Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Sometimes Zen is Annoying...

My $1 Shop Zen calendar occasionally has quotes that annoy me, like this one:

"What does it matter,
The new year, the old year?
I stretch out my legs
And all alone have a
Quiet sleep."

--Bankei

There is a sense of apathy or disconnect or inertia or "flatness" almost in some Zen writing that gets on my nerves!

Monday, December 29, 2008

Soul Force + Stillness

From the $1 Shop Zen calendar, I loved this:

"There is a soul force in the universe, which, if we permit it, will flow through us and produce miraculous results."

--Ghandi

Another good one:

"How can I be still? By flowing with the stream."

--Lao-tzu

Saturday, December 27, 2008

80's Birth Books

In November, I finished reading some "vintage" birth books from the 1980's. I can't believe I used to avoid books like this because I assumed that the "dated" pictures on the covers would come with "dated" inside content. Instead, there is a great deal of "fresh" insight in them and I enjoy them a great deal.

I read:

Sheila Kitzinger's The Experience of Childbirth--this book was interesting (and unique/fresh) in its exploration of birth as an experience. The focus was on emotions and relationships and personality and all kinds of things that influence birth, and the experience of giving birth, other than physiology. It did have a long section on breathing techniques that no longer are in "fashion." It also had a lot of information about childbirth education and effective birth education that I thought was very interesting and relevant.

And I then read her Woman's Experience of Sex. One point she made in the book with regard to virginity that a girl is seen as "losing something" while a boy is seen as gaining something. While discussing the sexuality of birth she uses a beautiful analogy: "A woman who is enjoying her labor swings into the rhythm of contractions as if birth-giving were a powerful dance, her uterus creating the beat. She watches for it, concentrates on it, like an orchestra following its conductor."

And then Elizabeth Noble's Childbirth with Insight. Again, some really good observations for childbirth educators. There is a particularly lyrical and engaging and descriptive writing style in all of these books that seems different than present-day writings. Perhaps present-day books try to be more dynamic or fast-paced? I'm not sure exactly what the difference is, but these older books give me more "ah ha!" or "oh, cool!" or "what a great way to describe xyz" feeling than more current birth books that I've read recently.

I also re-read portions of my favorite 80's birth book, Transformation Through Birth by Claudia Panuthos.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Zen Quotes

My trusty $1 Shop Zen Calendar is winding down for the year. Lucky for me, I have tons of saved slips from it that I have meaning to post to this blog. I will parcel them out bit by bit and perhaps I won't miss my little calendar so much...

"Practice not-doing, and everything will fall into place"

--Lao-tzu

"The world is a great mirror. It reflects back to you what you are. If you are loving, if you are friendly, if you are helpful, the world will prove loving and friendly to you."

--Thomas Dreier

I got this one on a day when the whole family had gotten up on the "wrong side of bed" and we were all crabby and snappish with each other. The quote provided a needed reminder!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Walking a Sacred Path

Wanted to quickly share some quotes from the book I just finished reading at naptime, Walking a Sacred Path: Rediscovering the Labyrinth as a Spiritual Tool.

First, a quote of a quote (Nietzsche): "You need chaos in your soul to give birth to a dancing star."

And another quote of quote (a Buddhist analogy from Robert Lawlor): "Time is like a necklace of square beads of tangible objects, or moments of events, and to be absorbed by this succession of limited frames is maya or illusion, whereas only the inner thread of the necklace, the unimaginable continuum, is reality."

Jewish prayer (the "Shechehiyanu"): "Thank you, God, for preparing me, for sustaining me, and for bringing me to this moment so that I can truly celebrate what is." (I like and often use/say the Serenity prayer and this reminds of me of that.)

And, finally, from the author herself: "Opening to the sacred is a profound, life-changing process. It frees enormous energy that needs to be channeled back out in the world in service. If the focus is back into the self, then the act of seeking can become an addiction."

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Books

I just finished reading Brain, Child mag this month and there was an ad in the front for posters and bookmarks and things from a store called Owl Square Press. Anyway, one of them was a poster of a huge stack of books with this sort of monster-ish looking character sitting by it reading and below it it says:

Books to the ceiling, books to the sky
My piles of books are a mile high.
How I love them!
How I need them!
I'll have a long beard by the time I read them.

Aside from the beard point, I think I wrote this...LOL! ;-)

There was another poster that quoted Charles de Montesquieu:

"I have never known any distress that an hour's reading did not relieve."

I don't think I ever read for a solid hour any more (I used to sometimes put in practically a solid day!) I still read an awful lot of books each year for how disrupted it is.

And, on an unrelated note, in the thought-provoking Brain, Child feature article The Mom Job (about cosmetic surgery for mothers):

"Consider our culture's fixation on women's breasts. 'Tits are really for tots,' says Freedman bluntly. 'But we don't think of them that way. We think of breasts as being for men.'"

I keep getting a mental image of a cartoon rabbit saying, "Silly men. Tits are for tots!" ;-)

Monday, December 22, 2008

Practically Perfect in Every Way + Musings on Self-Help

One of my Christmas books LAST YEAR was Practically Perfect in Every Way by one of Brain, Child's editors/founders Jennifer Niesslein. I wrote notes in my notebook about it on Dec. 26th 2007, but they were so extensive that I never got around to actually get them onto my blog. So, now that it is practically the one year "anniversary" of my reading the book, it is high time I actually post about it! It was quite good and it made me think a great deal about my own penchant for self-help books (the subtitle of this book is "my misadventures through the world of self-help and back"). I enjoyed the book a great deal, though I don't have many specific notes/quotes about it, itself. What I have are notes about how I felt/things I realized while reading it. So, this isn't a review post per se, but more like ruminations and navel-gazing! Kind of stream-of-consciousness as I transcribe it now.

The author employs an ongoing analogy between her emotions and a glove that is fitting right or is "twisted." She expresses that she feels emotionally "neutral" most of the time--sometimes on the happy side, sometimes on the "glove is twisted" side (off balance, sad/crabby side). My husband seems like this to me as well--we've discussed it actually--that he is emotionally "neutral." When we talked about it, I used my hands wildly to demo the imaginary line of my own emotions and how I am rarely at neutral and would kind of like to be. Instead I seem mild cyclothymic in my emotions/attitudes towards life, swinging fairly rapidly from buoyancy and mild euphoria to despair and doubt. I am well aware this sounds manic-depressive, but it isn't anywhere close to that level (I do have a copy of the DSM-IV, thankyouverymuch). Though, when considering whether I'd like to be neutral truly, I realize that if giving up the despair bits meant also giving up the wellspring of joy--I'll keep the occasional despair! (And yes, I'm also aware that bipolar people say the same thing about their manic phases.)

Almost two years ago, I had a realization that there is a current of sorts underlying all of my feelings and when I tune into it I can "dip my toe in" and see how it feels--sometimes the current itself is sad, though a switch of some kind flicked when Z turned 1 (PPD?) and several other significant experiences occurred and I had a physical sensation that the current had become a wellspring of joy underlying anything else I experience. This has basically continued to be true. The "upper" level (i.e. above the current) mood shifts occur (I can be really happy and really sad), but the current running below them is happy now instead of sad. I feel like a spent a couple of years with a "sad current" instead and, YAY! to have a wellspring of joy instead. Okay, so my point is that at one point I had said that I'd like the current to be "neutral," but I don't think I really do. Too "dulled" or something.

Okay, back to the book a little. The author decides to embark on a year-long quest for self-improvement and to become happier. This causes me to reflect on whether happiness is a "right" or a "worthy goal" even. My life might be simpler if I operated under a happiness principle--sort of an "if it makes me happy, do it, if it doesn't stop." I do a lot of things in life--that are of my own choosing--that do not make me happy, though they do not necessarily make me sad either (side note: when I originally wrote this a year ago, this was true. Now, I've made a variety of life changes that have me doing a lot less--things of my own choosing--that does not make me happy). OTOH, seeking happiness exclusively is a sure recipe for unhappiness, not to mention is self-centered, narcissistic, and unreasonable. One of my books (Nothing Special?) makes several points about happiness not being our right and why do we persist in thinking we should be happy all the time or that we should try to be happier or only seek happiness (this, according to her, is instead a sure route to disappointment and frustration. The whole seek pleasure, avoid pain thing is the antithesis of Zen. A very egocentric, selfish, unenlightened, and animalistic way to approach one's life course).

Heck, I don't know what to think. This is an example of how I carry too much info in my head and other people's voices drown out my own gut responses...

Okay, back to the book again. She notes that improving herself is a full-time job and left little time for anything else. Basically, it caused her to think about herself all the time.

As I read this, I began to ponder that it could well be possible that all the self-help book reading I do actually makes me less happy and less able to help myself? Trying to do things someone else's "expert" way sometimes clicks and sometimes not (using day planners for example. I'm an organized person, day planners would logically appeal to me. They DO NOT WORK for me at all. I've basically never used one. My little grid is what works for me. I spent a number of years trying to make myself use a planner though, before I stumbled on my fabulous grid-system). However, what/how long is a fair try of someone else system, or moving out of your comfort zone enough to really evaluate the value of self-help.

I read tons of it. Seems somehow more "productive" or "worthwhile" than other types of reading (but, in reality, might make me more self-centered, feel guiltier, etc.). Reading these books gives me an illusion of "productivity" when really I do not DO most of what is in the books, just leap upon the next one (and practically speaking, how much self-improvement can I actually do while lying there nursing the baby). It makes me feel like I'm "doing something" and might lessen the uncomfortableness of being?

Interestingly (to myself!), I read little to no self-help re: parenting and NONE re: marriage, which indicates to me that I feel good/successful about the relationships in my life. I also read no home organizing/organizing self-help and almost no financial self-help (simple living reading squared the financial box away for me back int 2001 or so). I read personal self-help/improvement (selfish? Or low self-esteem?). There are so many things to do to get it right according to each expert that then not doing them, adds guilt to my life. OTOH, my husband does NOT read self-help ever and seems generally happier and more relaxed about life than I do (this is also just our personalities!). I started reading it during my first pregnancy in 2003 (I was a primarily fiction and textbooks reader before that) and it has not lost its grip since.

Upon making these realizations, I decide to take self-help book "fast." I go to my to-read bookshelf and count how many self-help books I have there waiting to be read. There are THIRTY! Not to mention 24 more masquaraders (those that are not labeled "self-help" on the back, but clearly have "improving YOU!" as their prime message). I also have 25 additional self-help/self-improvement books on my wish list at Amazon that I move to a separate list. Isn't this bizarre?!

-------
Okay, I'm going to have to finish this later, because it is insanely long (and possibly insane!) already and I have like 5 notebook pages left to go!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

The Mommy Wars

This week I finished reading The Mommy Wars, which I had checked out of the library. I don't have much time to write about it, but it was surprisingly good and I wanted to share some quotes/thoughts. I almost didn't check it out because I was worried that it would be excessively harsh or inflammatory and I don't need to bring things like that into my life. However, it seemed truly supportive of women/mothers. It was a collection of essays by various authors (alternating between those who have chosen to be mostly at home and those who have chosen to be mostly pursuing careers) and it quickly became clear that the most real "mommy war" that most of us experience is the one inside of our own heads. There seems to be no ideal/perfect solution. I also noticed that many of the women (including the editor of the collection) had cobbled together some sort of "balance" between working-outside-of-the-home and working inside it--there were lots of part-timers, lots of WAHMs, lots of writer-in-the-spare-minutes, etc. Since I've done the same, I particularly identified with those tales of struggle to discover the right balance for your family.

The first quote I wanted to share is one re: being asked "what do you do?" at a cocktail party: "I find it odd that I'd generate far more interest if I said I raised dogs or horse or chinchillas, but saying, in effect, 'I raise human beings' is a huge yawn."

"It might, in fact, be boring if child care were simply a series of pink-collar tasks--bathe, dress, feed, repeat. But observing and participating in a little Homo Sapien's development is fascinating to me. Furthermore, being a mother isn't just a 'job' any more than being a wife or a daughter; it's a relationship."

Then in another writer's essay (the above was from one of the SAHM, the below is from one of the WOHM):

"I remember reading once that all manner of selfishness is excused under the banner of focusing on one's family, and it strikes me now as penetratingly true. How many of us don't do for others because we're supposedly saving it for our families? and how valuable is staying at home if you're not teaching your children how much other people (and their feelings) matter?"

In another book I have, The Paradox of Natural Mothering, she refers to this as a type of narcissism and I see the point. I've explaining to people before that yes, of course--ultimately--"family first" but that doesn't mean "everything else last." I occasionally struggle with this when answering a helping call--basically, my kids do NOT come first at that moment, nor should they. I've even told them that--"I'm sorry, but you wanting juice is not important right now, the mother who is crying on the phone is more important." I do not think this is a terrible lesson to learn! ;-) Of course, in an ultimate-reality sort of situation, my kids DO come first. 100%. But, in a regular day-to-day situation, sometimes what other people need from me is more important and does come first.

I also wanted to share some quotes from an essay by a woman who does not yet have children, but is planning to, with regard to talking to mothers who shut down her opinions/thoughts with the, "what could you know? You don't have children" brush-off. (Which, I personally, have definitely been guilty of thinking on more than one occasion!! And, actually did so while reading this essay!): "I want to be able to say that all the judgment and aggression and competitiveness I witness among working and stay-at-home mothers surprises me and absolutely must change. But that wouldn't be honest. I've been party to this one-upping and henpecking and know-it-all-ness my entire life. It's as if becoming a mother puts us back into a sorority or junior high school, into some petri dish of experience where what other females think and say and feel and do counts more than anything."

"The one thing my stay-at-home and working-mom friends share in the country of motherhood is a superiority gene, some may call it a gift of vision, that convinces them that women who don't have children are, despite their educations and accomplishments, dumb as doorknobs. I've sat through many a heated conversation...during which I've been silly enough to offer an opinion only to be shut down more condescendingly and viciously by wise Goddess Mothers than I ever have been shut down by any man."

(FWIW, I would not call this a "superiority gene" or "gift of vision," but a "voice of experience"...I think most of us have been in the position of ourselves being the "just doesn't get it" woman without kids! And, after you have kids of your own, you suddenly realize why "those mothers" were condescending to you!)

In another essay, with regard to balance, that eternal question:

"Let me save you some money: In a life with children, balance does not exist. Once you're a parent, you can figure you'll be out of whack for the rest of your life...Children are not born to provide balance. children are made to stir us up, to teach us how angry we can get, how scared we can be, how utterly happy, happier than we'd ever imagined was possible, how deeply we can love. Children turn us upside down and inside out; they send us to the depths and heights of ourselves; but they do not balance us. We can't balance them either, and that's a good thing, too. They're finding out how to live in the world, and the most we can do is make them as safe as possible and have a good time with them."

Saturday, December 13, 2008

ICEA article

I don't have much time to write tonight (actually, no time), but I wanted to share that my Talk Less, Learn More article about CBE was published in the International Journal of Childbirth Education this month. It was my 79th publication (if I use the term liberally and include things I publish myself in the FoMM newsletter!). I'd like to hit 100 sometime in 2009.

Speaking of ICEA, I've been blogging there a bit as well:

Childbirth and Flow Experiences
Fathers at Birth
Birth and Sex

I don't count things like this in my publications list, FYI! I only count print publications.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Catch-up

OMG. I read a LOT.

I've read a lot of books in the last couple of weeks that I'm not going to post about separately.

I just finished reading the Yarn Harlot's new book Free-Range Knitter, which was quite funny, as always. When talking about why she knits (because she doesn't get any "points" for it):

"The only voice that isn't going to bother to lie to preserve our relationship is the voice of my inner self, and that's who I've got to be doing this for. My inner self is, like most inner selves, a very harsh person who I am not always convinced is on my side." She continues on to say that she can find something likable about just about everyone she meets, but can barely stand up under her own harsh self assessments. I identified ;-)

I also read the book Skinny Bitch: Bun in the Oven (I was reviewing it for an organization). I appreciated the reference in it to LLL Leaders as "goddesses" ;-) Overall, this seemed like first an animal rights book, second a book about nutrition (specifically veganism) and third a book about pregnancy. The language in it was coarse throughout (as the title would suggest), which I had trouble getting past. (I emailed some colleagues to see if I was just being an uptight-goody-two-shoes-prude. They said no, but I had to acknowledge to myself that the description kind of fits, irrespective of this particular book!)

And, I finished reading Busy, but Balanced, which I've been reading month-by-month over the course of the year (it is organized by month). I didn't actually glean that much from it that I didn't already know/have in other books. It did suggest having special family days once a month and we've implemented that with fair regularity throughout the year--like taking a day and actually writing on the calendar that it is going to be family day and then spending a fun day together. Related to this is that I also had several tea parties with my boys this year--planned, written on the calendar--and they had SO much fun doing that (mostly because of the sugar cubes). I was playing dinosaurs with Z a couple of days ago and he picked out a baby dino for each big dino and made me make each dino hold her baby (some required rubber bands). They had been fighting and growling and generally being ferocious, but then the big t-rex said, "you want have tea party?!" and proceeded to get imaginary cups for all the other dinos and so forth...really cute.

Along with the balance theme, I also finished reading Being in Balance. Usually, I love anything by Wayne Dyer, but this one was pretty forgettable (kind of re-hash, quick-lets-publish-a-new-book thing). In the section titled "you can't kiss your own ear," he said something that I found really true: "You want the truth of who you are to mesh with what you're projecting outward. If this is unsuccessful, you're aware of it, even if you opt to ignore it." I want my two selves to be harmonized (and I think usually they are). My goal in life is to live it authentically, deeply, richly, and truly.

I also read A Country Year: Living the Questions. The program chair at church does readings from this book a lot and I providentially found it at a thrift shop for a nickel recently. It was good. Reminded me of Animal, Vegetable, Miracle it its "smallness" of scope and richness of depth. She has that ability to capture the importance of the mundane, small, day-to-day things. This book had me all interested in termites, brown recluses, bees, and more. The author lives in Missouri (a beekeeper), which made it all the more relevant. Then, of course, this related quote showed up on my $1 Shop Zen calendar:

"The moment one gives close attention to anything, even a blade of grass, it becomes a mysterious, indescribably magnificent world in itself"
--Henry Miller

This is what Sue Hubbell and Barbara Kingsolver have in common--they pay close attention and write about it very well. From Hubbell's book comes this quote more succintly summing up something I was just recently trying to explain to a friend (too bad I hadn't read this first and I could have just quoted it!):

"Since then waves of people who find the cities too complicated have come here [to the Ozarks], meaning to live lives of simplicity. What they have not yet discovered is that a life is as simple or as complicated as the person living it, and that people who have found life in the city overwhelming will find it even more so here..."

Basically, what I was trying to tell my friend is that regardless of where you move, or what changes you make, or how much clutter you get rid of, you're still you...

Okay, so I also re-read the short book Joyful Birth . It comes with two CDs and is a really quick read. I had a quote that I will share on my birth blog and then this one about motherhood here:

"The path of motherhood has a beginning, but no end. It's constantly changing and constantly challenging. along the way, we encounter our personal limits over and over. We fall in love over and over. We ride the sharp edge of hope and fear. On this path of discovery, as on any spiritual path, our pretensions are shattered, our minds are blown, and our hearts are opened. We cry, we laugh, we bumble around and make countless mistakes. Through it all, we are gently--or abruptly--poked into greater honesty, lovingkindness, and understanding. It is a truly joyful path."

And along the mothering theme, the last book I wanted to post about today (yes, I have about 5 more in my pile waiting...) is A Dozen Invisible Pieces and Other Confessions of Motherhood . This was another book I was reviewing. The author is a childbirth educator, so I connected with her there. I also appreciated her explorations of life-work balance and, among other things, deeply identified with this:

"For a parent who makes the choice to stay at home with his or her children, rather than return to or enter the employed workforce, she effectively ejects herself from the recognition and reward system she was raised in. This happened to me. Before becoming a mother, I lived in that system for thirty years. I memorized the protocol of: 1. Do good work. 2. Have good work recognized by others. 3. Feel compelled to do more good work. 4. Do more good work."

I have lots more to say, but I'm out of time! At least I feel a little more caught up now!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Ten Things I Love About Having (Little) Kids

This post is prompted by three things. One--listening to my best friend's 3 month old baby laugh at the skating rink yesterday. Two--snuggling with Z this morning while he was still asleep and smelling his hair. Three--being at "coffee night" with my friends last night and having the nice older women at the next table tell us to "enjoy it, they grow so fast. Stop hurrying and being so busy or you'll miss it all." And, as they left saying, "Keep enjoying your beautiful fertility!"

So, this morning I laid in bed smelling Z's hair and I thought of 10 things I love about having little children:

1. The sound of a baby's laugh--especially the early/first laughs. There is no more pure joy to be found in the entire world.

2. Breastfeeding--particularly those times at the end of a long, chaotic, busy, stressful day when I lie down with my baby and feel both of our bodies relax and become suffused with a sense of peacefulness and rightness and, "this is what life is all about." As Louise Erdrich said, "Perhaps we owe some of our most moving literature to men who didn't understand that they wanted to be women nursing babies." :)

3. Smelling their heads, particularly when they are asleep and nestled against me with head under my chin, my nose and lips resting in their hair. Perfect happiness.

4. The things they say! I couldn't make this stuff up if I tried and I'm glad I keep a little book of notes. L LOVES me to re-read the funny things he said when he was about Z's age. He still cracks me up all the time, but it is especially funny when they're less verbal and still figuring out how to talk.

5. Still being able to fix just about anything just by being there and giving hugs.

6. Watching them when they start learning how to play imaginatively--Z (2.5) is at this point now, where he sets up scenes and has stories going on. I loved toys so much as a kid and so loved playing with my sister with all of our little people and Care Bears and so forth that it is really fun to see my own kids creating their own imaginary worlds now. I had so much time to play as a kid and I think it was really good for me.

7. Watching how their drawing skills develop/unfold. L (5) is amazing to watch in this respect.

8. The learning to talk stage--where it is just an explosion of new words every day.

9. Their unselfconscious ease in being naked.

10. Having one who is "older" (5) now and enjoying how companionable our relationship has become and how helpful he is.

Oh, and they're awfully cute too!

In their Halloween costumes preparing to battle each other (I love having boys!)

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

A New Earth

I haven't had much time for this blog lately. :( I wanted to quickly share two related quotes that spoke to me this week. One was in the book A New Earth: Awakening Your Life's Purpose, that I recently read. The quote is actually from the 14th century Persian poet and Sufi master, Hafiz:

"I am a hole in a flute that the Christ’s breath moves through. Listen to this music."

It gave me chills. Then, in a stroke of synchronicity, my $1 Shop Zen calendar had this to share with me:

"We too should make ourselves empty, that the great soul of the universe may fill us with its breath."
--Lawrence Binyon

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Mindful Mama essay again

Edited to say that I found out today (11/19), that my essay was one of the runner ups and won a prize. So, that was fun. This is the first time I've ever entered a contest like this.

I found out today that my Mindful Mama essay is one of the finalists on the essay contest I posted about before. Here is the link to the essay (Pain & Presence in Parenting).

The other entries are here.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Childbirth Education: Research, Practice, & Theory

I know I've mentioned before that I'm a fast reader. Well, guess what? This week I finished reading a book I've been reading since my birthday in MAY! LOL! I'm so fast. Aren't you impressed? Anyway, it was Childbirth Education: Research, Practice, & Theory, which is a CBE textbook. It is pretty much the only textbook-style CBE book available and I figured it was high time I finally read it. My mom got it for me for my birthday and I started reading it then and have slowly been working my way through it ever since. It was interesting, of course--it is about birth!--but somehow a textbook style of book just never *grabs* you in the way other books can. Plus, in terms of literal grabbing, it is really heavy and unwieldy, which made it very hard to read in bed while nursing, which is where I still do most of my reading. The pages ended up cracking away from the spine, because of how I had to prop it awkwardly on its side to read it in bed. It is over 700 pages and exhaustively researched and had TONS of great content. I'd recommend it to any childbirth educator. I marked so many pages to refer back to later, or to blog about later (I'll do that on Talk Birth though, not here).

I realized when I was about halfway through that I have never in my life read an entire textbook cover to cover before. This tells you how important the subject is to me ;-) It also brought to mind all the textbooks I've had in my life that I've not only *not* read cover to cover, but have not even *opened.* LOL! I was a really good student too and cared about my majors (but not enough to read the books apparently...)

Reading this book is one reason why I haven't read as many books yet this year as I did last year (I think I've only read like 75 and last year it was over 100)!

I have more to say of course, but this will have to be all for today. This may be one of my least-interesting posts ever...

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Milk, Money, & Madness

This week I finished reading Milk, Money, and Madness. Dia Michels is one of the co-authors and I've actually heard her speak twice--once in 2003 when I was pregnant with L and then last fall at the LLL of MO conference. Anyway, it seemed like it was well past time to finally actually read her book! It was quite good. I'm surprised at how riveting a book about the "culture and politics of breastfeeding" can be! (It did remind me a lot of The Politics of Breastfeeding that I read a while ago.)

I only have time to share quotes today, not much evaluation:

"Babies need holding, stroking, dressing, bathing, comforting, burping, and, within a short time, feeding solids. Dad can do every one of these. The desire to participate should not be confused with the need to give the baby the best of what each partner has to offer."

I liked this one because I hear from people SO often that they want Daddy to be able to participate in baby care by giving the baby a bottle. There are LOTS of things that fathers can do for their babies, other than feeding.

A good one with regard to public breastfeeding/breasts as sexual objects:

"When the attitude is taken that a woman’s breasts belong to her and no job is more important than caring for one’s young, the confusion between breastfeeding and obscenity goes away."

With regard to the argument that bottle feeding "liberates" women from the tyranny/restrictiveness of breastfeeding:

"The liberation women need is to breastfeed free of social, medical, and employer constraints. Instead, they have been presented with the notion that liberation comes with being able to abandon breastfeeding without guilt. This 'liberation,' though, is an illusion representing a distorted view of what breastfeeding is, what breastfeeding does, and what both mothers and babies need after birth."


With regard to how women are treated pp in other cultures, etc…

"An entirely different situation exists in societies where technology is emphasized. The birth process is seen from a clinical viewpoint, with obstetricians emphasizing technology. A battery of defensive practices are employed, some of which are totally irrelevant to the health of either mother or infant. Skilled technicians spend their time and the family’s money on identifying the baby’s gender and performing various stress tests. All the focus is geared toward the actual birth. After the birth, mother and baby become medically separated. The infant is relegated to the care of the pediatrician, the uterus to the obstetrician, the breast abscess to the surgeon. While the various anatomical parts are given the required care, the person who is the new mother is often left to fend for herself...All the tender loving care goes flows to the infant; the mother becomes and unpaid nursemaid."

The quote continues:

"This may appear to be a harsh evaluation, but it is realistic. In western society, the baby gets attention while the mother is given lectures. Pregnancy is considered an illness; once the 'illness' is over, interest in her wanes. Mothers in 'civilized' countries often have no or very little help with a new baby. Women tend to be home alone to fend for themselves and the children. They are typically isolated socially and expected to complete their usual chores, including keeping the house clean and doing the cooking and shopping, while being the sole person to care for the infant..."

"According to the U.S. rules and regulations governing the federal worker, the pregnancy and postdelivery period is referred to as 'the period of incapacitation.' This reflects the reality of the a situation that should be called 'the period of joy.' Historically, mothering was a group process shared by the available adults. This provided not only needed relief but also readily available advice and experience. Of the 'traditional' and 'modern' child-rearing situations, it is the modern isolated western mom who is much more likely to find herself experiencing lactation failure." (emphasis mine)

I think these quotes are important because I think there is a tendency for women to look inward and blame themselves for "failing" at breastfeeding. There is also an unfortunate tendency for other mothers to also blame the mother for "failing"--she was "too lazy" or "just made an excuse," etc. We live in a bottle feeding culture; The cards are stacked against breastfeeding from many angles--economically, socially, medically etc. When I hear women discussing why they couldn't breastfeed, I don't hear "excuses," I hear "broken systems of support" (whether it be the epidural in the hospital that caused fluid retention and the accompanying flat nipples, the employer who won't provide a pumping location, the husband who doesn't want to share "his breasts," or the mother-in-law who thinks breastfeeding is perverted). Of course, there can actually be true "excuses" and "bad reasons" and women theoretically always have the power to choose for themselves rather than be swayed by those around them, but there is a whole lot that goes into not-breastfeeding, besides the quickest answer or what is initially apparent on the surface. Breastfeeding occurs in a context and that context is often one that DOES NOT reinforce it. I often think it is more of miracle that a mother manages to breastfeed, than wonder why she doesn't!

And, a final quote:

"...infant formula sales comprise up to 50% of the total profits of Abbott Labs, an enormous pharmaceutical concern."

And the U.S. government is the largest buyer of formula, providing it for something like 37% of babies. I should have written that quote down too!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Mindful Mama essay

I entered an essay content at Mindful Mama Magazine (the subject was "what it means to be a mindful mama"). My entry is titled Pain & Presence in Parenting.

Anyway, the essays that are the most "popular" in terms of discussion/views/ratings will move on, sooooo....if anyone is interested in helping with that, please check it out! (and/or submit your own essay)

Here are the directions:

1. Create a Mindful Mama account. http://mindfulmamamagazine.com/user/CreateUser.aspx?ReturnUrl=

2. Post comments in the Ani DiFranco Contest Forum. (You must be a registered user to view this forum).

http://mindfulmamamagazine.com/forums/318.aspx

3. Increase the popularity of favorite submission by forwarding this e-mail to other friends.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Zen Calendar Quotes

I don't have time for a real post today (I made up for it by posting twice earlier in the week which I don't usually do), so I thought I'd share some of the $1 Shop Zen calendar quotes that have been piling up by my computer (I probably have 40 little slips here to transcribe! Is that Zen of me?! ;-)

From yesterday:

"When we are mired in the relative world, never lifting our gaze to the mystery, our life is stunted, incomplete; we are filled with yearning for that paradise that is lost when, as young children, we replace it with words and ideas and abstractions--such as merit, such as past, present, and future--our direct, spontaneous experience of the thing itself, in the beauty and precision of this present moment."

--Peter Matthiessen

And from the day before:

"The world is not to be put in order. The world is order. It is for us to put ourselves in unison with this order."

--Henry Miller

And from the day before that:

"...The sacred is in the ordinary...it is to be found in one's daily life, in one's neighbors, friends, and family, in one's own backyard...travel may be a flight from confronting the sacred--this lesson can be easily lost. To be looking elsewhere for miracles is to me a sure sign of ignorance that everything is miraculous."

--Abraham Maslow

And, finally for now, from earlier this month:

"You cannot understand life and its mysteries as long as you try to grasp it. Indeed, you cannot grasp it just as you cannot walk off with the river in a bucket. If you try to capture running water in a bucket, it is clear that you do not understand it and that you will always be disappointed, for in the bucket the water does not run. To 'have' running water, you must let go of it and let it run."

--Alan Watts

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Trees Make the Best Mobiles

This week I finished reading a little book from the library called Trees Make the Best Mobiles. The book is primarily geared towards first time parents of infants and didn't cover a lot of new ground for me, but there were a couple of good reminders in it about present, mindful parenting.

Regarding time with our children: "They offer us a chance, not only to quell past demons, but to leave behind the pressures of the day. With them, we can be our best selves: alert, vibrant, and generous--and fully alive in the present tense."

And, with regard to children learning your behaviors: "Make sure that what your child is absorbing isn't your ragged, frustrated, or furious self, but your best self. And when it's not, let him know that you know, and that you'll try harder next time."

Unfortunately, I think I often do show my "ragged" self and am NOT necessarily my best, alert and vibrant self. When I think about it, I feel like I was my best and most vibrant self when I worked for the Ronald McD House. Part of me genuinely feels that my personality is not well-suited for stay-at-home-mothering and that my mind/personality is better matched to being really deeply invested in a purposeful job/career outside the home. However, my HEART will not allow me to invest that deepness outside of my family while my kids are little and so clearly need to be with me. I am compelled to be with them and care for them myself and that seems irreconcilable with outside employment for me. The push-pull is big though and sometimes my sense of loss over work that I loved and in which I was my best and most vibrant self is really strong. The best balance I can manage is do birth work in my "spare" time--my passion for that and my purpose in that, brings back my feeling of being my "best and most vibrant self." I actually feel more deeply connected--mission and purpose and passion wise--to birth work than I did at RMHC, but I have to squeeze it into some very small cracks in my life at this point in time. I have long struggled with what I feel like is a conflict between parenting and "personing." I'll keep working on it, because I do want my boys to see my vibrant self! (and, I think, part of them seeing my vibrant, full self, is my giving myself permission to pursue some outside-of-mothering stuff like teaching birth classes and also giving myself permission to get into the moment with mothering and let the other stuff fall away, while I invest in truly being there with them instead of thinking about my "to-do list" or my other goals).

A relevant quote:

"Each time you say, 'I need another minute to finish this...,' you squander a moment with your child, never to be reclaimed."

I confess, though this is another good reminder, it annoyed me. There is a little too much "romanticizing" of parenting implicit within it. I thought of all the times when I've said "I just need another minute to..." Hmmm. Go to the BATHROOM! Finish fixing breakfast, put the baby to sleep, help someone else go to the bathroom, talk to my husband--the love of my life... I guess each could be seen as "squandering" and I have an inner monitor in my head that lets me know that! But, get real, sometimes you really DO need another minute to "finish this" and there is no reason to get all blamey about it! (I also confess that my defensiveness here is also about the times I do say "just a minute" when it really ISN'T that important and I could drop what I'm doing to meet their needs--but is it always actual needs, or sometimes just a nonstop desire for parental entertainment?)

And along those lines, another quote:

"Keep in mind, too, that life isn't all entertainment--even when you're only three...Allowing them to become bored means letting them draw on their own resources. It means trusting them to make their own fun. A child who can reach inside herself for amusement or consolation is a child who is truly plugged in."

And a final reminder:

"What we all crave is to be seen, really seen, and through that seeing, know ourselves. We spend much of our life--in work, love, friendship, and sometimes even in therapy--trying to achieve this."

So, look when they call "watch me!"

Yesterday, I also finished reading a tiny little book called The Best of Oprah's What I Know for Sure (this was one of my little daily, post-yoga inspirational reads). I liked this quote immensely:

"The world can only value mothering to the extent that women everywhere stand and declare that it must be so."

Monday, October 13, 2008

Giving Birth

Early this week I also finished reading Giving Birth, by Sheila Kitzinger. I posted quotes from it on my other two blogs, so I'm not going to share any quotes here. The book was an interesting read--after a great opening chapter about "Birth as Experience," that I enjoyed very much and another about the couples relationship, there was a series of birth stories. The stories represented a range of experiences (including triplets) and degrees of intervention (some of the births were very medicalized). Each birth story was fairly short and was preceded with an introduction by the author explaining sort of the main "point" of each story. The book then closed with a chapter about what birth is like for the baby.

One of the things I liked about the opening section of the book is how she looked at childbirth education and whether it is effective in preparing women for birth. I find that as I "evolve" as an educator, I become more and more interested in the process of educating, principles of adult education, how people really learn, etc., so I really enjoy reading about, and thinking about, how to share birth information in a way that really works.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Labor of Love

Last week I finished a review copy of Cara Muhlhahn's brand new midwifery memoir, Labor of Love. Cara is the CNM who was featured in The Business of Being Born. I'm not going to write a whole lot about the book here, because I'm reviewing it for CfM News. It was a fast-paced read and very different than Lady's Hands, Lion's Heart, the other midwife's memoir I recently finished. It was interesting to read this one on the heels of the other one and I wonder if I would have enjoyed it more as a "stand alone" rather as an immediately-following read.

This book was different in that it was much more autobiographical than most other books in this genre--there were lots of details about her personal life and family (details which were nearly absent in books like Baby Catcher) and much less birth stories than you'd expect (the birth stories were not very detailed). In general, it was more a well-rounded picture of her life, her path to midwifery, her thoughts about her career, her work experiences, and so forth than I expected, but less "birthy" than I expected. Overall, it was an interesting and engaging read and I recommend it--especially to aspiring midwives. I think it is more relevant to them than to childbirth educators or other general birth activists.

Quite a few years ago, I was doing a lot of soul-searching about my life purpose. One of the things that bothered me was wanting my role in life/my life purpose to be transcendent of time and space (i.e. not "I'm meant to be a Really Specific Title only relevant in the 21st century"--like an ipod programmer or something like that!). So, a quote jumped out at me from this book:

"But something deep within me insisted on finding some kind of work that would be relevant throughout time, from life in caves through life in outer space. I didn't know yet that I wanted to be a midwife. I just knew that one of the criteria for my career was that it did not permit built-in obsolescence."

I thought I was the only one who thought of careers in these terms! I swear, I used to lament to my husband, "But, what would my purpose in life have been if I was a cavewoman?!" (This was before I had any children--mothering is certainly relevant across time and space and cavewomen!)

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Tenth Anniversary

Well, a couple of months have passed since M and I celebrated our tenth wedding anniversary. I've been meaning to post about it since July! To honor this big anniversary we built a 3-circuit labyrinth in the woods in front of our house. We walked in to it separately to symbolize our separate paths and then met in the middle.I had chosen two passages from the UU Hymnal Singing the Living Tradition to use as a vows renewal of sorts and we read them in unison in the middle.

We come together this morning to
remind one another
To rest for a moment on the
forming edge of our lives,
To resist the headlong tumble
into the next moment,
Until we claim for ourselves
Awareness and gratitude,
Taking time to look into one
another’s faces
And see there communion: the
reflection of our own eyes.

This place of laughter and
silence, memory and hope,
is hallowed by our presence
together.

-------------------------------

May the light around us guide our
footsteps,
and hold us fast to the best and
most righteous that we seek.

May the darkness around us
nurture our dreams,
and give us rest so that we may
give ourselves to the work of
our world.

Let us seek to remember the
wholeness of our lives,
the weaving of light and shadow
in this great and astonishing
dance in which we move.

--Kathleen McTigue

I cried! Then, the kids each walked in separately to join us, just as they joined our marriage during the second five years of it and we all walked out together as a family. I'd made a flower wreath for myself to wear in my hair and I'm glad I did, because it made me feel special :)

Saturday, September 20, 2008

LabOrinth

This week I was super excited to get my pre-ordered copy of Pam England's new booklet, "LabOrinth" in the mail ("when the labyrinth becomes a labOrinth: metaphor, map, meditations, & rituals for labor and postpartum"). It was an interesting little book. I really connect with the labyrinth as a metaphor for birthing (I've posted about this here before) and I use it as a teaching tool in my birth classes as well. Most couples seem to connect with it as well though I think on the surface it feels a little "New Agey" to some of them. Labyrinths are actually ancient (oldest found is 3500 years old!) and have been found in many cultures and places. According to the booklet, they were used by midwives in England 500 years ago as tools for healing. And, centuries ago, mosaic labyrinths inlaid in the floors of churches were walked by pilgrims on their knees (those who could not actually make pilgrimages to the Holy Land in person, would crawl through the labyrinth in the church on their knees as their pilgrimage). I use the crawling example in class to explain that in the "labyrinth" of birth, you can go at your own pace and speed and you can even crawl if you need to! Anyway, it is a cool little book and I recommend it. I love Birthing from Within's materials and ideas.

Based on reading this booklet and on the cover of the Birthing from Within book that I'm re-reading, I drew a little sketch of "kiva woman" and a womb labyrinth that I wanted to share. Though I'm crafty and creative, *drawing* is not really a talent or skill of mine, but I liked my little picture anyway, even if it isn't polished!

Friday, September 19, 2008

Life After Death

Several weeks ago I finished a library book by Deepak Chopra called Life After Death: The Burden of Proof. There were a lot of interesting ideas in this book, but I've finally accepted that I'm not going to end up having the time to do a big blog post about them. I did want to share one of the ideas from it that really stuck with me (I'm actually paraphrasing here): "Saying the mind is in the brain, is like saying the music is in the radio." (or that the footprint in the sand is the same as the foot.)

This book really explored all kinds of things about consciousness, the nature of reality, the nature of the mind/brain/soul, physics, quantum physics, cognition, neurobiology, neurology, Indian mysticism/religions, etc., etc. It was kind of heavy read and took me a while to get through it, but it was very interesting. One of the ideas was that the universe and its patterns/fields of energy could be looked at as the mind/consciousness of God. (Another effective analogy he used in the book was of someone studying a TV screen at an extreme close up (like atomic level) and how you would only see random photons firing randomly, but as you move out and out and out, you start to form a theory that perhaps the photons *aren't* firing randomly, but perhaps there is a pattern. Then, you start to discern colors, and then images, and then realize is video of people performing a story, and so on. The analogy being that perhaps as little humans we can't get far enough away from "the picture" to see the whole of reality and the patterns of the universe/God/consciousness...)

Friday, September 12, 2008

Around the Circle Gently

Last week I finished reading a neat little book called Around the Circle Gently. It is a book of quotes about birth, families, and life. I enjoyed it and found lots of food for thought therein, as well as some good quotes to use in mother blessing or "welcome new baby" cards in the future.

I'm leaving shortly for a retreat. One of my sessions is about postpartum planning (I wrote more about this on the CfM blog), and so I wanted to share a related quote from this book about it:

“In any society the way a woman gives birth and the kind of care given to her and the baby point as sharply as an arrowhead to the key values in the culture.”

--Sheila Kitzinger

I have more thoughts about this quote as it relates to birth that I hope to write up more completely someday. However, for now it is reminding me of the importance of nurturing postpartum care and "cocooning" for mother and new baby.

Last week I also read the novel The Jane Austen Book Club, which then prompted me to rent the newer Pride and Prejudice movie.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Recent Activities

I've had a nice and busy week and wanted to post a quick update about what I've been up to. My article Satisfaction with Birth, just came out in the fall issue of the International Journal of Childbirth Education (ICEA). At four pages, it is the longest professional article I've had published and I'm proud of it. :) The Journal has been redesigned and has a fresh, glossy new look for this issue and it is fun to be in the first edition with this new style! The whole publication looks really great. It also has some great content and I read the whole thing cover-to-cover right away. Particularly good was an article by Sheila Kitzinger about PTSD called "Screaming Inside: A Normal Response to Abnormal Stress" that was pretty powerful. (Also, I am excited to have my own article in the same issue with an article by such a talented woman!)

Yesterday, I finished making a mei tai baby carrier with my Mindful Mothers group. We had SO much fun!I shared a while ago about how making things for yourself is so empowering and this was another example of that--I did this myself! Yay me! :-D Of course Z is rather too big for carrier like this anymore, so now I'll have to have another baby to put in it...

Mindful Mothers originally started as a chapter of a national organization and I was a co-leader for it. As I've been faced recently with making hard choices about what to keep doing and what to let go of, I handed over the group to two wonderful and talented women who have reworked it into an independent group called Mindful Mothers. It is now going strong under its new leadership and new independence and I feel I made the right decision in stepping down. They've been doing awesome things like this mei tai party! (We all brought our sewing machines and worked together on two separate evenings making the mei tais--as well as eating delicious potluck dinner and doing lots of chatting!)

Finally, last night I finished reading an excellent book called Lady's Hands, Lion's Heart. It is a midwife's memoir and covers 13 years of devoted practice. Lots of great birth stories, as well as being an interesting personal journey and the journey of midwifery as a profession in NH. I strongly recommend it to anyone who is interested in birth, particularly aspiring midwives. I reviewed it for the forthcoming issue of CfM News and posted a little more about it on the CfM blog.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

The Mother's Guide to Self-Renewal

My mother-in-law bought me The Mother's Guide to Self-Renewal for Christmas and I've been gradually working through it for the last couple of months. I finished it at the end of July, but haven't had time to post about it really until now. When I got this book, I made a commitment to myself that I was really going to DO the book, instead of just reading it, tossing it aside, and gobbling down the next one on my stack. So, I did. It took me about 4 months or so to work through it. It is actually laid out in a 12-month format. The subtitle is "How to Reclaim, Rejuvenate, and Re-Balance Your Life," which is just what I felt like I needed! As a funny little side note, when I first started reading the book, I had a lovely little leather bound fancy notebook to do the journaling/reflective exercises in. I discovered I was never doing them--it never felt like the right time. Then, I bought a Pirates of the Caribbean notebook at Wal-Mart featuring a large photo of Orlando Bloom on the cover and lo and behold, I started doing the journaling exercises in it and finished the book right up! I had to laugh at myself--Hark! I have found thee, my muse, and thy name is Orlando Bloom (especially in rakish, unbuttoned-pirate-shirt attire!)

The author of this book also has a blog that I enjoy reading.

Working through this book coupled with then working through another book I hope to post about soon (The Life Organizer), did actually help me to make some hard decisions about the various roles in my life. I have this long standing tendency to read really great self-help books, nodding along in agreement the whole time and thinking, "this book changed my life!", but then, as I noted earlier, immediately hopping along to the next book without necessarily integrating the wisdom, ideas, or approach of the prior "life changing" book. So...I decided in January after reading Practically Perfect in Every Way (a book I STILL have not yet managed to blog about even though I finished in in JANUARY, because I have a lot to say about it--I took pages and pages of notes for a blog post, but have never transcribed them...), to read less self-help books, but also to use more of what I read in them when I read them. I have lots of reflections on this subject, but they are languishing with good old Orlando at the moment, waiting for me to type them all up!

On a separate note, my best friend welcomed her family's sixth child into the family last weekend! It sounds like it was a beautiful unassisted birth and I'm so happy for their beautiful family! The weekend he was born, I was sorting through some folders of papers and came across a poem I'd copied from Mothering magazine that brought a tear to my eye. It is called "Take Pictures" and is a poignant look at how fast it all goes. Here is a link to it on the Mothering site, conveniently. The end gets me in my heart every time I read it,

"Holding tight to my neck, my son
trusts - he knows no other way - my touch lightly
dries his tears. I am his queen, his goddess, handily
his slave. Blink, it's a photo again, a trick of the eye,

a frozen captive of time, paper, light and silver: my son
is a grown man: he drinks from his own hand. Reader, I
urge you, spin slowly, take pictures, remember to laugh."(emphasis mine).

Anyway, reading this poem felt like a tribute of sorts to the birth of this fresh, new little guy. I think I'm going to post it somewhere where I can see it regularly.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Puzzling

From the Zen calendar:

"It is a puzzling thing. The truth knocks on the door and you say, 'Go away, I'm looking for the truth,' and so it goes away. Puzzling."

--Robert M. Pirsig

"Quiet minds cannot be perplexed or frightened, but go on in fortune or misfortune at their own private pace, like a clock during a thunderstorm."

--Robert Louis Stevenson

This week I finished reading Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim, which was very funny. Memoir series of essays about the crazy family and sometimes horrible life of David Sedaris. Reads like a novel (a funny one).

I also read the super quick The Meaning of Life, which is like a little picture book.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Quick catch up

It has been super busy around here lately, but I wanted to go ahead and try for a quick catch-up.

A couple of weeks ago I finished a great book. It had intrigue, suspense, dirty double-crossers, backstabbing, plots, conspiracies, and more. Was it a new mystery novel? No! It was The Politics of Breastfeeding! Seriously, this was a phenomenal book. I bought it over two years ago and it took me a long time to get to it on my to-read shelf, because I was kind of thinking, "how interesting could this be?" It was great. I really recommend it. It will make you outraged and shocked though! This was my surprise hit of the year. Someday I might get around to sharing some great quotes from this book, but probably not because there are so many more books to read...

Speaking of my to-read shelf, you may be surprised--or throughly NOT surprised--to know that I have probably 80 books on my to-read shelf. I also have about 30 on my Amazon wishlist, 10 on my Bookins want list, and about 30 more on my library wish list (as in, books I want to read, but don't want to buy).

Quite some time ago, I also finished reading Creating a Charmed Life. This was one of those inspirational/motivational books that I read a little snippet of at a time after my morning yoga. In one of the sections--"Choose Actual Over Virtual Reality"-- it s aid,"There's a saying that goes, 'Some people make things happen. Others watch things happen. The rest wonder what happened.' The watchers are rapidly outnumbering both other groups, but real life is participatory. It balances consumption with production. And when you leave it there's less regret, because you know without any doubt that you were here."

I also read the book Living in Balance. Lots of good quotes, but kind of slow reading. The content was right up my alley, but the pace and style of the book was unengaging and actually kind of boring to get through. Quote of a quote I really liked:

"I will not die an unlived life.
I will not live in fear of falling or catching fire.
I choose to inhabit my days, to allow my living to open me,
to make me less afraid,
more accessible, to loosen my heart
until it becomes a wing, a torch, a promise.
I choose to risk my significance;
to live so that which came to me as seed goes to the next as blossom
and that which came to me as blossom,
goes on as fruit."

--Dawna Markova

Today, I also finished reading my brand new copy of Prepared Childbirth: The Educator's Guide. I'd heard this was a "must have" for CBEs. I did find several things I could use right away and I'm incorporating them into the next series I have (starts next week). However, I didn't find that much that was new or fresh to me. It actually just reinforced that I've put together a pretty good and complete "curriculum" for my birth classes and maybe I need to stop trying to find even more and more curriculums to draw from--my own program is good how it is!

Friday, August 1, 2008

Playful Parenting

Last week I finished reading a really good book from the library called Playful Parenting. I don't have time right now to write much about it, but I really recommend it! A quote I liked from it: "That's why I recommend that parents not send their children to their rooms to cry alone, or leave them alone to cry themselves to sleep. It is more time-consuming to stay with them, to help them let out their feelings of loneliness and sadness, but those feelings don't go away just because we shut the door on them. In fact, I am starting to see eight-, nine-, and ten-year-olds in my practice whose parents followed the advice to 'let them cry it out' when the children were babies. These infants were seen as manipulating parents into cuddling with them or lying down with them to sleep. These children are now having trouble sleeping through the night because of fears, nightmares, and worries. In my less mature moments, I feel like saying, 'I told you so!'"

There was also a section about children feeling powerless (or isolated) and the author talked about attitudes in our society towards power: "Where is the true power? Why is it so rare? The answer starts with our society, which is ambivalent about power. We seek it and admire it, but we mistrust it...At the same time, empowerment is a buzzword in psychology, and all efforts are supposed to be made to empower children. We use the same word--power--to apply to vastly different things...I generally use the word confidence to refer to the positive side of power--the power to stand up for what is right, the power to be adventurous (within safe limits), the power to know your own inner strength, the power to achieve a goal, the power of happy play. On the other side is powerlessness, which often looks like passivity, inhibition, timidity, fearfulness, and whining..."

This section made me think about birth (of course) because "empowerment" is a commonly used word when talking about giving birth/preparing women to give birth. I liked his re-framing of "positive power" as "confidence" because that is truly what I think women need in order to give birth--they need confidence, a sense of personal power and inner strength. Also, I think the end result of meeting your own needs in some way is empowerment--in a variety of situations. For example, I recently sewed something for a gift for a friend of mine. I don't use the sewing machine much and after I cut out the garment, I thought about calling my mom and asking her to just sew it for me--that would have been easier. However, I didn't, and I sewed it all myself, plus then another one for myself ;-) As I did it and remembered how to thread the machine, refill the bobbin, etc. I thought, "this is empowering!"--sure I could have asked for help, but it feels really good to do it myself. I think birth is like that too--it feels good to do it yourself and doing it yourself, makes you feel good about yourself. That is not to say that asking for help when you need is not a strength in its own way--it is--but just that accomplishing something under your own power has motional/psychological rewards. It feels good. It is empowering.

Also from the library I had Voluntary Simplicity. This book has been on my to-read list since 2002!! LOL! I had it on hold at the Columbia library for about a year and it never came in because it was lost. So, I had it on my Amazon wishlist for ages and no one ever bought it for me. So...what do you know, I found it at the library in which I hold a newly-re-beloved library card. And, after all this time, I took it back half read. I simply did not enjoy it or connect with it well at all. What a letdown! I almost NEVER quit reading something in the middle. This was the first book I've done that with all year, I think.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Quick update

A post to say that I'm not really going to be posting today (LOL!). I've been in St. Louis all day at a cool training workshop and then tomorrow is computer-off day at our house, so no catch up then.

Yesterday was our tenth wedding anniversary. We had a really nice little ceremony that I hope to post about at some point soon.

Yesterday I also finished reading the e-book version of The Power of Pleasurable Childbirth. It was a good, short book about unassisted birth. I'm not sure if is the same as the print version, so now I'm curious to look at a copy of that too!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Uh oh!

From my Zen calendar this week...

"Those who have strong passions are never able to perceive the Way. It is like stirring up clear water with your hands; you may come wishing to find a reflection of your face, but you'll never see clearly in disturbed waters. A mind troubled and vexed with passions is never able to see the Way."

--Sutra of Forty-two Chapters

If this is true, my chances of enlightenment are slim to none, LOL! I have many passions and many fires burning.

I have always been very passionate about my "causes." M said to me a couple of weeks ago that he didn't know what it was like to be so very into something for so long (birth, for me). I told him that perhaps it is a personality style to be really committed to causes, because I've had a "cause" that I've felt devoted to since 1997, when I started working at the first battered women's shelter I worked in. That was the first time I felt that fire, that passion, that aliveness, that sense of "rightness," the attachment to the cause--the thing that is bigger than myself. I've had other work settings where I felt it and others where I haven't and I use that feeling as my guidepost to gauge whether I'm in the right place--if I'm working somewhere that does not make me feel "alive," I've GOT to get out of there or it feels like my spirit will be crushed. I have a physical sense of being squelched, when in a non-passion workplace.

I have more to say on this, but our chicken pen has just been finished and I'm being called to the grand unveiling and "release" of the chickens into their little yard for the first time!

Husband-Coached Childbirth

With my renewed library enthusiasm, I checked out and read Husband-Coached Childbirth this week. I was interested in the book for "historical value" primarily, because Dr. Bradley made so many contributions to the natural childbirth movement and was really a pioneer in natural childbirth and birth education. I didn't particularly like his paternalistic attitude throughout the book and there was something offputting about his tone as well as many of the things he said (the whole "properly trained women" who know how to "conduct themselves" during labor and referring to women as "she was a good obstetrical athlete," as well as a weird section about the "chapped and brittle" vaginas of American women being the cause of tears and episiotomies...). Most of the book is written towards the husband and preparing him to be a good "coach." I recognize that this approach works well for some families. However, as I've referenced in this blog before when mentioning Bradley, it seems that this approach to birth has a very rigid set of "correct" birth behaviors and techniques (very specific side-lying position to labor in, etc.) and my own philosophy centers much more around trusting your inner wisdom, doing what feels good, and listening to your instincts (not your "training" and your "coach.")

There were a couple of things I really liked in this book though too. One was his recurrent use of the word "motherlike." He'd say, "XYZ might not be ladylike, but it IS motherlike...." Another was his reference to the "birth climax." We've been discussing the new birth film Orgasmic Birth on several email lists recently and I have reservations about the choice of title for the film (especially because apparently only one birth in the film is actually "orgasmic" the others are more like "ecstatic" or "joyful," not literally orgasmic). In this Bradley book he references "Helen Wessel's new [1974] term 'birth climax'...subjectively comparing the feeling of birth with the emotional climax in lovemaking." On the email list I'm on, I wrote: Personally, I think birth is such an encompassing and tremendous experience in and of itself, it doesn’t really need orgasm mixed in with it to be powerful and exhilarating (though, its not like I’m opposed to orgasm. It just seems like separate types of happenings, though still on the sexual lifecycle continuum). I think the closest I could come (no pun intended, LOL!) is to “pleasurable” birth, but even though it involves the same body parts, it is a completely different type of experience to me than sex/orgasm.

Then another CBE who had seen the film wrote about it (and the appropriateness of the title) as follows: "If you are not literal but figurative certainly orgasmic could be applied to each of these births....Orgasmic should be applied to something ultimately enjoyable, physiologically intimate and rewarding and I think these births fall in that category. Doesn't a wonderful orgasm make you feel good about yourself? Your body? The mom who says there aren't many times in your life when you can say you are proud of yourself ... and her eyes are welling up .... and enjoying birth isn't something we talk about just like orgasms aren't talked about in public .... that's an orgasmic birth."

So, after pondering these thoughts and then reading the term "birth climax" and thinking about the powerful wave of emotions and euphoria after giving birth, I'm starting to "get" the Orgasmic Birth title. Heck, I guess my "powerful and exhilarating" might actually be talking about "orgasmic birth" after all!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

The Childbirth Kit

Yesterday, I read The Childbirth Kit. This had been on my wishlist at Amazon for literally years, so I finally went ahead and bought it for myself (my husband bought a mini-amp for his guitar at the same time and we decided they were sort of like anniversary presents. Our tenth wedding anniversary is coming up in less than two weeks!) Anyway, The Childbirth Kit consists of a short book (interesting and concise. Some pieces felt "outdated" because it was written in 1994) and a set of 17 image cards. The cards are the reason I wanted the set. Each one has a colorful image on the front designed for a particular stage of labor (so like water drops on a leaf for early labor or a bright red-orange piece of intricate glass for pushing) and the back has a short visualization exercise to do, ideas of things for the woman to try during labor, ideas for the birth partner to help her, and a series of inspiring/contemplative words that are related to the image on the front. So, for example, one card has the words "Pathways. Mother. Growth. Fertile. Powerful" printed along the bottom (the image on the front is titled "Earth," but it looks more like a woven rug/tapestry). There is even a card titled "Knit." My mom would approve! It is a pretty cool set. The idea is that you practice with the cards, images, visualizations prior to labor and then continue using them IN labor as well (so, pinning on the on the wall to look at, or holding them, or whatever).

This week I also read The Hidden Feelings of Motherhood. This was actually the third time I've read it. I didn't really set out to read it again, I was looking up some stats for an article I was writing and got lured back in to reading the whole thing. It is a good book. We have it in our LLL library (the first time I read it, it was the previous edition and I got it from the LLL Group I used to go to when L was a baby).

Friday, July 11, 2008

Libraries

I spent many years of my life loving the library and making good use of all it had to offer. When I was in graduate school, I lost touch with the joy of the library and only set foot in the University library TWICE (funny that that is possible, but such is the miracle of the internet and University computer access to all kinds of journal article online, instead of dusty stack-searching for them). While an undergrad, I practically lived at the library--either the college one or the public one, I spent a lot of time in both. Not necessarily checking out books or doing research, but as my "base" between classes, to study, write papers etc. After graduate school, I rediscovered the joy of reading for pleasure. I had library cards at the two cities we lived in prior to where we live now. I went to the library at least once a week and had a fabulous time. Then, we moved back to our hometown, and since we're out of the city limits a library card costs $20. I didn't get one. I've lived here for three years now and have only set foot in the library a handful of times, mostly to give them updated LLL posters for their windows. I haven't consciously missed it, because I get so many books from book sales, yard sales, friends, Bookins, and Amazon (who needs the library, I began to feel!)

Then, I went to a special children's program at the library about an hour away from us a couple of weeks ago, and was suddenly struck by how fabulous libraries are and how much I love them. It didn't hurt that this little library had some rockin' cool books for sale for only 25 cents each! (Excuse me while I swoon, but they had multiple copies of the brand new Our Bodies, Ourselves Guide to Pregnancy and Childbirth. Hardback, library bound copies. A QUARTER! I almost collapsed with joy).

So, this week, I decided that I should shell out the $20 for a library card at my local public library. I actually planned to do so only so my kids could check out books, videos, and participate in the summer reading program (side note: I asked L if he'd like to do the summer reading program and I told him that they had prizes for it. He, like most kids, love prizes and surprises, but he gave me a really funny look and said, "Why would I need to win prizes for reading books?! That doesn't make any sense." Aww. That's my guy. Reading books is its own reward! ;-) However, as soon as I stepped into the stacks I was in LOVE again. OMG. Libraries are fabulous. I found two books on my Amazon wish list as well as an interesting book-on-CD to listen to while I fold laundry. I've been twice this week alone and see many more trips in my future. The kids love it too and I feel guilty that I've been depriving them for so long (especially because I KNOW how much I loved the library when I was a kid. I literally had read every single book in the teenager section of the libraries in both towns near me. Every single one. I used to check out 20 "young adult" books at a time and read two each day. That was my mom's limit for me, because otherwise I'd be all weird-acting from having been buried in a book all day long).

Okay, so I already finished reading one of the books I checked out (not one that was on my wish list, but one that caught my eye). It was The Busy Mom's Guide to Simple Living. It was extremely religious. More so than I anticipated from my initial glance at it. While I didn't really get much out of it specifically, I did start to ponder all of the simple living/homesteading things I've lost touch with in recent months as the busy-ness of life has started to get away from me.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

A Quiet Corner

This week, I finished reading the little book I'd been doing a short reading from each morning. Called Find a Quiet Corner: a simple guide to self-peace, the book itself made much less impact than the title did. The book's content and tips were nothing new or remarkable, but the idea from the title of designating a quiet, private place to myself, stuck. I had a sewing desk in our bedroom that was just a place for junk to pile up. so, I cleared it all up and put some of my special things on it and now I try to take a few minutes to sit there once a day and read a few pages from my next inspirational book, write in my journal, and walk my finger labyrinth. I started this about a month ago and it is nice.

As a little "contest"--I'll be happy to mail this little book to the first person who leaves me a comment telling me why they'd like to have their own quiet corner!

Related to this quiet corner idea, is this quote from Thomas Merton. I've quoted it here before when I read it quoted in a quote in another book. But, this time it showed up on my $1 Shop Zen calendar:

"To allow oneself to be carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns, to surrender to too many demands, to commit oneself to too many projects, to want to help everyone in everything, is to succumb to the violence of our times."

--Thomas Merton

I need to put this somewhere where I can read it every time I sit down at the computer!

Other Reads

This week I also read a totally junky novel called Younger. It was about a woman who was recently left by her husband for another woman and also had her newly adult daughter join the Peace Corps. So, she is alone in New Jersey after an adult lifetime as a SAHM caring for others. She goes to NY and passes herself as much younger (like 25 instead of 44), hooks up with a cute, young man and has a hot time with him, etc. etc. Pretty poor quality fiction, but I zoomed right through it. Sometimes I need a book like this as a "treat" after all the thinking I do about weighty issues!

I then read As Good as I Could Be. This was a parenting memoir and I also zoomed through it quickly, because it was paced more like a novel. One thing that jumped out at me is her mention that most children (including her daughter) start school at age two. Excuse my "language," but WTF?! I guess she is referring to what I would usually call, "day care," not "school" (for a two year old!). The child, of course, doesn't want to go to "school." The author refers to it as, "the worst of separation traumas my daughter and I grew up through was the trauma of her going to school....At first she went to the kind of school...When it was time for a real school--she was two years old at this point...I took her up there for testing." Again with the WTF? I guess I do live in a backwoods area, because this kind of process is completely out of my realm of experience. Taking a two year old to a "real school" that she has to be tested for? Yikes! I look at little Z--also two--nursing to sleep and still being carried around a lot of the time and picture him bopping off to "real school." No way! That's crazy talk!

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Journal Articles

I have no time to blog this week, so this is a quickie just to report that my essay in Midwifery Today came out this month. This was just a short, semi-funny piece about "the mess" from my glorious homebirth ;-) It was fun.

My article about the birth-breastfeeding continuum was also published in the International Journal of Childbirth Education (ICEA's pub) this month. This was a serious article with references and an abstract and all that good stuff. I ended up being pretty proud of it.

L had a little poem published in HMN's The Wise Mom in their new "Holistic Kids" section this month too:

The valley is so beautiful.
The things are so bright.

The family is so great.
And everything's all right.

This week I also enjoyed reading this month's International Doula from DONA and my first issue of my new subscription to Hip Mama. I've long wanted to subscribe to Hip Mama, but never have until now. Interesting pieces that are little bit outside of my own personal somewhat insulated and privileged sphere of motherhood.

Also, my beloved Brain, Child arrived and I gobbled it up without an ounce of self-control, as usual. I swear, if I was going to be marooned on a desert island with only one thing to read I would say this magazine. Except, I read it WAY too fast, so it wouldn't last me nearly long enough and I'd "starve" of reading materials before actual starvation even had a slight chance to set it. So, I'd have to, reluctantly, choose something else. Like a big huge Complete Works of Shakespeare or something. Though, if I was going to die on the island, wouldn't it be better to go out happy with Brain, Child by my side instead of slogging through Shakespeare, who has never floated my boat, despite my best efforts? (I took a whole freakin' CLASS in Shakespeare in college and yet have never fully made it through ANY of his works...) Okay, digression over. Proceed!

Earlier this month I enjoyed some thought provoking articles about life and death in UU World magazine.

Only finished one book and haven't had time to write about it yet. This is all I can do for today!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

An Easier Childbirth

I bought myself a little present on Amazon recently--a fresh copy of An Easier Childbirth by Gayle Peterson. I read this book from the library when I was pregnant with L and I've been wanting to read it again for quite some time. Reading it brought back all kinds of memories and all the questions, fears, thoughts I had during that time in my life--so many unknowns with a first pregnancy. I remember feeling like I was studying for the biggest "test" of my life and books like this felt like my textbooks--like if I studied them hard enough, I could do it "right." Now, I know that you can't really study for birth, though I do think that being well-read and well-informed is a good thing. Well, if you are reading positive, confidence building, woman-centered, birth affirming books like this one! This book focuses on the psychological elements of birth preparation and birth experiences. It validates the importance of birth experiences in women's lives and is quite good.

A quote I loved (quoting a midwife named Rhonda):

"It is not 'ladylike' to give birth. The strength and power of labor is not demure."

In seriousness though, I think she's onto something. I think that our country's high rate of epidural use is probably connecting to the whole issue of wanting to remain "in control" and not to be roaring the baby out in an "unladylike" manner.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Yoga for Your Pregnancy

I wanted to quickly post about a prenatal yoga DVD I got for my birthday and absolutely LOVE! It is Yoga for Your Pregnancy by Yoga Journal & Lamaze. The video has multiple practices, which makes it a wonderful value for your money--there is an energizing practice, a relaxing practice, a postpartum practice and then quick practices of meditation for pregnancy, pranayama for pregnancy, and birthing room yoga. I adore the birthing room yoga segment. So good! It is only five minutes long and is perfect to use in birth classes. I've already incorporated it into my classes and it is wonderful. I bought this video specifically for ideas to use in birth classes--which is fulfilled perfectly with that great little segment--but was pleasantly surprised that I LOVE doing each of the practices as my own morning yoga routine. I'm not pregnant and find the practices really, really good even for not-pregnant people. They have a great balance of some challenge along with restorative, gentleness (they have modifications for people further along in pregnancy). The postpartum practice is really quite a workout, which was a surprise to me. Anyway, I just really enjoy this video!

There is an interview with the instructor as one of the bonus features and she talks about her planned homebirth which progressed very quickly and so she ended up having an unplanned unassisted birth, which I thought was cool. She also talks about using hypnosis to prepare for birth. Ever since I "met" Sheridan online, my ears perk up whenever I hear someone mention using hypnosis in labor!

As far as books, I only finished reading The Very Important Pregnancy Program by Gail Brewer. I didn't really like it that much. The emphasis on nutrition was intense! I recognize that nutrition is very important, but I wonder if it is the total end all be all that this book presents! Also, basically I collect books like this in order to glean new information or coping techniques to share in birth classes. I was interested that in this ENTIRE book there was basically ONE coping strategy, which was to do progressive relaxation in which a "wave" of relaxation passes through your body during each contraction. She even says that this technique might get "boring" since you have to do it for several hours of contractions, but doesn't really offer anything else! I forget that some approaches to birth preparation are much more passive than my own approach--the emphasis of this book, and in the Bradley book, is to lie still on your side basically the whole labor doing this relaxation technique the whole time. No thanks!