Sunday, February 19, 2012

Doula Update

Hey all, so I'm finally getting my shit together and applying for doula training scholarships from the toLabor Birth Doula Training and the CAPPA Postpartum Doula Distance Program. I also just got accepted to do the local Open Umbrella Collective's training for Full Spectrum Doulas. Not to mention my off-chance application to Open Arms Perinatal Services. So yip-yip, it's essay writting time, and since I am woefully neglectful of this blog, I plan to share my stories with you all (though I will spare you the woe-is-me financial statements).

So, on my to-do list of questions are:

How will you benefit from being at toLabor and participating in this program?

How do you plan to share your new skills with others in your community?

What abilities or experience do you already possess that will enable you to effectively share these skills with others?

Why do you want to receive certification in your chosen field?

Explain any work you have done and training you have received in the field of childbirth, postpartum, and/or lactation issues.

Tell us a little about yourself. How do you identify racially, ethnically and/or
culturally (optional)? Do you speak a language in addition to English?

Tell us how you came to want to be a doula.

Is there a particular community that you wish to serve? What is your interest in this

Please describe how you plan to balance your home/family/work life with the
unpredictable schedule of doula work.

Ok, I feel like I'm pretty well set up for getting these, since my main goal is to work for free or on a generous sliding scale with low income and disabled women in my community, but I still have to figure out how to make that all sound peachy-awesome for an application that may be up against fuck knows how many others...


Wish me luck.

Monday, January 9, 2012

No Fucking Flowers - A Review of Maternity Clothing, Part 1

This post has been in the works for some time now. Many a time have I scoured the internet looking for cool maternity clothes. The good news is, every time I go online there seems to be more stuff available out there. Bad news, it's probably not sold in your local shop, and it's probably expensive as hell. But there are some things out there to awesome to pass up, so if you have the means, treat yourself. If not, never fear, I am including quite the list of DIY maternity fashion tips and tutorials in Part 2.

Ok, lets just start with the sites that sell stuff straight up.

Bashful Bump sells maternity bodysuits, which really just means a fancy maternity leotard that isn't made entirely out of spandex or velvet. The sell them in tank top, t-shirt, and 3/4 sleeve varieties, and they have the exciting color choices of black and white. They range from $44-$48, but theoretically you would only need one if you own a wash machine and know how to use a panty liner or just don't give a shit about crusties. They also have the non dancewear added bonus of snapping in the front, right where the top of your underwear normally sits, which will really help if you don't feel like getting naked every time you have to pee, but are aware that even when not pregnant it can be hard as fuck to re-do those crotch snaps on dancewear, plus having snaps on your puss ain't fun at all.

Next up is Etsy Maternity, which obviously is going to range in price, anywhere from $3.50 for a belly band to $1,800 for a custom designed coat. Etsy can be a bit overwhelming at times, what with over 6,000 items in Maternity Clothing currently, and my favorite way of sorting is with key words, such as goth, punk, emo, Japanese, retro, funky, and whatever else you can come up with to describe your style, and then going through the menus All Items -> Handmade -> Clothing -> Maternity. Another way to search through Etsy is to search for "long", "stretchy", "yoga", or "one size" and then go into shirts to find regular shirts, dresses, and pants that will cover your ginormous boobs and bump.

Hot Mama Ink has a nice collection of funkiness in their Maternity category. I'm especially partial to their tunics, but they also have slings their signature flash tattoo designs. Most of their designs run $20-$40.

Similar styles plus some lovely gothwear can be found over at MamaSan, which is quickly becoming the end all in alternative maternity. Need a little black dress that will fit your growing belly? Check out the Cross Bones Dress for $57. I also really love their (drool) Betty in Stitches Tank Top going at $28. They also have some standards many of us couldn't go without, like the black and white striped Chic Savage Anti-Tank Top ($29), and the Pirate Punx Black and White Striped Tee ($25).

And now that we've done some "alterna" sites, remember that not all "regular" sites suck balls - case in point, both Babies N Bellies and Pickles & Ice Cream have some cool stuff if you have the patience to page through their stock. Now a lot of the stuff from these sites could be done pretty easily at home or would need some snip snipping to make them wearable, but in the interest of rich grandparents and tustafarian friends, a couple examples are the Nirvana Slashed Sleeve Maternity Top ($58), Corset Hearts Maternity Shirt ($24.99), Tied Front Maternity Top ($29.99), Striped Sweater Pocket Maternity Tunic ($32.99), Lace up Maternity Yoga Pants ($34.99), Lilac Maternity Green Maddy Long Sleeve Tee ($46), and even score a maternity bathing suit that doesn't look like shit ($68).

Ok, and now to move on to the exciting land of copying shit via screen-print/iron on. For this, you just need to buy some basic plain color tees/tanks/whatever from a thrift store, online, or a place like Target which has maternity tanks for $9.99, and then get you some inkin' supplies. You can buy iron on for stretchy clothing paper at most any craft store, or get onto a site like Instructables to find an easy at home screen printing guide. Then set back on the internet and browse to your heart's content. This is most easily done for newbie screen printers with words instead of pictures, so novelty shirts are your best bet for inspiration. I personally love CafePress for this, simply due to their enormous selection of novelty shirts. And if you don't want baby bump humor, you can also search their regular collection. My favorites are of course the gamer shirts, being a huge D&D geek myself, and after all how often do you get to see a pregnant woman in a shirt like this? Another ok site for browsing is My Baby Rocks in the maternity wear section, though of course don't let it stop you from going to town and screen printing a bunch of little onesies.

Okay, again, moving on into cheaper and cheaper territory; just a few tips for using preexisting clothing without getting into sewing. Wear an ass load of accessories since that isn't going to change in size, and you might as well show off your silky soft hair. Also, high boots like Doc Martens give extra ankle support that can help achy momma feet. And you can try raiding the men's section for over-shirts designed to fit the skinny-arm-big-belly crowd, as well as some awesome old man suspenders that can ease the task of constantly re-hemming the bands on your preggo pants.

Well, that's all for now, but come back soon and check out Part 2: DIY Maternity Clothes That Will Rock Your World (But Not Your Wallet)!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Is Having a Baby REALLY That Expensive?

I stumbled across a great article the other day on Stand and Deliver, a awesome blog I have come to really appreciate for it's forthrightness about many "DIY" or "natural" alternatives to pregnancy and birth. In the post What Does A Pregnancy Cost, author Rixa Freeze catalogs how much she spent on her last pregnancy. Her breakdown covers most of the basics - clothes, doctors, medical supplies; but doesn't take into account the things that first time parents might need to buy, especially young people in towns that aren't quite so fortunate as my Asheville in their lack of any sort of community birth support. She totaled in at $787, which to most middle class persons probably seems like a whopping cheap amount. But for me and my poor as hell comrades out there, that is a little more than my standard monthly income, which puts a little more pressure than most of us would like, especially since she hasn't taken into account anything after birth, specifically the dreaded insanely priced diapers of doom.
But ok, still pretty damn cheap when you break that bad boy up over the entire pregnancy, and assuming you found out about 6 weeks in, you still come in at a little under $105 a month. On the other side of the coin, I decided to go check out a standard "reputable" source and see what they thought having a baby should cost.
Ok, because there was a decent bit of wading to get to the nitty gritty of this one, I'll spell it out for you:

At Home Pregnancy Test: $9.62

Prenatal Vitamins ($10-20/month): $90-$180

Out-of-Pocket Prenatal Care: $2,000
In the Pocket (of the Insurance Company) Prenatal Care: $3378*

Maternity Clothes: $300

Body Pillow: $60

Childbirth Education Classes: $50-$200

Baby Shower: $100-$1,000

Doula: $650

Hospital Vaginal Birth: $9,000
Hospital Vaginal Birth (w/Ins): $463

Hospital C-Section: $15,000
Hospital C-Section (w/Ins): $523

When we add all this up, you end up paying an average of $5,700 if you have insurance, and $15,830 if you don't, just for your pregnancy and birth, with the major difference being in the cost of the actual hospital birth, not the difference in prenatal care. The main point being though, whichever way you look at it, Rixa is detailing a birth that leaves out that huge, gaping cost of the hospital swallowing up all your money, of which your birth only costs them about 30% of what they charge you.

Now, being that I'm fairly horrified at the idea of a hospital birth, I will also note that a popular local Midwifery Practice does home births for a flat rate of around $1,000 - and if you simply replace the uninsured cost of hospital birth listed above with said fee, you end up reducing your cost down to $4,830 - suddenly less than it would cost to have an insured hospital birth. And changing the insured hospital birth to an insured home birth adds only $507 to the average cost - which doesn't seem like much if you can afford insurance, right?

But of course, that is the big point here - most weirdos cannot afford insurance, and many of us would never want it even if we could. For those of you who even might be poor enough, I would urge you to look into getting Medicaid. Carol Sakala, director of programs at Childbirth Connection, a national nonprofit organization that works on behalf of mothers and babies to improve the quality of maternity care in the U.S. says that “While 13% to 35% of the pregnant women qualified for Medicaid coverage, many either didn’t qualify or didn’t apply, finding private insurance or paying out of pocket,". Link Lots of people don't even consider the fact that they might qualify for Pregnancy Medicaid, WIC, Work First, and many other programs available through local Health Departments and Department of Social Services offices.

In 2011, the Federal Poverty Level was $1,226 for a family of 2, but many programs only require you to be under 200% of the poverty level - $2,452! Personally, my family doesn't even hit the first one, and 200% of the poverty level seems like a vast fortune we could live easy on. $29,420 a year? Yowza!

So what would it cost someone like me (or our lovely step-daughter, who is due in July) to have a baby while actually taking advantage of state support, local community groups, family networks, etc.?

At Home Pregnancy Test: Kinda silly, if you really want to cut corners, but I got about 20 free on eBay when I bought 100 OPK's for $5 - ($0-$5)

Prenatal Vitamins: Free at most local Health Department, with no paperwork - $0

Prenatal Supplements: I prefer food and herbs for use during birth and pregnancy, my personal favorite being The Wise Woman Herbal for the Childbearing Year, which I've used to make tasty syrups for most common pregnancy complaints in the past two weeks, and on the cheap, even though it's winter and I had to buy all my herbs from the local co-op - $30

Medicaid Co-Pays ($3 per visit): $27

Books: Utilize your local thrift and used book stores, but first look to Midwifery or Alternative Medicine practices to see if they have lending libraries. I just got a slew of baby books by contacting my local Doula Association and asking my loan list to be passed around at their next meeting. As always, remember to ask friends an family who are in a parental way, and never forget the public library - $0

preggo or heavyset friends - $50

Body Pillow: A quick Google search finds us a plethora of DIY pregnancy body pillow's, here and here, for about $10

Childbirth Education Classes: Often free if you look for community run ones or ask about scholarships. Medicaid ones cost around $10, and if you look, you can even find things like this parenting transition class that is a research study where you can win $250 - ($0-10)

Baby Shower: Potluck that bitch, and for the cost of a few phone calls and a Facebook Event page, you can get lots of lovelies (hint hint - specify that hand-me-downs will be appreciated to even get stuff from your ne' er-do-well friends) - $0

Doula: Look for a doula in training, or ask about scholarships, or offer (even partial) work/trade (art? babysitting her kids while you're pregnant? some awesome veggies from your garden?) for some deeply discounted rates - $0-$200

Birthing Tub: Some people will tote how much better actual birthing tubs are, but for us strange ones, bathtubs and kiddie pools will often do. You can buy kiddie pools online or locally during the summer at Mega-Stores, mom and pop places, or the local flea market, but I would suggest looking to your young'un having brethren for a loan. Just make sure it's a high walled soft or blow-up pool, not the hard plastic things. Think about how deep you want it - 30" pools run around $40, though consider some with unusual designs if you think it will provide a more comfortable place for you to lay - $0-$70

Homebirth: Again, ask often and apply early for scholarships, network through community birth groups, local food co-ops, and don't be scared to ask every strange looking person you see with kids or a bump if they know of someplace for you to hook-up with some delicious freeness - $0-1,000
Freebirth (aka Unassisted Birth, DIY Birth): Maybe on your own, maybe with your partner, or maybe with a doula and your 20 closest friends, this really just means there isn't a "medical" professional there. That is the free part, though you will need some supplies, which you can find in kits, or scramble those individual supplies together. Again, you can find creative ways to make some of these things on the cheap (cloth pads v. disposable, or getting bulb syringes from feed stores instead of medical supply websites, cuz sterile is sterile), and you can look to local community groups for loans, but these costs can vary a lot depending on how much you want to work for it, and how much stuff you feel you need. $0-$200

Now to end this monetary rambling rampage, I will sum up planned costs for my husband's step daughter's (and my future) pregnancy. On the higher end, including a fully paid Midwife for your Homebirth, you would pay $1,402, and on the free(ish) Freebirth end, you would pay $117 if you can get a tub and supplies for free, but still only $387 even if you buy a new tub/pool and a birth supply "kit". Thus ends this rant, with my personal conclusion on the sanity of freebirth still upheld.

*Ok, trying to track down any semblance of "average" health insurance costs is nearly impossible, but some searching and personal experience unearthed these numbers:
$183 a month / $2,935 deductible
$490 a month / $500 deductible
So lets assume some sort of average between those, at $336 a month / $1717 deductible
And maybe if you're lucky, you've met about 1/2 of your deductible, leaving you $858 to pay off. Even assuming you have no co-payments (which is highly unlikely) after you find out at week 6, you still have 7 1/2 months of premium to pay off, ringing your total insurance costs in around $3378. So much for not having to pay those "huge" out of pocket expenses for prenatal care, huh?