February 24, 2012

My first child's 8th birthday

Today is my oldest son's 8th birthday.  Yesterday and the day before I wasn't feeling great and I found myself reading birth story after birth story on the internet.  As I became aware of what I was doing, I wondered why the heck I was doing it.  I like birth stories; obviously birth is important to me; but I don't normally read piles of strangers' birth stories one after another like eating chocolates from a box.  This morning I realized that maybe the 8th anniversary of my first birth-giving experience was a good reason to be indulging in this mild extravagance.

Tonight I opened up the file with his birth story in it.  I hadn't re-read it in a long time.  I'm not going to post it all here, although it is posted somewhere on Mothering.com.  I don't think I'm comfortable having it out in the internet transparently identified with me the real person and I'm sure my 8 year old son would be horrified by it being clearly identified with him.

It was interesting reading for me, though.  I've changed a lot in some ways in the past 8 years.  My life has changed a lot.  What I noticed most was the voice I used in telling the story, and how it conforms to a common narrative voice used in a lot of birth stories available for everyone to read on the internet.  Very positive, sophisticated in a way, but utterly naive in others.  Although I don't think I wrote anything that wasn't true, I also didn't write a lot of things that were true.  I think partly this was because I was writing it to share on MDC, and had a public persona to live up to in some ways there.  And also partly because there were truths that I didn't necessarily know - at least not consciously - at that time.

This paragraph at the very end of the story does ring true to me now.  It is naive in some ways, but that naivete is true to who I was at that time.  It states pretty succinctly how I felt about the birth in the first year or more after it:

"Looking back now, from five months later, I think it was a wonderful birth for all of us who were present.  As we wrote in our birth announcements: Born at home, we welcome him with great love and joy and gratitude.  I am so grateful that I had no fear of giving birth or of giving birth outside of a hospital.  I was born at home myself 27 years ago and was present at the home births of my two brothers, and one of Moose’s four siblings was born at home as well.  I am so grateful that I was not afraid of pain.  I have had a lot of pain, physical and emotional, in my life, and I knew that I don’t like pain but that I can go through it.  When people ask me, I say that of course there was pain in giving birth, but there was no suffering.  The pain was for a purpose and my body and mind and spirit all knew it.  Suffering is pain with no reason or no good reason for being.  I am so grateful that I had wonderful, amazing support from my partner as I gave birth and that he has blossomed in many ways into a wonderful father since then.  I am so grateful that I had my mother with me, and my dog as my “doula”.  I am so grateful that I was able to have a skilled, legal, caring midwife and assistant at the birth (and our insurance even paid for most of it!).  I am so grateful that our baby was born healthy, whole, and without ever being exposed to narcotics or other drugs.  And of course, our son - his life, his presence, his being - is continuous and reciprocal and amazing love and joy."

I am still grateful for my child and our family and so many things.  I also recognize that gratitude and frustration, confusion, and struggle can co-exist.  They are all part of love.

I love you, W!  Happy Birthday!

July 28, 2011

Mother Food: Lactogenic Food & Herbs for Milk Production and for a Mother's and her Baby's Health

Mother Food by Hilary Jacobson is an interesting resource, but not an interesting read.  Her purpose is laudable - but it really is "compiled as an informational guide".  There is not much of a narrative, but for the sake of so much information, that's easy to forgive.

June 25, 2011

Birth: the Surprising History of How We Are Born

Birth: the Surprising History of How We Are Born by Tina Cassidy definitely feels like what it is - an overview written by a journalist.  Journalists are by trade and often personality disposed to facts over feelings, the story over one's opinions about the story.  And this book is pretty thoroughly non-judgmental.  Since I am not, in the privacy of my own mind, non-judgmental about the history of birth, it was an interesting difference of perspective for me.

One factoid that stuck out at me from the book was the description of the surgical procedure called symphyseotomy, where a doctor would cut through the soft tissues of the mother's genitalia, and then manually separate the cartilage in her pubic bone to create a wider opening for the baby to come through.  This was (and in some places where a cesarean is radically unsafe or simply unavailable, still is) used as an alternative to  unsafe cesareans before anesthesia and an understanding of preventing infection. A third of the mothers and half of the babies died, but this was apparently a better mortality rate than cesareans could offer at the time.  I'm not sure I'd ever read about this before, but it is truly horrifying to me.

The other factoid that stuck out is related.  I know I had read about how rickets deformed women's pelvises and led to the need for such horrific - and desperate - measures, but I hadn't remembered the details.  Pelvic openings of 2 inches.  Yikes.  And no 99% effective birth control other than simply never having intercourse.  Double yikes.  I did like the (probably anecdotal) story from several hundred years ago about the father who performed a cesarean on his wife and took out her ovaries himself to make sure he would never be in that situation again.  I can so imagine that, and it feels so different than the similar stories from a generation or two ago about doctors deciding to take the uterus and ovaries out after a cesarean.

Worth reading, for sure.  Not my favorite ever based on lack of emotional appeal and any sense of activism whatsoever.

April 10, 2011

9 Weeks and The End

The last of my postcard exchange images:


Two of my family members and one of my colleagues are expecting babies in October or November this year.  I decided to do colored pencil studies of what their babies might look like at this point in their pregnancies.  This is 9 weeks.


I should mention that I'm behind on posting these so they are no longer at this # of weeks.

April 9, 2011

12 Weeks

For the postcard exchange . . .



Two of my family members and one of my colleagues are expecting babies in October or November this year.  I decided to do colored pencil studies of what their babies might look like at this point in their pregnancies.  This is 12 weeks.

I am a bit behind on posting these - they aren't at this number of weeks anymore.

April 8, 2011

13 Weeks


For the postcard exchange:


Two of my family members and one of my colleagues are expecting babies in October or November this year.  I decided to do colored pencil studies of what their babies might look like at this point in their pregnancies.  This is 13 weeks.  

I should mention that I'm a tad bit behind posting these - so they aren't at these weeks anymore.

April 7, 2011

Dream Image

These are the last of my postcard exchange images.  Here's what I said about this one:

This is a dream-image, although this image is actually like symbol of the dream-image which was a symbol in itself.  The text reads in part:  “In the dream I gave birth to a baby face up with an audience of many watchers.  The baby was born with open eyes, laughing, and singing.”



February 21, 2011

Outer Gates of the Underworld

Another postcard:


























I started reading through the Inanna myth in the Wolkstein/ Kramer version and immediately the Gate called to me.  Here it is, my version of the “outer gates of the underworld,” for today. Solid, earthy wood outlines them.  Curtains which look very vulvular block most of the way. Neti looks something like a House Elf or a Ferengi and wears only a loincloth, but he holds a very modern stop sign. I’m not sure what the bird is doing there, but he came, so there he is.

February 20, 2011

Inanna Tal Mask

My postcard image for the week before last:



I read a book to my kids about Tal masks from Korean traditions and my oldest got really enthused about making masks.  We didn’t have the materials to hand so he decided to draw designs instead and insisted that I draw one, too.  So I decided to draw Inanna, with her crown of the Steppe, eye ointment, and locks of hair.  No necklace, etc., to be true to the mask idea.

February 8, 2011

Seven "Me"

Last week's postcard:


























And my message:

I told the story of Inanna this week to a private class, and listened to a 2010 call about art assignments, in which Virginia suggested assigning oneself parts of stories we tell.  So I decided to assign myself the Seven Me for this postcard, because I couldn’t remember them all when I told the story this week!  I thought drawing them might help me learn them by heart.

January 30, 2011

The Premature Baby Book

The Premature Baby Book by William, Robert, James, & Martha Sears is a good basic text.  Most of the Sears Parenting Library books are.  I noticed the extremely bland, reassuring tone more in this one, though, because it's about such a terrifying topic (at least to me).

I worked with a family once who had premies born at . . . hm.  I don't remember exactly how many weeks anymore. Something in the mid-20s I think. This was while I was pregnant with my first baby, over 7 years ago.  That's an impressionable time, and that NICU made an impression. I was pretty horrified by the idea of that much suffering, that much separation from their mama, that much struggle on the part of the mama to stay connected to those babies while also caring for a teenager and a toddler at home.  I think as an uninitiated woman, who had not yet given birth, not yet discovered my full strength as a mother, I was unable to appreciate how, like birth, this NICU experience was not perhaps just painful, but strong.


When dealing with things like that, things that stretch you to the very limit of what you are capable of, bland and reassuring may not cut it.  But this book was a good introduction to the topic.  I hope I never need to know the details in it for myself.  I hope I can be present to parents I work with in the future despite my emotional response, or through it, if we end up in the NICU, earlier than planned.

January 28, 2011

Laborynth Slides

My postcard for this week:

And what I said about it:


My family’s had a stomach bug this week so for this postcard I’m ‘cheating’.  This is a collage of the Laborynth images I made as a slideshow to show to a private class I did a year ago.  I had my 5-month-old daughter with me and was concerned about my ability to draw the visuals, hold the baby, and be fully present to the parents.  It worked out rather well, although I do prefer to draw it by hand with parents when possible!