Wednesday, August 30, 2006

San Miguel Walk

I can't believe how quickly sometimes things move. In 24 hours I have made the decision to return to Mexico for the three day pilgrimage known as San Miguel Walk ( , found free and fabulous accomodations for the week preceding the walk ( , and arranged a donation of 2 Spanish (with translator) and 1 English CPR courses for the expatriot community there. This will be my third trip to San Miguel for the walk and I feel as though I'm going home. San Miguel is a wonderful Spanish colonial city in central Mexico. It has a thriving expatriate community there where many internationals go to retire. There is also a large and thriving artist community there as well. Its hard to describe San Miguel de Allende. Though it contains all the modern conveniences, the architecture and culture are firmly rooted in the past. It is very catholic and full of old world charm. The pace is slower, the language unfamiliar, and I always have the sense that I have escaped into another world. I spend much of my time in silence and contemplation both before and during the walk. It is a sentinal spiritual event for me. Its also a time to practice my limited Spanish, which I try to do as much as possible, when I'm not in the presence of other Gringos. My challenge now is physical conditioning. How do I get in shape for a grueling 3 day walk through the mountains while I'm still pregnant (I can hardly do my daily walk)? It takes rigorous and devoted training which I can't really start till after I give birth. That gives me three months to get back in shape. That will be a challenge. Then there's the fundraising. San Miguel Walk requires a donation of $1,200 to participate. I have raised this amount and more both previous times by sending out donation letters to friends and family. Folks have been so generous about supporting the work of San Miguel Walk. All donations fund domestic abuse prevention and support services in San Miguel and surrounding areas. I do hope I can talk my husband in to going. I really want to share this experience with him (and I'll need his help with the baby!). Dear readers, if you have a moment to check out the San Miguel Walk website, you'll find a picture of me walking on the "mission statement" page. Two of us are walking past villagers sitting on the side of the road. They come out to watch the pilgrams pass by (about 10 thousand Mexicans plus a handful (about 20) of us San Miguel Walkers- mostly Gringos). I'll continue to blog about this unique and life changing event. Right now I have to get back to that other unique and life changing event- the mad morning rush to get the kids out the door to school.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Inward and Upward

The days grow cooler and shorter and busier than ever. I'm having to readjust my schedule to accomodate the kids getting up earlier for school. If I want morning writing time, I'll have to get up at 5 instead of 6. But its worth it, I can't not write, I dream of writing if I'm not doing it. First the blog as my warm-up, then a poem, then the book. If there's still time, I like to journal by hand. My life is so multi-layered, the writing keeps me sane. Its how I connect with myself, my God, and with the greater world.
I've decided to return to San Miguel de Allende, Mexico in January. I'll take the baby with me, and my husband, if he'll come. I'll participate in San Miguel Walk ( for the third year in a row. The three day, 55 mile pilgramage through the mountains of Central Mexico have become cathartic for me. The mountains call me back to where my journey began.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

The Sweet Life

I've been appreciating the busyness of my life. With all the kids back in school, we are settling into a new routine. My mornings are busier, so my writing time is more restricted. My business has seen its busiest month yet, (good thing since it requires a major re-investment in equipment and supplies right now due to the huge changes in CPR guidelines). My husband and I will spend three glorious days together in LA next month. I can't wait to get away with him. And even though I'm moving slower, I'm relishing the pregnancy more. I finally got a few maternity outfits, so I'm comfortable in my clothes again. My middle daughter turned 11 this week, so I'm getting ready for a Luau style backyard party and sleep-over tonight. We went shopping last night and got all the decorations (50% off all luau items-what luck!). My three girls (ages 8, 11, 12) all tried on their grass skirts and gave me an impromtu hula dance. I laughed with delight at the joyful sweetness of it. Our 18 year old astounds me, as he becomes a man right before my eyes. He's such a hard worker and never complains as he takes classes 5 days a week and works parttime, and uses spare time for study and his church related activities. He's such a good kid, and so focused. Even the 15 year old has his helpful moments like taking care of the puppy and watching his little sisters after school. Even though money is tight right now, I want to be lavish with creativity and enthusiasm for them. I want my husband not to worry so much about money and think that he's not providing well for us. These are sweet days that we will look back and long remember.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Yes, I Know How This Happens

With school underway for the kids, I thought I'd be less busy. What a fool, I'm running around more than ever. How did that happen? Yesterday I babysat my grandson at the office while my daughter-in-law got a massage. It was only for one hour, but I got absolutely nothing done. Nothing. How on earth will I manage with a baby day in and day out? I'm starting to panick. What are we (correction, am I) going to do with a newborn while I'm running a business? Am I being naive, am I underestimating the difficulty, the stress, the crying (mine not the baby's)? Now I'm getting scared folks. Can I really run a business with a baby in tow? Should I start looking for a nanny? Can I pay her in CPR classes or do nannies insist on cash? How did I get myself into this? (Don't answer that.)

Monday, August 21, 2006

Less Quiet, More Bookish

I spent the afternoon with the filmmakers yesterday. They accompanied me and my family to church and took some footage there. Then they wanted to see the housing project where I grew up. We definately got some much better footage there. The best footage of the day came when I spontaneously got the idea to visit one of my aunts who still lives in the "old neighborhood." We drove the few blocks to her apartment complex and to my surprise and delight, several of my cousins were there having Sunday dinner. They graciously allowed the Brits to film them telling about what a weird kid I was (quiet and bookish). It was really a fun visit- I can always count on my loud, rowdy family to just be themselves. As the camera rolled, my aunt told about her three homebirths that I never knew about (I knew that my grandmother had had her 24 children at home). So it seems I have a family legacy of both midwifery (my grandmother) and homebirth. Perhaps I'm not such a freak after all. Perhaps I am only tapping into my true heritage. How could we lose so much ground in only a couple of generations? I'm sure most of my cousins have never heard these stories either. Makes me want to write them down somewhere. (Oh my god, not another book!)

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Less Boobs, More Milk

Just came from the shopping mall and felt compelled to compile this list of things breastfed babies don't need:
Formula (or as I affectionately refer to it, "shit in a can")
Bottles (unless you're going to supplement or put your BM in a bottle)
Bottle cleaners
Baby Vitamins (manufactured by the same companies that make formula- if their stuff is so good why the supplemental vitamins???)
Allergist (BF babies have fewer allergies)
Antibiotics (BF babies have fewer infections)
Tutor (BF babies have higher IQs)
Jenny Craig (BF babies have less obesity)
I could go on but I'm just getting mean (as well as clever). Just tired of seeing babies everywhere with bottles stuck in their faces and wanted to rant. Even the sight of other pregs makes me cranky- I just think of them as cesareans waiting to happen. Saw lots of women with humongous boobs, I don't suppose they got them to increase their milk production though. Am I the only one who thinks the world has gone mad?

Friday, August 18, 2006

More Heretical Rantings

A note on EMTALA: if I had a dime for every time I witnessed one of the "suburban" hospitals try to dump a laboring patient from the "inner-city" hospital I'd have enough money to go clothes shopping. The medicaid patients would simply show up at the hospital of their choosing when they went into labor, even though they got their prenatal care at the "inner city" hospital, saying things like, "I didn't think I'd making it to my hospital in time." Was is frustrating to have "drop ins" (as they were called) show up on the door step with no records or forewarning? Sure it was. But how did the hospitals respond to this phenomenon? They punished the hell out of them, in any and every way they could think of. I witnessed many conversations about how to skirt EMTALA and get them the hell out of there. There were many intricate conversations on what constituted "active labor" and could this "drop in" be defined as early labor so they could send her out the door back to where she "belonged." Some of this was raciscm, most assuredly it was classiscm, some of it was just the inconvenience of dealing with the unfamiliar. But on every level, it was wrong. If insured, middle-class ladies think they get mistreated in birth (and they do), try being poor and Black, or a refugee, or someone who doesn't speak English, or a teenager of any race.
I've been asking myself for years, if I had a practice serving women, what would it look like? How would it be different? How would it be better? This is such a hard question. If it was so easy to overcome the currents of cultural belief, practice standards, tort reform, malpractice law, state regulations, governing boards, the ire of your peers, etc., surely someone would have done it by now and created this ideal practice. So far, the best examples I've seen are the underground midwives who practice illegally, always glancing over their shoulders, always risking their asses. My choice seemed to be, become a certified nurse midwife and conform or practice underground at risk to myself and my family. Couple that with the fact that the cultural pendulum has swung so far that when my daughters go in for their first prenatal visit, the docs will probably automatically ask what day they want their c/sections scheduled for. I can see things getting that bad. Maybe I'm just 7 months pregnant, deranged from the heat, and cranky.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Rantings of a Pregnant Heretic

Just one quick rant. I just finished up two large CPR classes, AND my kids started school today. I didn't even get to see them off this morning, my husband had the pleasure. I should have planned better. Anyway, I went to my La Leche League meeting yesterday with my daughter-in-law and I swear I've never seen so many pregnant ladies at an LLL meeting. More than half of the membership is expecting! Well, we are going around introducing ourselves and one very pregnant lady gives her name, and states her due date as though it was a certainty. (I never give a specific due date, I always say, "I'm due mid-October" because who the hell knows when the baby will decide to come. I think due dates set women up and only make them impatient and docs nervous when it comes and goes and still no baby. They should be used only as a guide, an estimate, an educated guess, but no one treats them that way anymore.) As she continues speaking it becomes clear that she is either scheduled for an induction or a cesarean that day. She then comments about the baby being big. All my alarms start to go off. Her baby is not "too big." This is one of those common lines that docs feed women to convince them to induce. What the hell is too big? Is the baby 12 pounds? Because thats the largest I've seen deliver at home and it obviously wasn't too big because it came on out. Inwardly, I shook my head, outwardly I remained composed. What is this crap about docs telling women their babies are too big? And then no one seems to notice that all these too big, had to be induced babies hover around 7 pounds or less. News flash; babies should be big and fat. The uterus and vagina are designed to accommodate that. They do stretch ya know. Meanwhile, moms are being induced (which for me is just code for "Pre-Cesarean") for what chalks up to be premature babies, who end up NICU bound. I saw 37 week deliveries become so common I began to wonder if it really took 40 weeks to grow a baby. (Well it does to grow a healthy one) Deep breath, breathe, breathe. Anyway, that's my rant on epidemic unnecessary inductions. Tune in next time for my rant on epidemic unnecessary cesareans.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Tales from the Light and the Dark Side

How was my day of self-care? Cut short by a phone call from one of my kids needing financial assistance. Oh well, at least I got the massage first (which was wonderful). Haircut and clothes will have to wait a while longer. The nicest part of my day was taking my girls and riding out to visit my friend Debbie and her girls. My friend Teresa navigated our way to some far flung corner of a rural suburb where we arrived just in time with lasagna and fixins for Debbie and her family as they were unloading the last of the boxes they brought with them. The timing was perfect. Teresa and I quickly got the meal ready for Debbie and her lovely, but tired and hungry daughters and we all sat down to a jolly feast. Debbie's husband arrived home from work just in time to share the meal with us. We visited a while and then packed up, leaving the leftovers, so that they could get on with the enormous task of making their house into a home. Debbie, tender-hearted soul that she is, was near tears as she thanked us for being there to welcome her family to their new home. I thought of the time about 23 years ago, when I was laid off and had two small boys and no food in the house. In desperation (and too ashamed to call my family), I called Debbie. She showed up within the hour with a bag a groceries under each arm, the store bought food was supplementmented with items from her own cabinets (now I'm in tears). She didn't have much money so she had given us some of her own food! She comforted me as she helped me fill my empty cabinets and refridgerator. I thought of the time, nineteen years ago when I was single and pregnant and scared and unsure and how she stood beside me and was a good friend to me, and how she came to my birth to help me welcome my family.
You are welcome, dear friend.
I'll attend my LLL meeting later today with my daughter-in-law. I'm looking forward to it. Its been a while since I've updated the book so I'll write about that.
This book will be a series of stories about my experiences, as a birthing woman, as a student nurse, as a labor and delivery nurse, and as a birth advocate. I was visiting one of my former nurse-managers (one of the few who at least emphathized with my point of view) earlier this week and telling her about my "tell-all" book and she had some interesting thoughts. She said, if she could add a few chapters to my book, it would be about the importance of leadership and how much an organization is influenced from the "top down." She stated that how care is administered by the front line practitioners is heavily influenced by the ethics and attitudes of the powers that be (I'm paraphrasing).
In the institution where she and I worked together, the patients were mere fodder for residents to practice on. It was even implied in the hospital mission which placed the learning of medicine before the care of patients. I was saddened and sickened by the many abuses I observed there. My book will tell the story of my sad misadventures, and miniscule victories there. Mostly I banged my head against the wall until I was senseless. But I'm happy to report that others rose up after I left who do a much better job of creating change within the system. I've acknowledged to myself that I am NOT a team player, and don't work well within systems. I keep asking myself, how will I write about my failures? I'm no hero. I didn't change things, I only antagonized most of the time. I was quite misguided in my fervor. My motives were pure but at times I only made things worse. I can only tell my story- as it unfolded. Perhaps there will be some lesson for others even in my failures.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

A Welcome Respite

Yesterday, I attended my doula meeting. I'm not a practicing doula, but this group keeps me feeling positive about birth. At the end of a busy, all business meeting (they have an upcoming conference planned and were working through all the details) different doulas began to share their recent birth stories. Awful, horrific birth stories. I know they were letting off steam. One even shared her story in tears. The worst part for her, was that the parents were fine with everything that had happened to them. She was falling to pieces, while they thought everything was just honkey dorey (how often do we see that happen? the iatrogenic shit hits the fan, and the patient thinks the doctor is savior- its kinda like thanking your rapist for wearing a condom) Everything was feeling really heavy when a new doula speaks up and tells about a homebirth she attended that morning. Ahh, you could feel the tension release. Birth does work. There still are good births in the world. As promised, I shared about navelgazer's blog, and encouraged everyone to go online and read it. After the birth story sharing, I think the group would benefit from a discussion group on the topic. I felt badly that the aforementioned doula thought she had done her clients a disservice. I assured her, she wasn't broken, the system was. Sally, the senior doula of the group, offered that perhaps the blog could be used for a future discussion. I was especially excited by this because the group had recently lobbied a local family practice resident group to use volunteer doulas in their practice. I was equally saddened to hear that the powers that be were already laying down rules for what the volunteer doulas could and couldn't do. (Part of me shudders at what experiences await them, another part of me is glad that the residents will have some exposure to what doulas are and what they can bring to a birth-if allowed.)

As for me, I look forward to my self-care day. I'll start with a massage, then go shopping and get my hair cut. My long-time friend Debbie, is moving back to town today. I haven't seen her in years but we've kept in touch. I'm going to ride out with another friend to her new house to meet her when she arrives with her three girls (her husband moved in last week to start his new job). I'm looking forward to surprising her and seeing her again. She was with me at the birth of my eighteen year old (she'll be shocked to see what a big tall strapping young man he is now). She is kind and sweet spirited- a nice contrast to my brash and outspoken ways. Yes, this day will be a welcome respite.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Who wants a ticket to this ride?

I've was blog-hopping a couple of days ago and came across an essay on Navelgazing Midwife, (one of my favorites) titled "When you buy the hospital ticket, you go for the hospital ride." I was endlessly fascinated by this article, because it basically said what I've heard all my career from hospital-based nurses. When you come to the hospital, expect a hospital birth. It used to frustrate me to hear nurses say, "why do they come here, if they won't do what we say, or if they don't want what we have to offer?" I believed that it was the job of the hospital to offer women choices and alternatives, and one of those alternatives should be untampered birth. After all, that was the lip service they gave. At least that was how I interpreted what they said. Now, after reading navelgazer's analysis, maybe I've been wrong all along. Maybe I should be promoting the beauty and benefits of homebirth and stop expecting hospital birth not to be hospital birth. After all, if I really believed I could have as wonderful a birth experience at a hospital as I do at home, wouldn't I be giving birth in a hospital? I already know that the hospital ride doesn't alter itself except with rare exceptions. I saw that loud and clear with my daughter-in-law's birth. Perhaps I should be proselytizing for homebirth exclusively until women win back their power in the hospital setting. Reading that article made me realize what a fence-sitter I really am. I'm too quick to say that "homebirth is not for everyone" (and of course it isn't) but perhaps what I should really be saying is "why shouldn't homebirth be for you?" After all, if a woman really wants, no epidural, no epis, freedom of movement, eat and drink in labor, family at bedside, no separation from baby, etc. aren't her best chances of getting all that AT HOME? I saw first hand how the hospital doctors and nurses treated birth plans. Anyone coming in with a birth plan and or doula were predicted to be wonderful candidates for a cesarean, and then everyone proceeded to do everything in their power to make sure she would get one (not even concsiously- they were just making their own predictions come true by their actions). The hospital system is extremely PUNITIVE to anyone who doesn't walk the chalk. Get out of line, and WHAM, your'e going to be disciplined. Don't think they can't come up with some scary shit to make you comply. You will comply when they finish with you. I'm not even saying this to demonize hospital clinicians. They do what they do, and when you ask for something different, you take them way out of their comfort zone. They aren't taught how to do untampered birth. Tampering is what they do. Aggressive management is the name of the game. Take that away from them and they don't know what the hell to do. They are utterly dependent on tests, technology, and pharmocology to "manage" birth. Tell them they can't do those things and they freak out. That's where their checks and balances are. Plus, they really believe in the safety and sanctity of those things. Those are their tools and rituals. It would be like a woman asking me to be her doula, but telling me not to use massage, hydrotherapy, positioning, or other tools in my arsenal of comfort. I'd think, "what the hell does she want me to do then?" Anyway, I'd love to hear your thoughts. I think I'm suffering through a paradigm shift or some sort of brain fuck that's going to have me even more radicalized on the other end.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Hey, I'm Having a Baby!

While I was school supply shopping with the kids yesterday, I had an opportunity to peruse the baby section of the store. I was kinda blown away by all the unneccessary "equipment and supplies" that I saw. I was able to select the perfect crib (a 4 in one convertable that included a changing/table shelves and drawers combo) to fit in our room. But apart from that, I was slightly disturbed by all the stuff I saw. Jarred baby food (I stopped using that four babies ago), powdered formula (I can't believe someone would, by choice, give their baby that over their own good breastmilk), racks and racks of clothes (they only wear them for a minute and then outgrow them), swings, baby seats, and walkers (those things are huge), but only 1 type of baby wearer (not a good kind either).
I remember reading an article a couple of years ago about how the country of Kenya was rejecting the use of the stroller. Kenyan parents were horrified that their babies should be kept so far from them. (Of course you need the infrastructure of paved sidewalks to make strollers practical, so they were an option only for city parents.) They said in the article "this is not the Kenyan way," and thus the imported strollers did not catch on. It made me think of how us Americans handle our babies. Always passing them off into some contraption, not even the arms of another person. We simply pass them from one contraption to another, from the crib to the bouncy seat, from the bouncy seat to the high chair, from the high chair to the car seat from the car seat to the swing. I bet you could track a baby's entire day by what mother substitute they were placed in throughout the day. What a let down that must be for a baby after being cuddled for nine months in mama's womb.
I selected my oak crib for future purchase and bought a set of three Winnie-the-Pooh baskets that will go on the changing table shelves. I decided on a Winne-the-Pooh theme since, 1) we don't know the gender, and 2) the pale yellow color of that theme matches our yellow and lavendar bedroom. One of the ladies in my women's investment group got me some Winne-the-Pooh items at the shower and I loved the look of them. I went online and found that that pattern came in crib sets as well. I'll have to go get registered soon. I'm getting paranoid that I'll get a bunch of stuff I don't want or need or won't use. I'd hate to waste folks time and money that way (and my time taking it all back!) But on the other hand, it sure is sweet thinking about the baby coming. This is really the beginning of allowing myself to think about an actual baby. Before I've been caught up in some many other issues. I think I've finally realized that not only am I pregnant, but I'm going to have a baby.

Friday, August 11, 2006

The Gift of a Mother's Embrace

My gift certificate from the baby shower had me perusing websites for baby items. I'm not the type to go crazy and buy tons of baby things (this is baby number nine after all, I just can't conjor up that kind of frenzy or energy). Even though we do family bed, my husband thinks we should get a crib and a small chest of drawers. I'm okay with that. I've already picked out a sling. Clothes will come from gifts and hand-me-downs. A small stroller would be nice, and a car seat, essential. I'd much rather have story books than toys. After that, I really don't want a bunch of baby stuff filing our already small crowded house. I expect to acquire most of this at my two planned showers, and then will use the gift certificate to purchase what I did not receive as gifts. There will be no nursery (no room for one), the crib and drawers will go in a corner of our bedroom. When the 18 year old moves out in a year or so, the 15 year old will get his room, the 10 year old will take the 15 year olds' room and the new baby will move in with the 8 year old into the 10 year old's former space. (The 12 year old loves her room and has no plans to move.) No baby bathtub (I hate those things). I bathe all my babies in the bathroom sink, its the perfect size and height and so practical (it comes with spigots). No changing table (come on, that's what our bed is for!). No playpen, I'll be wearing the baby or someone will be holding him or her. No high chair (not yet). No swings, baby seats, or walkers (all mother substitutes, and they take up a ton or space). If I need the baby held and I can't do it, someone else in the house can. They are small and portable for such a short time. I saw my grandson yesterday at the office, (he came for his chiropractic appointment), and he is so rolly polly and big. He nursed twice while he was there. It reminded me how fast they grow. I want to relish the time with my baby and hold him or her all I can. Thats the kind of luxurious gift that babies really want.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

The Baby Shower

I am completely undone with humility. Yesterday, I arrived at my women's investment club meeting at a local restaurant, the Grand St. Cafe. We were meeting at this fancy restaurant instead of our usual meeting place to celebrate a couple of recent stock purchases (that have done really well by the way), or so I thought. I arrived to find that the ladies in my group had set up a surprise baby shower! Wow. When I walked in someone shouted, "there she is," and they all started applauding. I thought, "what are they so excited about?" Then I saw the pile of gifts in the middle of the table. It still took me a few seconds more to realize they were for me. A baby shower for me. In addition to some really lovely baby things, and a very generous gift certificate (which will really come in handy because we have nothing, I mean nothing for this baby) I received such warmth, love, and well-wishes. I felt both honored and humbled. This is a group of ladies that I don't know well, we've met a little over a year now. They are all established, strong, smart business women, mostly older than myself, whom I'm in awe of. Joining this investment club was my attempt to learn more about investing and money management in general. It was a step way out of my comfort zone, but I have enjoyed the learning process. They have embraced and encouraged me in my meager attempts to learn and contribute. Between this group and my Great Discussions group (where we discuss international politics and foreign policy) my brain gets its best excercise. In the investment group we have to discuss current and future trends in order to discover the best investment possibilities. It makes for lively conversation.
Its hard to express how this shower makes me feel, I kept tearing up all the way home with my gifts piled beside me in the seat. It was so good and generous of them to acknowledge this momentous event in my life. The biggest gift was them making an opportunity to say, congratulations, we honor you, and enter into your joy. Surely this is one of the hidden perks of pregnancy. That people, even strangers, see your big belly and smile. A small acknowledgement that this woman is a chosen vessel to bring forth this child into the world. Another way that I'm in cahoots with the Creator. I am humbled to be chosen for the task.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Finding the Humor in Homebirth

I gave a Toastmaster's speech yesterday on the topic of homebirth. The theme of my speech was "Speaking to Entertain." I had to give an entertaining 15-20 minute speech. I chose the topic of homebirth, because I want to practice talking about it. This was an interesting excercise for me. Previously when I've given a presentation on birth (usually to professional audiences) its been in the form of a persuasive speech or an informational speech. I've never combined this topic with humor before, and it was quite effective. I sprinkled many humerous comments and self-effacing jokes throughout the speech and got a lot of laughs. I think it helped to put the audience at ease (all business women- several in the audience had never given birth) and made the information more palatable for them. I also showed an excerpt from my homebirth video. I think my audience found it particularly moving. At least a couple of women said it was the first birth they had ever seen (that blew me away, since they were older than I am- I think I assumed that most women see births even if not their own.) In the excerpt I showed, I'm standing upright and push my baby out in about 3 pushes while I hold onto my husband's neck who is sitting on our bed. The midwife is behind me squatting to catch the baby. When she emerges, the midwife catches her and passes her between my legs, I grab her, turn around and sit down on the bed and hold her to me. Several of the women came up to me after the meeting to tell me how they were moved by the speech, or about their own birth stories, or about why they made the choices they did, or about how the speech made them rethink things. I relished the opportunity to talk to women about these issues. I think I'd like to do my next speech on birth as it impacts body image after listening to some of their comments.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Self-Care Day

After a weekend in the Holy Land, I am back to my real life. A life of endless errands and to do lists, a life of answering emails and voice mails. I'm trying to hold onto those sacred moments, to remember that my life is more than a checked off to do list. Yesterday was a plethora of appointments, today is more of the same. Getting our 5 kids ready for school has meant trips to the dentist, orthodontist, optometrist, pediatrician, and dermatologist, to name a few. Heck even the cats and dog have appointments scheduled with the vet. Does that leave me any time or money for even one stinkin' massage? What do you think? I'm also in desperate need of a haircut and an eyebrow wax. Not to mention those maternity clothes I still don't have. Instead of complaining, I think I will designate a Self-Care Day. I'm getting my calendar right now and choosing a day next week to get all these things done. A day to say yes to myself and no, not now to everyone else. There its done. I chose next Tuesday as my Self-Care Day. I'll make a massage and hair appointment, and then shop for maternity clothes. I wrote on my calendar, "Self-Care Day, no outside appointments." I am working on keeping my committments to myself with the same degree of integrity that I use for everyone else, so on that note, I'm taking the dog and going for my morning walk.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Walking on Holy Ground

Back from the Holy Land and thrust into my daily activities, I need to take a moment to record it all. We (my three girls and I) left Friday afternoon and had an uneventful 3 hour drive down to Lake of the Ozarks. We were able to find Sr. Morningstar's place in short order. She was there in the garden with her two little granddaughters naked as can be. Morningstar was was wrapped in a sarong. (Sr. Morningstar has three daughters also) We unpacked from our hot drive (about 105 degrees and no working air conditioner in our van) and cooled off in Casita, our cabin. I took a cool dip in Casita's huge whirlpool tub while the girls went out to explore the woods. After dinner and the girls were getting their baths, Morningstar and I talked about the next day's ceremony. We tweaked it a little to include my African-inspired pouring libation, otherwise it consisted of several Christian and Cherokee customs rolled together. Here is what the final itinerary looked like:

Cherokee Birth Blessing Ceremony
Sacred Blessing Rituals
The Holy Land

Initiation and Integration
Foot washing in the garden with sacred bowl with floral herbs and essences. Circle of wimym will drum and sing while midwife washes entreatant's feet. Her daughters will assist.

Pouring Libation
the african tradition of pouring libation using liquid from the foot washing will be initiated by entreatant. Each woman in the circle may remember a female ancester who has birthed powerfully and call their name while pouring some of the liquid onto the ground from a sacred vessel.

Purification Ritual
Sr. Morningstar and Maya will smudge each participant as they enter the tipi. The smudge stick will later be presented to the entreatant as a gift.

Invocation of Spirit and Wisdom
Wimyn will take turns using the sacred talking stick to tell their stories of how they were able to birth instinctually and with power. We will sing the song, Wild Womyn, Mother, Midwife and Healer with Native American flute and drumming.

Feather Water Blessing
The entreatant will be baptized with a sacred feather dipped in blessed water by each womyn as she offers a blessing for birth and presents two black beads to be used to construct a labor neclace. The three daughters will assist. Moriningstar will offer the Cherokee Birth Blessing to the baby. All will joing in singing Birth Like the She Bear with Native American flute and drumming.

Celebration Feast
All will join in a potluck vegetarian feast on the veranda at Rose Cottage

The next morning I spent the day in silence and meditation until the time of the ceremony as Sr. Morningstar and I had agreed. The film makers arrived mid-morning and spent time interviewing Morningstar while I stayed in seclusion in Casita cabin. I did some last minute sewing on the robes, while the girls explored the woods, or came in for food, or watch Beverly Hillbilly episodes they found on video and immediately fell in love with. (Mom, they asked excitedly, have you ever heard of this show? I didn't know whether to shake my head yes, or roll my eyes). I also found a book on the desk in Casita written by one of Morningstar's admirers. An actress by the name of Tonya Pinkins wrote a book called "Get Over Yourself" The book was so good and wonderful, I ended up reading the entire thing before I left the Holy Land. I would recommend it to anyone. She quotes Sr. Morningstar several times throughout her book. I found it exciting, inspiring and uplifting. Just before the ceremony started, the girls and I bathed and dressed in our robes. Everything went beautifully and according to plan. I am especially eager to see the birth stories on film. I think the film makers got some really good footage. The ceremony itself made me feel quite regal and special. There were six women, myself, the girls and the film makers. I felt as if everything were perfect. During the pouring libation while everyone was naming an ancestor and thanking them, a sudden wind kicked up, unusual for the still hot day, and made all the wind chimes sing. I took this as a sign that those we had named were actually there among us. The thought brought me great comfort. We are not alone ( great a cloud of witnesses). I named my former midwife, Dee Williams. She died from breast cancer about 3 years ago. I have missed her terribly during this pregnancy and had had to grieve her all over again for having to birth without her. She was midwife for all three of my girls and I will miss her kind, sweet calming presence during this birth. The chimes reminded me that she will be there after all. This formal form of a blessing has set my feet on a determined path to contribute what I can to the world, this book, this film, this birth, this child, and have no expectations of the outcome. I choose to believe the words of that great 13th century mystic and wise womyn best known for celebrating the mother image of God, Julian of Norwich, "All will be well, all will be well, all will be well."

That night after the cermony, the girls and I slept in the tipi in our sleeping bags and woke early to the distant song of the whipor-wil. (The tipi is magnificently made and made a rather diamond shape window to the sky out of the top, with the flaps pulled back. The adjoining poles all meeting at the top made a woven pattern through which to peer the night and morning skies.) Since none of us had been dragged off by bears or wolves during the night, we adjorned to Casita for a breakfast of frozen waffles with blueberries and bananas. Morningstar and Maya (who had stayed over) were up pulling weeds from one of many garden beds when we emerged from breakfast. We said our farewells to the filmmakers, who had stayed over in Casita, and spent the day hiking the surrounding hills, napping, eating, reading, and telling stories to one another. After cleaning Casita thoroughly, we said our farewells to the Holy Land. We howled like wild wimym as our van headed toward the road leaving our sacred haven behind us.

After another uneventful 3 hour drive home (the girls were so quiet, I kept looking back to see if they were asleep. They were not- just deep in their own thoughts.) The Wilsons were packing to leave when we arrived. We all went out to dinner together and then they left to the next family they would be staying with. While we were at dinner, the boys called. They were back in town from their trip to Minnesota and at Kevin and Sarah's house waiting to be picked up. We got our boys and headed home. Once again our family was together and all seemed right as rain. After the kids were all in bed, I joined my husband in our bedroom. He had lit a candle to welcome me home.

Friday, August 04, 2006

No Rest for the Breastfeeding Advocate

Praise the Lord! Yesterday is finally behind me. Now I can rest quietly while exhaustion sets in. What a whirlwind of a day. I was up at 5am, after tossing and turning all night with worry. I picked up Kathi Barber from her hotel and got her to the hospitaly by 6:30 for her first presentation. Turnout (for both events) was spectacular. The rooms for both events were filled to capacity, I'm happy to report. Her talk was stellar. She'll be creating quite a buzz around town for some time to come. She spoke about breaking down barriers for African-American women to breastfeeding. What she had to say was so excellent and so timely. So many folks worked hard behind the scenes to pull off yesterday's events. (Many thanks Paul, Cesar, and Anne). I can't wait to read the evaluations. The most stunning thing she talked about was the historical context of breastfeeding in the African-American community. She talked about how breastfeeding was once the norm, but how slavery, the great migration following WWII and the shift from homebirth and midwifery care to hospital birth and physician care changed things in the AA community. She reminded everyone that the AA community was once a breastfeeding culture and what happened socio-politically and economically to change that. It was so refreshing to hear. As my girls and I left her at the airport for her flight home to Baltimore, I felt profound gratitude for her message. It makes me want to double my efforts to advocate for women of color, and yet I feel the need to advocate for all women. We are all at risk.

Well, no rest for the wicked. I have to spend the morning getting ready for the ritual this weekend. I have food to cook, beads to sew on, supplies to pack. Much to do to get ready to leave by this afternoon for the Holy Land. I so look forward to turning on the OFF switch when I get there. Sweet rest, come.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

A Day in the Life of a Preg

I saw my chiropractor yesterday. When I told her about my round ligament pains, she quickly left the room and returned with another doctor who specialized in preganancy care. She told me, from now till the end of my pregnancy, Ill be seeing them both during my appointments. The new doc did some different adjustments on me, and I did feel looser in the pelvis and haven't been bothered by the round ligament pains since. Between that, my daily walks, my Sun Rider teas, and my Juice Plus capsules, I'm feeling fit as a fiddle.

The Wilson's arrived (to a lovely clean home, I might add). They are as busy as we are with family, friends and churches to visit, so I haven't actually seen much of them yet. I took the girls to a local children's book store for our multi-racial family support meeting. We do this once a year, and the bookstore sets out all its books for bi-racial children. There are really some cute ones. While there, my friend Sara asked me to participate in a panel of birthmothers for the next meeting. I told her I would love to do that.

Kathi Barber arrives today. I'm meet her this evening at dinner. We've all been like chickens with no heads getting ready for this thing, so I'm hoping all goes well. I've been trying to get her to come here ever since I heard her speak in DC at a national breastfeeding symposium about 3 or 4 years ago. I'm so excited that it has finally come to pass. Tomorrow, she'll speak at at hosptial, and a health department for World Breastfeeding Week and then fly back home in the evening. I'm keeping my fingers crossed for good turnouts.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Midwifing the Dreams of Others

Yesterday I got a call from my best friend, Anne. She and I met in sixth grade and have been thick as thieves ever since. There is something so special about a friend who has seen you through all the major stages of life. She and her family live near a military base about 45 minutes away. She and her husband are retired military and now work on the base as civilians. Its so nice to have her nearby again. Her military career took her all over the world, and I'm glad she's decided to settle near home again. Anne called to update me on her dream. She has a marvelous dream of a) learning to ride a motorcycle, b) acquiring a motorcycle, and c) taking a motorcycle trip cross country to the eastern seaboard to visit lighthouses up and down the coast. She called to let me know that part a had been completed. She's been taking lessons and now has her motorcycle liscence. She's also started on part b by selecting the motorcycle she would like to purchase. I told her how proud I was of her and I really am. I want to be her biggest cheerleader. For a woman who has devoted her whole life to her family, this would be a wonderful trip as well as a huge accomplishment. Maybe, I said, I'd like to go with you. (I'm pretty scaredy when it comes to motorcycles though.) She assured me it's a really big bike, I'd feel secure on it, and once she got it, she'd drive up and taking me riding on it to get me used to it. Perhaps, we'll see...

Later in the day, when my friend Julie came to help us sew the robes, she told me about her dream as well. During a lull in the conversation and while the sewing machine wasn't going, she looked up from her handfull of yardage and said quietly, "Well, I've decided to audition for a play." I told her I thought that was marvelous. She told me she was auditioning for the role of Betsy in The Hiding Place, the story of Corrie Ten Boom, a Dutch woman who hid Jews in her home during the German occupation of The Netherlands- Betsy was Corrie's sister, who died in the concentration camps after they were caught. (I still regret that when I was in The Netherlands a few years ago, I didn't take the train to Haarlem to visit the home of Corrie Ten Boom, I did visit the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam though.) I asked Julie when her audition was and made a note on my calendar to call and see how things went. She explained that she did theatre in college and always wanted to go back to it once her kids were grown (she only has two teens left at home out of 8 kids). I applauded her efforts and wished her well on getting the part. I'm already planning to go see her in her role.

I'm very grateful to be a part of encouraging others in the pursuit of their dreams. It is a very privileged role- to midwife the dreams of others.