Monthly Archives: April 2012

so long as he’s not a republican

My two-year-old thinks he is an adult. It seems, in fact, that he’s one of those adults who doesn’t like children. You know the type. This is evidenced by the fact that each time we’re out in public and he sees a child, he says in his most crazy toddler voice, “I don’t want that kid/those kids to be here!”

I don’t think I need to tell you this is embarrassing. Really embarrassing.

But I remind him, “You know, BG, you’re a kid too! Those kids are kids just like you.”

Then he screams.

We are in the midst of an anti-social phase, and while I know we haven’t helped with this with our inability to get him around other children more than once or twice a week, there’s something else at work here. He’s entered early curmudgeon-hood.

Pretty soon, he’s going to be yelling at the kids outside to get off his lawn. A mini John McCain–that’s what our boy has become.

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birth processing

One of the side effects of spending so much time learning about and discussing labor and birth is the processing of one’s own birth experiences. I have long known I have had some baggage left over from BG’s birth, but I sort of thought I was finished. 

I have long tried to focus on what was positive about my birth experience because it was overwhelmingly positive–so long as I was a normal woman in the midst of managing my labor. But the last bit where I gave myself over to medicine is where I’ve struggled so much. For example, once I realized that I needed help with pain, I had wanted a mild epidural; I got a strong one, and then when I complained of pain from lying on my back during what was likely transition, the nurse gave me a bolus, and I could then not move my legs. Not only did I have an epidural, something I never imagined succumbing to, but I had the worst version where I could feel nothing I wanted to feel (the urge to push, my legs), but I could feel a tremendous amount of pain in my hips and back. Looking back on this has always given me pangs of anxiety and sadness, and while it probably doesn’t seem like much, it was significant considering I had spent the 30 hours prior laboring the way I wanted to (mostly) and having a pretty decent range of motion. 

And I can’t help but question myself. Why couldn’t I do it on my own? Did I just need a doula? What would have happened had I been at home or in a birth center? Why didn’t I trust my body?

But I did trust my body, and I have to remember that. I trusted my body to stand up to my OB who was harassing the midwives I saw to induce me early because my baby was big. I trusted my body to move my fairly large fibroids out of the way so that I could give birth vaginally. I even trusted my body to somehow get my boy to come out despite his desire to remain with the back of his hard little head against my poor, poor sacrum for the entire damn labor. I trusted that I would make the decisions I needed to make to have my baby and to keep from having a cesarean. 

Still, I have felt a little robbed, a little saddened by how it all went down in the end.

In my training and in my reading, I have learned so much. The fact that I wasn’t slated for instant cesarean because of my fibroids is significant. That I wasn’t wheeled into the OR the moment we realized BG was presenting face up or the moment we realized he was likely upwards of nine pounds is something to be thankful for (not that we would have let that happen. We were some stubborn and well-informed mamas!). I wasn’t prepared, though, to find the information I needed to forgive myself.

During training, we were working on positioning to deal with back labor and to work on rotating a malpresenting baby. We had tried a number of these strategies in my labor to no avail, but I couldn’t figure out why there were so many we hadn’t tried. Why hadn’t I lunged? Why hadn’t I tried to do any squatting? As we were practicing these positions in my workshop, I remembered vividly the pain I felt in late pregnancy of my pubic symphysis separating, so I asked what to do in the situation that a woman is having back labor and has this pubic symphysis disfunction. My instructor, a doula of twenty years, said, “That would be really hard. There is very little she could do because it’s so painful.” It was really all she said, yet I was flooded with realization, with sadness, and, yes, even forgiveness. I had done absolutely everything I could, even things that did hurt, in an effort to maximize the labor progress and move things forward. I had horrendous back labor AND this horrible problem with my pelvis (which my OB ignored over and over again, and which should have gotten me some physical therapy at the least), and I was under the pressure of the ticking clock because my water had broken. No wonder the OB insisted on a hep-lock the moment I arrived at the hospital. 

What I ultimately realized in that moment is that I did absolutely everything I could, and when all of those efforts weren’t working, I used a more serious tool in the toolbox, and ultimately, I avoided a cesarean and an even more managed birth. I’m working on being proud of that. I’m working on letting go. I have to if I’m going to be fully present for other women, if I am to help them find their power and satisfaction in their birth experiences. 

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(almost) no-tears weaning

Over the past two and a half years, there have been times I was convinced I would be nursing my child into his twenties. After he got the hang of nursing in his first few days of life on the outside, he couldn’t get enough. Fortunately, I didn’t have to work outside of the home (and spent countless work shifts nursing him while typing one-handed), so BG nursed on demand for a very long time. We also slept either in side-by-side beds or in the same bed for his first year and a half, so he had access when he needed it. It has been easy for us, beautiful, and for ages, I couldn’t imagine how we would ever wean. Just thinking about it made me panic a little.

But there came a time when BG was about fourteen months old when he wasn’t letting me sleep at night. He would have these all-night nurse-a-thons that would leave me feeling stuck in bed and wanting my personal space. It was around this time that we decided to night-wean, and it was brutal. I slept on the sofa for a few nights while my wife dealt with a screaming, crying boy. My breasts would ache, and I would lie there crying along with him. But after a couple of nights, he did calm down for his mama, and I went back to bed. He fought me to  nurse. He was desperate, but I helped him understand that he could nurse when the lights came on. He would bargain with me when he really wanted to nurse. “Light! Light!” (or some approximation) is what he would say while pointing at the lamp in our bedroom. But he eventually got it, and the nights of tears were really very few. There were a few occasions when he would need to nurse at night because he was sick, and we’d have to repeat the process, but those few times were brief as he got more and more accustomed to sleeping at night.

But those tears confirmed for me that I really didn’t want a repeat of those desperate begging cries. I didn’t have a plan for when we would wean, but I knew it would be gradual. It seems now that it was a full year of gradual following his first night-weaning. Slowly, we stopped nursing as much during the day, and by the end of last summer, when he turned two, we were down to just two or three nursing sessions a day: one in the morning, one midday, and one before bed. I loved nursing a toddler, but there were occasions, particularly when he was teething, that I didn’t. There were periods when he would bite down, and eventually last fall, when we were down to just morning and night, he bit me hard one morning–he drew blood. I had no choice but to cut out the morning nursing. Every time we cut any nursing out during the day, it involved a lot of distraction. When he woke up in the morning, for example, there was no lounging around in bed; instead, we got right up and made breakfast. (As a result, he also became intimately involved in our coffee-making routine in the morning. It’s good training.) This happened so suddenly, and I had a moment of sadness for the way it happened, but it was so successful. We were fine.

Honestly, I had a hard time imagining how we would finally stop the final nursing session of the day, but he just kind of figured it out on his own. He would go for a couple of nights without nursing and then would pick it right back up again for a few weeks. I decided I wouldn’t decline if he asked, but I wouldn’t offer either. And for the last six months, he’s been slowly weaning himself from that night nursing. In the last month, he has on several occasions just wanted to have contact with my breast while he rocks with me at night, and just like that, he has finished the process. A week or so ago, he tried to nurse, and it was so painful. I told him it hurt, that “nana” didn’t work anymore. So he stopped. The  next night, he mentioned it, that nana didn’t work anymore, and he patted my breast, laid his head down, and smiled. I asked him if he thought he might be all done nursing, and he said he was. It was so simple, and that’s all it really needed to be. No need for agonizing, for setting a cut-off date. It was just a matter-of-fact, but very sweet conversation. I think this is what is so ideal about nursing–and then weaning–a child who is verbal. I am grateful for this.

And ultimately, I’m so proud of our boy. It’s a big deal to decide you don’t need one of your greatest comforts in the world, but he hasn’t given it all up. We have lots of snuggles when he needs them, and on occasion, he does just get to lay on his beloved nanas when that’s the only thing that will do.

I’m proud of myself though, too. I’m proud of what I invested in the nursing relationship, proud of standing my ground to meet my own needs, even proud of the sacrifices I made to ensure our son’s health. I can’t say there is no sadness at all. I will forever miss the sweet, soft, wide eyes of my nursing baby looking up at me. I’ll miss hungry bird mouth (although I’ve missed that for a long time). I’ll miss the drowsiness of prolactin and the boost to my metabolism. But I’ll never grieve how it all ended. We were both ready, and there is something so very satisfying about that.

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the quietest person in the room

Throughout my life, I have been known as a very quiet person. Growing up, people were always telling me to speak up. I was soft-spoken and hated being loud unless I felt very comfortable. In school, I always had to repeat myself–a little louder, please. With friends and family, there were always people who just couldn’t hear me, who would tell me I just needed to speak up. I worked on this as I got older, and most specifically when I started teaching. Obviously I would need to learn to project if students in the back of the classroom were to hear me. It wasn’t as though I had some whisper of a voice that one had to strain to hear; I just wasn’t loud. I just preferred not to make my voice something that stood out. I did a good job at learning this quality. My students could hear me, and I felt pretty comfortable with my classroom voice. But then evaluation time would come, and some old codger of a professor would sit in on a class of mine, and every last one of them would mention how “soft-spoken” I was, as though this were a problem with my teaching.

I have always taken this a little hard. Even now, even as someone who can modulate her voice pretty well, I still find people saying I’m just too quiet, too soft-spoken, and I don’t take this well very often.

This weekend, as I was sitting in my doula training, the instructor told us a story about the births she attended when she first became a doula. In the delivery room, people would loudly coach the pushing mother through each contraction, and she would join in, despite her usual inclinations to be a bit quieter. On one such occasion, the doctor looked at her and told her, “The quietest person in the room is the one who is most heard.” This gave her license to be quiet, to softly encourage the mother while the others shouted their countdowns and pushing commands.

Tonight I find myself stricken by this bit of wisdom. I have repeated it over and over in my head:

“The quietest person in the room is the one who is most heard.”

The workshop has confirmed just how right this path is for me in so many ways. I am at ease giving women comfort and compassion; I feel honored to be with them during this rite of becoming mothers. I want to help protect that rite.

But what has resonated with me most tonight as I reflect on this class is that this soft-spoken voice of mine that I have worked to amplify so many times through the years, the voice over which I have felt so much annoyance and shame–this voice has a place in my new work. In fact, it’s a perfect fit.

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walking the path

I am positively exhausted. I’m two days into my three-day doula workshop. It has been an amazing couple of days so far, filled with information, encouragement, lovely women, massages, and chocolate. It’s everything I have wanted it to be. In a day, I’ll be another step closer to this, and soon, I’ll be attending births, working toward certification–and soon after, I may even be able to charge for my services. It’s hard to believe I’m finally here, that I’m really walking this path, but I am.

On one of the resources we were given today was a contact for an organization that wants volunteer doulas for surrogate moms and for egg donation recipients. It’s a clinic, clearly a fertility clinic, and my instructor let me know that there’s another. The possibility of working with people whose road to their babies has been long and hard is obviously alluring to me. I’m also imagining this is how I’ll find a number of queer clients, and I like that idea.

I’m not sure what to do with all of these positive steps except to look back and admire and then keep walking forward. It feels so good to have something new in my life, something that is mine, something that was meant to be (and it’s clearer with every minute that this really was meant to be).

More on this later. Lots, lots more.

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