Monday, July 31, 2006

Naked to the World

The initial interview for the documentary went well. We taped for about 2 1/2 hours. They asked me questions, I answered. They started with questions about my childhood, where I grew up, and then launched into questions about my birth experiences. We also covered my nursing school, and nursing experiences. I won't see any of this until December, when the trailer film is complete. My biggest fear is looking like an idiot. But the filmmakers assure me, that if 5 people view a film, there are 5 different reactions to it, and besides, in countries where homebirth is more routine, I won't look crazy at all, or as he put it in his crisp British clip "they won't think you're a nutter". (thanks for reminding me that people all over the world will see me naked) All in all though, I think it was a good start. I tell myself constantly, I'm telling my story, I'm just telling my story, that's all this is. Even so, if feels bigger, it feels like more than that.

I was reading through several homebirth/midwifery blogs yesterday, and found an entry on pregancy rituals. I loved it. I should have marked it because now I can't find it again. Anyway I decided to a) cast my belly, and b) construct a labor necklace. I have a little pregnant woman medallion that I purchased at the MANA (Midwife Alliance of North America) conference last year (I hate that I can't go this year- its too close to my due date). I'm going to ask everyone to bring two black beads to contribute to my labor necklace to present to me during the sharing circle. I'll string them with the medallion and wear it during my labor. The ceremony is this weekend. My friend Julie will come over today for us to finish the robes. We've been cleaning like mad fiends around here to get ready for the Wilson family. We've shampooed all the carpet and upholstry and re-cleaned the boys rooms to accomodate our guests (they supposedly cleaned their rooms before they left for Minnesota, but you know how that goes). I'm now making my way through a mountain of towels and linen that need to be washed. Everyone has pitched in with the cleaning and done a great job. The house hasn't looked this good since we moved into it last year. I even took the rug shampooer over to my office to clean the training room floor. It sees a lot of traffic. Of course all this cleaning is also good preparation for the birth. (not only will the whole world see me naked, more importantly they'll see my house)

Yesterday after church was over, my friend Kevin took the lead in having a few folks gather and pray for my endeavors. I'm sure they still don't know quite what to think about all this, but they have been sweet and supportive nontheless. As we prayed, Kevin placed a hand on my shoulder and his wife Sarah placed a hand on my knee. Others reached out to complete our little circle. I felt enveloped and embraced in love, and acceptance. I want to remember how this feels always.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Pregnancy Memories

Today the filming begins. The Brits will meet me at my office for my initial interview. I cannot tell whether or not I am ready, it only seems right to begin. I pray that I honor both my God and myself in this endeavor. I feel like Moses, when he complained to God that he was not eloquent enough of tongue to deliver the message to Pharoah. Can I get my message across in a way that makes me look credible? Last week I had lunch with my friend, Betty. She has a PhD in English as a Second Language/Linguistics. She has spent about the last 10 years teaching English throughout the Middle East, from Hebron to Qatar, from Kuwait to the United Emerites. I am always eager to see her when she is in town on annual furlough. I love to hear her stories of places and people on the other side of the world and the impact she is having in the lives of those she interacts with. As I told her of my plans and projects, and my accompanying concerns, she suggested that I review the rules of logic and debate for defending my ideas. I thought this was an excellent idea, especially since the issues are so emotional for me. As an academic and researcher, Betty thought that by framing my experience as a case study, or a self-reported observation I could provide valuable, usable data to anyone inclined to utilize it. I'm not so sure. Antedotes and empirical evidence (or what I refer to as personal narratives) are usually not as valued in the research community- but its an interesting thought. Besides my work is targeted to the masses, not the ivory tower bunch, though I would be thrilled if someone took a positive interest in my work. Of course I could always try to publish in the scholarly journals myself- but right now I'm more focused on Woman's Day and Ladies Home Journal.

Speaking of "my work" I'm feeling ever so pregnant these days. Heartburn abounds, so do round ligament pains. On any given day, I could be mistaken for a duck, waddling my way to and from my appointed rounds. The other night I awoke out of dead sleep with a charlie horse. I had to wake my husband to push on my foot and fix me. I've increased my calcium intake since then. This will be my final pregnancy so I try to relish it all. I want to remember how pregnancy feels, the sweet bulk of it, the lavish heft of it. I want to wrap it in tissue paper and tuck it away in a corner of my brain that never forgets. That sounds absurd, doesn't it for someone whose had ten pregnancies? How can I possibly forget? But there are times when all my pregnancies and births blurr together in a mix, I cannot distinguish one from another. Who was it that I tried to fix the heartburn with dried papaya? Which was the pregnancy that felt light and airy and made me feel like a goddess among mortals? Which pregnancy did I discover leased maternity clothes and had the smartest business wardrobe ever? Throughout which pregnancies did I try to drink a quart a day of raspberry leaf tea in the final months? Who did I take the Bradley lessons for? I have many pregnancy memories, but its difficult to fix them to a specific time and place and child. Heck, about 50% of the time, I don't even get my kids names right when I call them, and I have to really think to figure out who was born what year! But this, I want to remember. I want to relish this pregnancy, that I gourged myself on hand-picked blueberries, and swooned at the sight of cold bottled water, that I go barefoot every chance I get, even in my office, that I see a chiropractor monthly, and take morning walks with the family dog. My jiggly belly, my big floppy breasts, my tree trunk thighs and my dependable sturdy feet- I love it all, and treasure each gifted memory that this pregnancy brings.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Warning: Lactivist on Premises

I discovered a new little shop on the same block as my office the other day. Its called the Nursing Station. I went in a couple of days ago to meet the owner. She is a parttime neonatal nurse. We may have worked together at a local hospital because we looked familiar to one another. Anyway, I was very excited about this little business venture of hers. Her little shop was filled with merchandise for the nursing mother, even a few things I haven't seen before-like the pump bustierre. I took my daughter-in-law over there to get a sling. I got tired of watching her lug the baby around in a bulky, heavy car seat. Why on earth do women do that when its so much simpler to wear your baby? She picked out a really cute sling with seahorses on it. I'll come back later and get one for myself (since my last baby was eight years ago, I've gotten rid of EVERYTHING). I wouldn't dream of having a baby without a sling. As far as I'm concerned, its the most essential piece of baby equipment there is. Breastfeeding makes for such simplified mothering. I just shake my head when I see young moms lugging around cadillac-sized strollers packed to the brim and an overstuffed diaper bag on top of that! Babies don't need all that crap. I just threw my babies in a sling with a couple of diapers and out the door I went. Because of the sling, my carseat never left the car. Someone remind me to write a book on simplified mothering when this is all over. (and Sling people, send me my endorsement check!)

I plan to start posting pictures now. I had Dotty's son Arielle over last night to help me polish up my blog. He and his wife and 4 month old came over for dinner. My daughter-in-law was there with my grandson as well, while my son was teaching a CPR class at my office. Both are breastfeeding moms but oddly enough they both fed their babies breastmilk in bottles at the dinner table. I felt like I was in the twilight zone! I wanted to yell, "What the hell are you two doing??? Get those breasts out!!!" It felt quite surreal that in my home, the home of the most rabid lactivist in town, anyone would feel shy about breastfeeding, of all the places on the planet. But of course, Arielle and my husband were at the table, so perhaps they thought it was the proper thing to do. God forbid that the presence of anyone in any place should keep me from breastfeeding my baby. (And God help anyone who has anything to say about it!)

Friday, July 28, 2006

No Animals will be Harmed in the Making of this Ritual

Yesterday, I saw my midwife. The girls and I drove to her home in a neighboring city about an hour away for my prenatal visit. We had a pleasant visit, about 45-60 minutes long. The girls listened to the baby's heartbeat and made various comments about the jigglyness of my belly which I won't quote. We all took turns getting weighed. Then we just chatted about the upcoming birth. When asked by the midwife if they would attend the birth, my pragmatic and nonplussed bunch said only if it would get them out of school for the day! We also talked about the upcoming ritual. The midwife and her assistant will attend the birthing ritual next week. I'm flattered that they wish to be a part of it. All to quickly, it seemed, the visit ended and we piled back into the car and headed to our next appointment. It just goes to show you how everything is relative.

Warning: Soapbox moment coming...

I just came from a meeting this morning in which a physician complained about how managed care changed how she did prenatal care and how she had to squeeze folks in at 15 minutes per visit. Her hospital-based nurse-midwife colleague practically swooned as she told the audience of the generous and attentive 30 minute visits she was able to have with her clients. (actually the midwife gave a great presentation- she really made a great case for midwifery care) It made me soooo grateful that I have the resources and the stubborness to seek out a provider to give me the kind of care that I want for me and my baby. I do want women to know that they have choices. A common theme of the program this morning (which was a panel including a physician, a midwife, two doulas and a birthing mom) was that women don't know just how many choices they have. It's so true. And as I always say, if you don't know your choices, you don't have any. Most women are programmed to believe that they have to take what they can get, or whatever their care-provider offers. This is so not true, women can and should change their careproviders as they need to, in order to access the philosophy of care they want.

Putting soapbox away...

After my midwife visit, my girls and I went with my friend, Liza, to pick up the fabric for our ceremonial robes. Liza had scouted out just the perfect fabric. I also found the notions I needed to embellish the neckline and hemline. I purchased Liza's pre-selected lovely deep plum rayon/cotton blend with a really nice weight and hang to it (at a steal for $4 a yard). I also got black and gold piping for the necklines and black beads for the hemline. My girls and I took the fabric to my friend LaDonna, who helped us cut out our caftans. (She was a wonder to behold- she had her tape measure in one hand and a calculator in another, never making a cut until she had computed the precise amount of fabric needed for each garment based on our individual measurements- not a single scrap of fabric was wasted. She handed me the meager scraps to make headbands for the girls and the 3/4 yard that had been set aside for my head wrap. Her eye for precision was really impressive.) When we finished, I dropped the precut and labeled garments off at the home of my friend Julie, who will help us sew them together next week. I felt very rich and so lavishly cared for to have such lovely friends so eager to help with this project (even when they kept asking, "now what kind of ceremony is this?"). I assured them all no chickens or goats will be sacrificed in the process!

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Questions for Reflection

I don't want to give the wrong impression. I'm glad my friends are asking me the difficult questions. There will be many difficult questions ahead- and they won't be asked in a spirit of love and concern. The film makers sent over a long list of questions for me to think about in preparation for the first interview this weekend. I had some sobering moments as I contemplated those questions. Will I draw the ire of the medical profession? I'm going to tell the truth and not sugar coat it. My experiences are what they are. My story is what it is. My daughter-in-law was visiting me in my office yesterday. She came to see the chiropractor that I share a building with. As she sat and nursed my grandson and we chit chatted about how things were going, I thought of her birth experience and how it will impact her. I want to tell my story for her, and for my daughters. I want to tell it for you and your daughters. Will it make a difference? I don't know. I hope so.
a sample of the questions:
When did you have your first children? Memories? Challenges?What were your guiding influences? Political? Spiritual? etcCan you remember first being interested in child birth and midwifery?Did you ever want to be a doctor?What challenges to your ambitions did you face?How did you overcome these?Any regrets? What might you have done differently with hindsight?Describe your time as a nurse? Memories? Influence on you? Interaction with doctor?Did you ever witness any trauma or injustice that has stayed with you?Do you have any Birth stories from your own birth that have stayed with you? From other births you have witnessed?Why so many children? (sorry but people will ask as I am sure you know!)

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Freak or Visionary- only time will tell

So now, I'm not only crazy, I'm a glory-hound. After giving my response as to why I would do this, I was subsequently asked, if perhaps I might be seeking my own glory. Seeking fame and fortune via writing about and filming my birth??? I find this quite laughable, but the question was asked sincerely, so I will address it in like manner. These well-meaning friends are actually asking questions I have asked myself many times over the years. Am I just trying to draw attention to myself because of some innate insecurity (or maybe I'm a crazed exhibitionist) or do I really have something to offer here? These are hard questions, and frankly, only a true friend would ask them, and wait objectively for a response. What, they want to know, is my true passion, what is the vision, and what, pray tell, is the motivation? And how will this affect my family, including the new baby? Yes, these are difficult questions that require a reasoned response. Could it be that I am headed down the wrong path, and dragging my family behind me? Maybe, but I don't think so. I can only reflect back to the sheroes of my faith. Ruth had no right to expect a positive outcome when she followed her poverty-stricken mother-in-law back to her homeland. Quite the contrary, she knew she would be treated as an outcast. Queen Ester faced the real possiblity of death to intercede for her people. Elizabeth Elliot kept to her task of building a landing strip in the jungle and did not interpret her husband's martyrdom as God's disfavor towards they work they had begun together. All I'm saying is, I think that it is typical for the keeper of the vision to carry on the work while looking like a freak. Whatever happens as a result of my actions, both good and bad, I will embrace with as much grace as I can muster. Can I predict the outcome? Not even a little. (If I were to venture a guess it might be closer to neglect, ridicule, or contempt, rather than fame, fortune and adultation.) I would like to think that my book and film could launch a movement that would forever alter the current culture of our healthcare system and the way we birth in this country (like Ina Mae did with her book, Spiritual Midwifery) - that would be nice. But if my work can be a part of opening and maintaining a national dialog on these issues, hey I'd be really happy with that. Heck, if I sold more than two copies ( to my mom and best friend), I'd be happy with that. If somewhere out there a woman reads my writing or sees my film and rethinks everything she thought she knew about birth and makes changes to her birth plan accordingly, then I will consider that my job has been done. Why do I care so much about this (I think this question causes the most head scratching amongst my friends)? It is inextricably tied to my faith. Did God create women's bodies to give birth- or are we just fucked from the git-go? In my studies of the bio-sciences and the natural order there is plenty that I don't understand. (Why do worms have both genitals? Why do some spiders devour their partners after mating with them?) But most of creation does make sense. There is an order to the world. We are fearfully and wonderfully made. Our bodies do work. Birth makes sense, and ties us to our creator in both an earthy and ethereal way. I make the choices I do about birth because I believe what I do about God. The only thing that really bothers me here is that I get the suspicion that my being a woman with a grand vision is what the real issue is. If I were a man would I garner questions of my sanity and motivation??? Hmmmm.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Keeping the Vision

I have recently been questioned on my motivation for doing my homebirth in such a public way. The question begs to be addressed, since I consider myself accountable to those who have done the asking. First, I feel strongly that I have been handed a task which no one else can do. The opportunity presents itself here and now. I can take advantage, or let it pass me by. Here's the thing, while the vision for this project was only in my head, I could dismiss it as a flight of fancy. Yet once I even took the small step of speaking it- it began to form into a real possibility. Once I took concrete steps, even small ones, it began to take shape, right in front of my eyes. This, I suppose has been my confirmation to proceed. I can't believe this is all just coincidence, I choose to believe, it was meant to be. I choose to take this as far as it will go. Perhaps nothing will come it. It doesn't matter. I am acting in obedience to what I know to be true. This of course is the chief disadvantage of being the keeper of the vision- to those around you, you run the risk of looking like a nut-case.

Monday, July 24, 2006

A Greater Purpose

Things are beginning to fall into place. Yesterday at church, I enlisted a couple of seamstresses to help me create the robes for my ritual. I sketched out a caftan of deep purple jaquard with embroidering around a v-neck line. Liza, an excellent and long time garment designer, knew just what I wanted and where to find the fabric. My friend LaDonna will help me cut out the four robes (1 each for me and my 3 girls) and Liza will surge them for me. I'm so glad I decided to enlist help. Everyone is being so good about contributing and it makes the tasks so manageable for me.

As I was writing yesterday's blog, I realized that I should go through the full experience of what a pregnant woman goes through and document what happens to me. I should do a hospital tour and a childbirth class. I do have a back-up physician and a back-up hospital. I should get to know them both. This pregnancy gives me an opportunity like no other to see and hear for myself what women are being told in these classes. I had meant to blow all this off, now I see that I have to experience these things and communicate about them in the book. Of course, a part of me dreads doing this. For me the beauty of a planned homebirth is to opt out of all this, but now as my pregnancy hits its downward slide toward finish, I realize I have a greater purpose to all this.

Here is my finished invitation to my ritual blessing.

Sacred Blessing Ritual
Holy Land
August 5, 2006

purification ceremony
sharing circle
invocation of spirit and wisdom
feather blessing
celebration song
vegetarian potluck feast
fire circle
film and book viewing by Morningstar

The ceremony will begin at 3pm. Bring your favorite vegetarian dish (remember no animal flesh on the Holy Land). If you wish to camp overnight, bring bedding, food, and whatever else you need for your comfort. The ceremony will take place out of doors, so dress accordingly.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Coming Out Swinging

Okay, I'm taking a deep breath now. I've enlisted the help that I need. My buddy Charlene will help me chauffer Kathy around, the Wilsons will be spending lots of time with family and won't expect us to entertain them, and I've made my feast a potluck, so that instead of preparing all the food, everyone will contribute. Sitting down and making lists so that the tasks seem manageable also helped.

I got quite caught up in reading blogs yesterday and wasn't quite as productive as I should have been. I'm afraid its becoming an addiction. There are so many homebirth related blogs out there and they are all so good. One entry in particular, on Belly Tales, caught my eye. The person seemed to be writing my story. She is a midwifery student who is quickly becoming disenchanted with the whole process. Her words rang so true. I left midwifery school because I had great concerns that I would end up as a part of the problem and not the solution. That's what happened to me as a nurse. I'm so glad I can now call myself a former labor and delivery nurse. I could never shake the feeling I was a co-conspirator. People told me that they were glad Iwas there to help women, but I didn't think I could be much help to women. There is unbearable pressure to conform, and to not, is to be in a constant and unrelenting battle. I was slowly but measurably beat down and began to perform as expected. I started to resent my patients, because I couldn't care for them the way I thought they should be cared for (sounds crazy doesn't it). I started to shut down and tell myself, I'm just here for 12 hours to punch the clock. Worst of all, I started to withhold myself from my patients- I didn't want to know them, didn't want to get involved. I just wanted to do my "job" and go home- to my real life. The whole thing became so perfunctory, I knew I had to get out. I don't plan on ever going back to the hospital setting- not as a bedside nurse anyway. I have to find a whole new way to serve childbearing women.

Right now my job is to walk in their shoes and report the findings. So far, the findings suck! My own midwife, whom I've been seeing for years, dropped me for the duration of my pregnancy when I insisted on having a homebirth. I knew she would. I knew her practice agreement with her docs wouldn't allow for it. She cheerfully told me she'll see me again postpartum, but I have to think, will she? Should I return to a practice that did not support my choices? (I believe my midwife really did, nontheless, she was powerless to continue my care. Then there was the insurance company that told me they would not cover a homebirth. What are they crazy? Look how much money I'm saving them, and they'd rather chuck out thousands for a scheduled induction or elective cesarean??? This is all going straight into the book. Next, will be my hunt for a pediatrician. We'll see how supportive my current one is and how she reacts when she hears about my homebirth and breastfeeding plans. (Those Peds always give lip service to breastfeeding but they'll stick you with formula at the drop of a hat.) I'm starting to sound cynical, but really what's the world of birth coming to? Must everything be a fight?

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Am I Crazy or is this Really My Life?

My mind is racing with plans for the ritual and the feast. The thought occurred to me this morning that I should seek help. I'm starting to feel overwhelmed. In addition to the ritual that weekend, I have Kathy Barber coming into town for World Breastfeeding Week. I have to be hostess to her on Wed, and Thurs transporting her to and from both speaking engagements. My Breastfeeding Committee has worked hard on this event for months and I am actively involved from start to finish. In addition to that, we will have houseguests that entire week. The Wilson family will be staying with us that week while on furlough from their missions work in Japan. Our two boys will be away that week on a short term missions trip to Minnesota. Two less kids in the house will help some, but I really need to use next week to get myself organized for the following week, which will be quite hectic. I need to arrange for the comforts of the missionary family and get the house cleaned and organized, and plan meals. I also need to plan for the weekend at the Holy Land which won't be nearly as restful as I had hoped because it has now transformed into something totally different. I'm not whinning, I promise, just sorting my thoughts. I'm glad the Wilsons are coming (American father, Japanese mother with two beautiful girls). Our girls penpal with their girls throughout the year and are thrilled to be hosting them in our home. But, I already feel badly that I'll have to neglect them for other things going on that week (I've already warned them they won't see me much). Then the girls and I leave Friday for the Holy Land while they are still at our house! But maybe thats a good thing- they'll have time alone with just their family. (My husband will still be around but he works a lot.) Anyway, I think I'll make today my planning day. No work at the office today- yipee. I plan to work in my garden-wrangle it back from weed infestation, and look forward to a long leisurely evening with our friends, John and Dotty. They invited us over this evening to splash around in their private lake and then good food and great conversation around their spacious dining room table (they also have eight children). Our whole family looks forward to it- we even take our dog! It's become an annual event. We invite one another back and forth for meals throughout the year but we always are careful to time it so its the heat of summer when their turn comes so we can swim in their lake! I'll ask Dottie for her advice on these upcoming events and getting myself organized. She's a pro. We had to postpone our annual dinner swim so that she and her family could zip down to Mexico for a week to build a couple of houses as their missions outreach this year, with their church. She's now hosting a French student and a child from Bellarus for the summer, all the while nursing their family dog who just got spayed this week. Yeah, she'll feel my pain.

Friday, July 21, 2006

A Star is (About To Be) Born

I met with the documentary makers again last night. I had them over to the "madhouse" for dinner. The inmates didn't dissappoint. They were wild and rambunctious. Miraculously, we still got work done. I showed them my one surviving birth video. Despite the fact that its just a novice holding a camera, it is very powerful and touches people. Its really why I hit on the thought of making a really good birth video, so people could see with their own eyes how birth can be. They showed me the outline they came up with for the documentary- I was blown away. It was from an outsider's point of view, but that made it all the more powerful. They said they were hoping that in addition to my birth, there would be interviews with pioneers in the movement, and opposing points of views from various docs as well. I think this is a supurb idea- that in the end folks will be given the info (and the compelling images) and can make up their own minds about birth and homebirth and care philosophies. My goal isn't to sell anyone on homebirth. I just want women to rethink their own birth experiences. Here's my fantasy: I would like to see hospital birth actually become as safe as it claims to be. I'd certainly like to see it become more humane and less conveyor belt like. I'd like to see care providers RELAX and let women do their thing without the tyranny of the clock or the customary butt coverage that goes on day in and day out. Women have to do their part to create this utopia of birth. Stop cowtowing to doctors (remember, they work for YOU) don't just accept everything they say, and for God's sake, stop suing them for every little thing. Anyway, the cameras start rolling in a couple of weeks at the purification ritual on the Holy Land. Lots of details to work out between now and then. The projected gestation for this venture is about 2 years, and funding must be obtained. This is quite a committment for the film makers which will involve lots of travel for interviews with the talking heads of the movement/counter movement. This film is designed to be broadcast to a wide general audience. Do you know someone who should be in this film? Just post under comments and tell us who and why. Know of any funding sources? Post that information as well. Thanks for you input and comments. Things are moving quickly from this point, like a stone rolling downhill. Its taking on a life of its own, as it should.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Politicizing the Breast

Yesterday I attended my first La Leche League meeting in years. My daughter-in-law was supposed to go with me, but she didn't make it- so I went anyway. I thought I'd check things out and report back to her. It turned out to be a really pleasant group. It reminded me of everthing I used to love about LLL. It turned out that most of the women were pregnant(!) as well as nursing- so we talked a lot about birth as well. We even discussed a little bit of birth politics on how to get a natural birth in the hospital. (We have 18 local hospitals that do births in our metropolitan area, so there is some choice, sort of.) I was so impressed with how these ladies had done their homework, but a part of me was saddened. I knew their knowledge would not fully protect them, neither would their 3 page birth plans, their carefully selected caregivers, or their birth balls and doulas. They would still have an uphill battle for a natural birth without undue interference. But still I was impressed as I heard them share with one another how to obtain a birth-friendly nurse. It made me feel proud and hopeful that not every woman around here is lining up for an epidural/induction in her eighth month! This is my hope for change, a ground swell of grassroots efforts on the part of women to adamantly ask for choices in birth and be willing to fight to get it. Of course, we also discussed breastfeeding, particularly public breastfeeding. World Breastfeeding Week is coming up, so that was discussed as well. I told them that I think nursing moms have an obligation to nurse in public, so that the public becomes desensitized and that the behavior becomes normalized. I reminded them that we live in a bottle-feeding culture- breastfeeding is not the norm. To change that, people have to see breastfeeding babies, and if someone says something ignorant to them while they are nursing their babies, they have to be firm in using it as an occassion to educate the person. I am a staunch public nurser and always wished someone would say something to me about nursing my babies in public, so I could give them what for, but of course it never happened to me. Nursing moms need to come out of the closet (so to speak) and proudly (if discreetly) nurse their babies in public. My Breastfeeding Committee is honoring a local Kansas woman during World Breastfeeding Week named Amy Swan. She is responsible for the recent passing of the breastfeeding law in Kansas. (Missouri had one, but Kansas did not until Spring of this year). She was nursing her baby in the NURSERY of her athletic club when she was asked to go nurse her baby elsewhere, like the bathroom. Amy got so fired up, she wrote a letter to the business owner. When that got her no-where she started a grassroots effort to have an ordinance passed in her city (Lawrence KS). It passed, but still not satisfied, she then went on to galvanize her state lawmakers and lead the effort in getting the KS legislation passed. This woman is my hero! I can't wait to finally meet her face to face (I've only had phone and email contact with her). Knowing there are women like these out there keeps me going, doing what I'm doing. I know I am not alone.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Our Love Child

I visited my friend Lon yesterday. (It seems like I visit a lot doesn't it?) I was in the neighborhood and stopped by his place of business. He's a big time caterer in town. We worked together 100 years ago before I got married and went to nursing school and we were both in the restaurant business. We've kept in touch, through the years and he's become something of a business mentor to me. I've watched him grow his very successful catering business and often go to him for advice on business matters. Anyway, Lon is a big old teddy bear and one of the funniest people I know, I love him and his wife Marcia to pieces. So, I show up and walk up the stairs to his private office. A couple of his staff were up there with him, so I decided to be mischevious, as I told him about the pregnancy. "Lon, I have to tell you something" I said in a forboding voice. He could only see the top of my head as I climbed the stairs. "Don't tell me you're pregnant" he answered as I continued to climb the stairs. "Yes, with our love child!" I blurted out as I reached the top and showed him my swollen belly. We all had a big laugh. After he introduced me to his staff members (and staunchly denied paternity), we had a terrific visit as I caught him up on the goings on in my life. He asked how my husband was taking the pregnancy. I said "I shoulda had that boy clipped when I had the chance!" Chatting with Lon about the pregnancy was pleasant and delightful. Seeing him again made my day and it felt good to be able to have pleasant chit chat about my circumstances. I had so much fun visiting, I forgot to order that corn dip he makes that I want to include in my ritual feast. Friends like Lon are a healing balm for the soul.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

A Drying Oasis

I happened to be near their office, yesterday, so I popped in and visited two of my favorite midwives in town. It had been quite a while since I had seen them, but I know their practice is very busy. It just so happens my documentary maker couple was there being seen! I got to give them both hugs and then let them get on with their appointment. I'm so glad they landed with these particular midwives. I had encouraged them to change caregivers because they were literally seeing the worst guy in town (I don't know how the hell that guy keeps getting clients). While one of the midwives saw the couple, I chatted briefly with the other. She told me the hospital they work at was remodeling and that they might lose their special space, at least for a time. These two smart ladies work in a typical hospital facility, but they had been able to carve out their own special room in it with things like a queen size bed and a birthing tub for deliveries- quite a coup in these parts. Now with remodeling underway, the hospital administration has not committed to preserving a midwife room. The bastards. Makes me want to write a letter, and send a copy to the city newspaper. Nothing like a little bit of bad press to make you rethink your priorities. I left feeling a wee bit down. I hate to see their hardwork undone. They're little room was an oasis in the desert. I hate that the hospitals just arbitrarily give and take away without concern about the desires of their birthing clientele. LDRPs are actually decreasing in this city. Everyone is returning to LDRs with separate postpartum units! It's a more effecient system for hospitals, but it does not represent the most satisfactory care for women. Just another sign that women are losing the battle for woman-centered birth.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Sacred Blessing and Birth Ritual

I'm so excited! My hermitess friend sent me a draft of the birth ritual and sacred blessing she is designing for me. It will take place at her hermitage in central Missouri which we refer to as the Holy Land. I just have to describe it, I'm so excited. First of all picture a little green glade nestled among wooded hills. A peaceful place where wildlife (deer and such) venture unafraid. The landscape is dotted with cabins, gardens, a tipi, a creek. A place where there are no tvs and and you can't get cell phone reception! Are you picturing it? Good. Now for the ceremony. There will be 10-15 people in attendance. My daughters and I will wear specail matching robes. It will begin with a ritual foot washing, and singing. Then the hermitess and another Native American midwife will use smudge sticks as we enter the tipi. Once everyone has entered the tipi, a talking stick will be used for everyone to take turns sharing the truth of God in nature while they sit in a circle around me. We will then pair into groups of two, elder and novice and bless one anothers hands. I will then recieve a feather blessing with Holy Water for the work I am about to embark on (birth and book and film). At the end of the ceremony there will be a feast, which I will prepare beforehand, as a gift to my participants. (Anyone out there have any good vegetarian dishes to suggest?) It will be a wonderful annointing for my work ahead. The film makers will be there to document it all. I feel so humbled to be a part of something like this. I'm constantly amazed by the Lord's provision. This will happen the first weekend in August. I'll be sure and do updates on the goings-on. Perhaps I'll blog a little about each individual who will participate. I want it to be meaningful to them as well.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

The Adoption Divide

I attended a pool party yesterday at the home of my friend, Sarah. It was an annual event for biracial families and transracial adoption families. I helped start the organization that holds this event over 10 years ago to socially support such families. As I sat and watched kids of every shade of the rainbow splash around in Sarah's pool, I was reminded how the group was really two groups. One with interracial couples trying to raise their children in a hyper-racially sensitive culture, and one with couples raising adopted Black or bi-racial kids. Each group really has vastly different needs and concerns. I sat next to and chatted with a young couple hoping to adopt a child who wasn't legally cleared for adoption. Their story sounded like a heartbreak waiting to happen. I became more and more uncomfortable listening to thier conversation with other adoption families, getting advice and trading stories. Not because I was pregnant, but because I was a birth mother myself. I was a young college student, and mother of two, who gave my baby up out of a sense of survival. The baby's and mine. I certainly could have had an abortion, but I chose instead to interrupt my life and my children's lives for nine months to grow and birth this baby and make sure to the best of my ability, that he had a good home to go to. It made me uncomfortable to hear them make not unkind, yet somehow judgemental statements about the birth mothers of thier children. Are all birth mothers irresponsible, promiscuous, hard drinking, drug totting, disasters waiting to give birth and dump the kid so they can go back to thier former ways? Thats often the impression I get listening to adoptive mothers. Where is the gratitude? Why the demonization? Perhaps I'm too sensitive on this issue. After all this is one of my issues waiting in the wings to be dealt with. I do feel apart from these women. What have I to offer them? My whole life is devoted to a passion that women who can't or choose not to give birth have no connection to. I don't even know how my message sounds to them. It's not my intent to alienate them, but I'm concerned that I will. Their children will get born some way and they do have a stake (if not a say) in how they get born. This issue is a difficult one for me (especially since I spent so much time in this blog whinning about even being pregnant). There is a distance between adoptive and birth mothers and I don't know how that bridge is gapped.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Living the Life

I had lunch yesterday with my long-time friend, Julie. Boy did I need an afternoon of pure enjoyment after a week of busyness. Julie took me out to lunch to Macaroni Grill, a really nice Italian restaurant. We sat and yapped for three hours! We needed to catch up on things. After I caught her up to speed on my life and she on hers, she said she had an idea for my NEXT book. (Hmmm, I'm writing another book now?) She said that I should write a book for women about how I overcame my fears to accomplish my goals. Its an intriguing thought. I told her the story of the first time in my adult life when I stepped out of my fear and did what I thought was impossible in spite of my fears. (Its a great story but I won't tell it now.) We had a long talk about courage. She asked if I was ever afraid to step out and do the things I do. I assured her every step I take is bathed in fear. Its just that I've made a habit of putting the fear in its place. Instead of a wall blocking my path, I now see it as an annoying pest that I'm constantly shooing out of the way. I reminded Julie that courage isn't the absence of fear, its moving on and getting things done in spite of it. I've found that if I take one small step, I am rewarded by seeing other details fall into place, in areas where I have absolutely no control. A recent example is finding the documentary makers. For years, I didn't tell people about my ideas and projects, I kept them to myself. (Frankly I thought my goals were too grandios and that people would put me in my place for having such lavish ideas! Ironically now that I tell my goals, I'm constantly nagged by a little voice that tells me my ideas are too small, think bigger, think bigger...) Now I believe if I speak it forth, it helps to bring it into reality. So during my son's birth, while I was chatting with his doula during a lull in the activity, I casually mentioned to her that I would like to do a documentary of this birth. She was only the first or second person I had mentioned it to. She casually stated that she had clients who were documentary makers- would I like their contact info? Whodda thunk it? This kind of stuff happens to me all the time. One of my friends once told me that I had a gift for manifesting like no-one else she's ever known. I think it is my gift or at least my propensity. I speak it forth, begin the work, and things come to pass- but I never do all the doing. I operate in cahoots with God- the ultimate and consumate networker. I'm merely on my way to living the life He intended I live all along.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Lactating Bees

My eight year old told me this joke yesterday:

What kind of bees make milk?

I don't know, what kind?


I had to laugh- I'm sure my kids are the only ones on the block making breastfeeding jokes!

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Sundance, Here I Come

I met the documentary makers. They are a lovely British couple, expecting their first baby no less! They told me all about their former work, mostly for British television and gave me a video of one of their films. It was fabulous. I was amazed how good it was. They really have a gift for capturing the veracity of a person, a place, a moment. I told them about my vision for this film and what I wanted to accomplish with it. I asked them how on earth they landed in Kansas City. They had no more plausible answer than that they are experiencing the American Midwest- so I decided God sent them here to do this film for me. I think they are perfect; young, talented, open-minded, bright. It doesn't hurt either that they come from a country that utilizes some of the birth philosophies I'm trying to propogate here. Since they are pregnant themselves, they are going through the process of trying to find a caregiver that operates in agreement with their philosophy of care. They have been educated about the politics of birth here just from that process. Really, what could be more perfect? I'm so excited to move ahead with this portion of my project. This documentary could really be a wonderful catalyst for change. As for my time of renewal, I booked a time for August to retreat to the Holy Land to be blessed for the coming work ahead. My hermitess friend offered to gather a group of local women to bless me and my work and create a ritual for me. The girls are so excited to go back. It really is a special place where magical things happen. I remember once, several years ago, attending a midwive's retreat there when I was pregnant. I actually went into labor during the retreat. I wanted so badly to stay there, and squat in the little creek that runs right through the property, and give birth. I called my husband to ask him to drive down with the kids, but he said our little car was on the blink and probably wouldn't make the trip. That meant I had to drive the three hours back home, by myself, in labor! Fortuitously, one the midwives in attendance was paged to return to Kansas City for a patient in labor, so she followed me in her car all the way back home. Go figure! I got back home in plenty of time to get things ready prior to the birth. I often wonder if being around so many midwives put me into labor! The nicest part was that before I left all the midwives gathered around me, layed hands on me and prayed for my safe journey and my baby's safe passage. The spiritual energy was palpable. I knew immediately that all would be well. I was never afraid or concerned about making that drive, though I realized it was an unusual way to labor! See what I mean, magical things happen at the Holy Land. I can't wait to go and recieve my blessing. (P.S. these are the kinds of stories I have to tell in my book- it will be one funny read. All my homebirth labors have been wacky adventures. Wait till you read about the one where I went into labor on Christmas, out of town, and had to drive the entire family back to KC because my husband was sick as a dog. I kept having to pull over, not because of my contractions, but so my husband could throw up on the side of the road! Who else has babies like this?) So there's really no telling what those documentary makers will capture on film. It could get pretty interesting. Hmmm. Sundance, Cannes, are you listening?

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

The Road Less Traveled

I only recently realized that I began this blog at the present. I'd like to give a little background information about myself. This is my tenth pregnancy, but ninth birth. My eight children range in age from 8-28. I have a 24 year old that I placed for adoption at birth. My goal is to reunite with him at some point. I did some preliminary adoption registry when he turned 21 but have not started an active search. I don't know when I will, but something will tell me when the time is right (or else he'll find me first.) I had my first three births in the hospital, and the last five at home. This upcoming birth will be my sixth at home. I have a bachelors in nursing and am working on my masters in nursing (executive practice). I did hospital labor and delivery for seven years and now own my own business teaching CPR. My husband and I have been together for 19 years now. He is the love of my life and I eagerly look forward to the next 19 years. Since my first homebirth, now 18 years ago, I have been actively involved in the homebirth/midwifery movement. It is safe to say that having my first homebirth, radicalized me. I have never looked back. Once I had that first homebirth, I knew I would never have another one of my babies in a hospital setting. The seven years I spent doing hospital work made me feel like an alien in a strange land. Doing what I'm doing now, finally feels like home. I'm afraid I'm a natural born outsider and loner. I filled those 18 years joining the organizations, becoming an active member, studying the research, reading the journals, visiting and writing legislators, attending conferences, and on and on and on. I'm so glad I put in the time. I now feel ready to do what it is I'm doing. I'm ready to move into a more direct advocacy role. However I'm no longer an advocate for midwives, or doulas, or homebirth. I'm an advocate for women. This distinction is quite important to me.
I meet this afternoon with the documentary videographers. I'm trying to establish my vision for this project. I want my work to be meaningful and productive. I'd like to travel to the "Holy Land" for a blessing and ritual cleansing for my work. (No, not that Holy Land) The Holy Land I speak of is a hermitage in central Missouri run by a hermitess nun/former midwife. I need clarity and cleansing for the work I am about to undertake in writing this book and making this documentary. It is a breathtaking place nestle in the hills of the Ozarks. I went last year with my three little girls for a weekend. It was a magical time we will never forget. It truly is a holy place. While there we followed the rules of consuming no meat and respecting all life. (I can handle a veggie burger, but do you know how hard it is NOT to swat a mosquito?) My girls played for hours in the surrounding woods, a courageous band of she-warriors fighting the perils of ticks and overgrown trails, while I wrote and wrote and wrote and spent much of my days in silence and meditation. Yes, I need that again. I look ahead and see Frost's less-traveled road and know it will be the road of my journey.

Monday, July 10, 2006

A Community of Women

I witnessed something amazing yesterday. At the end of our church service, the pastor called for prayer for one of the families. Their eldest son was headed back to Iraq- for a second tour of duty. As we corporately prayed for the soldier and his family, his mother (an old and dear friend of mine) began to sob audibly. I could understand her fears, my 18 year old son had almost joined the military after graduating. I could hear her from the back of the church where I sat. I quietly tiptoed to where she sat and put my arms around her for the rest of the prayer time. When I opened my eyes, three women were quickly headed our way, all mothers of grown sons. They surrounded her, and touched her, and spoke soothing words to her. As I sat in that hallowed circle, I thought this is what I need right now, a community of women to surround and support me through this pregnancy. I realized then that letting everyone know about the pregnancy was my way of opening my arms and recieving the support I needed. I'm now ready to embrace what I need.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Numbed Down Thinking

I had a great conversation yesterday with a local homebirth midwife. We chatted a while about how midwifery has changed and how it has changed us. It made me think about my book in a larger context. What I'm really trying to communicate to women are the psycho-social, and spiritual "side effects" of drugs and technology in birth. When I worked at an inner-city teaching hospital, where women were basically just fodder for learning students and baby docs, they seemed like sheep being led to the slaughter. But later, when I went to work at suburban middle class hospitals, the women seemed only all the more eager to hand themselves over to the pharmaco-technocratic process. What has happened to us in only 30-40 years time? This generation seems so shut down, so turned off to thier bodies. I can't imagine wanting to be numb from the waist down for any experience in my life, let alone the births of my babies. Numb from the waist down? This generation of women seems to be numb from the head down. Our generation has not done its job. If we had, our daughters would know better. Those of us with stories worth tellling, had better start telling them.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Naming the Baby

I'm so excited! After years of trying on many, many titles for my book, I finally have one nailed down. Unfortunately, I've decided not to annouce it in order not to dilute its impact- but I'm really pleased with it. It actually started in a dream- where most of my best ideas do. If I go to sleep with a problem on my mind, I dream solutions. Most of the time they are very good solutions that didn't come to me in my conscious mind. I think this is a powerful gift, although I think just about anyone can access this ability. It doesn't have to be anything earth shattering- I dream solutions to small problems all the time too. Anyway, a title came to me in my sleep, I remembered it when I woke up and googled it. (This is my quick and dirty way of seeing if something has already been thought up or used by someone else.) It was in use, so I pulled up my beloved thesaurus (invaluable as a writer) and began to play with the words to see if I could find a synonym that more closely nailed my meaning. After about 2 or 3 generations of synonyms, I found it. I immediately created a title page for my manuscript so that I can look at it everyday and visualize my book being published. I've never felt closer to the project. My baby finally has a name! The working title (not the final title) is Birth Outside the Box. It will tell the stories of my nine births, including this one, with two appendixes on political happennings in KS and MO (mentioned previously) and a concluding chapter and an appendix on resources. I'm getting so revved up about this book and my writing is just flowing. I really hope it will be something women can and will use. I'm actively seeking a publisher and querying women's magazines about printing exerpts. I'll update as things start to happen.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

What's In a Name?

My midwife and her apprentice did a home visit today. Imagine the luxury of getting a prenatal on your own bed! All my kids huddled around to listen to heart tones and feel my belly (okay the teenagers didn't want to feel my belly.) Still it was very special. I only wished my husband had been home. I asked them both if they wanted to bail out if I was having the birth filmed. They asked if it would make us all famous- I answered it would probably make us all infamous. We talked some about Kansas midwifery law. While nurse-midwives are legal in all 50 states, midwives who are not certified nurse-midwives (CNMs) are illegal in Missouri (my home state just 10 minutes away), and allegal in Kansas (my current residential state). Since I live in a border town, I have to understand the laws of both. My midwife is a CNM, her apprentice is a CPM (certified professional midwife) which is recognized in some states, but not in others. Many legal battles have been waged in Kansas and Missouri to define what a midwife is, who can be called by that name, and what constitutes their practice. It is a long and tumultuous history. My book has chapters titled, "The Midwife Trials of Kansas" and "The V/BAC Wars: The Battle Over Elective Cesareans in Missouri." I want women to know about this courageous population of women and men who have fought long and hard to give them options in childbirth, that are safer, and more humane. But of course, midwifery continues to evolve. Sadly there are now midwives that I can no longer recommend as caregivers when that list used to be occupied solely by OBs. I won't recommend midwives whose practices mimic OBs when they are caring for low risk women. Unfortunately, the label "midwife" is no longer a guarantee of the midwifery model of care.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Tethered by Fear and Doubt

This is where the fear sets in. Once I set projects in motion, then comes the trepidation, the doubt, the uncertainty. Then I typically start to divest myself. The project never comes to fruition, because having started, I am afraid to finish. What if I fail? What if they laugh at me? What if I plan this event and noone comes? What if I look like a fool? What if, what if, what if??? And so my thought process goes. I cannot let that happen this time. I must have the courage to finish what I start (the book, the film, the retreat). I must summon the courage to continue on. "From whence cometh my help? " Lord, give me the fortitude to press on, despite doubt, fear, criticism, even scorn. Be my strength in times of weakness, my courage in times of fear, my assurance in times of doubt. Make manifest Your spirit within me.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Saying Yes to Life

Well the cat is finally out of the blog! We told our parents over the weekend about the pregnancy. They took it well, better than expected. The next hurdle will be to start planning for the birth. This week, I see my midwife and I meet with a couple of British documentary makers. They are a husband and wife team. I'm excited to meet them and get their take on this whole thing. It seems strange, trying to plan for a future I can't forsee. How will I know what will be the best approach? That's just it- I don't. I'll have to follow my gut and get as much guidance as I can. My friend Kevin did the teaching yesterday at church. He talked about giving God our best yes. His words were like a healing balm. I am saying yes to God, and His will for my life, and it is transforming me. The fear and trepidation are still there- but I must move forward. I must complete the things I've started. My book is like a second pregnancy. When this gestation is complete- I will give birth to it. I'll have to find a midwife/publishing company soon. Speaking of gestations...
My son and his wife had us over yesterday. I'm happy to report that the baby has finally settled into a good nursing routine. Mom and baby are doing well. (The little stinker slept the whole time we were over there.) Did I mention he's the cutest baby ever?

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Morning Song

This pregnancy is beginning to grow on me! (pun intended) I feel like the line from that Sylvia Plath poem, "cow-heavy and floral." I see my smooth round belly and it makes me smile. I notice babies everywhere. I was leaving my office yesterday and saw a Mexican woman with a plump pudding bag baby tossed over her shoulder- he seemed to be staring at me. I felt a longing. Now that my kids have been told, they fall all over themselves being nice to me. (I would have told them much sooner if I'd known I'd get this reaction.) Now the dishes get washed, the flowers get watered, the floors get swept without my asking. Heaven forbid that I should be seen carrying anything. Best of all, I feel nicer. I rarely raise my voice, I want to be kind to everyone, even my husband. I especially love the smell of him. We sleep spooned together with his hairy arm tickling my skin, wrapped tightly around me. (my favorite sensory experience in the whole wide world, followed closely by eating a whole carton of Ben and Jerry's Chunky Monkey icecream. I let the chocolate chunks melt right in my mouth, then take a bite of the cold creamy banana flavored cream and crunch the walnuts all together for the magical combination of warm chocolate and cold ice cream and crunchy nuts.) I spend lots of time looking at my 5 month pregnant belly. It's quite beautiful to behold- so smooth and big and round. My breasts really are cow-heavy and I waddle like a duck when I walk. My eight year old daughter told me the other day, "Mommy, you're pretty." She's right, I am- I feel I must be the most exquisite woman that ever lived. I think I must be falling in love.

Morning Song

by Sylvia Plath

Love set you going like a fat gold watch.
The midwife slapped your footsoles, and your bald cry
Took its place among the elements.

Our voices echo, magnifying your arrival. New statue.
In a drafty museum, your nakedness
Shadows our safety. We stand round blankly as walls.

I'm no more your mother
Than the cloud that distills a mirror to reflect its own slow
Effacement at the wind's hand.

All night your moth-breath
Flickers among the flat pink roses. I wake to listen:
A far sea moves in my ear.

One cry, and I stumble from bed, cow-heavy and floral
In my Victorian nightgown.
Your mouth opens clean as a cat's. The window square

Whitens and swallows its dull stars. And now you try
Your handful of notes;
The clear vowels rise like balloons.