Friday, February 29, 2008

A book in the mail

I just have to share about a very sweet note tucked into a book that arrived on my stoop today. Both the letter and the book, Artemis Speaks: VBAC Stories and Natural Childbirth Information, were written by Nan Koehler. (The book in 1985, the letter two weeks ago.) Nan says she still has a 1,000 copies of her book "in the barn" but that used book dealers are selling them for $50 a copy. I haven't checked Amazon.

Anyway, in her book it says that Nan is (was?) a traditional birth attendant/botanist/herbalist living in California who was part of the home birth movement back in the day.

In her letter, she remarks that the hormone relaxin is very close to insulin. "One atom different," she writes. "So the solution for easy birth is walking - circulation the relaxin in the pelvis."

She also said I should have mentioned that in some cultures there are dietary taboos "that ensure that babies remain smaller - then they are fattened up after birth..." Fair enough. I'd love to know more on this. I bet lots of New York women would buy that diet book.

And then she wrote that the real reason why labor begins at night for so many women is because their hormonal output is greatest at 3 a.m. (when most labors begin) and the low point is 3 p.m., when labor tends to stop. Makes sense.

She also highly recommends castor oil over pitocin. (My response: Anything is better than pitocin...)

She concludes the letter by responded to a section in my last chapter, on the postpartum period, where I discuss various methods traditional midwives have used to dress the cord stump, including cow dung and ashes.

"Cow dung is very sterile," she says. "Check that some more."

Indeed I will!!

Can't wait to read Artemis Speaks.


Anonymous said...

It's my understanding that cow dung isn't sterile and can give babies tetanus.

The Lalonde's said...

I've loved reading your blog and get excited when there's a new installment. I've never commented before but the google ad at the top of your blog just made me laugh (and cry) today.

It was for Emfamil formula. It said "Emfamil formula is the closest thing to breastmilk. Email ... for a free sample!"

At first I laughed because it was such a juxtaposition on your site. Then I felt kinda sad that ads like that float around mothering, birthing type sites. It's too bad.

Anyway, just wanted to share that. Thanks so much for writing your story out. It really is wonderful to read.

Awaiting your next installment,
Tracy (another homebirthing mom)

Tina Cassidy said...

Tracy, I have not seen the Enfamil ad, but I have seen the ad up there for a website that says home birth is not safe. Formala ads, narrow-minded former OBs who run whacky me such things keep me intellectually engaged with the other end of the spectrum; sad but constant reminders of how many opposing viewpoints there are around mothering.

Amanda said...

I'd love a copy of that book... must go check Amazon.

Amy Tuteur, MD said...

"In her letter, she remarks that the hormone relaxin is very close to insulin. "One atom different," she writes. "So the solution for easy birth is walking - circulation the relaxin in the pelvis."

"Cow dung is very sterile," she says. "Check that some more."

I imagine that you are promoting her book in exchange for her promoting your book, but why repeat such inane misinformation?

Relaxin is NOT one atom different than insulin. They only share 25% of total structure in common. (See International Union of Pharmacology LVII: Recommendations for the Nomenclature of Receptors for Relaxin Family Peptides)

Cow dung is sterile? You have got to be kidding. Cow dung causes contains a myriad of bacteria including tentanus. According to the Lancet (Effect on neonatal tetanus mortality after a culturally-based health promotion programme):

"The Maasai have high rates of death from neonatal tetanus, partly due to their custom of packing the umbilical stump with cow dung. We report on the effect of a simple health promotion programme, designed in consultation with the local community and carried out by local women. After introduction of the programme in 1981, neonatal (<6 weeks of age) tetanus rates fell sharply, and by 1988 annual death rates had dropped to 0·75 per 1000 births in the intervention areas compared with 82 per 1000 in control areas."

Tina Cassidy said...

Dr. Amy, you are cynical. As you may know, I have a link to your blog on mine, but I doubt that any regular reader of my site believes that the link means I am PROMOTING your work. Rather, as a journalist by training,I welcome discussion and input from every angle, even the absurd, if for no other reason than the entertainment value. So I got a chuckle out your remarks. Artemis Speaks is out of print, so it is hard to figure that that the author, whom I don't know and have never been in contact with, struck some deal with me to cross promote our work. But anyway, on the cow dung issue, I did not quote her in full. She said cow dung and ashes are sterile, but the issue is with using a nonsterile implement to cut the cord. Many cultures use this cow dung mix to pack the cord -- from Africa to India -- so it does make you wonder why. I would not pack my child's cord with cow dung. But then, it is not our custom.

chris said...

yeah, I think it best to skip the cow dung. I wonder how they got that idea in the first place..Makes me wonder.

Holly said...

As a doula, I almost always get my "it's time" calls at 3am. Now I know why!

Alexandra Como said...

Alexandra Como said...

or go to

Sorry, here is a link to my blog, where I reference your book with my boorth story. I wish more people would read your book!

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