Sunday, September 25, 2011

Conspiracy

Conspiracies abound: are we are being controlled  by giant lizards? No, most of us would agree that we are not. Is the exhaust from planes flying above the Italian skies affecting the Italians, making them doll-like and unable to oust Berlusconi? A surprising number of seemingly rational people I have met actually believe this. Did man reach the moon? What evil was behind 9/11? Is Big Pharma out to drug us all, whilst stealing our life savings?

Of course not! We are rational, sensible human beings. Then why do we believe that the simplest task needs a multitude of experts? From conception to birth to early childhood education and beyond, we are confused and abused by lowly-qualified experts telling us which way is the right way.

The Birth Conspiracy is this: an understanding, created by all of us, that we cannot function without experts. We cannot give birth without birth experts. We cannot labor without assistance, without classes and checklists. We cannot make our own decisions, or accept consequences for our own actions. It is a way we can avoid responsibility for our lives. Those of us who are experts want and need to control the process. It is very hard to sit on your hands and wait while a woman labors. It is much easier to interfere, to preach, to suggest, and to control.

The doula sits uncomfortably on something between a fencepost and a pillar here, protecting the birthing woman from well-meaning experts who do not understand the truth about birth. She is in great danger of becoming an expert herself, and there is only one way for her to prevent this from happening. She should gain as much knowledge as she can about the birth process and how it unfolds in different environments. She should take this knowledge with her to every birth, to every meeting, to every workshop. With all of her knowledge and experience, she needs to remember only one golden rule, that is, that the woman she is accompanying is going through HER experience. The doula can hold her hand, literally or figuratively, but she needn't teach, judge, or convince. Then she is overstepping the bounds of the Birth Companion and becoming just another expert.

Conspiracy

Conspiracies abound: are we are being controlled  by giant lizards? No, most of us would agree that we are not. Is the exhaust from planes flying above the Italian skies affecting the Italians, making them doll-like and unable to oust Berlusconi? A surprising number of seemingly rational people I have met actually believe this. Did man reach the moon? What evil was behind 9/11? Is Big Pharma out to drug us all, whilst stealing our life savings?

Of course not! We are rational, sensible human beings. Then why do we believe that the simplest task needs a multitude of experts? From conception to birth to early childhood education and beyond, we are confused and abused by lowly-qualified experts telling us which way is the right way.

The Birth Conspiracy is this: an understanding, created by all of us, that we cannot function without experts. We cannot give birth without birth experts. We cannot labor without assistance, without classes and checklists. We cannot make our own decisions, or accept consequences for our own actions. It is a way we can avoid responsibility for our lives. Those of us who are experts want and need to control the process. It is very hard to sit on your hands and wait while a woman labors. It is much easier to interfere, to preach, to suggest, and to control.

The doula sits uncomfortably on something between a fencepost and a pillar here, protecting the birthing woman from well-meaning experts who do not understand the truth about birth. She is in great danger of becoming an expert herself, and there is only one way for her to prevent this from happening. She should gain as much knowledge as she can about the birth process and how it unfolds in different environments. She should take this knowledge with her to every birth, to every meeting, to every workshop. With all of her knowledge and experience, she needs to remember only one golden rule, that is, that the woman she is accompanying is going through HER experience. The doula can hold her hand, literally or figuratively, but she needn't teach, judge, or convince. Then she is overstepping the bounds of the Birth Companion and becoming just another expert.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Just Visiting

I have always traveled a lot. From the time I was born I have traversed oceans, flown in small rickety planes over the desert, walked through Africa, hitchhiked countless times back and forth across the country I found myself growing up in. I love to see how we humans live our lives. Do you know, at this very minute, there is an old lady walking through a chestnut forest, on her own, looking for mushrooms that she will dry for the winter? And there is another woman, cooking a small pot of corn meal over a fire made from waste crude oil she collected from the stream near her home. She is waiting for her husband to return, annoyed with him for keeping her waiting but full of love for her man. On a train, there is a family from Belgium, staring at the immensely beautiful scene that is spread before them.

The life of a tourist is a hard one. There you are. You have saved for this small chunk of time for a while - perhaps all year. You are in a place where you probably don't speak the language. You don't know the customs. The food is different. You suspect you are getting cheated most of the time. You miss your own bed. The place smells funny. Your spouse has decided that it is NOW that you have to figure out your problems. The children are either sick or adolescents.

But the place is beautiful! You don't have to get up early! You are really in love with your spouse, especially when you get some time alone to walk on the beach in the moonlight. You imagine selling everything and moving here. You would wear comfortable clothes every day. Your wife would wear those sexy sandals and that little dress. Your kids would be all tanned and happy.

It doesn't usually work out that way though.

I live in two places these days. Most of the time I am in a big city, and for three months I am on top of a mountain far away from everyone. I always imagine I will spend those three months really sorting everything out. I will come back all transcendent-looking and calm. But, like the midwives say, meconium happens, and life does tend to keep going. The vacation, the holiday, the three-week all inclusive, ... it's all just life, and why should it be otherwise?

And so it is in life, it is in birth. It is one of the most important days of a mother's or father's life - and of course the most important day of a baby's. But at the same time, life does continue, before, during, and after. So, as in life, it is not the hugely transcendent, mind-blowing experience that it is the important thing. It's not the orgasm, the blinding flash of out-of-body-ness, that is important. It's the quiet, day-to-day, pleasant (yes, even when you're in labor!), humdrum traveling that is important. Let us turn to Cavafy for some wisdom:

Ithaka

As you set out for Ithaka
hope the voyage is a long one,
full of adventure, full of discovery.
Laistrygonians and Cyclops,
angry Poseidon—don’t be afraid of them:
you’ll never find things like that on your way
as long as you keep your thoughts raised high,
as long as a rare excitement
stirs your spirit and your body.
Laistrygonians and Cyclops,
wild Poseidon—you won’t encounter them
unless you bring them along inside your soul,
unless your soul sets them up in front of you.
 
Hope the voyage is a long one.
May there be many a summer morning when,
with what pleasure, what joy,
you come into harbors seen for the first time;
may you stop at Phoenician trading stations
to buy fine things,
mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony,
sensual perfume of every kind—
as many sensual perfumes as you can;
and may you visit many Egyptian cities
to gather stores of knowledge from their scholars.
 
Keep Ithaka always in your mind.
Arriving there is what you are destined for.
But do not hurry the journey at all.
Better if it lasts for years,
so you are old by the time you reach the island,
wealthy with all you have gained on the way,
not expecting Ithaka to make you rich.
 
Ithaka gave you the marvelous journey.
Without her you would not have set out.
She has nothing left to give you now.
 
And if you find her poor, Ithaka won’t have fooled you.
Wise as you will have become, so full of experience,
you will have understood by then what these Ithakas mean.

Translated by Edmund Keeley/Philip Sherrard. (C.P. Cavafy, Collected Poems. Translated by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard. Edited by George Savidis. Revised Edition. Princeton University Press, 1992)

Just Visiting

I have always traveled a lot. From the time I was born I have traversed oceans, flown in small rickety planes over the desert, walked through Africa, hitchhiked countless times back and forth across the country I found myself growing up in. I love to see how we humans live our lives. Do you know, at this very minute, there is an old lady walking through a chestnut forest, on her own, looking for mushrooms that she will dry for the winter? And there is another woman, cooking a small pot of corn meal over a fire made from waste crude oil she collected from the stream near her home. She is waiting for her husband to return, annoyed with him for keeping her waiting but full of love for her man. On a train, there is a family from Belgium, staring at the immensely beautiful scene that is spread before them.

The life of a tourist is a hard one. There you are. You have saved for this small chunk of time for a while - perhaps all year. You are in a place where you probably don't speak the language. You don't know the customs. The food is different. You suspect you are getting cheated most of the time. You miss your own bed. The place smells funny. Your spouse has decided that it is NOW that you have to figure out your problems. The children are either sick or adolescents.

But the place is beautiful! You don't have to get up early! You are really in love with your spouse, especially when you get some time alone to walk on the beach in the moonlight. You imagine selling everything and moving here. You would wear comfortable clothes every day. Your wife would wear those sexy sandals and that little dress. Your kids would be all tanned and happy.

It doesn't usually work out that way though.

I live in two places these days. Most of the time I am in a big city, and for three months I am on top of a mountain far away from everyone. I always imagine I will spend those three months really sorting everything out. I will come back all transcendent-looking and calm. But, like the midwives say, meconium happens, and life does tend to keep going. The vacation, the holiday, the three-week all inclusive, ... it's all just life, and why should it be otherwise?

And so it is in life, it is in birth. It is one of the most important days of a mother's or father's life - and of course the most important day of a baby's. But at the same time, life does continue, before, during, and after. So, as in life, it is not the hugely transcendent, mind-blowing experience that it is the important thing. It's not the orgasm, the blinding flash of out-of-body-ness, that is important. It's the quiet, day-to-day, pleasant (yes, even when you're in labor!), humdrum traveling that is important. Let us turn to Cavafy for some wisdom:

Ithaka

As you set out for Ithaka
hope the voyage is a long one,
full of adventure, full of discovery.
Laistrygonians and Cyclops,
angry Poseidon—don’t be afraid of them:
you’ll never find things like that on your way
as long as you keep your thoughts raised high,
as long as a rare excitement
stirs your spirit and your body.
Laistrygonians and Cyclops,
wild Poseidon—you won’t encounter them
unless you bring them along inside your soul,
unless your soul sets them up in front of you.
 
Hope the voyage is a long one.
May there be many a summer morning when,
with what pleasure, what joy,
you come into harbors seen for the first time;
may you stop at Phoenician trading stations
to buy fine things,
mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony,
sensual perfume of every kind—
as many sensual perfumes as you can;
and may you visit many Egyptian cities
to gather stores of knowledge from their scholars.
 
Keep Ithaka always in your mind.
Arriving there is what you are destined for.
But do not hurry the journey at all.
Better if it lasts for years,
so you are old by the time you reach the island,
wealthy with all you have gained on the way,
not expecting Ithaka to make you rich.
 
Ithaka gave you the marvelous journey.
Without her you would not have set out.
She has nothing left to give you now.
 
And if you find her poor, Ithaka won’t have fooled you.
Wise as you will have become, so full of experience,
you will have understood by then what these Ithakas mean.

Translated by Edmund Keeley/Philip Sherrard. (C.P. Cavafy, Collected Poems. Translated by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard. Edited by George Savidis. Revised Edition. Princeton University Press, 1992)

Monday, September 19, 2011

Passing of a Wonderful Lady

My aunt was a wife, a mother, an aunt, a grandmother, and she loved to have fun, to entertain, to laugh.
She liked to have happy people around her so, to that end, she was happy and always had a smile waiting.

She didn't have it easy. She was widowed suddenly and too early. She had health problems from when she was in her forties. But she always had a positive attitude, and wasn't kept down for long.

A few weeks ago, she spent the day with her lifelong best friend. They did what old friends do, talking and traversing their time together. In the afternoon they came home and got themselves ready for dinner. They got dressed up, and gave each other pedicures.

They went out for dinner with a group of friends. After drinks and the first course, my aunt put her head down on the table and left us.

She is gone but remembered with joy. All of us should hope to go out like she did, not with a bang, not with a moan, but with a gentle sigh.


Passing of a Wonderful Lady

My aunt was a wife, a mother, an aunt, a grandmother, and she loved to have fun, to entertain, to laugh.
She liked to have happy people around her so, to that end, she was happy and always had a smile waiting.

She didn't have it easy. She was widowed suddenly and too early. She had health problems from when she was in her forties. But she always had a positive attitude, and wasn't kept down for long.

A few weeks ago, she spent the day with her lifelong best friend. They did what old friends do, talking and traversing their time together. In the afternoon they came home and got themselves ready for dinner. They got dressed up, and gave each other pedicures.

They went out for dinner with a group of friends. After drinks and the first course, my aunt put her head down on the table and left us.

She is gone but remembered with joy. All of us should hope to go out like she did, not with a bang, not with a moan, but with a gentle sigh.


Thursday, September 15, 2011

Birth Companion Doula Course

Birth Companion Doula Course
A knowledge-based, hands-off approach to accompanying woman during the birthing experience.

I am very excited to propose a new series of courses designed to assist women to attend births as companions, as friends, as knowledgeable and respectful assistants.

I will not be training or offering anything novel or out of the ordinary. We will be developing our innate skills as women - patience, kindness, strength, care - and these skills will lead to confident, non-judgmental companionship.

The courses are thirty hours and of varying schedules, and they are priced reasonably. The participants will receive lessons and interactions on theory, practice, and healing during the childbirthing year.

The first of these will take place in Montreal in mid-October 2011 and several are upcoming internationally throughout 2012.

Places will be filling up fast so if you are interested in attending please let me know as soon as possible.