Getting Started

11 Mar

I’ve been busy since I first posted my plans to open a community birth and family center in Edmonds!  I’m really hopeful and even more in awe of anyone who’s ever managed to pull off opening a brick and mortar business.

I’m having an open meeting this Thursday at the Great Starts Classroom in Mountlake Terrace at 10am (6912 220th St SW, Mountlake Terrace WA, 98043 suite 10).  Everyone is welcome, we will be planning and brainstorming and hopefully people will be signing on to help with various aspects of getting the birth center started.  If you can’t make it, but are interested in staying up to date with the birth center, just drop me a note and I’ll put you on the email list.

A couple of weeks ago I had a preliminary meeting with a business consultant.  He helped me to think about what kind of business structure I might need, and how to set it up.  My good friend Janice, who’s been a bookkeeper for small businesses for quite a while, gave me a couple of insights about investors—we’re meeting again in a week or two.  I met with one potential investor and this helped me to start thinking about how such a relationship would exist.  Are my investors going to be part owners—or more simply, lenders to get this off the ground?  Or something else?  Will I rent and have some limitations from a landlord or try to buy a property and have more (secured) debt, but more freedom?  A landlord may help with constructions costs—or not.  There are so many things to think about.

I was very fortunate to talk with one of the founders of Puget Sound Birth Center, Lee Shelley.  She gave me some wonderful information and lots of things to consider.  Her thoughts echoed some I’ve heard earlier—“Take your time to set up your partnerships and finances carefully and thoughtfully, it will pay off in the long run.”

Although I’m quite adventurous (see previous posts on Uganda!), I also tend to think things through before jumping in fully.  This may mean that the birth center takes a bit longer to actually get started—but when it happens, I hope my planning will pay off in having things go relatively smoothly.

I have plans to talk with more people—an architect, a commercial real estate agent, a business lawyer, and some other birth center owners.

I’ve been reading through the “Essential Home Birth Guide” that just recently came out.  It reminds me of many of the reasons I want this birth center to exist—for the humanity, the kindness, the gentle birth experiences, free from unnecessary medical interventions both big and small.  This birth center and community center is just what we need around here.  There are so many good reasons for this to happen, that I have to believe it WILL happen!  I hope you’ll join me.



Now is the Time for a Community Birth and Family Center in Greater Edmonds

13 Feb

Ever since my trip to Uganda, big things have been brewing in my head.  While I was there I could truly see that individuals CAN make a difference—a real difference in peoples’ lives.  It was a belief that I needed re-energized in myself.   This idea has been growing and it’s time to share with everyone—together we can make a great place for people to come together—in community, caring for each other.  We need this in Edmonds (and Mountlake Terrace, Shoreline, Lynnwood and Lake Forest Park) too, but we will have to work together, that’s part of what makes it community!

When I was in Uganda I noticed that the women all took care of each others’ children.  No one went home from the hospital and sat isolated in their home without support, as is the norm here.  People are meant to be working together, and I’d like to be one of the people who helps to create a space where women can come to support each other.  I have a three part vision:

First, we need a community space, with providers of all sorts of complimentary care.  We need a welcoming meeting space for childbirth education, drop in mother support groups (OH!  I have so many different ideas around this!), and just plain hanging out together.  It must be welcoming for all people.  This includes having care providers such as acupuncturists, massage therapist, lactation consultant, midwives, obstetricians, mental health therapists, and physical therapists in this space that can comprehensively support women in the childbearing year.

Second, we need a free standing birth center.  Edmonds is about equi-distant from birth centers in Kirkland, Everett and Seattle, a 30 minute drive in any direction.  It’s time we had our own.  But opening a birth center isn’t easy, in fact it’s downright intimidating!  Once I actually started reading through the regulations and thinking about facility rental and renovation costs to make a birth center I nearly crawled back into bed and hid!  Building a birth center is going to take the help and serious commitment of many people in our community.  Birth centers are a safe place to give birth for low risk women (Birth Center Study).  Not only will we have to navigate state laws and financial challenges, there will be opposition pushing back at us.  But the people of our community NEED this alternative to standard hospital care.  We must work together to make this happen!

Third—and here comes the innovative part of my idea.  I dream of a postpartum care center that operates like a bed and breakfast.  When I came home from the hospital with my first child I remember sitting down on my couch with him still in the carseat, and my husband and I looked at each other.  “What were they thinking letting us go home with a baby?!  We don’t know what we are doing!”, we said.  Slightly panicked and very nervous, we stumbled through the next few days learning about how to care for our child.  What if we could’ve gone from our 24 hour hospital stay to a Postpartum Inn?  Where there was help available whenever we wanted- support for breastfeeding, someone to make meals and help us learn how to read our baby’s cues.  The place would be set up just right to make caring for a baby easier.  Then, after a few days, go home with greater confidence, a bit more rested and a clue!  Oh the difference that would make!  Now, how about those families being discharged with a premature baby, or twins—a few days of support in the Postpartum Inn could do wonders for their confidence.  This is part of community taking care of each other—a place for new families to come to get the help they need.

This is my vision and hope for a Community Birth and Family Center in Edmonds.  It needs work—lots of work, to make it happen.  Which means it needs people ready to dedicate some time and energy to making this vision come true.  Will you join me?  Will you be a part of this community and we can work together?  Some of you will think to yourselves—that’s a great idea, I’m glad Melinda is doing that.  Stop.  If there’s isn’t lots of collaboration, this dream simply won’t happen.  Instead, think to yourself, “I will be a part of making this vision come to life, I will help.”  A year ago when Jane encouraged me to go to Uganda I said “I wish I could do that.”  Her simple answer should be yours too:  “You can”.

There will be a planning and brainstorm meeting on March 14th at 10am at the Great Starts Birth and Family Education Classroom:  6912 220th St SW, Mountlake Terrace WA, 98043.  Come and be a part of what’s happening, it’s just getting started.  Everyone is welcome.

Lastly, please, please help spread the word about this project.  I KNOW there are people who will be pivotally important to the success of this dream, that I have yet to meet.  Please let everyone know.

Dads Need Doulas

25 Jan

It’s a bold assertion—but I really mean it.  First, let’s take a look at your average first time dad:  He’s probably never attended a birth, but watched a few on television, and heard intimidating stories from friends and family.  He knows that his partner will be experiencing some significant pain in labor and is probably feeling fairly clueless about how to help.  Even with childbirth education classes, many fathers are at a loss once things start getting intense at all.  For some fathers that means the first few contractions as THEY realize this is going to happen for real!

Doulas take the pressure off dads.  We can easily remember all of those positions that were taught in class (many doulas are even childbirth educators), and when some might be a better choice than others.  What to do for over the top back pain?  The doula has you covered.  The doula will also remember breathing techniques and relaxation cues.  She helps the dad to provide support for the mom.

Childbirth education classes often teach to ask questions to avoid unnecessary interventions.  I will tell you right now that it’s the rare individual indeed who can keep their head during active labor enough to ask questions of a doc about risks and alternatives.   Doctors and nurses can be intimidating (even when they are not trying to be); the hospital is their regular place to be—their comfort zone.  It is NOT the comfort zone of laboring mothers and their husbands who are watching their loved one in pain.  Your doula can help you remember the questions and even remind you of what you said was important about birth preferences back at the prenatal meetings.

Many dads seem reluctant to care for themselves while their wife is in labor.  Their doula can remind them to eat and drink in labor and take some bathroom breaks too!  With her competent support, dad can feel ok about taking a nap during a long labor, or taking a few minutes in the hall to update anxious family members, knowing his wife is well care for.

And finally, perhaps the most important reason that dads need doulas—because fathers need to be included in the birth of their child.  Hospital births today involve many strangers with important jobs—the doc, the nurse, the baby nurse, the anesthesiologist to name a few.  It can easily feel like dad is an auxiliary player—but he’s not!  The birth of his child is an amazing miraculous event, and your doula will help to make sure he isn’t pushed to the back of the room for the duration, but rather included as much as he and his wife desire.

What Did I Do Wrong?

14 Jan

It would seem that new moms are eager to blame themselves for an unfortunate roll of the dice.  After all, as mothers it is our sworn duty to protect our children—no matter the cost.  If a baby is born early or with some disability, we somehow blame ourselves—but it doesn’t necessarily mean there was anything that was done wrong.  This is the roll of fate at times, yet somehow we expect life to be fair.  Thank goodness for the amazing care babies receive in special care units!  We don’t always have a good reason for why one baby decides to come at 32 weeks, but another has to be coaxed out at 42.

Let me just say that prematurity is one of about a gazillion things parents can blame themselves for that don’t go the way we had planned.  Of course when you found out you were pregnant the image in your mind was of a perfect baby.  Sometimes they don’t come out that way—sometimes we don’t realize their differences until much later, and then we wonder what we did wrong all over again.  Indeed, that ideal baby that takes form in our heads throughout pregnancy—doesn’t actually exist!  To use a very well worn cliché—none of us is perfect.  We are all unique in our own special way, just some of those special ways are easier to recognize.  Sometimes those things we think are really important end up being quite trivial.

I think there can be this sense that if we just knew what we did wrong, or why some part of our child’s experience is not so good—then we could somehow fix it.  But there’s not much truth in that.  You can’t actually undo a birth defect or difference—you just have to learn how to move forward—cleft lip, club foot, six fingers, ADHD, not the gender you expected—whatever.  Sometimes surgery or treatment is useful, sometimes babies and parents just have to learn how to adapt.  Babies are amazingly resilient.  But in all likelihood you probably didn’t do anything wrong to cause whatever is not perfect with your baby.  There’s a certain roll of the dice at play in baby making.

I’ve watched a baby with a very tight tongue tie—figure out how to nurse, when I thought for sure she would need help.  I’ve watched jaundiced, preemie babies struggle to stay awake long enough to get adequate nutrition.  But their mothers persevered and eventually they got through that tough time.  Two babies at once?  Don’t think you could do it?  Neither did the mother of twins—until she had to, because there just wasn’t a choice.  You don’t really know what challenges you can take on—until the situation comes up and you have to figure out how to deal. (Ah—labor is very much like this, but that’s for another post).

With a bit of luck the challenges of parenting can help you come to a place of empowerment.  I sometimes look at my incredibly energetic boys (one of my own personal challenges) and say to myself—“I’m just not cut out for this”.  At other times I can say—“If I can take this on and not lose it—I can do just about anything!”


So go back out there and pull yourself up by your bootstraps (it’s a cliché sort of post apparently), stop blaming yourself and go to it—love your babies and take the best care of them you can.  Forgive yourself when you are not perfect and remember that all those other people out there are not at all perfect either!

A Renewed Appreciation for Strong Women

29 Oct

I thought I knew and understood what normal birth was before I came to Uganda.

I have experienced a paradigm shift in my perspective.

Birth is an everyday occurrence here—don’t get yourself all worked up about it for goodness sakes.  Women seem to hang around Shanti for a few days before getting around to the serious part of labor.  No one seems to mind that she doesn’t look like she’s in active labor.  Maybe by hanging around Shanti she gets a bit of a break from caring for other children, a little time to focus on herself.  Women have an average of more than six babies each in this country.



(Viola and her new baby Patrick.  I was honored to be able to provide a bit of doula support for her at her birth) 

Now, it may have just been the times when I was around—but the women who were in labor and giving birth while I was at Shanti, didn’t seem to be making a big fuss about it.  Perhaps a bit of restless pacing, but that seemed to be about it.

 Meanwhile, Kristina, Jane and I are talking about the double hip squeeze, and getting on hands and knees, using a birth ball, positions for rotating a baby to optimal presentation— and the ladies at the birth house are just doing their thing, thank you very much.

Not a one of these women has ever considered epidural anesthesia.  She never said to herself, “I’ll try to go without pain medications but if the birth is particularly long or difficult I’ll get an epidural.”  Because, honestly, when you have no choice, you figure out a way to get through it.  It sounds brutal—but it’s also just so real, and raw.  This is giving birth in a truly authentic way.

What does it mean that here in the US our epidural rates are not just high—but nearly all inclusive, with several of my local hospitals at over 90% of births including an epidural?  Is it just that the women at Shanti would love to have an epidural if they could get one safely?  Or have we Americans come to believe we are so weak that we rely on medical intervention to get through a normal (albeit extraordinary) event in our lives?  When did we lose so much faith in ourselves? 

“There’s a secret in our culture—it’s not that birth is painful, but that women are strong.”- Laura Stavoe


 (The above quote is written here on the walls of the Shanti Reception area in the local language)

I believe it.  Every time I attend a birth I am in awe of the strength women bring to the work of giving forth life.  Yes—Everytime.  From the woman who has a quick and incredibly intense labor to the woman who works for three days and finally submits to a Cesarean she never thought she would endorse to the woman who chooses a no labor Cesarean as the safest way to get through the birth of her child for her mental or physical health.  Each and every woman giving birth is amazingly strong.  I am in gratitude to be invited to witness your strength.

A Doula For Every Woman Who Wants One

22 Oct

So we’ve been talking about doulas for a few days now and the staff at Shanti are getting excited.  Although I’m never quite sure what’s being relayed through the language and cultural differences—I’m pretty sure they are understanding the piece about nurturing support being important to how a woman feels about her birth.  (You won’t see me writing about husbands or partners in Uganda—I rarely saw much of them, and learned virtually nothing about their role at births here—except that it’s not at all the full on support expected of husbands in the US.)

Sister Mary, the head midwife, is very interested in the doula training.  She’s right in there listening to our descriptions about how to “read” a labor, and different positions to help make labor easier and progress.  It’s exciting to see her really “getting it” about doulas!

Joy (I think), one of the midwives, Sister Mary, the head midwife and Sadie St. Denis, site director at Shanti

Then we went on a tour of the level 4 health center in Kasana—the closest thing the folks here have to a hospital. I can’t begin to put words to what I observed there—and you won’t see any pictures besides this one:

Kasana Level 4 Health Center

We were requested to not take pictures during our tour.  What I struggle to put in to words, Jane has done so elegantly.  You absolutely MUST go read her post about the labor ward right now. (The rest of this post won’t make sense unless you do).

As we walked past the woman sitting on the bare gurney, alone, with people all around, I too ached to go provide some nurturing for this woman about to give birth.  I felt like I was being terribly invasive to be in her birth space—but we were led into the room on our tour.  I desperately wanted this woman—and the next and the next and the next, to have a caring person by her side, who was there to help her and encourage her and give her love and support for the amazing task of giving birth.  I didn’t want her to feel scared and alone.

Doula care is not rocket science.  The DONA training is 2-4 days (depending on one’s childbirth education training previously).  It really is about providing nurturing support, non-judgmentally.  While there’s always more for me to learn and become proficient at—it’s not actually all that complicated to get started.  We could do this!  We COULD provide a Doula for Every Woman Who Wants One (the DONA Mission Statement).  But it takes a lot of people believing that this is worthwhile and important for birthing women.  The women who’ve given birth “alone” know how that feels—and so do the ones who felt nurtured and supported.  HOW we feel about our birth experiences makes a difference.  Doulas know this.  Doulas do this.  It isn’t rocket science.

Double Hip Squeeze Train– fun!

Noticing Differences, and Appreciating Them

15 Oct

Style, culture, way of being– we had an abundance of differences among the personalities on this trip.  At times I felt I was really struggling to find my place.  

My fellow trainers had very different approaches to mine.  At home, I work with other trainers with whom I’ve had years of experience co-mingling our approaches, and we are not so very different.  Here I had minutes with which to arrange a melding of very different styles.  Just as the entirely different landscape in front of me was disorienting, so was this new teaching arrangement. “Just go with it.” I kept telling myself.
There was also the piece of trying to fit in to a culture that was undeniably different than my own.  I am naturally reserved in such situations and that doesn’t always serve me well.  Like my son, I’d rather sit back to observe, and wait to be asked to join in.  After a few days of this approach I realized no one was going to drag me in, and if I wanted to truly experience Shanti, Kasana, Uganda– I’d have to take some initiative.  Thus began my morning walks with Bobby, one of the other women in our group.
Bobby was just the right person for me.  She’s got a quietness about her that is not so overwhelming to me as more outgoing, vivacious people.  I tend to be overwhelmed by an abundance of talk or action.  She also has a fearless self assurance that helped me to overcome my insecurities.  We would walk on the roads outside our guest house and meet children, mothers, and others.  They were always very happy to see us. She would always ask to take their picture, where I was too shy to speak out many times.  Through Bobby I was able to meet so many more of the people of Uganda than I would have felt secure enough to do on my own.
The people of Kasana are so wonderful!  I can’t even really explain what it is that’s different.  I can tell you it wasn’t the same in the big cities of Kampala and Entebbe– there, people were like we see all over, a bit more guarded, interacting only on the surface, and when it comes to tourists– wanting to get your money.  In Kasana, every single person I met was joyful at meeting me.  Genuinely happy, and heartfelt.  I was truly welcomed.  Their open hearts warmed mine, and helped me to relax.  
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