Happy Mother’s Day!

Mother's Day seems like a good time to make a resolution to get back into more regular posting on Birth Story. So let it begin!

With Nora on the couch

With Nora on the couch

This is a picture of my daughter Nora, who is now 24, during her first few days home, relaxing on the couch with me. I don't know why she is sitting at the other end of the couch, but this is my husband's favorite early picture of us together.

Being a mom changed my life in big ways and small. I remember how disoriented I felt that first week, adjusting to nursing and my post-pregnancy body. My daughters, Nora and Maeve, are two of my favorite people, and Mother's Day is one of my favorite days in the whole year.

Happy Mother's Day to all the other moms (and everyone else) reading this post today. Have a wonderful day!

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

Babies, stay put!

November is Premature Birth Awareness Month at the March of Dimes, part of an effort to bring down the appalling rate of premature birth in this country, where every minute a baby is born before its time — one in every eight babies born — for a total of 543,000 every year. That's almost 1,500 premature babies born every day, 13 of whom die from complications.

Premature birth — any one that takes place before 37 completed weeks of pregnancy — is the leading cause of infant mortality throughout the world. Babies even a few weeks premature can have health problems that will stay with them for their lifetimes.

In the United States, the rate of premature birth has risen 30 percent in the past 30 years. However, after peaking in 2006, the rate has begun to come down. The March of Dimes thinks its campaign, begun in 2003, had a hand in the decrease.

Premature babies can cost 10 times more to care for than babies born after 37 weeks — $32,325, compared with  $3,325 for full-term infants. The total cost of preterm birth in the United States is $26 million, according to the March of Dimes.

The organization hopes to bring premature births down with increased education for moms and health-care providers, prenatal care and research through its Prematurity Research Initiative.

On Wednesday, Nov. 17, the 8th Annual Premature Birth Awareness Day, the Empire State Building in New York will shine purple, the color assigned to this effort by the March of Dimes.

In these three days, 2,942 deaths in childbirth

Every ninety seconds, somewhere in the world, a mother dies in childbirth. For three days this week, in Times Square in New York City, Amnesty International, a global human rights group, placed a "maternal death clock" to note each minute-and-a-half marker.

The clock was hung in conjunction with the big meeting the United Nations was hosting, the subject of which was how the nations of the world are doing on eliminating poverty and other ills, including infant and maternal mortality.

So far, Goal 5 (of the eight Millennium Development Goals), cutting maternal mortality by 75 percent by 2015, is lagging the rest.

All told, nearly 1,000 women die in childbirth every day, according to estimates by the U.N. and the World Bank.

“It’s such a clear example of people dying who don’t need to,” Larry Cox, the executive director of Amnesty International USA. told the New York Times' Clyde Haberman this week.

How hospitals can promote breast-feeding

The Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative, an international program, has created a list of things birth facilities in the United States can do to optimize the chances that mothers will choose to breast-feed their babies.

Here are "The Ten Steps To Successful Breast-feeding," from BFHI USA:

    1. Have a written breast-feeding policy that is routinely communicated to all health-care staff.
    2. Train all health-care staff in skills necessary to implement this policy.
    3. Inform all pregnant women about the benefits and management of breast-feeding.
    4. Help mothers initiate breast-feeding within one hour of birth.
    5. Show mothers how to breast-feed and how to maintain lactation, even if they are separated from their infants.
    6. Give newborn infants no food or drink other than breast milk, unless medically indicated.
    7. Practice “rooming in” — allow mothers and infants to remain together 24 hours a day.
    8. Encourage breast-feeding on demand.
    9. Give no pacifiers or artificial nipples to breast-feeding infants.
    10. Foster the establishment of breast-feeding support groups and refer mothers to them on discharge from the hospital or clinic.

The BFHI is underwritten by the World Health Organization and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF).