Saturday, April 26, 2014

Hmm, we need an accountant and a lawyer.

As I plug away working on the business plan for the holistic health center we're dreaming of, and study the rules for becoming a non-profit organization, I'm realizing two things - we need an accountant, and we need a lawyer. Handling money (and pretty much anything to do with numbers) is not my strong suit, so while I have the best of intentions and a clear vision for how this whole thing needs to be set up, somebody who is specifically trained in handling money should give their professional insight before we get started. Same thing goes for the lawyer. I want to make sure we're following the law along the way so we don't run into problems later, and especially where health care is concerned I just want to make sure we're doing everything the way we are required to. There will be a lot of legal documents along the way and I want to have someone who speaks that language on our team.

So just to put this out there, if you or someone you know has financial or legal expertise and an interest in holistic, natural health care, and would be willing to collaborate and share your insight on this project, we would be so very appreciative. It would have to be pro bono at this point but when we are up and functioning and have a budget to work with these will be available as paid positions! Nobody wants to work for free but maybe there are a couple of people out there with these qualifications who can share our vision for a beautiful, rural setting with several small, quaint office buildings where natural health practitioners such as naturopaths, massage therapists, midwives, counselors, and more can meet with their clients in a peaceful environment that is far from the typical medical office atmosphere. Surrounded by community gardens and areas for group events, where clients pay one low monthly co-op fee and have access to a wide variety of holistic practitioners, to promote a lifestyle of wellness and disease prevention, using more natural options when some kind of treatment is necessary. A birth center with full-time midwives and on-staff doulas, a center for pregnancy care, natural birth, and postpartum care for the mothers of Ramona and the surrounding communities. Sliding scale payment options to make natural health care an affordable choice for low income people, as well as a full time on-site case manager to help coordinate services and support for individuals and families who need it. If this is something you believe our community would benefit from, something you have an interest in and would like to help make it a reality, please take a moment to fill out this form and let us know how you'd like to help. Even if you don't know the first thing about accounting or legal documents, if you have an idea for how you can help with this, we'd really love to hear it.

Click here for the form where you can enter your contact info and what you want to help with. So far everyone we've talked to about this idea has been very supportive and positive, and I truly believe that we can make this happen!

Saturday, April 12, 2014

My dream - a health care and birth co-operative.

For years now, since my pregnancy with our second child, I have had this little idea in the back of my brain that has grown and taken different shapes and forms, and sometimes I haven't thought much of it for long stretches of time but it's always there. It's a combination of some of my biggest passions - holistic health, natural birth, community-style living and work, family support, good quality health care available to ALL people - and the best part is that my husband is fully on board and supportive of this plan. So after a great deal of discussion and brainstorming, we've decided that it's time to put one foot in front of the other and start moving forward towards this plan, even if it's at a snails pace. We have a name and a vision and even a pretty solid plan that we've talked out, so I don't feel like we're flying blind. I'm not fooling myself into thinking it will be easy - in fact I think it will be a ton of very hard work. But we're ready to try!

What I'm envisioning is a large piece of land where we can set up multiple buildings, where we can live and also where we can have office space to rent out. My main vision is of a health center with a focus on pregnancy and birth, but I'd love to be able to offer whole life services if we can get enough interest and participation from providers. We would provide a beautiful space - complete with community vegetable gardens, workshops, and other activities to get people together and helping each other - where natural health care providers can come together to serve clients, outside of the standard idea of a hospital or clinic. A place where we can come together to promote wellness and good health, and take a holistic approach to managing health care by making it easy for the entire team to come together to help the ENTIRE client. Are you feeling me? I'm very excited about this, and I'm even more excited about how into it my husband is! I can see this being something our whole family would work together on.

One place for your natural health care. This plan originated when I learned about The Farm in Tennessee, the midwifery center which was started by the wonderful Ina May Gaskin, a pioneer in modern midwifery in the US. As soon as I learned about what she does, I wanted to create a place similar to that where women and their families could come to ease into a comfortable and safe place for birth, a haven where they would have access to midwives, doulas, maybe aromatherapists, massage therapists, counselors, and more. And yes, recently I've gotten into the show Private Practice (late to the party, as usual!) and I love the idea of a health care co-operative. Expanding beyond pregnancy and birth services and offering options to all age ranges - pediatrics, family practice, in my wildest dreams even hospice services, because I believe that we all deserve a peaceful birth and a peaceful death.

Services to support the entire life span. Workshops, not only about health and wellness related topics, but also about good old fashioned life skills. Community gardens, and workshops where we can learn how to work in the gardens and what to do with the food we harvest from them. Cottage style homes so that we could offer the different practitioners an on-site place to live, or at least a comfortable place to stay while waiting on a laboring mama. Birthing rooms, or birthing cottages, where the entire family can be comfortable for the whole duration of labor, where supportive and safe people are on premises to help care for the older children while the parents work through labor and birth together. The ability to have sliding scale payments or bartering services so that low income families can have access to the same good quality health services. 

This is an enormous plan and feels overwhelming, but we'll never get anywhere by sitting and thinking about it, so after a great deal of discussion we've decided to go for it. And it still feels overwhelming, and I'm still not quite sure how to get it going, but we've been gathering lots of information about how to create a nonprofit organization and we're slowly heading down that path.

What we need now is to know who will be enthusiastic and supportive of this plan with us. Who will our supporters be? Anyone who would want to be involved with a project like this. A practitioner, a client, a lawyer, an activist, or "just" a caring community member. And ultimately we'll need to start fundraising. It will be slow going because I will be carefully looking into laws and regulations at each step along the way to make sure that we're doing things properly right from the start. But I believe in this plan. I believe that this is something that will fulfill a major need, and I believe that it is possible to make this happen. I believe that it will be a TON of work, but that it will be well worth it when we see it take shape.

Friday, April 11, 2014

21 reasons to say NO to Pitocin.

Here's one that I've seen shared on many different sites over the past couple of years. Very proud to say that I was the original author of this one. :)

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Have you ever read the package insert for Pitocin? It’s a fascinating read. Did you know that the manufacturer of Pitocin, JHP Pharmaceuticals, actually wrote a really sensible list of recommendations and warnings for the use of this drug?

Given the current nationwide epidemic of Pitocin abuse, I started reading this document with my hackles up, expecting to be annoyed - but it wasn’t long before I became surprised by what I was reading. JHP Pharmaceuticals didn’t create this drug to hurry up the labor experience for normal, healthy women. In fact, the package insert warns against the use of Pitocin induction when it’s not medically indicated. The Indications and Usage section opens with a framed important notice that reads “Elective induction of labor is defined as the initiation of labor in a pregnant individual who has no medical indications for induction. Since the available data are inadequate to evaluate the benefits-to-risks considerations, Pitocin is not indicated for elective induction of labor.

There you have it, straight from the manufacturer. Pitocin isn’t even meant to be used for induction when there’s not a medical need for it. According to these instructions, there are specific situations which warrant the use of Pitocin. Maternal diabetes, Rh problems, preeclampsia at or near term, certain cases of uterine inertia (ineffective contractions during true labor), or situations where the water has already broken are listed as examples when Pitocin may be used appropriately.

Here’s another warning from the package insert that caught my eye. “When properly administered, oxytocin should stimulate uterine contractions comparable to those seen in normal labor.” That was really surprising to me. I thought it was an unavoidable fact, that Pitocin-induced contractions are simply longer and stronger than naturally occurring contractions. That’s been the common knowledge among women I’ve spoken to about this subject. A huge percentage of women who have given birth naturally and also with Pitocin say that their Pitocin births were more painful. As it turns out, artificially long or strong contractions are associated with overdose of this drug, not the recommended dosage.

Here are 21 more reasons why most women should say no to Pitocin, brought to you by - the manufacturers of Pitocin. Each of these warnings comes from the package insert.

21. Induction with Pitocin requires constant fetal monitoring, but external monitoring is inaccurate. The best way to monitor the baby’s heart rate is by using an internal monitor called a Fetal Scalp Electrode that is attached the top of the head, through the cervix. It’s very invasive and can be quite painful (for mother AND for baby) to have one of these inserted, and there have been reports of babies being cut, scraped, and even receiving eye injuries from the device. Either form of fetal monitoring limits the laboring woman's ability to move as needed.

20. Pitocin should not be used when there is a predisposition to uterine rupture, as is the case when a woman has had uterine surgery such as a prior c-section. The sad fact, though, is that there are many hospitals and OBs that will not “allow” a woman to attempt a VBAC unless she agrees to an induction and close monitoring.

19. Nausea and vomiting are some of the most minor symptoms on the manufacturer’s list of possible drug reactions.

18. Pitocin, just like any drug, can cause a severe allergic reaction called anaphylaxis, which causes hives, difficulty breathing and swallowing, heart palpitations, and can lead to death.

17. There is an increased risk of postpartum hemorrhage after Pitocin-augmented births.

16. Pitocin can disrupt the normal heartbeat of the mother, causing reactions such as cardiac arrhythmia or premature ventricular contractions.

15. Another risk of Pitocin is pelvic hematoma, a blood clot or even larger area of blood in the soft tissue of the pelvis.

14. Pitocin has an antidiuretic effect on the body, meaning it increases the absorption of water. This leads to the risk of water intoxication, especially when there are additional fluids such as saline in the IV or lots of water to drink. There have been cases of women suffering severe cases, including coma and even death, during labor.

13. Pitocin can cause a hypertensive episode in the mother. This basically means a sudden surge in blood pressure,and if the elevation is severe it can cause a heart attack or stroke.

12. Fatal afibrinogenemia is another listed side effect of Pitocin. In everyday language, this translates to slow, uncontrollable bleeding that results in death.

11. Women have died from uncontrolled high blood pressure, bleeding on the brain, water intoxication, hemorrhage, and uterine rupture after the use of Pitocin during the first and second stages of labor.

10. There have been no studies to examine the carcinogenicity or mutagenicity of Pitocin. In layman’s terms, we have no idea if this drug causes cancer or causes cells to change in any way.

9. We have no idea what kind of effect Pitocin has on a woman’s future fertility, let alone the fertility of her newborn baby.

8. The deaths of babies, for a variety of reasons, have been associated with the use of Pitocin during labor.

7. Pitocin has been associated with heart problems in the newborn, such as bradycardia (slow heartbeat), premature ventricular contractions, and other arrhythmias.

6. Cases of permanent damage to the newborn’s brain or central nervous system have been documented as a result of Pitocin-induced births.

5. Pitocin during labor is associated with low scores on the five minute Apgar test, the newborn exam that looks at alertness, respiratory, and circulatory health.

4. Retinal hemorrhage, a common symptom of shaken baby syndrome, can be caused by the physical force of a Pitocin-induced birth.

3. Increased risk of newborn jaundice is associated with Pitocin.

2. Hypertonic (excessively strong) contractions, and tetanic (prolonged) contractions are some of the most common side effects of Pitocin overdose. If the contractions are coming so fast that there’s no resting time in between, the dose is too high. And this leads to my number 1 reason to say no to this drug, because it seems that far too often an inappropriately high dosage is given.

1. Overdose of Pitocin is characterized by an even more frightening list of symptoms, including cervical and vaginal lacerations, deceleration of the baby’s heart rate, postpartum hemorrhage, fetal hypoxia (oxygen deprivation), and even organ failure and death in the mother or baby. It’s chilling to me, to realize that the long list of complications before this paragraph are in regards to normal doses of Pitocin, and there is a separate section to discuss the problems with overdosing.

Pitocin, just like any of the pharmacological drugs we have available to us, is an important and sometimes lifesaving tool, but like any drug or medical procedure, it must be used with caution. The list of dangerous or even fatal complications is very long, and this list doesn’t even mention some possible lifelong implications of this drug, such as the suggested link between Pitocin and autism. There are always risks when we interfere with the natural process of pregnancy and birth, and these risks must be considered carefully when an option like Pitocin induction is on the table. It’s almost always possible to wait a while longer to let nature take its course, but once the induction is underway the options become more and more limited as the urgency of the situation grows.

Was Pitocin involved in any of your births? Do you feel you were well aware of the risks associated with it?

image credit: timsamoff/flickr.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

The beauty of having a couple of kids.

Seriously. No sarcasm, no complaining, no lamenting. This post is just about how incredibly beautiful it is to have more than one child and to see the loving relationship they develop. While I don't think it's fair to put children into a position of NEEDING to take care of their siblings, as I watch my three little munchkins growing up together I realize that they will take care of each other because they love to do it, and it's the most precious thing to witness.

I'm talking about when my 7 year old spontaneously asks if he can wear his baby sister in the Ergo carrier, or when she's fussy while I'm running around during their bedtime routine so he takes her from me and gets her to smile and coo.

Or when my 4 year old pauses during his day, EVERY single time he passes by her, to say hi and give her some snuggles and playtime.

It's seeing the way her eyes light up when one of her brothers comes into her sight.

Or when I check on the boys before I go to bed at night, and find them tucked in next to each other (yes, they each have their own bed, believe it or not) sometimes even holding each other in a gentle hug. My 4 year old ALWAYS has his hand on his brother while they sleep, it's the cutest thing ever. Sometimes he's sleeping in the crook of his arm, sometimes they're actually sleeping apart from each other but BooBoo's hand is stretched across and resting on Bug's shoulder or hair.

Or when I hear the older one reading a book to the younger one.

Or when he brings home a reward from school and tells BooBoo he brought it home for him.

It's seeing Baby Girl roll over for the first time while BooBoo is sitting next to her cheering her on. "Come on! You're almost there! You're doing it!!"

It's the incredible feeling that rushes over you and would knock you onto your ass if you weren't already sitting in a bed, the first time your older child (or older children, if you have more than two) meets the new baby. Just thinking about it makes me erupt in goosebumps. We didn't know whether we were having a boy or a girl, so it was an extra big surprise for our boys the morning Baby Girl was born. Seeing their faces as they tiptoed out of their room to see me with the new baby was like seeing them on Christmas morning.

Where there used to be this enormous and sometimes overwhelming pressure on just my husband and myself to be EVERY interaction for our one young child, we've created this magical, loving little tribe of people who love to be together. Of course the kids have their fights and their "moments" and sometimes their entire days of terror, the big picture is an incredible image of fierce love that is beautiful and humbling. They are young (almost 8, 4, and 5 months) so there is still an awful lot of demanding daily care involved, of course. But being the person to witness all of them growing and learning together, loving each other more and more each day and building these relationships that will exist longer than the relationships they have with their Daddy and me, it's simply amazing. I never really considered this aspect of it when we were first deciding to take the leap and become parents, but it turns out it's one of my favorite parts of this whole mothering gig.