ChicagoDoula Goes to School. And Has a Baby. And Other Things

We’re writing this post to announce some changes at ChicagoDoula.  Amy and I have had a very full five years.  We’ve been gestating people and ideas and certifications.  We’ve been trying to blog here when we can – which is not often. Twitter has been a bit easier to use, so you may have seen some of Amy’s tweets there.

Five years ago when Amy joined me in using this identity, we had a lot of ideas about how we would develop the concept of ChicagoDoula.  And then we got busy.  Very busy.  Amy had a baby and I went to midwifery school.  Amy and her partner began raising the baby (along with their older children) and I spent three years assisting at a high volume home birth practice after earning my CPM credential.  Along the way there were other treats, like a house fire, pneumonia twice and appendicitis once, children starting school, and daughters going away to college, even a small part as an extra in a movie!  You can read more about the appendicitis and possibly some of these other things in future posts.  More recently, as the baby blur started receding, Amy began turning her attention to our joint venture again.  And then I began nursing school. (i feel like there should be a comedy drum riff here.  Ta Dum BUMP! )

So here we are, with Amy returning her to focus to ChicagoDoula as well as her new role at Chicago Volunteer Doulas (also the likely subject of a future post) while I am heading into another adventure that will take me farther away from the birth world for a while.  So we’ve agreed that it’s time to make some changes. Although I’ll always be a doula in my heart and will sometimes practice as a doula, and continue training doulas, Amy will be heading up ChicagoDoula from now on.  She’ll own the name and steer the business.  I will remain here as a friend, adviser, guest blogger and occasional back-seat-driver (meaning I still get to keep the honorable title of co-conspirator and, she says, ChicagoDoula emerita.  (Any actual doula work, doula training or monatrice work I might continue doing will be offered under my other long-time business banner of Women’s Way: Empowering Families in the Childbearing Year)

Why am I going off to nursing school?  I’ll probably blog about that at some point.  In the meantime, we have all sorts of ideas about how we want to see ChicagoDoula evolve over time, but I’ll leave it to Amy, as the New Management, to carry the conversation forward while I go back to studying.


Illinois’ First Birth Center…Finally!?

Check out this excellent Crain’s Chicago Business article about the hoped-for opening of Illinios’ first free-standing birth center.  It offers some interesting inside information on what it took to get the birth center bill passed. It turns out an assistant to the Illinois Senate President is married to a certified nurse-midwife! The story goes, once the president gave the bill his support, it finally took off. But it still took another 5 or 6 years after that to get everything in place for a potential opening – potential because the license has yet to be granted. Just goes to show how incredibly difficult it is to pass any state-wide legislation that the Illinois State Medical Society, a major campaign contributor, opposes.

Bones Has a Baby and Mainstream Media Gets it Right (mostly)


SPOILER ALERT! If you watch Bones on Fox and either Tivo or get a season’s pass online,     DO NOT READ BELOW unless you want to know all about the birth.

Yes the birth. Bones fans (my family included) finally got what they’ve been waiting for all season. After two of the main characters had a natural birth with no pain medication last season, Bones writers broke with tradition and wrote in another birth into the current season. Usually two births, two seasons in a row would be a no-no, but the setup was too perfect – actress Emily Deschanel actually was pregnant. Her baby was born last autumn. Her character’s baby was born last night.

For those who don’t know, the Bones character, Dr. Temperance Brennan, is a forensic anthropologist. Despite being a crime-fighter, she would doubtless have studied numerous cultures and their birthing customs. Home birth fans and activists will be thrilled to know that the show was packed with arguments about the advantages of home birth, including concerns about bodily fluids in the hallways of L&D units and concerns about needing to feel safe in one’s environment while giving birth – all the stuff natural birth advocates have been saying for years. In addition, one of the characters even plans to become a doula to help with the birth.

After giving birth outside the hospital (I won’t say where so as to not spoil everything) Bones arrives home with her new baby in arms, clearly able to walk and behave normally. Those who haven’t been at a home birth may think this is ridiculous, but I remember being in my kitchen making a bowl of soup with my 3-hour-old newborn in my arms. It was probably not the best idea, but it was not at all impossible. That is what normal birth looks like. Finally, mainstream TV got it right.

Mostly. One more spoiler for you – there is no birth attendant other than the baby’s father, Booth. While there is a movement toward unassisted birth in our country, generally speaking, home birth is safer with a skilled attendant present – someone who has neonatal resuscitation skills and carries anti-hemorrhage medications. Nurse-midwives and professional midwives both meet this criteria, however                       Certified Professional Midwives are the only ones whose certification process requires a designated amount of out-of-hospital training.

Lack of midwives aside, this birth was, by far, the best I’ve seen on TV since more than a decades ago when characters on Northern Exposure had a beautiful home birth. Maybe the recent significant increase in home births will encourage more networks to get real.

Congratulations Fox and Bones! You birthed a nice baby.

Six Months Later

Long, long ago, Amy promised for me that I would post a follow up to her post about the fire that took my family’s home. Today is the six month anniversary of that fire and it’s high time I followed through on the promise. So here we go.

Just now, six months later, we finally had the house demolished. It happened last week. It went down in a day. It felt good to be done with it.

Just now, six months later, I finally got to order my midwifery textbook replacements. I plan to spend the summer studying these books for my autumn CPM (Certified Professional Midwife) exam.

Just now, six months later, we are working through some of the PTSD that still lingers for some members of the family.

Just now, six months later, we are beginning to feel ready for another kitty to join our family.

Just now, six months later, I look back and am grateful for our lives and for the love and support we received from the childbirth and parenting community.

Just now, six months later, I look back and I laugh as I remember how, on the day of the fire , as I sat in the car, a block down the street with two pets and five girls in their pajamas, I pulled out my doula bag and found food, clothing, clogs, toiletries, emergency cash, rescue remedy and lavender – in short, plenty to cover immediate needs and calm us down. To a doula, its nothing – just regular birth bag ingredients, but to a doula whose house was burning down it was desperately needed, not only for the items but for the bit of humor it injected into the situation. As one of my daughters said, “only mom would have stuff like this in her car.” Given that their usual complaint is how I’m weird and not like other mothers, this was a compliment.

Just now, six months months later, my doula bag is packed and ready for the next birth or for any crisis that may come.

Just now six months later, we are still working through a few things, but basically we are doing just fine.

Thanks for reading

Importing Midwives and Exporting Babies: Illinois’ Little Secret Gets National Attention

Illinois midwifery and home birth have gotten a lot of national attention lately. In late August, there was a Time Magazine article on the controversies surrounding home birth in the U.S.A. In the opening paragraph, there was a description of an Illinois home birth mama who eventually jumped the border to have her baby in Missouri because the home birth situation in Illinois was so full of angst.

Late last week, the New York Times published an entire article about Illinois home birth. The title was (to us activists) exciting and provocative – “Use of Midwives Rises, Challenging the State to Respond”. This article features an Illinois student midwife who crossed the border, moving to Wisconsin to complete her education and work legally. Also in the same article, is an Illinois mama who moved to Wisconsin to follow her midwife.

Is there a pattern here??  Yes – moms and midwives crossing the border into friendlier states. It’s as if there are signs at the border pointing AWAY from our state   →  This Way To A Better Birth.

This is only half the story, however. The Coalition for Illinois Midwifery is also aware of women bringing midwives IN to Illinois. Although not clearly stated in the NYT article, some of the mamas interviewed actually imported their home birth midwives from other states. And they’re not the only ones. Over the past several years Illinois home birth mothers have brought midwives in from Wisconsin, Iowa, Missouri, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio, Texas, Oregon, Montana, California, and probably quite a few more.

Bringing a midwife in or taking a jaunt across the border are both viable options for women, but are they really the best options?

Comfort is an issue. Anyone who remembers the last few weeks of their pregnancy knows the last thing they want to do is take a long drive anywhere, much less in labor.

Safety is an issue. Should a woman need a higher level of care, her imported midwife is unlikely to be familiar with the local options. And for mamas who have traveled, ending up in a strange hospital, miles from their supportive network of friends and family, can negatively impact their well-being.

Pride is an issue. Can we not serve our own?

With national attention finally on the subject, we can hope that our state legislature will find it in their hearts to make sure that women who choose home birth in Illinois, have enough providers willing to serve them. Given that we have at least 30 years of evidence that nurse-midwives and physicians cannot and will not meet that demand, it is time to recognize those who will and assure that they have met national certification standards. Licensure of certified professional midwives (CPMs) is the only way.

Otherwise we’d better start building those border signs.

Who Is ChicagoDoula?

So Amy is trying to get me to blog. I have to say, I have never considered this and am not so sure how good I’ll be at this. I’m only here because she has the smarts and the drive to get us both here. Maybe I can start by giving you the back story. For the past 15 years, I’ve practiced as a childbirth educator, doula, doula trainer and occasional midwife’s assistant. I’ve used the web since the beginning and have always used the screen name identity “ChicagoDoula.” But as the web developed, I remained a very basic user – email, the occasional instant message, web-browsing.

I always thought I should make more of it. I even took a website design class. I created a draft version of a very pretty website. And it sat there on my computer for years. I had no idea how to get it published. Two years ago I finally figured out that I needed to purchase a domain name. So I did. But that sat there too. When Facebook came along, I figured it out to some degree, though I only have personal pages – no business page.

Then along came Amy, a new doula on the block, with some really neat ideas. She hoped to develop a website and call it I agreed to this because after all, though I’d been using the name for years, I did not yet have a website and thought I would never get around to it. Amy began building the site and after a time we realized it was something we could work on together. We began to think of ChicagoDoula as a concept rather than a specific person and several months later, here we are.

Who is ChicagoDoula? She is a little bit of everything, just like the city she serves. She is an activist, a doula, a mother, a midwife (of babies or ideas or communities), a mentor and a student. She is experienced and wise, yet she is fresh and enthusiastic and full of new ideas. She is knowledgeable about a variety of childbirth preparation techniques and is comfortable working with them. She believes that life is precious and she also believes in a woman’s right to make a full range of decisions about her reproductive health care – whether that means choosing to terminate a pregnancy, choosing an epidural for labor, or choosing a homebirth with an underground midwife. She strives to help women understand the full implications of their choices and help them find their innate power, so their choices are not driven by fear. She understands that there is no single right answer for any given situation. She is willing to support women in whatever choice is right for them.

ChicagoDoula loves her city and the people in it. She joyfully serves families from all walks of life. She is ever-hopeful with a strong vein of cynical, anti-racist, queer-friendly, working on recognizing her privileges as well as her own internalized oppression, challenging others and herself to see and understand things differently. When faced with obstacles, she looks for creative solutions rather than struggling to achieve particular outcomes.

She envisions a world where all women get the support they need across the spectrum of pregnancy, labor, birth and parenting – a world where every woman in every community has access to the information and support she wants and needs so that she can be affirmed in her choices.

She envisions a world where women are respected, safe, honored and empowered.

In short, ChicagoDoula is many things. We invite you to get to know her, us, as we continue posting here and continue building our websites.