July 28, 2011

Mother Food: Lactogenic Food & Herbs for Milk Production and for a Mother's and her Baby's Health

Mother Food by Hilary Jacobson is an interesting resource, but not an interesting read.  Her purpose is laudable - but it really is "compiled as an informational guide".  There is not much of a narrative, but for the sake of so much information, that's easy to forgive.

June 25, 2011

Birth: the Surprising History of How We Are Born

Birth: the Surprising History of How We Are Born by Tina Cassidy definitely feels like what it is - an overview written by a journalist.  Journalists are by trade and often personality disposed to facts over feelings, the story over one's opinions about the story.  And this book is pretty thoroughly non-judgmental.  Since I am not, in the privacy of my own mind, non-judgmental about the history of birth, it was an interesting difference of perspective for me.

One factoid that stuck out at me from the book was the description of the surgical procedure called symphyseotomy, where a doctor would cut through the soft tissues of the mother's genitalia, and then manually separate the cartilage in her pubic bone to create a wider opening for the baby to come through.  This was (and in some places where a cesarean is radically unsafe or simply unavailable, still is) used as an alternative to  unsafe cesareans before anesthesia and an understanding of preventing infection. A third of the mothers and half of the babies died, but this was apparently a better mortality rate than cesareans could offer at the time.  I'm not sure I'd ever read about this before, but it is truly horrifying to me.

The other factoid that stuck out is related.  I know I had read about how rickets deformed women's pelvises and led to the need for such horrific - and desperate - measures, but I hadn't remembered the details.  Pelvic openings of 2 inches.  Yikes.  And no 99% effective birth control other than simply never having intercourse.  Double yikes.  I did like the (probably anecdotal) story from several hundred years ago about the father who performed a cesarean on his wife and took out her ovaries himself to make sure he would never be in that situation again.  I can so imagine that, and it feels so different than the similar stories from a generation or two ago about doctors deciding to take the uterus and ovaries out after a cesarean.

Worth reading, for sure.  Not my favorite ever based on lack of emotional appeal and any sense of activism whatsoever.

April 10, 2011

9 Weeks and The End

The last of my postcard exchange images:

Two of my family members and one of my colleagues are expecting babies in October or November this year.  I decided to do colored pencil studies of what their babies might look like at this point in their pregnancies.  This is 9 weeks.

I should mention that I'm behind on posting these so they are no longer at this # of weeks.

April 9, 2011

12 Weeks

For the postcard exchange . . .

Two of my family members and one of my colleagues are expecting babies in October or November this year.  I decided to do colored pencil studies of what their babies might look like at this point in their pregnancies.  This is 12 weeks.

I am a bit behind on posting these - they aren't at this number of weeks anymore.

April 8, 2011

13 Weeks

For the postcard exchange:

Two of my family members and one of my colleagues are expecting babies in October or November this year.  I decided to do colored pencil studies of what their babies might look like at this point in their pregnancies.  This is 13 weeks.  

I should mention that I'm a tad bit behind posting these - so they aren't at these weeks anymore.

April 7, 2011

Dream Image

These are the last of my postcard exchange images.  Here's what I said about this one:

This is a dream-image, although this image is actually like symbol of the dream-image which was a symbol in itself.  The text reads in part:  “In the dream I gave birth to a baby face up with an audience of many watchers.  The baby was born with open eyes, laughing, and singing.”

February 21, 2011

Outer Gates of the Underworld

Another postcard:

I started reading through the Inanna myth in the Wolkstein/ Kramer version and immediately the Gate called to me.  Here it is, my version of the “outer gates of the underworld,” for today. Solid, earthy wood outlines them.  Curtains which look very vulvular block most of the way. Neti looks something like a House Elf or a Ferengi and wears only a loincloth, but he holds a very modern stop sign. I’m not sure what the bird is doing there, but he came, so there he is.

February 20, 2011

Inanna Tal Mask

My postcard image for the week before last:

I read a book to my kids about Tal masks from Korean traditions and my oldest got really enthused about making masks.  We didn’t have the materials to hand so he decided to draw designs instead and insisted that I draw one, too.  So I decided to draw Inanna, with her crown of the Steppe, eye ointment, and locks of hair.  No necklace, etc., to be true to the mask idea.

February 8, 2011

Seven "Me"

Last week's postcard:

And my message:

I told the story of Inanna this week to a private class, and listened to a 2010 call about art assignments, in which Virginia suggested assigning oneself parts of stories we tell.  So I decided to assign myself the Seven Me for this postcard, because I couldn’t remember them all when I told the story this week!  I thought drawing them might help me learn them by heart.

January 30, 2011

The Premature Baby Book

The Premature Baby Book by William, Robert, James, & Martha Sears is a good basic text.  Most of the Sears Parenting Library books are.  I noticed the extremely bland, reassuring tone more in this one, though, because it's about such a terrifying topic (at least to me).

I worked with a family once who had premies born at . . . hm.  I don't remember exactly how many weeks anymore. Something in the mid-20s I think. This was while I was pregnant with my first baby, over 7 years ago.  That's an impressionable time, and that NICU made an impression. I was pretty horrified by the idea of that much suffering, that much separation from their mama, that much struggle on the part of the mama to stay connected to those babies while also caring for a teenager and a toddler at home.  I think as an uninitiated woman, who had not yet given birth, not yet discovered my full strength as a mother, I was unable to appreciate how, like birth, this NICU experience was not perhaps just painful, but strong.

When dealing with things like that, things that stretch you to the very limit of what you are capable of, bland and reassuring may not cut it.  But this book was a good introduction to the topic.  I hope I never need to know the details in it for myself.  I hope I can be present to parents I work with in the future despite my emotional response, or through it, if we end up in the NICU, earlier than planned.

January 28, 2011

Laborynth Slides

My postcard for this week:

And what I said about it:

My family’s had a stomach bug this week so for this postcard I’m ‘cheating’.  This is a collage of the Laborynth images I made as a slideshow to show to a private class I did a year ago.  I had my 5-month-old daughter with me and was concerned about my ability to draw the visuals, hold the baby, and be fully present to the parents.  It worked out rather well, although I do prefer to draw it by hand with parents when possible!

January 27, 2011

Listening to the Great Below

This is the next postcard:

And what I said about it:

I made the sculpture shown here during a class while the parents were making birth power figures.  I know what it symbolizes for me: myself, belly empty of babies for now but shaped by pregnancy and birth, with my hand to my ear, listening intently to the Great Below as I enter a period of great change in my life.  But I hope it’s an image which may speak to others, too.  Thanks to my husband Matt who is a professional photographer and copied the sculpture for me!

January 26, 2011


A fellow Birthing From Within Mentor created a postcard exchange for Mentors this winter and spring.  I've agreed to create and send 12 postcards to fellow Mentors and should receive about that many in return as well.  I thought I'd post them here so everyone can see all of them.

Here's my first:

 And here's what I said about it:

This image contains photos of 7 generations of women in my family, the last 5 of whom were only daughters.  Around them I have drawn a tree of life with roots in the earth stretching into the sky, with a moon and stars.  Over it all is a strand of DNA.  “Tara” is the name given by one researcher to the woman my/our mitochondrial, matrilineal DNA comes from.  Of the women in these pictures, my mother (far right in the color photo, baby in the middle photo) is the only one who was born in a hospital, while my grandmother (middle of color photo, left in middle photo, baby in top photo) is the only one who did not give birth at home. . . . Somewhere in BFW, Pam talks about learning our family histories around birth.  I’ve always wanted to find processes for doing this more intentionally with my students.

January 11, 2011

It Sucked and Then I Cried

It Sucked and Then I Cried: How I Had a Baby, a Breakdown, and a Much Needed Margarita by Heather B. Armstrong

This was a much lighter read than most of the other stuff I've been working through.  Irritatingly at times.  But it's also a vivid description of what it's like to be inside postpartum anxiety and depression.  I chose it because I'd read Armstrong's posts about her second birth, which she did very differently from her first, and which she was a lot happier about in a lot of ways, and enjoyed them.  I'd like to read something more about postpartum mood disorders that's more forthright - the humor and sarcasm maybe gets in the way a bit for me in this book - but this was definitely a fun read.

My favorite line:  "Whose brilliant idea was it to protect the world from these diseases by JABBING BABIES WITH NEEDLES?  Why were we covering light sockets with protective plastic coverings when doctors everywhere were poking infants with sharp, disease-infested objects?  Parenthood makes no sense."  (p. 187)

January 7, 2011

Having Twins and More

Having Twins and More: A Parent's Guide to Multiple Pregnancy, Birth, and Early Childhood by Elizabeth Noble with Leo Sorger, M.D.

I chose this book for the Postpartum & Birth reading I needed to do because I know from talking to parents of twins that the postpartum challenges everyone experiences are magnified tremendously for parents of multiples.

This book was an interesting mix of data (or at least reference to data) and assertion.  Noble quotes LOTS of research, but in a kind of random-seeming way (i.e., quote anything that seems to support what you want to say, rather than a review of all possible research on the topic you're discussing - see this fascinating article about the fallacy of medical research in general, much less when you're trying to prove a point.)  And she obviously has some pet theories, some of which I think make common sense (eat more), others not (dairy is evil for everyone).

It is informative though, for someone like me with no direct personal experience with parenting twins or more, about what that experience is like.  I'd like to read something more evocative on the topic at some point, because this book is only informative.  Even the side-bar quotes from parents are pretty dry.

Since I don't have twins and am not pregnant with them and I leave the book feeling kind of scared of the whole idea, I imagine it might not be a confidence builder for someone actually expecting twins.  I think I wouldn't necessarily recommend this book to parents, at least not as a primary source.

Birth: she does include photos and the story of a successful, term, homebirth of triplets after cesarean, which is undoubtedly pretty cool.  Otherwise, none of the birth information was particularly new to me - she's basically saying, try to find someone who will support a vaginal birth because it's better for you and the babies - even better if it can be as natural as possible.

Postpartum:  again, her general gist is that parents of multiples will need LOTS of help or disaster may overtake them in the form of stress, divorce, depression etc.  This is useful, and there are some ideas about how to cope, but I imagine that I'd learn a lot more from the Internet in terms of tricks to try and gadgets to buy if I were expecting multiples.