Monthly Archives: September 2010

Saving OUR Babies… Black MEN we NEED you! (Part 1)

So today is the last day of Infant Mortality Awareness Month. While I understand the purpose of the “month thing,” I really hate the whole concept of creating a month about a topic that is so vitally important. Let me remind you, in case there is any confusion, infants don’t just die in September. As I have mentioned in a previous post, infant mortality is a daily crisis. In fact approximately 76 babies will die today before reaching their first birthday.

It’s a sad reality and one that many are fighting on all fronts. We have a long way to go in this country as it relates to saving the lives of babies.  In the African American community our road is longer and filled with speed bumps, obstacles, and detours. While the national infant mortality rate is 6.8 meaning almost 7 babies die per 1,000 live births in the African American Community the rates are even higher at 12.2 babies per 1,000 live births. The primary cause of infant mortality in the African American community is prematurity and low birth weight.

To date, many of the efforts and research to combat Infant Mortality are focused on the mother. We look at the age, race, socioeconomic status, and educational attainment of the mother.  We look at the numbers of prenatal visits and the preconception care the mother has had. We look at her chronic conditions, her health behaviors and in general we examine all things female.  While all of those things are important, we often overlook the very VITAL role of the fathers.  In order for us to win the fight against Infant Mortality we need to include ALL persons involved.

“In May 2007, the Office of Minority Health (OMH), of the Department of Health and Human Services launched A Healthy Baby Begins with You – a national campaign to raise awareness about infant mortality with an emphasis on the African American community.”  This year the Office of Minority Health decided to bring some testosterone to the fight with a focus on the father.

If you are a man, you MUST understand that your role is vital. We NEED you in our families, we NEED your support, we NEED your love, we NEED you to get informed and get involved. We need you to talk to your sisters, your lovers, your brothers, your fathers, your boys, your sons. Your involvement is CRUCIAL! Yes if there was every any doubt in your mind… We NEED YOU BLACK MAN!! We need your strength, your wisdom, your guidance. We need everything positive that you posses to bring attention to this crisis and to help eliminate the disparities.

The love, the attention, the pampering, the support that a man gives a woman as she is carrying his child is unmistakable, irreplaceable, and has been shown to be protective as he helps create a healthy womb. The love, attention, pampering and support that a man gives to a woman and their newborn baby during the early days of life have been shown to be protective as he helps create a healthy living environment.  Women who have support from their man are more likely to carry full term and have a healthy weight baby.  With the right support women are more likely to breastfeed and have more success with breast feeding. (YES men BREAST are for FEEDING babies!!.)  All of these things are beneficial to our babies and can help decrease infant mortality in our communities.

Harmful words, physical abuse, personal poor health choices, leaving your woman and infant with feelings of abandonment and insecurity all contribute to the deplorable infant mortality rates in our communities.

BLACK MEN… Our babies need you, our women need you. I need you to help with this battle. I… We… She… can’t do it alone.  PLEASE for the life of our babies… Stand up and get involved!

I know we don’t like to talk about Infant Mortality for many reasons. Some of the reason includes our inability to talk about the pain.  BLACK MEN…. I want to encourage you to share your stores.  For a variety of reasons, masculinity in our society has come to mean men can’t express pain especially emotional pain.  To every man who has lost a baby who lives on in your spirit I salute you and embrace you with love. While I don’t know the pain of a father I do know the pain of losing an infant and I know it’s hard. Help the next brother, the next mother, the next baby.

Being silent about your pain contributes to the continuation of the epidemic of infant mortality in our community.  We ALL have to speak up and get involved.  I salute your strength and your power and encourage you to share your stories.  Your silence does not help anyone or anything. Your voice can help us be victorious.

In Birth and Love
Nicole

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Whose BIRTHday is it anyway??

One of my favorite lines from Birthing From Within

“After a birth in our baby-focused culture we announce:  “A baby has been born.”  In a mother-focused culture like the Ticopia of the Solomon Islands, the birth of child is announced by saying “A mother has given birth.”

I love the imagery that brings to my mind.

So my mother is killing cancer right now. For those of you who currently or have had a loved one with cancer you know that it truly gives you a new appreciation for being well and living life. Every day is a day to celebrate life.  Yesterday was a special day of celebration for both of us because it was my “birthday.” As I gave my mother a big hug I told HER “Happy Birthday” cause really it was the day that SHE gave birth to me 38 years ago.  She gave birth and I was born… So whose “BIRTHday” is it really?!  😉

Birthday Reflections…

So today is the day… 38 years ago I was born at 10:50 PM at Fort Shafter Hospital in Honolulu HI!!

Every year, around the time when December 31st rolls around, many people make “New Year’s Resolutions.”  In my adult life I have not been one of those people preferring to make my resolution/revelations/plans for the next 365 days as I reflect back on the previous 365 days counting from birthday to birthday. So today as I mark the completion of my 38th year on earth I reflect…

WOW! This past year has been a whirlwind… I left California for what I called a re-location vacation on my way back to New Orleans stopping to see many sights along the way (Biked across the Golden Gate, Sushi with an old friend in Montery, Wine Tasting in San Luis Obispo, Circque du Soleil in Vegas, Hoover Damn, the Grand Canyon, and then chill mode as I passed through New Mexico, and Texas to make it home safely.) It was GREAT and I did that about two months before my 37th birthday.  My plan was to move home to New Orleans, to re-group, get re-focused, and make a decision about my next journey.  I had some difficulty finding a job once at home and so I did a couple of short travel assignments before settling down in New Orleans in January.  I made a plan:  I will live in New Orleans for ONE year; as my 2010 birthday approached, I would re-evaluate things and make plans to make a new move by the end of the year.  If you have already been a reader of my blog you know that this year I have truly been in transition. While transition can be hard, I always embrace it because I realize that’s what life is… one transition after another.  I know that after transition comes the birth. I wondered what this transition meant and when/how/what/WHERE would I be birthing.  One thing I now know and have come to accept is that in spite of my prior “plans,” my “birth” will be happening right here in New Orleans! No moving for me anytime soon. “Sigh… breathe… Whooo sah… smile” and so it is!

As I reflect this birthday afternoon, the sun is shining, the weather is mild, I am planning the rest of my celebration and I am reminded I definitely have a lot to be grateful for. IMHO the best way to start any day is in thanksgiving. Right HERE, and right NOW, while the transition continues (its been going on for a year now LOL) I know the Birth is on the horizon and I am grateful. I am reminded today that I have GREAT friends and family (near and far) who remind me how much I am loved on a regular basis. It feels good to be loved ya know?! I am excited about this new blog of mine. It’s taking shape and things are taking off. I have new outlets, new ideas, and a renewed commitment.  With the closing of one door comes the opening of another and blessings abound if you look forward and open it!! And so it is with this new blog.

Professionally, I am looking forward to getting back into midwifery practice… I feel it coming soon. I was given a “provisional” license by Louisiana and I am in the process of finding a job. My book is slowly taking shape and my online prenatal classes will be re-launched as well!!

Of course there is my health, a house over my head, food to eat, the fact that I can breathe freely and have no unmet needs! God is Good!! I am grateful for all that is mine and all that is meant to be and all that is coming. I give thanks and praises and I am happy to be entering the 39th year of this journey called life.

One thing I reflect on each year is how much I want to continue to celebrate life. Life can be hard but that doesn’t mean we have to lie down and take a beating. Yes I have trials and tribulations,  and more importantly I also have triumphs and celebrations.  I want to focus more on the later.  Focus on DOING what is right instead of focusing what I may have done wrong. Focusing on where I am going and not where I have been.  Focusing on the new beginnings instead of the tired endings! That’s my new birthday resolution. When we change the focus of our camera lens we  just might find that the picture is more clear, more beautiful and there is so much more to see! Do you need to change the focus of your lens?

Thanks for joining me on my journey….
Nicole

Wordless Wednesday – Back to Sleep – Its Saving Babies!

Put your baby on her back to sleep

Safe Birth: I’m Reading Christiane Northrup, MD, OB/GYN

I Love it when Dr. Northrup writes a post like this.  Normal Birth, Safe Birth. She talks about the realities of our maternal health care system in such a smooth and matter of fact way I wanna just quote her whole article.  One of my favorite parts from this current article:

Labor proceeds on its own schedule. The exquisite timing that is a result of the delicate interaction between a baby and her mother needs to be respected. Our culture’s collective trust in C-sections and labor inductions that increase the risk of surgical birth is mind-boggling! The Shriver Report points out that women still seek permission from authority figures far more often than men do. We still don’t trust ourselves. No wonder we so willingly turn over our bodies during birth.

Yes… its no wonder. *smdh* As it life so it continues in birth. When we as women are comfortable speaking up for ourselves, our bodies, our births, our communities, our sisters… when we realize that we need to have our own best interests and those of our children/families in mind… when we realize that THEY don’t always have our best interests in minds… when we learn to pick up a book, to get the facts and to  SHARE the information without apology then we will be able to change the system.

And of course I love the way she ends it…   “When it comes to pregnancy and birth, we as a culture and as individuals need to wake up and claim our right to literally birth right!” That’s what I been saying all along! Read the Entire Article Here. And come back and tell me what you think.

In Birth and Love
Nicole

Infant Mortality… A Few Tidbits for Prevention

Today… approximately 11 Thousand babies will be born in America. For the large majority of these babies, their transition from their mother’s womb to the outside world will take place without a hitch. Born into loving families, they will eat, sleep and cry. They will be held, loved, and nurtured. 366 days later they will be celebrated as they reach the milestone of completing one year of life.

Unfortunately, some of the babies born today will never see that 366th day.  They will die before they reach their first birthday.  These are the babies, THOUSANDS of them who die too soon each year as we continue the fight against Infant Mortality.

Infant Mortality (IM) is a Village Issue, and it IS everybody’s responsibility. While the most common causes of IM fall into three categories, (Pre-term birth/low birth weight, birth defects, SIDS) the actual reasons for these deaths are far, wide, and varied. While all of the infant deaths can’t be prevented, together we can work to reduce our shameful and deplorable rate of 6.8 deaths per 1000 live births. That is approximately 76 babies each day more than 27,000 each year that die before they reach their 1st birthday.

Can ANY of these deaths be prevented? YES! Who do you know that is pregnant, or thinking of becoming pregnant? Do you have sisters, daughters, aunts, or female friends? Share a tid bit with them and you can save the life of their baby.  Do you have a brother, a son, or an uncle who has a baby on the way? The role of fathers often goes unmentioned but is EXTREMELY important.  Share information with them. Let them know that their involvement is also crucial to decreasing the rate of IM in this country.  Below I have shared a FEW bits of information that you can pass on to the ones you love.  Visit the linked websites for more details. Learn more about IM. The Infant life you save may be your own.

Birth Defects:
Birth Defects are the leading cause of IM responsible for a full 20% of all infant deaths. While all birth defects cannot be prevented there are some things that women can do to decrease the risk of having a baby with a birth defect.

BEFORE she is even pregnant, women of childbearing age should be taking a daily supplement that includes Folic Acid, at least 400 micrograms. This is one of the easiest ways to prevent birth defects of the brain and spinal cord (neural tube defects). While many women have heard of folic acid, many still don’t realize taking a daily supplement BEFORE pregnancy is crucial in their prevention.  By the time you discover you are pregnant, it may be too late. Take a supplement today and every day. This can be a life saving measure.

The one birth defect that is 100% preventable is Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS.)  If you are pregnant it is wise to stop drinking alcohol.  Individuals all metabolize alcohol differently and so will their growing babies. As a result, there is no good evidence about a “safe” amount of alcohol that can be consumed while pregnant. Therefore, the overwhelming/majority opinion is that women drink ZERO alcohol during their pregnancy.

There are a number of prescription drugs that can cause severe birth defects. If you are on any medications and there is ANY chance that you can conceive be sure to check with your midwife about the safety of the medications you are taking and the potential affect they can have on a developing fetus. Don’t underestimate your chances of becoming pregnant. Again by the time you have discovered you are pregnant, it may be too late.  Birth defects are truly a complex issue. From genetics to environment there are a lot of factors involved.  The March of Dimes has some great information on their website. Get the facts you need BEFORE you conceive. This will ensure your best chances of having a baby free of birth defects.

Premature birth and low birth weight (PMB/LBW)
A premature birth is considered a birth that takes place before 37 completed weeks of pregnancy. While low birth weight (LBW) infants can be born full term, most are born prematurely. While PMB/LBW is the second leading cause of infant mortality overall it is the leading cause of neonatal mortality (the death of an infant in the first 28 days of life.)

In 2004 more than half a million babies were born premature putting them immediately at an increased risk for death before reaching age one. Babies born pre-maturely are 15 times more likely to die in the first year of life compared to infants born full term.  A multitude of factors contribute to PMB/LBW infants.  From cigarette smoking, to diet and exercise, stress, prenatal care, disease, infections… the list is endless.  If you are pregnant make sure you are getting prenatal care and you learn about the signs of preterm labor.  Pre-term labor/birth can’t always be prevented but there are things you can do.  The Mayo Clinic has a simple easy to read list of potential causes and ways to prevent PMB.

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome – SIDS
SIDS is the third leading cause of IM. Fortunately through lots of community education and with the “Back to Sleep Campaign” we have seen improvements in SIDS nationwide.  The Back to Sleep Campaign was started in 1994 and was developed to educate families/communities about the safest position for infant sleep… on their backs. “Since the campaign started, the percentage of infants placed on their backs to sleep has increased dramatically, and the overall SIDS rates have declined by more than 50 percent.”

Is there an infant in your home or in the home of someone you know?  Use this reference list to learn about ways to create a safe sleeping environment for baby and by all means BREASTFEED and check out Dr. Sears list that explains 8 ways breastfeeding decreases the rate of SIDS.

Okay… this is all for today. We are still in the midst of Infant Mortality Awareness Month and while I know the information I am sharing here is limited, it’s enough to get you started and make you AWARE ;-). Like I said earlier… click the links for more information. Remember that Infant Mortality is a VILLAGE issue and we must all get involved.  What will you do to help save a baby today?

In Birth and Love
Nicole

A Quiet Shero for Women and Babies… A Woman’s Intuition Saved us from Big Pharma in 1961

I learned of this story from a FB friend.  She sent me a wonderful article about a quiet hero that really made me think about the way we use drugs in pregnancy today.

There was a time, not too long ago when there were almost no regulations for bringing new drugs to the market. New medicines were sent to doctors to try out. Pharmaceutical agencies applied for a permit, and within 60 days the drug was on the market untested and often with unknown risks.

That was the way until Dr. Frances Kelsey worked for the FDA in 1960 and got intimately involved in the application process of a new drug. The William S. Merrell Company of Cincinnati wanted to sell a drug under the trade name Kevadon. At the time, the drug was very popular in Europe as a cure for morning sickness.  The more common name for Kevadon:  Thalidomide, today a CLEAR Pregnancy Category X medication.

While it was never approved for sale, Thalidomide made it into the US population as samples, for “experimental use only.”  Unfortunately the number of doctors with the medication, and the number of women who took it where far greater than initially believed. As a result, THOUSANDS of infants were severely affected.

Times Magazine 1962:  “All this added up to the greatest prescription disaster in medical history. Thanks to the intuition of the Food and Drug Administration’s Dr. Frances Kelsey,* the U.S. has got off lightly because the drug was never licensed for general use… the drug was obtained from abroad… Even so, the testing and marketing of new drugs in the U.S. are now almost certain to get close federal regulation.”

Fifty years later, Dr. Kelsey is being honored for her work. In the current NY Times article about her recognition, they report that Dr. Kelsey had a feeling something was not right. Things did not add up and she continued to research until she found the truth.

“Dr. Kelsey demanded better tests for thalidomide.  She also distrusted Merrell, a company that had a history of confrontations with the F.D.A. …  “I had the feeling throughout the day,” she wrote after a meeting with company executives, “that they were at no time being wholly frank with me and that this attitude was obtained in all our conferences, etc., regarding this drug.” (for a little more about her investigation read the 1962 article here)

While many safeguards where put in place after the Thalidomide incident, in recent years we have seen the FDA move to faster approval of drugs. This has created increasing debate as drugs are approved today, only to be found to have deadly side effects and be removed from the market a year or two later.

“The inauguration of the Kelsey award may also be a telling sign of where Dr. Hamburg stands in a series of internal agency struggles. For much of the past two decades, the F.D.A. has emphasized speed over certainty in its decisions — an industry-friendly stance that plays down safety concerns in favor of getting potential cures to the market as swiftly as possible.

But a series of drug, medical-device and food-safety controversies have led some agency medical officers to insist on better information before approving products and to lobby internally for risky products to be pulled from the market, putting the speed-oriented old guard on the defensive. A celebration of Dr. Kelsey, the patron saint of the agency’s safety-first faction, is bound to cheer those calling for greater caution. “

I hope that this does jog the memory of officials in office and reminder them of the dangers of what can happen when we use and approve too many medications, too often, too fast especially in pregnancy.  Interesting note:  When Dr. Kelsey was hired, they thought she was a man because of her first name.  As history has shown, men have not routinely fought very hard for female issues. I wonder how many babies would have been affected if SHE had been a he.

In Birth and Love
Nicole