Skip to main content

Zazu’s placenta & a tattoo on my arm of his placenta, umbilical cord, and a persimmon

Challenging Petroleum Parenting: It takes a village...

Confronting “Petroleum Parenting” (the market-driven choices parents make that overwhelmingly contribute to humanitarian devastation and ecological destruction)

How can we practice radical climate justice as we raise our children in a world dominated by petroleum-pharmaceutical hegemonies?
Parenting in the 21st century represents perhaps one of the most contradictory positions of contemporary citizen-subjects: both the possibility for emancipation from and adaptation to convenience-culture. As a anarcha-feminist mother raising Zazu, my twelve year-old son, I have intimately experienced intra-cultural impacts of our market-driven mediaocracy’s denial of corporeal, societal, and global interconnectedness. Every day I make the conscious choice to deflect how this plutocrat-driven democracy, characterized by conformist laws-of-conduct, may impact Zazu. Petroleum-parenting, what I identify as the decisions parents make that overwhelmingly contribute to both environmental destruction and body-phobic institutional practices, reifies the status-quo and our myopic capacity to engage beyond our shame-based, accumulationist individualism. Whereas, parenting could be an art and science of collaboration.

Relevant links:

Art, articles, lectures and more

Collaboration with Rich Heeman

Prior to my unassisted homebirth on my 40th birthday, Heeman and I made this self-portrait video including Zazu’s in-utero heartbeat.

My OpEd about my interview giving birth to Zazu:

Extreme-omission about home-birthing choices in “Extreme home-birthing, alone and unassisted”


Although it was a pleasure to be included in an article on Freebirth (titled “Extreme home-birthing, alone and unassisted”), an attempt to educate women about their birth choices and offer a different perspective from mass media images of women in labor, my story was distorted to support the very institution I am challenging. The whole point was that if I had given birth in a hospital, it is almost 100% guaranteed that I would have been required to have a c-section; or, the next most frequent scenario is that the doctor breaks the infant’s collarbone in order to freely remove the baby from the mother’s pelvis. I had sent the author of the article my birth story in which I explicitly state: “It turns out that ours was a case of shoulder dystocia. This happens in 1-2% of births; in hospitals most commonly dealt with by breaking the infant’s collarbone; the brachial nerve can be damaged causing erb’s palsy.” The omission of these facts misleads the reader; the author encourages this mis-education by directly following up my story with warnings from a local obstetrician. Pregnant mamas: Please ask questions!

Zazu, my now twelve-year-old son, was born in our sunlit bathroom on my 40th birthday, April 8th, his due date. We had an unassisted home birth that ended up getting a fair amount of local publicity.

The midwife had not yet arrived and our doula was unable to be there. Our back-up doula arrived just as I was giving birth. She had never delivered a baby before, and had not intended to do so that morning. But, within moments, she helped me onto my hands and knees, was able to dislodge my baby’s shoulder from my pubic bone (shoulder dystocia) and untangle his umbilical cord from around his neck. There in my arms was my almost eight pound baby boy! Born, as I had visualized so many times, in our sunny apartment in Oakland, California.

A few years after Zazu’s birth, The East Bay Times interviewed me about my home birth in an article with an incendiary title: “Extreme home-birthing, alone and unassisted Unfortunately, citing an upper-class community obstetrician, the reporter reframed my story to look like a near-death experience for mother and child. In response to Zazu’s birth, Timothy Leach, the medical director of obstetrics and gynecology at John Muir Medical Center, Walnut Creek, claimed: “It’s potential emergencies such as this case of shoulder dystocia that make doctors wary of the freebirth approach…I wouldn’t recommend it (freebirth), because the risk is too great,” said Leach, “I just can’t know how to handle those emergencies if I’m not there. It’s in those rare, unpredicted moments that you don’t want to catch yourself alone.”

Or you don’t want to catch yourself in the hands of “expert” medical practitioners…

The articles made it sound as though I had risked my baby’s life—predictably undermining women’s/mother’s empowerment and valorizing the medical authority. Every form of popular media educates the public to expect fear, pain, and disempowerment as an inevitability during pregnancy, labor and childbirth—ironically one of the most natural experiences in one’s life. Precisely because of widespread disinformation that “experts know more about our bodies than we do,” Ina May Gaskin, North America’s infamous midwife, confirms this extraordinary perversity when she states, “…most U.S. women remain convinced that their bodies are poorly made to give birth.”

Giving birth is the primary reason women are hospitalized in the U.S. The medicalization of birth is a fifty billion-dollar a year industry. Medical interventions that were once only practiced on high-risk pregnancies are now automatically imposed on all pregnant women, frequently for the convenience of the medical practitioner. One in three women now give birth via cesarean section. C-sections can be detrimental to both mother and infant because the neonate’s “skin and gut get colonized with the mother’s microorganisms as [s]he goes through the birth canal. (…) [C-section results in] failure to have proper implantation of microorganisms at birth”1 and can lead to an avalanche of physical disorders lasting well into adulthood: asthma, allergies, skin disorders, and susceptibility to a slew of infections, including heightened chronic negative reactions to vaccinations.2 Newborns are naturally inoculated as they travel through the birth canal. But this prevents pharma-profit.

Among women of all ethnicities and races, the U.S. has the highest hospital-born, first-day infant mortality rate of any industrialized country, and has one of the highest infant (beyond the first-day) and maternal mortality rates of all industrial and non-industrial countries. Amnesty International’s recent study states that U.S. women risk dying of pregnancy-related complications more than women in 40 other countries.3 Globally, the U.S.’s maternal health ranks 60th. In the past 25 years, U.S. maternal mortality rates have more than doubled. Latinas are 50% and black women are 500% more likely to die in childbirth than white women. Black women are four times more likely to die of pregnancy-related complications than white women. Black babies die of complications at birth four times more than other ethnicities; they are twice as likely to die before their first birthday.4

The scene in which the medical-expert hands over a squeaky-clean baby to the passive mother lying on her back exemplifies and lays the foundation for a society built on violence against women. Antonella Gambotto-Burke, author focusing on sex, death and motherhood, decries:

“In 2013, four times as many women died giving birth around the world than there were casualties in the Syrian conflict, yet there were no headlines, crisis bulletins, aid packages or expressions of public outrage. The 293,000 women who die in pregnancy and childbirth every year (and the seven to 10 million who suffer severe or chronic illnesses caused by pregnancy- related complications) do so without public recognition of any kind. Heads of state do not stand in silence for the mothers who have fallen.”5

Contrary to messages that inundate us from our patriarchal, designer-birth culture, the World Health Organization (WHO) reports that midwives save thousands of infant and mothers’ lives during childbirth.6 Similarly, many of us women who choose unassisted births are saving lives.

1 Sally Fallon Morell and Thomas S. Cowan, The Nourishing Traditions Book of Baby and Child Care (Washington DC: The New Trends Publishing Co., 2013), 242.

2 Ibid., 54.

3 “Maternal Health is a Human Right,” Amnesty International USA (official webpage), accessed April 8, 2015,

4 “The State of Black Children in America: A Portrait of Continuing Inequality,” Children’s Defense (official webpage), March 28, 2014, accessed April 22, 2015,

5 Antonella Gambotto-Burke, “Should Women Really Be Rushing Back to Work?,” The Guardian, July 11, 2015, par. 5.

6 Marie-Agnes Heine, “10 Facts on Midwifery,” World Health Organization, Fact File, accessed June 24, 2012,



Here is our birth story:

“What just happened?!” My first words as I held Zazu Shock Alhadeff-Racker for the first time.

I became conscious of intense sensations at 3am the previous night. I immediately began timing the contractions (although I didn’t want to label them as contractions, but rather rushes, surges, or birthing waves…)–3-5 minutes apart separated by about 20 long breaths. If things had gone according to plan, I would have woken up Kent and called our mid-wife. I couldn’t fully realize that I was in labor. Even though I timed my “surges” without stop for 3 and a half hours, all I could do was count and breathe; I clung to each consecutive number–early labor had actually begun!!! Finally, 6:30am arrived. Breathing got more difficult. Somehow I managed to move, open my mouth-generate sound–I asked Kent to call our mid-wife. Next thing I know, I am vomiting. I hear me reminding myself that I am here, I’m really doing this, I’m going to have a baby! I remember feeling crystal clear in my consciousness that I absolutely needed reassurance that I was still not in early labor–the sensations had rapidly accelerated/intensified. I wasn’t able to piece together what was actually happening.
Kent helped me to the toilet. I remember my mind searching for some story, some reference, some memory that corresponded to my current experience. I had read so many books, had so many conversations, heard so many stories, and nothing sounded like this felt–I looked for the Pause–that precious space in-between the sensations–but there was none. One intensity collided into the next. When we had called our midwife around 7am, she said to call her back when my contractions (I fought to translate “contractions” to “surges”) are 45 seconds long. But the timing was all confused–I kept hearing Kent’s watch beep as he tried to keep up with my signals which had become totally erratic. I remember asking Kent how many seconds were in a minute–2 minutes + long–didn’t make sense that 120 seconds was longer than 45 seconds. I would enter a bizarrely deep restful state in the midst of the extreme sensations and then I would come out and need immediately to count numbers–any numbers to feel safe. In the meantime, Kent had called our doula who was not able to come, so Jenna, our back-up doula was on her way. Two-hours + passed between the toilet and the bathroom floor. The whole time I wanted so badly to know that this was NOT early labor. Sweating and shivering, in total awe and disbelief that so many women go through this! I was desperate to find air– that was by far the most challenging part. Kent kept encouraging me to breathe long, deep, focused breaths–but there were none.

Jenna arrived–recognized how dehydrated I was and insisted on getting liquid and food into my mouth. Swallow. Chew. Swallow: like breathing, seemingly impossible tasks. She was on the phone with our mid-wife when my two final tortuous screams tore through Kent. I felt something hard and big coming out of my vagina.

“Get on your hands and knees!…” Suddenly, I could breathe. Everything snapped into alignment. As Kent straddled me, facing Jenna, he saw Zazu’s purple head emerge, then retract. Not only was the cord wrapped around his neck, one of his shoulders was caught behind my pubic bone. (It turns our that this was a case of shoulder dystocia. This happens in 1-2% of births; in hospitals most commonly dealt with by breaking the infant’s collar bone; the brachial nerve can be damaged causing erbs palsy). In our tiny, plant and sun-filled bathroom (where Zazu had been conceived), our back-up doula, who had witnessed multiple births, but never delivered a baby before, channeled the divine, reached into me, unwrapped the cord and dislodged my baby’s shoulder. Moments later, she passed him to me through my legs and Zazu was in my arms. I cannot remember feeling any pain, or even discomfort during our birth–just an exquisite clarity. It wasn’t the orgasmic birth that I had hoped for, but instead, the most spectacular miracle of a series of misunderstandings that actually allowed all of my visualizations to manifest!

I had an unusually small amount of blood loss and no tearing, only abrasions. An hour or two later, I was ready to birth the placenta. It turned out there were two placentas—a Succenturiate lobe! (We ate one raw and the other dehydrated). SHAZAM!!! ZAZU!!!