Saturday, October 30, 2010

What Luke Said

Home births don't always happen at home. On average around 10% of attempted home births end in the hospital. This is the story of one such birth and the feelings and raw emotion such a transfer can evoke. This acute disappointment and sense of failure is the domain of women who attempt natural birth and don't end up with one. They are the brave ones, the ones who risk, struggle, go out on a limb, and after their labor, in this case two days of it, end up in the place they had hoped to avoid. Unlike women who intend a hospital birth and well, end up with one, women who attempt a home birth and then end up in the hospital have the extra burden of processing what went 'wrong'. Another curve on the long road of motherhood.

Maceo was my client. She is an example of the intelligent and thoughtful women who choose out of hospital birth. A talented writer and warm presence, she brought joy to her pregnancy and was one of the rare women who enjoyed the pregnancy more and more as her belly swelled, all the way up to and past her due date! She will always have a special place in my heart as after my own baby was born, in her fifth month of pregnancy, she brought me delicious Cuban food and her cheery presence. We measured her belly on my couch with my two week old sleeping nearby. During her first night of contractions, I slid my sleeping daughter into the car, and drove the mile to Maceo's house, my daughter never waking the entire night. This type of shared motherhood is the glue of friendship and community. Thank you Maceo!

So without further ado, here is a re-posting from Maceo's own blog,
Dripping River Water, which of course, you all must go subscribe to right now, as I'm sure there is much forthcoming mama wisdom from this source! And welcome to the sweetest Omar!

There is a table in the lobby. It is long and wooden positioned right below a big mirror. There people leave things they no longer want: old fax machines, magazines, sneakers, books. I am the resident manager and this leaving of things annoys me only when no one takes it. I am left to throw away these items. Things that could have easily been given as a donation, somewhere else, not in the lobby of my building. There was a pocket sized New Testament once. I picked it up. This is a book I couldn’t throw out, I couldn’t leave it on the sidewalk, I couldn’t give it to a random person. I had to keep it and for a year it lived between my Moroccan Arabic Phrasebook and El diccionario de sinonimos y antonimos bought in Venezuela when I was there in 1996.

My son is now 5 weeks old. He has lived his days between arms of those who love him. I have only been away from him minutes at a time, missing him and calling my mami to see how he is doing. Yesterday I went for a walk with my friend. I left my mami with 5 ozs of my milk. I gave her instructions and hoped that it wouldn’t be too hard for either of them. The sun was out. Its rays hit my toes. There was a chill in shady areas. I was afraid to catch a cold. I thought of myself confined in my bedroom pumping milk, sweating and sick, not able to see my son.

We went to Arizmendi. I was treated to pizza and a root beer sitting outside. I watched the beautiful people of Oakland pass by. I saw the mamas pushing the strollers or carrying their babies on their backs. I saw the dogs. The endless amount of dogs take over the sidewalk. I wondered if my skin would darken sitting outside of Arizmendi. I have been home for weeks looking out the living room windows at the trees and the birds. The root beer was good. It became my new favorite. There on the table was the cap. It had writing. In the inside it read, Luke 1:37. I thought the root beer bottling was more hipster than religious. Or maybe it was both.

For the past five weeks I have only written in my head. I write books and plays while I nurse my son in his sleep. I wish that the words would leave my mind and walk unto the page. Any page. Somewhere else. But the words don’t. They are locked away and I wonder if I will be able to write. Then I read stories of writers who have shared similar nights. Perhaps not nursing their sons but still in bed writing words on the walls with their pupils.

For the past five weeks I have begun learning what it is to be a mother. I have learned what it is to remain still, to be totally dependent. There is a scar above my bikini line. It is black and sometimes it is sore. All throughout my pregnancy I was pleased not to have any stretch marks. Instead I got a scar where they pulled my baby out. That scar reminds me of my imperfections and my failures.

I wonder sometimes why I couldn’t give birth at home. Sometimes I have a hard time completing things. The end is always so hard. I go through my over fifty hours of labor at home and four days in the hospital. I try to figure out what exactly went wrong. I know everything is God’s will but somehow I feel at a loss. I wonder if somewhere in back of my mind I was too scared to finish the job. I couldn’t give birth naturally in a birthing tub, in my kitchen because it meant I actually had to complete something. I needed help. Like heavy drugs to soothe me, to make me relax, to actually fall asleep. I went to the hospital, a place I still don’t want to give birth in again. They helped me. I had sweet nurses who gave me more pillows and filled my water bottle. I knew that with a touch of button someone would be at my side. So the whole time I had to not be upset. I had to take everything in stride because I had my baby in my arms. And if I got frustrated at the nurses constantly coming in and asking me the same questions, at them grabbing my breasts without asking me anything to see if my milk was coming out, at my son being picked up all hours of the night to be weighed, I would have made it worse for myself and I would have been ungrateful. I still have to write about that. All of that. But I am afraid that it will make me cry.

On my bedside table there is a tube of Barq’s root beer lip balm. I don’t like that root beer but I like the taste on my lips. I put it on last night before getting into bed. Then I remembered. Luke 1:37. I went to the living room to the shelf where the pocket size New testament lived. I took it into bed. My husband perplexed. I have not read the Qur’an in weeks and here I was with the Bible. I opened it to Luke right away. There I read: “For with God nothing will be impossible.”

Sighs and smiles.

the end.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Good Bacteria

This article came out a few months back, but time has not diminished my amazement! Of the myriad species specific qualities that breastmilk possesses, one of the more fascinating is the 'probiotic' qualities. A newborn, born with a very sterile gut, lands in a world full of bacteria, good and bad. The probiotic qualities of breastmilk, or the good bacteria in breastmilk, sufficiently protect newborns from a host of sometimes lethal gastrointestinal diseases. The recently discovered, bifidobacterium longus, passes through breastmilk to the infant, and on its way out, coats the babies intestine with a protective coating, thereby serving the role of stomach acid, a substance babies don't yet possess much of. This coating acts as a decoy to potential bacteria and viruses, coaxing it to bypass the baby's gut.

Dr. E. Stephen Buescher
, a pediatrician and scholar of breastmilk's many anti-infective and ant-inflammatory qualities, has an interesting theory as to why this protective coating not only benefits the gut, but also may contribute to the dramatic reduction in ear infections in breastfed infants. He had an exclusively breastfed son who spit up, a lot. After watching a plethora of spit up episodes, ones that sometimes exited the nasal orifices, he reasoned that the breastmilk when spit up was coating the upper respiratory tract with all of it's soothing and protective qualities, just like it coats the intestine. Embrace the spit up. It's better than an ear infection!

Scientists are beginning to understanding that breastmilk can serve as a lesson plan for how to nourish and protect the human body against pathogens, not just in babies. It is after all a food, specifically designed for humans, and the most vulnerable, swiftest growing of humans. The researchers aren't sure what happens, or where these bifidobacterium bacteria hide out in adults. But probiotic supplementation in America is a booming business, sales of it tripled between 1994 and 2003. Perhaps we could save our children some money in their future, by breastfeeding them now. As one of the researchers so eloquently summed it up, "It’s all there for a purpose, though we’re still figuring out what that purpose is,” Dr. Mills said. “So for God’s sake, please breast-feed.”

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Nursing on Both Sides

And because I love this life

I know I shall love death as well.

The child cries out when

From the right breast the mother

Takes it away, in the very next moment

To find in the left one

Its consolation.

-Rabindranath Tagore
from Gitanjali