Saturday, October 15, 2011

Vote Robin Lim as 2011 CNN Hero of the Year

Robin Lim, the midwife featured in the film Guerilla Midwife, shown on the International Day of the Midwife in Sarasota in 2010, has been chosen as a Top 10 CNN Hero of the Year Nominee. If she wins this honor, her non-profit organization Yayasan Bumi Sehat will receive $250,000. People can vote for Robin 10 times per day until December 7th. This money would help Robin save so many mothers and babies; her birthing sanctuaries offer free prenatal care, birthing services and medical aid to anyone who needs it, in areas of the world where postpartum hemorrhage, obstetric fistula, and lack of prenatal care claim far too many lives.

"Naturally I hope that being a CNN Hero will bring attention to the global need for better maternal and infant survival care," says Robin Lim. "Bumi Sehat has a huge responsibility keeping the two community health and childbirth clinics open. There is also the Bumi Youth Education Center, our scholarship program, village recycling and environmental stewardship.

"We do capacity building for Indonesian midwives from many islands and countries. Bumi provides free ambulance and emergency medical service, HIV/AIDs counseling and testing, pediatric care, free weekly special clinics to treat chronic illness. We have elderly and prenatal exercise programs. Bumi Sehat is open 24 hours a day, every day of the year. In the first eight months of 2011 Bumi Sehat has helped 20,500 patients and delivered nearly 400 babies for free!"

Quite close to the epicenter of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami disaster, Bumi Sehat operates a clinic which also sponsors capacity building for youth education and environmental protection. "Bumi Sehat needs the CNN #1 award, and will put it to use doing culturally appropriate sustainable care. Imagine a world in which each child is born with an intact capacity to love and trust. This is the world midwives work day and night to build."

Click here to VOTE for Robin Lim. A vote for Robin Lim is a vote for gentle birth, for mother and child survival, for culturally sensitive natural community health care and disaster relief, for midwife-to-mother care that effectively saves lives.

BIRTH STORY: We Become Three

(written by Kassandra Lowther, about the birth of Aiden Anthony, born 10.10.11)

I awoke at 6am on the dot on 10/10/11, not feeling "right." Anthony sat up at the exact same time that I did and just looked at me; he says now that he just "knew." I was having a lot of intense period-like cramps that would leave me falling to the ground. I went to the bathroom thinking I had to take a poop, which I did; I thought that after that, the pain would go away and I could go back to sleep. Boy was I wrong!

I tried laying back down but I was in too much pain to sit still. Anthony was on and off sleeping at that time, still making sure I was alright every few minutes. I tried going to the bathroom again--nothing. Only a piece of toilet paper's worth of blood. I texted my mom and she responded that she was surprised I was awake so early and asked me to keep her posted. I finally went out into the living room and logged onto facebook to ask if anyone else had ever experienced the kind of pain I was, during labor or just at the end of pregnancy in general; many of my friends said it sounded like labor!

I went onto and started timing my contractions, they would come anywhere from 6-7 minutes apart and would last anywhere from 45 seconds to a minute. These were pains I could not talk through, walk through, etc. I knew either something was wrong or I was in labor. I told Anthony he could go to work, that I wasn't exactly sure if I was in labor or not and I didn't want to have him call off if it was only random pains like usual. I timed the contractions for about an hour and realized that I had been having these pains for about 3 hours--time to call the midwife.

I paged the on-call midwife at 8:48am and waited about 2 minutes until I got a call back. Harmony Miller was on the line, I explained to her everything I was feeling--the blood, the contractions; I had multiple contractions that left me breathless while on the phone with her. She said that it definitely sounded like I was going into labor, that I should keep timing the contractions and said that "I will know" when I need to come in and to call her when I need her. Lucky me that was the day she had come back from her maternity leave, her son Cairo would be attending his first birth--mine!! I then called my mother and asked her to come over, that Anthony was at work and I needed someone there with me; she told me after that she could tell by the way I was talking that I was totally in labor.

My mom showed up and she helped me through many contractions; she tried rubbing my back a few times but I just didn't want to be touched. We called Anthony (he had been at work for about a half an hour) and told him that he NEEDED to come home, that I was in labor and we had to get to the birthing home soon. He came through the door about 10 minutes later and asked me if I was sure I was in labor, ohhh yes I was!

He and my mom helped me through more contractions. I was grabbing onto the edge of the couch and on the floor begging for a trash can because I swore I was going to throw up. All I could smell was garlic bread from dinner the night before; it made me gag but I just couldn't throw up. Anthony called Harmony at 10:34 and told her that we were on our way to the birthing home. She said for us to call when we were out the door. I know now why she said that. It took me about 20 minutes just to get off the floor and out of the house.

On the way to the birthing home I wasn't even in the seat of my mom's convertible, I was on the floor in between the front passenger seat and the back seat in sooo much pain; the contractions were definitely a lot more intense. Some a-holes decided to honk at us from behind so I flicked them off, they then pulled in front of us and went about 10mph ON FRUITVILLE just to get me back for giving them the finger. Anthony was so irritated at that and almost jumped out of the car.

We arrived at Rosemary Birthing Home and it took me about 5 minutes just to get out of the car because I was finally and constantly throwing up into a big black trash bag. Anthony helped me waddle my way up the steps and into the birthing home. I looked and saw the sign on the door that said something like "There is a baby being born today!" I couldn't help but smile because I knew that it was put up specifically for me!!

We walked inside and hurried me up the stairs before the contractions came again. The moment we got into the purple birthing room I was already on the floor in pain. My mom got me some water and I was drinking "Frost" Gatorade like there was no tomorrow, although no liquids could quench my thirst. Harmony arrived soon after and I was on the bed on all fours, holding onto Anthony's hand for dear life as yet another intense contraction overcame my body. She asked if she could check me and of course I wanted that more than anything, because if I was only 1-4cm dilated and in that much pain I would've been so mad. I laid on my back and I started having another contraction, she waited patiently and quickly after it subsided stuck her fingers in for a check. The look in her face was pure shock, I don't remember exactly what she said but it was something along the lines of "Oh! You are 6-7cm dilated and STILL stretching as I keep my fingers in!" I was dilating rather fast!

I asked for the birthing tub to be filled because I knew the warm water would put my body and mind at some ease. I kept laboring on the bed with Anthony by my side for what seemed like forever. I kept staring at the birth tub praying in my head for the water to fill up faster; it was taking so long! Anthony's mother and grandma showed up at some point then, I was fully focused on the contractions at this point. I remember saying hello to them and telling Michelle how I loved what she did with her hair! I was given a green bowl to throw up into, it was in front of me on the bed; I had nothing in my system besides Gatorade and water so mostly I was vomitting bile (ew).

Finally the birth tub was "full enough" that I could at least get in and relax. We got into the tub and the heat of the water felt AMAZING, I never thought that water could ever feel so orgasmic. With each contraction came all new sensations: the feeling of wanting to poop, the most intense back pains I've ever felt in my life, the want to get out and give up. I remember looking over and my mom a million times shaking my head, she would just smile and nod; letting me know without saying a word that I can do this. Those looks really got me through it. She kept trying to take my green bowl away from me though, which I kept in the water with me the whole time because I kept feeling like I was going to throw up, which I actually never did; I guess I was just territorial over it!

Grandma Pat kept going downstairs to get ice chips and my mom would feed them to me, and although they didn't seem to help with anything, they still felt amazing to chew on. Anthony was behind me in the birth tub putting pressure on my back with each contraction that passed, most of the time his hands felt to almost make the pain feel worse and I remember smacking his hands away a few dozen times. I then felt inside of me and could feel my bag of water still intact, and behind that I could feel Aiden's was only about a fingertip away but never seemed to want to budge. I looked around the room many times during labor and kept telling Harmony and the rest of the birth team that I couldn't do it, that it hurt so bad. They kept telling me that I was doing an amazing job and it would be over soon, so I kept trying. Every contraction now sent me into wanting to PUSH, I'd push so hard and feel Aiden coming out but then I would have the feeling to poop so I'd stop pushing. Even though I was in so much pain I really didn't want to poop on my husband who was sitting behind me, it would just feel so awkward to me. The only time I had cussed during labor was about this time, when I yelled "God damnit!" after which I apologized to everyone in the room.

Finally after a few hours of trying not to let my bowels out I turned around and faced Anthony; holding onto his knees, legs, arms, hands, hugging him so tight with every contraction. I finally couldn't hold it anymore and pooped, just little particles came out but at least they came out behind me and not right in front of Anthony. Every contraction after that I kept pooping out little peices; Harmony told me that that meant Aiden was very close, that he was pushing on my anus. It honestly did feel like he was trying to come out of my butt and not my vagina, it was awful! One of the birth assistants (I don't remember her name, sorry!) helped put pressure on my back as I squeezed Anthony's leg through yet another painful contraction. I felt "down there" and I could feel my bag BULGING, I knew he was close. I gave out a really hard push and could feel Aiden's head giving way, coming out into the tub. I leaned back a bit and just let the pain over-take me, this was definitely the most painful part of my labor. All of a sudden everyone was around the tub watching as Aiden's head, then shoulders, then whole rest of his body came out of me. Anthony told me later on that he asked Harmony if he could still breath while inside the sac, she assured him that he was still breathing oxygen and not to worry. Anthony then had him in his hands and pulled him out from the water. There he was, our beautiful baby boy. The moment I saw him all the pain had disappeared, like the labor never happened and my perfect little boy had just come out of the water out of nowhere.
Aiden Anthony Lowther was born on 10/10/11 at exactly 4pm; caught by his daddy Anthony R. Lowther, after a 10 hour all natural labor in the water at Rosemary Birthing Home. He was born still in his sac, which I was told later is very rare, there are several old wives tales about it. Aiden weighed 7lbs 7oz and measured 21in long.

I have never experienced something so amazing in my life, and I definitely plan on having more natural water births in the future. Thank you to everyone who was there, for your support and love; I couldn't have done it without you guys!!!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Introducing Maternally Yours Radio

I am proud to introduce to you a new radio program I am co-hosting, and am honored and very excited by the opportunity before us. I invite you to tune in and welcome your feedback!
Earlier this month, four Sarasota mothers launched a weekly radio program dedicated to maternal health. “Maternally Yours: Sarasota’s Conversation about Pregnancy, Childbirth and Early Motherhood” airs every Tuesday night at 6:30pm on Sarasota’s community radio station, WSLR 96.5 LPFM. It is the first ever local broadcast dedicated to the subject, and WSLR’s first program hosted by a collective of women.

Maternally Yours is an opportunity for Sarasota to learn about issues affecting pregnant families, infants, and young children from a consumer perspective. The program will be hosted on a rotating basis by four women well-known in the community for their expertise in the areas of pregnancy, childbirth, and the postpartum period. The hostesses will invite local experts in the fields of midwifery, obstetrics, nursing, pediatrics, healthcare administration, breastfeeding, doula work, public health, and consumer advocacy, as well as (and often) parents who might share their experience on a given topic. The show will offer listeners a broad range of perspectives and opinions incorporating all models of maternity care available.

“This is such a balanced, judgment-free, thoughtful, refreshing show,” says Sarasota mother Abby Weingarten. “What a gift to our community!”

The hostesses of Maternally Yours are Cheryl Kindred, Carmela Pedicini, Ryan Stanley and Laura Gilkey. Cheryl is a certified birth doula, birth assistant, childbirth educator, MotherBaby advocate and leads local groups for Babywearing education and postpartum support. Carmela is an Independent Childbirth Educator, Certified Lactation Counselor, Licensed Practical Nurse, and local musician. Ryan is a long-time Sarasotan and young mother whose daughter’s birth shifted her career path toward Postpartum Doula certification. Laura is an advocate for evidence-based maternity care, a board member for Florida Friends of Midwives and the Healthy Start Coalition, author of the blog Born in Sarasota, and marketing director for The Safe Motherhood Quilt Project.

The unifying voice of the programmers is a genuine desire to empower women to take control of their bodies, their pregnancies, their births, and the raising of their children. “We all believe deeply in informed consent and allowing families to make their own choices,” says Laura. “The best way for them to do so is with evidence, information, and support.”

To listen to Maternally Yours, please tune into WSLR 96.5 LPFM every Tuesday evening at 6:30pm. The program is also available via live streaming on, and podcast at For more information, please contact the hostesses of Maternally Yours at, or call (941) 915-8115.

About Maternally Yours: Maternally Yours is Sarasota's Conversation about Pregnancy, Childbirth and Early Motherhood. The Conversation airs on Tuesday nights at 6:30pm on YOUR Community Radio Station, WSLR 96.5 LPFM. The mission of Maternally Yours is to educate and inform our community about the options, support, and evidence-based best practices available to them in maternal-child healthcare.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Guest Column: Safe Childbirth Advocate Honored

My gratitude to the Sarasota Herald Tribune for printing the following editorial on Monday, October 3rd.

In 2009, American midwife Ina May Gaskin visited Sarasota. She spoke to the physicians at Sarasota Memorial Hospital, displayed her Safe Motherhood Quilt Project at the Selby Public Library, and sat on a panel of experts at the conference on Maternal Healthcare in the 21st Century. She shed some light in our community on the evolution of American maternity care, our current maternal mortality crisis, and the model of care and accountability we must embrace to change it.

These are the kinds of visits Ina May makes on an almost weekly basis, in between delivering babies at The Farm, the "intentional community" in Tennessee she and husband Stephen Gaskin developed in 1970. One book, one airplane flight, one community at a time, she uses her 40-plus years of midwifery experience and research to educate and call to action those of us who are compelled by the fact that, while the United States spends more money on maternity care than any other nation, we remain ranked 50th in maternal mortality and 41st in infant mortality, according to the World Health Organization.

Recently, Ina May received the highest honor of her career thus far: The Right Livelihood Award (, commonly referred to as the "Alternative Nobel." The award, established in 1980, honors "those offering practical and exemplary answers to the most urgent challenges facing us today." Among 2011's four Laureates, Ina May was chosen "for her whole-life's work teaching and advocating safe, woman-centered childbirth methods that best promote the physical and mental health of mother and child."

The Gaskins will travel to Stockholm in December to accept the honor, which will be presented by Sweden's Parliament.

This will be the second time they have done this as husband and wife; in 1980, Stephen became the first Right Livelihood Award Laureate for his establishment of PLENTY International. This is the first time a husband and wife have each been laureates of the award, causing the Right Livelihood Foundation to liken the couple to Marie and Pierre Curie.

Today, Ina May focuses her efforts heavily on The Safe Motherhood Quilt Project (, in which each quilt square honors a woman who has died in childbirth in the United States since 1982. The Project aims at summoning the national will necessary to lower the rising maternal death rate by creating a consistent, mandatory system for reporting, classifying and counting maternal deaths, and reviewing and analyzing their causes.

She is also engaged in a national information campaign, aimed at women and medical professionals, about the potential side effects of using Cytotec, or misoprostol, to induce labor. She continues to teach and speak to physicians and midwives worldwide, and has traveled to Argentina, Canada, Mexico, Brazil, Costa Rica, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Iceland, Germany, Switzerland, Israel, Italy, Austria, France, the Netherlands, Slovenia, Russia, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Spain, Australia, New Zealand and Japan to do so.

When I was newly pregnant for the first time in 2004, the first book I read was Ina May's "Spiritual Midwifery." Like so many other new mothers, I relied on the birth stories and wisdom so frequently that its pages were dog-eared and tattered by my due date. Since that bestseller, she has penned: "Ina May's Guide to Childbirth," "Ina May's Guide to Breastfeeding" and "Birth Matters: A Midwife's Manifesta," published just this summer. I encourage people to read this most recent work, describing the evolution of our maternity care system, and the path we must take to improve it, not only for the highest good of our mothers and babies, but for nations worldwide that strive to replicate our model of care.

"A society that places a low value on its mothers and the process of birth will suffer an array of negative repercussions for doing so," says Ina May Gaskin. "Good beginnings make a positive difference in the world, so it is worth our while to provide the best possible care for mothers and babies throughout this extraordinarily influential part of life."

We as a nation should celebrate Ina May Gaskin, the U.S. 2011 Right Livelihood Award Laureate, with collective pride and gratitude. Her tireless dedication to her calling has rippled throughout the world, and it is up to us to carry her message. It is a privilege to work with Ina May, and the highest honor to call her my friend.