Friday, October 26, 2007


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seems kind of old-fashioned (writing styles have changed in the last couple of decades I guess) and some things are out of date like actually suggesting that parents take seriously the theory of Constitutional Psychology (like "mesomorphs" and that sort of thing!).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


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!

I finally updated my post about The Dance of the Dissident Daughter today as well.
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!)


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...)

MOPS books

Joining my local MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) group recently caused me to look up MOPS books on Bookins and lo and behold there were two of them there and I put them on my wish list and they came and I read them both already. I really enjoyed their Real Moms book I read earlier this year. That one was one of my surprise favorites of the year.

So, I read Mom-to-Mom: Confessions of a Mother Inferior. This was a very short and quick read. It was supposed to be sort of a "bite-sized essays easy for a busy mother to read" type of format, but I found that that style left the book lacking any sort of lasting impact. I would just start to get into the rhythm of the chapter and the point it was making and then it would be abruptly *over*--sort of like the ideas were introduced, but then not explored or finished/conclusions drawn. The table of contents was almost as interesting/illuminating as the rest of the book--each chapter title was a question that most mothers ask themselves at some point about being mothers, such as, "Am I what my child really needs?" or "How do I do this?" or "How do I handle my imperfections?" As I said though, each actual chapter only barely grazed the surface of answering those questions--seeing the questions acknowledged was interesting and valuable in itself though.

I also read She's Gonna Blow. This one isn't MOPS-published, but they do sell it in their online store. It was about dealing with anger as a mother. It came at the perfect time (or maybe it just added fuel to my fire?!), because I had a really bad several days this week. I think it was the pressure of too much to do following being out of commission last weekend and Monday either with sick kids or sick myself--my list got out of control and I felt the pressure of a backlog of responsibilities. I'm climbing back on top of it now. Anyway, I had a long conversation with a supportive friend at playgroup and she was sharing an anecdote about bringing popcorn chicken to our HMN meeting and we talked about violating the "rules" of being a good "holistic" or AP mother. Anyway, she said she feels like about 90% of the time they eat healthy and 10% they don't and that she thinks most of us are that way and it is okay to show each other the 10% (I'm paraphrasing here). Anyway, so as I was finishing this book and my general mood was recovering as well, I realized that really I probably feel 90% good about mothering, life, responsibilities, general contentment/satisfaction, etc. and only 10% bad (or actually tormented like I felt this past Tuesday! It was bad!) and that is probably reasonable and fine. And, I'm probably 90% patient/fine with my kids and 10% angry/annoyed. Life can't be perfect all the time--just during the 10% it feels like nothing will ever be harmonious again! (sort of like when you're sick with the flu, you forget that you've ever been well or what it feels like to be healthy). I guess it probably fluctuates from week to week, so maybe 85% and 15% is more like it (or sometimes 75% and 25%, LOL! ;-).

Okay, so back to the book. Overall, I didn't actually "click" that well with this book (we got off on the wrong foot when she made a crack about LLL--something about never having any perfect, "La Leche earth mother, one with the universe moments while nursing" just excruciating pain until she switched to formula). She has a kind of lightweight and overly jocular style. However, she was very honest about her various mothering mistakes with anger--some of the anecdotes made me think, wow! I guess I AM actually a pretty good mom!

Towards the end she was talking about simplifying your life and she shared a good tip:

"Someone once said, 'We can do anything--but not everything'....I'm not just talking about eliminating the frivolous or unimportant things in our lives. Most of us took care of that a long time ago. Now we are down to the toughest step, which involves choosing the best and saying no to the rest--and the rest is often quite good too...This phrase can be the key to sanity: Pick the best...say no to the rest."

I need to remember this: we can do anything--but not everything. I would add, particularly in the season of your life of intensive mothering of small children. I am trying to make a decision right now, actually, about adding something else to my full plate. I think my gut is saying "no, not now," but then other good points keep flying around my brain and I'm back to being indecisive about it after all...

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Special Delivery

I recently read the newest issue of ALACE's journal Special Delivery. They reprinted an essay from Jeannie Babb Taylor called "May, 2052" that I had read before when it made the rounds via the internet (it is about birth in the future and is told from the perspective of a grandmother who gave birth in 2007, sharing with her granddaughter how birth was "back in the day" and the granddaughter being shocked by how horrible the birth climate was to women in the "old days" of 2007). However, I was struck afresh by the power of the closing lines (when discussing how/why things finally changed):

“We insisted on dignity. We did not let doctors push us into inductions or surgeries just to accommodate their schedules. Women who still used hospitals refused the wheelchair and the gown that were presented at check-in. Women refused to be starved, or to have their veins punctured with unnecessary IVs. Mothers refused to let doctors break their waters or insert electronic monitors in the baby’s scalp. When we pushed our babies into the world with our own fierce power, then we refused to let them out of our sight.”

...“Eventually even the medical community came to recognize that birth is an act of motherhood, not an act of medical science. Today a laboring woman is not regarded as a body on a table, as if she and the baby needed some doctor to ‘deliver’ them from each other. Today women are honored as life-bringers.”

Recognize that birth is an an act of motherhood, not an act of medical science. This is the truth! Goes along with the "disease of the uterus" mindset I discussed earlier....


Late last month I got and read the fall issue of LEAVEN, LLL's journal for Leaders. I was excited to have an essay of mine published in this issue. It was about an experience I had in the post office nearly 2 years ago now in which an older woman noticed my LLL logo necklace and shared her positive experience with LLL that had happened 32 years ago (as of the very beginning of 2006).

I was particularly excited about this publication, because they asked me if they could publish it. Everything else that I've ever had published anywhere, was something I sent in--this was a first for me to have someone to request permission from me for publication instead!

I also got a recent newsletter from the UMR Psychology Dept. and there was an alumni update in it (in a blue box, no less, LOL!) saying that Z was born at home and also that I'm the FoMM newsletter editor. I sent birth announcements to the Mizzou alumni magazine and to the UMR alumni magazine after he was born saying that he was born at home and they both printed my "born at home" phrasing. I figure why not spread the words "homebirth" or "midwifery" to people who might not ever think about it otherwise! It is a tiny method of birth activism.