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Sunday, December 8, 2013

Taking off our rose-colored glasses
Our closed Facebook group continues to grow and to be an incredible resource and support for more and more women.  I can hardly keep up with it all and am grateful my fellow board members, especially Katie Champ, have been doing an exceptional job at keeping it safe and relevant. 

I have been thinking about fear tactics, and the effect they have on all of us.  Let me remind you that I am speaking as a mom.  I am not a professional.  It seems to me every time I hear a birth professional in the hospital setting talk about VBAC and homebirth, they all seem to have been part of some horror story that involves the loss of the baby.  As the years have gone by, I have become suspicious of how many actually witnessed this, or if it is just stories passed around.  And they never report any horror stories that occur in the hospital, as though everything is just perfect there.  So I built up resentment over it and distrust. 

(start here if coming in from the Newsletter)

But something happened just recently to remind me, to remind many of us, that there are real people out there who do experience loss, and I don’t ever want to be a part of minimizing this.  I wonder what those families would think if they knew they were being used as horror stories to shame other moms for their birth choices.  It doesn’t seem to honor or respect either family, certainly not the baby, and really just seems to use them to suit their own needs and/or fears. 

So I do not presume to speak for all other women preparing to VBAC, but when I did, I learned a lot about what could go wrong, including that I could lose my baby.  I learned statistics, I learned about drugs, methods, risks, and on and on.  I made educated decisions that were best for me at the time.  With my first VBAC, I needed to be in the hospital.  I felt more secure knowing there was a “safety net.”  I don’t know what that safety net was exactly, in my mind, but it was important for me based on where I was in my journey.  With my HBAC, it was the opposite-I was more afraid to be in the hospital and all the risks that are there. That is where I was then in my journey.  Both were OK choices, and both should be made available to all women because we need to birth where we feel safe and are fully supported. 

This is completely opposite from my first birth-I had never heard of placental abruption, cord prolapse, uterine rupture, placenta accreta, nor had I ever heard of side effects from epidural, risks of Cytotec (I was never even told about Cytotec, even though it was used on me), risks of induction, risks of cesarean, etc.  The only thing I was ever told by my OB was that after 42 weeks there is a higher chance of stillbirth.  So there, that was it.  I was led to believe that everything would be just fine as long as we got the baby out before 42 weeks, and I did everything they told me.  “Thank God for modern medicine that saved my baby’s life,” was something I said regularly until I started preparing for my VBAC and the bombshell was dropped on me.  I was completely unprepared for anything bad happening, and if my baby had died I would have been bewildered, as I really didn’t think things went wrong to the baby when you had good prenatal care and did everything your doctor told you to do.

So with my VBAC’s I knew very well  that sometimes things go wrong, that not everything can be controlled, not everything explained, not every baby saved  no matter what you do, no matter who is attending.  I learned about all the things that can go wrong.  But in learning about it all, I wasn’t any more fearful, just realistic.  I learned that birth is as safe as life gets.  I saw this on a bumper sticker of my midwife, and soon understood what it meant.  So with all that knowledge, I made what I believed were the best decisions for both my baby and me and our health and our lives.  Now had I lost a baby, maybe I would feel differently, and I am grateful to not be in that position, but it would be hard to believe I would feel any differently, since I knew all the risks.  I was prepared and empowered, and it was important to my midwives that I knew all these things, as opposed to my OB who never mentioned one statistic, one negative, one drawback to being induced.

But one thing I never, ever want to do is try to guess what other families may be going through after a loss, other than supporting them and honoring their baby.  Because when we talk about loss, there really is a baby, and a mom, and a family, and the story is theirs to tell.  I think a hospital worker spewing out a horror story at a pregnant woman dishonors both families .  Women have the right to make their own decisions, no matter what others think.  And I believe they have a right to not have people spew horror at them.  I do encourage all women to learn about all the risks, and advantages, so they can make their own best decisions, and then please, let them gestate in peace!


Several years ago Sarah Shannon, former ICAN board member and fellow VBAC mom wrote a blog post about EBAC-Empowered Birth AfterCesarean.  It struck me like a lightning bolt.  I have always used the term since and feel it is vital in how we speak about TOLAC, or Trial of Labor After Cesarean.  VBAC doesn’t always happen, no matter how “right” we do everything.  And that should be OK. No, not because it is only important that baby is OK, and us too; that goes without saying.  But, because just like in life, it is the all about the journey. 

Nearing the end of a 36 hour labor,
many hours in this position, rocking.
  I did not exactly believe my TOLAC would end in VBAC.  I did not actually believe my body could birth a baby vaginally.  I did not actually believe my pelvis was big enough, my birth canal accommodating, my baby willing to make those turns.  But I DID believe in my ability to try to get through labor giving it all I could.  Doesn't mean I did it perfect.  I did make several concessions with interventions and I also ended up with an episiotomy.  But I didn't get an epidural, which I believed in my particular case would probably have guaranteed a trip to the OR.  I was still truly amazed when it happened vaginally-that my body actually “worked”. 

My life had changed in many more
ways than I knew.
  While that VBAC was incredible, I know now it was the icing on the cake.  My life had already seriously changed, even if it had ended in cesarean.  I was a different person, the difference being how much I prepared, how hard I worked, how much I turned over my fears, let it all go, and just “labored.”  How much thought I gave in to who I let catch my baby, who helped me labor.  And yes, I was amazed I really did it without an epidural!  I didn't know it would work.  I hoped.  And it did.  And it was hard.  But what I learned was that there were a lot of factors that made it work, and much of it is still a mystery.  I did the best I could and was prepared to be OK with the outcome.  It was all me making evidence-based decisions.

  If it had ended in cesarean I am sure I would still be at ICAN today, proud of my births, proud of my work, supporting other women and helping to get the word out about EBAC.  After all, a cesarean can be, and should be, an empowered birth too.  Birth should be about us making decisions, and trusting the providers to properly and honestly support us in this journey, so that baby is good, mama is good, and we get back to when cesareans are rare and safe and the maternal mortality rate is back to going down again, not up. 

  I was inspired to write this post after reading Grief AndGuilt {The Birth Trauma Experience}.  Also, please read the original post from Sarah, Empowered Birth After Cesarean(EBAC)

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Midwife Giveaway!

ICAN of the Twin Cities is hosting a giveaway for tickets to see Midwife: The Documentary! Please fill out the Rafflecopter form below to enter! a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, September 9, 2013

Midwife The Documentary

Join us September 24th for the premier screening of Midwife: The Documentary!

Friday, September 6, 2013

Meet Our Board: Jill VanderZiel

Second up in our ICAN Board bios is Jill VanderZiel. Here is her story in her own words.

Jill (and husband Christian) have two children, both born by cesarean. For the birth of our oldest, our son, we took the more traditional path of having a large obgyn group, taking hospital birth classes, and as many others do, doing more research on what stroller we were going to buy than how we were going to bring our first baby into the world! My water broke at 38+6 and I went to the hospital, where I was administered Pitocin immediately. The Pitocin caused fetal distress, and we were scared into agreeing to a cesarean shortly thereafter. I never really labored at all. What had been a very healthy, easy pregnancy had ended in a dramatic, and scary birth. Our son was allowed to get too cold in the OR, which affected his blood sugar, so he was given sugar water, and sent to the special care nursery. 
After we were home, I struggled with what had happened. It never occurred to me that my birth experience would/should matter, and I was upset with myself for being upset, if that makes any sense! I found ICAN several months later when I just wasn’t “getting over it” – I was amazed to find a community of women who felt similarly and had similar experiences and struggles! 
Two years later, we had our second child, our daughter. I planned a hospital vbac with her, and had prepared by hiring a doula, taking HypnoBirthing classes, and in general doing a lot of reading and research. We ended up being induced at 41+1 due to a sudden spike in high blood pressure. This time around though, I fully understood my options, was cognizant of the pros and cons of the available interventions, and made educated decisions in regards to them. Ultimately, I had just about all the interventions you could ever want to avoid (foley bulb, AROM, Pitocin, pressure catheter, epidural, and finally a cesarean). But my husband, doula, and caring, supportive providers and hospital staff made our daughter’s birth a positive, healing, and healthy experience. Making the call to return to the OR after a long, 27 hour induced labor (only 3 hours of which I had pain relief for), was tough, and admittedly a little heartbreaking, but it was the right decision for us.  
The birth of a child is a monumental, life-altering event in a mother’s life, and too often women’s feelings in regards to their births are belittled and ignored. ICAN provides a valuable service to women in the Twin Cities community. In want ICAN to be a safe place for mothers and mothers-to-be to come and find support, healing, acceptance, encouragement, and education. 

Monday, August 26, 2013

Meet our Board: Heather Deatrick

As we usher in a new Board for the Twin Cities Chapter, we wanted to give you some insight into our backgrounds and experiences as ICAN mothers. First up is our leader, Heather Deatrick. Here is her short biography, in her own words.

My name is Heather Deatrick and I have 3 boys.  I found ICAN through my Bradley instructor when I was attempting a VBAC with my 2nd child.  I remember thinking at the time I didn’t feel “traumatized” by my c-section, and I was quite sure modern medicine had saved his life, so wasn’t sure why I needed to go.  But she kept urging me so I finally went to a meeting.  I had no idea how much my life was going to change!My first birth ended in a cesarean after a failed induction for being post-dates.  It never occurred to me to question the induction as I still had not entertained the thought that it would not be medically necessary.  Now I know that the only reason for the induction was for being 41w3d, not for any fetal distress or condition on my part.  I was given Cyctotec without my knowledge, necessitating an epidural, followed by Pitocen, then regular heart decels sending us off to the OR.  The Cytotec was given at 7PM, the c-section at noon the next day.  I was devastated but grateful he was OK and I lived through he surgery.  Thankfully, breastfeeding went OK and I had no complications.  I never thought I would have any more children, so when I found myself pregnant 3 years later, I was very excited to try for a VBAC.  While I didn’t know a lot about the politics of birth, I DID know I didn’t want another c-section.  I also knew my OB had a different agenda when he patted my knee at my 6 week checkup and told me that next time I can just schedule the birth, as though that were a plus.  So with this child, I went back to trusting my instincts, and found a midwife and took a comprehensive childbirth education class.  It was on my VBAC journey that I not only had to learn so much, but more importantly, I had to UN-learn so much.  The biggest thing I found I had to unlearn was that childbirth is a disaster waiting to happen and we need someone to save us.  That was a massive indoctrination to unlearn.  My VBAC was a success and after a long labor that involved a lot of movement and rocking and moaning and a little yelling, I was able to push my 2nd son out.  It was incredibly empowering to do what women have been doing for thousands and thousands of years.  I felt honored to be totally present at his birth. I felt strong, making my own decisions, rather than turning my body over to a doctor.  My midwife was there for me, and I felt that power.  My baby latched immediately and we went home from the hospital the next day.  Fast forward 4 more years and I was lucky enough to give birth one more time, in my dining room, into water, with my partner, my kids, my mother, my midwives and my doula.  Not everyone should give birth at home, but for me, it was truly the best experience.  Going from the tub to bed where I stayed for two weeks nursing my newest son, was perfect, for the whole family.  The care we received from our midwives was like none other too. They spent so much time with us, before, during and after the birth that I felt I was truly in the best hands possible.  (Both of my VBAC birth stories can be found on the ICAN Twin Cities website)

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Message from the Chapter Leader

Hello Birth Warriors!

I think it is time to officially unveil the new face of ICAN of the Twin Cities, as we have had three major changes in our board this year.

The first is to say with a heavy heart goodbye to Sarah Shannon.  She has been part of ICAN of the Twin Cities for 6+ years and has really been the one who knew how to get all our ideas more than just talk.  She is extremely high energy and organized and excellent at setting goals and following up so we all stayed on track.  She just received her Ph.D in Sociology from the U of M, so how she put so much time into our chapter, while working on that, along with being mom to two boys and wife still amazes me.  She has inspired me to act on what I believe in, and she has given me the tools to know how to do it.  Besides all that, I consider her a true friend, so it shouldn't have surprised me when I burst into tears the day I said goodbye to her before they drove to Georgia.  I guess I should add that she and her husband (also a new doctor-congrats to you too, Jerry) have both accepted positions at the University of Georgia in Athens.  ICAN of the Twin Cities owes a debt of gratitude to the Shannon family and we have grown so much together-our boys, our bellies (pregnant ones, I mean), our VBAC journeys.  It is hard to say goodbye to such a momentous part of my life, but Sarah was definitely that and I say Thank you and Onward!  I know they will bring many great things to Athens.

The second big change is that Kara stepped back from her Chapter Leader duties to focus on her career and her family a little more.  She is still on the board, thank goodness, so it isn't sad, but a little scary as I have assumed her position.  Kara has fearlessly led our chapter for 6 years and these are big shoes to fill.  Under her direction, we attended ICAN conferences, held several huge fundraising events, and yes, started the Twin Cities Birth and Baby Expo, not to mention keeping the monthly meetings running and growing.  She has always been the brains of our group-knowing when to put the brakes on something too big, and when to say "go for it."  She is an accountant in her regular life and very organized and good with details, and I have tried to learn as much as I can from her.  I am nervous about running our chapter, but as long as she is still with us, I will always have her knowledge base.  She was also an officer for ICAN International, so is a wealth of insider information.  Not to mention, she is a great person and her family too has grown right along with us.

The third is that we grew our board.  Our "old" board had been Sarah, Kara and me for a long time.  We then invited Jill a year ago, which gave us some much needed new energy and woman-power.  But with the loss of Sarah, we were facing a pretty big hole so we put out a call and received several impressive applications.  And now we are so excited to have Katie (congrats on your HBAC!), Alexis and Kelly as new ICAN of the Twin Cities board members.  We also had a wonderful lady named Ruth, but she suddenly moved back to Chicago so we had only a short time together.  I believe that Chicago has some VBAC challenges, so I have encouraged her to get involved there, as I am sure they need all the help they can get.  We will certainly miss her and appreciate her stepping up to the call.  So now, our "new" board has just the right mix of creativity and high energy and more woman-power we were looking for, as each woman brings fabulous and unique skills.  I know we are on track to grow our chapter in a way that will continue to be on track with the ICAN mission, by reaching more and more women.  Thank you, ladies, for joining!

So from here, we are working on adding to our chapter and getting more visible and organized and accessible.  The addition of the Facebook Group has already added a huge jump in online help-so thank you Katie for managing that.  We are looking to grow our library, our website, our presence in the hospitals and other communities we haven’t been very visible in yet.  Our top priority will always be our meetings and the mother-to –mother support that is critical to healing and learning, so look out for some really great meetings coming up.  And of course the Twin CitiesBirth and Baby Expo is coming Saturday, October 12.  Finally, Kelly will be managing the Blog, so look for upcoming interesting and helpful posts.

We are truly lucky to live in an area that has many options for first time and VBAC moms to have the birth they deserve and should have. We have choices here, and it isn’t like that everywhere.  Little by little, one VBAC at a time, one prevented cesarean at a time, birth gets safer and better.  I feel very rewarded being a part of this and look forward to doing more. 

Rock you birth and your life ladies-there is no one who knows your baby, your body and your needs better than you!


Monday, August 5, 2013

Farewell, Sarah!

Change is almost always bittersweet. While we've been thrilled to announce the arrival of our new board members, we've also had to say goodbye to one of our existing board members. Sarah Shannon has been around since the beginning, and it's hard to say goodbye! Sarah wanted to share this post with you.

Hello and Goodbye!

By Sarah Shannon

When my oldest son was just over two years old, I realized I wasn’t “getting over” his cesarean birth the way that I was “supposed to.” During my pregnancy, I largely ignored everything about c-sections, assuming that that kind of “rare,” “emergency” birth wouldn’t happen to me. But I did remember that someone at some point had given me a sheet with tips on how to avoid a cesarean from some group called ICAN. I decided to Google around and see if this ICAN had anything that could help me.

Lo and behold, a new ICAN chapter was just forming in the Twin Cities. I contacted the new leaders Chandra Fischer and Julie Maas. They invited me to their first meeting in the spring on 2005. At that time, I swore I would never have another child because who needed to go through all of that terrible business again?

Since then, I’ve not only had another child (a healthy, wonderful VBAC at home – read my story here), I also helped give birth to the Twin Cities Birth and Baby Expo. Aside from the personal transformation I experienced by becoming reeducated and empowered as a mother, I’m most proud of and grateful for the experience of helping start and run the Expo through its first four years. I believe that our ICAN chapter has given this great gift to the Twin Cities – that out of our grief and pain from our own difficult birth experiences we’ve brought into our community a new and beautiful way to show other moms and families that medicalized birth is not the only, or even always the best way to give birth. It started off as a far-fetched (ok, I called it crazy) idea, but somehow, we’ve pulled it off every year on a shoestring budget with all volunteers and more businesses and organizations jumping at the chance to participate.

This year will be the Expo’s 5
th anniversary. Amazing!
So, it’s with a full but heavy heart that I am saying goodbye. My husband and I recently finished our PhDs at the University of Minnesota and have moved our family all the way to Athens, Georgia to be professors at the University of Georgia. I will miss the sacred space of our monthly support meetings, the incredible partnership and camaraderie I’ve had as a member of the Board for the past five years, and the amazing adrenaline rush of planning and pulling off the Expo every year. Thanks to all of you for a great eight years of healing and giving back, but especially thanks to present and former board members Kara Wurden, Heather Deatrick, Jill Vanderziel, Chandra Fischer, and Julie Maas for being such supportive friends and unsurpassable co-conspirators in bringing better birth to Minnesota.

I look forward to seeing what ICAN Twin Cities does next through the new board members that have joined. I feel a little bit better leaving now knowing that fantastic new ideas and energy are already at work!
Farewell, Sarah! We will miss you!

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Welcome back! Meet our new Board Members

It's been awhile since we posted here on the ICAN Twin Cities blog, but we are excited to be back in action! A lot has happened in the past few months. We continue to have our monthly support meetings, have opened a great Facebook group, and have made some appearances at local conventions. We also have added a few new Board Members to our Board! Here are the new members:

Katie Champ has been active in ICAN for awhile now, and brings great energy to the board with her new ideas! We are all anxiously awaiting her VBAC birth of her son any day now!

Alexis Scott is a mama of two, including a VBAC baby! She will be helping with social media, as well as connecting with the Latino community in the Twin Cities.

Kelly Lillibridge is a licensed therapist and active in the social service community. She will be heading up the blog and managing the lending library.

Katie, Alexis and Kelly are joining Heather Deatrick (president), Jill VanderZiel, and Kara Wurden on the Board. The Board is excited to have new members to bring fresh ideas to our organization!

Check back in the next few weeks for more detailed bios of each board member, including birth stories and how we all got involved with ICAN!