Monday, May 30, 2011

Thoughts on the Pill

Normally, I try to avoid writing articles that come across as "reasons why you should do such-and-such" or "reasons why you should not do such-and-such." I really don't like sounding preachy or prescriptive! So I've hesitated on writing anything on birth control pills, but at the same time have always wanted to put it out there for consideration. And so, with that in mind, please know that I am not writing "why YOU should not take birth control pills" - therefore, taking offense is not indicated. I am simply going to write down the reasons why I have chosen not to use birth control pills. Feel free to ask questions or leave comments (kind ones only, please!) on your thoughts.

I used birth control pills for about three years, starting about a year before I got married. And it happened in this way:

One day I had invited my then-fiance and his sister to come over to my house after church. They came over, but I never actually saw them, because on the way there I got hit with one of my not-uncommon waves of severe menstrual cramps, which had me lying on the upstairs bathroom floor curled in a fetal position for several hours. It was extremely embarrassing, to say the least! My fiance and future sister-in-law left after a while, before I could even say hello, but she called me up the next day and said "Girl, you need to get yourself on birth control pills!" And so I did! End of story. My menstrual cramps got a lot better, and I loved having predictable periods.

I didn't go off of the pill until we had been married for two years and wanted to start a family. After our baby (who was conceived less than two months after going off of the pill) was born, I asked our midwife if she could prescribe birth control pills for me. That's when my path started changing! First of all, she told me that as a CPM she did not have prescription privileges to prescribe birth control, and secondly, she asked me why I would want to go on birth control pills. I was rather puzzled, as I had considered birth control pills as a normal way of life, rather than anything optional or objectionable. However, I started to do some research. As a result, I have never gone back on the pill.

And so, without further ado....

Reasons Why I No Longer Use "The Pill"

(1) Life Ethics - This is a sticky one! But most of the research I found (try this article, straight from ACOG) indicates that the birth control pill acts in three ways to prevent babies: (1) by altering the composition of cervical fluid to make it inhospitable to sperm, (2) by preventing most ovulation, and (3) in case of break-through ovulation - i.e. a woman ovulates despite the efforts of the pill - by altering the lining of the uterus to make it impossible for a fertilized egg to implant, i.e. acting as an early-term abortion. For those of us, Christians and otherwise, who consider human life to be precious and sacred from the point of conception, this means that taking the pill is risking aborting our little ones. * Note: I am not attempting to start an abortion debate at this time on this blog, so if you disagree, please know that I already know that you disagree - let's leave it there!

(2) Economic - Having millions upon millions of dollars from birth control pills pouring into the pockets of pharmaceutical companies is not something that thrills me. The more I learn about pharmaceutical companies, the less and less I respect them and their motives. While I'm very grateful for life-saving drugs, I'm not that happy about continuing to fund them and some of their shadier activities through my continual participation.

(3) Environmental - Did you know that birth control pills are having a negative effect on the environment? That was a big surprise to me! But here's how it works: The synthetic hormones that are consumed when a woman takes birth control pills are continuously spilled out into her urine - and the hormone-contaminated urine of millions of women on the pill is now affecting wildlife. Here's a quote from an article on the environmental impact of the pill: 

"In 2003, a group of scientists in Washington state made headlines when they discovered that traces of synthetic estrogen in the state’s rivers had reduced the fertility of male fish. Hormonal birth control pills and patches were blamed. Two years later, a team of scientists funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency found trout with both female and male characteristics. The culprit, again, was synthetic estrogen."

 Not horribly surprising once one thinks about it, but definitely disturbing.

(And a separate environmental issue would be the millions of pounds of waste that are dumped into landfills each year from birth control packaging and paperwork, besides all of the manufacturing waste that goes into their production.)

(4) Intimate Issues - *Ahem!* I'm blushing to write this, but I was surprised at how strongly my libido came back once I dropped off the pill. Being that I had gone on the pill before I was married, I hadn't noticed anything amiss until I got off the pill and noticed my interest in intimacy skyrocket!* Blush *

(5) How I Felt - This one is harder to describe, but when I went off the pill, I simply felt better. The way I described it at the time was that it felt like my body "relaxed" when I went off of the pill. It was a very definite feeling that surprised me, as again, I hadn't noticed anything change when I went on the pill (that I remember). But I definitely felt better when not taking the pill.

(6) Ideological - This is a vague one, so don't quote me. I simply don't like the ideology behind birth control pills - the subtle implication that a normal, healthy female's body is "broken" and must be "fixed" by drugs. That's bothered me for a long time, though I would be hard-put to explain it in detail.

(7) Ideological, part II - This one is even more vague, so definitely don't quote me! Again, I don't like the subtle implication that children are a curse that can be avoided by taking drugs. This is a complaint that can be - in various forms - levied against any form of birth control, so again, don't quote me. And my views on this subject are still under development. But I promised to write down everything!

(8) Health - There are definitely health risks to taking the pill (such as increased risk of conditions like stroke, heart disease, cancer, infertility, etc.) When I went on the pill, none of these was mentioned to me. At all. Just "okay, you want birth control, fine, here's your prescription."

Here in Arizona, our state treasurer Dean Martin's wife and baby died two years ago due to a "ruptured benign tumor in her liver known as an adenoma." When I asked Nursing Birth about this condition, she replied:

"The reason the ruptured ademoma would effect the term infant, is from blood loss. Maternal blood volume increases 45-50% in pregnancy, so a “benign” condition in a non-pregnant woman, can become a problem in a pregnant woman, if that condition is sensitive to blood volumes. The ruptured liver ademona could cause a catastrophic internal hemorrhage for the mom, thus causing hypovolemic shock in the infant. Very sad."

 When I researched "benign hepatocellular - i.e. liver - adenoma" I found to my surprise that:

"Ninety percent of hepatic adenomas arise in women aged 20–40, most of whom use oral contraceptives."


(9) The Wonderful Alternatives! - When I had to think of something else to do for birth control, I came across Natural Family Planning.... and I fell in love. We took an awesome four-month class through our local Catholic Church, and I learned so much about my body! It was like entering a whole new world! I learned why cervical fluid has such incredible variation (and on a more basic level, what cervical fluid actually is), why I had mid-cycle pain (mittelschmerz) that always freaked me out when I didn't know what was going on, how to tell when I was pre- and post-ovulatory, when I was fertile or non-fertile, what all of the monthly changes in my body were and what they meant (cervical fluid, cervical dilation/effacement/etc.), when my period was approaching.... It was and is beyond awesome! Even though I'm not currently temping (too much broken sleep), I still track my cycle through cervical fluid and mittelschmerz, and I can predict my period within one day. I simply love NFP - it has been such a blessing, and I never would have discovered it had I stayed on the pill. 

(10) Moods -When I asked DH what he didn't like about birth control pills, he immediately said "your moods!" - which made me remember (I had forgotten!) that I used to have absolutely horrendous PMS moods while on the pill, something that disappeared once I went off of the pill.

Well, that's all I can think of for now! What do you all think?

As always, the law of kindness is absolutely required on this blog - I love conversation, but not hate speech and comment wars. Any civil conversation and questions are welcomed; any rude or inflammatory comments or questions will be deleted immediately without comment.

Have an awesome Memorial Day, everyone!!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Gotta Love the FDA

So by now you've probably heard - the FDA is seizing and destroying birth pools! A quote from the link:

"The FDA has confiscated a shipment of birthing pools and is holding them. The directives are clear: they will be destroyed or shipped out. Their reasoning? They are stating that birth pools are medical equipment."

And you know what? I think it's a great idea! After all, if "pregnancy is an illness and birth is a medical event", then why should birthing women in any location be able to use "unregistered and unapproved medical equipment" outside of FDA control?

But come to think of it, I also have a mean pair of tennis balls that I used for massage during labor. Oh, no! What is the FDA thinking? I demand a tennis ball "seize and destroy" - do you realize that millions of laboring women (who are so deathly ill with "pregnancy") are using unapproved tennis balls for back pain relief? Oh, the horror!

And gosh! I was drinking Gatorade during labor! Unregistered Gatorade! Gatorade that has not been approved for use during a medical event! Oh, thank goodness I lived through that one. I took my life into my own hands. Who knows what could have happened?

Really, it seems to me that the FDA has their work cut out for them. Millions of women using thousands of unregistered, unapproved labor-assistant devices and comfort measures. It's shocking, but true. Here are some that come to mind:

- Birth pools
- Tennis balls
- Rice socks
- Energy drinks
- Honey sticks
- Chapstick
- Hair bands
- Candles
- Aromatherapy

The possibilities are endless, and we truly need the FDA to step in and save us from our idiotic selves. Who knows what havoc we mindless laboring women could wreak upon ourselves and our babies?

But wait! Even if all of the above were confiscated and destroyed from hospitals, that wouldn't stop women from using them - unapproved and unregistered! - in their own homes. Egad!

There is only one solution. The FDA must place video cameras in every laboring woman's home to make sure that she isn't trying to sneak in some unregistered, unapproved laboring comfort measures outside of government approval.

And while we're at it, we'd better remove all bathtubs from the homes of pregnant women in order to make sure they're not using those forbidden birth tubs. You never can trust an unsupervised citizen.

Don't you just love the ever-encroaching invasion of government control into private life?

(No, I don't usually post articles like this one.... so please don't chew me up over it. Take it as a bit of satire and enjoy!)

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Midwives Rising!

This past Saturday, our family trekked down into metro Phoenix for the open house celebration of the new location of Midwives Rising, the office of Shell Walker and Mani Canaday.

Their new office is just gorgeous - a beautifully decorated older house (I love old houses!) that was a joy to explore. (I wish more doctors would snag old houses for their practices! They are simply so much more comforting and ease-producing than medical offices.) Their practice is within view of St. Jo's, where I did my doula training last month. I got to meet Shell (briefly!) for the first time, and loved her.

We intended on staying only about 20-30 minutes, as it had been a very long day and we were tired. Additionally, this was - for the most part - an entirely new part of the Phoenix birth community, and I found myself in the puzzling situation of knowing almost no one I saw! (Usually events like this are like family reunions, but this was a reunion from a different region than I am used to!)

Imagine my surprise, then, to find out upon leaving that we had stayed nearly four hours! Goodness! And we ended up having a lovely time. We did find some friends to greet, and we met a whole bunch of new people, and our 4yo had a wonderful time playing in the parking lot with a herd of other wired kidlets (skinned knees notwithstanding!).

My husband, as well as having a great time, immediately bonded with the BBQ guy (barbecue is a new passion of his), and he ended up receiving an entire tutorial on the fine art of roasting chicken.

We had a great time, and I am so pleased to now know a bit about this practice personally, so that I can recommend central Phoenix mamas to a great midwifery practice. Congrats to these midwives on their new location!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

A Fun Coincidence!

Point #1 - A friend of mine was doula for her sister-in-law at Mercy Gilbert this past week, and she had an awesome experience. (As a matter of fact, I think this friend of mine has a HUGE calling to be a doula.... she was just doing this as a favor to her SIL, but I'm hoping she will take it further.)

Point #2 - Mercy Gilbert hospital in Gilbert has at long last, through the persevering work of an amazing midwife team, installed a labor pool! (And there was great rejoicing!) This is an awesome step in the right direction, and a wonderful resource for valley mothers. The news has been spreading like wildfire over Facebook for the past few days.

Bringing the points together: When I shared on Facebook the photo that was going around of the new labor pool, my friend emailed me and said, "Oh, yeah! That's the picture we took from our room! She was the first one ever to use the new labor pool!"

Isn't that a fun coincidence?

And now for some fun, positive activism! Please, please, please - take a few seconds to drop Mercy Gilbert a note to thank them for making this resource available to birthing women, and for making birthing experiences for laboring mamas so much better (physically and emotionally!) here in the valley.

The best activism is positive activism! (That is, praising the positive rather than complaining about the negative.) Let's build up this hospital and show them love for the progress they are making in maternity care!

Here is the link to send an email:
Email Contact Form

And if you prefer snail mail:

Mercy Gilbert Medical Center
3555 S. Val Vista Drive
Gilbert, AZ 85297

Phone 480-728-8000

I'm going to get my note out today! So very exciting!!

Friday, May 13, 2011

The Joys of Homebirthing

Found this randomly on a (wonderful!) homemaking blog I follow, Passionate Homemaking:

The Joys of Homebirthing

I love her list of reasons why homebirth is awesome, and I love what she concludes about homebirth:

"Birthing each of my children has been a empowering experience and a sanctifying work in my own heart. It has changed me more than any other process, event or circumstance. I have had to lean on the Lord more intimately than ever before. And in the process, I have grown to truly love the birthing process. I have learned that fear only tightens our muscles and causes delay in birth, whereas a wholehearted embracing and working together with contractions and pain has allowed for a smooth, peaceful transition into motherhood. God designed this pain to bring that fruitful sanctification in my own heart and He extends grace for every birthing environment."
 Just lovely! Thank you for sharing!

(And if anyone out there is wondering, yes.... this blog above is an awesome blog! I love reading it!)

Thursday, May 12, 2011

A Good Thing Gone Bad

I don't follow this blog on a regular basis, but I saw the link on Facebook and had to share.

What happens when a homebirth midwife turns out to be.... a bad care provider? It doesn't happen often, and when it does, it's so very disappointing. You can read this mama's story here:

Confessions of a Mom Who Birthed With a Harmful Midwife, Part I and Part II.

It's interesting how she saw warning signs of what was to come, for example:

"I was suddenly flooded with memories of my midwife and her assistant telling me about other women whose births they had just attended. Some they would describe as beautiful, but others they would roll their eyes at and even laugh while telling me about the noises they made, or the way they acted. 

"I hadn’t liked it at the time, but it was near the end of my pregnancy and I still really liked my midwife, and I had always assumed she was telling me these stories as a peer, being a doula.  Now I wondered what mean things they would say about me and what a bad birther I was, too."
And some of the quotes from this story are just plain shocking:

"I heard voices from the other room and began straining to hear. Even in labor, I was being nosey. I heard Cari ask if she should (or could) come in to see me, but it’s what I heard next that shattered any confidence I may have had. My midwife who had only been with me through a handful of contractions, most of which were with her hand inside me causing me more extreme pain, angrily retaliated, “This is just ridiculous, I’m not going to coddle her through every contraction!”
"There was no attempting to maintain dignity. There was no desire to impress her, or anyone else. I screamed and I begged her to stop. I tried to wiggle away and may have even tried to kick her. It was torture. I have no other word to describe it. I begged her to stop, to get out of my body and she refused, saying it was for my own good."
It's good to remember that just because someone has a title that we like ("homebirth midwife," "doctor," etc.), that doesn't mean that the person is going to act like our stereotyped beliefs of how a person of that title should act. We need to keep our ears and eyes open when choosing care providers!

I have only personally heard two traumatic birth stories that concerned bad care provider behavior or care. The first was a woman whose midwife missed signs of preterm labor, the birth ending in a preterm-birth turned crash cesarean, and the mother ended up with postpartum psychosis after the ordeal. The second birth was a homebirth in which the midwife would not budge on her strict protocols and various other details, making the birth a traumatic experience. Thankfully, stories like these are extremely rare! I am so happy that we have an awesome community of hoembirth and hospital midwives here in Arizona who make good birth experiences widely available to both homebirthing and hospital-birthing women.

Thoughts, anyone?

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Mother's Day: The Missing Link

Over the last few years, I have wondered if our culture might - however slightly - be missing the mark a bit with Mother's Day.

(Speaking of which, does anyone know if it is "Mother's Day" or "Mothers' Day"? I'm betting on the latter.)

Here's what I mean:

First of all, I do know that "motherhood" - i.e. the transformation that occurs upon the conception or the adoption of a child - is a monumental event in the life of a woman or a family, and also that society owes everything to the mothers (and fathers, of course!) who are faithful to raise and train moral and godly offspring in each generation. And the work of motherhood is one of tireless self-sacrifice and love that is rightly celebrated.

But there is a different sense, and one that isn't recognized on Mothers' Day, in which every woman is a mother. Women are not mothers because they have biological or adoptive children - they are mothers because motherhood is intrinsic in the feminine nature from the moment of conception. Womanhood is motherhood, in so many ways.

I can count so many women in my life, most of which having had no biological or adoptive relationship to me, who have acted as mother-mentors to me in the exact same way that a relational mother would. Who have sheltered, loved, taught, and mothered me in many ways, and for which I have so much gratitude. Why? Because we women are mothers. We mother those around us - by our mentorship, by our care, by our example. I "mother" the kids next door who come over to play. Other women "mother" my children by their care and love. Little girls mother their dolls and puppies and younger siblings (many young little girls have attempted to mother my babies by force - you can't keep them away from babies!).

My point, after much meandering, is simply that motherhood is something that is intrinsically present within the female soul, regardless of age and regardless of whether or not a woman or girl has any children. To be a woman is to be a mother, even if a woman is childless her entire life. And in recognizing only biological and adoptive mothers on Mothers' Day, we are missing out on that. My church gave out roses this morning to all women who have had children, which was sweet and wonderful, but I really think that on Mothers' Day, roses should be given to every woman and girl, regardless of their childbearing status.

I think a sentiment to express on Mothers' Day would be as follows:

For biological mothers, we celebrate the precious work you do in being vessels to carry sacred new lives. For all mothers to children here on earth, biological and adoptive, we celebrate your hard work and self-sacrifice as you pour yourself into your children's hearts and lives. For mothers who mourn babies who are now in heaven, we celebrate your love and the sweet little ones whom you will hold in the future. For girls, we celebrate your coming journey into the path of motherhood. And for all girls and women everywhere, we celebrate the God-given motherhood intrinsic in each and every woman's soul, that it would be used to teach, mentor, nurture, and care for all of the children and young women who need the motherhood of the proceeding generations.

Women everywhere, be blessed this Mothers' Day as you celebrate the beautiful gift of Motherhood!