Monday, May 26, 2008

Becoming A Transitional Character

I learned about transitional characters in a family studies course in college. The term mostly was applied to breaking the cycle of abuse or alcoholism in families, but I recently realized that it can be applied birthing traditions in families as well.

The definition of transitional characters was originally given by Carlfred Broderick in his 1980 book called "Marriage and the Family" (currently unavailable on amazon).

A transitional character is one who, in a single generation, changes the entire course of a lineage. The individuals who grow up in an abusive, emotionally destructive environment and who somehow find a way to metabolize the poison and refuse to pass it to their children. They break the mold. They refute the observations...that "the sins of the fathers are visited upon the heads of the children to the third and fourth generation. Their contribution to humanity is to filter the destructiveness out of their own lineage so that the generations downstream will have supportive foundations upon which to build productive lives.

A few weeks ago, my mother and I were talking about the history of birth practices (or the generational transmission of birth, if you will) in our family. I know my birth story. I was born via Cesarean section at 39 weeks 4 days for being breech and for the convenience of having my father in town, since he needed to leave for work around my due date. My mother was born in a hospital in 1953, so we can assume that twilight sleep was used on my grandmother. Unfortunately, we cannot ask her for her birth stories of my mother and uncles since she passed away in 2006. That means we also cannot ask her what she knows of her own birth. She was born in 1921 in rural California, so its kind of toss-up if she was born in a hospital or on the ranch where my great-grandparents lived. Now my great grandmother was born in San Francisco in 1904. Hospital birth was still relatively new then (using a reference from the history of birth presented in the Business of Being Born), so she may have been born at home, but since it was a big city, there's also the chance she was born in a hospital.

Together, my mother and I couldn't come up with anymore information on the topic, so we started thinking of who in our extended family might have known. We contacted my grandmother's cousin who is currently the matriarch of the family. She was unable to give me anymore information other than she's pretty sure that both my grandmother and great-grandmother were born in hospitals.

So with that information, I pretty much am left to believe that the last 100 hundred of birthing history in my family has taken place in hospitals. If my readers are familiar with my story, my first child was born in 2007 (103 years after the birth of my great-grandmother) and his birth was enough to prompt me to "return" to homebirth. I had hoped that my history would have afforded some homebirth stories of my women ancestors but I was disappointed.

However, that affords me the opportunity to be the transistional character for birth in my family. It wouldn't be the first time. On my father's side, I'm a transitional character for stopping the transmission of emotional, verbal and sometimes physical abuse, so my efforts in parenting and my marriage are to overcome the tendencies and examples set by my father and his parents. This does raise the question of the history of birth on my dad's side. I know both my father and grandmother were born in hospitals, but I don't know anything about where my great-grandmother was born. I can ask my grandmother's sister who is still alive. I will update this blog when I've been able to converse with her on the topic.

Looking forward to the future, I plan to birth the rest of my babies at home, barring a medical need to birth in hospital, and this will start the tradition of homebirth in my family. I hope that my children will know and remember how they and their siblings were born so that they will too will expect to birth their children at home, in a safe, supportive, loving and gentle environment.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Bound and Gagged

In a dark room with no windows,
a drug coursing through my veins
that left me bound and gagged.

I lost my mind and coudln't move.
I was no longer myself.
I was lower than dirt.
A wounded animal to be put to sleep.
I heard whispers of "just put her out of her misery."
"Get that thing out of my sight. I can't deal with her now."

Locked in a room.
I heard my screams in my head, but I couldn't get them out.
A terrible nightmare but with the crashing, debiltating knowledge that this was reality.

Powerless to stop the penetration.
Unable to resist orders.
Catatonic and numb.
Unable to move.
No where to run since my legs were tethered to their place.

The torture ensued.
My body defiled, and abused.

I lost all power.
All determination and will.
If coherent speech had been an option,
the thoughts were drowned out by the screams of my mind.

Then it was all over,
the drugs had worn off.
The figurative bounds released.
And I was torn and broken, discarded and pushed aside.

Down the hall, I hear a distant

Friday, May 23, 2008

ANNOUNCING: Solace for Mothers Online Community

Since Willem's birth, I have been looking for ways to prevent and help other mamas who have been traumatized by their birthing experiences. I am pleased to say that I've been able to partner with Jennifer Zimmerman, a mother who experienced a traumatic birth 3 years ago, and Sharon Storton the excutive director of Solace for Mothers to create an online community for women suffering the effects of traumatic birth.

Here is the official announcement:

This message is to announce a new online discussion board called Solace For Mothers, An Online Community For Healing Birth Trauma. It is for women who have experienced trauma around the process of giving birth. For these women, giving birth has left them feeling deeply disappointed, traumatized, or even violated. We want these women to know that they are not alone, that birth trauma is very real, and that other women have had similar experiences and feelings. We have created an online community as a place for women to begin or continue their healing journey.

In the online community, there are different categories and forums, and the topics covered are issues that often come up for women dealing with birth trauma. It is our hope that women can virtually support each other on their healing journeys in this online community, and perhaps eventually connect with each other in the real world if they choose.

There is an introduction page here;, and from this page you can register for the discussion board. Due to the very personal nature of this subject, we have made an effort to keep this community private, and women must register before being able to enter or view posts. If you do not fall into the category of a woman suffering from birth trauma, or if you would like to see a preview of the community before joining, you may visit this link to do so; This link is not the actual community and you will not be able to view members' posts from there, it will simply give you an overview of the topics covered.

We are sending this message out via email and posting it to online communities and to lists in order to reach these women. Please send this message to anyone who you feel may benefit from it.

Jenne Alderks and Jennifer Zimmerman
Creators and Moderators of the discussion board

Supported by Sharon Storton and the Solace For Mothers team

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

I got my copies!

Today was an exciting day in my house, I got my copies of the Business of Being Born in the mail. I've already got a date to share it with a friend later this week. She's been excited to see it since we first spoke of it and she's glad I got my extra copy to share with her. Opportunist. and cheap skate. Ha. I'm glad to share it, after all that's why I bought two copies.

As I was picking up the package from the apartment office, an idea dawned. A movie night at the community center showing the documentary to the residents. As it is a student family community, childbearing is not only a prerequiste for living at the complex, its also a common reoccurence in families. So that will be a project I'll be working on. Coming soon to UW Family Housing!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The Mother's Herb Garden

This Mother's Day was a special one for me. Not only have I felt liberated from the PTSD that plagued my transition to motherhood, but I had my mother in town for the weekend, an adorable, active toddler who loves his mama and a loving husband, I got to plant an herb garden in the disgustingly overgrown, weed filled flowerbed at the entrance of my apartment.

I didn't take a before picture, but this is what it looks like now:

In the conceptual stages of our garden, I hadn't planned on it being mostly an herb garden, but found that dual functionality of herbs to be appealing to me. Many of the herbs we chose to plant also have beautiful, colorful flowers that will cover the ground in a rich blanket of fragrant, beautiful, medicinal, and culinary useful flora.

Planted in the garden is:
California Poppy
Lemon Balm

Many of them can be used in cooking, herbal baths, teas and tinctures for a variety of remedies and immune supportive purposes.

I'm happy to have a little spot of earth to call my own garden. For added effect, I placed rocks at the edge of the garden along the concrete border.

The seeds that were planted should be sprouting early June, so I will be pleasantly surprised to see how they grow and if my attempts at following the planting instructions actually yield plants. That's the really challenge!!

Hopefully, I'll be able to post after pictures as things grow up. And then I'll be able to boast of all the relaxing herbal baths, and fresh herbs used in my cooking, and the pretty garden that will bring a smile to my face as I walk in my front door.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Where have I been?

I've been neglecting my blog! There is good reason. Not only am I the mom of a busy toddler, I am also in the data analysis and writing stage of my thesis for my Master's program. I had been babysitting a friend's child full time, but now that's over, I'm working on my thesis every opportunity (in theory). I'm attempting to wake up at 7 am with the hopes that Willem will sleep until 8:30 or 9:00 each morning. And then while he's napping between 2:00 and 3:30, I hope I'll work some more. And when he's off to bed at 9:00, that should give me another couple of hours to work before bed.

Of course that's just in theory, because other projects have been keeping me busy. The Birth Survey is getting closer to its August national debut. I've also been pleased to become acquanited with the non-profit organization Solace for Mothers.

Solace is actually an acronym for Support to Overcome Labor and Childbearing Experiences. It was started by Licensed Therapist Sharon Storton whose private practice has been solely mothers who have experienced post partum mood disorders directly caused by traumatic birthing experiences. I expect we will be working together in the future, as Sharon is also on the executive board of the Coalition for Improving Maternity Services, the creators of the Birth Survey.

I have also been reading Susana Fierro-Baig's book, in my spare time, ha! I'm in Chapter 6 right now and working my way through.

Also, my family has been busy with traveling and visitors. A couple of weeks ago, we spent the weekend in the Olympic National Park, hiking through forests, mosses, ferns and beaches. Then for Mother's Day, my mother travelled from California to be with us. We planted our herb garden on Mother's Day. And between all that, we had a sick toddler and a possible miscarriage. (Turns out it wasn't an early miscarriage, thankfully).

So yeah, busy much?