Friday, November 17, 2017

Oma and Opa's deaths

When I was a kid, my dad intervened in his parents' marriage. They lived in a small one bedroom apartment. My grandfather got a bed in the bedroom. My grandmother was sleeping on the couch, not a foldout couch, just an ordinary couch.

My grandmother was being treated for cancer. My father felt she deserved a proper bed, so he rented a second apartment for her two stories up in the same building.

My grandfather was furious, because he felt his wife had left him. He stopped eating and died. He was 86 when he died.

My grandmother died six months later. My father had her body autopsied. She was clear of cancer when she died, one of the first successful radiation treatments for breast cancer. She was 79 when she died.

She died from the stress of losing my grandfather. I remember her giving me-- just before she died --some of her gold items that she had managed to carry with her out of Germany when she fled the holocaust. She told me she wanted me to have them because she didn't have anything to live for any more now that my grandfather was gone.

I still have those things in my safe deposit box. One of them is a gold locket with a picture of her and my father when my father was a baby

They lived in N.Y. We lived in Wisconsin. We shouldn't have left her alone like that, but we did.

Still I was surprised. She never got along with my grandfather. They often bickered. She often complained of him. He seemed crotchety to me.

Yet she couldn't live without him.

My father thought he was helping, but he hastened their deaths.

I concluded at the time that there was something about relationships that had to include fighting and at least low level abuse, that somehow people couldn't survive without those things, even if they complained about them

****

I'm bringing this up, in part, because of the recent "me too" scandals.  The way male mistreatment of women seems so pervasive.  

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Confusing elevator buttons @MTA

I tweeted about this before, but that didn't change anything.  I also really want to get into more detail how the elevator buttons at the Times Square Subway Station in NYC are confusing.  This elevator is one of the most heavily used elevators in the world, I suspect.

The Times Square Subway Station accesses at least 12 different subway lines.  People who use the elevator have to figure out which level corresponds to which lines -- but you can't.

Virtually every time I get into this elevator there are people who are confused.  *

Here are the buttons
\


Now, in a better world, these buttons would be labelled, from top to bottom


  • N, Q, R, W, S and uptown 1, 2, 3
  • downtown 1, 2, 3
  • A, C, E & Port Authority Bus Terminal [through a 1/4 mile tunnel that includes a ramp that is too steep to be considered wheelchair accessible]
  • 7

Labelling, a floor "mezz," short for mezzanine, is totally meaningless.  How is a tourist, or an older person who is becoming confused, supposed to figure that out?  Normally, they probably think of a mezzanine as the floor in a hotel where there's a nice lounge.  You're not going to find that in the NYC subway.

"7 AVENUE PLATFORM" -- how would anyone guess that the MTA thinks that the downtown 1, 2, and 3 are the 7th avenue train?  They're only on this avenue for part of their route.  Also, again, it's only the downtown trains that are on this platform.  The uptown trains have to be accessed via the upper mezzanine and a second elevator.  Also, for someone who doesn't know where they're going, the number 7 on this might be confusing, because they might think it refers to the number 7 train.

The tunnel on the lower mezzanine is really a very useful thing, if you're not in a wheelchair.  It takes you over to 8th Avenue without having to outside.  You avoid traffic.  You avoid getting rained or snowed on.  It's perfectly good for strollers and wheeled luggage.  But it's not useful if you don't know what it leads to: just lower mezzanine.  Above ground, the MTA advises people to use the street to get to the 1, 2, 3, 7, N, Q, R, W, & S if they're near the Port Authority Bus Terminal.  That doesn't make sense to me.  The tunnel is a wonderful resource. Maybe even someone in a wheelchair might use it if someone strong would help them.

"Flushing Platform" has become out of date.  The number 7 train also now goes to the Hudson Yards, to the west, not just Flushing to the east.  But for the casual tourist, what is Flushing anyway?  That's sort of obscure for non-New Yorkers.  Wouldn't they be more likely to recognize the word "Queens?"  The 7 doesn't just go to Flushing to the east.  It has a number of other stops in Queens.

-------

*footnote
I personally use this elevator quite often, because my neurologist advised me not to wear a backpack or carry a heavy purse, because of my disk issues.  She told me to get wheeled luggage, so I go everywhere with a shopping trolley.  This is actually a medical condition that makes me do it, so I try to take an elevator when I can, to avoid carrying the trolley up and down stairs.  Because I'm in there so often I observe how people are riding up and down the elevator several times, because they're not sure which floor to get off on.

Hike up Mt Beacon -- warning very gross

On October 22, I hiked up to the overlook on Mt. Beacon.

Let's start out with the pretty pictures that I posted on FB.


You can click on this to get a better idea of what I saw that was pretty.

Now for the bad part.  Warning some of this was gross. You might not want to read the rest of this blog.  I'm just warning you.

First, there was a problem getting there.  I was looking for Mt. Beacon on Google maps.  Instead Google insisted on trying to send me to something called Beacon Mountain in Fishkill.  I'm not sure if that was the same thing or not.  In any case, Google maps wanted to take me up a road called Mt Beacon Monument Road.  I was unable to find this road, only driveways in the area where it wanted me to turn.


I certainly didn't see any "Base Camp Bed & Breakfast," which should have had a sign if it was an extant business.  Anyway, I got better directions from this website:

http://hikethehudsonvalley.com/mt-beacon/

They sent me to a parking lot that I had passed without much thought blindly following Google maps to a dead end on a private road.

It looked like the parking lot had overflowed, but when I went in there, at about 2:30, there were spaces.  I guess some people had left.

Now this parking area is very nicely provided with 3 chemical toilets.  This turns out to be important.  When I'm hiking in NH, we use the woods; but this trail is very heavily used -- being in the NYC metro area -- and the woods are pretty open -- not much underbrush -- so going off behind a bush is not such a great option.  Plus, of course, this is a high Lyme Disease area, so going off the trail is not such a great idea.  Therefore it's a really, really good idea to have chemical toilets at the trailhead.

But -- these toilets are apparently serviced on a MWF schedule, which is fairly frequent




OK, very nice try guys.  UM -- but this is Sunday -- and it's a lovely warm weekend and the place is overflowing.  And the fact that the toilets were serviced on Friday is just not cutting it; no toilet paper and ... [you might not actually want to look at this picture.  I wish there were a way of making it peek-a-boo on this blog, where you wouldn't have to look at it unless you click on it, but I don't know how to do that.]




Um. Yeah.

And, also, they have very nicely provided a trash can.  Again, this is important for a heavily used trail in the NYC metro area.  It appears that this trash can is probably emptied on the same schedule.



Now, again, this is a very heavily traveled trail -- and there are a lot of people on it.  Some of those people have worn some short cuts and some long cuts: lots of trails all over the place.  Sometimes it's hard to see what trail is a real trail and what trail is a short cut.

In any case, near the Overlook, which was my destination -- since I started too late to go up to the fire tower -- there was something that looked like a trail going up to the ruins of the building on top of the old train line.  It wasn't really a trail.  It was a 'short cut'.  

As I got closer to the ruined building, the short cut got quite steep with slippery loose rocks.  I put my hand down on a pile of rocks to steady myself.  This loosened an object composed of at least two bricks and mortar.  This object had originally been part of the now ruined building.  This object struck my leg.  Even though I was wearing long pants, I got some nasty scratches.


After that, I was much more careful to stay on what seemed to be the trail.

When I got down, I wanted to find out who was maintaining this trail, so I went to the bulletin board and found a QR code


Now, I've gotten a bit savvy with QR codes. I have a QR code on my resume that leads to my updates blog -- and I've got a QR code reader app on my cell phone -- so I was excited to demonstrate my prowess with my QR code app.  Unfortunately, the link that this QR code leads to seems to be broken.  All I could get, despite trying three times, was


Not very helpful.

Still there were a few useful things on this bulletin board, which I'm going to put here so that I can find them again easily if I need to.  As usual, if you want to see these images larger, you should click on them..




A couple more notes.  

I could really see what a bad drought we're having.  Everything was dry as a bone.  I got a fire danger warning on my e-mail last week.  I'm not quite sure how I ended up getting weather alerts e-mailed to me, but somehow I get them.  I hope we don't end up like northern California.

Also, the website said that the roundtrip to the overlook should take 1.5 hours.  Right.  As usual, I'm slow and it took me over 2 hours -- though it must be said that I spent quite a bit of time talking to people about my Vibram five fingers hiking shoes, which I love, and which everyone is curious about.


Thursday, September 14, 2017

travel pix summer 2017






RMC square dance

https://www.instagram.com/p/BX_5MYLl6nG/?igref=ogexp

Updates Summer 2017

This was a frustrating summer.  I had four gigs that I had been told I had booked fall through.  

I was in "Sleeping Ugly" at the Identity Theater more info here Sleeping Ugly Blog

I did get to do a story slam in NH -- Please note that I'm looking down, because I'm in the pulpit of a church looking down at the audience.



And I edited a voiceover reel




Here are a couple of YouTube videos that I made for fun

This is a portion of a Shelley poem with some of my hiking videos



This is a character impression



Travel Pix on a separate blog here


I've sometimes gone to a drop in dance class with James T. Lane of "Chicago" on Broadway.  He's amazing, but I'm not.  Don't hire me as a dancer, yet.

Some friends say they spotted me in background on "Wizard of Lies" and last winter's Hallmark Christmas movie.



Saturday, September 9, 2017

Awaken the Dawn -- Ecumenical Alternative???

I saw this video on my timeline on FB.


I was very moved by this man's tale of having a vision of having a national religious festival on the national mall -- something like a Woodstock for Jesus -- and having encountered so many others who had had the same vision.

I don't think I would personally feel comfortable with a festival that was focussing so exclusively on Jesus, tho.  Still, I am captivated by the idea of a huge religious/spiritual festival.

I am wondering if it might be possible to organize an alternative, ecumenical festival celebrating religion and spirituality in Central Park in NYC -- not focused on one religion but including everyone.  It might be very healing.

Certainly, as we watch the storms and the fires seemingly bringing us closer to the long forecast predictions of global warming related catastrophe, having a big prayer gathering seems like a nice idea.

I feel kind of powerless to organize this, but maybe people would be interested.

***

follow up links




Didn't get much coverage in MSM, but even though I'm not a fundamentalist or evangelical, I still think that a prayer event could be good for us.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Wildfires in 2017

Well this is sort of morbid, but I'm collecting reports of wildfires in 2017, because they seem not to be getting so much attention, in view of the hurricanes

Northern California wildfires

https://weather.com/news/news/2017-10-10-california-wildfires-wine-country-evacuations-deadly


*******************

Original post

Siberia

https://www.sciencealert.com/nasa-images-capture-worst-siberian-wildfires-in-10-000-years

Sakha, Russia

https://www.nasa.gov/image-feature/goddard/2017/russias-sakha-republic-experiencing-second-highest-rate-of-fires-in-russia

Glacier National Park

https://www.outsideonline.com/2238536/glacier-national-park-being-devastated-wildfire?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=facebookpost

Central USA

https://www.nasa.gov/sites/default/files/styles/full_width_feature/public/thumbnails/image/20160404-unitedstates.jpg

US West in general

http://abcnews.go.com/Health/wireStory/us-wildfire-season-worst-49690858

Fire in Oregon

https://www.facebook.com/theoregonian/videos/10155120103966973/?hc_ref=ARRAVHvN9i0DZ_u0OAbi2t8zF2gH0VD3qO3q5t5QFseUX4r0qGhy7WPMKDXXN9ue5fA

Washington State air quality map

http://www.spokesman.com/stories/2017/sep/05/looking-for-washington-air-quality-map-here-it-is/

Greece

http://wildfiretoday.com/tag/greece/

Portugal

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/aug/17/wildfires-trap-2000-people-in-macao-village-in-central-portugal

Greenland

http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2017/08/15/543406558/greenland-is-still-burning-but-the-smoke-may-be-the-real-problem

Brazil

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-brazil-landrights-environment/brazils-raging-forest-fires-threaten-indigenous-land-uncontacted-tribes-idUSKCN11R2B5

Not sure if this is still going on.  Probably not, but Nova Scotia

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/nova-scotia/wildfires-fire-crews-shubenacadie-firefighters-woodland-1.4126663

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Trying to organize my thoughts about the birth of my first child

WARNING: THERE ARE MEDICAL ASPECTS OF THIS STORY THAT THE READER MAY FIND GROSS
Also this is really long...
I like telling stories. I've done a lot of that in my volunteer spiritual activities. I think I'm good at it. I took a course in Story Telling from Adam Wade at the Magnet Theater. Adam is distinguished by having won the Moth Story Slam many times.
This was my story for the class show of that course, the story of the birth of my second child

Adam told me that he thought I was good enough to tell a story at the Moth. I went to the Moth website. I thought of submitting, but I never did. I've gone to that site several times and never submitted any story, even though a number of story worthy things have happened to me.

There was a complex emotional history. I took the story telling course the first time in 2013. That course was interrupted by my cancer diagnosis. I had wanted to tell the story of the birth of my first child ,not my second child. Due to the diagnosis I had to drop the course. The Magnet normally doesn't give refunds, but, given the seriousness of the health crisis, they told me I could take the course later.

I was also taking a sketch writing course at that time. I technically finished that course, because I had enough classes, and only missed the last two. I did write a rant-sketch about the cancer diagnosis experience and submitted it to that class, even though I couldn't get to the final classes.


The cancer was ovarian -- connected with the reproductive system. I had surgery and chemo.

Somehow there was trauma surrounding getting around to finishing the course and the story of the first birth. It took me 2 years to get back to the course. This was not due to my physical health. It was due to emotional issues. It was only when I went to a class show for the class, when a man I had a crush on was telling a story, that I finally was even willing to look at Adam. But gradually I got willing to go back and finish the course.

Even then I couldn't bring myself to tell the story of the birth of my first child, so I went with the birth of the second child. Both were eventful, but the story of the second child was simpler, more focused, easier to organize.

The class limited the stories to 8 minutes. The Moth limits them to 5 minutes. I understand. You don't want to be listening to someone drone on and on forever. Hemingway said that if you could tell the same story in 1/10 the space you would tell it 10 times as well. I'm not sure that's entirely true, but there's certainly some truth in it.

I guess I've never wanted to be constrained to 5 minutes to tell my stories, certainly not the story of the birth of my first child. Yet, recently, I went to a more minor story slam, sponsored by the Randolph Foundation in Randolph, NH, and I told a story -- a different story -- in FOUR minutes.


I managed to compress my lifetime of experiences in Randolph, NH into four minutes, a much longer story than the birth of my first child.

And, yet, the story of the birth of my first child remains untold, so far as I can tell in my records. I want to do it. I feel it's important. It has to do with home birth. I believe strongly in home birth. I want to tell the story -- and yet still there is this resistance to compressing it into five or even eight minute..

I thought, perhaps, that this story would be best told in writing, on my blog, where I can take as long as I please. No one need read it, but at least I would have told it -- perhaps not so well as I would have told it 27 years ago when it happened, but as well as I can remember now.

Somewhere i have a handwritten account of the birth itself, somewhere in some paper file -- but I don't know where. I wrote it out for my Aunt Charlotte who was interested in home birth, and I kept a copy. So I'm just going to start from scratch -- hoping that I'll actually get this story out in some form.

The story has three sections. That's part of the complexity of the thing. First there is the story of how I came to have a home birth. Then there is the story of the birth itself. Then there are some afterthoughts and experiences. When I was trying to think of which part I would focus on in a five minute window, I was having a hard time.

That's been an issue in my sketch writing attempts. I've been in 3 sketch writing courses. Getting my writing down to 3 pages and focusing on only one game has been troublesome.

Even now, I've been writing for some time here and I'm not down to the actual story of the birth of my first child, so I must jump in.

The decision to have natural childbirth

I think I first heard of this concept when I was an exchange student in France. I was an exchange student there twice. The first time was after I graduated early from high school. I did a second senior year in France and got a French high school diploma. The second time was my junior year in college, when I did an engineering internship with Framatome. I stayed with the same host family both times. The first time was because YFU, the agency that sent me over, put me in that family. The second time it was because the family wanted me back. I think IAESTE was going to put me in a dorm.

My French host mother attempted natural childbirth with her first child. She enjoyed the experience, but ended up having a ceasarian for failure to progress. She was absolutely persuaded that the experience needn't be painful. In retrospect, I wonder whether it wasn't her determination not to feel pain that caused the failure to progress, but I will get into that later.

Later I started having recurring dreams of childbirth. In my dreams, childbirth felt like orgasm. My subconscious seemed to be trying to convince me that labor was going to be wonderful. I later learned that there are aspects of natural childbirth that are like orgasm, indeed, though it wasn't exactly the way I dreamed it.

I was determined to be married when I had children; and I had a hard time getting to that point, so despite the recurring dreams it was a long time before I got children.

I had a co-worker at one point in Minnesota who had many children and elected to do home births after the first few. That struck me as quite strange at the time, and I attributed it to the fact that he was in a cult. Later -- as you can see from my story of the birth of my second child -- I learned that after the first birth the process can be quite easy, so it wasn't so surprising that he chose to do it at home. Also, we were in Rochester, MN, home of the Mayo Clinic and associated hospitals, so if anything had gone wrong he could have gotten help pretty quickly.

There was at one point a message in my Quaker meeting from a man who alleged that relief from pain did not justify using anesthesia, which bore risks of complication for the child -- and the mother. I thought, at the time, that this guy was rather arrogant, not being the one who would have to go through the pain; though he did have a big burn scar and pointed out that he had been in a situation of severe pain and that his body had protected him from it. His words against anesthesia stuck in my mind.

When I finally succeeded in being married and pregnant I was 33. I guess this part is hard to talk about, because my marriage ended in divorce, a divorce I didn't want.

I'm not sure how my ex got interested in natural childbirth, but he had read up on it. He was very nervous about what hospitals do to women in childbirth. He kept telling me things that made me nervous in turn.

Because he made me nervous, I asked a lot of questions of my doctor. Eventually, I asked so many questions that my doctors got defensive and told me that they couldn't handle my case.

I went to a second medical pratice, and still was not satisfied with the answers to questions, so I ended up with a certified nurse midwife who did home births -- fairly late in my pregnancy.

A lot of women are reluctant to change doctors. I would say definitely one should never fear that - especially in the NYC metro area where there are lots of doctors. One should shop for a doctor like a car.

These questions that I was pestering the doctors with related to several topics.

One was episiotomy. The natural childbirth literature insisted that episiotomy would make tearing worse, but doctors were persuaded it would make tearing better -- and generally did episiotomies even when mothers had requested none. My sister-in-law, who has a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering, agreed with the natural childbirth literature, that from the point of view of mechanical engineering cutting would increase the likelihood of tearing. I believed her.

Another was lighting. The natural childbirth literature claimed that bright lights, as found in a hospital setting, would inhibit childbirth, because women, like dogs and cats, would instinctively seek a dark, safe place for childbirth. This made a lot of sense to me. Why would I want to have bright lights and a clinical environment with equipment and strangers? I felt in my gut that the natural childbirth advocates were right about this.

Yet, another topic was positioning, Natural childbirth advocates favored a vertical position for the mother, so that gravity would help with the birth process. My doctors told me that they would put me in a tilted position, so that I wouldn't be flat on my back as women were in earlier days. They said gravity would help me. The natural childbirth advocates favored standing or squatting. They said squatting would open your pelvis by an extra 2 cm.

I knew I wasn't going to be able to squat long enough, not being from a culture where people frequently squat, to have a baby; but a vertical position made sense to me. I knew from my outdoors experience that that standing worked well for defecation outdoors. I would never have laid down in bed, even tilted up, for that purpose. The bed position was clearly for the convenience of the doctor, not of for the convenience of the mom.

The defecation analogy also reminded me that I have a shy colon and often can only do this at home. It seemed to me by analogy that I wouldn't be able to give birth outside my home either.

A further issue was fetal monitoring during childbirth. The natural childbirth advocates felt that it was used entirely too often, when the doptone device had never detected fetal distress. They felt that putting something around the woman's abdomen and forcing her to lie down was going to distract her from the childbirth process and make failure to progress more likely. This also made sense to me.

The doptone device was really amazing. It could detect the fetal heartbeat without much intrusion. It was much less intrusive than a fetal monitor.

I had an interesting discussion with my father, after I had decided to have a home birth. Both of my parents were concerned about my decision. My father's questioning me about it was a particularly significant event, because his normal opinion of childrearing was that it was my mother's job. He normally wasn't involved. This time he got involved, perhaps at her urging.

One topic that came up was the doptone. Even though he was a physicist, and had heard of the Dopler Effect, he had some trouble accepting that it would be good for measuring fetal heartbeat. I think I finally convinced him.

Both of my parents were born at home, yet they had bought into the concept that hospital births were better. I convinced my dad, I thnk, that the doctors who tended his mom were not nearly so well equipped or medically advanced as these certified nurse midwives I consulted were. They had masters degrees and hospital residencies. The midwives also had oxygen. We were 10 minutes drive to a level III hospital. These were all things that I told him about to convince him that what I was doing made sense.

He finally concluded that I was right. He said he was trying to secure less intrusive medical care for himself. He was a big advocate for aid in dying.

Another issue in natural childbirth was the use of pain relief medication. For myself, I was coming to trust my dreams. Labor was going to be good. I wanted to be present for childbirth. I didn't care how much it hurt. I wanted to experience it.

But the natural childbirth people pointed out that women often ended up with anesthesia even when they said in advance that they didn't want it, because they would ask for it in transition and regret it later. There was a need for a written agreement not to use anesthesia. Midwives would do such an agreement. Doctors would not.

Another issue was controlling who would be present during childbirth. In a hospital, there would be random changes in personnel, due to work shifts. In a home birth, you could control who was there. Again, the importance was in the mother feeling safe, so that she could concentrate on the birth and avoid failure to progress.

Another concern was the use of labor induction medication. Again, natural childbirth advocates said it was used too frequently, and often led to injury to the mother or the baby if the doses were too high. Also it would increase pain and therefore the likelihood that the mother would ask for anesthesia, which could also lead to increased risk.

Also mentioned was danger of infection. At that time, the presence of antibiotic resistant bacteria in hospitals was less prevalent than today. Even so, natural childbirth advocates pointed out that a mom would have immunity to the bacteria in her home -- that infection arose from whoever came in to the home. If the person coming in to assist was properly clean, then there would not be risk of infection. They were concerned about anti-biotic resistant bacteria in hospitals then, but we should be even more concerned now.

Still another question was how long the practitioner should wait between when the mom's water broke and labor would be induced. That turned out to be relevant.

Another controversy related to whether the mom should be able to eat and drink during labor. The doctors in the hospitals preferred that she not eat or drink as there might be nausea and vomitting -- or there might be issues with defecation during labor. The result of this practice was that the mother in labor would have to have an IV. Again this type of intrusion was -- according to the natual childbirth advocates -- more likely to result in failure to progress. The natural childbirth advocates favored continuing some hydration and eating some things, like ice cream. I don't remember the details -- but that sure sounded better to me than an IV.

I think perhaps also, in hospitals, there would be some kind of enema to make sure that the mom didn't defecate during labor, but not necessarily at home.

In any case, by the time I asked enough questions, I was very convinced that midwives were the right way to go.

They were also different from the doctors in being willing to sit around for extended periods of time and answer questions.

They made me redo my childbirth classes, because they didn't trust the Lamaze classes that were offered at the local hospital. They wanted me to learn more about what really goes on in childbirth. They taught me a lot more medical information.

I remember one of the last things they said at my last class was that the equivalent of 10,000 birth control pills was coursing through my bloodstream.

Another thing she did, which I didn't understand at the time, was to try to induce labor by using psychological methods to make my mind release occitocin. Occitocin is the hormone that induces labor. It's also the called the cuddle hormone. It's released by cuddling, and by stimulation of certain zones of the body, like the genitalia, the breasts, the lips, and the ear lobes.

What she said was that I should think back to romantic times in my relationship with my husband, like the first time we held hands or the first time we kissed. I didn't understand then, but I realize now that thinking of those things would help me release occitocin.

Some of the natural childbirth advocates recommend having sex at to induce labor, because sex will also release occitocin. We didn't need to worry about that, as my water broke 10 days before my due date.

Yet another point made by home birth advocates relates to bonding with the child. The child passes through the birth canal, which super stimulates the production of occitocin, even more than labor. Occitocin causes bonding. That means that the mom is primed to bond with the kid. When hospitals put the baby in a separate room to sleep, that interferes with bonding. Home birth advocates never want to separate the mom and the baby.

The midwives also told me that the yoga that I had been doing for years was better preparation for childbirth than Lamaze courses.

---------------------

The birth itself

My water broke as soon as I got home from that last class.

I had many painful contractions over the next 24 hours, but the midwife insisted on not coming, because the contractions were not regular, so she said labor was not well established. Eventually, I insisted that the nurse must come, so she did. My contractions became regular as soon as she arrived.

This was my first real understanding of what the natural childbirth literature was saying. Labor is a psychosexual process. It does in fact depend on the psychological state of the mother. She has to feel safe. I couldn't get well established in labor until the nurse came, because I didn't feel safe.

Since then, I have heard it said that failure to progress is much more common amongst women who have been sexually abused -- another example of the psychological aspect of this process. Fortunately, I was not sexually abused.

During that "pre" labor, I noticed something interesting. My ex was playing the guitar and singing to me. Normally, I liked to sing with him. I couldn't sing during the contractions, but theoretically I could have sung between the contractions -- yet I couldn't sing anyway, because I was crying too hard every time I tried to sing. In retrospect, I came to believe that much of the perception of pain and unbearability in labor may be related to those 10,000 birth control pills worth of hormones in the blood, rather than actual pain.

After the nurse arrived, it took less than 6 hours for me to get to transition, which is fairly fast.

I guess, looking back at this, one reason I was reluctant to tell this story was that the midwife violated the generally accepted standard of care in how long she waited for me to go into labor without inducing. Fortunately, nothing bad happened to me as a result.

There is something in me that is very slavish about rules. The fact that rules were broken somehow frightens me.

Another thing that the nurse did was again to try to stimulate the releast of occitocin naturally, by telling me that when she examined me she could see a cute little girl baby with brown hair inside of me. This wasn't true, I now realize, because I wasn't dilated yet, but it was a technique to make me feel what I needed to feel to release occitocin. I always had brown hair as a young person. She was saying the baby would look like me. Actually, it turned out to be a blond boy, but that's not relevant at this point.

That six hours was quite painful. I later learned that I was having "back labor," that my baby was oriented the wrong way, which made things more difficult. Curiously, that child has been that same way ever since.

Then came transition. Transition, for those who don't know, is when labor changes from dilation to pushing. This is the time when moms in labor are known to start trying to hurt the father of the baby -- screaming, throwing things. It's reputed to be very painful, and it sure seemed so. I started asking for pain medication.

It's also a moment of massive hormonal shift in the body, which is also why it's very upsetting.

This is where the difference between the midwife and the doctor was critical. That midwife knew that I didn't really want pain medication. She practiced tough love. A doctor wouldn't have done that. Also, of course, in my home, anesthesia couldn't be used. You have to do that in a hospital, because it can result in complications that may require emergency intervention, including surgery, so I would have had to have been transported to a hospital if I insisted on the medication, which I didn't.

But she said to me that I was fighting my labor. She told me that I must say yes to the pain, that the pain would bring the child. I started saying "Yes, yes, yes" very fast. It was probably the hardest thing I ever did.

Another thing that happened at that time was that I called out for my mother. I blogged about this before.


I'm tempted to repeat what I said there, because it was a big part of what I might have said in a story either in a story telling class or at the Moth; but I guess -- since I already wrote it -- I will just refer people to the link.

Another thing that the midwife did was give me a quick voice lesson. She noticed that I was making high noises. She told me that that was not good for my labor. She told me to make low noises and use my diaphragm to push on my uterus. That concept made me sing better after labor also.

She never told me to be quiet or suppress expressions of pain. The low noises that I was making were very loud.

One of the strategies of the midwives was to get the mother in labor to move around. This helps with the labor but also distracts the mom from the pain. I was sitting on the toilet in our larger bathroom when I called out to my mother.

They moved me to the shower in the smaller bathroom after that. The shower has several advantages. One is that the hot water is relaxing, which is nice for tired muscles. Another is that the water passes over the nipples, which stimulates the release of occitocin, a natural labor inducing technique.

At some point, either before I entered or while I was in the shower, the midwife examined my cervix and said it was ok to start pushing. Once thought about pushing, I could really feel the size of the baby's head and what I would have to do to push that through my body. It was a pretty scary observation. But the only way out was through, so what choice was there? I tried pushing. At first the pushes were fairly tentative, but more enthusiastic later on.

The shower had a disadvantage. It was small and reflected noise. I think I damaged my ex's hearing -- making so much noise in there.

Later the neighbors said they never heard anything when I was in labor. It wasn't clear whether they were being polite or whether they really didn't hear anything. If they didn't, it was a testament to the soundproofing effect of the thick walls of my older home -- but also rather frightening as it would mean that if I ever screamed for help they wouldn't hear. I suspect they were just being polite. I have a loud voice and I was being as loud as I could be, so I suspect they heard.

I pushed for over 2 hours making a huge racket the whole time. I remember referring to the situation in the shower as a 'circus,' in the letter to my Aunt Charlotte.

After the baby crowned they had me leave the shower and tried to get me to walk out through the bedroom where that shower was, through the hall, and into the bedroom where we had planned to have the birth. They wanted me to be sitting in a position where I could see the baby come out. I walked with my arms around my ex's neck -- and him walking backwards

In retrospect this seems fairly stupid, as the baby fell out while I was walking. I really had no interest whatsoever in seeing the baby come out, none at all. That was one area where they were not adequately solicitous of what I wanted.

I stopped when the baby fell out. The midwife saw what was happening in time. She said "Oops," in a cheerful, calm voice, and quickly sat down behind me. She safely caught the baby, so that everything turned out happily.

My ex wanted to keep walking to the bed as the midwife had originally instructed. He couldn't see what was happening, because I had my arms around his neck and he could mostly only see the top of me.

I said "Too late."

Again, the midwives allowed me to push for a fairly long time, over two hours. They told me I would most likely have been induced in a hospital. I'm very glad that I avoided that.

We were informed that the baby was fine.

He had a "maeconium beard." Now this is one of those points where we separate the men from the women. Women usually have no problem with these things, while men cringe. What is this beard thing? Should I say?

In any case, the fact that the maeconium stopped below his mouth meant that he hadn't inhaled any of it during the birth which meant that he was ok.

The midwife got the baby all cleaned up while the nurse watched me. I think they cleaned up the area where I had been walking, as surely there must have been fluid dropping out at the time. I learned that the key in such situations was to clean up as soon as possible to avoid staining.

There were both a nurse and a midwife, so that both the baby and I would be covered if either of us had a medical emergency. Fortunately, no emergencies developed.

Also we were instructed to have a friend there to help out with little things that might need to be done. I chose my yoga teacher, who told me, when she saw the baby, that she thought it had an old soul.

Then I got on the bed and they delivered the placenta. I remember that as soon as I saw it I wanted to eat it. I knew animals eat it, but the midwife and nurse discouraged me. I was thinking about that placenta for the entire time between my first and second child and I did eat the placenta for the second child. I now am a huge advocate of that, for the reason that I discussed in my story of the birth of my second child, which I've included a link to above.

The midwives encouraged me to nurse, as that further releases occitocin and caused the uterus to contract, which reduces the chance of hemorrhage. I was later told that hemorrhage is most likely when a woman has six or more kids, but we didn't get into that at the time. The midwives were big on nursing, and so were my ex and I. My ex and I were both nursed as children, which made us somewhat unusual amongst baby boomers.

Because the midwife considered my contractions "poopy," in other words not very strong, she did give me a shot of pitocin after the birth -- artificial occitocin to make sure that my uterus would contract properly. Pitocin is what they normally induce labor with -- so I got some of it after all, but not during labor.

My ex had trouble understanding this interchange. Since I hadn't been given an enema, I did defecate some in the shower. He thought that was what they were referring to, but it wasn't.

They also gave me stitches, because I had torn some. The midwife sat crosslegged on my bed, between my legs, merrily stitching away. I think she gave me a shot of lidocaine so I wouldn't feel the stitches. It was a strangely friendly stitching operation -- not at all clinical.

They also put a little cotton cap on the baby so he wouldn't get cold, but it was a warm evening in any case.

We had a little gadget that you put on the side of the bed to keep a child from rolling out. My ex strung up a nightlight above the bed -- as it was now the middle of the night. The midwives encouraged me to nurse whenever the baby wanted it, and placed the baby between me and the gadget, and turned off the overhead light.

So there I was lying in the dark with my ex on one side of me and the baby on the other and the nightlight above me making the baby's body hair sparkle gold.

I had had occitocin from the natural birth, from the nursing, and from the shot. Occitocin is the hormone that causes bonding. I would encourage the reader to go read the scientific studies comparing field and prairie voles, where whether they mate for life or not is entirely dependent on whether the male produces occitocin.

I got to experience a very intense bonding experience, watching the baby's golden hairs in the nightlight that night. Nothing could possible have prepared me for what I felt then. It was stronger than the worst crush I ever had in junior high. Suddenly that little baby was the absolute most important thing that had ever been in all of creation and for all time.

I'm a bit sad I didn't get that experience quite as much with the second child, because he had cold shock and had to be put in a warmer right after birth -- but I certainly bonded with him later.

Afterwards

Some men lament that their wife seems to love the baby more than them after it's born. Yes. I believe that that is true and biological. Stop fighting mother nature, guys. It's impossible. The best thing is to try to seem to be just as bonded to the baby as she is. That's the way to win her confidence.

My ex certainly did that. In fact, he later seemed to feel that being more bonded to the baby than to me was perfectly natural, sort of putting the shoe on the other foot ... irony.

I found afterwards that I felt like a wild animal in a lair with that baby, because I was in my bedroom all along. When people came in I really wanted to bite them, but I tried to be polite. Still it rankled. I doubt that I would have felt quite so wild or so vicious if I had been in a hospital environment -- but I think what I experienced was healthier and more natural.

Afterwards, I did have issues from all the pushing. I had strangulated hemorrhoids. My back went out twice. I had two breast infections. It was a tough recovery. It always makes angry when guys think that six weeks maternity leave is like a vacation. No it's not. Not at all.

I took a lot of baths in herb tea. I made my first visit to the chiropractor. My parents had fear and loathing of chiropractors and suffered horrible back problems all their lives. I resolved not to do the same. I've been devoted to chiropractors ever since.

My mom and mother-in-law did come in to help after the birth, which was nice, but one of the breast infections was due to my mother-in-law insisting we should go out to dinner, and I just wasn't physically strong enough for that.

It's said that a mom recovers from the trauma of childbirth as soon as she sees the baby. I found that. The memories of whatever I went through in labor became sort of dim and I was delighted to be with the baby.

I think my ex was much more traumatized. He was crying a few days later.

I came to the conclusion that husband coached childbirth might not be such a great idea. The women who were helping me had been through childbirth. They were calm and cheerful. They weren't traumatized by watching me in pain. Not so with my ex.

I read the book The Mists of Avalon during recovery. I'm not sure why that book happened to cross my path. In that book, they claimed that the women of Camelot all gained second sight -- ESP -- from childbirth.

That made me think back on what childbirth felt like. It did feel like a mystical experience. I also felt that the meditations and body awareness techniques that I learned in yoga had given me a sense of contact with and some control over the labor process. That experience had an ESP-like feel about it as I reached out and contacted parts of my brain that weren't supposed to be accessible to the conscious brain.

I feel more work could be done with pregnant women on the mystical/meditational aspect of natural childbirth, rather than the idea that breathing technique could eliminate pain.

I compared my midwife's instruction to say "Yes" to the pain to the Lamaze instruction to try not to feel pain through breathing technique; and my French host mother's experience with Lamaze: feeling no pain but also having failure to progress. I have to wonder whether this quest for no pain is helpful to the process.

I also made some observations of my body. I hadn't had any stretch marks during that first pregnancy, even though I got very large. Somehow my skin was elastic enough to accommodate what was happening. However, after the birth, I had stretch marks criss crossed all over the part of my abdomen below the belly button. I guess that goes to show how much I had to stretch to push that baby out.

Another thing I noticed, looking down at that mound of Venus area, that it was shaped differently. I had once seen my grandmother's body and it seemed to me that mine now looked like hers. The cartiledge there had stretched by a good inch or more, so that the shape at the bottom was blunter --- again a measure of how much I had pushed.

One of my friends said, in front of her son, that childbirth destroys your body. Certainly, there were issues with my bladder afterwards -- but I can't say it was destroyed. It was ready to have the much easier childbirth experience that I had with the second child, and which I described in the video referenced above. In any case, what else was I going to do with the body? It doesn't last forever anyway: might as well have kids.

The midwives warned me that I wouldn't really be able to anticipate what my priorities would be or how I would feel after childbirth. Later I learned of neurological studies that showed visible neurological changes in a woman's brain as a result of pregnancy and childbirth. Once you're a mom, you can't ever stop being a mom. Your brain has changed. I certainly noticed that when I was looking at the baby right after he was born. I feel that we ought to be educating young women about this, much the way we would educate them about menstruation.

I got really into this no aesthesia business. I forewent dental anesthesia for a while. I had a dentist who was ok with that. He would just give me breaks during drilling. Then he retired and later dentists were not willing, so I'm back to using novocaine.


OK -- so I looked at the word count for this document and found it to be about 5700 words. I learned at the last story slam that 540 words is about 4 minutes. That would seem to indicate that this story is about 45 minutes -- clearly not ready for The Moth.