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.

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

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 is to be found in one's daily life, in one's neighbors, friends, and family, in one's own 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


May the light around us guide our
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 :)