Tuesday, March 29, 2011


I've been thinking a lot about what people consider to be attractive. I've had a lot of conversations with my friends about "society" and how we are all influenced by those around us. Any of my friends reading this will probably already have thought of several. I'm a little too obsessed with how much of what we think and feel comes as a direct result of what others think and feel, or at least our perception of what others think and feel. There is a trend in our society that feels very counterintuitive: the depreciation of maternity.

I often wonder how other generations would feel if they heard our talk about deciding whether or not we want to have children. Most would have considered it absurd, as having children assured that you would be taken care of. For most, not having children probably just meant late age poverty and toil. I'm in no way saying that this is a better motive for having children, I just find it interesting.

When did we separate ourselves from our biology? Why did we separate ourselves from our biology? I suppose the problems of modern man were too complex for the use of our instincts. Is that why we suppressed them all?

I guess it's a double edged sword. I feel that we all have instincts that are good and bad. Perhaps in trying to take the worst instincts out of us, we also lost the good.

Primitive people worshiped goddesses with all the biological signs of fertility; they were thick, wide hipped, big breasted women. Many of the statuettes of that time are of women who are pregnant. Primitive man understood that survival depended upon fertility. It was an understanding of the world that modern man, at least in our country, has forgotten. Everything in his life depended upon fertility. The food he ate depended upon the ability of animal life and vegetation procreating, and doing so successfully. They worshiped the fertility of women because it was a symbol of everything good they had in life. Without fertility their lives were not possible.

This is as true now as it was since man first showed up here, however you believe we showed up at first. But there are trends in our world that show that we are steadily forgetting this. Most of us are so far disconnected from the fertility of the land and of the animals that it makes sense.

I'm not a big fan of Nietzsche, but there is one idea that I really liked of his, though I don't agree with it fully. In twilight of the idols he writes about how we hate things that denote decay and love things that denote progress and life. What does it say about our world if we admire signs of decay and despise the signs of life and fertility?

There are many examples of this, but I want to talk about what is portrayed as attractive and just how much we just go along with what they tell us to be attracted to. This subject has been beaten to death, but look at the models of our times! Our symbols of sexuality are symbols of decay. Many, specifically the women, are underweight and gaunt. What does this say about our sexuality? What has happened to biological man? Where have his instincts gone?

I hear a lot of stories about people not being attracted to their wives once they are pregnant. "I hope she loses the weight fast so things can go back to 'normal" Ever heard that? How about "Once I got pregnant my husband wouldn't touch me with a ten foot pole" Things like this should be disturbing, not normal. Have you stopped to think about why we might feel this way? I firmly believe that this has everything to do with what our society has taught us is beautiful and not what our biology and instincts would teach us is beautiful. Your ancestors, at one point, worshiped that body form. It was the epitome of beauty.

When women are pregnant they appear as goddesses. As superstitious as they may seem, I think they were right. Science has possibly demystified the experience, but in my mind it is ever more miraculous. We should be humbled by creation.

I think we men, in particular, need to reevaluate why we find women attractive or unattractive. I remember when I was young, I sometimes liked girls that I was to afraid to admit I liked. Why was this? I've thought about it a lot, and I realize now that the reason I did not want anyone to know about these girls is that they were unconventionally attractive. Why should I have cared about what my peers thought was attractive? I was insecure.

People perpetuate this idea all the time. They talk about how hes not good looking enough for her, she's not good looking enough for him etc. Sometimes our elders, with wisdom you would think, perpetuate this silliness by expressing these exact feelings to their children about prospective partners for their children. What message does this send? In conversations of men among men we find the perpetuation of strict social controls on what should and should not be considered attractive and the acceptable expression of male sexuality. I have more than once felt the need of my approval from friends asking about someone they are thinking of dating or are currently dating. "Do you think she is cute?" Why should it matter? It only matters if you think she is cute. I can feel their need for their male peers' stamp of approval on their sexuality. The fact that the approval of our peers about the appearance of a potential partner influences our decision to enter into or remain in a relationship could perhaps explain, at least partially, the high divorce rate in our society. To use a colloquialism, we men need to grow a pair when it comes to our own sexuality.

We need to come back to certain instincts that we all have in at least this one respect. Man's instinctual sexuality is "forgiving" by our worlds standards. I don't like using that, because it implies there is something to forgive where there isn't, as I hope I've explained. People shouldn't be changing the way they feel to fit societies idea of beauty, we should have our own. And we should express it despite any censure or reprimand we might receive from those around us. Frankly, if a man is not attracted to biological signs of fertility, I fail to see why he does not see that as his own personal problem.

My only Racher is SOOO beautiful now that she is pregnant! She is so alive and is a wonderful symbol of life and progress in my life. Creation is wondrous! I feel inclined to bow before it, and I do so in a cosmic sense. I believe God created us and this world. I am humbled to be able to create something so beautiful with my Racher.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Mother, remember the blink of an eye when I breathed through your body?

(Reflections on graduation and pregnancy)
Today is allegedly the first day of spring even though it was wearing its bare-bones November costume. All my dreams are on their way. There are only four weeks left of class and work--if you could hear all my neurons screeching as they fire and pop, they'd be shouting a jubilant YES!!!! and also FREEEEEEDOM!!!!! Braveheart style. At the beginning of January I couldn't see how I was possibly going to make it through another semester, so weary was I of school and the numb, dreary world. I'm so glad to have the worst of winter behind me, and now that the days are fairer, I'm almost giddy with delight that the end is so pleasingly nigh. All things considered, it really has been fantastic. BYU started to taste stale to me around 2005, and being yanked back from ASU was devastating, but I've loved my cohort and I've had some amazing experiences. My internship at Vantage Point has been exactly what I was hoping for--Spanish clients, a brilliant supervisor, room for creative expression, camraderie with staff, variety, notoriety. :) I felt stretched and dunked in overwhelmedness often enough to help me examine the places where I'm weak, but Good has come from my works and my words—-ill too, but the good has existed, has stilled the air, has lasted in some cases. I'm so thankful to know that!

I remember when I graduated with my bachelor's I felt endlessly light, all the burdens associated with projects papers deadlines "memorize 9 numbers and deny we have a soul" had floated away. It was a glorious feeling to be finished. And then a few weeks later I started missing school. It was the safe branch I always returned to rest on at night, it was my lifestyle, my unfinished student-ness has defined me for a long time. It will be interesting to see what happens now, being done (probably, maybe?) forever. After graduation, I'll have the last 5-7 most "carefree" weeks of my life, with no school, work, or baby.
Right now, there are 10 to 13 weeks left until the Little Stranger decides he wants out of the fishbowl (I imagine it like the scene where Ponyo bursts out of her aquarium). Most of the time I think about being able to hold him and can't wait for him to come--other days I'm a little nervous about how drastically the shape of our lives will change and I want more time to think about it and stay here in the neverland we have together. There are so many things you can't ever really be "ready" for--and despite all the bits of wisdom and experience everyone offers you clotted together in a cup, no one can know what living it will be like for you. I feel this mystery/adventure swelling up before me with flickers of sorrow and joy, and it's so intruiging to have it right in front of me but not to have stepped into it yet. I keep thinking about the verses of Vienna Teng's "Shasta:"
"you put your hand to the belly that's foreign more with every day like an oversize load...but then again maybe this life is like a sleeping mountain/waking up to shape the land..." That's how it feels.
The other day we were in Walmart and I pressed my hand to my stomach in response to some powerful kicks, and to my surprise I could feel the top and bottom of what I determined to be a little foot. "He has FEET!" I cried in adoration. I know these tiny discoveries have been made over and over in awe for centuries, but this is my first time with my baby, my body. It is wonderful, it is tremendous. I keep thinking, how am I allowed to make a human? I can't even cook, but I (we) made a little human being. I LOVE LOVE feeling him move around! He's big enough now that the outside of my belly shakes with his motion. It makes me so happy when Jonathan can feel it too. He always says, "Good baby...I love you, baby!" On Sunday I was getting ready with my mother and sister and the little guy was joyously bounding around.
I said, "Sometimes I feel like he is going to walk right out the side!" and my mother told me, "You'll miss that once he's born." She said she always felt a little lonely once the baby was on the outside, and that she "missed her little friend"--that the unborn baby was a companion she would always have with her. I'd never heard anyone describe it that way before, and I thought it was so sweet! It reminded me to treasure these weeks I have left; even if I do get really uncomfortable towards the end--this has got to be the easiest part, at least emotionally.

With the exception of a painful Friday last week (I think I was on my feet too much, making dinner for Dit's party, and I had some dizziness and swelling I hadn't felt before), I have been feeling so good, normal and strong. I sleep beautifully, except when Jonny sneaks off to play Starcraft. I was joking with my classmates that I have reverse body dysmorphic disorder; I always forget how huge I am until I look in a mirror or see my reflection somewhere; it's bizarre that this enormous abdomen is attached to me. It's not the way I see myself in my mind. I Might Be a Giant. Jonathan is always so sweet with me and tells me I'm beautiful all the time. Because I am vanidosa, I never believe him and struggle to accept those kind words graciously. He says he's MORE attracted to me the more pregnant I get--which again, I find suspicious, but I can't lie that having his face light up whenever I come in the room, and having him greet both me and the Little Stranger bump with kisses, makes me feel so loved and appreciated.

Besides becoming ever more corpulent, I have the shallowest dip remaining of my belly button (I showed it to Cow and she said it made her feel "woozy"--haha!), some stretch marks that look like scars from a lion mauling (not on my stomach, though), and an increasing frustration with sitting in desks in the late afternoon. Sometimes if I eat too much it's a little hard to breathe, and it seems like I have to go to the bathroom every 20 minutes, but I'll gladly take that over what some women go through!
I went to see my midwife on Monday and she told me the Little Stranger is perfectly positioned, he just needs to engage in the next few weeks. I was surprised that I'd only gained 3 lbs last month...sounds good to me! My father told me yesterday that he'd love to come up and do the baby's first checkup. (My father has been surprisingly supportive of our homebirth plans.) Oh, that meant so much to me! It melted my heart! Whenever I think about my family interacting with my son I feel so happy. Last night we were planning our trip to Mexico this summer, and since our van is overfull as usual (that's part of the magic) we made a seating chart that included a place for our little Stranger. There is so much to look forward to!

Now, here are some inspiring images of fertility and corporal immensity.

These are from 27 weeks:

And here we are today at 29 weeks, at 1:30 AM and ready for bed. :)

Friday, March 18, 2011

"Leia...Leia is my sister!"

I don't mean to make anyone feel uncomfortable, but I felt it was time for me to address this publicly. If you didn't know better, and I told you these were all pictures of me and my twin brother, wouldn't you believe me?

As far as I can tell, we're not REALLY related por sangre--at least all the parties involved vehemently deny it--but you have to admit it's a little suspicious. The first time I noticed it was last summer when we went on a hike--the sunburn pattern on Jonathan's skin looked eerily familiar--like it was my own skin. Then I put together our wedding slideshow and if it weren't for the boy/girl outfits it would have looked like a documentary of the same little blond kid.

There's no mystery as to what our little Stranger will look like--the poor little guy doesn't have a very genetically diverse pool to choose from. I was really hoping my children would turn out like the Ambler kids (since Benny and Jonathan look alike) but we'll probably end up with an army of clones. There's your second Star Wars reference for this post. :)

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Mine is the sunlight, mine is the morning: born of the one Light Eden saw play

There is some serious long wind in this post. I've been writing out pieces of it in the margins of my notes in my mind for awhile now. I wanted to put together a comprehensive history of how I'm feeling about birth and motherhood, and how I arrived in this place. I have a mother who in my estimation is one of the toughest and kindest women in the world. Her babies were treasures to her. She rejoiced in their coming and mourned their departure from infancy. Despite our family's awkwardness with affection, all the new babies were met with gleeful adoration by us older kids. I wanted to hold them and smell their heads with that intoxicating new baby smell. Sometimes I would secretly wake them up from a nap so that my mom (my poor mother) would get them up and I could just watch them. They are fascinating and have always inspired a sort of reverence in me. I also have tender memories of sitting on the floor at my mother's feet while she rocked and nursed one of the babies. I would tell her about my day and I loved the quiet feeling in the room all glowing with love.

And no one babied my mother. She did not "play the pregnancy card," as someone told me I would learn to do "regardless" of whether I really felt sick or not. What I learned from her about birthing was that bringing a child into the world was "euphoric"--in spite of the accompanying pain. I remember her saying "Sure it hurts, but it's one day in your life that you're in pain. And you don't think about it once you have your baby." There are other thoughts maybe too private so share here, but I'm grateful to my mother for the way she helped shape the way I thought about birth--that it came from a place of strength, not helplessness.

When I first heard about water birth (probably in high school), I remember thinking I'd love to do something like that--but for many years and for many reasons (mostly having to do with pride and disillusionment) I was convinced I was going to fill my days and my arms by loving other people's kids, that no babies of my own were on their way. Once that door opened (it was really hard for me not to make a euphemism here!) I became obsessed with studying childbirth, specifically natural or un-medicated birth. I read books and blogs, birth stories and watched birth videos. I have Katrina to thank for the excellent reading list that got me started, and the Lowe girls for their "paradigm shift" that caused a tidal wave of "birth keeping" passion starting with Asher's carbirth. Although at certain times in my life I NEVER would have believed it was possible, I was actually deliriously excited to get pregnant (it helped that I had a partner I knew would be a most excellent father! I'd never trusted anyone that much before). Jonny and I both felt good about getting started right away (lots of reasons for this, mostly because we're elderly and want a big family) and I guess the Little Stranger did, too. We're so glad he did! The first month we investigated a couple of birth centers (Bella Natal and Feels like Home Birth Suites). They were beautiful, peaceful, and welcoming. I knew I didn't want to birth in the hospital unless necessity demanded it, but I still had the idea that I had to "go somewhere" to have my baby--that if we got in the car and drove somewhere we'd be better off somehow and "safer." It dawned on me slowly that a birth center doesn't really offer much that your own home can't--you still need to transfer to the hospital in case of an emergency, but the midwife really can bring everything you need to your home. The facility fee gave me pause as well, so we left without signing anything.

Since we’d paid for the BYU health plan, I made an appointment with an OB-GYN when I was 10 weeks along. I didn’t have any evidence of my pregnancy beyond a double pink line; I wanted authentication from The Authorities that it was real; also, I was starving for information about the salamander. I met with a doctor that I really quite liked, Dr. Bean. He was friendly and approachable and asked about my father’s residency (Dr. Bean also happens to be the doctor who delivered Christine’s baby on TLC’s “Sister Wives,” so he is famous as well as congenial!). He complimented me on my uncomplicated medical history and told me, “You’re going to have a great pregnancy and a beautiful, healthy baby.” He told me about their policy that patients see a different OB for each pre-natal visit so they can get to know all the doctors, because “you never know who will be there the day you actually have your baby.” He said it can be distressing for patients to get attached to one particular doctor and then have another one they’ve never met before be on shift when they deliver. I told him about my insurance ending upon my graduation (5-7 weeks before baby) and asked if it would be possible to use their practice for pre-natal care but deliver elsewhere. When I told him about my plans to birth in a birthing center, his face fell. “I’m going to have to try to talk you out of that, if you don’t mind.” He warned me that “the stats just don’t hold up” for the safety of home/birth center birth and that “most midwives really don’t know what they’re doing—this is just some kind of hobby for them.” WTF! Take that, midwives everywhere! As they say in Tarkhaan, “the sun became dark in my eyes.” Dr. Bean showed me an article from a pediatric magazine that denounced the practice of birthing out of the hospital. I asked if he was positing that midwives falsify their own statistics, which are really quite positive, and he said, “Well, obviously everyone has their own agenda.
Everyone will tell you something different.” I told him that’s why I find statistics confusing and not all that useful—it’s easy to use data mining to tell whatever story you want to with your numbers. Other studies are withheld when the results don’t suit the political purposes of the researchers. He agreed with me, and then we just sort of blinked at each other. I shared with him a few of the reasons I was loath to birth in a hospital—TBOBB kind of stuff, “cascade of interventions,” etc. Nothing you haven’t heard before. He nodded “Absolutely. There is absolutely a correlation between pitocin and epidural, epidural and C-Section. If you get the pit, you are way more likely to end up with a section. But on the other hand, you’d rather go through that than have a dead baby.” Of course! But what about all the choices in between? This is not a binary thing, at least in my mind. I said, “If you put it that way, I’m VERY likely to have an experience I don’t want if I birth in the hospital—my chances of that are much HIGHER than my chances of having ‘something go wrong’ with my baby. Because most low-risk, healthy births don’t require medical intervention, right?” I don’t remember the words he used, but in essence he agreed with me but emphasized the “just in case” part of the scenario.

Despite what you might think, this conversation didn’t really frustrate me. I felt listened to and validated, even though the doctor didn’t agree with me. I thought his assessment of midwives very unfair and somewhat sexist, but overall I felt like it was a fair exchange of perspectives—especially considering that he comes from a medical paradigm and I have no experiential knowledge about birth. Dr. Bean invited me to come hear him speak at BYU’s birthing conference that Friday, and then whisked me through my first ultrasound, which was tremendously exciting! I got to see the little pulsating bead of the Little Stranger’s heartbeat and carry the black and white photos home to my husband to show him that we were, in reality, going to be parents of a mysterious blurry mass of some sort.
Friday came and Jonny and I went to the birth conference. Dr. Bean delivered a charismatic discourse about hospital birth. Really the only thing I felt troubled by was at the end when he was lauding vacuum extractors and forceps as life-saving devices: “many of you in here will owe your babies’ lives to these things.” He went on to describe several scenarios in which the baby could become lodged in the birth path. I raised my hand and asked if those scenarios couldn’t be alleviated by the mother changing position and letting gravity work the baby down. He acknowledged that yes, typically they could, but that it was difficult and usually impossible for the mother to do so if she’d had an epidural… A homebirth midwife was the speaker after Dr. Bean. He came back and introduced himself to Jonathan and said he’d been hoping we could make it to the conference. He had brought us a copy of his article on homebirth and we had a friendly exchange; he told us to let him know if we had any questions. Before leaving, he gestured towards the midwife, who was explaining about licensure and why she had chosen to practice as an unlicensed midwife, and whispered, “She’s the worst kind. If you go through with this, stay away from types like her. She thinks this is some kind of fun pastime, but she’s dangerous. She’ll kill your baby and have you believe it was just God’s will.” We smiled and murmured our thanks, but as I sat back I felt sick inside. I didn’t know who to trust. I felt sincerely touched by the doctor’s concern for us; he’d been thoughtful to remember me and to go to the effort of procuring the article for us—I only met with him once. But his comments about midwifery were incredibly troubling to me, and seemed so unprofessional and even degrading. The midwife had sat quietly during Dr. Bean’s lecture, she didn’t act as an antagonist. By calling her “dangerous” and reducing her experiences to a “hobby or pastime,” he dismissed her as a silly woman with no important skills, nothing to offer. I was so disturbed by that. Only the man in the white coat knows best? Midwifery, “with woman,” intuition, nurturing, principles of empowerment, all of that was completely worthless compared to man’s medicine, man’s Western conceptualization of birth?

Even though I’m positive this wasn’t his intention, I felt that my sweet secret hopes and dreams for the birth of my baby were belittled as well. Maybe I was an idiot to want to experience the pinnacle moment of what my body had the capacity to do, to surround myself with individuals who believed in my strength, to seek introspection and self-discovery in the birth of my baby. Maybe the whole process really wasn’t any more valuable than elimination or the removal of a tumor, and by getting caught up in ideas that made it seem so, I was only endangering my baby’s life. On the drive home, I told Jonathan I felt deflated, and foolish for considering my choices with emotional reasoning. I tried to read some of the article Dr. Bean gave us and couldn’t make any sense of it. I complained to my husband about my doubts with statistics, and my tendency to make decisions based on principles rather than odds. I wailed, “I just don’t know who to believe!” Jonathan was quiet for a moment and then he said, “I think it has less to do with stats and more to do with whether or not you want to live your life in fear of what might happen.” He said that things can always go wrong, anywhere or at any time. So do you make your choices out of fear? He asked me to think about my life, and whether I’d made choices because I was worried about what might happen. I thought of choosing to leave on a mission although at the time I was dating someone I didn’t want to lose. I thought of all of the dire warnings I received before I moved to Mexico for 6 months, all the stories of kidnapping and drug runners and beheadings. Even running for student government in high school--which I was terrified to do--the odds were ever NOT in my favor, but I survived all those things and my life was made more abundant for taking the risks. I decided that since I'd felt unsettled about the birth centers I wanted to just talk to someone about home birth and see how I felt. I contacted Cathy O'Bryant and set up an appointment with her. I heard her speak at the birth conference in spring 2010 specifically about home birth and waterbirth. She'd had her last 3 (of 10!) children at home and labored with many of the others in the parking lot of the hospital, so she could spend as little time there as possible. I wanted to filter my ideas and thoughts through the mind of someone who knew these things well. I found Cathy's beautiful home in Payson and soon I was on her couch pouring out my soul to her. I told her about my mother and what she had told me about euphoria and not wanting anyone to take the experience away from her. I talked about my fascination with water birth and how I was re-thinking the notion that "going somewhere" to birth my baby was in any way safer than not, since either way all of the action would be going on inside my body. I explained my confusion after the encounter with Dr. Bean. Cathy listened without interrupting and when I had finished my impassioned speech, she said, "It sounds to me like you already know what you want. You don't need me to tell you what to do." It was so simple, but tears stung my eyes when she told me that. I felt like light was blazing into my mind. I did know what I wanted! She did not try to convince me of anything at all. She didn't deride OBs or the medical profession or sprinkle happy numbers over me to pacify my worries. She just reaffirmed that I was capable and worthy of making this choice, and that it belonged to me. This was such an empowering moment for me, I felt like I had reached up and seized the moon. Since that day I have felt such peace and confidence about preparing for a homebirth. I think about birthing in a pool with genuine sunlight streaming in on a May day, or sweat on my skin and candles lit on a June night. I think about breathing through it, cradled in water like the water in me has cradled our little guy. When I do visualizations it's so beautiful and exciting! Igniting my brain to fill the walls of my consciousness with vibrant and powerful images. Those things I've witnessed and felt will never be lost to me. I think of how my husband's eyes welled up the night I was holding Alex and told him “Someday I'll be like this with our baby!” I think about holding my sweet baby in my arms after and feeling like I moved the earth. Being able to fall asleep in the same bed where we sparked his existence. I do understand that birth is not something you can control, and I am also trying to prepare for the letting go and the surrender that is part of the gift and the lesson of birth. Whatever turn my birthing does take, I feel blessed preparing for it this way, for the feelings and visions I've had. I have gained so much strength in the process of preparing for this birth; delving into the dark parts of my fear and releasing it. Those things will not be lost to me, whatever happens. My favorite Spanish verb is "dar la luz," a way to say giving birth or "to give the light." I'm not afraid; if things don't work out the way we hope they will, I've still given and been given the light.

These are my philosophies about my own home birth.
I don't intend to generalize, disrespect or to impugn anyone else's experience. I know everyone walks a different road with their perceptions about birthing; these are just the things that are guiding my way. It's okay if they sound crazy to others--they are powerful and meaningful to me.

I'm not broken unless something breaks.
My body is strong and instinctively knows what to do. I am the descendant of thousands of mothers who were successful birth-givers. My body knew how to grow my beautiful baby and it knows how to bring it into the world. If something "breaks" I will go to the hospital, just like I would if I became sick or injured in any other context. But normal, healthy birth is not a medical emergency and I don't need to be hospitalized and wrestling with staff and doctors just like I wouldn't on any other day with my normal, healthy body. I don't drop by there every day “just in case” something goes wrong. I'm not a patient unless I need to become a patient because something abnormal is occurring. My midwife is perfectly qualified to handle ANYTHING that could occur in the process of normal birth. She has delivered over 800 babies; only 7 have resulted in a transfer for a C-section. I trust her implicitly that if I do need to leave home she will know and know quickly. Many of the common "what if" concerns can be handled just as well at home as they could in the hospital. Cathy has experience with breech, hemorrhage, baby in respiratory distress, shoulder dystocia, tight nuchal cord, compound presentation, bradycardia, 1st, 2nd, 3rd degree tears, hypertension, woman going in to shock, baby needing CPR, meconium staining, retained placenta, prolapsed cord. There are a few things midwives can't do, like give you a C-section or a blood transfusion. So should those things become necessary in the case of emergency transfer we'd call ahead and get there speedy gonzalez. Remember even if you are already IN the hospital and an emergency occurs, they still have to prep the O.R and wait for doctor to arrive, scrub in, etc. The kind of care we'd be transferring for would not come any faster if we were already on the premises. Remember all this is IF and ONLY if something breaks.

Pain! Right? That's practically the first thing you ever learn about birth growing up, either from the war stories the women around you tell or from the screaming ladies on TV. I'm
not expecting my experiences to be free of discomfort, but I don't see avoiding pain as a good enough reason to subject myself to someone else's policies and agenda which could jeopardize bonding with my baby or him coming into the world in a peaceful way. It's just not worth it to me. I'm trying to work with the idea that the pain of surges/waves/contractions is productive pain and is a natural, purposeful part of me. Unlike other pain I've felt, it is not indicative of injury, it's just sweeping my baby out into the world. And if I'm not injured, there is no reason to be afraid of that pain. I'm used to responding to pain with fear because usually it is a signal that something is wrong, but this isn't so in the case of birth. I want to fight through my conditioning to wake up my dulled biological responses, see and comprehend and live this as it really is. It's not the jellyfish tendrils I screamed and writhed to get away from, not the unrelenting agony of kidney stones. It's not an alarm bell or a warning of danger or the curse of Eve. It's the muscles in my body doing what they are trained to do. I want to trust them and trust the natural part of myself that exists free from our cultural paradigm of birth. Basically I think it is unacceptable for any of my decisions with this to be motivated by wanting to avoid pain. I think I can do better than that. It may be frightfully hard, but it WILL end eventually and as far as I know I can't die from it.

This is the most important. And I know I haven't been through this yet, but I have given it some thought and the thoughts I have had have distilled over me like golden glaze, belonging there. I at least want to approach it with this attitude. A lot of people make derogatory comments about lack of sleep, the disruption an infant causes in one's life, the grand inconvenience of it all that causes such suffering as new mothers are adjusting. I always feel so sad when people tell me about that, and then I tried to examine what I was really sad about. Was I really despairing that I might not ever sleep again? Did I think my husband and I would really never have time for each other again, that we would become strangers instantly? Was I worried that I might not have as much free time as I wanted, to read blogs and look at facebook? What was so precious to me that the idea of having it jarred or poured into a different shape made me so unhappy? My mantra for this is,
taking care of my baby doesn't prevent me from doing what I want to do, taking care of my baby IS what I want to do. I'm really not afraid of what it will take to care for an infant. I'm luckier than so many—I have support, I have access to resources, I have a partner who wants to be involved and will work hard by my side, and I'll be released from my school and work responsibilities about a month before my baby's birth. I know it will likely be different from what I am expecting, I know it won't be intellectually stimulating (unless I work very hard to make it that way), I'll likely struggle with the “girl” thing and imagine I'm Betty Draper, etc. But (assuming I have a healthy newborn) for a very brief time in my child's life, I can actually fulfill all of his needs. If he is fussy and wants to be held, I have arms that were made to cradle. If he's hungry I can feed him amazing food from my own body. If he's uncomfortable I can change him or walk with him. I can make everything all right again! What a gift! and how fleeting it will be gone! I look at the kids at Vantage Point and feel a sense of despair when I think about having teenagers, when I talk to parents who are mortified and devastated by their surly, disaffected, “grosero” adolescents. I can't protect my little boy from coming home hurt and frightened because some mean kids made fun of him. I can't answer all his questions, I can't take away the rage and shame that he will experience as he grows. When he suffers heartache, when he is disappointed, I can't erase the bitterness of those feelings. When he makes mistakes, I can't inoculate him from unpleasant consequences. All I can do is love him and empower him, but there must be a point when everyone realizes that their babes in arms have rough roads to travel in life, and you can't run ahead and pave every possible road with foam and pillows and bubble wrap. Painted wings and giants' rings make way for other toys. “A sword shall pierce thine own soul also.” Knowing this, how can I begrudge that hazy infant time? Wouldn't any parent of an older child, wracked with heartache, gladly wake up 14 times a night and willingly accept sore and cracked nipples if it meant they could have their child safe and whole again? Good-hearted parents would do it without thinking. So I'm going to try to do it now, with a good heart. I want to cherish the time that the catastrophes are minimal and the solutions simple. It won't be that way for long.