Archives

Tuesday Tidbits: International Day of the Midwife

IMG_4848Today is International Day of the Midwife and I find myself reflecting on the many midwives I have known and the incredibly diversity and gifts of the women who join this profession. In addition to the midwives I had for prenatal and postpartum care for each of my births, I’ve been privileged to know many midwives on the state and national level through our shared interest in maternity care activism and birth rights. With my first baby, I had prenatal and birth care with a family practice physician and a CPM. The CPM was gray-haired, pretty, soft-spoken and wryly witty and pretty much exactly what you picture a stereotypical midwife looking like! My prenatal care with this team was excellent, birth care so-so (I didn’t need much), but my postpartum care left a lot to be desired and I felt very cast adrift after the birth. I became very embroiled with midwifery activism and birth work after this birth and as a result my experiences with all subsequent midwives has been an interesting blend of collegial + consumer. My first birth was the only one for which I was consumer only. Though I’m not a midwife myself, my subsequent experiences all involved being a sister birthworker AND client, rather than solely a client. This has both benefits and disadvantages.

My midwife with my second baby was amazing. I loved her so much and I have felt a gap in every pregnancy following that I was not able to have her as a midwife again. She was gentle and caring and passionate and inspiring and wonderful. Cute and upbeat, full-figured, and intelligent, she had a soft and reassuring presence and gave wonderful hugs! We became good friends and she was a very important part of my life. My prenatal care and birth care with her was excellent. She was also helpful with postpartum care, but I don’t think I “allowed” her to be as helpful as she could have been because I couldn’t allow myself to be as vulnerable and needy as I actually felt.

When I was pregnant with my third baby, my much-loved midwife had moved away and found myself at a loss for who to choose for pregnancy and birth care. This baby died early in my second trimester and I found myself calling on the sisterhood of midwives for help when I desperately needed it. From the very busy midwife who talked to me kindly and patiently when I was freaking out over a retained placenta, to the Mennonite midwife who helped me from the road as she was driving to another state and connected me to yet another midwife several hours away who drove in to town to meet and help me when I was very scared and alone, it was during this experience that I realized very viscerally how much we need midwives in our lives. When I was pregnant again, I decided to choose the Mennonite midwife for my prenatal care and immediate postpartum care. She is a very capable and determined and intelligent midwife, but I felt an unbridgeable gap between us spiritually speaking and so was never able to fully connect with her emotionally. She embodied the gray-haired, no-nonsense “granny midwife” archetype. She provided great prenatal care and was very respectful of my wish for immediate postpartum care, but an unassisted birth. Postpartum follow-up care was limited due to snowstorms.

With my last baby, I felt a powerful need to feel taken care of again. I really needed to have some set aside time, Mollyblessingway 027space, and energy that was just focused on me and my baby. I knew that I needed a midwife! While I could have used the same midwife as with the baby before, this time it was important to me to develop the emotional connection I had with my second midwife—I needed a midwife with whom I could feel “safe” with all of me, instead of feeling like I had to hide my goddess sculptures when she came over! ;) It took some work, but I was able to find that. With this experience, I came to accept that the blur between colleague-consumer is my reality and I will never re-capture the feeling of being client only and being completely focused on in that respect, because I’m simply not just a client only. That’s okay. This midwife has long brown hair, wears lots of skirts and had the hippie-ish midwife feel I was craving. She is funny and talkative and connected to the roots of what midwifery is all about. I was safe with her in the way I needed. I really appreciated the midwife’s prenatal care (and the opportunity to focus on my pregnancy and baby), her respect of my wish for immediate postpartum care rather than birth care, and her postpartum follow-up care. I felt like this midwife offered the most complete postpartum care of all of my birth experiences.

I’ve mentioned before that the only vaginal exam I had during six pregnancies was at ten centimeters dilated when I went to the birth center to push out my baby (I also had to have one for a manual clot extraction following his birth and one for help removing the placenta after my miscarriage-birth of my third baby). This is totally cool with me. Somehow I’ve managed to labor and birth four full-term babies without ever knowing how dilated I am in labor! So, I loved reading this article about the pointlessness of vaginal exams in labor and the cultural attachment, even in midwifery circles, to cervix-focused childbirth:

“…There is also reluctance to change hospital policies, underpinned by a need to maintain cultural norms. The Cochrane review on the use of partograms on the one hand states that they cannot be recommended for use during ‘standard labour care’, and on the other hand states: “Given the fact that the partogram is currently in widespread use and generally accepted, it appears reasonable, until stronger evidence is available, that partogram use should be locally determined.” Once again, an intervention implemented without evidence requires ‘strong’ evidence before it is removed. The reality is that we are unlikely to get what is considered ‘strong evidence’ (ie. randomised controlled trials) due to research ethics and the culture of maternity systems. Guidelines for care in labour continue to advocate ‘4 hourly VEs’ and reference each other rather than any actual research to support this (NICE, Queensland Health). Interesting whilst Queensland Health guidelines recommend 4 hourly VEs, their parent information leaflet states: “While a VE can provide information about how a woman has progressed so far in labour, it cannot predict how much longer you will be in labour…” and that there are “…other factors such as the strength, duration and length of contractions as well as a woman’s behaviour and wellbeing that can indicate progress in labour”. Which begs the question ‘why bother doing a VE’?

The cervical-centric discourse is so embedded that it is evident everywhere. Despite telling women to ‘trust themselves’ and ‘listen to their body’, midwives define women’s labours in centimetres “She’s not in labour, she’s only 2cm dilated”. We do this despite having many experiences of cervixes misleading us ie. being only 2cm and suddenly a baby appears, or being 9cm and no baby for hours. Women’s birth stories are often peppered with cervical measurements “I was 8cm by the time I got to the hospital”. Even women choosing birth outside of the mainstream maternity system are not immune to the cervical-centric discourse. Regardless of previous knowledge and beliefs, once in labour women often revert to cultural norms (Machin & Scamell 1997). Women want to know their labour is progressing and there is a deep subconscious belief that the cervix can provide the answer. Most of the VEs I have carried out in recent years have been at the insistence of labouring women – women who know that their cervix is not a good indicator of ‘where they are at’ but still need that number. One woman even said “I know it doesn’t mean anything but I want you to do it”. Of course, her cervix was still fat and obvious (I didn’t estimate dilatation)… her baby was born within an hour…”

Vaginal examinations: a symptom of a cervical-centric birth culture | MidwifeThinking

I also read this article about the now late, great midwife and activist, Sheila Kitzinger and how she connected her birthwork to feminism (as do I). I despise the article’s title, but it is still worth a read!

…In the Seventies, I was viewed as a radical for saying that birth was being depersonalised and treated as if it were a pathological event, rather than a normal life process.

To my surprise, it wasn’t just obstetricians who dismissed what I had to say. I also found myself in conflict with feminists, who saw birth in very simplistic terms.

Why? Because they claimed it was every woman’s right to give birth painlessly.

An article in Spare Rib, the radical campaigning feminist magazine, went further.

Without any evidence, the authors asserted: ‘Undoubtedly, hospitals, with all their faults, are the safest places in which to give birth. For this reason, we think we should press for improvements in hospitals rather than support a move to more home confinements.’

I was appalled at how my sister-feminists could fail to support woman-centred birth. Polly Toynbee, writing in The Guardian, was particularly virulent, dismissing me as a lentil-eating earth goddess…

via Sheila Kitzinger on why feminists HATE natural childbirth and why it’s harmful | Daily Mail Online.

Lentil-eating earth goddesses unite! Unlike Kitzinger’s experiences with the distance between some expressions of feminism and birth-care, I find that many midwives, whether explicitly or implicitly, understand the deep connection between midwifery care, birth activism, and feminism.

“Midwifery work is feminist work. That is to say, midwives recognize that women’s health care has been subordinated to men’s care by a historically male, physician-dominated medical industry. Midwifery values woman-centered care and puts mothers’ needs first. Though not all midwives embrace the word feminism (the term admittedly carries some baggage), I maintain that providing midwifery care is an expression of feminism’s core values (that women are people who have intrinsic rights).

–Jon Lasser, in Diversity & Social Justice in Maternity Care as an Ethical Concern, Midwifery Today, issue 100, Winter 2011/2012

via Midwifery & Feminism | Talk Birth

Perhaps this is because midwives care so deeply about mothers and feminists might actually make the best mothers…

…As a mother who works extensively with other mothers, I appreciated Caron’s acknowledgement that raising children is a feminist act with potential to create change as well. “Another strategy for change is through raising children to be just and caring people. A media image portrays feminists as being against motherhood—but in fact, feminists make the best mothers. They raise children aware of themselves and the world, of options and values, of what justice means and how to work toward it, and how to be self-critical and self-respecting” (p. 203-204). Caron also explains that “in a just society, women would be free to make whatever decisions they needed to, for however long they needed to, in relation to political action in the public and the private sphere. All people would participate in the decision-making, and women would be supported in their decisions rather than, as sometimes happens, made to feel guilty for not doing enough or not valued for what they do.”

via Thesis Tidbits: Feminism, Midwifery, and Motherhood | Talk Birth.

dayofmidwifeHappy International Day of the Midwife! Thank you for bearing witness to our journeys and for holding the space for the continually unfolding spiral of life.

“…As we ready ourselves to accept new life into our hands,
Let us be reminded of our place in the dance of creation.
Let us be protectors of courage.
Let us be observers of beauty.
Let us be guardians of the passage.
Let us be witnesses to the unfolding…”

—Cathy Moore (in Sisters Singing)

via National Midwifery Week! | Talk Birth.

In addition to midwives, we’re also celebrating mothers all week this week! First on our lineup of activities is our gift to you: our first ever coupon code for $5 off purchases over $15. Use code: MOTHER.

We’ve also got a giveaway upcoming, two new product launches, a new Facebook group, and two class announcements! Stay tuned…

April 2015 021

Tuesday Tidbits: Babies, Mothers, and Vocations

IMG_4551

This week I read some powerful cesarean birth memories from my friend Bibi at The Conscious Doer:

Maybe there is something naive about me. I wanted to have that huge superwoman surge at the end. As the days go by, more and more of them make me feel super, but every battle has been hard fought. I was hoping to start out with a boost of confidence after hours of labour, but instead I had to pool all my strength after babyjama’s emergence, because the mother bear in me took some time to emerge herself. There is obviously a happy ending to this tale, but there were some sad parts too, and I’m giving myself permission to feel both the joy and the pain…”

Cesarean Awareness Month: Remembering Where I’ve Been | The Conscious Doer.

(Side note: our Cesarean Awareness Month discount code is still good through the end of April! CAM15 for 15% off any items at Brigid’s Grove.)

I was also touched by the delicate, sensitive, and yet simple genius of a post from Amy Wright Glenn about the spiritual and religious dimension of doula support:

Yet, throughout my work as a doula, I discovered that such an approach was rare. We know that a woman transforms emotionally and physically through the crucible of motherhood. For most women, motherhood also involves spiritual or religious transformation. To support this transformation, I believe it’s important to reflect upon the religious and spiritual dimensions of our work…

I imagine it is much easier to offer religious or spiritual support to birthing women and new mothers as a pluralist or inclusivist. Yet, I know doulas who have an exclusivist approach to truth, and they hold loving space for alternative expressions. This is what matters most. A doula need not participate in religious or spiritual practices that are inauthentic to her worldview. However, it’s essential that the doula is able to create a genuine sense of safety for a birthing woman to access her religious or spiritual strength…

The spiritual and religious dimensions of doula support | PhillyVoice.

Socioculturally speaking, we could benefit from this approach in all domains of our lives, not just birth!

Speaking of culture, I felt myself getting some tears in my eyes while reading this article about employees bringing their babies to work at Cotton Babies in St. Louis. Why tears? Because because it is so simple, obvious, and sensible and yet so rare…

Is it appropriate to have a baby in a work environment?

I wonder if we have to ask this question because our culture has defined “normal” to be something different than reality. Women have babies. Babies need their parents. Cultural norms in the Western world have traditionally confined mothers of young children to home-making. While that is what some women want to do, it isn’t what all of us want to do. As long as mom enjoys doing her job with her baby at her side and it is safe for her baby to be with her while she does her job, I believe that it is perfectly appropriate to have her baby present…

Clients, customers, vendors, employees, guests, and service providers may express discomfort with breastfeeding, question a woman’s commitment to her career, feel uncertain about how to respond to a baby in the workplace, or become annoyed with occasionally hearing a child. My favorite way to respond to those concerns has become, “She’s getting her job done. Her baby is content. Can you help me understand why that makes you uncomfortable?” Cultural expectations of a woman’s place being in the home with her young child don’t necessary reflect what all women want to do. While we support and encourage the moms who choose to stay home, we also love seeing those who stay with us also achieving their career goals…

via Our Employees Bring Babies to Work… and how we make it work | Jennifer Labit.

And, speaking of vocations, I enjoyed this post from Lucy Pearce as well:

My work chooses me. I act as a vessel for it. A crucible for it to come to be through me. I do not sit down and “choose” my work, or plan it. In truth I do not really “create” it. I need to be there, open and trusting and it comes. My job is to put it down. In words, images, colour…

There are a number of problems with this:

1) I do not know where this “work” comes from.

2) I feel very weird and odd talking about it this way. I would find it much easier to say “yes, it’s all mine” and be in control of its content and direction!

3) I am “called” to do “work” which I would not consciously choose.

4) By doing the work, I have to put myself “out there” when really I am much more in my comfort zone being private and small. I am not after ego trips or fame or fortune.

5) I feel my skills are lacking for what I am called to do.

via Are You Living Your Vocation? – Dreaming Aloud.

Here is a sneak peek of two things that have been coming through me recently:

Red Tent kits/books/online class are almost ready to launch…

IMG_4518And, we’re having a fun giveaway of all of these lovelies in May since it is not only Mother’s Day, but also my birthday AND the twentieth anniversary of our first date! :)

IMG_4538And, one final tidbit to share for this week, I signed up for this free Red Thread Circle class that is coming up on my birthday: FREE Global Class & Experience.

Tuesday Tidbits: Mothers and Babies

IMG_4269I might look like I’m just sitting on the floor at a Red Tent Circle nursing my baby, but really I’m using the power of my mind-manipulating microbes:

So, when a mother breastfeeds her child, she isn’t just feeding it. She is also building a world inside it and simultaneously manipulating it.

via Could Mothers’ Milk Nourish Mind-Manipulating Microbes? – Phenomena: Not Exactly Rocket Science.

Some thoughts from my Facebook friend Jenny about being done having babies and not feeling sad about it:

Today, my heart is too full of four little people, and the man with whom I created them, to even allow room for an ache. In that tiny corner where an ache might form someday, I’m growing my own dreams, my someday-plans that have nothing to do with raising children, nurturing seeds of myself apart from my role as mother. Truthfully, I kind of love having that corner to myself. I’m not sure I want to share it with a sense of sadness over who or what won’t be, because I’m pretty happy with who and what is as well as with what lies ahead…

via Waiting for The Ache: We’re Done with Babies and I’m Not Sad.

Tanner is such a sweet treasure bonus of a baby and I feel like I’m cherishing him a great deal. And, I hold two realities: a definite sense of “doneness” and readiness to be done with the baby stage of my life, as well as a bittersweet pang at the babyness of his babyness and how swiftly it is passing me by. I want to soak in it and yet the world keeps spinning so rapidly and every day he grows bigger right before my eyes. I want to memorize it. I keep telling Mark, “we only get this year to have THIS BABY!” and it kinds of freaks me the heck out!

Foot bath together after salt bowl ceremony.

Foot bath together after salt bowl ceremony at April Red Tent Circle.

And some lyrical musings at 39 weeks from my friend Halley as she stands at the edge of another birth/postpartum experience… April 2015 123

I think about what’s coming next,

The beast that is postpartum.

I think about what’s coming next,

The love that is new baby.

My labor will be (I pray) just one day,

One day among thousands

My mothering will go on and on,

And I’ll need to know how strong I am…

via Messy 39 Week Poetry | Peace, Love, & Spit Up.

Her poem made me get a little teary and brought me back to the Standing at the Edge song by Nina Lee that I found so meaningful during labor and postpartum…

Every mother deserves excellent care postpartum, however, the “arrowhead” of American postpartum care does not show us a culture that values mothers, babies, or life transitions. I am fortunate to have had the kind of excellent care that every woman deserves and that few women receive. Part of this was because I actively and consciously worked towards building the kind of care I wanted following birth, but part of it is because I am lucky enough to belong to a “tribe” that does value pregnancy, birth, postpartum, and mothering.

via Ceremonial Bath and Sealing Ceremony | Talk Birth.

My last postpartum experience was actually a really delicious time of nourishment and cocooning. Postpartum with my first baby was the worst and I just kept getting better and better at planning for and getting what I know I need during that time of tender vulnerability.
That said, I still feel like this more often than I’d like!

Like how parenthood totally doesn't change you at all.via This New Mom Chronicled Her Baby’s First Year In Brutally Honest Doodles.

I enjoyed this post by a dad about why mothers don’t want to be touched. My instinct to shrink away or duck under his arm, doesn’t stop at just my husband though, I don’t feel like I have a lot of physical caregiving energy left for my other kids lately either—Tanner uses up a lot of me!

…I felt offended. It made me feel like she didn’t love me. I was her husband of 10 years. She should want to be held by me… right? I wasn’t one of her children, I was her husband.

“I just wanted to hold, you.” I said. “I’m not asking for sex, or anything. I’m too tired for that. I’m getting old, obviously. It’s been just a long day.”

At the mention of being held, Mel cringed a little. Once again, I was offended. I usually am when this happens. And it doesn’t happen all that often, but always more than I’d like. But it was late, and I didn’t want to fight…

via Why a mother doesn’t want to be touched ~ No Idea What I’m Doing: A Daddy Blog.

In last week’s post I just missed including this powerful post about the courage and strength of women who give birth by cesarean:

But in the birth world, I see a certain type of birth held up as ideal, and in my work I capture many that would fit the standard. The fictional “first place trophy of childbirth” always seems to go to the un-medicated, vaginal births where mom and partner are active and unhindered by doctors or nurses. Just last night, I read an amazing birth story where mom, unintentionally, gave birth at home in her bathtub. Her husband caught the baby because no one else was there. They sat at home on their couch and soaked in all the newborn goodness. It was a great birth story…and I’m sure it will get passed around again and again.

I had the honor of photographing this gorgeous cesarean birth – not the plan, (she was hoping for a VBAC) but beautiful, powerful – and redemptive, in its own right.

via Three Truths About C-section Mamas

April 2015 045

Grinding My Corn Sculpture

IMG_3729It has been almost four years since I wrote my post about “grinding my corn.” In that time, I’ve added another baby, another degree, a book, and a business to my life (as well as lots of other projects!). I’ve also made necessary subtractions and deletions, some painful, some a relief. And, guess what, I still want to grind my corn! My husband works from home with me now and he, too, grinds his corn while parenting and personing. This is what I wrote in my original post:

This is what I’m talking about. There needs to be a third, realistic option (and not just for women. For men too. For families!). I have often expressed the desire to find a balance between mothering and “personing.” I’m seeking a seamless integration of work and family life for both Mark and myself. An integration that makes true co-parenting possible, while still meeting the potent biological need of a baby for her mother and a mother’s biological compulsion to be present with her baby. Why is the work world designed to ignore the existence of families?

via I just want to grind my corn! | Talk Birth.

It felt like it was definitely time for a new grinding my corn sculpture! It took quite some time between my original sculpt and making the new figurines a reality, but she’s here!

IMG_3526I love her and she sits by my computer while I write, on my desk while I teach, and on my bedside table at night. She reminds me of my own capacity—to grow, to adapt, to change, to balance, to hold, to care, to live.

Adding another baby to our family has really pushed us to our coping edge in many ways, sometimes it feels like we’ve tipped past the edge–piled dishes, piled laundry, piled recycling, undone requests, unresponded to messages, other kids wanting books read and projects done. We’re pretty maxed. Our house feels at maximum capacity. Our lives feel at maximum capacity. And, yet, I still reach for the and. Somehow, even when here at the edge, or over it, we do make room…

At one point when my first son was a baby, I was trying to explain my “trapped” or bound feelings to my mother and she said something like, “well what would you rather be doing instead?” And, that was exactly it. I DIDN’T want to be doing something instead, I wanted to be doing something AND. I wanted to grind my corn with my baby. Before he was born I had work that I loved very much and that, to me, felt deeply important to the world. Motherhood required a radically re-defining of my sense of my self, my purpose on earth, and my reason for being. While I had been told I could bring my baby with me while continuing to teach volunteer trainings, I quickly found that it was incompatible for me—I felt like I was doing neither job well while bringing my baby with me and I had to “vote” for my baby and quit my work. While I felt like this was the right choice for my family, it felt like a tremendous personal sacrifice and I felt very restricted and “denied” in having to make it. With my first baby, I had to give up just about everything of my “old life” and it was a difficult and painful transition. When my second baby was born, it was much easier because I was already in “kid mode.” I’d already re-defined my identity to include motherhood and while I still chafed sometimes at the bonds of being bonded, they were now familiar to me…

via I just want to grind my corn! | Talk Birth.

My new sculpture incorporates a small “offering” bowl (as her lap) that to me is symbolic of the fact that though her hands are full, she is still open to possibilities and offerings and can “hold” more, when needed.

IMG_3702Having another baby has really made me pare away a lot in my life, including very basic self-care things like regular showers! I’ve done it before, so I know it isn’t permanent, but it is still hard to feel like I’m trimming away so much that matters to me, while also having so much I want to offer, and constantly having to prioritize and choose. I’ve been looking at it as a sort of “sabbatical.” While I might not be able to do as much face to face projects as I envision and dream of, I can lay the groundwork, I can write, I can prepare and outline and imagine, while also sitting in my bed holding my sleeping baby. Maybe I won’t get outside every day and maybe I have to choose between the shower or yoga, since doing both in one day seems like too much to ask sometimes, but I can use this baby time to incubate new visions and grow while appearing stationary.

Here is a gallery of how I’ve been grinding my corn with my baby this month (click for captions)…

Tanner was my baby-helper at last night’s Red Tent Circle at WomanSpace. It is hard to balance baby-care with circle facilitation (because baby helpers do things like bang the rattle on the floor instead of “passing the rattle”), but I’m still really glad I decided to offer these circles this year. It has been a rich experience so far.

IMG_4269I envision a life of seamless integration, where there need not even be a notion of ‘life/work’ balance, because it is all just life and living. A life in which children are welcome in workplaces and in which work can be accomplished while in childspaces. A life in which I can grind my corn with my children nearby and not feel I need apologize for doing so or explain myself to anyone…

via Corn grinding mama goddess birth art sculpture by BrigidsGrove.

During the Inner Mentor visualization we did last night at our circle, we traveled in time to meet ourselves twenty years from now. The first thing she/I told me is that my baby is now twenty. It felt like a shock to consider that, since right now is so real

IMG_4158

(Side note: this is my 1000th [published] blog post at Talk Birth! It is true that regular blogging eventually produces a significant body of work!)

 

Tuesday Tidbits: Cesarean Awareness Month

11148668_1614543705424512_3613965156253725168_nIt is Cesarean Awareness Month! We finished several new mama goddess designs this month and have a CAM-themed April newsletter ready to go out (subscriber freebie in this newsletter is a new birth education handout: “Can I really expect to have a great birth?” Sign up for the newsletter at Brigid’s Grove!)

Some Cesarean Awareness Month themed posts for this week. First, a meditation for before a cesarean:

You say you honor choices. 11108844_1614067252138824_1518757261202060615_n
Can you really honor mine?
I will always honor the process which
brought forth flesh of my flesh.
I honor your births too.
Can you ever honor my experience, or will I
forever be a part of your statistics on
the way things shouldn’t be?

via Birthrites: Meditation Before a Cesarean | Talk Birth.

And, some past thoughts on helping a woman give birth…what is the balance between birth interference and birth neglect?

There can be a specific element of “smugness” within the natural birth community that has been gnawing at me for quite some time. A self-satisfied assumption that if you make all the “right choices” everything will go the “right way” and women who have disappointing or traumatic births must have somehow contributed to those outcomes. For example, I’m just now reading a book about natural mothering in which the author states regarding birth: “Just remember that you will never be given more than you can handle.” Oh, really? Perhaps this is an excellent reminder for some women, and indeed, at its very core it is the truth—basically coming out alive from any situation technically means you “handled it,” I suppose. But, the implicit or felt meaning of a statement like this is: have the right attitude and be confident and everything will work out dandily. Subtext: if you don’t get what you want/don’t feel like you “handled it” the way you could or “should” have, it is your own damn fault. How does a phrase like that feel to a woman who has made all the “right choices” and tried valiantly to “handle” what was being thrown at her by a challenging birth and still ended up crushed and scarred? Yes, she’s still here. She “handled it.” But, remarks like that seem hopelessly naive and even insulting to a woman whose spirit, or heart, has been broken. By birth. Not by some evil, medical patriarchy holding her down, but by her own body and her own lived experience of trying to give birth vaginally to her child.

via Helping a Woman Give Birth? | Talk Birth.

An educational video and some cesarean infographics from Lamaze: Lamaze for Parents : Blogs : How to Avoid a Cesarean: Are You Asking the Right Questions?

And a VBAC Primer from Peggy O’Mara: VBAC Primer | Peggy O’Mara

Some thoughts on the flawed assumption of maternal-fetal conflict and how that impacts the climate of birth today:

I think it is fitting to remember that mother and baby dyads are NOT independent of each other. With a mamatoto—or, motherbaby—mother and baby are a single psychobiological organism whose needs are in harmony (what’s good for one is good for the other).

As Willa concluded in her CfM News article, “…we must reject the language that portrays a mother as hostile to her baby, just because she disagrees with her doctor.”

via Maternal-Fetal Conflict? | Talk Birth.

And some past thoughts on Birth Strength:

“Women are strong, strong, terribly strong. We don’t know how strong until we are pushing out our babies. We are too often treated like babies having babies when we should be in training, like acolytes, novices to high priestesshood, like serious applicants for the space program.” –Louise Erdrich, The Blue Jay’s Dance

via Birth Strength | Talk Birth.

(I would revise this slightly to say “until we have birthed our babies,” since strength is found in many different birth, postpartum, breastfeeding, and mothering experiences, not only in pushing out our babies. I still love the quote though!)

11150546_1614074768804739_5920468981887497904_n

Fivemonthababy!

IMG_3776Somebody is five months old already! How can this be?! I have a thing in which I’m startled by the realization periodically that this little person is somebody’s future grandpa…Silly, I know, but it is something that catches my heart and arrests my action to consider. (All grandpas were once some mother’s snuggly delightful baby treasure. WAHHHHHHH!) My friend linked to a classic poem by Mary Oliver on Facebook this morning: how will you use your one wild and precious life. The Somebody’s Grandpa thought serves as a similar touchstone for me, while also doubling as potential future band name.

This thought process is partially why I hold Tanner 22 hours a day. The other reason is because he doesn’t want to be put down. He also weighs 18 pounds now, which explains why I’m often heard to whine about my arms being tired and that I feel worn down and “old” lately. Parenting an infant feels considerably more physically wearing for me at 35 than it was at 24! He is also the most held baby in our entire family because when I do put him down, it is into someone else’s arms. There are four other willing family members usually around to hold him, plus grandparents and sometimes an aunt or uncle waiting too. I feel annoyed with myself that we wasted money on a little swing and bouncy seat (gift, so it actually wasted someone else’s money!) this time. I already know that we just aren’t a swing and bouncy seat kind of family, but I didn’t realize just how very not so we would end up this time around. With past babies, for whom Mark wasn’t home during the day, the bouncy seat was how I managed to shower and sometimes get some other two-handed tasks done.

So far, Tanner hasn’t seem particularly fond of baby-wearing either, leading me to wonder if I’d just gotten out of the habit (the aforementioned putting-him-down-in-someone-else’s arms thing) or if he isn’t the kind of baby that is into babywearing. My aunt bought us a wonderful new Boba that is so cute and fresh, but unless sleeping already, Tanner most often wiggles to get out of it. It also feels a little stiff to me overall, though it worked better on my back than Ergos ever have. However, on a hunch the other day when I was lamenting not being able to put him down for a good nap so I could make some new sculpture prototypes, I got out my older Ergo from Alaina. Putting it on felt like putting on a nice, broken-in shoe or comfy sweater. And, lo and behold, Tanner likes it too and has spent hours in it over the course of the last two weeks. I feel like I’m rediscovering babywearing! (And, also feeling bad about wasting someone else’s dollars on a new purchase!)

IMG_3772T-bot is our worst sleeper really. He either naps being held on my chest in the rocking chair, in the Ergo, or lying pressed by my leg in the bed while I work on my laptop (post currently being composed in a combo of the two–he is sleeping on my chest with my laptop held on the knees of my stretched-out legs, his head jostling a little with the movement of my fully extended arms trying to type. Why am I trying to type and hold a baby at the same time anyway?! Somebody Grandpa, remember?!) Luckily, I really love holding him while he sleeps, I know it doesn’t last long, and I have plenty of work I can do digitally while he types. This works because I can shut myself up in the bedroom (like a veritable nap retreat!) while Mark has an eye on the other kids and brings me lunch in bed.

IMG_3671

Participating in online Spring Equinox event, while in our favorite spot.

Tanner is also my first baby to have picked up some kind of virus as this young of a baby. Last week he had a fever and diarrhea. The fever only lasted one day, but the diarrhea for a whole string of unpleasant days with a plaintive, unhappy, whiny baby and stressed parents (particularly since I went back to class on Tuesday night). He has seemed somewhat fretful continuing into this weekend, but we finally realized that he wasn’t getting enough sleep (back to the bedroom nap retreat plan rather than the standing-Ergo-sculpting plan) and also that he seems to be going through a growth spurt and needs to nurse more often than I was realizing. He doesn’t dive in towards the breast yes or show other nursing cues really, so if I already nursed him recently, I thought he was just cranky and didn’t realize he was actually hungry! You’d think I hadn’t already been a breastfeeding mother for 11 years! As I’ve mentioned before, despite the many other willing baby-holders, he seems to need me more than any other baby and has even developed a wearing habit of screaming for me and stretching his arms out and rolling to the side reaching for me, when Mark is trying to change him before bed and I’m trying to brush my teeth. He does love going outside though and will happily ride away with Mark to check on the greenhouse and the chickens.

IMG_3661All this working while baby-holding prompted a new version of my “grind my corn” sculpture:

IMG_3732Despite all of the holding, he is also interestingly capable of moving himself along the ground. He is after everything and is the first to seem like he’s going to crawl any second. I’ve had a bunch of chubby late crawlers, so that’s what I expected again this time, but I think we’re going to follow a new pattern. He is also thisclose to sitting up unaided. He attempts to reach items constantly with a sort of tortured, deprived grabbing style, rather than an interested, exploratory style (more common to first babies, I think. This one is certain he is constantly missing out and that siblings are getting all the good stuff all the time, while he is forgotten and overlooked with no good stuff in his hands!). Due to frenzied grab-attacks and ability to launch self along floor and out of arms, he has now gnawed two pizza crusts (homemade, organic), one cauliflower floret, one bite of banana (gagged), and two pieces of paper (fished from roof of mouth). No fanfare or induction into the “first solid food” milestone. Just grabbed and chomped.

He is getting quite a bit more hair and remains a blondy blonderson!

IMG_3626Happy Fivemonthababy! I can hardly believe you are somebody’s grandpa!

 

Weekly Tidbits: Birth, Postpartum, the Triumvirate, and Anthropology

IMG_3501My sister-in-law shared a link to a really potent article from The Guardian about birth, midwifery, postpartum, and supportive friends. When she shared, she brought tears to my eyes by thanking me for being part of her own “triumvirate,” described by the post author as…

I needed a maternal figure, a dedicated and present midwife, dear and loving friends. I was blessed with one out of three. It could have been worse.

The only people I know who did just fine in the postpartum period are those who score the triumvirate: well cared for in birth, surrounded by supportive peers, helpful elders to stay with them for a time. The others, wild-eyed at the supermarket, prone to tears, unable to nurse or sleep or breathe, a little too eager to make friends at baby groups – I can spot them at 20 paces. We form a vast and sorry club.

via My friend breastfed my baby | Life and style | The Guardian.

I’m lucky enough to have also scored the triumvirate (I find it takes pretty careful planning and active attention to put it into place!). When my midwife came to visit me postpartum and commented that I was looking good and I replied that people kept telling me that, she said that rather than just saying “thank you,” I should point out my looking good was directly related to having excellent postpartum care. And, she was right. I did not look, feel, or sound depleted, exhausted or overwhelmed precisely because I was being taken care of. I had great prenatal from my midwife along with six weeks of postpartum follow-up visits. I had a postpartum doula for immediately post-birth support and several follow-up visits as well as meal calendar coordination. I had my mom, who cooked for us and cared for our other children. I had my sister-in-law who came to stay for several days and helped with cooking and cleaning. I had friends who brought me dinners and took my kids to playgroup. I had my husband, who got to enjoy our new baby with me because he wasn’t trying to do all of the above!

When I think of my triumvirate, a specific moment comes to mind. I am sitting in the bathroom holding my brand new baby, still attached to me by his cord. We are waiting for the placenta to come. My midwife is close by, peeking over, but not being hands-on or aggressive. My mom leans over to take pictures. My doula is standing in our bathtub to make room. My husband is kneeling near me and my other children are gathered around to cut the cord. In the driveway outside, my friend waits with her three children to take my kids to playgroup. This is what birth support looks like. I am surrounded with love and care.

The author of the article quoted above did not have the same experience…

Two weeks later, I gave birth at home, after a 13-hour posterior, or back-to-back, labour, which the long-practising, well-respected midwife did not bother to attend. Frankly, it felt like staring death in the face, by which I mean an altogether normal and intense physiological process that has nothing to do with the ordinariness of daily life. Throughout, my husband and doula repeatedly called and texted the midwife, whom we had found privately. She told us it was “probably” early labour. From inside the grip of what turned out to be very active labour, I managed to flat-out demand that she join us, speaking at the phone while the doula held it to my ear. The midwife sounded annoyed, vaguely put-upon. It was another three hours before she arrived. Minutes later, with a great and unbridled roar, I delivered my son into bathwater.

We wept with joy, held him, kissed him, named him. Eventually, I got out of the bath. My husband lay in bed with our new son on his chest. I showered in a state of trembling, happy shock. The midwife perched on the sink and told me a story about her estranged sister. She handed me a towel, and I remember commiserating, trying to comfort her about her unfortunate relationship with her family, as though we were two cool girls hanging out in the bathroom at a party. One of us just happened to be naked and bleeding, immediately postpartum. I didn’t care; I was too ecstatic. Having just given birth, I felt omnipotent. Epic. Heroic. Unstoppable.

via My friend breastfed my baby | Life and style | The Guardian.

I wrote about the value of breastfeeding support here:

But, what happens after the birth? I’ve often thought that my role in breastfeeding support, while less “glamorous” or exciting than birth work, has had more lasting value to the women I serve. Breastfeeding is the day in, day out, nitty-gritty reality of daily mothering, rather than a single event and it matters (so does birth, of course, it matters a lot, but birth is a rite of passage, liminal event and breastfeeding is a process and a relationship that goes on and on for every. single. day. for sometimes years). Anyway, sorry for the brief side note, but I enjoyed reading this article about the celebrity culture surrounding pregnancy and birth with its obsession with who has a “bump” and then how after the birth the main deal is losing that weight and having a fabulous bod again! Woot!

via Tuesday Tidbits: Birth Thoughts | Talk Birth.

IMG_3686

I shared this pic on Instgram this week in honor of the theme of “self-care” in the online Equinox 15 event I’ve been taking part in.

I’ve only recently recognized that while I was surrounded by excellent support for birth and postpartum, I’m not really giving myself much credit lately for still having just had a baby. Yes, Tanner is almost 5 months old, but that moment in the bathroom was only five months ago. I still need quite a bit of help and that normal and okay. I need to recognize what I’m capable of, which is a lot, while also still recognizing what I need and what the pace of my life can be and can handle at this point in time. I also recognized that I have difficult admitting or expressing how difficult it feels sometimes to be incorporating a new baby into the family, to be working around “baby time” again, and to be physically bound to a baby again. It is hard to admit, because Tanner is such a treasure of a baby and I enjoy him so much and love having his adorable, babiest of babies self in our lives. However, it also sometimes feels hard to be doing this all again and I often feel “old” and kind of worn out and ragged lately.

This brings me to a lovely article about vulnerability as strength (something my doula reminded me of several times following Tanner’s birth):

…Today I stood swaying my daughter to sleep in my mommas group shedding tears because of the intense sleep deprivation over the last 6 weeks. My tears fell and I was held with empathy, no one solved my problems; women just heard me and held me in my challenge. We heard each other, others cried, we softened, we opened ourselves up to the wisdom that each expressed and afterwards our hearts felt happier and lighter. Something sacred unfolded. I was in a container that was safe to share my soul, to be naked in front of these women, to admit I was not perfect and I didn’t have all the answers. And I felt better. I was not alone.

The more I allow myself to be vulnerable, the more I receive, the more I soften, and the more I open myself up to support. We are not meant to mother alone. The first year of our child’s life is a raw experience. It is amazing; it is illuminating, joyful, and raw.

via Vulnerability as a Strength | Mothering Arts.

This container is so important. Though, I will also acknowledge that for my personality, being told to “take it easy” or to “lower your standards” or “don’t have such high expectations of yourself,” often registers for me as being told: You’re not capable. I don’t believe in you. Give up. So, I personally, when trying to create a container of safety or support for other women I will not usually use those sorts of phrases.

Related to the idea of postpartum tenderness and triumph, I enjoyed this photo series of newborns and mothers: Born yesterday: mothers and their newborn babies – in pictures | Life and style | The Guardian.

Bringing the discussion around to anthropology and birth though, this interesting recent article suggests that it is the mother’s metabolism (and energetic reserves) that creates the human gestation length rather than the size of the pelvis as often commonly theorizes:

We’ve been doing anthropology with this warped view of the male pelvis as the ideal form, while the female pelvis is seen as less than ideal because of childbirth,” she said. “The female births the babies. So if there’s an ideal, it’s female and it’s no more compromised than anything else out there. Selection maintains its adequacy for locomotion and for childbirth.

via Long-held theory on human gestation refuted: Mother’s metabolism, not birth canal size, limits gestation — ScienceDaily.

In a past article about the wise women behind and around us, I included this interesting quote from Tsippy Monat:

“Anthropology describes trance as a condition is which the senses are heightened and everyday things take on a different meaning. Communicative competence with other people may increase or may not exist. Facts of time and place are revealed differently than in normal everyday consciousness. This description reminded me of situations encountered at birth because birth is a condition in which the mind is altered. When I accompany births, I experience the flooding of oxytocin and endorphins. In Hebrew, the root of the word birth can also mean ‘next to God’” (p. 49).

via Thesis Tidbits: The Wise Women Behind, Within, and Around Us | Talk Birth.

And, speaking of historical experiences of birth support, I re-visited this guest post about birth witnesses:

The only way to understand birth is to experience it yourself. The ONLY way? That comment stayed with me, haunted me. I became a doula after my daughter’s birth because I wanted to be able to provide women with support and knowledge that could give them a different experience, a better memory than what I had. I just couldn’t believe that there wasn’t a way to understand birth at all except to experience it firsthand. Certainly there wasn’t always this fear and unknown around birth that we each face today. Not always. I began studying that idea. What about other cultures? What about our culture, historically? What about The Farm? There wasn’t always this myth and mystery about birth! I realized there was a time (and in places, there still is) when women banded together for births. Mothers, sisters, cousins, daughters, aunts, friends. They came together and comforted, guided, soothed, coached, and held the space for one another during birth. These women didn’t go in it alone – they were surrounded by women who had birthed before them. Women who knew what looked and felt right, and what didn’t. Women who could empathize with them and empower them. In addition to that, girls and women were raised in a culture of attending births. Daughters watched mothers, sisters and aunts labor their babies into this world. They saw, heard, and supported these women for the long hours of labor, so when they became mothers themselves, the experience was a new, but very familiar one for them. Birth wasn’t a secretive ritual practiced behind the cold, business-like doors of a hospital. It was a time for bonding, learning, sharing and sisterhood. Girls learned how women become mothers, and mothers helped their sisters bring forth life. It was a sacred and special part of the birthing process that has become lost in our institutionalized, over-medicalized, isolating and impersonalized system today.

via Birth Witnesses | Talk Birth.

And, another regarding women’s rites of passage:

“I love and respect birth. The body is a temple, it creates its own rites, its own prayers…all we must do is listen. With the labor and birth of my daughter I went so deep down, so far into the underworld that I had to crawl my way out. I did this only by surrendering. I did this by trusting the goddess in my bones. She moved through me and has left her power in me.” ~Lea B., Fairfax, CA (via Mama Birth)

via Rites of Passage… Celebrating Real Women’s Wisdom | Talk Birth.

In just a few hours, I’m headed into town for our first local Red Tent Circle. I took this photo yesterday in honor of the spring equinox and the themes of manifestation, intention, and creativity. May we walk in harmony with each other and may we be surrounded by circles of support.

Happy Spring!

IMG_3702