Archive | April 2011

The Spot

“Can I ask you a personal question?” asks the woman on the phone. She is calling to inquire about my birth classes and the subject of homebirth has come up.

“Sure!”

“What about the mess?”

At first I give the standard answer. That birth isn’t so terribly messy, that you can put down towels and chux pads, that the midwife often does the cleanup. I pause a moment. This prospective client and I have an instant connection and excellent rapport. I add, “Actually, I left a huge blood spot on our living room carpet.” I add that the spot came out almost completely with peroxide, but can’t stop myself from also remarking, “I actually feel kind of proud of it—it felt like a symbol to me.” I find myself laughing a little and there is an unmistakable note of triumph in my voice.

“Of what?”

“That I did it. Gave birth in my own home, in my own living room, on my own terms, under my own power, in my own way. In the way that felt best and right and safest to me. On my own. Me. I did it.”

What I did not add—what would have been pushing it just a little too far—is that when we moved the peroxide-cleaned carpet square into our new home a large, round, rusty-red stain was revealed on the concrete floor beneath. And, that I take secret delight in its presence. I am proud that I left my mark on the floor that bore witness to my labor. I delight and actually revel in the reminder of my power that the stain represents. Is this total weirdness? Or freakishness? A type of maternal masochism or even a perversion? No, I decide. It is really not so different from keeping a football trophy from high school or an award for volunteerism in human services from college. Maybe there is a medal for natural childbirth after all—arriving in different surprising guises, one kind a blotchy reddish stain on a concrete floor.

Despite our easy camaraderie, I never hear from that prospective client again.

Those who critique the zealousness of birth activists sometimes accuse us of supporting an insidious “Cult of Natural Childbirth” and assert that we undermine women and their unique and often traumatic experiences by “insisting” that birth be an empowering and triumphant event for women.

Maybe there actually is a Cult of Natural Childbirth and I am an acolyte of Birth cackling with wild glee as I caper around my bloodstained floor….

Nursing my brand new baby boy! (2006)

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In the original article, I included a post-birth picture from my second son’s birth that showed one completely exposed breast. I must have still been hopped up on the post-birth euphoria when I sent it, because after it was actually published I felt slightly horrified to have my boob in print and didn’t feel like I could show the article to my dad (or, really, to many other people!) If you look closely at the picture I substituted in this blog post, you can see there is blood streaked all over my chest, arms, and hands. It was a very bloody birth!

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This is a preprint of The Spot, an essay by Molly Remer, MSW, ICCE, published in Midwifery Today, Issue 86, Summer 2008. Copyright © 2008 Midwifery Today. Midwifery Today’s website is located at: http://www.midwiferytoday.com/

The “Almost Died…” Remark

?

Anyone who has planned a homebirth has probably heard the, “If I’d had my baby at home, I would have died” remark more times than they can count. It seems to be almost a default response to mentions of homebirth. I used to have a pet peeve about this, because I was almost certain that most of time the people saying it had been nowhere close to death! It seemed like an overly dramatic, overreaction to a normal life process, etc., etc. And, also that we’ve been so brainwashed by the media into thinking birth is this life or death emergency that that filter then artificially colors our perceptions of events and dramatically affects our social lexicon of birth. (However, I also have the companion thought that in many countries, birth does remain a life or death experience for women and babies. Maternal and infant mortality are significant issues and are not subjects to be taken lightly. And, mothers and babies in the U.S. do, in fact, die sometimes. It isn’t just a third-world country thing!) Another statement that used to confuse me was when birth writers say things about giving birth bringing you to the, “edge between life and death.” This didn’t match my own to-that-date birth experiences, which had not ever involved feeling like dying.

So, these things said, it has been very, very difficult for me to write about my own feelings of being close to death following the miscarriage-birth of my third son in November 2009. I really, truly felt like I might be going to die after he was born. I have never felt that close before, but I reached that “edge” after him, and I had the visceral experience of the veil between life and death being very, very thin. And, the feeling did not occur in a scary way, but in a resigned, “oh, so this is how it is going to end, too bad I still had so much I want to do with my life!” kind of way. I felt okay with it actually. A type of acceptance that my time was over. Since everything turned out okay in the end, I haven’t had much reason to process that feeling, but it was very, very intense. And, actually it was also life-changing in several areas of my life, including in terms of my spirituality (I semi-joke that my miscarriage-birth was a “religious experience” for me, but truly, in a way it was). However, I can hardly manage to write about it. And, looking back, I remain amazed that it was humanly possible to bleed as much as I did, especially because at that point early in a second trimester pregnancy I didn’t have the whole 50% increase in blood volume that you have by full-term!

I think I don’t talk much about my own “almost died” experience because obviously, in hindsight, I wasn’t almost dying (since I didn’t), I just felt like I was going to. But, this is the key…the fact that I wasn’t truly dying doesn’t mean that I didn’t truly feel as if I was—and, genuinely so, not in just an irrational fear-planted-by-the-media way. This has given me new insight into the “almost died” remark that seems dished out so casually. I used to think it was primarily a risk-based/skewed/brainwashed attitude, rather than an emotional thing, but I have an understanding now that it more often probably represents how she felt (or perceived the situation) and that her feeling really matters. It was real. And, I now hear and honor that feeling (rather than secretly thinking “yeah, right!”), because the feeling was real. And, that means, to her, she really did “almost die.”

I’ve also come to realize that despite the many amazing and wonderful, profound and magical things about birth, the experience of giving birth is very likely to take some kind of toll on a woman—whether her body, mind, or emotions. There is usually some type of “price” to be paid for each and every birth and sometimes the price is very high. This is, I guess, what qualifies, birth as such an intense, initiatory rite for women. It is most definitely a transformative event and transformation does not usually come without some degree of challenge. Sometimes to be triumphed over or overcome, but something that also leaves permanent marks. Sometimes those marks are literal and sometimes they are emotional and sometimes they are truly beautiful, but we all earn some of them, somewhere along the line. And, I also think that by glossing over the marks, the figurative or literal scars birth can leave on us, and talking about only the “sunny side” we can deny or hide the full impact of our journeys.

During Pam England’s presentation about birth stories at the ICAN conference, she said that the place “where you were the most wounded—the place where the meat was chewed off your bones, becomes the seat of your most powerful medicine and the place where you can reach someone where no one else can.

Four Generations!

Yesterday, my grandma went back to her home in CA after being here to meet Alaina and visit the family. While she was here, we made sure to get a four generations picture:

I have to laugh at our nearly identical smiles. I wonder if A will also have the same smile? Can’t tell now with all the gums rather than big square teeth like my mom, grandma, and I all seem to have. (Related side note: quite some time ago on the last day of my internship at a battered women’s shelter, one of the women, who had fairly severe psychological issues, told me, “goodbye, Molly! We’ll sure miss Molly with her big, big smile and her square, white teeth!”) Something else that is neat about this picture is that we are all “first daughters”—so, this is a picture of the first daughter of a first daughter of a first daughter of a first daughter. Though, in my family A is the youngest child and the rest of us first daughters are also the oldest child.

I was happy to see my grandma and have her meet my baby girl. Alaina is at a perfect age for company. She is sociable and sweet and will laugh and smile at people even if she is unfamiliar with them. She played with my grandma and slept on her chest (transferred there after having fallen asleep at my breast—I was going to put her down, but my grandma said kind of casually, “or…I could hold her while she sleeps.”) I have noticed that she is getting a tiny bit stranger-anxious if she can’t see me at the same time though. I’ve had two experiences over the last week in which I let friends hold her while I went to the bathroom and both times when I came back, she was upset.

I’m getting ready for a big event, so this is the only post I can come up with for today! Oh, do I have about 50,000 other ideas for things I’d like to post though!

Mother’s Day Giveaway: Moody Mamas Gift Certificate!

This giveaway is now closed. Rebecca was the winner!

Last year, I hosted a giveaway for a beautiful dress from Moody Mamas. This year, in honor of Mother’s Day, we have a $35 gift certificate good towards anything on www.moodymamas.com! Items from the new spring collection make perfect Mother’s Day gifts or would make any pregnant woman feel special at any time.

The giveaway will run for 2 weeks, closing on Saturday, May 7th. To enter just leave a comment on this post about which piece from the Moody Mamas spring collection you like the most, Earn bonus entries by doing any of the following (and posting a comment to let me know which you did):

1)      Fan Moody Mamas on Facebook here

2)      Follow their blog, here

3)      Follow Moody Mamas on Twitter here

4)      Fan Talk Birth on Facebook

5)      Subscribe to Talk Birth (email subscription link is to the right –>)

If you have been lucky enough to win a Moody Mamas giveaway within the last six months, please do not enter and give another mama a chance to be a winner!

Book Review: Home/Birth: a poemic

Book Review: Home/Birth: a poemic
By Arielle Greenberg and Rachel Zucker
1913 Press, 2011
ISBN 978-0-9779351-7-8
208 pages, softcover, $11

http://www.1913press.org

http://www.facebook.com/pages/HomeBirth-A-Poemic/

Reviewed by Molly Remer, MSW, ICCE, CCCE
https://talkbirth.wordpress.com

Co-authored by a pair of long-time friends, the “poemic” book Home/Birth reads as if you are eavesdropping on a lengthy, juicy, engaging, thought-provoking conversation about homebirth, birth in America, maternity care, and feminism. The book has a lyric, narrative, stream of consciousness format linked together with segments of poetry.

The text does not differentiate between the two speakers/writers, though through the “call and response,” back-and-forth exchange between the two authors, you quickly begin to recognize two distinct voices (as well as other fragments from birth books, bumper stickers, midwives, etc.).

The book was written during Arielle’s second pregnancy, which ends in the stillbirth of her baby boy. Arielle had one prior homebirth and one subsequent homebirth. Rachel had two hospital births and a homebirth prior to the writing of the book.

While the style in which it is written takes some time to get used to, once you tune in to its rhythm, Home/Birth is a unique and fascinating journey. Because it is so distinctive, I find it difficult to describe in writing—you need to make sure to read it for yourself!

Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book for review purposes.

Three Month a-Baby!

Saw lots of baby girls with handbands at the ICAN conference and decided to cobble together a test one 🙂

I can hardly believe my baby girl is three months old now! It is amazing. Though, on the other hand, I also can hardly remember life without her. We also just crossed into her “life spark-aversary” as the anniversary of my LMP was April 17th (TMI!). This time last year, I was still full of confusion and anxiety about whether we would be able to have another baby and gathering up my courage to try again, “one more time.” She continues to be the most delightful, wonderful baby in the history of the world 🙂 Seriously though, she is just a really great baby. She is tons of fun, she smiles all the time, she laughs sometimes (mostly only at her Baba [my mom]), she chews on her hands in a contemplative manner, she drools a little. She goos and coos and gives little squeals of communication. She is shockingly accommodating, patient, good natured, pleasant, and adaptable (Z threw-dropped a pile of clothes on her head out of nowhere last night and when we snatched them back off, she was just blinking and then she smiled and kicked her legs—the boys would have SCREAMED from being surprised unpleasantly like that). I’ve never had such a calm and cooperative baby. She also sleeps like magic. Of course, she does also sleep in my actual arms all night long, so maybe that is why! I think she is actually one of those babies that I could probably put down in another bed, but I haven’t tried it. I sleep better with her close by and I don’t want to miss out on any opportunities to snuggle and enjoy her. I guess it is because we’ve said she is the last baby, but every day I think that I’ve got to have another one. She is so adorable that this can’t be the last time I get to have a baby! (I still think it is going to be last time though, for a variety of reasons.)

Despite being so used to her and feeling like she’s been with us for ages, I continue to have that sense of marvel over her—every day I feel it. I tell her things like, “guess what? You’re my BABY!” This is an unfamiliar feeling for me and it may be related to the same “last baby” thing, or, just because of my fear that I wouldn’t have another baby, or because of my relief to be on this side of the PAL journey. Whatever it is, I just feel amazed and grateful and delighted by her presence in our lives.

Having tummy time and showing off her cute little ears!

We’re doing elimination communication (EC) with her just like we did with Z. It is working out great. EC is amazing and I will write a separate post about that experience. But, I think it is just so COOL that a 3 month old baby will sleep all night and have a dry diaper in the morning (and then pee in her little potty).

The boys totally love her, which can have its challenges. They both like to get really close to her face and also kind of lean on her head to snuggle her. Her eyes start to blink rapidly when she sees them getting close to her! 😦 But, she also gives them some of the biggest grins and loves to watch them play. They are her favorite show and she will sit on my lap and just watch them for the longest time. She also likes to ride facing outward on my hip and kick and pump her legs and wave her arms. Lann is big enough at 7.5 that he can carry her around and you can tell she trusts him to take care of her. She has even fallen asleep on him before! (He was holding her and kind of dancing around while we cooked dinner one night and then laid down on the couch with her laying on top of him and she conked out.) She weighs about 15 pounds now and is getting heavy enough that he can’t hold her for very long without complaining about the weight though, LOL. She has fabulously chubby legs and dimpled hands.

 

Daddy and his kids!

We’ve just had a family-wide cold and she got it too (she escaped the one that caused laryngitis for me two weeks ago, but this one she got before me, which meant my antibodies weren’t able to save her from this one). My grandma is coming to visit from CA this week and I hope she will be suitably enraptured with her first little great-granddaughter!

This blog has taken on a more personal tone during my pregnancy experience and continues to do so. Eventually, I will get back to writing more educational or advocacy-oriented posts. Right now, I just feel more like writing about my own personal experiences.

There has been a “baby boom” of April babies amongst my friends recently and as I read their birth stories, I realize that I’ve yet to share the full version of Alaina’s birth story. I have it hand written in my journal and think I will transcribe it “sometime soon.” Attending Pam England’s presentation about the gates of birth story sharing also heightened my desire to write it up in full. Of course, every day I have at least 10 things I’d like to do that I don’t make it to that day. I was just talking about this to my husband, saying that really, I actually like this about myself. While I feel some kind of pressure somewhere to be “more Zen” and to “chill out”/relax, I like my own intensity. I run fast and high and bright. It’s okay. That’s how I am. As I’ve noted before, if chilling out means cooling my enthusiasm or putting out my fire, then, no thanks! I don’t want it after all. I’d rather have the slightly manic edge 🙂

I like waking up in the morning with my head boiling with possibilities and being full of exciting ideas. Of course, perhaps I could be calm and relaxed and full of ideas, but if it is a trade, I’ll take the ideas! To be totally honest, sometimes I feel like people who suggest relaxing are secretly trying to “dim my shine.” So there! ;-P

Cutie pie!

The Birth Art Journey Continues

This weekend I made two more additions to my series of birth art sculptures that I began during my last pregnancy.

Since A spends a lot of time in a pouch, I added this slingin’ mama to my collection:

And, just as I initially made a polymer clay birth goddess figure to incorporate the “pregnant woman” identity into my life, I wanted to make a non-pregnant figure (who isn’t holding a baby) to represent my return to the nonpregnant identity:

I also made some new pregnant figures for two upcoming mother blessings for friends. In a way, these too are a continuation of my series, since the cycle of life continues in other women after my own “return.” Here are my four new figures all together:

And now, here is my full birth art series from my pregnancy with Alaina, all lined up together representing my journey:

The first figure represents my incorporation of the pregnant identity. The second figure is a representation of my sense of being in the labyrinth of pregnancy. The third figure was created to help me work with my fear/concern about pushing the baby out. She was my most powerful figure and served as a source of strength to me. The fourth figure is an image of my actual experience pushing my baby out (I was kneeling, which is why she is kneeling). The fifth figure is the transition to nursing mama and then the final two figures are those I describe above.

And, finally, here is my series of figures plus my pregnant friends 🙂

Giveaway: Aloe Cadabra

This giveaway is now closed. Kelly D. was the winner!

As a breastfeeding counselor and a childbirth educator, I get occasional questions from new mothers about what to use as an “all natural” personal lubricant. So, my attention was caught when I received an email from the company, Aloe Cadabra. They note the following:

New moms have a lot of things to juggle – care for a newborn, altered sleep patterns, returning to work, etc.  As women navigate their new routines and new “normal” life, many struggle with one piece of this pie – resuming sexual intimacy with their partners.  With pregnancy and childbirth affecting the hormonal balance of a woman’s body, many new moms face challenges in their postnatal sexual health.  A pilot study carried out by St George’s Hospital Medical School in London reports that 3 months after delivery, 39% of women experience vaginal dryness.

As a result, many women turn to mainstream personal lubricant products found at a local drugstore to help bring the spark back to the post-baby bedroom.  If these personal products are on the shelves, then they must be safe to use, right?  Wrong – these readily available products contain the same ingredients found in antifreeze, food preservatives and cleaning solutions – obviously bad for both your body and the environment.

Aloe Cadabra has developed an all-natural, certified organic product made from 95% organic aloe and enriched with Vitamin E.  This first and only plant-based intimate moisturizer is pH balanced for a women’s body, anti-bacterial, anti-microbial and anti-fungal.  Aloe Cadabra is fully absorbed into the skin as it is used, so there is no gooey, sticky mess, and it’s compatible with condoms.

Parents are wisely cautious and educate themselves on products that come in contact with their baby’s body…Doesn’t a mom deserve the same caution?

One reader can win a bottle of Aloe Cadabra simply by leaving a comment on this giveaway! I will close the giveaway next Tuesday at 6:00 p.m.

Kiva Woman with Womb Labyrinth

Today, a friend told me that she searched google images for “womb labyrinth” and mine were some of the first images to come up. I thought that was kind of fun and decided to post another labyrinth drawing I did a couple of years ago. She was posted on my now defunct birth art blog (need to move some of that content over here!) and I think she deserves a post here as well. Inspired by Birthing from Within, of course, this “kiva woman” (based on the BfW cover image) is contemplating her upcoming birth journey:

Kiva Woman & Womb Labyrinth

She’s approaching her “threshold moment” and getting ready to enter the “laborinth” of birth. Her baby is waiting for her in the center. I have several friends who are preparing to enter their own “laborinths” and I hope their birth paths are filled with beauty, peace, and power…

ICAN Conference Thoughts

This past weekend, I attended the ICAN conference in St. Louis. I was really excited that the conference was in my own back yard (well, two hours from my back yard). I enjoyed seeing lots of people that I know from Friends of Missouri Midwives as well as other friends and contacts from other organizations. And, I got to meet some people in real life (like Jill from the Unnecesarean), who I previously only “knew” online. I also bought myself a pretty awesome new ring from the MANA booth (and a t-shirt and a bumper sticker!).

In addition to these things, highlights of the conference for me were:

  • Hearing Pam England speak and getting to meet her after so many years of being a fan of Birthing from Within. I will write another post soon about her “9 Birth Story Gates” presentation. It was very good.
  • Taking Amy Swagman’s birth art workshop (Amy is the Mandala Journey artist and was someone else that I enjoyed meeting in person after only “knowing” online). I will write about this soon as well.
  • Seeing the amazing breech birth videos shared by Gail Tully of Spinning Babies in her presentation about breech birth.
  • Connecting with another mother during the sand tray art therapy workshop presented by Maria Carella. Though our birth experiences were different, our “processing” of them during the workshop was amazingly similar. More about this later too.

The main reason I wanted to post tonight though was to share my experience in visiting the “Our Voices” room at the conference. This room is a safe, quiet place—a place of silence—in which women can go to to contribute their feelings about their cesareans to the wall displays. They can take their contributions home with them when they leave, or leave them up to be re-installed in the next Our Voices room at the next conference. Every wall in the room, plus the doors and several tables, was covered with women’s words and feelings about their cesarean experiences, subsequent births, VBAC, etc. It is difficult to put into words how potent of an experience visiting this room was. I was not expecting to be moved to tears by it, but I was. It was extraordinary. And, painful. There were other women in the room crying and crying as they composed their additions to the wall, as well as other women walking quietly through and looking and reading. I originally intended to add to the wall—I was told that it was not necessary to have had a cesarean myself in order to add something—but after seeing the room and the women in it, I did not feel “worthy” (so to speak!) of adding to it. It wasn’t my space. It was something I was privileged to witness, but I did not feel it was appropriate to add my own words to these women’s pain and expressive space. I felt like anything I could say would be trite somehow, almost insulting, to the depth of feeling expressed on the walls. Sometimes you really do have to have “been there” in order to fully recognize the experience of another. And, while I can certainly empathize and feel deep compassion, cesarean birth has not been my own personal journey and it just felt like it would be rude almost, to claim enough understanding of it to write on this wall.

This experience also taught me that I am not meant to start an ICAN chapter. I really think our area could use one and I love the work that ICAN does and I had signed up to start a chapter (before coming to my senses and realizing that I am overcommitted to too many projects/organizations right now as it is), but after visiting the Our Voices room, I realized that I am not the appropriate person to lead one. I just can’t really get it even though I can “see” other women and honor their experiences.

I’ve noted before that I feel like my experiences with pregnancy loss opened my heart more fully to the full range of birth loss (which  includes many women’s feelings about their cesareans) and birth/pregnancy trauma. Before loss, I only saw the “pretty” side of birth. Well, not pretty, exactly, but the empowering and triumphant and exciting side. After my birth-miscarriage, my world was opened to the wider world of birth experiences and feelings. I feel like there are—somewhat surprising—parallels between pregnancy loss and  the loss of a vaginal birth women experience with cesarean, but it is also different and the Our Voices room at the conference was a sacred space for those with cesarean experiences. It was both humbling and moving to hear their voices in this way.

There are pictures of the room and the contributions at the ICAN Conference Facebook page.