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In Celebration of International Doula Month: A Mother’s Letter To Her Doula

13 May

Dear Ellie,

It has been three months since my daughter’s birth. I have been blessed and delighted with motherhood. I enjoy her tremendously and therefore I have neglected the rest of the world. I have been meaning to write and let you know how wonderful it was for my daughter and me that you were our doula. We are so glad we chose you to be with us for such a precious, intimate, soul piercing moment-the birth of my daughter. I wanted to take the time to thank you for your care and concern about my well being during labor. Starting with your massages, they were soothing and invigorating. I loved your rocking me. It produced in me a sense of calmness. You seemed to have known when to talk to me to keep me focused on my daughter’ birth.

Alexandr Vasilyev/Dol

Alexandre Vasilyev/DollarPhotoClub


You facilitated communication between my doctor and my nurses. At times I was out of it emotionally and physically that medical explanations had little meaning to me. You clarified, explained, asked questions and kept my interest at heart. You made a “dysfunctional labor”, as my doctor labeled it, functional. My doctor spoke highly of you and so did my family. My husband was so happy that you were there because it allowed him to relax and enjoy the process. He told me he trusted you implicitly.

Your hospital visit after the birth was deeply appreciated. I was feeling so overwhelmed and helpless by the ordeal of a cesarean , trying to breastfeed, changing diapers, answering phone calls and trying to be graceful to my visitors. Your tips on organization and breastfeeding proved successful. Ellie, there was a sincere, loving level of care that you incorporated within your professional knowledge that mad it easier for me to learn the techniques.

Your home visit was a delight. You helped me to give my newborn daughter her first bath and walked me gently through it allowing me to lose the fear of hurting her. Yes, God danced the day she was born and all the beings of this universe welcomed her to her home. I am bursting with pride, joy and love for my daughter. Lastly, I must thank you for the list of reading material you recently sent me. Ellie, I couldn’t have endured 28 hours of labor without your loving care and support.

I am so happy you were there. We all thank you. Thank you for writing what took place when I gave birth to my daughter. I shall keep that account for her.

Love, M.

Many thanks to my friend and colleague, Ellie Shea, for sharing this letter.

In Honor of Cesarean Awareness Month: Introducing The VBAC Education Project

10 Apr

VBAC was deemed a reasonable and safe option to a routine repeat cesarean by the National Institutes of Health decades ago (1981). But, in recent years, misinformation about its safety and lack of clear national practice guidelines have succeeded in virtually eliminating VBACs in many hospitals. Intro.keyThousands of women are being denied medical care for VBAC and given no choice but to “consent” to a repeat operation they do not need or want. Mothers have the legal right to make their own health care decisions, but that right, more often than not, is not upheld. The  upcoming, evidence-based VBAC Education Project, endorsed by the International Childbirth Education Association was developed to answer the many questions parents have about VBAC and provide educators and maternity care professionals with the resources they need to support women who want to labor after a prior cesarean. This volunteer collaborative project will be available for download at no cost.

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Women Fight For The Chance To Use Their Own Bodies In Giving Birth

13 Mar

Los Angeles, CA (March 2015) — Ninety percent of American women who give birth by Cesarean will have all future babies by surgery. The new feature-length documentary film, Trial of Labor TOLgives a voice to four California women fighting those odds: planning births after Cesarean (VBAC).

Access to VBAC remains extremely restricted in the U.S., with many hospitals maintaining mandatory surgery policies (also known as “VBAC bans”) for women who have had Cesareans. These policies, based primarily on non-medical factors, mean that tens of thousands of women every year have no choice in how they give birth: they are pushed into surgery whether they need it or not.

This situation persists despite a top-level push to increase access to VBAC. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists calls VBAC, “safe and appropriate” for most women, while the National Institute of Health and American Academy of Family Physicians urge increased access to VBAC as a pressing issue of public health, warning against the life-threatening risks of harm from multiple Cesareans. When a woman is given the chance at a “trial of labor,” she has about a three-in-four chance of avoiding the operating room.

The women featured in Trial of Labor are determined not to have unnecessary surgeries, but face a gauntlet of self-doubt, unresolved feelings about previous births, limited support, and even ultimatums from their care providers. The film presents the poignant, sometimes messy, reality of their journeys: in their own words, from their own perspectives.

As the process unfolds, we watch the women learn to trust themselves again. For them, giving birth is more than just the means to an end: it’s a profound reclaiming of the right to use their own bodies to get there.

Trial of Labor premiers in Los Angeles on March 18, 2015. For a limited time, beginning March 20, it will be streamed to about 150,000 members of the public via multiple national and international childbirth, consumer, and advocacy organizations. The film will be released to the general public on March 31.

To watch the Trailer, visit

Epidurals For Labor: Telling It Like It Is

11 Feb

A national survey of women who gave birth in U.S. hospitals in 2011-2012 reported that 6 out of 10 mothers had an epidural for pain relief in labor. An epidural is a very effective form of pain relief, but it can also lead to complications that eventually makes it necessary for the mother to have a cesarean.

At Spectrum Health Gerber Memorial in Fremont, Michigan expectant mothers are educated about the benefits and risks of using an epidural in labor and their informed choice is respected. Dr. Tami Michele, DO, FACOG, OB/GYN, Medical Director CassieEhard3746461480_ba31648524_zand Obstetrics and Gynecology Department Chair is a strong advocate of women’s informed choices. Mothers are educated about the benefits and risks of epidural anesthesia for labor and also given a Plan for Vaginal Birth form that includes many options for pain relief: massage; hypnosis techniques; use of whirlpool or  shower; use of a birth ball and freedom of movement and positions for birth.

This is the information that women are currently given if they are considering an epidural for pain relief.

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