Friday, September 21, 2012

Women Hold Up Half The Sky

‚The Freedom in a country can be measured by the freedom of birth.‘Agnes Gereb

Last night I went to see the world wide premier of ‚Freedom Of Birth‘ – a movie that any woman and man supporting a woman in childbirth should watch. A movie that slaps it right into your face that childbirth is a human rights issue. And after it has slapped you in the face, it stabs you into your heart. At least this is what happened to me.

Meet Agnes Gereb - the subject of the documentary. She is a Hungarian obsetrician and midwife and international homebirth expert. She was taken into custody Oct 5, 2010 after a woman had gone into unexpected labor at Agnes' birth centre. As I understand it, Agnes had advised this woman to give birth in hospital but the woman rejected the idea and happened to go into labor during a class at Agnes' birth centre. There must have been some trouble because Agnes immediately and rightly decided to call an ambulance. With the ambulance that took the labouring woman to hospital, the police came to arrest Agnes. The reason? Reckless endangerment of life committed in the line of duty. The woman gave birth to a healthy baby and was soon discharged from hospital.

Three months after Agnes was jailed the European Court of Human Rights established under Article 8 (right to private and family life) of the European Convention that any woman has the right to choose where to give birth. (case of TERNOVSZKY v. HUNGARY) Agnes Gereb was freed but is still under house arrest!

This is Hungary! In the year 2012! A member country of the European Union since 2004! REALLY!!!

I deeply care about women's rights in childbirth. And it pains me that I don't see enough women really care about it. Or don't realize they should care. Or at least don't show that they care.

I'll quote Dr Nancy Salgueiro - the Ottawa woman who you might have seen give birth live on camera 11months ago. She is also a childbirth educator and women's advocate (and chiropractor). In her talks with women she finds that:

Women are given misleading information making them feel as if procedures are necessary when they are not. - Induction or Oxytocin anyone?

Women are being told they are incapable of birthing their own baby and must trust in a system that does not support normal birth. - Ever been told during check-ups that your baby is large, maybe too large for you to birth vaginally?  I hear stories like that ALL THE TIME.

Women are being forced to birth in institutions because of lack of access to birth attendants outside hospitals. -We are lucky in Gatineau to have the Maison de Naissance but I felt like I won the lottery when I landed a midwife there to give birth to Elise outside the hospital. Ottawa residents are lucky to have quite a few midwifes and many homebirths. But not enough! Ontario is going to get 2 birth centres though. So there is a shift happening. Slowly but surely.

Women are abused and assaulted by procedures done to their bodies without consent and even after consent is withdrawn
- Too many nurses, doctors and student nurses check how dilated you are? You just accepted it and realized later how much you disliked that? I gave birth in a Ottawa hospital to Joshua. It was an easy birth without any intervention and I didn't have a single tear. My vagina felt pretty good actually. Yet, I remember having to turn my naked butt to at least two nurses (one was a student, I believe) who checked for
hemorrhoids. I felt uncomfortable to say the least. And 5 years later I still think about it. So, yes, I feel kind of violated! My midwife who cared for me after Elise's birth in Gatineau never felt the need to look at my perineum because she knew from the birth that I didn’t have tearing and she knew I would tell her if I had some trouble down there. After all I know my body best. Not to mention the fact that most women are automatically supplied with oxytocin at Ottawa hospitals. I didn't believe it but an ex-hospital nurse at last night's talk said that she cannot think of a single case under her watch where oxytocin was not given - with or without consent. I still find it hard to believe actually.

Women are being told they have no choices and must comply with medical orders or be threatened that their child may be taken from them. - I don’t know about a case in Ottawa but looks like Nancy does.

So women here in Ottawa are being violated and discriminated against under the Article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights. We just have to start owning this! This room last night was half-full. It should have been packed! Too many women do not know the facts about the effects of interventions on the outcomes of childbirth. Too many women do not know that a C-section is major surgery and does come with risks. We can't just wait for the system to change and hope that one day doctors will give us truly informed choice. I totally believe that change has to come from the top. But I believe just as much that change has to be iniated by you and me first. After all, Women Hold Up Half The Sky!

Check out the Informed Choice Coalition and come to the next screening on October 12.

If you had a traumatic birth experience and feel ready to work through it, there is the amazing Julie Keon with her Making Peace With Your Birth workshops.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Tough Workout or Whole Body Movement?

I have a love-hate relationship with facebook. I love it when I see a link to really cute minimal shoes like these ones. But I get rather turbulent flow in my blood vessels when I come across people saying stuff like:
'I had an awesome leg workout. I had to take the elevator down because my legs were so sore.'
or 'Great workout. I hobbled home'. Haha.

It stresses me out big time. Why on earth do people think this crazy pain is good? I'm not talking about a bit of muscle soreness that we get from using a muscle that we haven't really been using before. I mean the 'I can't walk anymore' kind of muscle soreness. This is just our body saying This-Is-Enough loud and clear. And the way I see it, it is just not natural behaviour to feel happy and proud when our body is saying NO. Or am I alone here?

Imagine you are a paleolithic person and you live fully in tune with your body because listening to your body's signals means the difference between life and death. Imagine one day you feel that all this natural living stuff stinks and you want to have a bit of fun and show everybody how cool/strong/able you are by doing something nobody has ever done:  You climb up and down 15 trees as fast as you can followed by lifting 5 big rocks and a 30minute chase after a mammut (or whatever). Imagine you made it and everybody is cheering. You feel the rush of adrenaline. It feels great. You also feel sore and have to lie down. Not so great. You actually feel too weak to embark on the 5mile trek to the next food source. Not great at all. You are left behind. The End.

Had the paleolithic people and the people after that been abusing their body like this, well, we wouldn't be here. Humans survived and evolved because they spent their days doing whole body movements like walking and carrying their children (or dead animals.) And then they rested. No CrossFit or treadmills or crazy leg workouts needed to live and thrive. Just walking and carrying stuff in their arms. And maybe the occasional climb up a tree or fight with an animal. And then a period of rest.

What happened to us? This big fitness boom. It's only been around for the last 40 or so years. Before that people just moved more throughout the day. They didn't need to work out. Now we sit on our butts for most of the day. Most of us don't even wash the floor on hands and knees anymore. (I do! I do!) And because we know we are so deconditioned, we take our completely underused body with its 600+ muscles (most of them way too tight) into a gym and give it a tough workout. Then it makes us feel great. But, really, for our body it's only stress. On every level. Muscles, tendons, ligaments, connective tissues, organs, blood vessels. Each and every cell really. And it shows. Foot, knee, hip, back, neck and shoulder pain anyone? Feeling tight? Not able to walk up or down the stairs? Needing to take the elevator after a workout???????? It just doesn't make sense to me!

Oh, and at the end a little help for all of you out there with tight calves from a tough workout, from wearing heels or from sitting too much: THE calf stretch. A rolled up towel will do too.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Sucking in your belly - Good or Bad?

BAD. Very bad. Very, very bad. And before you say 'hang on a minute, I was told to pull my belly in', let me explain:

Your deepest abdominal muscle (the TvA) contracts when you pull it towards your spine with the pelvis and rib cage in their neutral alignment. When you carry your pelvis and rib cage outside of where they should be, you don't work your core. But this is another blog post (If you can't wait, click here and here). Getting your TvA muscle closer to optimal functionning is absolutely crucial for the health of your spine, pelvic floor, cardiovascular, digestive and reproductive systems. Not to mention the good looks we are all after. 

Sucking in your belly has nothing to do with contracting your TvA. I have seen and talked to so many women who want to get their bellies in shape. And they all do it: They suck in their bellies. Even men suck in their bellies. And you suck in your belly propably right now. I know it. Because even I suck in my belly. Especially yesterday. And when I do it, you do it, too. (Very good reasoning on my part!)

When we suck in our bellies, the motion is up under the rib cage and not at all back towards the spine. Feel the pressure just under your ribs? This habit of sucking in our belly doesn't make the belly smaller because the abdominal muscles just aren't innervated. Instead we create unwanted pressure in our thoracic area - especially at the diaphragm. So much for healthy breathing! We need the diaphragm for expelling stuff (think vomiting or coughing). Not for pressing the contents of our abdomen against it. When we are so busy sucking it all in and up, then our bodies have a much harder time with all these very necessary downward motions like birthing babies or pooping or menstruating.

If you want to get your abdominals to work and if you want to breathe, oxygenate, digest, poop and birth freely and get a flatter belly as a bonus, you have to start with this: let your belly relax.

Let it hang. All of it. Breathe. And let it hang. The best position for releasing it is on hands and knees. (click here for pictures) Then you can start working on your TvA - with the ribs and pelvis in neutral!

We were just not made to suck in our bellies. Just think of how happy this pig must be. (Though it might be time for pig to learn some TvA contractions. He doesn't even have a lumbar curve. Oh well. Maybe not so happy after all...)