Friday, July 29, 2011

Breech Birth In Canada

I also wrote an article for Mothers of Change on Breech birth, if you are interested!!  =)

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Word!

I wrote a guest post for A Little Bit of All of It on adoption for her series on adoption this week.  Check it out here!  Her series is really good, and quite comprehensive.  I love adoption stories!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Brayden

I'm so excited to have been a part of Brayden's birth, that the rest of my life feels like a dream and that one day in that one room during his birth feels like real life.  It was awesome.
When I became a doula it was in order to be a support for my friends and family (if they wanted it) while they gave birth.  And Monday's event was exactly that.
I remember once when I was very pregnant with Amarys, someone at a party asked me, after a long conversation about being a doula, "So who is YOUR doula?" and I decided to out myself with the truth;

"Well, even though I am a doula, I don't really actually *believe* in doulas?" and the room erupted into laughter.  Its true.  I don't want to knock a profession which is incredibly valuable and largely misunderstood and underrepresented in the world of birth professions, but I really believe that the professional doula grew out of the necessity to replace what a doula used to be: a well known and trusted friend, neighbour, sister, mother, cousin, or midwife's assistant who came to support you during your birth and afterwards.  Someone you know.  Someone who was paid, but whose support was mainly loving and practical.

So when I became a doula, my goal was to support women I know and love through giving birth, and to do it because I love them.  And I love birth.  Monday was the fullest example of this that I have yet experienced.  My good friend Melissa has been in my life for seven years, and we have had years of fun times and tears and growing up.  I listened to descriptions of horrible dates with Oliver the Aggressive Kisser and wonderings about being single forever, and she listened to descriptions of breast yeast infections and watched me flash my droopy breasts in every public place imaginable, and it was a match made in friendship heaven.  =)  This is one of my "Peeps."  One of my closest friends.
Last year she met this guy.  Like, The Guy.  The once in a lifetime type of guy that makes everyone you know jealous, because he's so remarkable and kind and funny and how can you fault a guy for loving your friend more than you do?  She's just so lovable.
Eight months later they got married.  Four weeks after that she phoned me in tears with a positive pregnancy test in her hand, FIVE YEARS ahead of schedule.  I've so been there.  So exactly there.
And nine months later, Geoff phoned me up at 2:00 a.m. and said, "So we've been at 4-1-1 for two hours now." [translation: call your doula whenever you feel you need her, or when you reach contractions at four minutes apart and at least one minute long for one hour, whichever comes first]
I packed my bag, my breast pump, two empty bottles, and my crochet supplies, and drove to their house.  Melissa's midwife beat me there and she was 5 cm, baby at zero station, and coping well.  We walked to the hospital, a unique experience in my doula 'career,' but it made sense since they live less than a block to the hospital and walking is so beneficial in labour.  I have to say that the car rides to the hospital were definitely the worst part of both my labours, so this was a fine decision, IMO.  It was fun to walk at four in the morning with a roller suitcase and several types of cameras, joking and enjoying the summery early morning air.  It is one of the sketchier parts of town but I guess we looked so odd that no one thought to mug or rape us and we were left unscathed.

Melissa was amazing.  She was upbeat, coped well, moved around, followed her body, used all the hypnobirthing techniques she had learned, and every natural pain relief option available.  Geoff was equally amazing.  He was calm, excited, totally in tune with his wife's emotional state and needs, and had his face buried in her neck for hours on end, quietly encouraging her.  It brought tears to my eyes~it is hard to trust even The Guy with the heart of one you love, but after watching him support her giving birth to their baby I'm in awe.  I'll never have a twinge of worry about her ever again, because I know he's up to the job.

She worked so hard and coped so well, and was 7 cm at 9:30 in the morning.  She started to get restless shortly afterwards, flopping around, a bit more disorganized and less relaxed, and saying, "I can't do this!"  This is a good sign.  This means transition!!  This means you're nearly done!  This means baby is just around the corner!
I told her, "Just when you think 'I can't,' that's when you're nearly done."  Which is true, most of the time.  Which my midwife told me, with Amarys.  Which is reassuring when you hear it.  Which so wasn't true in this case.  Ack!
I glanced at the clock and thought, we could have a baby by noon!  Hooray!
But at noon she was still 7 cm, and still laboring hard.  Still feeling "I can't."  Still restless.

This baby taxed all my resources, I tell you.  I wracked my brain for every tool I had ever experienced, read about, seen on documentaries, or imagined to help Melissa cope with these powerful waves that just kept on coming hard and fast, without a break, and without a change.  She was dilating unevenly, so her midwife had her lie on her side for half an hour to try and increase pressure on the side that was less dilated, and after that she tried the shower, the birth ball, standing, sitting, swaying, squatting, hands and knees, lying down, walking, lunges, hula loops, slow dancing; you name it.  I did pressure points, massage, back rubs, encouragement, counting back from 20, hypnosis triggers, rhythm, music, relaxation tricks, hydrotherapy, jokes between contractions, everything but singing (both Melissa and I are terrible singers, lol).  Oh, and I forgot lip flapping (Ina May's trick of blowing raspberries to aid relaxation).  Mainly I just danced with her, and rubbed her back during contractions.  It seemed to be the most effective way to help.

After several more hours she was 8 cm and the baby was asynclitic (sp?), which means his head was tilted to the side, and his chin was up instead of flexed.  This was likely the cause of Melissa being stalled for so long at 7 cm; the baby's head pressing on the cervix evenly is what causes dilation in active labour, and her baby's head was tilted to the side and pressing unevenly.  She was scraping the bottom of the barrel for coping mechanisms, and we were scraping for tools to help her.  I had left the room a few times to pump milk for Amarys, and my two bottles were full and so were my breasts.  Neither of them had slept in over 30 hours, and I had slept 2 hours in those 30.  Melissa's water had broken but still she farted around at 7 and 8 cm.  The only one unfazed by the long labour was baby Brayden!  His heart rate was perfect, ticking along like clockwork and accelerating and decelerating in the proper parameters at the proper times.  Awesome.  Their midwife was suggesting more position changes and bladder emptying and homeopathic remedies to try and push things beyond the 8 cm mark.
Melissa and Geoff went back in the shower and she was really struggling to cope.  Her contractions had started spacing themselves out and becoming more irregular, so we were starting to worry and certainly after five hours of hearing, "Just when you think you can't, your baby is almost here!" Melissa was seriously starting to doubt her ability to continue.

Their midwife suggested it might be time to change the game plan.  Given the hard work, exhaustion, lack of dilation, irregular and widely spaced contractions, and asynclitic baby, a good course of action at this point would be to consider synthetic oxytocin augementation.  The midwife felt this could correct the baby's position, or at the very least power the baby through despite its odd position.
The worst part of this plan, of course, is the increase in intensity for Melissa, who was already exhausted and worn down at this point.  So this is when pain relief was discussed.  All the pain relief options were laid out, and the risks and benefits of each were discussed between contractions.  Her midwife was good at laying out what she thought, but informing Melissa and Geoff of all their options and the risks and benefits in all scenarios.  They decided that oxytocin and an epidural were the best way to go, and I completely agreed.  This is what these interventions are invented for, and I am a full believer (thanks to Grantly Dick-Read) that labour is intense but it need not involve suffering.  If you hit the point where you are suffering in labour, by all means, pain relief is absolutely called for.  Melissa had hit the suffering threshold several hours before this point, and had exhausted all her reserves.  We had all worked to give her the best possible chance so that she could feel like she did everything she could to have the natural birth she planned for.
And you know what?  It was the perfect decision.  She got her epidural within 20 minutes.  She got oxytocin within an hour.  She slept for several hours.  Geoff slept.  I drove home, dropped off my pumped milk, nursed Amarys twice and Riley once, showered, and drove back to the hospital.  When I arrived back she was bright eyed, her sense of humor was back, and she was energized, fully dilated, and ready to push.  Her epidural wore off enough for her to feel urges to push, and in remarkable time for a first time mom with fuzzy feeling lower extremities, she pushed out the most amazing long eyelashed, kissable lipped, soft cheeked baby ever!  It was fantastic!  She pushed like it had been her day job for twenty years.  Like, pshaw, I could do this in my sleep, no problem [I hate pushing, its way harder work when I do it, for hours and hours =p  What's up with women who do it like its a sunday afternoon stroll?].  I told Melissa it was her reward after working so hard for the first stage of labour.  Watching that baby slide out was one of the more remarkable things I've ever seen.  He was moving his head but had his eyes closed when his head was out but his shoulders were still in, and he was facing me so I got to study his little face for a few minutes while Melissa waited for her final contraction at 10:30 pm to push out his body.  And she didn't even tear much: a couple of stitches just for a first degree tear to prevent pain while healing.

Melissa is my new hero.  And Geoff her loyal sidekick.  And Brayden the sweetest thing on earth, next to my own babies!  All told, 26 hours of active labour.  Less than an hour of pushing.  And a gorgeous birth.  Not exactly according to plan, but exactly right.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

HELLO BABY!!!


Congrats to my good friends Melissa and Geoff on the birth of their gorgeous first baby, Brayden!!  26 hours of active labour (!!!!!), tons of amazing endurance, lots of love, sweat, and tears, and baby Brayden made his appearance.
[I got to be their doula.  HOW COOL IS THAT?!]  He was born with his face towards me~but he didn't open his eyes until he was up on his momma's chest, so she was the first person he saw.  He's gorgeous. This thumbnail photo is all I have so far, but WOOOOO HOOOOO!!!  GO TEAM K!  You guys are rock stars.  And your baby really is cuter than all the rest.
=)

4 Days of Camp

I started this last week, but then life happened, so I'm just finishing it now~sorry!

Sorry I was so quiet this week.  I volunteered as a leader at our church's Summer Arts Camp from 10-3 every day this week, and our last day we did an evening drama presentation and art auction, so that day was a long one!  Both Ayden and Matthew were participants in arts camp and they.  had.  a.  BLAST!  I did, too, it was remarkably original and engaging.  I love that my church does arts camp.  Evangelical churches have sometimes traditionally shied away from art so its cool to see that art is valued by this particular evangelical church to the point of organizing an arts camp for kids.  Skoukum.

` Another adult during Arts Camp week found out Matthew was my adopted son and she asked me, "So, what does he call you?  Like, does he call you mom and dad?"
Uh.
No we just adopted him so he could nanny our other kids and clean the bathrooms and stuff.
It was a minor blip in the week but it merited sharing, because it was so remarkable as to be the most ridiculous question I've ever received as an adoptive parent.

Granted, arts camp was nothing like an arts camp put on by artists, but it was a great mixture of art, craft, spiritual lessons, outdoor play, singing, and friendship.  A few of the leaders were artists, but I mean the overall organizers were not.
There were forty kids there, divided into four groups.  Each group had a leader and a teen helper, and there were eight stations the teams rotated amongst all day.  Music, baking, spiritual lesson/craft, visual art, free play on the playground, field sport/games, drama, and movie time.  I was a group leader with eleven kids in my group, including Ayden and my best friend's little boy, who is eight.  My group was six boys and five girls aged 6 to 8, with some rather energetic boys in it.  Like, please stop picking your nose and chasing the girls with it, then wiping it on the auction cupcakes type of energetic.
MY KIND OF BOYS!  =)

I learned a lot as Camp Mommy this week.  Let me summarize:

The Excellent:
-I am very good with kids.  Ergo, as a mom, I think I might be doing better than I thought.
-The kids I'm best with are the ones everyone else has a hard time relating to.
-I had spades of patience
[these above observations are notable not because I think I'm great, but because I think I'm not: so often I feel short of patience or creativity or positive thinking with regards to my kids, but watching myself corral a group of kids for a week helped me to see that sometimes, I have strengths I didn't know I had.]
-Arts camp is awesome and simple metaphors are a really effective way to teach kids, especially if there is a craft to emphasize the lesson
-I do WAY better with short term sprints, in life, as opposed to long drawn out endurance runs.  Thus, arts camp (27 hours total volunteer time) as opposed to sunday school (18 to 20 hours total per year) is a better fit for me.

The Good:
-I did well in a group that big despite less sleep, separation from my infant, and scads of extroverted activities: HENCE, my anxiety is more under control than ever before in my memory!
-Amarys stayed home with daddy and some pumped milk; she doesn't like bottles but she will take enough to take the edge off her hunger, and she won't starve!  Its remarkable how relaxed I am this time compared to last time...

The Not So Good:
-Okay, part of what I sign my kids up for things for in the summer is to get them away from the television.  But arts camp showed a video during lunchtime (because obviously lunchtime would be a terrible time to talk to other kids and get to know them), and also during the movie portion of the daily schedule!  I know its easier to control them and gives the adults a break if we drug them with television, but can't we just NOT drug them with television?
-Very few people are good with little boys unless they are (a) male themselves, or (b) mom to a couple of boys minimum.
-Some people who work with kids could use some lessons in child development, and how to redirect, distract, affirm positive behavior, and encourage.  I'm no saint.  Today in particular I was a cranky bitch to my kids, but at least I know what the goal is, with regards to my interaction with children, you know? Why be negative?  Why turn normal little boy behavior into a power struggle?
-Little girls are harder for me.  They're always up in everyone else's business!  Why is so and so over there?  What did you say to her?  Why is she pouting?  What did she say to you?  What are you doing?  So and so called me a bad name.  Can I sit with you?  She doesn't want to be my friend anymore.
*FACEPALM*
At least with boys a good tussle will generally settle things down again.  But girls?  It's all drama and politics, man.  Drama and politics.
-I get tired doing the extroverted thing all day, which makes me have less to give my kids, but anyone can do anything for a week!  We did okay.
-Riley felt very very left out, left behind, and left bereft.  He kept begging to go to arts camp too: daddy invented "daddy camp," which tempered the grief but wasn't really quite as enticing!  It will be a few years before he will be old enough to go...

Overall?  Awesome.  Loved every minute.  Will totally do it again.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Placenta Plant

Morgan, my brother's fiancee, with my latest niece/nephew belly cooking,
and Amarys on her lap.  She and my brother came for an overnight visit and
we happened to bury Amarys' placenta while they were here.  Morgan was curious;
Chad was so grossed out he went and had a nap :)

My brother Chad with his first niece.  Its cute to
watch him grow into being a dad...he's SO ready!
And so good with kids.  My boys run all over him
and he just keeps coming up with wild adventures for them...

We chose a Magnolia tree to plant over Amarys'
placenta.  In our front yard (maybe don't tell the neighbours)

Placenta Planting Team Member: Riley

Placenta Planting Team Member: Ayden

Too busy to pose for a photo, PP Team Member: Matthew

Unless said posing involves ninja moves...

Me and Baby Bug


"Will the worms eat the placenta and make dirt, mommy?"  You bet!
Homeschooling at its best....to augment that public schooling
which certainly leaves out placenta planting....

Placenta in a bag



I love this photo~the blood vessels are so huge and life sustaining, even after
several months in the freezer

My hands on learner

Not so hands on

Hands on?  Not a chance...




I embrace your quirks, and you embrace mine =)





Serious family photo

Always the silly photo...

Quote

"Babies and children have needs at night just as they do during the day; from hunger, loneliness, and fear, to feeling too hot or too cold. They rely on parents to soothe them and help them regulate their intense emotions. Sleep training techniques can have detrimental physiological and psychological effects. Safe co-sleeping has benefits to both babies and parents.
(API International, courtesy of The New Mommy Files...a good read on safe sleep)

And Rolling

This week Amarys mastered rolling.  She rolled over on her own once, around July 1st, and then didn't do it again until a few days ago.  Brent put her down on the living room rug, left the room, and came back to find her on her tummy, squawking about being on her tummy.  Isn't that just like us grown ups?


 I walked into this mess, now WTF am I doing in this mess?

Now she's a rollover master.  If you put her down she is immediately compelled to roll onto her front.  She's content to play there awhile too, if she's not tired.  She also reaches and grasps toys and pulls them to her mouth~she's very enamored with toys.  And then she reached for my face for the first time the other day, and stole my heart.  ♥

I do

FUZZIBUNZ and pee catchin'

I tried Elimination Communication with Riley, but kind of got overwhelmed by the idea of learning a new system on my third kid [and a little knocked off course by post partum crazies], so I quit.  But I did use the principles of EC added to a hodge podge of other techniques when we approached toilet learning when he was ready.
Then I recently discovered that it is possible to do EC part time!  I was thinking it was an all or nothing type of deal, but some families do a little when they can, and diaper when they can't.  That sounds like my kinda deal.  Like, mornings when I wake up during the year I hit the ground running to take the kids to school.  I have time to nurse my two 'babies' but no time to potty them.  And very little motivation.  Mornings when I wake up during the summer I generally nurse and then lay in bed for a bit, missing optimal potty time.
I put Amarys on the toilet a few weeks ago and caught a giant poop.  Yesterday before her bath I popped her on while waiting for the tub to fill, and she peed!  And then today I took off a diaper and it was dry, and had been dry for almost an hour, so I knew she would likely use the potty if I pulled it out~and she peed again!  This could get addictive!  And the boys think she's so smart!  So cool.

My cousin also gave me a stack of her Fuzzibunz cloth diapers~I wanted to try and find a cloth system that Amarys' sensitive bum will tolerate so we can get away from tossing bags and bags of plastic disposables out every month....I washed my own diapers with the first two boys, used a diaper service for Riley, and planned to use the service again with Amarys.  Of course her skin couldn't tolerate the service diapers, so we hunted around for another option.  In the end we found ONE brand of disposable diapers that she could handle, and that has been that for four months.  But now we want to try again, wash our own so we can strip the diapers frequently, and since my cousin was finished with her skoukum quality all the rage Fuzzibunz, we decided to give them a try.
Day 2 of Fuzzibunz; it is SO NICE to cloth diaper again!  I love the cloth diaper bum.  I love the lack of a garbage problem.  I love that her skin so far is responding well.  We haven't done overnight yet, since we're still testing her skin, and likely we won't totally switch...unless I can get on the ball with early morning pottying, because she holds her pee all night.  You know, while she's sleeping all night like the dream sleeper she is.  Love to hate me, folks.  ;)   Don't worry, kharma is on the ball.  We do have a nearly seven year old with overactive immature bladder so it all evens out in the wash [pun fully intended].
Props to Sara for the diaps.  xo.

Also, I'm a volunteer leader at my kids' Summer Arts Camp this week so I'm fricksausted but it is fun.  There's a kid in my group who picks his nose and throws wailling fits when his team loses a relay, so its kind of like having a tasmanian devil in my care.  Fortunately I have three boys so one high energy boy is something I can take in stride.  I even know exactly how he operates, and how to approach it.  Patience with a capital P.  Repetition, redirection, lots of praise, catch him doing something positive and point it out, toss in a few potty jokes; cha CHING!  Do I know boys or what?!
I do better at short sprint volunteer sessions like summer camp, rather than long slow jogging like sunday school volunteer.

Amarys was left behind today, for five hours while I went to Arts Camp.  Brent had pumped milk and a bottle and a bottle averse baby, so we weren't sure how they would do (we had a contingency plan where Brent would bring her to me to nurse if she refused), but it went great!  The rest of the day she was all don't you dare leave the room I just got you back, woman!  She snuggled lots and nursed lots and now she's sleeping like a dream.  Can I just rub that in again?
=p

Also: I got free glasses from Clearly Contacts dot ca, and three Dove deodorant sticks for FREE.  SCORE!  I love this couponing thing.  The glasses arrived today and the deodorant I got tonight.  I'm pumped!  Actually the deodorant was my first COUPON STACK experience (where you use more than one coupon combined to get the best deal): the deodorant was on for $1.50, regular $3.50.  I had a coupon for $2 off two Dove items, and another for $1 off Dove deodorant.  So I got two sticks of deodorant for free by combining the coupons.  PLUS there was an extra stick of men's Dove deodorant taped to one of the women's sticks so I used that one because: hello?  FREE!
I paid tax.  But still.

WOOT!

Amarys just jumped up a size in clothes so I'm agonizing as I put stacks of her clothes away for the last time.  I don't know why their baby clothes are so darn hard for me, but they are.  I want to keep them all for sentimental value!!

My brother's fiancee, Morgan, is having her baby in a few weeks so as soon as we find out if it is a boy or a girl I will give her my stacks and stacks of clothes so they can get freecycled again.
I'm suuuuuper excited to meet this new baby!!!  And soon!!!!  Yay for babies!
And yay that I never have to be pregnant again....that's not looking so appealing or nostalgia producing....
=)
Maybe that will help me put this open grief behind me and move forward to raising babies instead of having babies.  A new phase.  A good one!  Gulp.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Rights and Wrongs

I was reading this post yesterday by The Feminist Breeder about the legal rights of pregnant and birthing students, and it got me thinking.  In her post, TFB describes how a professor tried to dock her marks for missing class while giving birth [because, OMG, it wouldn't be fair to give you credit when you're not in class when other students can't miss class....except that, you know, you're having a freaking BABY, it's not like its a hangover or a touch of the flu...]
Fortunately when TFB posted on facebook about it, someone alerted her to her legal rights as a pregnant/birthing student and she was able to correct her situation.

This got me thinking of all the ways in which my own pregnant, birthing, and breastfeeding self was mistreated by various coworkers, managers, regional training coordinators, and educators in my previous job.
 On the one hand, I'm really glad to have worked the job I did for the time that I was there.  I had tons of fun despite pretty rampant lack of morale and a totally messed up organizational system, and a rather heavy helping of power with very little accountability individually or as a group.  There were a lot of really wonderful, funny, quirky, strong, smart people in my workplace.  Across the board, 99% of paramedics are hysterically funny.  It takes a rather dark and twisted sense of humour to cope with blood and guts and vomit and poop year in and year out, and the people I worked with were incredibly practiced at self deprication, well timed teasing, and storytelling.
So I spent an incredible amount of time peeing my pants laughing at work.
On the other hand, I'm also really grateful to have worked in a job that was traditionally a man's job.  It is the type of profession that morphed from loggers and shipyard workers with first aid training, to a more intellectual and education based profession in a single generation.  It is unique to see a man's world from the inside, when you are a girl.  It simultaneously toughened me up and made me more sensitive.
I met paramedics who were dads with five kids, serial ladies' men, straight and narrow Christians, women with three and four kids, triathletes, military veterans, recent immigrants from Europe, Asia, South America, and Australia, birth nuts, trauma junkies, and med school wannabes.  I saw calls where trains smashed into cars, people, animals, trucks, and rivers.  Car crashes on freeways, in rivers, in ditches, canals, lakes, ravines, rock walls, telephone poles, light poles, and other vehicles.  An airplane crash, and dozens of ambulance helicopters flying, landing, taking off, loading, unloading, landing in school soccer fields, public parks, on highways, on hospital landing pads, and (most often) at airports.  I've met people sicker than I ever thought possible, and crazier than I ever imagined.  But mostly, I just met normal people doing normal things and getting a little bit sick or a little bit hurt.  It was the coolest job ever.

A few incidents where my legal and human rights were in jeapordy while I was at the above job were;
(1.) When I was hired, I happened to be three months pregnant with Ayden.  This was a colossal accident and something I hid from my potential boss because I learned from my mom's experience where she ended a job interview with, "You do know I'm pregnant, right?" and that was the end of that job.  It is illegal in Canada to discriminate against a woman in the hiring process because she is pregnant.  Very hard to prove, of course, but illegal nonetheless.  Pregnant women gotta work, too.
My boss chewed me out after he found out (three months later when it was too late), and I heard reports from several coworkers that he stomped around growling about how I should have told him and he never would have hired me if he had known.  He couldn't fire me, but he did make my life miserable.
-He refused to order me maternity uniforms because they cost the budget too much
-He scheduled me the exact opposite of the shifts I requested and in the most undesirable patterns
-He complained that it wasn't fair for me to continue to accumulate seniority while on maternity leave and made snarky comments about my experience level not matching my seniority level.
-When I returned to work after my entitled 52 week maternity leave, he refused to order me uniform in my now much smaller size and I resorted to wearing jeans at work until I got a strip torn off me by ALS paramedics and I went to the store and bought myself some pants that matched the uniform issue pants
-He also refused to order me the uniform issue paramedic jacket (cost $350 from the budget) because "I lacked real seniority--the type that you earn by working."

(2.) Training.  I was hired at a time when you had basic first aid training and then you were educated after you were hired, funded by the province.  There was no option to pay for your own training at that time.  Guess what?  I had a baby the weekend of one of my training seminars, so I was kicked out of school.  My union didn't help me (I suspect they simply didn't know my rights in this regard), and simultaneously discouraged me from contacting the Human Rights Tribunal "Because you will lose all union backing and support if you go to an outside agency for rights protection."  But you just told me there's nothing you can do!
I contacted manager after manager after training coordinator after school director after etc, etc, and eventually someone must have realized I DID have rights after all, because they let me back into training.

Coincidentally, funding for training halted partway through my program and didn't restart for three years.  When it restarted, I was not allowed back into training because I had 'dropped out' of that initial training when I had a baby four years prior!  I had to fight hard yet again to be 'allowed' back into training.

Near the end of my training I applied to transfer to a high density area and was refused this position because I had 'dropped out' of training and was therefore not eligible for urban positions.  I was standing OUTSIDE MY EXAM ROOM on my cellphone arguing with Human Resources that I was in paid training, trying to complete my final exams as we spoke, and that I was, in fact, eligible for urban positions.  Eventually that was settled in my favour.

(3.) Breastfeeding.  Oh boy.  I worked hard to ensure none of my coworkers knew what that big black briefcase looking bag contained (my breast pump), and I pumped in every hospital bathroom in the Lower Mainland on every construed break I could ever manage to come up with.  I basically didn't eat my meal breaks; I pumped on meal breaks and ate in the car on the way to and from calls.  I had rights here, but I didn't want to push them.  You have to balance "I'm a girl in the workforce and I have rights" with "I'm a girl in a man's world and I need to fit at least partially into the man's world in order to get along with the men in this world."

(4.) Working while pregnant.  I did this job through three pregnancies.  Being a paramedic is extremely physically demanding.  There are no desk jobs.  When someone needs help lifting, everyone else has to pick up the slack.  No one appreciates this, because their own bodies are always breaking down as a result of too much heavy lifting over a lifetime of paramedic work.  I got hassled a lot for working while pregnant.  Especially by one particular woman I work with.  It's pregnancy, not an illness.

(5.) Sexual harrassment.  Rampant.  I've had men rub up against me--coworkers, mind you: patients it's pretty much unavoidable and you have to develop a tough skin and a toolbox full of verbal spitfire to protect yourself.  The amount of sexual harrassment that female medical personnel are subject to via patients is astronomical, but what can you do about it?  There is no sensitivity training for patients.  But coworkers.  That you don't expect.  I've had several berate me for continuing to accrue seniority while on maternity leave.  Comments regarding asses, tits, the smell of your crotch, stuff you wouldn't believe.  Comments regarding unconscious female patients within my earshot.  Most of the guys I worked with were stellar.  A few were slimy assholes.  The assholes go unchecked.

(6.) General harrassment.  Another boss locked me in his office and accused me of payroll fraud, schedule manipulation, calling in sick when I wasn't sick, and then being a "fucking wimpy girl" when I started to cry.  Then he mocked me in front of my coworkers later in the day for having cried.


So why is it that women should be able to be hired while pregnant when they are just going to go on maternity leave in a few months anyways?  Why should women accrue seniority while they are at home taking care of their babies for 52 weeks?  Why shouldn't they be denied access to training or promotions or transfers that they aren't available for, or that they are not eligible for because they were off giving birth?

Society as a whole suffers if women are penalized for giving birth.  Women have talents and gifts and intelligence that contributes to their work forces and society as a whole when we are active participants in it.  Penalizing us for performing biological functions and for taking eligible maternity leave to care for our infants is unethical on many levels, not least of which is that we as a culture need to value families.  We need to value them enough to support women as they give birth and care for their babies.  Breastfeeding rates and duration increase with longer maternity leaves.  More women are represented in parlaiment, CEO positions, management, leadership, government, and positions of authority when their rights are legally protected.  Rights such as equal access to jobs, positions, training, seniority, and promotions.
Women who are given the time and space by society to give birth and care for their children hassle free, have healthier children who grow into more emotionally functional adults, which benefits society as a whole.

What do you think?  Should I have had the right to be hired despite being pregnant?  Should I have the right to continued access to paid training even though I missed a weekend of training to have a baby, and no other excuse for absences were accepted?  Is accumulating seniority while on maternity leave fair?  Why should taxpayers foot the bill for my maternity benefits and my training as well as my salary as a public servant?

Monday, July 4, 2011

Cute

Matching pj's with crabs on them: dubbed the "crabby jammies"

Like my Ugs?

Ayden~I have to take more pics of him these days...

Sporting her older brother's old Shark jammies....they were some of my favorites
when Riley was teensy



Absence

Last Wednesday my kids left me.  There was a family reunion planned in Alberta this year, but since Brent was scheduled to work a major long weekend holiday during the reunion, he couldn't get the time off.  We also kind of bought a house this year so our summer plans are of the cheaper variety, and gas being $frickspensive!$ these days, we figured we couldn't pull it off.  Brent's parents, however, offered to take the three boys with them.  A week with no kids?!  NEVER!  No, sign me up.  No, WAIT!  I had ambiguous feelings about this prospect, obviously.

I'm aware of the irony that having a four month old, high strung BABY *feels* like no kids when her three older brothers are gone.

I've never been away from any of my kids for an entire week, and now three of them were going away for a week all together.  It was hard.  Especially with Riley, who still breastfeeds three times a day (and if he had unlimited access, a lot more times than that)~that was hard to think about.  It was harder on me than him, I figured, since he had the open road, three brothers, and two grandparents to keep him company.  I anticipated missing him a lot, and enjoying some peace and quiet.

The first day was kind of nice, and I didn't really miss them that much.  The second and third days Brent was working day shifts so it was just me and Amarys, hanging out.  It was BORING.  It made me remember what life was like during my maternity leave that first year with Ayden, where the days were interminably lonely and draining at the same time.  Having nobody to talk to all day long except an infant isn't NATURAL.  This feeling surprised me.  I had figured I would soak up the solitude, but I was really bored.  Not bored for activities, because I totally organized two closets, two dressers, and one entire bedroom, as well as vacuumed and did laundry and made yummy dinners and did some errands.  But I was bored for people to interact with.  Funny revelation.

The fourth day, yesterday, Brent took the night shift off (long weekend festivities being over by Sunday night, because the Canada Day stat was Friday) which meant we had alllllllllllll day together, just the two (and a half) of us!  It was blissful.  We slept in, facilitated by high strung by day, miracle sleeper by night baby, until 10:30.  Brent made us french toast, bacon, and fruit salad for breakfast.  We went shopping for clothes and Brent got a shirt 50% off and I got shoes: regular price $80, marked down to $40, then on sale an additional 30% off to $27.98, and THEN I had a coupon for 15% off your entire purchase so in the end I paid $24 for $80 shoes.  SHAZAM!  That's how its done, ladies and gentlemen.
Then we went to White Rock and walked along the boardwalk for two hours in the warm sunshine!  We had take out fish and chips at Moby Dick's (the best fish and chips in all of Canada, I assure you) and ate it on the strip of grass between the boardwalk and the beach.  There were two sandcastle masters there making this giant Celtic style knot out of sand and we got to watch them finish building it, and then watch the tide sweep up and dissolve it away.

White Rock pier
painting by my friend Janet
 We talked and were quiet and ate and enjoyed each other's company...it was awesome!  Amarys sat in the stroller peacefully and didn't require any behavior containment, questions answered, supervision, or general policing of violence towards brothers.  We then went to the movies with a coupon~entirely free, 2 admissions, 2 drinks, 1 popcorn all for free!  We saw The Hangover II....very funny movie, though of course not nearly as funny as the first which is always the case with sequels.  We forgot that although you can take a four month old baby to the movies with you, when you take a baby who has just learned to babble, it can be kind of awkward.  Brent stood for most of the movie, off to the side so we wouldn't bother people, so it wasn't really the most intimate date we've ever had, but it was still fun.
Then we went home and Brent barbequed steaks, asparagus, zucchini, and slice up fancy bread for us, and we had the best dinner ever.  It was a fantastic day, and a 'freebie' in terms of dates because we didn't have to arrange for childcare, feel guilty about childcare, break the bank, or load the kids into the van at the end of the date and drive them all the way home and put them to bed.
We prioritize our marriage, but days like that come along far too few and far between.  By prioritizing, we usually mean simply that we focus on caring for each other within and in the midst of the chaos.  We aren't huge on date nights or weekends away, we don't believe that getting rid of your kids regularly is the key to a healthy relationship.  But that relationship does deserve focus, and it sure does appreciate days like yesterday.  We always talk about a range of topics; the kids, cars, what we would do if we won the lottery, politics, world events, dreams for the future, extended family, work, funny things that happened recently, and stuff.  I like that, it reassures me that we have something that will last even after the kids are all gone and the work is all done and the house is all paid for.  To have a whole day where we can talk and then have quiet moments and not feel like we're wasting them and then talk again at our leisure, was so fantastic.  Yesterday I didn't miss the older kids at all.
=)

The boys come back tomorrow night.


Having four kids means that people constantly make comments about the size of my family.


Wow, you're a busy mom!


I guess you don't work, your life is busy enough working at home with all those kids!


You've got FOUR kids?  Wow, you're crazy!

Honestly most of the time I get tired of this.  What's the big deal?  If you've got one kid, you could have four and it's not that much different.  You're already in the pool, you might as well swim with more company rather than less.  We already have a rhythm in our family, adding another kid to it doesn't make too much difference.
But this week without my older three made me realize how much I DO.  It's like being on a treadmill for eight years, increasing the speed gradually and then getting off the treadmill for a week.  When you're doing life with four kids the work keeps coming at you like the path on a treadmill, whether you are on top of it that day or not, and you do it and do it and do it because it's got to be done and you've been doing it so long you hardly even notice, but then you get off for a week.  And boy, do you realize just how much stamina you've had for the past eight years, and it feels like an accomplishment.
I like the treadmill, it works for me.
Holidays are also nice.

=)

While We're on the Topic of Marriage...

Well, if you read this in the next few hours, you're going to wonder what's up with the title.  I am writing a marriage related post and took a break and read this awesome Cinco de Mommy post.  I love her.  She's so funny!  The only thing I might add to it is, don't we always marry a near stranger?  I mean, ten weeks and cross country is the far end of this, but if I think about how little I knew Brent and, mostly, how little I knew myself in those early days of being married, it's astonishing what a gamble it all is.

 I went into marriage with my eyes wide open~or as open as they can be at 24 years old.  There were definite things I wanted that my parents had in their marriage, and there were definite things I didn't want that my parents had.  I also knew I needed someone to balance my characteristics.  A calm person whose feathers don't get ruffled easily, dependable, and emotionally available.  I wanted a man who would be a good dad, that was very important to me.  But even with eyes wide open, you can't know someone after a year or three months or whatever it is the way you know them ten years later.  Part of the sacredness of marriage is the leap of faith~you don't know all the odds and all the variables, and a mathematical pros and cons approach will increase your chances, but not guarantee a positive outcome.  You just have to trust.  Maybe because we grow and change.  Commitment, love, shared work, shared values, separate interests, sex, kids, adventures, and hard times can really build something genuinely happy.  But at any point, you could change.  Your partner could walk out the door and find something else, or walk in the door and propose something outside your values, like moving the entire family to a different country, or dressing up in furry animal sex costumes or something, and suddenly you realize, this isn't what I signed up for.

It's a leap of faith I'm glad I took with THIS guy, anyways....
He just doesn't have a downside.
And yes, that's a Mr Potato Head cowboy hat....

Sunday, July 3, 2011

In Our Spare Time

'You play blocks an cars wiss me?'

Mr. Potato head onstage!

The day's construction accomplishments

What moms do in a nutshell

Ms. Suspicious: 'What's with the purple, folks?'

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Kids and Culture

Everyone was a kid once upon a time.
Except my dad.
He used to tell us that before he was a grown up, he used to be a boy.  And before that he was a girl.  And before THAT he was a dog.  And a raccoon.  So my dad didn't have a childhood, really: more of a collage of animal and human experiences.
Across the board, all places in the world experience childhood.  What are some universals?  Kids love to play.  I've seen street kids in India make toys out of broken yogurt pots next to road stands, kids in rural Thailand play barefoot soccer, and my kids play for hours with sticks and rocks in our backyard.  Some other universals~sibling rivalry, the terrible twos, rapid growth and development, and pretty constant noise and activity.

Kids are necessary in society.  Of course they are necessary for the continuation of the species (I guess we live one generation away from extinction, after all), but I mean as a part of the fabric of society.  They help us to experience life in an immediate, wonder-filled manner that fully embraces the present.  They make us laugh.  They make us stretch outside of ourselves in order to meet their many needs, daily.  They remind adults not to take life too seriously, and that sometimes, a little time without noise and chaos and kid whimsy is nice.

How much time without the noise and chaos of kids can we expect?  When?  Where?  I know I've been in the grocery store or a restaurant and wished someone's child wasn't there.  [Or my own, ha ha].  We have kid free zones: pubs, nude beaches, police cars, and most workplaces.  But I think our culture could stand to love kids a little more in those non-kid free zones.  Like airplanes.  Or airports.  Or buses.  Grocery stores.  Standing in line at the movies.  We value our children when it comes to their safety or their education, but when it comes to actually integrating them into society there is some leftover desire for children to be 'seen and not heard' as they navigate our public places.  Or even not to be seen at all.  Why is that?  What is it about public space that makes it belong more to the ADULT in the space than the CHILD who is also in that space?  We all have to learn how to behave in public spaces, but of course to learn all of us have to practice.  And while we practice, sometimes we fail.  Sometimes we are tired, hungry, lonely, overwhelmed, overstimulated, or feeling far from home.  Kids are no different.  They are human beings, after all, don't they deserve some consideration?  Also, babies have immediate needs including hunger, and a right to their most natural food~can we be a little more tolerant of breastfeeding in public places?

When I was a student in University I spent 2 semesters as an exchange student in Russia.  Russian society grapples with many problems and difficulties but one thing they know how to do is childhood.  Children are seen as valuable creatures, and the responsibility of all to protect and nurture.  If a person boards a bus with a child, the entire busload of people focuses on making sure that child is comfortable.  School and children's programs across the country are often free, including summer camps, sports, art, and recreation activities, because childhood is considered an idyllic time in life which should be free from worry and as enriched as possible.  Children who are cared for by the state live in orphanages (which are kept to various standards, some not high, I acknowledge), and the communities surrounding these orphanages often have extensive volunteer programs to involve the community in these children's lives.  Children frequent operas, ballet, theatre, symphony performances, restaurants, and public transportation without question.  There are always exceptions, but the cultural focus was different in Russia than it is here.  People complained about children's manners and *the way it used to be* just as they do here, but it was never questioned that children are a valued part of the fabric of society and are welcome and accepted in all public places.

I think of course that it is important to teach our kids manners and acceptable behavior in public, because it is considerate and respectful of others to tame the Wild Beast that lives in all of us while we are in close proximity to other people.  But I think it is also important that we as a culture shift our perspective a bit to integrate children into our lives to the point where they are valued and understood.  And accommodated.  Yes, kids climb things they shouldn't and knock over plants and talk too loudly and poop their pants in the bank manager's office!  But you know, they also remind us to think outside the box, enjoy special moments, and embrace the present moment.

 I think it follows that a culture that values children also values those who care for them.  So often I feel like the frumpy frazzled mom [read: irrelevant person], and I know that parents often feel undervalued in society as a whole.  Of course Russia was a communist state for seventy years, and as a result was steeped in socialist ideology that elevated every member of society to an equal footing and equal value.  By no means is Russia an ideal society, but I admire the way they treat children and view childhood, and believe that their culture is richer as a result.  It is difficult to describe a typical social situation involving a child in Russian culture, but it is similar to how a field of sunflower heads follows the rays of the sun: every adult in the room continues their activities and conversations, but their attention follows the children in the room to ensure they are happy and fulfilled.  Attachment parenting en masse by society as a whole.
And cries of "Buddish kusheit?" [are you hungry?] follow the children around as babushka bags open everywhere and in the deep recesses appear cookies!  Wrapped candies!  Tarts!  Toys!

What better way to engage a child than with cookies?
=)

Of course, on the other hand sometimes I get a little steeped in my kids' childhood.  Sometimes Attachment minded parents can fetishize their children's lives to the point where nothing they do or read or think about is unincorporated with childhood.  Really, a hands off approach is sometimes warranted.  Sometimes I really want to get away from my kids and think adult words for awhile, and do adult work.  It doesn't help that I write for the Natural Parents Network, the Mothers of Change website, do work sometimes as a doula, and make handmade children's toys.  Even my work is steeped in childhood.  The advocacy work I do for Mothers of Change is also about women, but birth involves children, of course.  It is interesting, this dichotomy; embrace and integrate the child, but don't lose yourself in the childhood....

What do you think?  How do you balance integration with individual adult needs?  What do you think of children in public spaces?  Has your perspective on this changed over the years and as a result of your life experiences?

4 Months Old!

4 months

Amarys is 4 months old today!  What a sweet little sister.  She's growing like a weed~this is the last day she will be able to wear her 'little sister' shirt!  It's tugging at her shoulders like a lot of her 3 month sized clothes.  I cried today when I packed away some more of her clothes forever...
The last weigh in was two weeks ago, and she weighed 13 lbs, 7 1/2 oz, so I imagine she is 14 lbs by now.  She rolled over for the first time yesterday morning, from her front to her back, and she's working on sitting up for short periods.  She made a new discovery this week: TOYS!  She loves toys.  If we hand her a toy she grasps it and brings it to her mouth, and will remain occupied, fascinated, for several minutes until she accidentally drops it.  When she's not busy chomping on her toys, she's babbling.  BA BA BA BA BA DA DA DA DA DA WUB PHHHHHHHHHTTTTTT!

She thinks this flower might be a little over the top...

Toy elephant from daddy

Life is settling down for our littlest Vose.  I still can't eat cheese or lattes, but I can put cream in my tea once or twice a week without causing her pain.  She still sleeps like a dream at night, provided I don't have milk products in my supper!  She falls asleep around 9 p.m. and stays asleep until 6 or 7 a.m.  when she wakes up for a quick milk snack, then goes back to sleep for another two hours or so.  She's a sleep genius.  =)
The rest of her day she alternates between screeching, gnawing on toys, and giggling.  In a 50/40/10 ratio.  My ears ring many, many times a day, and I just might dip into her education fund to pay for my hearing aids from the audiological damage of listening to her scream up close....

A little apprehensive about Canada's 144th birthday

Likes:
-baths
-the dog
-her brothers
-tickles on her upper torso
-toys
-noise
-activity
-social situations and stimulation
-sleeping
-television (!!!  I swear, she rarely watches it but if it's on, she is captivated!!!)
-being worn, held, tickled, raspberried, cuddled, and loved on
-babbling
-screeching


Dislikes
-diary proteins in mommy's milk
-being tossed in the air or startled
-being tired
-sitting for too long anywhere
-long car trips
-long stroller rides
-facing inwards when being worn.  For example, the Ergo carrier, which is my favourite because it is the most comfortable for me, is her least favourite because she has to face my chest the whole time she's in it.  A few times I have actually turned her around in it, which instantly makes her relax, but makes me worried because of course the Ergo is not intended to be used this way.  But sometimes it's a choice between screech in my ear, carry her on my hip and lose an arm, or turn her around.  I've done it twice out of desperation!
This gives me the opportunity to use the Bjorn a bit though; I paid too much for a really good Bjorn Sport carrier when I was pregnant with Riley and Brent always gives me a hard time about it.  Now it's getting some really good use, because Amarys is so insistent about facing out when being worn!
-Being squished in any manner.  She was like this when I was pregnant, too.  Anytime there was any pressure on my belly, she would squirm in discomfort and irritation, and she's the same now: if her leg is pinned, she squawks.  If her tummy gets compressed because she's sitting but leaning sideways, she screeches.  She arches her back when we put her in her carseat because she hates it so much, and being pinned down with one adult hand and buckled in with the other is Injustice Personified.  She's a particular soul, this Amarys.

We love you, Miss Particular....long awaited, much celebrated, often kissed, baby love... ♥