Posts Tagged ‘Jodilyn Owen’

Series: Welcoming All Families – Supporting the Orthodox Jewish Family

July 28th, 2015 by avatar

Today on Science & Sensibility, we continue with our occasional series: Welcoming All Families by examining how an educator might make their class inviting for the Orthodox Jewish family who attends. There are rich traditions and customs that are unique to observant Jewish families and a knowledgeable educator can help families to prepare for birth and navigate the protocols of  the birth location feeling ready and confident that their practices will be respected and accommodated. Check out the entire series and learn how your childbirth class can be a place where all kinds of families feel respected, accepted and comfortable. – Sharon Muza, Science & Sensibility Community Manager.

By Jodilyn Owen, CPM, LM

By Adam Jones [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Adam Jones [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

As educators, our first jobs are to meet families where they are at and work with them in that place. As educators who have the responsibility to prepare families to navigate a complex healthcare system, we have a mighty task. The layers of birth preparation are unique for each family we will encounter. Establishing a baseline of knowledge about cultural and religious or spiritual backgrounds and practices will allow us to educate in a much more complete way.

The term “Orthodox Jewish” encompasses a great variety of practices and beliefs, so the most important take-away message here is that like all things related to the intersection of culture, religion, and birth, we must remain open to learning as we go, from the family, what their unique practices are. The basic premise that Orthodox Jewish families live by is that G-d exists, that the Torah (also known as the “Old Testament”) is true, and that G-d gave it as His instructions for living and navigating life. The families you work with accept these ideas and therefore live lives that are, for them, enriched by fulfilling what they see as G-d’s will by keeping the laws of the Torah and the Rabbis who mold and shape those laws in every generation and community around the world.

There has been a lot of buzz lately about hospitals that serve large populations of Orthodox families having extraordinarily low cesarean rates. This is being attributed to the tendency for large families in this community and the sense of importance around avoiding operative deliveries for the safety and health of future deliveries. Cesarean birth typically requires longer recuperation times which is very hard on a family with several children. Discussion in class around laboring at home until mom is in established active labor becomes critical to the process she will experience. This is in line with the efforts to reduce primary cesarean rates and an important part of the new ACOG guidelines .

While the theme of this article definitely revolves around variation in religious practices amongst Orthodox families, there are some commonalities you may encounter that are worth exploring. Perhaps the greatest gift as an educator you can give to your students is to illuminate the way that their behavior may be perceived so they do not have unnecessarily difficult interactions with the staff. These families have been navigating the world until this point and they likely have the tools they need to be who they are in new settings. Even so, you may help them clarify ways to mitigate the common pitfalls in the system so that they can proactively and effectively engage providers.

Let’s explore some key areas of interest. A bit of a disclaimer: As a licensed midwife practicing out of hospital, I have a lot of time to get to know my clients, their religious and cultural preferences and needs, and how I can best support them. I hope most out of hospital practices are similar. Therefore I refer here consistently to challenges that come up in the hospital. Jewish women have a long and beautiful history of being tended to by midwives, but in today’s society, most will seek care from an OB and choose to birth in a hospital.

Jewish Law

Many families observe a variety of Jewish laws that affect how they behave during the labor, birth, and postpartum times. This includes things such as saying blessings over the food and liquid that they drink, praying at prescribed times during the day, and even saying a brief prayer after using the bathroom to thank G-d for their body working the way it was designed to work.

  • In the hospital

If a person is praying they will not interrupt their prayers to answer questions or engage in any discussion. You can remind families that letting their nurse know that they are going to be unavailable for a short time will help avoid the nurse assuming that they are difficult to communicate with. They will need access to Kosher food—most families will bring their own if the hospital or birth center does not have any. Call around to find out which hospitals offer Kosher menus so that you can inform families during your class.

Consulting with the Rabbi

While there are dozens of laws that govern everyday life for Jewish families, they will all turn to their Rabbi for help with making decisions when it is unclear to them either how to apply the laws to their current situation or for guidance as they navigate life’s greater challenges. Mothers may want to talk with their Rabbi about the Jewish laws related to childbirth or decision points that come up during the pregnancy, birth, or postpartum time. This is not a sign of weakness or submission—it is a source of strength and guidance and a deeply valued relationship within the family and community structure. Most often the Rabbi will help a family work out ways to approach and solve problems, helping to build life skills within the context of Jewish law and philosophy. There is a lot of sensitivity to a family’s capacity at any given time, and their Rabbi may offer advice that varies from family to family. Thusly you may hear of a custom or law being observed in a several different ways—this is normal within the Jewish community.

  • In the Hospital

A woman may defer decision making until she and her husband evaluate which path to take in order to best meet the structure of Jewish law. This is not an act of defiance against authorities but can be taken that way. Teach skills that build capacity for creating space to talk over options alone.

The Yearly Calendar

Jewish families live very rich community and family lives that occur in conjunction with the Sabbath (often referred to as Shabbat or Shabbos), holidays and fast days. There are a total of 25 holidays and fast days, each with their own purpose and rituals that families will observe even during labor and birth. Fasting can be a health issue during early and mid-pregnancy. Women should be advised to talk with their doctor and their Rabbi before fasting. A retrospective study of 725 births found that fasting for 25 hours is an independent risk factor for preterm birth.

The Sabbath is well known as a day of rest. In Orthodox families it is a time to gather with family and friends and enjoy community. Many families avoid the use of electronics including phones, cars, and elevator buttons. This is something to keep in mind when scheduling your classes—Orthodox families will be preparing for Shabbat on Friday and observing it from sunset on Friday through sundown on Saturday night. Sunday and weekday schedules will accommodate this population well.

  • In the Hospital

This is a great time to talk about the role of a doula. It helps to have an advocate who can bridge the gap between the family and the hospital technology and normal protocols. Women will not sign papers, adjust the bed, or use the call button on Shabbat. Holiday laws are similar to Shabbat laws and families will need help facilitating their entry and stay in the hospital. Most hospitals in locations where there are large Jewish populations are prepared to work with observant families.


Women will observe the laws of modesty in varying degrees depending on community customs and personal choice. Most women will wear clothing that covers their arms down to their elbows and skirts that are just below the knee or longer. Because it is normal for them to wear clothing that covers their body, hospital gowns that are short sleeved or short in length can leave a woman feeling vulnerable. Offer education for families on talking with the hospital staff about wearing their own clothing. Advise families that it is normal for Jewish women to wear a skirt of their choosing and to simply lift it up at the time of birth. Many women throw away the skirt after the birth but a half bottle of hydrogen peroxide with their normal laundry soap will remove any staining.

Many Jewish women cover their hair. You may see a hat, a handkerchief or scarf, or a wig used. Some women cover their hair throughout the birth process. Birth is unpredictable and for many women regardless of religion or culture, having clothing touch their bodies during the heat of labor becomes unbearable. Having attended dozens of births with Orthodox women, I can confidently say that it is normal for many women to forego their usual levels of modesty during transition and birth, while others maintain their norm. They can ask their doula or hospital staff for help covering up again when they are ready. They should also be made aware that they can always ask for a bed sheet if they want something light to wrap up in.

  • In the Hospital

Many women prefer to wear their own clothes during labor and birth. If the hospital insists on a gown, let women know that they can wear one gown with the opening in the back and another with the opening in the front over it. Women can wear their head covering if they wish to during the entire labor and birth. They need to tell their provider to let the father know when an exam will be done that exposes the mother’s body in case she prefers him to leave the room. Some fathers leave the room for the actual birth and come back in after the mom is sutured and in bed. Others sit on a chair or stand by their wife’s side at the head of the bed and they can be reminded that encouraging and loving words are always welcome during this time!

Touching and Passing

There are Jewish laws that govern physical separation between man and wife, and revolve around the woman’s cycle or evidence of uterine bleeding, including childbirth. Again, every family has unique customs they have built up that work for them. This may involve the couple not touching at all. Many couples report a high level of marital satisfaction having this separation each month, they come back to each other with renewed energy for connection and have space to develop their relationship outside the realm of physical intimacy. This is one of the most misunderstood set of laws in Jewish life—many looking from the outside project ideas of shaming or submission, inferiority or inequality in the relationship onto what they see. In fact Jewish women hold, by contract, much of the power of the relationship. A Jewish marriage contract is a standardized document that charges the wife with control of the home, purchases, and mandates the husband provide her sexual satisfaction, fidelity, support for the household expenses and any children, gifts on holidays, the highest standard of living he can supply, and alimony. This is a living functional legal document that is signed by witnesses at the time of marriage and given to the bride at the wedding for her safekeeping. Women are held in high regard in the majority of Orthodox communities and this carries into the privacy of their home. The time of physical separation may include the direct passing of items to each other. If one is passing the salt, they will set it down on the table before the other picks it up. If they are keeping these laws during labor, birth, and the postpartum time there are a number of areas this would affect.

  • In the Hospital

This is another great point to recommend a doula! The father may be emotionally and verbally supportive during the birth or they may have decided together that they prefer he read prayers. He may want to leave the room or go to a corner where he will not see the actual birth of his baby in an effort to keep the laws in accordance with his tradition. There is a huge variety in the ways that couples observe the laws relating to touch during labor, birth, and the immediate postpartum time. It can affect everything from passing the mom a cup of juice or a snack, providing physical support such as holding her head or hand while pushing, and even passing the newborn baby to be held by the other parent. Educate families on how normal it is for a nurse to ask a partner to pass something to the mom or to support her leg or neck during pushing. Nursing staff may see the father’s lack of touch as unsupportive and even neglectful if they do not understand what they are seeing. They may send a report to the hospital social worker asking for an evaluation that is inappropriate and unnecessary. Preparing families to talk openly with their nurse about their religious practices is of prime importance in the education of Orthodox families.

In the Community

Birth is a celebrated, treasured, and well supported community event. The family will very likely receive dinner every day for 2-4 weeks postpartum from community members and help with managing and care of older children and the home. There are many traditions involved in the welcoming of a baby over the first month of life. These may include a postpartum baby shower, because many Jewish families do not believe in purchasing items for the baby until after the baby has arrived. This tradition is rooted for some in a kind of superstition that arose in Eastern Europe and for others it is a matter of family tradition though they don’t necessarily share the feelings of superstition. Most families will circumcise their baby boy on the 8th day of life. This is a custom that celebrates the unique and individual relationship the boy has with G-d. Orthodox Jewish families will not need resources from you regarding where or how to contact professionals for newborn rituals, they will get that information from their synagogue.

  • In Class

Community standards and norms can be covered in class by contextualizing information based on the ideas that families will have strong customs and an interest in learning, gathering information, and talking things over with their trusted Rabbi. Education for families can point towards the need to balance community events with rest and healing and it might be a nice addition to class to get into the physical and emotional needs of the postpartum mother in some details. They are coming from a community where mothering is a valued and well promoted event in a woman’s life. For women who don’t feel happy or struggle with depression or anxiety, it can be very isolating. Be sure to share resources for mental health and hormonal support. Acupuncture is excellent for balancing hormones and a qualified practitioner can provide significant relief within 2-4 visits.   Pharmacological treatment provides help for those who prefer that route or don’t find relief from acupuncture. It is important to stress the normalcy of these mood disorders and the causes behind them.

For mothers with several small children, pelvic health must be discussed. One can look to the practices of other cultures for supporting the body as it transitions back into a non-pregnant state.

It is important to tell families that they need to either have a car seat with them when they go to the hospital or have a friend or family member go get one after the birth so that they can bring baby home if they are having a hospital birth. You might consider making a short list of items needed for a layette and encourage them to have those items picked up for them as well. If you are presenting current research on the effects of circumcision, do so without bias or judgment. Present the evidence and offer opportunities for questions just as you would for any other topic. These families will make their decision on their own and you have the opportunity to help them make that from an informed place—not a place of fear.


In conclusion, serving Orthodox families is about awareness for a culture that wraps its life around the yearly cycle of communal gathering and creates space to connect in time-honored ways within the family. While there is no one prescription for teaching childbirth classes to an Orthodox Jewish family, the approach of open-mindedness, cultural awareness and sensitivity, and leaving room for class participants to ask questions and share their ideas, ideals, and fears will always be just right.

Have you had Orthodox Jewish families in your childbirth classes?  What have you done to make them feel welcome.  Do you have any tips to share with other educators?  Let us know in the comments section below. – SM

About Jodilyn Owen

owen head shotJodilyn Owen, LM, CPM is co-author of The Essential Homebirth Guidea guide for families planning or considering a homebirth.  She is a practicing midwife at Essential Birth & Family Center in Seattle, WA and is a wife and mother.  Jodilyn is passionate about bringing babies into the arms of healthy mothers. Jodilyn’s newest venture is the Rainer Valley Community Clinic – a midwifery-led clinic in South Seattle, WA. The clinic serves an area that is a Federally Designated Medically Underserved Community. Rainier Valley Community Clinic is sponsored by the South Seattle Women’s Health Foundation, which is dedicated to creating spaces for high quality, individualized perinatal care and increasing capacity within the community for jobs in the healthcare industry for local women, especially those of color and immigrant women.  She enjoys hiking, camping, boxing, and watching her kids on the basketball court.  Jodilyn welcomes your comments and questions and can be reached through her website

Childbirth Education, Guest Posts, Maternity Care, Series: Welcoming All Families , , , ,

Texting While Driving And Texting While Feeding The Baby, Two Sides Of The Same Coin?

September 19th, 2013 by avatar

By Jodilyn Owen, CPM, LM

Earlier this week, I had the honor of attending a full day workshop on breastfeeding, presented by regular Science & Sensibility contributor, Kathleen Kendall-Tackett.  In one of her presentations, Kathleen discussed how breastfeeding is a right brain activity and when we give mothers lots of instruction and detailed information, rather than supporting the dyad in laid back breastfeeding, (thanks Suzanne Colson for this concept) we may interfere in the normal and natural process.  Then, the very next day, I read this post written by author and midwife, Jodilyn Owen, CPM, LM and I knew wanted to share it here. Both topics are about keeping infant feeding as a right brain activity.  Please share your thoughts in the comments section below. – Sharon Muza, Community Manager, Science & Sensibility

© mochamanual.com

I recently read some research on texting and driving that immediately made me flash to the reactions of a group of new moms,  when I asked them what it looks like when they are nursing or feeding their babies.  Almost all of them mimicked holding the baby in one hand and frantic thumb movements on an imaginary phone in the other.  That image has stuck with me over the past week as I try to sort out the connection between these two seemingly different vignettes—driving and breastfeeding. 

The fact is that mothers and babies now have a third party in their relationship—technology.  This is not new news.  It’s just that there tends to be a pretty rigid opinion from many professionals that moms who allow this third party to enter are neglecting the needs of the primary relationship between mother and baby.

In today’s world we have to know that technology is ever-present.  And then we have to work with it.  It’s terrifically difficult for a woman who may have spent her entire adult life in the work force tracking progress and time-to-target goals, explaining her work to others through the use of spreadsheets, presentations, and lectures with sources cited, and full color graphs and charts, to not bring that into her new life as a mother.  It is not unusual to show up for a postpartum visit and be handed a notebook full of information about a baby from a mother who is very skilled at recording data.  It’s easy to look at this and point out everything wrong in this approach.  But guess what?  This mother is just bringing what has worked really well for her in the past forward with her into this new relationship.  And that’s why we are here—midwives, doulas, nurses, childbirth educators, doctors, lactation consultants, postpartum help, support group leaders—all of us.  We are here to allow her to shine and to introduce different ways to be with baby.

It is an un-plugging that is as much a learned, and learn-able skill, as how to use Excel. We know that a mother who has learned to do everything she has to be successful in the workplace, can learn everything she needs to know to be successful with her baby.  It can be hard, and confusing, and there’s no “Help” button in the upper left corner of the baby.

Each mother will find her way, and it will be her own way, and it will not always look like some of the pundits think it should.  There’s no one prescription that works for everyone.  It really helps a new mother to sit with other mothers and hear their stories, and it really helps to have a professional in the room who does little more than nod and affirm a mother’s experience of her baby and her new life.  Hopefully she finds what works for her and her baby, and hopefully she is surrounded by people who celebrate and have awareness of just how enormous an accomplishment that is.

Now back to the frantic thumbs and feeding the baby.  Here’s what research is showing—that as we humans text, a few interesting things happen physiologically  Our breathing becomes rapid, shallow, or non-existent (we hold our breaths until we must breathe).  Our pulse increases.  Our temperature goes up.  Sound familiar? Many of us will recognize the physical symptoms of “fight or flight”, or the human body in the sympathetic state.  To be super basic about it, there is a massive release of several hormones in our body that prepare us to act to save ourselves.  And it’s contagious.  We share our hormonal responses, breathing and heart rate with others who are near us.

In all of the research and work I have done with kangaroo care with preterm babies and skin-to-skin with healthy babies, science and observation have taught us that this principle holds true.  A mother will help regulate her baby’s temperature, heart rate, and breathing just by being close to him.  One of my favorite moments in my professional life was the first time I placed a pulse-oximeter on a newborn and took him out of the incubator and put him on his mother’s bare chest, then wrapped them up together in a sheet.  I got to watch as the little machine confirmed what so many others had discovered before.  The system works.  Moms work.  Babies work.  Moms and babies work really well when they are together.  It was thrilling.

The connection between texting and infant feeding and driving is all about the physiological consequences of these activities.  We all know that if mothers are catching up on Facebook, they are not eye-gazing with their babies or talking to them, important emotional tending-to that babies need.  Now we know there is something just as powerful happening in the mechanics of mothers’ bodies when they use feeding time to get things done online.  But as any mother in the first year of mothering will pointedly tell you—there’s not very much time other than those times to catch up.  And socializing—even social media socializing—is critically important to many mothers so that they can maintain a sense of connection with people who speak in full sentences.  This is the world we live in.  Do many of us wish it wasn’t so?  Yes.  Do many of us wish mothers had the time and resources to unplug totally and just *be* with their babies?  Of course we do.  But we have what we have.

The real question is how to work with it—how to create a balance that works for mom, baby, and the mother/baby relationship.  So here’s my simple proposal.

Suggest to the mothers you work with the following:

Mothers, if you find yourself catching up while you are feeding your baby, take intentional, slow, deep belly breaths while you do it.  Keep yourself out of “fight or flight” and in the state so appropriately dubbed “feed and breed” or “rest and digest”.   Your body can actually only be in one or the other state at any given time.  Simple deep breathing will keep your heart rate and temperature down, and your baby will reap the benefits of your biologically soothing presence.  If your baby is awake for the feeding, take a chunk of the time spent feeding or nursing— even if it is only 3 or 5 minutes, to eye gaze, to talk gently, to tell your baby the story of your day so far, or a funny story from your childhood.When you are ready, take a deep breath, tell your baby you are going to catch up on some work or social stuff while she continues to nourish herself and then hit the Facebook, email, or spreadsheets (while continuing to breathe well).  Babies are really understanding people.  Just like everyone, babies do best when we communicate with them and help them make sense of their stories.”

If you are a professional—take a moment to teach the mothers you work with, in prenatal visits, private sessions, groups, or classes, this simple lesson:  that humans breathe too fast and shallow, and that our temperatures, pulses, and breathing rates rise when we are texting or using technology while trying to do something else that shifts frequently and requires a lot of attention. Teach them to intentionally take slow cleansing breaths while nursing.  Talk about taking some of the time while nursing to tend to their emotional health and connection with each other.  Tell them it is not about right or wrong, this way or that way, my way or the highway.  It is about balance. Finding the right balance for them, their family, their baby, and their relationship with those they love.  And oh, of course, no texting while driving, please.


Lin, I. M., & Peper, E. (2009). Psychophysiological patterns during cell phone text messaging: A preliminary studyApplied psychophysiology and biofeedback34(1), 53-57.

McLeod, K. (2011, August 04). Texting while driving: targeted for extinction. Retrieved from http://www.edmunds.com/car-safety/texting-while-driving-targeted-for-extinction.html

Park, A., Salsbury, J., Corbett, K., & Aiello, J. (2013). The Effects of Text Messaging During Dual-Task Driving Simulation on Cardiovascular and Respiratory Responses and Reaction Time.

About Jodilyn Owen

Jodilyn is co-author of The Essential Homebirth Guide, a guide for families planning or considering a homebirth.  She is a practicing midwife at Essential Birth & Family Center in Seattle, WA and is a wife and mother.  Jodilyn is passionate about bringing babies into the arms of healthy mothers.  She is a co-founder of Girl Sense, lectures for midwifery students, and gives talks to high school students about midwifery, birth, and babies. She enjoys hiking, camping, boxing, and watching her kids on the basketball court.  Jodilyn welcomes your comments and questions and can be reached through her website

Babies, Breastfeeding, Childbirth Education, Guest Posts, Infant Attachment, Newborns, Parenting an Infant, Uncategorized , , , , , ,

Book Review: The Essential Homebirth Guide: For Families Planning or Considering Birthing at Home

February 12th, 2013 by avatar

“Our goal is not to have every mother birth at home—our goal is to encourage parents to gather quality information, to gain exposure to a philosophy that screams trust in mothers and trust in babies, and to provide parents who do plan a homebirth to be well equipped with an understanding of how to thrive in that decision.” – Jane E. Drichta, CPM and Jodilyn Owen, CPM, authors of The Essential Homebirth Guide: For Families Planning or Considering Birthing at Home.


The Essential Homebirth Guide: For Families Planning or Considering Birthing at Home by midwives Jane E. Drichta, CPM and Jodilyn Owen, CPM  is a new book on the birth scene, being released today both in print and as an e-book.  I had an opportunity to read an advanced copy and and will share my thoughts with Science & Sensibility readers in this review.

The Essential Homebirth Guide is a book that is long overdue and will be welcomed by consumers and healthcare providers alike. With the recent National Birth Center Study II  released last month, many women and their families may now be considering an out of hospital (OOH) birth.  Some areas of the US offer the opportunity to birth in a birth center, while other parts of the country have no birth centers available at all and homebirth is the only OOH option.  Even where birth centers are available, women in greater numbers are now considering birthing in their own homes, with midwives, for many reasons, including comfort, cost and choosing a location where they feel they have the best chance to achieve a low intervention birth.

Sitting down to read Drichta and Owen’s guide is like spending a long weekend with your very best friend.  A best friend who just happens to be a midwife.  Whether you are just starting to explore the idea of a homebirth or have already decided that homebirth is for you, you will find that all your questions get answered in an easy to understand, factual way, with all the details and inside information that only your best friend can provide.  Drichta and Owen even provide answers to the questions you hadn’t thought of yet, but would want to know if you choose to homebirth, such as the section on communicating your homebirth choices with friends and family.

The book is arranged into chapters, and then subtopics.  Each subtopic has a nice Q&A format, with all the major questions covered in easy to understand language.  Peppered amongst the topics are real life stories and musing submitted by homebirthing women and their families, as well as special “The Midwife Says:” sections that provide additional information.  The personal stories offer a peek into the thoughts and experiences of homebirthing women, and readers will feel comforted by their stories. References are included for each chapter, and there are several hearty appendices at the back for more information. Lovely black and white pictures are scattered throughout.

One of the things that I loved best in The Essential Homebirth Guide is how the authors use every opportunity to speak to the mother, helping to develop her self-determination.  Throughout the book, they reinforce that every mother knows both her body and her baby best.  Women who read this book will feel confident that they are (or should be) equal partners in their care with their healthcare provider and are capable of asking questions, gathering information and making decisions that feel right to them.

“…A lot happens between the time of conception and diapers, and it all matters.  It will affect you.  It will change you.  It will propel you into motherhood in a profound way and can leave you with feelings of power, health, and peace, or it may leave you with feelings of anxiety, fear, and even trauma.  What kind of emotional context do you want as you become a new mother? What kind of new mother do you aim to be?  Think about these questions first, and then start building your prenatal care to lead yourself down the road that ends with you – the kind of new mother you intend to become in the kind of health you strive to have…” The Essential Homebirth Guide

Jodlilyn Owen, CPM

Chapters on interviewing and choosing a midwife, what to expect during your prenatal care, prenatal testing options, information on the top ten pregnancy issues, preparing to birth at home, and what to expect after the birth all provide details on what normally occurs and include topics that can be discussed with your midwife along with things you can do to keep yourself healthy and low risk. In fact, this book is useful for any pregnant woman, as it will help facilitate conversations with hospital based healthcare providers, to help the woman who has chosen to birth in the hospital avoid unnecessary interventions. 

Drichta and Owen tackle some controversial subjects such as homebirth after a cesarean, home breech birth and homebirth of twins. No doubt, everyone’s comfort level is different and women (and their healthcare providers) process and understand risk in very individual ways.  These situations may not be for everyone, but the authors don’t ignore that these birth situations are occurring at home all around the country.  Information is power, mothers, when given accurate information in a respectful manner, will be able to determine what feels like the right decision for them.

I would have appreciated more information in the book on how low income families and women of color might find their way to homebirth in today’s maternity care climate, as the increase in homebirths has not been observed amongst those populations. Where I live, in the state of Washington, almost half of our births are paid for by the state, and we are fortunate that homebirth is an option for those families receiving state aid.  That is not the case for most of the rest of the country.


I had the opportunity to ask Jane Drichta and Jodilyn Owen some questions about their book, and wanted to share my interview with Science & Sensibility readers.

SM: Why did you want to write this book, and why now? 

JO: This book has been running around in circles inside of our heads for years.  We make it a habit to check in with each other after most births, and so there are at least a decade of late night conversations here.  As we talked, we realized that we were running into the same problem; there was not one definitive source of information for homebirthing families.  We had websites and articles and handouts, but not one place where we could send parents for unbiased, evidence based information, served up with sides of common sense and love. Homebirth is becoming more and more popular, and the time just seemed to be right. 

SM:  What was the most challenging topic for you to cover in the book? How did you handle it? 

JD: The chapter on The Big Ten, which details ten common complications in pregnancy, was difficult to write.  We are used to speaking around these topics in very technical terms, and it was difficult to distill the information down to what mothers needed to know.  We were more interested in providing a model for how we approach these issues that any woman can adapt to her situation than being prescriptive about what one must absolutely do in a given situation.  When we started that chapter, it sounded like we were writing a term paper.  We completely lost the friendly, accessible tone that we were going for.  So that was a challenge.   

SM: What is the main piece of information that you hope that women will know/take away after finishing your book?

Jane E. Drichta, CPM

JD:  That they can do this.  That birthing at home is a viable option in 21st century America. That the desire to do this doesn’t mean you are crazy or hate the patriarchy, or that any of the other homebirthing stereotypes apply.  Women can birth at home more safely than ever before, and it is a real alternative for most women.

SM: What challenges do you see facing the potential growth of homebirths in the US?

JO:  The integration of homebirth midwives into our current health care system.  The politics around midwifery and its place in the system are myriad, and not something that we wanted to get into in the book.  However, we do support the right of women to birth in the place of their choice, with the provider of their choice, and that is sometimes difficult and can be limiting.

SM: If midwives and doctors read this book, what do you hope they take away from it?

JO: We hope they take away a few key points:  That mothers and partners should be held responsible to seek information and share decision making in their care, that a pregnant and birthing woman is in partnership with her baby and this dyad perspective should be promoted at all times with the language and behavior providers use, and that a woman is never just her numbers—she is a whole human being with a context worthy of their curiosity and respect.  

SM: How can childbirth educators use this book with their students?

JD: Simply presenting this paradigm of woman-centered, individualized, continuous care is a great way to open the door for discussions about creating intention for pregnancy and birth.   What is it that parents really mean to establish for themselves when it comes to their care and birth?  Understanding risk, breaking apart decision-making models, and tuning in to their inner-wisdom are just some of the great tools that educators can work through.


I wanted to see what the authors had to say about childbirth classes for women considering homebirth and was delighted to find that they encourage all women to take classes and hold Lamaze International and our Healthy Birth Practices in high esteem.  “We can’t find anything not to love here” is found in the childbirth class section under the Lamaze heading..

Overall, I really enjoyed reading this book and found it to be an easy read and full of information that I would find useful if I was still deciding where to birth or had already made up my mind to birth at home.  I could also see myself referring back to this as my birth got closer.  This book acknowledges that I am the best person to make this very personal decision about where to birth my baby. I think that healthcare providers who offer OOH birth services might want a few copies on their bookshelves to lend to potential and current clients, and childbirth educators might very well recommend this resource to parents in their classes who want to know more about what a home birth might be like.

Please consider coming back to the blog and sharing your thoughts after reading the book.  I would love to know what you think and if you would recommend this to clients and students.  If you would like to contact the authors, they can be reached through their website Essential Midwifery.

Disclosure: The authors of this book and I are all members of the professional birth community in Seattle, WA.  I have known them on a professional and personal level long before this book was even conceived.

Book Reviews, Childbirth Education, Evidence Based Medicine, Healthy Birth Practices, Healthy Care Practices, Home Birth, Maternal Quality Improvement, Maternity Care, Midwifery , , , , , , , , , , ,

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