Friday, December 17, 2010
- You don't have to use antibiotics for ear infections. See a chiropractor, immune boost with probiotics and vitamin D and use garlic mullein oil topically.
- Gentian violet treats thrush, but its so hard to quit sugar which is the real problem.
- The yoga ball is both a blessing and a curse... it gets Jasper to sleep and calms him, but it hurts your back and is more difficult to soothe him without now that he is used to it.
- Jasper hates diapers. I wish I had started diaper-free "elimination communication" earlier rather than my current approach of just letting him be diaper free, without the communication piece. Which creates a lot of laundry.
- You can go camping in another country with your 7 week old and your friend who also has a 9 month old, but I wouldn't recommend it.
- Jasper loves to be outside and he loves trees. Lots of walks!
- Peek-a-boo is the best game ever.
- I thought Jasper would never stop nursing and that he would always want to whenever I offered, based on his behavior the first 2 months of his life. Now he's picky about when he nurses.
- When I was pregnant I was really focused on trying to figure out what I needed for the baby. If I were going to do it again I would get much less newborn and 3-6 months size clothing. Jasper is huge. At 3 months he was in his 6-12 month size. I love the moby carrier for up to 4 or 5 months and now the ergo is my favorite baby carrier. I would get a sheep skin for him to lay on at night or be diaper free. I would get a dozen pocket all in one diapers and a dozen large size prefolds with one woolen cover. I would still get a bouncy seat, but not a swing. A few toys, especially a rattle and teethers are nice. Spilanthes tincture for teething and Bachs Stress Remedy for chilling out.
Sunday, December 12, 2010
On July 8th I was 4 days past my due date, so we made a visit to my midwife's house and she swept my membranes (which consisted of her agitating my cervix to produce softeners that would help my body go into labor). After the trip to her house Daniel and I went for a long walk around the lake in downtown Olympia. Walking and being active is supposed to help kick start child labor. When we were strolling I really tried not to bother whether or not my body was doing practice contractions. Trying hard not to get too hopeful I just knew Jasper would come sometime, if not that day.
Because I was aware that many first time mammas are past-due and that induction often causes many other complications in birth throughout my entire pregnancy I had a nagging fear of being of being late . I wanted to have this baby whatever time he chose to come, and at home. I was so ready to have Jasper. It was 90 degrees outside, I was hugely pregnant, and wanted to meet this guy. The last 2 weeks of my pregnancy had been tough. I was having intense morning nausea and feeling really emotional.
Physically I was feeling pretty good and after walking around the lake with Daniel I wanted to spend some time with my best friend (and doula) who was staying at my house. We went for a long walk through the woods to the Puget Sound. I wasn't paying attention to the trails so we ended up hiking a really long way and then waded through the water to get to a better shore for swimming. I will always remember swimming nude on that fine hot hot hot day in the Puget Sound looking at the line between the blue sky and the evergreens. Sighing and thinking how beautiful it was to be so ripe, so on the verge of this adventure. With my belly in the sun I floated on my back. I didn't have any signs in my body that Jasper would be coming in less than 24 hours.
After yoga that evening (yes I did a LOT of physical activity that day, but I was seriously ready to get this show on the road) I came home and sat in front of a fan. It was so hot. My partner got me to watch a silly movie with him, but half way through I said, "I need to get to sleep in case I go into labor tonight." I didn't actually believe that that would be the case. I thought, a few more days probably, but at 2:45 am I awoke with contractions.
Daniel tried to get me to go back to sleep so that I could a good rest in before I move into active labor because that was what our childbirth educator had told us to do. But I told him there was no fucking way, I was being awoken every 5 to 10 minutes and I kept having to use the bathroom. Most of my early labor was spent near the toilet, with diarrhea. I hated contracting on the toilet, maybe because I felt so opened and stuck simultaneously. At about 5 a.m. I threw up and things felt a little more serious. Daniel called our midwife to let her know what was up and then he started to get the house in order and the birth tub set up while I still wasn't needing anything. I started to use rice sacks that Daniel had to constantly heat in the microwave. I didn't want any of the fancy massage tools or aromatherapy we had compiled. I wanted to be alone.
My doula arrived at around 7am and my midwives assistant an hour later. I felt ready for Daniel's support and that meant lots of massages. He used an oil I had made infused with St. Johns Wort and Lobelia. Time was fuzzy and didn't really mean anything to me. I'm not sure how long things actually lasted for, but I know I took a shower when the birth tub was filling and that it felt fantastic on my back. After the shower, I climbed into bed with Daniel and kept getting in a sort of kneeling-forward-butt-in-the-air position, which my midwife told me would help relieve back labor to get the baby in a better position. My roommate seemed surprised that I still seemed so present and cognizant, but I told them it felt like I was being stabbed, which is funny now because in retrospect it didn't seem so terrible. I could feel my uterus pulling my cervix open. That is exactly what it felt like, with a dull ache in my back. My body worked with intensity and purpose and I just had to stay present and allow it to work. It was dreamlike and organic. I was not communicating with others much. In fact, I have memories of saying things which I realize now were only thoughts that I had.
I got in the birth tub for awhile, trying to get my support to time contractions, because I wanted to get a feel for where we were at. My contractions were varying between sometimes being only 30 seconds long and sometimes lasting as long as a minute and 30 seconds. They were coming every few minutes. Still, my doula and midwives apprentice thought that I was in early labor. I felt like things were already difficult and felt slightly disheartened. This is the moment I understood why women choose epidurals an other pain medications in hospitals. It wasn't the actual pain, which was real and there, but the fear that it was going to get much worse. In fact, I was able to rise to it as it intensified. It was always doable. I am grateful that I had those little breaks in between contractions.
The thing that I really wanted was someone to do the "double hip squeeze" to help open up my pelvis with each contraction. It was very tiring for my birth team.
Things were very real by the time I was dozing in between contractions. This is one of the craziest body aspects of birth... that I was able to sleep for a minute and wake up and be in the head space of the contraction and that those little dozes really helped rest me. I wasn't actually doing anything, I was just being a woman in labor. Maybe that sounds cliche, but I can't come up with anything else to describe it. I never said "I can't do it" or yelled at Daniel for knocking me up. I did say that I wasn't sure I ever wanted to do this again.
I was working really hard, with the all of my labor team helping, except Daniel was taking a quick nap (he'd been at it with me since 3 in the morning and it was like 11 am now.) I was using the birth ball on all fours and having consistently long contractions. I was still telling myself this was going to go on for much much longer. I guessed maybe I was at 5 centimeters. My midwives assistant was trying to help me go to the bathroom. I couldn't do it in a bucket i my room so we journeyed inside the main house to the bathroom. I remember getting stuck on the toilet with contractions and then violently projectile vomiting. I knew that before vomiting had signaled an increase in intensity and also, from reading about birth that it can open you up.
I thought now I was maybe entering transition, although I couldn't be sure. Daniel thought I was far along, but I was watching my birth team and they seemed to think it would take awhile yet. My midwife was going to a home visit and coming afterwards. I think she arrived around noon. It took going through a few contractions before I could get situated on the bed to have her check me. I was excited to be checked, but I was super grateful now that I waited so long and wasn't constantly measuring my progress. Then she said that I was 9 or 9 1/2 cm. I was ecstatic to hear this news!
I got in the birth tub for the second time and soon after my water broke. I felt the shift and the pop and asked if everything was okay. Things were progressing well and really soon after I understood the urge to push.
I pushed for about an hour and a half. I welcomed the contractions because now I wanted to meet this baby and I wanted him out soon. My midwife showed me how to reach and feel his head in my vagina and I did so. It felt weird and mushy because the skin was bunched up. I thought that I said I didn't like it, but I guess I just thought that. I just focused on the task at hand and didn't think about Jasper so much.
My doula told me later that the upper part of my body was relaxed and that the way that I pushed was not a strained eye popping out of your head sort of way. Just using the parts of my body that I needed to. While it was an involuntary urge, I was adding my help into it bearing down. I made loud guttural noises. My body paused and didn't contract as much as his head .was emerging, which I believe allowed my skin to stretch and accommodate his 14 3/4 inch circumference.
So, after 11 hours of laborI said "Fuck this shit!" as I felt the ring of fire especially around my poor clit, that my midwife supported so I wouldn't tear... I expected to feel all the pressure in my bum, but no, it was more forward than that. There was immense relief when his head came out and then on the next contraction his entire body emerged and my midwife caught him and brought him out of the water.
We stayed in the tub for about 15 minutes marveling at this screaming newborn big boy. I offered my breast, but Jasper was crying and too upset to figure out breastfeeding right then. I got out right before I birthed my placenta into a bowl with some help. I was surprised at how large this glistening organ was, and how easily it passed out of me. Daniel held Jasper while I did this. Then we laid down on the bed together. Audrey swaddled Jasper and tried to get us settled into breast feeding. About 40 minutes after he was born we were laying stomach to stomach and he was a very happy nurser with a pretty good latch.
My birth team helped clean up, helped me have a quick shower and made me chicken noodle soup. I drank a smoothie with a chunk of raw placenta in it. After Jasper had nursed and had his newborn check up (we opted to have him get the vitamin K shot and the heel prick) he slept for many hours. We had a few visitors, which was nice and not really overwhelming. I wanted to share this new human, so angelic in our bed!
Both me and Daniel were totally enraptured by him. All we could do was stare and try and meet every need he had. He nursed all the time and slept a lot.
Tuesday, June 29, 2010
Those women who test positive for GBS are said to be colonized. A mother can pass GBS to her baby during delivery. GBS is responsible for affecting about 1 in every 2,000 babies in the United States. Not every baby who is born to a mother who tests positive for GBS will become ill.
Although GBS is rare in pregnant women, the outcome can be severe, and therefore physicians include testing as a routine part of prenatal care.
I tested positive for GBS at 36 weeks and was feeling really torn over the idea of having antibiotics administered intravenously during labor every 8 hours for half an hour. Although it didn't feel like the end of the world, I was concerned about the possibility of me and the baby having thrush after the birth. Thrush is an overgrowth of candida for the breasts and babies mouth, and makes breastfeeding really painful. Yeast infections and thrush are more likely after antibiotic use since it kills off all the healthy bacterial flora in your body, leaving a vacant space for less friendly ones to take over. I was also a little concerned about how antibiotics during birth would affect Jasper's brand new immune system. I don't really know a lot about that interplay, but it didn't seem ideal.
Many women opt out of being tested for GBS if they know they would be automatically opposed to antibiotic use during labor. This requires that you be a bit more vigilant about the new baby for developing any signs of sickness, because the infection is rare but really damaging with a high mortality rate.
When I tested positive I started doing a whole bunch of herbal remedies for a little less than two weeks. When I re-tested I came back negative. I hear that GBS comes in 5 week cycles, so I can't say it was for sure the herbal remedies, but my feeling is that they were helpful. I am going to continue to do some of them up until delivery.
- I took a sitz bath everyday with calendula, thyme, rosemary, salt, yarrow and oregan grape root.
- I either drank oregon grape root tea 3x a day or took a full dropper of oregon grape root tincture as well as two full droppers of usnea tincture 3x a day. The oregan grape is a bitter and since I was already having some nausea in the mornings, I was throwing up my first cup of tea. I seemed to be able to handle it fine later in the day.
- I used whole garlic cloves as a vaginal suppository. I also tried a remedy my midwife recommended of chopping up garlic and mixing it with marshmallow root and using that as a suppository. I am not really sure how much more effective that is... I do know that if applied when it hasn't dried yet it will burn!
-I made goldenseal suppositories by encapsulating the powder. This makes for a lot of yellow grainy discharge, but I think it was worth it.
-I took an echinacea tincture (1 dropper full 1x a day) and occasionally drank burdock tea.
- I took Grapefruit seed extract in the evening and Femdophilus (a probiotic for healthy vaginal flora) in the mornings.
- I took 30 mg of zinc daily to strengthen my water membranes, becuase it sucks for your water to break first when you are GBS positive. You start receiving antibiotics when you are in active labor OR your water breaks. There is also more concern about infection the longer your membranes have ruptured, especially if you are GBS positive. And time constraints are really stressful.
Monday, June 7, 2010
An excerpt from the book "Coming Home to the Pleistocene" By Paul Shepard:
A journey to our primal world may bring answers to our ecological dilemmas. Such a journey will lead, not to an impulsive or thoughtless way of life, but to a reciprocity with origins declared by history to be out of reach. When Ortega y Gasset speaks of hunting as "a deep and permanent yearning in the human condition," our "generic way of being," he refers to the whole of the foraging way of life, which we can shape in detail to our own time.
We live with the possibility of a primal closure. All around us aspects of the modern world-diet, exercise, medicine, art, work, family, philosophy, economics, ecology, psychology -- have begun a long circle back toward their former coherence. Whether they can arrive before the natural world is damaged beyond repair and madness destroys humanity we cannot tell.
What the West has going for it is the tradition of self-scrutiny, self-criticism, and access historically and scientifically to other cultures. The human psyche makes unremitting demands for physical and spiritual (or symbolic) otherness, and the modern West has the information if not the wisdom for escaping the trap of industrial productivity, corporate blight, and demographic insanity.
We can go back to nature, as I wrote in 1973, because we never left it. To illustrate this I have formulated some seventy-odd themes of cultural recovery selected from the record of primal cultural traits as played out over thousands of years (see below). It is time to abandon the fantasy that we are above the past and alienated from the rest of life on earth. We truly are a successful species in our own right that lived in harmony with the earth and its other forms for millions of years-a species that has not changed intrinsically. The genome is our Pleistocene treasure that transcends short-term and short-sighted goals. Possibilities lie within us. Our culture must express what the past calls forth in us but leaves us the freedom to shape.
To reenvision "going back," we look with our mind's eye at time as a spiral rather than a reversal. We "go back" with each day along an ellipse with the rising and setting of the sun, each turning of the globe. Every new generation "goes back" to forms of earlier generations, from which the individual comes forward in his singular ontogeny. We cannot run the life cycle backwards, but we cannot avoid the inherent and essential demands of an ancient, repetitive pattern as surely as human embryology follows a design derived from an ancestral fish. Most of the "new" events in each individual life are like a different pianist playing a familiar piece.
White European/Americans cannot become Hopis or Kalahari Bushmen or Magdalenian bison hunters, but elements in those cultures can be recovered or re-created because they fit the heritage and predilection of the human genome everywhere, a genome tracing back to a common ancestor that Anglos share with Hopis and Bushmen and all -- the rest of Homo sapiens. The social, ecological, and ideological characteristics natural to our humanity are to be found in the lives of foragers. As I have suggested, they are our human nature because . they characterized the human way of life during our evolution.
Must we build a new twenty-first-century society corresponding to a hunting/gathering culture? Of course not; humans do not consciously make cultures. What we can do is single out those many things, large and small, that characterized the social and cultural life of our ancestors-the terms under which our genome itself was shaped-and incorporate them as best we can by creating a modern life around them. We take our cues from primal cultures, the best wisdom of the deep desires of the genome. We humans are instinctive culture makers; given the pieces, the culture will reshape itself.
(The process of biological growth and development)
1. Formal recognition of stages in the whole life cycle
2. The progressive dynamics of bonding and separation
3. Earth-crawling freedom by 18 months
4. Richly textures play space
5. No reading prior to "symbolic" age (about 12 years)
6. All-age access to butchering scenes
7. All-age access to birth, copulation, death scenes
8. Few toys
9. Early access via speech to rich species taxonomy
10. Formal celebration of life-stage passages such as initiation
11. Rich animal-mimic play and other introjective processes
12. Non-peer-group play
13. Parturition and neonate "soft" environment
14. Access to named places in connection with mythology
15. Extended family or dense social structure
16. Extended lactation
17. Play as the internal prediction of the living world
18. Little storage, accumulation, or provision
19. Diversity of "work"
20. Handmade tools and other objects
21. No monoculture
22. Independent family subsistence plus customary sharing
23. Ecotypic economy - keyed to place
24. No landownership in the sense of "fee simple"
25. Little absolute territoriality
26. No fossil fuel use
27. Minimal housekeeping
28. No domestic plants or animals
29. Prestige based on demonstrated integrity
30. Little or no heritable rank
31. Size of genetic/marriage/linguistic group or tribe: 500-3000
32. Clan and other membership giving progressive identity with age
33. Limited exposure to strangers
34. Hospitality to outsiders ,
35. Functional roles of aunts and uncles
36. Postreproductive advisory functions such grandparental roles
37. Size of fire-circle group: 10 adults (council of the whole)
38. Occasional larger congregations
39. Emphasis on mneumonics with its generational repository
40. Participant politics vs. representational or authoritarian
41. Vernacular gender and age functions
42. Totemic analogical thought of eco-predicated logos
43. Dynamic, emergent, and dispersed leadership
44. Decentralized power
45. Intertribal tension-reduction rites (song duels, peacepipe)
46. Cosmologically rather than sociohierarchically focused ritual
47. Periodic mobility, no sedentism
48. Conceptual notion of spirit in all life, numinous otherness
49. Centrality of narrative, routine recall and story
50. Dietary omnivory
51. Rare-species demography
52. Subordination of art to cosmology
53. Participatory rather than audience-focused music
54. Sensual science ("science of the concrete") vs. intangible science
55. Celebration of social and cosmological function of meat eating
56. Religious regulation of the special effects of plant substances
57. Extensive foot travel
58. Only organic medicine
59. Regular dialogue on dream experience
6o. The "game" approach -- to love, not hate, the opponent
61. Attention to listening, to the sound environment as voice
63. Attention to kinship and the "presence" of ancestors
64. Attunement to the daily cycle and seasonality
65. No radical intervention on fetal genetic malformations
66. Immediate access to the wild, wilderness, solitude
67. Nonlinear time and space-no history, progress, or destiny
68. Sacramental (not sacrificial) trophism
69. Formal recognition of a gifted subsistence
70. Participation in hunting and gathering
71. Freedom -- to come and go, to choose skills, to marry or not, etc.
I love feeling the arc of this babe's feet pressing outward on my uterus, the shift of his back as my stomach bulges from side to side. A part of me will miss being pregnant. At the same time, I can no longer breathe fully, I have to pee every hour (or half an hour), I feel unwieldy and tire easily. It's a sweet time, but I wouldn't want to stay here forever. I hear about a week after a mama can't stand being pregnant any longer, labor usually starts.
I have read so many pregnancy, birth and parenting books over the past 8 months. We are in a childbirth education class once a week right now, and while I learn a little bit, and enjoy seeing the other pregnant women and their support people, I could probably teach the class at this point.
I have been in love with the idea of having babies for a little while now, and so I had already read a lot of the basics even before I got pregnant, like Spiritual Midwifery (hippied out birth stories from a commune "The Farm") and Future Generation (a zine compilation of 18 years of alternative punk parenting.)
I read The Continuum Concept early on in my pregnancy. It is the story of a woman who stays in South America with native peoples and observes how differently they treat babies and children in comparison to Western norms. She observes women going about their daily lives, responding quickly to their babies, but also not making them the center of their attention. I thought this was a worthwhile point, as I see a lot of people not really touching babies at all with transporting systems that go from car seat to stroller to shopping cart, and then at other times expecting baby to entertain them. Really, the author is just on the more intense end of the attachment parenting spectrum. While I basically agree with all the main points (except for a weird bit about homosexuality that she later renounced) I don't think a baby is damaged by sometimes being put down. There is a big difference between scheduling babies for feeding and sleeping and not listening to their cues, and being in touch with your baby and occasionally using a stroller.
The movie Away We Go has a really funny scene where Maggie Gyllenhaal plays a continuum concept mama who takes things a bit too far. While her holier-than-thou attitude is something to watch out for, I wouldn't write off this book or its ideas just because some people get more attached to following ideas in and of themselves than adapting them to their own lives. Most of Continuum Concept is really the common sense we get looking at how anyone not in industrial civilized society cares for babies. It is also the intrinsic knowing a mama feels when she wants to pick up her crying baby and meet his needs, rather than letting him lay there in frustration.
A friend recommended I read Secret Life of an Unborn Child which focuses on how a fetus experiences pregnancy, based on the mother's experience. This book talks about how long-term anxiety can be detrimental to a fetus, especially anxiety that stems from the mother and father's interpersonal relationship. What also sticks out in my mind is how a fetus whose mom smokes gets anxiety when she thinks about smoking because it cuts down her oxygen supply. A baby can't understand and process that anxiety and so instead it becomes a generalized worldview. It all comes down to creating a secure relationship where needs get met. Of course, stressful and traumatic things happen, but its how we resolve them and get out of destructive patterns that matters. I have had several moments in this pregnancy where I think "This isn't how I am supposed to feel! I can't be this stressed out right now!" When I have felt like that I have made sure to have an internal dialogue with this little one that shares so much with me, including my adrenalin, telling him how much I love him and how much I am going to try to make this world a safe and secure place for him to thrive.
Another book I read was Coming Home to the Pleistocene, which is a collection of essays not specifically about parenting, but it gave me a lot of food for thought about the environment we as humans have evolved to expect to be born into. We expect to born into a cohesive community with a connection to a land base. Paul Shepard talks about how when our needs, which had evolved over hundreds of thousands of years, are not met by our current world, we get stuck and cannot mature. There are a lot of secondary ways that people try to cope with their need for community, meaningful work, a connection to a land base in our current alienated society, but none of these really fits the bill. Bringing a child into this world at this point in time is a scary scary thing-- and something I plan to return to a lot on this blog as I reconcile what I want for myself and my family, and the choices we have to make in our present reality. I know I want to try and provide so much for Jasper, and yet without a cohesive community myself, it will be an interesting and difficult path. Shepard has an interesting list of what a Pleistocene community looks like that I will post later.
I am currently reading Happiest Baby on the Block which is a really popular book about how to mimic the womb for your newborn to calm them. The name of this blog was inspired by that title, so I will let y'all know how I like it soon enough. So far, it seems like useful basic advice, but the way it is written is a little hard for me to deal with. The author refers to "stone-age parents" as having the right ideas and explains that the word primitive isn't always a bad thing, but of course we love our current age of technology and our marvelous civilization. But basically the book isn't about that... its about how to make a colicky baby stop crying. We'll see how it works.
I highly recommend all of Aviva Jill Romm's books: Natural Pregnancy Book, Natural Health After Birth, Naturally Healthy Babies and Children, Vaccinations: A Thoughtful Parents Guide.
A World Of Babies is a really interesting anthropological study of what a childcare guide might look like for 7 different societies: Puritan, Beng, Balinese, Turk, Warlpiri, Fulani, Ifaluk. The book is written in pretend childcare manuals for each culture.
I enjoyed reading You Are Your Child's First Teacher which is from a Waldorf perspective from birth to age 6. I have some conflicted feelings about Waldorf, especially the heavily Christian oriented spirituality in a lot of the child development writing, but also think it has a lot to offer. I want to explore this topic sometime not tonight. I am really interested in other people's ideas about different educational/developmental perspectives so if you have an opinion, please share.
Saturday, June 5, 2010
-Tiqqun "Preliminary Materials for a Theory of the Jeune-Fille"
When anarchists speak of "Social War" we aren't just renaming the "Class War" of years past, wherein the struggles against capitalism were carried out by the proletariat seeking to overthrow the bourgeoisie and destroy class society, what we are speaking about is the colonization of capital into all forms of modern life and the need to seek out and attack it in every sphere within which it exists. Social war means constant conflict (in varying degrees of intensity) with all aspects of life inside our post-industrial desert. It means both the destruction of all commodified forms of life and the creation and dissemination of new, non-recuperable life-ways.
Our analysis must encompass the totality of our oppression, that is to say that we should never consciously overlook any part of life that capital has integrated itself into. An anarchist strategy needs to avoid stagnancy by constantly redefining and remapping the social terrain and locating the spaces where power has recuperated dissent. We can't expect to remain relevant or be effective if we keep trying to reintroduce the practices and theories of old dead anarchists into a context that is entirely different. Life has changed and we, if we do not wish to wither away into oblivion, must change with it.
One aspect of life that we should not overlook is childbirth. Reproductive freedom has a long and rich history of resistance to capitalist and state control.
Work that had for centuries been done by women (i.e. gathering, farming) was gradually taken over by men and their beasts of burden. This more sedentary life caused many women to give birth to more children which increased the population and helped to give rise to Feudalism. But when the plague hit, Europe lost 60% of it's population, and people with specialized skills and knowledge could charge extraordinarily large sums of money for their work. Burgeoning nation-states, scrambling to pull together enough people to continue business as usual after the catastrophic population decrease, gave rise to the new networks of power, a primitive state apparatus, and, of course, a clamp down on peasant communalism. Some heretical sects resisted the attack on their communal life-ways by refusing to obey their laws, setting churches on fire, hanging bishops for betraying the real teachings of christ and some, as in the case of the Bogomils, downright refused to bear children so that they would not bring new slaves in this "land of tribulations".
The onset of primitive accumulation necessitated a new restructuring of power in Europe and an increase in potential laborers. This was at a time when a nation-state's power and wealth was partially defined by the amount of its citizens it had at its disposal. When empires needed these bodies they implemented new state regulations over childbirth. In 16th century Nuremburg, the penalty for maternal infanticide was drowning, and all over Germany the Pro-Natalist crusades went as far as punishing women who didn't show enough of an effort during childbirth. In France, a royal edict of 1556 required women to register every pregnancy, and sentenced to death those whose infants died before baptism after a concealed delivery, whether or not they were proven guilty of any wrong doing. The suspicion under which the midwives - leading to the entrance of the male doctor in the delivery room - stemmed more from the authorities fear of infanticide (the potential of losing their labor power and cannon fodder) than from any concern of the midwives' alleged medical incompetence. With the marginalization of the midwife, women lost the control they had exercised over procreation and were reduced to a passive role in child delivery, while male doctors began to be seen as the real "givers of life". Some midwives in Germany turned spies for the state in order to continue their practice. Most midwives rebelled, instead of adhering to the new guidelines imposed on them, they continued guiding women through the birthing experience the way they always had. Some of these unruly women were called witches, some were murdered, but most continued practicing, only less vocal this time.
Midwives, as demeaned as they were, regularly continued to attend most mothers up until the 1920's when there was a move to hospitalize the birthing experience in the United States. White and mostly upper and middle class women started attending hospitals due to the doctors promises of a smooth and hygienic birth. Propaganda campaigns, financed by the medical industry, at the time portrayed midwives as 'unsanitary', poor immigrants. An important thing to note here is that with all of the turn of the century arguments against midwives: that they were unclean, old-fashioned, ill-equipped, and dangerous; it was in fact in the hospitals where a rise in disease was occurring - puerperal fever (aka childbed fever - a fatal infection that was usually introduced by unhygienic obstetricians), complications (due to the hospitals rigid control of the movements of women's bodies), and fatalities (due to unnecessary interventions).
Somewhat quickly the hospitalization of childbirth began to rise. Within a few decades most deliveries happened in a hospital environment. This provided an immense amount of capital to the industry (as everyone now must pay to come into the world). Also accomplished in this is medicalization of childbirth, and this is crucial to an anarchist analysis of childbirth, is the intense regulated control of the process of bringing life into the world. The state decides how (and in some cases when) you are allowed to enter the world. After a few generations women had given up almost all power over procreation to licensed professionals and state bureaucracy. Some midwives spoke against the medical apparatus, but were drowned out by more "competent" doctors and studies financed by the medical industry.
In the late 1960's and early 70's there was a revamp in the field of midwifery, which was closely tied to the hippy and back-to-the-land movements. Childbirth was seen, once again, as a spiritual ceremony and many hippies came to older midwives, eager to learn the trade. This new generation of midwives set up birthing centers on communal farms, collectives in cities and organized free midwifery trainings. This marginal subculture of "spiritual midwives" existed mostly on the fringes of society and did not (for the most part) break out of its groovy ghetto to attack the medical industry and the state apparatus for controlling the welcoming of life. Not to be overlooked though, are the important ways these births empowered women and helped them feel more in control of their bodies. Their refusal to obey state regulations over childbirth, refusal to accept money for delivering children and the expropriation and dissemination of specialized skills shows a move into a revolutionary consciousness. Content as they were to set up birthing communes and midwifery collectives these midwives failed to take direct action against the business of being born.
But the 60's counter-culture came and went and what was left were scattered birth collectives charging clientele ludicrously large fees, upper-middle class midwife authors collecting royalty checks from book sales, and a general acceptance of state licensing and certification. Although there was a slight resistance in the 80's to the legalization of midwifery by some radical midwives, most midwives were just glad they were allowed to practice openly. What started out as a radical subculture reclaiming an almost lost skill, that carried with it a potentially revolutionary paradigm, had become a commodified and regulated component of the industrial medical apparatus. It continues to exist today as another life-choice colonized by capital and overseen by the state.
In recent years midwifery, homebirths and unassisted childbirths have grown in popularity. But midwifery as a practice has yet to reject the commodification of its own existence; it has in fact become more of a commodity than ever before. With the movement toward a green capitalist market, midwifery, along with veganism, organic local food co-ops, hybrid cars, Barrack Obama, and bicycles has become just another eco-niche. Certified Midwives have fairly large incomes, prenatal yoga birthing classes cost a fortune and birthing tubs for homebirths are not communized but are instead rented out for hundreds of dollars.
Within this commercialization of natural childbirth there exists a kernel of subversion and rebellion, the anarchist midwife. The anarchist midwife is new to the scene but brings with her all of the tools to make childbirth a threat to the ruling order. She carries with her a disdain for all things regulated and surveilled, a readiness to work outside of the law, a sharpened critique of the medical industry, the skills to deliver a new life and a deep trust and love for the mother and child's intuition.
The anarchist midwife has within herself the capacity to be truly subversive. She can provide free or low-cost births for illegal immigrants who would otherwise be turned away or into the police by the hospital staff. She can learn Spanish to offer her skills, and knowledge, to immigrant communities, outlaws and fugitives. She and her peers can communize birthing equipment. She can use illegalism to fund birthing centers, conferences and skillshares. She can expose and disrupt obstetricians that speak out against midwifery when they give lectures. She can despecialize her knowledge by sharing it with others. She can write pamphlets and journals critiquing the capitalist medical industry. She can give whatever procedures she and the mother deem safe during child-delivery without regard for the state and its arbitrary restrictions.
She is a free agent, a rebel, a subversive, one part of the social war. She is the anarchist midwife.
Friday, June 4, 2010
Our wish is that this web space will act as one working example where other pro-revolutionary parents and caretakers can draw inspiration, glean practical advice and steal ideas from.
Yours for the destruction of domination and the creation of healthy, vibrant and nurturing life-ways,
Daniel & Lauren