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.