Saturday, December 19, 2015

5 Things to Know About Natural Birth (Or at least my take on it)

    This was not on the list of regularly scheduled programming, but I got tagged like 3 times in a post about natural birth and I've had to give this response before, so I figured it would be best just to keep all these thoughts together and accessible. So, as someone who had a natural birth and who is also a certified childbirth educator, here are the things I think are important to know:

1) We will start with anecdotal evidence. My birth. I loved it. It was loooong (78 hours) and my baby was BIG (9lb. 14oz.), but I would not describe my birth as painful. Contractions were uncomfortable (although I have endometriosis and not a single contraction hurt worse than my period cramps), pushing was really hard work (not only was he big, he wasn't ideally positioned), and crowning felt intense, but never once did it feel like I was suffering or needing additional assistance in any way. Now, to hedge, I had a homebirth. I could move freely, eat what I wanted, rest on my own bed or in a birthing tub in my living room. We could come and go from the house as we pleased and be left completely alone when I needed some space. I imagine if I had been in a different environment I would have faced some unique challenges that may have changed how the birth progressed and my perception of it, depending on the limitations of the space.

2) Let's be clear- No medication does not mean no pain relief. It simply means using other tools to cope with discomfort during labor. In my classes, we go over all the different pain relief options and they fill in a tool box with the ones that appeal to them and then have a separate space for ones they want to avoid. Massage, hydrotherapy, positioning, activity, relaxation and mediation, TENS units, aromatherapy- all these things can offer pain relief during labor and help labor to progress optimally. Some people think natural birth just means showing up and gritting through it, and that usually results in the stories you hear about it was so awful or they had to get medication or they were so exhausted after they couldn't function.

3) It's like running a marathon. Ask any long distance runner and they will tell you running can hurt. Your muscles are working hard, your body is taxed, there can be discomfort. But they still run because they know they are working towards a goal. They also know that the pain is PRODUCTIVE and not INJURIOUS, and that is an important distinction. Some people who aren't familiar with extensive physical exertion may not readily understand the difference. You can feel pain when you are injured- like stepping on a nail or breaking a bone. It hurts and it signals your body to have a adrenal response to the situation to cope. However, you can also feel pain during things that are not injurious but actually productive, like running. It may be uncomfortable, but your body is not being harmed or damaged, it's simply working hard. Same thing with birth. Nothing is happening TO you; you are ACCOMPLISHING something. And when the body perceives that kind of discomfort, it does not initiate a stress response, which is good because those stress hormones can actually make pain worse and make you feel panicky. Mentally preparing for this distinction during pregnancy can keep you from panicking when you feel a contraction and stimulating an injurious pain response. Telling yourself or having other people remind you that the discomfort is normal, your body is working hard, your baby is on it's way, etc., can help keep you calm and the discomfort in perspective.

4)One of my pet peeves is when people say "You can't plan labor." Well fucking duh. Everyone knows this. It peeves me because it is usually said in response to a mother trying to prepare herself for her labor or gain more knowledge. It sounds discouraging and frankly really patronizing. The mom knows she can't plan. But she's trying to prepare. And that is GREAT. Our culture does not prepare us for birth at all, but especially not for natural birth and it does take some effort to rectify that. While some people may feel more comfortable with a medically managed pregnancy where they don't have to participate, many others want bodily autonomy and the ability to allow their body to do what it needs to do. What I recommend to my students is this: Make a birth plan- the one you want. The one you envision and hope for. Then make a separate contingency plan. Talk with your birth partner about what you would do in certain circumstances, such as if you medically needed an induction (which is not common) or medically needed a cesarean (also not common). Write those things down so you both are on the same page and know what to do if a situation arises. But then put it away. Don't look at the contingency plan again. You have addressed the "what ifs", now focus all of your energy on your original birth plan. Say affirmations, read birth stories, watch videos, surround yourself with positivity.

5) It doesn't have to be all or nothing. Most people are interested in natural birth for the experience and the health benefits to mom and baby. However, at some point you may decide you want a different kind of experience and that's okay, but you can mitigate the risk to you and baby by knowing about interventions and how to use them. Timing of epidurals, method of induction, etc. can make a big difference in how much risk you are adding on with these interventions. Also, as I tell my students- you can't get an epidural in the parking lot. Chances are even if you plan the most medicated labor in the history of childbirth, you are going to have to deal with a few contractions on your own. So it behooves you to know about how to handle birth in the event that medical interventions aren't readily available.

     So there you have it. Per usual, feel free to ask questions, email, facebook, etc.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Catching Up

    I feel like I've really been slacking the past few months and am a little frustrated because I have several topics I'd like to cover, but this semester has been crazy for us. Joey has had some very time consuming classes and I feel like I've been juggling 18 different things. Perrin and I did a parent-child Waldorf class this semester. I started phasing myself out of the grant project I was working for and launched my childbirth class series. I also had plans to go back to school and had to study and test for the classes I needed to take. Unfortunately due to our financial situation, that isn't going to work out. Money is tight and there are other projects that I also need to focus on. That coupled with the fact that once Joey has a tenure-track job I should be able to attend classes at a discounted rate led me to decide to postpone any additional education for the time being. But at least I know I can test into higher level chemistry and calculus!
    I did however decide to put my M.A. to use and applied for an adjunct position at the local community college. The have an adjunct "pool" and don't advertise official openings, so I just have to hope that they need a professor in the subjects I'm qualified to teach. I'm also starting an extremely part time job at the local birth center leading a Parent and Child group. Throw in an essay I prepared for a writing contest, a trip to Philadelphia, and the general fall and winter festivities, and we've been quite busy lately. I really don't like being busy, but it just seems to happen.
    Anyway, I'm hoping to get a few posts out over Joey's winter break. Unfortunately any school break usually turns into "Let's do all the things we've needed to do for the past 4 months!" so I'm not sure exactly how much spare time I'll have. So if anyone is still out there, stay tuned. I promised I still have original thoughts and ideas, I just rarely get a chance to write them down.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

No time to talk

   Seriously. No time. None. Zero. I have about 4 different topics I want to discuss here, but I have time for exactly zilch. I finally found a place for my childbirth classes, so those begin next week. I'm going back to school in January. And Perrin is well, Perrin, and two. So....I'm sorry. Eventually, hopefully, I'll get around to discusses modern parenting and the social costs, Perrin's sleeping habits as a toddler, and whatever else it was that I wanted to talk about (See, I already forgot). But I also have a writing contest I'm submitting to and desperately trying to finish my piece for, a house to clean, and a bunch of other crap. And all of our shit keeps breaking. So it may be a while. Thanks for understanding.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Why Politeness Needs to Die

      I am vehemently anti-politeness. I have to come to this conclusion after years of self-reflection and general observation. The entire concept of being "polite" needs to curl up and die. Maybe it's because I was born and raised in the South where there is that supposed Southern White, Abled, Middle Class, Christian, Patriarchal Hopsitality, but politeness was always emphasized to me growing up. I was expected to do and say specific things because it was polite. I was expected to respond in a certain way because it was polite. And I'm calling bullshit.

    Now, before anyone burns me at the stake, let me explain what I am vehemently for- I am for kindness. I am for being loving and kind towards my fellow humans and the rest of this gorgeous planet. I am for being considerate of others because that should be the default way in which we treat each other. I am for cultivating peacefulness and gentleness in the way we interact and relate to each other and the world around us.
Notice how the focus is on how you are perceived
and treated, not on being kind to others.
 Being polite to "get" something.

    So what's the distinction, you ask? Well, for some people there may not be any. But for me, at least the way it was presented to me or the way I perceived it until just recently in my adult life, being polite was something you had to do out of social custom. It was what "good" children and adults did. It was the opposite of rude. If you didn't want to be though rude, you had to be polite. And rudeness was "bad". And so I spent most of my life being polite as some kind of behavioralist reflex to certian cues and situations because all I knew is if I didn't, I was bad. And in some ways that meant I was an absolute door mat. And all I can think is how much different I would have perceived my place in the world is that instead of being polite, I was told to be kind.
sic [People]

   We say please and thank you because it's kind to let people know we appreciate them. The use gentle words because it is kind. We wait our turn, lower our voices in crowded places, etc. because it is kind to those around us. Not because it's some constructed social custom that we do or face social penalty. Because we are striving to be kind to one another. And because we need to also be kind to ourselves, we have to have boundaries. And this is one of the biggest lessons I think politeness fails to instill. Because it's ok to be rude sometimes. Sometimes it's even necessary. And when we set up this polite-rude dichotomy, we severely limit our range of acceptable emotional responses.

   Especially as a female, the need to be polite is hammered into to everything you do. This concept has been connected through all kinds of problematic situations, like rape culture and the ever present "friend zone" concept. It already marginalized people feeling the need to apologize for taking up space and not feeling empowered to take up more for fear of being rude or off-putting.

   So for me, what does this look like in action? It's not buying into the ageist practice of using titles for a person just because they may be older than you. If a person wants to be called Mrs. Whatever or Sir or Ma'am, it is kind to oblige because it is considerate of their comfort level and costs a person nothing. Showing gratitude is important, but that doesn't have to be in the form of some preconceived phrase. Body language and tone, especially in children who may not be able to spew out their rehearsed responses, especially in times of excitement, is just as sufficient. Intention over formality. A begrudging "thank you" shouldn't be more meaningful than a squeal of excitement. A forced "I'm sorry" is pointless.

   When we get so caught up in the formality that we are teaching the wrong lessons and implying the wrong values, I can no longer feign support. So to the concept of politeness, I bid you adieu. I will practice kindness. And I will teach kindness to my offspring. And I will not loose one ounce of sleep if they forget to spit out a "thank you" or "sir". And I will not allow people to treat me poorly and smile silently until I can politely excuse myself. Because that's not kind.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Ain't I A Human?

    Once again, in an effort to get some stuff out of my brain to make room for new stuff, I'm going to hash out some thoughts I've been having as of late. There were two instances in the last week that sparked very similar feelings for me, and I would like to dissect them here for you guys. The first was a meme I saw popping up all over the place. It went something along the lines of "I've never heard of a well dressed, well spoken black man getting assaulted by the police for nothing" or something to that affect. The second is a conversation I peripherally participated in. A person made the comment that if women wanted to be respected, they needed to dress a certain way otherwise they were "asking" for mistreatment.

   Now I'm just going to call it- those two things were incredibly racist and sexist, respectively. But what scares me is that the inherent racism and sexism in those statements wasn't apparent to some people. What's more, the sentiment that underlies both of those examples is the same, and it's what I want to talk about. Both center around the idea that humanity is something that must be earned. That treating people like actual people- with kindness and respect- is something you only have to do after a person has proven themself worthy of being treated like a human being. Until they have proven themselves, you can treat them like shit and feel completely justified in doing so. But let's back up and unpack this a bit.

  A lot of how you respond to this discussion will depend on your basic concept of morality. I am coming from the belief that all people (really, all living things) deserve to be treated with the most basic kindness and dignity if only because we are all sharing this planet and this space. There are similar beliefs in many religious institutions- the Golden Rule and whatnot. If you don't have any beliefs like these or your personal moral standpoint is that all people are basically bad, or bad until proven otherwise, or that they must earn your respect in someway, we are probably diverging at this point. However, I urge you to reflect on this moral belief system as we continue.

  For one, consider how it comes back on you. If your standpoint is that other people must meet your own requirements in order to be treated well, it would stand that you must meet the requirements of others in order to expect decent treatment. It should be obvious that people have very different opinions about what is good vs. bad or right vs. wrong. Let's take the examples above. If you think people should dress well and speak well in order to be treated like human beings- do you never make grammatical errors? Are you always in an overly presentable state? What about sweats or work out clothes? Ever left home in your pajamas for a quick trip to the store? Hair unkept? Or the sexist example. Maybe you think mini skirts reek of ill repute. But what about tank tops? Women who wear pants? Your hair uncovered? I can easily find you examples of people and places where any of the above would be considered "bad" or "wrong". So which standard should you be personally held to? And are you ready to accept being mistreated under the rule that no one has to treat you well until you meet their qualifications?

  Another thing to consider when we talk about these rules for behavior and their implied justification for maltreatment is where these rules come from. It's no surprise that the majority of the people I saw passing around that racist meme were white. Who gets to decide what speech is proper? There is a long history and scholarship on the evolution of Ebonics and African-American dialect. And American English is itself a bastardization of sorts of English. Who gets to decide what is proper dress? "Proper" is entirely culturally dependent. And when you have a dominant culture or sub culture holding institutionalized power, it's easy to use "proper" as a means of subjugation and disenfranchisement. We (the dominant culture in power) use Our power to create standards that reflect Our own comfort level and custom and hold Them up to those standards-standards which They may not share, had no part in establishing, and may not be interested in emulating- and use Their failure to assimilate (whether due to inability or unwillingness) as justification for furthering criminalizing and vilifying Them and securing Our own place in power. It's a rigged game.

  But I urge you also to consider not only the larger cultural implications of these attitudes, but your own internal thoughts and feelings. Namely, why do you feel the need to set these "rules" about how people should/should not act in order to be treated like basic human beings? To be completely honest, when I catch myself trying to play this game in my head, it's usually for one of two reasons. One is that sometimes I find myself trying to justify my own mistreatment. By saying that people deserve to be treated like shit if they don't jump through whatever arbitrary hoop, I can maintain the thought that people in my own life treated me poorly simply because I deserved it. I missed the mark of being "good" in some way, so I was "asking for it". The alternative, of course, is to realize that I did not deserve to be treated badly, but that means that someone I cared about/loved/trusted/whatever was mean, or worse, maybe didn't care about/love/trust me back. And that can be hard to swallow. So sometimes it's easier to pretend that we actually have control over how other people treat us and the we are responsible for our own mistreatment. And by extrapolation, so is that person who got shot down in the middle of the street or raped on their way home from work. The second reason I sometimes fall into this mindset is because to acknowledge that all people deserve to be treated with basic humanity is to also acknowledge the vast number of ways this doesn't happen. It's to realize that slavery and rape and abuse and racism and hate are rampant and problematic. And it's really hard to hold that and not do anything about it. And doing something about it can seem overwhelming, and not wanting to do anything can seem selfish. And let's face it, it is selfish. And feeling overwhelmed and selfish leads to guilt and shame and none of those are pleasant feelings for us. So it's easier to pretend once again that those that are mistreated are somehow responsible for their own fates and that there really isn't a world full of sadness that we should be doing something about.

    So my one last point of order is to point out that, even if you buy into the idea that people are necessarily bad and deserving of mistreatment- that they are criminals and whores until proven otherwise- you still have a choice in how YOU treat people. I choose to default on kindness and hold the basic belief that we are all human and all entitled to being treated as such. I fall back on the idea that how we treat those that we consider the lowest of us counts a lot more than whose ass we kiss. Even if you truly believe the world operates based on these rules and you find them legitimate, that doesn't mean that they can't be changed. And if you really do see that we as a species have some serious problems in how we treat one another, you can do something small. It doesn't have to be overwhelming or earth shattering. You can start by treating other people like people. Regardless of how they look, speak, or act. And then you can start encouraging other people treat people like people. And then you can start demanding it.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

A Seat at the Table

       By now most people have heard of the family being screamed at and basically kicked out of a restaurant because of their crying toddler. It's been all over the news and blogs. There have been discussions upon discussions. I've seen a half a dozen polls about whose "side" people would take (side note: What is with all the polls about things? Why should anyone care about whatever percent of some audience thinks about their personal situation? I don't get it). I didn't really address it because I was kind of of the mind that someone else would probably say it better. And I'm working through some really intense reading right now and didn't want to get distracted. But I have found some ideas rolling around in my head that don't appear to be represented completely elsewhere. And there are other ideas about other things also rolling around, and it's getting kind of crowded. I need to clear some space so I can process what I'm reading. So here goes...

    For those of you unfamiliar, the basic gist of the situation is this- A family with a toddler went to eat at a crowded diner. The toddler was restless and some version of whining/crying for the 40 minutes it took the food to come. The owner/manager then came over, yelled at the toddler, asked the family to leave. When the family complained on social media, the manager double down, cussed them out, and all in all didn't seem to be to caught up in customer service. There have been three basic reactions 1) Wow, it's not really acceptable to scream at your customers. 2) Yeah! Right on! Kids in restaurants are the worst! and 3) We can't be sure what actually happened; maybe both the manager and parents were at fault.

  So let's just back up for a second. I don't really want to discuss the manager at all. I can think of very few situations where screaming at people is acceptable, and this one just doesn't cut it. Moving on, I want to back up to the family's behavior and the general commentary around it. Now, in no accounts I read was the toddler accused of physically imposing on anyone. She didn't throw things. She didn't hit someone. She was in her own space. She was making noise. The transgression we are talking about here is a toddler making noise.

   Now, I saw a lot of "they should have left" or "get a babysitter" or "take the kid outside" or whatevers. Apparently it was raining, so outside wasn't an option. Leaving would mean getting to another place to eat, waiting for a table, waiting for food all over again- exponentially lengthening the amount of time before the toddler gets fed. I also saw "why didn't they bring their own snacks?" which is hilarious to me because I've also seen parents get berated for bringing outside food into restaurants. Damned-if-you-do type scenario, really. And I have to laugh at the whole "leave your kid with a babysitter" comment. First off, these people were out of town. Secondly, not everyone can afford a babysitter. Third, well, just keep reading....But once again, worst case scenario- these parents were letting their child make noise.

    So what a lot of people appear to be saying is that toddlers are unwelcome in public space, because they make noise. Now, let's talk about toddlers for a minute. Toddlers make noise. They just do. They don't really understand volume control. They have short attention spans. There brains are underdeveloped and they just don't have the capacity to act like adults. They aren't adults. Their children. We were at a restaurant the other day. You know who was louder than my toddler? An elderly gentlemen who seemed to have hearing issues. He was basically shouting his entire conversation with his table. But that is pretty developmentally appropriate for him, given he has trouble hearing. Just like it is appropriate for some people to make sudden, jerking movements or random outbursts of noise and words. Yet children are held to a standard outside of what can be reasonably expected from them. So the solution that is often is offered is simply "don't bring them". If you can't act like a fully capable adult, you shouldn't be in public. Which seems kind of odd to me, because I'm not sure when we decided adults are the only humans that count.

   The other retort I keep hearing is "entitlement". These parents feel entitled to bring their brats everywhere or that kids are somehow entitled to be out in public. Like taking up space is something you have to earn. But what most people don't recognize is that statement is it's own kind of entitlement. Adults feeling like they are entitled to control and micromanage their environment. I have been at a restaurant and had to sit within ear shot of some horribly racist/misogynist conversations. I have been in places where people were talking louder than I liked. And a big thing for me being prone to migraines and being sensitive to smells- I have been near people wearing entirely too much fragrance that required me medicating myself to be comfortable. There are people who are horribly racist and would rather not eat in a restaurant with certain ethnic groups. There are people who may feel revulsion at the sight of some physical disabilities. There are people who don't like the way others dress. Are we really going to argue that we are entitled to dictate who gets to take up space?  That attitude reeks of entitlement.

  Anyway, back to this idea that children don't count as people and if they do, certainly don't have rights to pubic spaces, and if they do, only if they follow strict guidelines that most adults are not held to. Ok. You know what that results in? Children not being visible. But if that's your attitude, you probably think that's a good thing. But hold on- someone has to care for the children. And for all the "hire a babysitter" or "leave them with the grandparents" comments- the reality is those aren't always options for most people. So not only are we erasing children from public, we are erasing parents, and most of the time that means erasing mothers. Motherhood/parenthood is relegated to behind closed doors. Don't you dare leave your house unless you can guarantee you mere existence will never ever inconvenience another person. Don't let people see you. Don't impose, simply by being. So now we have this world where parenting and child rearing is nearly invisible. It's not honored, hell, it's not even acknowledged. The continuation of our species, the social fabric of our future (cliche, I know, but true) is shut away because somehow we decided it was less than.

   I'm really sure how this happened, but I'm certain it's complex. I think it has to do with how we value monetary gain over other types of productivity. Child-rearing in a traditional sense doesn't bring home a pay check, so it's not relevant. It's how we view women and motherhood. It's our constant desire to divorce ourselves from the natural world of reproduction and life and focus on the clean, shiny industrial world we have created. It's involved, to say the least. But what has that left us with? In most cultures, everyone is included. The elderly, the young, the middle age, the new parents- they all interact int the same spaces and learn from each other and teach one another. Our culture is becoming fairly unique in the way it is organized by age. We take spaces which were traditional familial and communal- such as places of worship- and make Kid's Church. Now the young ones are here and the adults over there. We segregate schools by age, with children now not having regular interactions with peers of different age groups. We lose the interage relationships, we lose those experiences. And then we sit back and wonder why children can't interact well with adults or why adults have trouble cooperating generationally.

   Did it never occur to anyone that if you want a toddler to know how to act at a restaurant, they at some point need to be in a restaurant?  That they might not be great at it right off the bat? For all the woes about the upcoming generations of young adults (which I don't really buy, by the way), did anyone think that maybe they would integrate with society a little better if they had had any practice at all before being flung out into the mess of it at a late age? These are the thoughts I had reading the comments and discussions around that restaurant incident. How utterly sad it makes me that we as a culture have this value of children being seen but not hear, or really not being seen at all. That adults some how are "better than" and that it is all tied basically to developmental capacity, even at the risk of the adults who may not quite meet the bar. That there is an expectation that children (and by extension, their parents) should only be welcome in public space when they meet some ridiculous arbitrary requirements, without having to acknowledge that they learn by being in those spaces.

  In my humble opinion, this creates a situation where everyone loses. Yes, you enjoyed a child-free restaurant experience. Good for you. But at what cost to how we view ourselves and the rest of humanity? At what loss of community? Let's get something straight- children are people who need to eat. They sometimes need to fly places. Their parents need to go to stores. If there is a place that is inappropriate for children, make it 21 and up or 18 and up or whatever. But let's just acknowledge that a space open to people is a space open to children, and if you can't handle that, I would say you don't know how to handle yourself in a public space and may want to consider staying home.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Let's All Be Careful

      I have a really good friend, and when I was at a particularly trying and confusing point in my life, he gave me some really good advice.

     "Be really fucking careful."

     Good advice, and I try to remember it from time to time. And now, I'm sharing it with you. Because I've noticed a trend. I'm a part of a lot of mothering groups and boards and follow a lot of pages. I know that breastfeeding out there in the world can suck. Moms are told to leave or cover up or that what they are doing is gross or indecent. And it gets old. It gets *so old* trying to explain why feeding a baby is not a sex act or in some way offensive. I get it. I totally do. 

    But what I have noticed is a sort of war of comparisons. Breastfeeding moms and pictures of celebrities in low cut or see through dresses. Nudity. Cleavage. All of these things. Irate (and justifiably so) mothers share pictures they find on the internet of breasts- all kinds of exposed breasts- and bemoan the fact that breastfeeding is so looked down upon while these breasts are accepted.

   And your right. It sucks. It sucks that sexualized breasts or breasts pleasing to the male gaze are accepted while functional and biological breasts are frowned upon. And it's because of the over arching patriarchy and the way women are valued and the way motherhood is valued and our relationship to our own bodies. It's multifaceted and multilayered and complicated. And it sucks. 

   But here is my advice to you- be really fucking careful. Be careful because when we start to judge who gets to use their bodies in what ways, we are doing the exact same thing as those who dictate when and how breastfeeding is acceptable. You sitting around and deciding which bathing suits or red carpet dresses are acceptable is no different than someone sitting around and deciding whether or not breastfeeding moms should be covered. 

   When we start to dictate who should use their bodies and how and under what circumstances, we are playing the same game. You know what the real solution is? Let's lift each other up. Let's decide once and for all that each person's body is their own. Their own to use however they see fit.

   Instead of saying, "Oh my god, why is the dress okay and my nursing  photo isn't?", let's say "Oh my god, she looks amazing! Her body is beautiful and I honor her. Let's all honor each other with the same appreciation and reverence."

   This isn't about us versus them. The minute we believe that is minute we believe some other person is allowed to dictate our own selves. We when try to steal the power from another woman, we are giving up our own. 

   So let's all be really fucking careful that we aren't creating our own powerlessness. That we aren't disempowering our fellow human beings. And that we are confident enough in ourselves to hold not only our own, but the space next to us as well. 

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Perrin's TWO

  I can't believe we survived another year. I have to say, I feel like we turned a HUGE corner at the 18 month mark. Things have gotten so much less stressful. I think a big part of it was Perrin's increased communication abilities. He has become quite chatty and it's a nice break from constantly playing the "Oh god, why are you crying!?" game. He also hates the car slightly less, which makes life a bit easier. He is starting to get really fun. We can actually do things together, as opposed to Perrin just tagging along. So, an overview of two-year old Perrin:

-Yes, he still sleeps in our bed. And it's awesome and we wouldn't change it. He has had his own bed for a year now but has zero interest in it and that's fine with us because we get ALL THE SNUGGLES.

- He loves to play outside. All the time. Rain or shine. Freezing or a hundred degrees.

-He loves to read books. All day long, he is asking to be read to. Right now he is really into "I Love You Little One", "Good Night Moon", "Huggly Gets Dressed" and "Nursies Are for Night Time".

-He is about 31 lbs. and 36 1/2 in. tall.

- His favorite things to do are boss the animals around and ride his bike.

- He has seen Godsmack, The Pretty Reckless, Seether, Five Finger Death Punch, and Three Days Grace Live. He has tickets to see and MEET Slipknot in August.

- He has gone from 4 teeth to 16 teeth in the past year. We also discovered those teeth suck and 4 of them need extensive work done. Boo.

- His favorite foods are peas, Pirate Booty, watermelon, beets, scrambled eggs, and toast with butter.

- His current sizes are 2-3T for clothes and 8 for shoes.

- He started showing interest in the potty again at about 20 months and we were completely done with diapers by 22 months. It was a ridiculously smooth process.

- He has (knock on wood) only been sick once- an upper respiratory infection turned ear infection.

- He loves all things animals- books, pictures, toys. If it has anything to do with an animal, he enjoys it.

- He loves watching sports, but especially American football, basketball, and hockey.

-He's been doing swim lessons for about 3 months now and is doing great with them. He loves being in the water.

- This is the one I'm most proud of- He's still nursing! We made it to my two year goal. I said from the get go that I would love to let him self wean, but that I really wanted at least make it to two years. The immune support during that time was really important to me, as well as all the other benefits. And he is still going strong! We are starting to toy with night weaning and may make a few other gentle adjustments over the next year, but I am so glad we were able to keep going for as long as we have. We had so much trouble in the beginning and it is so wonderful to see the payout for all the hard work all three of us put into it. We are by no means "done", but I cannot express how awesome it feels to have met our goal.

   So that is basically Perrin, as of his second birthday. It hasn't been easy these past two years, but it's pretty cool to see him really coming into himself.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Happy Mother's Day

    In addition to the warm sentiments directed to their own mothers, many people take time on Mother's Day to express the joy they receive from their own experience as a mother. I know plenty of these women. They are so excited to spend Mother's Day with the children that made them a mother. Even on a regular ole day of the year, they will gush over how amazing their role of Motherhood has been. Hard, yes, but so fulfilling! So wonderful! They can't remember what their life was like before their children were in it. And they can't imagine their life without them. They are so thankful for their children for placing them into the role of Motherhood.

   I am not one of those women. I know them, and I love many of them. I think they are wonderful people. And for a while, I was jealous of their enjoyment of Motherhood. I assumed that the post-partum depression was the obstacle in my way from that ethereal maternal experience. After all, when most women were endlessly kissing their tiny baby's faces, I was contemplating adoption. But almost two years later, the PPD is behind me and has been for almost a year now. Now I know that truly, it's just not who I am. 

   I remember what it was like before Perrin. I remember it vividly and fondly. I remember the pure selfishness with which I lived my life and absolute freedom I had. And I can easily picture what our lives would be like if he wasn't here. I can name the trips we would have taken and the things we would have done. Sometimes I find these thoughts entertaining, just because of the stark differences in those images and our reality. And sometimes, on the hard days, I find them incredibly painful as I find myself again questioning whether or not we made the right choices in our lives. 

   I do not like Motherhood. I do not find fulfillment in the ideal. When I don the label it feels stuffy and ill-fitted. I do not experience the romanticism that I know to exist for others. But I do like Perrin. I love Perrin. I love him fiercely. And whether I like it or not, I am his mother. And Joey and I owe it to him to raise him up in the love and kindness that every human deserves. Perrin is such a wonderful person. So I don't mind being his mother. But I don't like being a Mother. This distinction is subtle. But to me, it is a glaring disconnect.

   So this Mother's Day, I want to clink glasses with all the women who don't feel the warm fuzzies. The ones who find themselves embarrassed or confused by the emotions they feel on a day honoring Motherhood in the abstract. Especially when for so many women, the reality of their own motherhood is anything but honored. Because I truly believe you don't have to love Motherhood to love your child. And you don't have to be fulfilled in Motherhood to be a damn good mother. There is no one right way to mother a child. So for anyone else who finds today especially painful or disconcerting, just know you are not alone. These feelings can be complex, but there is no shame or guilt in them. And the more we can be open about them and speak our own truths, the more the idea of Motherhood will reflect what motherhood actually is. 

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Goodbye my diapers, goodbye my friends....

   Of all the things baby related that Joey and I discussed and decided on, cloth diapering was pretty far down on the priority list. We both like the idea of saving a boat load of money and reducing our environmental footprint, but we didn't have a strong attachment to the concept. We knew if push came to shove and cloth diapering didn't work out for us, we could be ok with that. But it did. It worked out so well.

   Joey has been in charge of the diaper department since day one, and he will be the first to tell you that cloth diapering has been simple and required pretty minimal effort. We were also lucky that most of our start up supplies was gifted to us for our baby shower. We bought a couple wetbags, our cloth wipes, and towards the end of our diapering journey I *splurged* and got a few cute print diapers used for $5-$10 a piece. But other than those late additions, we used the same basic stash for our entire diapering journey.

  We had 3 newborn diapers, 2 of which I bought specifically for newborn pictures so they wouldn't look so baggy. Everything else was one-size, so we used them from birth up till potty independence. We had two packs of cloth wipes, 12 Fuzzibunz pocket diapers, 6 Bum Genius pocket diapers, 4 planet wise wet bags for the diaper bag, 1 large wet bag as a hamper/diaper pail, a sprayer, and 4 hemp inserts on top of the microfiber ones that came with our diapers. It was a pretty minimal stash. Even counting all the extra diapers I picked up, we have only had 31 diapers total over our whole journey.

  But they served their purpose. We have bought exactly 2 packs of disposable diapers- one newborn pack to get us through the meconium stage, and one pack when Perrin was teething and got a gnarly diaper rash that needed max strength bum cream. We used about half of each pack and gave the rest away. We took our cloth on our vacations, no problem (although TBH having extra space for my own clothes wouldn't have been the worst thing ever, but we did only bring carry on). All included, we have spent well under $500 on diapering Perrin. Not bad for 22 months.

  But now it is time to move on. We have been doing part time EC with Perrin since he was around 8 months. He was very close to potty independence around 17 months, only using diapers for sleep, but we traveled over the holidays and relied more heavily on diapers and he lost interest in the toilet. However at 20 months I noticed he was dry most of the time when I changed him, so we switched to trainers and started back with the potty. By 21 months the trainers were unnecessary and we were in underwear and using diapers for night time only. Now, at 22 months, he wakes up dry in the morning. We use the trainers still at night *just in case*, but our diapering days are behind us.

  And it's funny, because we are sad and sentimental. I'm sure all parents are when their kids reach any milestone, but we also have found that we are just attached to our diapers in general. As we were washing and packing away all our stash, Joey and I each had favorites we wanted to keep. Joey could tell you which he liked best for nights versus days, etc. It felt weird to think we wouldn't be washing them and stuffing them and putting them in the little tote we store them in. Some of our stash (the extra sentimental part) is packed away in a box with our favorite baby clothes and other things. The rest will be loaned out and eventually sold. So our cloth diaper journey is at an end. But I must say, it has been a great run. I would highly recommend it to any family.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Interview with a Dad

photo credit: Audria Abney,

     I've noticed that in a lot of the mom groups I participate in online there are lots of questions about fathers- either their perspectives on certain issues or how to navigate relationships with our partners as we all enter into this whole parenthood thing. So I decided to interview a dad and get the low down for myself. I kind of cheated and just interviewed Perrin's dad, my partner Joey, since he is readily accessible and all. I asked him a range of open ended questions about parenting in general and "hot" topics, especially ones I see come up a lot in reference to support and opposition from fathers. So what does this dad think about all things baby? Read on to find out.

What is your favorite thing about being a dad?
     Um...just watching him grow. Watching him learn and do things for the first time and just kind of experience life. That's the big thing- just watching the wonder in his eyes when he sees new things for the first time.

Least favorite thing?
    Um....night's like last night when you're just ready to go to bed and tired, but he's either fighting sleep or...I guess just teething in general. Him being so restless and not going to sleep. Getting frustrated but you can't really do anything about it because it's not like he knows what he's doing or understands what's going on. He's just learning his feelings and asserting himself.

What was pregnancy like from your perspective?
    Quick. Exciting. It was kind of the excitement of the unknown. Just knowing that he was coming and curiosity since we didn't find out what it was, whether it would be a boy or girl. I thought it was kind of neat seeing your [Roxanne's] body change, especially when he started kicking or getting the hiccups. Hiccups were kind of funny. It was just kind of trippy that something was growing inside of you. And also kind of ridiculous how many times you had to pee.

The pregnant female- gross, sexy, or neither?
     I think it's sexy. I think it's pretty cool. Sexy in a maternal way. I don't know, I think it's a really cool transformation. It's usually pretty special- I know not all women see it that way, but...

Post-partum bodies- same question.
     I think it's sexy. I think the whole process is sexy. I don't see it being, detracting from the thing that brought me to you and it makes it that much more special that it's something we share now. You're body might change, but that doesn't change my perception of you.

What was it like to have a wife with PPD?
     It was very hard. Kind of...just reminding myself that you're [Roxanne] not doing it on purpose. Just reminding myself that it will get better.

We had the baby at home, what was that like?
     I thought that was really cool. I don't know, it was just very peaceful. Just, non-stress. Well, not non-stress but reduced stress and less pressure. Just because we were already excited and anxious and stuff, and especially with how long he took, it was nice to just go at our own pace. And it was very freeing. Just that we could go up to campus and go for a walk or go to In N Out for a hamburger. Hell, I went for a run with the dog one morning to settle him down. We had Lia and everyone with us, but we didn't have people disturbing us- poking and prodding you and breathing down our necks saying we need to do this.

What do you think about breastfeeding in general?
    Um...hmmm. Uhh...I think it's ideal. I fee like it's ideal because it's a lot more nutritious than formula, but I also respect that it's the mom's decision. And that she can do it for however long she feels most comfortable doing it. So, like if...I think it's good to be supportive and realize how much it means to the mom to do the breastfeeding stuff and then try and support it as much as you can. Especially in the beginning, because from what I've noticed everyone has trouble in the beginning. Not many people have that wonderful start where baby latches properly and there's no pain. But just that- being supportive in the beginning when it's hard and understanding how much it means to the mom. Like with you- from the beginning I knew how important it was to, so if you wanted to keep going that's fine, but if you really really really wanted to stop I wouldn't have said you can't. Like now, like if you told me tonight that you were tired of it and done I wouldn't say anything to stop you, even though he's not two yet. And even if at two or however many weeks when it was the hardest if you had said "I'm done, I gave it shot and didn't like it" and wanted to switch to formula I would have supported that. That's what I mean, I think it's ideal. I don't think formula is the worst thing in the world, I just don't think it's the best. It's just...different. Not my body, not my call.

...In public?
     I think it's great. I think it's a lot easier than having to worry about covering and peeking on the baby and stuff.  [I clarified that nursing in public includes with a cover] Oh, when you say breastfeeding in public I jump to no cover, just whipping it out. Because I feel like when you are doing it with a cover, you are still breastfeeding in public, but you are hiding the fact that you are breastfeeding in public. So you want to do it, but you don't want other people to know you are doing it, which is fine. I don't really notice, but you know when sometimes I come home and tell you I noticed a woman breastfeeding at the park without a cover just whipping it out...I don't know, it doesn't bother me.

...Around family?'s funny. Ha ha haha. Just the differences. Like your mom and them don't care, and my mom doesn't care anymore either. Just kind of the differences, because like...well you did it at Christmas? I don't know, I guess I envisioned my family saying more than they do. It was definitely a conversation before he was born that that was what we were going to do. Just because no one in my family had been around it. I guess one really had in your family either. I guess it's just funny because everyone made a big deal about it in the beginning, but then when you actually did it and they saw it, it wasn't a big deal.

How do you feel about cosleeping?
     Um...I like it and I don't like it. I guess it's kind of like what I said before withe the parts I don't like about being a dad, like when he's not feeling well- which I guess it wouldn't matter if he was in a another room- well, let me rephrase. I guess, it's an acceptable inconvenience until he decides he doesn't want to. Because it doesn't matter if he was in another room or sleeping with us, if he's not feeling well it's not that we would just leave in him in the room by himself all night. So I guess it's just we don't have to walk into another room. I hate how his restless nights keep you from getting any sleep. I really like the nights- I don't mind him sleeping on me or with me- but that's the big thing though I know it's harder for you to sleep at night because he's always wanting to nurse and roll around and stuff. I wish he'd sleep with me more. But if it helps him developmentally and emotionally, it's more of a necessary, an acceptable inconvenience and I'd rather forgo the little bit of extra sleep I'd get.

How did you/do you bond with Perrin?
     Um...I bonded with Perrin through our walks, especially at night and stuff, and through how hard things were in the beginning. But I'd take him on walks for at least 30 minutes at a time, multiple times a day. But through that and me being able to take off from work for that period of time and just kind of hang out at home. Our showers are always fun. And um...yeah, those are the main two I guess.

Babywearing- practical or emasculating?
     Practical. No hesitation. I think everyone should do it.

Is gender neutral parenting weird?
    Uuummmm...Only beyond the point where you feel comfortable. Uhhh...let me see. I get it. And I agree with it to an extent. I feel like with gender neutral stuff there is a spectrum, and I consider myself more in the middle as opposed to the full on everything neutral. That's what I mean by "beyond the point where you feel comfortable" so finding where you are on the spectrum and then anything beyond that is weird...well maybe not weird, but just too much. [I asked for clarification] I fine with everything up to some of the clothing. I'm fine with all the colors and the hair and toys, it doesn't offend me if someone calls him a girl. And I don't like the whole, like um, sexualization of the clothing like the "Heartbreaker" type stuff.
photo credit: Audria Abney,

How do you cope with your and Perrin's penises not matching? [Referring to Perrin being intact and Joey not]
     [Shrugs] I don't think about it. I don't think about it because it's not an issue.

What are your thoughts on gentle discipline?
     I like it. It's definitely a different way of doing it than what I'm used to seeing. I think it's definitely a lot nicer. And I mean, it seems to be just as effective. It might take a little longer because you may not see the immediate results, but it's because it's him learning instead of him just doing it because I'm about to smack the shit out of him. That's about it.

Is cloth diapering really gross?
     No. I'm in charge of the cloth diapers; it's not. I shouldn't say I'm in charge, but I do it mostly. No, I think they're great.

photo credit: Audria Abney,

What are your thoughts about how dad's are portrayed in the media or pop culture? Anything you would like to set straight?
     I don't think there is anything I feel I need to set straight. I think some things are decent and some or more kind of, just a little out there. I feel like I'm not the one to ask this because  I don't pay attention enough or consider things unless it's just blatant. There was that carseat commercial that was a little blatant. Oh, and the football game one that was talking about dad having to watch the game and not...the guy was too busy watching football and couldn't do anything and that was just the center of his life. I thought that was a bit excessive.

What do you think is the most important things for dads or dads-to-be to know?
     Patience and support. Lots and lots of patience and be as supportive as you can.

Any last tips or advice?
    Not at the moment- ask me later [as he cleans up the basket of tea Perrin just dumped all over the kitchen floor].

Monday, February 2, 2015

Check your privilege- Why the Similac Ad is not ok

    *Throws her hat in the ring* I have tried really hard not to weigh in on the whole Similac Ad debacle. Most of the discussions seemed pretty futile and I would hate to be accused of contributing to the supposed "mommy wars" (more on that later) that the commercial pretends to address. But too many of the responses I am seeing by people, both to the ad itself and to the critics of the ad, are extremely problematic. Far be it from me to think I could add to the wealth of perspective and insight that is already out there on the topic, but I feel like I need to speak my truth on this one. Ahem...

      No one cares how you fed your baby. Maybe somewhere somehow there is some nosy person who cares, but why do YOU care? If you are comfortable with your decision, then why get upset over what someone else thinks? I can assure you- I do not care.

I don't care if you breastfed for 12 years, 2 years, or two days. I don't care if you didn't breastfeed at all. I don't care if you didn't because of a medical condition or because you were worried about how you would look in your bikini. All I care is that you had a choice in the matter and then did with your body how you saw fit. 
    So kindly get over yourself. It's not about you. It's not about your choice. It's not about choices at all. The things wrong with this ad have nothing to do with mothers. At all. Stop being self centered for two seconds and take a minute to look beyond your own knee jerk emotional response to this ad and any critiques around it. Step back for one goddamn second and actually LISTEN to what people are trying to say, because it has almost nothing to do with you. 

    The idea that somehow criticizing a formula company is attacking mothers or being judgmental is not only myopic, it's steeped in privilege. By the virtue of being able to access a computer to watch that ad, you are probably in place where using formula is a viable option. While there are and will always be risks and costs to using formula, it's a pretty safe bet that you can expect your infant to thrive while being exclusively formula fed. That is not the case for everyone and by dismissing this discussion as being one of preference and not one of health and access, you are completely ignoring a population of moms in the U.S. and a huge portion of moms world wide who have much more at stake in the conversation.
    There are women who cannot afford formula. There are women who cannot afford enough formula, so they water it down or cut it with other substances. There are woman who do not have a way to safely prepare the formula so as not to contaminate it with dangerous germs. There are children who live in less sanitary conditions or have less access to healthcare and are especially at risk without the protection of breastmilk. By acting like choosing formula over breastmilk is like choosing pancakes over waffles, you are completely overlooking all of the people less fortunate than yourself that have a much higher stake in this discussion. You are crying over your perceived "persecution" for you parenting choices because someone said something unkind to you on the internet. Woman across the world are crying over their sick and dying children. Take a seat.

     Now companies like Similac are not single handedly responsible for these situations, but they sure ain't helping. It's no secret that formula companies directly target mothers who intend to exclusively breastfeed. They offer "breastfeeding support", "free" samples, and heavy handed marketing. And you better believe it works, because they would not be shelling out the money if it didn't. In fact, take a second to think about why they shelled out the money for the commercial we are talking about. In other places, their influence is even more direct. It is not uncommon for formula reps in lower income countries to dress in white coats and wear stethoscopes while making house visits to talk about the "health benefits" of formula and leave samples. Formula companies are so intensive and so unethical in their marketing that the World Health Organization has an official Code for the Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes. Millions of children die every year because they are improperly fed, and Similac and other companies purposefully misinform mothers to make a profit.
     And it is not as if these practices don't have a cost, even here. The price of formula itself is astronomical for many families. All of those "free" samples that are given in the mail and through hospitals come at a price. And Similac is netting some impressive profits. It's not as if these companies are non-profit entities dedicated to feeding children. In fact, many of the improvements in formula over the years have been due to discussions such as these that highlight the many shortcomings of artificial infant feeding. Discussions that Similac would label as silly women bickering.

    But the ad in question ignores all of this. And what is worse, it disguises the issues by belittling parenting decisions and discussions and labeling them as petty, catty "mommy wars". It dismisses important conversations that we all need to be having for the benefit of breastfeeding and formula feeding mothers. And then acts like it is doing us a favor by lifting us all up. Should we all be kind to each other? Absolutely. Does that mean we have to agree on everything? Or that we can't have in depth discussions about the consequences of each others choices? Not at all.
   But that is not what Similac tells us. They are saying quite blatantly that we should be too self-absorbed to consider the wider implications of infant feeding. They are encouraging us to focus on what they tell us is personal judgement while at the same time sweeping their own accountability under the rug. And they are doing it all on the backs of the millions of children and women in the world who pay the toll- sometimes the ultimate toll- for this type of marketing and these types of products. And that is why, no matter how warm and fuzzy the message may seem, I cannot get excited about the Similac ad. I refuse to pretend that a company that profits billions at the expense of both formula feeding and breastfeeding mothers and their children really just wants us all to sing Kumbaya. I'm not buying it.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Virtue as the Mean

     About a week ago I found this article in the Washington Post. It is the experience of one woman, a self-described "physician, teacher, and health policy researcher" while having her baby in a hospital. She details the immense pressure she felt to have a high intervention birth and almost a cesarean section despite her wishes to have a low intervention birth. The big take away from the article, at least from my perspective, was the danger lay women face in the delivery room given the adversity this woman of medicine had to confront in her own labor. At one point she mentions consulting with several other M.D.s of various backgrounds in order to advocate for herself and her child. While I thought the article was an insightful and pointed statement about maternity wards, the larger cultural commentary came from the vary first comment that showed below the article itself. I normally avoid the comment section like the plague but happened to catch this one as it was the only comment at the time. I didn't feel like wading back through that trash to get a direct quote, so I will paraphrase. The commentator basically said "Shame on you" to the mother. She was doctor. Apparently she should have known better and advocated for herself more. If she felt pressured it was her own fault for letting herself get into that situation.
    This is not the first time I've heard this argument. It actually comes up quite a bit. Women share their stories of abuse and mistreatment during their births, and they are blamed. It is there fault for not being more prepared, more educated, more anticipatory of the events. It's their fault for relying on doctors. It's their fault for not taking responsibility in their own care. It's their fault, period. I find these arguments confusing for several reasons. One is because there seems to be very few other specialized fields where consumers are expected to have expertise. Most people who go to a mechanic can't build their own engine. Most people who go to a gourmet restaurant can't cook French cuisine. This is also a huge issue of privilege- assuming that someone who is already paying a professional to perform a service also has the time and resources to teach themselves the ins and outs of the field and be independently educated on the topic. Is assuming that someone trained in healthcare and beholden to the hippocratic oath will provide adequate care really that far of a leap?
     But another thing about this idea of "it's your fault for not educating and self-advocating" is that it's bullshit. Because women who do all those things above- who prepare and seek out education and information and participate in their care- aren't treated any better a lot of  the time. They are labeled as pushy. As non-compliant. Demanding. Relying on Dr. Google. Buying into psuedo-science. Believing everything they read on the internet. They are accused of being selfish and even worse, of not valuing their child's life and health. These women have been dropped as patients by their doctors and had CPS and police called on them. They have been dragged into the OR against their will. Laboring women have been put in handcuffs.
    Apparently, there is a delicate balance to be found for a laboring women. She should be educated, but not questioning. Responsible but yielding. She should stick up for herself, but not to the point of stepping on the toes of the almighty gods in white coats. It's not surprising then, that so many women fall short of the virtuous mean. For me personally, I will always recommend erring on the side of education and empowerment. However, I think there is an alternative.

   What if, just for shits and giggles, we entertain the idea that maybe, just maybe, the birthing women     aren't the problem?

   What if maternity care in the U.S. is intrinsically flawed?

   What if the entire healthcare system is set up to thrive on profit driven by disease and trauma?

   What if the field of obstetrics was never intended to cater to the masses?

   What if our view of womanhood and motherhood is deeply ingrained in the patriarchy?

   What if profit drives care more than science and research?

   What if convenience is more sought after than health?

   What if we knew that the U.S. funnels more money into maternity care than any other developed         nation but has the absolute worst results?

    Maybe that is where all of  these people should be pointing the blame. But instead we invent these "mommy wars" and blame some women for being too informed and blame others for being too compliant and once again place that ever-tantalizing image of the perfect (birthing) woman on a pedestal for everyone to collectively emulate. All the while, ignoring the real problem of a deeply entrenched system that as it exists now is set up to undermine evidenced-based care. Education and advocacy gives women a fighting chance. It is the kevlar that they wear when they walk into the war-zone of the current maternity care system. But it is not a guarantee that they will come out unscathed, anymore than blindly following someone across the battle field with your eyes shut and fingers crossed. What we need is a collective cease-fire. A real, open and honest peace talk about how we got to the place where battle was a useful metaphor for childbirth. But as long as women are spending all their time and energy attempting to find the balance between advocating for themselves and being polite, no one is addressing the core issues. No one is trying to fix the problem if we are all too busy arguing about how to adapt to it.


Wednesday, January 7, 2015

The Most Challenging Practice

    January each year is a bit of anniversary for me. January is the month I began my journey with my yoga practice. It was supposed to just be a simple "Yay! My last semester of undergrad; I'm going to reward myself with a fun class." And yet here I am five years later, still sweating it out on my mat. That college class ended in May, but I found classes in the community. And then I started attending workshops. And then I completed teacher training and became a registered yoga teacher. I taught my own classes for a year before Perrin came along. In fact, I taught right up until 2 weeks before Perrin was born.

   I have had some hard yoga classes. I have had teachers completely kick my ass. I have left limping and sore and feeling like I was hit by a truck because I rode my edge to my utmost ability and used muscles I didn't know I had. I regularly practiced Ashtanga, which if you are unfamiliar with is a pretty badass (yet completely accessible, not trying to scare anyone) practice. I attended some intense workshops and training. But it wasn't until recently, on the eve of my five year yoga-versary, that I began the hardest practice I have ever attempted.

   Before Perrin (a time frame measure I regularly use nowadays), when I practiced yoga, I practiced yoga. I attended led classes with incredible teachers. When I did my ashtanga practice, I did the full 90 minute primary series. I had a room in our house devoted as my own private shala. I did yoga right. And it felt good. Because that is part of my baggage that I am just now noticing. I have to do things right. Do them completely. Do them at least 100%. Because to not do it perfectly is to not do it at all. Or so my "rules" led me to believe. So you know what happened? I stopped practicing all together. And when I tried, it was only if I could make it to a led class.

   The thing about making it to a led class is  that generally yoga studios have classes at regular times. There is a start time, and a stop time. And it's at a place. That you have to get to by the start time. And when you have a Perrin, it's incredibly difficult. So my practice became more and more sporadic. And I started to put it off and avoid my sad neglected yoga mat because I knew the mat would feel SO GOOD and then I would feel SO BAD because I wasn't giving it (and myself) the time and attention it (and I) deserved.

   But like I mentioned in my last post, I'm starting to really take a look at my "rules" and challenge some of them. And I know, in my head, that some practice really is better than no practice. Even if it's only 15 minutes. Even if it's in our cluttered office surrounded by bunch of junk. On a mat covered in cracker crumbs. While Perrin's voice carries over Jai Uttal's and my cat somehow repeatedly MacGyver's the door open. And so I've committed to getting back into it. To practicing 6 days a week, no matter what each day's practice looks like. And it is the hardest thing I have ever done. It's hard not to judge myself. To say I slacked off or didn't do enough. To lament where I could be if I did more. To resent the fact that I just can't do more right now. It's hard to not do it "right". To not be "perfect". It is so, so fucking hard to accept my present and be at peace in it. So this takes the cake. Not the days of back to back teacher training; not the intense workshops; not demoing bakasana into tripod headstand while 36 weeks pregnant. Doing yoga- practicing real, truthful, compassionate yoga- is the most challenging practice I have ever attempted.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Head Shrinking

    You may have seen in our last Perrin update that Joey and I have begun some new and fairly intense therapy work. I wanted to share a little bit about that as it has been immensely eye opening and beneficial. It all started when Joey decided that maybe we should get divorced. Remember that post about how we talk pretty openly about that kind of thing? Something just wasn't feeling right for either of us, but we didn't know what it was. So we decided to do some couples and individual counseling and then reassess our family situation. Spoiler alert- we figured out that "we" weren't the problem. At least, the together "we". Our relationship in and of itself isn't really the issue. What is the issue is each of our relationships with ourselves. Let me explain-

     We found a fantastic therapist who we see individually and then together as a couple. What she is having us work on is digging down into who we are and why we are that way and what needs to change for us to live healthy functioning lives. We have done some therapy/counseling work in the past, but it mostly centered on tools to deal with our individual quirks and issues. The therapy we are doing now is getting down to the core of who we are. What are thoughts are and where those thoughts come from and how they affect our lives and interactions. This has been the most mind blowing part for me. You don't realize how much of you take for granted when it comes to who you are. You just assume "that's the way things are" or "that's just who I am", when in reality a lot of that is baggage that you have accumulated and learned through out your life. These lessons and experiences overtime shape our thoughts about things, and those thought trigger emotions, and then those emotions affect our behavior and actions. So what we think is a simple X occurs and I do Y, is actually much more layered and nuanced. Something may occur, and that "data" gets filtered through our complex systems of thoughts and emotions and when it is played out in our behavior may not look at all related to the original stimulus. Because a lot of the times it's not. 

    Here is an example- I had been wanting to get the garage door fixed for a while. It's been broken for about a year and it's a pain in the ass to drag our bikes and things through the house instead of just opening the garage door. At some point I asked Joey about getting it fixed and he kind of just didn't really say much. He didn't say yes. Well this came up in our couples therapy as Joey suggested spending money on something and I was upset because I would rather have spent the money getting the garage door fixed. Our counselor asked Joey why we couldn't fix the garage and his response was "I don't know; I guess I just never thought about it." So she asked me, had I told him that I wanted it fixed? I told her about the time I asked and that I never really got a response. So her question to me was, why didn't I ask or bring it up again? Maybe Joey just didn't realize it mattered since I only mentioned it the one time. This was a huge learning moment for me. My reaction- "But I asked and didn't get my answer, so it's over. That was the end of the conversation about the garage." See, I didn't realize until that conversation that I have some sort of "rule" in my head that you can only ask for things once. The answer you get is the answer you get and that is that. To ask again is rude and disrespectful and nagging and annoying.  So I was feeling bummed about the garage because Joey didn't understand that it was important to me (which "made" me feel unimportant) and I felt like I was powerless to do anything about it because I used up my one asking time and that was that. So I felt sad and frustrated and angry all because of this completely imaginary and arbitrary rule that I picked up from somewhere. But in reality (objective reality, not the reality in my head), Joey was perfectly fine getting the garage fixed once he understood that I cared a lot about it. We even decided to go ahead with the skylight I had been talking about, too. 

    The lessons get even more nuanced and layered than the above example, but you can see how these "rules" and thought and emotions we have cloud our relationships with others and ourselves. Another big part of it is esteem. Learning to have true self-esteem. That you are worthwhile and valuable simply because you exist. That was mind blowing for me as well. So I am working really hard on learning how to voice my thoughts and advocate for myself, and to stop censoring myself for the perceived comfort for others. That is the other big lesson for me so far- I am not responsible for other people's feelings. And other people are not responsible for mine. I don't have to "let" others "make" me feel bad. That is their own issues about their own thoughts and emotions and realities and doesn't have anything to do with me. And I don't have to worry about "making" other people feel bad. I am learning to have a healthy emotional boundary where my reality is protected from other people and is also free to be expressed. 

    Anyway, maybe all of this seems really obvious to you. But even really simple things- like asking for something more than once- never ever occurred to me. Because my reality was built where those things weren't options. So now I am learning to be more aware of my thoughts and emotions so that I can examine the validity of them and decide whether or not I should hold onto to those ideas or whether they are just baggage that I need to discard. If you are interested more in the things we are learning about, feel free to chat with me about it. We have been reading through a books and listening to workshops by Pia Mellody, who does a lot of work on codependence, which is essentially the issues that I talked about above as well as many other common problems. Basically it's learning to how to take of yourself as a functioning adult- recognizing your wants and needs and getting them met with the help of others. It's very interesting stuff and I'm amazed by how much I notice these mechanisms at work around me now. It's also been incredibly valuable for parenting purposes. It really helps you be aware of what "rules" you are instilling in your children.