Saturday, May 30, 2009

Birth, I think I will talk about birth...

I haven't gotten over my most recent birth books kick (though I'm always interested in birth, I I go through phases where I read a ton of birth books and then get kind of "done" and read about other subjects instead). So during the past week (and last) I finished reading:

Open Season--A book from the 90's about VBAC. I really enjoyed this one. As I mentioned on Facebook, Nancy Wainer has often been critiqued as "too angry." Well, I guess I like angry, because I thought it was a great book! I didn't see it as angry, but as firey and passionate and I like those things! As someone pointed out to me on Facebook, anger can burn people out and can cause relationship issues. I do not feel like an angry person myself (though a passionate one), so I'll "enjoy" it from afar :) In the introduction she actually referenced the whole angry thing and said something that I really liked [addressing those who would dismiss her work as "angry"]--"Don't bite my finger, look where I'm pointing!" The book read more like a manifesto or treatise or philosophy than a "guidebook" per se--not very much practical information. Lots of ideas, theory, and beliefs. I marked MANY pages to quote from, but today is just a sum-up-and-post day! Oh wait, here was a good one though: "If childbirth classes really 'worked,' more women would be having babies without interference. More women would be recognizing the complete naturalness of birth and would remain at home, delivering their infants with feelings of confidence and trust. More and more, midwives would be demanded. The names of those hospitals and doctors who treated women and babies with anything less than absolute respect would be public knowledge, and childbirth classes would be the first place these names would be discussed. 'You're seeing What's-His-Face? He's a pig! In my opinion, of course,' I tell people who come to my classes. I then proceed to give them the names of people who have used Pig-face. They can always ask Dr. P. for the names of people who have used him and been satisfied with their births, for balance."

Woman-Centered Pregnancy & Birth--had never heard of this one until reading the above and promptly bought this one as well. I was attracted by the title, because I consider my birth classes to be rooted in a "woman-centered model." However, it was much more of a basic pregnancy and birth book than I expected (I guess coming from a woman-centered perspective though?), so it was less theory and treatise and more, "here is how to examine your cervix and this is what it looks like at different points in your cycle." I actually ended up skimming it a bit, which is rare for me, but it was "elementary" for me and/or technically outdated.

Teaching Natural Birth--This one was interesting (also an older book--not only am I on a birth books kick, I'm on an older birth books kick!). It wasn't a book of teaching tips or even "how to teach," but was more of a business structure book (handling inquiry calls, buying teaching aids, that sort of thing). Pretty unique in the birth book world, really. The author is very religious and there were religious references liberally scattered throughout.

I also finished reading Birth Tides: Turning Towards Homebirth, which I've been reading for quite some time (it isn't that engaging--reads like an ongoing research project or dissertation). It is a 1995 book about homebirth in Ireland. One thing I found amusing was that one of the benefits of homebirth was "being able to have a cigarette whenever you want in labor." LOL! I don't think we'd see that in a book now!

I finally bought my own copy of the film Birth Day and watched that recently. My doula trainer referred to it as a "juicy" birth film. It is a nice one. I really enjoy it. The actual video is only like 11 minutes, but there are lots of "special features" on it as well (interview clips)

Finally, I read Down Came the Rain from the library. This is Brooke Shields' memoir about postpartum depression. It was interesting, though not particularly well-written and though it was a "personal" book, I found it hard to connect emotionally with the author/story--she seemed "distant" somehow.


Friday, May 29, 2009

My Baby is Three!

I can hardly believe it, but my little Z is three today! I am having a book giveaway on the CfM blog in honor of this occasion.

Here he was three years ago today:

Here he is now (all pix taken by L actually!):

Speaking of birthdays, here is the birthday cake my friend made for my 30th birthday this year (it is based on one of my scrabble tile pendants with a catch-your-own-baby image created by my talented husband).

Saturday, May 23, 2009

I'm so Zen...

I read several books this week, but alas, my time for blogging today has evaporated, so I'm going to share three quotes from my Zen calendar. I carefully picked these out, because they contain important reminders/lessons for me (lately I feel like my life has accelerated even more and I'm scrambling to stay "on top" of everything--however, perhaps it is also Zen to accept this as part of the natural ebbs and flows of life...):

"Besides the noble art of getting things done, there is a nobler art of leaving things undone...The wisdom of life consists in the elimination of nonessentials."

Lin Yutang

"Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don't resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like."


"Life is a succession of moments. To live each one is to succeed."

--Corita Kent

Saturday, May 16, 2009


The current issue of Natural Life magazine has some more good homeschooling articles in it (the last two issues have had some really good ones as well. I hadn't been planning to renew my subscription, but I think I'm changing my mind!). The first was called "Education is Not Something That's Done to You" and it addresses the (false) assumption that learning "can and should be produced in people." (emphasis mine) It addresses the assumption that children won't learn on their own, but must be made to learn by being kept in confinement with others their own age day in and day out. She notes that even homeschoolers often fall into the trap of thinking education must be "done to" children. I marked the conclusion to share: "What we should not do is create new schools--be they charter schools, private schools, or home schools--which perpetuate old assumptions of how children learn or who controls children's learning." I have to remind myself of this sometimes--if I start to feel like L "should" be doing something specific, or "most 5 year olds can XYZ..." or if someone asks him if he's in school or remarks on how "is your mommy or your daddy your teacher," that I reject that *system*--why would I try to use its values to define our experiences?

The other article was a cool one called The Hand that Rocks the Cradle Rocks the Boat: Life learning as the ultimate feminist act. In it, the author quotes social commentator Susan Maushart as asserting that "motherhood needs to be at the center of human society, from which all social and economic life should spin. Society needs to 'acknowledge that bearing and raising children is not some pesky, peripheral activity we engage in, but the whole point,'...Warehousing kids in daycare or school so mothers can get on with what they see as their real lives is not part of that vision, but we need to find ways to ensure economic security for women of all classes, and extend the vision to include fathers as well."

Speaking of feminism and homeschooling, I had an epiphany this week. I am facilitating a women's spirituality workshop and the theme of this week's session was "womanpower." A point was emphasized several times that in feminism the view of power is different. A patriarchal view of power is that of "power over" or control over--you have power, someone else doesn't. You can use your power to control others, or to take their power away, etc. A feminist view of power is of cooperation--"power with" as well as inner power. When you have inner power, you do not need power over someone else. A hierarchical version of power falls away and is unnecessary. I reflected on the times I have heard women say, "I'm not a feminist, but..." and how I've always *boggled* at that. How can you NOT be a feminist, I'd wonder. Now, I think it is because of a misinterpretation of values--an interpretation that views feminism as wanting to "take over" or to "dominate" men or to prove that "women are better than men." This is flaw in understanding--using a worldview rooted in "power over" concepts, instead of a totally different worldview or a reinvention of how society operates/what it's values are. My epiphany is that this is just like homeschooling--you can't use the "lens" of public school to understand homeschooling and you can't use the "lens" of patriarchy to understand feminism. These different lenses are why you feel like you are banging your head against something when you speak to someone who is coming from a fundamental misinterpretation of the values at work. Feminism and homeschooling both involve alternate value systems to that of mainstream society and a revisioning of social structures into new kinds of systems (healthier ones).

The previous issue of Natural Life had an interesting article about free schools called U of Free. Some points I liked: "most come with the free school philosophy of solely pursuing an interest, rather than for a degree or other recognition of knowledge. They resist the consumer-driven mentality sweeping traditional schools, where students vie for exam hints and quick solutions to get to the next step, with their ultimate goal being an exit out – their graduation. At Anarchist U, the students are all about learning itself. Without the pressure of exams and marks, students can relax and savor their learning moments."

And on the same topic: "In his classes at U of T, he encounters a chorus of students whose sing-song refrain 'is this on the exam?' puts his pedagogical ideals out of tune. The classroom conductor laments that these U of T students are looking for a quick study guide 'because they need the credit from my class to get the piece of paper.' Instead of enjoying the educational experience, his students are disengaged, shrewdly seeking the quickest route out of the system."

If I am indeed going to be teaching college classes within the next year, the above is something I feel worried about coping with--I want to work with people who are excited to learn, not people who are trying to just get the grade and get out. I see this as the whole point of homeschooling/unschooling--to create a way of life that involves learning for intrinsic reasons, not extrinsic ones. This was very much true for me as a homeschooler and I carried it over into college--I didn't understand why people were there for other reasons than to learn. It didn't make any sense to me to hear someone recommend a class because it was an "easy A" (but had a teacher who was so boring and so pointless as to make you wish to be unconscious under a rock rather than listen to him any longer). What is the point of an easy A?! Hello! It also didn't make sense to me to have to take classes that I wasn't interested in (and I did have to do this), but I made the best of them by studying the stuff and trying to get it/like it. Someone at our craft camp this year expressed surprise that I was "self-taught" at the classes I was teaching--"so, you just learned this by teaching yourself?" Yes! Why? Because I like to learn stuff--no one has to make me do it or show me how! I study and learn things all of the time, because I like it. I'm a very self-motivated, self-disciplined, self-directed person and credit that to my homeschooled/unschooled background (thanks, Mom!). I had a friend tell me a while ago that if "no one is making me do it, I won't do it/learn it." I thought that was incredibly sad as well as incredibly telling about the drawbacks of our current social methods of education as something that is "done to" people, rather than a self-directed process.

Okay, whew! Time for bed!


I didn't post last week because my power was out as a result of a "derecho" in our area. I did finish reading a fiction book called Prep (thanks, Hope!), by the dim light of my book light while lying on the floor in the dark house. I was oddly entranced by the book, though every time I put it down I would say, "I should just quit reading this, I'm not getting anything out of it." It was about a teenage girl attending boarding school on a scholarship. She is intensely self-conscious and pretty much just spends her time analyzing other people and thinking about herself/her personal issues as well as mooning after a jerky boy she barely knows but loves. This makes the book sound much more shallow than it actually was--it was a very developed book and really intensive as far as angst/emotional content/in-the-character's-head. There was an almost painful authenticity to the narration. A look at what (possibly) goes on inside people's heads, really--"ugly," weird, socially anxious stuff, that you don't see on the surface. Though the book is about teenagers, it was written for adults. I found it kind of depressing overall, but also liked it, so...


Monday, May 4, 2009

Journey Into Motherhood

I didn't get a chance to make my usual Saturday post because my internet connection was down. So, now I have time for a few brief words:

I read: Journey into Motherhoodby Sheri Menelli. This is a phenomenal collection of inspiring birth stories. I love it! Plus, you can download it from her site as a free e-book. I really recommend this one!

I also read New Moon (second Twilight book). This one was pretty bad. I'm not sure if I will read the others now! An example quote: "At least I could be with him again before I died. That was better than a long life." PUH-LEEZE!

Plus, I finished Brought to Bed: Childbearing in America 1750-1950. This one took me a little while to wade through and is didn't "hook" me enough to keep me coming back to it rather than starting (and finishing) other books while reading it. It was interesting though. As it sounds it was basically a history of childbirth in America during those years. It really explores the move from home to hospital and themes like women's social power in the birth room and over birthing in general (and how that was given away after the move to the hospital, but also, how women *wanted* to go to the hospital and advocated heavily for pain medications, etc.) I will be writing more about it on CfM.

Last but not least, I got BIRTH (the book version of Karen Brody's play) for my birthday yesterday and read it last night. It was a quick read. I wish I could see the actual play, because reading it is just not the same. It did make me want to perform it though! It was good.