Friday, 5 August 2011

World Breastfeeding Week Wrapup

What a hectic week! Hopping from one venue to another, organising the kids to stay with various people while I was out & about. Anna was insistant that I take one of her dolls for a feeding demonstration for "Milk & Men" at the pub. She helped me dress her and make her presentable for the evening with the texta marks on her hands & feet adding to the concept that the doll was a "second child" and that the older child had done some designs on her.

The screening of the international hit documentary "Babies" was a packed house... so much so that the Odeon 5 had to screen it simultaneously in 2 cinemas to accomodate everyone. The movie is hilarious and if you're not feeling clucky before hand... you certainly will be after!! It's also really interesting to see the different parenting styles around the world and the soundtrack complimented the images just beautifully. All the babies started their lives being breastfed but towards the end the only toddler we saw being breastfed was in Namibia. That doesn't mean to say the others weren't... perhaps it just wasn't shown and the Namibian woman's breasts were available to her babies & toddlers 24/7.

There were various displays around town... a banner across the council chambers, a book display in the library, our "Talk to Me" stand in the Orange City Centre and a display window in Myers.

There was also great coverage with numerous stories in both the local newspapers. This was just one story....

Overall the vibe was positive.

Check out the Facebook page for photos and pics!

World Breastfeeding Week 2012.... bring it on!!

Saturday, 9 July 2011

Mothers Deserve Options

While The Business of Being Born was a documentary regarding the maternity system in the USA, what do you think of the Australian maternity system? What options do you have in your area?

By Ricki Lake
I made my 2008 documentary The Business of Being Born to educate women about choices in childbirth, and raise questions about maternity care in the U.S. For example, why were C-section rates skyrocketing? Why were options such as birth centers and home birth disappearing? And why does a country supposedly committed to health care reform seem opposed to safe, cost-effective options that include midwifery and well-woman care?
The impact of the documentary was monumental. The blogosphere blew up (I can handle a few people yelling at me if it means my message is being heard!) Every day women stop me on the street to share stories of their safe, successful, meaningful births. Many say they felt "in the dark" about their options until seeing The Business of Being Born. But unfortunately, due to the highly medicalized climate of hospital births and the financial interests of insurance and drug companies, our birth options are disappearing at an alarming rate. It's seems that the more we know, the fewer choices we have. In the last five years, New York City alone has witnessed the shuttering of its only freestanding birth center, two hospital-based birth centers, a popular childbirth education center and a major hospital that offered privileges to a large number of hospital midwifery practices and home birth midwives. This has left many parents-to-be struggling to find birth options outside of the traditional OB/GYN approach.
But why is all of this important? Why does it matter if a mother's prenatal visits are 10 minutes long or last more than an hour? Why does it matter if the care provider at her birth is someone she has built a trusting relationship with over 9 months or a stranger-on-call? Why does it matter if a woman brings her child into this world in a way that makes her feel empowered and respected, as opposed to feeling pushed through a delivery where she is not an active participant in her care? Does how we are born really matter if mom and baby are pronounced "healthy" in the end?
Well, I have seen that it matters quite a bit. For me, this is not about promoting natural birth or home birth or claiming one model of care is superior to another. What I have come to realize is that, at its core, the birth process is directly connected to most important thing in this world -- loving and caring for our children. The bottom line is that mothers who receive attentive prenatal care and have a positive birth experience are in a better position to create a healthy attachment to their babies, have more success breastfeeding, and enter the experience of motherhood feeling empowered and energized. And that concept -- the respect for birth as the sacred beginning of motherhood -- is what has become sorely lost in our mainstream medical system. Yes, having a healthy baby is of tantamount importance, but what could be more essential to the emotional and physical well-being of future generations than to honor and empower mothers through pregnancy and birth? Sometimes I think the only people who really understand the relevance of this issue are the mothers themselves, and we are all just too tired and busy raising our children to make a stink about it.
I, however, am making a stink. It concerns me to see that a growing number of mothers feel coerced and undermined during the birth process, and rates of post-traumatic-stress disorder after birth are on the rise. There is a blasé attitude toward rising cesarean rates, which now make up one third of all births in the United States. Any doctor will tell you that a Cesarean is major abdominal surgery, so why is this the only example in modern medicine where a post-op patient is sent home to care for a newborn? We have absolutely no system to follow-up on mothers after birth and make sure they are able to care properly for their babies. In other countries, new mothers are visited daily by nurses or doulas who help them with breastfeeding or household chores.
The entire pregnancy and birth process is physiologically designed to prepare women emotionally and physically for motherhood. Mother nature has endowed us with a complex interaction of hormones that literally reshape the human brain for motherhood. Doctors have not even begun to crack the surface of understanding the neuroscience behind the hormonal interactions between mom and baby during the time of birth. In fact, they do not even understand what causes a woman to go into labor, which is why labor induction methods remain crude and statistically double one's chances of ending up with a cesarean. (Most women aren't informed of this risk and blindly opt for the "convenience" of a scheduled induction.) There is a complete lack of evidence-based medicine when it comes to childbirth. Although I am worried about the effects of all this intervention, my true passion is making sure that new parents are informed.
To further this conversation and give expectant women more empowering information to make their own decisions about their births, I decided to create a series of educational DVD's called More Business of Being Born.
The topics covered in my new videos will not be discussed at the typical 5-10 minute obstetric appointment. But the information is essential -- so essential that we decided to forgo the traditional studio distribution model that we used for the original film and self-release, market and distribute these videos. This has been no small task as we have yet to see a dime of revenue from The Business of Being Born and had to ask our filmmaking team to create the 6 new hours of video for no salary. We have created a Kickstarter campaign to raise all the necessary funds for self-distribution.
I ask you to join me in fighting for the right of all mothers to have access to safe, intervention-free options, and to let other women know what those options are. How and where you decide to bring your child into this world is a choice that belongs to you.

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

World Breastfeeding Week Orange 2011

I feel very privileged to have been asked by community health to sit on the organising committee for World Breastfeeding Week 2011. WBW is held on the 1-7th August each year and 2011 will be the inaugural WBW for the Orange community.

There are a series of community events being held around the city including breastfeeding "sit in's", displays and information stands around the city, additional workshops being run by the Australian Breastfeeding Association, "Milk & Men"- a men's only evening hosted by yours truely and a movie night with nibbles at the Odeon 5 cinemas screening the widely acclaimed "Babies".

Please visit our Facebook page for ongoing updates:

The Power of the Pelvis

The past month has been a month of 10 pound babes... a little boy and a little girl. Both were born with ease-  one in hospital and the other at home in the pool. Both of these women were of a slight build and yet their bodies opened wide to accommodate these rolly polly babes. 

One of my aims as a doula is to build a friendship with women before they birth and it was during this time fears surfaced in one of my clients as to her ability to birth a big babe. She had been told by a gynaecologist at the tender age of 19 that her pelvis would be too small to birth a baby and that caesarean would be her only option. This piece of information festered for the next 10 years and by the time she fell pregnant was petrified of what would happen to her and her babe. 

As part of our antenatal visits we discussed these fears and explored exactly how the pelvis dismantles itself to create room during birth. We mapped her pelvis and she understood what positions she could adopt that would help her and her babe during labour. 

After 14 hours of labour she birthed her 10 pound baby without a tear. I hope she emailed that gynaecologist and told him to choose his words carefully next time. 

The pelvis is made up of four bones and four joints. Usually the pelvis is immobile however during pregnancy your body is flooded with the hormones Relaxin & Progesterone. These hormones soften the ligaments & the cartilage which make up the joints in the pelvis. This makes these joints movable. With correct positioning during labour this then allows your baby extra room to move through your pelvis with ease. 

Mapping the pelvis is easy. All you need is a piece of paper and a pencil. My worksheet for mapping your pelvis is too large to post here, however if you'd like a copy just drop me an email :)

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Yiri's Birth Story

This has been a long time coming but it just goes to show you how hopeless I am with maintaining an online presence. This is the birth story of Yiri as written by Fleur Magick, my friend & sister. 

While I was pregnant my children and I visited our burral* for healing and learning time.
Country spoke to us and sent us the totems of the new teachers that would come into our lives during this new chapter.  Country also began to speak about the learning journey that mother and new child would commence together.   Country showed us a waterfall and gave us ochre to dance.  During my pregnancy, whilst at our burral, I was gifted a dance to honor water.
Almost a month prior to Yiri being born we travelled again out to our burral to wait for Yiri to come.  
The month was spent in different types of ceremony:  Making new friends and sharing in reconciliation ceremony.   Family healing time ceremony with my children and my mother.   Women’s ceremony with other Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal friends and family and personal ceremony time for me, alone, preparing for this birth and this new mutual learning journey.
All of it was wonderful.  This month of experiences will always remain as one of the most rewarding months of my life.  The birth preparation and the birth itself were everything that I needed to fulfill my dream of birthing on country strong in my cultural beliefs. It was healing for my mind, body and spirit and restorative of my inspiration.
I would love to live permanently at or near our burral in this simple way forever with my family.  When I do die I wish to go to our burral to die and have my ashes spread there in that place.
The healing of the connection to country that the birthing stories of my three sons have given our family is immense.  It was when I was pregnant with James that Mum and a friend first took me to the site (our burral) for healing time as a Wiradjuri woman.   My Wiradjuri ancestor Annie Magick was born near the area and I immediately felt a strong connection to country in this place.
My first born, James, was born at Orange base hospital because I couldn’t find a midwife to support me for an out of hospital birth.  I had a completely natural birth on the hospital floor.  James had his welcoming & naming ceremony at our burral when he was 5 days old.  Just over two years later, Preston was born there on country, at our burral by the open fire.  He was on the floor inside a one room stone cottage because of the winter.
Yiri has now been born in summer time at our burral.  Born to the sound of the music made by the water flowing over the rocks of the Goulburn river.  Born on the riverbank sand, under the overhang made by a cave, surrounded by a circle of ceremonial fires and under the starlight.  Born to the Wiradjuri song sung by his ngama*.
With the growing connection to country that these birthing ceremonies have given to our family, I have much more deeply begun to understand the loss of what was.  As a family we have a place in country to go to where our ancestors once lived.  My children are connected strongly to mother earth there, as is our belief when the burral is planted with the great mother.  We have been visiting this place for mutual healing and learning as a family for over seven years now. 
Seven years isn’t very long in the story of our Wiradjuri and Ngemba people who have been custodians of this country since time began, since our creator and ancestors walked this earth.  Now, as I often do, I begin to reflect on the great loss of the many generations of our Wiradjuri & Ngemba people since the invasion and desecration of this country.  We have begun to repair a tiny fraction of what was and it is definitely making our family much stronger.  But it is only a tiny fraction of what must be repaired.  And we have had to work very hard for this small but powerful healing connection we have achieved as a family.
And yet the country there – this SACRED Wiradjuri birthing, healing and learning place – is under threat from mining at the Moolarban Coal Mine.  I gave birth on a mine lease.  The escarpments may collapse in the future if mining is not haulted, the river may become too polluted for new born babies to touch in the future if our way of living in this country does not change drastically and with haste.
Everywhere we walk is land holding the stories of the ancestors of this country.  Now we have contemporary custodians.  My children and I are custodians of this land, our mother.  Our burral holds our stories now.  We love the country and do not want our burral or any other places in country anywhere in “Australia” to be destroyed.  We want people to take care of mother earth, our land, our rivers and each other.
Country revealed to me Yiri’s birth totem in the lead up to his birth.  Yiri’s totem has a very strong connection to water.
Partly during my personal ceremonial time waiting for Yiri and partly after his birth, I was gifted the song in Wiradjuri language to honor water.  It is the song to go with the dance I was given by country earlier during his pregnancy.  I was singing Yiri the song to honor water during my contractions and immediately after he was born.  
The next song and dance that I can feel readying within me is a song I’m being given about my mother and all mothers and mother earth.  My amazing, strong and powerful mother is the reason our family has been given this healing gift of restoring our connection to country through these births.  My mother has supported me in all my decisions to birth on country, has been present at every birth as our Elder and has given endless love (and much organisation) towards us achieving this as a family.  I know my mum has seen the healing taking place within us and is feeling it herself.  My mum has given me this gift.  She was the one who first reconnected me with this special site and I haven’t stopped going back and getting stronger since.
As I was giving birth to Yiri I was cradled in the arms of my mother as we were all cradled in the arms of our mother ancestors and our earth mother.
To birth on country and for my children and I to have our burral connection has been immense healing.  Not all Aboriginal women can make the decision to birth on country due to health or other reasons however those that wish to do so need to be fully supported to birth in the way that is our religious and cultural right.
However, all Aboriginal women and families, whether they birth in or out of hospital definitely need the opportunity to have access to special country where they can plant their children’s burral and where they can share in women’s business and family cultural and spiritual learning and healing.  I’m hoping to make this vision a reality that is available to any Aboriginal woman and her family.  I would like your support.
Think of a large expanse of bush in Wiradjuri country with fresh water from a river or creek and springs.  Imagine eco buildings built by Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal hands together, buildings powered by solar power.  One of the buildings is a birthing centre for Aboriginal women who wish to birth inside but not in hospital.  Nearby is the river and a ceremonial birthing circle for those who wish to birth outdoors.
Some of the buildings are little cottages so the families can come and stay for up to six months prior to their due date.  During this time the families are receiving support to heal through culture, to heal from trauma, to heal from substance abuse, to heal from violence, to heal together.  At one end of the property is a men’s space and building where the men are learning and healing and preparing to support their families.
Even if women can’t birth out of hospital for health reasons they can still come to this place for prenatal and postnatal healing and learning with their families and to have ceremony and plant their placenta if they wish – or we will support them to plan to do so in their own country.
We need midwives to attend the women at the healing property for prenatal and postnatal checkups and support and for the actual births.  We need health professionals such as Indigenous counselors and other health professionals and social workers to assist with healing and reintegration of families to broader society a few months after the births. ………. But first we need the land to begin the process of building this vision.
I’m asking you, all of you, if you can support this vision in some way.  If you can please contact me via email:
I want to build a business selling products to raise money towards buying the land.  Perhaps you can help with this business in some way, or perhaps you are in a position to donate finances or time to this vision so that we can get land.  I really hope some of you can as I know an opportunity such as this will drastically change the lives of many as it has changed mine and my children’s lives.
I would like to extend a special thank you to my midwife Hazel Keedle who I highly recommend.   Hazel’s website is at:
Also a huge thank you to my Doula Danielle Martin who is awesome!  Danielle’s blog is at:
And a very special thank you to my mother and my dear friends and family who came out to the site to help with Yiri’s birth.
*A Wiradjuri word meaning birthplace, placenta and place of placenta burial
*A Wiradjuri word for mother (there are also other words for mother)

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Bush Dreaming

This story will appear in "Birth Matters" magazine shortly, along with stories from Fleur Magick and midwife Hazel Keedle. Enjoy!! 

It was just a few days after a hectic Christmas that my partner and I packed the car and headed bush to help set up base camp with Fleur. The kids were uber excited to be going camping again but the excitement wore off after several hours stuck in a hot hot car and their expressions turned into a quiet frustration. As we turned down a dirt track our spirits lifted again as we knew there would be a crystal clear river to rejuvenate our senses. We were not disappointed. We wasted no time stripping off and headed towards the river who was calling us with her song. A goanna lay motionless on the branch of a eucalyptus, hoping to go unnoticed. Tiptoeing across the hot, hot sand and then Relief! The water eased our desperation. 
After a while just laying and soaking it was decided that we best go and set up camp before it got too late. The base camp was just perfect with a ring of tents, a great kitchen area thanks to my partner, Lucas, and a campfire in the middle. My kids watched in amazement as Fleur’s boys, James & Preston, painted their faces, arms and legs with charcoal from the cold fire. I could tell they were keen to do the same but weren’t quite sure if they could, or should! Meekly they grabbed a few pieces of charcoal and did a few stripes on their legs and across their cheeks. Fleur and her boys performed dances to welcome us onto country. Needless to say, I felt extremely privileged to be there that night with my family and Fleur’s family.
The song of the cicada’s was almost deafening but as the sun went down this gave way to an orchestra of night insects. The kids were pooped after a long day of travelling, swimming and playing, and didn’t take much convincing to go to bed. The adults briefly admired the night sky and then joined the kids shortly after! 
The next day and for the rest of the week we spent the time together swimming, playing and learning about Wiradjuri language, bush tucker (which my kids now point out in all types of locations… who’d have thought there was bush tucker in the Bunnings carpark!) Fleur took us on bush walks and to glorious swimming holes nestled amongst the sandstone cliffs.  She was in her element. Lucas and I were absolutely amazed at her agility & flexibility to be able to climb over boulders, across logs and up steep slopes. Nothing phased her here. I have never seen a woman at 8 months of pregnancy so active. We felt quite ashamed at how unfit we were! 
Fleur took us to a Wiradjuri cultural site where the hand prints of her ancestors were visible for all to appreciate. The colours of the ochre were incredibly vibrant. This was an area for all the family and was evident by the variety of sizes and shapes of the hands, including childrens hand prints. Unfortunately this whole area is under threat from coal mining and the local environmental groups are continuing their fight to protect this amazing area. 
Usually by the end of a camping week, my family is busting to go home to remove the sand from our hair and have a good shower. This time however, it was difficult to pack up and go back to normal life. I’m sure we could have lived there forever.
Fleur and I had met some five years earlier when she was pregnant with her second babe and I was pregnant with my first.  We had both joined the local yoga group and had had friendly exchanges as the months passed but we had never discussed where we were having our babies. After a few weeks of Fleur not being in class I asked the teacher if she knew where she was, to which she exclaimed with a somewhat puzzled look on her face “oh, she’s gone bush to do secret womens business…. or something”. At that moment I thought “Wow! I want to do secret womens business too!” 
A few weeks passed and I was becoming anxious to get back to the bush. The full moon was on her way and I was sure a babe would be born under it. I packed lightly… a few clothes, a swag and meagre cooking utensils. This time my family was staying behind. 
Fleur’s mother had arrived, her midwife Hazel and there were other sisters coming and going at the base camp & birth site. Talk about an awesome support network! There is something very liberating about only having women around you. Fleur had invited me to sleep out at the birth site and I was more than happy to oblige. It was as simple as picking a flatish spot, making sure there were no creepy crawlies whose home I might be invading, and unrolling my swag and my sleeping arrangements were done. The view from my swag was sensational. If I looked straight up it was a sheer vertical sandstone escarpment above me with a few overhanging tree branches. If you looked across the gorge you could watch the full moon & the stars appear over the cliffs over the other side and track their way across the night sky. 
I was acutely aware of the need to be absolutely present and in the moment. To be able to take in every sight, every sound and every experience. These experiences were many and varied. One of my favourites was the morning I lay peacefully watching a hawk fly from one side of the gorge to the other, picking off cicadas one by one and landing directly above me on the cliff. Backwards and forwards she went. 
The time I spent alone at the birth site was taken up by a lot of relaxation and contemplation. The song of the water over the rocks made the perfect soundtrack for bush meditation. The shifting sands of the river made for the musing of the ever fluid & changing nature of living. The early morning drops of rain on my face exposed my vulnerability. 
The time spent together as a community of women was vibrant and energetic. Dancing, singing and ceremony were a part of the ritual of being on country and the women revelled in it. I cannot think of a better way to honour those last weeks of pregnancy.  I can only dream that every woman has the opportunity to relax deeply, honour herself and connect with her sisters, herself and her babe in whatever fashion suits her over those last weeks. 
Fleur’s mother, Roxanne, is one of the most generous women I have ever met. Her unconditional support for Fleur was loving & pure. She made sure both Fleur and I were well fed at all times and that we wanted for nothing. I cannot thank her enough!
Secret womens business is called that for a reason. There are some things I will keep between Fleur and myself and there have been some experiences I have shared with my partner and family & friends. This story has been just a snapshot into what was an awe inspiring adventure. 
The country onto which young Yiri was birthed is under serious threat from coal mining by by the Xstrata group. It makes me angry and a sadness wells up within with the thought that this stunning area of cultural significance could be disrespected, wasted and destroyed by the mining magnates. The ever increasing thirst for energy is unsustainable and as consumers we are the ones who can dictate how we influence this energy and can demand a more sustainable future. Please show your support for this cause by visiting

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Whose Birth? YOUR birth!

Imagine organising your wedding and being told that the person who will be conducting the ceremony will be whoever is working on that particular day, who you may or may not have met beforehand. Or being told by a car salesperson that one particular car is the only one you can have regardless of your personal needs & uses for that car.

These situations would be considered fairly significant life events- celebrating a union or financing a large purchase. If this scenario actually happened in real life, I would hazard a guess that you would turn around, walk out and find a different car yard or jump online & start searching for your own marriage celebrant.

So what about your birth? I'm sure we can all agree that bringing a new child into this world is an extremely significant life event for the parents and the child! For birth to unfold in an uncomplicated manner there's a few important things that need to happen:

*the mother needs to feel safe & secure in her surroundings
*she needs people who she knows & trusts supporting her
*she needs to be uninterrupted

It seems simple enough, doesn't it? And yet for most women they see a variety of care providers throughout their pregnancy who spend the minimum amount of time getting to know THEM. So long as  blood pressure is fine, fundal height is measuring fine and we get to listen to bubs heartbeat on the doppler then it's move on out and time for the next appointment.

Is this satisfying? Is it conducive to building trust? Not particularly.

And by the time you do go into labour the staff in the maternity ward seem completely foreign. You might see a familiar face or two pass by but in your labour land haze you can't really make head nor tail of them. Once in the delivery room you're mostly left alone with a midwife occasionally poking her head in to see if everyone's ok before she checks on the other women who are also in labour. A shift change occurs and someone new comes in & introduces themselves and you, or your partner has to outline *once again* what your birth wishes are. Do these people share the same philosophies on birth as you? No time to find out, here comes another contraction!

Don't get me wrong... I'm not having a go at midwives or doctors. I know many midwives who feel dismayed at the maternity system. It's the system itself that is broken.

Now relate this back to the opening analogy of a wedding. This is in total contrast with the wonderful experience of a well planned wedding... family & friends supporting your wishes and the celebrant, photographers, florists & caterers all hand picked and responding to your every whim. And yet most people rate the experience of childbirth as more important than their wedding. It is an event where the details of the experience, who was there and how you were treated will remain in your memory for a lifetime.

Imagine if you could hand pick your perfect birth! Your perfect location and your perfect support team!

The good news is... you can! Just like planning any other significant moment in your life all it takes is a little time & research.

And here's some resources to help you on your way :)

The My Birth website was established for women to find resources. You find information on your local hospital & learn their statistics for caesarean rates, induction rates, episiotomy rates, VBAC rates etc.

What if you're not happy with your local hospitals statistics or feel they're not catering to your individual needs?

Well, if hospital's not your thing and you'd like a homebirth in the Central West try these midwives:

You can also join with like minded women at the local Joyous Birth meetings, held monthly in Orange. Here women share their experiences both in hospital & at home. Contact me for details.