Sunday, September 4, 2011

Back to the Middle Part 3

Fortunately I quickly noticed what was happening. My clients were (and have continued through the years to be) brilliant teachers for me. Each one opened my heart and showed me that being a Good Mother could look myriad ways. I started to quickly see that even though a client might not chosen what I was hoping she might (for my desired outcome for birth), that very different things were happening, and that she was happy about her birth! I saw too that when my desired outcome would happen that sometimes the women were wounded by that, too. How could this be?

My chosen culture had told me, and I had perpetuated the belief, that if you had an unmedicated homebirth, you'd have a powerful birth experience that would change your life. Sure, every birth is powerful, but if you could achieve that ultimate, pinnacle experience, why... you were some kind of Super Mother. Your Good Mother status could never be taken from you because you had shown the ultimate trust in your body and baby- gone to lengths not many other women had. You were kind of... the holy grail in a way.

I started to see women having blissful, ecstatic hospital births. I got really comfortable in the hospital- I knew the staff, I knew where everything was, I was generally welcomed, greeted when I walked down the hallways. My clients felt comfortable because I knew so well the terrain they did not- the hospital, the procedures and routines, and birth itself. I saw emergencies and urgencies and a staff that responded quickly and almost always, compassionately and respectfully to my clients.

Where was this butcher shop I'd been hearing about? Where was this disrespectful environment where everyone was salivating outside the labor door to cut the woman for the removal of her baby? For the most part, I wasn't seeing it. I'm not saying it was perfect, but that for the majority of births, I had no major complaints.

I joined ICAN to help with some protest rallies that were happening locally at hospitals that were banning VBAC. I found an even more angry and extreme culture. I started hearing about unassisted birth a lot more, it almost seemed commonplace. I heard words like 'sOB' and 'gutted'. I understood the wounds these women carried even if I did not have them. I started talking to women in a supportive way and getting calls from women who'd had cesareans and needed to talk through it. It was Holy work, and I loved it and still do. The women I spoke to on the phone were processing very distinct and specific experiences. It seemed the online forums were a sort of frenzy of macro-processing- we could all pick apart each other's experiences, we could judge the intentions of every provider (which was almost never good), and we could describe our birth experiences in the most violent ways possible.

While I did see several women moving through their experiences, I also saw others who fed on the anger they experienced from their births, and latched on like lampreys to the anger other women had as well. They perpetuated violence in their word choices, in their inability to keep their thoughts to themselves and their seemingly voracious appetites to be confirmed that yes, they had been hurt and yes, it was wrong. Several times I felt emotionally assaulted over what would have otherwise been small disagreements. The environment felt quite volatile to me and I worried that it was accomplishing what it was intended- a forum for women to process, share information, and heal. I asked who took responsibility when a forum of online women were giving advice to laboring mothers - even posting on an online forum for advice during their labors - and someone died? There was no answer to this question. I removed myself after the protests were over,  now grateful I had a larger vocabulary with which to define how women were experiencing their births.

Finally I had a chance to attend my very first homebirth. Without getting into details, it was not what I expected. I was left upset and angry after the birth and with an injured client - physically changed and emotionally wounded. I was eager to believe that this was an anomaly - homebirths are magical, wonderful places where miracles happen! Women step into their power while the midwife knits in the corner, believing in her with her smile and calm presence. Even though I didn't experience this, I still believed that maybe something was wrong with this particular situation, but that it was unique.

At this phase in my life I was getting care from a naturopath and pursuing a lot of alternative medicine on my own. I'd try almost anything. If my network had good experiences with it and it had a stamp of "no one wants you to know about this!" I was almost sold- and if a naturopath liked it well... it was pretty much a guarantee.

I had a naturopath who made sure to sell me at least three bottles of supplements at every visit. He showed me all of the bottles I would be buying too, if I wasn't on a budget. I felt overwhelmed with all of the supplements I was swallowing every day, and parched of the funds I was throwing at my provider to help me feel better. I believed that even though some of these treatments weren't working the way we'd hoped, that maybe the problem was me, and not the provider, or the treatment. Maybe I was doing it wrong, or thinking about it wrong, or not educated enough.

When I was early in my sexually active life, I couldn't experience orgasms with my partners. I had heard that many women do not have orgasms and I thought, "Well that sucks- I'm one of those. I'm broken in some way. Oh well." I thought that I was the problem- it never occurred to me until much later that maybe I was unskilled, and my lovers were unskilled! Maybe there was no one to fault, it was just a part of the learning process, the development of intimacy. I remember there was a celibrity once on Oprah talking about her upcoming wedding. Oprah asked her, "What are you doing to get ready to wear your dress?" The wise woman responded, "Nothing. I bought a dress that fits my body." Wow!!!