Friday, August 31, 2007

Birth Films

This week I watched portions of the DVD Birth as We Know It with some friends again. I figured it made sense to include some birth film reviews on this blog as well. I actually reviewed this film for CfM News, so I'm not going to share too much of my review here until the issue is published.
My conclusion is that this is a lovely film and though I have some reservations about showing the entire educational edition due to the "new agey" voiceover content, some of the birth footage has been a powerful addition to my work with birth.

We also watched Relaxation, Rhythm, & Ritual: The Three R's of Childbirth by Penny Simkin. I like to show this video for good examples of labor support & different coping strategies. I also like to show it because it shows a lot of labors and births in a very manageable length of video time (15 minutes) and because most of the births are in the hospital--much as I prefer homebirth, the reality is that most births in the US take place in the hospital and so this video speaks to the reality of most of the women viewing the video (does that make sense?). If I show videos that only focus on homebirth, they may think, "this doesn't apply to me" or, "must be nice, but I need to go to the hospital." This video shows what can actually be done in a hospital setting--coping techniques, using the shower even with a saline lock in your arm, etc. I highly recommend this film!

On 11/26/07, I posted more about the three R's on my birth blog.

Who Let the Blogs Out?

I also read Who Let the Blogs Out this week. I bought it at a book sale and it wasn't sellable. Since I'm still new to blogging, I decided to keep it and see if I'd learn anything. It was a really quick read. A little bit excessively self-referential. Things I learned from it were to try to keep my blog posts short (Hah! Mine are getting longer and longer!) and also that you should try to post at least once a day. I fail here also, because I only blog on Fridays (but sometimes copiously on Fridays, LOL!) Other interesting bits were about "the power of weak connections" (i.e. your friend's brother's boss is more likely to help you get a job than your actual friend is--because the pool of "new" people becomes so different the weaker your connection to the person grows, thus the weak link is actually really strong. I see this with LLL--you can make nationwide connections that may have little to nothing to do actually with LLL, but have at their root a connection as Leaders or LLL members). Also about "aggregate traffic animals" wherein cars on the interstate actually act as a unified organism or "worm" skirting around dangers, speeding up and slowing down in unison, etc.

The author also expressed the idea that when you write a blog you are creating a body of work, a life's work. That sure sounds nicer and more meaningful than "wasting time blogging," LOL! Gave me a new perspective on this new little hobby of mine, which I have considered dumping because it is just "wasting time."

Friday, August 24, 2007

Big Purple Mommy

This is my 100th post! I should have said in my "tagged" post about dolls--that this blog is another thing I do that is only for fun. I often wonder why I bother--I have so many things I need to do or want to do, why add blogging to my "to do" list, why "waste" time with it? I'm left to respond/realize--because it is fun. I like to do it. I want to do it. I only blog on Fridays now and that feels like a fully acceptable compromise (with the "be productive only!" part of me).

Okay, so this week I also finished re-reading Big Purple Mommy. The subtitle of this book is nurturing our creative work, our children, and ourselves. I sort of accidentally picked it up and flipped through it and before I knew it I was re-reading it. I really enjoyed it the first time as it was the first time I'd ever realized that being a writer is my means of creative expression and is my creative work. She talks about how painters "see" paintings as they go about their days, dancers choreograph, and musicians compose. I know my own very creatively gifted mother "sees" patterns in nature or life and imagines them as felted pictures or woven pieces (or whatever her current area of focus is at the time). Me--I write essays in my head. I'd say just about every day I compose some sort of essay or article in my head as I'm going about my day. Probably only about 10 percent of those actually make it onto the page even as notes and even less than that actually are fully born. As I start to own the identity of writer though and increase my confidence in it, I think more of my imaginary essays will actually be written (finding the time to actually write while the "muse" is with me is a trick, which is why much of my writing never makes it past my brain!)

Anyway, this is not a very AP or “alternative” minded book, sort of “pack ‘em off to school and enjoy 6 hours a day of bliss at home!” mentality, but still has a lot to offer anyway even if some of our parenting philosophies are different. I shared some quotes from the book with my playgroup because we were discussing blooming where you're planted and I read some sections in her book that made me re-think my rigid "just suck it up and like where you live, because the grass is likely always greener" attitude. Since I bothered typing it all up, I'm going to include them here even though that wasn't the direction I was planning to go with this entry. Towards the end of the book she is talking about finding the right, nurturing space in which to create and she shared the following quote from Csikszenthmihalyi (??!!):

"Certain environments have a greater density of interaction and provide more excitement and a greater effervescence of ideas; therefore, they prompt the person who is already inclined to break away from conventions to experiment with novelty more readily than if he or she had stayed in a more conservative, more repressive setting."

Then the author adds: "sometimes where we live isn't the most convenient place for truly thriving in our creative work"

Then later: "I also believe that being truly miserable in your soul over where you are living is a slow and painful kind of death that warrants some serious consideration. Sometimes pulling up damaged roots and moving on is the most positive and healthy plan of action....Get out of Dodge! Life is short and the world is big."

I also valued her section about competition between mothers and "mommy wars" type of stuff. Maybe I am in the minority, but I feel like I am pretty accepting of all mothers--I really believe that most of us are doing the best we can, we truly love our children and want what's best for them, independent of our various parenting choices/philosophies. I also don't think there is a "right" way to mother and getting dogmatic about mothering leads to discord instead of unity that mothers desperately need.

Anyway, some other good quotes:

"For me, the greatest difficulty about the Cappuccino and Company gatherings, especially when I was a first time mother, was the unspoken and collective agreement that we wouldn't speak the truth about what we were living...Pretending I was managing it all and loving it, too, was one of the hardest parts of being a new mother."

"I now look back and realize that I could have used those few unchained hours [while baby slept] to rest, read, take a walk, or for heaven's sake take a shower. I might have emerged more replenished and engaged. I didn't know then that a time of quietness in my creative life was a useful and necessary thing and would be followed, eventually, by a time of renewed energy and productivity."

I could learn something from this, probably--I am having difficulty assessing the balance between all of the writing I want to do and have tucked inside and the realization that I have time "later" to more fully pursue this (but without doing it all, my life will lack something that I deeply need and that in the end makes me a happier and better mother, while also sometimes adding to my stress level significantly...balance is the eternal issue!)

"You can do it all and have it all--don't let anyone tell you differently. but it's not possible to do it all and have it all, ALL of the time."

This next one relates to the whole mother competition thing I referenced above:

"We're all so hungry for validation about our choices, and for how we're raising our children and living our lives. And because we're afraid of the reaction we might get if we disclose honest feelings about our lives, we just don't risk it. It's about sizing yourself up against others--a kind of placement method within the group. And there is power in withholding validation and therefore seeming superior."

I feel fortunate in that I feel like I have reached a place of intimacy with my friends in playgroup that we can be honest about our lives and our feelings (and our shortcomings and failures and questions about our decisions) that we don't do this "status" thing with each other. I see it in other people though or in online settings.

Then a quoted quote from Emily Dickinson: "To live is so startling it leaves little time for anything else."

And one from Naomi Ruth Lowinsky" Women who become mothers find that it is often in the crucible of that experiences in what is in so many ways a sacrifice of self, that she touches the deepest experiences of the female self and wrestles with an angel that at once wounds and blesses her."

Nothing Special: Living Zen

Finally finished Nothing Special: Living Zen this week. This book took me longer to read than any other book I can remember (even longer than Buddhism for Mothers!). I think I've been reading it since April. Not to mention the fact that I picked it up to read before that and decided maybe I should sell it instead because I couldn't get into it. Then, when I re-picked it up (since it wasn't worth much on Amazon and I decided not to sell it after all), it suddenly clicked in a major way and I now feel it is one of the most important and valuable books I've read in my life. The reason it took me so long to read was because it was so important that I had to digest it slowly and in very small bites. There were actually times when I would put down the book after a brief session and realize that I had actually made negative progress in the book (i.e. I'd gone back to re-read and then not made it past the point where I'd had the bookmark when I picked it up!). This is not because the book was literally difficult to read or because the concepts were difficult to understand, but because it was difficult to read what feels like truth presented so cleanly and boldly. Hmm. I think it may also be difficult to explain adequately what felt so meaningful to me about it. The basic message was just life is as it is, it is your opinions about it that make you happy or sad (or whatever) or cause trouble. There were just lots of simple and profound insights--like how much each of actually enjoys our own little personal drama (because it is self-centered and secretly we like life being all about ME, instead of being all at one with the oneness).

I also appreciated her analogy about how we are always looking for and endlessly running faucet to try to quench our thirst and each faucet eventually becomes dry and we're disappointed--we want everything to finally be satisfied (or to have all promises kept).

I've been tagged!

My blog got tagged for the first time ever by the lovely Sherry of Homebirth Diaries. I have been reading her blog regularly for about a year and have had it linked from my blog for a while, so it was fun to have her discover my blog now too! She is a skillful writer and I've really enjoyed following her chronicles and insights :)

Okay, so the rules:

RULES - Post rules before giving the facts - Players start with eight random facts/habits about themselves - People who are tagged need to write their own blog about their eight things and post these rules - At the end of the your blog you need to tag six people and list their names - Leave them a comment on their blog, telling them they have been tagged and not to forget to read your blog.

My facts:

1. I collect American Girl dolls. I have ten of the 18 inch dolls, two Bitty Babies, 8 of the Girls of Many Lands, and all of the mini dolls. I have spent a lot of money on these. I am very dedicated to voluntary simplicity and simple living and these dolls are my not-at-all simple hobby. However, I have a personal issue with having fun (fun is not "productive" enough for my Type A nature) and these dolls are the only thing in my life that is purely for fun for me. Everything else I do, even if it is also fun, is for a bigger reason.

2. I have never kissed a man other than my husband (of nine years). We were each other's first date, first kiss (after 8 dates...), everything. I like that :)

3. When I graduated from UMR with my BA in 1998, I was the youngest graduate in their history (13 days past my 19th birthday).

4. Sometimes I miss my previous workplace (Ronald McDonald House) so much that it feels actually painful.

5. I am 28, but I identify most with mid-life (or even later) as a developmental life stage--when I read books about the psychological crises people experience at mid-life, I'm so there (like doing a life review and trying to figure out the meaning of life, etc.).

6. I have a preoccupation with death--I think all of the time, "will this really matter after I'm dead?" or, "what really matters, since we're all going to die anyway" or, "would I regret this on my deathbed?" This is not a particularly uplifting way to think, but it can put things in perspective sometimes. It is very important to me that I not die without knowing why I lived (ala Thoreau's fronting of the essential facts of life...).

7. Even though I just trained as a doula, I don't think I actually ever want to really be one. I don't think I have the stomach to handle hospital births (even though that is where doulas are most needed). As a result of following a twisting blog trail after having been tagged, I read the post A Nurse's Guide to Managing Failure on Breast & Belly's blog and it reaffirmed for me that I cannot handle the hospital setting--too many human rights violations performed on normal, healthy birthing women.

8. I worry too much about what others think of me. I give the opinions of others too much weight--I try to remember Wayne Dyer's, "a self-actualized person is one who is independent of the good opinions of others."

Okay, I don't know if this is the right way to do it, but I'm tagging my friends Shauna, Summer, Nikki, Kolbi, Sarah K., and Chris.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Transformation Through Birth

This afternoon I finished reading Transformation Through Birth. It is by Claudia Panuthos, who also wrote the excellent Ended Beginnings (about miscarriage, stillbirth, neonatal death, and healing all sorts of childbearing losses. Required reading for ALACE certification). I had never heard of this book until two weeks ago when another Leader recommended it to me. It was written in 1984, so you'd think I would have noticed it before now! Anyway, it was pretty good and barely "dated" at all (there were a few things, such as a section about the Age of Aquarius {??}). I enjoy books that are designed to help women with the emotional work of pregnancy instead of just the physical work, with a quick dabble into the psyche. I find they are few and far between.

Some points I particularly liked:

"In some sense, childbirth is much like a marathon. Once given some general guidelines, marathon runners know how to breathe, to run, and to complete their race according to their own body signals. Similarly, women know how to breathe, to birth, and to complete the delivery according to their own body signals. Marathon runners who are true champions are free to stop the fast pace, and even quit the race without loss of integrity."

She then makes the point that birth is really more like a "Zen marathon" in that "the focus is to become centered and one with the body, to remain on purpose and directed toward a signle goal and to act from the witness or higher mind within."

"Because we view marathon running as an expression of ultimate physical health, a similar attitude toward childbearing may greatly aid in the altering of present attitudes that respond to childbearing as an abnormal condition requiring medical treatment."

This reminds me of something one of the doctors in the Business of Being Born film said that made me really outraged. He said something to the effect of: "in three months you're just going to be pushing a baby in a stroller, so what difference does it make how you gave birth?" What difference does it make?! Would anyone even THINK to say something like that to a marathon runner or Olympian--"in three months, you'll just be pushing a baby in a stroller, who cares that you won a gold medal?" (analogy side note, feeling good that you won a gold medal [gave birth in a triumphant and empowering way] does not invalidate or cause guilt in those who did not run the marathon, or had to quit early, or needed help finishing. There is no shame in not running, but there is also rightful PRIDE and "glory" in finishing the "race" you set out on. Someday soon I will be developing this analogy into a real essay, so wait for that!)

Okay, back to the actual book I read! A gem of a quote:

"Women who birth joyfully do so because of who they are, what they believe, and how they live."

With regard to cesarean birth experiences (different section/context than quote above, but compatible when paired):

"For the woman who delivered surgically, her task is to see that she was attempting to save her baby's life through an act of personal courage."

I also love the author's concept of encouraging and preparing for postpartum EXPRESSION instead of postpartum depression (the theory being that stuffed down, unexpressed feelings, moods, conflicts, emotions contribute to depression by repression of expression. That's my own bit of alliteration there--I'm so catchy! ;-)

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Giving Birth with Confidence

While in Chicago, I did manage to read The Official Lamaze Guide: Giving Birth with Confidence.
I reviewed it for CfM News. Stay tuned for the full review when our fall issue comes out in late Sept. My short review is: Excellent! I think the Lamaze name gives this book widespread appeal and acceptability to the "mainstream." I wish it was in the hands of all the pregnant women in my town!

Friday, August 10, 2007

LLLI Conference + The Revolutionaries Wore Pearls

I returned from the LLLI conference in Chicago on July 24th (and it was our ninth wedding anniversary the next day :-). It was a wonderful, wonderful trip. I learned a lot and just had a great time. I felt rejuvenated and re-inspired as a Leader, a woman, and as a mother. I really needed a boost in all three areas and it was great to get it. I left the conference with a sense that LLL is of *vital* importance and I felt a new and profound sense of purpose about my work. I also finally had a sense that maybe I AM in this for the long haul--I see myself helping mothers and babies in some way or another for many, many more years to come. It was also great for me to see how old so many people were (LOL!). I get this frantic sense that I need to do everything and I need to do it RIGHT NOW and so it was an awesome reminder for me to see how many people that I respect and admire (like the Sears') are pretty "mature." It showed me that I have time to work on my purposes and accomplish my goals--I don't need to rush. There's time enough for me!

Anyway, while I was there I purchased their new book
The Revolutionaries Wore Pearls.
It was interesting and good, but did have a note of finality to it that I also felt underscoring the International Conference. It also was very perky and, “Life was GREAT!” and Seven Voices, One Dream showed a more realistic picture, I think, of what the founders went through. They definitely had a revolutionary impact though, no matter how you look at it. As a side note, that was another perk of the conference for me, I felt like a revolutionary! The book is "scrapbook style" and has lots of images of newspaper clippings, etc. That was fun.

I was also interested to see the phrase several times, "the beginning of a dream to bring gentleness to giving birth and joy to the womanly art of breastfeeding" (emphasis mine). So, my overlapping interests in birth and breastfeeding mirror that of the Founders. The two are on a continuum and birth practices can have such a profound impact on breastfeeding.

Speaking of the Founders, I was delighted to see 6 of them at the conference and was even more delighted to speak with and get autographs from two of them--Mary White & Marian Tompson. I also got my picture taken with Mary White (as well as with Ina May Gaskin and with Peggy O'Mara! I was so starstruck--this conference had all of my "celebrities" in one place! It was so, so cool!)

The Blue Jay's Dance

Before our trip, I also finished reading The Blue Jay's Dance. I learned of this book because a sentence from it was quoted in Continuum (LLL's alumnae association) in the form of a poem, though in the book it is just one of the opening sentences. I will share it here in poem format too, since I think it is more poignant and meaningful that way:




or fathering,


and at last

letting go…

are powerful

and mundane

creative acts

that rapturously

suck up

whole chunks

of life.

--Louise Erdrich

Several other good quotes in this one too. Maybe I will be able to share them later. Maybe not. I'm so Zen...

Okay, it is quite some time later, but I'm adding the other quotes I enjoyed:

This book is a memoir of a writer's first year with her third baby (sixth child). She isn't particularly a birth advocate or anything, this is a general mothering memoir and in it she says:

"Women are strong, strong, terribly strong. We don't know how strong until we are pushing out our babies. We are too often treated like babies having babies when we should be in training, like acolytes, novices to high priestesshood, like serious applicants for the space program."

Later she is talking about male writers from the nineteenth century and their longing for an experience of oneness and seeking the mystery of an epiphany. She says:

"Perhaps we owe some of our most moving literature to men who didn't understand that they wanted to be women nursing babies."

Confessions of the Other Mother

Before we left for our trip, I read Confessions of the Other Mother for the HMN review committee. The subtitle of the book is "nonbiological lesbian moms tell all!" It was an interesting book. One, I love all momoirs, regardless of how much or how little I relate to the mothers therein. Two, it was subject material I've never really read about or considered before. However, it definitely wasn't a "match" with HMN. The mothers weren't particularly "holistically" minded and some of the stories had very non-holistic elements (insomuch as you can pack "holistic" into a box, which you really can't since it is so broad--so, maybe I should say, it didn't seem holistic to me. And, since I was the reviewer, I could make that call!). Anyway, my horizons were broadened by reading it. What tricky dynamics to navigate--personally, socially, culturally, and politically.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

One True Thing

My mom lent me her book club read this month, One True Thing. I gobbled it up but it was super depressing :( It was the "uplifting" tale of a daughter caring for her 44 year old mother with cancer and all the details of her decline, suffering, and eventual death. Then the daughter is accused of mercy killing her mother and has to go on trial! What a book selection! I cried, I despaired at what is the point of life, etc. If I'm going to read some fiction, I should pick something lighter!

Speaking of fiction and gobbling...boy, did I gobble up Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows. It was so, so good! I think the books have gotten better and better. They've also gotten darker and darker. This one was sad and the body count rose with each page. I do think the books have lost the sense of enchantment that was present in the the earlier books--poor Harry is just jaded and numb and worn, no more marveling at the changing ceiling at Hogwarts or tasty chocolate frogs or pumpkin juice...

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Creating a Cooperative Learning Center

Yesterday I finished reading Creating a Cooperative Learning Center. This was an interesting book, though not quite what it was described to be--it seemed like it was going to be about starting your own center, but it was really more like an exploration of the learning center she founded and how it has evolved and is currently working. There were random quotes from people involved with TALC in her book, but they all seemed sort of pessimistic really and I'm not sure why she included them--I didn't think they helped the book much. Anyway, reading it did make me excited about someday creating a learning center/resource center in our area. I appreciated a point she made that it doesn't need to be a HUGE group--theirs started with three families. That means our playgroup is off to a roaring start! I also felt like with the addition of like one or two more activities per week, our homeschool could become a learning center...

Speaking of playgroup, I actually borrowed this book from one of my playgroup friends ages ago and have just now gotten around to reading it (though once I started, I read it in two evenings). She is probably wondering if I "cooperatively" made off with her book! Seriously, I borrowed it quite a long time ago.

I have read many, many things lately and need to get caught up here after having returned from the LLLI conference in Chicago recently. I have many items on my to-do list though and blogging is not even ON the list, LOL! I may just make a quick list and move on from there. I'll think about it.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Letter to the Editor

This is a letter to the editor that I wrote regarding the midwifery situation in Missouri and my friends and I sent to several newspapers. It was published in at least two--the Rolla Daily News and the Salem News.

Why would a normal, healthy American woman want to travel to Singapore to have her baby? Because, according to the CIA, her baby is almost three times less likely to die in Singapore than in the U.S ( Yes, according to the Central Intelligence Agency of our own federal government (who doesn’t have a specific interest in pregnancy, birth, or midwifery), our country comes in number FORTY-THREE when it comes to infant mortality. This is in spite of the fact that Singapore:

· Doesn’t have better technology.

· Doesn’t spend as much per capita on pregnancy and childbirth.

· Doesn’t have better doctors or hospitals.

What Singapore and the other countries who rank in the top five (Sweden, Hong Kong, Japan & Iceland), do is:

  • Utilize more midwives.
  • Follow the midwifery model of care as standard practice.
  • Integrate midwives into the healthcare network.
  • Have more out-of-hospital births.
  • Have better birth outcomes for babies.

The recent lawsuit against the state of Missouri by the Missouri State Medical Association in regard to the midwifery legislation passed in May claims to advocate on behalf of women’s health and safety during childbirth and yet their determination to declare Missouri midwives criminals is in direct opposition to the recommendations of both the World Health Organization (WHO) and the American Public Health Association (APHA). The recommendations of these well respected organizations include midwives as the principal providers of care for pregnant women and increased access to out-of-hospital maternity care services.

Yes, we chose homebirth in order to have empowering and triumphant birth experiences. We also chose homebirth because we care about the health and safety of our babies. By choosing homebirth and midwifery care, we protected our babies from hospital acquired infections (the fourth largest killer in the United States, causing as many deaths as AIDS, breast cancer, and auto accidents combined. Centers for Disease Control, We also protected our babies and ourselves from a myriad of other routinely performed hospital interventions that are contraindicated by medical research to be safe or effective for mothers and babies.

Let’s face it, for the Missouri State Medical Association this is about politics and big business. Their expressed concern about our access to midwifery care is not about the safety of mothers and babies.

So, why don’t we just move to Singapore? Because we love the United States and the many freedoms it proudly holds strong. America is the home of the free and was built on the tenants of personal freedom. Families in Missouri should be free to choose midwives, to have their babies in their homes if they desire, and to have access to safe, respectful maternity care services. We love our country and our wonderful state and we believe that Missouri can do better for the wonderful mothers and beautiful babies who are born and live here.