Monday, March 9, 2015

Homebirth Photography

                                                   “My mother groaned, my father wept,
                                                         into the dangerous world I leapt.” 
                                                                            ― William Blake

Someone once asked me why I would want the most painful, messiest, intimate experience of my life photographed. My answer? "Because of that precisely."
Your child will only be born once. People are often quick to start snapping pictures of their baby the second it arrives earthside, but what about the journey? Isn't that just as important?
To me, photographs are personal. When I was younger I was told by my doctor that I was predisposed to have Alzheimer's. Just like my great grandmother, and grandmother and now as a grown adult I watch my mother creeping into early stages. Ever since I heard those words I thought of one thing. Pictures. To me, I want my life captured on film. I want to know someday, when I can't remember how to tie my shoes, that people loved me, and I laughed, I cried, I brought babies into this world like a warrior. I wish I could put every single second in an album, but I at least try to capture a little each day.
When I give birth, there's so much emotion that it's often a twilight memory in the back of my mind. I will remember it "hurt", I may remember the time, I may remember bits and pieces but most of it will be fogged by nature. The will to forget it what drives us to give birth again. I want to have photographs to capture everything I may let slip my mind. I want it raw.
You grow this human inside you and you are one. Labor is a journey to meet someone you are already in love with. Riding the waves, embracing the pain, raw and primal...beautiful.

For my homebirth I knew I wanted intimacy. With only my husband and midwife present, I didn't want one of them to be focused on taking pictures. I wanted my husband there beside me, holding my hand through the journey. Making his own memories. That is when I contacted Sara Dragman. Upon speaking with her for the first time I knew she was the one.



She came swiftly after she got the call. Like a fly on the wall she was present but I was none the wiser. She was respectful and patient. She captured me looking like a godess bringing life into the world.
My son is 3 months old and the memory of that night is already beginning to fade, but the photographs that Sara took will last forever. Someday when he is older, I will show him his journey on film. I will show his children.

Birth is beautiful. Capture it. Embrace it. Treasure it.

Sara Dragman

 You can also reach her at her Facebook



Monday, January 12, 2015

Guilt

The other day I was in the bath with my 5 week old son and my 4 year old son walked in. He watched us lovingly for a few mins then asked me "mommy why does his penis look like that?" I said "what do you mean?" And he said "it's not like mine. See?" And he pulls the front of his pants down to expose his circumcised penis.  My heart sank. I sincerely never expected this conversation to take place. I bit my lip fumbling for the right words and settled on the truth. 
"Mommy made a big mistake when you were born. I allowed a dr to cut it off and that was wrong of me and I am very, very sorry." 
I will never forget his exact words back to me. "But mommy, it's my penis. Why did you cut it off?" 
I was literally swallowing my guilt and if only he knew how deeply this innocent conversation ate away at me. 
"You're right baby. It IS YOUR penis. And I thought I was doing the right thing. I am so very sorry." 
He sat in what I expect is quiet contemplation before saying "can you fix it?" 
The innocence in his eyes. Of course I should be able to fix it. I fix the arms on his transformer when they pop off, I can magically turn his Nabi back on with a cord, I can tape a page of his favorite book making it new again. His request wasn't far fetched in the eyes of a 4 year old who views mommy as his super hero. If only I could put a bandaid over it, sprinkle on a little breastmilk and make it all better. But I can't. 
Sure later on there are surgeries he can try if he still wants a restoration, and I will gladly pay for it and help him in anyway I can, but even then he will never be "whole". That is something stole from him. Without his permission. I stole a piece of his perfect body. For what? To make it look a certain way? 
I will never forget when he was born. A nurse tried to talk me out of it and I was so set on it and I don't even know why. Maybe it was what I was taught, or what I knew to be normal? I really don't know. All I know is looking back I had this perfect little human who looked up at me, his mama, and nursed at my breast and nuzzled into my neck. He was awake and alert and content. Then they took him back and when he returned he was silent. His eyes closed. His hands folded across his chest like he was deceased. His body was covered in red splotches where he had screamed uncontrollably before going into shock. He slept, for...twenty...four...solid...hours. 
Twenty four. 
He wouldn't wake to nurse. He wouldn't open his eyes to look at me. He was no longer curious about his world. About his mama. He no longer cared to nuzzle my neck or grasp my finger with his little fist. 
We struggled for weeks getting him to nurse correctly after that. He just wanted to sleep. He wouldn't look us in the eye and he screamed through diaper changes. 
As I sat there in that bathtub with those memories flooding me, and his eyes waiting for my answer, and I knew I deserved every single bit of guilt I felt. 
I looked down at his brother and even more guilt washed over me. He was brought earthside into his daddy's hands. He has never felt pain. He has only known love. I look at him and I and met with a huge gummy smile. He has been so alert and has gained so well. Nurses so well. Is... Happy. 
I look back up at my other son and I try to find my words "mommy wishes so very badly I could fix it for you. But I can't yet. Maybe when you grow up we can if you want to. But I want you to know you are still wonderful just the way you are to me. Mommy loves you very much." 
He kissed me on my forehead and walked back out of the room and I cried. I cried like I had cried a thousand times before when I feel remorse over the decision I had made. They say when you know better, you do better but that doesn't make it hurt any less. 
The truth is, my 4 year old hit the nail on the head perfectly. It wasn't my penis, and it wasn't my decision to make. I wouldn't tattoo his body or gauge his ears so why would I cut off such a valuable piece of flesh without even a second thought. 
I know he forgives me, and he doesn't even completely understand. But I DO understand and I DONT forgive myself. That is something I will forever live with. 

If you or someone you know is pregnant with a son and you have yet to research circumsion I urge you now to do so. You can't undo it. You're forever altering your child's body, risking their life, and putting them through excruciating pain for a purely cosmetic procedure. Please take the time to watch the procedure being performed and think about what your son and his human rights. I do not wish the guilt I feel on anyone. 

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Bringing Lucian Earthside

I figured I would take a few mins to write down my birth story.
I had an (nearly) unassisted homebirth in water with baby born in caul.
Prodromal labor was annoying and lasted for 2 weeks. I had what felt like true labor stall on me twice. During this time my husband checked my cervix and believed me to be 3-4 centimeters. But no dr or midwife ever checked me. My BP became elevated at week 38-39 and they started when I went to a hospital they tried to induce. This happened twice and both times I left AMA. Both times I thought I saw my homebirth slipping out the window but my midwife reminded me to trust my body and stop allowing fear to invade my mind. I went on semi bed rest. Walking daily at a slow pace to avoid swelling, and flush my kidneys. I stopped checking my blood pressure and instead just rested if I felt "off". I allowed my body to tell me what I needed. Rest, water, walking, etc.
On the morning of dec 2nd I woke up with period cramps and nauseated. I was gagging and shaking all over. I just felt different. I rested and eventually those feelings died down and I had a few Braxton hicks contractions that day but nothing major. I had a feeling things would pick up that evening but didn't want to get my hopes up. At midnight on the dot I got a contraction. It was uncomfortable and came with a lot of pressure. Cramps came back, as well as shaking and warm sensation in my inner thighs.
After a few of them I told Micah I think this is it. I told him to go shower just in case. As I laid in bed having them around every 8 mins I kept saying "one more and I'll call the midwife" lol
Well Micah got out of the shower and said you need to call. I was shaking like a leaf. But the contractions didn't really hurt. I called her and the photographer and both started my way. Both were about an hour out.
Meanwhile I had the urge to sit on my ball and rock through contractions. Still didn't feel real. They continued. MW and photographer show up and I just sat on my ball. Laughing and talking like a normal visit. Micah prepped and filled the pool. My MW told me to try to use the bathroom and when I wiped I saw a few streaks of blood. I was excited since I've never had a bloody show. The contractions still didn't hurt. I asked the MW are you sure this is it? And she said to relax. She asked if I wanted in the pool and I said I didn't want to stall things. So I kept rocking on my ball and chatting like nothing.
At around 3am my MW says "wanna get in the pool?" And I said you think I can and she said yes.
She had a very quiet demeanor about her and would softly smile but not let me in on what she really knew. I thought I hadn't hit active labor yet. I got in the pool and just sat there. I started to get quiet through contractions and breathe deeply with my eyes closed. They hurt but nothing more than period cramps. My MW said the photographer kept looking at her like "are you sure she's actually in labor?" My MW would just smile and nod. At around 4:30 am i was groaning through a few contractions and I started to whisper out loud "move down baby. That's right. Move on down for mama." I let the pain wash over me, I rode the waves with a smile on my face just repeating "move on down for mama. That's right. Good job baby."
I saw my MW whisper to Micah and I asked what and they just smiled at me but wouldn't answer. I later found out she whispered to Micah they are 3 mins apart. Micah asked so when will she hit transition? And my mw smiled and said "she already has." They didn't want me to know lol I was over there thinking I still had hours to go. Then the next contraction I said "I feel a little pushy." The MW, still across the room and keep in mind never touched me once through the whole process, told me "just give some little pushes and see how it feels" so I started to bear down a little and liked it. I silently pushed and felt my body take over and push with me. Then bam ring of fire and he was crowning. This was the first time I felt actual pain. I said he's crowning. The MW told Micah you better get in there or I will have to. Meanwhile I'm crowning with my head just laid back, totally relaxed and talking softly. Micah still thought I had awhile with pushing and the midwife told him again "stop petting her head and get in there, dork" and laughed.
I said "this hurts. Im going to push him out now."
I didn't even have a contraction but it burned lol. Micah climbed in the pool and literally one push later out popped the head and Micah put his hands on him and I pushed again and his whole body shot out like a buoy! Still in caul. Completely sideways!!! He wasn't facing up or down. He was facing my left hip and shoulders came out together. His cord was short so they got the caul off and his cord was wrapped 2.5 times around his neck. MW instructed Micah how to remove it and then he lifted him to my chest. The pool was 100% clean not a drop of blood. About 20 mins later I was sick of waiting on placenta and getting cold so MW told me to try a different position. I handed baby over and got on all 4s and pushed. I reached down and birthed my own placenta and brought it to the surface. We put it in a bowl then we walked to the bedroom. MW said I only dropped water not blood lol
I started bleeding pretty good in bed and she gave me witch hazel tincture under my tongue and the bleeding slowed way down. I showered and then I asked her to check me please. I wanted to know if I tore. She said I was perfect. No tears, not even skid marks. Lucian took straight away to breastfeeding and at 3 days pp my milk is in, my bleeding has already turned brown and equivalent of a light period and I never had to use spray or peri bottle. Just wipe normally.
Besides the after pains I feel like I didn't give birth!


midwife:
Gwen Posey

Birth Photographer:
Sara Dragman

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Day I left AMA

                

                   “Confidence rests upon the knowledge of perfect preparation.”- Dr. Michel Odent



Today I taught myself a lesson that I thought I already knew. I failed to "practice what I preach" and what I discovered is what women face every day with modern medicine, first hand. I can now truly empathize, and relate when I advise women to "stand their ground" and "have faith in their own bodies".


I failed to listen and after my labor stalling out twice within 2 days, I found myself curious, what if my baby wasn't in a good position, what if he was "too big" the same concerns I hear every day from women, and the same concerns that I assure women are no reason to worry. Yet here I was feeling what they feel and I allowed myself to be okay with an ultrasound at the regular OB-GYN. I am planning a home water birth, but had to go to a OU Women's Center for the ultrasound. The U/S went great. Baby was head down and growing well. Fluid levels were great. Then they wanted to do my check up. I should have left right then, looking back I should have made an excuse, just walked out,...something, anything... but yet I found myself blinding following this nurse like a sheep into an exam room. Why? This is so not like me. 


I immediately became nervous. My last encounter with these drs resulted in me flustered and heart racing as they argued with me on why I should induce because I had one episode of tachycardia 5 years ago in a previous pregnancy. Keep in mind I have been 100% healthy this pregnancy, they agreed it's been text book, and the cardiologist himself said my heart episode was a fluke.. not a concern. Nothing to worry about. Yet here was this resident hell bent on inducing me at 39 weeks "just in case". Nevermind the fact that induction itself can effect my heart, no, they just wanted to induce and they refused to even listen to me. 
So there I sat, reliving my last office visit with these people, the visit that made me hire a wonderful and loving midwife for my home birth. I could FEEL my blood pressure rising. My body trembling. Of course when they took my BP it was elevated. Not terribly, only 136/89, but elevated. Which I EXPECTED. Dr visit with the first resident went seemingly well but I was still nervous. A few minutes later they took another BP and it was now 150/72. Another Dr came into the room and started in telling me that they were inducing me for preeclampsia. 
I was shocked.. "excuse me?" Keep in mind I have no swelling, no headaches, no upper stomach pain, my urine is always clear, my BPs are always good and I told them this is anxiety induced. YOU are what is making it go high. I check my BP at home and it's always great. That didn't matter. Did they want to monitor? No. Did they want to CHECK MY BP MANUALLY. No. They were relying on two DIGITAL BPs to diagnose me with pre-e and induce. 
I argued until I was red hot and shaking. I finally compromised to let them run labs to see if I had Pre-e. I KNEW the labs would be normal. I WANTED them to see that, and little did I know, it was just a trick. They didn't care what those labs said. Their mind was made up. I was a dollar sign, and if I delivered at home, they lost money. They lost the POWER. They would have to admit they were wrong. The third dr who was now in the room with me, crowded around my little bed table, using as much intimidation as possible. Telling me about all the things that would happen, including my death, my baby's death, how induction happened in almost every woman and how it was now the "standard of care in America." Did they hear their own words? Did they truly believe in what they said? I relented on the labs, on the condition that if they were normal I was free to go. They would be satisfied. She was smiling and seemed sincere. We care about you, she said. Just let me see the labs normal and all will be well and you will be on your way. They then told me, it will be much faster if you go upstairs to labor and delivery to run them as they can get them right back. An hour or 2 tops. I agreed. I was escorted like a child to labor and delivery and stripped of my humanity.  Naked in a gown, strapped to a bed with monitors, a cuff and IV. I had been stripped of my rights. My modesty. I peed in their cup. I gave them their labs, I laid there and did as they said, telling myself "just show them. Show them you know your body. Prove you don't have pre-e." 

“The way a culture treats women in birth is a good indicator of how well women and their contributions to society are valued and honored.” 

― Ina May Gaskin

The next 8 hours were hell. I have a lot of pelvic pain from symphysis pubic dysfunction. The bed kept my legs lower than my hips, no support for my pelvis and I laid in pain. No one offered me water, or food. No one helped me to the bathroom or even asked if I had to go. Eight hours I laid there. My BP cuff went off every 15 minutes and every single reading when I was alone read 120s/60s. One reading was even 118/57. One reading, while a dr was in the room, went up to 133/79. As soon as they left, the next reading was right back down to 122/63. The pattern was obvious. When they came around, my blood pressure rose. Obvious anxiety induced. Nothing more, nothing less. By hour three, (remember that lie about hour or two tops?) I was told drs were in with emergency c-sections and my labs were back and they would be in when they got back upstairs. Hour 4, saw no one. Hour 5, I requested a glass of water, my request fell on deaf ears. Hour 6 I asked for my IV to be taken out, I wanted to leave. They could call with lab results. Hour seven, I requested again for my IV to be taken out so I could leave and a glass of water.I was told they were in ANOTHER emergency c-section.  Hour eight. Towards the end, rounding to hour nine, a Dr came in and told me "you labs are back and they are normal." Great I'm thinking, now you will let me go and they can eat their words. My BPs had been beautiful, I have no other symptoms, my labs are normal. Then she said "But.."
 But? but what? no, what now?
"your last urine had just a trace of protein. While it's not nearly enough to admit you for, but with the 2 readings you had downstairs and the ONE up here, we feel it's in your best interest to induce now. We will be moving you over to a labor room in a few minutes and getting you set up."
what...no, what?

On what grounds? 
"well you don't have preeclampsia yet, but it's a silent killer, it's not worth the risk. You are term. This is the standard of care in America." 
there were those words again. Was this real life?
"women are induced all day, every day. You're term, there's no reason NOT to induce. You're risking by not inducing."
No. I will no be induced. You have no grounds. YOUR induction, however comes with plenty of risks. I don't care to be a statistic. I don't care to be just another number in america. Especially with no reason. With a pregnancy that is textbook, no problems, healthy mom and baby..... it's ludicrous. 

I wanted to cry so badly. I did what they said. They told me if labs were normal I would be free to go.. they would be happy... they lied... they knew the WHOLE time they were going to induce. They tricked me into going upstairs. They tried to make me uncomfortable to wear me down, make me weak, make me consent and comply. They KNEW they would NEVER admit they were wrong. Drs don't do that. I was just a petty patient. They are god. 
I sat there. My heart hurt. My heart throbbing in my ears. My stomach digesting what had just happened to me. I felt so violated. So betrayed. This hospital that I raved about being "baby friendly" that spent nearly 9 months coaxing me into believing they weren't like the rest. That they were natural friendly. I had to accept, no, that just wasn't the case anymore. Something changed in the months I went to WV. I came back to a cold OU Children's. New drs, new receptionists, new building... change was not good.. I sat there and in those moments, accepted and then mustered my strength to follow my gut. Do what was right. I refused the induction. I tried to speaking clearly and calmly, I tried to explain about the research I've done, about Dr. Odent, Ina May.... about statistics and  science. They didn't even care to listen. They cut me off with a wave of a hand. Literally waved a hand in my face dismissing me like a child.  I was nothing. I was supposed to listen to them, but they couldn't be bothered to hear me. 
In the minutes following I found myself signing a letter of "against medical advice" with a shaking hand, as I listened to how I was making a mistake. I was killing myself. Killing my baby. All the things that would happen when I left. Funny how none of the risks of induction were EVER mentioned, no... just what my 3 mildly high readings (from a digital machine) and some trace protein could do. That I shouldn't listen to my body, but rather to them. They were the drs. They had the degrees. They were the professionals. They knew best. Not me. Not my midwife.

 I walked out feeling proud that I held my ground and stood strong, but as I walked past all those rooms of women hooked up to machines, I felt a great sadness inside me. How many were in there for the wrong reasons? How many felt scared and intimidated? How many would be robbed of a natural birth? How many would.....fail at breastfeeding? Miss their baby's first moments? Hold their baby's hand through a glass box? How many would.....die?
“Many of our problems in US maternity care stem from the fact that we leave no room for recognizing when nature is smarter than we are.” 

― Ina May Gaskin


I walked out without looking back. I feel confident in my body. In my midwife. I anticipate bringing my son earthside, in warm water, in my living room. Surrounded by darkness, into my hands, brought to my heart. with only soft music playing and the flicker of a candle. 
I trust my body. More than ever before. My faith in any medical "professional" is lost. My faith in OU is lost. Birth in America has been...lost. 


“Remember this, for it is as true as true gets: Your body is not a lemon. You are not a machine. The Creator is not a careless mechanic. Human female bodies have the same potential to give birth well as aardvarks, lions, rhinoceri, elephants, moose, and water buffalo. Even if it has not been your habit throughout your life so far, I recommend that you learn to think positively about your body.” 
― Ina May Gaskin


  "
What a woman chooses is her right, but it sometimes becomes a battle of what she is willing to partake in on the psychological level versus her most primitive instincts. I would not want to battle with the instincts, personally. You cannot reason with them." Dr Michel Odent

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Bringing Baby Earthside Without Pain Meds

I’ve recently had my inbox flooded with requests on how I give birth without any pain relief. They wanted tips, and advice and rather than response to each and every one, I figured this would be a great way to reach everyone. I will write this piece mainly for moms going to hospitals, since they are the ones who struggle the most with interventions and pain relief. They are the most vulnerable. But the actual pain techniques I will discuss can work for anyone.
The number one piece of advice I can give moms is that pain comes from fear of the unknown.
This statement is to be taken apart, and analyzed because I can’t explain the importance of understanding what it means.

In today’s world, from the second we understand what giving birth is, we are told horrible stories. Stories about pain, interventions, emergencies.  Reality television shows prey on innocent women, and scramble to piece together the most dramatic and intense situations for ratings. They show the exceptions, they rely on your fear to keep you watching and guess what? You do. There is nothing wrong with watching these shows, but much like watching Friday the 13th, you must take these shows with a grain of salt. No matter “how real” they appear. In addition to watching these shows, try heading over to Youtube and search for unassisted births, homebirths, babies coming earthside. Watch the 2 documentaries “The Business of Being Born” and “Pregnant in America”. What you will see is a completely different view. You won’t see medical equipment and hear anxious voices as people scurry about. You will see calm, peace, near silence. Women won’t be on their backs and no one telling them to push. Yet these women aren’t screaming like they are trying out for a horror movie. Do you scream when you have a bowel movement? Of course not. Having a baby is really not that much different.

Giving birth is a natural process that your body is made to do. Doctors have stolen this natural process and in turn have gained money and convenience. As much as you THINK your doctor cares, at the end of the day you are what is paying his bills, you have to remember this. You also must remember that HE/SHE WORKS FOR YOU. Start by taking back the power and calling the shots. Go to your birth prepared, read as much you can get your hands on. Talk to moms of natural birth. Be prepared for any and all interventions the medical team may throw your way. Be prepared to say no, or better yet have someone say no for you.

Now let’s get down to it. Pain comes from fear. Fear comes from unknown. So first knowing what to expect is the first step. A contraction, (a shortening of the uterine muscles occurring at intervals before and during childbirth) is in a limited area. Your abdomen. Occasionally wrapping around to your back, but it’s contained. There is no reason to believe your whole body will contort into a massive amount of pain all over, but bet your bottom dollar, if you tense up, it can and it will. Before birth you need to practice relaxing. People look at me weird when I say this, but it’s not as easy as you think. It’s also helpful to practice this with the person you plan to be supporting you during birth. They can be aware and help you relax when you forget. Because you will, I promise. Start by lying in a comfy place; be it semi sitting, leaning back in partner’s arms, or in a recliner, or a warm bath. Close your eyes. Play some relaxing music if you would like. A lot of people like nature sounds, or ocean waves. Some people prefer music like Enya. I tend to love the ocean. It was where I was happiest at so I listen to the ocean. Start playing this while practicing because when showtime hits your body will remember the music and what to do. After your music/sounds are playing and eyes are closed. Dim if the lights if you like.  I know some even like to write the next bit down and have their partner read it aloud, or memorize it before labor day. Some are better with audible directions, so this tip works great. If someone reads it aloud to you, remember to have them read softly and slowly. Taking cues from your body on when to move to the next step. When I tell you to “feel “ something. Don’t literally touch it, rather focus your mind to that body part. Think about that body part and nothing else.

Concentrate on your breathing. Feel yourself breathing in, deep, deep, and then out, nice. Slow. Controlled. In again, so deep, your lungs are full and then out. You are in control of your body. Feel your toes. Relax your toes. Feel the weight slip down into them and down into your feet and up your legs. Relax your legs. Your legs are heavy now. They are sinking into the ground below you.
Feel your fingers. Relax your fingers. Feel the weight slip into them, into your hands, up your arms. Relax your arms. Your arms are heavy now. They are sinking into the (insert whatever is below you, i.e. bed, chair, tub) below you.
keep breathing, in and out. Nice and slow. Feel your head. The top of it tingling ever so slightly. Do you feel the weight bearing down on it. Sinking into, melting your muscles. Relax your face. Relax your eyes. Relax your ears. Relax your cheeks. Relax your mouth. Unclench your teeth. Let your mouth open slightly. Relax your jaw. Breathe. Your neck is heavy. Relax your neck. Relax your shoulders. Your body is getting heavy now. Feel the weight sinking down into your chest and into your stomach. Your whole body is relaxed now. Keep breathing.


Once into this mode,  you can either  practice to be aware of a body part that may “slip out” of this and go back into “tense mode” you will have to make yourself relax it again. Keep your eyes closed. Learn your body. This is where the practice comes in. Learning to feel when something tenses and how to just let it relax. A partner can visually do this. If he sees your neck creeping up tense, or your hand balling into a fist. Just have them softly touch that body part. A gentle reminder to relax it again. Take a deep breath and make yourself release the tension from where they touched. I know I am bad about my neck. My partner will often have to place his hands on either shoulder and as I am swaying in a contraction he will press down softly yet firmly, to remind me to maintain control and relax those shoulders and neck.
The thing is, when you keep your pain confined to 1 area, and pain and tenseness out of the rest of your body, it’s SO much more tolerable. Anyone can have a single body part hurt, and with the rest of your body so relaxed, the pain decreases ten folds.
Learning your body is key, knowing the pain is coming and that you have control over it is key. Do not be afraid of what your body is meant to do. Do not be afraid of any pain you’ve had in the past. I can assure you, that pain came mostly from fear, anxiety and the unknown. Control your body. This is YOUR birth. You CAN do this.

As labor unfolds, it will increase into transition. The contractions will be harder and it will be harder to control the rest of your body, but keep breathing. Have your partner touch parts that need to be relaxed. Have them gently remind you to relax. Some do better with a touch. Some do better hearing what body part to relax. You will find yourself becoming antsy, and you won’t want to sit still. This is normal. You may even feel sick. The great news is, while this is as worse as it gets, it’s almost OVER. Transition means you’re almost ready to push. Which will be relief. This is where my mind comes into play. When I feel a contraction coming on, in addition to my eyes closed, body relaxed, I will take my mind on a vacation. Start out by going to your happy place, think about anything and everything. All you have to do is distract yourself for a few minutes, then guess what? The contraction is over and you have a break to prepare for the next. Take labor ONE CONTRACTION AT A TIME. Do not fear the next, prepare and breathe. As contractions become harder, I find myself moving to the most ridiculous things I can imagine to distract myself. I remember at one point thinking of a giant hotdog riding a horse through a field of flowers. My mind was distracted enough to get through that contraction and I was one step closer to pushing my baby out. Every single contraction opened up my cervix a little more. Like a flower, I was blooming. Imagine your cervix opening up. Unfolding like a rose in the morning dew.
For you audible mamas, have your partner learn the contraction monitor,  (if you are hooked up. If you do not want to be, you do NOT have to be. No one can force you into anything.)When a contraction is coming on, they can often see it before you feel it. They can say “Here comes another.” Then as you begin your breathing, thinking of your happy thoughts and relaxing, they can see when the contraction “peaks” They can audibly tell you. “It’s peaking now. It’s at its worst. Hang on. There it goes, it’s coming down now. It’s coming down, down.It’s over.”
You did it. You made it through another contraction. One step closer. Just when you feel like giving up, you’re likely almost to pushing. Hang in there. I assure you, it gets better. Once you are ready to push you will feel immense pressure. Your body will bear down naturally. Let your body do what it needs to. Listen to what position your body wants to be in. Some like to squat, some like to stand, or be on all fours. Do what your body says to do. Don’t second guess it. Bear down. You will feel relief from the pain. Remember to keep your neck and body relaxed. Concentrate all your energy into your abdomen. Pushing that baby down, down, down. Pull the energy from your fingers and toes. From your neck and chest. Put that energy like a glowing comet into your abdomen and push.
When your baby crowns, you will feel what they call a “ring of fire” it only lasts a few seconds and nothing unbearable. It means your baby is almost here. Pant and slowly get the rest of the body out. Just like that you’re done. Your baby is earthside! The relief is immediate. Place the baby on your chest and allow it to try to nurse. Breathe your baby in and bond. You did it, mama. Job well done. Don’t let anyone take this time away. If baby is healthy, there is no reason it can’t just be. Allow your placenta time, it will come out when its ready. Your body will now flood with oxytocin. The love hormone. Enjoy your baby.
I really hope this helps and if you have any questions feel free to ask! Happy labor, mamas!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

From the Mind of an Atheist Parent

I want to start off by saying I know I can’t speak for all Christians but only the majority of those I’ve come in contact with throughout my life. There are those people whom I believe had a good heart. I do not call them good Christians, or atheists or Buddhists or wiccans. I call them good people with good hearts. What they believe has no bearing on who they are as a person.
I just need to share my experience and my reasoning for raising my children with open minds.
The other day I was in Wal-Mart and there was a young mom with a newborn in a carseat. The newborn was crying hysterically and she was blissfully ignoring his cries. My heart was breaking as I knew this baby needed, not wanted, but needed his mom’s attention. I politely mentioned quietly to her that he was probably hungry since baby’s bellies are so tiny at that age. I offered to help her with anything and if she was nursing I would be happy to help her because I am a breastfeeding counselor. She calmly responds that he is not hungry, he is spoiled. I was a little shocked by her response but I kept my cool. I tried to turn my mind back to the organic tomatoes in front of me but my conscience was screaming at me, and I knew if I didn’t say SOMETHING, ANYTHING, I wouldn’t sleep at night. I calmly explained that babies that young really can’t be spoiled, and a quick synopsis on cortisol levels and primal instincts. She glared at me and over her newborn’s screams she tells me that her son IS spoiled and that she is raising him to be GOD FEARING and this is good for him. She turns away from me and begins to hum happily to herself as her newborn screamed louder. My breasts ached to nurse him. My arms longed to hold him and comfort him. I stood there, helpless, face red, and began looking at the few other people standing in the aisle with us. Their faces were sad, a thousand words exchanged between us with one look. We stood there helpless as she prayed aloud while smiling then resumed humming and pushing her cart along. I stood shaking, tears falling from my heated cheeks.
God fearing.
 Spoiled.
 Her words repeated in my mind like a broken record.  I was as helpless as that baby, and I raced home to hug my sons. Pouring all the love in my heart into my arms. They will fear no god. They will never be denied love or affection.
I wish I could say that this was an isolated incident, but the truth is incidents like this cemented my atheism and the way I parent.
 I used to believe in “god” I used to believe everything was a part of some grand plan. Thinking back, I realize that was a cop out. A way of relinquishing responsibility. If I made a mistake, I feared the wrath of god, rather than feeling guilt for the mistake. When something went wrong, I would pray about it, I would trust that this was god’s plan. I floated through life without responsibility of my own actions. I subconsciously judged those who “didn’t believe”. I grieved for those poor children who were raised without god in their life, how could they ever turn out to be productive members of society? As time passed and I began to question what I had been taught…. A religion founded in hate, fear, and judgment. A book that teaches us to hate those who don’t follow the rules, turn away from those who may be diverse or eccentric. If it’s different, it’s wrong. Then on the same tongue, say that some things written in their bible is “outdated” so we can just “do away” or “read over” those parts. As a Christian they can judge someone for being gay, but Christians maintain an EIGHTY PERCENT divorce rate.
 “So they are no longer two but one flesh.  What therefore God has joined together, let no man put asunder” (Matthew 19:6 & Mark 10:9).
“Whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery” (Matthew 5:32, 19:9 & Luke 16:18).
"...whosoever shall put away his wife, and marry another, committeth adultery against her" (Mark 10:11 & Luke 16:18), which applies to women as well (Mark 10:12).

We all know not ALL marriages are ended with affairs as the cause. Aplenty have been the result of irreconcilable differences. Hypocrisy. Blatant hypocrisy.

What about "Doth not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him?" (l Corinthians 11:14). I know I can think of one LONG HAIRED MAN that all Christians adore….JESUS.

What about tattoos? How many Christians do you know that wear their ink or piercings proudly? You shall not make any cuttings in your flesh on account of the dead or tattoo any marks upon you.  I am the Lord”--Leviticus 19:28). I suppose you just get the tattoo and then ask to be forgiven? I’m a bit confused on this….

Let’s not forget judgment. How many Christians do you know that judge atheists? I can’t tell you how many times a Christian has tried to “punish me” or “turn away from me” or smite me by telling me my bad luck, or bad fortune is a result of my disbelief. The smug look on their face when they tell me that god is punishing me for my blasphemy. Or my favorite of all……… “you will be sorry one day.” Really I will? What about….
“If any of you has a dispute with another, dare he take it before the ungodly for judgment instead of before the saints?”  -- 1 Corinthians 6:1 NIV
or
“Judge not, that ye be not judged” (Matthew 7:1) and “Judge not, and ye shall not be judged, condemn not and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven” (Luke 6:37).

You get the point.

It’s no question that Christians pick and choose what they follow/practice and what they don’t. Also try to question a believer on why their god is the one true god. I mean there are after all, an estimated 4200 different religious groups on earth at this very moment.. not to forget the 102,000,000,000 religions that have been documented since recorded time. Every single believer claims their god is the one and only. That belief in that god guarantees them a spot in their heaven or afterlife. All others are wrong or mislead. I remember even as a child questioning this. A red flag flew up in my mind the day I asked my mother about this and was told our god was the true god. I had a friend who believed in her Allah. This meant my friend and her family, would be going to my hell. For what? I knew she was a good person. This wasn’t fair, nor right. I found a little question in my mind that meekly asked… “what if HER god is the TRUE god? Does that mean I go to HER hell?” I kept quiet and sat through my Sunday school with my head down. I felt shame for questioning god. It must be the devil putting such thoughts in my head. As time went on and I began to research different religions, I found that history repeated itself. That all Christian ideals had been repeated, right down to their Jesus. Better known as Horus… who’s myth had long been told before Jesus ever thought of “existing”. Some facts about the greek mythology of Horus?

Conceived by a virgin mother named Meri, and had a stepfather named Seb (Joseph)
Was born in a cave, his birth announced by an angel, heralded by a star and attended by shepherds
Attended a special rite of passage at the age of twelve and there is no data on the child
from the age of 12 to 30
Was baptized in a river at the age of 30, and his baptizer was later beheaded
Had 12 disciples
Performed miracles, exorcized demons, raised someone from the dead, walked on water
Was called “Iusa”, the “ever-becoming son” and the “Holy Child”
Delivered a “Sermon on the Mount”, and his followers recounted his sayings
Was transfigured on the Mount
Was crucified between two thieves, buried for three days in a tomb, and was resurrected
Called “Way”, “the Truth the Light”, “Messiah”, “God’s Anointed Son”, “Son of Man”, “Good Shepherd”, “Lamb of God”, “Word made flesh”, “Word of Truth”, “the KRST” or “Anointed One”
Was “the Fisher” and was associated with the Fish, Lamb and Lion.

Came to fulfill the Law, and was supposed to reign one thousand years

Sound familiar? That was the story of HORUS. LONGGGGG before it was ever the story of Jesus. Don’t take my word for it, research it for yourself.

That is when the gears really started turning in my mind. I realized that everything I was being taught was paraphrased from a book written by a bunch of old men who were recollecting on stories told to them as children and had been passed down. Which led another question to raise in my mind. Anyone ever played the game telephone in school? A game that teaches how gossip changes the story dramatically each time it is passed. Now play that game with old men who are losing their memories and you have the Christians’ bible. Hmm. Now thousands of years later, we pick and choose, judge and praise ideals from Greek mythology and paganism. Totally legit.

As a result of my nonbelief I have experienced a whole new outlook on life except Christians who can’t handle the thought of an atheist being happy. Even my own family has told me I will be sorry. I have been unfriended on social networks, unwelcomed at family events. I’ve had family go as far as try to design “bad luck” to bestow upon me so they could blame the “wrath of god” and feel that they were doing the “work of god”. My own flesh has turned against me for my beliefs. This makes me sad for I know nothing good comes from being spiteful. The one thing that atheism has taught me is how to be a better person.

When I accepted there was no god, I began listening to my own inner morals. My own instincts instead of what society cast as right or wrong. I no longer felt myself better than anyone, and came to love far more than I ever had as a Christian.
I began to teach my children to listen to their own hearts. To be good for the sake of being good. That everything in this world has it’s place. It’s reason for existing. To appreciate every living being. I watch with pride as my son lets a tiny spider crawl across his finger. He understands that this is the spider’s world just as much as his. He RESPECTS it. Nature is our church. When I help people I do it because I want to. I don’t care if they are homeless or an addict. I don’t care about the “sins” they’ve committed or if they are gay or a different race. I love everyone equally. I recycle because I love my earth. I don’t spank my children because I respect that they are just tiny humans. That violence is violence no matter how you spin it. My children will not be “god fearing” they will be full of love and compassion. They will never be denied love or affection. My son will breastfeed until he is ready to stop whenever that is. I will breastfeed in public, proudly. I will never stand outside my son’s room allowing him to cry himself to sleep. I will be there in his room, rocking away his fears. Making him secure and know that he is never alone in this world. Life is not about punishment. It is about living to the fullest.
Every day I now watch my son scurry away from me to play with his friends at daycare. He has never cried, or felt fear. My sons love… unconditionally LOVE all things on this earth. Without a god, they have the best morals, because their hearts are pure.

 I do not teach them morals, I practice them.

  They are aware of natural dangers like moving cars, or heights but they are helpers. They will give away their last possession. My sons will skip playtime to help their teachers clean the classroom. We do not fear death in our home. We respect the natural circle of life, and they understand everything has a time. They do not need a fantasy of a heaven because they are too busy building a life of love. I leave you with the words of John Lennon, “Imagine there's no heaven. It’s easy if you try. No hell below us. Above us only sky. Imagine all the people living for today .Imagine there's no countries, It isn't hard to do. Nothing to kill or die for, and no religion too. Imagine all the people living life in peace.  You, you may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one. I hope someday you'll join us and  the world will be as one.”



Saturday, April 13, 2013

The Death of a Crunchy Mom

I was sitting there, on a normal, err.. my new normal, day. My boyfriend sitting beside me. The sun is shining. The world still spinning and carrying on like normal, and it dawned on me.
It all started because I was irritated with my boyfriend over a parenting difference. We hadn't seen eye to eye on it for awhile, yet I had stood firm in my beliefs and allowed myself to live in this fantasy... that everything I worked for... believed in... could somehow STILL carry on.
I got a divorce... which is hard enough, and I didn't want it, but I accepted it. I knew it was for the best for US, but what about the product of us... our child.
Since the day he was born, our son has been worn close to my bosom, nursing in sweet milk and comfort, minky cradling his bottom, and a peaceful loving family bed. Then it all crashed down around me.

What happens when two crunchy parents divorce?

I had been a stay at home mom for years. We had plans of self weaning, potty training when ADAM, our son, was ready, gentle parenting and no spanking, unschooling/homeschooling, breathing in the world and teaching love and compassion. So when we looked at each other... tears in our eyes... we were both silently asking... now what?

I held on... for as long as I could... then the visitations started. My first night away from my son, and I cried myself to sleep in a cold bed with breasts aching to nurture my son. The family bed was broken along with my heart. The news the next day was Adam spent his night the same, along with my ex.  Everything in me... every instinct was screaming at me that this was wrong, but I carried on in silence. Swallowing my tears and pushing. When the job search started... so did daycare...sitters... when I found myself with a mountain of laundry and no dinner on the table and the sun long set, I broke down and bought a package of disposable diapers. Adam pulled and contested the paper/plastic prison around his bottom. The house work slipped behind, days blurred together and 3 months in came hamburger helper for the first time. The kids and I ate in silence and I felt like a failure.....
Still through all of that it wasn't until that afternoon, sitting beside my boyfriend, that reality came crashing down around me. So much time had passed by this point that I was moving through the motions and thought I had reached a point of acceptance. It was in that moment that I realized I could never be the mom I envisioned the day Adam was born...when he came into this world in dark, silent, peace.... into his father's arms.

Adam still nurses.... but he goes days on end when he's miles away from me. Days on end where I can only reminisce of  his soft skin against mine, playing with my hair as he nurses. I would find myself waking up in a dead panic at night, searching for him, thinking I could hear his screams...for me... and yet my eyes adjust to the dark empty room.... his stuffed bunny sitting so bereaved.. the air so silent that it sounds like the walls are screaming. Nights like this I lie wide awake, thinking.. analyzing.. what more I could have done to save my marriage... for Adam.
Two days from now I start my job. This fall Adam begins traditional school. I can't stay home with him.. I can't afford it. I have every intention of homeschooling him in addition, but I know there will be times when I just can't... that dinner won't be organic and when I'm just too exhausted to read that second story before bedtime.

I am thankful for my boyfriend, who keeps me grounded through all of this. He reminds me that there is still love in mainstream, and there can be a balance. That doing my best IS okay. That my love for my kids is not based on a lifestyle. I am thankful I got 2 full years of attachment parenting with Adam before the divorce. Some moms are forced back to work within weeks of birth... some who never experience the love in a nursing child... the joy of pulling fresh sun dried diapers from the clothes line... of making everything from scratch and....love. I still wear my tattoo on my arm proudly. I still encourage moms to breastfeed, babywear , cloth diaper and attachment parent. I am blessed for the time I had. I am blessed to have had the experience. I will never look at life the same.

My love is still infinite for my children. My love is undying. Sometimes your best is all you can do... and that's okay too.