Monthly Archives: August 2011

Fear

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I watched my son today play with his toys. He was standing in an empty box, playing with a puzzle toy and leaning side to side. Without warning, the box under him lurched and he almost fell, catching himself barely on the edge of the table.

I watched him and -my- heart skipped a beat. I was quite frightened by his almost accident, even though I smiled with relief that he had caught himself and even felt a touch of pride at his coordination. I smiled around the room (at nobody, since it’s just the two of us here) with that apprehensive relief.

Then my smile faltered and I realized something.

He had slipped, and he never missed a beat. He righted himself with quiet practicality and resumed play without ever glancing around, with no relieved but slightly unnerved smile or look to Mama for reassurance. It was as if he had never slipped and he never even batted an eye.

While yes, I am proud of his quiet self-sufficiency, it makes me wonder why -I- react to my fear the way I do. Why do I look around for reassurance to the folks in the room? Why do I need to take time to catch my breath if I have a close call? If it’s such a natural adrenaline reaction, why does my kid not even blink?

Okay, so he’s young. He may not understand the fear of falling because he hasn’t fallen very often. Which… is bunk, because he’s fallen pretty frequently. I think it’s just because he registers that he’s not hurt, all’s well, there’s no need for fear, and so there is none. He’s got a brief moment of startled attention and then whoosh- on to something better!

I wish I could react to my fears that way.

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Tantrum Time: Why does nobody ever want to talk about the bad days?

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What I hear from gentle-parenting parents is all good stories about how wonderful their children are and all their blogs are about happy, sweet, gentle and kind stories about how lovely everything in life is.

All I hear from traditional strict parents is stories about how horrible their kids are and how they don’t put up with that nonsense and how they spank it out of their kids.

I’d really, really love to hear from gentle parents about their really shitty days, when their gently parented kids are screaming on the floor for no reason except that they’re having a bad day. I’d like to hear stories from parents who are trying to raise non-violent kids of the days when nothing works and you’re at your wits end, ten seconds from losing every drop of cool you have because the last FOUR HOURS have been non-stop hysterical temper tantrums for no definable reason, where you’ve tried everything, but your child is just completely…. overboard.

Because my child is completely overboard.
I am at the end of my rope.
It’s nothing but screaming, incoherent shrieking and sobbing, and he doesn’t know what he wants. He doesn’t want me, or his father, or anyone. He screams and demands a bottle, and then he screams and throws the bottle away. He sits on your lap and hugs you with his arms, but kicks you with his feet, screaming to put him down- but if you put him down, he screams he doesn’t want down.

He’s been doing this since noon and I’m at the end of sanity, and I’m having a nervous breakdown, and I’m trying so hard to hold onto the fact that he’s only two, that he doesn’t articulate well, that he’s probably hot or tired. I try to hold onto the fact that he’s not doing this on purpose to hurt me or aggravate me or manipulate me and that to him, there’s something wrong that I’m just not seeing but…

And I can’t call my mother because she already believes that I can’t do this, and gods forbid I post it to any public forum for fear of the nasty flames I’d get about how it’s my own fault and if I didn’t spoil him and how when he starts this I should just spank him and let him know it’s unacceptable.

But I’ve hit the end of my rope. I’m tired, I haven’t slept because he keeps waking up and I keep waking up (pregnant) and I don’t even know if I can do this. I mean, what if it is my fault and that’s why he’s doing this, because I’m spoiling him or something.

I don’t want to believe that. Not that it might be something I’m doing, I’m okay with that. I don’t want to believe that I have to raise my children with violence and force to ‘make’ them into good people. I don’t want to believe that the only possible way to raise children is by punishing them harshly for every mistake.

But those are the only people who speak up about their bad days. Those are the folks who get pissed at you when you say you’re trying to raise gentle children by modeling gentleness. They get offended and they must feel like I’m attacking them, because they attack me back- except I’m not attacking them. I don’t care. I don’t care if they spank their kids or not. I just know what I want to do raising mine, and it’s not that path.

But I’m so far broken at this point that I’m afraid if I post this anywhere, I’m going to get the host of hateful comments about how ‘spanking didn’t hurt me’ and ‘how dare I criticize their discipline.’

Except I’m all alone right now, with a screaming toddler who has no reason for his tantrums that he’s willing to tell me, looking at all the blogs and books of peaceful parents who never have posts like “I am so completely at the end of my rope because my child is misbehaving and won’t stop screaming” and instead are full of sunshine and light and no decent advice at all for my situation.

Several hysterical sobbing minutes on my part later and I have some semblance of sanity back. For now. But it’s still so exasperating.

After some consultation with my mom (because, it’s inevitable, really) I have come to the conclusion that he’s hot. I’ve got the fan on him now, and I gently wiped him down with cool water (until he woke enough to object) and put ice in his milk bottle and lemonade with ice in his other bottle, and (watered down milk aside) that should help him cool off when he decides to have a drink.

Post rant, I feel better. Thanks for listening.

Propaganda Words: Why would you say that?!

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I hear a lot of people talking about how it’s all about choices, about options. I hear a lot of conversation and rallying cries of ‘freedom to choose’, whether it’s about abortion or birth choices or end of life care.  

What I don’t hear much of is words designed to offer those options without bias. I hear doctors saying that home birth is ‘playing roulette’, advocates of home birth talking about being ‘filleted’ or ‘torn open’ when they have a C-section.

All of those words are especially designed in our culture to be frightening! If the goal really is to provide a wide, full range of options, why do we say we ‘get’ to have an epidural or we ‘have’ to have one?

It’s come to my attention because I’m pregnant with twins. People walk up and ask when I’m going to schedule my Cesarean- and when I say I’m not scheduling one, they give me a doubtful look and ask why I’m willing to jeopardize my baby/life/health/convenience/lifestyle.

Why would you ask that? (Not even mentioning how rude it is when strangers ask these sorts of things anyway…)

I believe in a holistic birth. That means I believe that a woman has the right to whatever she chooses- and she has the right to choose based on complete information. That means that whomever is providing the information has no bias for or against the choices.

It’s the right to have home birth explained completely- not just presented as either a terrible risk or the only ‘real’ option if you -actually- love yourself/your baby/women.  You have the right to know that sometimes, a C-section is necessary for the health and survival of your child- but you also have the right to know that it’s not always the best choice just because your baby is breech or you’ve labored for a few hours longer than your doctor is comfortable with.

It’s the right of every woman to the birth experience that is not traumatic, not frightening. And I don’t care if you’re having a fully medicated, epidural, planned C-section or a natural, un-medicated birth at home in a tub. It’s the right to come out the other side of this experience feeling respected, honored, and well cared for- NO MATTER WHAT CHOICE YOU MAKE.

It’s also the right to be educated without propaganda words being thrown around. You should never be in a position to make a decision because you’re afraid of what happens if you don’t. You should never have a c-section just because you’re scared of what happens if you don’t have one. Or an IV, or an epidural, or a home birth, or a water birth.

No decision should be made in fear- and propaganda words are fear words. They’re words, phrases, particular ways of saying things that are designed to make you frightened of what ‘might be’.

My midwife, at my first birth, actually had the nerve to ask me while I labored in the bath, “Now, do you want to have a safe birth?”

What sort of question is that? No, I want to do this while I bungee jump off the roof. Of course I do! But what those words were designed to do was instill a fear in me that if I didn’t listen to her, I would not be having a safe birth.  Those were propaganda words designed to make me afraid and pliable. I didn’t deserve to have that fear instilled in me for what is already a huge, stressful (although not necessarily a frightening or traumatic) experience.

Propaganda words are sentences like “Having twins at homebirth is like playing roulette with your life and your children’s lives”; “Having your low-risk birth in a hospital is dangerous because of the number of interventions that are routinely administered there.”; or “Well, you can -try- that…. But I don’t know why you would willingly take that risk.”

Any of those sentences says “Be afraid.” It says be afraid of hospitals because they’re cold and uncaring and won‘t listen to you. It says be afraid of homebirths or midwives because you could die and nobody could save you. It says “Be afraid. Be very afraid.”

No wonder women go into labor so worried and frightened.

Yes, you are a glorious body, designed to do precisely what you’re doing. You labor and you deliver, because that’s what you’re made for.

But yes, sometimes bad things happen, and you do need a doctor.

Neither of these things changes that you have a choice. I have read hundreds of birth stories recently, in preparation for my own birth. What I see are women who have birthed at home and had transcendent, glorious experiences. I also see women who’ve birthed fully medicated at hospitals and had the same glorious experiences, who came out so happy they chose what they did. I see women who revel in their C-section, knowing that they made the best choice for them and their children.

I also see horror stories of mistreated women in hospital who were ignored or lied to. I also see those stories (and lived that story) with midwives. I have read stories about homebirths where the mother had a crisis and was rushed to the OR. I have read stories where a mother decided to birth at home and decided that she didn’t want that experience, she became upset or afraid, she wanted a hospital.

What I see as a recurring theme throughout all the stories of beauty and joy and pleasure in birth is respect. A home birthing mother is respected and her wishes are honored, and she finds her inner sanctity and births. A mother in a hospital is not forced into interventions she is not comfortable with, but chooses (of her own free will!) to have pain relief- and she has a beautiful birth. A mother in crisis knows that she needs a c-section for her child’s life and makes that choice not out of fear but out of love for her unborn infant- and she has no regrets.

When birthing decisions are made in love and respect and not out of propaganda and fear, the birth experience is glorious and beautiful.

So lets try to avoid propaganda words, shall we?