Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Wild and Crazy Ideas

One thing I love about being a mother is the multitude of opportunities I have for creative thought. Often when I am doing something routine and ordinary (dishes, cooking, driving, laundry, cleaning), I keep my mind busy with thoughts on social issues, education, public policy, philanthrophy, women's issues: the topics that I am passionate about and discuss frequently in my blogging. From these thoughts, I've come up with many ideas over the years--some bigger than others. Some of them impact a relative few (like Birthing in Zion) and others have the potential to impact millions. Some I possess the skills and education in order to make them happen but most would require me to have effective collaborating and networking skills to find the people who are trained in that area. And sometimes, I really just fly by the seat of my pants and figure it out as I go along (like the book I'm working on...)

Here is a sampling of ideas that I've had over the last couple of years:

  • In 2007: a birth trauma organization for the United States which offers a online discussion board for women who needed understanding support while facing PTSD/PTS. Its name? Solace for Mothers, in collaboration with Jennifer Zimmerman and Sharon Storton. 
  • Also in 2007: a consumer survey for maternity care providers. I was thinking it could be called The Birth Survey. This one actually already existed so I got involved for the launch in 2008 and I am now the Co-Chair of the Committee that oversees it.
  • In 2008, a political party with a platform of family and worker friendly public policies that prioritized investing in Americans. I figure I would call it The Family Party. This is probably one of the biggest ideas that I know next to nothing about. I'm pretty well versed in family policy but founding a political party? That's a little outside the scope of my training... 
  • Also in 2008: a research institute run by parents asking questions that parents care deeply to know the answers to. Studies would be conducted by parents who do have the skills to conduct research studies, the IRB would be staffed by parents trained in research ethics. Parents with questions propose the studies. Parents conduct the studies. Families participate in the studies (with parental consent after ethics review). It would be volunteer run and skills like publishing, marketing, graphic design would be needed. I love the idea, but I don't see it happening any time soon...
  • Another from 2008: become a children's book author. I have 4-5 children's books in various stages, some just concepts and others almost completely written and ready to submit. I've pursued finding out how to publish but it seems like a tough field to crack. 
  • And another from 2008: a homebirth friendly TV hosted on HGTV. That's when they were running their ad campaign called "Start at Home." When I heard that, I thought of homebirth is quite literally starting life at home. I outlined my concept and started an online petition here on my blog. This one still might happen, maybe not on HGTV, but I'm still scheming. Don't you worry. 
  • 2008 was evidently a fruitful year because this is also when I thought of The Birth Trauma Memorial. This idea has continued to be shaped over the years. My ideal is to plant a weeping willow tree and place a granite monument nearby remembering and honoring the millions of women who have been traumatized by their birth experiences and offer a place of recognition, hope and healing for us. In conjunction with the planting of the tree, I would like to host a conference on the topic of birth trauma and PTSD/PTS after childbirth, what we know can reduce the chances of it occurring, and information regarding effecting healing modalities as well as effective strategies to influence provider practices that contribute to antepartum trauma. 
  • 2009: get a PhD. I did apply for PhD programs but did not get into any due to not being able to find a good fit with an advisor in programs local to me. As time has gone on, I've realized that I don't feel the need for a PhD like I did a couple of years ago. Instead in 2010, I enrolled in midwifery school. 
  • Also 2009: create a community action group among the women of my church congregation. That didn't happen due to lack of interest (evidently radical LDS women are hard to find in small geographical regions...) But an opportunity did present itself in 2010 with the establishment of WAVE. I joined with the women there and become the Women's Service Mission Director where I have been focusing on social issues and demonstrable action that can address the issues.  
  • Nothing much in 2010, as I can recall. It was a busy year on its own. 
  • Early 2011, I had the idea for Birthing in Zion, the directory of LDS midwives and birth professionals. That launched a few weeks ago and already we have birth workers in 13 states in the US and more coming in every few days. 
  • Summer 2011, I had been thinking on ways that we could meet the needs of the most needy Americans in a political climate where the focus was (and still is) any other than the American people. I thought of a federal level effort to address the needs of the American people using private donations. I wrote it about it here on my blog, but have done nothing (as of yet) to pursue it. 
  • In August 2011, you'll remember my big idea to start a new business: a play and learn community center called "It Takes A Village" where facilitated playgroups, infant, toddler and preschool enrichment classes would be offered along side informational classes on parenting topics, with community services like in house lactation consultants and doulas. I may someday do this still but the surprise pregnancy made it bad timing and I can tell that some percolating is still needed for all the pieces to fall into place. 
  • A recent one: a new genre of ballet where the choreography teaches about biological processes. A ballet depicting the movements of the Solar System through dance and music, or another on the chemical properties of the periodic elements, or the shifting land masses through time and even today. I would love to be able to show this type of ballet to my children. I dream of a day when various movements would be available on youtube to show and discuss with my children. This one: definitely no expertise on my part. Just the interest of a one time dancer, lover of music, early childhood educator and homeschooling parent. 
  • Another recent one: Occupy Youtube. A grassroots campaign of Occupy Wall Street and I am the 99% supporters who record their reasons for supporting the efforts and post videos on youtube. I've been hearing from many supporters who do not feel that they can attend the rallies but do support the cause and share frustrations with occupiers. Recording, compiling and and then broadcasting the videos at the rallies would show that supporters are not just the people there on the streets, but are at home or at work. Occupiers would also see that the people they are representing agree and support them. I don't think I have the network for this, but I might just have the gusto to contact the people who might. 

So there you are. I come up with big ideas and sometimes I can do something about them, and sometimes I can't. And maybe on some, I just haven't learned what I need to yet to be able to accomplishment and I might in the future. Who knows?

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Sale at Signing Time this weekend

It's Rachel Coleman's birthday!! Be sure to wish her a happy birthday on her facebook page. To celebrate, Signing Time is having a birthday sale. 25% off everything, today and tomorrow only. Promo code: rachelbday

To access the store, click on "Store" on the menubar at the top.

Also, digital downloads of the videos are now available. Visit this link and click on "Get a Free Signing Time Video" to download the player and download as many videos as you want. They can be saved on up to 5 mobile devices!

Don't forget to use the 25% off promo code!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

What has she been up to?

Its been a busy few months and I have neglected to do anything beyond posting a facebook update about the going-ons. If you've been following my facebook page, little of this will be new to you, but if not, be prepared for some surprises.


I was introduced to essential oils and found a wonderful community of women belonging to my church who are embracing the role of woman healer. The oils were instrumental in helping me treat a very stubborn and confusing illness going on with Belle and have become our go to form of treatment since then. In order to get the wholsesale prices, I signed up as a consultant and continue to get one or two oils sent to me every month. I haven't done much with the marketing to earn income, but who knows maybe that will change. If you are interested in getting the wholesale prices as well, let me know and I can help you get signed up.


In July, I learned more about one of my favorite companies. Both of children have loved Signing Time so the last few holidays, I've been collecting the Signing Time videos for them. When I found out about Signing Time Academy, my children were actually very excited to think of me as a signing time teacher and they loved getting the new signing time videos. The prices for instructors are really amazing compared to retail. One of the newest exciting things that is coming out of Signing Time is that they will be releasing digital copies of the videos to put on iPad, iPhone and other mobile devices. The instructor rate is awesome and Willem is so excited. I haven't been able to coordinate a class yet but I'm working on it. I think I'll be starting from my home, and then try the local community centers. Check out my Instructor page by clicking on the Signing Time Academy logo on the right sidebar and watch some free samples of the shows!

In July, we took a family tour of South Lake Union in Seattle on a paddle-wheel cruise ship. Here's me and my not so babies anymore.


In August, I had a big brainstorm that would put all my passions into one endeavor. All it required was $30,000, a full time commitment and becoming a business owner. I spent a good amount of time trying to figure out if I could make it happen. The idea was that I would create a play and learning center in my town where parents of infants to primary aged homeschoolers could come to share learning activities. They would have access to a complete learning environment and a trained facilitator to assist them in finding activities in line with their goals and current interests. In addition to the playspace, parents would be able to connect with one another and learn from the variety of classes, workshops and seminars that would be regularly offered. Connections would be made during playgroups and families would gain support networks among other families in the community. A quiet room for breastfeeding and consultations with doulas and lactation consultants would be available. A small boutique would sell the essentials of attachment parenting. I was going to call it "It Takes a Village" and it would be awesome. I'd have a space to teach my Signing Time classes, be able to facilitate the Play and Learn groups I fell in love with during my graduate program and be a happening cool spot for parents in the community.

And then...

On my 7th anniversary, I found out I am pregnant with our third baby.

This was a complete surprise. We're talking highly unlikely for dates. It was so unlikely that my midwife commented on it. I've heard that sperm can live up to 6 days within a woman's reproductive tract, but our case would  have been 7 days. With my pelvis and joint concerns, we are excited but also rather concerned as well. I'm redoubling my efforts to address those concerns so it can be a healthy, as comfortable as possible pregnancy.

In September, Belle and I saw Rachel Coleman live in concert. She is the creator and personality of Signing Time.


Also just before I found out I was pregnant, I put in an application for a scholarship to become trained as a birth doula. I had this feeling that I was ready to take my birth training to the next level and that meant contacting my midwife who told me that when I was ready I could tag along to a birth with her and doing the birth doula training. Unfortunately it didn't work out with my midwife, but two other midwives are keeping me in mind. I also ended up getting the scholarship for the birth doula training, so in September, I spent 4 days getting trained by Penny Simkin and Teri Shilling at the Simkin Center for Allied Birth Vocations.

After the training, one of the local birth doula collectives offered me a spot to cover the northern part of the region and I became a Doulaville Doula! Its great to be apart of a community of doulas from the beginning. Its like I have built in mentors.

At this point, I'm hoping to attend the three births required for certification before the new baby is born. I don't know how realistic that is, but I have until March/April. If you know of a pregnant mama expecting in the North Puget Sound who is in need of a very affordable doula, please send her my way!


So far this month, I finally followed through with my post Midwifery As a Calling.

Birthing in Zion: The LDS Midwife, Doula and Birth Professional Directory is now a reality! A companion Facebook community has been made to go along with it. You can "like" LDS Midwives, Doulas and Birth Professionals on Facebook to keep up to date with an amazing group of faithful, Christian women.

The part of the directory I am most excited about is the opportunity for LDS women to list themselves as volunteer peer support doulas. By doing so, they make themselves available to sister Latter-day Saints in their communities to provide the type of labor support that has been happening informally for centuries. The response has been inspiring and I hope that we can start seeing midwives and doulas listed in each stake (geographical divison) of the church.

In addition to all these things, I'm still busy and involved with my three non-profits.

A project I am working with Solace for Mothers on is Voices of Trauma. We are collecting stories from women who have experienced traumatic childbirth and compiling them into a book focused on causes/predictors of trauma, healing and prevention.

With CIMS, I am now the Grassroots Advocates Committee Co-Chair and I am on the national leadership team. Most of my work recently with them has been putting out the e-CIMS, the organization's quarterly email newsletter. If you aren't yet subscribed, do it! Its always full of great information and opportunities to be an involved birth advocate.

As you can see, I've been busy and will continue to be so in the next few months. The good news is that I'm not starting a business while pregnant! Maybe someday, it'll work out to see that vision realized. Until then, I will continue loving the little naked people who just ran into the backyard, the little one growing inside me, and doing what I can from my home to move forward the goal of woman-centered, mother and baby friendly maternity care throughout the world.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Getting Middle of the Road Political on you

The budget debate is a mess right now. U.S. politicians are facing quite the challenge as they make policy decisions to keep the country going. President Obama's recent speech called all Americans to weigh into the debate and contact their federal representatives. Whatever side you are on, you have the right and ability to influence public policy through your representatives. If you haven't yet, weigh in:

If you are on the conservative side, The Heritage Foundation provides a public petition to Congress.

And on the liberal/progressive side, takes the opposing tack.

Whichever side you find yourself on, you have the opportunity to engage in government in the way a republic is designed. This also provides an opportunity to take a step back, and look at the bigger picture.

One of the central features of the debate in government spending is social services for the poor and the needy. A common argument against government funding for social services is that it is not the government's responsibility to care for charity cases. However, it is less common to hear proposals that would meet the needs of the poor and the needy residing in the United States, without using government funding to do so. And yet, there are petitions encouraging U.S. policymakers to give money to other countries struggling with extreme poverty. If the United States cannot provide for the needs of its own poor, how can it conscionably appropriate funds to relieve poverty of other countries?

For the record, I agree that governments ideally would not use taxpayer money to the care of people in other countries, especially when there are such severe needs in our own country. With the proposed budget cuts, the elderly, children in poverty and the disabled will be without heat this winter, facing exposure and increasing the likelihood of health complications.  At the same time, I recognize the Christian and humanist duty for all people of the world to care for the poor and the needy. Though, the people of the United States may feel the need to prioritize the people of their own communities and country first, the suffering of people in developing countries are equal in value and importance.

Enter limited resources. If the money is not coming from governments, who does it come from?

Peter Singer, in The Life You Can Save, promotes the idea that everyone, especially those blessed with the affluence of the developed world have a percentage of their income to share with those who are in more need than they.  The Live You Can Save has been called the Billionaire's pledge for people of all income groups.

Since I doubt we have any billionaire's reading this blog, the pledge calculator conservatively estimates the percentage of income that a given household can comfortably donate to charitable and humanitarian organizations. Giving What We Can's donation calculator can tell you which percentage of the world is more wealthy than you. Chances are, if you are lower-middle to upper middle class, in a developed country, you are in the 20% percent of the world's wealthiest and your earnings are 4 or more times those of the typical person.

So, the proposal:

Over a period of a few years, the United States governments passes of the responsibility for social services to its citizens through incentivizing freewill donations to private sector non-profit organizations that take over service delivery. A suggestion for organizing and making needs known and accessible to potential donors is to use a website organization much like the one already in use by Global Giving.

The incentive from the government may be in the form of a tax credit or a tax deduction that is exempt from itemizing. A PSA and public education campaign similar to Let's Move, maybe called Let's Give, can be developed and promoted around the country.

While at the same time promoting citizen donations to social services, the proverbial Let's Give campaign can encourage giving to international humanitarian efforts like those recommended by The Life You can Save, Giving What We Can and Global Giving. Singer asserts, "If everyone who can afford to contribute to reducing extreme poverty were to give a modest proportion of their income to effective organizations fighting extreme poverty, the problem could be solved. It wouldn’t take a huge sacrifice." All it requires is the coordinated will, cooperation and some effective marketing.

We have the means available to meet the needs of all those who suffer from poverty, but it will require more people working together. Governments can play a role in the promotion of these values, but the domestic needs of their countries need to be their first priority. Sure, its redistribution of wealth, but this proposal addresses its biggest objection: voluntary giving. A good deal of resentment exists at the compulsory means of collecting funds for social services. If those who object so much were given the ability (and the incentive) to choose for themselves, perhaps we would see the Christian mandate to give of one's wealth accomplished and relief for the poor and the suffering of the world.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Some thoughts on Homebirth Safety

It was from my son's birth experience when I began to learn how often needless interventions are pushed in hospitals. I succeeded in a non-medicated, almost intervention free (AROM at 6 cm) birth in a hospital practice of midwives using Hpnobirthing (TM).  However I did not have supportive and respectful staff and ended up essentially fighting for the right to give birth under my own power without the midwives needlessly intervening. 

From this I learned that they are businesses who want to maximize the money that comes in and they do it by rushing women through by speeding up labor and/or cutting babies out which because it requires more equipment, more staff, more procedures bills more. The whole system is set up not to promote health and safety, but to promote efficiency and billable procedures (which includes NICU admissions).

The more I learn about midwifery, the more I see how homebirth midwives understand a great deal more about the physiology of birth than hospital birth attendants. Birth really does work best when its left alone (in 90%-ish of situations). I've lived based on that stat. There's a 90% chance that everything will be just fine at home, transfer services work for the remaining situations (and I always lived 10 minutes from the hospital I would transfer to). Midwives are trained in these situations (and since I'm studying those situations now, I'm impressed with the depth of knowledge expected from then).

One of my favorite ways to think about the safety debate is that the meaning of "as safe as hospital birth" means mortality wise. Women and infants do not have a higher likelihood of dying at a homebirth than at a hospital. Its just as safe in that way. However, homebirth is actually SAFER when taking into account morbidity (other ill health that does not lead to death but might bring a person close...) To women wanting to avoid hysterectomy, abdominal surgery, complications from surgery or anesthesia, PTSD, higher rates of infection, the manual cutting of their vaginal openings or severe lacerations to their perineums, etc: homebirth is considered much safer. Researchers down plays the morbidity thing so much. Its like they don't believe that those experiences aren't bad enough that a woman would go to great lengths to avoid them.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Increasing access to childbirth education

Earlier this week, a Los Angeles Times article condemned women for not educating themselves on childbirth options and therefore being at fault for allowing the Cesarean rate to be so high and for the interventions that happen to them when they trust their providers. 

My reaction to this article when it came out was that 1) expecting families are actively discouraged from being informed about childbirth options (by their care providers) and 2) expecting families see how pointless childbirth education is when it doesn't matter what they learn/want/say, their providers in general aren't respecting their desires and choices and in many cases actively working against the goals of the families. I also see that childbirth education is a costly expense and inconvenience in the lives of pregnant families and many women probably feel their time is better spent resting and taking care of themselves than rushing to another set of appointments.

Childbirth educators are important, don't get me wrong, but their delivery system is lacking and in many cases they are missing the collaborative relationships with care providers.

I think I had a really good idea that could address all of these issues and I'd love to talk about the feasibility of it with others.

Medical groups, doctor's offices, clinics, and insurance companies could hire childbirth educators to work in office. Their job would be to spend 10-15 minutes each appointment with families during prenatal appointments to go over options and to educate women on the process of childbirth. Rather than an additional appointment that takes 1-2 hours, short educational opportunities could be available like many clinics have dieticians and social workers.

I say get the insurers involved and require that these educators are on staff in order to make sure that providers allow them to be there. Some providers will not be difficult to convince on the virtues of this proposal but many others would. Its the ones in private practice that would be the hardest to work with.

This idea came from my midwifery training where I am basically being trained to offer short lessons in childbirth education to clients. I can see how providers themselves don't have the time to do this (and also the will) but they can contract with people who are trained and passionate about informed decision making. This is my vision for how childbirth educators can make it mainstream and break that 30% barrier.

Often that barrier is caused in part to economic factors of the families. Childbirth education is still a privilege available to those who can afford it (mainly middle-to-upper-middle-class white people). The article is flawed in saying that the blame can be put on women by ignoring the institutional and economic factors involved.

What actions would need to be taken to get this happening across the country? Who are the stakeholders who have the clout to make this happen? Grassroots advocates, childbirth educators, policymakers?

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Opening the Back

Jamaican midwives having a saying that when the back opens the baby comes. This is referring to the period of time around the fetal ejection reflex where the baby moves down to crowning and birth. Opening the back occurs when the sacrum moves backward to allow more room for the baby to move through the pelvis. Its amazing to learn how much space is gained by this--up to 4 cms in some places! I had never come across it before in any of the other reading I have done on birth. I thought this is so cool, I can share it here. Especially since I can even tell a personal story about it.

I encountered this term in my copy of Holistic Midwifery Volume II written by Anne Frey. It is one of the texts in my midwifery program and covers extensively (its almost 2,000 pages!) the physiology and care of labor and birth.

I remember when this happened during Belle's birth. I even commented on it when I wrote her  birth story. I didn't know the name of it then so I'm pleased to learn about it now. At the time I described it as:
I felt tightness radiating down into my thighs and it felt like the bones of my pelvis and hip were being stretched outwards.
I later thought that this might have something to do with the hip pain that lingered after that pregnancy. I learned that it might be SI dsyfunction (sacroiliac joint) and posted about it here. Finding out that it was an actually physiological process that is part of normal birth helped me feel that the strange sensation wasn't an injury but my body working as it was designed to.

I thought at the time that when I felt my hips spread during Belle's birth that something unnatural had happened. I still think that maybe my SI issues have something to do with this spreading. It happened so quickly--it was like my SI joints abruptly slid out as far as they could like sticky slide locks on a door. Perhaps they slid more forcefully and quickly than is typical when the sacrum moves and the back opens.

This phenomenon is only observed when upright birth is allowed. When a woman in laying on her back in bed, the sacrum is prevented from moving and the pelvis does not expand in conjunction with the fetal ejection reflex.

I don't recall feeling this happen when giving birth to my son. Not surprising, since I felt pressured into birthing on my back. The only way I felt that I had been able to reposition more comfortably as he was descending and crowing was by twisting my hips so that I was more on my side.

Someday I may find more detailed description of this phenomenon. It seems like it hasn't been described or investigated by researchers enough to know what is normal "opening of the back" and what is extreme. As it is, the term is hardly known except in some circles. Hospital birth attendants and medical researchers wouldn't see it because the vast majority of birthing women they see are on their backs. Upright/vertical birth isn't even an option in many hospital birth environments.

Have any of my readers heard of this? Care to theorize with me on the possibility of normal opening of the back and extreme opening on the back?

Sunday, May 15, 2011

My special Mother's Day

On Mother's Day this year, I attended a speech given by Ina May Gaskin at Town Hall in Seattle. There were over 800 people of them, many midwives and doulas but a surprising number of expectant parents. She spoke on her story as a self-taught midwife in the 1970s, described some of the keys to a healthy safe delivery and how important it is for those who care about birth to advocate for increased access to midwives and better obstetric practice.

At the end, it was opened up to the audience to ask questions. During that it became clear to me that Ina May is not familiar with Solace for Mothers as a resource for women who have had traumatic birth experiences. I should have gotten up and mentioned it but I didn't want to sound like an advertisement. Sometimes I just don't know how to deal with public relations!

One of the things that Ina May said she wished for was to have all of the birth advocates be better connected and able to work together. I share that desire with her and really hope that my current efforts will be able to bring that to pass. I really feel that we need an online social network that gathers birth advocates together in the same place and use platforms like the Care2 petition site, facebook, online forums, and Salsa Democracy to use viral advocacy techniques to bring a strong, united voice to what would truly improve maternity services in the United States and the world. I guess that's my job isn't? Since I am on the CIMS Grassroots Advocates Committee... Big plans, in progress... I just wish it was all ready and that it was common knowledge in the birth community!

I wish that I had had the opportunity to sit down and talk with Ina May but if that had been doing to happen, I should have attend the MAWS conference the Friday before. When prioritizing my desire to see her in person, I had to decide between being away from my kids all day Friday and leave them with a babysitter or be away for 2 hours on Mother's day Sunday and leave them with their dad. It was a tough decision but I chose to have more time with the children and be away from them on a day that's supposed to be especially for me as a mother anyway.

Someday I hope that I can meet and talk with her because I have so much respect for her work, especially on the Maternal Mortality Quilt. I would love to see a complimentary effort to honor and remember mothers who have experienced trauma and PTSD from their birth experiences. For each mother who died in childbirth, I am sensitive to the fact that if they lived, they likely would have been deeply traumatized by their experiences and their memories of being close to death. People traumatized by life events and who live afterwards know the special hell that comes from surviving something horrific and terrifying. I want those mothers to be remembered to. For women who experience trauma, they often find that they become shadows of themselves. They are the walking wounded and we need to be just as aware of them as we are aware of the family members who lost a woman in childbirth. I don't want what that would look like, whether it would be a Solace (thinking Support in Overcoming Labor And Childbearing experiences) quilt or a paper sculpture in the shape of a tree with leaves symbolizing one of the 1.4 million mothers who are traumatized each year. I had a nice talk with Penny Simkin about this and she is encouraging me to come up with something good and a plan to enact it. If you have ideas, please help!

Anyway back to the event with Ina May. After the questions and answers, there was a Birth Fair with birth and baby organizations and services from around the Seattle area. I met the midwives at Puget Sound Birth Center. When I told Val that PSBC is the most highly and frequently rated out of hospital birth center on The Birth Survey, she literally started crying she was so happy!

I was so glad that I was able to attend with my mother and my good friend Shawnette who became a doula after she attended Willem's birth as a volunteer doula. It was a really nice event and obviously, as seen by this post, inspired a lot of ideas and renewed energy and drive for me. It was definitely a special way to spend Mother's Day and a special thanks to my husband and children who were willing to facilitate my attendance.

Friday, May 6, 2011

What will they (I hope) say about me when I die?

also posted on my spirituality blog: Jenneology

I am lifting the following exercise from a recent post on Feminist Mormon Housewives. A new self-help book aiming to assist people of my generation to find their purpose in life provided the exercise. What follows are my answers:

Thought Experiment: You’ve died. You are at your own funeral. What do you want your friends and family to say about you? What did you do with your life? Write down five things you hope people say about the legacy that you’ve left. Write down five things you hope people say about your personality.

1. She was a seeker of truth and was open-minded, and respectful in the finding of it. She embraced the belief in the gospel that all good things come from God and that all truth can be circumscribed into one great whole. She would embrace truth, quite literally, wherever it could be found--in Islam, Unitarian Universalism, Paganism, Gnosticism, Physics, Astronomy and Chemistry. She was a student of life and found great joy in it.

2. She wanted to make a difference in the world and she worked diligently to address some of the injustices and inequalities that people, especially women throughout the world face. Her involvement in non-profit organizations and humanitarian works helped the lives of many. One of the things she was fond of saying was that she didn't want to make a difference in the life of a child, but she wanted to make a difference in the life of many. She worked at the systems level to address the root causes of poverty, abuse and barriers to living a full and happy life.

3. She prioritized her family while at the same time set the example to them to be anxiously engaged in a good cause (or in her case, many). Her children were involved with her and shared her with the people of the world. They had the opportunity to see and do many things that provided service to others because of the example and encouragement of their mother. She was actively involved with them at all levels of their lives and somehow found a balance in the limited hours of each day to show them they were loved and benefited from her presence and involvement in their lives.

4. She was a believer in the radical Jesus: the Jesus who was friends with the sinners and who was compassionate to their experiences, the socialist who believed in complete redistribution of wealth, the empowerment and equality of women and the Christ-like love that each person needs to achieve their potential.

5. She knew hardship, difficulty, pain and injustice and she was able to find strength from her experiences and turn them around to be compassionate towards others, to support and comfort them.

5 personality traits: tenacious, determined, creative, compassionate, advocate

Core Values: Discover what drives you. What principles guide your actions and ideal self? Try to strip away all cultural conditioning and/or religious rhetoric and assess five core values by which you live your life and inform who you want to be. Write these down. Evaluate if there any disconnect between what you wrote down in step one and step two.

Maybe I already did this up above. Just pulling from there, we find that I value: openness to truth/goodness, compassion, advocacy, social justice and idealism.

Find Your Purpose: Why does what you are doing matter? What motivates and inspires you to keep following these values? Chose a purpose. It can be big or small, but has to be intentional. It is the reason for your goals and can change over time. If you are struggling to find your purpose try this experiment. Write down your five most valuable gifts and talents. Next, write below those what each of these can be used for. Finally, evaluate what types of careers or activities you would enjoy that would utilize some of these talents.

I'm already doing many of the things I hope to be remembered for so my purpose is described above. Involvement in Solace for Mothers, LDS WAVE, The Coalition for Improving Maternity Services already address some of those values that I hold so deeply. I would someday like to turn those desires and abilities into paid employment and I hope that it will be doing something that addresses the root causes of injustice in the world. I would love to work in humanitarian aid (whether it is at the local, national or global scene) but at the systems level. One of my skills is to look at big picture and see ways to build coalitions and to bring people together, to create ways that people from very different viewpoints can interface with each other in cooperative ways. Most of my efforts are somehow related to system building and connecting people in large communities to harness their combined power into a stronger more unified voice.

Test Your Purpose: Today my purpose will be _____________. To accomplish that I will use my gifts for ________________ to accomplish these specific goals_______________. Later change the timeline to week, month, and year.

Today my purpose will be two fold:
1) to connect with my children and show them the value of caring for others
2) learn about how to structure my family economically so we can be Equal Shared Parenting and Radical Homemaking folks.

To accomplish that I will use my gifts for being involved in national organizations and reading to accomplish these specific goals:
1) I will walk with my children in the March of Dimes walk, teach them to sew and make things we can sell on Talents of Sisters.
2) start reading the book Equally Shared Parenting and discuss with my husband the possibilities that our interests lead us to.

Otherwise, I would say that my goals are year long, or at the very least, seasonal. This year I hope to create an online community for birth advocates that can become a hub for the thousands who care birth issues in our world. This season, we hope to grow some of our own food and make some of our own household products to develop our skills and save money.

Write It All Down: Once you have a purpose you can stick with, write it all down and it will remind your of who you are and what you want to be. I.e.My five core values are ____________. My five core talents are ______________. In the next ten years my purpose will be ______________. The key features of my personal mission statement are ______________.

My five core values are openness to truth/goodness, compassion, advocacy, social justice and idealism.

My five core talents are:
1) building community and cooperation around advocacy efforts
2) addressing root causes of social issues
3) looking at the big picture
4) being respectful and open to differing view points
5) embracing and valuing the good that is inherent in differing perspectives

In the next ten years my purpose will be to:
1) achieve equal partnership in my marriage
2) find paid part-time employment in advocacy work
3) support and contribute to organizations addressing global poverty
4) continue to develop current advocacy organizations
5) educate my children through experiential learning in living the gospel of the radical Jesus.

The key features of my personal mission statement are make a difference in the world, aspire to the ideal, encourage potential, and value balance and compassion to oneself and others.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Lets Take BPA Out of Canned Foods

copied from MomsRising E-alert April 11, 2011. 
20 people. 5 families. Fresh food intervention. How low can their BPA levels go?
It sounds like the premise for a reality show. But there are no over-the-top TV antics here. Last week, the Breast Cancer Fund and Silent Spring Institute released a study which tested the levels of the toxic chemical BPA for five families. Like many average families across America, these families were regularly exposed to BPA in their day to day lives through pretty normal activities: eating canned foods and beverages, eating in restaurants, using polycarbonate water bottles, and/or microwaving in plastic. 
To see if their BPA levels could be lowered, these families were given a fresh food intervention: three days’ worth of freshly prepared organic meals, no canned food, and using only glass storage containers. The results were astounding: When the families took BPA out of their diets, they decreased the amount of BPA in their bodies by 60 percent on average in just three days![1]  
Everyone should be able to be BPA free, but not everyone can because of its pervasive use by major corporations in our nation.  

Now is the time to bring our voices together and to use our collective consumer power, to make sure all families can reduce their levels of toxic BPA. Our voices are needed because BPA is one of the most pervasive toxic chemicals in our modern lives With 2 billion pounds of BPA produced annually in the U.S., it's no wonder that over 90% of Americans have detectable levels of BPA in their bodies.[2] Removing BPA from canned foods is a great first step in reducing our nation’s BPA exposure.
* Tell major food manufacturers Campbells, Del Monte, and Progresso that enough is enough! We know BPA is dangerous, and we want it out of our food and packaging! 
Women make the majority of purchasing decisions, so when we bring out voices together to contact corporations, we can have a powerful impact. And our powerful impact is needed now because laboratory studies link BPA exposure to breast cancer, infertility, early onset puberty, ADHD, and obesity. Children, whose brains and organs are constantly developing, are particularly at risk and are exposed to more BPA for their size than adults.[3] 
There are ways we can personally work to protect our families from some BPA exposure. Suggestions from the Breast Cancer Fund and Silent Spring Institute for reducing exposure to BPA and DEHP include cooking at home with fresh foods and making some changes in the kitchen, such as avoiding canned foods, choosing glass and stainless steel food and beverage containers, and not microwaving in plastic. 
But unfortunately, these personal changes are not enough.  We can't avoid canned goods even if we have resources and the time for a pantry overhaul. Think a canned-foods-free pantry is keeping you BPA-free? Think again. Restaurants frequently use canned and packaged foods as an ingredients. So even if you've sworn off canned soup, BPA from canned foods is so omnipresent that it can show up on your plate at the local pizza joint, at a five star restaurant, in your children's school, or at the local food bank.   
Like all moms, we're worried about the health and safety of our families. And like all moms, we're busy. That's why we want to make sure that when companies remove BPA from their canned goods, they aren't wasting time by replacing BPA with another toxic chemical. We're asking Del Monte, Campbells, and Progresso to take BPA out of their foods, and to also be transparent about their next steps for replacing BPA. 
While we start making changes in the kitchen, lets work together to make a big change for the country. Ask America's top canned food manufacturers what they’re doing to get rid of BPA in their products!
Together we can build a safer and healthier nation for all of our children. 
Thank you! 

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Treasure Mapping 2011

This year I decided to join in with the April New Moon Tradition of Treasure Mapping. Consider it a visual representation of the hopes, dreams, goals and aspirations I have for myself and my family over the next year.

For a description of how to treasure map, see here: Mothering.Community's Official Treasure Map of 2011.

So here's mine. Its a work in progress and will probably work on cleaning it up in the next few days but I'm really excited to share it, anyway. It was grueling and somewhat discouraging to think without limits and then try not to let reality encroach. reach for the stars, right?

Friday, March 11, 2011

Living Blog at CIMS "Reframing Birth and Breastfeeding"

The Coalition for Improving Maternity Service is co-hosting a conference with the Breastfeeding Feminism Symposia Series this weekend in Chapel Hill North Carolina. I'm there and I'm live blogging on my facebook page.

The topic is "Reframing Birth and Breastfeeding: Moving Forward" with great speakers like Eugene Declereq, Penny Simkin, Robbie-Davis Floyd and other experts in public health, breastfeeding, advocacy and birth.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Midwifery as A Calling

You have to check out this post at The Gift of Giving Life and read about how Mormons in the early days of their church considered midwifery a position in the church where women were called according to the inspiration of the spirit to serve the women in their congregations. Unfortunately, this practice did not persist beyond the days of birth moving to the hospital but for the time that it did exist, I can only imagine how empowering, spiritually uplifting and community strengthening such a tradition would be. 

As a Mormon by conversion, I am wistful for the days of this practice and wish that society hadn't changed so much that midwives called in each ward or take became a thing of the past. Right now in the church, there is no structure in the organization to connect Mormon (or as I prefer LDS) women with LDS midwives. I know they exist, along with a score of doulas, childbirth educators and birth junkies because I have become acquainted with many of them across the internet. 

I know that I as a birthing woman would love to work with an LDS midwife or have an LDS doula. I don't even know if there are LDS doulas or midwives in my area and I wish I did. I love the Christian midwife that I worked with during my last pregnancy but a Christian worldview was second best in comparison to a Mormon worldview. (I can clarify on this if my readers are interested). 

As an aspiring midwife and birth attendant, I feel prompted to offer my services as a doula during labor and postpartum to the women in my local congregations. In the past I have tried to get the word out that I am interested and willing to offer this as an act of service but like I said there are few ways to get this known to the local women. Meetings are structured so that there is time for very little else and the scope of the LDS church's women's organization is so broad that its hard to cover all of the many ways that relief can be provided through charity. 

I would really like to see a directory/registry/list of LDS doulas, midwives and childbirth educators that is shared on the internet for LDS women to refer to as they are looking for maternity care. In a way, it would bring back a little bit of the community that once existed in the church with Relief Society sisters literally providing relief during some of the most important and hard work of a Mormon woman's life.

Since the church is organized in geographical areas called stakes, I would love to see this list be organized by stakes. Usually a stake covers a city or town (or in some cases a few towns near each other) and has around 1,000 members of the church. Its usually within driving distance from one end of the stake to another and given the distances that I've heard some midwives travel to assist women at their births seems doable for one woman in the stake to reach any and all of the sisters when she is in labor. And there's nothing wrong with having more than one midwife listed in a stake. 

The main difference between a list like this and the former way of issuing callings is that no one is assigned to be a specific midwife or doula to a certain area. There could be a dozen midwives and doulas in a given stake (oh what a dream!) and there wouldn't need to be competition or obligation. A childbearing woman has so many options when it comes to birth attendants (hopefully) that often what she needs to make an informed choice is access to information about the options available to her. I truly think that if LDS women knew that there were LDS women near them who were trained and qualified in attending births that they would work together in many cases. What a blessing that would be to the community of sisters! 

Who's with me in creating his list? Do you know of any LDS doulas, midwives or childbirth educators in your stake or ward boundaries? Are you one? 

Or even better, does what I'm hoping for already exist??