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  • Writer's pictureNetsitsah Manela

Creating Our System Outside the System

I said I would write a blog post about “diversifying your attachment portfolio.” And I will. But this story is bursting out of me right now. It’s the story of when we took our first son to the hospital and how that experience inspired my learning as a mother, midwife, healer, and alternative health community builder.

I had my first baby at home. I knew I wanted to have a homebirth before I was ever pregnant. My doula training reinforced that commitment. And I’m so grateful that I knew I had the option of homebirth midwifery care before becoming pregnant; before my belly stuck out and into the public sphere for public comment; before my family could ask about my doctor and which hospital. My pregnancy was pretty smooth, but not without its challenges. I ate really well, drank lots of herbal infusions, and practiced taichi as much as I could. Labor was hard and long. Postpartum recovery was kind of grueling. But my baby was (is) just gorgeous and delicious and wonderful. I was and am so grateful for all of the blessings.

As far as health and natural parenting, things generally went along pretty well. I was breastfeeding. I had my sources of local, organic vegetables. I took my baby with me to pick wild berries and other edible plants. I joined the underground raw milk parade. Our pediatrician knew something about homeopathy and herbal remedies and nutritional supplements and understood our wishes to do everything the natural way.

Finally, our baby turned two. We stopped nursing. I had been apprenticing with my beloved midwife, Karen Carr, and she suggested I go take a birth assistant workshop and start coming along to births. I was overjoyed and so excited to move forward on my midwifery path. And meanwhile we became pregnant with our second baby.

My birth assistant and midwifery skills workshop trip would be the first time I’d be away from my son overnight. Making arrangements for him to be cared for was a little difficult and complicated. But between my husband, our very generous, caring, and trustworthy friends, Emily and Greg, and my in-laws, I felt confident everything would be alright.

Well, the workshop was wonderful. Being away was hard but liberating. All the care transitions seemed to go smoothly. But on the morning of my return, my son started vomiting, including in the car on the way to pick me up from the airport. By the time we got home, he had switched to having terrible diarrhea. Things kept getting worse. After a couple of days, he was seriously dehydrated, and we decided to go to the hospital. I really didn’t want to go, but my husband and I were clear that we had reached the limit of what we could handle at home.

While we were there, we got the usual dose of fear-mongering and bossing around I’d become familiar with as a doula attending hospital births. They even told us not to give him coconut water for rehydration, because they couldn’t measure the levels of electrolytes going into his body from the coconut water. They wanted to give my son IV fluids, and they did eventually get a line into his foot. But the process was so traumatic for him and of course for me, that I swore I would learn a better way. Later, I did learn about and practice retention enemas in case I ever needed that skill. Now, I am trained and equipped to put in IVs, but I’m still glad to know about retention enemas. They’re not so bad - really! - and they work.

After 24 hours of IV fluids, they found his sodium levels weren’t as high as they wanted them to be. They wanted to keep him another day to do more of the same. Meanwhile, there was hardly anything he or I could eat - remember I was pregnant at this point - and his diarrhea had not stopped or improved! When I said “Nevermind, we want to leave, and we’ll work on his sodium levels at home,” they threatened me, saying insurance wouldn’t cover our stay if we left against medical advice.

We did leave. Insurance did pay. And the GAPS diet was what worked to stop the diarrhea and heal our son’s gut. I give thanks to my friend Esther for sharing good information with me.

Another good thing that came out of this challenging experience was the practice of telling my unborn baby that my stress had nothing to do with them, that they were just fine, and that everything would be a-okay. He turns out to be a very well differentiated child who doesn’t let much bother him.

I also emerged with a strong drive to build up my network of really good alternative care providers as well as my own knowledge. I knew that if I had known more or reached out to the right people sooner, the catastrophic-feeling step of going to the hospital could have been avoided.

Since then, I have done both of those things. And as I have gained experience and confidence as a mother and as a midwife and craniosacral therapist, I want nothing more than to be a resource for my friends and community the way that my homebirth midwife, Chinese medicine practitioner, craniosacral therapist (sorry, Babs has no website), holistic dentist, chiropractor, and family medicine practitioners (and this one) have been for me.

I also want to continue to connect with other experienced healers in the area who develop personal relationships with their clients, listen well to them, continually refine their crafts, know their limitations, refer as needed, and will respond to phone calls, emails, and text messages promptly so as to be able to truly meet the needs of their communities. Together, we form a network of caring that is pretty much “outside the system,” even while being linked to medical resources and unafraid to access them if need be. Our strength as a community lies in the diversity of knowledge systems that are our shared inheritance, in the depth of our belief and cultivation of knowledge and skill, and in our willingness to collaborate and form concentric circles of support around babies, mothers, and families of all walks.

Please be in touch with me if I can be of service to your family as a homebirth midwife, holistic birth doula, or craniosacral therapist.

And also reach out if you resonate with my intentions and want to join hands in a network of caring rooted in ancient and nature-based wisdom and healing traditions.

Nets Manela, CPM, LDEM, RCST

Fruit of the Womb, LLC


Serving the Baltimore, Maryland area

and York County, Pennsylvania

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