Friday, June 28, 2013

These Are A Few Of My Favorite Things

It's been a long time since I wrote anything here.  So much life has been happening, and it seems I forgot to actually record any of it.  To make up for that, I'll record a few favorites that I've discovered (or rediscovered) over the past few months.

In no particular order......

1. Brambly Hedge by Jill Barklem

This is a book that serendipitously came into my view at the library just this week.  I picked it up, fell in love with the illustrations, and then asked my son what he thought of it.  His reply?  "Beatrix Potter!"  Jill's illustrations do, indeed, harken back to Beatrix Potter's talent a few generations earlier.  What I like about Brambly Hedge even better than Beatrix Potter's stories is the fact that the stories are lovely and adventurous but not at all frightening for those of us with sensitive children.  The stories are truly beautiful, and may just succeed in helping me learn to tolerate mice just a little.  My 4.5 year old son sat with rapt attention while we read 68 pages yesterday.  The only reason we stopped was because my voice was getting weary.

2. Cleansing, specifically the cleanse designed by Rich Ralph, Vancouver Nutritionist to restore gut health.

I grew up in a meat and potatoes family.  Salads were mostly made of iceberg lettuce (yuck), and green vegetables were usually canned (also yuck). Crisco and margarine were standard pantry items, and Jiff was my favorite peanut butter.  It was just what we knew back then.  I developed an affinity for fast food and chocolate, which didn't ruin my figure thanks to medication that had a side effect of upping my metabolism.

Then I got married and went to do the first big grocery shop with my husband.  He wouldn't let me buy crisco.  He refused to let me bring Jiff into our home.  Suddenly, hydrogenated oils were evil, and I would have to learn to develop a love for natural peanut butter.  (Who knew peanut butter could be made from only peanuts?!)  Little by litte, my habits changed, and I discovered a love for fresh vegetables and fruits.  Eventually, my habits and lifestyle were pretty doggone healthy.  The only downside was that I gained a bunch of weight now that I was no longer on that medicine.

But then I met Rich, and he suggested we try a cleanse.  It was rather brutal at first.  Planning ahead was key, especially for the first ten days when everything had to be cooked and all my usual food choices were not allowed.  I started with a pep talk that went like this, "When I'm done, we'll celebrate with wine and chocolate."  The pep talk by day 4 had changed to this, "When I'm done with this first part of the protocol, I'll celebrate with an apple.  When it's all over, I'll celebrate with a Greek salad."

Addictions I didn't even know I had were brought to my attention and conquered.  Weight fell off.  My eating habits got even better.  My taste buds regained acute sensitivity.  I could no longer tolerate processed foods, and my nose and tongue could ferret out a fake ingredient in no time flat.  And I discovered that my favorite muffin recipe doesn't even need sugar anymore.

3. Essential Oils

When I first got married, I was used to being on antibiotics several times a year, along with allergy medicines.  Moving to a totally different part of the continent relieved some of my allergies, and I was able to get rid of most allergy meds quite quickly.  The antibiotics still stuck around until I finally caved and tried a friend's suggestion to use Oil of Oregano at the first sign of getting sick.  It usually worked, especially if I started using the oil as soon as I felt something coming on and continued to use it throughout the day.  It rarely worked when I'd go back to my home in the States, but I suspect that had a lot to do with the germs involved with air travel, the food (lots of treats), and the dust and other allergens involved with being back in the midwest.

I started making my own personal care products (shampoo and the like) and cleaning products with essential oils and food grade ingredients this past year.  I was buying the essential oils from my local healthfood store, and they were okay but not fabulous.

Recently, I was introduced to some other essential oils by a friend who uses doTERRA.  Little by little, I have been completely won over by the quality and the wide range of use they have.  There is no comparison to the brands I bought from the healthfood store and the one I now use.  I've watched the oils help my husband fall almost immediately to sleep when just moments earlier he was dealing with huge amounts of stress, and I've watched the oils heal my son from a bad virus.  Even now, I'm experiencing their healing power as they work to help me heal from the same virus.  I've seen them deal with bug bites, skin eruptions, allergies, stress, stomach ailments, and hormonal imbalances.  And that's just in my family.

After mocking others for getting into sales of this type, I get to have the opportunity to eat my words as I've decided to become a distributor for doTERRA essential oils.  I'm still on the lookout for other brands to see if any of them can beat the ones I have fallen for, but so far none can meet all the expectations I have.  I don't know if I'll become some sales sensation, but I do know that it's been a sweet privilege to share the oils with a few friends who have been curious.  And I know that my family is benefitting from them, and that's what matters most.

4. Gardening

Our community garden closed down last autumn after our church sold the hazelnut farm they owned.  My husband built some garden boxes in our yard in anticipation of that move, but we don't get much sunshine due to all the towering trees around our yard.  I have a few things growing, mostly berries and herbs, but not nearly enough to sustain us through even a season.

A friend who lives just 3 kilometers away on a hobby farm has allowed me to use a large part of her garden.  That has been lovely, and it has been such a treat for my son to be around chickens, ducks, sheep, goats, rabbits, a dog, and horses.  He loves going there, and it feeds our souls.

We've also been asked to take care of the landscaping for an elderly neighbor across the street.  Henry David mows the large lawn with the tractor, and Grasshopper and I work on weeding, pruning, and planting.  Another neighbor noticed my work and has hired me to do weeding for her.

Gardening brings life to me, and I love the peace that I find whilst digging in the dirt.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Until Then I Thought It Was Just Me, Just A Fluke

Nearly four years ago, I remember this time of year.  It was nearly Christmas.  My maternity clothes were starting to feel small.  I kept telling myself not to get disappointed if Grasshopper didn't arrive until the end of January or even later.  After all, his mother was a few weeks late.  And then it was such a shock to feel my water break that morning, the first week in January.

I've told the story a million times.  In print.  In person.  On film.

But what I know now that I didn't know then is that it isn't just me.  It isn't just a fluke.  Back then, I figured that my complications during and after the birth were just a rare fluke, kind of like I'm a rare redhead.  Redheads are like 4% of the population or something like that.  So I figured it was just a deal  like that.  Even after I understood why the complications happened, I still figured it was just a fluke that I ended up with incompetent medical care.  Surely that doesn't happen often.

And then I got this email.  It was from a woman who had had a traumatic birth and had found my story online.  We wrote back and forth, and I eventually went to meet her and a few other women she had gathered together.  I heard story after story of medical care being the cause of complications.  Of doctors and nurses and midwives who were abusive or dismissive.

We formed a group.  And as that group grew in number and in reach, we heard more stories.  Dozens.  Hundreds.  From all over the world.  As a result, the vision and scope of our group expanded.  Now we were not only supporting one another, we were supporting other women.  Soon enough we were advocating for other women and becoming activists.

I never really planned on any of that.

But it happened, and I found purpose and healing in the midst of it all.  Even now, as I deal with the effects of an exhausted pelvic floor due to a long respiratory illness, the work I do provides a sense of peace instead of the bitterness that could arise.

I've come to understand that a lot of what happens to us becomes traumatic because of two things.  Our rights as women are often disregarded, sometimes even by other women.  And medical practitioners would find their mistakes and misjudgments more easily forgiven if they could manage to be respectful and kind to the women they serve.

When a woman's right to informed consent is taken away by a medical provider, she experiences a trauma.  And when a woman is further disrespected through the unkind words or tones of those medical providers, the trauma goes even deeper.

I have shared the truth of this until I'm blue in the face.  Sometimes people have that "Eureka!" moment, and they get what I'm sharing.  But sometimes people are still clueless or unbending.

Today I was told by a complete stranger online that what happened to me was essentially my fault.  She compared what happened to me to someone being burned at McDonald's, explaining that I couldn't be angry because I must not have educated myself enough.

Ironically, she's a labor and delivery nurse.  I wanted to scream at her.  It was obvious that she did not carefully read ALL of my words.  It was surprising that some friend of a friend would feel it necessary to make such an uninformed comment.  I was pretty ticked.  Especially when she did the whole "I'm sorry you feel that way."  Ah, medical providers must take a class on how to make poor apologies.  It seems so many of them are gifted in that way.

But after the feeling of boiling over passed, I thought again about what she said.  And it made me shake my head even more.  She really doesn't get it.  They really don't get it.

Comparing what happens in hospital birthing situations to being burned at McDonald's is quite ridiculous when you think about it.  Even a toddler knows food can be hot, and that you need to test it out somehow or blow on it.  That's common sense that is learned early on.

Knowing all the ins and outs of various specialized medical procedures is not like dealing with hot coffee.  It doesn't matter how much reading I did before I was in labor, there was no way I could have known the risks of the procedures done to me.  And when I was in labor, it wasn't like I could google it or go to the library to read up on it.  Neither could my husband.  We asked for explanations.  We trusted them to give it.  They failed to be completely forthright and honest.  They bullied and hurried and trampled my right to informed consent.  It doesn't matter how intelligent I am.  I couldn't stop them.

I'm not quite sure how to best educate medical practitioners who already believe they are experts in their field and don't exactly display a learner posture.  I'm not quite sure how to help those of them who believe they are little gods discover that they are, in fact, completely mortal and fallible.  I don't know how to help an honestly good-hearted medical care provider understand that not all of her colleagues are honest or good-hearted, that they could, in fact, be somewhat malicious.

Sometimes I want to just throw in the towel.  Stop fighting.  Stop telling my story.  Stop working to support women and bring about change.  I mean, there are bigger, more important battles in this world to fight, right?

But then I think about me.  What if someone like me comes along again?  What will she do?  Will she feel all alone and without resources?  Will she know that she has rights?  Will she know what things to ask, what to look for?  Will her marriage make it through such a trauma?  Will her mothering unfold with joy?  Just because there are more drastic travesties in this world doesn't mean that this is not a cause worth fighting for.

And so I keep on speaking, tired as I am.  One day, maybe doctors and nurses and midwives will finally be up on all the evidence based research that contradicts their protocols.  One day, maybe hospitals and medical providers will abide by the laws and protocols that govern them.  One day, human rights in childbirth may actually be a reality for women everywhere.  And one day, maybe medical practitioners will remember that one of the best tools for professional development is to always have a learner posture somewhere in their psyche.  Maybe one day they will learn that some of their best teachers are not keynote speakers at their professional conferences, but the very people they serve. And maybe some of them will learn to really listen, whether it's words spoken aloud or in print.

It's a dream anyway.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

All Quiet On The Western Front

I just wanted to pop in here and say, "No, I'm not giving up this blog, but yes, it might be a while before I find myself coming over here to write something."

I'm in  a season where I just don't have the right words.  Sometimes I don't have any words, right or wrong.  That is not like me at all.  I've never been a "stuffer", one of those people who keeps everything locked inside and you never really know what they are thinking or feeling until it spills over.  I'm always spilling over, and I rarely keep anything inside.  I wouldn't have made a good Mary, the one who kept everything the angel said close to her heart and spent eons pondering it privately.  I would have called up my best friend moments after the angel left and I had remembered my name.  But I think I may have started "stuffing" sometime in the past year, and now I find that I've got a bit of writer's block with a hefty dose of speaker's block thrown in for good measure.

I'm also taking the next four weeks to be intentional about doing some more healing from my birth trauma.  I'm participating in a pilot program designed to help mothers like me heal from their trauma.  It's designed for moms of babes in arms, and I'm a few years beyond that.  But the author/designer was willing to take me on, and I was interested in seeing how it might help even now.  And I find that the timing is rather appropriate.  This summer has revealed further areas inside of me that need healing from that part of my life.  So I'm looking forward to devoting my time this next month to something that could end up being very beneficial, not just for my own heart, but also for the women I try to serve.

So I'll be around, but I'll be quiet over here unless I get that familiar compelling feeling that I MUST write.  But that feeling hasn't happened in a while.  And I think I'll be pretty occupied with this pilot program.  See you in awhile.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Just Processing a Bit of Conflict

For a girl who grew up going to little private schools and a conservative church, it's not hard to see how it was possible to grow up thinking that there was only one proper way of thinking, only one correct way of believing, only one opinion that was true.  And it's not hard to see that the thoroughness of that education in those little classrooms succeeded in blinding my eyes and ears to dissenting opinions.  I still cringe when I recall my earth science teacher in high school and how I refused to give him a hearing or have an actual dialogue with him.  It was my way or the highway.  If he didn't take my way, then he was simply lost and ill informed.

Yes, I had a rocky beginning into life as a participant in this diverse world of ours.  I had little to no training on how to coexist with others who were as different from me as oil is from water.  I had no understanding of how to converse with others who have no intention of heading over to my side of belief. The only thing I did have was a very good ability to keep an "us versus them" mentality.  It served me so well in high school that I graduated with only a handful of friends.  (I say that with sarcasm.  It only served to bring about loneliness and stunted growth.)

And now I find myself thrust into a crash course in learning to walk with people who disagree, rather vehemently in fact, with my opinions.  It would be possible to ignore them or reply to their comments in a snarky way, but enough evidence and experience exists to prove to me that those ways aren't likely to contribute to dialogue or strengthen community.  And so I get to learn to do the hard thing.

The hard thing of giving someone a hearing, someone who is angry or judgmental or completely opposite of me.  The hard thing of showing them respect, giving them a genuine listening ear, and seeking to understand before I seek to judge.  It's not easy.  Especially when well meaning friends tell me to step back and stop trying to enter into the fray.

But despite its difficulty, I'm convinced of its importance.  Perhaps it won't change anyone's opinion, and perhaps it won't result in this world being more open to dialogue or more open to changing the issue we're seeking to change (birth trauma in this particular instance).  But what it does do is change me.  It is growing me, stretching me, making me think, making me seek to understand another before seeking to expound on my beautiful opinion, and it's making me learn what peaceful dialogue between two dissenting groups looks like.  I hope at the end of this I learn just what it looks like to live in a mysterious harmony with someone who sees things completely differently than me.  I hope I learn what it looks like to respect another person's humanity even though I abhor their opinion, what it means to value them and honor them as people even though we remain opposed in philosophy.

This seems to be a rather glorious, though arduous at times, adventure in growing.  I think I'll take it.  ;)

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Birth Trauma ~ Advocacy for Dads

*This post uses graphic terms. This post also names names and conveys strong opinions. I do it without apology.*

 Perhaps the biggest emotional hurdle I've had to deal with in terms of healing from my birth trauma has been the role that my husband played. He was supposed to be my protector, my advocate, my shield. He was supposed to fight for me. He tried his best, he really did. But he and I both were naive and had no idea what kind of protection would really be required. We had no idea that the medical staff who were ostensibly there to care for us and keep both our baby and me healthy would be the ones to cause us to go through the biggest hell we've been through thus far. We did not know that we needed protection from the "experts". My husband did not know that he should not have trusted them, that he should have asked more questions, fought harder, done something. We just didn't know.

 But we do know now. I guess that's the scary part. Knowing. Now that we know, the reality of how hard it will be to protect me and advocate for me in such a broken system should we be able to have another child is frightening. I know all too well that the medical profession says one thing and then does another. They have learned to be quick to apologize and show sympathy, but they still have not learned to bring about drastic change. They still commit birth rape too often. And yes, I said birth rape.

 It is honestly enough for me to consider giving birth at home with only those I would trust. But the list of those I'd trust is miniscule, and it only takes one look at that area of my body with a mirror to remind me that giving birth vaginally is no longer a viable option for me.

 Just last night I looked again because I was dealing with some pain, and once again I was reminded just how severely I tore and how little truth I was told about the extent of my injuries. From my urethra to my rectum, and all up inside of my labia and vagina, my body bears the scars that tell of brutal tearing from incompetently wielded forceps. The fact that those incompetently wielded forceps were used against my expressly stated will and against my right to informed consent makes those scars all the more painful.  And the pain I was feeling last night? Well, that just happened to be from yet another cyst that forms because I must wear pads nearly every hour of the day, thus dealing with fragile skin. Even using a Poise pad, designed for incontinence, only helps so much.

 I have accomplished so much in terms of my healing journey. I have three years of physiotherapy under my belt, and will go back for more when I can afford it. I have many counseling sessions, many birth trauma support group meetings attended, many blog posts written. But despite all that hard work, my life will never be what it was before midwife Heather Munro and obstetrician Duna Goswami chose to commit birth rape. I learn to deal with a new "normal" each day, one that includes baby wipes every time I use the toilet and wondering just how I'll accomplish a primitive camping trip without a flush toilet available for my morning issues with bowel incontinence.

 And so it is with bittersweet emotions that I tell you about a movie that just happens to be coming to Vancouver this Saturday, June 16th. It begins at 12 noon at the Vancity Theatre. Tickets may be purchased online by going here: Other Side of the Glass Tickets.

 This movie is for dads, for all those dads who wanted to protect their wives and their children but didn't know how. This movie is for all those dads who felt powerless. This movie is for all those husbands who dealt with not only feeling powerless, but also endured the loss of trust and intimacy in their marriages. This film is an important project. It is yet one more way our voices can be heard, so that one day, positive change will happen. I dream of it happening soon.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Coincidences? Providence? Gifts, Most Definitely.

Sometimes I have a fleeting thought that it is foolish for me to chalk up a beautiful serendipitous happening to Providence.  As if God would really care about little requests like an unbroken toy train bridge without crayon marks or a bear sighting when there are starving children and other atrocities taking up His time and attention.  There's also that voice in my head that tells me it's stupid to think that He would do little things like that precisely because starving children and atrocities exist, and clearly, He hasn't solved those problems.

This, I think, is where faith comes in.  It's really up to me making a choice to believe or not to believe.  For me, despite all the unanswered questions about why God lets children starve, why wars still happen, why women are widowed and children are orphaned, and why people still die of terrible diseases, I choose to believe that a God who is bigger than I can comprehend with thoughts I cannot understand does indeed reach down to bring a perfect toy train bridge to a boy and a bear sighting to a couple of girls.  Maybe some day I'll understand the whys and why nots of what He does.  But for today, I'm just grateful.

Last week I planned to spend what was to me a large amount of money on some used toy train tracks and train accessories.  I knew the money should really be saved for groceries, but the deal seemed too amazing to pass up, and the provision seemed timely.  My little guy is starting to really enjoy trains, and a little one we watch a few times a month LOVES trains.  It seemed like the perfect idea.

But then I picked it up and discovered that the picture I'd studied online so carefully was incredibly misleading.  The trains, tracks, and buildings were dirty and colored on.  The main pieces I cared about like the bridge and a few special tracks were broken.  I was frustrated with myself for being such a people pleaser that I did not take time to look over the pieces and refuse the purchase in the first place, and worried that my request to bring back the set and get a refund would not be met with willingness.  Thankfully, the seller agreed to take them back and refund my money.

I drove home and just chatted to God about life.  "God, if we really are your children, that makes us sons and daughters of a King.  That means we're princes and princesses.  And princes and princesses don't have to accept what even a thrift store wouldn't accept, do they?  Do we really have to be content with what is essentially broken garbage?  Do you have something better in mind?  Please?"

I was disappointed too, knowing that my little boy was at home waiting to get a "surprise that you can't eat".  I knew he would be sad that I had let him down, and I mentally chastised myself for getting so excited that I had told him even that little bit of information.  A Tim Horton's donut seemed a lame consolation prize, but it was all I could do.

He was so excited that he popped up from his pillow when I got home and asked to see the surprise.  I had to tell him that the surprise was too broken and too dirty for me to bring home, that I was sorry, and that I was going to work very hard to find just the right surprise to give him.  Then I told him he had a donut waiting for him in the morning and kissed his smooth cheek goodnight, and went to go call my friend who was scheduled to arrive the next day for a visit.

I called her and she mentioned how excited she was to get together.  I told her that I was sorry, but my home was not in perfect order because of the day's events, including the train fiasco that took an extra couple of hours out of the day.  She said she was just coming to see me, and suddenly the boxes in my bedroom and the unmopped kitchen floor seemed inconsequential to this perfectionist.  She asked about the trains, if they were wooden.  I said that they were, and then we signed off with "I love you" and a promise to see each other on the morrow.

When I picked her up, it seemed strange that along with her small suitcase she also had two large boxes tied with string, but I didn't question anything.  When we arrived back at my home, she told me that the boxes were for my son from her children.

Trains.  Tracks.  A few buildings.  Two PERFECT bridges.  More accessories than a kiddo could dream of, and in better shape than a mama could imagine.  More than double, maybe even triple, what I'd tried to buy.  For free.  To keep.  A gift of love from three kids who no longer played with them.

It was like being hugged by God.

God doesn't always operate this way in my life, but for this moment, I was swallowing tears of gratitude and wonder at His providence and the way my friend was being Jesus-in-skin to not only my child, but to me.

The next morning we took off, just the two of us, for a park in the mountains where my husband had booked a retreat for us.  She and I caught up on 37 years of living, 11 years of life since we'd last seen each other, and all the growing and learning we'd done in between conversations.  We snowshoed, swam, ate, laughed, cried, talked, napped, had lightbulb moments, laughed and cried some more, and just enjoyed the fact that somehow a friendship that began when we were 9 enabled two grown women to let their hair down and feel completely at ease with each other despite the lack of consistent contact.

And on our way home when the largest animal we'd seen was a Columbian Ground Squirrel, we saw it.  A black bear, maybe a yearling, by the side of the road.  He was placidly eating, occasionally looking at the curious onlookers pulled over to the shoulder to watch him.  We were so close my friend could have reached out to touch him and pet his head.  He seemed so peaceful that it was tempting to get out and get closer.  But with one eye on the rearview mirror to make sure we didn't get hit, the other eye on the bear to make sure he didn't decide to get too personal with my friend, and one foot ready to hit the gas, I soaked up the experience of seeing a bear.

And inside I remembered my crazy prayer on the way up.  "Please, God, could we see a bear?  I mean, I don't want to see him on a hike, and I don't want to be in danger.  And I don't want to have to use the knife, the bear horn, the whistle, or anything else I've got with me.  And I don't want to get attacked or anything.  But could we see one in some kind of safe environment?"

He apparently said yes.  He even let me see it in my very favorite type of comfort zone - the mobility provided by my car.

Coincidences?  Maybe.  Providence?  Maybe.  Gifts to a redhead longing for sweet favors and some respite from the hard things in life?  Most definitely, yes.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Flowers Every Day

This is just a quick post to say that it is wonderful to be in springtime.  It is wonderful to have a three year old boy who knows his mama likes flowers.  And so whether it is the blossoms off the tree in the front yard or copious amounts of dandelions, my kitchen window sill is lined with a never ending supply of fresh flowers stuck in assorted tiny containers.

I think I've fallen head over heels for that little boy all over again.  As a mama I fail him every day.  I never play with him enough, and I'm rarely energetic enough to keep up with him.  But he still brings me flowers.  And he still tells me he loves me.  I'm a blessed mama indeed.