, here is the official trailer to view:

The documentary followed some of the main themes of Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma rather closely: the overabundance of corn in our industry and its applied uses, and the feedlot method of meat, egg and dairy production while emphasizing food safety and health concerns for the general American population. Joel Salatin, a beyond organic farmer in Virginia, is feature prominently here just as in Omnivore's Dilemma. Here he provides commentary on the "So What?" of the food industry's ways as well as demonstrating the alternatives to commercial food production.

Interestingly, Willem was not disturbed by Salatin's open air chicken butchering operation while he was very disturbed at the methods employed in slaughtering hogs. I often wonder if he will choose to be a vegetarian.

The main critique I will offer on this documentary is that it does not address the area of produce production. It mentions briefly how fruits and vegetables are picked before ripeness and then gassed before appearing on supermarket shelves, but fails to revisit or discuss the issue any further. Conspicuously, produce remains on the periphery, without discussing The Dirty Dozen, soil science and organic farming. Also missing is emphasis on buying local.

Yet, the website of the documentary makes up for this with links to:
  • The Eat Well Guide which allows consumers to search by their location for local, sustainable food options. We are lucky living in Seattle to be surrounded by options such as these. Many of which I'm just beginning to discover.
  • A reading list with titles such as The Omnivore's Dilemma, An Eater's Manifesto, Fast Food Nation and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle (which is next on my reading list on this topic).
  • Activism opportunities as well as suggestions for "voting with your money." Surprising to me is the filmmakers involvement with the organization MomsRising! in lobbying for healthier food options in public schools through the USFA food programs.

This has been a topic that I've been learning about for awhile and like with attachment parenting practices, I find that it is a process where one doesn't, in a day, become all or nothing into it. This is a topic that I've become much more aware of and really began learning about when I was about to introduce solids foods to Willem. At the time, we could not afford organic produce and honestly for awhile I wasn't convinced on the importance of it.

Over time, I've started paying more attention to food labels and where things are coming from.

Last year I found a bread maker that gives me options without high fructose corn syrup made local to me. I'm still working on bagels but right now I'm content enough with the brand I'm getting that doesn't use high fructose corn syrup like all the other brands available at my local grocery stores.

Tonight, I made my first order for home delivery organic produce . Its a shock to learn that you can get sustainable, mainly locally grown produce delivered to your home for less than you can buy at the grocery store.

Soon, we will be getting involved with a local pick-up for fresh milk from a dairy nearby. Basically, I'm waiting to use the last half gallon of milk in our refrigerator.

An upcoming project for me is to learn about container gardening. I have a goal for the next growing year to grow my own tomatoes and basil for caprese salad, strawberries and rosemary. We haven't been able to do this in the past because each year we've left our home during the growing season. There's a change that will happen again, so possibly this gardening effort will happen at my mom's house instead of at mine.

We have a long way to go on this but little at a time, I'm incorporating changes into my family's consumption. Happily, this is one area that my husband is pleased to go along with, unlike other crunchy behaviors. We'll save that for another post, though.

In large part, this topic is important and becoming increasingly more so as we are beginning to teach our three year old about responsibility to the earth and healthy choices. At each meal, we pray for our food to be blessed and I have often felt awful for wanting to pray to be protected from the hidden dangers in the food we are eating. As in the Native American tradition, I'm teaching Willem to be thankful to the plants and animals we eat and not just to the Creator who put them on earth for our consumption. Its wonderful to be married to a biologist who is teaching our child about life cycles, and the food web, as well as the concept of stewardship, responsibility and gratitude.