Friday, December 19, 2008

Atheists and Allies

Circuitously, I saw the link to this piece on how to be an ally with atheists. I posted a short comment there:
I had a great experience in a social justice training where I shared my experience of exclusion as an atheist child in a very Christian community in the form of being silent during "under god" of the Pledge of Allegiance. Afterward, a participant who is my colleague and also is a minister came to me and told me it had been a life-changing moment. He told me "I said to God 'God, I'm in the room with atheists.' And God said, 'You're right where you're supposed to be.'" And it really made me cry.
And I want to say more about that here. That moment was so powerful to me because it's so the opposite of many many many experiences with religious people:

Monday, November 24, 2008

Getting Full Nourishment By Not Getting Too Much

On a facilitation note, I got my weekly "Master Facilitator" email on "The practice of getting full nourishment from everything in your life" which focuses on judiciously taking in information or experiences or things rather than gulping and overdoing it. Topical, no? Here's how it applies to working as an educator or facilitator:
As a facilitator, observe closely and resist the desire to pile on just "one more" experience to make sure your groups get their money's worth. Make sure that the desired outcomes of each activity and experience are evident to you and the participants before moving on. And, if you dare, stop before you are faced with a sea of bobbing heads with glazed eyes trying to take that one more step together.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Take the Boy to Work Day

Here's Jack at work with mama, from Wednesday August 6, 2008. He carried his first picket sign!

We got back to town just in time to be part of a coordinated picket at 34 Catholic Healthcare West hospitals all over CA, to pressure management to behave at the bargaining table.

When he asked, "What dose guys doin'?" I told him we were there to help our friends tell the hospital management to listen, share, and cooperate, and be fair.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Breastfeeding and Social Justice are Good Friends

"Last year, CDC researchers found black infants are twice as likely as white infants to be premature or underweight, or to die before their first birthdays."


That fact is from this article at Women's ENews. In addition, the article includes a couple examples of hospitals who are becoming certified "baby friendly" in an effort to encourage breastfeeding initiation particularly among African American women. One hospital even chose to pay $20,000 a year to buy formula instead of receiving it for free along with "baby welcome bags" with free samples of formula that are distributed to all new moms. That is impressive to me; that's real commitment to health.

Why increase breastfeeding to reduce infant mortality?

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Jay Smooth, instructor

So I love to read Racialicious, a blog "about the intersection of race and pop culture." I met the founder at the WAM conference earlier this year, and it was in her workshop that I finally caught on to one of the most important reasons why there are so many discussions of pop culture in blogs that deal with race and anti-racism, gender and feminism, etc. It's because it provides a common language and reference point! Duh, but I didn't get it until I heard Carmen say it. Before that, I just thought, why pay so much attention to something I don't want to encourage? And I still mostly think that in terms of my own pie of attention--very small slices go to pop culture. But I really do think it's important to be literate in pop culture as a strategy for effective communication.

Anyway, on Racialicious last week I saw this piece by Jay Smooth on "How to Tell People They Sound Racist" and thought it was great. I sort of also "got" vlogging when I saw it--I think it was my first vlog. I sent it to everyone in my department at work, and really wanted to include it here. His point is critical, again, as a strategy for effective communication: talk about what people DO--don't theorize about what they ARE. I totally agree. Because I don't want to argue about your identity. I just sometimes need to point out the crap you said.

I wish I knew how to embed a youtube link so it's watchable from here, but I'm a beginner blogger, and that's intermediate. I am not there yet!

As usual, I missed the pop culture stimululus, but I appreciate the discussion

I'm on vacation and checking out some blogs during a brief interlude when I'm not on childcare duty. Found this on BlogHer, a very good discussion of white people using the "n-word" which includes the best attempt I've seen to find an analogous word for white people:

Back to the word redneck. What if a white person of the so-called "upper" class who had never been poor, never in a position to be called "poor white trash" were to call another white person who did grow up poor and struggling a redneck. Would the person who had been called that name laugh with him/her sincerely? Unlikely. I'm talking ordinary people here, not spiritual gurus.

And the post ends on this simple note:

So, bottom line for me, use of the "n" word when it comes to whites who want to use it has nothing to do with what black people feel free enough to call themselves within "the family." Ask yourselves, as Laina suggested in her post, "Why do you as a white person want to say the word at all?" The answer should scare you.

I feel like this post supplied me with some great examples, lines, arguments for a conversation with a person I hope I don't have to talk to on this vacation.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Behold the POWER of the human woman body!

I created this list to recommend resources that were great for me in pregnancy, labor and birth, and early parenting.

The recommendations below are sort of in chronological order of when I recommend using them during the pregnancy, birth, and baby experience.

Our Babies, Ourselves: How Biology and Culture Shape the Way We Parent by Meredith Small
This book is GREAT! From an evolutionary biology perspective and an ethnopediatric approach, it is a cross-cultural examination of parenting norms regarding baby and parent sleep, baby eating, and baby crying. It re-calibrated my sense of what is and has been normal for humans. It's in the top 5 of my recommended books in this list.

Prenatal Yoga With Shiva Rea DVD ~ Shiva Rea
I used this DVD alot and recommend it. With modifications for all 3 trimesters performed by people in those trimesters, it has lots of hip-openers and side stretches to prepare for birth and to open up parts that get kind of smashed together as the body adjusts to the baby inside. It does, however, require a regular dining-room chair or folding chair to do some of the poses correctly, especially as you get larger, and The Lounge doesn't have any regular chairs.

Birthing from Within: An Extra-Ordinary Guide to Childbirth Preparation by CNM, MA, Pam England
My partner and I took a 6-week class from a teacher certified in these methods and it was a great psychological preparation. The book is full of insights and exercises--mental & psychological, with an art component. It also had info on the role of doulas in helping women have great birth experiences: shorter labors and fewer interventions. The class, like the book, included visualizations and drawings, as well as practicing pain coping techniques using ice cubes and techniques & role-plays to deal with hospital staff.

Our Birthing From Within Keepsake Journal by Pam England
The Birthing From Within class used this journal as a workbook.

HypBirth: Natural Childbirth Preparation Kit (DVD) - by HypBirth
I so strongly recommend this. This is the CD series that I used to learn triggered relaxation techniques. With these techniques, facilitated by my fabulous doula, I had a peaceful, powerful, wonderful birth experience during which I was focused and physically relaxed. I recommend this higher than anything else, especially used in concert with a doula or other labor support person trained in facilitating these techniques. A really big plus is that I used these techniques before and after Jack was born to trigger my relaxation and be able to go to sleep really quickly, which is valuable to a tired pregnant woman and an exhausted new mother with only 2 hours to sleep before the next feeding. Here are the benefits listed by the author, all of which were true for me: * Minimize pain dramatically during labor and birth. * Produce a faster and easier delivery. Reduce the need for an episiotomy. * Enhance comfort and sleep in your pregnancy. * 80% of all clients give birth in less than six hours, including first time moms.

Active Birth : The New Approach to Giving Birth Naturally, Revised Edition by Janet Balaskas
This book was just what I was looking for. It has lots of pictures and diagrams of women using various positions to give birth. It also has a great illustration of all the muscles that are involved in the abdomen and pelvis--stretching from chest to knee--that was quite inspiring to me as a tool to envision my own power in birthing. I copied many images from this book to use on my "labor poster" as reference points. Great book. Includes specific pieces written for labor partners about how to physically support a laboring woman in positions kneeling or squatting; and it has a section on positions for water births.

The Thinking Woman's Guide to a Better Birth by Henci Goer
This book is organized by intervention; so, a chapter on Cesearean birth, a chapter on induction, etc, from mild interventions like IVs to the big ones. Each intervention is discussed in medical detail, including possible benefits, possible risks, and suggested questions to ask if a medical professional suggests a specific intervention. Super useful and something that I tagged with sticky notes and brought with me to the hospital in my birth bag. Didn't end up referring to it because I had a fabulous birth, but I was glad to have the information. It did, however, freak me out a bit.

Ina May's Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin
Ina May Gaskin is a famous midwife who has attended over 1000 births. She has written for midwives; this book is for birthing women. Half of the book is birth stories, which are great to read to counteract our stupid culture's "Oh My God! It's my first contraction! Let's run to the hospital immediately and lay still for hours!" mentality. Ina May is also very body-oriented and brings a great earthiness to her writing and advice.

The Nursing Mother's Companion: Revised Edition by Kathleen Huggins
I didn't read this book, but I did get a pamphlet with an excerpt of the "surviving the first 2 weeks" section and it was really really useful. So I bet getting the whole book and reading it BEFORE attempting sleep-deprived breastfeeding with a floppy hungry baby would be a really good idea.

The Happiest Baby on the Block - The New Way to Calm Crying and Help Your Baby Sleep Longer (DVD) DVD ~ Dr. Harvey Karp
We watched this moments after we brought Jack home from the hospital. These techniques were ones we used many times a day to help Jack be calm, which is a state in which babies can observe, sense, and learn the most. We believe in not letting babies cry and responding quickly to their needs and this DVD taught us how to implement those beliefs. Very Very Good.

The No-Cry Sleep Solution: Gentle Ways to Help Your Baby Sleep Through the Night by Elizabeth Pantley
This book has great, scientifically valid methods to track baby wake-ups to see patterns and then specific suggestions to help babies learn to put themselves back to sleep. Written from an attachment parenting perspective and very tender about the sweetness of sleeping babies. It's written for sleep-deprived people to read easily.

What's Going on in There? : How the Brain and Mind Develop in the First Five Years of Life by Lise Eliot
This was a great book my mother-in-law got me. It's fascinating and gives scientific developmental info about brain development; recommends similar things to what many attachment parenting books recommend but with indepth research & info backing it up: infant massage and lots of parent-baby skin contact & touching, breastfeeding, vestibular stimulation, etc.

Infant Massage--Revised Edition: A Handbook for Loving Parents by Vimala Schneider Mcclure
This was a great book that was more in-depth than I could really take in, but it's a good information set. I still use these techniques with Jack. Loving touch and skin-to-skin contact is really important for healthy infant development.

Baby Signs: How to Talk with Your Baby Before Your Baby Can Talk, New Edition by Linda Acredolo
This book includes a visual dictionary of baby signs (some ASL, some altered to be easier for small folks with poor fine motor skills) AND--my favorite thing--a series of poems and songs listing corresponding signs. Jack's favorite is "Butterfly Wings."

My First Baby Signs by Linda Acredolo
Here's one of a series of board books with pictures of babies doing baby signs and written directions for parents, along with pictures of the thing itself--ball, baby, cat, dog, etc. There are other books in this series including Animals, Bedtime (which is GREAT as part of our bedtime routine), Mealtime, and others.

Our Wishes for Childbirth (My Birth Plan)

(This is what I wrote based on examples on the interweb plus conversations and thinking. I reviewed it with my midwife who provided prenatal care and with my doula, and then I had 5 copies in my birthbag to give to everyone who attended the birth.)

Mother-to-be: me
Husband: Bill

Doula: Hillary
Support Person: Denise (birth prep teacher, Birthing From Within)

Due Date 5/4/06

Pre-Natal Care Provider: Kerry McCabe, CNM

To our Healthcare Providers:

Thank you for taking the time and attention to work with us and our birth preferences. We have discussed this set of birth preferences fully with Kerry McCabe. We fully realize that situations may arise such that our plan cannot and should not be followed. However, we hope that barring any emergency circumstances you will be able to keep us informed and aware of our options.

I am really excited about having a natural, medication-free, intervention-free birth.
We’ve done our best to educate and prepare ourselves to use relaxation & breathing techniques as well as a variety of labor and birth positions. We’ll be attended by our birth prep teacher as well as our doula. Please don’t offer me drugs or an epidural—I won’t forget they exist and I will ask for one if I feel I need it. I would like to be feel unrestricted in my mobility and in accessing any sounds I might need to make during labor. I am hoping to protect my perineum & am preparing by doing lots of Kegels & planning tear prevention techniques—I would prefer to have no episiotomy and risk tearing. Throughout labor, please encourage me in whatever position I am trying.

When the baby crowns, I’d like to see it in a mirror and touch with my hand. We would like for Bill Curry to catch the baby. When the baby is born, please delay all procedures (testing, washing, eye medication, etc) until after the bonding and breastfeeding period. Please put my baby skin-to-skin with me, with a warm blanket on us, and do the APGAR tests there if possible. When the cord has stopped pulsing, we would like Bill Curry to cut it. We intend to breastfeed exclusively; please no separation, bottles, or pacifiers.

Thank you for your skills and your support!

Expanded wishes:

Labor & Environment:
 Vaginal exams: minimal or at my request
 Monitoring: intermittent & external
 IV: not unless medically necessary
 Membranes: spontaneous rupture
 Dim lights
 Music
 My own clothes
 Quiet voices
 Mobility & frequent position changes, including with a birth ball
 Eat and drink to comfort
 Relaxation techniques (breath awareness, non-focused awareness, other BFW techniques, vocalization or co-chanting, shower, heat & cold packs, massage, aromatherapy, hypbirth techniques
 Photographs by our doula and us
 Glasses on the whole time

Cesarean birth
 If a Cesarean birth is not an emergency, please give us time alone to think about it before asking for our consent.
 My husband and support folks are to be present at all times during the operation.
 Ideally, I’d like to be conscious during the procedure, would like to view the emergence of the baby, and would like to have my hands free to touch the baby.
 I would like the baby to be shown to me immediately after it’s born and to have skin-to-skin contact with the baby as soon as possible. If I can’t hold the baby immediately, he/she should be given to Bill Curry immediately upon birth.
 I prefer a low transverse incision on my abdomen and uterus.

Cesarean birth recovery:
 If my baby is healthy, I would like to have skin-to-skin contact with my baby and nurse him/her immediately in recovery.
 Please discuss with me what I can expect to feel immediately following the procedure.
 Please discuss my post-operative pain medication options with me before or immediately following the procedure.

Episiotomy/Perineum Care:
 I don’t want an episiotomy.
 To prevent tearing:
o Hot compresses
o Oil
o Perineal massage
o Encourage me to breathe properly for slower crowning

Second Stage Labor:
 I want to try many different positions for labor:
o Squatting
o Hands and knees
o On the toilet
o Standing
o Side lying
o Leaning
o Whatever feels like it’s working
 No stirrups please
 Spontaneous pushing & no time limit on pushing unless emergency
 I would really like to see the baby crowning in a mirror & I’d like to touch the baby’s head when it crowns.

Delivery & Baby Care:
 We would like Bill Curry to catch the baby.
 Please delay all procedures (testing, washing, eye medication, etc) until after the bonding and breastfeeding period.
 Please put my baby skin-to-skin with me, with a warm blanket on us, and do the APGAR tests there if possible.
 When the cord has stopped pulsing, we would like Bill Curry to cut it.
 I would like to hold/breasfeed the baby while I deliver the placenta and any tissue repairs are made. I don’t want pitocin to deliver the placenta. I would like to see the placenta after I deliver it.
 We intend to breastfeed exclusively; please no separation, bottles, or pacifiers.
 Immunizations: please delay until a later time.
 If our baby has any problems, we would like to have Bill Curry be present with the baby at all times if possible. If the baby is transported, we’d like to be moved as soon as possible. If the baby’s health is in jeopardy, I’d like to breastfeed or express milk/colostrums for our baby.
 We’d like to photograph and videotape the birth.

Again, thank you very much for your skills and your support.

Birth story

This is the birth story of me, my husband, and our baby.

At midnight I lost my mucus plug. We were watching some movie with Chris and Maryanne. It was Sunday night, April 30, 2006. I had some minor backache going. I didn’t mention it to anyone, just kept on watching the movie. I went to sleep around 2. I didn’t sleep very well because the backache continued all night. In the morning I called Hillary (our doula) and Denise (our Birthing From Within teacher, who we asked to be with us for the birth) to give them a heads up that I was having contractions but that I was fine.

May 1 was the day of the big immigrant rights protests and boycott in LA. We went to breakfast with Chris and Maryanne—the first 2 restaurants we went to were closed for the boycott. We ended up at the Long Beach CafĂ©. I was having contractions. I brought along the sheet to mark their start time and duration & wrote it down during breakfast, sort of casually noting them. They hurt but I felt they were preferable to the backache because they started and stopped. It was exciting but I also knew it could go on for some time, or it could stop. I was trying to assume it would be a long process. I was a bit nervous, too, not knowing what would happen, but very excited that something was happening! I felt cool being out and about while having these surges. I think Chris kept anticipating that we’d have to rush to the hospital at any moment.

After breakfast, Chris and Maryanne left. Billy and I both laid down to try to get some rest. I napped for a while. I listened to the hypbirth contraction CD. It was much harder to relax with contractions then it had been in practice! At noon I woke Billy up to write down the times of the contractions because I couldn’t do it anymore. I was excited and nervous. I didn’t know how long my labor would last or when we would have the baby. I couldn’t decide what to do—yoga, crochet the “labor blanket” I’d gotten yarn for, take a walk by the ocean, dance…. As usual I had too many activities lined up. I danced for a while to Swamp Mama Johnson, moving my hips. That helped the sensations be less intense, and it was fun.

At about 2, Hillary called and said she thought she’d start over to be sure to miss traffic. I thought that was good but wasn’t sure I needed her yet, and I really liked the intimacy of just me and Billy laboring together. We decided to take a walk by the ocean, thinking we better go now if we were going to go at all. We paused when I needed to pause—moving my hips at streetcorners when surges came—but mostly kept going. Billy brought the Salms’ videocamera. I danced a bit on the beach with the contractions. I felt self-conscious but hardly anyone was there and no one was paying attention. It felt very ceremonious to be at the ocean during labor, like part of a big rite of passage to which the ocean was a witness. After a while, we started back to the house. As we walked up the stairs from the beach I thought that each step I took was helping move further through labor. I went slowly but steadily.

Hillary called and said she was making better time than she had anticipated. At the house, I sat in the moon chair with my legs wide. I kept thinking my water would break so I kept arranging and re-arranging a big waterproof pad wherever I sat. When Hillary got there we talked and decided she would go tool around Long Beach for a bit and then come back. I felt good to have more time of just me and Billy together. (As I look back now, I feel like it was our last time together—it was our last time together before we became parents.)

I don’t remember exactly what we did. It was getting more intense. It hurt in my back and inside me. Later I realized that what I was feeling was my cervix! Crazy! That’s not a part of my body I had ever been aware of before. At one point Billy started helping me do non-focused awareness, asking me what I heard, what was touching me. It was hard to get my head into it. I was trying a couple different positions to see if it helped reduce the pain in my back. I was trying to be focused but the pain sensation was distracting.

Hillary came back at just the right time, about 7:00 in the evening. We got her big birth ball and Billy inflated it. I was having pain in one particular point in my back during the surges. Billy put counter-pressure there and it helped. Hillary asked me a couple times if I wanted to do the finger-drops, and I finally tuned in enough to say yes. Hillary led me into the hypbirth techniques, which really helped me relax. She led me through visualizations that I had written, of times and places that were calm and vivid, like sitting on a foggy beach, laying on a blanket in my parents’ backyard, taking a walk on the farm. Billy said later that he thought while she was describing the walk he and I took, “she’s never seen it, she’s just describing it. What does she think it looks like?”

I was vocalizing with each surge. Every time a surge started, I would open my mouth as relaxed as possible and moan, and move the sound to the lowest note I could sustain. At first I think I was a bit self-conscious, but it helped so much I got into it quickly. It loosened my body. Billy and Hillary vocalized with me. That helped so much, too, to make me feel quite normal, moaning around in the bedroom. I wondered what the neighbors thought, but as soon as I had that thought I realized I didn’t care at all. Maybe they’d think there was a cow in our bedroom!

We did that for several hours. Every visualization Hillary moved me through was helping me be physically relaxed and mentally focused inside what was happening in my body. When I thought about it later it felt like she had been driving me through labor, to get deepest into it as quickly as possible, to actively intensify the process. At times it was overwhelming and I wanted to slow it down. But I stayed focused on the visualizations and the vocalization. I’ve never been so focused in my life. I remember she asked me to visualize the circle of women standing around me, growing bigger and bigger all the time, expanding and getting bigger as more women join the circle. Sometimes I wanted the circle to stay the same size for just a minute! But I stayed in it.

At about 9:30, I began to think about when we should go to the hospital. I didn’t want to be in full-on labor in the car. I somehow didn’t realize I was already in full-on labor! I decided it was time to go. First we were going to go in the Acura, but I didn’t want to be in a car seat. So Billy emptied out the bus and I sat on the floor with the birth ball behind me. I remember walking out of our door and thinking “I’m walking on the sidewalk and I’m in labor. I’m going to give birth. But it looks the same outside as always.” I called on the cell phone to tell L&D I was coming and I was in labor. I didn’t know what to say—it seemed like I should be making an announcement or proclamation, and it sounded so mundane and yet so odd to say “I’m in labor and I’m coming in!” They didn’t seem excited as befitted the craziness of it. I also called Denise and asked her to come meet us at the hospital. She was excited.

On the drive every time we went over a bump I pushed my feet against the backs of the front seats and my back against the birth ball so I didn’t get so jarred. We took a wrong turn and went on PCH south for a minute, then turned around and went north. We hadn’t given Hillary directions so Billy called her—or maybe I did—to say how to get there. It was weird to be out in the evening after being in our own world vocalizing together in our own space.

We got to the hospital. I got out and waited while Billy parked the bus. I waited outside where the ambulances go. Someone was smoking. I had a contraction/surge and tried to play it cool so no one I didn’t know would pay attention to me. I felt shy and private. When Billy got there he was carrying stuff and I knew I’d packed more than I’d probably need. (We never did bring everything in from the car!) We walked down the hallways toward L&D. I had a contraction by the pay phones. I squatted a bit and leaned over and moved my hips. Someone asked if I was ok, a staffperson I think, and we said yes, just in labor. Did she offer a wheelchair? I don’t remember. We got into L&D. I remember that there was no obvious person or place to walk to, to announce our/my arrival. I had so much anxiety during my pregnancy about going into that department. When we went in I just wanted to be believed and given a space where I could be focused again. It was distracting to be in the bright lights with people around, trying to figure out who to talk to. I don’t think anyone said, “Welcome! Congratulations!”

They put us in a labor room. I think it was about 10:00. I had 5 copies of my birth plan with me and I first handed one to the woman who showed us the room. Immediately I was told to put on a hospital gown and get an IV. I decided not to fight the gown although I’d brought a big t-shirt. But I did refuse the IV. The nurse immediately went and told the doctor, who came and told me I had to have a hep-lock. I said ok. I just didn’t want to have my movement restricted by an IV. Then they put a fetal monitor belt around my gut and I laid down on my side on the bed. Billy was there and I always knew where he was. Denise arrived at some point. Hillary of course was there too. One of my entourage turned off the lights in the room. I think the bathroom light was on and of course the glowing face of the monitor provided some light too. I’m pretty sure Denise turned off the sound on the monitor. I tried to relax and get my head back into it and let go of everything else. Everyone vocalized with me again. I felt so safe and surrounded by people that would protect me and help me get what I wanted. We created a dim, private space where everyone was moaning together with me. It was such an amazing experience of feeling fully surround-supported. Nothing would happen that I wasn’t ok with. That was the most important feeling in the world to me. It was wonderful. I could just relax and be focused inside myself.

From here on all I can write is flashes of moments. I don’t know what came first.
At one point Billy was doing an acupressure thing on a reflex point between my first and second toes and Hillary was by my head. She switched places with him so that he was closer to me.

At one point I was having a really intense surge. I remember I vocalized very high and tight. Everyone helped me lower my tone and it helped. During the surge, Hillary said to me, “Open your eyes. Look at me.” I did, with effort, huffing foul breath at her. She said, “Liz, this is good. You’re doing it.” And after it was over she told me to look at her again. She said, “Liz, you don’t have to do that one again.”

I remember hearing Hillary and Denise start to talk to me when I was still in surge-mode, focused and intense. They thought the surge had ended, but it hadn’t. I said something and Hillary said, “You’re still feeling it, aren’t you?” I think they watched the monitor, I’m not sure, but I remember one of them saying, “Wow, that was a long one.” I remember at one point seeing them watch the monitor, and thinking how true it was that people can’t resist TVs, even people who know deeply that the real action is in the body that’s being measured.

At some point a nurse came in to draw my blood. I was in surge-mode. She was just going to walk over and poke a needle in me. Maybe she didn’t realize I was doing something. Maybe women who are in labor signify by screaming, in her world. In any case, she didn’t ask. She would’ve just done it if Hillary or Denise hadn’t said to her, “She’s having a contraction. Can you wait a minute?”

I think that I remember a nurse coming in to say the monitor wasn’t showing anything, the monitor in the nurses’ station. I tuned her out as much as I could. I think she adjusted the monitor belt. I knew I was in labor.

All during this period Hillary was giving me the most intense visualizations of circles getting bigger. It’s funny it felt like she was doing something to me, when really she was probably trying to keep pace with what my body was doing on its own.

I had to go to the bathroom once. Everybody went with me!! I normally would not be ok with that. But I needed my team around me all the time. Billy held me up from behind, straddling the toilet so I could crouch. I don’t remember what Denise and Hillary did but I know I was glad they were there. I remember they were kneeling or crouching in front of me. As I pissed and pooped my body felt good to get rid of what I didn’t need. I heard Denise say she wished she’d had a camera to take a picture of me leaning on Billy.

At 10 the doctor had checked my cervix. I really didn’t know that would hurt so much!! She said I was at some small number. At 11, after I’d been in the room an hour, she came back. I was at 9 something. No wonder it had been such an intense hour!! My whole body and self had been working hard, making up for lost progress from the trip over. I think that’s something Hillary said, that she’d bet I’d been further dilated at home than what the doctor found at 10, and it made sense to me. I’d been feeling some fear and some adrenalin and that slows labor.

I remember Hillary asking me if I wanted to be in a different position, or try some different positions. I had emphasized to her previously that I wanted to do that. But now all I wanted was to be able to relax completely between surges, and so I wanted to stay on my side. In retrospect I can’t believe how much that monitor would’ve immobilized me if I’d wanted to move. It was also easier not to have to fight that battle.

After the check at 11, the doctor said I could move to the delivery room. (I remember the pre-natal care midwife I had told me the only difference was the lighting abilities in the two rooms—doctors like to have bright lights for “their” work.) I moved to get back up on the bed, but she said I’d have to walk! I remember saying, “You’ve got to be kidding me!” But Hillary said, “Liz, it’s good. It’ll help you.” I believed her and so I did it. But I had a contraction in the bright hallway, and no one was showing me exactly which path to follow to go to the new room! I had to say to a nurse, “excuse me” as I went around her. Hello, get out of the way of the pregnant and birthing woman! I was annoyed at the disruption of my space.

In the delivery room I climbed up and got on my left side again. I had a few more contractions. Then I felt like I needed to take a shit, and with that contraction I did a light push and it felt right. So I said, “I think I’m starting to feel the urge to push.”

Again from here I don’t know the order of things. I remember seeing the doctor with a clear welding mask covering her entire face and a mask over her mouth under it, with big gloves up past her elbows, the kind I wore to do a garbage audit before we started the recycling program. She was all gowned up. She looked like she was getting ready for a poison-spewing alien to emerge straight outta my belly. She did nothing, arms crossed.

I couldn’t figure out how to do the pushing. For the surges I was just trying to get out of the way of my body. I was vocalizing to move the surges through my body. But that didn’t work with pushing. Somehow I had to do it differently. I said something out loud about not knowing how to do it. One of the nurses said I should hold my breath, that vocalizing was letting the power go. I didn’t understand and Billy said it to me again. I tried it. It helped. I tried to seize the power of the surge and grab onto it and push with it, not get out of the way but get in the middle of it and use it. I slowly figured it out. It was frustrating and I wished I had known it would be different.

At one point a nurse came in from the hallway and started shouting numbers at me. “1, 2, 3, 4, ….” One of the nurses who’d been in there said, “I don’t think she wants you to do that.” It was so weird. Why would that be helpful to me, stranger? READ MY BIRTH PLAN!!

I needed something to push against with my legs. Hillary was by my head, and I think she had the videocamera on. Denise held my left leg. Billy was on my right. I pushed at him with my foot and he asked, “Are you trying to push me away?” I or someone said no, I wanted to push against him when I push. So he held my right leg. I never wanted to push him away less in my life. I wanted him right where he was!!! He was so steady for me, always beside me, always paying attention. I loved him so intensely and appreciatively while I was laboring.

I felt that I had to be more focused. I started having a little bit of concern about whether I was “progressing” fast enough in pushing. I didn’t want to ask because I didn’t want to start the nurses or doctor thinking about that if they weren’t. But I knew there are often rules about how long someone can push. Plus, it was exhausting hard work! So I wanted to get it done! So I said, “I want this baby out!” People laughed but what I wanted was to be focused on pushing the baby out. I didn’t mean it like it sounded. I wasn’t impatient. I just wanted a mission statement for this phase, I guess.

So I pushed. It was hard. Someone (maybe me, maybe someone who knew my birth plan) asked for a mirror so I could see my vagina. I couldn’t look away. I said, “It’s mesmerizing.” I saw Jack’s head!! But it looked just like my skin. I asked someone to help me feel the baby’s head. It was so soft. So soft. It didn’t feel like a head with a skull, it felt like the head of a sweet wet soft creature. Then the nurse bumped the mirror during the next push and the angle went bad. I couldn’t get her to fix it.

I think the doctor broke my bag without asking. Or maybe it broke on its own. It gushed. It felt good, a release of pressure.

I swear that during one push, the doctor or a nurse grabbed the side of my vagina and pulled it open. It hurt!!! I screamed at that. I don’t really know if someone did that or not, but that’s what it felt like.

Then one nurse told me that in between pushes the head was going back in, so I should hold it between pushes. That seemed stupid to me because if it was happening it was probably natural, right? I think I remember Denise saying something like that. But I tried to do it anyway.

So. I pushed a tiny person out of my body. First his head. Then his body!! Then there was a baby on my belly. I was blown away. And it was a boy. I had always imagined myself the mother of a girl, and I was astonished. I said to Billy, “I guess that solves the name question.” He looked at me with his beautiful eyes, in his wide face. He looked at me in the eyes. He was so beautiful and perfect. He had little fingernails that were sort of broken off, like Nosferatu. I told him he had little vampire fingernails. It seemed inappropriate but I really didn’t know what to say.

He didn’t cry. I held him close. Billy hovered over us. We looked each other over.

His official birth time was 1:48 am, May 2, 2006. Almost a May Day baby!

I cut the umbilical cord myself. Billy didn’t want to, because it’s a stupid symbol of the dad separating the baby from the mother. I did want to. We waited til it was done pulsing. Then I cut it. It was tough, like leather. I had to saw at it a bit with the scissors.

A nurse walked up to me with an IV. I said, “What is that?” She said, “Pitocin, to help you deliver the afterbirth.” Billy said, “Do you want that?” And I said, “No. I just want to nurse my baby.” READ MY BIRTH PLAN!
Hillary helped me try to latch him on. I think we got him on both sides. I had no idea how to tell if it was a good latch or not. (Breastfeeding story—or, saga—to come later.)

I pushed out the placenta. When it was out they put it in a big metal bowl and I looked at it. I wanted to be sure to see it; I’d never seen one before. It looked like a big bloody liver. Bright, dark red.

Then a nurse was going to take Jack to wash him. Billy said, “Should I go with him?” and Denise said yes.

Someone brought me some food. I was tired and hungry and still quite shocked to have a baby.

The doctor sewed me up where I’d torn. I wanted to know how much I’d torn. She didn’t give me a straight answer. She just said, “Not bad.”

And Billy and Jack and I went out of L&D and into postpartum. It was the first thing we did as a family. Billy still hadn’t held him, which I regret! I should have handed Jack to him almost first thing. In our room, he held the baby and looked at him. I looked at them.

I had a beautiful, wonderful labor and birth. Breastfeeding was so hard for me, for us, for so long. But my pregnancy, labor, and birth were wonderful. My birth experience left me feeling strong and powerful and capable, and very proud. I’m really grateful to Denise for teaching Birthing from Within and helping create a great birth experience. I’m really grateful to the Birth Connection for connecting me to Hillary and providing Hypbirth classes. I’m really grateful to Hillary for facilitating me through a completely positive inner experience and helping to protect my space and helping Billy help me. And I am so grateful to Billy for being a wonderful partner through pregnancy, labor, and birth, and I am not surprised but so happy that he is such a wonderful daddy.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

getting started

I'm doing it! I'm hopping into the blogosphere after thinking about it, experimenting, and of course researching. Now it's official.

I've just been reading all about how and why to start a blog. Step 1: set goals--what do I want out of my blog in 1 year, 3 years, 5 years? Step 2: know my audience. Step 3: be consistent.

Well, I am thinking of blogging for several reasons: as a place to exercise and sharpen my writing skills in my own voice, where I don't have to be "on message" work; as a place to exercise and sharpen my analysis skills on issues and topics I care about; as a way to stay in touch with people I'd like to talk to more (although that's really up to them, if the way I do it is just by writing); and as a way to explore and go on the record about topics and issues that matter to me: feminism, social justice, anti-racism, parenting, partnering, working motherhood, social justice organizing, transformational education, natural birth, pregnancy and birth education as a transformational experience, food as a connection to the earth, earth-based spirituality, the end of the world ['s social and economic power arrangement] as we know it. It's also a creative outlet and I hope I can use it to connect various forms of my creative expression: crochet, cooking, sewing, photos and how they're displayed/shared, words and images on clothing, and maybe others that could develop. I want to connect with others who share those interests and I want to share resources when I have them. I want to explore possibilities for future work in areas I'm passionate about. And I hope it won't be too burdensome or difficult to maintain appropriate boundaries between this blog, my work life, and my personal life. These are my initial goals. Plus, I would not at all mind even a minor supplemental income. How's that for lofty?

Thinking of "my audience" takes some imagining. Me, my close friends, my family. Other organizers, birth fans, parents, feminists, crafters, pagans.

Be consistent? Is it gonna matter if I have more than 1, more than 3, more than 5 interests that I write about? It's all connected as far as I'm concerned. It will be good discipline and practice to make those threads appropriately explicit to tie it together for those who may read. And I have no idea at this point of how frequently I'll be able to write and post. As mama to the toddler monster, free time is freakin' scarce. Is once a month just too lame to bother? Good thing my audience is me!

Well, I'm all full of creative energy right now and it feels good. We'll have to see what happens next.