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Home births under scrutiny. The title on my RSS feed said "Home births 'riskier than hospitals'. Headline with scare tactics. But the article goes on to say that the risk of death in a home birth 'was still low, at 0.2%.' GAH.

I don't even know why I read the news anymore.
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I am applying to be an Adopt-a-Mom breastfeeding mentor. It's a community on LJ that pairs up experienced mamas with new mamas in an effort to support them. My aam, [ profile] said_by_me, was incredibly patient and supportive of me during a time where I felt overwhelmed and uncertain. Part of the requirement is that I publicly post my breastfeeding story.

Cut for those who don't care! )
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Cut for kindness )

Today we are heading to a park in Berkeley for a BBQ (sun, you can come out now, please). Adam's parents are flying up from San Diego for the day. There will be pictures later.

I am really, truly happy.
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I've been homesick. Of course, I'm always homesick in the summer. I haven't had my mountains/glacier/old growth forest/hiking/fishing/long nights/tourist filled Juneau summer fix. But I also have some sadness in my heart that Benn has yet to breathe non-polluted air (the fires are still making the air hazy here, my nose has been itching for weeks), has yet to hear or smell the ocean. It's been cars and concrete and traffic when we go outside.

Also, having a new baby means being inside a lot. I feel both cocooned in my cozy nest and also a little isolated. Especially because so many of my new mama friends are far away. I wish I had actually met some of you ladies in the flesh, that we could hang out a little as our babes feed for hours on end, that we could be of some actual physical support to one another and that our babes could grow up together. This last part makes me sad. I think about my nieces and The Future Gov of Alaska up in Anchorage. If only Anchorage wasn't such a dump... I think of all the kids growing up together, of me being an active part in those girls' lives, of my boy knowing family well and being cared for by loving people invested in his well being.

Today is my eldest niece's 9th birthday and the Future Gov is in early labor as we speak. This new little person will born any day now. I am far away. She won't meet Benn and I won't meet this Maggie/Stella/whatever they end up naming her, possibly until Christmas. My sister and nieces won't get to meet him until then either.

I also wish Benn would smile at me. Benn will be 8 weeks tomorrow. He is still only 6 1/2 pounds.
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I was in labor. Tonight my little boy will be one week old.

This morning was perhaps my lowest moment. I struggled with despair. I was so. profoundly. tired.

But, after an hour long nap and some actual grown up conversation with one of the nurses, Adam, and the NICU social worker I felt revived. We laughed. I was holding B while he was being fed (through the nose still) but we were talking about religion and Judaism and stuff and I felt like for that half hour my whole existence wasn't focused on the baby.

THEN, then Adam and I went to pay for the birth. I thought my insurance covered all of the birth but $500 (not that I was planning to have to use my Kaiser insurance, but I'm glad we have it!). Turns out we only owed $400. And the best part..... we owe nothing for the NICU stay. I almost burst into tears for my relief and joy. I had just resigned myself to an abyss of debt. Between credit cards and school loans, what's some medical debt? But, now, we don't have to worry. PRAISE BE.

I celebrated tonight with two glasses of white wine. A chicken is currently roasting in my oven. Tomorrow house cleaners are coming over to deep clean the apartment, courtesy of some of my girlfriends. We're still looking at - at least - a couple more days in the NICU. But tonight, things feel slightly more manageable.
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On Friday evening Adam and I went to go see the 5pm showing of Indiana Jones. Ten minutes into the movie my water broke. 8 hours later Bennett David was delivered into the world, a full 6 weeks early. He came of his own accord, arrived amazingly perfectly healthy, and via a natural childbirth. He weighed 4 lbs, 14 oz. I am still in the hospital (on day 2) and will probably be discharged tomorrow, since I am recovering just fine. Benn will remain in the NICU for anywhere from 2-6 more days. However, he continues to be healthy and snuggly. He is absolutely beautiful and I couldn't want for any child other than the one I have. Not being able to with him all the time is really hard - especially when I hear the families together in the rooms next to me. But I won't lie and say he didn't look slimy and squid like when he was born.

I am grateful for:
*Adam's amazing support before, during and after the labor
*The support of my midwives and a surprise doula (our childbirth class teacher) - they (plus Adam) kept me focused and strong and helped block out the other 8 people present in the birthing room!
*For my and my support team's ability to keep a sense of humor through out the labor
*The emergency pediatrician - he was excellent at keeping the mood light and positive, and he knew when to stay out of things as well as get involved
*Our nurse, who was 100% supportive of natural childbirth and midwives
*That Kaiser Oakland has been such a positive experience
*For my continuing health and relatively quick recovery
*And ultimately I am grateful for Bennett's amazing heartiness and his presence in this world
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It's always a bummer when it's a slow day at work AND a slow day on LJ. My day is winding down, but Tues is birthing class night in the city. So I shall go buy my big ol' salad for dinner and continue walking to the BART. Get to the birth center early and catch half an hour of the Pistons playoff game and then give an oral report. Yes, you heard that right. An oral report. I laughed out loud when our instructor mentioned this. My first (amused) thought was "Oh lady, do want foot notes with that?" I'm such a snot.

Each couple has to give a little report on one birthing intervention. We were to pick the one that made us most uncomfortable, so I picked cesarean sections. Took me 20 minutes last night. Being well read has its advantages. But it's not really a Report - it's five minutes of pros/cons, procedures, etc.

Also, Tuesday. Tuesday is the The Day. Please think good thoughts for me as I participate in my first firing. May I be firm, clear and full of compassion.
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I'm currently reading Pushed: The Painful Truth About Chilbirth and Modern Maternity Care by Jennifer Block. I'm only a few chapters in, but it is already confirming both my limited experiences in the pregnant world and the reading I've been doing. Before getting pregnant I was already wary of the medical world and leaning more toward the side of natural childbirth. Now 6 months into this pregnancy I am more than ever convinced that natural - and by that I mean as little medical intervention as possible, even outside of a hospital - birth is the best way to go. Each medical intervention isn't a bad thing on its own. I'm glad we have many tools to help women birth healthy babies. However, it's the attitude of the hospitals and the messages sent to women that bother me the most.

Women are increasingly "choosing" (there is some debate over this word - are they actually choosing? being strongly suggested to choose it by their doctor? choosing it when all of the other interventions aren't "progressing"?) elective cesareans. Some are choosing it because they fear the damages caused by vaginal birth. Birth is treated as this problem waiting to happen, rather than a bodily function that we are evolutionary designed for. Of course birth is hard and scary, but when left to progress in its own time, births do not have to cause damage to the vagina and other parts of the female body.

And that's the problem. Left to progress in its own time, monitored by patient and knowledgeable staff. There is no patience in the hospital. OB/GYNs have to get a lot of stuff done before their shift is over and make enough money to cover their incredibly high malpractice insurance costs. Hospitals don't have the time or the staff to let a woman labor for 24 hrs - or more. And one intervention inevitably leads to another. Once women are hooked up to IVs, monitors, catheters, etc she has to labor on her back - which is the WORST position for a laboring woman. This position is for the convenience of the doctor, not the mother. No woman left to her own devices labors this way.

The more I learn about the history of childbirth the more I see how it's developed out a deep misogyny and disrespect for the female form. Modern obstetrics does not come from the centuries old practice of midwifery, but from the developing field of medicine in the 19th century. In the Victorian era middle and upper class women wore corsets, were encouraged to be inactive and undernourished (being small and helpless was a woman's natural form), basically causing all kinds of problems for pregnancy and delivery. Women needed to deliver on their backs, as it was unladylike for a woman to be on all fours, ass naked, in front of a man/doctor. The bodily restrictions of the Victorian age led to the development of ways to speed along awkward deliveries - induction. The mentality that womens' bodies were ill adapted to vaginal birth underpins our modern medicalization of the birth process.

I read a quote in Pushed explaining why one sex therapist had elected a cesarean. "Why ruin a perfectly good vagina?" she said. This to me reveals the deep anti-woman mindset of our birth culture that women are absorbing. What does this woman mean by "ruin"? I'm guessing she fears tearing (so do I, but when birth progresses at it's own speed this is less likely to happen), incontinence (occurs after 2% of births, most female incontinence is old-age related), and the ol' saggy vagina. Complications to the vaginal area occur in c-sections too, but these get less press. This woman probably doesn't want to "ruin" her vagina FOR HER MAN. I may be putting words in her mouth, but this attitude that vaginas just won't be as good after vaginal birth is nonsense and is driven by patriarchal ideals of women - all vaginas should feel like 15 yr old virgin vaginas, all 40 year old women should be as tight and firm and fit as 25 year olds. Puh-leeze.

I also think this anti-woman attitude toward birth is fear of the female form. Pregnancy and birth are the two things the male body cannot do. While I do feel quite vulnerable in a new and profound way being pregnant (I find that I do not jaywalk anymore, that I cover my belly in unfamiliar busy places, that I move more slowly, etc), I am also amazed at the capacity my body has to carry this life, to grow it and sustain it and me. I may be moving more slowly, be not quite as sharp mentally, but I am in no way compromised. The female form is powerful. We'll see how I feel once I've birthed this little guy, but knowing that I will be medically and emotionally supported makes me EXCITED to see what this body can do. Women's bodies are completely capable of delivering babies into this world. I think men and the patriarchal medical establishment fear this. Births are messy and all parties are out of control. To help get doctors home to dinner and to control the unknown factors, and perhaps even to keep women in their place, birth has been put on a time table and contained by tubes and meters and drugs. Women expect this to be part of birth. Without realizing it they are being told that they can't handle it; they are told that they should be scared.

The more I read the more I am deeply relieved that I will not be birthing in a hospital. My baby is not an "outcome," another statistic for hospitals and doctors to put into one column or another. I don't want my physical integrity compromised for the efficiency of the hospital staff. I am not a problem waiting to happen. And I don't desire my care to be mandated by statistics and litigious ass-covering. I don't want my care based on a fear of their being sued. I want my care based on my actual health. I'm scared enough as it is about the whole birthing process and I don't need doctors I don't know to tell me what my body "should" be doing, to infer that my body and my baby don't know what to do.
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I am watching a Today show segment on C-sections. Some women want c-sections because it is more convenient; they can schedule the birth and get on with their lives. Now, I understand that c-sections are vital in most of the cases where they occur. But when words like "convenience" begin creeping into discussions about birth, my back goes up. It had better be damn well convenient for the woman giving birth first and foremost. Husbands, partners, jobs, and doctors are secondary. I find hospitals to be sterile and cold places in which to give birth. Propped up, flourescent lights, etc etc. Giving birth isn't convenient; it's messy, painful, stressful, but it's a cause for celebration. I wish we would treat birthing, in all its phases, as the miracle it is. But we hide anything that is messy, no matter how integral to the outcome. Sweaty? Unsexy, unless you're a football player. Dying? Shuffle 'em off to nursing homes. Old? Get surgery to look young. Even sex is portrayed as slick, clean, and hairless. We have taken the mess out of life. I read an article about a month ago about a woman who went in for a bikini wax before going off to her c-section. Good lord, the nurses might see pubic hair! I'm sure they would've been put off.

Of course, I have never given birth. I've never even been pregnant. There's a good chance I'll feel differently once I'm pregnant. But I like mess, it's in the mess where great things happen.


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October 2010



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