Saturday, February 23, 2008

The Mother Dance

A couple of weeks ago I also finished reading The Mother Dance. The book is by Harriet Lerner a well known author, psychologist, lecturer, etc. about the psychology of women. (Probably best known for her The Dance of Anger.) I quoted this book a few weeks ago with her comments about perfectionism. She also addresses the ever present maternal guilt:

"Guilt keeps mothers narrowly focused on the question 'What's wrong with me?' and prevents us from becoming effective agents of personal and social change."

On a totally unrelated note, in another section she discusses research that was done on mothering practices in late 18th century Paris when using wet nurses was widespread. "In 1780 there were 21,000 babies born in Paris. Only 1,000 of these babies were breastfed by their mothers, and only 1,000 were wet-nursed in the city. The vast majority of these infants, 19,000 of them, were sent to wet nurses outside of Paris, sometimes as far as 125 miles away. It was ordinary practice for the children to remain there for as long as three to five years."

This was a cultural artifact--not of economic necessity--during this time women were encouraged to organize their lives around their husbands and breastfeeding was seen to interfere with a woman's modesty (as well as with her ability to provide for her husband's sexual needs).

I thought this was fascinating and also sad. It also made me chuckle a little to think about complaints about children being in day care--at least the baby isn't being farmed out 125 miles away for 5 years anymore! LOL!

Last week I also finished the book Tying Rocks to Clouds: Meetings and Conversations with Wise and Spiritual People. This book was so-so and I found myself frequently feeling depressed when I was reading it, so...

Anyway, a good quote regarding parenting (from the author's interview with Stephen Levine who has three children):

"Talk about a fierce teaching. It is easier to sit for three years in a cave than to raise a child from the time he is born to three years old." ;-) This was in response to a question about whether serious spiritual development is possible when having relationships with others (spouse, children, etc.) I firmly believe that without having children, I would be less "developed" than I am now--it is sort of like having kids is bad for the self (ego), but great for the soul!

Professionalizing Motherhood

From Bookins this week, I received and read Professionalizing Motherhood. This book has an evangelical Christian orientation that was much stronger than I anticipated when reading the description. While I do not mind books that include references to the author's faith perspective, this one was pretty heavy handed and was almost exclusively an evangelical Christian book. I felt like there was more to explore within the book's title concept than just focusing on one specific orientation. The idea behind the book was encouraging stay-at-homes moms to look at what they do as a "career" and "profession" and treat it with respect instead of "I'm just a mom" thinking.

As side notes, there were two good ideas of looking at things (paraphrasing):

People use the phrase "high cost of living" when they really mean "high cost of the way we choose to live.

When deciding what activities, responsibilities, etc. to take on, it isn't a matter of choosing between good and bad, but of choosing between good and best. (I'm working on this!)

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

One Woman Awake

One Woman Awake
Awakens another,
The second awakens her next door neighbor
And three awake can rouse the town,
And turn the whole place upside down.
And many awake
Can raise such a fuss
That it finally awakens the rest of us.
One woman up,
With dawn in her eyes,

--Author Unknown

This poem was on the front of a card I received today from the National Association of Mother's Centers (I joined a couple of months ago). I had never read it before and I completely loved it and wanted to share.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Birth art again

My four year old draws the cutest birth art pictures ever! He draws constantly and occasionally pops up with a pregnant lady one and says, "I drew this for you Mama!" I posted scans of the two he drew for me on Valentine's Day to my birth art blog.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Living Simply with Children

I'm very behind in writing about the books I've read, but I guess who cares really?!?!

A week or so ago I finished reading Living Simply with Children. I was excited to read it, because many simple living books seem written by, or for, people without children or whose children are grown up. However, I didn't find that this book had much new to offer or much that was specifically helpful about simple living with children. It was interesting, but not particularly life changing or illuminating.

I also finally finished reading Wisdom of the Ages by my beloved Wayne Dyer. The subtitle was "60 Days to Enlightenment" and so I was very careful to read only one part each day for 60 days (I would read a section each day after my yoga practice). I didn't enjoy it nearly as much as the rest of Wayne Dyer's books, perhaps because it was so slowly digested? My idea to read it carefully like that was an effort to get good things to soak in, instead of just rushing to the next book. However, I found myself feeling a little annoyed by him instead of feeling like all of his profound truths were becoming part of my life view! The book is 60 essays about 60 different "wise people" from history. Each section opened with a quote from their writings/teachings and then Dyer's exploration of the idea expressed in the paragraph he chose. He wrote the book in like 60 days too and there were many times when it felt like it showed to me--his writing seemed repetitive, redundant, sometimes surface, and hasty. The nice thing about this format was that I was exposed to and read works from well known great thinkers that I haven't necessarily read on my own. There were paragraphs from all sorts of people that it is good "cultural literacy" to have read something by.

Lots of good reminders too like:

"Men are disturbed not by things that happen,
but by their opinion of the things that happen."

Oh, so true! I'm terrible about letting my own opinions about things that happen get me all worked up and in a tizzy, or stressed, or whatever and really what is bothering me is my OWN thinking, my own thoughts, and my own opinions, NOT anything that really happened or is happening!

Oh, and by the way, I don't seem to be enlightened after my 60 days of reading...;-)

Magic of Mothering

When I was reading Birth Book a couple of weeks ago, I read the section in it about "imprinting" (I think it has been fairly well established that there isn't really human "imprinting" after birth, but when this book was written it was still one of the ideas). Anyway, there was a section about research done with baby goats done to look at the ability of a mother to protect her offspring from environmental stress. They separated twin goats and put some in rooms alone and the others in rooms with their mothers. The only difference in the room was the presence of the mother. An artificial stress environment was created involving turning off the lights every two minutes and shocking the baby goats on the legs ( :( ). After the babies were conditioned like this, they were tested again two years later. This time all the babies (now adult goats) were in rooms alone and were again "treated" to the lights off and shock routine. The goats who had been with their mothers during the early experience showed no evidence of abnormal behavior in the stressful environment. The ones who had not been with their mothers did show "definite neurotic behavior." Somehow, the presence of the mother alone served to protect the baby goats from the traumatic influences and keep them from being "psychologically" disturbed in adulthood.

Except for feeling sorry for the baby goats, I thought this information was SO COOL. How magic are mothers that just by being there we can help our babies--even if there is still something stressful going on, our simple presence helps our babies not be stressed by it and continue to feel safe. Magic!

This was included in the book because of the idea that birth may be a stressful environment for a baby and if the continuity of motherbaby is maintained after birth (immediate skin-to-skin contact and opportunity for breastfeeding), the baby does not become stressed or "neurotic." But...if the continuity for mother and baby is broken by separation (baby whisked away for weighing or whatever), both mother and baby are stressed by this and it may have an impact on their future relationship and behavior. The book also talks about how the sound of the baby's first cry has a sort of "imprinting" effect on the mother in that her uterus immediately begins to contract and involute after hearing her baby's first cry, whereas mothers who are immediately separated from their babies and do not make contact with them have a higher likelihood of postpartum hemorrhage (I have no idea if this has been debunked or not since the book was written in 1972, but it was an interesting idea to read about).

In case anyone pays attention, I'm attempting to switch my schedule around and start blogging here on Saturdays instead of Fridays (and blog for CfM on Fridays instead of Saturdays).

Friday, February 8, 2008

Zen Meditations on Being a Mother

Another Bookins acquisition and unfortunately another sort of disappointing one (maybe I'm just in a bad mood lately or something?!). Zen Meditations on Being a Mother was a quickly forgettable book and wasn't very unique or helpful. It came with a free CD of meditation music, which was kind of fun (I put it on during my yoga practice). My plan for this book was to read a "meditation" a day following my yoga practice, but I quickly realized I wasn't gaining anything from the book, so I just read it all up in one sitting. It felt obvious & somewhat trite and also glib and greeting-card-ish. Kind of fast-food pseudo-Zen, not anything sustainable and meaty. I didn't actually recognize that much "Zen" in it--maybe it was just a good title.

On the recognizably Zen side of things, my little $1 Shop Zen-a-day calendar had the following meaningful quote for today:

"Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished"

Calm Birth

I was excited to get a nice copy of Calm Birth from Bookins. The subtitle is "New Method for Conscious Childbirth." I was really excited about it, because I'd never heard of it before. I read SO many books and so many about birth, that I love the thrill of discovering something new and delving into a new level of birth information/ideas. I settled down to read it last week and quickly found that I could not get into it. At. All. I *rarely* meet a book that I can't read and unfortunately, this book was one of them :( I ended up skimming quickly to the end and nothing ever "hooked" me back into it to give it more of a chance. I just simply didn't like it and didn't find that it had anything to offer me. It was supposed to be about meditation, visualization, and energy medicine. It seems esoteric, impractical, and irrelevant. The book hardly talked about pregnancy and birth, but instead about your "life vase" and things like that. I'd be interested to know if anyone has "successfully" used the approach and found it helpful in labor and birth? Even the transcripts of interviews at the end were not interesting and made little sense.

Generally, I read an entire book literally cover-to-cover--I read all of the author acknowledgments, everything! So, it was weird of me to realize, "I don't want to keep reading this book."

I think this may be the first totally negative review I've posted here.

For whatever reason, the book DID make me think about hypnosis as a method of childbirth preparation and I feel interested in looking into those approaches more, since that isn't something I'm familiar with. There is Hypnobirthing (I have this book, but haven't ever read it yet), Hypbirth, and Hypnobabies (I'm interested by their homestudy option in particular for next time I have a baby--why not branch out and "test" new ideas?!).

New blog!

Yes, I started another blog! I noticed when looking on the hits on this blog that an often searched for term is "pregnancy art." I occasionally post about birth art here, but the posts are kind of lost amongst all the other posts and other topics. So, I started a dedicated blog where I can share photos from my birth art collection/presentations. I will add to it gradually, so as not to overload the reader/viewer all at once. Comments are welcome!

Friday, February 1, 2008

Sons & Mothers

Earlier this week I finished reading a collection of essays called Sons & Mothers that I picked up at the book sale in Columbia this fall. It was relatively unremarkable (odd cover image of a woman squatting--in profile--wearing only a bathing cap sort of thing on her head and a newborn baby on her back??). When I read the intro, I was expecting deeper, more thought provoking content than I actually found. There were 8 essays from mothers, 8 from sons (not pairs).

A good quote though: "I also believe that C-minus is the top mark for motherhood. Each generation strives to build faster, cleaner planes, trains, and automobiles and to be better parents than their own. Without this margin for error, there can be no growth, no development" [as a species].

This is hard for me to swallow as a quintessential 4.0 overachiever student type. I like A's dangit! LOL! ;-)

I've been sick with a nasty flu with a bad headache as the "centerpiece" so I also read the lightweight & semi-trashilicious book The Scandalous Summer of Sissy LeBlanc. Southern belle shakes up small hometown when high school boyfriend shows back up after 14 years away. Set in 1956 in Louisiana and explores racism and sexism as sub-themes.