Birth Allowed Radio show

Birth Allowed Radio

Summary: Give birth on your own terms.

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 "I Love My Scar" | Melissa Pizzo on Why Cesarean Moms Need Doulas, Too! | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 00:51:14

Melissa Pizzo has had four babies by Cesarean, and four completely different experiences! With her last birth, a scheduled Cesarean, she knew what she wanted and she made sure she got it. That included hiring a doula to hold emotional space for her and her husband in the OR. How ever babies are born, it's a special and sacred time, and one where the emotional, psychological, and social needs of the person giving birth should be priorities. In Her Words: I really embrace that this is what was supposed to be and this is how it is and I have these experiences--like, going from my first cesarean to my fourth cesarean, and seeing the progress and what has changed, I think that that part is where I can be like, oh my gosh, I’ve really grown! And I’ve really been able to voice what I want and what I need. And then being able to feel heard is very important. So those things have happened for me compared to that first birth when I didn’t feel heard and I didn’t feel like I had a voice, and I didn’t feel empowered at all. And I walked away very, very traumatized. To then have a completely different experience on the other side of it with my fourth cesarean. Hiring a doula for me [in the fourth birth] was really important for several reasons. One was to have someone in the room so that my husband can kind of focus on his own feelings, his own experience of the birth… And I want someone there to say what’s happening, what’s going, and also how are you feeling right now and rubbing my forehead. Just soothing me, while my husband doesn’t have to. Another thing that our doula did for us is she took pictures, which is amazing. Who doesn’t want pictures of your birth? There were other moments, too. Before I went into the OR, they were having a hard time getting an IV in. I was getting poked so many times, I was having a real meltdown at that point--like, we are not doing this! And Carrie was there, my doula, to be able to really talk to me and calm me down and she took out a little back massaging thing and definitely calmed my nerves, which was needed at that time. Some friends, some family members, might say something like, “You should just feel happy because your baby is healthy and nothing was wrong.” And I think that those words are not helpful. Not one bit. Because it is okay to say I’m so happy that I have a baby and I’m also sad that the birth didn’t go the way I wanted it to go. It’s really, really important that we love our scars. And that we are grateful for them. And that we take care of them. It’s a very tender spot now! It’s definitely still a work in progress, but it’s something I strive for. That I love my scar and that it birthed my babies and that I look at it and I’m like, wow, you are an amazing woman who was able to give birth four times this other way.

 "We Are Changing the Conversation on Doulas & Advocacy" | Doula Trainer Nickie Tilsner | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 00:46:45

Advocacy, burnout, self care, sustainability, and the patriarchy--they're all in this episode! Our guest is Nickie Tilsner, the co-executive director and lead trainer of Cornerstone Doula Trainings, and co-author of RE:BIRTH - The childbirth preparation guide for all people to have an informed, dignified and joyful birth in any setting (due for release early Fall). Also announcing a first-ever collaboration between Birth Monopoly and a doula training organization to offer rights training to new doulas!!! The "Rights Informed Birth Advocate" certification will be offered through Cornerstone starting July 2019. > In her words In order to thrive in the work and have sustainability: feeding your purpose is what really holds resilience and what is actually being trauma informed for yourself and looking at things through a strengths based lens. And feeding your purpose is knowing that you’re effective in the work and being able to really embody the work. And in think that’s what’s going to keep people really going in this and feeling great about the work they’re doing and enjoying it. I burnt out about three years into my practice when I first started and had to take a break and came back with a new way of looking at things. I’m still learning what being trauma informed for myself means. Doulas and birth workers and anyone else in this space need to understand, your brain cannot discern whether this is happening to someone else or if it’s happening to you, when you’re in the situation. And even when you hear traumatic stories, your brain goes into a trauma response. This vicarious trauma is real. I want this to be a part of every dialogue when it comes to birth and birth work… Number one, how we view advocacy as birth workers, number two, how we view ourselves as less powerful than other people in the room, number three, how we are silent and how our silence is complicity. > Resources Cornerstone's next labor and birth doula training, including the "Rights Informed Birth Advocate" certification in collaboration with Birth Monopoly (!!), starts July 12 in Oakland, CA: More to come after that! Contact us at if you'd like your organization to offer Know Your Rights training, too!

 Ep. 32 - "I'm not vulnerable any more." | Katherine DiPaulo on Alleged Sexual Assault During Labor | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 00:52:24

**TW: Alleged Sexual Assault and Birth Assault** This is Katherine DiPaulo's story. She alleges she was sexually assaulted by an obstetrician at a Philadelphia-area hospital in 2005. She has not been able to hold him accountable. Ms. DiPaulo would like to connect with other victims. If you have experienced sexual assault in your obstetric care in the Philadelphia area, please get in touch with us at or complete this form: Your privacy will be respected to the fullest. > In her words: Had I angered him, it could have been a lot worse. I was doing what I had to do to protect my baby and myself. But I still have a lot of guilt and shame and anger at myself for not stopping it, not doing something. But my body was frozen and in shock. I repressed what happened although it never left me. I started to have chronic insomnia, ... panic attacks, anxiety and depression, difficulty in my marriage. I have flashbacks all the time of this person. I have flashbacks of the event itself. I'm hyper vigilant. I'm scared I'm going to run into him in the grocery store. To be honest, I think if I do see him, I'm going to tell him off, because I'm no longer in that vulnerable position, being in labor and hooked up to all of these IVs and monitors. So, I'm not vulnerable any more, so there's a part of me that still has the strength that if I do see him, I'm going to tell him off. At this point, I'm so furious about it and just want to put it out there so other women can prevent something like this from happening to them. > Related episode: "'I found my voice and I'm not stopping' | Sexually Assaulted by Her OB, Marissa Hoechstetter Fights Back": > Know Your Rights: Legal and Human Rights in Childbirth for Birth Professionals and Advocates:

 Ep. 31 - Support After (Home) Birth Loss | Mother Ada Johnson and Midwife Sarah Butterfly | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 00:48:55

What do you do when someone in your life has a stillbirth? In this episode of Birth Allowed Radio, Ada Johnson talks about losing her baby Button during birth and the aftermath of that event, and, along with her midwife Sarah, shares how providers and others can respond sensitively when someone experiences a stillbirth. I want to thank both Ada and Sarah for coming on the show and delving back into this deeply personal experience with us. Resources: Consulting and training services from our expert guest, Ada Johnson Resources for professionals from Empty Arms Bereavement Support Compassionate Bereavement Care®Certification through the MISS Foundation statistics on stillbirth Thank you to Evidence Based Birth for making this episode possible!!

 Ep. 30 - “I’m not here to please everybody” | Author Janelle Hanchett | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 00:49:30

Janelle Hanchett is the author of “I’m Just Happy to Be Here: A Memoir of Recklessness, Rehab, and Renegade Mothering,” out in paperback May 7, 2019. In this episode, we talk about the politics of motherhood and why the idea that controlling our bodies in birth is controversial. Janelle also talks about 'how I discovered I am white' (her excellent post of that title is at her Renegade Mothering blog here: and her new book. > In her words this episode: "There’s this larger question: 'Is motherhood enough to turn us into perfect versions of ourselves?' I was really looking into the redemptive narrative surrounding motherhood. Like, this idea that we are saved by motherhood, that we are washed clean by it, that we are redeemed by it, and that the dark part of our self can be erased through love of our children. Spoiler alert, I think that’s bullshit. I think it’s more just subtle erasure of women, right? Because if you erase *any* part of me, you’re erasing me. What that’s basically saying is that the instant a woman has a baby, she is transformed into a vessel of motherhood for this child. She is no longer a fully formed human being. Human beings have fatal flaws! We aren’t that any more. We are now just this clean slate to be used and to nurture this child. And it’s bullshit! So--the book is a story about addiction and motherhood, but it’s really kind of a larger exploration of that theme." Follow Janelle at and

 Ep. 29 - After Sexual Assault by OB, "I Found My Voice & I'm Not Stopping" | Marissa Hoechstetter | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 00:49:41

Marissa Hoechstetter is one of more than 17 women currently suing Columbia University and its associated hospitals for a 20-year "massive coverup" of Ob/Gyn Dr. Robert Hadden's sexual abuse of patients. In this episode, she talks about her long path to justice for the sexual assaults she suffered at Dr. Hadden's hands, getting his name off her daughters' birth certificates, and her ongoing advocacy for transparency in physician conduct and licensing and on behalf of survivors of these kinds of crimes. > In her words: We say support women, believe women, but then you come forward and it doesn't matter.... In my case and in others, there's evidence [the institutions] were alerted to this behavior and they just look away. They don't want to admit it. It's a business choice. With cases like [Larry] Nassar and [George] Tyndall at USC, there's been some high-profile cases of serial sex crimes by medical professionals. The way the media treats it still, it's like it's this one odd weirdo out there. But from the people I hear from who reach out to me now, and from my experience, I think it's more pervasive and present than we want to admit. The people I hear from aren't even sure if it's a crime. They don't know what to do with what happened. We're not talking enough about sexual assault by doctors. > Marissa's story in the news: > By Marissa: > Learn more about Know Your Rights: Legal and Human Rights in Childbirth for Birth Professionals and Advocates at

 Ep. 28 - "It was like torture." C-section Without Adequate Anesthesia | Amy Woods | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 00:53:23

In a town with one hospital and two doctors, Amy Woods describes her labor and subsequent surgery without pain medication. She also talks about the effects on her and her family afterwards and the hospital's response to the incident. "The doctor said I had to have a c-section because I wasn't progressing. They were kind of, a little messy with the reasons for the c-section. As they were taking my husband to get him all dressed for the c-section, I just remember having the most distinct feeling that I needed to tell him how much I loved him. And that--I was going to die. I thought the safer option for [my baby] was the c-section. Then the OB came in and she did her poke test on my stomach and I told her that I could still feel all of it, that I had feelings in my legs. I could feel everything. And she just started cutting. And she just started going on with the surgery. I feel like at the beginning, I went into a little bit of shock. And then immediately after, I just started screaming."

 Ep. 27 - "As a Doula, I Felt Like A Witness to Rape" | Kirsten Clark | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 00:55:23

Alabama doula Kirsten Clark talks about an intense experience watching obstetric violence happen right in front of her, and how her practice has evolved as a result. * TRIGGER WARNING FOR SEXUAL ASSAULT AND OBSTETRIC VIOLENCE * The doctor walked in, put on gloves, and stuck both hands into the laboring mom’s vagina. There was no consent. He didn’t tell her was going to do that or ask if she was okay with it. Moments later, he announced, “Oh, she is tearing already.” I had to look away because I could not physically handle what I was seeing. My body began shaking. I felt lightheaded; I felt frozen in place. [I felt] complete helplessness and fear and anger and grief. I walked away from that feeling responsible in a way for what had happened, and knowing that this mom had just experienced something that shouldn’t have happened, that something was really wrong. And that there was this visceral response in my body to what I was seeing. I just kind of remember being back in that place and feeling like there was nothing that I could do to change what was happening to this mom in that moment. [I knew] my body was responding to something… even though I wasn’t the person that it was happening to, I was still having this response and I needed to do something to work through it. I knew I didn’t want to be in that position again, feeling so helpless and frozen.

 Ep. 26 - "I Couldn't Scream Out": A Non-Consented Cesarean | Jennifer Smith | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 00:50:49

In this emotional episode, Jennifer Smith describes having a Cesarean without consent after medical staff ignored her decision to have a vaginal birth rather than repeat surgery, and her trauma afterwards. "I'm numb from the waist down and I have no idea what they're doing to my lower body. I'm just this object lying on a table for them to cut up. And they don't care. And I can't scream out. Because I don't think anybody's going to listen to me. And I'm scared... I'm trying to stay awake. And I remember it was awful because the whole time in my head--and I can't scream out and I was so frustrated because I can't scream out--I'm sitting there going, 'I don't want to do this I don't want to do this I don't want to do this, it's gonna be okay it's gonna be okay it's gonna be okay...' And I remember as this doctor's cutting me up, Dr. R, he's having a personal conversation with Dr. P about the Olympic male gymnast who broke his tibia. And I'm sitting there thinking, I'm not even here. Like I'm not even here. It doesn't even matter. I remember just trying to stay awake enough to hear my baby cry because I wanted to make sure he was okay." WANT TO LEARN MORE? Go to WANT TO CONNECT? Email: Facebook: Twitter: Instagram: WANT TO SUPPORT US? Review us on iTunes, SoundCloud, or wherever you listen to the podcast. Businesses and organizations: Underwrite the show! For more information, contact us at

 Ep. 25 - "They Wouldn't Let Me Call it Assault" Part 2 | Anon. Nurse | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 00:35:58

WARNING: This story includes graphic detail and may be difficult to listen to. Part 2 of 2: In this stomach-churning episode, nurse "Britany" describes witnessing what she describes as a violation and assault on a laboring woman: a so-called "manual episiotomy" by the doctor--a move she discovered was routine for him. Find out what happened when she tried to report the incident up the chain of command. This is Part 2 of Britany's story. (See Episode 24 for Part 1.)

 Ep. 24 - "They Wouldn't Let Me Call it Assault Because We Need to Protect the Doctor" | Anon. Nurse | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 00:33:31

WARNING: This story includes graphic detail and may be difficult to listen to. Part 1 of 2: In this stomach-churning episode, nurse "Britany" describes witnessing what she describes as a violation and assault on a laboring woman: a so-called "manual episiotomy" by the doctor--a move she discovered was routine for him. Find out what happened when she tried to report the incident up the chain of command. This is Part 1 of Britany's story. (See Episode 25 for Part 2.)

 Ep. 23 - After Non-Consented C-Section, "I'll Be Damned if It Happens to Anybody Else" | Sara Conrad | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 00:51:47

Sara Conrad worked in the marketing department at the hospital where she gave birth in Northern California. The last thing she expected was to have a life-changing trauma there. “I love doing C-sections, but that doesn’t mean you’re going to get one.” Sara immediately felt unsupported when a doctor she’d never met responded to her birth plan by telling her she loved performing Cesareans, and the nurse seemed terrified that Sara was laboring on her hands and knees. Things got worse from there. “Don’t you care about your baby?” Unable to speak while on heavy medication and ignored by her care team, Sara was rolled back for a Cesarean without her consent and without knowing why she was having surgery. Afterwards, she felt disconnected from her baby and, on top of that, guilty about not feeling more joy about her birth. “This is my friend, and she doesn't believe me.” Her trauma carried through to postpartum, and she eventually left her job--angry and feeling betrayed about how she’d been treated and the lack of empathy and accountability from her co-workers. "I have a lot of rage and I want to use that to propel me forward and try to prevent it from happening to other people." Today, Sara is still seeking answers and healing--following up to take the hospital to task and to advocate for other birthing women by working on the documentary film about obstetric violence and birth trauma, Mother May I. WANT TO LEARN MORE? Go to WANT TO CONNECT? Email: Facebook: Twitter: Instagram: WANT TO SUPPORT US? Review us on iTunes, SoundCloud, or wherever you listen to the podcast. Businesses and organizations: Underwrite the show! For more information, contact us at

 Ep. 22 - "My Injury is Forever and a Lifetime" | Kimberly Turbin | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 00:45:38

Kimberly Turbin made headlines and history when she sued her doctor for assault when he gave her a medically unnecessary and botched episiotomy during the birth of her child. The case was resolved in 2017, but Kimberly is still dealing with the effects of the assault. In this episode, Kimberly recounts not only her experience, but the aftermath of the trauma she experienced in 2013. “I posted the video just to see if I was crazy or not.” The video of the birth, posted to YouTube, ended up connecting Kimberly to a community of people who have supported her, and who she has supported, with the continuing process of her trauma. Her medical diagnoses, which included vulvar spasms, dyspareunia, vulvodynia and Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, still cause considerable pain. Unfortunately, the drugs that help the condition are both expensive and make it hard to parent or work. “My injury is forever and a lifetime.” In the medical community and beyond, there’s a tendency to disbelieve women’s pain. When Kimberly tries to warn medical professionals that she has been through both sexual assault and birth assault, they tend to feel attacked instead of sympathetic. It has changed the way she interacts with the medical community – even eye doctors - and it has also affected the way she parents. But Kimberly doesn’t want anyone else to feel pressure to respond to birth trauma the way she did. The process was and is challenging; the fact that the law suit was resolved does not mean the trauma is resolved. WANT TO LEARN MORE? Go to WANT TO CONNECT? Email: Facebook: Twitter: Instagram: WANT TO SUPPORT US? Review us on iTunes, SoundCloud, or wherever you listen to the podcast. Businesses and organizations: Underwrite the show! For more information, contact us at

 Ep. 21 - Birthing While Black in Alabama | Sabrina Azemar | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 01:02:29

Trying to find support for a vaginal birth after a c-section (VBAC) can be a struggle; when you are black, overweight, on Medicaid, and in Alabama, it can be almost impossible. Our guest Sabrina Azemar recounts her difficulties convincing her maternal care providers to "let" her do what pregnant bodies have been doing for centuries. Sabrina is the mom of 3 children, and a breastfeeding and cloth diaper advocate who loves to teach women of color in her community sustainable and alternative ways to care for their families. “Your baby will drown in a uterus of your blood” Sabrina's doctor told her she was putting her baby at serious risk by considering a vaginal birth. She was told that women of color have low success rates with VBACs and she could potentially kill her child, just by doing what the body is designed to do. From Sabrina: “Giving birth is not a disease.” Giving birth is something your body already knows how to do, so it’s strange when they treat you like you have a diagnosis. “Birds born in a cage think flying is an illness.” Alejandro Jodorowsky “On Medicaid, you have a government birth.” You are supposed to listen to your doctor and shut up. They say every birth is different, but they treat every pregnancy the same. So what is Sabrina’s advice to other mothers in her situation? • Be confident when you go to your appointment and save your tears for the car. • Sit the regular chair in the exam room, fully dressed, until you understand and agree to the tests they want to perform. You are treated as though you are inferior when you are in the exam chair. • Have someone that can go with you to advocate for you. • Write down your questions on a physical sheet of paper; don’t let the appointment end until they have been answered. Practice saying your questions out loud. • Don’t be afraid to change doctors. • You have to be present in your pregnancy and birth. It has everything to do with your body. Own the experience. All people want is a conversation with their health care provider. There are good doctors out there, and it is important that you find one that wants you to have a successful birth. You deserve a good birth story. Alabama moms of color can join Sabrina's breastfeeding group at WANT TO LEARN MORE? Go to WANT TO CONNECT? Email: Facebook: Twitter: Instagram: WANT TO SUPPORT US? Review us on iTunes, SoundCloud, or wherever you listen to the podcast. Businesses and organizations: Underwrite the show! For more information, contact us at We would love to thank attorney Susan Jenkins for her support. Susan is a national advocate for midwives and birth activists; she can be reached at (866) 686-1348.

 Ep. 20 *Full Episode* - Plus Size Birth | Jen McLellan | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 00:50:43

Normal, healthy births happen every day, and for women of every size. And yet birth care professionals often alienate plus-size moms-to-be with shaming, inadequate equipment, and mistreatment. In this episode of Birth Allowed Radio, we talk about plus size birth and how to find a practitioner who will treat you like a person, not a risk factor. My special guest is Jen McLellan, of “My midwife was the first health care provider to ever touch my body with compassion.” Plus size pregnant women are often treated differently during the pregnancy and birthing process, even though 60% of the population in child-bearing years are considered overweight or obese. But our bodies are designed for this, and we can have healthy outcomes. And if we do develop complications, it isn’t because we are bad people. We should be fully supported along our journey to motherhood, and not to be made to feel ashamed. Let’s talk about people as human beings, not just statistics and worst case scenarios. Instead of focusing on negative possibilities, using shame and scare tactics, it is important to focus on the positive outcomes that we want. Women who are shamed are less likely to receive routine medical care and more likely to gain weight. If we make risks seem like foregone conclusions then what is the incentive to make the pregnancy as healthy as possible? It is important to connect with size-friendly care providers. • They have worked through any biases they have around weight and health. • They don’t classify pregnant mothers as high risk based solely on BMI. • They have the proper equipment (i.e. larger blood pressure cuff, larger speculum, scale with higher upper limit, appropriate labour bed). Your first clue about this is whether they have chairs without arms in the waiting room. The message is: “If you fit in here, then you are welcome. If you don’t, you aren’t welcome.” • They have honest and compassionate conversations about health and weight; this isn’t about avoiding talking about risks. “Pregnancy is an opportunity to change the relationship that you have with your body.” Resources mentioned: Get Jen’s Plus Size Pregnancy Bundle (30% off with code 30off) - Become a size friendly professional - Check out Jen’s new website: WANT TO LEARN MORE? Go to WANT TO CONNECT? Email: Facebook: Twitter: Instagram: WANT TO SUPPORT US? Review us on iTunes, SoundCloud, or wherever you listen to the podcast. Businesses and organizations: Underwrite the show! For more information, contact us at


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