Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Wisdom from Mothering

Last weekend, I finished teaching two postpartum/baby classes. In this last class, we review birth, and we talk again about preparing for birth by learning about the options, and practicing relaxation techniques, and communicating preferences and then letting go during the birth - being flexible, taking it one contraction at a time: birthing in the moment. We also talk all about the postpartum period, what commonly happens physically and emotionally, preparing as a couple, and lots of discussion and demonstrations about baby care.

One thing I always demo and have mom & dad practice is swaddling. I tell about how I didn't swaddle my daughter because she cried the couple of times I tried it, and as a first-time parent, I let it go. After reading more, and seeing how much swaddling helped my second-born, I realize just how much swaddling would have probably helped my daughter, who is highly sensitive and easily over-stimulated. I mention all this briefly in class, part to underline how though not all babies like the act of being swaddled, it might still be worth doing & seeing if they like it once it's done! And I mention it because it hints at the fact that parenting is about learning, and we don't always know what will help, and sometimes we do something we wish we hadn't, or fail to do something we wish we had. As parents, we're still humans, and as anyone can tell you, humans aren't perfect! So there is no perfect parent.

Two articles in Mothering magazine's weekly e-newsletter (which I highly recommend) recognize the fact that we are works in progress as parents. Here's an excerpt from "Breaking Free of Mother-Guilt":
Our society in general, and the Mothering community in particular, has a problem: How can we advocate for birthing and parenting practices that have proven benefits without making parents who have not achieved them feel denigrated? How, for example, do we discuss the overuse of cesarean delivery without making the one-fifth to one-quarter of us who've had one feel bad, or promote extended breastfeeding without seeming to blame women who haven't been able to do it?

I suggest that the answer lies in achieving a certain perspective. This perspective starts from the premise that each of us does the best she can—given the particulars of our knowledge base, resources, support system, and the circumstances in which we find ourselves (and which we often cannot fully control). No one should ever allow herself to feel judged inadequate for doing the best she could, or the best she knew at the time of choosing. But we must also note that because our knowledge base is one of the keys in our decision-making process, it is absolutely appropriate that every effort be made to disseminate good information as widely as possible—never to blame people for past choices or idiosyncratic situations, but to get good facts out to whoever needs and can use them.

Furthermore, and crucially, those who promote such information must recognize that while such choices as excellent prenatal nutrition, natural birthing, extended breastfeeding, avoiding circumcision, cosleeping, and so on are documentably ideal for most families most of the time, there sometimes really are exceptions, limits on information, and limits on what is possible.
Ahh... circumstances, limited knowledge (for however much we know, there's still plenty we don't know!), and real life challenges... it can be hard to accept that even our very, very best may not feel good enough. Parenting regrets are hard, very, very hard. The other article I highly recommend, "Regrets", by Peggy O'Mara, suggests a lovely metaphor for how to handle regrets productively:
A bad experience is like a dive for buried treasure. There is a wreck. Someone has to figure out what happened and remember what to do the next time. Everyone hopes to find the treasure hidden in the wreck, even though many doubt that it's there at all. Like a bad experience, once we mine our regrets for information about what we might have done differently, and what we might do if the same circumstances arise again, we've already discovered a lot of treasure. When the time is right, we can then let the experience go.
Parenting is definitely the hardest job I've ever had to do - full of sacrifice and the occasional bout of performance anxiety. But on the other hand, I've never been so motivated to do a job well, by the sweet, grateful smile of a snuggled child, by a look of joy & wonder at something new, by a question that shows how deeply my child is participating in life. And, I've certainly never been so well-rewarded.

Christina @ Birthing Your Baby
Independent Childbirth Classes for Central Maine
New Mothers Support Circle

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Sunday, May 10, 2009

Happy Mother's Day

Happy Mother's Day!

Here's another way to celebrate: go on a cyber-journey... beginning at "Celebrate Women's Real Birth Wisdom"!

Wishing you all peace and strength and joy, mothers and mothers-to-be.

Christina @ Birthing Your Baby
Independent Childbirth Classes for Central Maine
New Mothers Support Circle

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Saturday, May 9, 2009

International Birth Wisdom Week

There's a story I want to share for International Birth Wisdom Week, but I can't remember where I read it, or when*. The story comes from an African culture, and it tells how the women think about the birth process: Birth is like crossing a river on a log. You need to get across the river on that log, and no one can else can do it for you - it's your journey. People on the shore you left behind cheer you on with encouraging words, and people on the far shore will be waiting to greet you. Someone even follows beside you to guide you and support you with her words and presence. Though you are not alone, birth is work only you can do.

This story has always stuck in my mind, as a pregnant and laboring woman, and then as a childbirth educator - because its truth resonates with me, and also because it is so different from how birth is perceived in American popular culture. So many times birth is talked about (and lived) as something that is done to a birthing woman, not as something that she does.

I don't mean that in order to experience "real" birth, all women need to have unmedicated vaginal births. In my opinion, the difference is about agency: when it is the laboring woman who is exerting her own power to birth safely and with strength and wisdom, she owns her birth, whatever happens. She is unlikely to be haunted with "if only I had known" because she knows that she did the best she could with the situation she was living in that moment.

Whenever I think about birth wisdom, I think about this quote, which is all over the natural birth world: “Birth is not only about making babies. Birth is about making mothers ~ strong, competent, capable mothers who trust themselves and know their inner strength.” Barbara Katz Rothman articulates why it is so important that birth is honored as a beginning, not as "just" an end, "to get the baby out safely".

I also think of this other popular birth quote by Laura Stavoe Harm: “We have a secret in our culture, and it's not that birth is painful. It's that women are strong.” I feel sad when I read this, because, too often, women's strength is a secret.
Birth is painful!!! Get an epidural as soon as possible!! Birth is scary! Birth is an emergency! Just be happy you have a healthy baby!!
This is the subtext of so many stories, in the media, and among women. I was sitting at my daughter's dance class the other day, and some of the other moms were talking about their births: thank God for my epidural! ... I don't know how/why anyone would give birth without one! ... It was miserable until I got my epidural... My epidural didn't work, but at least I had one [?!!?]. Another mom and I were silent. What could I possibly say about my wonderful natural births that would not seem judgemental or holier than thou? Thankfully someone directly asked the other silent woman about her birth, and she voiced her joy at giving birth naturally.

I'm grateful for every opportunity to empower pregnant women and their partners to make informed choices, to take personal responsibility, to understand that birth is the beginning of their journey as mothers. I want to join that chorus of people on either side of the river, in hopes that it will swell and swell, getting louder and louder, until "women are strong" is not a whisper, a secret that some of us carry in our hearts and share with our daughters, but a shout, a proclamation, and a promise: WOMEN ARE STRONG.

Christina @ Birthing Your Baby
Independent Childbirth Classes for Central Maine
New Mothers Support Circle

*If you know where I might have read this story, please leave a comment!

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Friday, May 8, 2009

Exciting Birth Cyber Event!

Spreading the word:

Join Independent Childbirth in a birth community cyber event next week!

All you have to do is blog about birth wisdom whether it's refuting an obstetrical myth or sharing a birth story of a woman who experienced spontaneous birth outside 'textbook' birth (i.e. a posterior birth, cesarean prevention, VBAC, twins, international birth voices are of great need, etc.). In your post link back to the independent childbirth blog post on birth wisdom (it will be on the site tomorrow).

When you complete your post send us a link to it to view it for inclusion in the IC blog post. In addition, if you visit those posts that are listed on the IC blog post and leave comments on a couple that inspire you to comment we'll send you a 'button' for your blog that you may wish to include on your blog.

Many of us have readers who follow our blogs but may not be aware of other blogs that also have great information to share. Together we are an awesome resource is what the IC birth wisdom cyber event is about. The birth community is global yet we, what we know, are/is all available wherever a mother resides.

If you are interested in joining the event please email us offlist at births @ comcast dot net. Please feel free to forward this email to other birth groups.

Thank you in advance for sharing what you know and inspiring mothers in your neighborhood and "ours."


I'll have my International Birth Week post up tomorrow! Happy reading!!

Christina @ Birthing Your Baby
Independent Childbirth Classes for Central Maine
New Mothers Support Circle

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