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Oct 14, 2008

A Mother's Final Look at Life

In Impoverished Sierra Leone, Childbirth Carries Deadly Odds.

Sierra Leone has the highest rate of maternal mortality in the world. Hospitals lack basic equipment and medication, and factors such as poverty and lack of transportation make every pregnancy a gamble.

The Washington Post
Sunday, October 12, 2008; Page A01

FREETOWN, Sierra Leone -- Fatmata Jalloh's body lay on a rusting metal gurney in a damp hospital ward, a scrap of paper with her name and "R.I.P." taped to her stomach. In the soft light of a single candle -- the power was out again in one of Africa's poorest cities -- Jalloh looked like a sleeping teenager. Dead just 15 minutes, the 18-year-old's face was round and serene, with freckles around her closed eyes and her full lips frozen in a sad pucker.

This Story

Her bare feet stuck out from the colorful cloths in which she had been wrapped by the maternity nurses who had tried to save her life. Her toenails bore the chipped remnants of cheery red polish.

In the dark hallway, her sisters and friends hugged and wailed, "Fatmata! Fatmata!" in a tearful song of grief.

Eight hours earlier, Jalloh delivered her first child: a healthy baby boy. Her official cause of death was postpartum hemorrhaging. She bled to death giving birth in a part of the world where every pregnancy is a gamble.

More than 500,000 women a year -- about one every minute -- die in childbirth across the globe, almost exclusively in the developing world, and almost always from causes preventable with basic medical care. The planet's worst rates are in this startlingly poor nation on West Africa's Atlantic coast, where a decade of civil war that ended in 2002 deepened chronic deprivation.

According to the United Nations, a woman's chance of dying in childbirth in the United States is 1 in 4,800. In Ireland, which has the best rate in the world, it is 1 in 48,000. In Sierra Leone, it is 1 in 8.

Maternal mortality rarely gets attention from international donors, who are far more focused on global health threats such as malaria, tuberculosis and HIV-AIDS. "Maternal death is an almost invisible death," said Thoraya A. Obaid, executive director of the U.N. Population Fund.

The women die from bleeding, infection, obstructed labor and preeclampsia, or pregnancy-induced high blood pressure. But often the underlying cause is simply life in poor countries: Governments don't provide enough decent hospitals or doctors; families can't afford medications.

A lack of education and horrible roads cause women to make unwise health choices, so that they often prefer the dirt floor of home to deliveries at the hands of a qualified stranger at a distant hospital.

Women die in childbirth every day, according to people who study the issue, because of cultures and traditions that place more worth on the lives of men. "It really reflects the way women are not valued in many societies," said Betsy McCallon of the White Ribbon Alliance for Safe Motherhood, one of the few groups that advocates to reduce deaths in childbirth. "But there is not that sense of demand that this is unacceptable, so it continues to happen."

...continue reading

Natural Remedies

The theme of Midwifery Today Issue 87 is Natural Remedies. With technology and pharmaceutical remedies having taken over birth, natural remedies are often forgotten. In this issue we share a variety of natural remedies that can help make birth better. Included are herbs, chiropractic, humor, naturopathy, homeopathy and massage. As an added bonus, this issue also contains a thought-provoking article by Michel Odent on the origins of the language of birth and the negative impact such words can have on women.

  • Naturopathic Modalities—Their Role in Achieving Positive Birth Outcomes, by Lisa Doran and Nora Pope. Naturopathic medicine and midwifery go hand in hand, and some naturopaths are going on to obtain the specialized designation of naturopathic midwife. This article also covers the principles behind naturopathic midwifery.

Do we have choice in childbirth?

The theme of Midwifery Today Issue 86 is Choice in Childbirth. Do we have choice in childbirth? When is a choice not really a choice? How do obstetricians and midwives control women's choices by the way they explain things? How can we help to preserve choice and make sure women are properly informed?

Working with Your Naturopathic Doctor in Perinatal Care—Our Philosophy: A Meeting of the Minds between Midwifery and Naturopathic Medicine, by Lisa Doran and Nora Pope. Two doctors of naturopathy enlighten the reader on the basis of naturopathy and why it works so well with midwifery.

A Message of Thanks

This message was sent to me from a fellow member of a community health & wellness holistic group. I would also like to extend this note as a form of gratitude to my wonderful Doula sisters, and to all the awesome birth professionals who continue to shine.

Mama Sayana

"The light seems to be getting brighter and brighter as we form ourselves into a tightly knit organically bound eclectic group of holistic practitioners, wellness professionals and health inspired individuals. Each one of us has carried our version of the same message from within to without as we share outwards with what has been kindled inwards. This light grows much brighter as we raise each others consciousness, and we become less independent and no longer bound by what Aldous Huxley described as "island universes of our own doing." We are bridging the gaps of darkness with the embers of our past experiences, and with the energy of the others that surround us with the same notions; those embers become the catalyst for our even brighter futures.

I want to thank all of you for doing the work that you do. The ceaseless self improvement by letting go of self deceiving parts of your ego, the balanced lifestyles, the caring for others, and the practice of eating right and not giving in to the norm is a difficult process to say the least. Just realize that the others that are watching you from your own communities; see you as a leader, and many may try to be adversarial to your beliefs. Hear them out, as they may contain a message for you to reflect upon, but when all is said and done-continue upon your path-because the work that you are doing is that of healing. It is one based in creation, and creation has no place sarcasm, avoidance, and deception. You become the fabric of society that brings back the humanity to being human; you are being humane. There will be many interesting twists and turns, but with a network such as ours; you can always find a mentor that has been down a similar path.

Thank you for your continued efforts, your support, and the role you have played in making this world more wonderful."

-Eco Urban Shaman

Clear Light Toronto upcoming events

The Spiritual Practice of Parenting

Our children can be our most challenging and deeply loving teachers. Experience how the daily acts of caring for your family can be the path to profound spiritual understanding and bliss.

Since you shouldn’t miss out on enlightenment because you had to take your child to a swim lesson or birthday party, this workshop will be offered twice!

Sat Oct 25 from 2:30-4:30
at Yoga Queen - 1273A Queen St W, at Dufferin

Sun Oct 26 from 1-3
at With Child - 705 Pape Ave, at Danforth

About the Teacher: Cliff Spencer is a father, furniture maker, independent business owner, and experienced Buddhist practitioner. He is a graduate of the Asian Classics Institute and a student of Venerable Sumati Marut. With Lama Marut and others, he founded ACI-LA and The Mahasukha Center in Los Angeles, where he teaches Dharma, meditation, and Buddhist Debate.

By donation - $25 suggested. Each class is limited to 15 people. To register email Children welcome. Parents will be responsible for attending to their own children as child care will not be provided.

Yoga and The Voice

A shout out for our very own Dawn Bailey, who will be teaching Yoga and The Voice at The Union Yoga Centre on Sat Oct 18 from 2-4 pm.

Uniting the two sacred arts of yoga and singing - a workshop for Singers and Yogis. Beginners to yoga and/or singing welcome.

Free your voice with yoga! Discover how yoga can help to free your body and focus your mind, how singing can help to open your energetic channels, and how uniting them both can bring more joy into your life. Dawn Bailey is a classically trained soprano and a certified Jivamukti yoga teacher. She will lead you through a sequence of yoga asanas specially designed to help you feel grounded and spacious, to open your energetic channels, and to allow your voice to resonate more freely. This will be followed by vocalization and chanting.

This workshop is for you if you:
- are a singer or musician looking towards yoga to open up new possibilities for your self-expression and art
- are involved in a profession such as teaching in which you use your speaking voice a lot
- are a yogi who would like to delve deeper into your practice of yoga by freeing your voice
- have always wanted to sing but feel that you are tone deaf or unable to sing
- are a yoga teacher who would like to feel more comfortable leading chants during yoga classes

This is not a Clear Light Toronto presentation, but we like to spread the word! If you know of an event that you think should be on our website, email us at

The Union Yoga Centre. 242 Carlton St at Parliament. Cost is $30.

Ending Depression, with Cliff Spencer

 Sat Oct 25 from 7-9pm

at The Carrot Common
348 Danforth Ave

2nd floor, entrance beside Book City

Since the Buddha said life is suffering, what would he have to say about depression? In a world with plentiful wealth and amenities, why is depression and medication to keep us happy so commonplace? Hear a personal experience with depression and how Buddhism played a significant part in the recovery of one person trying to stay happy.

About the teacher: Cliff Spencer is a graduate of the Asian Classics Institute and a student of Venerable Sumati Marut. With Lama Marut and others, he founded ACI-LA and The Mahasukha Center in Los Angeles, where he teaches Dharma, meditation, and Buddhist Debate.

Emptiness, Discipline & Happiness - a talk with Cliff Spencer

Emptiness, Discipline & Happiness: Mahayana Lojong
Fri Oct 24 at 7:30-9pm

at The Snow Lion - 708 Pape Ave
at Danforth Ave, across the street from the Pape TTC station

Join us in Toronto’s renowned Dharma bookstore for a talk on what a bodhisattva looks like, combining wisdom and ethics to project the mind of enlightenment that seeks, one-pointedly, to help all beings. This talk is based on verses from Master Shantideva’s Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life. Cliff will cover the basics of emptiness and karma, how it relates to lojong compassion practice, and how this is all attainable in this lifetime.

Cost: Dana/by donation (according to your means)
*Please arrive early as the doors will be closing at 7:30pm (no admittance after doors close)
Co-presented with The Snow Lion as part of their ongoing Discipline and Freedom Lecture Series

About the teacher: Cliff Spencer is a graduate of the Asian Classics Institute and a student of Venerable Sumati Marut. With Lama Marut and others, he founded ACI-LA and The Mahasukha Center in Los Angeles, where he teaches Dharma, meditation, and Buddhist Debate.

Oct 9, 2008

Baby Carrots sold in the Supermarkets

The following is information from a farmer who grows and packages carrots for IGA, METRO, LOBLAW'S, etc.

The small cocktail (baby) carrots you buy in small plastic bags are made using the larger crooked or deformed carrots which are put through a
machine which cuts and shapes them into cocktail carrots . most people probably know this already.

What you may not know and should know is the following: once the carrots are cut and shaped into cocktail carrots they are dipped in a solution
of water and chlorine in order to preserve them (this is the same chlorine used in your pool) since they do not have their skin or natural
protective covering, they give them a higher dose of chlorine. You will notice that once you keep these carrots in your refrigerator
for a few days, a white covering will form on the carrots, this is the chlorine which resurfaces. At what cost do we put our health at risk to
have aesthetically pleasing vegetables which are practically plastic?

We do hope that this information can be passed on to as many people as possible in the hopes of informing them where these carrots come from
and how they are processed. Chlorine is a very well known carcinogen.

Oct 3, 2008

Carrying My Baby African Style

You saw me today at the zoo with my baby girl strapped snugly on my back and you were so fascinated by the concept that you stopped me and questioned me at length. You just stared and marveled. The baby looked so happy, so content, so peaceful, and so secure. How could that be?

And I looked so comfortable too, walking so freely with a 20-pound baby on my back. My hands were free to so whatever I pleased, plus it was so easy on my back. I was constantly moving, so the baby was lulled to sleep by the movement. She could not see my face, but she could hear my voice and feel my body. She knew who was carrying her, and there was not a peep out of her for the three or so hours we spent at the zoo. I only flipped her deftly off my back to nurse briefly, and then back on the back she went!

You wanted to know how it was done. You had tried it, at home, you said and it didn't work. It was awkward; it was uncomfortable for both you and your son. You just did not get it right! You would love to be able to have this peaceful situation as you cook and do some light housework, so you can keep him with you if he frets. I tried explain with words how it is done, but really, I did not learn it that way either. Passed down by generations of African women who had to do it that way to keep their babies with them as they worked on the farm, traded in the market place or did their chores, it is a method I never had formal lessons in learning to do it. One may need a little help with one's first born but only because the baby is so tiny you don't want to fling him unaided on your back. After that it just came naturally. Instinctively, yes, but probably more from observing.

What kind of fabric should you use? You asked. Well, traditionally we (Yoruba women) wear buba and iro, usually a cotton top with coordinating wrapper. My wrapper is a pretty two-meter length of cotton that cost me about ! The wrapper is used to wrap the baby who is then further secured with a sash (oja). The oja is often very ornate and very sturdy. I crocheted myself a sober grey one and it works very well!

We chatted about how weird it looked to the average westerner, to see me going about with a baby strapped on my back and how I deal with the stares and the questions. I told you a woman carrying her baby in front where I come from would look pretentious and silly. What, no free hands? How would she bend over, sweep the floor, do the dishes, cook, clean with the baby in front! But it is really just a cultural difference. I loved carrying my baby in front also until my back gave way.

What more can I tell you?

The method is perfect in all kinds of weather. In warm weather, she remains surprisingly cool, and I can add some shade by carrying and umbrella to shield her from the sun. In cold weather, she is snugly warm with body heat.

I think it is the perfect way to carry a baby!

Thank you to Bola Ansa for sharing this story.

African mothers see baby strollers as abhorrent fad Tradition of carrying children upheld; 'they can't sit like lumps'

Nairobi , Kenya -- Irene Wambui can't imagine why anyone would buy a baby stroller. She says she sees it as a cold cage filled with useless rattles, cup holders and mirrored headlights. Imagine children being stuffed into such a contraption and pushed around town like some kind of pet...

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