Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Following a chain of threads got me thinking...

Jill at Keyboard Revolutionary posted links to a chain of posts and threads inspired by AtYourCervix. The discussion started around the film The Business of Being Born when someone, predictably, stated that some women are being selfish when worrying about their experience during childbirth. Her contention was the the most important thing is a healthy baby and the original commenter was NOT saying that the experience isn't important, just that she felt some people got carried away with it. Reading Jill's response got me thinking, though. Generally, I agree with her pov, except I would take it even further. It IS possible (and exceedingly relevant) for women to have a safe birth AND a good experience. The two things do NOT need to be mutually exclusive, regardless of the situation. Even if she needs interventions, they can be done in a compassionate, inclusive way that doesn't alienate her or further terrify her. There is NO good reason why every effort shouldn't be made to protect the experience, imo, and here's why: When a baby is born, so is a mother and subsequently a family. It's a thought I touched on in my last post. One of the people Jill links to speaks about the fact that the experience of the birth, good or bad, will be carried with that woman to her grave. It goes even further, it will be shared with her children, her friends and random people who ask or she chooses to relate the experience to. Her perceptions of that reality will shape the perceptions, even if just in subtle ways, of everyone who hears her tale. More importantly, though, how her birth was experienced has a DIRECT affect on her perception of herself as a mother. When we harm women during their birth experience, facilitate trauma or invalidate her NEED for the "experience" we are affecting society at large, one birth at a time. It's NOT a good affect!

So I would take the sentiment further and argue that the experience is AS important as the birth of a healthy, thriving baby. I feel that the obstetrical community at large needs to get away from the "in this moment" mentality. The birth of a human being has consequences that FAR exceed the delivery room. Obviously, in the moment, the thing at the forefront of everyone's mind (including the "selfish" mother) is the safety and well-being of the baby. In fact, the vast majority of women who choose natural birth do so because they understand how important it is to the SAFETY of her baby and herself. The fact that even needs to be said is a testament how far we've come from even basic RESPECT of mothers.

I do not think that a woman who is interested in protecting herself as well as her baby is foolish, naive OR selfish. She is, rather, wise and thinking ahead, beyond the moment. Protecting her emotional and mental health is equally important to her physical well-being and has enormous impact on the emotional and mental health and safety of her children as well. This is to say nothing at all about the enormous benefit to the baby's physical health. The beautiful thing about birth as nature intends it is that it protects the safety and well being of the mother/child unit from conception and beyond, into the many years they will spend nurturing and teaching each other. To suggest that protecting the experience is selfish, foolish or naive is at best, naivety expressed to a "T" and at worst, derisive, arrogant rhetoric meant to skirt the issues at hand. It's an EXCUSE that has no basis in reality whatsoever.

Just saying.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Why Be A Midwife?

Hello, I’m Rebekah, aspiring midwife. I’ve been forced, yet again, to evaluate if, in fact, midwifery is really what I want to do. The answer is a resounding yes, yes OH YES!

Why? What is it about the birth world that fascinates me so? Why is it that nearly every time I see a birth (usually on youtube) that moment of birth just takes my breath away? Why, after watching probably a thousand videos do I still tear up? Why is it that deep in my soul, I feel like empowered childbirth is SO SO IMPORTANT? Why do I feel like I MUST facilitate this in any way that I can?

There are probably a lot of reasons but the thing that gets to me the most is because birth, in a way, is the heartbeat of society; of ALL societies. When a child is born into the world, a new mother is born and with her, a new father, a newly defined family. That newly defined family changes the community they live in and so, with the birth of that new child, a new community is born. And so on and so forth until you’ve expanded that reasoning out to a whole new world being re-born every couple of minutes! I mean, you can’t HAVE a society without birth. It just makes sense to me to acknowledge that how birth is viewed and handled has an enormous impact on society, recognized by most people or not!

Birth is the very stuff of life. I believe that when birth happens under duress and in a fearful, imprisoning environement, it has ripples of impact that just keep spreading out until it touches everything. When birth is celebratory and a rite of passage experience, the mother that is born that day has the potential to be more confident and empowered as a mother. And confident mothers inspire confident fathers and the two, in turn, inspire confident children. I don’t think birthing is an issue just for women. HELL NO. Are you a person? Were you born? Are you likely to procreate? Any plans on living in a society where people are born and procreate and are raised up by other people that were born? It impacts us all, quietly and often unspoken of.

Birth is like a giant bloody mystery in our culture. I can’t tell you how many women I’ve met over the past couple of years that know literally NOTHING about childbirth until they get pregnant and even then, something like 80% of them will walk into the delivery room with “What to Expect…” being the only thing they’ve ever read about birth. A crappy hospital “do what the doctor says” course, masquerading as a chilbirth prep class will be the most information they’ve heard in their entire lives about birth. Fathers tend to be even LESS prepared!

It seems to me that in cultures where the birth itself is celebrated as a rite of passage and a time of great joy and anticipation, the women grow up hearing about it, celebrating it, looking forward to it and preparing for it. Fathers in these cultures tend to view birthing as a woman’s domain and don’t get involved. It’s not callousness, it’s an innate trust in their women to do what they were created to do, without their inerference. I don’t know if they have the same deep-seeded fear that our culture’s men do. I find it unlikely. For them and their women, it’s a thing of quiet, intense pride, bearing a child (or at least, that’s the impression I get). In our culture it’s the BIG SCARY THING that we have to endure if we want children. Fear permiates the air of most discussions involving childbirth, though I think most peope don’t even realize it. Most of the stories I heard growing up (though not all!) involved terror, trauma and relief that someone saved the baby or mom’s life. My own mother has 3 awful stories to tell, out of 4 births. She is, to this day, so poorly educated about how birth works and so deeply mistrustful of her own body that she still believes the complete nonsense they told her when they justified an episiotomy by suggesting she doesn’t DILATE FAR ENOUGH. If you don’t know why that’s a pile of horse-shit, you are in desperate need of a basic education about your body and what it does when it’s birthing. My mother isn’t stupid nor is she generally an under-educated person. She is, however, a perfect example of a society that shrouds it’s births in mystery and fear and promotes the pervasive notion that our bodies are defective and need to be delivered of our children. This notion is destructive to society at large because it’s implications impact and reach farther into our lives as a whole than just our birthing-days. It undermines our trust in ourselves in general which leads to a whole host of insecurities that touch everyone we interract with.

My hope in being a midwife is to help women to re-discover their own unique power and inner voice and in doing that, she spreads those positive ripples out from where she stands, having a positive impact on the lives of those around her. I suppose every person that enters into the healing field has a little bit of a hero complex; that inner drive to help or “save” people. I’d be lying if I said it didn’t exist within me. That said, my goals in becoming a midwife are not to “save women” or to save the lives of their children. I don’t see myself becoming any woman’s personal savior. I think if that’s a persons’s goal in going into midwifery, they are entering into the wrong profession. The Hero complex to that degree doesn’t belong in the birthing room. It’s not about my ego. Rather, for me, it’s about trying to do my part to help heal a hurting society by reaching out to the women in my community and fascilitating them to heal themselves. To me that’s what midwifery is all about; serving and nurturing a community. It’s NOT about catching babies (though what an honor if that’s the mother’s wishes, yes?). No, it’s about nurting our families, about being a shoulder, an ear, a helping hand. It’s about service and THAT is what I want. I think the reality is that I will learn more from the families that come into my lives doing this than any of them will ever learn from me. I truly hope so.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Co-sleeping is bad and will kill your marriage!!!

Chris, over at The Man-Nurse Diaries, Jill of Keyboard Revolutionary, and Woman: Uncensored (who's name I don't know as I only just started reading her) have all written excellent pieces about co-sleeping and how it affects their marriage.

I think they all made excellent points and of course, I wanted to add my two cents!

I'm gonna be honest, here: I co-slept because I'm lazy. It's that simple. I did my research, I learned that the idea that co-sleeping is dangerous is outdated nonsense that doesn't make any sense, nor does the previously touted "data" match up with any of the data from around the world where co-sleeping is the norm. Am I saying accidents don't happen anywhere in the world but the US? No. That said, most of the tragedies that occur from co-sleeping here in the states occur in circumstances that most co-sleepers either wouldn't consider co-sleeping (passing out drunk on the couch with a newborn babe in arms? Not co-sleeping) OR involve someone who is drunk or abusing drugs. Parents have naturally built in "alarms" that alert them to just about everything their baby does while they're sleeping, UNLESS they are knocked out artificially. So rolling over on your baby while you are sleeping in a natural state is HIGHLY unlikely.

In fact, it was something I worried about when my first was born and I remember clearly the night I quit worrying about it. My baby was maybe a week old, tops. She was sleeping securely, next to me, for the first time between my husband and I (we had a king-sized bed at the time). Her little face was maybe four inches away from my own as I liked to mover her up near my head so I could hear her breathing and so that there was NO possible way our covers could get anywhere near her face (in fact, she was so tiny and so high on the bed, they never touched her at all). I was sleeping the sleep that only an exhausted new mother can sleep- dead to the world, when suddenly, I snapped awake and caught my husband's descending shoulder before he rolled on her. Just the fact he touched flesh caused him to stop mid-roll and go the other way. He never woke up, I didn't hit him hard or shove him, I just put my hand out and he touched me and rolled the other way. I have no idea what woke me to the fact he was rolling over. I just knew. I can't explain why, after 5 years of marriage and him nudging me in my sleep THIS time he just went the other way other than to say that well, there was a baby in the bed and even in his sleep, he knew it. Five years and two more kids later, there has NEVER been an incident where someone rolled over on a kid or a kid fell off the bed OR into a crack or any of that nonsense. There are some basic, common-sense precautions that should be taken (and we took them) but for the most part, we are designed to sleep-share. I'm not going to post all the different links to reputable sources that back up my opinions as, if you're reading my blog, you probably know them all anyway and if you are not a regular reader and don't know what I'm talking about, it's easily Googled.

There are lots of benefits to co-sleeping but I think my personal favorite is the SLEEPING part. Currently I have a bottle-fed infant that I rarely bring to my bed (situational reasons) and let me tell you, it's SO MUCH HARDER to get good rest this way. UGH. I remember people used to tease me about the whole "new parent zombie" thing and while sometimes it was true, most of the time, I got a decent amount of sleep. Until now, that is. NOW I have an infant that sleeps in a crib three inches from my face but there is no more "stick a boobie in his mouth and go back to sleep" for me. I hate it, lol. I can easily say, from experience, that breast-feeding, co-sleeping Moms get more sleep. My husband will tell you that father's with breast-feeding co-sleeping infants get more sleep, too!

Oh but what about bonding time for Mom and Dad? What about the completely ridiculous concern of Mom being selfish and unfair to dad by bringing a baby into the sex-place (bed). *snort* PLEASE. I like sex, you think I'm going to let a little thing like a baby in the bed keep that from happening!??! Take a good look at the world's population sats and compare them to the data on co-sleeping around the world and TELL ME that parent's who co-sleep can't get sex time in. HAHAHAHA. Right.

Chris quoted someone in his post that covered the issue of bonding between parents who co-sleep and I loved what she had to say. The reality is that bonding between two grown-ups happens around the BIG things in life ANYWAY. I fall in love all over again every time I see my husband playing dolls with my daughters or whenever I peek in and I see him with a kid in his lap, trying to do his school-work. Some of my favorite memories with him involve sleepy, midnight conversation over the soft head of a nursing baby. Sure, we go on dates. Those are stress relief, usually, not bonding time. Bonding happened when I birthed two children into his hands. Bonding time happened when we rushed our first baby to the ER when she had a high fever. In fact over the last five years, some of our most intense moments together have involved the tiny voices of our children ringing in our ears.

I'm not saying sex isn't one of the things that keeps a marriage "well-bonded". What I'm saying is that if that's the only thing that's keeping your marriage strong and healthy, there is a serious problem. Kids are cock-blockers, it's a fact. That has nothing to do with where they sleep (or don't, as the case may be. I can't be the only parent on the planet with kids that think 2am is party-time.).

Oh and one more thing. I think the most commonly touted nonsense I hear from people is the idea that if you co-sleep, it takes forever to get the kid out of your bed. I would just like to point out that I've never met a college age person whose parents allowed them to sleep share that was still in their parent's bed. At some point in every human being's life, the need to be independent surfaces. It's different for every child. My first, for example (she's five), would still sleep in our bed, every night, if there was room. There isn't so she sleeps with her sister, who is two and moved out of our bed at a year because for some reason, she didn't like co-sleeping at all (though she LOVES sleeping with her sister and refuses to sleep anywhere else).

Some parents will never be comfortable with co-sleeping and that's ok. But I don't think we need to continue to perpetuate the myth that all co-sleeping is dangerous, selfish or crazy. It's not going to ruin our marriages OR spoil our children. There is even some evidence (that bears more research) that indicates it might even save the lives of some babies. Go-figure, an ancient practice from the dawn of time is a good thing? Hmmmm.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Random Rant About Societies "Don't become a parent" message to young people

First off, let me just emphasize that I'm not promoting teen pregnancy or suggesting that people who aren't ready throw caution to the wind and become a parent. It's sad I even have to put that in here but there it is.

That said, what the HELL is up with this idea that having children will ruin your life?! I see billboards all the time, meant to "scare" teens into having safe sex. The most annoying ones suggest that your life will be OVER if you have a baby or get a girl pregnant. "A baby costs $745/mo How much is YOUR allowance?" I won't even get into the consumerist garbage that makes a baby cost that much (like, hey, breastfeed your kid and consider using cloth diapers and shop Good-will or just trade clothes with a few other parents and suddenly your baby is practically free on a week to week basis, for the better part of a year!).

I get that teen pregnancy is a problem because the children being born potentially will suffer. I understand that. I just don't think LYING to our young people is how we solve the problem! Why do we do this?

For one thing, telling today's teenagers that having a baby will ruin their life is subliminally suggesting that THEY were the ruination of their parent's lives. Great confidence booster, guys, really. "Hey, you were a big giant mistake yourself so don't make any more of them!" Way to raise confident, productive members of society. Great way to insure that IF they do become parents, they are competent at it. Let's just start them off with the idea that their kids are an example of what fuck-ups they are! The common approach to parenting small children today is to shy away from SHAMING and yet we have that as our first line of defense against teen pregnancy? How does that make any sense? I don't understand how brainwashing our young adults into being ashamed of their bodies and their children is preventing them having sex? Because guess what, it's not working! Instead what we have is angry, resentful, scared shitless teenagers without any frigging clue what they are supposed to do with their little, shameful "mistakes".

Why not just stick with the TRUTH?

The truth is that having a baby, regardless of how old you are or what kind of financial straights you are in, WILL change every aspect of your life in ways you can't even comprehend until you are a parent. This is true for EVERYONE, not just irresponsible teenagers.

Being a good, stable, loving parent has very little to do with how old you are. It has to do with how selfless you can be, how responsible you can be and how well you understand the responsibility you have. I have known some very young mothers that make their "older, respectable" counterparts look like complete idiots when it comes to parenting.

What is being a parent really like? What is the truth about having a baby?

Being a good parent is the hardest thing you'll ever do. At first, every tiny seemingly insignificant need of that child is met by you and only you. Baby needs to fart? Your problem. Baby needs to eat? You feed it. Baby needs a bath? Your bathing it. YOU need a bath/pee/meal? Well, it will have to wait because baby is hungry/crying/teething whatever. That's not to scare you away, it's just the truth for EVERY SINGLE PARENT ON PLANET EARTH.

You will cry, rage, and feel like you're suffocating. You will miss countless parties due to fevers, sickness, diarrhea and just plain exhaustion. People will stop inviting you places because you have kids and it's complicated. You will loose friends and gain others. You won't look at anything the same way ever again. You children will fill your life up with so much wonder and joy you won't be able to contain it sometimes and THOSE tears are the best. The first time your baby visibly snuggles you, those first slobbery kisses, the first steps, the first, "I love you, too", all of those thing make every headache, every sleepless night (and there will be MANY) 100% worth it.

Did becoming a mother ruin my life? No. I had children before I should have, that's a fact. My life isn't ruined and I don't regret my children. I'm only sorry that I can't provide for them right now the way I think they deserve and that is a HUGE BIG THING. Trust me, when your little child looks at you with tears in their eyes because all their friends are doing something and they can't go because you can't afford it because you made some foolish decisions, it really hits home how everything you do affects your dependents. THAT is the truth. My life is richer, more full and at times, blissfully happy BECAUSE I have children. Far, far from ruined. But every. single. day I think about the fact that they could have what they deserve if I'd been more careful, more responsible. It's just the truth.

I believe that teenagers can be capable parents if we would just stop treating them like socieites parasites and treat them like adults. You want responsible 16yr olds? Quit insisting they are CHILDREN and expect them to act like adults. Yeah, they're young. They'll make mistakes. They lack life experience, that sort of thing. GIVE IT TO THEM. 16 yrs old doesn't make you stupid or incapable of learning the simple facts of life. Nature didn't make a mistake by allowing us to be fertile so young. Society, however, has made a mistake in forcing young men and women to stay children until their practically 20yrs old and the expecting them to suddenly have it all figured out as they leave college. HA. It's not working, people!

I hear some of the most vicious campaign-style messages to teenagers about pregnancy from the pro-life, anti-abortion movement. Ok, great, you're anti abortion and you want teens to quit doing that so you figure keep them from getting pregnant and you've fixed the problem. So we LIE TO THEM to keep that from happening except that teenagers are not any more stupid than any body else so it doesn't WORK.

Why not tell them the truth? You want to reduce abortions? Try actually supporting our young people. Oh, you're having a baby and you're only 16 and you're scared shitless? Let me HELP you. Congratulations, you're in for a wild ride. Being scared is good, it means you're human, lol. We are ALL scared shitless when we discover we are carrying our first babies! This teen mom and that one are perfectly capable if we don't SHAME them. Don't be ashamed of your pregnancy, you made a choice, this is the result, OWN IT. Now, let's see about helping you know what you're getting yourself into. Let's NOT insist you're a fuckup. Let's not insist your life is over. Instead, ok, the journey has begun. Let's give these women and young men the tools they need to succeed!

Educate them. Talk to them straight. Be fucking HONEST. Babies will not RUIN your life. They will transform it AND you. Are you ready for that? NO? Ok, that's fine, too. Here's how to prevent it. And while I'm on the subject of birth control, people, GET A CLUE. You can't be anti-abortion, anti-teen pregnancy AND anti-birth control! It's ridiculous thinking. People HAVE SEX. Get over it! It's what people do and no matter how hard you try to convince young people to wait wait wait, there are always going to be peopel that don't, can't, whatever. It's naive and STUPID to insist we convert the world to believe it's wrong to have sex before marriage. It's NEVER GOING TO HAPPEN. Let's be realistic. Girls, if you're having sex and you aren't ready for the above described journey, reevaluate. Sex equals babies, that's what it's FOR. IF you aren't ready for babies, you aren't ready for sex. If for some reason, you can't dig that, USE BIRTH CONTROL. And don't let anyone tell you it's WRONG. Because those same jerks are going to then look down on you for having a freaking baby because you weren't using protection!

How many teen mothers would have an abortion if they weren't scared shitless that they'd loose their homes, ruin their lives and loose respect? Hmmmm??? The messages we are sending out are all counter-productive and worse than that, they are often in contradiction to each other!

So, sum-up. Having kids before you are ready to do so WILL have life-long implications for you and your children. It will NOT ruin your life, though. It WILL change it irrevocably. Stop telling our children that they were a mistake by telling them that babies ruin their lives. START telling our children that they are strong, capable, smart and that you believe in them. When they make a decision that lands them in trouble, support them. You want to stop abortions? Quit making it nearly impossible for a teen parent to get help. Quit scaring them away. Stop telling them they are dirty, gross, sinful, stupid, shameful, or self-destructive. Empower them by telling them the truth. And yeah, some of them are still going to be irresponsible. Duh, no matter what, the "poor" (and by this I mean selfish and irresponsible) will always be with us, regardless of age! But start empowering them and god forbid, respecting them, from a young age and see if they don't run with it!