IN DEFENSIVE OF FEELINGS- Why Emotion Leads to Logic.

I blame my grandiose fantasies, of dispelling stereotypes and creating connections through shared emotions, on an adorable cartoon animal of the 80’s. I had a deep affection for my plush Tenderheart Bear. His soft, brown fur and white belly, complete with a red heart at its center, became an affectionate companion of my youth. He was the leader of the other CareBears, the one who helped the other creatures understand the power of their emotions and how to use their feelings to defeat evil.

There is a reason this character is animated and not real; trying to create solidarity among peoples of differing opinions, with an emphasis on respect, is like expecting a zygote and a baby to talk nicely to each other. As the comment sections of most of our social-media confirms, animosity conquers. Nobody cares about your feelings. Sorry, Tenderheart.

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Much like my animated, plush-friend, I have difficulty making sense of life choices that are based on pure logic. I get a twinge of angst in my gut witnessing someone drop statistics and data all over someone else’s life experience. It takes a little extra effort to acknowledge the people who do things juxtaposed to our individual choices, but those not willing to do so are really only singing to their own choirs.  

I enjoy being right as much as the next person, but the things I feel most passionately about are the things I want my opponents to consider. I don’t want to scare them off with judgment or condemnation. It also behooves me to learn why they formed conclusions opposite to mine. I want the dialect, the heartfelt reasons someone’s journey lead them to convictions I couldn’t imagine having. Show me the emotions and suddenly I understand. Our disagreements stem from very similar feelings; ones that we routinely stuff down, ignore, or chalk up to pure rubbish.  

I have never birthed a baby in a hospital, but I know what it feels like to be afraid and overwhelmed, feelings that my so-called adversaries have experienced as well. I know that hospitals save lives, but I “felt” more secure birthing four babies at home. We can connect here, in this feeling of security. And, now we are rolling and having a conversation in regards to all the wonderful reasons why someone may or may not birth in a hospital.

Feelings are a valuable starting place, not to be confused as an excuse to make up one’s mind about things. For example, the drudgery I “feel” for routinely removing 60% of my body hair hasn’t immediately lead to me unfurling my expanding bikini line on the masses. The assumed identity of what a “woman” looks like, an opinion held by most (some who have seen my underarm hair and called it “disgusting”),  has led me to question, research, and discuss what kind of perimeters a woman is restricted to. Ultimately, the glorious aha moments come when I discover that my feelings often know things before my logical half confirms it (thank you intuition and Naomi Wolfe).

Not everyone processes the world around them like an INFP (personality type). But I know that I am only unique in regards to the other personalities that I take the time to understand. Knowing myself is a process that takes into consideration the world at large. And the way in which we process this life often comes in the form of emotions; they are absolutely not supposed to be stuffed away. The loveliest thing you can do is share them and simultaneously give someone permission to do the same.

-Emily

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EMILY

Becoming a human-vessel made me a mother, but it also taught me who I am as a woman; literally, I didn’t know that I had a uterus or that it was super bad-ass, until after I picked up my first Bradley Method book. Four home births later, my husband and I have maintained a sense of humor while maneuvering the daily failures, lessons and bonds, that parenting provides.

      My brighter moments are spent homeschooling outside in the Sierra National Forest with other wild families, and pursuing a slow and steady education towards attaining my BS (I will never not think that is funny). Other days you can find me: eating pineapple even though I am painfully allergic, actually running out of gas, and crying in public when strangers show empathy with one another.

     

 

POST PARDON ME- Sharing the Manifestation of Postpartum Depression.

I looked up through the night that was closing in around our apartment building. The slender crack of light glowing where the curtains wouldn’t touch, in our second story bedroom window, revealed that life was hidden within. That was where my newborn baby was. Moments ago, I’d pulled my aching nipple from her locked lips and then held my breath in anticipation of her cry, as she searched for me, suckling the air between us. This time, peace came to her, and she fell back to sleep. Relieved, I rolled onto my back and freed the sigh held captive in my chest.

“Sleep when she sleeps”

My midwife’s words came to me; tired mothers are weepy, I must maintain a diligence against postpartum. If I am not well rested the wear and tear of becoming a mother might make me sad; the deep red stretch marks etched over my abdomen, the repeatedly fresh, pink wounds resistant to heal on my nipples, the warm tangy smell of spit-up breast-milk clinging to the sheets on my bed, these things could quickly add up to an “unreliably” negative outlook.

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I mouthed her name silently, still trying it on, as mother speaking to daughter. I had done this countless times while pregnant with her, rubbing circles on the growing fundus of my baby, and saying aloud the name she would fulfill;

“Haven”

I turned my head to receive the dose of oxytocin that accompanied her very existence, the folds of brand new skin squished together under her protruding lips. My eyes followed the sweet round curve of her cheek that led to a tiny glimpse of her elusive neck. I was well aware that my hormones were adjusting, picturing the trail of neurotransmitters in my body failing to light, lacking the glow that fueled all that bygone pregnant-contentment: estrogen, progesterone, endorphins, all of them once wrapped together in my grasp. Now I felt them dropping like a delicate glass ball that I scrambled to get a hold of before it left my fingers and shattered.

She wouldn’t slumber for long. I had only just stopped sleeping with her in the living room, a nest of pillows shoved around me in the papasan chair so that she could rest with her belly to mine, her cheek pressed into my chest, upright and closer than close. This yielded sleep. This was a solution to the night walks, fruitless burping, and instant spit-ups that splashed us awake when she was vertical. I had an army of supplies encircling our nest, everything was set to be a fingers-stretch away: diapers, wipes, burping cloths, giant glass of water.

“You must stay hydrated.”

Marilyn’s voice again. She told us both, repeatedly, as we sat side by side at our monthly appointments, John’s warm protective fingers laced in mine, that it was up to us to to do all these things (so many things). I didn’t understand at the time that my future baby would hold me personally accountable for all of her needs, whereas John would need me to explicitly ask for backup; assistance in successfully fulfilling all those needs. I had no idea how incapable I would feel asking for the amount of help that I actually needed. So, as I grabbed the empty water cup in my hand and reset it beside me, stuffing my thirst away, I thought of him; his body in our bed, sleeping as he always had, committing crimes with his well rested-ness, smuggling away all the availability to move freely through this world, his potential to pop up and get a drink of water without considering the impact it would make on the universe.

I rolled silently from the bed and stood admiring the tiny lump she made. Maybe we were progressing, this sleeping girl in the middle of our bed, perhaps she would allow our invisible tether to stretch and I could reconnect with solitary me. I retreated to the bathroom, lowering the seat over what was beginning to look like a frat house toilet bowl. I sat there and cried while listening to the soft chuckles from the living-room where John and our roommate, Matt played Zelda. I needed a place that I could wail. I needed a comfort that I wasn’t sure existed anymore. If I took two steps to the right, my reflection would be waiting for me and the ugliness there was too much. I had showered a total of two times, once immediately after birth and once while John paced in the bathroom, fearfully cradling our baby as her cries echoed off the walls. In that moment, I was terrified that she would cry too hard. I quickly rinsed the soap from my head and watched as startling amounts of my hair washed down the drain. Like the freak show I was evolving into, I pulled back the curtains to reveal my naked form, framed by the vapor just beginning to cling to the mirror. Nothing can prepare you for that; the empty womb pouch, extra weight, swollen breasts and stretched skin, nipples elongated and transformed by their productivity, tired, tired eyes and skin and ...ugh.

Those same bathroom walls were now closing in on me. I pulled my bathrobe around myself and walked through the living room unnoticed. I didn’t want to be seen. I left our apartment and carefully descended the cement steps outside and was met with a rush of cold air on my face as I left the alcove. I gasped and choked on my own breath and crumpled. The pitty I harbored for myself at that moment was heavy enough to pull me down. And I cried my fucking face off. I repeatedly mouthed “I can’t do it”, glancing into that sliver of light above me where she was, ashamed of the remorse and angst and confusion that I felt for motherhood.

I couldn’t raise a hand to count my blessings. I was failing at this thing. I had to get it together before anyone knew. I had to breathe. I needed to get up. Just then a shrill whine called from behind that upstairs windowpane. Haven. My body was moving up the stairs before I had time to make a conscious choice. I floated through the living-room in my long white robe like the ghost of woman’s past and disappeared down the hallway. She needed me, no matter how disassembled I felt at that moment, my parts would provide her comfort and nourishment. And, if I couldn’t get those things for myself, I could find solace in being the one who could give them to her.

I revisit this moment in my history, time and time again. There was a very metaphorical ‘window of opportunity’ showing itself to me that night, that view from below, that last bit of light shining through. Hours passed that night and I couldn’t console Haven’s cries; when she wouldn’t latch, wouldn’t stay swaddled, or be rocked, I kneeled over the bed and abruptly released her body from my arms. Then I said out loud “I don’t want you.” Instantly I clapped a hand over my mouth. I backed away from her horrified. I rushed down the hallway and jerked John awake from the couch, confessing the thing I’d done.

“I told her I didn’t want her! I told her I didn’t want her… John!”

He jumped up, putting his hands on my shoulders, looking a little terrified. Realizing that something bad may have happened, he let go of me and ran for Haven. I buried my face in my hands. He returned with an instantly consoled baby in one arm. With the other, he embraced me.

“Emily, shhh... she’s okay. She’s okay. You’re okay.”

He guided me to bed.

“Sleep.”

He tucked me in and kissed my wet cheek. With Haven in his arms, he switched off the light and closed the bedroom door. Sometime in the night he inserted her warm body back against mine, exposing my breast for her. He held me, us, a family. I would learn to depend on him. He would learn to make himself available. Our children would grow from this direct exchange between us. I would continue, from this moment on, to look for those slivers of light and connect them, knowing there would be hardship in between. But, also knowing we would make it.“Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in.”

Leonard Cohen

-Emily



 

EMILY

Becoming a human-vessel made me a mother, but it also taught me who I am as a woman; literally, I didn’t know that I had a uterus or that it was super bad-ass, until after I picked up my first Bradley Method book. Four home births later, my husband and I have maintained a sense of humor while maneuvering the daily failures, lessons and bonds, that parenting provides.

      My brighter moments are spent homeschooling outside in the Sierra National Forest with other wild families, and pursuing a slow and steady education towards attaining my BS (I will never not think that is funny). Other days you can find me: eating pineapple even though I am painfully allergic, actually running out of gas, and crying in public when strangers show empathy with one another.

     

 

THERE WILL BE BLOOD (Daniel Day Lewis to be played by a Tampax)- Embracing the Beauty of our Female Cycles.

 I am on the brink of having a woman as a daughter. My 11-year-old has passed into the realm of breast buds and mood-swings. She is asserting her independence daily; stretching her long legs out to see if the same old boundaries still apply. She is asking for opportunities where we can choose to trust her, and then pushing us as far as she can to see if we can still be trusted to be there. One day soon she will bleed from the most sacred of her body parts. What could possibly go wrong? I went through this same thing. All women did, and we have fond memories of that time right… right?!... shit.

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There isn’t a lot of positive confirmation in the whole period department. Typically, our moms didn’t say the right thing, or they said nothing at all. We tend to simply chalk up the failures of our mothers during this time as a phase we lived through. We turned out alright, so will our daughters. Maybe.

Let’s be honest, this ‘day and age’ cannot be depended on to represent a healthy version of what a woman is. Unless we are hiding our girls under rocks, they have seen (or someone has colorfully described to them) Miley Cyrus riding on a wrecking ball. Family movie nights have relentlessly depicted the one right way for a woman to have a body. And, any two-dimensional coming-of-age idol that they may desire to imitate has been put through the sexually objectified wringer (with no objections). Such is life.  Heap on the weight of every trite observation that is made about pubescent girls in our society, and get on with the journey.

But what if we could offer them more? Who is to say that you cannot rewrite the best version of this experience, the one that you wished you’d had, and give it to her? What would it take? Go back to 12 years old you. It’s that gangly time where you made strange fashion choices and your close-to-full set of adult teeth looked too big for your mouth.  You were on the verge; an old favorite Barbie still stashed in a drawer, alongside a journal full of magazine cutouts of Keanu Reeves’ face. What would it have taken for someone to empower you for the transition ahead?

If I could rewrite that chapter in my life, I would have my mom speak proudly about the things that were to come. I felt her apprehension about what my body was doing like a shameful punch in the stomach. There was no getting out of it, I was turning into a woman. It was going to yield a crabby disposition, uncleanliness, and pain. And, oh by the way, “I’m so happy for you.” What the fuck?

I can say now, with complete wisdom, that she didn’t lie to me. All that jazz was true. Patience is sparse, blood is messy, and cramps hurt. The message from my mother and society was to accept it and then pretend it’s not happening for the rest of my life. Cover it up. Be a woman. What I wanted to hear so badly was, “Yeah, it’s hard. But it’s important and this is why…”

Becoming a woman means that your body will now remind you of what is most fundamental. Even if you want to forget, each month, your body will urge you to look inside yourself. Every message that we are berated with about being a beautiful, clean, untarnished, desired body, is thrown on its face by the cycles of womanhood.

The beginning of many women’s cycles starts with bloating and the discomfort of uterine tremors. These contractions assist in the shedding of the uterus lining, but they also effectively cause you to clear your schedule, slow down, and say “no”. I have learned that writing “just say no” on my calendar, during the first days of my cycle, is one of the best ways I can love myself.

There is nothing like a period to get you in contact with your body.  Whatever parts of you, that you’d rather ignore, demand hands-on attention.  I was using tampons before I was fully aware of the anatomy of my own vagina. That seems a little crazy, considering the logistics. With the progression of time, the blood that returned each month drew my focus to a place that no one wanted to talk about. Staying hygienic and tending to my menstrual needs guided me into having a relationship with my own body.

Surprise, surprise…  it wasn’t until after childbirth, that I understood the significance of fertility. Now as a mother of four, I covet those feelings that arrive with the release of an egg. I am passionate and creative with a force. It is this phase of my cycle that I love relating to the moon. When the albedo glow of the sun reflects back at us as a growing crescent, we too are able to construct new things, to grow into new ideas and give our energies to these endeavors. We wax like the moon, creating a literal new life within us,  or manifesting expressions of the life we lead now.

I couldn’t find poetic evidence that I wanted to scientifically connect us as women to the lunar phases. The electromagnetic forces that control our ocean tides have not conclusively been found to affect our ‘lady-tides’. However, our moon plays a vital role in circadian rhythms. The sun’s energy that reflects back to earth in our night sky does have an effect on our melatonin levels. This hormone doesn’t just make us sleepy, it also regulates our cycles! Boom, connected.

As our body’s hormones subside, and we prepare to expel the unfertilized egg, the world tells us that we are unbearable. I remember the first time my mom blamed my emotions on my period. I felt enraged that someone would tell me that I didn’t know how I felt like my own feelings couldn’t be trusted. PMS is a fucking superpower. Not allowing your body to slow down and rest? Cramps take care of that. Refusing to physically connect with “shameful” parts of your own body? Nothing a repeated bloody crotch won’t fix. And last but not least; Denying your self-worth? Not standing up for yourself? Pretending it doesn’t matter?? Post Menstrual Stress will dump those undealt with uglies right into your lap. The tears and angst come out like a torrent of unresolved disputes, and everything you stuffed away during the past 25 days has “better out than in” written all over it.  

When day one of my cycle comes, I don’t say “Gee whiz! This will be fun!” but I do have a deep respect for a process that has reconstructed my view about the woman body I live in.  I figured a lot of it out on my own, and that’s okay. I know now that early conversations about our bodies lead to young women who value sex in a safer way. Knowing our self-worth creates a clearer picture of what we want (regardless of what he wants). This kind of self-esteem, to speak our minds, is a virtue we can learn as girls.

I can’t wait to tell my daughter to trust her woman-self; her growing, changing, communicating body is a marvel. We know how to handle a fair share of shit. And, I can’t imagine that would be half as possible without the wonderful mechanisms of our menstrual cycles.

-Emily

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EMILY

Becoming a human-vessel made me a mother, but it also taught me who I am as a woman; literally, I didn’t know that I had a uterus or that it was super bad-ass, until after I picked up my first Bradley Method book. Four home births later, my husband and I have maintained a sense of humor while maneuvering the daily failures, lessons and bonds, that parenting provides.

      My brighter moments are spent homeschooling outside in the Sierra National Forest with other wild families, and pursuing a slow and steady education towards attaining my BS (I will never not think that is funny). Other days you can find me: eating pineapple even though I am painfully allergic, actually running out of gas, and crying in public when strangers show empathy with one another.

     

 

HYPNOBIRTHING - MY EXPERIENCE WITH PAIN FREE CHILD BIRTH.

My ear was starting to go numb, I should've hung up but kept telling myself it would just be another minute... until 20 more had passed. By the time a human came on, I was invested, and walking away empty-handed wasn't an option. My endgame was to cut financial corners, see how to lower the monthly premium on my health insurance plan. The only suggestion they offered was to nix my maternity coverage. My intuition said “bad idea,” but my mouth said “yes.” I did it. One month later, I was pregnant. Go figure.

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At my first doctor visit, the receptionist told me it would be $400 per month to see the doctor, and then whatever the hospital costs were. If you have a healthy, uncomplicated birth, you're looking at ten thousand dollars, easy. Okay, cool, so maybe if I sell the baby on the black market, I can still afford to live after that.

I sat in the examination room awaiting the doctor, alone and naked beneath the thin gown, trying to steady the split back by sitting on it. Feeling more vulnerable than ever, like I was playing a part in someone else’s life, it was the first time I’d felt ashamed of my unplanned, illegitimate pregnancy. I chose to dress and leave before he even came to the room. Something felt off, and in that moment I honored my intuition.

Driving back to work, I could feel the tears forming a veil over my eyes, brain buzzing about how to pull this off. I could do it, maybe, but I was a self-employed hairstylist, I'd have to save money for maternity leave, I'd have to save money for the birth, and I'd have to pray that I could work until the day I delivered, returning four weeks later... if I wanted to have any clients left.

The entire thing sounded preposterous and centered around way too many “what ifs.” Amidst the tears, the word home birth floated in. I knew nothing about it. I'd entertained the idea, in years past, whenever I thought about a future family, but not really. Like, it had been a very fleeting notion that I'd never actually have pursued. My visions of it were Victorian in nature- a woman in a long white gown, damp with sweat, writhing around on a four-poster bed. Yet, in this moment, it offered total relief. I knew that it was my answer.

I got back to work and started Googling, calling the first midwife, the only midwife, I found. She sounded nice enough and said she could take me on. We met at my house the next evening, she arrived looking predictably granola- long gray braids with an apropos hippie name I’ve since forgotten, everything I’d pictured a midwife to be. She informed us that she had seven other women due the same week as we were. We shot each other WTF glances, and I questioned the almost certain probability that she would be unavailable during my labor. Her solution: my now husband, then boyfriend, would “just” birth the baby. Hell. No.

Once again crushed and despairing, we were at a loss. Sean had friends who'd done a homebirth, so he called their midwife. We’d had such a runaround, by this point I was five months along. It didn’t seem likely that she’d have space for us, but she agreed to meet, and by the grace of God, was willing to birth our son. Oh yeah, and she’s amazing, the perfect combination of free spiritedness, warmth, knowledge, and professionalism. And, we were the only ones due that time of the month.

She sat with me for an hour at every prenatal appointment, in her cozy office, adorned more like your grandmother’s special spare bedroom, made just for you, than an exam room. She answered questions and told me exactly what was going on with my pregnancy at each stage. She has a calm, maternal presence and a slow, reassuring voice. I felt safe.

I spent almost all of my spare time watching women have water births on YouTube, taking cues from each video. They're all devastatingly beautiful to witness, empowering. I wasn't afraid to birth at all, any shame I’d felt had passed. I was overwrought with excitement about personally witnessing the capacity of my own body, and of course, to meet the tiny human growing inside of me.

I had something called irritable uterus when pregnant. I’d get Braxton Hicks, to the tune of 30 per hour, from month five on. By the time I'm in labor, I don't know it until I'm dilated to 6cm. We called my midwife after realizing my water had broken and, two hours later, Sage arrived.

I wasn't as serene as all of the ethereal, European women in the videos I'd obsessed over, quietly catching their own babies beneath the water. It definitely wasn't a silent birth, as my father and sister remind me anytime the topic arises (they sat on the front porch waiting), but I also assumed it was going to last 10 hours, so I wasn't psychologically managing the pain. The water of the birthing pool brought immense relief, my body rolling weightlessly through each contraction. Birth was an experience I looked upon with awe, excited to try it again someday with my now first-hand knowledge of my own body and process.

It was no surprise that my second son’s labor was speedy as well, so it was peaceful, and the atmosphere more relaxed, but there was still pain, and there was still plenty of noise (again, per my father and sister, who waited in the next room).

By the time I was pregnant with my daughter, my beloved midwife had retired. We didn't trust anyone else and our finances dictated a hospital birth. The idea of not having water to labor in during a drug-free birth left me very uneasy, as did having to drive to the hospital while potentially in transition. I spent the pregnancy being anxious about the pain and envisioning pushing my baby out in the backseat of a Volvo. Do I cover the entire car in plastic? Do I just stay home and do it on my own? I pity all of my clients, friends, and family during those nine months. Uncertainty consumed me and no one escaped talk of my what ifs. I bought drop cloths and constructed my own home birth kit, complete with medical grade gloves, clamps, and scissors I’d finagled from nurse clients. I'd become delusional, and my husband was ready to commit me if he had to sit through another talk about all of the possible outcomes, especially the one where he played doctor.

During my doomsday planning, a friend sent me a book called “Hypnobirthing" (see link below article). God bless her. If I'd been a first-time mom, I'd have read it cover to cover and practiced all of the exercises. Instead, I did the bullet point version. It outlines how to have a pain free labor. I'll be honest, I didn't completely buy into it, but this whole no water to birth in thing had me desperate enough to give it a try.

The fundamentals are:

-Keep your jaw relaxed, with your teeth separated.

-Lay on your left side, don't make fists, and breath slowly.

-As you exhale, envision the breath moving your baby down the birth canal.

-Maintaining a relaxed body is imperative, as is slow steady breathing, like in yoga. The goal is to get yourself into an almost meditative state.

-Change your verbiage. Instead of pain, substitute “sensations.” Sometimes certain words signal reactions in the body. We’re conditioned by the personal definitions of our vocabularies.

When labor "sensations" started, I was likely at six centimeters. I scurried about the house cleaning and getting my boys ready, waiting for my dad to arrive so we could head to the hospital. Every minute I'd have to stop, get on all fours, contract, and then get up and continue about my business. There was definite pain, and I wasn't yet using any of the hypnobirthing techniques.

At some point, I dismissed myself to the car, having made peace with going to the hospital and telling myself we’d make it there in time. No doomsday prepping. No Dexter style drop cloths, just a towel and a pillow. I laid in the back, on my left side, and slowed my breath, relaxing every muscle, concentrating most on my jaw and hands. Immediately, the discomfort vanished. The tightening sensation of the contractions was present, but with focus, I managed them silently and painlessly. Soon, we were off, with ocean sounds playing and me, eyes closed, quietly breathing my daughter down the birth canal, channeling one of the tribal women I'd read about, leaned against a wall, preparing to push my baby out and head back to the fields to toil, child strapped to my body. Reminding myself what a basic fact of life birthing is and has been, for all of time, minimized not only the process but also the pain. We’ve blown the birthing process into epic proportions, thus increasing our fear factor. Most of our mothers birthed without epidurals and lived to tell about it.

Once at the hospital, we parked and ran, knowing she was almost ready. My husband’s face read like a book, prompting the nurse to check me immediately. Eight centimeters in and maintaining my side lying position, I continued to breathe and stay loose. Still no distress and no sound. When I hit nine, minutes later, my body forced pushing, willfully contracting for me, and I felt pain. I found myself gesturing my hands downward with each contraction, whispering the word "down" as if that act alone would bring her to me. They hurriedly wheeled us from triage to a birthing room, and within minutes, without any voluntary pushing, I felt the immense release and relief that only childbirth can offer, as nine months of weight and waiting slid out of my body, and precious Indigo was placed upon my chest. There aren't adequate words to express the array of emotions accompanying that moment. I can only muster joy, pride, liberation, relief, excitement, accomplishment, and unconditional love.

It wasn’t my most beautiful birth, because almost nothing can top the serenity of your own home, but it was by far the most empowering. I was able to witness, first hand, my own ability to dictate how I experience physical sensations. It's been a lesson that has influenced every aspect of my life. The brain has such immense power over the body. What we believe can alter our realities. This isn't something to take lightly. Natural childbirth may not be for everyone, it requires optimal health of mother and child, outside support, and faith in your own capacity, along with belief in the body’s ability to do what it was made for. Contextually, not everyone is in a place to work with that. A healthy baby is the desired outcome of any birth, no matter how it ultimately transpires. But, the knowledge that you have power over your reactions, even physically, is information to carry with you, no matter the situation. We always have more control and strength than we give ourselves credit for.

-Angi

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ANGI

I was an oddity in high school, obsessed with the CIA, the supernatural, aliens, basically all things mysterious. As an adult, I've moved on to being captivated by human nature, my own and everyone elses. Exploring the whys and hows of my own psyche and trying to create connections that have depth and meaning brings significance to my experience in this school we call Life. I've gone from being a full time working mom, to a part time working mom, to a stay at home mom and the breadth of that experience has shown me the value in all of those roles. I am riveted by the complicated genius that is the female intellect and sharing insights with other engaging women has become, for me, an essential symbiosis. 

 

WHY I CHOSE TO BIRTH MY CHILDREN AT HOME.

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As a home birthed baby of the early 80’s, I have the sepia-tone proof that my mom and dad brought me calmly into this far-out world. In their four-poster bed, my mom is reclined against the embrace of my shirtless, long haired dad. He is smiling, leaning in towards her cheek to give words of encouragement. Eyes closed, she is laboring, adorned in an array of patterned blankets and knee-high socks. A midwife, her expression both relaxed and intent, is curled into the space between my mom's exposed thighs. This nest of support, wisdom, and trust exudes what birth can be, and what I assumed it always was.

Fifteen years later, my baby sister’s birth was something else all together. My mom chose to keep this life inside her, even as her own health began to decline. I stood vigil beside my birthing mom, in place of a bygone lover, wishing I could crawl in bed beside her. The blue hospital gown haphazardly covered her cinched waist where an electronic fetal monitor held her. I ached for the comfort in that old photo. And, as if she knew the struggles that awaited her on the outside, Mary Jo fought to remain in the womb. A pair of forceps and a vacuum extractor could not convince her otherwise. At last they clutched her tiny wet body from the parted abdomen of my anxious and exhausted mom.

But life prevails under many different births, and soon we were at home with our new, healthy baby. MJ’s infant existence provided me with early access to my “maternal gut feelings.” I swooned over the sweet, warm smell of cradle-cap concealed beneath measly strands of her black hair. Her body nestled into the breast of my mother as I watched completely unabashed; the grunts and suckles, her out stretched fingers seemed in search of the world’s compassion. I filled the tiny wrinkled palm with my own giant finger and vowed to protect her from anything.

The next year came and my mom asked me to help her while MJ got vaccinated. Once in the doctor’s office, my mother and I had to forcefully restrain her frantic body as she thrashed and wailed under the needle. Afterwards, we huddled in the hall, her spent body squeezed between us as we sobbed. I knew we were protecting her from illness, but I felt a moral conflict about the way it was done.

MJ grew during the course of hundreds of pancake breakfasts, and repeat Disney movies on VHS. We painted curly mustaches on one another with watercolor paints and took long walks in our neighborhood, just the two of us, her tiny legs leading the way. The nights passed with my mom at work. MJ and I would pace back and forth together during her marathon cries, pink-blanky mashed between us as we both yearned that mom would return home from her evening job. Each day was filled with decisions that I had no idea I was so thoroughly involved in making for her. As a sixteen year old, I did my best.

A decade later, I was pregnant with my first baby. I recognized right away what ‘felt’ right to me. But in the actual realm of motherhood, I couldn’t ‘feel’ my way through all the decisions; I had to ‘know.’ I was pre-internet during my pregnancy and relied on a fat file of photocopied paperwork on vaccinations. This sat on my left, a dictionary on my right, and a slowly protruding belly between the two.

Like many young pregnant women, I was suddenly isolated from my previous social life. I filled the vacancy of company with writings by Lamaze, Bradley, and Ina May Gaskin. I marveled over the anatomy of a reproductive system that I always had folded neatly inside me.

As my body continued to change, I gave myself permission to embrace my skin and bones for the first time in my life. If I were fortunate enough to have a low-risk birth, I would let my body lead and make every attempt I could to birth without interventions.

At three months pregnant, I held my best friend’s hand as she labored in the hospital. I witnessed the hypodermic needle as it was inserted into her spine. Intrigued, I watched as the pains of labor faded from her face. We spent the next hour watching the infant fetal monitor together, chatting with the nurses about her stronger contractions and happily awaiting the arrival of her son. I realized her body would still do what it needed to do, regardless of the epidural.

Just then the doctor came in to check her progress. She was given a time limit in response to her ruptured membranes. Pitocin, more pain reliever, and eventually transition was complete. We supported her lifeless legs so she could begin pushing at the doctor’s command. I panicked as she refused his orders to push. She asked for more time, and was answered with his gloved hands, physically applying pressure to her perineum, forcing her to push anyway. She pleaded for him to stop. As he refused, I watched her use every ounce of the strength she had left in her numb legs to shove him away. I was quickly escorted from the room.

Respectively, I know of births that were the embodiment of calm and nurturing, and unfolded under the care of a hospital. I am well aware that emergencies require doctors and that sometimes all the reading, training, and support that a person can obtain on the journey to motherhood, won’t stop life from unraveling.

My own four home births have provided me with a knowledge and gratitude for two things in particular:

1) My body never blocked me from having the birth that I sought. I knew what to expect of my body, and it (literally) delivered. I have also shared the moment of disillusionment with friends who had their birth plans rattled. And, after some tears, they rose to the challenge by embracing those difficulties, later even speaking on behalf of other mothers who may have to birth with unchartered complications. Both of these births are “successful” and abundant in blessings.

2) During the labor and birth of my first baby, I was vocal about who I needed beside me at the birth pool. To my great pleasure, these people were there. And the ones that were not there, my in-laws for example, sat in their truck outside the apartment, perhaps with less faith for what I was trying to do, but never with a lack of support for the individual decisions that my husband and I had made. They waited, and even if they weren’t in the same room at that moment, they stood beside our choices. That is a trust that I hope to give my own children when differences of opinions arise. Without the people in my life making space for me as a birthing woman, respecting what I wanted to do with my body, and lifting me (literally, my dear husband’s strong, tired arms) up so that I could confidently give birth.

I am always enraptured over an individual woman’s birth story. Sharing the triumphs and unresolved difficulties of labor and birth is an empowering action that can lie dormant at the core of each mother. By listening and encouraging one another, birth stories can blossom into dialogues that help us navigate who we are and who we want to be, not only promoting other woman to find out what they want from their birth, but ultimately identifying what they need and want from their lives, as well. 

-Emily

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EMILY

Becoming a human-vessel made me a mother, but it also taught me who I am as a woman; literally, I didn’t know that I had a uterus or that it was super bad-ass, until after I picked up my first Bradley Method book. Four home births later, my husband and I have maintained a sense of humor while maneuvering the daily failures, lessons and bonds, that parenting provides.

      My brighter moments are spent homeschooling outside in the Sierra National Forest with other wild families, and pursuing a slow and steady education towards attaining my BS (I will never not think that is funny). Other days you can find me: eating pineapple even though I am painfully allergic, actually running out of gas, and crying in public when strangers show empathy with one another.