26 February, 2011

Breaking Through

Over four months ago, a friend of mine had a planned c-section because her baby was butt down and the butt was thoroughly lodged between the pelvis bone where the baby’s head was supposed to be. This friend is only twenty years old, and I’ve known her since she was twelve.
She’s had a bit of a hard and, unfortunately, a bit too-typical-for-these-rural-parts, kind of life. Yet, her enthusiasm for life impressed me the first day we met; the way she sought out adults from whom to get nurturing when she needed it showed her savvy and resilience. We used to talk a lot about nothing and everything; boys, relationships, drinking and drugs, those big parts of the life that was around her. I told her stories of how pretty much everything stupid I ever did was a result of drinking or being drunk.
When she was younger, this friend used to talk about her dreams – they’d change often – she was going to go to Alaska to visit a cousin and get out of our small town; she was going to be a marine scientist and go to Florida to ply the cool blue and warm waters; she was going to get a degree from school. Sometimes she showed me poems she’d written – they were often quite insightful, and yet, also mixed with clich├ęs, the places she didn’t quite know how to get to in her own consciousness. Over the years, I listened to her talk a lot about, but not achieve, her dreams.
I also watched her turn from a hopeful teen kid into a jaded young adult in a matter of years, all the while doing my best to share any experience of mine that might be helpful. In the last few years, once she dropped out from high school and got a job working the fishing docks near our home in some sort of distorted version of her marine science dream, she met a young man who was rough around the edges but did take care of her.
After about a year of living together, the new boyfriend and she had a baby. I know this friend has no idea what she’s getting into; yet the truth is, while I may have had more information about raising a kid, I didn’t really know what I was getting into myself. But I’m still sad for her about the c-section. She wasn’t thrilled either, but there really isn’t much anyone, even in the most progressive towns, would do with a baby presenting butt down like that. I told her to swim in the pool and turn summersaults underwater, told her to massage her belly, but if she did do what I suggested (which was rare), that baby never did move. So, she got the c-section, and the baby was okay.
I’ve visited with her and the baby several times, mostly to check in on the baby, but I know this friend is resourceful and is pretty well connected with a few nurse practitioners in our area. We’ve talked a lot about breastfeeding, which she is trying and struggling to do, and I give her credit for her effort because most of the mothers her age I know are too shy and self-conscious to keep trying. That’s one thing about being an older mom; I never cared about showing my boobs in public.
I told this friend about the exercises I did with my daughter when she was six months old, after finally realizing that my baby was always pushing herself against the bumper on her crib, smooshing her head against the railings, her head constantly banging against something hard, her neck turned at an awkward angle. My daughter hated going to sleep always, but in her early days, with her head craned upward and backward, she most often fell asleep. I was concerned about this behavior, and also about the fact that though my daughter turned over from back to front at only three months, by six months, she still was stuck there and couldn’t push herself up.
On a recommendation from another midwife, I saw a woman who does cranial-sacral work with babies and she told me to allow my daughter the chance to break through in the way she didn’t get to since she got pulled out of my body. On our bed, I put a v-shaped barrier of pillows down and I hid behind them, telling my daughter to come on through. She’d scoot and scoot her little army crawl, pushing her head against the pillows and breaking through the opening. We did this for about two weeks, usually once a day, as a way of play and exercise. I found other things she could break through, like blankets or even once, I held her upside-down by her ankles behind my legs and let her drop through like she was supposed to have all along. These exercises really seemed to help and after the two weeks was over, she never pushed her head against her crib again.
When I told my younger friend about all this, she said she knew all about it – those twenty-year-olds know everything. But her nurse practitioner, to her credit, told her similar information about babies who’ve been born by c-section – that since they don’t get to feel the experience of fitting through the pelvic bone, they need to experience the breaking through for their psychic development. My young friend even told me about these tube things that people use for their babies; a manufactured way of going down the birth canal. When she said that, I remembered another friend who talked about going through some kind of healing in a similar fashion as an adult, in front of a lot of people at a retreat, crawling through a tube, and re-enacting their birth. I say: do whatever it takes to feel comfortable entering into this world.
I wish for my young new mother friend that she breaks through, too. I have seen her in her motherhood, doe-eyed and overwhelmed, her body a little slumped as she tries to get her little newborn to latch on to her breast. She’s alone in her motherhood a lot, since her partner is a gone-fishing kind of guy and often is at sea for weeks. What a load to carry. I wish for her that she gets to have some of her dreams realized, that motherhood at an early age for her allows her to grow up, and helps her deal in a healthy way with any difficulties of her past and allows her to feel her feelings about the hardships and joys of mothering. As always, I wish to be of service to her, by just letting her know I can help if she needs and I can always listen and not make too many suggestions that she’d ignore anyhow. But, really, I wish for all of us to realize our dreams, for all of us to feel the thrill of breaking through into this world.

11 February, 2011

Business of Being Born

I watched “The Business of Being Born” the other night and liked it. The documentary was pretty much what I thought it was going to be and didn’t tell me too much I didn’t already know or hadn’t garnered from reading Naomi Wolf’s Misconceptions during my pregnancy. I didn’t know, however, about the torture women experienced around the turn of the century when women were drugged into “twilight sleep” and tied down with lamb’s wool at the wrists and feet while laboring. That footage was pretty amazing, and reminded me of the relatively recent images of prisoners of war in Abu-Ghraib, which solidified my belief that men start war because of their fear of women’s power to give birth. Anyhow, I give the producers and filmmakers credit for putting out there in visual form what so many people don’t seem to know about birth.
The thing that made me cry again and again was watching all those women give birth naturally, in their homes, with a totally present and helpful midwife. I still feel such loss that I didn’t get to do that, such sadness that my baby never came through my vagina, that I never got to experience the oxytocin love rush of hormones and relief that comes with having a baby naturally. My husband watched most of the movie with me and asked afterward “how’d that all make you feel?” Nothing I said was surprising or new to him. But I did realize something new for me.
In the movie, one of the midwives says the experience of being in labor and hitting the highest wall we’ve ever seen in our lives and thinking “I can’t do this,” and then doing it, having the baby through our bodies the way we were built to do, is such an empowering moment, a transformative moment that allows us to know, “if I can do this I can do anything.” I realized I don’t have this kind of understanding. Indeed, I still think secretly to myself in my dark moments, “I couldn’t do it.” And so then, I realized, I perhaps doubt whether I can do other things.
When my daughter was just a few weeks old, we walked every day with my old dog around the park near my home. That autumn was cold but mostly clear, and my little newborn baby would be bundled up on my chest, and she’d fall asleep there all cozy against her mama’s beating heart. I’d smell her head in a deliberate effort to induce oxytocin in order to bond with her. I’ll never know if I would have felt more bonded, more attached, to my daughter if I’d had a normal, uncomplicated delivery. And I know no matter how perfect a birth may be, being a first time mom is hard, and bonding with a child is not automatic. But still, I knew quite well our difficult birth and aftermath delayed my ability to feel love with my child, so I worked hard at bonding with her. I held her close to me even though her little feet landed right in the sore spot where my c-section scar still was tender. I carried her around everywhere, even though doctors told me not to and it hurt to life her up. I fed her whenever she wanted, stroked her little bruised head, and kissed her sweet fat cheeks even when I was so tired, so exhausted, so sad.
I remember one day, walking around the park, the air damp and cold enough I could see my breath. My daughter was asleep, bundled inside my big coat, her closed eyes and tiny nose turned upwards so I could look down and check on her. I had a few moments then to feel my feelings. I thought about the birth, the c-section, the hemorrhage. I was crying, and then a question came to my head that made me cry even more: “why can’t I have what I want?” This question, though it may sound like it, did not come from a place of victim-hood. The question was an authentic probing, an honest pondering query. I was asking the universe what karmic blueprint was blocking my chance to have two specific things I wanted?
There are many things in my life I want and get. Most things, in fact. I’ve always had a roof over my head, a bed, food, family, love, health, friends. I have a good man for a husband, a healthy kid, a relatively healthy family. I’ve experienced relatively little tragedy in my life. Mostly, I’ve had just great experiences – I got to go to college and graduate school, I’ve traveled and worked in some of the most glorious places on earth, I’ve held a job that included more fun than most people have on vacation, and had a job that allowed me to help others, where my boss appreciated me and told me so and gave me raises often. I’ve always had more than I need in the way of material things and often gotten things I don’t need at all. Once, for example, I wanted a blue truck just because I did and a few months later my brother-in-law sold us one for cheap while I simultaneously sold my old truck for my asking price in under a week.
But two things I’ve wanted that I didn’t get: a natural birth and an established press to publish my novel. Both things have to do with creativity and birth. And both, apparently, have an element of stuck-ness to them. The latter is never going to happen (yeah, yeah, “never say never,” but we have no plans on another child coming through my not getting younger body), and the former could, I suppose, still happen, but the odds are getting slimmer.
I sent an electronic message to a friend the other day, where I said, sort of off the cuff, “everything happens for a reason.” She wrote back and asked if I really believed there was a reason for everything or sometimes did shitty things happen for no reason at all? I guess I do believe everything happens for a reason – a karmic, cosmic reason, which may include past debts in former lives about which we know nothing. In my case, I really do want to solve my cosmic puzzle in order to clear my karma, even though I still may not get what I want. But I’m just putting out there into the ether: I want to understand what mental or emotional blocks I’ve had against opening myself up in order to give birth to god-given creations in a non-strained, non-pushing way. I want to understand my own business of being born. I don’t have the answer yet, but I am willing to hear the answer.

03 February, 2011

Career and Mothering

I talked to a friend a while ago, to whom I was complaining that I don’t get enough time to write because my kid is a crappy sleeper, that I have no career, that my writing is in the toilet, and that when nap time comes all I can seem to manage is looking at other people’s websites, sometimes in a research effort but, truth be told, more often with envy and wonder that anyone is blogging out there at all or getting books published or in general doing anything of literary ilk. And she said, “But isn’t being a mom your career now? I mean, isn’t it your life’s work?”
Well, yes, of course, mothering is my life’s work, but my career? Well, no. I love my job as mom; it’s just that in my mind I have another job, a writer. And that writer job is the only really consistent job I’ve done, though not always done well, for the past twenty-plus years. Of course, I’ve had many paying jobs; mostly as a teacher of writing, but also as freelance writer, a violence prevention educator, a natural history guide, a coffee shop worker, a pre-school teacher/crowd control management provider, a literacy tutor, and an editor, all of which lasted various amounts of time from a few months to a few years. But during all of those jobs, I was always a writer – every year I’ve written something and produced some stuff. I’ve sent my work out for the last ten-plus years, and been rejected plenty, way over a hundred times. I’ve also had some pieces accepted (way less than a hundred). Writing has for the longest time been the foundation for my beingness, the reason I get up every day. I do now have another reason to get up, and being a mother is a foundation, too, but I’m sorry to say, that beingness doesn’t feel as foundational as writing does for me. Perhaps my feeling is because writing is actually for me.
To be sure, being a mother is a personal growth process, indeed, more of an enforced growth process than being a writer ever was, but being a mother means mostly being there for my daughter. Writing, however, is lovely, selfish, time to myself in my head and with my heart and with a chance to have contact with another realm; time that, apparently, I need to help me actually function sanely in the world. I’ve tried all other methods for sanity – sobriety, self-help, therapy, coffee klatches, other forms of art, exercise, eating right, juicing, meditation – and myriad others. But the only one that really keeps me sane, by which I mean peaceful, is writing.
Motherhood, I’m again sorry to say, does not keep me sane – indeed, fighting off insanity while, for example, I’m picking up yet another gigantic trail of toys such as playing cards and game pieces from the game cabinet, the new bristle blocks from Christmas, the two-dozen felt fairies that never make it on the felt board but only on the floor, the paper money from the new birthday cash register, and inexplicably, the re-usable grocery bags that have been taken from their confinement under the counter and then scattered around the house after a botched attempt to give the cat, who had inexplicably settled to nap on these said bags, a magic carpet ride across the floor – is an amazing effort each day. My effort to fight off insanity during those moments, or like this morning when I was sure my child would sleep another two hours but woke before I’d even made a cup of coffee, is more like white-knuckling through while saying prayers to the universe about granting me serenity while trying to figure out how, as a parent, I can actually encourage my Dr. Destructo Insomniac daughter to put her toys away after use and then go to bed.
Writing is, to me, a form of getting in touch with the spiritual world I do believe exists, and getting connected with the unity of the universe, without my ego and, even if I end up writing a lot about myself like I do in these pages, I still have the hope that I am helping someone else by telling my story and allowing them a chance to relate somehow. Writing is for me a chance to be in service to something greater than myself, even if I write about myself, because many of us feel the same feelings even if they are expressed differently.
So, what I know today is that my career is in the hands of a power I cannot see but do believe in and so, yet again, I humbly ask for removal of all my complaints, negativity, envy, and other shortcomings. I’ll focus instead on how my life’s work is joyous, both the mothering and the writing.