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!


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. 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.

(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


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!