Friday, December 28, 2007

The Mother's Guide to the Meaning of Life

Of course, I received many lovely books as gifts this year which will keep me reading and posting for quite some time to come. I got a short little book called The Mother's Guide to the Meaning of Life which I read Christmas evening in about 30 minutes. I wanted it because the subtitle is "What I've Learned in my Never-Ending Quest to Become a Dalai Mama." Dalai Mama--I love it! Aside from that little touch of genius, I didn't really glean a whole lot from the actual book. Kind of funny with a lot of cute little line illustrations (like of her "Palm Pilot"--the palm of her hand with lots of notes written on it. ;-) I have one of those too!) She talked briefly about questing for perfection--"if you really were a perfect mother, everyone would hate you"--and quoted The Mother Dance author Harriet Lerner regarding perfectionism as the archenemy of mothers. Coincidentally, I also got The Mother Dance for Christmas and later in the evening when I opened it up to skim through I randomly opened to that same quote about perfectionism. Funny, eh?!

I also read Riddle of the Prairie Bride. This was a predictable "history mystery" for preteen girls (I bought it on clearance from American Girl and gave it to my mom to stuff my stocking with). Widowed father of 12 year old Ida Kate sends for a mail order bride. She arrives with her one year old baby and it soon becomes clear that something is amiss. She does not meet her description from her letters, gives inconsistent answers and so forth. Ida Kate investigates, mystery is solved, and true love reigns on the prairie. Why am I bothering to blog about this you may ask? Because, I keep an eye out for "breastfeeding as normal" content in kids books and I loved that in this mystery the first clue that the prairie bride is not who she says she is is that she didn't nurse her baby! (and, a one-year-old baby at that! Wow!) "She feeds him milk from a cup rather than nursing him as mothers do..." (Ida Kate notices the baby patting on the front of the mystery woman's dress and instead of nursing him, she gets a cup of milk for him). I also liked the use of the word "nurse" instead of "breastfeed." Cozy, familiar, desirable, and NORMAL. (With the emphasis on the process and not the product as Diane Wiessinger would say.)

The children's books the Royal Diaries and the other historical fictional diaries in that series of books also often mention breastfeeding and I like that about them (I appreciate it because it is NOT necessary for the content of the book, but it adds a nice touch of realism and normalness). Also, I just remembered that in one of the AG short stories--Josefina's Reward I think---her older sister has to hurry back from what she is doing to "nurse the baby" (who is also over one year old and walks and talks in the book).

Happy Holidays!

We had a thoroughly lovely Solstice and Christmas this year. Really great. We have a family joke of sorts about "this is the best Christmas ever" (ala St. Pat's is always the "best ever"), but this one really did feel like one of the best ever. We went to my parents house and my brother and sister were there too. Everyone got along really well. The mood was peaceful, joyous, and fun. L is at a fun age for enjoying everything and being SO excited. Z didn't really get what was going on, but was as adaptable as ever. Still a boy of few words, he did let out a "wow" every now and then that was pretty cute. He also snagged a lot of candy from other people's stockings and scarfed it down.

On Christmas Eve, we played our little game where we each write down two things and then randomly draw them and sing the 12 Days of Christmas using what is written on the paper (i.e. "Five Ewoks Dancing...").

On Solstice (this year the Sat. before Christmas), we open gifts as a nuclear family and then the extended family comes over in the afternoon and I plan some meaningful family activities for us to all do together--the kinds of things that are lost under the commercialism of Christmas. So, we share solstice goals with each other, reflect on past goals and the things that have "bloomed" in our lives over the year, make ornaments together, light candles on a Yule log, that sort of thing. I usually do a few things differently each year and a few are traditions year-t0-year. We started celebrating the Solstice they year L was born. It seems to mean something even to my teenage bro and sis, who each made a special effort to be present (sis with boyfriend along as well who was good spirited about everything and made a felt Ninja Turtle for L to stick to our wall--side note: we discovered that the walls of our straw bale house are like a giant felt-board and if you make things out of felt, they stick to the walls of their own accord. Pictures will follow when I get my camera's batteries recharged).

One of my solstice gifts from M was a pelvis model from ebay. Yay! I've wanted one for a long time! (The ebay seller's store is vanscience if anyone out there is also coveting one of these beauties. It is exactly life size.) The other thing in the picture is the uterus cutaway model thing that it comes with, but it isn't very cool. I'll stick with my big knitted uterus lovingly made for me by my mother.

I have more to say and more pictures to add sometime soon!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Midwifery Today Prenatal Yoga Article

In August, Midwifery Today accepted an article I wrote about prenatal yoga. I was incredibly excited about it then, but I didn't tell many people just in case they never actually published it (I didn't even tell my parents until October!). Then, last week the issue finally came in the mail with my article published in it--Incorporating Prenatal Yoga into Childbirth Education Classes. Woo hoo! I was re-delighted anew and now I'm telling all kinds of people and hoping I don't sound insufferably braggy about it. This feels like a lifetime goal (of sorts) realized. If anyone had told me last year that I would have an article published in Midwifery Today I wouldn't have believed them (too "big league" for me!). I'm getting a lot of mileage out of this, since every time I think about it I get a little thrill of excitement and disbelief. The article is placed right next to one by Michel Odent, so I've been joking about how we just overlap SO much, people confuse our work ALL the time (LOL!). They published the photo I submitted with it in the middle of the article, which was a nice layout (my mom took the photo of me when I was pregnant with L in 2003. The pose is called Proud (Birth) Warrior). There is a little synopsis of the article on the current issue page of MT's website.

I have so many more ideas for articles and essays ALL of the time. It is a constant flow of them. I wish I had more time to actually *write* them. Sometimes the most I get down is just the prospective title. Oh well. I have all the time I need (right?!). The idea for this prenatal yoga article actually came to me several months before I actually wrote it. It floated around my head for a while germinating and then refining and then one morning I woke up and said, "bring me my notebook!" and the whole thing came out basically fully formed onto the pages while Z and L were still sleeping. This helps me see how "writing in my head" is actually real writing and real work--even though I'm not actually putting pen to paper or fingers to keyboard, something is being created that can be born when the time is right. I hope the next article that happened like this is also published soon...I'll keep you posted, of course ;-)

Monday, December 17, 2007

Breastfeeding as Radical...

I finished reading the fall issue of Utne a few days ago and marked the following quote to share from K.C. Compton in an article about baby boomers:

"We discovered firsthand the radical nature of simple acts: Sit in the front of the bus, ask that your husband be present during his son's birth, decide to feed your infant with your own breasts, refuse the nuclear power plant being built just up the road. We also learned how much more effective those acts can be when compounded by the hundreds and thousands, their feet on the street..."

This reminds me of a powerful editorial by Peggy O'Mara that I read once in Mothering, urging women to see their mothering as a political act.

Also, since I'm posting about breastfeeding, I wanted to mention that I got the new LLLI catalog last week. It has been *completely* redone and the layout and appearance has received a total makeover. The results are great. I love it! It is "pocket" guide style called "Breastfeeding Guide: tips & products." So, instead of being a catalog, it is actually a helpful little booklet first and a catalog second (the products come in the second half of the booklet, after the tips. 26 pages of questions answered and then 25 pages of catalog--pocket sized though, so maybe 3 x 5?). For being so small, it covers a remarkable amount of territory and gives lots of good information--from "How often will my baby nurse?" to "When will baby sleep all night?" to "Is it possible to breastfeed twins?" Like I said, it is a great little *book* not just a catalog. I love it and think it was a stroke of genius to reach out this way!

Friday, December 14, 2007

Eat, Pray, Love

Tonight Z was being somewhat difficult and not going to sleep, so I spent a long time in bed trying to put him to sleep and consequently finished reading Eat, Pray, Love. I have wanted to read this since a friend of mine told me about seeing the author on TV and also because every time I search for or buy a book on Amazon, it says something like "people who bought that book, also bought Eat, Pray, Love." The third reason is that I like the cover--it is cool. The Eat is made out of pasta, the Pray is made out of prayer beads (japa mala) and the Love is made out of flower petals. And yes, I did count all the beads in "Pray" to make sure there were actually 108 (there were). This book is the chronicle of the author's one year spiritual journey through Italy, India, and Indonesia (Bali). She spends four months in each country living among the people and discovering what the country has to teach her.

Anyway, I enjoyed this book for the most part. The author has a light, engaging, conversational style. She talks about how she can make friends with anyone and she does sort of "make friends" with her readers as well. I had this feeling of knowing her--though I didn't know I felt that way until I read some of the book reviews on Amazon and felt sort of surprised like, "these people know her too? My pal Liz?" I did notice that for someone seeking spiritual insights on a solitary journey, almost all of the book involves her relationships with the people she meets. Goes to show that no woman is an island, of course, and the power of relationship, but it seems different than what she says she has set out to do. Also, I only marked two pages which is a sign that I did not gather anything particularly lasting from this book.

One of the two pages I marked was this:

"I should say here that I'm aware not everyone goes through this kind of metaphysical crisis. Some of us are hardwired for anxiety about mortality, while some of us just seem more comfortable with the whole deal. You meet lots of apathetic people this world, of course, but you also met some people who seem to be able to gracefully accept the terms upon which the universe operates and genuinely don't seem troubled by its paradoxes and injustices."

My husband is more of the second type (graceful) and I am more of the first (mortality anxious).

I have long felt an urge to more concentrated attention to spiritual seeking, but have trouble actually getting devoted about it. This book made me think about that again and the development I could do...

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

Last week I finished reading Barbara Kingsolver's newest book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. This book was unique amongst all the Barbara Kingsolver books I've read to date in that it was a chronological, autobiographical narrative. Her other personal nonfiction works are collections of essays that are not chronological, but are organized instead around a theme. This book is the story of one year of her family's life. As such, it is not particularly glamorous or exciting. Indeed, it is kind of mundane and the pace is pretty slow. Yet, it is REAL and very personal. Written with inset boxes by her husband about specific environmental issues and chapters closed with recipes and thoughts from her oldest daughter, this book was a family effort (just like the year it describes).

The author and her family decide to move permanently to their farm in Kentucky (previously only their summer home) and to attempt to eat locally and to grow and harvest as much of their own diet as possible. Forced to acknowledge that the food available in Tuscon is unsustainable at best and environmentally disastrous at worst, they could ethically not live there any longer and so set out to provide for their own gastronomic needs (as organically, harmoniously, and peacefully as possible too).

I must confess that this book did not snare me as completely as all of Kingsolver's other books have. I consider her one of my favorite authors of all time and one of the most masterful and gifted writers I can think of. Towards the end of the book, her stirring descriptions and explanations of the reproductive saga of her domestic turkey flock actually brought tears to my eyes. That is some gift! ;-D

Other random thoughts from this book:

  • I loved her concept of (and accompanying illustration of), the "vegetannual." The way of looking at vegetables as all pieces of one plant (the vegetannual) providing edible goods at different points of the year (different parts of the plant's life cycle) and continuously. Beginnings with the spring greens and crowned with the "flower" of a large pumpkin, the vegetannual continuously meets our dietary need for fresh produce!
  • She makes me wants to raise chickens! (heck, and maybe turkeys too...)
  • And I want to grow stuff! Lots of stuff!
  • This book came to mind day-to-day and made me reflect on my own food choices and the localness, or not, thereof. She talks about being a "locavore," which is a cool concept.
  • We do eat primarily in season and my observation is that local grocery stores (even Wal-Mart!) make it easy to do so. Towers of produce during any one season are most often seasonably appropriate (though very often not local by a long short). This seems different than her assertion that Americans eat whatever they want, whenever they want it without consideration for, or indeed awareness of, whether it is in season. Maybe it is a function of our fairly rural, Midwestern location, but I think people here would hard pressed not to "get" that some foods are in season and some aren't (based simply upon the abundance of apples in the Wal-Mart produce department right now and the utter--and totally appropriate--dearth of, say, strawberries. No watermelons now either or mounds of peaches, just as there will be no grapefruits in Wal-Mart in July).
  • She also has some good insights about the simple pleasures of food preparation and providing for your family instead of viewing cooking as drudgery or a chore to be got through.
  • I made Camille's (Kingsolver's daughter) zucchini orzo recipe for dinner last week and it was delicious!

Friday, December 7, 2007

Information Overload? (and...this is my 150th post!)

So many good causes! Maybe too many?

A few days ago I was reflecting on the many sources of written information flowing through my life. I made a list and *not including personal information sources* (i.e. email from friends or conversations with people) or actual people, I have well over 100 things coming into my life over the course of a week, month, or quarter that demand my attention in the form of me reading them. Mostly email or print newsletters, action alerts, that sort of thing.

I am a dues paying member of at least 17 organizations (I might have forgotten some). All but two have a publication that I receive (though another one of them has more than one publication). Then, I subscribe to 10 different magazines/journals. Then, because I'm an alum of that school or because I donate money to that organization, or because I'm a member of that electric cooperative, or because I filled out that card for a free subscription to Energy Times from the health food store (which I really like, by the way), I get an additional 10 or so publications. And...I read them all (even the ones I get not by my choice, but alumni pubs or whatever. Though, not necessarily all through, cover-to-cover all the time). I've referenced before the difficulty I find in NOT READING. This is something that is really hard for me. LOL! If it is written and I see it, I read it. For better or for worse. I also read like 10 blogs and I am on about 30 email lists. Are you starting to see a problem here? When do we draw the line at how much information we bring into our lives? Is it possible to be so full of other people's opinions that it becomes impossible to hear your own still, small voice within?

Yes, I am an information junkie, but I'm also passionate about many causes, want to be an informed citizen, and want to have evidence based opinions. I also like to be "in the know" and I like to be a well informed, reliable, accurate person. However, I sometimes feel like a slave to the printed word! Or like I've gorged myself upon it. I gobble up writing like a starving person and there are always more words right behind them. I also gobble them with gusto--I LOVE to read. It is very important to me. Heck, that is why I even have this blog. It is about me and reading and how the two intersect to form the texture of my life.

So, I decided that this word-fest of my life could be viewed through two lenses:

1. The depressive lens: Each of these information sources chips off a piece of my life energy and diminishes my time. Fragments and splinters my attention, my energy, my focus (and my sentences ;-).

Or...

2. The optimistic lens: Each contributes its own piece to the complicated whole of me, my life, and my life energy and helps inform my thinking, expands my worldview, and enhances my ability to be an informative resource in my own right.

I guess it could be both too!
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For whatever reason, this reminds me of another note I wrote in my notebook a few weeks ago when I got all of those publications in the mail on the same day. I was driving home and the following thought popped unbidden into my brain: "I am connected in an extraordinary web of human relationship." I like it.
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P.S. Would you believe that in this, my 150th post to this blog (!), is the first time I've used "reading" as a label for my post?!

Heartsongs

I didn't read as much as usual this week. I did quickly read through three volumes in the Heartsongs series. These are slim volumes of poetry by Mattie Stepanek, a child with muscular dystrophy. I remember seeing him on Oprah years ago when I still had TV and still occasionally watched Oprah. I have a boxed set and so read Heartsongs, Journey Through Heartsongs, & Hope Through Heartsongs (which was definitely the best of the three, I thought). I just googled him and saw that he died in 2004. :-( The idea of a heartsong is, "all people have a special song. Inside their hearts! Everyone in the whole wide world has a special Heartsong."

Reminds me of one of my favorite reminders from Wayne Dyer: "Don't die with your music still in you." I used to fret about this quite a bit--I couldn't shake the feeling that I wasn't letting my "music" out. Then, sort of accidentally, I started writing again and in earnest this time (articles, essays, blog posts, journals) and later realized I don't worry about dying with my music still in me anymore. During my original frets, I felt like it was other "music" that was needing out (mainly that of service to my passion for birth), not words necessarily, but I've realized that maybe it WAS literally my words dying in me that gave me that feeling. They needed to get out. I've spent a lifetime writing various essays in my head, nearly every day, but those words always "died" in me before they ever got out onto paper. Now, I get them out and it feels SO much better. Even if they don't go anywhere other than a note in my notebook, I feel so almost physically relieved when they are out and gone.

Reflux & Rice Cereal

I read the winter issue of Parenting magazine this week and was really happy to see the following snippet in their brief article about reflux/GERD:

"Leading experts no longer recommend thickening bottles with rice cereal, especially for regular spitup. One reason: A new study in Pediatrics found that this can lead to overfeeding, which only makes spitup worse."

I was SO glad to see this in mainstream print. Breastfeeding advocates have known this information for some time, but in my experience many doctors still recommend thickening feeds. I even talked with a mother who had been told to pump and exclusively bottle feed because her baby "had" to have rice cereal in every feed and there was no way to get the rice cereal into her breasts so it would have to be fed by bottle. I did suggest that as a compromise maybe they could feed the cereal to the baby by spoon before or after nursing, rather than pump and mix the cereal into the expressed milk. These kinds of situations make me want to tear my hair out in frustration and dismay :( So, I'm glad to see it in readily available public print that rice cereal additions DO NOT help.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Living Crafts

My aunt bought our family a gift subscription to the new magazine Living Crafts for Christmas. I saw this advertised in the last Brain, Child issue and was instantly intrigued. Anyway, the premiere issue did not disappoint. I loved it! Then my mom borrowed it and loved it too. My mother is perhaps the most skilled and multitalented craftsperson I've ever met, so I wasn't sure much could impress her, but she really loved the magazine a lot as well and wants it back from me to look through some more.

The centerpiece of this issue for me is the uber-cool knitted farm playmat. Oh. My. Goodness. A total masterpiece (a tribal masterpiece as 12 women collaborated throughout the country to make it). Fascinatingly cool. My grandma was visiting for Thanksgiving and took home the pattern, so I'm crossing my fingers for future knitted farm coolness for my boys to play with! ;-) (they referred at the article's end to this The Knitted Farmyard book). There was also an interesting and inspiring article about prayer beads. I have more beads and charms than I know what to do with, so I sense a new project in my future!

There was also a pattern for a Waldorf-ish valentine doll that made me consider trying my hand at making something like that again. My past attempts have been pathetic, but I really think it is because I have never used the real tricot fabric you're supposed to use for their faces--I always just use some random knit and it doesn't work right at all.

Okay, sick-Molly does not a fascinating blogger make. Time for bed!

Providence

Let me begin by saying, I am STILL sick and thus not in a very read-y or bloggy frame of mind this week (actually, I've been blogging like crazy on the new CfM blog, so maybe that is where that energy is going). So, anyway, whine, whine. I've had a nasty cough since Nov. 3rd. I can't shake it. I also feel like my head is underwater (and thus have trouble hearing people when they talk--feel sort of separated from them by a bubble) and I have almost no sense of taste (which is too bad because I've been making some tasty foods lately and then wishing I could actually enjoy them). WAH!

Okay, so I did read Providence by Daniel Quinn this week. He is the author best known for Ishmael, which I read as a young teenager. I remember considering it to be a life changing and fascinating read, but it has been a LONG time since I read it. So...it is now back on my to-read shelf. Anyway, Providence was less illuminating/interesting. It was primarily an autobiography with an emphasis on how the author developed Ishmael (which went through more than 6 versions over a period of like 13 years) as well as an exploration of his religious development (which includes some time spent in a monastery and ends with animism).

While he was writing his book, he worked in educational publishing and I appreciated several of his comments about education such as:

"One of the great, persistent myths of education in our culture is that children become reluctant learners as they grow older. In fact, what they become reluctant about it going to school, where they're bullied, regimented, bored silly, and very effectively prevented from learning...We know what works for children up to the age where we ship them off to school: Let them be around you, pay attention to them, talk to them, give them access to as much as you can, let them try things, and that's it. They take care of the rest. You don't have to strap small children down and teach them to speak, all you have to do is talk to them. You don't have to give them crawling lessons or walking lessons or running lessons. You don't have to spend an hour a day showing them how to bang two pots together; they'll figure that out all by themselves--if you give them access to the pots. Nothing magical happens at the age of five to render this process obsolete or invalid."

I think ideas like this were the underpinnings of my mom's approach to homeschooling. Thanks Mom!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Birth as a Healing Experience

Early this week I finished reading Birth as a Healing Experience which I had borrowed from a doula friend of mine. I'd never heard of it until I spied it on her shelf and asked to borrow it. Maybe I'm not in the proper mood for birth books lately (I'm certainly in a mood for blogging about birth though!), but I didn't feel like I got anything new really out of it. I do like books that focus on birth as an emotionally and psychologically significant experience, so maybe it IS mainly my mood that kept me from really enjoying this one much at all.

The author did quote midwife Penfield Chester's explanation of holistic childbirth care. I really liked it:

"The holistic model holds that birth is a normal, woman-centered process in which mind and body are one and that, in the vast majority of cases, nature is sufficient to create a healthy pregnancy and birth. The midwife is seen as a nurturer."

Friday, November 23, 2007

Simple Pleasures

My husband makes me a mug of tea every morning and leaves it by my side of the bed so that it is waiting for me when I wake up. When I get out of bed, it is the perfect temperature to drink. No matter what kind of tea is in the mug, it tastes like love to me. Lately, it has been Bengal Spice tea--this tea is seriously delicious and I love it deeply! This morning, I took my tea and my notebook and sat on our newly built front porch with roof (thanks, DH!). It was foggy and not too cold. Remnants of rain dripped from the edge of the roof. The ground was covered with orange and brown leaves. I felt surrounded by quiet peace. Inside and outside. L was still sleeping inside and I was watching Z play outside in the leaves (the reason I went outside in the first place--he got both of our shoes and then went to the door and pointed expectantly).

It felt like life could not get more beautiful than this.
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(I wrote this paragraph in my notebook on 11/13 when we were still experiencing several days of pleasant, warm weather. Now, it is freezing and there have been no more porch reflections for me lately! No Bengal Spice tea either as we used up my box and the grocery store does not have it any more!)

Operating Instructions

Continuing my mothering memoir kick, I finished reading Operating Instructions for the second time last night. I consider this a classic in the field as well--Anne Lamott's journal of her son's first year. It is quite funny. This one IS a lot about the baby--a memoir of him as well as of Anne's experiences in becoming a mother (some funny, some sad, some painful). In her acknowledgments that open the book she quotes a line she says is from an old New Yorker story: "we are not here to see through one another, but to see one another through."

This jumped out at me, because when I worked at the domestic violence shelter in Columbia, we had a modified version of this quote on the wall and I also used it when I taught volunteer trainings. I thought it was part of the DV prevention movement, not partially plagiarized, LOL! Ours was: "our job is not to see through women, but to see them through." We mainly used this as a reminder if we felt like we were being lied to.

I also quickly half-read, half skimmed another of my Goodwill books: Don't Sweat the Small Stuff at Work.

Memories of Postpartum + Mother Knot Thoughts

Instead of adding to my previous post about The Mother Knot, I decided to go ahead with a new one. It is fitting because the thoughts I feel like sharing are less about the book than they are about my own memories of life postpartum. Lazarre's book is one that gives voice to the "ugly," to the "bad mother" within. I craved books like this postpartum and devoured each book about motherhood that I could find (I didn't find this one). Unlike Lazarre, who explicitly *hates* her baby at times, I never felt I hated my baby. Yet, as I adjusted, I felt at times that I hated being a mother (heck, I still feel this way sometimes! Though, not with the painful sense of shame and failure at being "bad" enough to have that feeling. I've realized that the experience of mothering and one's feelings about that role is separate and distinct from the actual baby or child of which you are the mother). My "bad" feelings postpartum (and now) were all turned inward, not directed at the baby. I felt suffocated, chewed up and my bones spit out, erased, deconstructed, worthless, and useless. In hindsight, I see the PPD-ish glint behind these feelings, though some of these feelings also featured in my pre-motherhood neuroses as well. Postpartum was the most vivid and painful transition point of my life.

The author of What Mothers Do specifically critiques the ambivalence that Lazarre describes in her book. Aside from this, I adore the book What Mothers Do, it is one of my very favorites about this subject. I think we can look at the cultural elements contributing to that ambivalence rather than view Lazarre as somehow less developed of a mother (or wrong for her ambivalence). I think it is sociocultural, not personal (I also don't think it is "natural" or inevitable, which is where Stadlen of What Mothers Do and I agree and where Lazarre and I would disagree). I don't really think I feel, or felt, ambivalent exactly (at least not in the angry way that Lazarre describes). I definitely turned any hostility inward and felt badly and negatively towards myself rather than towards my baby.

I felt slapped in the face by postpartum. I was triumphant and empowered in birth, but diminished, insecure, and wounded postpartum. I had a difficult and complicated recovery due to unusual labial tearing (unrepaired, because the damage was not really acknowledged/noticed in time for a repair). Maybe this contributed to my difficult adjustment to early motherhood. I've long tried to analyze the difficulty, concluding that it is not uncommon in the least, but wondering why/how others survive without mentioning this pain. How is anyone doing this? I would wonder, concluding that I must not be "cut out for this" and that I was the only one feeling alone, stifled, shut down, and unheard. As a consistently overachieving type, it was humbling as as well as psychologically painful to not "get an A" on this new "assignment," my baby. Each time he cried, I felt it was evidence of failure, failure, failure. I would see women and couples without children and think, "it isn't too late for you" and "if only you knew." When I would see women who were pregnant I would feel a sense of grief for them--"just wait. You have NO idea what is coming." (Again, hindsight shows me a little touch of PPD-ishness here...)

I felt silenced, muted, captive (and yet captivated!), squelched, and denied. Maybe these feelings mean I'm egocentric, selfish, or immature (I certainly lectured and berated myself about that!), but they were my reality at the time. The experience was so scarring to me that for about 18 months after my first baby was born I considered not having any more children--not because I couldn't handle pregnancy, birth, or even the mothering of a baby and toddler, but because I could not stand the idea of experiencing postpartum again. I came to realize that my only regret about these days of early motherhood was not in how I related to my baby, or in how I took care of him, or loved him, or appreciated him, or marveled in him. My regret is that I was so very mean to myself the whole time I did those things--in reality, I was actually fairly skillfully learning how to mother. I was responsive, nurturing, kind, and loving and I took delight in my baby, but I was cruel to myself almost the entire time and failed to appreciate or notice any worth I had as a person or to accept and have patience for my birth as a mother.

The Mother Knot

Last week, I finished reading The Mother Knot. I actually got it for Christmas last year, but it languished on my to-read shelf for quite some time before it caught my eye as my next read.

This book was originally written in 1976--Jane Lazarre's memoir of her early years of motherhood. Aside from a (very) few dated references, the book has a very contemporary feel and could have been written only a few years ago. Since this book was written, a whole genre of mother-written books has been launched and I believe the voices of mothers and their experiencing of mothering are more visible than they once were (though still invisible in a larger cultural and social framework). The author is a feminist and her experiences with motherhood are filtered through that lens (which is one I identify with), so the book is overlaid with a feminism theme in addition to a mothering theme. To specify, this book is not about parenting nor is it about the author's child, it is about her, and her complicated emotional reactions and experiences with being a mother, the act of mothering, and cultural framework surrounding the role, as well as her frustrations with that role). From the preface: "that sense that her experiences might reflect those of other women, might even help to demolish that impossible set of standards which oppresses us all--the motherhood mystique."

Another quote that made me think about the whole SAHM, WAHM, WOHM thing, this describing her mother-in-law's situation (6 kids): "I thought of Marie, working at the cleaning, washing, and ironing while three babies played in the playpen. She had not 'stayed home with the children.' They had stayed home with her as she did her work." I liked that flip in perspective--my ideal situation is one in which all of us our home together and each going about our own business, so to speak (as in, kids play, DH works on his projects, I work on mine and there is a harmonious interplay of work and family life. No artificial, segregated division, and also each member of the family having their needs met).

Towards the end of the book she shares an anecdote about her OB that I think carries a huge ring of truth still today:

"My obstetrician had whispered a secret to me on a sunny afternoon. I had come to the office prepared with my written list of questions. Why was I feeling nauseated, I asked, and what was all this pain in my thighs? And he had answered wearily, 'If you want answers to questions, have a miscarriage, or toxemia, or let something else go wrong with your pregnancy. We don't know anything about normal births.' So much for technological know-how."

I have a variety of notes written about this book in my notebook and I'm going to transcribe them at some point, but I need to just go ahead and post this for now and add more later! (later today, hopefully!)

Monday, November 19, 2007

The Wisdom of the Body

I'm on a decluttering rampage thanks to my recent reads and one of the things I'm evaluating is my large stack of "to-reads." Many of these are unsellables from book sale expeditions and so I keep them to read "someday"--not because I really want to per se, but because I have them and they look pretty interesting (I get rid of TONS that do NOT look interesting, so I'm not a totally hopeless case here!) Anyway, one that I've had for years, I finally realized is never going to make the cut and actually be read (there are so many actually great things to read, why waste my time on only "pretty interesting"?!) is The Wisdom of the Body. I skimmed through it last night reading the pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding parts and found the following quote when discussing the biology and physiology of milk production and delivery:

"The beauty of a nursing mother can never be explained by a little oxytocin around the milk glands."

Friday, November 16, 2007

Clutter's Last Stand

Early this week I finished reading Clutter's Last Stand. How interesting could a book about decluttering be you may wonder? Quite interesting and funny too! I really enjoyed this book (the author is a little mocking and towards the end the joke/pun-a-minute style started to bug me a little, but that is okay! Actually, the whole second half of the book was a little repetitive and I enjoyed it less than the first half. DH read it too and agrees--actually, he read the first half only). This one is more of the "manifesto" about clutter and dejunking and then I also had the same author's Not for Packrats Only from Goodwill and I finished reading it today (11/19) and liked it much better than Clutter's Last Stand actually. This one was more practical and had lots of good ideas and "how tos" for decluttering, instead of just giving you the "theory" of clutter, why junk is bad, and get rid of it! This second one is much more helpful in telling you how!

I have three boxes and one basket of giveways by my front door already!

Birthing Babies

I reviewed the booklet Birthing Babies for the fall issue of the FoMM newsletter. I realized I never posted a blog entry about reading this (at least, I don't think I ever did), so I'm posting my review of it here:

La Leche League of Kirksville has brought together a lovely and unique collection of birth stories from Missouri mothers. Each mother’s voice rings strong and clear in her story and a wide variety of experiences are shared. The simple 54 page staple bound book is divided into three sections. After a brief introduction, the first and longest section shares 18 uncomplicated birth stories. The second section provides space for the sharing of 6 stories involving complicated births and grief. The third, brief, section contains a list of suggested reading and information about La Leche League.

My own two birth stories are published in this book, so I was excited to read it for that reason, but I was soon caught up in the emotionally catching stories of the other women’s births.

This book has a very “home grown” layout and appearance and perhaps with a largest budget for future printings its style will be polished some more.

When I initially began reading the book I felt that a larger introduction and opening section would be a nice addition, but after finishing the book I realized that the mothers’ stories really speak simply and elegantly for themselves.

Copies of Birthing Babies are $6 (includes shipping) and are available by emailing Lynn (contact me for her email address if you are interested in buying a copy of this unique little volume).

Publication Station

Last Saturday, I received a lot of fun stuff in the mail. The first was a big box of Compleat Mother issues. They published my Singapore birth essay on the first page! :-) It also had a really extensive article about the midwifery legislation struggles in Missouri with lots of pictures. The fall issue of the FoMM newsletter also arrived (I'm the editor of this and write an article each issue based on the "question of the quarter"--the winter issue's Q of the Q is, "did you have a doula present at your birth(s)?" and/or "did your birth experiences inspire you to become a doula?"). I was really happy with this issue. My mother wrote a really beautiful essay for it about empty nesting (my youngest sister just left home this summer) and another grandmother submitted a wonderful (and very long) poem about the homebirth of her granddaughter.

Finally, my first issue as editor of CfM News also arrived! This issue had two film reviews that I wrote--The Business of Being Born and Birth As We Know It--a book review of The Official Lamaze Guide and then my article about Domestic Violence and Pregnancy. So, it was a fun ego-boost to get all of this stuff and see my name in print over and over again all at once! ;-)

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

New websites!

I recently finished a new website specifically for my birth classes. Before, they were kind of buried in my regular website. Though it isn't totally done, I already prefer having this new one! Yesterday I taught my first class that was specifically for a homebirth couple and that was really nice--it was so nice to be able to skip past a lot of the "defensive childbirth" type stuff I feel like I need to cover in my regular classes in order to help couples have a realistic view.

I also just started working on the Citizens for Midwifery blog. I'm hoping it will become a consumer birth issues blog and I plan to post questions for discussion/consideration and so forth. I want it to be opinion and commentary based more than news based, though some news will be sprinkled in there as well. Right now, there are only a few posts. I'm going to start making regular updates to it on Saturdays (Fridays are my usual day for this one, but I'm "cheating" a little today to post a few quick updates (instead of reviews).

How do I get so much reading done?


This is why! :-)

I wrote an essay about nursing and reading recently and wanted to share one of the pictures DH took for it.

Friday, November 9, 2007

LLL of MO Conference

Last weekend I enjoyed the LLL of MO conference in Columbia. It was really well put together and I enjoyed myself thoroughly (I also got thoroughly exhausted--it was a packed schedule--and came home with a nasty, wracking cough). I "won" some cool stuff in the silent auction and raffle too--such as a Peekaru baby carrier cover and a Moby Wrap. And, the conference tote bags are cool--nice black and red with a stylized line drawing of several mothers and babies in a half circle. Really very nice. It was great to see old friends and get to know new ones better and also to meet people face-to-face who I only know through email. Face-to-face makes SUCH an important difference and is so much more real than "virtual" connections are.

I presented my session on Celebrating Pregnancy through Art and it went well. This was the first time I've presented at a conference and it was a delight. My session did not have many participants, but more than had originally signed up for it, so that was encouraging. The picture here is of the display board I made of different types of art during pregnancy (most of which hang on my wall in real-life. This was like a portable birth art wall for me! The picture below is of figurines created during this same session at the FoMM retreat in Sept. I didn't take a photo of the figures from the LLL conference session.



My favorite sessions were those presented by Diane Wiessinger. She gave an amazing session called "Watch Your Language" that was about how we talk about breastfeeding. An example, using the word "special" to describe breastfeeding--a "special bond" a "special nursing corner" etc. and also using the word "perfect" (which communicates something that isn't reasonable or that "real" people can't do or live up to). She encouraged us not to "glorify breastfeeding" like this. Breastfeeding ISN'T special, it is NORMAL. A breastfed baby has a "normal bond" with its mother! Human milk isn't the perfect food for babies, it is the NORMAL food for babies. I just loved it. I love language and hidden "messages" in our words. I could go on about this presentation for hours. It was great. She also gave a meaningful talk about "Changing Thoughts on Latch" that was really important.

I also really enjoyed a session by Deanna about "Following Your Passion While Raising Your Family." One of the insights I re-had following this session was whether I would prefer people to say after I die, "She did everything she was supposed to do, "OR, "she was joyful." I feel like much of the way I live my life would garner me the first response--I did everything I was supposed to do (but didn't have a whole lot of fun doing it...) WAH! I need to do some serious thinking and reorganizing and re-prioritizing. I'll keep you posted as to what develops...First thing might to reconsider the "serious" thinking and do some "joyful" thinking instead, LOL! ;-)

The link was made several times during this conference (by both headliner speakers--Diane & then Dia Michels) about the need to more explicitly link birth with breastfeeding. As Dia said, there needs to be a new word, "birthandbreastfeeding." Sometimes in LLL settings I feel apologetic about my passion for birth or like I need to make sure to keep it low key, so it was nice to have it affirmed that the connection is undeniable. The two are inextricably linked and it DOES matter how and where you give birth. As Diane said, "It's the birth, silly!"

Small Wonder

Last week I also finished reading Small Wonder. Unlike my previous rant, THIS book was a book to be cherished and explored. I have many things to say about it and quotes to share and so forth, but unfortunately this is one of those times when my to-blog pile has become too large for me to do each book justice. Rather than having them start hanging over my head as a to-do list and actually, snort, feeling guilty for not blogging about them, I'm going to accept that I do not have enough time to give this gem a proper analysis and review. Suffice to say this was a glorious read and that I adore Barbara Kingsolver. She is one of my very most very authors and I love her books. This book was a collection of her essays about "small wonders" of our own backyards and how they can be expanded to the larger culture. This book was written after 9/11 and that theme runs strongly throughout. It was interesting to me how "past" that felt and in many of her writings the immediate anguish of the events are still so strong.

A stellar analogy about television that I wish I had had available to share during my argument with that guy at the UU church in JC:

"Having a sieve up there on the roof collecting wild beams from everywhere does seem poetic, but the image that strikes me as more realistic is that of a faucet into the house that runs about 5 percent clear water and 95 percent raw sewage. I know some people who stay on guard all the time and carefully manage this flow so their household gets a healthy intake; I know a lot more who don't."

Home by Choice

One of the books I read last week was Home by Choice. I had had this on my library requests list for some time, but it was of low priority. I happened to see it at a friend's house last week though and then borrowed it. I had several notes to share about it, but then I realized that I don't really want to bother. I didn't like the book very much at all--the author seemed hypocritical at times, I objected to her objections to and critiques of "feminists" (and speaking positively about women who "opposed the Equal Rights Amendment." Hello? WTF?!). Also, she goes on and on about how mothers need to be home with their children, etc. and then casually references, "Though Kris spent a couple of hours each day at the local day-care center after morning kindergarten..." She failed to explain how this is so much more superior than a mother being at work most of the day while the kids are at school--yes, the author was home, but the kids WEREN'T! LOL! Also, she actually WASN'T home when her girls were babies and toddlers, though she has many many opinions that that is when mothers are of vital importance and should "come home." So, even though I absolutely agree with her that mothers are of vital importance to their babies and that it is best to be with with them and that stay-at-home-mothering is important and valuable work, her approach was off-putting and I didn't like the book.


Everyday Sacred

One of the books I read last week and left in my to-blog-about pile was Everyday Sacred by Sue Bender who is best known for her Plain and Simple book about living with the Amish. (Which is one of the books I found at a book sale and read last year. This year, I found this one.) Similarly to her previous book, I didn't "connect" much with this one either. Her writing style is loose, dreamy, and incomplete somehow (not detailed or something maybe?). This book is a series of vignettes of sorts as she struggles to answer some of life's big questions. Her questions remind me or my own (she is 63, I am not). Also, it did resonate for me to read her insights about expecting something different/grander/special, but it is enough for everyday sacred. Basic. Simple. Important as they are.

Yesterday I bought a pile of books at Goodwill and only a few were sellable (but some were books I really wanted, so that was really cool!). As I am sometimes wont to do, I read the short little book Chocolate for a Mother's Heart. I didn't need to read it really and most of the content was immediately "downloaded" from my brain. I should have just stuck with reading the most fabulous Clutter's Last Stand that I also found there and started reading. More about that later. So far it is one of my new favorite books! LOL!

As you can see, I'm kind of on a non-birth book kick lately. I was reading one that was quite interesting in theory, but I found myself feeling sort of "yeah, yeah, yeah, I KNOW this already." When I get like that, it is time to take a break from reading about birth and start delving into other interesting areas of life.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

KnitLit

This afternoon I finished reading a delightful little volume of KnitLit (too). The shortest synopsis is that it is a collection of essays/stories about knitting (and the components thereof--so some essays were about wool, yarn, or sheep). You would think I would only read books like this if I was a Knitter. One of the essays even says as much. However, I'm not really, but I do have a Knitter for a mother and hence, the passage of this book into my hands (and if I get a book, I read it, even if I lack the proper capitalization credentials to do so!). This was a nice collection of stories and I enjoyed it. Some were funny, some were a little sad, some were whimsical, and so forth. Someday I might even be a Knitter too...

Friday, November 2, 2007

The Writer's Life

I read four books this week, but I'm leaving for a conference shortly and so only have time to write about the one I have the least to say about! ;-) I was going through books to get rid of and came across The Writer's Life. It was a really quick read and I read it that evening. It was basically a collection of quotes from the diaries of famous writers (like John Steinbeck, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, George Eliot, Mark Twain, etc.) The compilers of the book had gone through these authors' diaries and put together a new book--it is organized in to chronological sections starting with excerpts written in youth and then thoughts about the writing process, fame, ambition, etc. and then concludes with thoughts about death, life's work, immortality. Not all authors are quoted in each section, just a handful. Anyway, it was a mildly interesting read (and a quick one). I probably should have just put it in my giveaway box. I need to get better about that!

Anyway, one quote from Rosellen Brown in particular stood out to me:

"I know that for me, writing has something in common with nursing the baby. I can't do it if I don't do it all the time. Put it aside to build up strength, the flow will dwindle and finally disappear. When the baby was at my breast ten times a day, I had a rare secret feeling that we were violating a law of nature, defying a form of entropy...One cannot hoard some things. The more I gave the baby, the more I had to give her, and had I tried to conserve myself, I would have found that I conserved nothing."

I identified with this--that is one reason I keep a blog. I also find I need the "proper" time to write though, or the flow isn't there. That isn't true of nursing! I can do that anywhere, anytime!

I'll write about my other three reads when I get home!

Friday, October 26, 2007

Experts

I read an article in a recent issue of Ode magazine called "Fire Your Guru." Among other interesting thoughts, the following quote from John McKnight caught my eye:

" 'Every time we call in an expert, we lose a piece of ourselves. As a result, the social workers have eroded the very soul of community...The enemy is not poverty, sickness, and disease, but a set of interests that need dependency, masked by service.' "

This gave me pause on several levels--one, as an MSW (Ack! One of the eroders of society apparently!), two, as someone who has been involved in "helping" professions for her entire adult life (volunteer & paid), and three, as someone who is very fond of self-help books and is always seeking the external way to finally be "perfect" instead of discovering my own truth within...

Your One Year Old

Earlier this week I read Your One Year Old. I providentially found it at the JC book sale before Z turned one in May. The book was published in 1982 and in some ways seems kind of old-fashioned (writing styles have changed in the last couple of decades I guess) and some things are out of date like actually suggesting that parents take seriously the theory of Constitutional Psychology (like "mesomorphs" and that sort of thing!). However, in many ways it was right on target and was very helpful to read. So, things that Z is doing now that are very wearing such as biting, hitting, running away, etc. are apparently classic "One" things to do. That is very helpful! I felt similarly when I read Your Three Year Old earlier this year--it was very on target and helpful to read.

I liked this reminder regarding your child's basic temperament:

"The important things are two: (1) that you try to understand him as he is and (2) that you do not congratulate or blame yourselves for the way your boy or girl turns out. It has often been said that it is possible, if you do all the 'right' things, to help your child live at his top level, expressing his very highest and best potentials. But if these potentials are less than terrific, this will not be because of something you have done or failed to do. Human intelligence and potential vary, genetically, from brilliant to rather dull. You do not determine this level by things you do or do not do. Human personality ranges from the charming, delightful, and clever to the less than charming, less than delightful, less than clever. Some children are secure, happy, and giving, almost from the moment of birth. Others find life difficult, also from the moment of birth (or before)."

Reading this book also made me reflect about how much better psychologically I feel as a mother to Z than I do/did to L. L is my "guinea pig"--with Z, even though he is a very different kid, I feel much more at ease and competent. It is hard to explain in writing. L is the one who makes me stretch and grow and who has challenged my sense of self immensely. Z is kind of just coming along behind and all is well--even if it isn't (like he is biting or whatever, I still have a basic sense of competence in mothering him, whereas with L is is always new and always changing and I'm not the "expert" yet! And that is very hard on my self-esteem!) To clarify, I feel equally close and attached to each of them in terms of the quality of our relationship, but my level of insecurity is different. I can see how it would be possible to have mothering become *easier* the more kids you have (if the sense of competence increases with each, LOL! ;-) Okay, I guess maybe psychologically easier--I imagine physically, financially, and attention-split-between-too-many-bodies it would be harder! Okay, just rambling now...should make dinner instead!

Friday, October 19, 2007

Pushed

This week I was delighted to finally read Pushed by Jennifer Block. This book is seriously GOOD! Wow! Lots of weighty, meaty information, scathing critiques, astute observations, and clever commentary. She has plenty of scientific backup for her claims and the book is written in an engaging, fast paced style that skillfully weaves facts into descriptive commentary and personal, illuminating interviews. I checked this book out of the library, but after seeing all of the data contained within--she's pulled together vast quantities of data about effectiveness of "routine" practices, etc. and made it accessible to the average reader--I knew I had to put it at the top of my Amazon wish list.

Pushed is a thorough critique of obstetrics as an industry and how women and babies are being HURT by the systems ostensibly in place to "protect" them. Especially thought provoking is her descriptive exploration of the cesarean epidemic. She points out on one occasion when discussing the whole uterine rupture straw man used to deny women VBACs, that people must prefer "controlled uterine rupture" (i.e. cesarean). Later, in a separate section regarding blood loss during birth, she mentions that average loss is 300-500 mil and over 500 is considered a hemorrhage. She then notes that during a cesarean the average loss is 1000 mil. Reading that, I thought so essentially with a cesarean you have a 100% chance of a uterine rupture AND a 100% chance of a hemorrhage. Wow! No wonder they are common ::sob:: :-(

The information about blood loss wasn't new to me, but I did learn something I hadn't known before--300-500 mil of blood is approximately 8-9 menstrual periods worth. Isn't the female body thoroughly awesome?!

Some assorted thoughts & quotes:

Re: EFM (external fetal monitoring): "For the natural childbirth movement, the emergence of the monitor was unfortunate timing. Just as activists were urging women to get up and birth, hospitals reined them back down in bed and strapped them, both physically & psychologically, to a machine that falsely promised a safe birth."

Quoting a midwife re: unassisted birth: "'That's not why you're hiring a midwife. You're hiring a midwife because you want her there for complications' Some of Linda's clients are such believers in birth that they toy with the idea of going unassisted. To this, Linda is fond of telling the story of a birth she attended where the baby had its umbilical cord wrapped around its neck three times and need resuscitation. 'You never know when you're going to have a problem,' she says. 'It's like playing Russian roulette.'"

This paragraph made me really sad and also frustrated and annoyed. Frustrated because those kinds of scare-tactic comments and implied "you must not really love your baby" subtext is EXACTLY the same as the conventional medical system's attitude toward homebirth. The midwife quoted seemed totally oblivious that her remarks are virtually identical to the things OBs say say about homebirth and are just as demeaning and restrictive to women as the anti-homebirth sentiments are. Makes me think of the Trust Birth Initiative's point:

"Being afraid to support a woman’s choice of UC is the same convoluted, illogical thinking
if we are talking about trusting BIRTH. If we say we trust birth, but only
IF________then we are saying we trust the place or the personnel more
than we trust birth. So then our trust for birth is totally dependent on so many
conditions that are totally outside our control. And once again we are saying that birth is
dangerous UNLESS___________. And we are back right where we started."

So, which is it, do you honor, respect, and trust birth or not?!

Okay, brief rant aside and another quote. This one while the author was observing a home water birth:

"It is at this point that I begin to fathom what supporting normal birth really entails. Linda is on her knees, sleeves pushed up, gloved hand in a soiled kiddy pool up to her bare elbow, gleaning diarrhea wisps with a spaghetti strainer by flashlight. I try to imagine a doctor doing this work and have great difficulty. This is not medicine. This is birth. It is messy, backbreaking, humble work."

During the conclusion of the book after a discussion about the NAPW and whether childbirth is a reproductive right or not:

"To her [a doctor who thinks it is not], it is a medical issue, one that may need reform, but one that belongs under the purview of physicians. 'To my mind, I'm all for people having a pleasant and safe birth experience,' she says. 'But my highest priority would be for them to have a safe birth experience.' But what's considered safe is political. What's safe changes. Thirty years ago obstetricians said VBAC was dangerous. Then they said it was safe. Now they've gone back to saying it's dangerous. ACOG says out-of-hospital birth isn't safe, but the research has consistently suggested that for women with normal, uncomplicated pregnancies it is not just safe, but safer, because those women are far more likely to have a normal, spontaneous vaginal birth and far less likely to experience harmful, unnecessary interventions...."

"...The goal is to have a healthy baby. 'This phrase is used over and over and over to shut down women's requests,' she [Erica Lyon] says. 'The context needs to be that the goal is a healthy mom. Because mothers never make decisions without thinking about that healthy baby. And to suggest otherwise is insulting and degrading and disrespectful'...What's best for women is best for babies. and what's best for women and babies is minimally invasive births that are physically, emotionally, and socially supported. This is not the kind of experience that most women have. In the age of evidence based medicine, women need to know that standard American maternity care is not primarily driven by their health and well-being or by the health and well-being of their babies. Care is constrained and determined by liability and financial considerations, by a provider's licensing regulations and malpractice insurer. The evidence often has nothing to do with it."

This the TRUTH and I hope women hear it.

The only critique I have of this book is one I echo from several other reviews. The book fires you up and has a lot of passion and energy, but provides no outlet or ideas for where to channel that energy. There is no "resources" section, no suggestion to join Citizens for Midwifery or your state midwifery advocates, no list of birth-positive organizations who are working diligently for birth change in our culture, etc.

A Reasonable Life

Yesterday I finished reading A Reasonable Life. Basically, I didn't really like it very much. I found the overall tone to be depressing & negative & I should have stopped reading it in the middle. (I have a book problem in that I find it incredibly difficult to stop reading something once I start it--I feel compelled to finish it, like I "owe" the book the chance of a complete "hearing"). The subtitle is "toward a simpler, secure, more humane existence," which appeals to my interest in simple living. I found the author to be excessively sentimental about the "simple life on the farm," which I think in many ways is a myth (nothing wrong with being self-sufficient as possible, but to romanticize life on the farm or in the "good old days" as superior, neglects the fact that farming is HARD WORK, relentless, and wears you out). He also claims that early America was the "ideal" village culture, which to me proves that this book was written by a man--he overlooks the fact that women were not considered worthy of educations, were considered property, could not own their own land, couldn't vote, had very restricted opportunities, were burned at the stake, etc. Yeah. Ideal.

Anyway, this book was a critique of American culture--particularly consumerism, but also of television, education, friendships, cities, lifestyle, etc. The author had a consistently histrionic tone and doomsday attitude that I found to be a turnoff. He also interjects lots of "humor," but I found it to be of the belittling, scornful type. His shrill and critical tone really began to wear quickly. Considering that I'm part of the simple living "choir," I can only imagine what an "unconverted" reader would respond to his tone!

Friday, October 12, 2007

International Doula

When I received my copy of International Doula last month, my jaw dropped in amazement at the new look! Wow! They have completely overhauled the look of the journal and it is very impressive and visually appealing. I never thought it looked bad before, but now it is really stunning.

There was an interesting article by a male doula, Keith Roberts, about "The Role of Expectations at Natural Births." In a side bar in the article he says "I have identified five critical factors in having a natural birth. Keeping the membranes intact is one of the five." However, he doesn't explain the other four and I really would like to know what he thinks they are (it has also gotten me thinking about what I would say the five factors are...?)

I receive approximately a dozen publications related to birth or breastfeeding. I receive some member publications because I must maintain my membership in those organizations to maintain my certification. I maintain my membership with DONA purely by choice and primarily because I so very much enjoy International Doula--it has consistently remained one of my top three favorites of the publications I receive. The quality is excellent and apparently getting even better than I could have imagined!

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I finally updated my post about The Dance of the Dissident Daughter today as well.
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I also re-read Real Moms this week & enjoyed it again. Lightweight exploration of some weighty and important things. My original post about the book is here.

Midwifery Today

I was so pleased to to receive and read the autumn issue of Midwifery Today. I love this publication very much! :-) There was an article by Michel Odent called The Function of Joy in Pregnancy and I loved one of his conclusions therein:

"Prenatal care of the future will be guided by a [this rule]: "Eat sardines, be happy...and sing!"

(Sardines for the omega-three fatty acids in which many of us are deficient.)

There was also a lengthy article about uterine rupture and I appreciated the following observation (when considering the blanket recommendation of a repeat cesarean to avoid rutpure):

"At this point, wouldn't limiting the use of synthetic oxytocics and analgesia--and cesareans, of course--seem reasonable, so that fewer mothers and babies are exposed to fewer risks during the current labor and birth as well as in future pregnancies and births?"

Yes, doesn't it make more sense to focus on reducing the cesarean rates and the interventions that contribute to it, rather than focus on instilling fear of "rupture" in the many women who have experienced a prior (possibly unnecessary) cesarean? Not to mention that Pitocin use increases a woman's risk of uterine rupture whether or not she has had a prior cesarean (it also contributes to her likelihood that she'll end up as one of the statistics)--Pitocin use is epidemic in the US. It is bizarre that the interest of hospitals and doctors is focused on denying VBAC "because you might rupture" instead of reducing the use of chemical "enhancements" to the birth process.

Also in this issue I learned of the existence of an organization I was unfamiliar with before: The Association of Independent Childbirth Educators. I joined :-)

This week I got a postcard from Dancing for Birth in St. Louis. Anyway, I am NOT a dancer (not that I've tried to be, so I guess I really don't know. But, I think this would be like me going to a "singing for birth" workshop--singing is NOT my forte and it would be a joke to go to a workshop like that), but I got this fantasy all built up about how I would become a Dancing for Birth instructor and pregnant women would flock to these classes even though I struggle to attract them to my regular classes. I do think I have a point there--my regular classes compete with the "free" hospital class whereas a dance or yoga class would not and might reel people in, because of the "fun" element. So, M kind of gently pointed out that this probably isn't the training for me, but I keep thinking about it anyway...

Honoring Our Cycles

This week I read Honoring Our Cycles by Katie Singer. I've had this book for quite a while and just now had a chance to read it. It was a very quick and simple read--I think that is one of the book's main strengths, it is written in very clear, basic English (maybe a sixth grade reading level?). It also makes it somewhat stilted or somehow "off" to read it though because it IS so simplistically written (makes you feel like you are none-too-bright or something! LOL!). Anyway, to be totally honest, one of the only reasons I wanted this book is because I'm so enraptured by the cover. I just love it. I think it is a beautiful, wondering book cover. I'm attempted to share the cover image here. We'll see if I'm actually successful when I publish this post!





Okay, back to the book. It is about using fertility awareness to avoid or promote pregnancy (avoid in my case). The book is clear and easy to follow. It contains some inaccurate breastfeeding information, which I'm very sensitive to--including such odd comments as, "sometimes, when a mother is away from her baby for an afternoon or more, her milk dries up." Huh?! This is where the overly simplistic approach does not succeed, because it is NOT correct (in this case).

I'm very interested and excited right now by fertility awareness--how coolly and magically women's bodies indicate where they are in their fertility cycle. I am regretful that I spend so many years hormonally manipulating my cycle rather than just paying attention to my own body (which clearly communicates with me). so, this book reinforced this "magic-ness." I guess I would recommend it to others, but I'm not sure. There is a certain "spark" missing because it is so basic (I think it is designed for use with low-literacy populations). That gorgeous cover makes up for a lot though! ;-)

Ten Secrets for Inner Peace

Two Fridays ago, I read a little Wayne Dyer book that I also got from Bookins called Ten Secrets for Inner Peace. It is one of his most visually appealing books--it is a small size and has a soft puffy hardback cover. It has various colored pastel pages and soft water color sort of illustrations of flowers, birds, bugs, etc. It sounds kind of corny now that I describe it, but it really does transmit good feelings to hold it. Wayne Dyer is the author that makes me believe in God. He has a way of describing the mystery and magic of life that makes me feel a certainty that there what I mean:

"Think of God as a presence rather than a person--a presence that allows a seed to sprout, that moves the stars across the sky, and simultaneously moves a thought across your mind. A presence that grows the grass and grows your fingernails all at the same time. This presence is everywhere; therefore, it must also be in you. And if it's everywhere, it must be in all that you perceive to be missing from your life."

Here are the 10 secrets:

1. Have a mind that is open to everything and attached to nothing.
2. Don't die with your music still in you (this is a very significant one for me and something I bring to mind frequently as I go through my life).
3. You can't give away what you don't have.
4. Embrace silence.
5. Give up your personal history.
6. You can't solve a problem with the same mind that created it.
7. There are no justified resentments.
8. Treat yourself as if you already are what you'd like to be.
9. Treasure your divinity.
10. Wisdom is avoiding all thoughts which weaken you. (I'm really working on this one--I can definitely hop on a "thought train" and ride it for WAY too long and to too negative of places and bring me down instead of up).

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Why I do not practice as a postpartum doula...

Some time ago, someone asked me why I had stopped doing postpartum doula work. Then, as I was reading the Laughter & Tears book I recently wrote about, those reasons/thoughts came back up for me (as well as thoughts about the true value of postpartum support). Anyway, my biggest reason for discontinuing postpartum work was because at this point in my life I couldn't reconcile taking care of someone else's family while my own needs me so much. It just felt *wrong* to me to be bopping off to "nurture the family" while I still have such a young family at home that needs plenty of nurturing itself! Along the same lines, there I was washing my client's dishes and thinking that I have a huge pile unwashed at my own house (that my husband does at night when he gets home--this is our routine, regardless of whether I have clients) and/or folding their laundry and thinking of the two full baskets at my own house in my own living room as yet not put away.

I feel like my clients always treated me with lots of respect and seemed to perceive me as an "expert" and not as "hired help," but some of the work still definitely had a hired help flavor to it. I also felt like I was definitely able to provide a level of support that the "help" would not be able to, particularly with regard to breastfeeding.

Also, I recognized that I feel most comfortable with and am temperamentally most suited for educational/"academic" types of support (such as the childbirth education classes I teach) instead of the "intimate" hands-on support that postpartum or labor support requires.

Anyway, that's basically why I quit. For a time, I really felt embarrassed about it because I was *so* sure it was going to be my "calling" and because I spent so much money on training, books, supplies, certification packet, etc. Luckily, I totaled it up when I was preparing to quit and I made enough money from my clients to at least more than pay myself back for the training!

I feel fervently that women/families need postpartum doula support (sometimes desperately) and I felt depressed to realize that I'm just not the person for the role (at this time). I didn't understand at the time, but I quickly figured out why the majority of the women in the postpartum doula training with me were middle-aged. They had the energy to "mother-the -mother" and "nurture the family" at that season in their lives, whereas I am still in a season in which I need to nurture my *own* family before I have the energy to spare to nurture someone else's. Maybe when I am in my 40's, I will return to postpartum doula work, because I do still truly feel a connection to it on a soul level (though maybe I don't feel it on a doing-someone-else's-laundry level, ;-).

(actually written on 10/5, but released later to avoid Friday overload of posts!)

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Laughter & Tears: The Emotional Life of New Mothers

Last Tuesday, I finished reading Laughter & Tears: The Emotional Life of New Mothers. I got this book last year at a Leader workshop and just now got around to reading it (you should see my "to read" pile. It is ridiculous!) I started out enjoying this book, but found it less and less engaging as it went on. I think there is such a great need for books about postpartum out there--ideally, for women to read before their babies are born. I wish I would have had one available to me when my first baby was born, instead of having to discover the niche quite a bit later. Part of why the book was not engaging is simply because it is geared toward women in the immediate postpartum (and also first time mothers primarily)--I'm not *there* and so my interest in the book waned fairly quickly. I also found a the heavy emphasis on "reclaiming your body" off-putting--there was even a comment like, "now that your baby is a robust two month old, you can begin to reclaim your body by reducing or eliminating feedings at night." Excuse me? "Robust" TWO MONTH OLD? That is practically still a fetus as far as I'm concerned!

Several quotes I marked to share:

"Our society is profoundly ambivalent about children. On one hand, we praise family values, but on the other, we emphasize individual liberty and the rights of women to have as many freedoms as men. We encourage mothers to desire to have it all, but do not guarantee maternity leave, health insurance, or day care. We use babies to sell products, from laundry detergent to automobile tires, but we don't want a mother with a toddler in the seat next to us on an airplane. We question the legality of abortion but threaten to withdraw welfare benefits from disadvantaged children. We celebrate children and praise parents for having them, but we do not provide structures or systems to help nurture them."

"The degree of pleasure you take in your mothering is not the same thing as loving the baby or being an effective parent. Keep in mind there is a distinction between mother love and maternal satisfaction. You may love your baby very much but be dissatisfied with your life circumstances."

"Men are challenged by their attempts to be more involved and more nuturant than the 'traditional' father. Women are challenged not only by developing an identity in the world outside the home, but also by opening up and truly incorporating men into the intimate life of the family. You may have a concept of what a more involved father should be like, but if you are honest with yourself, is your image truly about sharing the love and nurturance? Or is it actually about wanting your partner to help with domestic chores? Are you really imagining a co-parent, or are you thinking of something more like a regular baby-sitter and handyman?"

This book reminded me of how vital postpartum support is for families in our society and reminded me of why I wanted to be a postpartum doula and how called I felt to that work (more about that soon...).

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Thoughts about breastfeeding

Last month I read the fall Compleat Mother and there was a great quote in it from the British Medical Journal:

"Giving women leaflets on the benefits of breastfeeding is of little value. Inviting women to participate in small discussion groups with one to one advice sessions achieved the best results, in some cases tripling the rate of breastfeeding success."

I've also been wanting to share a link to one of my favorite articles about breastfeeding, "Breastfeeding as a Spiritual Practice." This article was immensely meaningful to me when my first baby was born--it was published in the fall 2003 issue of Mothering magazine, which was the first issue I received after the birth of my first son. He was about 2 or so weeks old when I got it and this article was in it and it was exactly what I needed to read. Breastfeeding can be a meditative and spiritual act--it is actually a "practice" a "discipline" of sorts. The author, Leslie Davis, explains it better:

"I realized I'd never before devoted myself to something so entirely. Of course I've devoted myself to my husband, to my family, to friends, to my writing, to mothering, and even to God and other spiritual endeavors at various points in my life...I'd completely given myself to this act of nursing in a way that I never had before. Nothing was more important than nursing my son. nothing was put before it. There was no procrastination as with exercise, no excuses as with trying to stop eating sugar, no laziness as with housecleaning and other chores. Nursing had to be done, and I did it, over and over again, multiple times a day, for more than 800 days in a row. It was the closest thing to a spiritual practice that I'd ever experienced."

Viewing the act of breastfeeding through a spiritual "lens" like this was a lifeline to me as a vulnerable, sensitive, and "bruised" postpartum woman trying desperately to adjust my pace as an overachieving "successful" independent person to one spending hours in my nursing chair attached to a tiny mouth. I marvel at the uncountable number of times I spent nursing L and that I now spend nursing Z. I calculated that I've probably nursed Z about 3,000 times just lying down to go to sleep (nap or bedtime, plus time waking up too). That is just the lying down times, not the sitting in the chair or standing in the Ergo times. (Side note: this is the key to my reading success--I've had over 3,000 opportunities during the last year to pick up a book or other reading materials, LOL!)

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In other news, I finally added to my post from last month about Perfect Madness: Motherhood in the Age of Anxiety.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Two hours of prenatal care?

A while ago I got Lamaze's email newsletter regarding "Research Summaries for Normal Birth." One summary is of a study regarding group prenatal care. In the summary, it states in passing, "In the settings where the trial took place, traditional prenatal visits lasted about 10-15 minutes each for a total of 2 hours of prenatal care over the course of a woman's pregnancy. The group care model, on the other hand, yielded about 20 hours of prenatal care over the course of the pregnancy."

Wow! Two *whole* hours of prenatal care during a woman's pregnancy? I'm so impressed! And, I daresay that this is likely a generous estimate. I know very few women who actually see their OB for a whole 15 minutes during a prenatal visit. Anyway, this quote made me realize how truly absurd it is when people say to unassisted birthers--"But what about prenatal care?!" like you are totally endangering the life of your baby without it or as if you could not possibly manage to get through pregnancy without it. I know there has been some research studies indicating better outcomes for women who have prenatal care, but I seriously question whether or not 2 hours out of 40 weeks can actually matter very much in the scope of things. That is pathetic! I forgot who said or where I read that prenatal care is what happens between prenatal visits--prenatal care is what a woman does throughout her pregnancy, not a 10 minute visit and fundal height measurement (was it you who told me that, Shauna, or did I read it in a Midwifery Today or in Laura Shanley's book or somewhere else...)

So, that is the UC perspective in me--how could 2 hours really make any kind of difference and that question people ask about prenatal care is such a twisted joke really. The midwifery perspective in me says, don't we value women and babies enough to spend more than 2 hours out of 40 weeks with them? Don't we value them enough to spend even more than the 20 hours referenced above out of 40 weeks one-on-one with them? Women deserve more than two hours of targeted attention during their pregnancies! (Not to "save" their babies, but to show them how important and how valued they are!)

The aspect of midwifery care that I most valued from my midwife was the time she spent with me--that is what I wanted from her, not fundal height or heart tones or blood pressure (I can do all of those things myself, big deal. But someone to listen to me and to care about my pregnancy and to care about my thoughts and views about birth? That was priceless to me!) I estimate that she spent probably 30+ hours with me during my pregnancy. Then, 5 minutes during the birth. What actually mattered in my life? Those 30 hours, not those 5 minutes (I could have done that myself too, just like I can find and listen to my own baby's heartbeat.) Also, she spent probably 12 hours postpartum with me. That was also of great personal value to me. What OB spends 12 hours--or really ANY TIME AT ALL--with women postpartum? (other than maybe spending some time on stitching, but that is a whole other rant...)