Tag Archives: reproduction

“HelloFlo”: The Viral Ad That Empowers Girls to Embrace Their Periods

“For these campers, I’m their Joan of Arc. It’s like I’m Joan, and their vag is the arc.”

These words come from the mouth of a young girl in a recent ad for HelloFlo, a new company that specializes in making menstruation as painless as possible. You can help but do a double take (did that girl seriously just say “vag”?), and that is perhaps exactly what the ad creators intended.

But neither the company nor the controversial ad were rooted in any “feminist agenda,” says HelloFlo founder Naama Bloom. The company functions by sending boxes of tampons, pads, and candy to women in alignment with their personal cycles, all for $14-18 a month.

As Bloom said in an interview with CNN, “I just wanted to talk the way women talked and the way I talk and talk the way I am teaching my daughter to talk.” But even that is remarkable. After all, how many girls really feel this way about their periods? For that matter, how many moms, teaching their daughters about menstruation, feel this way?

The onset of puberty is happening earlier and earlier for girls in the United States, a trend that does not bode well for future generations’ rates of ovarian and breast cancer. Poor diet, lack of exercise, and exposure to toxic chemicals can all affect the timing of puberty, and the increase in all three in this country has obviously contributed to an earlier onset of menstruation.

On top of that, menstruation has been a consistent point of embarrassment for girls and women, and this has unfortunately perpetuated a culture of body shame. Whenever menstruation begins, it is not something to be ashamed of nor fight against. Girls need all the information they can get to be prepared, both physically and emotionally, for this powerful rite of passage. In a way, periods are what makes the world go ’round. Right?

What’s your relationship with menstruation like? Tell us your stories in the comments section below!

“Stand With Wendy!”: A Texas Senator’s Inspiring Abortion Filibuster Races Down the Clock

Screen Shot 2013-06-26 at 12.27.56 PMWendy Davis was just 19-years-old when she gave birth to her first child. She had helped support her single mother and three siblings starting from the time she was 14. After becoming a mother, herself, she went on to pursue further education, first at community college, then at Texas Christian University, and finally as a graduate of Harvard Law School. By these life touchstones, alone, it’s clear Davis is a force to be reckoned with.

Fast forward several decades to 2008 when Davis was elected to state senate as the progressive Democratic leader who yesterday inspired women’s rights activists around the country. The occasion for yesterday’s filibuster – which lasted nearly 13 hours, during which Davis didn’t eat, drink, sit down, lean on anything, or leave for any reason – was the anti-abortion and reproductive rights bill SB-5. If passed, this bill would have prohibited abortions past the 20-week gestation mark and result in the closure of 37 of the state’s 42 abortion clinics, along with a host of other restrictions.

Davis began her filibuster at roughly 11am on Tuesday, and by the evening nearly 200,000 people were watching the livestream on YouTube. Even President Obama tweeted to show his support, ending his tweet with hashtag #StandWithWendy. This viral movement, contained in the space of a whirlwind 13 or so hours, swept social media and shot Wendy Davis to the national stage at unprecedented speed.

But the events of the day were by no means tidy. Davis’ filibuster was cut off by Lt. Governer David Dewhurst, for what reasons are unclear. Other Democrats on the floor jumped in to further stall the final vote, as by now the clock was ticking and the midnight deadline fast approaching. With just 15 minutes to go, Senator Leticia Van De Putte jumped in to demand her voice be heard: “At what point must a female senator raise her hand or her voice to be recognized over her male colleagues?” The question acted as a rallying cry for women’s rights, and the crowd erupted in support, pushing the proceedings over the midnight mark. Thus, despite swift measures by Republicans to contest the final time of the vote, the clock didn’t lie, and the bill would not pass.

Watch Wendy Davis respond to an emotional crowd after her nearly 13-hour filibuster that secured reproductive rights for women in the state of Texas:

With yesterday’s filibuster, as well as Davis’ previous filibuster against Texas public school budget cuts, it is clear that Wendy Davis is a senator worth keeping an eye on. Her energy, drive, and progressive values may make her the strong female politician we’ve all been waiting for (not that there haven’t been many others to inspire us over the years.) What do you think? Would you vote for Wendy Davis to be the first female president? Will yesterday’s Supreme Court ruling on the Voting Rights Act make it harder for Davis to get re-elected to the state senate?

Photo credit: Twitter

Denied an Abortion – What Now? A Study on the Effects of Unwanted Motherhood

Screen Shot 2013-06-14 at 3.05.08 PMIt may have been one spontaneous night with an ex, never to be replicated; or perhaps a traumatic moment of violence and sexual abuse. She could be unemployed, ill, very young, or already a bit creaky in the joints. Maybe she has other kids at home and a partner in active duty, in prison, in the hospital, or deceased. And in the midst of working, paying bills, job hunting, taking care of children, doing homework, or whatever her daily responsibilities include, the tender belly and light periods get pushed to the back of her mind – until it’s too late.

Whatever their reasons, these are the women who discover their pregnancies late in the game, determine their best course of action is abortion, and upon medical inspection are turned away from the procedures they desperately want or need. How do these women, the ones forced into motherhood, fare and what are the effects of their denied abortions?

This question provides the foundation for an ongoing study, called “The Turnaway Study” run by Diana Greene Foster, an associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of California, San Francisco. Researching abortion clinics around the country, Foster’s study aims to determine the differing effects, if any, between women who seek late-term abortions and get them versus women who seek late-term abortions but are denied them, most often due to timing. (Individual states’ and clinic’s limits vary, but tend to fall sometime in the second trimester.) Such effects might range from the psychological and emotional, to socioeconomic factors, to long-term physical health. In essence, is there any statistical evidence to prove that women are any better or worse off for keeping a baby, even if they wholeheartedly wanted to terminate the pregnancy?

This study lands in public discourse at a time when pro-life advocates preach the many dangers to women’s mental and physical health resulting from abortion. It isn’t a hard line of reasoning to follow, especially given the hormones that are already being released in early pregnancy. But, as noted in a thorough article published in the New York Times, the psychological and health effects of carrying a pregnancy to term – and then, of course, raising a child – can be just as overwhelming, if not more so.

Based on Foster’s study, women in the turnaway group suffered greater health effects, including increased hypertension rates and chronic pelvic pain, as well as socioeconomic effects that left them below the poverty line three times more often than the women who received abortions. Both groups, however, Lang points out, began with similar life circumstances.

Only 6.6 percent of near-limit patients in the study and 5.6 percent of turnaways finished college (nearly 30 percent of adult American women have a bachelor’s degree). One in 10 were on welfare, and approximately 80 percent reported not having enough money to meet basic living needs. A majority, in both groups, already had at least one child.

These are interesting statistics on several counts. First of all, women seeking abortions later in their terms share a baseline social disadvantage that includes less education, lower income, and, now, pregnancy on top of their other responsibilities. In being forced into motherhood by denial of an abortion, these women experience all the physical strains of pregnancy and childbirth, as well as the often-overwhelming financial burden of another mouth to feed. No one sets out to someday get an abortion, but when it comes down to it, some women feel this is their best option – and the results of Foster’s study might give us cause to concur.

Both Foster and Lang are mindful of the politically-charged nature of this research, though. Foster does not consider herself a pro-choice pioneer, but rather a concerned ob-gyn, interested in determining what is best for women’s health.

The purpose of Foster’s study is not to set policy by suggesting new or uniform gestational limits. She notes, however, that there are ways to reduce the number of women seeking abortion at an advanced gestational age by improving access to reproductive health care. But Foster sees herself as a scientist, not an advocate. She did not set out, she says, to disprove that abortion is harmful. “If abortion hurts women,” she says, “I definitely want to know.”

Truth be told, there is no pro-abortion movement. Nobody “supports” abortion, of course, because ultimately we would hope to live in a world in which people who want to have children do, and those who don’t, don’t. The point is rather that women know what is best for them and their families, and childbearing may not factor into that at the moment.

It’s a delicate topic, though, and one that certainly warrants further discussion. Let me know your thoughts in the comments section below!

New Motherhood: 5 Ways to Thrive in the Postpartum Period

Vanessa's Sunshine!!! Emilía.

By Zoe Etkin

In America we desperately need to let go of “super mom” syndrome. The expectation that women should be back to work, back in shape, and somehow managing everything else, in 6 weeks or less is just not a realistic portrait of new motherhood. I propose a new way, well, an old way, really, of viewing the postpartum period. One that honors the mother just as she is in her unique journey. The number one issue is the length of maternity leave in this country—6 weeks doesn’t cut it. But I won’t go down that rabbit hole, as government reform is what is required to make that change possible. There are, however, things we can do, as new mothers, and as those who support new mothers, to make the postpartum period less stressful and more enjoyable.

  1. Enlist family and friends for support, but set clear boundaries. Moms: give your friends (family too) specific hours that they should visit. Make it brief—2 hours tops—enough time for them to throw in some laundry, grab you a snack, and hold the baby while you shower. Friends/family: When you visit a new mom, focus your attention on her. Often people get wrapped up in the excitement of the new baby (totally understandable—babies are amazing), but at the exclusion of the mother. Let her know what a good job she is doing, then moon over the baby when she’s taking a little “me time.”
  2. Part of recovering from your birth, and producing milk to feed your baby, is maintaining good nutrition. Sitting down to eat a full meal is often not possible for new moms, so it’s important to have healthy snacks and water available at all times. Simple snacks I recommend are avocadoes, almonds, eggs, trail mix, fruit, and smoothies. Preparing meals before the baby comes is a great idea too. Prep a few homemade veggie lasagnas, soups, and other easily reheated meals for the first weeks home with baby. You’ll probably be offered meals from friends and family as well. Streamline that process by choosing someone to set up a Meal Train for you. This website allows you to state food preferences, times you’d like food delivered, and if they are to just drop it off (rather than come in). Fresh meals at your doorstep are such a blessing to families with newborns.
  3. Diapering/Nursing Stations: If you have a larger home, particularly multi-level, you don’t want to be trekking up and down the stairs to change baby’s diaper, or feel tethered to one spot for nursing. Purchase a few small baskets and stock them with water, nuts, diapers, nursing pads, burp cloths, a clean onesie, wipes and nipple/butt cream. Place one basket by your bed, one in baby’s room, and one in the living room/where ever else you’ll be nursing. I highly recommend these to women who’ve had surgical births, as stairs can be uncomfortable to navigate during recovery.
  4. Hire a postpartum doula. No really, I’m not just plugging my own work! What we do as postpartum doulas is focus on the mother’s needs, emotional and physical, assist with breastfeeding, give newborn care instruction, watch siblings, perform light household maintenance, and provide resources and referrals, among other things. With many new mothers’ partners away at work, the doula can provide relief, support, and encouragement. Our hearts are so open as doulas, we absolutely love watching our clients grow into confident, amazing parents. We’re there to support the partners as well, and the siblings, making sure the household is running smoothly, but our number one and two priorities are mother and baby.
  5. This is for you, mama: make time to take care of yourself. I know it seems impossible with a newborn, but schedule it into your day. When your friend, relative, postpartum doula comes over, make sure one thing they do is hold baby while you nap, exercise, eat, shower, meditate, or whatever else feels good to you. You’re not super woman, and we need to stop making our mamas feel like they need to be. It’s okay to be exhausted, frustrated, overwhelmed. It’s also okay to accept help when it’s offered, and ask for it when you need it. We’re a society of hard workers, but we must balance that work with self-care.

Finally, set up your postpartum support system prenatally, making the transition into new motherhood more easeful. Take the journey one day at a time. It will get easier. Your baby is only this small for a short part of her entire life. You are doing an amazing job, right where you are in this moment.

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76773_582146197395_8154608_nZoe Etkin is an LA-based CAPPA trained birth and postpartum doula, poet, and teacher. She earned her MFA in Writing from CalArts, where she earned the Beutner Award for Excellence in the Arts. She is the editor of Red Sky: A Literary Journal, and her own poetry can be found in many print and web publications. She is committed to educating and empowering women, supporting families, and promoting good writing.

 

Photo credit: David Terrazas

Baby Stories: A Guide to Pregnancy Journaling

Screen Shot 2013-05-16 at 4.23.38 PMBy Zoë Colette Etkin

As a Los Angeles-based birth and postpartum doula, my goal is to bridge the gaps in care for mothers, babies, and families through the perinatal period by providing physical and emotional support, education and resources. My other life’s passion is writing, and a year ago I earned my MFA in poetry. However, the main type of writing I’ve done throughout my life is journaling. My first journal dates back to my 5th or 6th year of life! Journaling has always allowed me to explore my thoughts and feelings, or jot down a strange dream, or even complain. Now that I work with mamas, I see how important it is for them navigate the complex waves of emotion that come with pregnancy, birth, and new motherhood.

Sometimes it’s difficult for new moms to express those feelings out loud. Writing and journaling through our ups and downs can relieve stress, help center and focus the mind, and force us to carve out a little “me time” in our busy lives. Keeping a pregnancy-specific journal is beneficial in several ways: it helps you focus on and connect to the baby growing inside, keeps a log of your emotions and physical sensations, and helps you work through fears and anxieties. Depending on your relationship to writing, you may journal with ease. For women who need prompts, I recommend the following as a guide.

Pregnancy Journal

Today’s Date:

Emotional Landscape: Today I am feeling….

Physical Sensations: (Examples: hunger, morning sickness, kicks or flutters of baby, tiredness, belly is growing, I see the pregnancy glow, etc.)

Today I want to tell the baby….

Today’s affirmation: My body is strong and capable of birthing my baby.

Today’s question: (Here you can talk about things you aren’t sure about. Fears, concerns, questions, etc.)

Today I am planning for you by doing…. (Here you can talk about prenatal check ups, classes you may be taking, buying things for the nursery, hiring a doula, making a list of people who will help out once baby is here, etc.)

Birth Stories

The topic of birth stories is actually one where people have varying schools of thought. Many doulas write birth stories for their clients. Some take a practical approach, chronicling the various times and events that took place, others take a more narrative approach and make it into more of a story. Either way it can be nice to have someone else’s perspective on how the birth went, since time is experienced much differently by the birthing woman. However, it can be important and cathartic for the woman herself to write the experience down as it was to her. If you had a traumatic birth or an ideal birth, writing through the experience can help release feelings you may be having or can affirm and celebrate positive experiences.

Another angle on the birth story is to write it for your child. Some write it as a children’s book for a young child, others write it for when their child is an adult. Either way, it can be a beautiful way to share that experience with your child.

Postpartum Journaling

There will be much less time to write once the baby has arrived, but I still encourage postpartum moms to journal when they can. Just like the pregnancy journal, it’s a nice way to chronicle your emotional landscape, as well as record all the baby milestones. Certainly a baby book makes room for that sort of thing, but it doesn’t give the mother the opportunity to write through her changes and her experiences. I find that postpartum moms can often feel ignored in the bustle of the new baby. Friends and family are constantly visiting and doting on the baby and moms can kind of feel like, “Hey, what about me?” It’s important that the mom have certain support persons who are there to concentrate on her. Postpartum doulas do this job well. Journaling, too, can help moms to take a few minutes to turn inward and focus on themselves and their feelings. It’s so important that postpartum women feel supported and also have an outlet for their feelings. I want to say, though, that if you see a postpartum mom who seems disengaged, or showing extreme emotions, she might need to talk to a professional, as she might be displaying signs of a postpartum mood disorder. Emotions certainly run high for new moms, but it’s important that she have people who are supporting her and have an eye out for behavior that might need further attention.

Allowing some time to journal during the perinatal period can give a woman the opportunity to think through and connect to her experiences in a special way. It also creates a record of her experiences that she may choose to go back to in the future. The process of journaling encourages growth in that it affords the ability to go back and read about yourself at different moments of your life, through different patterns of thought, different approaches to situations. You learn from your past, reflect on your present, and dream about your future all in one space that you can return to when you want, or not when you don’t. Mamas, I encourage you to grab a pen and paper and begin your writing journey today!

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76773_582146197395_8154608_nZoe Etkin is an LA-based CAPPA trained birth and postpartum doula, poet, and teacher. She earned her MFA in Writing from CalArts, where she earned the Beutner Award for Excellence in the Arts. She is the editor of Red Sky: A Literary Journal, and her own poetry can be found in many print and web publications. She is committed to educating and empowering women, supporting families, and promoting good writing.

Photo credit: Gabi Menashe

Breastfeeding Pain – The Aspects of Motherhood No One Told Us About

AlmuerzoBy Jackie Lai

Gift, joy, fun, and of course, love. The words most often mentioned when we think of motherhood. The less spoken, possibly even taboo words: painful, overwhelming, relentless, stressed, anxious, also often describe motherhood. As with any other life experience, the positive and the negative have to coexist. Together, they balance each other and without the negative, it is all too easy to take the positive moments for granted.

When we are pregnant and become new mothers, everyone tells you only about the positive stuff. About how you should enjoy each moment, because time is fleeting and the babies grow up so fast. Because being a mother is such a joy. Because, because, because. But what happens when we start feeling the other stuff that no one talks about? It ends up being an unspoken truth which transforms itself into guilt, disappointment, resentment, and even depression.

It is in this spirit that two friends and I founded Pariday. Pariday is about the parts of motherhood that no one tells you about. One of it, we discovered, is that breastfeeding really hurts! Even after going through two natural childbirths, the first of which took three days, breastfeeding remains the most painful thing I have ever done. While labor and childbirth are painful, it is broken up into minutes at a time, usually with a beautiful prize at the end. The pain experienced during the early days of breastfeeding however, is constant and exacerbated by the fact that after being sucked on a sore nipple, you have to do it over and over again and somehow expect the soreness to heal.

The benefits of breastfeeding have been researched and touted to no end, so much so that now women are almost pressured into doing it for that golden first year. No doubt, breastfeeding is natural, but it is also extremely difficult! The learning curve is steep, and the ladies who have a hard time ultimately end up blaming themselves when it does not go perfectly “the way everyone else says it should.”

To add insult to injury, a common advice for soothing said pain is to use frozen peas on your sore nipples and engorged breasts. Faced with excruciating pain, holding a stiff plastic bag of solidly frozen peas to your body is just another sacrificial thing we mothers do to power through this difficult time for our babies because everyone else says we should. Breastfeeding is painful enough, why does the recommended solution have to be equally painful?

Many women stop breastfeeding just a little too early because of the pain they experience. Without judgment, we created the TendHer Pillows and Pillowcases because we wanted to give women the opportunity to try and overcome the initial hump by providing a more elegant pain relief solution to one of the less elegant parts of being a mother.

Naturally, some women do face other genuine issues like low milk supply, recurring infections, and difficulties with baby which cause them to stop breastfeeding, usually not without some emotional distress and feelings of inadequacy. To me, these women are the ones who truly have it right because they realize that it is about enjoying this precious moment with their baby, and not about stressing out over where their baby’s food is coming from. To be able to give up something that everyone else says you should be doing represents the greatest love and respect for yourself we all need to be good mothers. Without a deep well of self-love to tap from, it would be impossible to take care of yourself enough to fend off the many taboo emotions that arise from motherhood.

For the month of May, we are offering Intent readers $5 off all online Pariday orders! Use promo code: INTENTMOM

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jac head shotJackie Lai is a co-founder and an expert in product design and manufacturing at Pariday. A structural engineer by training, Jackie has broad experience spanning the entire product design process from concept to manufacturing. Jackie’s driving force is to help people. She is a certified yoga instructor specializing in Prenatal Yoga and therapeutics. After having her first baby, she realized there was another way she could serve others – by offering better solutions to the genuine issues faced by new moms. Visit our website and find us on Facebook!

photo by: Daquella manera

Can Birth Be a Spiritual Experience?

Pain, bloating, and nausea aside, birth can be a truly spiritual experience. For those who have witnessed the phenomenon, or been present in the precious moments after, the experience may rank in the holiest, most magical moments of their lives. Sure, for some it may include fear, anxiety, pain and adrenaline, but the cry of new life can usually dispel even the sharpest of concerns.

In this week’s episode of “Holy Facts” on The Chopra Well, Gotham Chopra explores the spiritual sides to birthing, from fertility rituals, to belly dancing, to placenta burial. With fertility rites and deities dating back to ancient times, reproduction has likely played a prominent role in religious traditions throughout human history.

Before the wisdom of midwives and modern science became the mainstream, pregnancy and birth were nothing short of miracles, explained only by the mystery of the universe. This same mystery made the sun rise, the rain fall, and the earth bear food to sustain life. But even knowing how the sperm fertilizes the egg, the fetus grows, and eventually the cervix dilates and the baby is born, does it change the magical quality of birth?

Harshitha...my angel..i love you...Many mothers, partners, midwives and other birth workers speak of the sacred atmosphere of the birthing room. For an unmedicated mother, the high levels of oxytocin and endorphins naturally secreted during labor can induce an almost ecstatic high (evolutionarily crafted, of course, to help her withstand the strain of contractions.) And for all in the room, regardless of medical intervention, witnessing a tiny human where previously there was only a big belly…well it’s something you just have to experience.

It is no wonder people have developed such elaborate rituals surrounding birth. Gotham describes some particularly interesting ones in the episode. Did you know belly dancing originated as a method for women to ease the pain of labor? That’s right, it wasn’t intended to be a sexy dance women do in front of men… Kind of puts things into perspective. And cultures around the world find fascinating uses for the placenta, or “afterbirth”, believed by many to hold both spiritual and nutritional properties. Some bury the placenta with a fruit tree, while others grind it up and put it in capsules as post-labor supplements for the mother. Do you know what your parents did with your placenta?

They don’t call it “the miracle of life” for nothing, and clichéd at it may sound, we heartily agree with the sentiment. The human body can do some extraordinary things, and birth and reproduction certainly rank at the top of the list.

Was your child’s birth a holy experience? Tell us about it in the comments section below!

Subscribe to The Chopra Well for more “Holy Facts” every Monday!

Eggs, Bunnies, and the World’s Biggest Phallus

As Spring thaws the Winter freeze and the days lengthen and warm, sprouts peak eagerly through earthen shell. Life quickens with a renewed instinct to create, reproduce, and grow. This is planting season, the blossom months, the verdant playground. Spring is the lover’s specialty.

What better way to celebrate new beginnings than with a fertility festival?

Episode three of The Chopra Well’s Holy Facts, hosted by Gotham Chopra, explores such festivals in different parts of the world. The show is witty and playful as always, and just a bit sexier than usual this time.

The March 15 Hounen Matsuri festival, a Japanese tradition dating back 1,500 years, celebrates fertility, renewal, and prosperity. It is sacred as an affirmation both of human reproduction and of the year’s bountiful harvests. The largest and best known of these festivals takes place in Komaki, a city of roughly 150,000 people. Despite the festival’s holy foundations, Hounen Matsuri has become famous (or infamous) for featuring a 2.5-meter, 600 pound wooden phallus, which participants enthusiastically parade through the streets.

Woody the Giant Phallus isn’t alone in this festival. Smaller statues, candies, and costume pieces also pay tribute to the reproductive member, and, to be honest, it looks like quite the party. A far cry from the tamer springtime barbecue of middle American suburbia…

Prior to the phallus festival, a neighboring city celebrates the companion vagina festival, Hime-no-miya. During this festival, parents dress up their children, who carry small vagina statues to a nearby shrine. Later, adult men haul a massive vagina through the streets, all the while praying for healthy children, a bountiful harvest, and a cold glass of sake at the end of the parade. Before you jump to accuse the country of penis/vagina fixation, keep in mind that Japan has one of the lowest birth rates in the world… Let’s cut them some slack.

And anyways, Japan is far from the only country in the world to practice fertility rites and celebrations. Such practices exist throughout the globe and throughout time. In fact, Easter, a beloved springtime ritual of Western cultures, may trace its lineage to the ancient European fertility festival, Ostara.

In the northern hemisphere, Ostara marks the Spring equinox and celebrates the goddess of springtime. It traces ancient Pagan roots and is now the highlight of many a neo-Pagan’s year.  But despite its magical beginnings, the holiday was actually fairly practical. Celebrations featured eggs, babies, and seed planting – all typical markers of fertility, life, and growth. And, as Gotham points out, the secular Easter is basically Ostara with new packaging.

Giant phalluses. Eggs. Bunnies. Have you ever been to a fertility festival? We bet you have. Tell us about it in the comments below!

Subscribe to The Chopra Well and tune in every Wednesday for more Holy Facts – because the world is stranger than you can imagine.

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