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Asking for Help

Was I taught somewhere along the way that it is a weakness to need help from others? I don’t think anyone ever said so out loud, but it’s what I thought was true for a long time. But it isn’t true.

In fact, asking for help- and being willing to receive help- is one of the most powerful things I can do. I am strong enough to receive.

Women, especially when birthing, understand and know that although all the power that is ever needed is inside us, support from the outside helps us connect to the truth and power inside. We sometimes need to be reminded of our strength. We sometimes need to be surrounded by people who believe in us.

This week I asked for help from my friends- doulas, midwives, birth activists and moms. And I was awed and honored by their response. As I flexed my asking and receiving muscles, I could tell it had been too long since I really stretched them.

So I’m going to ask for your help too.

Next Monday at 1pm ET, I’m trying something new with my radio show, A Labor of Love. I usually connect with topics I feel are important to moms and moms-to-be by talking with guest experts. And although I enjoy the show, I trust that it is time to birth something new: I really want to connect directly with other moms and moms-to-be who are listening. I want to connect with you.

This is how you can help: Don’t just listen to the show- CALL ME! Let me know what you’re thinking. Share your experience- what worked and what didn’t.

The topic for Monday’s show is Taking Responsibility for Pregnancy and Birth. Read the full description HERE.

To connect to the live show, click this link: A Labor of Love at 1pm ET. Then call in during the show at 866-472-5972.

If you can’t make it to the live show, but have some thoughts you’d like to add to the conversation, send me an email. Include your comments, your first name and where you live, and I’ll share your ideas during the show. Email IntentionalBirth (at) yahoo (dot) com.

Thanks for connecting with me and for reminding me that I’m strong enough to ask. Will you help?

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Today’s radio show will focus on information about circumcision that parents need to know- information that hopefully will help parents keep their newborn sons intact. The more I read, the more I hurt for baby boys (and girls) who are circumcised; and the more I hurt for parents who made the decision based on misinformation, cultural bias or blind trust in their doctor. Parents simply don’t choose to permanently injure their children without the belief that it will somehow help.

Here’s some info to get you started:

Although at one time it was only a religious rite, in the early 1900’s circumcision was promoted to eliminate or cure many diseases including hernia, nocturnal incontinence, prolapse of the rectum, syphilis, cancer, epilepsy, chorea, hysteria, and masturbation. These are the main “conditions” that moved circumcision into the medical realm. In our modern era, circumcision is not recommended by any medical or health association, although myths still circulate widely, many suggesting circumcision reduces risks for penile cancer, HIV/AIDS, cervical cancer in women, and urinary tract infection.

The most important fact to understand relating to these myths (once you get over the absurdity of some) is that not one of these conditions is caused by the foreskin or cured by circumcision. And for women- the fact that nuns have a similar rate of cervical cancer as sexually active women should be enough to conclude circumcision is irrelevant to that health concern.

With no medical reason to circumcise, most parents still need to be educated about reasons to leave children INTACT. Because currently parents in the US are from a generation of very high rates of infant circumcision, so many husbands/fathers and wives/mothers don’t know what the foreskin is for. Ignorance of what is missing, and the desire to see our bodies as ok and acceptable and same, is part of what propels tradition. To counter tradition and cultural bias, we need to learn the reasons to oppose tradition.

  1. The Foreskin is not a birth defect. It has a purpose and is necessary for normal sexual function and sensitivity. It protects the glans and maintains proper pH balance, moisture and cleanliness. The foreskin contains glands which produce antibacterial and antiviral proteins to defend against infections. In many ways, it works like the eyelids do to protect our eyes.
  2. Protect your child from needless pain. Even when anesthesia is used (which is not 100% of the time), babies feel an extraordinary amount of pain. Watch this video of a circumcision to understand how babies suffer.
  3. Children have the right to bodily integrity and can’t give informed consent. Parents don’t have the right to consent to surgical removal of healthy tissue for no medical reason. Men and women deserve to remain whole unless they choose to alter their own bodies. Legislation was passed banning Female Circumcision in the US in 1997, but similar protection for boys has not yet been passed.
  4. Long-term consequences, psychological and physical, have been identified including sexual dysfunction and impotence.

Parents and doctors can work together to eliminate this unnecessary surgery. Consider this: do you really want a doctor caring for you or your child who would needlessly (and for profit) remove any healthy organ from your baby- a kidney, for example- just because s/he can live without it? Should we remove the appendix at birth? Why not?

If doctors put the welfare of your baby first, they would find no practical or logical reason to remove the foreskin. So then, why do doctors perform this unnecessary surgery on babies?

Join me with Marilyn Milos on A Labor of Love at 1 p.m. today or catch the replay HERE.

A great resource for parents to understand current information applied to your specific questions is available at CircumcisionDecisionMaker.com. A list of resources is available HERE. You can also learn more by watching this video of Dr Dean Edell.

Your comments and stories are always welcome.

I attended a doula training this past weekend given by Rae Davies of The Birth Company. It was a very intimate gathering of compassionate women, choosing to educate themselves to support laboring mothers. So it was not surprising that the environment brought out the best in all of us. It also presented an opportunity to share our stories, experience, and hopes.

Near the end of the last day, as we focused on the doula’s role during the postpartum period, a local midwife talked about some signs of postpartum depression- crying a lot, insomnia-like lack of sleep, fear that something will happen to the baby, fear the baby will die. She talked about family and community support (or lack of support) and hearing what was happening to the relationship between the mother and father/partner.

But because she didn’t cover the signs of my illness, I decided to share them. And it was hard to listen to my own words. The feelings are still very raw. But I wanted to post it here, so if you are supporting a woman who recently gave birth, if you are friends with a new mom, you might see the warning signs that I can see looking back.

  1. Dramatic change in values. While women with new babies may change their minds about many things, a dramatic change in what is important could be a sign that she’s having trouble. My example: Although I am a committed breastfeeder, I went to the store and bought formula and a bottle- just in case I wasn’t there to feed the baby.
  2. Talk about “running away from home” or escape can be double-talk for suicide. This was the main reason I needed an alternate method to feed the baby- I was going to run away from home (die) and she would need to eat.
  3. I cried myself to sleep, because I felt like a terrible mom. I thought my kids were better off without me. My decision to kill myself was both the reason I felt like a bad mother, and the answer to being a bad mother. Please notice the lack of clear reasoning here.
  4. I was honest but evasive. If asked a direct question, I answered it honestly. But I did not volunteer information about being a bad mother. I was ashamed. And I was not questioned about how I was. Questions about the baby, about sleeping, about integration of baby with big sister, about cloth diapering, about breastfeeding, were the standard. My illness was found when my midwife asked “How are YOU?” and expected to hear an honest answer.
  5. I talked about losing my mind. I knew there was something not quite right, but I was warned having 2 kids would be more difficult than one, and I thought I just kind of sucked at it. I thought time would make it better, but it actually made it worse. Over time I became distraught at the idea of leaving my girls without a mother (especially since my mother died young) and decided we would all have to go together. I could not leave them behind.

It is raw and painful to know that I considered ending the lives of my children and myself. It is horrifying. It is unbearable at times. It is not enough sometimes to know that I had a temporary illness (now treated). It hurts in a way nothing else can. And if I’m going to be honest with myself, this is still my biggest consideration when thinking about future children- am I risking the lives of my children by considering having another?

Here is what you can do as a friend or family member:

  • Ask about the mom. Ask in a clear, direct way- and look her in the eyes. Ask only if you mean it, because she may only tell you once.
  • If a woman tells you she’s in bad shape, ask her permission to call her doctor. If she’s told you what’s happening, she will agree to help- but it’s important she feels she has a choice about who is helping. (In my case it was essential that our family doctor be involved, because she knew me well enough to know that continuing the breastfeeding relationship was just as important to my mental health as medical treatment- and so she prescribed a breastfeeding-friendly way.)
  • Offer to stay with her. Offer to accompany her to the appointment. If Tammy didn’t show up at my house, I may have found a reason to miss the appointment. And her help watching my toddler so I could focus on the purpose of the visit was also very appreciated.
  • Follow up. Call, drop by, have a play date- but keep asking how she is. It’s important for moms with postpartum depression and postpartum psychosis to know they still have support. We often feel alone, isolated by being “bad moms”, and just different. Your continued support and caring goes a long way to remind us we are not an illness. We can eventually be the women and moms we always wanted to be, with just a little extra help.

Please comment. Add your experience with PPD or PPP or with supporting women who experience this. The more information that is available, the better supported new moms can be.

Within the culture of labor and childbirth is a choice of language. It used to be that women birthed their babies. Then medicalization of pregnancy and labor began and women were delivered of their babies. While it may have been the case when women were coerced into unconsciousness during labor, that someone else assisted the delivery of their babies, it is no longer true and the terminology does not serve women.

Birth is an action word. Anyone who has given birth to a baby, knows the work involved in labor is her own.

No one delivers a woman of her baby. (In my opinion, this terminology doesn’t support women who must birth surgically either, although I respectfully leave it to those wise women to define their own experience.)

Babies are not delivered to a mother like pizza. There is sweat and blood and tears involved- for these the term “delivery” makes no mention.

This language reveals an attitude of disrespect for a woman’s active role in bringing her baby into the world.

An important step for women who desire to empower themselves and advocate for themselves is to own the word birth and select care providers who reveal a comparable attitude with their language.

ALL women are powerful. Women who BIRTH learn their power firsthand. This is the nature of birth.

Own your power. Own your BIRTH.

I posted on Tuesday about the past. I was remembering and figured the best way to get it out and be grounded in the present day was to blog about it. Blogging usually works to clear my head.

Later that day, my 5-year old daughter said to me, completely out of the blue, “Mommy, tell me about that car accident you were in.”

Is it a coincidence that she is asking for a memory that I was holding onto that day?

This isn’t the first time she’s been sensitive to ideas/thoughts in my head. It is very difficult to keep a secret from her. Picture this: I make plans for us to play at a friend’s house. (I don’t like to talk about it too far in advance because then it is disappointing if we have to cancel, due to illness or something.) When she gets home from pre-school that day, she looks me in the face and says “We’re going to Sophia’s?! When?”

I don’t know if she reads my face or my mind. I’m not sure it really matters. But because of this sensitivity, I’m careful. I don’t lie to her. I don’t want to give her mixed signals- one from my face/mind and something different from my words. This means I have to come up with ways to talk about things in 5-year old terms that I don’t necessarily want to talk about, because she’s asked me a direct question.

Sometimes I’ll tell her that I’m not ready to talk about certain ideas. But I will often find ways to talk about things I would not have brought up without her questions. She asks about God; about my parents; about the Spirit Realm/Heaven.

Last week she asked about the memory field- a lawn covered in flags to memorialize the lives of children who died at the hands of their parents and care-givers. She wanted to know why the children would choose to be born into families that didn’t know how to care for them. And I didn’t have an answer. I tell her the truth about that, too.

I am proud to answer my daughter’s questions. I’m so grateful she feels safe enough to ask. I do find it exasperating at times that she always wants to know things- but that doesn’t last long, and it doesn’t outweigh the pleasure I get from connecting to her as an individual person with her own thoughts and ideas. She continues to amaze me- and I’m thankful she chose me to be her mother.

Are your children sensitive to your thoughts? Do they ask questions that seem beyond their years? How do you respond?

As much as I talk about myself, I know I don’t always often tell people much about my past. I don’t usually get down to the nitty-gritty especially when it’s a sensitive topic. I think I feel especially sensitive about a lot of my past. So today’s post may be a bit unusual, but I’m drawn to write it out anyway.

Today marks the 19-year anniversary of a car accident that claimed the lives of my parents. I was 17, nearly 18, so this particular anniversary means more of my life has now been lived without my parents, than with them.

Here is the story of that day:

We were visiting University of North Carolina, Greensboro. (I had applied based in part on an areal view of the campus- all that green drew me in.) I’d been accepted and offered an academic scholarship, so we were going through the motions of making the final decision. But it had really been made, because without a scholarship, I knew we couldn’t afford college.

We had toured the campus with our separate groups (kids with kids, parents with parents) and then run into each other in the quad- when each of us were supposed to be listening to some lecture inside and instead decided to duck out and explore. This apple didn’t fall too far from the tree, I guess. We wandered around together, and all knew it was the right place. We went out to dinner to celebrate.

On the way back from dinner, after getting off the interstate, my dad made a wrong turn at a confusing intersection. He incorrectly turned across another lane exiting from the highway. Our car was broadsided by the rig of a tractor-trailer. I remember seeing the headlights and then waking up with a blooming Forsythia coming in my window. The car had been catapulted across the road and down an embankment.

When emergency personnel arrived, they asked me to wiggle my fingers and toes. Neither of my parents were conscious. My mother died in the car. I remember the EMT checking her pulse and speaking with someone outside the car, saying she had died. I don’t think they were going to tell me. I started to scream and cry. It just couldn’t be happening! How could this be happening? (I still wonder sometimes.)

My dad and I were transported to a local hospital. He died within a couple of hours. I was badly injured but was able to give the emergency phone number that had been drilled into me since I was a little kid (our neighbors, who were also my parents best friends.) My brother and sister were at home in Pennsylvania. Someone had to tell them what had happened. My sister was 19, my brother 22.

It took a long time to really absorb that they had died. I was in denial for a long time, a really long time- with occasional breakdowns in between. I made it look like I was moving on. Appearances were very important to me back then. Everyone else’s life went on and I felt like mine had been irreparably broken. After 6 months people stopped asking how I was- so I figured I was supposed to be ok by then. I didn’t want people to know I wasn’t ok. I didn’t want them to think there was something wrong with me, that I wasn’t better yet. And I wasn’t anywhere even close to better. I was broken.

It took years to get my life on the inside shaped like a life I wanted to live. Even after I met and married my husband, I hadn’t healed completely. But when my daughter was born, something inside me shifted. I realized the love I felt for her, how powerful it was. I knew in a way no one could have explained that love was more powerful than anything else- even death.

Becoming a wife with my parents absent, becoming a mother without my mom around to help- these were bigger challenges than I knew going in. I still find it hard to explain sometimes when people tell us we should get away for the weekend & leave the kids with our parents. (Jim’s mom died shortly after we were married.)

Every day is not a struggle like it once was. But some days, and some milestones, are hard- even after all these years.

What I am most grateful for within this experience is that I know better than to let issues with friends go unresolved, thinking to take care of it later. I don’t wait for the right time to apologize. And although I do wonder and worry sometimes about what people think, I know there isn’t enough time to please everyone- so I listen to my heart.

I’m glad to have found my heart again. I’m glad it wasn’t broken beyond repair. I’m amazed at how much love is birthed with such a tiny baby. And I’m more than grateful to understand the gift I’ve received.

I used the title “vaccination question” because I don’t consider it a debate. We don’t debate with people outside our family about where we’re going on vacation, whether the kids should go to school or homeschool, or what to have for dinner, even when we receive suggestions, insight, and/or helpful information from others. We take in the information, discuss it, research it more sometimes, and make the choices we feel are right for our family.

We think every family has this right. And I don’t like the notion that some doctors don’t like to discuss all information available about vaccines (and what information is not available) because they are afraid parents won’t make the decision the doctor wants them to make. A big part of my skepticism is that information about risks wasn’t discussed in mainstream medicine until Autism questions forced it into the open. And even if Autism is not caused by vaccines, there are other risks that I was never warned about before vaccinating my older daughter as an infant.

No one said anything about risk – until I met a woman with a vaccine-injured child. She talked about it- you can imagine she talked about it a lot. And I discovered I had a lot of questions that I didn’t know to ask when we first chose to vaccinate. We stopped any vaccination for our oldest after 12 months, declining MMR and Chickenpox at the 12 month visit. (Our younger child has had none.)

Then I started to research online. What I found was that some diseases do pose a serious risk to some children/people- that it’s hard to define who will be affected most seriously. That wasn’t really surprising. And I read about the serious risks of vaccines for some people- and that it’s equally difficult to determine which people will have a serious reaction. I also found that other parents were upset and nervous about vaccinating; about not vaccinating; about the risks to their children from vaccines, from disease, from un-vaccinated children.

As parents we can only make decisions based on the information available. We simply don’t know what we don’t know. My reasons for currently not vaccinating are many. Among them is the idea that I believe the potential risk of damage by vaccines (not just immediate, but long-term health consequences) is greater than the risk of my children suffering long-term damage from illnesses vaccines were created to prevent.

Are there consequences I haven’t considered? Possibly. I’m willing to listen if you have a story to tell me or information to offer. I know I don’t know everything there is to possibly know about vaccines. So if you’ve got something to share, please do.

Incidentally, we were exposed to chicken-pox last week and are waiting for the arrival of spots. Each day, I check the kids and nothing yet. I’ve picked up a homeopathic remedy to use if/when the spots appear and I’m expecting that we’ll go stir crazy in the house before long. (But we may also get some needed organization and laundry done along the way to crazy.)

I’ve still got a lot of questions about vaccination. So on Monday (at 1pm ET) I’m interviewing Barbara Loe Fisher from the National Vaccine Information Center. You can access the show here. You can also call in with questions during the live show, but if you want to simply provide your opinion, I respectfully request you do so here, so that we can have as many questions answered as possible during the hour-long show.