How Our C-Section Rates Got So High

 

It seems like the media is talking about the ridiculously high csection rates again and the questions get asked. Why are the rates so high? What is it about mothers today that’s causing 1 in 3 births to end in major surgery?

You wanna know WHY we’re in this mess? I’ve been asking that question for 5 years now, ever since I was aware of the issue. And many birth advocates have been doing it a lot longer than I have.

Here’s how you get a recipe for an unnecessary cesarean. Please keep in mind that this isn’t referring to the 15% of cases when a csection is actually necessary, nor is it referring to the breech and twin births where a csection may or may not be needed. This is in reference to the countless cases of mothers who could have had a vaginal birth but were robbed of that because of factors they were not aware of that were deliberately undermining their confidence in their bodies and that contributed to their “needing” that cesarean.

 

Start with one first time mother who isn’t aware of her rights to informed consent and refusal.

GP refers her to an OB. Does not mention midwife as an option for low risk women.

OB starts off relationship with “patient” telling the mother all the things she’s “not allowed” to do.

OB refers “patient” for tests; makes certain to word things in a way that makes it seem mandatory instead of optional.

OB starts performing cervical checks in the last month to give the mother false hope that she’ll have her baby “soon” or NO hope because “nothing seems to be happening yet”.

not a crystal ball

Mother spends last week of pregnancy wondering if she’ll ever go into labor on her own.

OB convinces the “patient” that the due date is an expiration date for the pregnancy. Makes no mention of the fact that very few women actually go into labor on their due date OR that full term is anywhere from 37-42 weeks.

due date estimations

Mother exhausts herself trying to go into labor by her due date. Gets discouraged when all her efforts “fail”. OB does not ever explain that THE BABY is the one that triggers labor and that she could still have a few more weeks to go.

OB schedules an induction for 41 weeks or 10 days past the due date because of “policy”.

Mother further exhausts herself trying to go into labor on her own and avoid the dreaded induction. She turns to online communities for help, but sadly is just given MORE false hope, induction horror stories, and a few comments that a healthy baby is all that matters. If she is lucky she might get a comment from a birth advocate or doula informing her of her right to informed consent and refusal, but months of indoctrination and disempowering language has undermined her confidence to actually refuse.

Mother “fails” to go into labor by the induction date. Her body and baby aren’t ready because she might be one of those women who gestates to 42 weeks or just past 41 weeks. Nobody informs her that induction of a first time mother can triple the risk of cesarean.

Mother experiences a very horrifically painful labor because Pitocin creates intense contractions that are much stronger than what nature intended. Is convinced that this is how all labors are. Gets the epidural she hadn’t wanted because the pain is too much. Is not told that the epidural could lead to restricted movement making it harder for the baby to navigate the pelvis.

“Fails to progress”.

cascade of intervention

OB decides to do a csection for “failure to progress” or “fetal distress”. Never mentions that the induction is the reason for that.

Mother is led to believe her body couldn’t labor well on its own, that birth is horrifically painful, and that a csection is “easier”.

Mother gets pregnant again. Goes back to the same OB that cut her the first time.

OB uses a VBAC calculator on her. Fails to mention that VBAC calculators are inaccurate at predicting a VBAC and then puts conditions on VBAC. Tells “patient” that she must go into labor by her due date (because that worked SO well last time) or else it’s a repeat cesarean.

VBAC supportive vs tolerant

OB starts doing measurements in late pregnancy to “guess baby’s size” even though fetal size is not a true indication of whether vaginal birth is possible. Tells mother baby is “bigger than the last one”.

OB does cervical checks in the final month. Tells mother she’s either making progress or not. Discourages mother further that her body isn’t working the way it “should”.

Due date approaches. OB has already scheduled a csection in advance. Mother tires herself out trying to go into labor on her own. Gets more comments about healthy babies, csections being “safer” and very few or no mentions of her right to informed consent and refusal, current VBAC guidelines, or current evidence that is contradictory to what her OB is saying. Months of disempowering language and power imbalances has made her less likely to question her OB or say NO.

Mother does not go into labor by her due date (because BABY ISN’T READY) and has the repeat csection.

Mother finally learns the truth. Mother decides she doesn’t want to repeat the same pattern anymore. Mother does research on VBAC and learns she was “bait and switched” during that second pregnancy. Mother decides enough is enough and finds out that few to no OBs will accept her desire for a VBA2C. Is told she “has to” have a repeat csection.

Mother appeals to the online community. Gets shamed by the mainstream community for “putting her birth experience above her baby”. Is told it’s “too dangerous”.

Mother is constantly told to just do a repeat csection by everyone she knows. Risks of uterine rupture are a constant topic of discussion as a way to discourage her/scare her.

risks vbac

Unless she can empower herself to ignore all the negative comments she probably will give in. So few women have a will strong enough to withstand the scare tactics and coercive language. If she has a few stronger voices standing up with her, she’s more likely to succeed in a trial of labor after cesarean or multiple cesarean.

This can go one of two ways: Mother hires a different care provider, possibly even a midwife. She might do a homebirth or choose to labor at home as long as possible before going to the hospital. If there’s a VBAC ban in that hospital then she would also need to arm herself with the laws of informed consent and refusal because coercive tactics may be employed to obtain her “consent” for a repeat csection. If she stays home, she likely has an empowering VBA2C unless there is a true complication that arises and the midwife advises that she transfer to the hospital (very unlikely).

If the mother has no access to midwifery care or a truly VBAC supportive OB, she will likely be “bait and switched” again unless she manages to beat the clock and have a spontaneous, precipitous labor where there’s no time to get to the OR to section her.

If she has NO supportive voices of friends or even strangers on the internet telling her that what she wants is even possible or how to achieve that goal, then she might feel like she can’t do it and agree to a repeat csection.

The more csections she has, the more likely these scenarios will repeat themselves. I personally have a friend who had a VBA3C and she indeed had to fight for it. When she achieved that VBAC it changed her. It made her into that strong advocate that would be a voice to encourage other mothers seeking VBAC. She learned the hard way, as so many women do, that the system is not designed to support vaginal births.

We have too many csections because we have too many inductions scheduled before 42 weeks without medical cause.

We have too many csections because we have too many repeat csections scheduled on the due dates or just before, without medical reason for it.

We have too many csections because too many women are being led to believe their bodies don’t work and that they “need” interventions that they actually don’t. We have too many csections because not enough people are out there informing mothers of their rights to informed consent and refusal, evidence based practices and guidelines, and the difference between a care provider who is truly supportive and one that is placating their patients but fully intends to call ALL the shots later when it’s much harder for them to refuse without real or imagined consequences.

We have too many csections because there are too many OBs out there who operate under a patriarchal viewpoint of knowing what’s “best” and who would rather do what’s easiest for them in terms of convenience, profit, and liability. And sadly, they overshadow the GOOD doctors and the midwives out there who ARE serving mothers and giving them the empowering births they deserve, EVEN when those births have unexpected outcomes. 

We DON’T have too many csections because mothers are older, heavier, or less healthy than in the past. That’s just a scapegoat that the OBs doing all the unnecessary csections like to point to in order to take the spotlight off their own practices. But for over 20 years they’ve known the truth. They’ve ALWAYS known what they were doing was causing more csections and they still take the credit of “saving lives” because that’s easier too and the mothers generally don’t know any better. And the ones who DO know better? Well they’re condescended to and called “difficult” and they’re treated like a problem client who is more concerned with her birth vision than her baby. And I’m sick of their bullshit games, so I call it out when I see it.

Cascade of intervention save life

Mainstream parenting forums are made up of all kinds of mothers. Many of them disempowered and scared to go against “doctor’s orders” even when it’s clear that the doctor is lying to them. And others will get pissed at me for telling those mothers that they can say NO. And still others will say the same thing I am and share their own heartbreaking stories; their warnings to not fall for the same tricks they had. Their pleas for another mother to avoid the treacherous path that those of us who do this work can all see coming from miles away. Doulas know. Maternity care nurses know. Midwives know. Birth advocates know. We ALL know. We hear the stories, we help the women who were burned in the past and are now struggling against the obstacles of their first birth as they seek a more positive experience. And we are often punished and scorned for it.

But we persevere. Why? Because we know that many won’t listen the first time or even the second, but eventually they will. And when they do, we will be there for them. We always knew their bodies weren’t broken.

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I Stopped Commanding My Strong Willed Child to Get Ready For Bed: My Experiment With Playful Parenting

playful parent

It’s been a few months since I decided to stop disciplining my kids and while it hasn’t been a complete transformation (yet), my goal is progress, not perfection. I do sometimes yell. I sometimes lose my temper and punish my strong willed little boy, but I have learned to forgive myself and I make an effort to admit when I’ve made a mistake and done something I shouldn’t have. My son will say “Mommy, you yelled at me. It hurt my ears.” And rather than say “well, if you hadn’t done x I wouldn’t yell!” I say “I know. I am sorry I hurt your ears. I don’t like yelling and I don’t want to do it. I am trying hard NOT to yell but I am only human and sometimes when I get overwhelmed by big feelings I forget and yell. Does that happen to you sometimes?” He will then tell me that yes, he doesn’t always want to hit or scream or throw his toys, but his body takes over and he can’t stop. I tell him that I will help him try to stop, and then we discuss how we can solve the problem in the future. Sometimes it works, sometimes he’s overtired or hungry or overwhelmed and hits anyway, but I have seen him in the moments when his sister is in his space and he DOES try to make an effort to solve the problem before he hits her. Unfortunately she’s 2 and doesn’t always get the message he’s trying to tell her, so we still have some work to do. BUT it’s progress! That’s the goal, right?

The managing of emotions is still in the works and my little boy doesn’t always feel like talking about how he’s feeling right away. Usually he has to have the tantrum first or be distracted temporarily before I can address those feelings, and that’s something I have a lot of trouble doing because I prefer to address the issue NOW! Believe me, it’s a source of contention with my husband too, who also likes to process his feelings on his own first before he is ready to address them. If I’m honest with myself I would say that I’m just really uncomfortable with leaving those feelings “unresolved”. I get anxious and can’t handle feeling anxious; I want THEIR feelings that are affecting me to “go away” and be “fixed” so that I don’t feel that energy anymore. So having a son who is very much like his dad in that he might not tell me how he feels for several hours is really difficult sometimes. Especially when I KNOW which emotions are underneath their anger and it’s so obvious they should just figure it out already and move on!

The Things I Haven’t Mastered Yet

Emotional regulation isn’t easy when one is trying to learn how to manage oneself AND happens to be a freaking empath who feels other people’s emotions even when they act “fine”.

I can deal with the constant addressing of feelings about 60% of the time without issue, but I still have a lot of work to do and it’s probably going to be something I’ll always have to remind myself to do. I notice it a lot when I talk to people; I’ll address their problem first, then I will stop myself and think “wait, they need their emotional needs met first” and backtrack. It still feels awkward to address the feelings in a genuine way. I used to say “it’s okay” or ” look on the bright side” or try to “fix” the feeling to make it better and move on. It is still uncomfortable for me to dwell on certain feelings when I believe that I’ve already addressed the issue. I mean seriously, I get that you’re disappointed that we can’t go to the park today because of the rain. It really sucks. You were looking forward to it, yes, I know. We can go another day. Here’s an activity we CAN do. Yes, I heard you the first 56,000 times you said it. You want to go to the park even though it’s raining. Yes, I can see how sad you are…(GET OVER IT ALREADY! OH MY GOD JUST STOP!!! SERIOUSLY THERE ARE A BILLION OTHER THINGS YOU CAN DO BESIDES GO TO THE FUCKING PARK!!!)

Obviously that last part is in my head, but I’m pretty sure the empathic responses I give my 4.5 year old start to lose their empathy and start to sound robotic and annoyed after a while. So the whole emotions being rehashed over and over…really not my strong point.

Why I REALLY “Have To” Use My New Tricks

What IS my strong point? Playful Parenting. I’ve become the master of that, as long as I’m not too drained (too much empathy can drain me because I’m an introvert and people’s emotions are siphoning of my energy) and as long as my kid is in a good mood. If he’s overtired, hungry, overwhelmed, or overly emotional then the tricks don’t work the way I like them to, but 90% of the time I get a much better level of cooperation out of him than the other ways.

Here’s what happens when I try to do the “other” things, as an example of just how strong-willed my little boy is:

Commanding

Me: It’s time for bed. Go brush your teeth, go pee, put on your pull-up, get into your pjs, and climb into bed.

Him: NO!

 

Bribing

Me: We have time for two stories tonight if you go brush your teeth and start getting ready for bed right now…

Him: NO! I don’t WANT to go to bed! I don’t WANT two stories!

Me: Okay then *shrugging*

Him: NO!!!! I WANT two stories!

Me: Then go do what I asked.

Him: NO! Little (insert insult of the month here)!

 

Threatening

Me: If you don’t get ready for bed right now you won’t get a story.

Him: Fine, I don’t WANT a story! I’M NOT TIRED!!!!

Me: GO. TO. BED!!!

Him: NOOOOOO!!!

 

Giving Choices

Me: Do you want me to brush your teeth or do you want to do it?

Him: Me!

Me: Okay *hands him toothbrush*

Him: NO! YOU do it!

Me: Okay *tries to take toothbrush back*

Him: NO! I want to do it!

Me: Okay, then do it.

*little brat just stands there with his toothbrush in his hands, refusing to do anything until I find myself locked in a power struggle*

 

Asking Nicely

Me: Can you go get ready for bed now?

Him: Mmmm, NAH!

 

So yeah, this kid took every single trick from the conventional parenting methods and showed me just how futile they were with him. I HAD TO get creative. When I found How to Talk so Little Kids Will Listen, I finally found something that would work. I created the EVIL Mr. Plaque Man!

Playful Parenting for the Win!

Who is this nefarious being? Well, he comes out at night after dinner has ended and bedtime routines must begin. You know he’s coming by his evil, maniacal, deep laugh.

MWAHAHAH!

My son will pause in whatever he’s doing. He’ll say “no, not yet!” then run to the bathroom. Then he will say “go, Mommy! Make him talk.”

And so I say in my supervillain voice: “I am the EVIL Mr. Plaque Man! I have come to drill holes in Hunter’s teeth!”

And he will say “Oh no you don’t, Mr. Plaque Man! I’m gonna get you!”

He teams up with Super Toothbrush and Mighty Toothpaste. Sometimes I mess up on their names and my son will correct me “NO, Mommy, it’s Super TOOTHBRUSH!” Clearly he’s paying attention, so that’s a win for me. He asks me to do the teeth next, so I’ll use my high pitched squeaky voice “oh no! Save us, Hunter!” and he’ll brush and giggle and I’ll say things like “MWAHAHA! I’M SENDING MY PLAQUE MONSTERS TO THE BACK WHERE HUNTER WILL NOT REACH!” And my son will remember to brush those back teeth super well because he won’t let his arch nemesis win this round!

At the end I will say “ARGH! YOU BEAT ME AGAIN, HUNTER! BUT I’LL BE BACK TOMORROW!”

And that’s how I get him to brush his teeth.

Then I change focus. He was slow at putting on his pjs and used to insist that I dress him. I would attempt to fulfill his request and get kicked for my trouble. It was frustrating for me and would end in his tears as I walked out of his room and told him “no story tonight” even though that was really punishing both of us. My son is super active during the day. I can ONLY get him to cuddle and sit for a story at bedtime. It’s our special time. So “no story” really sucks. I hate “no story” nights.

So now I created The Resistant Clothing. I do the voices of his pull-up and his pjs. They don’t want to go onto my son. They say they want to be free. I say “now pjs, it’s your job to be on Hunter. You have to keep him warm.” and they will say “NNOOOO I don’t want to.” and I will argue with them as I make the bed or tidy up the room as my son giggles and puts his pjs on. I do the same thing for getting him dressed to go out as well. And if I just say “go get dressed” my son will sometimes comply but other times he will say “make them talk, Mommy”.

I’ve done this for food, too. My almost-5 year old delights in biting off the many heads of his sentient chicken nuggets, fries, vegetables etc. He’s kind of sadistic about it, but I won’t worry too much about that since I also have a messed up sense of humor and yet haven’t murdered anyone and stuffed them in a wall or anything.

When Dad Doesn’t Use the Tricks

When I don’t use the tricks, the kid will dig in his heels. I see it all the time with my husband (who once could get him to do anything, but now is suffering the same frustration I have been since he was 15 months old). Barbara Coloroso calls it the second “Age of Rebellion”. 2 year olds rebel against mom, 5 year olds against mom AND dad. Teenagers rebel against the entire older generation. So having already gone through the first stage, I’m kind of enjoying that my husband is now experiencing that frustration too, but also I feel bad because he’s not working with the same tools I am. He tries, but these things take practice and you have to know when to use them and use them correctly. My husband works 90+ hours every 2 weeks; he isn’t around enough to catch on as quickly and it takes much longer for him to learn the tools by watching me in my more triumphant moments and trying them out for himself. It’s not to say he hasn’t picked up on it though. He’s slowly learning and when I catch him using one of my tricks I feel pride that he was paying attention and felt it was worth trying.

Other times I know he’s overtired and short on patience and he’ll command our son to do something and get resistance, and I’m thinking to myself “that’s not going to work”. And of course it doesn’t work because they are both strong willed and resist being controlled. If I’m in a good mood, I’ll step in to help. If I’m drained, then it’s a bad day or at least a bad few hours before I can recharge.

That’s the other thing to keep in mind, btw. THESE TOOLS WILL NOT WORK IF YOU DON’T RECHARGE YOURSELF.

Why I NEED a Break (and demand one)

I know that a lot of articles stress “self care” and that there’s also this attitude that parents don’t GET a break. You are expected to just suck it up and deal with the issue. Well, I say that’s bullshit! Of COURSE I deserve a break, and damn it, I am going to DEMAND one. I don’t care what the oldschool attitudes are! I am not JUST a mother; I am a person with needs. I took care of those needs before kids and I am still going to take care of them now. What I NEED is to have some time to myself at least every few days, if not every day. I NEED that time to myself because I am an introvert and being around people is draining. I NEED to recharge so that when the kids come to me with their feelings, I can address those feelings and mirror them. I have found that I have a limit to how long I can function without a break from people. I get little warnings that come up.

Level 1 is when I get so tired and drained that I just want to sleep. I don’t want to do anything and can’t focus on anything.

Level 2 is when I run out of patience. I start getting snappish, I have less tolerance for whining, and I start to run out of empathy. I’m functioning on autopilot and might “stress clean” and get frustrated when I can’t get things done.

Level 3 is the danger zone. I HATE Level 3. I don’t want to BE in Level 3. Level 3 is when all my empathy is gone! I start to yell and punish again. I stop being the fun, playful mommy and start acting like a drill sergeant. This tells me that I need a break within the next day or things will get much worse. I have trained myself to start demanding a break at this point and I get very anxious if that’s not possible.

Level 4 is when I know I have to get a break NOW! It is the worst level and one I very much wish to avoid because THIS is when the spanking mother I never wanted to be comes out and I become the worst version of myself. I DESPISE this person I become; she is an evil demon. She rages and scares her kids. She gets out of control and I have a very difficult time reigning her in. I see her less and less since I started demanding more help from other people. Even the members of my family who don’t believe I really NEED the help will get called on, and I have just started ignoring their opinions on what I “REALLY need to do” (which is often change my parenting style back to the “old ways” that worked for THEM, and doesn’t address that I actually WANT to parent differently). If I know my husband is going to be working a lot more and that I may not be able to get a break in the usual way (having him take the kids for the day) then I will call on my backups. And if I have to break down and cry and tell them that I’m at my breaking point, then I will do that because if I’m at Level 3 already then a simple change of scenery or taking the kids to the park is NOT going to cut it. Taking the kids ANYWHERE is just going to add to my level of frustration because at Level 3 I am in no condition to be around ANYONE. If the kids act up at the park I will lose it. I just know that about myself.

It’s important to know ones limits

I have been working very hard at looking at myself and just where those limits are in my efforts to do better than what I was taught. I WANT to do better because those tactics that come out in Level 3 and 4 are exactly the things I remember vowing I would NEVER do to my own kids because of how awful they made me feel growing up.

I remember just wanting to be heard, and so now I work at hearing my son when he’s upset. I try to look past the action (throwing his toys or hitting/screaming etc) and dig down to the feeling behind it. I address that feeling and I tell him that I sometimes feel like that too, so that he knows it’s okay to have those feelings and that he’s not bad, he’s just a little boy who got overwhelmed by his big emotions. I want him to have a healthy relationship with his emotions. I don’t want him to feel like he needs to push them away and I don’t want him to feel like he “can’t deal” when other people express their own feelings. It’s not any way to live life! It SUCKS! I don’t like that when my husband is upset and just needs someone (me) to vent to, my first instinct is to point out how he’s thinking about it all wrong or what he needs to do to fix it, or just giving the wrong tone with my empathy so that the words sound hollow. I don’t like that instead of addressing feelings when things get heated, my first instinct is to just hide in the bedroom all night until it all “blows over”. I know from my reading that this isn’t a healthy response to other people’s emotions and that if I’m to do what I need to do for my kids, I have to change this first reaction.

A BIG reason to change

So that’s my update on my Peaceful Parenting journey! I started this back in January (though technically I was reading the books in December) and now it’s April. I’ve cut WAAAAY back on sending my son to his room so that it only ever happens when I’m out of ideas and out of patience. I stopped sending him to the corner, stopped taking away his toys as a punishment for not cleaning them up (they only get taken if he’s throwing them, and only the toys that can hurt or break something or someone), and I try to use playful parenting tactics rather than command him to do something.

It doesn’t always work and I still have a long way to go, but the more I keep at it the less I yell.

As an added thought for this month, my son was playing with his sister in the tub earlier this week and accidentally broke something that REALLY wasn’t good. When I came in there I saw the toy in his hands and he looked at me in fear. He started to cry. He said “I didn’t mean to. I’m sorry!” I didn’t immediately see what he had done (I had been finishing up the dishes while listening intently to the giggles of the kids and had only heard a splash, a crash, and an “oh no!” from my son. I should add that I was calm that day. I had managed to get some rest the night before and though my husband was at a friend’s place helping him with his truck that night, I was only at Level 1. I had only yelled once that day and I had caught myself. So the look of terror in my son’s eyes was heartbreaking to see. This poor little soul was sobbing. He was so scared that he had done something SO bad that he would surely be punished.

It was pretty bad. Repairs would have to be done and my husband wouldn’t like it, but it WAS an accident. I knew that he hadn’t meant to do it. He had been playing and trying to make his sister laugh. He’d gotten too excited, he lost control of where his toy landed. Accidents happen. Had I been right there, I probably couldn’t have stopped it from happening and couldn’t have predicted it.

What shocked me was that he had already tried to “fix” it. He had cleaned up the broken pieces and put them in the garbage and done so rather quickly considering that I had rushed in there to see what had happened. And still, he was crying. He was inconsolable.

“Don’t yell at me.” he cried. “Don’t hurt me.”

He has been spanked before. I am not proud of it. It’s a source of deep regret and shame, as well as self-loathing that I have raised my hand to my child, but it’s a reality. And that reality is what caused that fear in his eyes. And I hated myself for it. I hated myself SO much that in this moment when he accidentally broke something, his first instinct was to beg me not to hurt him.

“I’m not going to hurt you,” I said as calmly as I could. I told myself in my head “this is not an emergency. Your child needs comforting.” And I told him to get out of the tub.

He cried harder. He begged me not to hurt him. I calmly said “I’m not mad, sweetheart. It was an accident. You need to get out and so does your sister. There might be broken bits you can’t see”

He kept crying. His sister whimpered, not sure what to do. Mommy wasn’t upset, but Brother was and it was confusing. I took her out of the tub first, looked her over, and determined that she was okay. No cuts. I toweled her off and got his towel and wrapped him in it and hugged him. I told him that he seemed so scared and I was sorry and that it was okay and that I wasn’t mad at him. I told him I was just happy he wasn’t hurt because he could have been cut (he did have a small cut on his toe upon further inspection, but we covered that with a band-aid and he didn’t even make a fuss until I pointed it out). I told him we needed to tell Daddy.

Fear returned, and I hated THAT too. This is what punishment does to kids. It makes them fear, even when they don’t need to. It makes ME feel such shame and guilt that WE were the cause of that fear. So I held him, rocked him, reassured him. And still this little boy was unsure of me. “You’re not going to yell?” he kept asking. He really didn’t believe that I wasn’t upset. I told him “well I don’t like what happened, but it was an accident and can be fixed. I know you didn’t want to break it. You wanted to make your sister laugh. And when the toy hit that thing and broke it, that scared you because you knew it was not a good thing to do. But you tried to clean up the mess, and that was good that you wanted to keep your sister from being cut, but YOU could have been hurt too. I’m glad nobody got hurt. That could have been very dangerous.”

I called my husband and told him calmly what happened and how upset our boy was. I was relieved that he got my message in my tone that he needed to be very careful how he addressed this. He was calm and echoed what I had already said; this was an accident, it’s okay, and that we would fix it.

My boy went to sleep that night knowing he was truly special and loved, and that he would not be punished for his accident, no matter how bad it was. But I lay awake much longer and I thought about his little face full of tears and it broke my heart. It made me resolve to keep at this new way of parenting and to keep rejecting the old ways until that awful, scary, angry mother becomes nothing more than a distant memory of the time when Mommy didn’t know any better. I want him to KNOW that I recognize how much that scared and hurt him, and how sorry I am. I don’t want him ever thinking that spanking and punishment was justified. I don’t want him thinking he’s “bad”. I want to give him everything I didn’t know I had needed as a child; all the love and understanding that my parents hadn’t known to give even in my worst moments. It’s easy to be that kind parent when the kids are “good”, but when they test your limits that’s when you really have to work at it. And it’s moments like what I experienced this week that show you how your kids actually see you when you’re at your worst, and how often you’re at your worst.

The Legacy I Want to Leave Behind

This week was an eye-opener. It really pushed me to do more to be better for him. So I will continue to work on my demons. I will continue to figure out just where my limits are and find ways to fulfill my needs so that I reach the worst levels only a small fraction of the time, if at all. And I will continue to show my poor little boy that Mommy really ISN’T going to yell at him and that she certainly doesn’t want to hurt him no matter what he does, because those things are not okay to do to the people we love.

And hopefully those messages will stick with both of my children and my future grandchildren won’t ever know that fear that I saw in my son’s eyes. Because at the end of my life, when my children are grown and look back on their childhood and share memories of me, I want them to remember the funny voices and the characters we made up together. I want them to recall fondly my stories of Evil Mr. Plaque Man and the Resistant Clothing. I want them to remember Mommy Panther who catches her little baby panthers and Mommy Kitty who snuggled in her son’s lap. I want them to remember Kid Mommy who reversed roles and pretended to be scared to sleep alone; who made her children giggle uncontrollably. I want them to remember the crafts, the movie nights, the baking, the story time, the bedtime snuggles, the made-up songs with their names and the sing-alongs to Disney show tunes. I want them to have so many favorite moments with me that they can’t pick only a few, and I want them to know without any doubt that I loved them. In the end of my life, I want to know that I was the best mother I could be for my kids with the knowledge I had at the time, and that I never stopped trying to be better for them.

People can roll their eyes at my parenting all they want. I don’t believe kids need to “obey”; that’s not the most important thing. Obedience doesn’t get you very far as an adult and can actually work against you. So I’m not choosing obedience anymore; instead, I’m choosing love. And if LOVE is going to get me kicked out of the “good parent” club, then so be it. I wasn’t much for following others anyway.

I’ll Trust My Body With Birth, But NOT With My Period

Today marks the day I officially say “Fuck this shit!” in regards to my menstrual cycle.

I have been considering it for years. I deliberately got pregnant with my daughter to put off the hell that is my menstrual cycle. I’ve talked to other women about it. Many of them urged me to reconsider. They told me that I could make it better. I entertained the thought that MAYBE I would be okay. MAYBE I could accept my cycle. MAYBE it wouldn’t be so bad?

I looked up Hormonology. It seemed like a lovely thought so I downloaded the app. I tracked my fertility when I sensed that my breastfeeding days were nearly done. I read up on how to make things “better”.

And then today I felt the cramping of my pre-menstrual days. I felt the rage fill me. The exhaustion combined with the pain and the awful feelings of just being “blah” and not having a good time.

I tried the Red Raspberry Leaf Tea and popped the Vitamin E and the Ibuprofen just like the articles suggested I do in order to lessen the cramping.

So now instead of transition-like cramping I went down to early/active labour cramping. Yeah, no. That’s not good enough for me.

NO cramping is what I want. NO exhaustion. NO hormonal crappy feelings of not enjoying life!

So today when my son had to go to the doctor for his cough to get a refill of his inhaler and some medicine, I piggy-backed on that appointment. I asked for my birth control pill prescription.

I considered waiting until I actually GOT my period to start the pills, but then I had another few hours of cramps that made me want to kill everyone around me and stab out my own uterus. So I took the first pill.

The cramping has not gone away. I might still get my first period 2 years post-partum in a few days or this might just be a false alarm as my body prepares for it next month after my daughter’s birthday, just as it did with my son.

Except regardless of what happens, I know one thing for sure. It will NEVER happen again.

You can argue that I’m screwing with my hormones or that I’m messing up my body, or robbing myself of the “good” things of having my cycle. I won’t get that rush of energy in my Week 2, I won’t have a natural rhythm to my moods etc.

I get that it’s a sacrifice. I wish I could enjoy those things. I wanted to try to enjoy those things. I did download that app, after all. Unfortunately, my uterus is an irritable bitch and unless there’s a baby on board, she likes to torture me. So thank you, but no thank you. I don’t need a Diva Cup. I don’t need an app. I just need to not have to worry about my cycle anymore. I tried to do it a different way, I really did. You have no idea how much it sucks for me that I have to stop my cycle from even starting up again. I’m fascinated by what a woman’s body is designed to do and I wish I could study my own rhythms, but the reality is that this pain makes me cranky and stabby. This pain doesn’t go away no matter how many Ibuprofen I take pre-emptively. It doesn’t go away or lessen no matter how I alter my diet in the weeks leading up to it. My body isn’t trying to tell me to rest or slow down because I followed the freaking guidelines on how to handle each week and feed my body what it needs and yet here I still am in bed with a heating pad, wishing I’d just listened to myself and gotten the birth control last month instead of waiting and giving this whole cycle thing another try.

I stand by my original feelings regarding my period. It sucks, it’s painful, and I don’t want to do it anymore. If there’s a price to pay for not having another period, I’ll pay it when that time comes. But right now I have to think of what’s better for my kids, and my kids don’t need a rage-filled mom who can’t even get out of bed one week out of the month.

If You Don’t Want Your Wife Acting Like Your Mother, Stop Treating Her Like She Is

Lazy husband at the couch and his wife

 

Note to husbands and husband-like partners: IF YOU’RE TIRED OF YOUR WIFE ACTING LIKE YOUR MOTHER, STOP TREATING HER LIKE SHE IS!

I’m sure you’ve heard this scenario before. A wife calmly reminds her husband that he has an appointment or “nags” him to do some task he’s put off for weeks and he explodes! He acts like her simple request or reminder is a horrible insult to his male ego; that she thinks he’s incompetent or something. If he’s particularly upset, he’ll even tell her “STOP ACTING LIKE MY MOTHER!” The wife is often shocked at her husband’s outburst. After all, her request was reasonable or her reminder was appropriate. She knew her husband had been putting off this task for weeks and she was probably tired of waiting for him to figure out that it really needed to be done. She knew her husband was likely to forget he had that appointment because he always tends to forget that he has an appointment. In truth, his wife is merely taking on the role that her husband unwittingly had her take on.

So here’s the thing: We don’t set out with aspirations to act like a mother to our husbands; it just HAPPENS! And WHY it happens is simple; we learn to expect that our husbands aren’t going to do it BECAUSE THEY NEVER DO IT!!!

Their response when we point out that we’re taking on this role is “well, why didn’t you just ask me?”

There is a brilliant comic that illustrates why this is a problem, but I can sum it up a lot quicker: MOTHERS ask; WIVES expect. If we have to ASK our husbands to do things that should be obvious, like perhaps wash the dishes in the sink because they’re sitting in the sink and their wife is otherwise occupied, then that is putting us in the role of the mother.

WE SHOULDN’T HAVE TO ASK GROWN MEN TO DO WHAT NEEDS TO BE DONE!!!!!!

Need a shirt washed? Well, how about instead of waiting for your wife to ASK you to do the laundry because she can’t get to it that day, you just assume that she might not be able to get to it that day and DO A FUCKING LOAD OF LAUNDRY!!!

Frustrated that there are dishes in the sink and your wife hasn’t gotten them done yet? HOW ABOUT YOU WASH THE FUCKING DISHES?

Is the garbage piling up and you know it’s your job but your wife hasn’t yet asked you to take out the garbage? HOW ABOUT YOU TAKE OUT THE FUCKING GARBAGE BEFORE YOUR WIFE ASKS YOU IN HER “ANNOYED VOICE” FOR YOU TO TAKE IT OUT?

See, we don’t start off as the nagging, annoyed wife. Here’s what actually happens:

Wife notices that the trash is full. Wife knows that it is her husband’s job to take out the trash and that the husband has agreed he will do it. Wife leaves the trash for her husband. Time passes. Wife notices that it’s been 2 days since her husband agreed to take out the trash. Wife notices that husband has left his plate/glass/empty can on the table/counter. Wife picks it up because it can’t be left out all day. Continuing with her other chores, wife hopes that the fact that SHE IS CLEANING THE HOUSE will cause her husband to notice that chores are being done and maybe he will remember to take out the trash. Husband comes home and immediately sits down to watch TV or play with his toys or whatever other non-chore thing he wants to do. He shows NO indication that he is going to remember the trash. The wife, trying to stay calm, reminds him that he needs to take out the trash. Husband says he will “later”. Wife reminds him that it’s been sitting for 2 days and the garbage truck is coming in the morning. Husband gets annoyed and says he KNOWS that, and that he doesn’t need her to remind him. Wife senses husband is irritated and tells him that she doesn’t mean to nag him, but he said he was going to do it 2 days ago and she really needs him to just do it now.  “Stop acting like my mother!” is his response.

Or

A wife has been finding that all the tasks she’s had to do for her husband and children lately are more than she can handle on her own. She tells her husband (after he gets annoyed that there are dishes in the sink or no clean shirts to wear) that she has too much to do. He tells her “you should have asked for help then” in response. The wife bites her tongue even as she fantasizes about beating her husband with the frying pan she’s washing.

 

Did you notice the actual problem with either of these scenarios? If you’re a wife, you probably got it right away! “The husband is an idiot!” is likely the response. If you’re a man, you probably are clueless because after all, the wife didn’t ASK him for help. If she had just TOLD him what she wanted in the first place then there wouldn’t be a problem, right?

NO!!!!

IT IS NOT SUPPOSED TO BE OUR JOB TO TELL OUR HUSBANDS WHAT THEY NEED TO DO!!!!

MOTHERS spend all their time asking things of their children. We point out that the cup needs to go in the sink, not be left on the table. We tell our kids that their toys need to be picked up after they’re done playing with them. Their homework needs to be done before they go to sleep. They have that report or test next week they need to work on/study for. They need to help out with the chores. They need to remember to feed the cat. Please clean your room. Please help me with the dishes. Do you see how I’m struggling with these bags, maybe you could get the door? Maybe instead of running straight to the TV you could notice that you left your shoes in the middle of the floor and there’s homework/chores that need to be done so don’t sit there for hours while Mom is busting her ass cleaning!

But husbands are NOT children. We go into our marriages assuming that our partners are just as capable of seeing the mess or the problem that needs solving. We assume that because they are adults that they should be able to SEE the pile of laundry on the floor and think “oh, right! I should probably put these in the laundry basket, or better yet, I could wash them myself since I’m not doing anything right now and it looks like my wife is busy at the moment.” We expect that if our husbands are in the kitchen and they notice that the dishes haven’t been washed, that they’ll start washing them. When instead we get eyerolls, tantrums, and complaints that there are no clean dishes, we get annoyed. We think “he’s a grown man! Why can’t he just stop complaining and WASH THE FUCKING DISHES?” Because while the husband complains about the dishes not being done, the wife is picking up the husband’s dirty clothes off the floor, throwing the empty can in the recycling bin, or picking up some other mess that her husband just left without thinking anything of it.

And then later, when the wife, tired from cleaning all day, forgets to turn off a light or put something of hers away IMMEDIATELY, her husband is quick to point it out. He then expects HER to pick up her cup or turn off the light, rather than do it himself because he spotted it.  And if the wife points out that to her husband, he will say “if you wanted help you could have asked instead of given me that attitude about it”.

WE SHOULDN’T HAVE TO ASK!

Guys, try to understand this concept and ladies show this to your men the next time they pull this crap: Husbands who expect their wives to tell them what needs to be done are treating their wives like their mothers.

Every time you wait for your wife to tell you what to do, you are making her act like your mother.

Every time you expect her to remind you of something important, you are treating her like your mother.

Every time you think she should just ask you what needs to be done instead of using your fucking eyes and looking around the room before you sit your ass down, YOU ARE MAKING YOUR WIFE ACT LIKE YOUR MOTHER!!!

YOU are the one who put her in that role! YOUR behaviour is what has led to her taking on that role that you seem to resent so much when it no longer serves you. She LEARNED this role from YOU! In the beginning, she assumed you were capable of doing what needed to be done. When you repeatedly left dishes in the sink to pile up, she eventually gave up and washed them. When you repeatedly left your clothes on the floor despite her picking them up and putting them in the laundry basket in front of you, she gave up on you picking up your clothes and putting them in the basket. When you repeatedly forgot important appointments or things that needed to be taken care of in a timely manner, and then later said “well YOU forgot to remind me about it” in response when you were suddenly scrambling to make it to that appointment or take care of that task before then deadline, you taught your wife that she needed to become your secretary and remind you of your appointments and obligations. YOU did this to her! YOU showed her that you were incapable of doing these things on your own! YOU showed her you needed those reminders and that she had to pick up after you all the time. IF YOU WANT HER TO STOP ACTING LIKE YOUR MOTHER, STOP ACTING LIKE YOU’RE HER CHILD!!!!!

How do you do that? THINK BEFORE YOU SIT!

When your wife wakes up in the morning she thinks of all the things she needs to do that day. While she is doing these things, she notices other things. So she goes into the living room to clean up the kids’ toys and notices that the floor needs vacuuming. As she pulls out the vacuum cleaner she takes note that it will need emptying soon and the filter cleaned. So she picks up the toys, notices that the mats need to be wiped down, wipes those down, vacuums, and empties the container afterward and cleans the filter. She washes out the sink, notices that the dishes from last night need to be put away. She puts away the clean dishes, notices that the cupboard needs a quick tidy up and does that too. She sees that it’s getting close to lunch time so she starts to plan the lunch menu and remembers to also take out something for dinner as well. She starts lunch, prepares for dinner for later that evening, and recalls that she needs to do a load of laundry. She gathers up the clothes that were left on the floor and washes them, then puts the clean clothes into the dryer. She takes the clothes that were already in the dryer to the bedroom to fold and put away. There is still a long list of things she had planned to do, but she is unable to get to them. Exhausted, she takes a moment for herself and forgets to put something away that she had been meaning to get to. You see that she forgot to put the thing away and make a little comment about how she needs to finish what she started. She wants to kill you.

Now, here’s what typically happens with husbands when they’re asked to do something: You are asked to take out the trash. You notice that your wife hasn’t yet swept the floor and step in the dirt around the garbage can. You gripe about this. You take out the trash. At the door you notice your wife forgot to put the kids’ shoes away. You kick them out of the way, annoyed. You come back inside. You notice that you tracked dirt into the house and it will need to be cleaned up. You tell your wife that there’s dirt on the floor. She tells you she will get to it when she has time. You complain about her “attitude” and watch TV.

Here’s what your wife is thinking: ”He stepped in the dirt near the trash can? WHY wouldn’t he just clean it up before he took out the trash? Really, a simple pair of shoes in the middle of the floor has him upset? Just move them! How many times do I have to pick his shit off the floor or put it away? And now he’s tracked dirt into the house and yet he expects ME to drop everything I’m already doing and take care of it for him? Can’t he just bust out the vacuum cleaner like I do every time I make a mess unintentionally? And instead of just fucking doing this shit himself he’s going to bitch about it and then sit on his ass and watch TV? Seriously? Does he not see that I’m currently washing dishes that we ALL ate off of, cooking dinner that we ALL are going to eat, and that I still have a pile of laundry to fold that we ALL contributed to?”

Is it any wonder she has an “attitude”?

Guys, if you don’t want your wife thinking you’re an incompetent child, maybe you should stop acting like an incompetent child. Next time you see that she hasn’t gotten around to washing the dishes, do this:

Shut up.

Just shut the fuck up about anything negative you have to say.

Don’t complain, don’t whine, don’t comment on how there’s dishes in the fucking sink. SHE KNOWS THAT THERE ARE DISHES IN THE SINK!!!!!!!! Just pick up the damn cloth, turn on the tap, and WASH THE FUCKING DISHES! And if you are thinking “but she’s the one who washes the dishes and if she wants help then she should just ask me” I want you to shut up right now and think “what would my wife do if she saw dishes in the sink?” If the answer is “she would wash the dishes when she had a spare moment or ask me to help out” then congratulations, you aren’t as helpless as you pretend to be! You DO know what to do!

Now GO DO IT and your wife will magically transform before your eyes into the sexy woman you fell in love with instead of the nagging shrew who seems to think she’s your mother!

 

 

 

Lies My Parents Told Me: What I Mean When I Say “Know Better, Do Better”.

 

me

Years ago, my father gave me the most important piece of future parenting advice I ever needed to hear: “Be at least one step better than I was. Do better.”

I took that advice to heart. I questioned what I was taught. I questioned my upbringing as I learned new information that contradicted what I had been told. And I DID BETTER.

What my father didn’t tell me though was how in the process of learning to do better, I would come to a lot of shocking and often painful realizations about myself. There would be things that I would learn that I wouldn’t want to face because they would confirm what I had lost or never had.

When I learned about attachment theory, I felt that pain so strongly. I realized that most of my problems stemmed from my lack of emotional regulation; mainly, my difficulty relating to others, dealing with other people’s emotions when they get intense, and how I feel both insecure and suffocated in relationships. I realized that my constant fear of being alone was a result of my insecure attachment. I learned that punishment was a big factor in how I ended up seeing myself. I have struggled most of my adult life trying to re-learn the things I should have learned in childhood.

I don’t blame my parents for not knowing what they didn’t know at the time, but I also can’t ignore the pain that it causes me. The grief I felt as I realized that the way I was parented in early childhood was truly painful and that regardless of how I had acted out to “deserve” that punishment, my childhood self had only been seeking love and acceptance. When she didn’t get that love and acceptance, she got scared. She acted out because she was angry, and instead of her parents recognizing that anger she was punished for “having an attitude”. It’s no wonder that I still don’t know how to handle my emotions well. I stifle my feelings until they finally get to be too much, and then I lash out at people. I throw an adult temper tantrum.

The more I read about emotional regulation, the more the lights turn on in my subconscious and I start to see the scars of my childhood clearer than ever.

I see that lonely, scared, anxious little girl who cried in her bed at night but nobody ever knew; or if they did, they never came to hold her and rock her (I should know; I cried often back then).

Much like how I learned that circumcision without medical necessity was a lie that was inflicted on generations of men “for their own good”, how the patriarchy has lied to women for centuries in order to control them, and everything I’ve learned about physiological birth, the things I learned about attachment theory and how it relates to me had me questioning everything I had been indoctrinated to believe from childhood.

It made me weep and rant and scream and rage at the injustice of it all! I felt betrayed. As a mother myself those feelings were magnified further because I understood what the books meant about parental instincts. How often did I feel that visceral pull to my children when they were in distress? How often did I want to just wrap my arms around them and take that pain away?

Knowing how powerful that feeling was, it is difficult to accept that when I was that small child in distress, the caregivers I was dependent on stood by and let me cry. They didn’t help me work through my feelings. They punished me for screaming, for “carrying on”. They told me to “grow up”, “suck it up”. “Life’s not fair!” they said.

The phrases that my books suggest I use with my kids were things I never heard as a child, and THAT hurts. How much nicer would it have been for someone to acknowledge that I was afraid or sad or angry, but that they would help me through it? Instead of “That’s enough!”

“Go to your room, young lady!”

“Watch your mouth!”

“Don’t you dare talk back to me!”

“Because I said so!”

“It’s just a ___! You’re making a big deal over nothing”

“You’re too old to be freaking out over this!”

“Suck it up!”

“Grow up!”

“Some kids have it so much worse than you! Be thankful!”

“Stop whining about things that aren’t important”

“You’re being ridiculous”

“You don’t know what you’re talking about.”

 

I wrote out a letter that I will never publish and never send, but even as I wrote it, I cried. I felt the pain of being that little girl all over again with every word, even as I worked to forgive the person who had caused that pain. It was hard; it was like opening up an old wound that I’d long since tried to bury under a million bandages and anesthetize with a dozen painkillers until I could pretend it wasn’t there at all.

But I had to do it for my children. In reading those books on emotional regulation, I realized that I will never be able to accomplish what I’m determined to do for my children until I heal myself. I have to examine all the ways in which I was taught the wrong ways of handling my emotions and all the ways in which I wasn’t given what I had truly needed. It’s the ONLY way I will be able to help my own children work through the same feelings that I had as a child, so that instead of teaching THEM to shut down those emotions, I show them that ALL their feelings are okay.

Because when you know better, you do better. And while I know that I am only working with the current information that is available to me NOW, my willingness to change and evolve will become the most important lesson my children will ever need to know in order to do better than I did.

Snow White Was Kind of AWFUL

I’m a Disney Princess lover and a HUGE fan of all things Disney. I’m not ashamed to admit that I know the words to all the songs and have sung “Whistle While You Work” as I clean up the house in spite of the fact that I can’t actually whistle. Naturally, as a mother I have gone from just being a closet Disney fan to fully embracing my Disney obsession. Hey, when you have little kids it’s so much easier to justify being part of the Disney Movie Club and buying up all the DVDs every time there’s a sale.

Well, last week I sat down with my almost-5 and almost 2-year olds and put on a classic: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. I know that the film gets a lot of criticism for the whole “unconsented kiss” thing, which okay, I GET it. I’m feminist and I’m BIG on consent. But just to get this out of the way, Snow White KNEW the prince! She even told the Dwarves that she “fell in love” and that “he was so romantic, I could not resist” and that “someday my prince will come”.

What does that tell you? Well, it’s pretty clear that he’s her true love. He’s not some random royal dude riding through the forest and coming across some girl he doesn’t know; he’s clearly someone who is destined to break the spell/curse later on. In the original tale that wasn’t the case, and actually it’s a LOT creepier. Snow White is about seven years old when the dwarves take her in. It’s clear that “time passes” but not so clear how MUCH time passes. For all we know it could be seven years (making her 14) or ten years (17) but still she’s a freaking teenager. And this prince comes along and he says “hey, I like that pretty girl in the glass coffin. Give her to me and I’ll take her to my castle to put among my other weird ass trophies” or that’s how it comes across when I read it. There’s no kiss, but the jolt of the coffin his men are carrying bumps the piece of apple from the sleeping girl’s throat and she wakes up. Then there’s this whole thing where they call the wicked queen to the castle for the wedding and make her dance to death in iron shoes from the fire, but whatever.

The point is that Disney thought that it might be better received if the prince kisses Snow White because he’s sad to have lost the girl he’d been searching for all that time. The dwarves likely allowed it because this guy is clearly the prince Snow White sang about. And the kiss is the freaking antidote to the curse! It says so right in the witch’s spell book.

“The curse of the sleeping death can only be broken by love’s first kiss”. Not sure how that would work if Snow White didn’t have a true love before biting into the apple, but it doesn’t say “until some random dude comes by and kisses the victim” so what exactly is the problem here?

Consider the viewpoint of the prince for a minute; he thinks she’s dead. He’s kissing the girl he loved goodbye and is surprised that she wakes up. Yay, happy ending! The prince came and they were reunited. He’s not some random guy, they had a (brief) history and the beginning of the film to set up their story and Snow White obviously was waiting for him to come find her someday. This is not the story one should be criticizing for lack of consent. The original fairy tale, certainly! The one Sleeping Beauty is based on, again definitely! But the Disney version is NOT that and there’s so many other things I take serious issue here with!

What could be worse than a kiss that breaks a spell? Well, for one thing Snow White is TERRIBLE!

No, really, she is just AWFUL! Her shrill voice aside, here’s the things that really make me wonder if that sweet exterior is all an act of a sociopath or at the very least a spoiled brat.

She plays with the prince’s affections

Okay, so this might be one of those “it was a different time” sort of deals, but I really don’t get the whole love story of her and the prince. She’s singing at her wishing well, saying “I’m wishing for the one I love to find me today.” So what happens? The prince rides by, hears her, and hops the wall of the courtyard to serenade her. And she runs away! I don’t get that.

She could have stayed and said “hey, my stepmother dressed me in rags and treats me like a slave. I’m the true heiress to this kingdom. You should take me away right the hell now and then together we can wage a war and take back my kingdom!” But does she do that? Nope!

She runs up to her little tower, plays the shy little maiden and he’s pouring his heart out to her in song in pure Disney style. And she kisses a bird, has it fly down to him to kiss him on the lips, and then she just closes the curtains and leaves him there. He’s standing in the freaking courtyard of a palace he wasn’t actually invited in, and Snow White doesn’t even seem to care at all. Oh no, she’s just going to play hard to get while her stepmother stares daggers at them from another window.

The queen is an actual WITCH! She could do anything to that prince that she liked. She could cast a spell on him to make him fall for HER. She could turn him into a wild animal. She could kill him or have her guards kill him right in front of Snow White. I’m having a very hard time suspending belief here that the queen would actually have let the prince hop the wall without any guards or hired assassins coming out to kill him. And this is even MORE unbelievable when she later discovers that he is literally the antidote to her curse on Snow White!

Queen Captures Prince

WHY would she not have had him killed? WHY would Snow White have even put him in that position? Is this an old-timey thing? Were women really supposed to demure even if the guy was potentially in danger of being locked in a freaking dungeon full of skeletal remains of prisoners who were clearly starved to death and had pitchers of water just beyond their reach?

Thirsty prisoner

Which brings me to my next point…

Snow White HAD to know that the queen was evil

It’s never explained what exactly happened to her father, the king, but technically this IS Snow White’s kingdom. SHE is supposed to be the one in charge of things. Yet somehow it’s accepted that she’s to become a scullery maid. So she’s working WITH the servants and we all know that servants would be privvy to a lot of the seedy underworkings of the castle. Somebody had to be noticing that people were going into the dungeons and not coming out. Probably GOOD people, too, because an evil queen isn’t likely to punish evil people for doing evil things because HELLO, EVIL!

Book ends

Are they made into her own macabre decor for her dungeon?

What exactly is “the penalty” if her underlings fail her anyway? Is it death? Probably, but not specifying HOW is part of the mystery. If you look in the background of the dungeon scenes there are a LOT of skeletons. Who were those unfortunate souls who wasted away to nothing but bones? Were they servants who were perhaps fond of their true monarch and had somehow tried to put Snow White on the throne? Did Snow White know about them? Did she ever wonder what happened to them? Did she just turn a blind eye?

Seriously, this queen is so clearly bad news and Snow White is just all “la la la, singing a song about having a prince come find me even though I am the rightful heiress to this kingdom”. She could have rallied the servants to her cause. She could have gotten word out to SOMEONE who was loyal to her father. Hell, if she wanted a prince so badly she could have sent out envoys in secret to go out and tell every other monarch that she needed a husband and they might all have banded together to free her and kill the queen.

Snow-white gangster

But noooo, that’s not our princess! She would rather sing to the birds and scrub the stone steps of a courtyard; and seriously that makes even less sense! Honey, you’re outside! The steps are NEVER going to stay clean so maybe just sweep them off and call it a day, okay?

scrub steps

She didn’t care what happened to the huntsman

Okay, so she’s off in the glades with the huntsman who was basically threatened to kill her or else (“you know the penalty if you fail”). Obviously something very bad will happen if he doesn’t do what he’s told to do, but he risks his neck for Snow White because she’s his Princess and he isn’t willing to kill an innocent girl.

Snow White learns that the queen wants her dead. So she runs away into the woods. But does she even think of that huntsman again? Does she wonder if he’s okay? Is there an unfinished sequel where she goes back to her kingdom after waking up and asks if the guy is okay because clearly the queen figured out that he tricked her? WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED TO THAT POOR MAN???? Did the queen kill him and his entire family before setting off to find Snow White? Was it on her to-do list after crushing the dwarves with that boulder? Did Snow White ever think to reward him for sparing her life and telling her of the queen’s plan? Somehow I doubt it because she’s very self-centered and seems to just expect others to do what she says because she’s Snow-freaking-White. Did you not listen to the beginning of that song? Well, let me refresh your memory…

She didn’t freaking clean the house, the animals did all the work!!!!

Let’s get one thing straight: Snow White did fuck all and expected a bunch of forest animals to pick up the slack for her so that SHE could have a place to stay (maybe) with the owners of the house she just broke into. She knocks on the door, nobody answers.

“Guess there’s no one home,” she says before inviting herself in through the front door. She sees that the house is a disaster and starts tsk tsking the fact that nobody has ever cleaned the place. “You’d think their mother would–” she starts off saying.

Their mother would WHAT, Snow? Get off her lazy butt and clean up the place to your standards? Now my house isn’t nearly as bad as the dwarves’ cottage, but I’m sure that the washing machine covered with dust would probably just as easily offend your precious princess eyes. Seriously though, you’re in a cottage that is dirty but nobody is home to actually clean because they are out working. Do you think they have time to clean? NO! And did YOU even have time to clean the whole place by yourself? Probably not, but then YOU didn’t have to waste so much time and energy DID YOU? NOOOOO, you just had your animal friends whom you JUST met do all your work for you.

“Now YOU wash the dishes” she says to the animals by the sink, “YOU tidy up the room” she says to another bunch of critters, “YOU clean the fireplace” she says to the next group, “and I’LL use the broom”!

First of all, HOW is that a fair deal? Okay sure, let’s have forest animals do all the drudgery of washing the dishes, cleaning the cobwebs out of the ceiling beams, and meanwhile here’s this spoiled little rich girl twirling around with a broom and a dust rag and singing her little song. She piles a bunch of clothes onto a young buck and doesn’t even bat an eye as he stumbles out the door to drop this load of washing into the pond for her. And who is washing that laundry? NOT Snow White! Heavens NO! She is far to perfect to be concerning herself with actual scrubbing and leaves that to the raccoons and the turtles. The birds will hang her washing for her on the line to dry! She’ll sweep the front step and keep singing away as the animals do all the work she said she would do.

And then as a reward for all that work she goes upstairs and falls asleep on the beds without even bothering to turn out the lights or put on her own blanket, because why bother doing that when you have furry slaves at your beck and call willing to do every little task for you?

snow-white-and-the-seven-dwarfs-34

To add insult to injury, those poor little forest animals didn’t even get to rest after all the work they did. They had to hightail it out of the cottage not even 5 minutes after they climbed onto the beds for a nap.

Snow White doesn’t give a damn about the dwarves’ safety

Grumpy is the voice of reason here. He points out that the queen is evil and a witch and she could “swoop down and wreak her vengeance” on all of them. Snow White doesn’t seem phased by this. “But she doesn’t know where I am” she replies cheerfully. Then she bribes them with baked goods and a clean house knowing full well that they would agree to that (and also knowing that she has an army of forest slaves at her disposal). But we ARE talking about Snow here, and maybe she just is oblivious to her privilege in this case.

She is also pretty damn bossy for someone who is essentially a house guest

Okay, is it gross that the dwarf men don’t wash their hands? Yes. Did Disney just want to make a silly song about washing and eating with manners because it’s a family film? Also possible. But the way she goes about her request is pretty much a demand. What would you say if you invited someone to stay with you and they immediately pulled rank and told you that you couldn’t have a bite to eat until you made yourself more presentable for dinner?

Personally I would remind that house guest whose house it is!

She treats her servant animals like crap after all they did for her!!!

I just can’t get over this whole animal servant thing! If I could train my cats (or even my kids) to do all my chores for me while I cheerfully sang a song MAYBE I might understand Snow’s motives a little better, but I really don’t think I will ever understand WHY they put up with her after this!

So you’re a little exploited forest animal working for your new unquestioned mistress who somehow controls your will by singing. You’ve worked your little paws and beaks and tails off for her gain and then you see this creepy old woman in the forest coming toward the house. You sense immediately that she’s evil and try to warn your mistress. But instead of thanking you, she shoos you away and scolds you. She takes the creepy old lady into the house even though she has been told numerous times in the past 48 hours (or less) that the queen is a witch and can disguise herself as anyone and that she wants to kill her.

Now if I was that forest animal I would be thinking “you know what? SCREW THIS BITCH!” Before she came along life was just fine. At least there won’t be any more dishes to wash or laundry to scrub!

But no, these forest animals are much more forgiving than I would be and they run off to the mine to tell the dwarves (who are also slow at figuring out what’s going on) and then what do they get in the end for all their trouble? Snow White leaves with the prince. It’s back to the forest for you, little animal slaves! Snow will have human servants to boss around in her new palace. Which brings me to my final issue with this princess…

Snow White doesn’t care about her own people

The queen is dead. Presumably the king was dead long before this adventure began. So while Snow is slumbering in the forest for a year or more (it was never specified how many seasons passed) the kingdom Snow abandoned when she ran into the forest has been without anyone to rule it. What happened to that kingdom? Shouldn’t Snow have had the prince take her home to her OWN castle first? Would that not have crossed her mind at all? Even if she’s super keen on marrying this guy she met once a year ago (or longer) because of true love or whatever, she should still think about maybe stopping by her own lands and making arrangements to have them tended to while she joins the kingdoms by marriage. I know Once Upon a Time addressed this, but THAT Snow was way more awesome than this animated first draft of the character.

I don’t even see them as the same person because the OUaT Snow was at least considerate enough to LEAVE so her friends wouldn’t be in danger. THAT Snow willingly took the apple, knowing she would be under a curse, because it would save the people she loved.

 

 

But this one is either a closeted sociopath who likes to force others into doing everything for her, or she’s just incredibly stupid and can’t see her own privilege.

Snow_white_09

 

 

 

No More Time Outs! What Happened When I Stopped Punishing My Kids

We need to reframe our thinking when responding to our kids. When I stopped thinking of my kids as giving me a hard time and started seeing they were having a hard time, I was able to respond to their feelings instead of their behavior. Peaceful Parenting really does work!

My child is not giving me a hard time… My child is HAVING a hard time

 

About a month ago I made a bold decision that surprisingly no one challenged me on. I don’t know if it’s because they didn’t see the post, didn’t read it, didn’t care, or if they were just so shocked by what I said that they couldn’t think of a response that would be diplomatic enough to express their disappointment with me.

Whatever the reason, NOBODY has commented on that post and I haven’t heard a word about my new approach to discipline–or more accurately, the complete absence of it.

I will admit right now that I haven’t had a perfect transformation (yet). I still yell sometimes and there are still those moments when I want to just give up and MAKE my son behave. But I haven’t given into that strong urge that stems from my own lack of emotional regulation and for that I’m freaking proud of myself!

It’s been a rather interesting several weeks using this new model of parenting and it helps that I’ve been reading Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids every night and using the new tools that I’ve found in the chapters as well as in “The Whole Brain Child“, the latter of which I photocopied and taped to the cupboard doors in my kitchen. My son isn’t magically transformed into an obedient child, but things are definitely easier than they used to be. To put it simply, when I got rid of punishment I got results a LOT faster and with far less drama!

Power Struggles are Disappearing

It wasn’t always enough to just offer him the choices or calmly tell him what he needed to do. At certain times of the day (the morning, before mealtimes and a few hours before bedtime) it didn’t matter how nicely we asked him to do something (even something that he would probably want to do, like turn off the TV to get dressed and go out with Dad), he would put up a fight. He would scream “NO, Little Shithead!” He would throw things if we stepped in and just turned off the TV on him. He would turn a simple request into a huge power struggle and our default solution was always to tell him that if he didn’t stop right now he would lose his privilege we were offering him (“that’s it! NO park/bedtime story/treat at the grocery store/going out with Daddy later”).

I always hated that ultimatum because it was as much a punishment for ME as it was for our kid. If he lost special Daddy Day then I lost Special Mommy By Herself For a Few Hours Day. Lose the bedtime story and I lose that special time where it’s just me and my son settling down to read. No treat? Great! Now we’re dealing with a hungry AND angry kid in the grocery store who keeps whining for a treat anyway.

It wasn’t fun. It wasn’t working. And it made life SO stressful!

So what happened when I took those threats away? I turned the request into a game. No, seriously, everything I wanted him to do that he didn’t want to do has become a game when the initial request is met with unreasonable defiance.

Doesn’t want to pick up his toys with me? “How fast can you pick these up? I bet I can beat you to it! Oh no, you’re so much faster than me! Oh no, you’re going to win! Uh oh, I’m almost done…oh no! You beat me because now your sister is helping you! Yay! We’re done! Now we can go and play your game! Good job!”

Doesn’t want to brush his teeth? “Race you!”

Doesn’t want to put something in his room? “Can you do it before I get to 30 counting? Oh wow! You got it done in 24 seconds!”

Fight anger with more play time!

Sometimes the suggestion of a game wasn’t enough. Sometimes he was just so crabby and he would hit me. In the past I would immediately send him to time out in his room. He would scream and throw things and hit even more. I would spend an entire afternoon fighting with that child to stay in his room and stop acting out. I would take every single toy he owned and put it in my room and tell him he could have them back when he stopped hitting or throwing things. He would just get angrier. He would hurt his sister, he would hurt the cats, and he would hurt me.

I don’t punish him or even react to him hitting me anymore. I stop, I take a deep breath, and then I attack him…playfully!

I channel all that frustration with him and transform it. I say “THAT’S IT! I HAVE HAD IT! YOU’RE GONNA GET IT NOW!” I say it in my “fake mad voice” and then I grab him, thrown him to the foam mat that I lay down in the living room and I tickle him until all his hits and kicks and “mad” is out of his system.

It releases his frustration, he stops hitting, and then afterward he’s more willing to play my clean up game.

When he can’t calm down I change his focus

We have a big tree in our yard and squirrels live in it. When my son is bouncing on the couch and I need him to stop but he’s too wound up I no longer MAKE HIM sit. I don’t threaten, I don’t even yell. Yelling never worked and would lead to violent outbursts in the past. Obviously trying to calm him down would mean that the last two tactics I use (game playing and wrestling him into “submission”) would rile him up more. So I pretend there’s something outside the window.

“Shh!” I say. “Listen! Quiet! Watch!” I point out the window at the tree. “Did you see him?”

My son will stop and look out the window (there’s nothing actually there, but he thinks there is) and I keep watching. I tell him in a whisper that he has to watch and be quiet.

Sometimes he’ll spot a bird or a cat I didn’t see, other times he’ll say “he went home” and either way he has stopped jumping on the couch. He’s calm and I can then tell him “hey, would you like to do a craft/color/work on your letters with me?” And he will settle down to work on something quiet.

 

These are just some of the things I’ve started doing with my son instead of punishing him (his sister is only 22 months old and so wouldn’t be punished for anything right now anyway) and I am amazed at how much better the days are going.

Sure, he’s still got an explosive temper and he doesn’t always want to do what I ask him to, but he’s also ONLY 4 YEARS OLD! And he’s doing much better than a lot of kids his age; the final visit with the child development specialist confirmed that last week. She actually said “I’m not needed here; you’ve got this!”

As for whether or not my son is actually learning to control himself, well he was playing with his sister and she destroyed his block tower. He said “Mommy, she broke my tower but I didn’t hit her, no.” And when he has accidentally hurt me or even hit me out of anger HE is the one apologizing and it’s without me having to say anything to him. “I’m sorry I hurt you, Mommy” he’ll say. “I didn’t want to but my body was controlling me”. He gets it. He is working on his impulse control and the older he gets the easier it will get.

What about the baby?

His sister is probably going to be my biggest “experiment” but I don’t know if it would be an accurate comparison because she’s more laid back than her big brother was at her age. Their personalities are like day and night, despite being raised nearly the same way.

I do know that it is easier to calm her down when I acknowledge her feelings and just give her a hug.

“I know, that scared you”

“Yeah”

“You want to go play now?”

“Yeah”

“Okay, go play”

 

Progress, Not Perfection

I will say this now: I am NOT a Perfect Parent. I don’t aspire to be one either. I am still learning and I don’t plan to ever stop learning. But one thing that this new approach has shown me is that I am finally making progress after years of not knowing how to handle my spirited child(ren) in their most difficult moments. More importantly, I am no longer as frustrated as I used to be. I don’t yell as often as I did. I am actually succeeding in my goal not to spank.

Today my child tested my patience. EVERYTHING was a battle. It didn’t matter how many times I tried to redirect him, wrestle and tickle him, or cuddle him. He was just in one of those moods where NOTHING works.

But even when I was about to lose it on him, I was able to stop. I got SO close to that breaking point when I would normally storm off and lock him out of my bedroom or worse, spank him, and I DIDN’T DO IT.

I grabbed him, I dragged him into his room, I threw him onto the bed. I was SO angry with him because he would not stop hitting me or his sister and he BIT her. He had called me a “Shithead Mommy” and I was DONE!

But I stopped. After I threw him on the bed I stopped. I laid down on the bed with him and I just held him. He was crying and saying how sorry he was and begging me not to hurt him because he knew that he had pushed me to my limit, and instead of telling him he was to stay in his room until he was ready to calm down, I just lay there. I held him. He started to cry and I picked him up, no longer feeling that rush of adrenaline, and I rocked him.

And after he was finished crying he wanted to watch a movie in his room so I put on Fern Gully.

Did he act up again after that? Well, yes he did. He’s 4 and he’s dealing with some really big emotions. He needs to feel safe again after all that punishment he’s faced in the past. All those times when I would send him to his room and yell and take his toys hardened his heart. He was scared to cry so he acted out with anger instead. But he is acting out LESS than he used to; that’s the difference. He’s calming down faster than he did a month ago.

A few hours later I told him that hitting isn’t okay. I said “I’m learning to control my body and you need to learn to control yours. What can you do instead of hitting?” And then we came up with some ideas on what we can do.

It’s WORTH The Effort!

It’s going to take time, a lot more effort, and a lot more patience. But I’m confident that I will be able to get him to a point where he won’t need to repress his emotions and he won’t need to hit to release any frustration. Considering that emotional regulation is what’s severely lacking for many males in our society, this is HUGE! If I can raise my son to know how to control his anger AND deal with his feelings, then I will be doing every woman he ever dates a huge favor. I will have succeeded in raising a man who will not EVER hit a woman OR use his size to intimidate or control her. I will have raised a man who also won’t hit or bully others to get what he wants and more importantly he will go into parenthood with a gift of emotional regulation. He will have a new parenting model that will benefit my future grandchildren.

So yes, this new way of parenting takes a lot more creativity, patience, and it’s time consuming. I’m not going to get results overnight. He isn’t going to immediately comply with every request I make, but the long-term goal has always been to raise a MAN who will do right in this world because it’s right, not because it’s expected. My goal is to raise a human being with true empathy and compassion; someone who won’t “just follow orders” because someone evil is threatening him into compliance. I want to raise human beings who question the authority when the rules are unethical or marginalize a group of people unfairly. I want them to stand up against injustice and to recognize that injustice. I want them to smash the patriarchy!

The very LAST thing I want to do is raise another asshole like the ones I see on social media all the time. And if I do my job right, maybe, just maybe humanity might not be so doomed after all.

Genital Mutilation is NOT a “Personal Choice”

There is NO good reason to cut the genitals of a healthy newborn baby boy. It's not a "personal choice". It's not a "controversial subject". It's culturally sanctioned genital mutilation for no good reasons. Educate yourself and be on the right side of our brutal history.

 

There’s a parenting group of which I see the same tired questions over and over again. It’s a topic that gets censored by the moderators almost immediately, and when I see these posts I have to be very quick at delivering my information before the comments get turned off. Often comments get deleted, and it’s the comments that are AGAINST this “choice”. Only it’s not really a choice.

Breastfeeding or formula feeding is a choice.

Co-sleeping or sleep training is a choice.

Home birth or Hospital is a choice.

But cutting off a healthy piece of your child’s anatomy just because it was once considered “cleaner” is NOT a choice.

Routine Infant Circumcision is Genital Mutilation

I don’t care what your “reasons” are. Unless it was medically indicated to fix an issue that could NOT be fixed any other way, it is genital mutilation. You are choosing to cut the genitals of your baby boy.

It’s uncomfortable to call it what it IS, which is why someone came up with a fancy term “circumcision” to describe the brutal process of strapping down an infant male and removing his foreskin.

And I REFUSE to frame THAT as a parent’s “personal choice”. Sorry (not sorry) but if you have to ask if you should cut your baby boy you are expecting in however many weeks, then I will tell you NO! I will not be kind about it either. I will call it “genital mutilation” and point out that we don’t remove the clitoral hoods off of baby girls.

I know that there are many “reasons” why people do this to their boys. Note my use of “to” instead of “for”. It’s not FOR them. Trust me, no man who learns what was robbed from him at birth would choose to have a sensitive part of his anatomy amputated for reasons more to do with misconceptions, misinformation, superstition, and cultural bias.

In the U.K. there is a very low rate of circumcision. It baffles the people there that North Americans routinely cut their boys’ genitals at birth.

Information on this subject isn’t just reserved for medical professionals; you can freely access it on the internet. There is a reason WHY Canada’s health insurance doesn’t cover it unless it is medically indicated. There’s a reason why parents who want to do it have to pay out hundreds of dollars to do it.

IT. ISN’T. NECESSARY.

The Reasons To Do It Aren’t REAL Reasons

Before the threads on the parent sites get “shut down” and the parents who ask the questions can be properly educated, there are a lot of stupid, outdated reasons that the defenders of genital cutting like to state as a reason for other parents to cut their baby boys’ genitals. You know, because THEY did it to THEIR sons and have to justify the decision rather than simply accept that they didn’t know what they didn’t know at the time, they know better now, and while they can’t change what happened they can recognize that it was wrong.

When you know better, you DO better. Unless you choose to deny that you know better.

Well I’m not here to protect fragile human ego. I have an answer for all these “reasons” and I have logic on my side. Here’s the ones that are said most often:

“It’s cleaner”

NO, it’s NOT “cleaner”. There is nothing “clean” about having a wound that may be bleeding inside a diaper with feces and urine. You know what’s clean? An intact penis that hasn’t yet been retracted because the foreskin is still fused to the glans (like a fingernail) until such time as the child naturally gets older and is able to painlessly retract it himself. Until such time, you just wipe like it’s a finger and don’t worry about it. Much like the vagina is self cleaning, so is the penis of an intact male.

“Well I heard of a man who had to do it at 70 because the care aids didn’t clean him properly and he got an infection”. So rather than teach care aids and other health workers how to properly care for an intact patient you would rather cut off a healthy part of their anatomy as a baby when they have no say over the matter? Yeah, because that makes sense, sure! Why hold our staff to a higher standard of care when we can just cut the genitals of our baby boys so that they don’t need it done when they’re in a retirement home?

“I want him to look like his dad” You know, that makes perfect sense! My husband has a tattoo on his shoulder of a dragon so I think I should take my 4 year old to the tattoo parlor next week. You know, so that they “match”. Seriously though, this is a stupid reason to mutilate your child. You want to perpetuate something of which your mate had zero control over and subject your child to that same violence and loss of full genital function so they can “match” each other. Buy them matching outfits or give them matching haircuts. Leave your child’s penis alone.

“It prevents STIs” So do condoms, and they don’t involve loss of full genital function or potential complications from unnecessary surgery.

“It’s a personal decision” You’re right. The only problem with your logic is that you can’t ask your unborn/newborn son whether he wants to be strapped down to a board and have part of his penis cut for your own preferences. So how about you just wait until he’s 18 and old enough to decide for himself and ask him if he wants part of his genitals cut off and see what he says to that. After all, it’s a personal decision.

“If you don’t cut then it’s more work” Nope. Don’t retract. Don’t let anyone else retract. The foreskin will retract on its own when the child is older and then they can take care of it themselves. That might not even happen until puberty. Outdated misinformation on this subject is why doctors might still tell you to retract the foreskin, and if the doctor is telling you to retract then please educate them on intact care so they don’t tell some other parent this wrong information.

“If you don’t cut then they’ll get an infection” Only if you forcefully retract the foreskin. See above.

“It’s not as attractive” Gross that you think a mutilated penis is more attractive. Even more disgusting is that you care about the look of your child’s penis so much that you would wish to mutilate them just to adhere to your standards of attractiveness. That’s like insisting your daughter get breast implants because you prefer large breasts.

“Well everyone in our family is done” So break the cycle of forced genital cutting at birth and make a change. Once upon a time “everyone” used to sell their daughters into marriage in exchange for land or titles. “Everyone” used to accept that husbands had authority and could beat their wives and rape them because they had the marital right to sex. “Everyone” used to turn a blind eye to child abuse. This IS child abuse. END IT.

“It’s part of our religion” Look, I KNOW this isn’t likely going to mean much to you since it’s coming from an atheist, but I have to point this out anyway: if your religion requires you to cut off part of your genitals then maybe you should question that a little more. Maybe ask yourself if that part of the text should be abandoned in favor of the overwhelming evidence that this practice is harmful. Because I don’t care if it’s in a religious text: if there was a passage that said you could kill and eat people that wouldn’t fly in today’s society. Genital cutting isn’t religion. It’s mutilation.

“But if I don’t cut him and he has to have it done later it will be more traumatic” If you don’t retract and don’t let anyone else retract there is a slim to zero percent chance that he will “have to” be cut. Also this logic is stupid. More people get appendicitis and yet we aren’t taking out everyone’s appendix at birth “just in case”. We don’t cut off breasts just in case they become cancerous. We don’t take out tonsils “just in case” they get infected.

Genital Cutting of Newborn Boys NEEDS TO STOP NOW!

gloria circ

There are many, many people who have realized that genital mutilation is wrong. Many doctors are against it. Midwives are certainly against it. The government has decided to stop paying for it unless it is medically indicated. Parents who are educated on intact care continue to speak to new parents and tell them “NO! Don’t do it!” There are parenting forums that will not even tolerate any pro-genital cutting talk. But then there are the forums that are most definitely on the wrong side of censorship and they delete the wrong comments and shut down the conversation because it’s “controversial”. NO!

Abortion is controversial. Unassisted birth is controversial. But genital cutting should NOT be controversial. Genital cutting is wrong. It is wrong like slavery and marital rape are wrong.

I’m not blaming parents who cut their boys when they didn’t know any better. It was something that the founder of a breakfast cereal really pushed for because he hated sex. Thank god carbolic acid to the clitoris didn’t also catch on!

But NOW we have so much more information than our parents and grandparents had access to. Any doctors still pushing for this bullshit procedure are doing so BECAUSE IT MAKES THEM MONEY.

Genital cutting continues so that the dishonest people who are unfortunately in the medical profession can make “easy” money.

And if bodily autonomy, loss of full genital functioning and sensation, and the fact that it is NOT medically necessary are not enough of a reason for you to reconsider routine infant genital mutilation, consider the fact that babies die from this. Babies have lost their genitals from this. Babies have complications from this. The pain of genital cutting can interfere with breastfeeding. It can lead to painful adhesions and require further operative procedures.

None of these things are worth it just so your son can look like his dad.

Educate yourself and spare your child the future knowledge that the medieval and barbaric practice of routine genital cutting was something you chose to do to him as a baby even though other people told you not to do it. Because it’s been proven to be unnecessary, fewer people are subjecting their infants to this horrific practice. Which side of history will you be on? 

 

 

I’ve Decided to Stop Disciplining My Kids and This is Why

The truth is that the old strategies don't work and never did. Spanking, time outs, reward charts and removal of privileges doesn't teach what I really want my kids to learn and it doesn't address their emotional needs. Instead of the parenting pop culture practices of disconnection, "Discipline Without Damage" reaffirmed that the real answer is RE-connection. And I have attachment theory to back me up on this radical decision not to discipline.

I am going to say something incredibly controversial and entirely counter-culture to what centuries of parenting pop culture considers to be the mark of a “good” parent.

I am no longer interested in disciplining my children.

I will not do time outs, rewards charts, take away privileges, send them to their rooms, take away their toys, ground them, or do anything else to punish them for their “bad” behavior.

I know what you’re all going to say. I am (not) sorry to say that I no longer care what you say about it.

My Kids, MY Choice!

Much as I chose to breastfeed my children on demand and not force them to wean, or as I chose to bed-share rather than “train” them to sleep through the night, and much as I didn’t push the potty training issue with my son and let him set the pace, I am going to do what FEELS right instead of going by the “status quo”.

I am going back to how I parented when they were babies. Remember: babies cry because of unmet needs.

My babies rarely cried except when I was trying to placate the other adults in my life who seemed to think they knew better than I did about what my child needed.

When I tried to force my son to sleep in a crib instead of my arms, because of the external pressure from other parents who looked at my son’s need for my arms as a “problem”, I suffered the pain of hearing him cry. My heart hurt as I forced the disconnection against every instinct I had and against everything I knew about attachment theory.

I eventually decided after three days that I wasn’t willing to put in the work to sleep “train” my child. I wasn’t willing to do it because I didn’t believe in it. I was only doing it because people told me that I was “supposed to do it” and thankfully my stubborn and intuitive nature and temperament served me and my children well. I was able to say “fuck that shit” and go back to what worked.

My children thrived, eventually slept through the night while in my arms, and at four years old my son was willingly sleeping in his own bed in his room with fewer and fewer nights of climbing into bed with me.

Potty training was much the same. The more I pushed the issue in deference to the other adults who told me that my two year old “should” be pushed into it, the more he resisted. It was a battle with this little guy who would show such emotional distress every time I tried to get him to sit. I didn’t agree with the methods, knew they weren’t working, but I kept at it because that was what other people told me I “needed” to do.

When I backed off and focused on HIS feelings, he came to the decision almost overnight at three years old that he was ready. And I didn’t have any of those “regression” moments that were considered to be commonplace for children. He just decided “I’m ready to face this and Mom says it’s okay to wait if I need to” and that was it.

Because “Discipline” Doesn’t Work and Never Has

The one holdout though was discipline. I KNEW that no matter what I did, it wasn’t working. I have been blessed (NOT cursed) with a child who is smart enough to know his own mind. He KNOWS just as I do that all those discipline strategies are quick fixes. They are slapping Band-aids on the actual problem while not addressing the root cause. You can’t slap a Band-aid on a cut finger and expect it to heal if there’s still a splinter embedded in the skin, and you can’t expect a time-out to “work” when the child still feels like they haven’t had their true need addressed.

It took me going to see a child development specialist about my son’s behavior to figure out that my problem isn’t me OR my son. Not really, anyway. My problem is that my attachment parenting strategy was working as it was supposed to, but then when he began to “act up” as was appropriate for his age, I fell back into a terrible pattern of behavior: I started subconsciously trying to appear “good enough” for OTHER people and stopped being “good enough” for the only one that mattered: my son.

I stopped listening to what he was telling me with his behavior: “I’m sad/hurt/frustrated/overwhelmed” and instead focused on extinguishing the behavior itself. I didn’t address his feelings, I told him “no, that’s bad. Stop.”

No, REALLY! It Didn’t Work The Way You Think It Did!

And then I put him in a time out. Or I took away his toys. Or I yelled at him to stop crying and carrying on. Or in my worst moments, I would spank him. I HATED when I would get to that point because I don’t believe in spanking. I don’t care what any of my relatives say, SPANKING DID NOT WORK!!!!

They’re about to say “well you stopped the behavior! We only had to warn you…”

Yes. I stopped the behavior. I disconnected from you, stopped caring what you thought, decided you were “mean” and didn’t want to behave for you. My name calling and sass-back was my way of showing you just how much I didn’t give a damn what you thought. I openly rebelled against YOU because I wasn’t interested in “earning” your praise. I didn’t see your love as unconditional. And if I “stopped” misbehaving, it was only on the outside. On the inside I was thinking ugly things about you. I HATED you. I might still harbor some resentment toward you, which is why I don’t tell you things and why we aren’t as close as we could have been.

I learned to behave in your presence to avoid punishment. I didn’t have any desire to behave for you if I didn’t perceive your authority and I didn’t have any desire to behave for you without that “fear”.

I don’t want my children to behave out of fear.

Contrary to Popular Opinion, I Am NOT “Fine”!

Do you know what “fear” gets you as an adult?

It manifests as a desire to sacrifice your own needs and happiness in order to keep people around.

It means not telling your boyfriend that you are struggling to pay half the bills every month because you don’t make as much money as he does. So instead you silently suffer and go into debt until finally you’re in way over your head and he says “why didn’t you just come to me sooner? I would have helped you.”

It means not telling your parents when they’ve stepped over the line and made you feel less than capable as an adult, and instead you bottle up all that resentment and hurt and feelings of not ever being “good enough”, and then you overcompensate for that by trying to do MORE than you’re actually able to do. And then you fall short in some way and they say “well clearly you can’t handle that much stress” and you take it as an attack and get immediately defensive. Or you don’t unleash it on THEM, but instead your spouse says something that triggers what THEY would say, and you attack out of fear that your spouse is also criticizing your ability to handle things.

It means deferring to the “expert” midwife who tells you that you “have to” have a hospital birth, so you don’t question it even though your gut instincts are telling you that something isn’t right about what they’re telling you. And then you give up your power and regret that choice for the rest of your life.

It means that when you finally start to find your voice at nearly thirty years old you have this overwhelming need to “prove yourself” and tell off everyone who questions you because damn it, they never listened to you as a child but they are sure as fuck going to listen to you NOW! You WILL NOT be ignored!!!!

I Just Needed to Be Heard

When I was a child growing up in my dad’s home a constant phrase I would say in the face of an unfair punishment was “I just want to be heard.” I would say it and scream it and write it. I would feel this sense of betrayal whenever I wasn’t “heard”. My dad didn’t have the benefit of the knowledge I have available to me now. When he was going to university and studying attachment theory it was still in the early stages of discovery. He was able to do better for me and my brother. I benefited from his learning from the age of eleven to adulthood and my brother benefited from the age of seven to adulthood. The difference between him and I is so profound. He was this explosive, volatile little boy when he was younger. He would tear apart his bedroom, scream, throw things, threaten me with actual weapons, and was just incredibly frustrated and temperamental. We were all worried he would end up in prison if he continued like this.

My dad worked with him. He used the new-found knowledge of child development to emotionally regulate my brother. By the end of his teen years he was transformed! Today you wouldn’t guess that my brother was ever like that as a child; he is a completely different person. He is calm and able to handle any conflict without violence.

I was late to benefit from these lessons. I spent the first eleven years of my life not being able to trust in my attachments. My dad gave me the psychology textbooks and I was able to understand the WHY of my fears of abandonment and my need for approval even as it warred with my need to be my own person apart from what everyone “expected” of me. It would often result in me doing the bare minimum of what was expected with no real desire to do any more, and then I would explode “it’s NEVER enough for you!”

It took becoming a mother for me to address this, and even today I am still trying to work on these issues of being “good enough”.

When You Know Better You Do Better

And so it came to my seeking help outside of the family that believed in discipline/extinction of behavior and turned to the child development specialist. She gave me three books to read: “Rest, Play, Grow”, “The Whole Brain Child” and “Discipline Without Damage”. Each one of them came out long after I left college and I have discovered that my learning of attachment theory was on the right track, but there’s so much more that has been discovered since I last cracked open the textbooks.

There’s been plenty of studies brought to light that spanking doesn’t work and is actually damaging. I know very well what a lot of my relatives have to say about that because they love to share those memes about how kids don’t “respect their elders” anymore because of all these parents “refusing to spank”. Well, I have news for them: it DOESN’T work! And spanking ME did NOT earn you my respect. In fact, if you spanked me often for any misbehavior and you’re wondering why I don’t have a strong relationship with you, that’s why. Nobody RESPECTS a bully; they FEAR the bully. Big difference.

Here’s WHY kids aren’t showing “respect” anymore: they aren’t connected to their adults. They also lost their fear because that big invisible man in the sky that some people believe in no longer holds any fear for them either. Yes, I went THERE. What is the concept of God if not a bigger “parent” for the adults who grew up only knowing how to “fear and obey”? That’s not true morality; that’s being good out of fear of punishment. And people then justify their asshole tendencies as being from a “moral” standing.

We Can No Longer Deny That There IS a Better Way 

Well I don’t want to parent my kids to fear and obey. I don’t want my kids to behave just to please others. I want them to develop moral character out of an innate desire to be kind and loving and to do that I have to address their feelings. I can’t stifle them or stomp them down or ignore their needs to “be heard”. I can’t “make them” behave. I will NOT force my kids to comply and I will not impose my will on them. I will treat them like people. They are little people with big feelings who need to be heard so that they can cry and then move on to the learning part of the experience that caused them distress.

Mental illness is so prevalent in our society and is blamed on everything from technology to toxins to GMOs, but then a book comes out that states that MAYBE the way we were taught to parent our children might be causing these issues, and it’s backed up by studies and brain scans that were not available to us twenty years ago, and yet people dig in their heels and say “but I’m FINE!”

No, you’re not. If you think about your feelings when you were a child, and I mean REALLY think about them, you will realize that you didn’t learn how to handle your emotions; you learned how to “suck it up” and bury them. You learned to just follow orders. And then you grew up and either blindly followed the status quo or you “un-learned” that obedience but might struggle with your emotional regulation when faced with stress.

I’m Going Back to My Instincts

I have always been introspective. I know instinctively when something isn’t working. I knew even as a child that any punishments weren’t “teaching anything” and that I would just do what I was going to do the second I could get away with it, or else I’d think “they just don’t get it” and close myself off emotionally. I put up walls of ice and it has taken a husband and two children for me to bring those walls down and start to identify my triggers and where they’re coming from. I can stop and think about the WHY of my feelings and address that need so I can come back to myself. My children are still too young to do that work themselves. Their brains are not developed enough to stop and think before they do something and considering how even adults can fly off the handle when they’re overwhelmed it is RIDICULOUS to think that children were EVER actually capable of controlling themselves. They can’t. They need our help to do that.

When I address my child’s need for me to “hear” them and validate their feelings, I get a better response. My kids calm down faster, they hear me, and I can redirect them to doing what I need them to do.

When I yell and threaten and punish, my kids yell and scream and act out. Hitting them teaches them to hit me back when they’re angry. Yelling at them causes them to scream at me. Taking their toys causes them to no longer care if they have any toys to play with. They disconnect from me, harden their hearts and put up the same walls that I did decades ago.

I don’t want that for them. I have the knowledge that discipline in that way doesn’t work. I don’t want to bully or bribe my kids into behaving for me; I want to address their emotional upsets so that they can stay connected to me and feel safe to come to me. I want them to want to be good for me because they can safely express their emotions as is developmentally appropriate.

So thank you, but I won’t be disciplining them anymore and I no longer care what you think about that.

My children don’t “need” a spanking; they need to be heard and loved.

After almost 5 years, I finally decided to publish his birth story.

It’s been a long time coming. I have had this sitting in my Evernote inbox for over four years now. My son turns 5 years old this year in May. He will be starting kindergarten this fall. I have gone through birth trauma counselling, worked as a birth advocate since my son was about 16 months old, taken my power back and had an empowering homebirth. That homebirth baby turns 2 at the end of March.

I have written extensively about the trauma of my son’s birth and how many regrets I have over it. But right after I had him, before I had fully processed the full experience and extent of the buried feelings I had over all that happened, I wrote out his story. At the time I didn’t understand why it took me 3 days. At the time I saw the traumatic parts as “normal”. I thought I was “lucky” that I had “made it through, uncut and unscathed”. I felt it could have been so much “worse”. I hadn’t yet learned the extent to which I had been lied to, manipulated and coerced by the system. I hadn’t yet learned that I had the right of informed consent and refusal and I hadn’t yet learned that much of what was in my records was bullshit. I hadn’t yet sent a letter to the College of Midwives to register a complaint and had a response that basically boiled down to “sorry you feel so traumatized, but because your records say you were okay with a hospital birth there’s nothing we can really do. You know, because someone who wasn’t YOU wrote down how they thought YOU felt and it’s documented to cover their ass”. So yeah, nothing came of it. But I really didn’t expect anything to come of it; you don’t spend 4 years as a birth advocate, digging through the statistics and hearing the stories all too common and heartbreaking, to know that the system is rigged. The important thing is that now I have MY proof that the odds are not in my favor and that in order to change things I have to go directly to the mothers who get screwed over and I’m okay with that. I firmly believe that if I tell enough women to be on their guard, a lot of them will listen and say “this is bullshit! I’M in charge here, NOT the system! How DARE they tell me what I can or can’t do to birth MY child!”

But this isn’t about what I know now. I’ve gone over that topic so often that it’s ingrained in my poor husband’s brain and the first thing that pops into his head when he’s talking with other parents about anything baby related. No, this post is about the mom I was in the first few weeks after the birth, when I was still trying to figure out motherhood and was still high on the new mother hormones and hadn’t really examined all too closely what my real feelings were. It’s the mom that still felt that making a fuss over a vaginal delivery when other moms had to have csections would make me seem like I was ungrateful or selfish. It was the mom that still was “playing nice” and thinking her trauma wasn’t really “that bad”. I didn’t have the framework yet to really understand that “good enough” wasn’t actually good enough for me. I didn’t yet understand that I gave in when I didn’t have to, that I let someone else tell me what to do and that I hadn’t had to do THAT either. I didn’t know what I didn’t know; which is much like a lot of mothers and indeed it’s WHY so often birth advocates can hit a wall when talking to women who don’t KNOW that birth can be awesome. It’s NOT something to “just get through”. Thankfully (and I cannot express enough how grateful I am to her), my midwife gave me the words of wisdom I needed to help me unlock those feelings so that I didn’t go and “birth trauma” all over any other mother who might have told me that I deserved better. She said “it doesn’t matter WHAT happened; if YOU feel it was traumatic then it WAS.” So when I was thinking that maybe I didn’t belong at the birth trauma group session after the post-partum drop in, she helped me see that I DID belong there. I hadn’t realized until then just how much the birth had affected me. I hadn’t been able to process it fully when she had asked me 3 days post-partum how I felt. I had been too tired and too happy at NOT being cut to really put too much thought of introspection into why it was so hard for me to get certain images out of my head or why I kept saying “but next time I can have a homebirth so it’s fine. Really.”

And this was the outcome of all those unprocessed feelings. THIS was the birth story I wrote. And after I wrote it, I never looked at it again. I never shared it. In fact, even typing this now, I haven’t read it. I won’t be reading it until I copy and paste the whole thing in here and start adding pictures.

I have lost count how many times I’ve read and shared my daughter’s story, but I am so very aware that my son’s gets no attention other than to point out everything that was wrong about it. I just couldn’t bring myself to share it. I didn’t want to remember.

But he’s turning 5 years old. My daughter is turning 2 in March. I’ve done so much work for other women. I’ve probably healed about as much as I ever will. It’s time I read it, insert the commentary where it needs to go, and move on. Anything in bold type is my current thoughts as I re-read through this, knowing what I know now.

Hunter’s Birth Story

Thursday morning I woke with cramping that was dull and menstrual-like. I ignored them for as long as I could, but by 3:30 pm they were becoming very sharp and were about 9 minutes apart. I called my doula and she was on the phone with me from 4pm to 5:30 and by then my contractions were coming 6 minutes apart. She came to the house around 6pm to help me through a few hours and when they hit the 4-5 minute mark we went to the hospital to be assessed. I wanted to be assessed at home, but Jules was on call the next day and therefore needed her rest and I didn’t know at the time that cervical dilation means nothing so I thought I “had to” be checked. She advised us to just go to the hospital, and I was having such sharp pains that I had to lean over the back of the seat on my knees because sitting was just too uncomfortable. The 5 minute drive to the hospital was brutal. I thought for sure that this was it and he was coming that night.

We get to the hospital and I’m in horrible pain with the contractions still 4 minutes apart. But then things started to slow down to 6 minutes again because I didn’t want to be there and progress slows when I’m stressed or scared, and because I had a record of NSTs I had to have another one in the triage while waiting for the midwife. Eventually she arrived. I was checked by a midwife with her own practice who was filling in for one of the midwives I was seeing who had been on sick leave. She said I was at 2 cm, and I was like “WHAT?” Because I was at 2 cm Tuesday when I’d had my membranes swept. I could NOT believe it; I had been contracting all day long and had all that prelabor for almost a week, and NOTHING had changed at all! Or maybe I had been at 6cm and then closed back up because I was in pain and didn’t want to be there. I tried not to let that discourage me, and at her suggestion we picked up some Gravol, Tylenol, and ice cream for me to have later. Thankfully my fear of being in the hospital overruled any notions of being admitted in early labor. I took my Gravol and Tylenol when we got home, had a bit more pizza to eat, and then went to sleep. I would wake up every 2-5 minutes with a hard contraction that I would have to shake my legs and hips to get through. By about 5:30 I could no longer stand it; I couldn’t sleep anymore, they were back to about 4 minutes apart and I was feeling so much pressure and pinching on my cervix. So probably back to 6cm and had I stayed in the pool at home he would probably have been out by lunchtime. My doula stayed with us for a few hours but had to leave around 8am for her family’s fishing trip, and I was resting on the bed for a while, out of my mind with exhaustion. We got a few very nice pictures from my labor though.

labor

Around 10:30 that morning we went to the hospital and Tyler had to get me the wheelchair and help me into it. While I was waiting I had to lean against one of the pillars between contractions just outside of the hospital. An older lady stopped and asked if I was okay, and I said “I’m just in labor”. She was very nice and rubbed my back, talking to me and asking me if I knew what we were having and if this was my first baby. She stayed with me until Tyler came back, and wished us luck as I was helped into the wheelchair.

We got up to triage and I was admitted immediately, getting a “room” with a window. I stared at the trees swaying and alternated between sitting on the birth ball provided and rocking on the bed. I was checked again, this time by Jules, and she told me I was 4 cm. All that hard early labor and I was only at 4cm! Well, I probably closed up again by going to the hospital and putting up with more cervical checks. I was seriously starting to wonder if things would ever progress, but she said that I was going to be getting a room soon and that things would progress. I begged for a room with a tub, because I wanted to labor in water. I honestly thought that would be enough, and that things would get better.

While we were waiting, Tyler had to go get our stuff from the car, put money in the meter for parking, and get the cooler with our food. I told him “RUN” because with our doula no longer helping me and everyone in the maternity ward being super busy, I was laboring on my own (Good! I need to be alone). I needed my husband (No, I just needed his protection). He was the only one helping me get through these contractions, and they were getting so hard to handle. I was in so much pain, and my back was starting to hurt on one side, which I thought was due to being hunched over (Nope. Back labor). I also had to squat down really low because there was so much pressure and with the contractions coming so hard and fast it was excruciating. I had NO idea that this was NOT normal. I thought I was just progressing really fast and that he would be out in a few hours (he probably would have been if I hadn’t also been fighting against labor-stalling adrenaline).

Anyway, Tyler gets back and we overhear the nurses saying that if I delivered “soon” it would have to be in triage because there were NO rooms available. Well that probably halted any progress I had been making and closed me right back up again! Apparently this was a very busy week for babies and there was another woman laboring hard next curtain away from us. And interrupting my rhythm/concentration. I prayed that I would get a room and that it would be with a tub. Thankfully my wish was granted. Jules came in around 11:30 or so and told me that they were moving people around, discharging some of the moms that had their babies the day before, and that I would have the room with the tub in about an hour because they just had to clean up. It was music to my ears. In the meantime, she also tried to get me to take a blood test. Correction: she intercepted the nurse on her way to do the initial routine bloodwork and had to get me to refuse it myself in order to get them to go away…but way for the hospital to add more adrenaline/fear to my labor. I said “I don’t need one. I’m O positive.” She explained it was to check my hemoglobin count, and again I said “I had one at the beginning of my pregnancy and the test for anemia at 8 months. I’m fine, they said it was high. I can’t take a needle right now; not with these contractions. I can’t relax enough.” Pretty sure I was bitchier than I sound here, and also very frantic/desperate to get them to go away. She let it go, and that was it. No needles. I was so grateful for that, because knowing NOW that my contractions really were that hard, there was NO way I would have been able to relax no matter how much I tried. I really could not handle anymore stress in that moment. I’m glad they didn’t force the issue on me. I’m glad they respected my informed consent and refusal after badgering me three times but really, once should have been enough.

So about an hour later, the tub room was available. Tyler moved our stuff over and Jules helped me walk down the hall. It was a LONG walk and I was in so much pain, but I managed to do it without stopping. I am amazed by this now because of how hard those contractions actually were. They weren’t, actually. The perception of being in the hospital made the pain far worse than it needed to be. Most women probably would have doubled over or fainted or something, but I got to the room and Jules and a nurse helped me into the tub. I stayed in that tub even though the water was not helping. The bathtub was too small and the water didn’t even reach my chest unlike the birth pool which was glorious. I was in so much pain and as the contractions got harder and my back was spasming I had to get up and move to my hands and knees. I still wasn’t handling things well; they were just so sharp and the pain in my back made it so much worse. I said “I want the gas. I need the gas.” Tyler asked me what the password was, because we had agreed that I would use a code word if I truly needed anything to help me through the pain. “Tuxedo,” I said without hesitation. “Give me the gas.”

They got me a huge tank of it. I thankfully knew just how to breathe it in. So the gas worked REALLY well, after only a few deep breaths I was feeling better. I could feel the contraction but the edge was gone. I could handle it. The gas IS awesome.

I don’t know how long I was in there for. Time had ceased to exist and all that was there was the hollow echo of my nature/instrumental CD, with the soft music and crashing of the waves. The gas was my ritual. I would breathe it in the second the contraction started, hold it for a few seconds, and then breathe it out slowly in a sigh of relief. “Remember to only breathe in the gas during a contraction, Honey” Tyler’s voice echoed from seemingly far away. I nodded my head to show I understood. But there were no breaks. I only would stop to take a few sips of gatorade from Tyler’s water bottle, which he offered me every ten minutes or so. As soon as I took in the oxygen, the gas would start to wear off, and the contractions were strong again. And I would remember where I was. I would quickly inhale three times to take it away, and then I was good. By 4pm (which I only know it was because there is a text on my phone from Tyler to my doula) I was asked to lie on my back in the water for another check. I sleepily maneuvered myself and nodded my head, gas tube still pressed between my teeth, and let my midwife check me. I felt hardly anything at all and only heard her say “she’s at 7 cm”. I sighed in relief. I was in transition. Nope. Things would go fast now, I thought to myself. I knew transition rarely lasted more than two hours…

…except in my case where it lasted four. Somewhere in the haze of timeless oblivion that were those four hours, Tyler told me he was going down the hall to use the bathroom (he didn’t want to disturb me by going in MY bathroom). I nodded my head sleepily, not really caring at that point. I was in my own little world where nothing could hurt, frighten, or upset me.

I started to feel pressure building up and checked myself (because I was curious to feel where I was at, and because I have no shame when it comes to my own body). I could feel his head, or possibly just the bag of waters, (bulging waters) and I knew I was close. I also remember that at that time the contractions were even harder and I would suck in the gas much faster, then let out a scream like “OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO” over and over again at each exhale into the tube/bottle. I was also bearing down, trying to get my son low enough that I might be able to “trick” the nurse into having me deliver in the tub. Pushing waaaay too early because I didn’t know any better and thought the bulging waters was the head. Unfortunately they figured it out and I had to be moved (I wasn’t making as much progress as I thought I was, either). Jules and the nurse tried to help me from the tub, but I couldn’t stand up on my own. The pressure was so far down and my legs were shaking so bad. They had to take away the gas (ripped it away, more like) to bring me back to myself, and the second they did the pain hit. And reality set in again that I wasn’t at home where it was safe. It was SO hard to get out of the tub and they wanted me to walk to the bed, which wasn’t really that far, but with the amount of pain I was in it felt like forever just to get out of the bathroom.

“I need the gas,” I sobbed. “Please give me the gas.”

“You can’t have it yet,” was Jules’ constant reply. “We have to get you in bed first.”

Hello trauma! HUGE trigger warning coming up here!

Oh god, it was so hard. And Tyler wasn’t back yet (I couldn’t fight them off on my own) and the midwife and the nurse couldn’t lift me up on their own and I wasn’t able to lift myself. My legs did not want to go up that high because my son was pressing against my hips and I’m tearfully screaming “please just give me the fucking gas!” because at this point I’m hysterical. I’m leaning over the bed, and they keep telling me to get up onto it, and I physically can’t do it. Then, even though my eyes are shut tight and I’m in so much pain, I sense Tyler’s presence. I feel his hands under my arms. I feel him lift me up onto the bed. I hear his voice telling me softly that everything is going to be okay. It still hurts and I’m still having trouble moving into a comfortable position on the bed (that fucking bed!!!!), but now I have him. He’s holding my hand and he’s telling me it’s time for us to meet our son. No it’s not; that trauma just set back any chance that the fetal ejection reflex was going to happen any time soon. I open my eyes and look at the clock across from my bed; the time is 8pm.

I’m on my side, I’m trying to push with everything I have, and nothing seems to be happening. Because it’s not actually time yet and all that stress isn’t helping things! It’s suggested that I move to a semi sitting position and though it’s hard to get up on my own, Tyler helps me and the head of the bed is moved up so that I’m basically on a large recliner. I’m able to make more progress this way, but it’s still taking a lot longer than I thought it should have (Because it’s NOT time yet). It’s been at least an hour and the fetal monitor is back on me (therefore I can no longer MOVE), along with my blue and pink colored bands from all the NSTs that I’d had in the last few weeks. I can feel my son’s head but it’s not enough to get him to crown. The nurse mentions that in my birth plan I wanted to touch my baby’s head as he crowns, and asks if I’d also like a mirror to see what’s going on. I hadn’t thought about this when I was writing out my plan. The idea hadn’t been too appealing then, either, but I nod my head because yes, I do want to see. Turns out that at that point I couldn’t see anything at all. I saw some bulging of my outer labia, but other than that, nothing. I felt defeated.

“Why isn’t he OUT yet?” I cry in frustration, slamming my head back against the bed. “I just want him OUT! Come out, Baby Hunter, everyone’s waiting to meet you!” I’m sobbing now. This is so hard, and a part of me just wishes that they give up and wheel me in for a C-section. Obviously this kid isn’t going to come out on his own, and I must be too small and weak to get him out. Well there’s some of that birth trauma coming out in my words and thoughts. I’m told to push HARD and I look up at Tyler because I really need to borrow strength from him. I don’t have the gas. I don’t have anything at all to block the pain, but I have him. And somehow, he is all I need. I look into his eyes, and they are glistening with tears. A few stray ones fall from his beautiful hazel eyes and trickle down his cheeks. He is holding my hand, letting me grip him as tight as I can, and I am pulling on his arm to anchor myself. He tells me softly “push, honey, you can do it,” and instead of screaming and cursing at him the way the women in the movies all seem to do, I am tearfully telling him how much I love him.

I push hard with each contraction, sometimes screaming “aaaaaahhhh” or “oooooohhhhhh” and keeping my mouth as wide as I can. Other times I’m taking a deep breath and making strangled sounds as I try to hold it and push harder. I don’t even notice the pain anymore. It feels so much better to push during the contraction than to not do anything at all, and I’m trying SO hard to get my son to crown (and working against gravity and fighting my adrenaline). Finally I hear Jules saying “yes, yes, just like that. Keep doing that. You’ve got it!” and I feel like I’m making progress again. The heat of the hot compresses on my perineum also help a lot with numbing the pain and I can feel myself stretching. Interesting how I don’t note that my water broke around this time. Jules asks Tyler if he wants to see the head. I’m a little freaked because OH MY GOD, my husband is going to see his “pleasure hole” being used for a completely functional purpose and he’ll never be able to UN-SEE that. But he looks anyway, and he’s amazed by it, not freaking out. He comments that our son has a lot of hair, and I’m told I can place him hand down to feel it for myself. There is a lot of hair, and I picture in my head a little baby boy that looks just like Tyler, and I’m able to focus on that instead of the pain. It really is comforting feeling their little heads.

When the contractions stop I’m told not to push, because I also specified in my plan that I wanted to avoid tearing as much as possible, as well as avoid an episiotomy. So I’m blowing and panting until the burn subsides, and then I push again. He is still not out.

“Get him out!” I’m crying. “Please, Baby Hunter, just come OUT!”

“YOU have to get him out,” Jules is reminding me. “You have to push hard and he will come out.”

“I AM pushing,” I scream at her in frustration. “I’m doing everything I can, but there’s no damn contraction to help me right now and I NEED the fucking contraction!”

It’s been over a minute and the contractions have slowed down. I’m stressed out again and the fetal ejection reflex isn’t going to help me because my body senses this isn’t a safe place to birth. I’m told I have to give small little pushes without the contractions, because otherwise I’ll deliver the head too fast and will surely tear badly. So I try, and things are happening so fast now that I can’t handle it anymore. I need to stop for a few seconds, because I can feel the stretch and I KNOW I am going to tear. I can feel it up high and I’m panting again. I don’t want to push until this burn goes away, but now it’s been three hours. And there are 3 fucking OBs outside my room wondering why I haven’t been taken to the OR yet and one OB is tapping her foot inside the doorway. It is 10:30 at night and Jules is telling me that I HAVE to push past the pain. I have to risk this tear. There’s only so much she can do to keep the wolves away and her time is almost up. The baby has crowned and my bag of waters has burst like a water balloon right as he’s coming out, and it has meconium in it. Which isn’t a big deal because he’s not in my uterus anymore, he’s on his way OUT; but again I didn’t know that it wasn’t a big deal at the time and the hospital protocols are STUPID here. The baby is stressed. Nope. He has to be born NOW. Only because the OBs are about to “pull rank” on my midwife and she’s already pushing her luck farther than most would dare.“This is the obstetrician,” she tells me, directing my attention to a woman standing beside her. “If you don’t get this baby out in the next ten minutes, she is going to give you an episiotomy because he can’t stay on your perineum any longer.”

“I can’t” I cry. “It buuuurns. I need the gas, please. I promise I’ll be able to get him out if I can just have the gas first!”

“Honey, you can’t have it anymore,” Tyler tells me through a thick voice choked with pain and guilt that I have to go through this. “It’ll hurt him; he’s in distress. You wanted to do this naturally, remember?”

I MEANT NO DRUGS OR INTERVENTIONS! I wanted to scream at him. I NEVER SAID ANYTHING ABOUT NOT USING THE GAS! But somehow I know he’s right; I can’t cut off my baby’s oxygen supply (Um, no, he would have been fine at this point) and I might end up doing that if I gassed myself right now. So I nod weakly, tell him I love him, and I push with everything I have left. I feel the pressure of my son’s head as it moves forward. I grip onto Tyler with both hands and I try to block the pain as I feel the top of my vagina tear just a little, with tiny “pops” on either side. After that, things go fast. His head is out and Jules is turning his shoulders, (probably the most traumatizing part after getting the head out) and I give one more long, hard push. I feel such relief, the pressure is gone and there’s a huge gush of fluid and they’re telling me I’ve done it. My son his immediately brought to my chest and he’s crying but he’s here, and I’m crying because I’ve done it. I got my baby out. Yeah, but not without trauma. He’s perfect and so beautiful and I have him squirming in my arms. The nurses wrap warm, heated blankets around us and I’m stroking his hair and telling him how happy I am and how much I love him. Then I look up at Tyler and I tell him that we did it; we have our baby boy, finally. “I love you so much,” I tell him. Tyler has tears in his eyes again. I will never forget the smile or the glistening of his eyes or how I felt in that moment. I loved him before, but now it is twenty times that or more, and all doubts that we can survive anything are gone. He is mine forever, and I am his, and the birth of our son will forever be etched in our memories. And guide us to do so much better next time.

Hunter birth

When it’s all over and the cord has stopped pulsing (I wanted to delay cord clamping so that my baby could get all his blood from the placenta) Jules asks Tyler if he wants to cut it. He decides he doesn’t want to do it, but that I should have that honor. So I freed my own son and then I hold him for a few more minutes before the pediatrician takes him to assess whether the stress of being born has affected him. He has an apgar score of 9, he’s perfectly healthy and most definitely NOT an IUGR baby. No shit! All those tests and ultrasounds we had to have had been completely unnecessary; the only good thing about them being that we now have a ton of late ultrasound pictures and got to hear his heartbeat a lot. Way to find a silver lining though. The bands I wanted to keep from the NSTs were sadly soiled during the birth, so they had to be thrown out. I think my doula snapped some pictures of me with them on the night before though, so at least I’ll have the picture of them to show my son someday. I hate that picture because it symbolizes my confinement within their institution.

Anyway, after he was checked out and determined to be fine, I got to hold him again and attempt a self-latch. He took to my breast immediately and I was surprised that it didn’t hurt at all. It was just a gentle little tugging sensation and I could have happily fed my child all night. But I had to be checked now, and that meant that the baby had to go to his daddy. Tyler took off his shirt and took our son in his arms, placing him against his skin and covering him with a blanket. I watched the two of them bonding together on the glider across from my bed, and breathed through the pain of the exam. Jules informed me of what I already knew; I had some tears by my urethra and clitoris and while they were mild, she wanted the OB to check me out just to see if I needed stitches. She froze me first, just by squirting the medication over the tears so I didn’t have to have a needle. I told her that IF I needed stitches that I would like to use the gas again, and she agreed.

I did NOT need stitches. Though in my records the OB notes her disagreement with my refusal on that. It was up to me whether or not I wanted to heal on my own. Note how I think this was a lucky break instead of my right to informed consent. I was told it would sting when I went to the bathroom, but I said I’d deal with it. Anything was better than subjecting myself to more trauma. So they left me alone with my little boy and my husband, and I was told I could go home as early as 9:30 the next morning just because my son’s vitals would need to be monitored due to the stress of his birth. LIES!!!! I was given two Advil and two Tylenol for my afterpains. I was still weak and shaky but otherwise fine. I did have some fluid in my right ear, which was annoying since I could barely hear anything from that side. But I was happy, I felt very little pain, and I could sit up and stand with help. I was also able to eat two pieces of leftover cheese pizza and down two cups of milk.

Tyler’s sister, mother and father came in shortly after to visit, and I kept my blankets around me. I was only wearing the mesh panties and a huge pad as I fed my son and the nurses cleaned up the bed and changed the sheets. By 12am I was eating another slice of pizza and talking on the phone to my dad, nana, and finally my mother. Tyler continued to text everyone else on our call list, and at 1pm I decided to get ready for bed. Tyler and I swaddled our baby boy in blankets and put him in his bassinet for the night, then went to our respective beds. I would have liked to sleep on the pullout couch with him, but sadly there wasn’t a lot of room. I was told by the nurse to get up to pee, but I didn’t feel the urge at all. I humored her, trying to go right into my pad, but I shook my head and said “my bladder’s not full yet. I must have emptied it in the bath.” She said that was fine, but that I would have to try in a few hours.

Sure enough, at 5am another nurse insisted I wake up and go to the bathroom. I still didn’t feel the urge, but she told me she would do an ultrasound to see if I had a full bladder. Left out the threat of the catheter for “noncompliance”. I rolled my eyes, told her it wasn’t necessary because I could feel it now that she was pressing on my belly. I told her I needed to be in the bathtub to relax and she left me in there. I tried for what felt like forever. I massaged my belly, because sometimes that helps when I feel like I’m under pressure. I knew that if I didn’t go in the tub, she was going to catheterize me and there was NO WAY I was going to let her do that. Oh, wait, there it is. Gotta love the way they made it seem like I had no choice. My poor lady bits had been through enough as it was and I knew that it would be far worse with all the small tears. Of course in hindsight, I should have asked for a cloth to cover those tears up, because holy shit that stung like a bitch! I forced my way through it, breathing much like I had in labor to get through the pain. At last I was finished. I floated in the tub for a few minutes longer, looking down at my slightly protruding belly. It was so soft and only a small bump remained where my uterus was shrinking back down to its proper size. After I felt clean again, I pulled the cord for the call button and had the nurse help me out and get me into clean underwear, a pad, and another pad full of cool black teabags. I would later learn from my midwife that the teabags promoted healing and took away the sting of the tears, and that this was something unique to the hospital. Apparently a nurse had come up with the idea a few months before and the trial runs had been a success. I certainly felt instant relief so they MUST work pretty damn good.

I was wide awake even as she helped me into bed. I had chosen the night before to leave the gown off, because I have always preferred sleeping naked, or at the very least topless with just my panties. It was also far easier to feed my son, but my arms were so weak that I needed the nurse to bring him to me and prop him up on my nursing pillow. The fluid in my ear was finally gone and I could hear again. Tyler was still sleeping, but I grabbed my phone after the nurse put Hunter back in the bassinet, and I snapped a picture with it. I tweeted it to my best friend, and while it wasn’t the best picture (it was still semi-dark outside and I couldn’t turn on the lights and wake Ty) it was the best I could do at the time.

At 9:30 I was ready to go home. The pediatrician on staff came to check Hunter’s vitals again. He was a little cold (because he was sleeping in a plastic box all night instead of in my arms where he belonged) because Tyler and I had just finished changing his diaper and dressing him in the only onsie that was small enough for him. Apparently everything else I’d packed was too big on our son, but we had lots of blankets to keep him warm. The doctor suggested we have some more skin-to-skin time, and Tyler and I sort of had to figure out which one of us would have that privilege because we BOTH love holding our baby boy. Tyler pointed out I needed to eat breakfast, and I conceded defeat because he was right. I watched Tyler in the glider, snuggling our baby against his chest, and again I couldn’t believe how much love I felt for them both. I ate slowly and watched them rocking together. I ate as much of the scrambled eggs as I could and drank a cup of milk and a cup of orange juice, but my stomach was queasy from settling back down and I couldn’t eat anymore. The doctor came back in to check on Hunter and he was fine. Not long after another doctor came in. She greeted us both and explained she was here to test Hunter’s hearing, but that she couldn’t do so until he was thirteen hours old.

“I understand you’re in a rush to get out of here, and I wanted to catch you before you left,” she said. She asked if we wouldn’t mind staying another night, because she couldn’t do the test this early and she was off at noon. How nice that she was concerned about what was more convenient for HER schedule. I smiled politely and explained that no, we were going home. I said “We live five minutes away and my husband is here to take care of me. When we arrived yesterday at 10am there were no rooms available. Someone had to give up their room for me, and I have a room with a tub, which not all rooms have. It would be selfish of me to stay here when I feel fine, and even if I was moved to a different room, it’s still taking that room away from a mother who needs it.” And I didn’t want to stay another night in that hellhole anyway.

So she agreed to schedule an appointment for us to come back later in the week. Just like they do with homebirth babies. WHY didn’t I think about that? Tyler and I stayed until noon because they brought lunch and Tyler wanted to eat, even if I wasn’t up to having anything but water at that moment because their food was gross. Then we finished packing our bags and his dad came up with the stroller and car seat. As we passed the nurse’s station I told them “We were in Room 23; so a tub is now available for anyone who needs it.”

As soon as we got home, I had Tyler bring Hunter to my chest, skin-to-skin, and when I wasn’t feeding him, Tyler was holding him and I was eating or tending to my other needs. We adopted a system for diaper changes where we would BOTH change and wipe, and that made it easier for us both to have help and learn how best to accomplish the task and keep our boy calm (he didn’t like it the first few days). At night I would nurse him and fall asleep reclining on the couch with him still at my breast, or I would find him curled up on my chest while I was lying in our bed. Jules has assured me that this is perfectly fine, and that mothers in other countries always sleep with their babies. It’s only Western cultures that use bassinets, and in all honesty I’ve found I’m getting a lot more sleep with my son ON me, still at the breast, than if I have to wake up and put him down in his bassinet. Thankfully I had a midwife who could tell me all this shit so I didn’t lose sleep and unknowingly mess up breastfeeding in those early weeks when I knew nothing. Besides that, I usually don’t wake up right away. It’s just so easy to fall asleep while nursing him, and it’s comforting for him to snuggle against his mommy. Tyler will also fall asleep with our son on his chest, so I guess co-sleeping works for us; at least for now.

So that’s my birth story. I’ll post again soon about the first week, but right now it’s 8pm on Friday night, close to the time that I hit the second stage and was moved to the bed to deliver my son. And how aware I was of that time of day for weeks on end. I need to eat, feed the cats, and cuddle with my baby boy some more. Right now he’s sleeping beside me on the couch, enjoying the evening sunset as it pours in through our large picture windows. He is perfectly content and so peaceful to look at. I am in constant awe that this beautiful child has resulted from the love Tyler and I share together. I often joke that we had a hell of a fun night creating this perfect child, and that he would likely be traumatized if he knew that Mommy and Daddy had been quite naughty.

But until that day arrives, I am going to enjoy this tiny baby and hold him as much as I can get away with. He won’t be this size forever, and there will come a time when he won’t want me to snuggle him anymore. I will be sad when that day arrives, and I’m sure Tyler will be too. I got all the snuggles with him and will take what I can get while I still can.

It’s truly amazing how far we’ve come. There was a time when I couldn’t imagine ever being a good mother. Tyler was worried he wouldn’t be a good father. I freaked out when I first read that pregnancy test. Tyler had his moments of fear that he wouldn’t be able to support us and there were moments early in the pregnancy when we doubted that we could do this. And then the months passed and we felt his first rolls, his first kicks, his first wiggles as he got bigger. We heard his heart beating, saw him on the ultrasound, watched my belly jerk and move with the force of his little body pressing against it. I felt his feet in my ribs and his head down below. I felt his hiccups and spent many nights talking to him and telling him how much I loved him. I sang to him, Tyler placed his hand on my belly every chance he had, and we looked at baby gear together. We painted his nursery and got it ready for him. I cried when he didn’t arrive on his due date, then rejoiced when I realized he would be here on May 17th, six months to my birthday. My favorite number and his godmother’s “magic” number. I spent two days in labor, a week in prelabor, and three hours pushing him out. I worked hard, and through it all I had the support of his daddy to help me through it. Now it’s over, but at the same time it’s just beginning. We have a family of our own now, in every sense of the word. And it’s SO fitting that a love that is as pure, beautiful, all-encompassing, enduring, and powerful as ours is has brought forth this sweet baby boy who hardly fusses at all unless he’s hungry or needs to be changed or burped. He’s not even a week old yet. Give him time…He looks up at us with his beautiful eyes and though they all say that babies don’t smile until a few months old, I see his soft smile on his lips every time I hold him. ❤