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A Homey Home Birth

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The adjective ‘homey’ has two possible meanings, either ‘cozy’ and ‘intimate’ or ‘unattractive’ and ‘ugly’.  My home birth, or rather my son’s home birth, was anything but homey, in the second sense of the word.  My handy thesaurus tells me that, as well as the aforementioned ‘cozy’ and ‘intimate’, it was also ‘comfortable’, ‘snug’, ‘welcoming’, ‘warm’, ‘pleasant’ and ‘cheerful’.  I’d have to concur with these sentiments.  It was hardly a relaxing day at the spa but it came a close second.  My son was born in my parent’s living room, in the same home that had welcomed me after my birth.  I for one think that’s rather fantastic.  ‘Fantastic’ also coveys the meanings ‘bizarre’, ‘outlandish’ and ‘grotesque’; I obviously don’t intend it in that way.  And as marvelous, superb and terrific as it was to have delivered my son inside a family heirloom, getting there was no easy feat.

‘You are not giving birth to my grandson in this house!’ exclaimed my father obstinately.  I had just moved back to England from the United States of Super Sized Caesareans, very much pregnant and expecting to pick up from where I had left off – prenatal check ups in the bedroom and youtube-ing home birth videos in preparation for our looming arrival.  I tried to make my case as casually as possible, after all my father and his five siblings had also been born at home.  So what if that wasn’t of his choosing, nor of my grandmother’s in fact.  So what if it was because there were no maternity wards, let alone hospitals, near the some what remote town where he grew up in the fifties.  There, women simply gave birth at home, surrounded by well experienced, albeit medically untrained, local doulas because they had no other choice. So I figured that reminding him of his own home birth may make him reconsider … ‘I don’t think so!’ was the response.  I heard it loud and clear.

I still drafted out my birth plan and ordered the birthing pool in the hope that my father would eventually be convinced that the best place for me to deliver this baby was indeed his living room.  ‘The best place for you to deliver this baby is on the maternity ward’, decided the obstetrician whose care I was placed under.  She had spotted an ancient anomaly in my medical history which apparently deemed me unfit to birth away from the hospital.  This hiccup had not been on the agenda.  My father I could likely win over, but an allopathic doctor was a whole other fight.  I stood my ground, not wavering in the least,  whilst she too was resilient and refused to hand me over to the midwives.  It was a deadlock.  The doctor’s office transformed into a boxing ring.  It was medical protocol versus home birth enthusiast.  No spectators, just the doctor, her unrelenting patient and my unborn baby. (Warning: Do not try this at home).  She swung first with, ‘Even if you were fit and healthy a home birth is too risky!’.  I blocked and countered with, ‘Actually, you’ll find that the Royal College of Obstetrics and Gynecology would disagree with you!’.

We continued to exchange blows.  She was simply unable to comprehend why anyone would want to give birth without the surveillance of medical staff, beeping machines and the numbing magic of the epidural.  She had me up against the ropes and jabbed, ‘why are you so hung up on a home birth anyway?; it’s so silly’.  I had had a sneaky feeling all along that this was less about my health and more about her own notions that home birth sucked, to put it mildly.  I wiped the sweat from my brow ready to throw the final blow,  ‘Let’s just put it this way’ I announced confidently, ‘If you don’t provide me with midwives, I’ll go it alone!’.  Was I being serious you ask?  Of course not! I’m not that brave or insane, depending on how you look at it, although there are women who are resorting to unassisted births.  For me it was a tactic, my knock out move… and well, it worked!  That and the fact that a second medical opinion rendered me a picture of health.  The doctor’s parting words were, ‘if this all goes wrong, I take absolutely no responsibility!’.  Gee, thanks for the encouragement!

I never answered her question though; why was I so hung up on a home birth?  Well, it was because of Ricki Lake (something I never would have admitted to my opponent).  Yes, the host of the eccentric daytime chat show of the same name.  Thank goodness that she has opted for a career change and is now a natural birth advocate.  And she’s darn good at her new job because she certainly had me convinced me.  One night after having watched ‘The Business of Being Born‘, in which Ricki and her side kick Abby Epstein chronicle their respective birth journeys, I also joined the home birth camp.  And I’m mighty glad I did.  I acknowledge that birth isn’t always ‘relaxed’ and ‘pleasant’, regardless of where it takes place, but I’m extremely grateful that mine was.  It was homey.  ‘Homey’, can also mean ‘simple’ and ‘ordinary’, and in one sense my son’s birth was exactly that; no complications, no interventions.   It was birth, simple and ordinary, yet cozy, intimate, comfortable, snug, welcoming, warm, pleasant and cheerful.

Resources:

Before you proceed please be aware that there may be some graphic images of women giving birth.  If you are squeamish then please wear sunglasses.  Also note that a home birth is not for everyone and complications can arise.  Please make an informed decision based on your particular circumstances, and discuss with a medical professional – hopefully they’ll be less bias and more honest than my doctor was.

http://www.bringbirthhome.com

http://www.homebirth.org.uk

http://www.birthrite.me

http://www.birthwithoutfearblog.com

http://www.mybestbirth.com

Mother Thrifty

 Thrift stores are the new best friends that I used to vehemently loathe.  The mere mention of them would evoke images of shelves drowning in dust and spilling over with discarded junk, unorganized racks displaying the unwanted garb of some prehistoric era and that musty smell reminiscent of a football team’s locker room.  That said, I was no stranger to the thrift scene.  Throughout my college days friends on student sized incomes shopped for gently used clothes, shoes and accessories before selling last season’s stale getups.  And although I was surprisingly impressed by their frugal new finds, some even bagging unique vintage frocks and handbags, I could never bring myself to dabble in the secondhand world.  The only hand-me-downs I ever accepted were from my fabulously fashionable fashionista of a sister.  And even though my friends looked equally as fabulous in their preowned gear I was far too proud to be so ‘cheap’.  Thrift stores were, in my estimation, the refuges of asylum seeking knickknacks. 

 This snobbery of mine would soon to be tested.  I’ll set the scene for you: I’m pregnant.  At the mall.  This baby of mine needs some stuff.  Heck, he needs a lot of stuff!  I’m convinced that I can buy all of it in one mad shopping spree and call it a day.  So I begin browsing the aisles of Babies’R’Us, which is as frightening as Disney World, and peruse the many price tags.  Suddenly I break out into a sweat and begin palpitating.  No, I’m not going into labor, and no it’s not because I’m that bad at math.  My distress is from wondering how on God’s planet earth I’d pay such a hefty sum for things which would eventually become obsolete, outgrown or dumped into a charity bin.  Should I send my friends and family a desperate plea dressed up as a baby shower list?  Would my child end up as the scarred consequence of my not being able to afford matching decor for his non existent nursery?  Would he be dapper enough to accompany me as my trophy child to socialite hotspots, (which I obviously frequent regularly, duh!), if I were forgo the designer baby wear?  Then, in my moment of absolute despair, I catch a glimpse of a ‘Reduce-Reuse-Recycle’ signpost and I knew instantly that those preowned junk stores that I’d previously scorned and mocked would be my only sanctuary. 

 Like a criminal I stealthily made my way along a stretch of road bursting with used goods and skeptically entered a store, hoping no one would spot me.  Oh the dread if they did!  How would I explain myself?  I should have proceeded in a Lady GaGa disguise so as to conceal the sins I was about to commit; after all nobody judges her, right? And……Ta-da! To my pleasant surprise this store was more baby boutique than consignment.  Clothes were washed, pressed and neatly arranged in labeled aisles.  It was easy to navigate and that tell tale smell wasn’t lingering around.  It was stocked with slings, nursing pillows, prams, toys and other bare necessities and merchandise was in like-new condition and even boasted brands such as Under the Nile and Kate Quinn Organics.  I was speechless.  This changed everything.  I’d have to rethink my entire philosophy of buying and spending.  Here I’d been, prejudice towards the entire ilk of thrift without making room for the possibility that they might, just might, be alright.  But they were more than alright, they were bloody wonderful!

 Thrift stores eventually became my playground.  I went from extreme thrift hater to extremely thrifty.  My unborn child’s wardrobe for the first year of his life (I like to prepare in advance you see) and other essentials were almost entirely store bought second-handers or hand-me-downs.  That said, my new passion wasn’t without it’s drawbacks.  Aside from the obligatory items I also managed to rake in a whole load of junk.  It was so cheap and I just couldn’t resist.  My living room morphed from minimalist haven, to hoarders paradise .  Like an addict looking for her next fix I spent hours seeking out deals and patted myself on the back for being so economical.  Eventually the stores weren’t enough to sustain my habit.  I began to itch, I needed a virtual thrill, so I resorted to hookups like Ebay and Craigslist – which is Gumtree and Preloved for those of us in Her Majesty’s Kingdom.  I wasted precious hours contacting quack sellers and trying to win auctions, of which I won none.  Eventually my husband was forced to stage an intervention… and I lived to tell the tale.  I am now free of my thrift addiction and do on occasion stop by the mall *gasp*.  I still continue to shop frugally, especially for baby items, but realise that unbridled consumerism, in whichever form it appears , can be extremely destructive.  

 So if you are like I was, completely grossed out at buying someone else’s leftovers then don’t be, you’ll be doing the environment and your purse a huge favor.  And If you are already a seasoned thrift shopper then I salute you.  But you will both do well to remember that there is a hierarchy when it comes to shopping for seconds.  At the bottom we have the misfits, selling clothes that would have made spiffy cleaning rags, and other gadgets and gizmos clearly rescued from the landfill.  Then come the mediocre guys, which contain a plethora of 80’s fashion, funky halloween costumes and Simpsons memorabilia- all in good condition but that were discarded for obvious reasons.  At the top are the more sophisticated types:  clean cut, well dressed, nice smelling, and worth every penny you spend in them, unless of course they have an adverse effect on your health, the quality of your life and your bank account. 

 And so the next time you ask me where I bought that cute little outfit for my son from and my response is ‘it’s from a friend’, you know exactly which ‘friend’ I’m referring to, those new best friends of mine to be exact, who may also be responsible for your child’s next birthday present.  

 

A few knickknacks of my own: 

  • Grove Street Kids based in Berkeley, California Is the chic store which was the impetus for my thrift addition.  
  • It’s hard to believe but kids will have absolutely no idea whether they’re wearing brand new or not so new.
  • When buying larger used baby items such as cribs, car seats and walkers, do make sure they are safe to use before purchasing.

 

Happy Thrifting! 

 

The P Words

Pee, poop and potty training, pardon my French, was the topic of our heated conversation at the dinner table last night.  For mothers, discussing such niceties is of utmost and takes precedence over other less pressing issues like the recent NSA revelation and Abercrombie and Fitch’s homeless brand readjustment.  These dining room discussions can also become extremely impassioned, some what aggressive and unnecessarily melodramatic.  The guests included a veteran mother of four diaper-less children, a rookie soldier currently engaged in potty training combat with her toddler, and myself, with my rugrat in tow, relieved that I wouldn’t be stepping into that battle zone for at least another year… or so I thought.  (Warning: smelly territory ahead)

‘You can go diaper free from the beginning you know!’, exclaimed veteran mama-four-times.  I almost choked on my exceedingly healthy buffalo wings!  ‘You mean EC?!?!’, I shrieked.  EC, or Elimination Communication, which sounds more like a conflict resolution technique than anything baby related, is a method of communicating with your child in order to respond to their need to relieve themselves without relying upon diapers.  Or in mommy language, teaching baby to aim for the potty instead of the pampers.  Easy peasy!  All it requires is that you march boo boo to a toilet, sink or a bowl, every twenty minutes all the while looking out for signals from said boo boo such as smelly fumes and funny faces indicating that they need to ‘go’.  You must also develop sound cue associations to make them ‘psss‘/pee and ‘grrrrr‘ /poop, or whichever noises take your fancy.  Others let intuition be their guide, but we’ll save that and other fairy tales for bedtime.

I’d come to know about this preposterous practice quite accidently.  Late one night as I mindlessly flicked through Pandora’s box of evils, also known as a television, I stumbled upon an Attachment Parenting report.  It was all blissful, rosy and freakishly wonderful.  Fathers carried their overgrown toddlers in slings for most of the day, mothers nursed their preschoolers, and entire families including grandmother slept in the same bed.  Nothing odd about this picture, except maybe the super extended breast feeding, but I’ll let you be the judge of that.  And then I witnessed a parent’s worst nightmare… poop smeared walls and floors.  An EC mama wasn’t quite as attentive as she should have been whilst the cameras were rolling and missed her baby’s poop signal.  Poops! I mean Oops!  She continued to ignore him so he preceded to play with it.  The end result?  One happy baby and one giant Picassoesque poopy piece of artwork.

Veteran EC mama then tried and convince me that dumping the diapers was the way to go.  She touted all kind of benefits from environmental to butt related, but I wasn’t having any of it.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for reducing our big fat carbon footprint and keeping my child’s delicate nether regions clean, but I’m already washing yesterday’s dinner off my sons cloth diapers, and there’s only so much poop a girl can take.  And aside from the really impressive ‘I need to pee’ gang signs your baby will eventually start throwing, why should I succumb to such madness?  ‘Relying on diapers causes babies to loose their ability to control their bowels and bladder’.  Come again?  ‘Babies are born with sphincter control and can effectively ‘hold it in’, and by practicing EC you’re enhancing this skill in your child until they gain conscious control of it, so eventually they’ll be able to eliminate their waste on cue… ‘pssss’….grrrr’.

I don’t doubt that it works.  I myself was potty trained by nine months.  In fact, I think it’d be marvelous for my baby to be able to control his motions until I plop him on the toilet but does that mean I’ll be singing up to the EC camp anytime soon?  A resounding ‘NO!’.  In this instance my sanity is far more precious to me than the environment or my baby’s behind.  Can you imagine taking the little cherub for a pee break three times an hour, every hour of their waking existence, for the first few months of their life? (yes they do pee that often!)  And if you were brave enough to go completely diaper free can you envisage the amount of hit and miss situations you’d have to clean up?  Not to mention that it’d probably be the only thing you’d discuss at the dinner table… ever again!  I don’t think any EC parent will disagree with me when I say that ECing is a ludicrously laborious task.  I for one love to put on my son’s diaper and forget about its contents until that all too familiar funk comes wafting in my direction.

Resources

Here are some great websites for those interested in finding out more about EC.  A simple google search will also bring up a variety of discussion and opinion for those wishing to join the debate.  Let me know how you do or don’t get on.

http://www.nappyfreebaby.co.uk

http://www.diaperfreebaby.org

http://www.ecsimplified.com

http://www.eliminationcomm.livejournal.com

http://www.tribalbaby.org