Monday, April 22, 2013

Get Physical


I joined the Y about five years ago because our bathroom was so disgusting ... that is, my husband had renovated it but I am very sensitive to the leftover emotions in buildings (ok, so get out your "she's too flaky" signs), and something very bad had happened in that bathroom at some point, and I just couldn't go in it. (We moved and our new house is fine.)

Anyway, back then, I joined the Y. 

I grew up an hour from the Rockies, so all winter was skiing and all summer was hiking. As soon as I was able (too soon in fact, I was only fourteen), I was off in the mountains on my own, hiking and wandering. I am no stranger to physical fitness. When my husband and I were done with trekking through the African continent, we started a farm in Italy where I was his main builder's helper, so I not only took care of four small children and maintained the household, but I also dug in the garden, hoed the potatoes, shovelled out the chicken coop, split wood, carried water from the spring, and hauled cement.

I was no stranger to physical exercise but my years as a suburban mother in a dingy outpost in Montreal had softened me. Just imagine my joy when I discovered that the Y has a running track suspended above the gym, where no one ever goes! I could run to my heart's content, all alone, and get into the zone without having to listen to music, other people, or CNN.

Last year we had a crisis and I decided that the gym membership had to go. It was a luxury. I could easily run outside until it was too cold, and use weights in the basement, and go cross country skiing.

NOT.

By last week, I felt awful. Flabby, tired, sleepy (different from tired), crabby, bitchy (different from crabby). Disillusioned (little voice saying, you are an idiot and you don't really make any difference at all).

I decided to get my membership back. That was three days ago. I went the first day and ran four k. The next day I did a yoga class that was actually not real yoga; it was punishing in its insistence on the core (as if the human body was a nuclear reactor). Then I took a day off. Yesterday I ran again. Since I started exercising again, I keep waking up in the morning. At seven. And wondering why I feel so good. 

So, of course, the answer is that I felt good - feel good - because I was using my physical body. Yes, I would rather be in the garden producing food for my family, or splitting wood that we had just brought in from the forest. But right now that's not happening, so do need to admit that the gym is where I get my exercise (champagne problem, yes, I realize that too)....






Whether we are born naturally, by cesarean section, with or without drugs. Whether our parents loved each other, or not, or even knew each other; whether the act of conception was desired or not, we all came from a home that looked a little bit like this:






We all come from the same elements, the same language of blood and oxygen runs through our veins and arteries.We are pinned to the material world with our bodies. And they are flesh, blood, bones, and muscle. Among other things. And we need to use them, actually we need to test their limits, like a child does, we need to run so hard we get tired. We need to lift things that are too heavy, so that we have to put them down. We need to jump higher.

Ride a bicycle. Go for a walk. Do yoga. Run. Lift weights. Use your body, and your body will be happy.

Get Physical


I joined the Y about five years ago because our bathroom was so disgusting ... that is, my husband had renovated it but I am very sensitive to the leftover emotions in buildings (ok, so get out your "she's too flaky" signs), and something very bad had happened in that bathroom at some point, and I just couldn't go in it. (We moved and our new house is fine.)

Anyway, back then, I joined the Y. 

I grew up an hour from the Rockies, so all winter was skiing and all summer was hiking. As soon as I was able (too soon in fact, I was only fourteen), I was off in the mountains on my own, hiking and wandering. I am no stranger to physical fitness. When my husband and I were done with trekking through the African continent, we started a farm in Italy where I was his main builder's helper, so I not only took care of four small children and maintained the household, but I also dug in the garden, hoed the potatoes, shovelled out the chicken coop, split wood, carried water from the spring, and hauled cement.

I was no stranger to physical exercise but my years as a suburban mother in a dingy outpost in Montreal had softened me. Just imagine my joy when I discovered that the Y has a running track suspended above the gym, where no one ever goes! I could run to my heart's content, all alone, and get into the zone without having to listen to music, other people, or CNN.

Last year we had a crisis and I decided that the gym membership had to go. It was a luxury. I could easily run outside until it was too cold, and use weights in the basement, and go cross country skiing.

NOT.

By last week, I felt awful. Flabby, tired, sleepy (different from tired), crabby, bitchy (different from crabby). Disillusioned (little voice saying, you are an idiot and you don't really make any difference at all).

I decided to get my membership back. That was three days ago. I went the first day and ran four k. The next day I did a yoga class that was actually not real yoga; it was punishing in its insistence on the core (as if the human body was a nuclear reactor). Then I took a day off. Yesterday I ran again. Since I started exercising again, I keep waking up in the morning. At seven. And wondering why I feel so good. 

So, of course, the answer is that I felt good - feel good - because I was using my physical body. Yes, I would rather be in the garden producing food for my family, or splitting wood that we had just brought in from the forest. But right now that's not happening, so do need to admit that the gym is where I get my exercise (champagne problem, yes, I realize that too)....






Whether we are born naturally, by cesarean section, with or without drugs. Whether our parents loved each other, or not, or even knew each other; whether the act of conception was desired or not, we all came from a home that looked a little bit like this:






We all come from the same elements, the same language of blood and oxygen runs through our veins and arteries.We are pinned to the material world with our bodies. And they are flesh, blood, bones, and muscle. Among other things. And we need to use them, actually we need to test their limits, like a child does, we need to run so hard we get tired. We need to lift things that are too heavy, so that we have to put them down. We need to jump higher.

Ride a bicycle. Go for a walk. Do yoga. Run. Lift weights. Use your body, and your body will be happy.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

The Curse of the Black Crow

I had a student a few years ago who was attending births with me, and every one of the first six births she attended ended in a c-section. The sixth time, she ran out of the room and down the hall, convinced she had somehow caused the natural birth to go sideways into the operating room.

A friend of mine was standing in the hall, a family physician with a heart of gold, and she caught my student and looked her in the eye, and told her "You do not have the curse of the black crow!" and proceeded to explain how difficult it is for a care provider to accept that their patient's journey is sometimes not what anyone has planned, and that most of the time it is not the provider's fault.

I was taking care of my sister, who was in the hospital after a difficult surgery and several setbacks which were scary for her and worrying for us. She finally made it out of the grey place and we were sitting talking to the surgeon, who apologized to my sister for the fact that things had been more difficult than expected. When my sister reassured her that she had no feelings of blame, and further that the surgeon wasn't responsible, she replied, "Oh no, but I AM responsible. The buck stops here".

But it doesn't. The attendant has a huge responsibility, indeed, to care for her patient. She needs to do everything she can to facilitate healing, or in the case of childbirth, to carefully observe nature at its task. But if she has given her 100%, she has to know that there is always that element of mystery involved. The buck does not stop with us. We do not know why one woman will have a three hour painless labor, and another one will struggle and strain for two days. Yes, we can read blogs galore about how the happy, accepting woman who is comfortable with her body and open to experience will have a quick and easy birth, and the resentful and complicated one is more likely to have a c-section. But these easy generalizations are not true.

No, we don't know why some women have easier births, or why some surgeries end in easy healing and some don't, or why some treatments work on some people and not on others.

When you really believe that the buck stops with the surgeon, then you are closing a door to the mysteries of healing and the mysteries of life.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

First Do No Harm

Why do I feel I have to justify myself when I say that doctors and hospitals are damaging women and babies? I have a little bird on my shoulder that says "Oh, but you don't want to seem like you are against saving lives".

We have some fantastic tools at our disposal now in the field of medical care. We have antibiotics. We have surgery. We have anaesthetics. We have ultrasound. But these tools are being overused and mismanaged.  Women are being hurt and babies are suffering because of our indiscriminate and irresponsible use of methods and materials that should be reserved for special situations.

What are the effects on mothers who want a vaginal birth and come out of the hospital with a scarred uterus? What are the long term effects on her mothering instincts and choices? What are the long term effects of cesarean section birth on newborns? What are the long term effects of epidural medication on newborns? Artificial oxytocin?

What happens when a mother in full labor suddenly becomes quiet and calm because of the pharmaceuticals coursing through her system? How does the baby feel when that happens? Is there a correlation between epidural medication and later drug use? What happens to the part of the brain that responds to addictive substances and behaviours, when the birth process is augmented with artificial oxytocin and opiates?

What happens to a marriage when a man witnesses his wife being treated like an animal? How does that compare to the bonding that takes place when a man sees his wife in full triumphant labor and birth?

What happens to little girls who are born by cesarean section? Are they more likely to birth that way? Is there a cellular memory of the movement through the birth tunnel? What are the long term effects of cesarean section on sexuality throughout a woman's life? Is she more or less likely to be fully orgasmic later into menopause?

Is there a correlation between asthma in children and induction of labor? Is there a correlation between autism and epidurals? What health problems are we seeing that may be connected to our new way of giving birth?

The average cesarean section rate in Canada is conservatively reckoned to be about 20%; higher in some places and lower in others. One in five children are now born surgically. This is a huge scientific experiment that is not controlled, or monitored, or even admitted.

Over 90% of first time mothers in hospitals in Montreal are taking epidural medication.

In spite of recent studies that show the contrary, the majority of women carrying breech babies are delivering by cesarean section.

Forty one weeks is considered standard for induction, Bishop's Score be damned! And if a woman is over forty, she is likely to be induced at 39 weeks.

We need to get these figures down and we need to start examining the effects of our modern tools, methods and materials on the mothers and babies who place their trust in us.