Tag Archives: Motherhood

A Room of my Own

Virginia Woolf once wrote “A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.”   If one is to take this statement at face value, there is a practical truth that applies to painting also.  Though, I must clarify that the original intent of Woolf’s statement goes much deeper than than just the “simple logistics” of writing.   Her book A Room of One’s Own, is a [feminist] critique of the limitations women faced [around writing] as a result of their status, limited education, and poverty during her time.

paint brushesIf you have read some of my previous posts on art (this one, and this one), then you will know that I believe art happens in the every day, as well as outside the studio, and inside the studio.  Over the course of my art practice, I have had to either redefine or scale back my art [practice], but somehow, I have always managed to practice art at some capacity.  However, I have learnt that in order to successfully paint larger scale oil painting (especially as a mother), a studio is necessary.

tool boxNow that I have a room of my own -that is a spare room for whatever I want- I have decided to convert it into a studio/office.   This room is small, but not too small.  There is a large window facing north, allowing for the right amount of light ( if you have ever painted in a windowless studio or one where the window is facing south then you know what I am talking about).  My desk is adjacent to the window where I currently write.  My easel, which I have yet to purchase, will go in the corner, opposite my desk.

As I gather inspiration, and momentum, I find myself visualizing the corner of my studio where I will have my paints set up permanently beside my [future] easel.  I also have been looking at other artist’s studios here, for further inspiration.  It seems funny that almost six  years after completing my art program, I finally have room to paint again.

 

Heart of a Doula

Doula reading2You may have guessed from reading my blog that I am passionate about [natural] birth, but more importantly about women having empowering births through informed choice and proper support.  I know now from my own experience, that it is imperative for a mother to build positive and loving community around herself before the birth of her child.  Ideally, through this community the mother will have continued support during and after the birth, and additionally throughout her journey as a mother.  The doula can enhance or be a part of this community of support for the expectant mother and her family.  With this in mind, I decided to take the two-day DONA birth doula workshop in order to educate myself further.

The work of a doula is an important way to support the mother, baby and family during birth.  One of the founders of DONA, Penny Simkin, writes in her book The Birth partner  “…How a woman gives birth matters-to her baby, her family (including her relationship with her partner), and to her self-confidence and self-esteem as a woman and a mother.” (page xi).   The birth doula helps reinforce a positive birth experience, through guidance and emotional support. In our often times fragmented and transient western society, the doula’s role can help bridge gaps that would normally have been filled by mothers and sisters in the past.   Further to this, a doula can help educate before the birth, which in turn can help facilitate healthier outcomes for the mother and baby.  All of these things can contribute to a woman feeling empowered, and confident in her abilities and self as she navigates her new role as a mother.

One week after the DONA workshop, I am still processing those incredible two days of instruction and story taught by two very wise doulas.  Birth is intimate and sacred.  Being invited to help a woman through this intense and beautiful process is an incredible honour.  It is easy to get overwhelmed with all there is to learn, but as our instructors gently reminded us, it is our heart (a willingness to serve) at the centre of our call to be a doula, which matters most.

Moments

observe2It occurred to me today that I have plethora of photos collecting in my photo library.  At some point I will have to select a few of my favourite photos for printing and framing.  In a digital age, there is something really lovely about having photos in printed form.  The same goes for books too.   Happy Week-end!

us

new view

Home birth Part 2: Born in the Caul

I should probably preface this story with I swore I would never get induced, so at 41 weeks I continued to drink my raspberry leaf tea and started looking into acupuncture.  After a second session of acupuncture, I lost my mucous plug  but was still feeling the pressure to get induced from the hospital staff during a routine stress test even though everything checked out okay.  I chose instead to take some more herbal tinctures recommended by my midwife, but after breaking out into a rash two days shy of  42 weeks I had a moment of weakness and agreed to be scheduled for a round of Cervidil* as long as I could go home afterwards, in order to have my planned home birth.

In retrospect I wish I had not had the induction, as I feel in my heart he would have been born a few days later.  After a second round of Cervidil,  my sister and I headed back to my home where by this point  my contractions were getting more intense.  My sister who had been timing my contractions was now on the phone with the midwife who suggested I get into the shower to determine if the contractions were actually getting serious.  Once in the shower, the contractions were indeed getting stronger and closer together.  By this point I wanted to get out of the shower.  I was supposed to stay in the shower for twenty minutes but my sister “tricked me” by saying I had only five more minutes to go, when I actually had ten.  I moaned that she had tricked me, then suddenly I needed to throw up! With the water still running, I jumped out of the shower and threw up my entire breakfast into the toilet.  My sister laid a towel over my back and called the midwives to come; I knew I had transitioned.

I put my blue dress back on and walked around the house between contractions, every time a contraction mounted I found myself squatting and pulling on whatever I could find whether it was the edge of the couch or the kitchen towel rack. I was also very verbal, I must have loudly proclaimed “this hurts” what felt like a hundred times over; said more like a release than a complaint. When the midwife arrived, she checked me to make sure I was fully dilated before removing the Cervidil which by that point I was begging for her to take out.  My body was already starting to bear down, a force of its own, so intense that I felt as if my body would rip apart.  I knew it would not, and I continued to trust the process as I mentally held onto the proverbial speeding train that was my labour.

By this time, my two friends who were acting as my doulas had also arrived, the second midwife was still on her way.  As my midwife set up her “work station,” she suggested I labour in the tub and asked my sister to pour water over my belly, (hydro therapy had been on my birth plan as a way to cope with contractions) but I disliked this very much.  It seems that most women find water relaxing during labour but not me.  All I wanted to do was squat and pull down as hard as I could, so out of the water I came.

Next, I found myself kneeling and squatting on my bed without my blue dress on as I was starting to sweat.  At this point my body gave me a break and the contractions became more manageable.  I moaned and swayed my hips between each wave.  Then I started pushing, actually engaging my core, I only pushed when it felt necessary and just listened to my body.  At one point the midwife asked if I wanted to feel my baby’s head, but I said “no, I can’t” because I thought if I touched his head, all my progress would go backwards, I needed to concentrate.  The only thing my midwife told me to do was to use my voice to help push, other than that she let me be.  I could hear when people talked but was too focused on what I was doing to say anything.  I think I remember someone asking “what is that?”  and hearing the midwife explain that my water had not yet broken, that the bag of water was emerging first like a balloon with the baby still inside of it. Later the midwife told me this was called being born in the caul and was considered lucky.

I was starting to get tired of the position I had been in, so one of my friends helped support me by allowing me to hold on to her while I squatted and pushed. Soon I felt the ring of fire but it was not as intense as I thought it would be; it made me think of an elastic band being pulled very tightly, when I pushed out his head the sensation did surprise me however. Next, I think I may have pushed once more and his body came out, with the midwife quickly catching  him and asking me to sit up as I was still on my hands and knees. She placed my baby on my chest (he had a very long cord) while exclaiming “here is your baby!”

I could not believe I was finally holding my baby, and as he lay on my chest I remember thinking “so this is what you look like.”  Welcome to the world little M!

*I do not recommend getting an unnecessary induction as it makes labour unnaturally more intense and can lead to complications including a cesarean.  Here are some great tips to help with avoiding an unnecessary induction.

**Here is a wonderful image of a baby who was born in the caul.

Community and Support: Thoughts on Mothering the Mother

Recently I came down with not one, but two bouts of mastitis, which left me feeling quite overwhelmed. In my case, the mastitis was an indication that I was doing too much.  Between the pain and the fever, I wondered how I would manage to get the much-needed rest that I required in order to heal and recover properly. Somehow I did manage to get some rest during baby M’s nap times, as well as some help from my faithful friend Sarah, and a few other friends and family members.  During this time however, I longed for either my mother or a close friend to come and stay with me for a duration of time during the recovery period. Essentially, I the mother, needed to be mothered. I shed light on these recent events not to elicit pity, but rather to raise questions and open a dialogue: is our current support structure for mothers adequate enough?

Support is essential as a [new] mother, and I have been blessed to have good friends and family members who have helped me a quite a bit, especially during the first six months.  As the months have moved forward though, I have noticed that my support system seems to be dwindling.  Extra help does not come as readily, as many friend’s and family member’s lead busy and sometimes complex lives. Now that baby M is almost a year old, people generally think that I need less help, which for the most part is true expect for when he is teething. This is when I require the most support! I have observed for myself and other mothers that much-needed help mostly occurs during an illness or a crisis, but why not before then? We, as a society would be wise to take the saying “It takes a village to raise a child” to heart.

The fact is, our society is not set up to help new mothers, let alone the mother in general.  There seems to be a huge gap in how we support and care for the mother. There are a few factors that contribute to this lack of support, one being geography, but the main factor is our individualistic mentality.

When a mother is preparing for a birth for example, she must ensure that she has a specific support team in place, otherwise she may not have someone to help her with additional duties such as: laundry, cooking meals and washing dishes. Usually this additional work falls on the shoulders of the husband or partner (if a close family member such as the mother is not available to help for whatever reason), but this should be a time for both parents to bond with the new baby. And in the case of the single mother, like myself, a support system is even more critical as there is no husband or partner to take on the additional work.  Caring for a new mother, in order that she may focus on her newborn and herself should be the norm, but in many cases is not.

Even before I became overwhelmed by mastitis,  I was thinking about ideas around community and mothering the mother.  It is, in my opinion not enough to simply offer programs and classes on support (although perhaps a good start), there needs to be an actual change in the fabric of our society and the way we think and do things. If anything, how we choose to spend our time and what activities we choose to prioritize need to be taken into consideration, as well as mending the generational gap.  The real change needs to begin in our minds and hearts.  At the end of the day, it is important to remember that whether a mother is new or seasoned, she needs to be nurtured at whatever stage of motherhood she is at.

*If you would like to read more on the idea of mothering the mother I have included the following resources: “Mothering the New Mother” by Sally Placksin and also a blog post written by Svea Bodya-Vikander entitled “Mothering the Mothering: 40 Days of Rest”  published at the Birth without Fear blog.

**Here is an excellent resource on mastitis and plugged ducts by Kellymom and of course, never hesitate to call your local Le Leche League chapter.