December 30, 2011

mind over mind? and bringing God in

I've mentioned more than once here that the idea of the birthing process freaks my cookies. To slay this dragon, or at least build a bridge that goes around it, I've educated myself (and DH) with my doc's reminder that "information is power." I've gone through the childbirth preparedness class at our birthing center, read through more than one book that talks about the process, prayed many times, spent time thinking about the event and its inevitable outcome – the birth of my son, and started listening to the CDs.

I have now listened to four sessions. Every time, I fall asleep. Or at least I'm pretty sure that's what happens because I couldn't possibly tell you what I've learned other than how to breathe deeply. Last night I listened to a session called Deepening, which guides the listener into a deeper state of hypnosis. I suspect that, even if I do fall asleep, my mind really is getting the message because for whatever reason I returned to a state of consciousness a few minutes before the end of the session (rather than waking up to dead silence).

I can tell you that, as of right now, I do not feel dread at the thought of going to the birthing center (in fact, I'm looking forward to plugging in my iPod and dimming the lights in there!). DH is still pretty squeamish about being there, though – I'm hoping he listens to the birth partner CD so he can be more calm during the process.

Despite the "pain-free labor" the home study professes, this is not my expectation. I'd say I am resisting the urge to build any expectations since I know that anything can happen. I am, however, starting to visualize how I would like the process to go. Why do this? Because the mind is powerful, and the suggestion can influence the outcome. My coworker, who also used the program, did this and many aspects of her process carried out exactly the way she had envisioned it.

At the same time, I have begun focusing more on bringing God into the experience and making Him the focus of my desire. Last weekend in yoga class, as the instructor cooed gentle words of new age "wisdom," the thought popped into my head of really making God part of the process instead of an afterthought. I am praying more in that direction, asking God to cover me with His Spirit and permeate the room we'll be in.

Hyp.nobir.thing and visualization are powerful tools, but they are just tools. God is no tool.

December 28, 2011

rites of passage

In my last post, I referred to childbirth as a "rite of passage" – a phrase that has been turning over in my head ever since. I originally found this reference in an herb book that I've been consulting throughout my pregnancy.

It got me thinking – do we really see childbirth as a rite of passage in our society? If so, what does that mean for those of us enduring the challenges of infertility?

I see constant references to bearing children as basically establishing a woman's fulfillment in society. It's our inherited form of "bearing fruit" to put it in Biblical terms, with little or nothing to supplement it. Kind of shallow, don't you think? I mean, really – surely there's more to life.

I don't mean to downplay the incredible transformation I am now experiencing as a result of a direct blessing from God. But I still have one foot firmly planted in the IF community – it's not like I ever jumped off that ship and exclaimed "I'm cured and am no longer part of this club!" It is for all of our sakes that I ask the question: What does it mean to be productive, to bear fruit, to become the person God intends me to be? What does it mean to be a woman?

There are women in the Bible who never experienced childbirth, or who endured years of infertility while being ridiculed by others or shamed by society. The feelings of guilt, shame, and private longing run many thousands of years into our inherited past.

As I type this, I am reminded of Proverbs 31: 10-31 "Epilogue: The Wife of Noble Character" NIV. Many people think this is a composite of noble women rather than a study of the typical day of one superhuman wife of Solomon's. What I find interesting is that, in no verse is the rearing of children listed as one of her noble characteristics: instead, she's industrious and productive and respected in her own right. Rather than aspiring to do all the things she does, I am encouraged by the thought that there are plenty of ways to be fruitful in this world that have nothing to do with childbirth.

Another way of putting it: I am not only a reflection of my contribution to parenthood. I am multi-faceted and look for ways to be productive for the sake of my household as well as those around me. That, I think, is an accurate definition in part of what it means to be a woman.

Coming full circle, what then are rites of passage into womanhood or adulthood? I think it does change a bit with societal fluctuations. It could be getting your first period; graduating high school and/or college; getting married; landing a first real job; buying a home or car; welcoming a child into the world, regardless of the means. Any others?

December 21, 2011

my adventures in self-care

Okay, I wouldn't go so far as to call them "adventures," but I am looking for ways to make my pregnancy and birth more comfortable and less stressful. I know, I can just show up and grab the anesthesiologist to stick that needle in my back. But there's more to it than that - at least for me.

As I've said before, this is a huge challenge for me. So whatever I can do to improve serenity and health is worth doing. Nevermind those cookies, ice cream and candies that I can't stay out of!

Case in point: Hypno.babies

Last week in the childbirth prep class, they took us on a tour of the birthing center (kind of a hybrid birth center & hospital). It was very pleasant and informative. Later we watched a documentary profiling three women who used epidurals and gave descriptions of the process, etc. I was interested in it, but I noticed that my palms were sweating and I was starting to feel a bit sick. I excused myself to go use the restroom and hung out in the hallway for a while. It was a mild panic attack, which went away as soon as I left the room.

After this experience, I knew I had to do something about my subliminal reaction to the whole thing. My coworker lent me this home study course a month ago but I hadn't touched it. I downloaded all the tracks onto my iPod and started listening this week. So far I must say it is relaxing and is helping me, but I think I'm falling asleep each time I listen. The course says that's okay, as the subconscious mind still absorbs the information, so I'm not worried about it. I'll keep listening/sleeping and go through them all.

Second case in point: herbal teas

I have been reading through various sources of herbal support for pregnancy, mostly looking for consistency across different authors. Safety is critical, of course. Two herbs that I've decided to drink in tea form daily until the baby's born are nettle and red raspberry leaf. Both are called uterine tonics - kind of an odd expression, but basically it helps prepare the muscles for expansion and contraction. That, in turn, makes birthing easier and less painful - maybe even shorter - and recovery quicker.

I haven't ruled out the wildly popular epidural - I'm about 70% in favor of it at this point, since I make no assumptions about how my birthing experience will be. But I am all about supporting my body and mind in this stage, and treating childbirth like a mere medical event instead of the rite of passage that it is feels hollow.

In case you're curious, one of my book sources is Wise Woman Herbal for the Childbearing Year, Susun S Weed.

"Did you do IVF?"

I was getting a prenatal massage at a new place, provided by a woman who's worked with (evidently) a lot of pregnant women. I was pretty shocked at this question. Does getting a massage create some kind of intimate ask-me-anything-you-want atmosphere? If so, please clue me in.

I was mildly flabbergasted (since I was pretty relaxed, laying nearly naked on a table beneath a blanket getting a massage). Perhaps she had surmised this by my age, revealed by the crow's feet or the emerging grays from my two-month-old hair color. I immediately decided I was not embarrassed by my answer.

I simply replied "... um, no. After two miscarriages and a diagnosis of fertility, God has chosen to bless us with a miracle pregnancy." I told the truth. Usually people don't pry much more when you bring God into the conversation, but I'm past the point of wondering whether they think I'm nuts for believing.

She went right on from there, talking about other situations she's seen, how she had experienced seven (!) failed adoptions, and figured God just didn't have that in her plans.

I decided that she treated the massage experience like a lot of people treat the hair salon experience, and forgave her forthrightness. Still, it was weird man. Good massage though!

December 16, 2011

I Remember

I just read a fellow IF blogger's post about respecting the loss of the Dug.gars' latest pregnancy. I haven't bothered to look up the news story, as this person's post told me all I needed to know – that it was a loss at week 20, that they chose to have photos taken and share them, that they grieve deeply.

What interested me was the blogger talking about how people are judging them and how some are ridiculing them for publishing photos. As if a physical remembrance is reprehensible in our virtual world.

Who cares? And why do some people feel the need to blab about their opinion on how someone chooses to mourn? Not the blogger, but the ones she talked about. Her post was honorable and respectful for the most part.

What got under my skin is how some (the blogger and commenters) are framing their decision not to judge. Something to the tune of "I don't care for their religion, but…"

Wait a minute. Again – who cares? Why is okay to judge someone's faith in the context of claiming to be non-judgmental about something else they do? Can we be any more hypocritical and judgmental? Would anyone dare preface their opinion that way if the Dug.gars were anything but a brand of Christian, such as Muslim or Atheist or Jewish?

I'm going to close this idea right here.

What I am remembering today, in light of their loss, is my own. My losses, my journey. I remember the night DH and I watched Blue Lagoon sometime last year – soon after watching the female lead go through her naked pregnancy in the prime of her youth, I went to the restroom where DH later found me crumpled on the floor in the fetal position bawling my eyes out uncontrollably because I knew that would never be me. I remember having my first dead child sucked out of me through a D&C at week 12, and I remember the world's biggest blood clot dropping into the toilet as my second dead child left me at week 7.

I remember being trapped in a black pit of despair as I began my own journey of searching, of healing, of answers.

I remember that there is no such thing as rational grief, and I cannot help but honor however someone else chooses to express it.

Luke 6:36-38 (New International Version)
36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
37 “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. 38 Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

December 9, 2011

visual aids and the perception of progress

There we were, in the second of four childbirth preparation classes, when the leader showed a DVD of the labor process. Included were snippets from actual live births with women who didn't appear to be using meds (not that it matters). The emerging head, the visual inspection of the placenta…

Pardon me while I hurl.

Afterwards, the leader asked if we had any questions. Me? "Can I just schedule a c-section under general anesthesia?"

My doctor promises me that it's different when you're in the moment. Different as in better, right? LOL

As of today, I'm 30 weeks along and all is well. Or "perfect" as my doc says. I like her terminology. Oh, I could complain about the slow digestive tract, the sleep issues (Snore like a mama bear roaring in the woods when confronted with a threat to her cubs? Me?), the unanticipated weight gain (it's a good thing DH has no reason to pick me up or his back would snap in half), the heartburn (I love the jingling sound my plastic bottles of antacids make), the low energy (I regularly act on the overwhelming desire to nap), the mood swings (I love you! I'm desperate! I hate this place! Get outta my way! Aw how cute! I'm terrified!).

Oh but why? The baby is perfect. I don't have any problems that require intervention or careful monitoring or bed rest. So, really, I have nothing to complain about. Not that it stops me…

Hey kid! Quit kicking my bladder! …I mean, I love you sweet one…

December 2, 2011

A brief and powerful vision

The other night I was reading a novel, sitting Indian-style on the couch as I usually do. I glanced down at my belly and suddenly… I had a kind of vision of my son: Truly picturing him as a person of flesh and blood within my womb (no longer an idea or dream), growing and sucking his thumb and moving his eyes and mouth; realizing the power of knowing that, in a matter of weeks, I'll be holding him and staring at him and will no longer be pregnant but a parent.

Whoops. I can't think about this too long. I'm at work and I will start crying, just like I did in my car on the way to work this morning.

It occurs to me that I have no idea just how blessed I am. And I thought I had a pretty good idea.