Should Husbands Attend Their Wives’ Labor?

Here’s a thing I wrote for OnIslam.net:

“It’s bad for him to see you like that,” was the vague reasoning that potential care providers explained why my husband would be banned from the birth of our third child if I hired them.

When I responded that he had already seen my first two labors (and obviously he had been able to continue to reproduce, if that’s what they meant) I was shrugged off, the practitioners’ policies remained firm.

Ultimately my husband and I prematurely left our temporary residence in Morocco and returned to the US to have another homebirth. Later I would learn that barring men from attending their wives’ labor is a common practice in many Muslim-majority countries, though for varying reasons and none being evidenced-based.

Will it traumatize him?…

Please read the rest here.

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Link Love: Breastfeeding 101 for Sexual Assault Survivors


I’m really glad to have been a part of this conversation with Aaminah Shakur and company for the The Toast and also just for all the support and healing I have had through such convos. Check it out:

“…It took years for me to figure out that a lot of my struggles as a new mother were directly related to my history as a sexual assault survivor.

One of the unanticipated difficulties was breastfeeding. Eighteen years ago, when my son was born, breastfeeding was not quite as supported in my city as it is now. Just this year an ordinance was passed in support of public breastfeeding, so you can imagine the atmosphere nearly two decades ago!

…How sexual trauma can come back to us during pregnancy, childbirth, and postpartum varies. Our reactions are not uniform, and there are many possible reactions a survivor might have that are not readily seen as related to a history of trauma. We often live with shame, guilt, and isolation because we do not realize trauma is the root of our issues. When we struggle to breastfeed but cannot articulate why, it is also difficult to get the appropriate support. Lactation consultants, postpartum doulas, and other support providers should be better educated in sexual trauma and prepared to help parents with such history recognize if that may be what is causing difficulties.”

Thanks Aaminah and all, read the rest here.

Thank You Maria Zain

 

As I have been putting together an archive of Maria Zain’s articles for SISTERS magazine, many of them are pieces I am already very familiar with. Maria and I shared several similar passions – homebirthing, homeschooling, deen-centered parenting, balancing family/extended family with personal and spiritual obligations, sex and sexuality with an Islamic point of view, and even a fashion frustration with Islamic clothing designers’ negligence to cover pregnant and breastfeeding moms.

When I started as an editor at SISTERS in 2011, Maria was one of the professional, highly skilled and conscientious writers already on board who made my job a cakewalk. Her articles nearly always came in well polished and needing little editing, masha Allah. Over time we developed an easy working relationship, in which she could pop off a quick one liner idea to me about potential articles and I would often respond with an enthusiastic “Yes!” and brief suggestions to avoid this and that as we likely covered them, while maybe considering addressing this or that. The final piece would then be submitted covering a good scope of ideas, introducing me (the first reader) to new ways of seeing and often giving me a few (always needed!) giggles.

Several months back, SISTERS reintroduced their ‘Soap Box’ feature: Soap Box is the place for sisters to speak out on issues they feel strongly about.” This feature, though a popular one to read, is a hard one for writers to approach, as it is a fine balance between critiquing and demonstrating real social problems within the ummah versus whining about some lesser important pet peeve. Maria recently really took to the feature, addressing several issues she (and I!) would like to see taken more seriously by Muslims, and she also pitched me a few of those emotion-filled one liners for a potential Soap Box rant, which she would later tone down and round out into more… palatable articles for elsewhere in the magazine or even other publications.

As a writer myself, Maria and I had a great deal of crossover in the subject matters we both write about which easily could have made us competitive in such a small field for Muslim writers, yet it only furthered our sharing of knowledge and resources. Maria introduced me to her fabulous editor at an online publication we both enjoyed writing for, and when I discussed the pending possibility of having an unassisted birth with my sixth child, Maria brought me into a tight circle of hundreds of women choosing to homebirth without assistance due to legal restrictions on using midwives. This circle was phenomenal and supported me through my sixth and most relaxed and stress-free birth.

I often see myself as a reluctant advocate across several fronts, where I have chosen to take less popular and even (unwittingly to me) controversial paths. Maria walked many of these paths with me, though I never once saw her reluctance. When I did see her attacked, either via online comments, Facebook discussions or in private exchanges, she always maintained a calm composure and an ability to remain politely but firmly steadfast, with a grace I still hope to someday achieve.

Reading through the memorials posted online for Maria, I am well aware of the legacy she has left behind in her writing having already read so many of her writings as an editor, a peer, a person of shared interests and a friend, but seeing them anew – knowing that there will be no more follow ups, no more branching into new subjects, no more behind the scenes chats – I now know what a privilege and blessing it was to have known Maria Zain, to have had my hand held, to have been given both echoed reassurances of my own feelings and even new insights into many issues from a truly special sister. I regret that I do not recall ever once thanking Maria for all she did for me and my family.

I pray that Maria’s husband is given support and strength to carry on raising his family with a deen-centered focus and that their children know even a glimpse of the sacrifices both their parents made to protect and nurture them as Allah (SWT) guided them to do so, ameen.

Editor in Chief of SISTERS Magazine, Na’ima B. Robert, has set up a fundraiser to help Maria’s husband and family through this upheaval. Please consider sending them some support: http://www.gofundme.com/mariazain

 

I Ate Everything I Wasn’t Supposed to While I Was Pregnant


I have been meaning to cut back on activities that folks can use to judge my mothering and make more time to write about all the bad mommy things I have done, but then some other bad mommies suggested that I open an Instagram account. So, let me quickly tell you about how during my six+ pregnancies I managed to unknowingly or unaware-ingly eat everything pregnant people are not supposed to eat, and then I can return to posting pictures of the outcomes.

During my first pregnancy, I worked in a fine arts and crafts gallery where all but one of my dozen co-workers were women and there were several varieties of diets constantly occurring simultaneously among them. I had never been a dedicated dieter, rather I just exercised daily via my bike/walk/rollerblade commute and ate what I mostly wanted, but in that first pregnancy I was enjoying my opportunity to eat for two. A few times a day I would walk into the break room, of course always offering to share, with my daily indulgence in hand and mouth, such as a wheel of brie and a loaf of brioche. My svelte co-workers would groan and hasten out of the room; though on one occasion an entire family-sized tiramisu did manage to get eaten by someone(s) after I abandoned it back there.

I suppose it was because I was only the third employee to ever be pregnant at the gallery that none of my co-workers also got the Xeroxed hand-out that informed pregnant people which cheeses were and weren’t a no-no. Unpasteurized brie and especially its chewing moldy outer shell, according to some, should be avoided while pregnant. Though I would learn this detail postnatal, in a later pregnancy I would sort of forget or maybe just not being a caseiculturer I did not understand that the same theory applies to some soft goat cheeses which I more reservedly ate packages of in two sittings.

I’m not really sure what I was informed about smoked meats and nitrogen during this first pregnancy, but I was a newly quit vegetarian living two blocks away from the Pork Store and More. I ate a smoky, nitrogen-filled sandwich just about every day. In my third pregnancy, after having horrible morning sickness and food aversion while living overseas, I returned to the States and attempted to have a turkey sandwich from every delicatessen counter within a 30 minute drive of my house. Sandwich meat is a major childhood comfort food for me. At 40 years old, I still wish someone would learn how to make a porkfree bologna that tastes just like Oscar’s.

In the first pregnancy I was aware that I should go lightly on the tuna, and no doubt this is why I never indulged my craving curiosity about if water chestnuts would add an excellent crunch to tuna salad. And I must have been told something about the implied dangers of sushi because I hastened to a local sushi spot with my three day old newborn for a taste of what I had several months long missed out on.

I missed the boat about other potential dangers lurking in the deep, like, at the bottom. During that summer of my first pregnancy, my husband and I had our belated honeymoon/or only vacationish without children in the 17 years we have been married. We drove up and back down the east coast of the US, indulging on Americana brunch delights and all available varieties of seafood, except sushi and tuna, of course. When we hit Maine my husband was in near tears at the discovery of all-you-can-eat seafood buffets. I was baffled by why violently tearing lobsters open with my bare hands caused them to itch, and happily stuffed my face while my husband took over that messy task. While he turned on his heel at the first clam shack we came to and went over to order a burger from the “safer” fast food chain one parking lot over, I ordered three servings of fried clam necks knowing he would “just want to try one”. We then ate fried clam necks every time we happened upon a shack, let’s assume that was daily. In a subsequent pregnancy I would learn about bottom feeders and how those deliciously nasty little beasts troll the ocean floors eating any and all kinds of filth they happened upon, best to be avoided I was told.

Tore up that creamy chicken crepe and now me and this juice… orange, carrot, ginger.

A post shared by Brooke Benoit (@br00kebenoit) on

Raw eggs? Probably, most likely. That tiramisu noted above was pretty authentic, so maybe. And homemade mayonnaise was standard for a time in the home I lived in with extended family in Morocco. Yes, it does taste better, but personally I don’t have the time/desire to stand there slowly drizzling my oil into my egg, or maybe it’s the other way around, but it is delicious and I am happy to eat it when someone else makes it.

Unpasterized juice? Probably, most likely. Again a standard thing in Morocco, but I also spent plenty of time and $$$ at juice bars in NY and Oregon during a couple of my pregnancies, so yes, very likely.

In my second pregnancy herbal “pregnancy” or “uterus” tea became a major staple of my diet. I would make 32 ounces daily, tucking it into the fridge to “ice” and drinking up all of the bottle I had made the day before. I LOVED that stuff. Now, in researching for this article, I found a few suggestions that women should avoid all herbal tea while pregnant. Really? Certain herbs are standard in many mama well-being diets, but instead of addressing how some herbs can maybe be dangerous during pregnancy, just use scare tactics and tell women to avoid all… I imbibed a lot of one of these herbs-to-avoid while pregnant. At some point in my bulk herb buying I began buying horsetail. No idea how, why, or when that happened, but I brewed it with my raspberry leaf, oat straw and all the other yummy, herby goodness I threw in the bottle, and I drank it for sometime during the end of my pregnancy.

It seems a lot of these foods-to-avoid in pregnancy have to do with concerns around potentially poor food handling situations. Others, like the tea, are… weird. And a part of this firm foundation of relying heavily and even solely on medical-professionals who are not as objective and know-it-all in their handlings as many of us like to think. Of course I am not suggesting that we take on wanton abandon while pregnant (or any other time) and nor am I doing that thing where I say something like “It was good enough for our moms!” Remember, many of our moms suffered through the pregnancy related brutalities of their time. In my 6+ pregnancies spanning nearly two decades I have learned that a lot of medical advice is like most advice: personal, subjective, contemporary but not based on long term findings.

The Radicalization of Two Mamas: A Conversation Between Unassisted Birthers Dalecia and Brooke

Longtime friends Dalecia and Brooke discuss how they both came about having unassisted births in 2012.

Brooke Benoit: How do you feel about the term “unassisted?”

Dalecia Young: The term “unassisted” is somewhat shallow and misleading to what mothers like you and me are doing. I needed and received plenty of assistance; from my partner and family, from you my good friend as well as other “unassisting” mothers. The truth is that we are constantly gathering wisdom from all around us; our partners, other mothers, and yes, even medical professionals such as midwives, doctors and their professional associations and literature  in preparation for our births so even the clarified term “medically unassisted” still falls short. Perhaps “medically unattended” is more fitting for the biggest difference between birthers such as us and typical birthers is the attendance of a medical professional at the birth itself.

Brooke: Yes. “Unassisted” sounds so alone, which is rather frightful. I remember with my fifth birth, which was my third homebirth, I was having difficulties finding a midwife to attend the birth. The midwifery board of Alaska had chosen to not let licensed midwives attend homebirth vbacs (vaginal birth after cesarean section) and even though I was fine with using an unlicensed midwife, there simply weren’t any available in Anchorage as they had all chosen licensing likely to be able to receive insurance. So my fabulous midwife who was seeing me only for prenatal had told me about unassist- I could “have an unassisted birth” she said. I thought that was really out there. Why would I want to do that all alone?! But she explained that I could choose anyone to attend the birth (not her though as her hands were tied!) such as a doula or friend or even no-one at all except my husband. That just didn’t gel with me at the time. I wanted someone to supervise the delivery…

Dalecia: What were your fears about unassisting and how did you face them?

Brooke: My fears were solely about complications. I took some comfort in knowing that there was an urgency center just a block away in case there truly was a complication we couldn’t handle. A friend in the states sent me an emergency birth book that paramedics used to keep on hand. It was really very cute- retro with great graphics- and I skimmed through to the areas I was worried about, mostly her getting stuck or coming out at an odd angle. The book was lost somewhere in our home before my husband could get a good look at it, but unlike before my first birth when I had thought that I would just be completely spaced out during labor and expected the midwives to tell me what to do and when, this time I well knew that I would be present during labor and could communicate my needs to him if things felt or looked off.

Then just a few weeks before I gave birth, one of the many online birth circles I belong to posted a bunch of links to roadside or accidental homebirths. I read through as many of them as I could and although I knew it was (probably) inappropriate I was just giddy with the joy at how simply these women had all given birth without any medical intervention at all- many truly alone. And even though there is a horrid problem of women in labor being turned away from medical services for various reasons and having to go it alone, these unassisted women who were sharing their stories didn’t sound traumatized at all. It was totally cathartic to just wholeheartedly laugh off all the build up I was feeling against what I was about to do… it was such a relief to be comforted by all those accidental unassisted stories.

Dalecia: My greatest fear was also complications, and I also found comfort in such stories and birth stories from other unassisting mothers. What also helped me to face my fears has been my ongoing journey of loving and trusting my womanhood, a journey that began when I was 16 when I abandoned any shame against my cycle  and continues to this day in various ways. During both my pregnancies I developed a sense of awe and trust in the wisdom and design of women and the amazing things we are able to do. If we weren’t able to do them, humans as a species would not have survived, thrived, and achieved so much for the past estimated 250,000 years! If birth were inherently dangerous this would have never been the case. Not only this, but it has never been safer to birth, in any manner a mother may choose. We are blessed in that we are not over worked and underfed, we have access to nutricious foods, adequate exercise, and healthcare when we need it, and there is more knowledge and literature about birth than ever before, both classical and contemporary.

Brooke: Where did you first get the idea to do an medically unattended birth?

Dalecia: My husband was the first to suggest it when we were expecting our first daughter in 2010. I was discussing how shy I am and how unnecessary I felt pelvic exams were and devastated I believed I would become during labor and he suggested that he deliver our baby himself in our home. At first I thought he was kidding with me but he was serious. We looked up on the Internet if people do that, and what do you know, they do! I was still uncomfortable with the idea initially, so we planned otherwise. By the time we became pregnant with our second I had definitely warmed to the idea.

Brooke: I remember this! Your first pregnancy was during that period that I was pregnant with my fifth and couldn’t find a midwife who either wasn’t effected by the midwifery laws or who would work outside of them. You rather casually mentioned to me this option you were considering and I don’t remember what I responded, but I was worried. I wasn’t actually worried about the birth because I knew you were thoroughly educating yourself, but I was worried about your husband! Ha! Seriously, I had only met him once and when I heard that this was his idea I was really wondering about him- yet another overbearing male perhaps? You and I have certainly encountered enough of those! And my husband got similar responses when he would reveal our plans to have an medically unattended birth with our sixth. People kept telling him “There won’t be any men there!” which is either  a flagrant lie as so many women have experienced- you have little control once you are in their territory- or yes, that included him not being allowed to be present at the birth.

Brooke: What happened with your first delivery?

Dalecia: Ha! I remember you got really babbly after I mentioned it and I changed the subject to Mary Shelley. He had freaked me out a bit too with the suggestion, he was really into the idea but once I decided against it he let it go.

We did want a homebirth with a midwife, but things just didn’t pan out with that so we went with the hospital. When I opted out of routine eye ointment for my daughter I was told my birth canal was dirty. When I hadn’t progressed as quickly as the midwife had hoped she told me that either she would break my waters artificially or send me home. I was hollered at to push (as if I’d forget!) and end up popping blood vessels in my face from over pushing due to stress. After each contraction a nurse would examine my belly, this was very annoying because I gave birth on my hands and knees so she was really getting in my way. I was slipped pitocin unnecessarily after the delivery, which I now attribute to causing a delay in our bonding; I did not fall in love with my firstborn until 8 hours later, when I feel that the pitocin probably wore off, in fact I felt very disconnected from her those first 8 hours.

Brooke: Dang, I thought my ability to change the subject was slicker than that. Shelly *cough* Orientalist racism and classic Islamophobia. *cough* I’m sorry, reading your birth story really upsets me. I am so glad that you were really prepared- as in self-educated- and still we see what happens. Of course it can be made worse if you are prepared because some of those medical professionals do not appreciate being told how to do their jobs. And I can’t fully imagine the extra added biases you may have received as a teenager, a Muslim and a woman of color.

Dalecia: I tried to educate myself with my first pregnancy, but unfortunately my reading was very mainstream. I feel blessed to have had the wonderful midwife I did have while in labour. It was a hospital-related group of midwives and could have been anyone of six. She was really excellent though, and yeah when the nurse started getting argumentative and mean with me trying to monitor the baby while I was in the pushing stage, the midwife got her off of me. There were other bothersome things too, such as being threatened to be induced, being hooked up to an IV and yes a man did have to enter the room even though I was told he didn’t. And then the midwife was not there to protect me and the baby in recovery and those handful of hours I stayed over. That’s when I became extremely frustrated, it was a beratement of continual disrespect and condescending. Before I was even in my room I was arguing with the admitting nurse who wanted to take the baby for a bath. Then every nurse who came through and saw that I wasn’t doing x,y,z according to their procedures would get huffy with me and several asked if he was my first baby. And my pediatrician- which had to be chosen before labor, as he has to ok the baby to leave- he was just a horribly rude man. The actual birth was great in that it was so different than what I had feared, the surrounding “support” and technicalities- not great at all.

Remember I labored in the Alaksa Native Medical Center, so literally EVERY patient is a person of color, so the staff, for the most part, is pretty good about cultural respect. I believe it was my age (I was 18 at the time, but I’m still putting up with this crap, i can’t wait until I’m 30!) that threw my labor team off the most. The triage nurse, the one who said I was dirty, spoke down to me like a child, and gave me plenty of attitude when I asserted my sovereignty over my and my child’s bodies.

Although my hospital birth experience was stressful and unpleasant, I’m glad it happened, I learned a great deal firsthand about the modern maternity care system, and more importantly it helped me to quickly realize that I want nothing to do with it; something many other mothers I’ve learned and read from hadn’t realized until several children, and oftentimes injuries and trauma, later. I don’t see myself seeking the attendance of a medical professional in future births so long as my risk profile remains low.

Brooke: I have been wondering if I would do it again. Up until about a month before the birth I continued to halfheartedly look for a local midwife to do a homebirth in Casablanca. I could have brought in a midwife from abroad, like many expats do, but that just didn’t appeal to me as I knew that there should be a midwife available locally somehow (everyone in Morocco knows someone who was born at home if they weren’t themselves- where have all the midwives gone??) but ultimately I felt comfortable about doing an unassist if need be. Where I live now many women tend each others’ births and would possibly do so for me, and that could be nice- to have a midwife again. Though it was very stress free with only my husband present, so I wouldn’t mind just he and I again either.

Again, I never felt alone or unassisted during the whole process of my unassisted birth. I had already received loads of support and knowledge from my fabulous former midwives, especially Susan and Page in Alaska. And then during that last pregnancy I received tons of support from several wonderful midwives, including Mai’a of outlaw midwives, Nicola of wysewomen and Maria or being Maria– so much love and thanks to them.

~~~

Dalecia’s unassisted birth story of Salma Luna can be read here on her blog: ‘Shukr with My Coffee’. Brooke’s unassisted birth story of  Asiya Eve (we know, we have cool baby names) can be read here on her blog ‘A Clichéd Life’ and her DIY Birth Kit is explained here.

The Unassisted Birth of Asiya Eve

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I just realized that I never got around to writing about the unassisted (assisted by my husband) birth story of Asiya Eve last year. Maybe I hadn’t done so because it was really quite uneventful.

My water broke late in the morning, maybe it was even early in the afternoon. I told my husband, who pops in and out of the house at least a half dozen times a day, that if he had any errands to run to please do so now and quickly. And he did. Slowly (pacing myself) I began to prepare the odds and ends for the birth: put my juices in the fridge to cool, brewed my herbs for a sitz bath, placed our homemade birth kit next to the birth stool, gave my sister in law the brand new scissors to sterilize, and pulled out some comfy clothes for baby and I. My sil set my kids up with snacks and a dvd.

Soon enough I was feeling “closer” and called my husband into our bedroom. I began crying and told him that I wasn’t really afraid, but that this was the part where I felt slightly overwhelmed and scared. Saying encouraging words he hugged me and I felt much, much better. Then he began to fuss with the birth supplies- setting the plastic up just so and getting himself a little stool to sit on- and I was feeling very relaxed so I decided to try to catnap, though I have never been able to do so in my prior labors. I lied down on my side and almost immediately had a strong contraction with a nearly irresistible urge to push. “I’m going to get on the chair and push her out, ok?” I warned the husband. “Ok” was his readied reply and he helped me to quickly take the two steps over to the chair.

“One push and she’s going to slide out like a little fish,” I confidently told him, “Now.” And she did. He was nervous to catch her with his bare hands and so he caught her in the folds of a towel that had been resting on his knee. Perhaps it was my fish analogy that I had used as a visualization and dua throughout the pregnany that made him worry about how slippery she would be; “Please Allah” I had prayed “let her just slip out like a little fish.”

We delighted in her- so much hair, a lovely warm color and plump, masha Allah- and then my husband turned to me and asked “Is that it? Are we done?” “No!” The placenta. This was the part I was a little freaked out about. I nursed her and felt a stirring again. Within the time of a few small contractions I pushed the placenta out and it just barely fit in the basin I insisted my husband exchange for the smaller one he originally brought home. Everything was truly perfect.

We debated if we should call in the kids to meet her. It was then that I realized they were watching the movie Cheaper by the Dozen II and right at that second was the typical screaming freak out hospital birth scene. Oh the irony. The kids, just outside my bedroom door never heard a peep and still didn’t even know that she was born. We decided to just have my sil come meet her until we could clean up a little and get me into the bed. My sister in law snuck in and gushed over her for a bit before helping with the umbilical cord. We waited for the cord to stop pulsing and then husband put on the clamp and separated us. That always gives me a little bit of the sads.

Sister in law snuck back out and after I got comfortable in bed the kids came in to gush over their new little sister. It was a most brief gushing as they had just started another movie and were easily ushered back out. The husband then rushed over to the mosque to brag about his inception as a midhusband, I mean to pray mahgrib. When he returned home I took a nice little bath and he cleaned our room all up (just like the midwives do!) and then Asiya was ready for some more boobies and a nap. Very ordinary birthing stuff.

SISTERS Reads: Raising Baby Green

Raising Baby Green:The Earth-Friendly Guide to Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Baby Care (Kindle Edition)

By Alan Greene/ Published by Jossey-Bass/ Reviewed by Brooke Benoit

Every time I have a new baby, I’m a bit of a new mum all over again. It seems like I should have at least learnt the basics after six babies, but the basics keep changing on me! The wealth of baby-related products and the methodologies are constantly being updated, while my responsibilities to my baby and to Allah (SWT) remain the same. Wait, that’s not true. My responsibilities grow as my knowledge-base grows, so while it’s great that I learned so much after having six babies, it certainly would have been nice from the start to have learned more about sustainable parenting and less about the latest parenting trends.  Raising Baby Green: The Earth-Friendly Guide to Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Baby Care by Alan Greene is not only a great place to start understanding the immense impact one little bundle of joy can have on our entire shared environment, but it had plenty of new ideas for an old green-palmed mum like me.

 

Organics

I have always strived to be conscious of whether or not I am feeding my children organics, but I hadn’t fully considered the exposure to chemicals via what I put on my babies or their beds, which they mouth and suck on more than food in some stages! As Greene explains, baby sleeps up to sixteen hours a day and are almost always clothed, but the fabrics you buy for baby have not undergone the same regulated restrictions as food – actually there is good reason new clothes and bedding are suggested to be washed before using, they are made with and tainted with many chemicals, even potentially toxic ones. While I always considered organic clothing to be too expensive and maybe even extravagant, I now have a better understanding of its efficiency and would prefer to gift friends pricey organic clothing rather than anything else – except maybe fair trade chocolates for mum.

 

Nappies (What the British call diapers)

Greene thoroughly covers issues regarding nappies, referring to current studies and for those of us, like me, who are trapped somewhere between the guilt of wishing to use cloth nappies and actually using landfill-nappies (as Greene points out they are not truly disposable since they stick around forever!), there are some alternatives available: eco-diapers, made with less toxins and more sustainability or disposable cloth liners, which can be flushed thereby making cloth diapers easier to clean and carry. With a new, less toxic detergent on hand, Green has inspired me, and we are back in the cloth!

 

Labour and Delivery

The section on eco-birthing was especially interesting to me as I have birthed in several different environments, both home and hospitals. Even though I have home-birthed four of my children, they were all in different homes. In the Labour and Delivery Room section of the book as well as the Whole Home section, Green gives plenty of areas to consider when creating a safer home environment for our babies. He also details the larger impact of hospital births, offering alternative suggestions for a “carbon neutral delivery” within both hospitals and homes.

Toys

And even though I am already completely sold on the idea, I loved Greene’s section on toys where he waxes the goodness in wood, wool, cotton, and toys made of natural materials. “Research on the health effects of many plastics is still in its early stages, but it is known that some of our children’s plastic toys contain chemicals, including lead, cadmium, and toxic softeners, that  may cause permanent damage to the brain, liver, and reproductive system” warns Greene. Being from San Francisco – the city Green highlights, where certain plastic toys are actually illegal – I have long known about the toxicity of plastics and their manufacturing, but rereading the litany of environmental and health problems caused by these products is always a good refresher. Plastics are so convenient and common, I find them constantly sneaking into my home! Natural materials can be more costly and time-consuming to care for, but what is time? And what is our rizq (income) for? Allah (SWT) allots us our time, so being green is an act of ‘ibadah (worship) and our money should not be spent on buying goods which are poisonous to both ourselves and the shared environment.


Overall I really appreciated Greene’s book. Even though I consider myself an eco-jihadist, I still found through the read that there are several areas of my life in which I could do a little more greening, and there are a good variety of ways to do it.

Further Reading:

Green Deen: What Islam Teaches about Protecting the Planet by Ibrahim Abdul-Matin

You Are Your Child’s First Teacher, Third Edition: Encouraging Your Child’s Natural Development from Birth to Age Six by Rahima Baldwin Dancy

All Our Relations: Native Struggles for Land and Life by Winona LaDuke

~~~

This book review originally appeared in the April 2013 issues of SISTERS Magazine– the magazine for fabulous Muslim women. 

 

Brooke Benoit lives in a rural village in the High Atlas Mountains where she is trying to lightly walk her own eco-talk.

Link Love – The Unassisted Birth (hey Dad helped!) of Salma Luna

I keep meaning to write more eloquently about the unassisted birth (dad helped!) of my sixth baby, but… in the meantime here is my friend (I’m happily one of those who have watched her grow from girl to woman) Shukr and Salma’s (and Dad’s) story…

Forward: As I begin to more fully blossom into my adulthood, privacy has become an important virtue of mine. I’ve reached a place in my life where I no longer seek permission, approval, or praise from those who I look up to for my life choices. It will continue to take some time for those who have watched me grow from girl to woman over the years to also see me in this new way, and I will continue to be patient.

I kept the knowledge of my pregnancy private, and also my decision to give birth unassisted. I was originally hesitant to share my amazing experience for fear of being accused of selfishness and recklessness when in actuality so much thought, prayer, and research backed my decision.

I’ve decided to put my reservations aside and share my positive experience with all who are willing to listen.

Keep reading here…

A DIY Birth Kit and Plan

Two weeks ago I gave birth to my 6th child by way of what is commonly called an unassisted childbirth (uc), though my husband- and only my husband- actually gave me a good amount of assistance, so I don’t like to call it a uc. This was our fourth homebirth and I have never (publically) written much about my homebirthing experiences, but this time I am feeling a pressing need too (yes, birth puns!) yet not sure where to even begin. So, figured I would post my birth kit and “plans” for now as I really appreciated other people doing so while I was in my planning stage.

Birth Kit

On Hand:

Hot water bottle

Suction bulb

Embroidery thread

Warm socks

Lavender

Need to buy:

Blood test (need proof of type)

Rent Car

Birthing Stool (Carpenter)

Paper Towels

Baby wipes

Sheets 2

Chux/Disposable sheets (Pharmacy)

BIG sanitary pads (Pharmacy/Carrefour)

Betadine (Pharmacy)

Rubbing Alcohol (Pharmacy)

Ice Pack (Pharmacy)

Phone Number for Clinique Urgencies

Ibuprofen (Pharmacy)

Stainless Steel Scissors (Kasseria)

Bucket EXACTLY like white bucket we wash dishes in (Derb Ghalef)

Homeopathic remedies (Maarif)

  • Arnica
  • Nux Vomica
  • Chamomilla
  • Hamamelis Virginica
  • Lanolin

Case of Juice (I choose flavours)

Chamomile Tea

Flex straws (Carrefour)

Wash cloths (Maarif/Kasseria)

Baby Supplies:

Something to put Asiya’s clothes and diapers in

Bassinet (Maarif/Derb Omar)

Cloth diapers (Kasseria/Maarif)

Nursing Bras (Maarif)

Swaddle Blankets (Kasseria/Maarif)

 

 

To Do At Birth:

 

Steep Tea in 3-4 litres of water

Sterilize Scissors

Put chux/disposable big pads on bed

Have cool juice/water for Brooke

Clean Bath Tub

Have trash set-up in bed room (put bag in dirty laundry hamper)

Put birth stool next to bed

Keep people out of bedroom and bathroom

Now for a rundown of what I did and didn’t use:

Hot water bottle- Didn’t use. Previously I have used one on my abdomen, even tucked one in my pants when we went to the hospital with my first labor, and do recommend doing so. This baby was born during an unusual heatwave, so I skipped the hot water bottle.

Suction bulb- Used. Dad loves to suction his babies’ boogers, so it was an extra special treat for him to suction Asiya Eve’s mouth.

Embroidery thread- Didn’t use. Birthing her in Morocco I had less shopping choices for my birth kit than when I have birthed at home in the states. Unable to find umbilical cord clips I was going to use DIY birthers’ suggestion of embroidery thread, but then a friend kindly sent along two clips and that was definitely much easier to work with and appreciated!

Warm socks 2 pairs- Didn’t use. I think I have always worn them before, as some birthers get the chills, especially after labor- but again, heatwave.

Lavender- Used. Fresh from the countryside, I steeped it with the chamomile right after my water broke/leaked heavily- about 14 total brew time and then poured into a bath and I soaked in it for a bit.

Need to buy:

Blood test (need proof of type)- Didn’t get or need.  Was told that the hospitals would require this, so best to have a card like Moroccans generally do otherwise it could hold up an emergency. We just figured if it was that much of an emergency they ought to trust that the husband and I know that we have the same type.

Rent Car- Didn’t do or need. I didn’t want to have to walk the block to the ER if we truly needed to, but they have ambulances so we didn’t bother- and a good thing because she came several days later than the ultrasound guessed.

Birthing Stool (Carpenter)- Used. An excellent investment and a family heirloom! We had the stool made locally and I used it for one good push with the baby and a sort of push/wishful thinking with the placenta.

Paper Towels- Used. Mmm, I’m not really sure if the husband used these, but it seems he must have.

Baby wipes- Didn’t use.  Got these for me, but didn’t need them.

Sheets 2- Used. Right after I took my bath I puked all over myself and my clean sheet- happy to have extras!

Chux/Disposable sheets (Pharmacy)- Used. Put under the birth stool and on my bed.

BIG sanitary pads (Pharmacy/Carrefour)- Used, of course.

Betadine (Pharmacy)- Used. Midwives usually ask me to put a little in a peri-bottle along with water and clean/rinse with it after ever pee once the water has broken, but I just made plain water istinja this time. Also, for the umbilical cord stump I like to use a little Golden Seal and then just clean water, but it made my hub and in-laws feel better to use Betadine, so I did this one time.

Rubbing Alcohol (Pharmacy)- Used to clean the scissors.

Ice Pack (Pharmacy)- Didn’t use. Previously I have used an ice pack after my homebirths, but recently read an article about how this may not be best for the body so I was considering not using it. My perineum really felt good after this birth, and I felt no desire to sit on ice.

Phone Number for Clinique Urgencies- Got, but didn’t use. AlhumdiAllah

Ibuprofen (Pharmacy)- Used. Uff. Didn’t realize the strength was considerably stronger than in the states and took three on an empty stomach, which may have contributed to my subsequent puking.

Anti-nausea suppositories (Pharmacy)- Used. I have vomited during all my labors and it is horrible. In the states all I could get over the counter was homeopathic nux vomica, here I got suppositories and started using them when my contraction started picking up- no puking! At least not during labor.

Stainless Steel Scissors (Kasseria)- Used. Cut the cord with them and then gave them away, thank you- don’t need to resee that every time I use them.

Bucket EXACTLY like white bucket we wash dishes in (Derb Ghalef)- Used. Husband got one bigger and it didn’t fit under the stool, so he went back for a second, which fit perfectly and almost filled to the brim with birth-stuffs, like the placenta.

Homeopathic remedies (Maarif)

  • Arnica- Used.
  • Nux Vomica- Used.  Very worried about nausea, sucked on these too.
  • Chamomilla- Didn’t use.
  • Hamamelis Virginica- Used. Before and after for varicose veins and hemorrhoids.
  • Lanolin- Didn’t use, yet. For wool diaper covers.

Case of Juice (I choose flavours)- Drank it all and still am. I really like to have a lot of juice on hand to drink straight or diluted while building up my milk supply.

Chamomile Tea- Used. Steeped with the lavender right after my waters broke/leaked- about 14 total brew time and then poured into a bath and I soaked in it for a bit.

Flex straws (Carrefour)- Used.  And then hid away the rest for special occasions and sick days.

Wash cloths (Maarif/Kasseria)- Used. Got them primarily for my perineum, but didn’t have a chance/need to use them. Wiped baby off a little with a couple.

Baby Supplies:

Something to put Asiya’s clothes and diapers in- Got her some drawers.

Bassinet (Maarif/Derb Omar)- Still waiting on this one…

Cloth diapers (Kasseria/Maarif)- Found some locally, though only medium wraps which she is leaking out of…but I also found my stash of small prefolds, so need to do something about those wraps…

Nursing Bras (Maarif)- Found to different styles locally and an old but not too worn one.

Swaddle Blankets (Kasseria/Maarif)- Very happy to find a couple of cotton ones, though it’s too hot to swaddle her.

To Do At Birth:

Steep Tea in 3-4 litres of water- Did that right away when my waters broke/leaked.

Sterilize Scissors- Hubby and sister-in-law did this just before they cut the cord.

Put chux/disposable big pads on bed- I did that and put some under the stool.

Have cool juice/water for Brooke- Put some in the fridge and freezer when my waters broke.

Clean Bath Tub- Sister-in-law did this. I recommend a sitz bath after labor- very nice and comforting.

Have trash set-up in bed room (put bag in dirty laundry hamper)- Didn’t happen, husband managed clean-up just fine while I sound asleep.

Put birth stool next to bed- Did that first thing after brewing tea.

Keep people out of bedroom and bathroom- They (the kids) mostly stayed out and just before we were really ready for her to come on out I asked the kids to stay out of the room and “off my door” and they did!

I’m still ruminating on what I want to say about the birth, but in the meantime- it went really well- alhumdiAllah!

The Best Midwife: From outlaw midwives vol 1

 

Cover of outlaw midwives zine. Mother nursing baby in lower right corner with butterfly shadow-like behind them and multiple strips of text reading "outlaw midwives" behind them.

My third son and child was conceived while I was living overseas in what some people call a third-world country. Others call it a developing nation, still others say it is post-colonial. At best these are misnomers. At worst they are derogatory. The last barbarian invaders to be expelled from this nation were fair-skinned thieves who had used airships and guns to murder the citizens, who were armed mostly only with swords and sometimes only rocks. After many years the barbarians, who truly saw themselves as sophisticated folk bringing civilization to this nation (while reaping the financially benefits of being “colonizers”), were finally expelled by the tenacious citizens. However. The citizens did choose to keep some of what they thought were the best bits of the barbarians’ culture, such as their pastry recipes and some architectural innovations, though the citizens generally had far superior architecture already. The citizens also kept the barbarians’ native language and allowed their media to continue to enter the nation’s ports and airwaves. This, I feel, was a grave mistake on the part of the citizens.

I can see how it could happen though. Keeping the language could have eased the citizens ability to have economical dealings with the barbarians’ and their rich neighbors’ nations. However, isn’t it somehow faulty thinking to expect the people who recently hated you, stole your land, and murdered your family–isn’t it at least naive to expect these barbarians to participate in fair trade with you? Several decades later, today, the barbarians remain horrid racists and nationalist who will never accept the citizens as equal and still only abuse the citizens, never allowing them to participate fairly in trade or to receive the same quality of life the barbarians enjoy. Some citizens will emigrate to the barbarian’s lands, but will only succeed if they refute all traces of their heritage. Though their skin and their hair and their noses and their eyes will not betray their ancestry, still their tongues will try.

***

The citizens of my host nation eat “family style,” with the whole family sitting around one big dish and all eating equal shares from it. Or they use to. Or some still do. See what happened is that the barbarians introduced the country to these new enormous shallow bowls. The bowls were dispersed far and wide all over the country. Men would climb ladders and stairs carrying these huge bowls onto the people’s roofs. Then, they would attach these bowls on their sides to metal rods in a diagonal position which left them completely useless for enjoying and sharing a warm meal from. The food in this nation really is spectacular as they have expelled many invaders always keeping their best recipes. Actually, even though they tout themselves as modern and civil nations, the barbarians’ rich neighbors still steal the citizens food products and resell them for much higher prices marked as being produced in their own lands, but that is another tangent. So these bowls were some of the worst of the treachery left behind by the invaders. The barbarians poured their media into these bowls and from there it trickled into the citizens’ homes. And these bowls told the citizens that their bowls and their way of eating were far inferior to the barbarians. And some of the citizens believed that.

Media is a seductive liar. It is a subtle thief, charmingly disarming. It entertains your eyes and nafs (base desires) while reaching into your pocket and stealing your identity and the keys to your life. My country has this same problem with media, except that we export it. Still, my fellow country folk also often believe the lies that our own media tells us, such as that women are weak creatures and childbirth is dangerous for us to manage on our own. We have been told, and most of us believe, that men should manage birthing and that they should be compensated ridiculously well for doing so. How supremely absurd that is even if you just superficially think about it. But that’s the amazing trickery media is capable of.

***

So, while I was pregnant and living in this country I couldn’t find a midwife to attend my homebirth. That just isn’t done here anymore. Afterall, that is not what the barbarians do. This country has embraced the barbarians’ brand of civility and medical intervention and sterileness and clinical birth settings. The citizens have bought (literally) the barbarians’ lies which tell them that if the citizens don’t adopt the barbarians’ ways of life then the citizens are in fact the true barbarians. I have even been told that homebirthing is now illegal here. Though the barbarians still think of themselves as models of civility and like to say that the women citizens are oppressed, women barbarians have very little birthing choice in their country and very high rates of doctor-decided cesareans.

In this nation, a nation you could maybe call in an identity crisis, I couldn’t find a midwife to aid me in an uneventful birth, even though I knew that there must be women trained to attend births somewhere within these borders because even my husband had been born at home. Eventually I returned to my country and hired some midwives to attend my homebirth, which ended up being a hotelbirth, but that’s a whole other story. What I just discovered, six years and a couple babies later, what I just found out is that there was a midwife sleeping in the room next to me for nearly a year while I was living in this foreign country. We ate off the same big bowl together everyday for 300 and something days. This midwife was trained by one of the best midwives in her region and attended many of my husband’s cousins’ births. She is my mother-in-law.

That best midwife, who trained my mother-in-law and attended my husband’s birth, was my grandmother-in-law. She was also the go-to-woman who performed what my people call, “well-baby check-ups” for the families in her region. My sister-in-law was conceived while living in this same city where I could not find a midwife. My husband’s young mother could not find one either at that time. Since her city neighbors, who haled from regions near to my in-laws, had become accustomed to doing as the barbarians did and hadn’t learned how to help their nieghbors-in-labor my mother-in-law birthed her first daughter in a hospital (which was at that time run by the barbarians). Her next two children were born at home with the help of a neighbor-friend who had moved to town from their old region. My mother-in-law attended five births for the neighbor-friend.

***

My primary interpreter during that time when I unsuccessfully sought out someone to attend my labor in this city was my husband. He has been by my side at the birth of all five of our children and agrees that birthing at home is a much more comfortable environment as compared to our one experience with midwives in a hospital setting. I asked him yesterday if he knew that his mother attended births. Yes, he did. Then why, I asked, didn’t he suggest her? He replied that he thought I was looking for a “midwife.” She is a midwife, I replied. He said that I wanted a “trained midwife.” She is trained, I said.

Sometimes my husband still believes some of the barbarians’ lies. And I suspect that if I could ask myself of six or so years ago, I would have also considered this woman, trained by the best midwife in her region, along with all of my acquired knowledge–I would have considered us inadequate to manage my son’s birth. As smart and strong and capable as I am, with all my access to information and opportunities, I have still believed so many of the barbarians’ lies. Seven years ago, though I didn’t know the difference between a midwife who is CNM or a CPM or a DEM or a CM, I understood that they have been vetted by a system that, really, I am naive to be so trusting of. And I am worse to have been so exclusively trusting in this hegenomic system that I know was and is controlled by the barbarians and their neighbors, but I probably would not have trusted my mother-in-laws system (tradition) which is based on shared knowledge, shared wealth, and love.

I asked my mother-in-law if she preferred to birth in a hospital or at home. At home she said. Why? My husband’s interpretation of her responce was that its better, its her culture and what she is comfortable with. “You know how it is” he said. Yes, we do.

~~~~~~~

outlaw midwives, the zine about revolutionary birthing, pregnancy, midwifery, loss and all things related, is accepting submissions for it’s third issue–yaye to volume 3, insha Allah! So I thought this would be a good time to post–in full–my piece written a year ago for volume 1. You can see the entire 56 page zine online right HERE.