Labor Repose

Labor Repose
LaborPayne during her 6th homebirth (9th baby) at age 44

Monday, September 22, 2008

The Third Level of Creation

Here are a few images from my Spa party. You see a few of my guests receiving their spa massages, pictures of the food table (my knack for food styling comes from my years as a sous chef back in the day), and the lovely young harpist who serenaded us all evening. My guests received neck and hand massages, sipped fruited bubbly mineral water and feasted on vegetarian fare that included spinach quiche, spanikopita (handmade by me!) baked brie, stuffed mushrooms, a centerpiece of fresh fruit and artisan breads, and a lovely star-shaped cake (gifted to me by a talented local caterer and friend). Another part of the centerpiece (depicted in a photo) shows my life list- the top 10 things I want to do before I die. I encouraged my guests not only to make special restive and reflective moments for themselves during their busy days, but to also compose a similar life list composed of goals and activities that are important to them. I encourage you dear reader to do the same. It gets your goals out of your head, and when you share them with another person, it brings them into creation on a whole other dimension. It's important to share our goals to bring the energy of others into their manifestation. Just like this party. I had to have a thought of it first (creation at the primary level), then I had to plan it with the buy-in of others who were involved such as guests, musicians, and service providers (creation at the secondary level), and then I had to follow through and do it (tertiary creation). And so our lives manifest themselves. Create your own Spa for the Spirit. Grab a stick of incense, a candle, a CD of your favorite music, a cup of hot tea, and that book you've been dying to read, and create your own sacred moments in the quiet solitude of your own backyard or barricaded in your bedroom. It doesn't matter what you do with this sacred quiet time, dance, howl, or sit quietly in meditation. The important thing is to do what feeds and replenishes your spirit.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Spa for the Spirit

Between teaching my class and being a student in two others, I have to now devote some time to healthcare blogging. That will be the subject of my upcoming presentation at the MANA conference next month. Without comments or other feedback, its impossible to know the impact of blogging in the lives of others. I would love to hear from readers about how blogs (not just this one of course) have impacted their view of health and healthcare in general and birth in particular. I would love to share your insights with my audience.

In the meantime, I turn 46 this month, and as is my practice- I plan a fun party every year. I do this because I believe women do not celebrate themselves or their big moments in life enough. I want to set an example. This year, I am planning a Spa for the Spirit party in my backyard. There will be tiki lanterns and Fall flowers all around. I will have massages available, a facilitator leading relaxation experiences, wholesome vegetarian refreshment, live harp music, and an indoor 'Red Tent' for gathering in. It will be women guests only and I will create a ritual to honor each one individually for the gifts they have bestowed on my life through their friendship. Beloved Readers, consider what small rituals you can create to honor your special occassions. Don't miss out on your celebrative moments.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Teacher Becomes Student

Yesterday in class Sr. Morningstar came to speak to us about spirituality in healthcare. Just as she was beginning introductions, a student in my class had a seizure. After 911 was called, and the student attended to, class continued, but not as it would have before. Morningstar took the opportunity to address the condition of our spirits after the event. It was a brilliant lesson come to life. Instead of a lecture about spirituality in health, we had a real life experience of what it is to address the spiritual needs of the body in distress, and the family in distress (in this case, we were the family, who had experienced a beloved one experience a trauma). The entire event seemed whole and complete as Morningstar lovingly tended to our spirits and gave us opportunity to process what we had experienced. This is such a missing element in healthcare today. I hope my students get how important it is to care for the whole person, from this experience.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

G Marks the Spot

Since I received such interesting responses to my post on orgasms, I'd like to probe a little deeper on the subject (so to speak). Since my own journey started, I have become fascinated by the subject of female sexual response. Here's a synopsis of what I have learned from reading, and experimentation. If its helpful to anyone, I'm glad. Most of what I find in the way a research is written about female sexual dysfunction rather than normal response. (My theory about this is that if males would worry less about 'enhancement' and more about 'engagement' the problem might solve itself!) I also learned a lot on this topic when I took training to become a sexual assault nurse. When nonconsensual intercourse takes place, the woman's body fails to 'prepare' for intercourse through the softening, swelling, and lubrication of tissue that occurs naturally when consensual intercourse is about to take place. This accounts for a lot of the injury that can occur during forced intercourse.

There are two primary ways the female experiences orgasm (though I've also seen others reported in the research), vaginally via the Grafenberg Spot (or the G Spot) and clitorally via the clitoris. Stimulation of either can trigger an orgasmic response. The clitoris is located between the labial folds and looks like a small bud. It has lots of nerve endings and is very sensitive and light stimulation with the fingers, tongue, or penis (or a vibrator) can produce an orgasm. Use of a rhythmic motion (circular or slapping) helps. The G-Spot (some scientist still aren't sure it exists!) is located on the anterior wall of the vagina (the vagina is the interior genital tract and anterior means towards the front rather than posterior which is towards the back). Feel along the anterior wall of your vagina with your fingers until you feel a rough patch of tissue (it feels distinctly different than the surrounding tissue) about the size of a quarter. That is your G-Spot and again light, prolonged stimulation can produce an orgasm. The G-Spot can be stimulated with the fingers, the penis, or other objects for that purpose. Along with an orgasm, some women experience ejaculation. Female ejaculation (no its not urine) can occur with orgasm. The amount of fluid ejaculated varies from a trickle to multiple gushes (amazingly scientists still debate the reality of this phenomenon). These trickles or gushes accompany the strong rhythmic muscle pulsations that characterize the orgasm.

Notice how little of this has to do with the penis. Most women don't experience orgasm through penile stimulation, but rather by digital (or other) stimulation. Women can and may experience multiple orgasms prior to the male ending intercourse with his own orgasm. Curvature of the penis may account more for enhanced stimulation than length or width (my own theory).

So there you have it, LaborPayne's orgasm primer. The research to verify its veracity is up to you...

Thursday, September 4, 2008

I Have A Dream

I had a dream last night. In it pregnant women from all over the community gathered at community wellness centers. They came with their big bright bellies in colorful array. They were in all stages of pregnancy. The experienced pregnant women acted as mentors to the first time pregnant women, coaxing them along and encouraging them. As they entered these 'wellness centers' they were greeted and welcomed to 'their' center. There were no waiting rooms because it was more like a community center- a place that belonged to them- they were not visitors, they were owners. As the women entered they went straight into the communal learning center, a big open room with sofas and comfy chairs all around. The women sat and told their stories and asked their questions facilitated by a nurse, and counselor/social worker. The nurse did a brief presentation on something birth related, and again the women asked questions, sometimes answering among themselves, not always looking to the professionals to have the answers. After about an hour, the sharing session ended and the women began to wonder out of the community room into an assessment area. Here they began to dip their own urine, and weigh themselves, etc. and record their findings on information sheets left for them to do so. There were also computers available for the women to enter their information into their computerized patient record that they kept possession of (not the healthcare organization). After their self assessments, they had one on one time with their midwives. This time consisted of relaxed conversation and positive reassurance. There were no exam tables, again only sofas and chairs in private attractive rooms. There was no medical paraphernalia to be seen. If the midwife needed a measuring or assessment apparatus, she carried it in with her and took it out again when she left. If she wanted to examine the woman's body, it was done on the sofa, but there was little of that. The time together was mostly talk and this talk was mostly initiated by the women, not the midwife. If she elected to have her mentor or partner with her, then it was so. When the time ended, there were hugs all around before the women departed and went on about their days.

When I woke up this morning, I knew I had dreamed of a new model of prenatal care. It was on my mind because I had spoke to my academic advisor about my research project for this semester on the topic of infant mortality and the impact of breastfeeding. She asked me what else impacts infant mortality and I told her the delay or lack of prenatal care. When she ask why there might be a lack or a delay, I told her about all the factors that influence a woman's (especially a woman already at high risk) choice not to seek healthcare during pregnancy. I talked about our questionable approach to prenatal care and how it could much be improved upon. I'm sure these thoughts led to the dream. Many of these features I've seen enacted, but not all together. I've read that when we think a thing, we create it on one level, when we think and speak it, we create it on yet another level, and when we think, speak, and act on it, we bring it into being. Now is the time to think, speak, and act on new models of care for pregnant and birthing women.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Knowledge vs Wisdom

Healthcare is full of knowledge. This is not synonymous with being wise. We revere physicians and other healthcare providers for their knowledge, as 'authorities' even as they wield their power in an unwise fashion. As a culture, we value knowledge (the knowing of facts and figures) over wisdom (the prudent appropriation of that knowledge). Like children with matches we are enticed and mesmerized by the glow of technology. When the use of one birth technology proves detrimental, we create another technology to offset the effects without it ever occurring to us to disband or modify the use of the original technology. Pit inductions lead to fetal distress? Cesarean to the rescue. Epidural anesthesia causes a precipitous drop in blood pressure? Inject the mother with another medication to bring it back up. The immobilization of fetal monitoring leads to increased pain sensory in the mother? Then inject her with systemic narcotics that can inhibit oxygenation of the infant. We replace one inadequate technology with another, all the while patting ourselves on the back that we have the knowledge to fix what we ourselves have broken. What has been lost in our 'progressive' quest for a better way of birthing, is wisdom. It's still quiet voice has been drowned out by the shouting of that young upstart, technology. It is not my wish to disband technology, but to make it a servant instead of the served.Women have actually forgotten that they know how to give birth! This astonishes me. When I birth in my home without the paraphernalia, without the shoulds and should nots, without overseers directing my every move, my body shows me how to proceed. Herein lies the conflict. Women's bodies express one thing, and the 'giver of care' tells her another. Amazingly, she listens to and obeys that which is outside of and apart from her, rather than her own intuitive knowing. The body in birth becomes at war with outside forces. The woman's body says feed me, I need sustenance for this journey. The 'providers of care' say, no, you mustn't eat or drink, if everything we do doesn't work, we'll have to do surgery on you and you'll need an empty stomach (they don't say this, but this is why you are refused food and drink) even though giving you food and drink may prevent the need for that eventual surgery by giving you the strength to endure labor and pushing! Incredibly, they cling to the technology (surgical intervention) when the simple wisdom of listening to the body would have circumvented the need for the technology in the first place. This was my greatest frustration as a nurse. The wisdom of the body is not valued at all. The knowledge of technology is overvalued. (Indeed it is all that is taught and therefore all that is learned.) I observed in total disbelief on one occasion, when a mother could not have an epidural because of a pre-existing medical condition. She screamed, cried, and writhed in agony for her entire labor while her family complained on her behalf to hospital authorities. Her 'givers of care' explained over and over that their hands were tied, they could not use their technology because of the risks. It absolutely never occurred to them to use nonpharmacologic comfort measures. How could it? They didn't know any. They had no other tools for helping this mother. (By the way, I begged them to allow me to go in and help the mother, but I was denied. The family was too worked up and the mother too out of control, I was told. They simply didn't believe that what I had to offer could replace technology.) Instead of the body peacefully yielding in birth, it is forced to fight. It fights the bullied affects of medications forcing it to do what it is not yet ready to do. It fights the unnatural implications of being on someone else's artificial time constraints (who says that birth should be 15 hours long and that the woman should dilate 1 cm every 60-90 minutes???) The body even fights itself when the woman's mind tells her to obey authoritative others, and her spirit tells her to obey herself! Have you ever heard a care provider say, " Okay honey, I'm going to tell you when to push..." This is an absurdity. If the mother has an epidural and cannot feel when to push, the care provider places a hand on the mother's abdomen to feel when the contraction starts. The care provider then relays this information to the mother. The mother's body is speaking, but the mother needs an interpreter to interpret the message because the technology has come between her and her body!

The Bible states that 'knowledge puffs up, but love edifies- 1Corinthians 8:1. In the healthcare provider quest to make ourselves indispensable, we have fluffed up our feathers to make ourselves look bigger and more powerful than we really are. We have forsaken the glories of wisdom (and the wise use of technology) for the simple self adoration of appearing all knowing.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Love vs Fear

A particular locale may not be an appropriate place to birth your baby, not because technology has run amok, but because fear has. The typical hospital maternity unit is permeated by fears (but so can a birth center or a home be also). The caregivers fear you the client will sue them over the least perceived transgression, the nurses fear the doctors, the doctors fear the nurses (yes, it's true), the hospital administration fears the healthcare client, the followers fear the leaders, the leaders fear the followers and so it goes. What is the most common emotion women in our culture express about birth? Is it not fear? Our culture facilitates, and teaches our women to fear birth, through its traditions of negative fear-inducing stories. Careproviders play into this by treating birth as a risk-driven physical event to be tightly monitored and controlled rather than a spiritual event to be surrendered to and embraced. We give lip service to 'physiological birth' and 'normalization' but even the creation of these terms give testament to our pathological view of birth. All this fear ends in a lack of trust, but it begins in a lack of love. Where love is, fear cannot abide. We can begin to change our collective fear of birth by changing our stories about birth.

1. What if my birth story is not positive? Should I lie or just not tell my story?

Tell your story, dear heart, but tell it with gratitude and with hope.

2. Isn't this just wishful thinking? Can't bad things happen to me or my baby even if I 'love my birth' and 'trust my body'?

Yes, they can. That is why it is important to be grateful for the wise use of technology or the presence a skilled technician if you need either. But begin with love, dear heart. Listen to your own inner wisdom and intuitive knowing and don't allow it to always be drowned out by hyper vigilant inspectors looking for what's broken in order to fix it. (After all prenatal care does save lives- even if our model of it needs some tweaking.) Just don't allow theirs to be the only voice you hear or even the loudest. It's one thing to be diagnosed with gestational diabetes and require additional testing and monitoring. It's another to have been deemed a normal, healthy pregnancy and be bullied into an induction because you are 39 weeks and 6 days pregnant. The first is a rational response to a real concern, the second a fear-based response to current political pressures that have very little (if anything) to do with the woman herself, her pregnancy or her baby.

These are difficult things for me to write. I am after all a part of the healthcare culture and system. But remove us back to our rightful place: knowledgeable assistant at times, sometimes trusted guide, but never as savior- we cannot bear that role with grace. We were never intended to do so. If women are to take a greater role in their own births, then by necessity, we must take a lesser.

There is no fear where love exists. Rather, perfect love banishes fear, for fear involves punishment, and the person who lives in fear has not been perfected in love. 1 John 4:18

A Return to Love

Here is what we need to do:

One: Love our bodies as they are. Short ones, tall ones, fat ones, sleek ones, flabby ones, toned ones- it doesn't matter. We must first make friends with our own bodies. Our culture teaches us to loathe our bodies no matter how they look- we can never quite measure up. That is why we need to stop right now and choose to love our bodies no matter what they look like. I choose to love my chocolate brown skin, my full lips, my gray-speckled hair. I love it all. I find no fault with it. I groom it and dress it up and endeavor to look my best everyday. While I do have a goal to lose weight, I don't give myself negative messages. I make good food choices and work out almost every day. I know if I keep this up, I will lose weight, but I don't care about looking good tomorrow. I care about looking good today. So I buy nice things that flatter my physique as it is today. I must confess I have a great sense of style and I do get compliments almost daily on my appearance- despite the fact that I do not fit the standard of beauty in our culture. To the unobservant eye, I'm an overweight, old, black lady. Yes, I am those things, but to my own eyes, I am also beautiful. I believe that I am- so I project that view out onto the world from the inside of me. Hell, I'm downright sexy. A few rolls of fat can't stop the sexiness from oozing out through my pores. I believe with all my being that I am beautiful, therefore others believe it too. (There is a great lesson here. We cannot convince others of that which we ourselves do not believe .) How do you start to love yourself? Perhaps you have been bombarded all your life with messages that you are inadequate and do not measure up. Start there. Change those messages (at least the ones that come from inside you). Whenever you start to criticize your body, stop and change the words, even if you don't quite believe them yet. Say to yourself, "I accept my body." "I love my body." "I am grateful to my body." Women who do not love their bodies, do not believe in their bodies ability to birth. So let's start there. Love your body.
(You might also read 'A New Earth' by Eckart Tolle)

Two: Recognize that our bodies are not us.
They are the shell we travel this life in. While it is important to love your body, it is equally important not to mistake it for being you. You are a triune being, composed of body, mind, and spirit. Your spirit will live on, your body will age and die. It is all too easy to get caught up in the life of the body. Especially if you are a mom and have little ones at home. But please recognize, dear ones, that you are more, so much more, than today's laundry list of chores and meetings, and doings, and havings. Take time to honor your mind (read a good thinking book, or practice daily phrases of that language you always wanted to learn!) and to honor spirit (light a candle during daily quiet time, make time for prayer, or meditation, or if those kinds of activities don't suit you, dance wildly to music you love and that speaks to your soul, howl at a full moon!) You want a life of balance- well you don't get it by being mired in the body. Get out of the body if only a few minutes a day and pamper the mind and the spirit. You know what makes birth such an amazing experience? It doesn't just happen in the body, it happens to our minds and spirits as well. All the great landmark events of human experience do. We just get distracted with the physicality of birth, yet it is a tremendous mental/spiritual event as well. Make a plan today to honor all aspects of your amazing being- body, mind, and spirit.
(To emphasize these principles, it might be helpful to read Victoria Moran's 'Creating a Charmed Life')

Return to love, dear ones. Do not give in to our culture's condemnation or perversion of the feminine form. We must learn to love ourselves, and then loving birth will come to us.

Birth Prophecy

For most of my life, I believed I was non-orgasmic. That is, I did not achieve orgasm during intercourse or as a result of intercourse, but only through masturbation. For a long time, this was an issue of great concern to myself and my husband. I read many books over the years, tried many 'techniques' all with the same disappointing result. But we persisted with both faith and creativity and some years ago now, we quite abruptly stumbled upon not 'the right technique' but the flood gate. Once we discovered, through trial and error, what triggers worked for me, we were delighted to find, that not only was I capable of achieving orgasm, but it was only the beginning of new found heights of responsiveness that I had never before even dreamed of. It appears foolish to me now, to think that I or any other woman could be labeled 'non-orgasmic.' The female body (indeed the human body) has amazing capabilities that because of our limiting beliefs and paralyzing fears lie mostly untapped and unknown. The same can be said for birth. We do not know what the body is capable of. We do not know because of the fears others seek to instill or because of false beliefs we choose to embrace. We think the issue is medicated birth vs natural birth, doctor vs midwife, or assisted vs unassisted. But I tell you this, the true lesson is love vs fear, control vs power, knowledge vs wisdom. We can cling to modern medicine to separate us from our own bodies, to relieve ourselves of any responsibility for our births, but the power to birth is within us still. We must fight to reclaim it - knowing it is already ours.

A New Beginning

Thanks for following me to my new blog. Homebirth Diaries will shut down after folks have had time to make the transition.