Wednesday, December 31, 2008

How We Became Hippie Parents, Part 1

Well, let's start the finger-pointing. Mairs' story of the birth of her daughter made the Bradley Method and natural childbirth get into my head. I found the list of Bradley Method teachers online, and my husband contacted one. She said that she was taking a break from teaching, and referred us to another teacher on the list.

I checked out some of the books listed on the Bradley website. (Here are my reviews of parenting books.) I wanted to read the original thoughts of the doctors who came up with the natural childbirth ideas, and read the "basic" books I could find for Bradley (also called "Husband-Coached Childbirth"), Lamaze, and almost anything else I could get my hands on. However, after reading Dr. Bradley's Husband-Coached Childbirth, I realized that everything else sounded silly, and this was obviously the best way to go for us.

So we signed up for classes and started going to them. Our Bradley Method teacher had a little library of books and other media to check out, so I happily perused several of those options.

Then it was time for the Birth Plan. (If you know me at all, you understand that my love of over-planning and of making lists warrants the capitalization.) So I asked my OB/GYN (several of them, repeatedly, since it's a group) about the various "normal" things. And the more I learned about natural childbirth, the more I realized that ... um ... my doctors weren't listening to me. Coming up with several drafts of a birth plan, they seemed to get a particular Look on their faces when they came across things like "no IV" and "food and water." (If there is a desire for an explanation of what I wanted and why, I'll be happy to explain. I took lots of notes, and may even be able to find some of them.)

We took the suggested hospital childbirth preparation class, and the idea struck me that I was going to be much too busy having the baby to try to fight the doctors and nurses to get them to leave me alone when I didn't want interventions.

So we took this difficulty to our Bradley Method teacher and she suggested taking a tour of the local birthing center. When we went to look at cloth diapers at a nearby store, I picked up a flyer (wow, the hippie-ness!) and there was an advertisement for the birthing center there, too. So we made the appointment. I never had to discuss my Birth Plan with the midwives there. Every single thing in my birth plan was their normal operating procedure. Also, the birthing center was nice and cozy, and the people seemed especially friendly and attentive.

So we switched (after much worry (on my part, at least) and discussion) from the standard, everyone-normal-does-this OB/GYN to the almost underground alternative midwife-staffed birthing center.

I borrowed Spiritual Midwifery by Ina May Gaskin from our Bradley Method teacher's lending library. I thought there would be lots of theory and discussion, like many of the other books on natural childbirth I'd been reading. On the contrary, this book was mostly birth stories written by the mothers, fathers, midwives, and attendants, in their own language. (This had initially put me off, as it was written by actual hippies who had "rushes" instead of contractions and when things were serious, they were "heavy.") Yet when the midwife asked me to make the decision during labor of whether I wanted her to break my waters, I knew that Ina May Gaskin (after whom the Gaskin Maneuver was named) regularly broke the waters of the mothers under her care, so I was able to make an informed decision, despite being in heavy labor.

Oh, and when we took the hospital tour, I was just laughing to myself that I had ever considered going to the hospital over the birthing center.

Before I get too ahead of myself, I just want to say "thank you" to Mairs for her unintentional help to me, my husband, and our little son.

(I also want to add that although I have nothing against going to the hospital, I have had too many unpleasant experiences in the hospital (and one at this particular hospital) to make me feel altogether comfortable trusting the staff there.

(When I was sixteen I had back surgery (insertion of Harrington rods for scoliosis) and stayed in the hospital for a week. At one point during that week, I was given morphine orally. I threw it up, and the nurses changed shifts. They had down on my chart that I had taken the morphine, and, despite my mother's protests (which are all I remember coherently, besides pain), they would not give me any more for the next two hours.

(My father was discharged from the hospital by a doctor who looked at the test results instead of the man. The nurses, when he had to be readmitted within a few days, were shocked. One said, "He should never have been discharged!" Within a week, my father was dead.

(When I had a miscarriage later that summer, and I wanted to have one more ultrasound to make sure (and to give God one more chance for a miracle) the morning I had the D&C, I had everyone except the sonogram technician express complete disbelief that it was even possible for me to have a full bladder (for the sonogram) and to not have eaten or drunk anything that morning. Don't most people have any idea of biology, or the fact that it takes time to process what you eat and drink?

(When my mother goes to the hospital, she always gets an itemized bill and checks it, and has taught me to do the same. She has had to fight to get things removed from the bill like the anesthesiologist fee. She didn't *have* an anesthesiologist.

(And that is why I don't like hospitals. I will use them when necessary, but I don't trust them. This is not to say that there aren't good people working in hospitals, but when you already have an idea that people aren't going to listen to you ...)

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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Parenting Paradigm

After conversation with my husband about where to put posts on parenting (which question he said I answered myself), it has been decided that parenting rambling will go here rather than there.

Mostly, I'd like to have a place where I feel comfortable talking about our and my parenting choices, and being excited about learning new things about the developing little person we have in our family.

Today is the first time I have felt like a competent mommy. The past several days have been hectic (something outside the home in the morning, afternoon, and evening, almost every day since Friday), and today I didn't have to leave home at all. (I love staying at home, in my box of a house. I do have to make an effort to take walks outside, and be in sunshine, etc. For the record, Teddy and I took two little front-yard-only walks today.)

I do not know how related it is, but today was also the first day I tried to cut down on the pacifier use. I was confident in my decisions to put him down for his naps. I set the timer for five minutes and let him wail (taking notes on changes in tone to help me not go in to him). After the timer went off, I tried caressing his forehead to soothe him, but he kept fussing, so in went the paci, after which he was asleep if not right away then by the time the timer marked another five minutes. (I have a really bad sense of time.) Throughout the day, he didn't really cry at the changing table, and seemed to cry less at on my lap as I prepared to feed him.

I have been reading and listening to plenty of advice over the past three months. Reading includes several Montessori things (in books and online) and lots of parenting blogs. Advice has included my family (mother: he's too cold; sister: he's too hot; conclusion: he's just fine), parishioners of our home parish as well as other parishes (including one Greek lady who assured me that my next* will be a girl), and random people (what a sweet little girl!). And then there are all the people who give me advice, and, either just before or just afterwards, tell me I should go with my gut. Well, my gut is now educated, advised, driven by hormones, and has made compromises with my husband on how to deal with child-based challenges. So it's a very confused gut indeed, and I don't always know even what I want to do.

*We have postponed the actual discussion of having another child until all three of us have made it to September 2009.

We went to confession on Monday, and I raised the difficulty I had been having with receiving advice. I do know people mean well, but it's awfully hard to hear the same criticisms over and over without feeling rather resentful. For instance, having my baby in a sling: "He's always in there." "Isn't that bad for his spine?" "Isn't that bad for your back?" "He'll be growing out of that soon." And the first coffee hour, people kept putting cash right next to his face and hands. I'm a new mommy and I reserve the right to be germophobic. I put him in the sling because he likes it, I like it, and I remembered the Greek custom of "spitting"* to "keep away the evil eye"** and figured that if I kept him close to me, people would keep their distance a bit more than if he were in the stroller. (Ha! to the last part. Some do, but they don't cancel out the ones who don't.)

*One, in the service of baptism, you spit on the devil, not on the baby, and I really don't care for the association. Two, just because you mean to fake spit doesn't mean you are not actually spitting, and that's just gross. (I was "spat" on during pregnancy, and that's okay, but not on my baby with the immune system still being worked on, thankyouverymuch.)

**Once he's baptized, as pointed out by the abbess of the Annunciation Monastery, the evil eye can't hurt him. Also, I think the idea of the evil eye isn't worth bothering about.

So anyway, in confession Fr. Petros helped me focus on the fact that a priest's child is a child of the community, and everyone wants to have a share in loving him. (Selfish grumble: mine! mine!) So I will do my best to keep smiling and "thanking them for their contribution" as Fr. Petros put it. Also, I have the satisfaction of taking him home with me and doing mostly as I please with the boy.

For whatever reason, praise and questions are almost as annoying as criticism. Although I do like the praise much better, I am a little tired of being asked whether I am breastfeeding (yes) and told that I made the right choice (or: "Good for you!"). Perhaps it is the quantity, or the fact that breastfeeding seems more like a non-choice to me: I decided on it, my husband supports me, and by now it is working.

This post is already long, but I will try to keep posting as my brain and baby allow. I hope to answer the thought my husband had when he (a "veteran dad" of two months) brought our son to the Boot Camp for New Dads, "When did we turn into the hippie parents?"

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