Category Archives: Random

Is the Erica May Rengo Case a Hoax?

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Baby Levi, Erica’s oldest son

About three years ago, there was a news story that caught the social media world by storm. “Habiba” was a homeless nursing mother whose baby was taken away from her. You can read more about that heart-breaking case here. I was quite surprised to find that the google search term “Is Habiba a Hoax” sent thousands of web surfers to our blog. I ended the post with these sentiments:

For the sake of argument, if this is a hoax, it’s one I’d be proud to be duped by: protecting the rights of mothers and babies everywhere.

So now, here we are again with the story of Erica May Rengo, a home-birthing, breastfeeding mama of three in Washington. Erica had her children taken away from her by Child Protection Services. There’s not much news coverage of the case yet, aside from this article on Medical Kidnap. At the end of the article, readers are encouraged to call or email the mayor, which I did. The office said they had received hundreds of calls and were going to be in touch with CPS regarding the case. (Erica and Cleave go to trial on Dec 2nd)

Some people are questioning the validity of the information in the article, the omission of facts, and the entire story in general. As I said in Habiba–it’s true: we don’t have all the facts! Of course we don’t. Do we ever? But I think that’s missing the point in this instance. I always want to do the best with what I have. And what I have is a story that tugs at my heart.

However, it’s not up to me to have the facts. I’m not a trained CPS professional. I’m not a judge hearing the case, or a lawyer presenting it. This isn’t a charity that I’m sending money to, or an organization I’m devoting time to. BUT what I can do, I want to. Like, calling a governor’s office to ask him to please investigate, (immediately!) and if the facts remain as presented in the article, to reunite the Rengo family as soon as humanly possible? Maybe there are additional details that will come out, and there are other avenues that would be better for this family before reunification. I don’t know. But I want her to have a fair investigation. Erica has twin babies and a toddler that need their mama. (The goal of CPS is to keep families intact as often as possible, BTW. So unless there are some egregious facts omitted from the article, CPS failed.)

This is a story that hits close to home. As a nursing, home-birthing mother, I relate to Erica. I feel for Erica. I hurt for Erica. And quite honestly, I find it hard to even think about how her children are doing. I imagine how mine would be without me, and it’s painful to consider. Yet, seeing the outpouring of support for this family inspires me, and shows our mama-solidarity in the face of injustice. If this story is true, imagine the difference a ten second phone call, a quick email, or even a Facebook post can make in a family’s life. And if it isn’t, I will never regret time spent helping others in good faith.

**Updated to add (11/27): For the record, I don’t believe this is a hoax. Ask my mother. I called her to talk about it – and she called the governor too. Ask my husband, every 15 minutes last night I asked him, “Could you imagine if…”, “That could have been us…”. Ask my 4.5 year old, who came in and out of the dining room as I wrote the post, watching Mommy “help another mommy.”

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Megan McGrory Massaro is a mother, freelance writer, and author. She wrote The Other Baby Book: A Natural Approach to Baby’s First Year  to empower women to make the best choices for their families.

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5 Favorite Tools for Going Diaper Free

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We practice Elimination Communication. While the goal is “early potty training,” my younger daughter is turning nine months now, and I’m itching to go entirely diaper free with her. When you remove diapers from the equation, you rely more on cues and intuition, putting yourself more in tune with baby and YOU! Plus, I’m all set with the weekly diaper load down two flights of stairs, and the exploding diaper bin in her room. She is also a huge wiggler and does not like getting a diaper on lying down. We’re in undies/bare bum part time now, but in the next month or two, I’ll pack up all but about 6 cloth diapers, and use them as rags for any misses. I have been thinking about what I’ll need to take the diaper-free plunge, given my experience with her sister. Here are 5 important things for a diaper-free journey!

1. Toddler training undies. We’ve used undies part time at eight months with both my daughters. I didn’t want to go bare bottomed with my first as it was cold. And because I knew some misses were inevitable, and I didn’t want to wash more pairs of pants than I had to. But try to find undies for petite bums! It took me weeks of researching and trialing, but I settled on these because they were both affordable and absorbent. They worked well for my average sized 9 month old. I’ve had friends who swear by these ones by Blueberry.

2. A throne and a corner. You may already have one of these if you’re practicing EC, but I found that having a designated potty space, where my girls would read books or play with toys, was key to consistency and making pottying an enjoyable experience. I bought an antique wooden potty at a yard sale for $10. It’s literally one of my favorite baby purchases ever. I feel like half of my older daughter’s waking hours were spent on that potty! I’d post a picture, but she’s half naked in all them. We got something like this. 

3. Vinegar and water. You probably already have both these things in your home, but when you ditch the diapers, there will be misses and messes. Yes, WILL. So, have a spray bottle of 50:50 handy, and wipe down the floor, carpet, or high chair. The first time I tried this, I was skeptical, but after the vinegar spray dissipates, there’s no trace of urine!

4. Towels or wool blankets. If you are going cold turkey and moving out of diapers at night too, these may come in handy. Some moms put them over the sheets and then just throw the wet towels on the floor in the middle of the night (assuming co-sleeping) if their little one pees. I found them really annoying while l was trying to sleep, and since the night time misses were only about once a week, I just had an extra folded towel near my pillow, and then used a few under the sheet as an extra mattress protection. I would throw a clean towel over a miss and deal with it in the morning. We prioritize sleep here!

5. Patience (and a sense of humor!). It may take a little getting used to for both you and your baby! But once you take the plunge and put away the diapers for good, it will likely take your EC relationship to a whole new level. I found that when we were relying on diapers for back-up, I would get lazy, and just let my daughters go in their diaper. But once that wasn’t an option, we developed a potty rhythm and misses were far less frequent than with the diapers! It took a few weeks though, so don’t give up! You will have good days, and not-as-good days. I found that the whole process was far more enjoyable when I took it all in stride and armed myself with the vinegar and some diaper rags!

Good luck! Are you considering taking the plunge to go diaper-free? What’s holding you back?

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Megan McGrory Massaro is a mother, freelance writer, and author. She wrote The Other Baby Book: A Natural Approach to Baby’s First Year  to empower women to make the best choices for their families.

How and Why to Practice Elimination Communication

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Yesterday we looked at the history of diapering/pottying in the US. Today, let’s see why we may want to take a different road…

Given our recent past, it’s easy to see why anything but a diapered baby is met with skepticism and even condemnation for parents “pushing” their children too quickly. But, as with co-sleeping, experts have failed to clarify the real issue. How you respond to your baby’s elimination needs is entirely different than when.

We don’t advocate turn-of-the-century tactics. In fact, we cringe when people comment that our little ones are “potty trained.” We aim to understand their needs, and lay the foundation for a relationship of mutual respect. We’re communicating with our babies, not training them. The difference may seem subtle (and possibly even irrelevant) before you start.

Let’s draw a firmer boundary between traditional toilet training and potty-based communication. First and foremost, with EC there’s no negativity around elimination. If your child arches his back when you put him on the potty, you’re free to let him go—even if he pees in the corner, or in his diaper a moment later. Sometimes that’s frustrating for mom, but it’s counterproductive to obsess about the miss, shame the child or use any form of punishment.

EC philosophy inherently rejects all timelines as well. Babies are individuals, so assuming they should be at a given stage is detrimental to all involved. EC is about responding to your baby’s needs—so have fun and relax. Otherwise, it’s not worth doing!

In many societies throughout the globe, babies are pottied in response to their cues. In China, for example, cotton, water, and soap are all scarce items. Mothers make a whistling sound to cue their babies, and little ones dressed in split-crotch pants easily eliminate in response. By the time children can walk, around 12-14 months, they know to squat and eliminate on their own.

In many places throughout the globe, including India, Africa, Russia, and South America, locals use a similar method. In warmer climates, babies are carried naked in slings. Mothers respond to babies’ cues and signals by taking the baby out of the sling, and little ones are free to eliminate without soiling themselves or their mamas.

So…What Now?

You want to start communicating with your little one about elimination, but you have no idea where to start. We didn’t, either. Here are four tools to launch your EC relationship.

Get going. You can potty your baby from birth, or as early as you feel comfortable. Miriam got started soon after birth; Megan waited three months until they had settled into more of a routine. It’s most important that pottying is enjoyable for everyone. If you’re overly stressed by the idea, it’s probably not the right time.

Read cues. It may seem hard to believe, but during his first few months, your little one probably communicates before he goes, whether you respond or not! Common signals include sudden fussing, squirming, grunting or crying out, becoming still, waking from sleep, or a specific facial expression.

Once your baby’s old enough to notice visual cues, you may want to incorporate the sign for potty. Around six months—or earlier, if you’d like—you can show your baby the toilet sign every time you say potty. In American Sign Language, it looks like a closed fist, shaken from side to side, with your thumb peeking out between the index and middle finger.

Once a baby begins signing, it’s pretty amazing to have him deliberately tell you that he needs to go. For some, this happens as early as nine months, but all babies develop and communicate at different rates and in different ways.

Give cues. Around the world, mothers give their babies cues, like “ssshhh” or “psssss.” In the early days of your EC journey, the cue is given when mom notices her baby going. Eventually, her baby associates the cue with relaxing his bladder and releases when he hears the sound.

Get support. In today’s wired world, if none of your neighbors practice EC, you can still get all the help and encouragement you need online. Check out The Other Baby Book’s Facebook page or Diaperfreebaby.org for more support!

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This post was excerpted from The Other Baby Book: A Natural Approach to Baby’s First Year. Check out our book to learn more about other baby-friendly practices, like natural birthing, on-cue nursing, baby-led weaning, co-sleeping, and baby-wearing! And the e-version is FREE from October 9-12!!

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Megan McGrory Massaro is a mother, freelance writer, and author. She wrote The Other Baby Book: A Natural Approach to Baby’s First Year  to empower women to make the best choices for their families.

9 Best Baby-Led Weaning First Foods

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One of my favorite practices during our first daughter’s first year was Baby-led Weaning, the practice of giving her autonomy over feeding herself solids. This means we didn’t go the rice cereal route (empty, yucky calories, and a time-consuming mess? no thanks!), but went straight to real, nutrient dense food. After filling her up on milk, we offer whatever food it is we’re eating (within reason – spicy chicken wings doesn’t make the cut) and let her explore, eat, or reject the offerings. Compared to many of our friends, who start their babies on food before six month, we started a bit later (7.5 months), waiting until our daughter hit the 6 month milestone when her gut was fully sealed, could sit up unsupported, and showed an interest.

I’m not a nutritionist, nor do I play one on tv, but I can tell you what we’ve found to be the most nutrient dense, easy to eat, and well-liked items in our home for those first few months of “playing” with food.

1. Egg yolk. This is a messy one, but SO loved. It was both girls’ first food. Sometimes we scramble a few yolks separately, or hard boil an egg and just pop out the circular yolk.

2. Avocado. If you leave a little piece of the (washed) skin on and cut it into a wedge, it’s a bit easier to eat.

3. Root vegetable fries. My girls have enjoyed beets, sweet potato, red potato, carrot, turnip – roasted and with a little butter or olive oil. In the other half of the pan, I’ll add seasonings to the portion for the rest of the family.

4. Fried apples. Cut into wedges for easy gripping, apple slices sautéed in butter or coconut oil are super yummy. It’s like apple sauce that babies can pick up.

5. Melons. My second daughter started food in the summer, and adored cantaloupe, watermelon and honey dew melon, cut into finger sized chunks.

6. Beef Sticks. We buy grass-fed beef sticks from US Wellness Meats and I live off them when I’m pregnant and nursing. Both girls really like them too! They suck on them and as they get a little older, are able to get some of the meat out.

7. Oranges. I didn’t like oranges until my second pregnancy, so we never kept them around the house. But after my second daughter was born, we always had a stash, and turns out she loves them! She sucks all the juice and leaves me an empty orange “shell”.

8. Hard cheese – Do you know that in Italy, a common first food for babies is parmesan cheese mixed with olive oil? I haven’t gone that far, but my girls enjoy sucking on a good quality cheddar or hunk of parmesan.

9. Whatever else we’re eating. I’ll take out pieces of vegetables from a stew, cucumbers from our salad, or banana from the oatmeal.

Mamas, baby-led weaning should be a fun, stress-free experience! Remember, breast-fed babies do not need anything aside from milk during their first year, so food should be a time for exploration, play, and first tastes! If you’d like more structure to your baby-led weaning experience, you may enjoy the cookbook, (review here) or the book, “Baby-led Weaning: The Essential Guide to Introducing Solid Foods – and Helping Your Baby to Grow Up a Happy and Confident Eater.” If I had to choose just one, I’d go with the cookbook! It’s all the info from the book, condensed, with recipes!

Want to learn more about other baby-friendly practices, like elimination communication (ditch the diapers!), nursing, co-sleeping, and baby-wearing? Check out our book, The Other Baby Book: A Natural Approach to Baby’s First Year.

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Megan McGrory Massaro is a mother, freelance writer, and author. She wrote The Other Baby Book: A Natural Approach to Baby’s First Year  to empower women to make the best choices for their families.

9 Essential Coaching Skills for Parents – Free Webinar

 

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Life coaching is hot. From CEOs to Celebrities, those in the know are recruiting coaches to help them accelerate their personal growth and reach their goals. And now we’re offering you the 9 essential Coaching Skills for Parents, FREE!

Coaching is an empowering modality based on the premise that we all have the answers we need inside us. And what’s pretty remarkable is that people respond  to our expectations of them. Can you imagine how sweet life can be when you expect the best from your children, and they deliver?

Join us to learn 9 essential coaching skills for parents. This facebook-based webinar will take place on Wednesday, July 16 from 8:30 – 9:30 pm EDT. Not free then? No worries. You can sign up and view the content later. We’ll provide a free handout, descriptions and examples of each of the 9 essential skills, and Q&A.

And, to be clear, this isn’t a sales pitch in disguise. All we ask is that you “like” The Other Baby Book on facebook and join our thriving community. We’re passionate about empowering parents and babies, and this webinar is another way we can plant the seeds for a beautiful future.

Love,

Miriam and Megan

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Miriam KatzMiriam J. Katz is co-author of The Other Baby Book: A Natural Approach to Baby’s First Year, where you can find a guide to safe co-sleeping and other fun tools. Miriam is an intuitive life coach whose passion is to help others overcome obstacles to living their life purpose. She lives in Boston with her husband and two children.

 

Serafina’s Home Birth Story

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8 hours into labor, about two hours before delivery

A few weeks before Serafina’s birth, some dear friends came over to pray for us. One of the ladies prayed that I would have a “glorious” birth, and the word really stuck with me. What would that even look like? I’m not one to gush over how beautiful birth is. It’s amazing, for sure, but it’s also hard, and messy, and not something I romanticize over! Still, glorious, is a word I wanted to describe my birth. And looking back, I’d say it does! God showed up and answered so many of the prayers prayed that night, and in the nights to follow, as I dealt with fears, and pains, and hopes….

I didn’t quite realize it in the weeks leading up to birth, but I clearly had this idea of what my home birth would look like–probably from watching too many YouTube videos (“Please, can we watch another “coming out” video, Mama,” said my 3 year old). I was going to labor peacefully for at least a few hours in the birth tub, with candles in the background, and my birth playlist in my earbuds. I’d diffuse certain essential oils, depending on how things were going. I was going to relax this time. My breathing would be better. I’d know when transition was coming, and I’d spend a decent amount of time slowly pushing, unlike my first birth, where AnaBella was out in less than ten minutes.  The placenta would come out easily. My baby and I would hang out in the water for a bit before we moved into the bed. I wouldn’t need stitches.

I only realized those were my expectations when some of those things happened, and some, not so much…

Contractions started around 10am and were pretty intermittent for a few hours. I spent the morning doing crafts with AnaBella (most notably, lying on my back while AnaBella traced my life-sized  silhouette on the hardwood floor…not so f  un during a contraction), and then had a friend over in the afternoon. The whole time, I was charting my contractions through a free app on my phone. I was a bit in denial, as I had a few bouts of false labor in the prior weeks. The contractions were getting closer together though, so after about 4 hours, I texted my midwife, Sarafina. I could still talk through them, and was cheerfully hanging out with our friends.

At 6:30, after about 8 hours of pretty easy contractions, something changed a bit in the intensity. I texted Sarafina again and she asked if I needed them to come over. I still didn’t think so – I figured I had a lot longer to go if I wasn’t in too much pain. She said she’d be over within the hour. By the time Sarafina and Jessica arrived, I was kneeling during each contraction, as I couldn’t stand under the pain. Still, they were fairly short, and about 5 minutes apart. Mark and I were chatting, setting up the tub, preparing my labor drink and hanging out with AnaBella during this time.

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By 7:30, the pain was pretty intense. AnaBella rubbed my back and sang me songs during contractions, while Mark and the midwives tried to get the tub filled. Unfortunately, our hot water tank ran out of hot water, so there was a bucket brigade, trying to get the water level and temperature up. I didn’t feel an urgent need to get in the tub; I was hoping AnaBella would be settled in bed before I jumped in. She finally went to bed at 8:30, and the tub still wasn’t ready. At that point, I said to Kara, the student midwife, that I didn’t think I was dilated at all. She told me how to do a self-check on the toilet, and I reported back to Sarafina that I thought I was totally closed. I figured we all had a long night ahead of us…

During the next contraction after my self-check, I laid on the bed to get a bit of relief from the pain. As I was on the bed, I felt like my body was spontaneously pushing. Sarafina ran into the other room and told everyone to come in, “The baby’s coming!” HUH?! I just went through transition?? My waters hadn’t broken, and I hadn’t had any bloody show. I couldn’t believe it. Plus, it was nothing close to as brutal as my first labor. I remember walking around like a zombie for hours, feeling like I just couldn’t deal with the pain.

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Mark dumped two large lobster pots of boiling water into the tub, and I jumped in. After 11 excrutiating minutes, I was holding my baby. I will admit, while “Jesus, help me!” was the main focus of my attention during that time, the thought crossed my mind briefly that I should just get an epidural if I have another baby. The pain was so severe. Thankfully, it was so short as well. Serafina came out with her hand up by her face, which is why it took a few extra pushes (and likely why I tore a bit). I held her on my chest for awhile in the tub and caught my breath. It took awhile to birth the placenta, which was no fun. Sarafina gave me some Placenta Out while I was in the tub but nothing was happening, so I ended up out of the tub, and had to push out the placenta on my bed awhile later.

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I got to snuggle with my little lady, and AnaBella woke up shortly after. She came in (and stayed up til 3am!!) and got to meet her sister, and touch a real placenta–with gloves on, of course–before Kara prepared me a delicious placenta smoothie, and prepared the rest for encapsulation. AnaBella has been making playdough placentas ever since she read the book Welcome with Love!

Despite not having those hours of peaceful tub labor, (which, really, who needs a longer labor?!) I am thrilled with the way things went. My midwives were awesome. They were encouraging, but not intruding. They supported me, but didn’t stifle me. They also cleaned up beautifully!  The environment was calm and cozy, and…normal. Everyday. Familiar. And yet–Glorious. Although I am glad I was able to have both hospital and home birth experiences, being home blows the hospital out of the water. No one woke me up to try to take my baby to be weighed, take my blood pressure, or scold me for sleeping with my newborn. I didn’t have to get in a car, eat hospital food, or be ridiculed by the pediatrician on rounds for not doing a Vitamin K injection. It truly was a perfect fit for me, and even my husband, who was a bit skeptical, said he would certainly have another home birth if we had more children.

Megan McGrory Massaro is a mother, freelance writer, and author. She wrote The Other Baby Book: A Natural Approach to Baby’s First Year  to empower women to make the best choices for their families.

It’s OK Not to be Psyched About Pain in Childbirth

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Me with AnaBella, a few minutes after birth. See, I look like I forgot all about the pain, right?

Can I start by saying, of course I am eager to hold and hug and nurse and love my baby? We all are. But I don’t want to minimize the other, not-so-eager feelings that some women (myself included) have regarding childbirth. Not everyone falls into this camp, but for those who do, come join my club.

My EDD is 6 days away, and I’ve been eating 6 dates  a day for 4 weeks now, my supplies are all in place, and I’ve had more Red Raspberry Leaf Tea infusions to make me want to never want to drink a hot liquid again. I’ve done pelvic tilts by the 100s, my baby is in the “right” position, and I have a pretty rad birth tub ready to be set up in my bedroom. I’ve done this birth thing before.

Yet I’m nervous. Or reluctant. I can’t quite figure out the emotion, but it’s not the same blind excitement, the same “I’ve-got-this-in-the-bag!” I had the first time around. There’s something in me that knows. Knows the pain, the intensity, and isn’t looking forward to it.Yeah, there are women who have orgasms, and super fast, super fantastic childbirth experiences, where they purr, and just gush about how amazing/wonderful/crazy awesome childbirth is. (If that’s you, congrats. Tell me your secret in the comments.) I wasn’t one of them.

Most women aren’t.

For the vast majority of us, there is some degree of pain involved in childbirth. Given the fact that epidural usage estimates are 80-90%, it’s pretty safe to surmise that most of us aren’t eager to experience the intensity of childbirth. Maybe we feel unprepared, not confident, exhausted, or just can’t understand why someone doesn’t want to take away the pain. STAT. It’s hard for many around me to understand why I don’t want to just head the hospital, pop in an epidural, and watch a movie while my body goes through labor.

This isn’t a post about why I don’t want an epidural. I don’t take tylenol (though, to be fair, I can’t envision a time in the last few years where I’ve actually needed to), because I prefer to keep what goes into my body as clean as possible. So, an epidural doesn’t seem like a great fit for me. If you’re interested in learning a bit more about epidurals, you can head here. Instead, I want to just encourage you, in a weird sort of way.

My first birth was pretty “average.” I went to a hospital. I was in labor for 17 hours. No induction, no epidural. I walked around, went in the tub, had massage–that part of it was pretty decent. But it hurt. A lot. I hated it.

This might be news to some people. There seems to be a generalization that if you’re having an unmedicated birth, especially a home birth, you’re some kind of birthing bravado. Like you’re fearless, confident, or have a really big pelvis. Nah. Not me. I’m having a home birth this time around because I love the care of my midwives, because most births (and pain) are normal and natural, and don’t need to be treated like emergencies, and honestly, I just didn’t want to fight anyone this time. I can keep my baby with me in my bed, don’t have to explain my decisions to a dozen people–an hour–and will be in the comfort of my space, away from the sterile, and yet not-so-sterile, hospital environment.

All that said, though I’m hoping for a glorious, pain-free birth, I’m expecting and preparing for some pain. I’m breaking the rules of the natural childbirth community by saying that, I know. For those who want a natural birth, it’s all over the place – don’t listen to negative talk about birth. Fill your head with positive images of birth, don’t watch A Baby Story, don’t use the word contraction–call it a “surge,” read Ina May, take hypno-birthing–it’s FEAR that allows pain in, they say. And those are valid points, and I do whole-heartedly encourage you to look into ways to manage your pain, learn skills that will help in childbirth, don’t watch silly Hollywood depictions of birth, and rest, rest, rest in the weeks before your birth.

For many women, it’s really hard to bridge the gap of what could have been possible, and what actually happened. Yes, you *could* have had a pain-free, unmedicated labor. But what if you didn’t? Does that mean you didn’t “do it right,” or practice enough or visualize enough? How can we have a conversation about the reality of pain in most women’s birthing experiences, and yet still remain positive and encourage each other to press on and feel empowered, regardless of what is happening in your body?

I’m still mulling over that question, but in the end, if you are one of the women that experiences pain during labor, know you’re in good company. You didn’t fail. I give you permission to loathe your labor. Maybe you won’t, but if you do or if you did, it’s OK. Now you have a precious, precious baby.

And you’ll never have to deliver that baby again.

Megan McGrory Massaro is a mother, freelance writer, and author. She wrote The Other Baby Book: A Natural Approach to Baby’s First Year  to empower women to make the best choices for their families.