Not That Kind Of Doula

I would not say I have a huge case study from which I am drawing my information here, but after a couple of years doing this doula gig I can with some confidence say this: epidurals are not bad.  Pitocin is not evil.  Cesareans are not evil.  Used carefully and judiciously, they’re downright wonderful, in fact.  I just came from an induction/epidural birth which was one hundred percent the right choice for that situation and which went so beautifully that the mom was sobbing in happiness afterwards.  I could not have been more pleased that she and her baby and family got the delivery they wanted and needed- and it was all thanks to the infamous, dreaded Cascade of Interventions! Gasp.

I know that’s not very crunchy of me, but the fact is, I am not very crunchy.  I’m not that kind of doula.  One of the doctors I work with a lot here in town (and who has always been very nice and complimentary to me) admitted to me yesterday that when she first started as an OB she initially got a very bad taste in her mouth about doulas because she had worked with a group of very natural-birth-only type women who she claimed had been very rigid with their clients and interfering with the medical staff.  I… am not that doula.  For some women, maybe that’s the doula they’re looking for, and that’s fine, but it’s just not me.

I’m a tell-me-what-you-need-and-I’ll-try-to-give-it-to-you kind of doula.  As long as you fully understand the ramifications of your decisions, I will support you one hundred percent and help facilitate those decisions… since it’s not my birth nor is it my baby.  I think the only situation I could not handle is a planned, unassisted delivery (i.e. no medical help on hand, just me rubbing your back and diffusing oils, which is lovely, but isn’t going to do a damn thing if you suddenly have a placental abruption.)  The legal ramifications of that scenario alone are enough to make me say, sorry, no.

I keep getting emails, in fact, from a production company making a series about people having nature births- i.e. midwife or unassisted births outdoors.  Some people are going waaaaay outdoors- like, delivery on the beach, or in the mountains.  While I can understand that in the perfect set of circumstances that could be amazing, I also have to admit that my first reaction was, “Are we giving birth or going on a nature retreat, people?”  ‘Cuz, you know, both of those are cool experiences… but I’m not sure they always work well in conjunction.

I think it’s a very post modern and myopic phenomenon, the glamorization of things people used to do because they had no other option, not because they thought it was ideal or romantic or spiritual.  And when it’s things like sewing your own clothes or baking your bread from scratch, rock on, do whatever makes you happy.  You want to shun modern convenience and wipe your butt with leaves?  Follow your bliss, darling.  But.  You CHOOSE to try to treat your kid’s serious disease with nothing but coconut oil and prayer?  You CHOOSE to give birth on a hillside with no one but your husband and a couple of goats (and and of course a film crew)?  I start giving you the side eye.

People USED TO DIE A LOT, GUYS.  Of stupid crap from which they did not need to die, and it ticks me off when people talk disparagingly about medical interventions for which their great grandparents would have been so, so grateful.  For which people in many countries right now would be so, so grateful.  It is wonderful and something which should make us feel LUCKY, the accessibility of antibiotics and vaccines and painkillers in our society.  Are they perhaps overused at this point?  I think most people agree that they are, that we need to be more cautious in our enthusiasm for and reliance on drugs.  But that doesn’t mean we need to chuck them to the wind and refuse them even when their pros vastly outweigh their cons.

So, do I then think every woman, or even most women, should therefore get an epidural?  No.  I  personally think that in most spontaneous, straightforward and quickly progressing deliveries they can introduce complications that, for me anyways, wouldn’t be worth the pain relief.  I’ve seen that they often don’t work as perfectly as people think they do- many moms have the impression that an epidural equals a pain free, hassle free experience, and that is almost always untrue.  But I think that overall they are a wonderful, helpful tool that can make longer or more complicated deliveries go from sheer agony, or sheer exhaustion, to a pretty manageable and much more peaceful birth experience.  There are definitely situations in which even I (who in general ascribe to the immortal words of Lady Antebellum: “I guess I’d rather hurt than feel nothing at all”) would choose an epidural in a heartbeat if it was available.

The point of this whole ramble though, is that as a doula it doesn’t matter whether it’s what I’d choose or not- I support every woman’s right to get one whenever she chooses, as long as she understands the possible ramifications.  There is no black or white, right or wrong in birthing choices- as long as it is in fact the mom’s CHOICE, and it’s an informed one, then I support it all the way.

Each birth is different: every mom is in a different place mentally, physically and emotionally when she prepares to birth- this varies even from one pregnancy to another- and every delivery carries its own unique circumstances.  As a doula my job is to assess all of that, to LISTEN to the feelings and concerns of each client and her partner, to make sure they know the pros and cons of each decision they make, and to help them feel confident and supported in those decisions.

She’s Baaa-ack!

Yes, after months and months of neglect, I finally got my arse in gear and dealt with the horrible spam issue that began like two years ago!  In the end I had to delete every comment that’s ever been posted since I moved my blog here from blogspot, to ensure that legally my comment section was completely cleaned up and safe again.  I just didn’t have it in me to comb through the nine thousand plus comments searching for the ten or so that were in fact illegal links.  Even just deleting all the comments involved installing some sort of plug in and making a call to the godaddy help line and feeling like a tremendous idiot several times.  But it’s done, it’s over, and I’m happy to have my old digs back again should I feel like writing.  I miss you all, and I miss the ability to navel gaze at length.

That’s all I’ve got for today; just wanted to say hi and put my foot in the door again.

…This Is Lighthearted! Um, Kind Of (Ahem Cheating)


Drinking In College: Guys vs. Girls

Because yes indeed, alcohol has a TON to do with those “gray area” rape cases in which women don’t feel comfortable coming forward, or feel they have no proof of actual assault.  Women try to teach/lecture each other all the time about being safe at parties, bars, on the street… ALWAYS.  But maybe men need to teach each other about being careful when they’re drinking too.  Cuz clearly there’s either a) a lot more actual awful, criminal, serial rapists out there than we’d like to think, or b) there is indeed a problem with a culture that encourages and promotes taking advantage of women physically when they’re drunk and leads to men having a very unclear concept of what sexual consent means- one that apparently becomes increasingly more unclear the drunker they are.

And do let me also address that drinking too much just in general leads, for the vast majority of people, to making progressively stupider/more destructive decisions.  So, you know… I also for sure plan to talk to my kids about not abusing alcohol, I promise.  Like, we’ll probably talk WAAAY more about that than rape!  Just so we’re clear. :)

Another Kind of Talk

I know- another sort of boring and sort of serious post.  I’m a ray of freakin’ sunshine!  Seriously though, I’m sure that a chatty, funny and lighthearted post is on its way soon guys, have heart.  But read this first.  Humor me.

Something else besides plain ole sex which I/we will need to talk to our kids about in the somewhat near future is rape and rape culture.  These talks can- and should- certainly happen during talks about sex in general, but the topic is one I specifically want to take pains to discuss, and I want to have these discussions with both my boys and girls at the same time so that they understand that rape IS EVERYONE’S PROBLEM.  Swistle wrote a wonderful and thoughtful post about this which linked to this article called A Gentleman’s Guide To Rape Culture and I just loved it, so I thought I’d pass it along here too.  I wish every high school kid in this country had to sit and read this and then maybe write an essay reflecting upon it before he or she was allowed to graduate.  I hope you’ll read it, that’s for sure, and maybe reflect on it in the comments!

All right, as you were.  Back to your weekend.  Something fun and breezy next time, I promise!

The Talk

So with at least one child getting to the age of asking questions about sex that require more detailed answers than “Boys have penises and girls have vaginas,” I have been thinking a LOT about how to go into these discussions.  Saw this article recently and thought it had a lot of important things to say.  I’d love to discuss it with anyone who feels like commenting.

Sex Positive Parenting

Ta Da!

Well, here I am in all my inked glory…


Also with some lovely bra strap lines on top and weird Ergo baby carrier strap lines around my waist! Ha.  My friend Jess took this picture for me after a hot, sweaty walk around the park with the kids, so, you’ll have it.

I had the initials and birth dates start in order from the bottom and work their way up the tree.  I also chose a Greek word for familial love, which I first learned in one of my favorite novels, to go up the actual body of the tree.  But other than those components, this is pretty much all my tattoo artist’s own design.  The shading on the tree looks amazing up close- we spent lots of time looking at different branches, believe it or not, and selecting which type of wood I preferred!  And I love all the little details at the base of the tree- we actually walked around his yard and chose them out of the landscaping while sipping wine!  A very fun experience.  Getting all those details imprinted on my flesh: not so fun. Ha.

(Sidenote: I feel weird saying this because: My body!  No apologies! etc.  But I’d like to mention, due to my OWN reaction when I saw this picture, that my ribs really do not stick out nearly as much as it looks like they do here.  I was lifting my bra up and holding my arm over my head so you could see the tattoo, so I’m all stretched out, and… yeah.  I have lost a little weight, yes, but I’m really not wasting away.  TRUST me.)

Newsy Update

Oh my gosh, I have not given up blogging, I promise.  This summer has just been very distracting, for reasons not bad but still not blog-able.  I’m actually having a great summer, mainly since I, like Swistle, set the bar veeery low in terms of expectations this year.  As long as we have food in the cupboards, clean dishes to eat the food on, and clean underwear in everyone’s drawers, I consider it winning.

So here’s a very cursory update on the summer so far: I’ve read a ton of great books, the kids have done several fun day camps this year, we took a week long trip to the beach on Lake Huron, and our sweet old dog finally passed away after a long (generally) happy life with us.  He was only really unwell for a day or two before he died, but unfortunately this all happened while we were gone on vacation, so my kind brother in law and neighbors were the ones with him when he passed away.  I am so grateful to them for taking care of such an unpleasant issue with such delicacy.  And I still feel really sad that we weren’t there to pet and talk to him.  That part was the hardest to get over, really.  He was fourteen years old and a very big dog, so frankly we (and the vet) were amazed he had lived this long.  And I’m really thankful he was never very sick or suffering much, that we knew of.  Just wish I could have been there to tell him thank you for being such a sweet, patient dog.

In other news, I got… a tattoo!  A pretty huge one actually.  I’ve been planning to get one for the kids basically ever since I had Adelay, but always in this vague, nonspecific way.  I just knew at some point I wanted to get one. Then a month or so ago, in a wine bar, Jim and I ran into an old friend from years ago who is a very good tattoo artist.  It felt like fate- Talia is two now and I am still totally sure I am done having kids, I’ve actually lost all the baby weight and then some, finally, so my body is in good shape to get one, and now here was this guy back in town, ready to help me design the perfect tattoo.  And we did!

It’s a family tree type thing, on the left side of my waist, from the top of my ribs all the way onto my hip (bonus: we designed it so all my stretch marks on that hip are covered!)  It has all the kids’ initials and birthdates, and the Greek word storge (which is a word that I found in the novel The Hungry Season this summer, describing familial love, or “love that is a gift,” between parents and children) going up the trunk of the tree.  It took seven hours total to do it, and wow, it hurt.  Like, way more than I realized it would going into it, even though everyone warned me it was a hard place to get one.  Partly it was the location on my body, partly it was just how long it took, and partly it’s that every pain coping technique I generally use (position change, deep breathing) is useless while getting tattooed on your waist- you can’t move, and you aren’t supposed to breathe while they’re doing the lines, just in between.  But it was totally worth it, and I LOVE it so so much.  It’s so unique and special to me.  I will post a picture of it soon, but I don’t have a good one yet and it’s not a hundred percent healed.  Most of it is, but I had to go for a second session to get it finished so that’s part’s a bit raw still.

All right then!  I feel caught up with you all a bit.  I will try to be better about posting.  I promise I haven’t forgotten about my poor lil blog wasting away out here.  I’m sure when the winter depression hits and I’m holed up watching Downton Abbey reruns and eating my feelings I’ll be checking in waaay more often again!

Full Frontal

It’s always been a running joke among my family and friends that I’m the “naked” one.  I was always the sister who could never remember where she left her bathrobe and who ran in various states of undress from shower to bedroom to bathroom and back again, in search of various beauty products but not in any rush to put on a bra or pants.  I just feel clothes are overrated.  I’ve never had an innate sense of modesty I guess, in the context of my body.  I wouldn’t say I’m attention seeking with my body, and I’m really really not an exhibitionist, but I’ve never felt like there was anything embarrassing or even inherently sexual about nudity in and of itself.  It’s just a body, y’all.  I know I’m in the minority, and Lord knows I was actually raised to be more “modest” physically, but for some reason it just never took with me.

I got to thinking about all this because I read this article in the Huffington Post today about nudity among women and just loved it.  It’s pretty short, so if you have a minute I really recommend it.  I’ve said it before, but the disparity in the comfort level with one’s own body between men and women (in general!) in our culture is something that has always irritated me.  We all have parts of ourselves we dislike, even the thinnest or tannest or biggest breasted of us, oh yes, and we all probably have quirky little things we secretly love about ourselves too.  But end of the day, we’re made of the same basic stuff.  Everyone feels like their bodies hide these deep dark secrets and I’m here to tell you it isn’t so- you are flesh and blood and skin and hair and cellulite and genitals, just like the rest of us.  No surprises.

“…real women have bumps and lumps, cellulite in places you didn’t even know you could have cellulite, scars, tattoos, and funny-shaped breasts and areolas. Skinny girls can have flabby tummies, and fat women can be gorgeous. I would say that nudity is the great equalizer, except it’s actually the opposite: nudity reveals how immensely varied we are. And it also demonstrates how grossly manipulated we’ve been when it comes to seeing our own bodies.”

I love that: nudity is the great equalizer.  It is so comforting to look around, on a nude beach, for instance, or in a spa like the one she talks about, and confirm that yes indeed, here we all are, bodies in all shapes and sizes, colors, etc, a myriad of differences but the same basic parts- some beautiful, some funny, some bumpy, some hairy.  And then move on.  Because we’re really just all here to feel the sun or the water on our skin and not mess with wet Lycra.  That is the point of it all, to sprawl out luxuriously like a cat.  A cat who doesn’t give two craps if they have saggy boobs thanks to their big ole litter of kittens.

But that’s not to say we have to unilaterally celebrate every little thing about ourselves.  I’m all for being a realist, looking at things frankly.  Very few of us have bodies that are universally appealing or which entirely meet even our own standards of aesthetic beauty, and I think that’s ok to say.  One doesn’t have to celebrate their stretch marks or fat dimples anymore than one should feel reduced by their presence.  It’s all right to just accept the reality that they are there, and that we would change them if we could, but we can’t, or don’t want to do what might be required to change them.  That’s such a gasp-inducing thing to say out loud in our society: “Yes, I have a fat roll.  No, it doesn’t bother me enough to spend my free time fighting it.  And it’s my body, so that’s my decision.”

Ex: my least favorite body parts are my thighs and my jawline.  This is pretty well known.  Even when I’ve been my personal adult thinnest, I still had unusually round, thick thighs and kind of a double chin thing going on.  I’ve come a long way in terms of acceptance of these body parts, but they are not things I personally find attractive about myself.  If I were drawing myself, I’d erase those and start over.  But here we are.  I could get plastic surgery for the chin (no,) or diet hardcore for the thighs, but even then I doubt they’d look quite like what I see as a beautiful set of legs.  And it would be a lot of effort, and I don’t get paid to be beautiful or thin, so I don’t care enough to work that hard.  There, I said it.  I own it.

My favorite feature is my lips.  Definitely.  And here’s something kind of funny- my favorite body part is my collarbone.  I have always thought I had a nice collarbone area, and if you know me irl you know I tend to wear shirts on the lower-cut side.  This is not a desire to constantly flash what little cleavage I possess, but simply a natural inclination, when purchasing clothes, to choose things I think highlight my assets.

I used to dislike a lot of things about my face, if I’m honest.  My body I was mostly ok with (thighs aside!) but I could pick my face APART, man.  The jawline thing, which still annoys me.  My round cheeks.  My hair texture.  Bump in my nose.  I wore makeup to try to hide and disguise things, not to accentuate them.  I have come a long way from that person, thankfully- I have finally found a haircut I love and which I think suits me, and now I like my hair!  Never thought that would happen.  I have made peace with my nose, and no longer try to “contour” it with bronzer (insert giant eyeroll here, I know.)  And even the round, chubby cheeks I am starting to view as an interesting, distinguishing feature now.  While we were on vacation a month ago, this lovely older woman who sold me coffee said to me haltingly, after taking my order, “I just… I just love your face!”  English was obviously not her first language and she gestured for a second as she searched for a word.  “It’s just so… soft.”

I kid you not, I will probably remember that compliment til the day I die, it meant that much to me.  A stranger observed my soft, chubby cheeks and found them lovable!  This made me want to cry with gratitude.  And cry for myself, that I am almost thirty years old and needed the kindness of a stranger to help me love my own face.

I’m really curious today to hear from you all- what are your feelings about your own naked body, about the face in the mirror?  Would you ever go to a nude beach, take nude photos, or go to the type of spa the author of the article above describes?  Do you think you view others’ bodies and faces the same way as you do your own? What are your favorite and least favorite body parts or facial features, and why?




Trailing Wisps of Glory

Still I Rise

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may tread me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops.
Weakened by my soulful cries.

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own back yard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history’s shame
I rise
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I rise
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.

Maya Angelou
(Edit: So sorry about the formatting.  Word Press is once again randomly refusing to allow double spaced paragraphs… WHY?)
I haven’t posted in so long, but when I heard today that Maya Angelou has died, I felt like it was time to write again.  Lots of authors have touched me, lots of poets, lots of women.  But I felt that Maya was so unique because she dealt with truly heavy, dark topics in her writing (just as she had to in her own life) and was nonetheless one of the most determinedly, unabashedly optimistic voices I have ever read.  I also felt she was gifted in her ability to deal very specifically with race issues and yet in her wisdom and her attitude, transcend race altogether.  She was a truly empathetic and wise human being.  Every time I saw a picture of her I wished (this is weird, but I’ll say it) that she could give me a hug.  I feel like she was probably a great hugger.
Maya was, in no particular order, a poet, a prostitute, an author, a fry cook, a dancer, a civil rights activist, a producer, and an actress.  She is a great example of how to learn from the past and take those lessons forward without dragging the baggage and shame along, too.
One of the best gifts I was given when I graduated was a journal, from my Mom, with Maya Angelou quotes on every page.  I still haven’t filled it fully, but I use it to write down all kinds of things that inspire me.  Some of my favorites, though, are the ones that were already on the pages.
This is my life.
It is my one time to be me.
I want to experience
every good thing.
Each of us has the right and responsibility to assess the roads which lie ahead and those over which we have traveled, and if the future road looms ominous or unpromising, and the roads back uninviting, then we need to gather our resolve, and, carrying only the necessary baggage, step off that road into another direction.
If you only have one smile in you, give it to the people you love.
We need art to live fully and to grow healthily.  Without art, we are dry husks drifting aimlessly on every ill wind; our fortunes are without promise, and our present without grace.
Everything has rhythm.  Everything dances.
Love builds up the broken wall
and straightens the crooked path.
Love keeps the stars in the firmament
and imposes rhythm on the ocean tides.
Each of us is created of it,
and I suspect
each of us was created for it.
The Art of Living Well
Take great pleasure
in small offerings.
Believe that the world
owes you nothing.
Understand that every gift
given to you
is exactly that.
Realize that people who
differ from you
can be founts of fun.
I will write upon the pages of history what I want them to say. I will be myself. I will speak my own name.
Without courage, we cannot practice any other virtue with consistency. We can’t be kind, true, merciful, generous, or honest.
I believe that each of us comes from the creator trailing wisps of glory.
While I know myself as a creation of God, I am also obligated to realize and remember that everyone else and everything else are also God’s creation.
I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.
That last one is something I try to keep in mind whenever I do doula work.  I may not remember every massage technique I ever learned or the exhaustive list of potential side effects from a certain pain medication, but if I can help a woman feel safe and empowered, well, that’s not a small thing.
Maya’s last tweet was five days ago (yes, an eighty six year with a twitter account- she was a woman who knew how to adapt gracefully) and it’s so simple and touching.
Listen to yourself and in that quietude you might hear the voice of God.
Goodbye, Maya.  I hope you passed peacefully.  Thank you for all that you left behind.