Book Review: The Vegetarian Myth by Lierre Keith

vegetarian myth

The Vegetarian Myth, written by a former vegan of twenty years, is a detailed examination of the fallacies behind the three most common reasons for being a vegetarian. The book is full of references to research and studies. The three main points addressed are moral vegetarianism, political vegetarianism, and nutritional vegetarianism.

The most interesting chapters for me were those on moral and nutritional vegetarianism.

In moral vegetarianism, I was fascinated to learn how it is monocrop agriculture — growing of annual crops, particularly grains — that is truly the morally indefensible choice as far as killing animals. Life requires death. Even plants require the fertilizer of dead animals in order to live. Predators must eat their prey to survive. Ecosystems that have lost their balance of predator and prey result in starving animals and even destroyed habitats. An omnivore, such as we are, eating is meat, is just part of this cycle.

But agriculture, particularly the mass production of monocrops, which is what fuels human life and which is the staple of vegetarian diets, kills off whole ecosystems. Animals have gone extinct for us to eat grains.

In fact, it destroys topsoil, which is required for all life to grow. The great plains of the midwest have gone from measuring topsoil in feet to measuring it in only inches because of agriculture. And what happens when topsoil runs out? Well, the desert that is the Middle East used to be called the Fertile Crescent until it was ruined by agricultural practices. When we run out of topsoil in the world (which is in the foreseeable future), we’ll start starving. It takes dozens, even hundreds, of years to build even an inch of topsoil, more or less a foot. If that’s not enough, modern agriculture requires fossil fuels, both for fertilization and for transportation, and we know that that’s a limited resource.

We want sustainability – and in light of the above, modern agriculture isn’t sustainable.

It’s true that factory farming isn’t moral, or even really sustainable. There is an alternative: pastured animals. They’re fed their natural diet, which is not corn, but is instead things like grass and hay for cows and insects for chickens. They don’t have to be loaded up with antibiotics because their diet isn’t killing them. They’re healthier. They’re healthier for us to eat than factory farmed animals. In fact, they contain pretty much every essential nutrient humans need to be healthy. They’re happier. And guess what? They’re building up topsoil with their manure.

So, if I buy the meat of a whole grass fed cow, it will go a long ways towards feeding me for a whole year, with the essential nutrients I need. One animal dead. If I live off of primarily grain and produce that had to be shipped to me, I’m supporting killing off entire ecosystems. Thousands of dead animals. Polluted rivers. Severely depleted topsoil. So…which is more moral? Obviously, Lierre Keith (and I) would argue that the first is the more moral choice.

As far as nutritional vegetarianism, she surveys much of the information I’ve already learned from books like Good Calories, Bad Calories and The Paleo Solution. Or, if you want an easier way to get a primer on that information, watch Fat Head on Netflix.

Anyways, one of her biggest points is that natural animal fats are really, really good for you and the carbohydrates from a high-carbohydrate diet, which vegetarianism and especially veganism usually are, isn’t nearly as good for you. For instance, saturated fat from animals is the best and, in some cases, only source for some essential vitamins. And even if you get it from other sources, saturated fat is required to absorb the vitamins because they are fat soluble.

She also looks at the fact that hunter-gatherer tribes, which are very healthy in ways that most “civilized” cultures aren’t — diabetes, heart disease, metabolic syndrome, cavities, cancer — all eat animals. Often most of their calories come from animals, and they certainly don’t eat refined carbohydrates, or even really grains.

I wish she’d addressed the claims against animal protein, but I think the survey of the health of people who eat a lot of animal products — in some cases, almost exclusively — does a lot to answer that. There is a lot more evidence in favor of eating meat than against it, in my opinion, and she does do a good job at pointing the way in that direction.

Keith also has a scathing examination of soy that made me want to run the other way from any product that has even a hint of soy in it. I can’t imagine giving my baby soy formula. Did you know that having a lot of soy can be pretty much the equivalent of taking the birth control pill? And do you know what sort of processing that stuff has to go through to be edible to people? There’s a reason it was used as an ingredient in paint before it ever was introduced into the American diet. And as far as Asian cultures that we seem to think eat tons of it; they don’t. It’s mostly a condiment. No more than a few grams of soy a day.

Obviously, the Standard American Diet (SAD) isn’t good, but that doesn’t make vegetarianism the solution. Why? Because it’s not meat that’s so bad for us, especially if it’s pastured or wild-caught meat. In fact, that’s great for us. It’s the grains and preservatives and all sorts of other high-sugar, high-carbohydrate crap we eat. It’s the bun on the burger, not the patty.

Oh, and another interesting point; children of vegans can literally get neurological damage and other issues from their parents’ vegan diet. Seriously. How can something that causes damage to children be ideal for humans? The answer is: it’s not.

I did have a hard time with some of the other ideological points the author made. She’s a radical feminist, for instance. I am similarly outraged that women who must cover up from head to toe have literally died from lack of vitamin D, but she went beyond what I think are reasonable bounds in her apparent disgust for masculinity and in its apparent link to agriculture. I also couldn’t fathom how someone who apparently was devastated at the idea of killing the slugs who ate her garden and who cried when she disturbed an ants’ nest could think that women should have access to abortion as a right. Let’s save the slugs, but not the human babies? I also don’t agree with her on her spiritual beliefs, as she looks very negatively at Christianity and it’s Father-God who isn’t a part of nature but instead the creator of it. She looks very negatively at God giving Adam dominion over the earth and animals, interpreting it as a negative thing rather than the loving, harmonious stewardship it should have been and that God meant it to be, until the Fall corrupted mankind and their relationship with nature.

However, I don’t think any of that detracts much from a lot of the information she gave, so I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who wants to understand the problems with vegetarianism and/or with the sustainability and morality of agriculture and factory farming.

Book Review: Good Calories, Bad Calories

28552493_4ed41893bd8a0Good Calories, Bad Calories by Gary Taubes challenges the conventional wisdom of nutrition by surveying the facts, studies, and history of nutrition.

Did you know that our current ideas about nutrition (saturated fats are bad, low fat is good, low cholesterol from food is good, grains are good, lowering calorie intake is the magic weight loss solution) all stem from a study that, at best, only showed a correlation between cholesterol and heart disease? Did you know that the health of a low fat diet has never been proven, and there is even evidence against it?

America became a giant health experiment a few decades ago, and the experiment has failed. Taubes explains how this came about and why.

Nor is weight loss just a matter of reducing calories. The body will compensate by lowering energy output. It is the kind of calories consumed that matters. A person could eat 2500 calories of one kind of food and be obese, but eat the same number of calories of a different kind of food and be very healthy. Taubes examines how the body processes different kinds of macronutrients — fat, protein, and carbohydrates — and their effects on weight.

Taubes concludes, through careful and thorough examination of the evidence over the last couple hundred years, that a diet of refined carbs in particular and high carbohydrate in general is uniquely fattening and responsible for many of the diseases of civilization. On the other hand, a whole foods diet without refined carbs and which is relatively high in natural fats is healthy.

This book goes into great detail with the evidence and in examining how our current ideas of nutrition came about; it amounts to about 500 pages of detailed information. Taubes has another book that condenses this information and makes it more accessible to people who don’t want to wade through so much information. I would highly recommend either book.

My Epiphany About Homosexuality

If I say homosexuality is wrong, you might call me a bigot. I then  don’t understand why you call me a bigot, because I don’t hate people who identify as homosexuals, I just think what they’re doing is wrong. Since when is distinguishing between right and wrong bigoted?

Then, a few months ago, I realized why people think we’re bigoted.

They’ve bought the lie.

What lie is that? The lie that people are unequivocally born with a heterosexual or homosexual orientation.

I remember hearing this on one of my favorite radio shows once. The hosts were sharing a story about how scientists had declared that there was absolutely no bisexual gene. The hosts assumed that meant that you can be born homosexual or heterosexual, but not bisexual.

Of course, if you can be born homosexual, that would mean it’s like race or eye color. To say it’s wrong would be like saying its wrong to be born with a certain color of skin or blue eyes or an AB blood type.

If that’s true, then those of us who believe homosexuality to be wrong would be bigots. We’d be the sexuality equivalents of racists.

The problem is, it is a lie.

One review of the research states that:

“Dr. Francis Collins, head of the Human Genome Project, summed up the research on homosexuality saying that “sexual orientation is genetically influenced but not hardwired by DNA, and that whatever genes are involved represent predispositions, not predeterminations.” As a comparison, Collins indicates that the potential genetic component for homosexuality is much less than the genetic contribution that has been found for common personality traits such as general cognitive ability, extroversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, neuroticism, openness, aggression and traditionalism.”

In fact, it’s hard to imagine how homosexuality could be genetic, since it would naturally select out of the human population in a few generations, since homosexuals are generally non-reproducing. The only possibility would be for male homosexuality to be carried in the X chromosome.

Many studies have been done on the human body, including on the brain, genome, hormones, and twins. None have definitively proven that homosexuality is something people are born with.The predispositions that are mentioned above would perhaps be more accurately compared to something like alcoholism; certainly it’s not the same as skin color or eye color or gender. Perhaps someone is more prone to alcoholism through their genetics, even struggle with it for most of their life, but they don’t have to be alcoholics.

There are also other factors that have been shown to contribute to homosexuality, such as broken families, childhood abuse, and being raised by homosexuals.

Moreoever, there are thousands of ex-homosexuals. It’s very well established – but not well talked about — that homosexuals often become heterosexual, sometimes after years in the homosexual lifestyle. You can’t change your race/skin color by choice, but you can happily change your sexual preference. Obviously, there’s a difference between the two.

Overall, at best it’s difficult to claim that people are “born gay.” It’s a preference, not an orientation. Perhaps the factors behind the preference are myriad and difficult to handle, so that it doesn’t feel like a “choice” and can even be a long-term lifestyle or struggle. But since it’s not something people are actually born to, with no choice about it, then those of us who think it’s wrong aren’t being the equivalents of racists. We are simply making a moral judgement and/or looking at the evidence and logic presented to us regarding whether it is natural and safe, and we are deciding, based on those reasons, that it is not right, natural, or normal.

We are not bigots.

Informed Consent in Birth

“I’m just going to go with the flow.” “I don’t want to experience that much pain.” “I’ll just do what the doctors say.”

How often do people think things along these lines when it comes to childbirth? And how often do they actually know all the possible consequences of thinking like this ahead of time?

Many women go into childbirth wanting drugs and not knowing a whole lot about all of the drugs and procedures they’ll potentially be offered in a hospital.

Nor do they realize that they have the right to informed consent. In other words, the woman has the right to be fully informed about everything, including alternatives and whether something is actually necessary, and she may choose to accept or decline anything based on that information.

For instance, it’s pretty standard for women in labor to get an epidural for pain management. Many women don’t fully comprehend the potential risks of an epidural, however. For instance, an epidural, especially if received early on, increases the chances of needing pitocin due to slowed labor, and also increases chances of fetal distress and “failure to progress,” some of the most common reasons for emergency c-sections. An epidural also interferes with the body’s natural production of oxytocin, which is necessary for labor contractions to be effective and for labor to progress (hence failure to progress and need for pitocin), and is also the “love hormone” that aids in bonding with an infant, helping labor be seen as a positive experience, and even getting through the pain of contractions. Further, an epidural can lower blood pressure, sometimes catastrophically, endangering life of mother and baby and even causing brain damage in the baby.

Few hospital staff really explain these potential problems well to women. Even fewer explain that natural pain management can be highly effective, that going through a normal labor without interference of pain medication can be very empowering, that women are innately capable of handling labor, especially when supported by a carefully chosen birth team, and that the elation and bonding after delivery are usually far greater without an epidural.

The lack of information given can also interfere with women making the best decision about when interventions should be used. For example, I went into my labor planning on going without pain medications because I was informed about the risks of having them and the benefits of going without. However, I experienced complications, and after 32 hours of labor, a few of which were on pitocin (also an informed decision done for medically necessary reasons), I finally chose to receive an epidural. I made this choice understanding a number of things. The most significant was that I was exhausted, and I didn’t want to risk not being able to push because of that. Even if I was physically able to push after a few more hours of labor, the high blood pressure and overall exhaustion I was experiencing would make bonding more difficult than the interference of the epidural would; an epidural would allow me to get some rest, and it would bring down my blood pressure. I’d also gotten passed the point where an epidural was most likely to lead to a c-section, because I’d progressed far enough. Knowing all of that, I was able to make an informed decision, after discussion with my birth team, to receive an epidural. I also knew, after waiting for so long to get it, that I’d be able to go without one in an uncomplicated labor. I knew I was strong enough. I was empowered and encouraged by that knowledge.

And guess what? I got rest. My blood pressure became normal for the first time in my labor. I didn’t have a c-section. I was able to bond with my baby. And I don’t dread my next labor, which I hope won’t require a hospital and medical interventions due to complications next time.

Women deserve to be fully informed going into and during labor. And I don’t mean just signing a form. I mean that a woman should be able to ask questions and partner with her care providers in making decisions. She should be able to ask what any given drug, procedure, or intervention can do to her and her baby, what the benefits are, if there are any alternatives and what the risks and benefits of the alternatives are, and what would happen if an intervention wasn’t done.

It’s not that women should never choose interventions, drugs, and other procedures during childbirth, or that a woman who chooses to have them after knowing the potential risks is a bad mother. It’s that she has the right to know all of the risks and alternatives before anything is done during her labor.

Sometimes the interventions are beneficial and even necessary to protect the mother and baby. But all too often, they’re not, and one in three women are facing c-sections, when less than 10% would have been medically necessary had labor been allowed to progress naturally. These many women getting major abdominal surgery face higher risks of complications and death in that and future pregnancies, and so do their babies. If two-thirds of them wouldn’t have actually needed a c-section, then that’s two-thirds too many women and infants who are being put at risk unnecessarily. How many of them, if they’d been fully informed and empowered before and during labor, would have been able to make decisions that would have allowed them to, more than likely, avoid the c-section? Far too many for us to be okay with it.

When so many women are coming out of their births feeling helpless, negative, fearful of future births, depressed, and even traumatized, there’s a problem. Women need to take back their power during birth. Doing so removes a lot of the fear, the risks, the helplessness. We have the right to informed consent, no matter what setting we choose when we give birth, and we need to use that right.

A Rant About WIC

I’ve been considering writing this post for a little while, but hesitated because I didn’t want to seem  ungrateful. I’m currently using WIC, although the need for it will likely soon be done soon. However, when its very nature makes it less useful than it should be for the people its supposed to help, there’s a problem, and that’s what I want to talk about.

WIC (Women, Infants, and Children) is a government program that helps low-income women, infants, and children with “healthy” foods.

Unfortunately, the foods provided on WIC are, in many ways, highly impractical in the quantities and even types of food provided. Let’s consider a few.

Milk

As an exclusively breastfeeding woman, I get six gallons of milk a month. My baby doesn’t drink it. It’s just my husband and I. We do not go through that much milk in a month, which means we either don’t get everything that we’re supposed to be able to get, or some of it goes to waste. We generally opt for getting less than we’re provided, since we aren’t aware of anyone we know needing milk. Even getting less and often freezing some so that it doesn’t go bad, there’s often a little out of each just that goes to waste before it can be finished.

Moreover, I’m not allowed to get whole milk. I think it’s allowed when giving it to children, but not for pregnant and breastfeeding women. The fullest fat I can get is 2%. Yet full fat dairy would be far better for a developing baby, and for the mom, than milk that has had some of the fat removed. Why? Because natural fats are very important in a healthy diet.

Nor am I allowed to get raw milk, even though it contains enzymes that help process the lactose, and is safer to eat than the eggs or even some of the produce I’m allowed to get on WIC.

Also, that much milk isn’t always nice on my system.

Do you know what can happen to a breastfeeding woman whose system is being upset by the food/drink she’s consuming? A colicky baby. And a baby screaming for a few hours while you can do little to sooth him or her is no fun. Take note of that. It will come up again.

I’m not allowed to substitute dairy milk with coconut or almond milk, either, despite those being healthy dairy alternatives. I could do soy, but that’s got its own host of issues, so I’ll stick with something that is at least an animal product.

I suppose the point of that much milk is the calcium, but there are other sources of calcium that don’t have the negative side effects of dairy, and that don’t require such a ridiculous quantity.

Produce

WIC does provide produce…but only $10 worth per month. Let me say that again. $10. Per. Month. That really doesn’t go a long way if you’re eating healthy, especially since the less expensive produce places like local produce stands often don’t take WIC checks. You also only get it once a month, so you’ve only got fresh produce for a couple of weeks. Two $10 checks per month for produce would do a lot better for promoting the health of the people that WIC is helping. They could take off a few gallons of milk to balance off the costs, while they’re at it.

Meat

Fully breastfeeding women get the most protein on their WIC checks, with being allowed two dozen eggs and a few cans of canned tuna or salmon per month. Others only get one dozen eggs and no canned fish.

Protein is important for nourishing children. Fat and protein are some of the most basic building blocks for the human body (whereas carbs aren’t nearly necessary in nearly the same quantity.) Now, my husband and I can go through two dozen eggs in one week easily. Even if it’s just me, I could go through a dozen in one week, and potentially more if I’m baking anything. (And I bake Paleo foods, so even my baked treats are relatively healthy.) Not only that, but I pretty much never eat canned fish, especially since I stopped eating bread while following Paleo.

I would say I wonder why non-vegetarian/vegan families aren’t given, say, a few pounds of chicken or ground beef or whole fish per month, but I know why. It’s because many protein sources are also fat sources, and the government just can’t endorse fat. They also probably don’t want to deal with providing alternative protein sources for vegetarians. Eggs are fairly safe. While they have saturated fat, they’ve been vindicated in their effects on cholesterol and heart disease (go figure). Many vegetarians are also willing to eat non-fertilized eggs. And many people who don’t like other meats are willing to eat a bit of fish.

There are no substitutes allowed for eggs, though, so I feel bad for any moms or children who have egg allergies. I wonder if there’s something that can be done if they bring in proof of their allergy?

Whole Wheat and Other Grains

And of course, wheat must be included in a government-controlled food program. Because, you know, even though the evidence is mounting against the necessity and even desirability of whole wheat in the diet, the government subsidizes the grain industry because its, you know, “healthy.”

Right.

Not.

Again, it is something that bothers many people’s systems, even if they don’t know it (which many don’t, since they’ve been led to believe that it’s so good for you). That means, once again, colicky babies for breastfeeding moms who are intolerant to grains, especially gluten in wheat. And why in the world are we feeding this stuff to our young children? It has very little nutritional value compared to many other options, and gluten can tear up the GI tract, which is not good for a developing child. Gluten is increasingly becoming linked to many autoimmune disorders, attention orders, diseases, and other health problems. Even many average people who don’t have serious disorders, diseases, or conditions often feel better when they cut gluten out of their diet. So why in the world are we giving something that can potentially cause so many issues to mothers and their young children?

Besides, most “healthy” whole wheat choices have things like high fructose corn syrup in them. Even the ones that don’t are, ultimately, going to largely break down into glucose in the system, driving insulin spikes, fat storage, and setting the stage for obesity, Type 2 diabetes, and heart disease.

But yes, we want to make sure pregnant and breastfeeding women and our youngest children are getting enough. Insert eye roll.

In addition to this, breakfast cereal, which is all grain-based and often loaded with sugar, is included. The reason? Oh, well, they’re “fortified” with vitamins and minerals. They have to be “fortified” because they’re so lacking if its not added in! I could get way more iron, without the negatives of grains, from leafy greens and some beef. Actually, steak with a salad sounds like an excellent source of iron…yummy.

Legumes (Or Peanut Butter)

I’m going to assume that these are included because they’re another protein source. But legumes (and yes, peanuts are legumes) are not an ideal source of protein.

For one, there are often more carbs than protein. For instance, black beans are over 70% carbs, and only 22% protein. A cup of raw black beans has a glycemic load of 57 (daily target, according to Self Nutrition Data, is 100). Even peanut butter is nearly even in the carbs-to-protein ratio; the protein in one serving is barely more than carbs.

Let’s go over this again. Carbs break down into glucose. Glucose is sugar. We don’t need to be loading up on more sugar.

Second, most (or all?) legumes are not complete protein sources. Women would get much more benefit from some sort of meat instead of legumes.

Again, we also face the fact that legumes tend to cause gastrointestinal upset. More than that, legumes, like grains, contain phytates, which act as anti-nutrients, binding to minerals like calcium so that they pass through the body without being used. The result? Moms aren’t getting nearly as much as that calcium from the milk as they think they are.

We go with the peanut butter. At least it has some good fats and a better carbohydrate:protein ratio than most other legumes. But even then, natural peanut butter isn’t covered even when it costs the same and is made by the same company as other options. How does that make sense?

Juice

While I enjoy a cool glass of juice occasionally, it’s really not the best thing to be drinking on a regular basis. Especially from concentrate. Especially if it has added sugars, which often include high fructose corn syrup. Yuck. And fresh squeezed organic? Forget that being an option on WIC.

While many parents give their kids juice daily, often without considering it, the sugar load without the benefits of whole fruit (which often have less sugar than a serving of juice) is setting the child up for sugar addiction and future obesity and metabolic syndrome. Sure, there’s lots of vitamin C in juice, but there’s lots of it in whole produce, too.

 

 

Notice all of this kept coming back to the need for more whole produce and more protein sources, particularly meat? Yeah. That’s because those things are actually healthy and provide the necessary nutrients, both macro and micro, to make optimally healthy mothers and children.

I don’t like walking into the WIC office, knowing that they’re supposed to be there to help, and knowing that some moms and children on it are in far greater need than I am and depend on WIC far more than I do, but that they’re being given food based on nutrition ideas that are outdated and continuing to be peddled to the public — including those who are in need and looking for help — because it is profitable and comfortable to continue to promote the common wisdom, rather than the facts.

It’s great that there’s a resource for people who need help. It’s not great that that help is not the quality they need.

Abortion is Healthcare?

health care

noun

: the prevention or treatment of illness by doctors, dentists, psychologists, etc

: efforts made to maintain or restore health especially by trained and licensed professionals

That is the Merriam-Webster definition of health care.

Now pro-choicers, please explain to me how abortion fits that definition.

I’m guessing you probably can’t. Unless, perhaps, you appeal to the rare cases like ectopic pregnancy.

Let me explain something, though. Those rare cases where saving the life of the mother results in the death of the baby aren’t really considered abortions, even according to. Why? Because the point isn’t killing the baby, it’s saving the mother. In fact, abortion itself is rarely necessary. Former Surgeon General C. Everett Coop said,

“Protection of the life of the mother as an excuse for an abortion is a smoke screen. In my 36 years of pediatric surgery, I have never known of one instance where the child had to be aborted to save the mother’s life. If toward the end of the pregnancy complications arise that threaten the mother’s health, the doctor will induce labor or perform a Caesarean section. His intention is to save the life of both the mother and the baby. The baby’s life is never willfully destroyed because the mother’s life is in danger.”

Cancer treatments? Yes, they can and do kill a fetus, so “therapeutic abortion” is sometimes recommended, but its not necessary. In fact, there are cases where the baby is born perfectly healthy, especially if treatments aren’t begun until the second trimester or later, when they’re less likely to cause fetal abnormalities. There are even drugs for cancer treatment that are less likely to cause problems for the baby.

Ectopic pregnancy? The baby is going to die anyways. It’s not a viable pregnancy, and it can kill the mother if the Fallopian tube ruptures before the fetus dies.

The list goes on, but the point is that, when a baby dies from the result of healthcare for the mother, abortion of a viable fetus is not actually the goal in the healthcare given, nor is it necessary to save a mother. Abortion is not healthcare.

Even if abortion of a viable baby was actually necessary in order to save the mother’s life in certain cases, it would be a very, very small dminority of cases. In the rest of abortion cases, it is impossible to call abortion healthcare.

First of all, it is impossible to call an elective, unnecessary, risky procedure “healthcare.” It’s like a breast implant or nose job. It’s not necessary for health; it’s a choice.

It’s a choice with far more consequences than any other elective surgery, though, because it always results in the death of a human. How is killing a viable, living, developing human healthcare? It’s not. It’s a complete violation of the Hippocratic oath. It is a violation of the natural order of things. It is an invasive and dangerous procedure.

Dangerous? Why, yes, it’s dangerous. The coat hanger argument just doesn’t hold water in light of the realities of legal abortion. I’ll borrow some of Matt Walsh’s references on a recent blog to show you just how dangerous abortion is for women. 

As of 2008, a little over 400 women have reportedly died from legal abortions. This doesn’t include all states, and there is no information for recent years available yet.

An evidence-based publication revealed that 31% of post abortive women have health complications from the abortion. 10% have immediate and potentially life-threatening complications. The risk of depression afterwards is 65% higher for abortion than childbirth (which is saying something, considering how many women get “baby blues” after giving birth). 65% suffer from PTSD after. Abortion is 3.5 times riskier than childbirth for the mother (and nearly 100% riskier for the baby). Abortion also increases future risk of miscarriage by 60%.

Suicide is also higher in post-abortive women than women of child-bearing age in general, and especially higher than women who have experienced childbirth. Many post-abortive women  have suicidal thoughts but don’t commit suicide.

Despite the abortion industry’s attempted claims to the contrary, breast cancer risk is also significantly higher after an abortion, and the risks only go up with multiple abortions. On the other hand, giving birth and breastfeeding, especially breastfeeding multiple children, brings the risk down.

Let’s look at that information again.

  • Abortion kills a baby almost 100% of the time (and with abortionists like Gosnell, even kills babies born alive).
  • Abortion can kill the mother.
  • Abortion often causes complications, sometimes life-threatening.
  • Abortion can make future “wanted” pregnancies difficult to achieve and carry to term.
  • Abortion is psychologically damaging, occasionally to the extent of suicide.
  • Abortion raises risks of certain cancers.

And this is considered healthcare for women? How much do we hate women to call something this risky and unnatural healthcare?!

Let’s look at the alternatives to abortion.

  • Don’t engage in reproductive behavior until you want to reproduce.
  • Protect against reproduction with responsible birth control use, but with the understanding that reproduction can still sometimes happen.
  • Only engage in reproductive behavior with someone you would want to reproduce with.
  • Birth the baby and put the baby up for adoption if it is conceived but circumstances cause the mother to be unable or unwilling to raise it herself. Childbirth is much safer for the mother than abortion, after all, and then the baby isn’t killed.
  • Birth the baby if it is conceived and raise the baby as the blessing it is, taking responsibility and receiving the benefits of childbirth and parenthood.

Of all of those options, the risks to the mother are significantly less, there are even benefits to the mother, and the baby lives. Where healthcare is necessary in these options, such as prenatal care, it actually is healthcare. It works to protect both mother and baby.

So I’ll ask you again, pro-choicers. How is abortion healthcare?

Birth Story

*No graphic images

Here was my plan for giving birth: I have an excellent midwife, Charlotte, with over 20 years of experience and over 2500 attended births to her name. I was planning on giving birth in her clinic, where she has a couple of rooms set up nicely for birthing, with their own big beds, couches, and private bathrooms, and the main one even has a Jacuzzi tub for water births. My husband was going to be there; I knew he’d be an encouragement and a physical rock. My sister-in-law Brandi was going to be my doula. She’s even worked with my midwife and used her for her own children’s births. And my mom was going to be there, with a camera. I didn’t know how much I wanted her involved beyond taking pictures; my family has always been fairly private, so I wasn’t sure how comfortable I’d be with what level of involvement with her. I wanted no drugs. Completely natural. No hospital unless medically necessary for me or the baby. I expected, pretty much, a typical birth. It’s my first baby, so I expected labor to be on the longer end, but since he was head down and in a great position, I expected it to take no longer than a day at most once contractions started.

Here’s how it ended up going.

I was due on February 25th, according to a 7 week ultrasound, which is more accurate than a gestational due date. I’d been 2.5 cm and 50% effaced at my last check.

At 12:18am on Monday, February 24th, I started having contractions. I hadn’t even gone to sleep yet. The last time I’d eaten was my pulled pork dinner late in the evening.

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The contractions started right off at 5-6 minutes apart and noticeably more painful than Braxton Hicks or even the false labor I’d had the previous Monday. After forty minutes or so of that, I woke Steven up to let him know that I was pretty sure I was in labor, and then called Charlotte. She was at another birth and had a woman whose water had broken a few hours before waiting for her at the clinic, so she told me to labor at home for now and have Brandi come so that Brandi could keep Charlotte updated and help Charlotte decide when I should go to the clinic. The hope was that the birth she was at would be done before I needed to go.

So then I called Brandi and my mom, and both headed to my apartment. Mom arrived first, since she lives 20 minutes or so closer, and by then contractions were painful enough to make my throw up and getting closer together. By the time Brandi arrived, they were anywhere from 2-4 minutes apart. I thought we’d have to go to Charlotte’s pretty quickly with how close contractions already were, but not actually knowing how things usually go since it was my first time, things were actually going quite as quickly as I thought. Brandi kept in contact with Charlotte every hour or two so they could update each other.

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I had a lot of back labor. It wasn’t completely not in my stomach, but my hips and lower back were where I felt the worst of it. Brandi helped me figure out the best way to breathe through contractions–in through the nose out through the mouth, making low noises if I needed to make noise, which I often did. High pitched noises work against the contractions; low noises don’t. That’s why high pitched screaming is not a good idea during labor.

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The  most common way I got through the contractions at home was to lean on one person and have another press on my hips. Occasionally we’d do pretty much the same thing, but on my exercise ball instead. We tried a few different positions for contractions, but anything that had me bent over or on my side hurt more and often made me throw up. I couldn’t keep any food or liquids down, not even a popsicle or water.

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Brandi put my hair into a French braid — which she’s amazingly fast at — so that I didn’t have to worry about hair in my face or a tight ponytail. I was wearing sweats and one of my husband’s shirts, and when I wanted extra warmth I’d put on a bathrobe. I liked having the comforts of my own home, but I was also anxious to get to the midwife’s. I wanted to be where I was going to have the baby.

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We slept a bit, when we could. For me, that meant very short naps between contractions. The other three took turns with who would help me get up and get through the contractions, and who slept. Mom and Brandi let Steven sleep the most, because they wanted him to be awake when I got nearer to the end and needed his strength and support the most.

Occasionally, I would have contractions back to back. Those sucked, because I didn’t get a breather in between. I’d just be feeling the relief of a contraction being done, and suddenly another would start building. I think the worst was five in a row. Usually they were 2-4 minutes apart, though. By the time the morning was done, my teams’ arms were getting tired. Mom’s were so tired, she couldn’t even effectively press my hips for me during contractions anymore.DSCF3677

After twelve hours, almost exactly, Charlotte was finally on her way back to the clinic and we were loading up the car and heading there as well. I was really not looking forward to the 30 minute car ride with contractions being so close together, but I was excited to be going to the clinic finally. The car ride was difficult, but do-able. I just held Steven’s free hand and breathed through each contraction.

The other mom whose water had broken the day before was still in the main birthing room, so I went into the other one. Charlotte checked me shortly after I got there. I was only at 3cm, but I was almost completely effaced, and they guessed that once I got to 4cm, the rest of the labor would go fairly quickly. Just getting to where all I had to do was dilate was what had taken so long so far. Brandi had actually told me earlier that she’s noticed that one of two things usually happens with first moms: either they take forever to get to about 4cm and then the rest will go fairly quickly, or they stall for awhile at 7cm and then the rest goes smoothly once they get passed that. Apparently I was going to be in the first category.

My water broke on its own as I was getting checked, too, which was also a good sign for the rest of labor progressing fairly quickly from there. Everyone was optimistic.

At this point, my mom gave Steven a stuffed velociraptor. He’d been saying that’s what our baby would be all pregnancy, especially before we learned the gender and people were asking us often what we thought we were having. We thought that he should still get his velociraptor.

DSCF3706Unfortunately, they soon found that my blood pressure was up way higher than it should be. Charlotte told me I had to lay on my side. I literally begged her to let me stay upright because labor hurt so bad on my side, but she told me, “I’m really not trying to be mean, I literally have to have you lay on your side because your blood pressure is just too high. We have to try to get it down.”

Laboring on my side was really difficult. Brandi prayed with us multiple times through the labor, but the most was probably during that time. It was the first time I said, “I can’t do this,” during contractions. They kept reassuring me that I could do it, and pointing out that I was doing it. I kept thinking, “But I don’t want to keep doing it!” They kept encouraging me, though, so I kept going and getting through each contraction.

My blood pressure just wouldn’t go down. Charlotte considered trying IV fluids to see if it was just dehydration from throwing up so much that was causing it to stay high, but she finally decided not to because, if it wasn’t that, it could detrimental to wait that long to send me to the hospital. Very disappointed that she had to make the decision, she said that I needed to go to the hospital. She only has a 2-3% transfer rate, so I knew that she didn’t make that choice lightly.

Then it was just a matter of making a couple of decisions. Providence or Seattle U? Providence; it’s closer, and I’d had a good experience there when I’d been hospitalized for a few days a few years before, so I felt I’d receive good care. Car or ambulance? Ambulance might take me to the hospital in town instead, which I didn’t want, and I didn’t require an ambulance, so we’d go by car. Would Charlotte go with me initially and then leave since she still had to attend the birth that was going on in the other room, or would her assistant, Heather, go with me and not have to leave? I wanted the constant care and advocacy of someone who was supportive and knowledgeable about natural birth, so I chose to have Heather come, especially since she’s an experienced midwife, having worked as a midwife in another country, helping poor women receive good maternity care, for a few years. Who would take which vehicles? Mom and I would ride with Heather, and Steven and Brandi would take their vehicles. Mom would pick her car up after the birth.

DSCF3718And so we were off to the hospital. Charlotte called ahead to let them know we were coming, and got the midwife on duty as my provider insteas of an OB. After a little bit of confusion about where to go to get into the right part of the hospital, I was admitted and brought to my room, where I was put into a hospital gown, strapped into monitors for contractions and the baby’s heartbeat, and given an IV — all the while still leaking amniotic fluid occasionally, which was very annoying. My blood pressure was still very high. The midwife had me put on some blood pressure medication, and ordered blood tests to check for preeclampsia. The good news was that the car ride had effectively gotten me to 5cm and contactions were still pretty regular, so things looked good.

The hypertension medication was not effective enough, I’d started swelling badly, and the blood tests showed that I had developed preeclampsia, so an OB-GYN had to take over my care. I had not had preeclampsia earlier in pregnancy. I’d never had more than trace protein, and while we’d had a few higher readings (most not higher than 140/90, just high for me) for my blood pressure in the last couple of weeks, it seemed that part time bed rest and supplements were controlling it, and my blood tests had come back normal. It was very disappointing to have it now, and the only thing that will cure preeclampsia is to have the baby.DSCF3758

At the same time that I got an OB, I got a new nurse as well because of shift change. Her name was Electa, and she was amazing. All the staff were understanding of my desire for minimal intervention and that the hospital had not been in my plans, and not only was Electa friendly and good at her job, she did her best to help minimize interventions. She was also not at all pushy about me getting pain medications; she just did her best to help me keep going with the labor.

DSCF3735I wasn’t standing for contractions anymore, but I was able to be upright in bed. I held onto people’s hands and focused on something — preferably Steven — to get through contractions. Apparently the staff was impressed that I was handling my first labor so well, especially without pain medications, but I was just handling it the way Brandi had coached me to at the beginning.

DSCF3744I was put on magnesium to prevent seizures, which is what happens if preeclampsia progresses to eclampsia. Unfortunately, since magnesium interferes with the nervous system, it often slows labor as well. Late in the evening, they thought I was getting close to delivering. They thought I was at about 8cm, and I was feeling the contractions through my tailbone, almost like I had to go #2, which is often a sign that pushing isn’t too far off. Soon after, though, contractions slowed to 15 minutes and progress stopped. I was tired enough that I liked the break, but we needed progress or I’d be put on pitocin. They couldn’t allow labor to stall too long. We tried natural ways to induce contractions for a couple hours, with the doctor’s blessing.  Heather and Brandi were able to get contractions back to five minutes apart, but there was no further progress, so sometime around 1am-2am, we started me off on pitocin at a 2 (I’m not sure what measurement that was in).

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Pitocin contractions suck. Let’s just put that out there right now. I had not wanted to be on pitocin for a reason. The contractions tend to be longer and harder, and are more likely to put the baby into distress and cause a c-section to be necessary. I understood the need for it in my situation; with preeclampsia and my water having already broken, delivery needed to happen as soon as possible, and letting labor slow or stop for too long increased chances of infection or of complications from the preeclampsia, some of which could be life-threatening to me or to my baby. But knowing all of that didn’t make the contractions caused by the pitocin any easier, especially when we got up to a 4 and started trying different positions to help things along. It was the first time I threw up again since we’d left my house, and the contractions in certain positions were even worse than when I’d laid on my side at Charlotte’s.

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I said “I can’t” during a contraction again. The staff — I think the doctor happened to be in the room at the time — immediately asked what I meant by that. I told them I was just reacting to the pain. That response was good enough that they didn’t offer pain medication, but I know they’d been ready to do so.

My birth team was tired. Mom, Brandi, Heather, and even the nurse had gotten teary at times through the labor, especially after I was on pitocin. Part of it was definitely fatigue, but they also all were impressed and moved by how hard I was working to get through it even with everything that had been going differently than I had originally planned for the labor and birth. I don’t know how many times Brandi called me a rockstar through my labor.

DSCF3749By early morning, I was coming up on two days without any real sleep, a day and a half without food and fluids mostly by IV, and about 30 hours of labor. I was exhausted. I couldn’t even keep my eyes open through contractions half the time, although I couldn’t really sleep either, since they were back to 5 or less minutes apart. Steven was encouraging me to keep going like I was, but I eventually hit a point where I knew that I probably wouldn’t be able to push if I had to do a few more hours like that. I’m actually not sure I could have even pushed at that point, in retrospect. My nurse realized that at about the same time, and pulled Heather out into the hall to express her concerns and ask her to be the one to remind her that I did have the option to try pain medications.

I don’t remember everything Heather said, but I asked for the epidural once she talked to me and she and Mom reassured me that it really was okay to change my plan at this point.

DSCF3787I got the epidural at about 8:30am, after 32 hours of labor. My mom stayed in the room with me while it was put it, and everyone else stepped out. The relief began within two contractions, but my legs soon felt ridiculously heavy as well. Later on, Charlotte told me that the later in labor an epidural is begun, the less likely it is to cause a c-section due to stalling progress, so holding off as long as I did was good. One side effect of epidurals can also be lowered blood pressure. Normally, that can be bad, even sometimes causing brain damage to babies, but in my case it caused the only normal blood pressure readings I had at the hospital.

I got a new nurse at the same time, Emily, who was also very wonderful and involved in helping things go as well as they could, and a new OB, Dr. Moi, who was very personable. Unfortunately, they found that I was actually only at 6-7cm instead of 8cm like Electa and the other OB had said the night before. They didn’t seem to think the progress had actually reversed, just that they’d measured wrong or something like that. It made me grateful that I hadn’t tried to get 4cm more instead of 2cm more without pain medication while on pitocin, though.

Emily helped me get into a position in bed that would help things progress as quickly as possible, and the pitocin was set all the way up to 16. The medication allowed me to sleep through contractions, as they were now at most just a feeling of pressure in my stomach. No more back labor. They also put pressure cuffs on my feet to help with the swelling, which was very uncomfortable. I slept, with Emily helping me turn to my back or other side about every hour to help things along. Heather and Brandi both left for a couple of hours, Heather to Charlotte’s clinic to catch a little rest and clean up a bit, and Brandi to shower and feed her 10-month-old. Steven and Mom slept while I did. I even slept through Mom being given a mattress pad to put on the floor so she didn’t have to try to sleep in the armchair, since Steven had the couch.

DSCF3794When Heather returned, she had Charlotte with her, which was a nice surprise. The other mom, whose labor had also been long, had delivered a few hours before. Charlotte was very glad she’d been able to make it when she did, so that she could be there for the actual birth.

At this point, I was starting to feel signs that it was getting near time to push. I was also on oxygen, since there wasn’t as much variation in the baby’s heart rate in response to stimulus as they liked to see, and the oxygen helped. The heart rate should stay within a certain range, but they like to see some variation within that range.

Emily started asking me every now and then if I wanted the doctor to come check me and have me try a push, since I was feeling pressure in my tailbone more and more. I held off because I didn’t want to do any pushing before it was definitely time, but I asked for the epidural to be dialed down just a little so that it wouldn’t interfere with the urge to push and so that I could fully control my legs again. I could tell they didn’t get that request often. When Emily called the anesthesiologist, I heard her say, “She wants her epidural down a little. Yes, down.”

DSCF3798Then I was feeling the pressure even between contractions, so Emily called in Dr. Moi, who checked and said I was ready. The timing went really well. They got me all ready, with my calves in the stirrups. I was happy that the stirrups weren’t set up like they are when you go in for your check up at the doctor, where they’re all the way at the foot of the bed and you put your heels in them, which isn’t good for pushing. These stirrups were up at about knee level and my calves rested in them. The bottom of the bed was removed to make room for the doctor, who told me that she’d want my hands on my thighs so that I could hold them and curl around my stomach for pushing. Brandi stood at one calf and Charlotte at the other so they could push my legs back for me while I pushed, and my mom stood behind my head to help me lift my head and shoulders. It’s actually not a bad position for pushing.

DSCF3800Steven was at my right side, to encourage me, Heather between Brandi and the doctor, and the nurse on my left side by the monitors. A few people from the NICU also showed up, since there had been meconium in the amniotic fluid and the magnesium would effect the baby too, so they needed to suction and check him when he was born. It was a full room, but I didn’t have much room to notice.

I started pushing at 3:50pm. I was definitely ready to when we started. Dr. Moi was a surprisingly good coach, able to give me instructions very clearly to help me maximize the effectiveness of each push, and the rest of the birth team gave wonderful encouragement. The standard is usually three pushes per contraction, but I went with what my body told me, and did four sometimes. Apparently I’m a good pusher. I was very much in a zone, very much inside my own body and everything I was feeling.

DSCF3802Riley was born at 4:48pm on February 25th; his due date. All of the medical interventions that I had gotten despite my original plans were necessary, but the only one I regret is that he was not able to stay on my body and that the cord could not finish pulsing before it was cut. I feel that the first moments of bonding were hurt by that, and when he was with me again, it took some time and skin-to-skin contact for it to really feel real that this was my baby. The cord was cut and he was brought over to the NICU team a few feet away.

I looked at Steven and said, “I did it,” a few times, elated that I’d finally birthed my baby boy naturally despite everything that had happened. Elated that it was over.

DSCF3822After a moment, I realized I hadn’t heard the baby yet, and looked over there, but I couldn’t see anything with people in the way. I said, “I just want to hear my baby,” and almost immediately he cried. Someone, I’m not sure who, said that sometimes they just need to hear their mom’s voice.

They wrapped him up and gave him to Steven to bring to me to hold for a moment, but he was very pale even though his vitals were fine, so they wanted to take him to the NICU to monitor for awhile. The NICU doctor told me that, if he improved well, he’d be back to me within a few hours, and that once I was recovered enough I could come in a wheel chair to see him. If he didn’t improve quickly, he’d be kept in the NICU until he was healthy enough. Steven and Mom went with him.

I had just a little extra bleeding — not nearly enough to be a hemorrhage — which they were able to take care of quickly with a couple of shots and kneading my stomach (ouch). I was also very grateful to have not torn badly, so healing up wouldn’t be too bad. I was soon settled in and covered up again.

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My dad showed up shortly after I was decent again. He came to see me first, and then Mom came up to get him and let me know Riley was doing well, so he went to meet his grandson. I had thought he’d cry — he did when he gave me away at my wedding — but he didn’t.

Brandi, Heather, and Charlotte soon left so I could be with my family, and so that they could go home and rest. Heather wasn’t gone long before she showed up again, though, because she just had a hard time leaving me. She hadn’t felt like the birth had quite had closure yet, and wanted to stay long enough to feel that it had. It was very sweet. She didn’t stay more than an hour or so, but she did help me choose and order my first food in two days: Greek yogurt. It was very nice to eat again. At some point someone also brought me Riley’s measurements. He was 5 pounds 13 ounces and 19 inches long. Although I hadn’t expected a large baby, I had expected him to be in the 6-7 pound range, so for him to be a few ounces shy of 6 pounds was surprising. He was so tiny.

DSCF3858Riley recovered quickly enough that he was brought back to me at about the same time I would have been ready to go to him in a wheelchair. It was so good to have him with me. It made the whole experience far more real than it had been with him gone, especially since I’d had so little time with him when he was first born and no skin-to-skin.

We were brought to the room we’d be in for the rest of the stay. I couldn’t walk to the bathroom without two people helping me; I didn’t even feel strong enough to hold him while they brought me in a wheelchair to the new room. I only felt secure holding him when I was in bed at first. He had a bassinet that stayed right beside my bed, and that first night, I soon got him out and unwrapped and slept skin-to-skin with him for a few hours.

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Steven had to go back to work the day after he was born, but spend the evenings and nights with us, while my mom spent a lot of the day with me. I had to be on magnesium for 24 hours after the birth, and then monitored for a bit longer after that to make sure my blood pressure wasn’t dangerously high anymore, so I wasn’t discharged from the hospital until nearly two days after he was born. We spent a lot of time bonding.

My blood pressure went down, not back to normal, but no longer dangerous. And thank goodness, the swelling started going away quickly too. I hated being swollen. We went home the afternoon of the 27th.