Friday, October 27, 2006

How it All Began

Whenever I'm pregnant, I think about how I came to an understanding about birth. It was a landmark year for me.

Before I got pregnant with our fourth child, I was a typical American mainstream birther and mother. I was raised the daughter of a plastic surgeon and a medical malpractice attorney. I grew up bowing on the altar of medicine.

When my third baby was a year old, I weaned her because of some migraine medication I needed to take. After about a week of feeling guilty, I decided to call La Leche League. The person who answered the phone was one of the most (and still remains!) influential, wise women I've ever met (and she reads this blog, so, LOVE YOU! to her!). She helped me decide that as long as I held my daughter off from nursing for a few hours, most of the drug would be out of my system and I could continue nursing. She invited me to a meeting and I was hooked. I decided Johnny-on-the-spot that I needed to be a La Leche League Leader.

I finished my Leadership training and met many other remarkable women. They had all had homebirths. And they homeschooled. And they practiced "attachment parenting" and they taught me so many things that made immediate sense to my heart, but that my head still struggled with.

When I got pregnant with my fourth baby, I asked some of my co-leaders if the Bradley Method classes had really made any difference for them. They said it was astounding the difference it made. One of the members of our group was a Bradley teacher. At a fund-raiser for our group, she donated a series of classes to the silent auction. I won it.

My Bradley teacher was another incredibly amazing woman. Her classes were so rich and complete. She was pregnant with her third baby and gave birth during our series. The next week, there she was with her newborn in a sling, teaching like always.

I was seeing a nurse-midwife in the hospital. My surgeon father said to me, "Well, that's fine, but SOME people do that AT HOME you know." I replied, "Oh, I would never do that." Famous last words. My Bradley classes opened my eyes to so many things about the medical practices surrounding childbirth. I felt like Dorothy when Toto pulls aside the curtain, and she realizes that The Great and Powerful Wizard of Oz is really just a guy pulling levers behind a curtain.

Four classes into our Bradley series I started begging PreacherMan to meet with the midwife and consider a homebirth. He was very resistant and believed it wasn't safe.

Finally, he agreed to meet her. Ahhhhh. We walked in the door and spent two hours talking with her and there was clearly no other choice. I had to have this woman at my birth.

She was such a hippy. Long hair, long skirts, no makeup, birks. So calm, so serene, so loving. When I left after my first prenatal and she gave me a hug, I almost fell over. A careprovider hugging you??? What on earth was that?

Her office was so welcoming...Her "examining table" was an old psychiatrist's reclining couch. She had a rocking chair from Ecuador with an embossed leather seat. There was a bamboo bird cage with a quiet little songbird in it. A large antique desk held her most used midwifery texts and a wooden shelving unit held more books and birth sculptures and art.

In her bathroom, she had Aveda's Calming body wash for washing your hands. After I moved away, I bought a bottle for myself so I would smell "like her". She always had some lemongrass oil in a diffuser on the counter.

Her waiting room was filled with wooden toys and an antique glass-door bookcase held her lending library. It was all warm and cozy, nothing at all clinical about it.

If she would need to cancel an appointment because she was at another birth, my sense of disappointment was profound. The worst thing about having my baby was that I didn't get to go to her office and see her anymore.

It was about two appointments in that I KNEW I wanted to "be her" when I grew up. I told her so, and continue to email her now and again and keep her abreast of my progress. I like to think she's very proud of me.

When she arrived to my birth (about 12 minutes before the baby) I was sitting on the toilet, pushing. She sat on the little booster seat in front of me and said, so quietly, "Ok." "I can push!?!?" "Ok." That was it. So quiet, so calm.

I think I'm on the road to "being" a lot like her, although I don't know if I will ever be as experienced as she is, and I'm sure some things I will do differently, but that memory..... It's like a first love.

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