Posted on

The Red Tent

novel cover

Poster

The Red Tent of My Heart

(May Contain Spoilers)

I read the Red Tent, by Anita Diamant, when I was in nurse midwifery school.  It was was an assigned book for the last class I took before I switched programs.  I went tent camping with my husband and three children and threw it in my bag so I could keep up in class.  Once I started reading it I could not stop.  I was swept up into Dinah’s life.  Sitting in woods, by a fire I read about the lives of women.  I recognized the women from long ago in myself, my sisters, mother, daughter and friends.  It may have been the romanticism of reading the story while living in a tent, but I fell  madly in love with it.  I was already infatuated with midwifery and birth.  The way that Diamant described the interactions between women, birth and death struck me to the core.  Although I did not pursue the midwifery path, I still feel the burn of the call.  I get a glimpse of it from time to time in the hospital.  Women supporting each other in the most intimate way while walking the line between death and birth.  Although birth has become safer in many ways, birth attendants still feel and fear death lurking in the corners of every delivery room.  I believe that is why a lot of well meaning over medicalization has occurred.  Not all of it, but a lot.  The novel did a wonderful job capturing the beauty and struggle of a guiding women through childbirth.

I was giddy when I fount that the novel was being made into a mini series.  Lifetime did a decent job telling the plot of Dinah’s life.  They were’t able to capture the beauty of birth and midwifery as well as the novel.  The relationships between the women were recognized fully in the last few minutes, but were not given as much development as in the book.

I have recommended this book, over the years, to everyone that has the look of wonder in their eyes.  I recognize the look right away.  It is a look that belongs to a person that is in complete awe of birth and the power of women.  I am not the only woman that loves this story.  Red Tent communities have popped up all over social media and in real life.  Women crave the type of connections found in the red tent.  Many of us have few, if any, sisters, move far from our mothers, do not get along with our mother-in-laws and do not make time for our girlfriends.  Twenty-first century life can feel so isolating.  Births continue to bind us together.  I step into a stranger’s room and become a friend/sister/mother within moments.

The bond of women during the sacredness of birth is strong.  The trust they give me is an honor.  Like Dinah, I will carry all the special women from my life with me.  There is not a red tent for us to take refuge.  I will carry my red tent in my heart.  With it I will create the safe and beautiful places for my sisters to bring their babies into the world.

Generations of women learning, laughing and sharing together.
Generations of women learning, laughing and sharing together.

If you enjoyed the miniseries, read the novel.  You will laugh and cry and love all the things Dinah loves.

Follow Carrie on Facebook

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2015 Carrie Halsey

Posted on

The Villain of Labor and Delivery

One of my favorite parts of being a labor nurse is to help a mom through unmedicated labor. Not all experiences are the same. It can be the best of time and the worst of times. The labor nurse has the supporting role in the drama of birth. She plays her part and then melts into the background so that the stars, mom and baby (dad too) can shine.

The best of times.

A mom was having terrible back labor. My arms shook with each contraction as I gave her counter pressure for two hours. Every time my arms would ease up on the pressure she begged me to please keep going. I usually would have her partner take over this physical intervention, but there was not partner in this delivery. That hurt my heart and made it more important that I help my patient in the way that she needed. When the baby changed positions the back labor subsided. She progressed into transition. Transition is the time that women change their minds about wanting an epidural, being pregnant and that they ever liked the baby’s father. Her eyes locked with mine and she reached for my hand. She asked me to not leave her. So I stayed. I stood by her side and tried to forget that I had not eaten all day, that my bladder was full and my charting was getting farther and farther behind. I was present with her through every contraction. I praised her through every break in the pain. When it was time to push she did amazing. Soon she was rewarded with a quick pushing stage and a healthy baby on her chest. It was easy to forget my aching arms when she asked me to lean in and take a picture with her and her new baby. I was pleased with her satisfaction with her birth. I was thankful that everything went well for her and her baby.

I love when I can play my designated part in the story. I don’t like when I am forced into the villain role.

 

image

The times that test.

Another nonmedicated mom was not the grateful variety. She was suspicious of everything I did. This is always difficult for me, as a nurse. I am 100% supportive of my patient’s birth plans. I do everything in my power to ensure the safety of the mother and baby, provide an environment that the mother desires, carry out the doctor’s plan, and fulfill my legal and hospital mandated responsibilities. These are difficult responsibilities to juggle at times. When I am crouching on hands and knees, chasing fetal heart tones while a mom is bouncing around, changing positions and barking orders to her family, I deserve a little respect. When I am plunging my hand into the bath water mixed with vernix and other bodily fluids to make sure your baby is not stressed from the heat of the water, I am not trying to control you. When I am holding your hair while you vomit and it gets on me, when I wipe away your poop so you don’t know it happened, when I breathe in your body odor right next to my face because you need someone to lean on, I’m doing it because I am on your side. When you get to the point where you are asking me for narcotics and its dangerous for the baby I am going to say no. When this mom got to her breaking point she demanded I give her medications and it was too late. She was so angry I stepped back a bit because I was afraid she might hit me. I knew that the baby was coming. I knew that if I gave her what she wanted the baby likely would not breathe when he came out. I let her rage and continue to labor. Her baby was born within 30 minutes and was perfect and beautiful and breathing.  She never will never know that I was scared of her or that her words hurt me or that I gave up time with my family to stay late to help her.

Not every birth is fun or rewarding.  Sometimes my thighs hurt from squatting by my patients side. Sometimes I’m exhausted from trying to help.  Sometimes I stay after my shift for an hour to finish the charting that I couldn’t do while I was helping my patient accomplish her goals. When my patient is happy with her delivery it makes me happy.

Mamas thank your labor nurses. We are on your side. It is our job and we love it, but it is not easy.

___________________________________________________

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2014 Carrie Halsey
Posted on

Barefoot and NOT Pregnant

file0002032880342


THE BUS!!!  I jumped up and ran outside to the bus stop when I realized I was late to pick up my boys. It was a nice day and I was picturing them alone waiting for me. In my rush I didn’t slip on my shoes. I slowed down when I saw that the bus hadn’t arrived. Then something unexpected happened.  I became aware how wonderful my bare feet felt treading along the side-walk. I could feel ever pit mark and seam in the concrete. I felt the difference in temperature when I crossed from sun to shade. I arrived at the corner and let my toes wander into the grass. What ecstasy! I walked around relishing every texture. I couldn’t remember the last time I had been outside barefoot.  I felt like I had as a child.

Being a birth nerd, I quickly realized my barefoot walk was similar to my unmedicated birth experience. My journey was comfortable and enjoyable. I felt the roughness of the cement, but it added to my experience. I noticed more about that walk  than any previous ones.  If I had worn shoes, I would have missed out on connecting with my environment.  Wearing shoes simply does not feel the same as being barefoot.  I feel the same about natural childbirth. Bringing a baby into this world is a miracle under any circumstances.  Natural childbirth is the barefoot version of birthing.  There is an added dimension that going natural brings to the experience.  The difference between my medicated and natural births were marked and undeniable.  I was more in tune with my body. I was at peace during the storm of contractions.  I felt euphoric and energized after my 3 natural deliveries, which was a surprise after my first two medicated births.

The conditions were perfect for my barefoot adventure. If the temperature had been different, or if there had been broken class on the sidewalk, shoes would have been necessary.  Similarly, it is not safe or prudent for every labor to be unmedicated.  When the conditions are right we have a choice.  Our society has become accustomed to a medicalized model of birth, just as we have become accustomed to wearing shoes.  We forget that there are other choices.  We absentmindedly slip on heels or tie on a pair of sneakers.  In the majority of our healthcare experiences we trust in the safety and necessity of our medical ‘shoes’.  Birth is not inherently medical in nature.  We have been conditioned to believe that the monitors, drugs and interventions are just part of giving birth.  Medical intervention is a luxury and a safety net for a natural process.  If a mother chooses to have an epidural for comfort, great!  If a mother needs to be induced due to a medical issue, we are grateful for the medical technology.  Just as I chose to walk barefoot, natural birth is a choice.  It doesn’t mean I think my birth is better than yours.  It especially does not say anything about any one else’s choices.  It doesn’t mean that I would want to have a surgery without medication, or try to heal my hypothyroid with herbs.  Sometimes its just nice to experience life in a basic way.  I experienced birth with all my senses and I loved it.

 

 

Posted on

What Hippies Taught Me about Birth

 

I learned a lot about labor from granola nurses and crunchy parents.  Here are my favorite lessons that I learned taking care of laboring patients whom were skipping pain medications.  It has made me a better labor nurse for all my patients.  What lessons have you learned in the world of labor and delivery?

 

Feed moms or they get cranky.

 

 

 

rose bloom
A cervix blooms like a rose.

 

 

 

 

drugs
It is okay to ask the tough questions

 

 

 

 

 

volcano
Don’t assume that all parents want vaccines, baths, disposable diapers or a pacifier, unless you want to see  crunchy mom wrath.

 

 

 

 

amniotic fluid
Babies like their amniotic fluid.  Don’t AROM their swimming pool.

 

 

 

 

hugs
Everyone needs a hug sometimes.

 

 

 

 

range
Make sure you are keeping a safe distance when its pushing time.

 

 

 

 

stay
Sometimes a mom will need you every minute.

 

 

 

 

 

hug2
Sometimes a mom only needs her partner

 

 

 

 

 

 

windy
Not all moms wear deodorant, have a fan handy.

 

 

 

 

 

red fox
It is okay to name your son Red Fox. (Or any other unconventional name)

 

 

 

 

 

cut
Wait until the umbilical cord stops pulsing to cut!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

intermittant efm
Continuous fetal monitoring is not always necessary.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

chase
Always knock on the door first! I have been surprised on more than one occasion about what was going on in the room!

 

 

 

 

 

 

pulling out baby
Moms deliver babies, not doctors.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

dad gaze
Watching a  dad and mom look at each other after the baby is born always makes me cry.