Saturday, October 31, 2009
Friday, October 30, 2009
Thursday, October 29, 2009
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Monday, October 26, 2009
Sunday, October 25, 2009
This touching moment reminded me of a psychologist I studied in college, Donald Winnicott. He came up with the concept of the "good enough mother." Basically, this is the idea of an "imperfectly attentive mother who does a better job than the "perfect" one who risks stifling her child's development as a separate being" (Wiki 10/25/09). I remember loving this concept even as a self-centered college senior, faaarrrrr from parenthood. It gave me permission to stop being such a damn pefectionist and realize that, many times, there are actual, tangible benefits to being "good enough."
When you are good enough--instead of perfect--you can find more balance in your life. Obviously, no one can be perfect, so wouldn't it be lovely to let ourselves off that meat hook and just do our best to be "good enough?" This means I can commit to getting my papers graded by the time I'm asking my students to write a new essay--but I don't have to sacrifice my weekends to get them back any earlier. This means I can run as a hobby, pushing myself to keep going when I'm tired, but refusing to get looped into the competative "personal best" mania so many runners embrace. This means I can eat Hagen-Daaz, even if I no longer fit into the clothes I bought just last summer because really, who needs to wear sundresses now anyway? You get my point.
I have actually attempted to adopt the notion of being "good enough" for the past 12 years, and I do think I'm the better person for it--at least, my anxiety levels have gone down in some arenas thanks to good old Winnicott's discovery. Oh yes, perhaps I could have gone to a grad school with a better reputation if I'd killed myself to study for the English GRE while working full time...or perhaps I could have figured out that credit cards are evil before racking up some debt I'm still paying off...or maybe I could have taught summer school classes or traveled somewhere to help others instead to work on my tan...but in the end, I have very, very few regrets about the choices I've made based on my "good enough" philosophy.
Now if you think I'm sounding self-righteous, please know that I'm still working to turn off that little voice in my head that wheedles, "Good enough is never good enough..." But at least I have a good role model in my friend. And perhaps it's enough to simply keep trying to let good enough really be good enough for me.
Saturday, October 24, 2009
...And then my sink started leaking and my garbage disposal broke and we had to call in the emergency plummer, Jordan. He did a bang-up job digging the gunk out of our pipe and replacing the "sink blender" (which, apparently, is best cleaned by grinding about 12 ice cubes now and again). He also commented on the blissful peace and quiet in our home on a Saturday afternoon. Having 3- and 5-year-olds himself, he painted the distressing picture of a home in which the TV up all the way and the two kids are fighting about what to watch on TV, what they want/don't want for dinner, etc. We laughed and said we'd reconsider our interest in having monsters of our own.
Like any good dad, however, Jordan quickly moved to balance his portrayal of the wee ones. He smiled over our nasty, petrified pipes and said, "Despite the chaos, I would never not want to have kids, because when you have them, you get to fall in love again. You get to fall in love with the kids, but also with your wife or husband, just watching them fall in love with the kids..." As Jordan spoke, my husband smiled behind him and I loved him (my husband) for that little, hopeful grin. I could see where Jordan was going with all this--I guess oxytocin is not just for new moms any more.
Friday, October 23, 2009
HOWEVER, there is a woman in it who is shown having not one, but TWO, orgasms whilst giving birth. WOW. Her labor and birth experience are shot on film and included in the film--it's hard to believe, but seriously, you can tell it's happening to her, for real. I thought it must be faked, or maybe a re-enactment for film, but no, this mama's eyes roll back into her head with pleasure! It's incredible.
If I get pregnant, I plan on doing some serious research into this possibility.
Thursday, October 22, 2009
" The intuitive mind is a sacred gift; the rational mind is faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift." ~ Albert Einstein
Lately, I’ve been thinking about not thinking, which is to say, I’ve been trying to get back in touch with my intuition. I say “back in touch” because (believe it or not) there have been times in my life when I was much more attuned to other ways of knowing and being. So I know I have it in me to listen to myself in ways that my quotidian chatter doesn’t typically allow.
One snowy day last winter, a new friend and I went cross-country skiing in the mountains above L.A. When I told this friend, who practiced midwifery for many years, that I was thinking about trying to get pregnant sometime soon-ish and that I really want to have twins, she suggested I start “talking” with my future baby/babies. I could tell them that my body and our home would be a good place for them, and let them know that they’re welcome to move in any time.
Now, for many people, this is some far-out shit, but for me it actually felt like the perfect advice. As obsessive of a thinker as I am, I do believe in the world of intuitive knowledge and communication. Since the days of kicking tracks in the wet SoCal snow, I’ve mentally made a handful of shout-outs to the potential twins within. I'm trusting my intuition to find the right kids. Who knows if it will work?
Last week at an acupuncture appointment, I was laying there with the needles chilling me out, and experienced this wonderful dream/fantasy/vision: I could see this sturdy, inviting, well-made nest built right into my body. It had a satisfyingly-symmetrical hollow in the middle and was lined with soft, grey-blue feathers all the way ‘round. I was looking at myself and the nest from above, seeing it tucked into the crook of my pelvis, like a real bird's nest tucked into a knot in a cottonwood tree. The dark brown twigs were all in place and there was just enough space for one…or two…tiny people inside. All the work on the nest had already been done, and it was just there, cozy and inviting, waiting for the babies to find their way.
Knowing that I have this nest within makes me feel ready. Birds learn to make nests instinctively; this nest within me was built on instinct too. It's a good sign, I think, that my intuition led me to the right tree. I hope my baby/ies have a homing instinct too.
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
Pap smear at home, you ask? It’s a long story…
When my husband and I decided that we'd embark on the pregnancy pilgrimage this fall, we also began the discussion about how I'd get prenatal care when the time comes. Since my first women's studies class in high school, in which I read about the many excesses of the “medical model” if birth, I have known that the midwifery model would be the path for me when/if I get pregnant. In fact, becoming a midwife has long been a fantasy of mine; I even did my high school senior project with midwifes and actually attended a birth (but that's another story)! The “birth is not inherently a medical event,” personally-empowered approach of midwives has always made sense to me. For the past fifteen years, I have looked forward to giving birth on my terms, trusting my body, my instincts and my midwife.
Part of this for me is also the opportunity to have a baby at home. I know this takes faith in midwifery to a new level, but the option just seems much more appealing than a hospital to me. Although my husband was freaked by the idea of home-birth at first, talking about direct-entry midwifery and watching Ricki Lake's "The Business of Being Born" documentary helped him to become much more comfortable with the idea. I decided that I should start the process by getting my annual exam at home. So, last July, I researched Los Angeles area midwives and put in a bunch of calls to midwives whom I found interesting (via their websites).
Rebecca of Birth Revolution Midwifery called me back; I liked her phone-vibe, so we made a date for my pre-conception annual exam. When she arrived for that visit, she looked younger than me and was dressed like one of the nouveau-hippies I went to many a bluegrass festival with back in Colorado. When I immediately judged her for her earthier-than-me persona and seeming lack of experience (if she’s younger than me, she must be a babe), I felt old! What was I expecting—a doctor in a lab coat? Actually, I think I wanted to see a wise old crone, ready to counsel me based on her hundreds of years of birth experience. I told myself to stop being a ridiculous romantic and to at least give Rebecca a chance. Just how much wise-woman hand-holding did I have in mind for a basic exam and pap smear?To be continued…
Monday, October 19, 2009
- Crafting sudsy baby-hair mohawks in the tub
- Having a good excuse for why I'm late all the time
- Planning low-budget, high-fun birthday parties
- Seeing the Waffle Prince (aka my husband) pass on the family recipe
- Playing drums in baby music classes where I don't have the worst rhythm
- Rubbing herbal oils on my beach-ball belly
- Becoming part of a lineage of women who have created life
- Singing "One Tin Soldier" slightly off key at bedtime
- Knitting items that might actually be practical (booties, blankets, hats, etc.)
- Employing my considerable talent for barnyard animal sounds
- Making "art" and "jewelry" out of noodles and paper scraps with my child
- Snuggling in a sleeping bag with a snoozing bundle of joy on "baby's first camping trip"
Sunday, October 18, 2009
Saturday, October 17, 2009
Friday, October 16, 2009
Thursday, October 15, 2009
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
Total Woman Gym is THE place to catch up on celebrity gossip. It’s a for-women-only gym that assumes women want to work out in an atmosphere not unlike a two-star hotel lobby, complete with a giant, primary-colored hanging mobile over the cardio zone. Classy, it’s not, but it is clean, it doesn’t smell, no one oogles me when I wear a worn-out sports bra that gives less than full support. Anyway, it’s the only place (besides airplanes) where I allow myself to indulge in such gems as Us Weekly and People magazine.
Trashy magazines have an obsession with motherhood. This evening I was stunned by the not one…not two…but THREE articles in an issue of Us Weekly devoted to the latest, hippest, fittest mommies. In my view, since Brittney and Brangelina started spawning publicly there has been a crescendo of pregnancy/birth/mothering mania. (Perhaps it was sparked by the same maniac who founded the giant-bellies-in-spandex trend and made a prudish mockery of the tent-styles that dominated the expectant-mother market of my youth?)
You know me--I just don’t understand about Third Wave feminism’s love affair with pop culture and its sexy SuperMom heroines: when did we forget that motherhood has a tendency to obliterate a woman’s free time and to hinder her career, to do a number on her body and to make even the most egalitarian of households into one in which women still do more of the housework and make less of the money? Just because a woman can still be considered sexy and thus has cultural cache after becoming a mother (as long as she loses the “baby weight” within the first year after her child’s birth) and can go back to work, employing a daycare center or nanny without too much guilt, doesn’t mean that this renewed idolization of motherhood means progress for 21st century women.
As I mentioned last week, I’m teaching The Awakening and in it the very 19th century Edna is trapped by her predestined and strictly proscribed roles as mother and wife. Though she begins to have inklings of her personhood, it is not until she is alone—without her husband or children—that she begins to manifest her new self-understanding, proclaiming herself an autonomous being, someone with a role outside the family: “I am becoming an artist! Think of it!” In consultation with the family doctor, Edna’s husband describes this odd behavior by lamenting simply, “She’s not herself.” Oh, the irony!
Why is it that now, when women have all the options that Edna never had, we are being bombarded with images of idealized, glowing moms (oddly, mainly artists and actresses putting on hold the careers they fought tooth-and-nail to establish)? And what about Michelle Obama, who has to be one of the most photographed and talked-about women of the year? She was a hospital administrator and now, as First Lady, all we hear about is her lovely garden, her plans to redecorate the White House and her rockin’ arms (for a middle-aged, non-Madonna mother). Not that I don’t love the garden and her guns, but I am weirded out that she seemed to give up her career so readily. Maybe she’ll get pregnant—Us Weekly would love that! I think Oprah would too.
Could this media obsession with motherhood be happening because our country has been at war for eight years; fear and death can elicit powerful pro-creation impulses. Or maybe the women of the Third Wave are rebelling against the rigidity of the Second Wave—who said we can’t have it all? Perhaps it’s just the inevitable outcome when biological drives and the digital media collide.
Monday, October 12, 2009
Last night, I began reading Anna Karenina for the first time. You know when you read a line or hear a lyric or catch a camera shot in a film that is just so true it hurts? Tolstoy’s line hits me in that solar-plexus soft spot and makes me wonder about my families. I say “families” because I seem to have several now. There is my immediate family, my clan of extended relatives, and my married-into family, each full of folks I love. There is a kind of classic joy threading its way through all three family cultures; I can see it in the albums of photos in every home and I hold it in my heart, in the memories of food shared, stories told and adventures survived.
But what about the unhappiness? Some of my family members have had more of that than others—untimely deaths, unhappy marriages, unwilling displacements and unfair illnesses have shadowed the good times and the good intentions of many. And what about the drudgery of daily life? Snapping at my husband for no good reason last night, I shocked myself: I wouldn’t want to act like that around our kid!
Maybe it’s the idealism of the uninitiated, but I still have this belief that if I can just be my better self—not even my BEST self—we will be one of the “happy families” when we have a child. Maybe if I don’t focus on the little things and take time to appreciate what I have, I will be less inclined to pick at/nag/whine about my child and husband. Maybe our grown-up kid will read that line in Anna Karenina and say, “Ah, so true—and what a joy it was to grow up in the right side of those metaphorical tracks.”
However, when I look at my families, I see how the unhappiness arrives, unwelcome, from all directions. It can come from within—perhaps in ways that we can control—but more often than not, it comes from without. And the world without seems capable of infinite variation on the theme of adversity, as Tolstoy observed. So what are we to do? How to be a “happy family”? Upon whose shoulders does this burden rest?
Maybe this is yet another aspect of life over which I have little-to-no control…
Sunday, October 11, 2009
Sitting around last weekend and nursing my injured pride, I remembered what one of my best friends who has worked as a doula observed: that birth, and specifically the cutting of the umbilical cord, is the first moment that a parent begins to let go of their child--it's all downhill from there. I took this wisdom to heart and, having spent the last month of my life as the Fertility Nazi, have now decided to apply it to the process of getting pregnant (in lieu of starting my parenting life as the controlling mother I'm determined NOT to be). Being me, however, I found another book to read: With Child: wisdom and traditions for pregnancy, birth and motherhood by Deborah Jackson. Here's a gem:
"A desire for children can be so powerful that in the West fertility is often regarded as a thing to influence rather than as a natural force. When we can control almost every aspect of our lives, it comes as a shock if we do not conceive the moment we intend...It may be better to...imagine ourselves in the hopeful state of being 'almost pregnant'" (19).
I am SUCH a cliche! So Western, so anxious, so out-of-body and thus out of my mind. How have I lived 29 years and not learned this one, essential thing? Boo. However, I do love the universe for sending me this timely reminder that I am not, nor have I ever been, in control--despite my very elaborate and convincing illusions.
SO, here is my latest vow: make the chart, take the vitamins, skip the booze, and even disconnect the caffeine IV until my 30th birthday in a month and a half, return the library books, ban mechanical sex, do some yoga, sprint if I damn-well feel like it and say my honest prayers to "the ancient and universal mother goddess, in whose fruitful womb the gift of life is conceived" (Jackson 11). Opening up to the mystery of this process is yet another chance to learn the fine art of letting go. In this spirit, I am going to think of myself as officially "almost pregnant."
(And on my 3oth birthday in late November, I plan to crack open a good, dark beer and toast my progress--and then have a cup of delightfully caffeinated black tea in the morning. How's that for trusting the universe? Well, for me, it's pretty damn good.)
Saturday, October 10, 2009
As teachers, my husband and I know that it would make our lives a zillion times easier if we had a baby in the summer. So, when my September cycle rolled around, I decided to make the absolute MOST of this chance to get pregnant. To this end, I started checking out fertility books from the library and...went for a pre-conception visit to an OBGYN that a friend had liked...and had a midwife come do a well-woman exam...and gave up booze (Lord save me!)...and called my naturopath...and ordered all the vitamins he recommended: prenatal food-based multi, Vitamin D, fish oil, Cal-Mag, probiotics, the whole shebang! WHEW. If you're not out of breath reading this, then you've clearly missed the obsessive nature of my quest for maximizing our fertility.
Let me elaborate: on top of all this, I read aloud long chapters of Taking Charge of Your Fertility and The Fastest Way to Get Pregnant Naturally to my husband, relegated his boxer briefs to the closet, bought him loose, sperm-friendly underwear, and forbade him from setting the laptop on "the family jewels," if you will. Then, when the time was right (a full 20 days into my cycle, due to the stress of the new job I suspect), we followed the advice the OBGYN gave me: "Be intimate with your husband at least every other day until your period" (or until he gets the flu four days after you ovulate, which is what happened in our case). I proceeded to try all the tricks from all the books: resting prostrate in bed for a while after sex (risking a UTI, I might add) to give The Boys a chance to go for the gold without fighting gravity, jogging a bit slower to keep my heart rate under 140, eating at least one full-fat dairy serving per day, and generally rubbing my belly and sending some words of encouragement to theo potential babies within. Thirty four days into my cycle, I had a feeling it was all paying off.
I'm sure, Dear Reader, that you can understand why I teared up when the first tinges of cramps grumbled onto the scene during a perfectly lovely birthday dinner for my father-in-law. I knew immediately: a baby was not to be...this month.
I didn't cry, but, shamefully, I did pout. I hate losing.
To be continued...
Friday, October 9, 2009
Thursday, October 8, 2009
We laughed, mostly because that riff struck me as an accurate description of (some) of my fatalistic views on parenting. I imagine that, despite all our best efforts, we will mess things up for our kid and it’s hard to imagine a child of the global warming era NOT having some resentment towards the generations that have come, seen and conquered before theirs. So, why bring a child into this world?
Mostly, I guess, because I still love this world.
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
In The Awakening, Kate Chopin writes that her protagonist, Mrs. Pontellier, “was not a mother-woman…They were women who idolized their children, worshiped their husbands, and esteemed it a holy privilege to efface themselves as individuals and grow wings as ministering angels” (8).
I am not a “mother-woman.” There’s no way around it—in fact, I’m terrified of ever becoming such a creature. Yet for 15 years, I’ve been longing to become pregnant. The jokes about my “birthing hips”started when my Venus of Willendorf thighs made their wetsuit debut for my high school canoe and kayak team. In college, I considered (albeit somewhat drunkenly, but in that serious way that red wine makes you think) becoming a surrogate mother, just to have the experience of growing a human in my body. The really odd thing is, I don’t look forward to the “having a kid” part so much as the pregnancy itself—in fact, I’m terrified of being someone’s MOTHER. I just have this innate curiosity about what it would feel like to be a vessel, a cauldron, a test-tube on hiker’s hairy legs. Is it wrong to have a child for these selfish reasons?
But what’s a girl to do? Especially when she has a wonderful husband, a secure job and a body that’s only getting older by the day (not cheery, but true). I don’t want to wait so long that medical intervention is the only way to get pregnant; I want the miracle of life to be just that—miraculous and wild, uncontrolled by rubber-gloved hands. And I’m not quite as hard-hearted as I might seem; I do love gutting pumpkins with spoons, eating with my hands, and snapping toddlers into overalls. I have some kind of mother-woman in me somewhere, but she’s going to have to duke it out with this other gal that I’ve been for three decades.
So, I’m going for it. I’m trusting that some form of wings will grow if and when my belly does.