Saturday, March 26, 2011

Westward Ho!

Well, about five months ago when I first thought about the idea, going to Oregon, the week before "move day" (which from henceforth will be known as "Shit!") seemed a fine idea!

Now reality is nearly upon me, it's seeming a little more alarming and foolhardy.

It's true, I don't like to sit still and the conference is going to be so worth it. I'm very much looking forward to going, okay, rephrase that, I feel like a kid in a sweet shop and were it not for the fact it is so very far away from my babies, I'd probably be chomping at the bit.
The last time I went to this conference was in March 2006 when they held it in Philadelphia and I drove down with a friend from CT.

This was Ina May being "reborn" through a vagina at Philly 2006!

It was an amazing event, very hands on and relaxed and I'm excited this time as two days are devoted to new student midwives showing us the tricks of the trade. One of the main draws to this conference is that it is such a hands on event and we're taught be wise women who are midwives following the footsteps and having learned the trade of their grandmothers etc. It's an international cast of women who truly all believe in midwifery as an art as well as a science. The science I'll learn from September, the art is less easy to come by, so I'm hoping I'll learn lots of practical skills, tips and words of wisdom from midwives such as Ina May, Elizabeth Davis, Jan Tritten, Enyeda Spradlin Ramos and Sister Morning Star as well as chatting to midwives and student midwives from the States and other parts of the world and hearing Michael Odent and Robbie Davis Floyd speak. 

Lists have been typed up, there are strict instructions to eat food from the freezer to run it down, laws have been laid out to not create chaos and unpack that which has been dutifully packed. Children have been briefed on school runs, daddy has been briefed on attending Master Beehive the elder's school play and the younger Beehive's school parents evening (yes, see, classic timing - i will be missing both *sigh*). They should be alright without me, it's whether I'll be alright without them.

Of course, in the midst of deciding whether clean knickers belong in the Oregon suitcase, the overnight travel down to Oxfordshire suitcase or a box, I have to make a Big Ben costume.
But of course I do! It's a perfectly normal thing to be doing on the penultimate week to "Shit!".

Master Beehive the younger has a dress up day in celebration of the Royal Wedding and they're fun running in their costumes. However, these costumes aren't the kind that you can pull together from the remnants of Daddy's wardrobe or the fancy dress box, oh no siree! These are strict instruction costumes. They have to go as a London landmark...WTF? So Big Ben it is. Yeah, not because I'm a glutton for punishment, but the other grand design he had was the London Eye, so I honestly think I've gotten off lightly!
He'll be wearing the main structure as a sandwich board and then the roof and clock face are a box over his head with his own face having the hands face painted on. He'll never run in it for love nor money, but I'm hoping that he does look a little familiar none the less and I'll get marks for effort if not for practicality.

Yesterday was my birthday- - I won't go into the fact that on my birthday, Mr Beehive, who couldn't possibly take any more time off work to help with the move...played golf, however, his manhood takes pride of place nailed up over the fire at the moment ;-)
He did, however take me to my favourite tapas place in the city in the evening, so I forgave him after a while ;-)
On the plus side of things I got some wonderful presents from everyone all so brilliantly suited to the move and the chickens and the garden...a greengage tree, a terracotta chicken holder, an egg recipe book, stuff to soak in the bath in, after a long day pulling up the bastard weeds and some money from my MIL which bought a mug hug knitting book,

from which I made this for LMB's cup of hot chocolate today attempting my first ever piece of intarsia.

and a bathroom sink - yes, aren't I exciting! It is a nice sink though and my (d)illusion is to put it onto a slab of wood and make a funky boutique style hotel bathroom downstairs. Rather like this:

So, just a quick update from me before I go back to packing and, unless I get time and connection, until I get home.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Surrender and the power of words.

This morning I got my daily digest from my e-groups and, one of the things I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE about working in this field is that no one is afraid to question things and debate things in relation to birth.

A question arose on the use of the word "surrender" when working with our birthing mothers and fathers.

Surrender isn't actually a word I can confess to having actively used myself, I may have, but it's not on my vocabulary of thought out words that I have immediately thought, emit power. However, I am beginning to re think this one.

Surrender has two entirely different conotations, one stemming from the giving up of oneself to another, the other of giving oneself up to..well, oneself!

Language during pregnancy and birth is a very powerful tool. Andrea Robertson talks about it in great depth as do many gurus such as Ina May Gaskin and Sheila Kitzinger.

I feel language today plays a far more important role than it did in the days before wireless, mobile communication. Words today are taken at 2D value, what you see on the page in your in box is then interpreted by you, you are not given any hint as to the definition of a word's meaning by the intonation of your fellow communicant. Words lose the 4D they have when their giver is able to add intonation, context and background to the recipient in the spoken word.
Thus, it is highly important that words we use are not easily misconstrued and convey the meaning we intend from the offset.

So, moving back to "Surrender".

Surrender is a word that can suggest that women should "give up", "be passive", "do as others suggest", but of course, this is not what we want them to interpret at all. We talk a lot about "being in control" of our births, but I wonder, is this also what we want to convey? We don't want women to just lie on their backs and surrender to others, surrender to technology, but neither do we really want them to "control" birth. Birth isn't something that can be controlled. Nature is as nature does and controlling it, perversely, is what technology does and again, we're not wanting women to do that either. So we're back to surrender.

Surrender can also mean to give in to oneself. Penny Armstrong, a midwife in Pennsylvania working with Amish women, talks in her book "A midwife's story" about a young girl birthing for the first time. She presents herself in labour in her bed, white, pressed sheets, white nightgown complete with bonnett. She doesn't want to come across as loud, messy or noisy. Labour is long, progress is very slow. Eventually the young woman "surrenders" to herself, throws off her clothes, makes noise, gets out of bed and moves around. She listens to her body, she listens to the need to squat and move, she surrenders to her body's birthing animal and not long after, her baby is born.

Ina May Gaskin talks in "Spiritual Midwifery" about "letting your monkey do it". This often raises a laugh in classes when I bring it up as there'll often be a dad who'll joke about him not being a monkey! But of course, this isn't what she means at all.

This young woman in Penny's book, is not giving over to anyone except her birthing nature, equally, she is not controlling her birth, ultimately her birth is controlling her and she is letting it, so if she is surrendering to anyone/thing, she's surrendering to her birth, she is saying "okay, I accept, it may be loud, it may be messy and I may get naked". Heck, one presumes she got naked in the first place - or pretty darn close to - so why is there this inability to connect with this same urge when birthing after nine months?

Surrendering, to me, in this context, is like relinquishing to the depths of a really good meditation - the ones where you know you've been meditating, but you can't quite remember what happened. Surrendering in this context is like really amazing sex when the hormones take over. Birth is exactly the same.

"Surrender can be likened to making the leap and just letting go
with a sense of calm resolve that you will safely land as intended"

So, will I consciously use the word surrender in classes from now on, yes, I will. I will use it in the context of feeling safe and secure, ensuring that the environment is such that hormones are free to flow and that trusting in our body to tell us what to do, will enable birth.

"When we know love matters more than anything, and we know that nothing else REALLY matters, we move into the state of surrender. Surrender does not diminish our power, it enhances it". -Sara Paddison

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Juicing and Headless Babies

Be warned - it is never a good thing to look up statistics. Of course, being an NCT teacher and student midwife, statistics and evidence are high on my list of areas I need to keep a check on, they say, there are lies, damned lies and then there are statistics.

One of the tools that Blogger has to its dashboard is the ability to have a quick peak to see where your visitors come from. It also tells you key words that people type in that bring up your blog somewhere in the complex, technical mind of Monsieur Google.

Of course, a homely, waffly, craft, midwifery inspired blog such as my own would likely pull key words such as baby, sewing, home right? Apparently not...

So answer me this - which one of you searched using the terms "Headless baby" and came up with me? PMSL!

Oh, and one final question - who is the person reading me on the boat in the middle of the Atlantic? I bet you have a story to tell...

This morning is another glorious Spring morning which yes, I know I rant on about the appalling weather up here in Scotland, it can do glorious when it puts its mind to it!! Feeling all Spring like and fresh I got out my juicer, inspired from a lovely juice from "The Juice Bar" at The Gyle last week - did you know, I've only found two juice bars in the whole of Edinburgh - where am I going wrong? There has to be more than that!
Motivated to get the health kick going again I've decided to start by aiming to juice three times a week, leading up to a healthy daily juice to give me a much needed boost.

Anyway, cucumber, celery, lime and orange were the fruits of choice today.

Of course there has to be more to my tale than a simple one of "Make juice and drink". I've not juiced since before Christmas, I seem to lose the urge to want to drink slightly warm frothy cucumber when then weather is cold however good it is for me. So grabbing the juicer from the cupboard meant I left a vital part behind and didn't realise.

Note to self: When juicing, ensure you have the pith and rind catcher attached to the device and that the spout is facing the opposite way, otherwise you will be covered with sticky juice waste, rind, peel, pips and pith and that'll be after you've washed your hair and the floor...grrr!

Now I have to go, Mr Beehive the younger is upset as he has "lost his ability to cartwheel in his sleep" and I need to comfort - albeit I may not encourage him to re-learn as my front room is rapidly turning into the tryouts for the Olympic games. I'm meeting a friend for a coffee later and have to rid myself of the lingering smell of celery that is starting to smell like old man's wee... just a bit.

If you juice, leave some yummy recipes below.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Ten minute upcycled peg bag

The first signs of warmer weather and my washing is out on the line - good training as we've decided to take a biggish leap on the eco-front and get rid of the tumble dryer all together. I'm a little nervous as there are six of us and we do produce a lot of washing, but with some tweaks and organisation in the new house, we are going to do are darndest at least.

So, on hanging out the washing the hanger that we are continually repairing, finally gave up the ghost this morning. A quick glance on ebay and online drew me to a swift conclusion that I wasn't going to find a replacement that 
a. I liked
b. was free
c. was eco or fair trade

But making a peg bag is so easy.

I raided the stash of clothes that LMB has grown out of but I don't want to throw away because she looked so cute in them and decided that I would give a fantastic outrageous fuzzy jacket a new lease of life.

So, here are your easy instructions.

  • Take your hanger first of all as this will determine the width of your bag. 
  • Choose an item of clothing, a shirt, t-shirt, sweater - all these work really well. Using an item that belonged to a child is easiest as you won't have excess fabric to contend with. If you use an adult sweater, however, you could choose to felt the it. If you want to felt an item, the best mix is either pure wool or an item that has 75%+ wool content. Put the item in a really hot wash and this causes the weave to knit together really tightly creating the smooth look of felt. Felt is then a lot easier to work with as you don't have fraying edges. Anyhoo, I digress!
  • Mark where the hanger sits into the sleeve cavity, then cut off the excess sleeve.
  • Turn the item inside out, remove the hanger and then sew the sleeve openings shut.
  • With the item still inside out, stitch along the bottom edge. You will need to decide how long you want your bag, if you are using a child's item of clothing you won't need to remove too much.
  • Turn the bag the right way round and you now have the basic requirements for your peg bag. 
  • Opening: The easiest openings are from re-using items that have already got fastenings in the neck area. My jacket had a zip, yours may have buttons or ties. If they have neither you will need to cut a v shape out of your bag and then selvage the edges to ensure it doesn't fray. 
  • Finally you need to put your hanger back in and mark with pins, where it sits. Then run your stitching from each side edge towards the neck (catching front to back) to create a pocket that enases the hanger. This isn't imperative, but you'll have to put up with the possiblity that your hanger may keep falling out.

I'd love to be able to add diagrams for this, to make it easier. Maybe I'll work out a way to do that, if anyone knows how, just leave a note below!

There are also many other ways you can make a simple peg bag, such as using vintage tea towels and and overlap opening such as this one I found from here:

Have fun and enjoy hanging your washing out in the sun!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Slowly, slowly does it.

This weekend we spent at the new house, I wanted to do more work on the garden and get in a few more plants and mum and dad were coming down to do some odd jobs.

I had a list as long as my arm, but as usual, we didn't manage it all.

When we bought the house, we knew that LMB would be taking the smallest room which is not much more than a box room, however, at the time, I was so excited that this house seemed to tick all our boxes that I didn't really put my practical head on and think about where things might fit.

Fortunately my dad saved the day by producing my sister's old cabin bed that he'd dutifully stored in his loft (see there are some benefits of being a hoarder!). He needed to do a few repairs on it and replace the sides which were victims to the flood in his garage back in around 2000, but to cut a long story and day short, she now has an amazing 20 year old cabin bed complete with shelving, cupboards, desk and a small wardrobe underneath, taking away all the issues as to where we'll be putting her furniture! She's in seventh heaven that she has a bunk, my dad is in seventh heaven that his ceiling is no longer bowing with the weight of a cabin bed in the loft and I'm in seventh heaven that i won't have to store her clothing in a wardrobe on the landing, a total win-win!

Here are some pictures of the garden.
What you have to try to imagine is that a month ago, the soil was over grown with herbs that had gone wild, shrubs that were dead and bushes that were rampant. There was garbage and trash all over the place that had blown in and hadn't been cleared away. One of my first reactions on arriving at the house last month was sadness. I was sad that the tenant hadn't loved the house like we hoped, sad that we'd not thought to have a gardener come around to keep on top of the beds and sad that there was so much work to do.

Of course, there still is tons and tons of work to do, however, I do now, have the early rumblings of a proper vegetable patch. In my head, of course, it's complete, I have my beds in and everything is growing hard and strong, there are no weeds and no slugs...hmmm, let's see what it will be like when I return at the end of the month!

 I have potatoes and peas in, strawberries, currants and herbs. Still to go in are the rhubarb, currants and berries that I've planted here in pots, some beans and we'll grow courgettes in pots again as they do take up a lot of space.
There is around a 15ft x 5ft space for my chickens in front of the fence.

 This is my herb garden, with a selection of plants including thyme, comfrey, lovage, chives, rosemary, lavender etc.
This shows the division of the beds a little more clearly along with my CD bird scarers.

This is a front corner of the house. I'm intending to remove the interesting wooden feature to the left of the picture and use the wood to make large trough like planters to go against the trellis fencing. The circle of grass will become my mini orchard. I have a couple of gala apple trees, couple of plums, that's a cherry you can just see with the deer protector around it and I'm getting a greengage for my birthday. Behind the conifer in the far corner of the picture is enough space for my bees when I eventually get around to those.

All in all, it's a work in loooooooong progress, but I'll keep updating the pictures when things change.
Slowly, but surely.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Chasing Spring

Slightly different tone of post from my last one, but thought something a little more lighthearted was in order.

Tomorrow morning before the birds wake, I will be loading three sleepy wains into the car and trundling off down to Oxfordshire to the new house.

The car will be laden with hoes, rakes, seeds, herbs, my nurtured pea seedlings, canes (ooh, must remember to put those in), readybeds and enough cutlery and crockery to see us through two days! I need to garden!

I need to say "stuff you Scotland! I've had enough of the rain, the fog, the snow (all of which we've experienced in the last 7 days!) and I want to see a daffodil, some snowdrops, a few crocuses and a little yellow ball in the sky at least for a few minutes".
Mum and Dad are coming down again to help with more remedials and the children have instructions to bring wellies and play hide and seek in the new garden!

It is a little bit mad, but then it's giving them an opportunity to go into their new school for an hour or so and I can get the chimney swept (not personally and I will refrain from sending one of them up ;-)) I'm also meeting with a fencing company and a guy to remove the pond and lay more turf for the kicking of footballs, so it'll be a fun filled, action packed weekend.

Of course, the sunshine isn't guaranteed, but I know the blooms of crocuses (or is that croci?) are out in force in the garden down south and the met office is saying sun and 11 degrees for Saturday - 11 degrees, I'd best unpack the whole sheep I'd put in the roof box for shearing if we got too cold! Of course, jesting aside, the oil is still all stolen, so we may need Flossy to keep us warm at some point Baaaahhhh!

Monday, March 14, 2011

No woman, no cry.

Last night I went with a girlfriend to watch Christy Turlington-Burns' debut movie "No woman, No cry".

Turlington Burns, an ex US supermodel, has turned her hand to directing and researching this docu-film about the risks of women in four countries around the world that herald the titles of one of the most likely places to die during pregnancy, labour or postnatally.

The film, understandably, is shocking as Turlington Burns takes us to Bangladesh to meet with Monica who lives in the slums and is pregnant with her second child, Tanzania, to meet with Janet, a Masaai mother of two, expecting her third who has to walk five miles in labour to her nearest clinic. We also meet with David, a US father, who lost his beloved wife to a rare amniotic fluid embolism after the birth of their second child and finally we meet with Linda, a pregnant doctor in Guatemala working with women who are post abortion (a procedure that is illegal and outlawed in Guatemala).

We are greeted with statistics and raw and blunt conditions in which these women live and give birth. Janet, lives in a country with a maternal mortality rate of 1 in 24. As I've already said, she walks five miles in labour to attempt to give birth at the clinic. She is met there by a trained midwife, which, for many women in Tanzania is already a luxury that they are not going to get, but needs transferring to Mt. Meru Hospital which is a 30 minute car ride away. And there's the rub. We, in the UK, would get a tranfer in an ambulance to our hospital, paid for by the NHS, Janet however, doesn't have the money and cannot get the money. In fact, Turlington Burns and her crew step in and pay the $30USD that is required to get Janet to the hospital where she is induced and finally gives birth to her son. What Turlington Burns omits to tell us is how Janet then paid the hospital fees, the fees for the drugs and the fee for the doctor who would have delivered her child.

Having recently watched The toughest place to be a midwife I had already witnessed one woman's desperation at finding a way of paying for her maternity care by trying to trade a couple of her children in exchange. Whereas we may sit on our comfy sofas and think - "I could never do that", in this mother's situation, there was no other solution but to reduce the size of her family in order to enable the others to continue to eat and be educated - oh, did I mention that too? Education - the free stuff we gripe about here - you have to pay for that too!

Moving across the continents to Bangladesh now. We are in a Bangladeshi slum with Monica and her son. Her husband works in the country so he is not with them. What Turlington Burns conveyed here, whether intentionally or not, was just how little worth women have in Bangladesh, moreso if you are uneducated, even more so if you are poor. There is a caste system as well as a gender system and socio economic system. Monica was the lowest of the low. She was not only spurned by those in authoritarian positions, but also by her own people until she managed to fall pregnant a second time. Even then, because home birth is seen as the norm, there is a massive cultural boundary that would need to be crossed should Monica need to go to the hospital to have her child.
Monica didn't know the date of her last period and was questioned about this by the government funded health worker that came to the slum to occasionally assess how she was doing. The health worker, a female herself, would talk down to Monica, berating her for not wanting to go to the clinic or hospital to have her baby. You were left wanting to slap this woman for her condescending attitude, however, when finally, Monica consents to going to the hospital for an ultrasound to date her pregnancy, the immediate reason as to the health worker's disdain is crystal. The radiologist/doctor (wasn't made clear), spent several minutes hounding the health worker and patronising her for not knowing Monica's due date. "Who has worked out this woman's last period?" "When was her last period?" "It is up to you to find out her due date" - or words to that effect!
Of course - monkey see, monkey do - the hierachy of power is in full swing. All this while, we see Monica lying silent, passive on the bed whilst decisions and conversations about her are going on without anyone asking her input at all. She is a woman, she is poor, she is worthless.
On Monica's birth-day, she eventually does end up going back to the hospital as she is having some bleeding, but she initially does call an untrained birth attendant. They have to go under the cover of night so that she can be back in the morning with no one knowing that she went to the hospital. For this, she is scolded by the health worker who seems to lack the understanding that had she been more open about where she birthed, she risked isolation from all of her family and friends.

In the US we meet David, a father of two. Yes, David lives in the Western world, in the United States where the maternal mortality is 1 in 4,800! That's still a terribly high statistic for a country that prides itself on obstetric care, in a country where c-sections are at around 35 - 40% and the majority of births take place under the auspicious of an OB/GYN and midwives are few and far between. David's wife died a few days after childbirth from an amniotic fluid embolism. This is a rare pregnancy related complication that is not understood fully at all. On my own research it appears that it could be caused by fetal cells, debris, hair entering the mother's blood stream and causing a severe allergic reaction. In the film, Turlington Burns talks about there being just one man in the US who is researching into this and his funding is running out.
On my own research, however, I have found out that this particular complication is one of the leading causes of maternal mortality. There is no specific research that seems to have been done on this, but estimates range from deaths in 86% of cases dropping to around 36% of cases. However, what I am struggling to get my head around is that the money for funding research for this just doesn't seem to be there. In fact, the deeper you delve, the more you realise that reseach into pregnancy complications struggles to get funding at all. Why? Because, sceptically (and this was reiterated to me by a midwife I once chatted to) why spend the money reseaching a condition that women, hypothetically, only run the risk of getting during such a short span of their lives ie: 9 months. If your jaw has hit the ground now, then you might want to pick it up.

To me, this is where the point is totally missed. Birth is a factor of Life. Without birth, we would not be able to continue as a race. Of course, no one is saying that the money shouldn't be put into Cancer research or HIV research, but surely there should be more emphasis on researching these rare, but real conditions that cost 1 in 4800 women their lives in the US, or 1 in 8200 in the UK?
Interestingly, it is made very clear in the documentary about the importance of women like Janet in her tribe. Were she to die, all the family would struggle. The women are the birthers, they bring up the children, they run the home, they work the land. To lose a woman in a Masaai tribe, would be a huge tragedy. Maybe we should value all women then same?

Ina May Gaskin works hard to campaign for this in the USA if you are interested in finding out more.

Finally we are taken to Guatemala, the country of the four with the highest Maternal mortality rate standing at 1 in 71 (not the highest I found, however, that can be found back in Africa, where, in Niger, a woman runs a 1 in 7 chance of dying in childbirth...I have no words!)

Returning to Guatemala, we are told how abortion is illegal even if it is as a cause of rape or incest etc. So, I am eager to find out if the figures we're quoted actually include the cases of girls and women who die as a cause of botched backstreet abortions?

In Guatemala we meet Linda. Linda is an educated woman, she is a doctor. The divide is immediately obvious as we chat with Linda in her lovely home. However, Linda has worked hard for this with the opportunities she has been fortunate enough to have been given and she now gives back to her country by providing a service of care to women who are post abortion and also by supplying contraceptives and advice to other mothers.

We are introduced to a woman who has been very sick and has obviously tried to induce abortion at home, she is suffering from sceptacemia. The word "abortion" is not used however and all the while it is classified as a miscarriage as otherwise, the woman would be in serious trouble. What is briefly skirted over however, is the fact the woman was there due to being raped and no one seemed to bat an eyelid. Of course, Turlington Burns only has 60 minutes in which to fit all these issues into her film, but we are left wondering how much maternal death could also be reduced if women were respected, loved, nurtured and, more practically, if contraception were available to them; if there was not the high incidences of domestic violence, if women weren't raped or abused, if women were allowed to have a say as to how many children they want or how they want to have their children.

All in all, this film left me with a huge amount of questions and emotions that I'm slowly processing. 

Coincedentally, a wonderful, wise friend of mine, recommended "Half the Sky" to me last week after I was corresponding with her as to my elective placement in my third year. She advised me to read this book before I made any decisions as to where to go.

Not that being a student midwife will change the world in any shape or form, particularly a fortunate, middle class, Western student midwife, but being a woman and a mother might.

As Turlington Burns states on her website, of the 15% of births that become complicated by a potentially fatal condition, nearly all are treatable if there is a skilled birth attendant who recognises this and can act accordingly.

If I have one thing I need to do in the next 10 years alongside becoming a midwife, it's to ensure that my children know that this stuff goes on in the world and that they are a part of the circle of life and despite their privileges, they are able to spread the word in some shape or form that woman are amazing, women are strong and birth is the foundation of life, so we need to protect women from dying in childbirth unecessarily.

How you can help:

Support the cause here

Instead of giving your friend who has everything, another dust catcher for their birthday/Christmas present, why not send them the gift of goodwill and fund the training of a midwife: here in the US

Watch the film, read the book, spread the word.

Educate your own children.

Write to Andrew Lansley, encourage him to keep up the money for training our own midwives and preserving the NHS so we maintain our access to free healthcare.

Write to Bill Gates - he supports health and education around the world. he has injected money into various projects via the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. By heck, if the world's richest man was on board - I think there'd be many others who would follow suite. Just send him a copy of the movie ;-)

Finally, download this fact sheet, read it, watch the movie and feel empowered to do something, donate, raise funds, write a letter, have a movie screening, become a midwife, train a TBA, work with or for Oxfam, the list goes on. We may all be insignificant little dots, but together, we are an almighty roar!