Birth Story’s most popular posts of 2010

Well, go figure. My very most popular post by far this year was one I wrote for Women's History Month that had very little to do with the Birth Story per se.

Anne Hutchinson
Anne Hutchinson at her trial

My top post for 2010 was about Anne Hutchinson, a midwife in the Massachusetts Colony, who deftly though unsuccessfully defended herself against heresy charges in 1638. The colony's governors were so shaken that they embedded into the mission of the new Harvard College the mandate to train religious leaders rigorously enough that they would never again be so intellectually pummelled.

Anne figured in another top post as well, "A monstrous birth," about the danger midwives and mothers alike faced after anomalous births in the American colonies.

My second most popular post was a recent one about Ian Shapira's Facebook-driven story in the Washington Post chronicling the death of new mother Shana Greatman Swers.

Supermodel Gisele Bundchen came in third with a post about her much ridiculed assertion that all new mothers should be required by law to breast-feed.

Here are Birth Story's 10 most popular posts of 2010:

1. Anne Hutchinson, Colonial midwife  3/1/10

2. A sad Facebook story 12/10/10

3. A "boob" on the right side of breast-feeding 8/9/10

4. A "monstrous" birth  3/3/10

5. The Pregnancy Meeting 2/8/10

6. Amniotic fluid embolism 1/14/10

7. Fascinated with blood 6/28/10

8. The Frontier Nursing Service  3/15/10

9. The Goodriches one year later  1/11/10

10. The mother of the Apgar score  3/19/10

Birth Story 2010

Following one topic, childbirth, for an entire year has given me an unusual perspective on what is happening on that front, both here in the United States and also globally.

If you ask me, the newly apparent muscle of the holistic birth community was the most important “birth story” of 2010. One sign of this was the passage of the so-called Midwifery Modernization Act in New York, which eliminated a requirement that midwives obtain a written practice agreement from a physician or hospital to practice in New York State.Pregnant Graffiti

Also, as we just discovered from a new report from the Centers for Disease Control, released last week, birth by Cesarean section reached a new high, 32.9 percent of births in 2009, up from 32.3 in 2008. The steadily rising rate — up every year since 1996, when the rate was 20.7 — has been a major story all year.

That CDC report also showed the birth rate for U.S. teen-agers hit its lowest level last year since records began to be kept seventy years ago — 39.1 births per 1,000 teens, down from 41.5 per 1,000 in 2008. The record low held true for all racial and ethnic groups.

A couple of other big birth stories of 2010, sadly, revolved around the fact that too many mothers are still dying in childbirth.

In March, Amnesty International called out the American childbirth establishment on a rising rate of maternal mortality in a report called “Deadly Delivery: The Maternal Health Care Crisis in the USA.” The human-rights advocacy organization pointed out that while the United States spends more on health care than any other country in the world, “maternal mortality ratios have increased from 6.6 deaths per 100,000 live births in 1987 to 13.3 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2006.”

Many other groups joined in that call for changes to improve birth safety in this country.

Meanwhile, in the developing world, the United Nations’ Millennium Goal 5, which aims to bring down rates of maternal mortality by three-quarters in places like sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia, is the subject of much scrutiny, with a major push in some places creating bright spots in what appears to be a generally gloomy picture with just five years to go.

Pregnant Graffiti by Petteri Sulonen / Wikimedia Commons

The mother of all birth stories

Jesus' nativity, the son of God born of a virgin mother, is one of the great mysteries of Christianity.

The story we can grasp more easily is of his humble beginnings in a manger. Most people who were hoping for the Messiah expected him to be born in power and sumptuousness, but Jesus' birth attendants were the animals whose home he shared in his first days.

One lesson for all of us in Jesus' birth is that we cannot judge the value of any human life, as weighed against another.

Every human being enters the world from the body of his mother in a moment of supreme vulnerability. Regardless of the circumstances, for mother and baby alike, it is one of the most fundamental human experiences any of us will ever have.

Every birth is a new beginning, for the child, for her family, and for the world, in a way. Every birth should be joyful, peaceful, transcendent.

Have a happy Christmas!

"Adoration of the Shepherds" by Mikael Toppelius / Wikimedia Commons

Thanks for the (ability to make) memories

Today is the American Thanksgiving, and I am counting my blessings, which are more numerous than these turkeys.


As always, I am grateful to be here for another Thanksgiving. Maeve and I could so easily have died during her birth — or we could have suffered horrific brain damage. I never forget that, and I think of the people who saved our lives nearly every day.

I lost my job this year, but that has given me more time to work on Birth Story. Yay!

Of course, the fact that my husband has a job helps my outlook a great deal. My prayers are with people who have not been as fortunate as we are.

Our family has shrunk with our daughter Nora's graduation and subsequent move to California. That's a tough one to celebrate, but she is following her bliss, and I believe she is grateful to be making her own way.

And we will have a nice Thanksgiving dinner, just the three of us, with a turkey breast for the first time instead of a big ol' turkey, but still with all the trimmings. We'll be grateful for pumpkin pie, I know that.

And I'm glad I'm not a turkey.

What are you grateful for? I would love to hear from you. Happy Thanksgiving!

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Life is a beach

This is my 101st post! With summer winding down, I'm heading into triple digits.

I love this time of year because it promises a fresh start. Shopping for school supplies with my daughter Maeve, I like to buy a few pens and notebooks of my own, just to get that sense of excitement a new school year brings.

What ideas do I have for Birth Story this fall? I have been an independent writer for 10 weeks now, but more of a full-time mom, really. Now I have to get back to work in earnest. I'm looking forward to it.

Empty beach

One resolution is to do more multimedia posts. This morning, I took my trusty camera (a Mother's Day present) to Foster Beach, a mile or so from my house in Chicago. I wanted a picture to evoke the end of summer — an empty beach. As you can see above, I got that picture. There was indeed a stretch of sand and birds and little else.

However, I can show you other aspects of Foster Beach as it looked this morning as well. I can show you this:

Two umbrellas at the beach

And even this, from a tiny dog beach at the north end:

St. Bernard

This weekend, Foster Beach will host two entire triathlons plus a leg of another one. It will look very different from the way it looked today.

I couldn't help thinking, while I was framing my "empty beach" shot on this busy strand, that every one of my posts  is a kind of snapshot as well.

No one of them tells the whole story. Even all 101 taken together don't tell the whole story. But I am telling the Birth Story as I understand it, one post at a time. Thanks for joining me.