Thursday, December 16, 2010

Hug Your Babies

I promise I haven't fallen off the face of the earth. I'm up to my eyeballs in toddler and crawling, cruising infant antics, and dog escapades.

I did want to circulate this for a few more eyes to read. I've read about Dana's family for a while at Roscommon Acres ( for a while now, and was devastated by the loss of their 22 month old son, Mattias. Here is a link to her blog entry, memorializing her little "Tiggy":

God hold little Tigg for his mama. If you feel so compelled, the family asks that you donate to Tiny Hands International (an organization that works toward ending the child sex trade in Asia) in his honor.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Through a Glass

Pop culture has turned Post-Partum Depression (PPD) into something of a fad, or an example of extremes, or the scapegoat to personal downfalls, or the extreme opposite: a falsity.

Here's a look at what it feels like from the inside- picture being inside a small, glass room. When you are inside this room, you can kind of hear what is going on outside, and if you force yourself, you can hear and interact in conversations. It's just muffled enough so that if you don't focus and concentrate on what is going on, you can easily tune it out. Time passes in weird rushes and pauses. Sometimes, you swear that you've been rocking and nursing your baby for only five or ten minutes, and you are startled when you look at the clock and realize it's been nearly an hour. Or sometimes you focus so hard on chopping vegetables for dinner, and think that surely you've just wasted thirty minutes on the stupid celery, and barely five minutes have passed. You know you love your children and your husband, and try to focus to make sure that they understand that, but feel guilty because every once in a while, your own flat affect (numbness, nothingness) becomes glaringly obvious to you.

And then something triggers a quick smash through at least one of the panes of glass in your small glassed-in room, and suddenly you feel something again. In my case, it was an odd event involving a small child (not my own). Anger and no small amount of instant "Mama Bear" defensiveness managed to flip that switch back on again.

I'm in a place right now where I vacillate between no feelings and then lots and lots of them. It does make me think, as always, where this can fit in the primal, natural state of mothering children. Did Cave Clara deal with this? Somehow, I doubt it, unless there were extreme circumstances that compounded the issue (loss, abandonment, a major catastrophic weather event, etc.) Pregnancy and birth and the post-partum period of time were treated as normal, natural, spiritual conditions that sort of flowed together and were assisted by the knowledgeable women in the family or tribal group. Extra hands were always available to help out with the children that Cave Clara already had, and to go grab some well-established herbal remedies to some of the nutritional deficits of birth. Food today is, even when carefully searched for and prepared, nutritionally inferior to food in its natural state. Even when food is bought from local sources, it's still typically something augmented in some way by factory-prepared chicken food (most likely created with genetically modified soy) or chemical plant treatments (pesticides or fertilizers).

Catnip tea, Motherwort tincture, and calcium helped me avoid a severe hormonal crash in the first four weeks following Vincent's birth. So effectively, in fact, that I felt fantastic, and stopped taking them. Three weeks after a birth, a mother's endocrine system starts doing a colossal tango, preparing her body to begin to be able to breastfeed her baby via the "supply and demand" mode that mothers and babies worldwide, for centuries, have perfected. By three months post-partum, the post-pregnancy hormones that supplied the colostrum and early, fatty newborn milk are replaced by the give-and-take of nursing of the infant triggering the oxytocin that maintains the perfect amount of milk for the baby- right down to the time of day. So three weeks post-partum is a prime time for new mothers to feel a "crash."

That crash didn't happen for me until a bit later. As typical for that sort of thing, it probably was from overdoing it. The facts are fairly easy to blame for this- we don't live near family, and out-of-state family members have their own lives and can only help out for so long. Mr. Clarateaches does need to work to support us. And active toddlers and rapidly growing babies need to have a mama that does things with them, all day every day (and all night, too, sometimes). Food, we already covered. I attempt to use herbs, but I really need some fantastic old crone to guide my path (and frankly, to do the work for me).

Post-Partum Depression is NOT some kind of character flaw in the mother. It's not a reflection of her children, nor is it a reflection of her feelings towards her children. PPD usually works the other way- it can cloud the actual feelings (rather than stem from them). PPD is not Post-Partum Psychosis, either. PPP is a rare, but very serious medical condition that requires intense, immediate medical and psychological help. It's not an excuse. It is indeed something that requires a lot of work to overcome, and some women do choose drugs and medical intervention. There is no weakness there, just like there is no heroism involved in choosing the opposite.

For now, I'm choosing a combination of things. Pilates in the morning, assisted by my baby (he makes a fantastic weight, and loves sitting on my lower legs while I do abdominal exercises) and my toddler (who grabs a baby doll and incorporates it into her gyrations) do a fantastic job of clearing my head. Keeping myself on a fairly regular schedule of accomplishing tasks and getting us out of the house means that my family has what they need, even on the days I don't particularly care. Sunshine, calcium (so important to the brain), and a diet that is a strange mix of Mediterranean and Weston A Price's "Traditional Foods" all seem to help. Re-reading Glasser's Choice Theory is also helpful, at least in as much as I am working hard to make sure my feelings (or lack thereof) are not affecting my actions. The support and love of Mr. Clarateaches is, always, crucial. Bit by bit, I'm getting there.

Off to start my day...

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Three is a Magic Number, III: Trip and Fall Down

Repeat after me, Grasshopper: Power is not taken away, but given away. A power struggle only exists when power (authority) is forced. The moment power is in the process of being proven, it is tossed out there and is up for grabs, like a fumbled football, and each player scrambles to try to gain control, and in the process does more extreme and intense actions to do so. Authority and power are better held, calmly and gently- and guarded from struggle be avoiding pushing it on anyone, especially children.

Say it, learn it, live it. Screw up. Repent. Make amends. Over and over and over. And somehow, one day, you will look back to where you were, see where you are, and find that you have improved.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Three is a Magic Number, II: Pre-Three Silliness

Well-Baby Visit of Vincent

- We all trooped into the waiting room of our family doctor (a rather chatty osteopath and his wife, a PA, run the practice) to discover that there were not one, but two pharmaceutical reps in chairs. This instantly put a giant bunch in my shorts, as I wasn't in the mood to be trapped in an examination room with an active almost-three year old and a two month old. I can only keep her away from the tempting, candy-store style glass containers of cotton balls and tongue dispensers for so long before she decides that the battle must now commence.

The Astra-Zeneca rep immediately went into "people-person" mode and smiled at Gianna and said "Hi!" Gianna, not a fan of strangers interacting with her or potentially trying to usurp her role as "the big sister," made a derisive noise and flapped her hand at him in a shoo-ing manner. He wisely did not pursue the interaction further, but then made the grave mistake of clearly talking about her with the other rep in the waiting room. The two of them smiled and pointed at her and whispered together. I walked around the chairs where our Sherpas had deposited all of our gear and did the "Mom dance" to keep Vincent happy in the Mei Tai. Gianna suddenly whirled around in her chair and, while yelling, "I'm gonna SKUNK you!" she crouched in a skunk position. And then blasted an earth-shattering fart in the direction of the pharmaceutical reps. They died laughing, while I stood at the cross-roads of Laugh Hysterically and Die of Embarrassment. I decided, after nearly chewing off the inside of my cheeks, to remind her to make sure her body is safe when she is on chairs.

Vincent's First Beer

- I always sort of knew that at some point in the future, Gianna would supply Vincent with a beer, and yet, really didn't know it would happen so soon. As I cleaned up after dinner one evening, Gianna grabbed Mr. Clarateaches' almost-empty beer bottle and tried making train noises with it. After having a wonderful time blowing air over the top of the bottle, I heard her say lovingly to her most adoring fan (who was chilling in the swing), "Vin-Cent, do you want to try it too?" My attempt at flying around the counter top divider was too slow, and Vincent smelled like a sweaty frat boy for the rest of the evening.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Three is a Magic Number

Veggie Tales are on the TV, the nearly three-month-old is sleeping on me, and the nearly three-year old has leaned against me, pinched "the squishy part" of my arm (her favorite comfort method) and has fallen asleep.

In only training pants. Couch, brace yourself.

As the water system is on the blink (is inundating my house with major iron and manganese) I am exempt from any type of cleaning involving water. By my own command. Thus sayeth the Clara. So I'll start another rambling series on my blog.

Three is truly "The Crucible" when it comes to ages and stages that children go through. A taller and more potty-adept version revisits around age 13, but it's really just the same thing. Three year olds wake up in the morning with the thought: "What shall I conquer today? And how shall I mete out the torture when I hit an obstacle?" And this is where parents can either help or harm: it's time to either jump right into the pool and help sort this out into appropriate manifestations, or to punitively squash and shame and ridicule. Being an "appropriate manifestations" fan myself, we're steering towards that direction.

It's easy to look down at your sleeping newborn, and your adorable, new-to-sitting 6 month old, and your freshly toddling one year old and say, "I will never harm you." Three is the age where the adults are sorted out from random infantile morons who happen to procreate. Strong words, yes, but adulthood is truly a state of being in control of one's own actions. Children have to learn this (hence the term"childish." If a child can't behave in a childish manner, when exactly can they? Post adolescence? By pop media accounts, one might actually be persuaded of that.)

So what, then? Should we allow threes to "rule the house?" To dictate every move we make? Somehow that seems to be the default option that most people like to leap to, when they discover that we fully plan on using gentle discipline methods with our children- no punitive, shaming, arbitrary,"take that you little brat," juvenile nonsense around here. It certainly would feel pretty satisfying to land a smack on my child when she's pushing all of my buttons at once, but what exactly would that teach her?

Adults who really do want to guide and teach and model grace and methods of amending mistakes, to the right. Those of you who are retributive, vindictive, and do not own your emotions and have no desire to do so, you have a seat over there. Everyone in between, who want to do the right thing but finds themselves caught up in how they were parented, perhaps it is time to examine how we were parented and "re-parent" ourselves. Especially those of us whose childhoods were "black and blue and red all over," mindfully owning our emotions will be one of the very best tools in our bag of parenting tricks. Our kids, wonderful and wild, loud and clumsy, loving and greeting each new day as exactly that- a chance for a fresh new beginning, deserve exactly that.

Here we go...

Monday, April 19, 2010


8 pounds, 20 inches long; fuzzy, downy hair; caramel-colored, like Gianna's; Vincent John entered this world early in the morning on April 8. Even though Dr. Older Guy had ordered an OR team to assemble upstairs, I blasted through the apparent conventions of that hospital and successfully VBAC'ed my baby! Even though the doc seemed nervous and tense about the whole deal, he did crack a smile and say, "You've single-handedly altered (and then aside to a nurse, 'Or created,') the VBAC statistics of this hospital."

He wasn't kidding- The only other mama and baby pair in the birthing area when I was admitted was a planned induction. Later, that mom and I were moved upstairs to make way for two more planned inductions, and a planned Cesarean section.

I have so, so many thoughts and ruminations and deep ponderings, with regards to this birth and the hospital and birth in general. For now, though, I'm enjoying the newborn, otherworldliness of my wrinkly, curled-up little bug. And am in awe over the whole new family we have- I have a son! A girl and a boy. How very "dollhouse" of us, no?

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

You May Ask Yourself- Well How Did I Get Here?

On a walk last night, I "saw" a young couple, with their year-old puppy, walking in front of me- the wife was heavily pregnant, and they were talking excitedly about the baby that would be coming. Who would this baby be? Is it a boy or a girl? What would this new little person bring to their lives?

Okay, I hallucinated a bit. I think it was the extreme deja-vous I was experiencing, due to the unnaturally high temps on a mid-March evening in Metro-Detroit, Michigan. It could almost have been June of 2007 again. Only this time, it was Mr. Clarateaches, a now nearly four-year old Dogasus, and an adorable, perky little girl who will be three years old this summer, along for the walk in her wagon. Just 25 days away from my "Guess Date," I found myself walking in my own footsteps of almost three years ago, thinking similar thoughts. Who is this individual I am carrying? Is this the little sister, or the little brother of my sweet baby girl? What will they bring to our group? What will change?

Life, of course, being what it has been for a little more than the last year (oh what the heck, a little more than two and a half years), has jaded some of the view. I know now what labor feels like, and I also know what it feels like when all the best laid plans fall horrifyingly to the ground and go up in flames. I know what the insanity of cognitive dissonance feels like when you simultaneously feel so fulfilled and complete while looking at the tiny baby in your arms, and at the same time feel like you don't know whose body this is, but it surely can't be yours, because your body just doesn't fail. I know the mind-numbing, head-banging-on-a-wall experience of battling hospital staff for the most basic of choices. I know the strange, "beyond the looking glass," "I am now blank and separate forever" sinkhole of post-partum depression. The repeated rise and fall of hope as I twice hold a positive pregnancy test in my hands, and follow it twelve weeks later with a tiny shell of a baby who is no longer earth-bound.

I also know the exhausting, exhilarating, boundless love of a small child who shares some of my genes, with some of the genes of the love of my life. I'm sure that she's just about as close to perfection as we will ever achieve. I know that the same little person who stretches me, as a mother, to the point where I think I can never be this tired or frustrated again, is also the same little person who amazes me with her capacity to learn and to come to her own conclusions, and be her own person. How could I be so lucky?

In approximately a month or less, my questions will be answered. The morbid ones, and the mundane- will this baby live? Will I actually have a living baby at the end of this? How will this baby arrive- will my body fail me again, or will my labor be hellaciously wonderful and result in a victorious VBAC? Who IS this little one, who, as I type, is bumping little limbs out at me, and waving around what is probably a little rear-end? Will Gianna have a little sister, or brother- is it going to be a new experience of what we already know, or will we embark on a new adventure, that of raising a little boy? How will I come out, on the other side of this? How will we all sort out the change from a family of three (plus dog) to a family of four (plus dog)?

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

I Would Be Remiss...

WARNING: What follows is pretty blunt and ugly.

... if I didn't at least briefly mention the horrible Schatz case, wherein a 7 year old Northern CA girl named Lydia (originally from Liberia, adopted by the Schatz family along with two other Liberian children) was beaten to death over the course of many hours by her adoptive parents. With a length of 1/4 inch "plumbers line."

For mispronouncing a word, according to her "parents," the ones who beat her until her spirit quite literally left her body.

Her eleven year old sister, also adopted and from Liberia, was beaten to the brink of death, but was hospitalized until her liver stopped trying to shut down. A biological child of the Schatz', a ten year old boy, was also discovered to have bruising on his body.

So, from what kind of freak-a-zoid source would this self-proclaimed "evangelical family" ever get the idea to use a length of plastic tubing, usually used inside of a toilet, for beating their children? Why, from Michael and Debi Pearl's fractured Bible Tales, of course! Michael and Debi Pearl, of the Sean Paddock infamy; Michael and Debi Pearl, who somehow believe that one can achieve sinlessness and perfection right here on earth; Michael and Debi Pearl, who believe that only the husband of the family is sanctified through Christ's death, and that his wife is only sanctified through him.

Well, okay then, some might say- only a few really uber-fundie Christian cult members would fall in line with this sort of thinking. Only a few quacks would really use this, right? Not so much, unfortunately. The Pearls offer a quick fix, guaranteed to make your children achieve salvation, and force your home into perfect harmony. Who can resist? Your house is calm and orderly, your children follow your every command (CHEERFULLY!), Mom's soft-spoken and CHEERFUL, and Dad- well, according to the Pearls, it doesn't matter which of the three entities of God he is (the "commanding" Father God, the "dreamy" Holy Spirit, or the "merciful" Christ), he is just plain God to that house. I'll let others do the citation from their Child and Wife Abuse Manuals, respectively, as I refuse to link them to my blog. For more links, if your stomach can handle it, especially to the Pearl's website, check out the website, "Why Not Train A Child?" I want to strongly caution Christian readers especially- when I first started reading into these people about two years ago (during the time that the Paddock trial was still going on, and North Carolina was attempting-unsuccessfully- to indict them for an aspect of his death), I came away feeling very spiritually violated. My interactions with others, even my own husband, was very negatively affected by the experience of reading chapters of their book, "To Train Up A Child," and I had a very visceral reaction to such severe blasphemy and heresy. To be perfectly honest, I was literally tainted by what I feel to be the work of two people who are being operated as tools by Satan himself. This is no ordinary demonic possession within these "two old country folks," this is the handwriting of the Old Scratch himself. If you are a Christian and you take on the task of reading this pile of lies, surround yourself with spiritual people who can pull you from the brink, if it comes down to that. And so there- I've laid it on the line that I may be a little overly "religious," or a little over-concerned with the spiritual realm, but there it is. Consider yourself warned.

So many others have blogged about the insidiousness of this "ministry's" message, and how parents have been swept away by this. Because God knows, (and I'm talking the real God, not the Freaky God that the Pearls seem to worship) that no parent in their right mind would decide that they want to go with a program that beats kids to within an inch of their lives (if they're "lucky." And I would argue that poor Lydia is far better off having not survived such a horrific experience.) And others have blogged about the extreme contrariness this "ministry's" message has toward actual Scripture and fundamental Christian belief. A fairly comprehensive list of all of those bloggers, from Tulip Girl to Beauty For Ashes, can be found at the blog Roscommon Acres. Whether you are a Christian or not, it's well worth checking these out, as it seems to be (oh I hope, I hope, I hope...) the beginnings of the Christian body as a whole deciding that it's time to quit calling this "the extreme," and to start taking a stand and saying that the whole thing is evil.

There is not a whole lot I can add to the outcry, aside from my own cries that this IS NOT CHRISTIANITY. I will share a little bit of my own "joy," that completely fills our home on a daily basis, without the application of any sort of physical implements or withholding of love or any sort of shaming or screaming. And a possible look at what Mr Clarateaches and I would completely miss out on, if we decided that we needed to physically harm our child to make her do whatever is convenient to the adults:

While shrieking, the other evening, in the midst of the angst of "the witching hour" (the hour or so before dinner when everyone from newborns to probably centurions tends to fall apart a little) while I was changing Gianna's diaper, I reminded her that I can only help her out if she tells me what she wants- otherwise, I have to make the very best decision for her- in this case, finishing with the diaper and going back downstairs. She responded with a shriek. I told her that I would help her out by finishing her diaper, to which she immediately responded, in a totally rational voice, "Mommy, I only want you to be happy!" (To which I replied, obviously, that I am happy no matter what she does! My adult emotions do not start and stop with her actions, and I want her to be well aware of that.) But ponder for a moment, if I would have applied the Pearl methods of going ahead and "switching" her until she was cheerful? For one thing, I would have switched my arm off, because I don't know anyone who responds to physical pain with "cheerfulness." For another- I would have missed what was arguably the cutest and silliest thing she said that day.

And I could probably go on and on, and describe many more adorable interactions with the little Gianna-bee, and describe how proactive, "Get Off (My) Butt Parenting," style responses have somehow managed to create a peaceful and happy and intelligent little girl. I have to wonder what Sean, Lydia, and possibly many other un-recognized Pearl victims would be like, had they not only lived, but had been parented consistently, gently, gracefully, and positively. Lydia may have mispronounced words, but she would have been reading. Joyfully, no doubt. God rest her sweet soul.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Classical Toddlerhood

Babe's gestating nicely... plans to VBAC as peacefully as possible are percolating...

And there is a short, intelligent little person who always wants to know more! After looking through different options and reading books and links, we've decided that the Classical, Latin-Based Curriculum looks like it will fit our style and Gianna's learning style beautifully! The very best part of this style of curriculum, I think, is the central concept of "Multum non multa." A broad amount of learning without extraneous "stuff." Much, not many.

Applying some principals of "multum non multa" to early childhood education is kind of fun and pliable- there really is not a lot recommended at this age outside of some fun and joyful childhood experiences- reading language-rich books that have a deeper meaning (such as, rather than "Dora The Explorer Saves the Day," read "The Hungry Caterpillar.") Explore the great outdoors, as much as possible, and with as much narration and child- originated activities. Bake together, explore art materials together, et cetera.

I had to "un-school" myself, to a certain degree, to get beyond the typical state-educated, teacher-trained mindset. Granted, I had already done this during my time teaching kindergarten at the Chicagoland public school. My class was comprised of students who were not the "typical" children towards which the curriculum was geared. So, a lot of times, the Houghton-Mifflin and Harcourt needed to be tossed aside. Working at the cult only exacerbated my extreme need to patchwork various types of curriculum together for a more precise tool.

While I have ideas about what I will use when it is time to use a more formal format for Gianna, here is just a bit of what we typically do together on a daily or weekly basis:

- Calendar time: Very loosely done, usually lasting no longer than five minutes per day. I have a pocket calendar and all of the stuff that goes along with it- right now we're mostly focusing on the month, day, date, and year. So it usually goes like this:
"What is the month? It starts with Ffff-" G- "February!" "Right! And yesterday was Sunday, so today is Monday! Tomorrow will be Tuesday." Then we say the whole date ("Today is Monday, February 22nd, 2010.") And then Gianna picks out a card depicting the day's weather- today the snowflake will represent the wet and heavy snow that is falling.

- Games: Hullabaloo, Memory, and Elefun do the trick for now, as well as a homemade ladybug spot-counting game that she enjoys. I think this blog would be much better with photos- I'll have to scrape up enough memory to take some photos and add them later!

- Baking: This is half necessity (heat up the downstairs and avoid buying bread at the store) and half fun. Just because Gianna doesn't understand the concept of "half" or "quarter" or "teaspoon" right now doesn't mean she can't be exposed to the sounds of the words, or to using the tools! Measuring and mixing and even some small amount of heavily-supervised cutting go into this. Math, sensory experiences, and language all fall nicely into place- as well as the social cooperation of working together and the natural rewards of following directions.

- Art: What don't we do?!? Gianna gets the full advantage of having two artistic parents who have a TON of materials around. Yarn, fabrics, various markers-crayons-pastels-pencils, paper of different types, watercolors and poster paint... it goes on and on. She first put marker to paper in June of 2008, shortly before turning one, and she's made it a point to do something creative ever since.

- Books: Mr Clarateaches has read to Gianna almost nightly since she was a little gestating belly babe. Currently, they either read three stories a night, or one chapter from the old, classic Winnie the Pooh book. During the day, she finds all kinds of favorites to bring to me to read. We also do a lot of environmental reading- she "reads" the cookbook (points out numbers and letters she knows, finds numbers in the junk mail we receive, and interprets road signs while driving).

- Recitation and Memorization: Perhaps controversial, but nothing I do is aimed at making people feel all warm and cozy about my decisions! We recite various Psalms and prayers at night as part of her bedtime routine. Soon, I will be adding classical nursery rhymes to her morning school time. I do this NOT so that she'll entertain other adults in social settings (because she probably wouldn't, anyway) but mostly because I want to grab her little brain while it's still forming connections and processes, and get some goodies crammed in there. The language and beauty of the content will add to her vocabulary and incidental understanding of the English language.

- Reading, 'Riting, and 'Rithmatic: Mostly still environmental, but I do plan on making her a chart loosely based on the Sing, Spell, Read & Write letter-sound song. SSR&W is a decent curriculum up to a certain point, where it sort of takes off in a direction that I wasn't totally fond of when I used it while teaching kindergarten at the cult. Calendar and other number cards on her wall have helped with linking numerals to their names, and counting to brush teeth have helped with rote counting. One-to-one correspondence has naturally followed a lot of what we do throughout the day.

Something we are working on is forming a bigger social circle, so that Gianna is exposed to different children. I'm enjoying the ebb and flow of her learning style- she likes to have a lot of materials, and hear what things are and how to do it... and then she wants me to back off while she absorbs it. And then wants to move on to something else, and just when I've resigned myself to the idea that she won't be picking up on that particular concept, she just starts using it or demonstrating it one day.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Prenatally Pertaining Punitive Paradigm

Ordinarily, the circumstances surrounding anything "punitive" would be in my railing against many behaviorist theories about raising children. I'll stick that on hold for another day (or another few days, unless anyone feels like reading a novel).

In talking to various women of various generations about pregnancy and birth experiences, a very common, common refrain is the lack of ownership in the language used regarding their own bodies.

"I wanted to... but my doctor didn't allow it. "

"What will your doctor let you do?"

"I knew I was in trouble, I gained a few extra pounds more than the doctor wanted me to."

"They require that I ..."

Depending on my audience, I sometimes make the effort to re-script. "Oh, you mean they objected to this because it wasn't what they ordinarily do?" Usually, they stand firm in their coy determination that the almighty doctor knew what was the very best for them. And for the other three-thousand patients at their care facility. Don't you know- we're all factory assembled. All alike, no variance between any of us! Naturally, a textbook is the first thing to consult when there is any question.

Now. I'm sure I don't have to tell you how the rest of their pregnancy and birth story goes. Even though the majestic, wonderfully masterful doctor controlled every square inch of what was or was not allowed with their bodies, they end the same way- mamas totally out of control of their bodies, the doctors stepping in to do *whatever,* and baby and mama ending up on meds, attached to tubes and/or wires, and the sensation that crisis was averted.

Mothers of the world- I ask you:


Don't get me wrong. Humans are innovative and clever, and have derived genuine ways to revive and maintain the life of mothers and babies who are in very dire circumstances. But when the exception begins to become the norm, it's time to pay attention. A lot of attention is paid to the reasons why, and how come, and the many hundreds of facets behind the legal, political, economical reasons why human birth in the 21st century in one of the biggest superpowers of the world can be so colossally screwed up. All of those reasons do fit into the giant puzzle that makes this up.

Little is discussed about women and the choices they make. No one likes to think that sometimes, people themselves can be a reason (trust, not the reason). We are the most over-informed people of any generation that has ever preceded us. How can we know so much about the state of the Dow, where our stock portfolio stands on an hourly basis, and the current Facebook status of our neighbor's cousin, but we typically don't try to find out what really is going on with our very own bodies? When a doctor says that a woman isn't designed to push out a nine pound baby, why does that woman typically just accept it, shrug and tell the world, "Well, that's the way the ball bounces," without even bothering to look at actual medical statistics? Many people, upon receiving a forwarded email that states that a particular company is putting some slogan in teeny-tiny words along the edge of their product, or that a certain law is in the process of being passed, will Google or Snopes the claim. Part and parcel of this over-informed culture. But the doctor mentions that he only "allows" labor for a certain period of time, and then it's out with the scalpel? And this is blindly, overwhelmingly accepted?

I think a large chunk of it lies with how people, particularly girls, have been raised. The same strange cultural floop that makes it a crime to not be smiling while walking through a store ("Smile! It won't kill ya!" inexorably yells someone, directly breaking the concentration required to remember what I'm locating), and that makes my sister's auto mechanic rub his hands in wicked glee as he watches her approach, seems to turn women into the very stereotypes of obedient children in the presence of a white coat. Pee into a cup? Sure, gladly. Step right onto this scale- harmless enough. Here, read this printout of what I expect all women, of all ages, body types, races, and lifestyles to do during the course of a pregnancy. Aye-aye, Doc! Oh, and by the way, I'm not liking the shape of your belly. Oh goodness, now you're not dilating quickly enough/ you're dilating too quickly, time for an injection. Because, of course, you've gotten our "Required IV," so it's now easy for anyone to pop anything directly into your veins, whether we clear it with you or not. All the consent forms are mashed into one haze of a paper storm, so you'll sign yourself away before you know what's happened...

How would this fly with any other natural bodily process? In the course of eating, eliminating, having sex, and breathing, complications can arise. I can choke on my food, of course. I can eat something that causes an anaphlactoid reaction. I can have all kinds of gastro-intestinal troubles, that range from the mildly uncomfortable, to impending doom with some kind of intestinal impaction. I can suddenly develop an aneurysm during sex. Or simply fall off the bed and give myself a concussion. But during these typical processes, no one has someone standing right beside them, prepared to give the Heimlich or do a tracheotomy. Heart monitors are not hooked up every time someone decides to get some action. Helmets, at least in my experience, are not employed. And yet somehow, the addition of monitors, IVs, automatic drug pumps, multiple examinations and lots of bright lights and poking and prodding are instantly given to each and every birthing mother in hospitals, unless she declines them, whether she wants them or not. Since declining these things are so rare, mothers who do decline them are instantly flagged as a "problem patient." Declining is the exception, rather than the norm. And until more women choose to decline, until more women decide that they're not going to ask permission to allow their bodies to function in the way they've functioned for years before anyone was around to interfere, and until women start viewing themselves as capable, thinking adults- no amount of modification of laws and studies and action taken against doctors who abuse their profession will amount to squat.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Waking the Thought Police

Subtitle: How to have an All-American VBAC.

Firstly, I need to make it clear that for some reason, I'm famous among family and friends for having to do things the hard way. And in this case, the "hard way" is actually utilizing a hospital. The "easy way" would be a home birth.

So, why in the name of all things good and crunchy and wild-strength-of-a-woman-unleashed are we purposely going with a hospital VBAC?

For starters, cash flow. Miscarriages when done at home are cheap. Ones that quickly turn into a frightening emergency are quite expensive. As we aspire to live as debt-free as possible, our home birth midwife fund fast turned into a hospital bill fund. And was instantly obliterated.

Secondarily, it seems that the previous miscarriages might have been hinting at some thyroid trouble. I would like this to be noted, from start to finish, what various levels of thyroid hormones are doing. I had a baseline reading at the onset of this pregnancy, and it remains to be seen what will happen later.

So after nixing four other obstetrics groups (and boy, do obstetrics groups hate to be nixed. Word to the wise- it's hard to keep a straight face while nixing someone who obviously has already started sharpening their scalpel at the sight of your positive pregnancy test), we landed on a small group that works out of the small Catholic hospital that we used for our miscarriage-turned-emergency last July. Even though this group seems slightly more VBAC-friendly than the other groups, there are still multiple brick walls.

Let's start by looking at some statistics. Click right HERE for a good table of statistics gathered in a hospital setting alone in 1995. I emphasize "hospital setting alone," because statistics gathered by many American midwife groups suggest that the VBAC success rate at home is statistically significantly higher than the success rate in the hospital. This is due to a lot of factors that we can explore at another time, namely the use of various chemicals that are given in hospitals that interrupt the bio-pathway of the cascades of hormones involved in a normal, healthy birth. The statistics at this website seem to correlate The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, as cited HERE. So now, we have the prior, research-based understanding that it seems that, "Dozens of studies report that for women who have had one prior cesarean birth with a low-horizontal incision, the risk of uterine rupture is 0.5% to 1.0%." This, readers, is fairly close (in other words, there seems to be no statistical difference) to the rate of a spontaneous uterine rupture in a woman who is having her first baby (in other words, has never had uterine surgery).

My surgical scar is the very best type to have- a low, horizontal incision that was repaired separately from the fascia (instead of sewing everything up together, my wonderful and brilliant surgeon- the one I have lauded in previous posts- took the care and time to repair the uterus separately from the skin). My risk level for a "spontaneous" uterine rupture (that is, one that wasn't augmented by drugs) is now back down to what it was before I ever had a C-section.

Which brings us back to the OB group. I have now officially met with all of the doctors/care practitioners at this group. This motley crew consists of:

- Dr. Fashion: My (female) main doctor. I originally chose her, as I don't feel comfortable with male care practitioners. She is aloof, albeit professionally friendly, and has so far refused to give me her exact C-section rate. Red flags.

- Nurse Practitioner: The nurse practitioner gave a loud, "Great!" when I affirmed for her that I was indeed trying for a VBAC. She shrugged and said, "Whatever you want!" when I told her that none of the flu vaccines were an option for me.

- Dr. Older Guy: As his name might suggest, he's an older, gentleman doctor. Contrary to my pre-conceived notions, he actually encouraged me about the VBAC saying, "I don't see any reason why it won't happen at this point." He also seemed thrilled that I was doing my own research, and agreed with me that there was no reason to take tests or perform interventions if I felt it was unnecessary (as in, I declined the Gestational Diabetes test, and the nurse nearly laid down on the floor before she passed out and fell).

- Dr. Younger Guy: This doctor was the one who performed my (outpatient, D&C) surgery when my last miscarriage went all kooky. He appears to be even younger than me, but it's possible he's approximately my age. He stuttered and stammered his way through my appointment with him, and simultaneously wanted to make sure "they" had given me the pamphlet on the safety of VBAC (Question: Do "they" give pamphlets about the risks of repeat, major abdominal surgery to mothers who choose an elective Cesarean after a Cesarean?) while at the same time, repeating, "Okay, okay, okay," as I responded that I am confident in my own research.

I do not know if the Nurse Practitioner attends births, but of that list, I really think that I'd prefer to not be near half of these people while birthing.

To be continued...