If you see a whole thing - it seems that it's always beautiful. Planets, lives... But up close a world's all dirt and rocks. And day to day, life's a hard job, you get tired, you lose the pattern. - Ursula K. LeGuin

Sunday, September 26, 2010

I Really Really Really Wanted to Blog This Week But....

...Monday I went to visit with Angel.  It took 3 hours to drive back and forth and I spent 3 hours with him, so there went my day.  I took him and his roommate out to lunch and then we all went food shopping.  I am trying to show Angel how to shop and cook economically and easily.  Tonight b cooked chicken stew and videotaped himself because that's the next dish Angel wants to try.

...Tuesday was lost to teaching and everything I didn't do Sunday (because of the birth) and Monday.

...Wednesday was lost to meetings: two doctoral student meetings, a search committee meeting, and a meeting for the administrative committee that I chair.  Wednesday night I made it to yoga.  After all that healthy goodness I met b for a beer and a light dinner.

...Thursday was lost to teaching and, at long last, the tenure and promotion reception.  b got off work early since they allowed guests.  There was wine and cheese and hummus and fruit.  There was a copy of all the books chosen by the tenure and/or promotion recipients this year.  There was a woman walking around interviewing us for a library podcast on the event (you can imagine how many people listen to that each year).  There were "words" spoken by the Provost and the Chancellor.  There were even parting gifts--a poster of yourself with your book.  I was pleasantly surprised by the number of books on feminism and/or motherhood.  I was not surprised by the poor quality wine.  Earlier in the day b found out he got a new job.  It is sort of an add-on to his current job but it allows him to merge some of his different interests and sets him up for his dream job.  To celebrate we went out to one of our favorite swanky restaurants and had good wine (and food).

...Friday was lost to:  feeling sick from Thursday's festivities; more meetings; actual writing; and my monthly outing with the doctoral students (we've dubbed it our "monthlies").  A large number of students couldn't make it this time--due to real or imagined responsibilities--and for once I didn't want a Guinness but I womanned up and stuck it out for the five students (and one mom!?) that attended.

...Saturday was lost to tai chi and grocery shopping and class prep and cooking a quick dinner of salmon, shrimp, asparagus and pasta with a improvised mustard, lemon, white wine and caper sauce.  Saturday night I might have actually watched a show with my sweetie.

...Today was lost to my monthly chi gung class [for which I travel 45 minutes each way to a neighboring city and take the class in the finished basement of people I've never met before in my life from an 81 year old man who barely speaks English while his daughter translates] and then a plethora of work that took well into the evening but barely put a dent in my To Do list.

Maybe tomorrow?

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Long Night, Sweet Reward

I left my house last night at approximately 11pm and headed towards the hospital.  I had received a call from my latest doula client.  This is the first time I've "douled" (can that be a verb?) for someone who delivered before their due date.  I hadn't been expecting it but when my cellphone rang at 9pm it crossed my mind that my plans (primarily for some reading and an early bedtime) might be changing.  And they did.

I made it back home at 3pm this afternoon.  Mom and baby are both doing well. There was stress and drama and the sweet sweet reward of seeing a baby come into the world and a new family form. I don't want to talk about the details of the birth (it would be inappropriate) but rather share some thoughts that occurred to me throughout the night and day.

This experience was different in many ways.  It was not through the community agency where I volunteer but instead was a very friendly acquaintance.  It was the first time I worked for a couple and neither one of them was a teenager or a young adult.  Working with a couple, and especially a couple that is close to my age, was interesting in ways I had never imagined.  I don't put myself in the place of my clients--childbirth seems long behind me--but this couple's relationship reminded me of mine and b's.  The dad is a very sweet and caring man and they appear to be completely compatible.  There was much joking going on in the early parts of the night and then again when pain had subsided.  There was a comfort and tenderness between the two that was beautiful to watch.  I couldn't help but wonder what it would have been like to have had a baby with b.

It also took me a little while to figure out how to best support a couple as opposed to a single mom.  In all of my previous births, although friends and family may have been present, my role as the primary support was clear.  Now I know this may not always be the case and in at least one experience the father showed up halfway through the process and ended up taking on the role, but the dynamic was very different last night.  At first I found it difficult to support without getting in the way.  Other times I felt I was late to support or provided inadequate support because I wasn't as in sync with the mother as I usually am.  Eventually I think we reached a groove that worked and, most importantly, the mother felt supported.  The father also felt supported and that role (of supporting the support person) was new to me.

It is also a little different being involved in such an intimate experience (which I consider an honor and a privilege) with someone that you know but not all that well. With my other experiences I didn't know the mother at all and knew I would not be seeing her again after my post-partum visit.  However I will continue to see at least the dad in this couple on occasion.  As I said, we are friendly acquaintances but not really friends.  However I have now experienced something with this couple that no one else (except the doctors and nurses) has experienced.  There is a raw level of intimacy that gets shoved back under the cover of politeness in the days following a birth.

The more births I am involved with, the more I see the culture of birthing has really changed.  What was before a very private event has become a lot more public.  In every birth I've attended there has been at least one friend or family member who "popped in" for a visit during labor.  Hospitals (at least the ones around here) now have a very open policy about visitors during labor.  When I gave birth only immediate family members were allowed and I only ever heard of the father being in the labor and delivery room with the mother.  Now, in addition to doulas, you may have grandmothers, grandfathers, sisters, brothers, and friends.  Some stay for the entire event and others drop in and out to say hi and visit as you would expect after the baby is born.

Some of my clients seem to really like this and others seem less comfortable with the drop-in. Personally I like the inclusion of additional support people (grandparents, siblings, doulas, etc.) but only if they are committed to staying throughout the birth.  I believe a laboring woman should have whoever she wants with her when she gives birth but I also know that who you think you want with you and who you really want with you may be two very different things.  More importantly, each birth develops its own rhythm.  There is a pace and an atmosphere that develops as the birth unfolds that is offset by a drop-in.  It often feels to me like a blast of cold air and I believe it can upset the process.  Of course it can also serve as a helpful distraction.  Ultimately I realize that it is not my call for any individual mother but it can also be hard to determine if the mother really wants this person or people to stay.  Women remain erringly polite, in my book, during birth.  They don't want to offend and I believe the drop-in phenomenon may make the birthing room a less emotionally safe and open place for a woman.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

RBOC: I Can't Believe It's Been 10 Days Since My Last Post And All I've Got Is Another RBOC Post Edition

  • Non-stop meetings have continued.  I no longer have time between meetings to prepare for meetings and I certainly don't have time to do any real work.
  • I'm instituting new policies: (1) I won't schedule a meeting that is less than 2 weeks away; (2) no more than 6 meetings a week that are not directly related to my research agenda; and (3) at least half an hour between the latest possible end time of one meeting and the beginning of the next meeting.
  • I did manage to do one social activity this past weekend: BB&B.  This month we read Guyland by Michael Kimmel.  Attendance was light (I'm not the only one having a hellish semester) and none of us liked the book.  However it was very interesting unpacking exactly why we didn't like about it.
  • There was also a lot of pet talk.  I seemed to have assembled a group of pet-fanatic feminists.
  • Next month we're discussing our first novel.
  • I sometimes think my son is the most earnest young man in the world.
  • I miss him.
  • My classes continue to go well.  I am particularly enamoured of my undergraduate class.  This past week we discussed women's sexuality and I somehow took the conversation down the pornography road.  They were happy to go with me and suggested a field trip to Chippendales.
  • Does Chippendales even exist anymore?
  • The healthy lifestyle experiment has continued in full force.  While it is not about the weight, that doesn't stop us from weighing ourselves.  b has lost a gagillion pounds (by my estimates) and I have lost 3 (on a good day).  I find this most unfair.
  • However the muscles are coming back and, when I'm not completely exhausted, I have a lot more energy.
  • One of the reasons for the exhaustion is that our nights are filled with vomiting cats and a dog that needs to inspect all cat vomit.
  • The Brute has developed a new habit of pooping in the kitchen sink.  We are not amused.
  • So there you have it, after 10 days of silence you get pornography, poop and cat vomit.  

Sunday, September 5, 2010

RBOC: Something's Gotta Give Edition

  • It is only two weeks into the semester and I feel woefully behind.
  • My classes are going great.  My undergraduate class is really into the material.  I love a class that is willing to go with you, and this group definitely is.  My doctoral class has some quirks but is coming together.  
  • I always forget that no matter how many times I've taught a class and no matter how prepared I am before it starts, prepping classes takes time.  
  • I may have mentioned that my undergraduate class is a service learning class this year.  This means I have fewer students but I do need to coordinate with my community partners.  I have three partners, and they are all great, but it is another thing I need to remember and prep.
  • Somehow I thought it would be a good idea to write a small proposal with one of my community partners and a new doctoral student.  We fleshed out the research idea on Friday and I really want to do it (it involves interviewing teen moms and doulas, so of course I'm interested) but the deadline is three weeks away.
  • I love all of my graduate students but I have more than I should.  It feels like every week I have a proposal/draft to review or a comp exam to grade.  I am trying to say no to any new requests. 
  • Did I mention the big grant (the one I've been working on for over a year now), still isn't done and is due in mid-October?
  • I got one paper revised and out last week and hope to get a second out by the end of next week.  I will still have one more revision before I can even start on new papers. 
  • My service commitments have gone through the roof.  I am trying to accept them strategically and to drop a few as more get added.  At minimum we are supposed to be on 1 committee in our department; 1 committee in our school; and 1 committee in our university.  Very few of us fail to meet this minimum and most of us far exceed it.  I am on two departmental committees and am Doctoral Program Coordinator; I'm the chair of a committee in our school and I am on three committees in the university.
  • b and I have remained true to our new healthy lifestyle.  We continue to visit the gym 6 mornings a week and I slip in a few classes 2-3 times a week.  We had our second visit with the nutritionist and our diet is on track.  We are cooking at home a lot, which is good but has created a lot more work. We both feel good but tired most of the time.  We're hoping that changes.
  • So far what has "given" is my 365 Project.  I stopped taking photos the week classes started.  It was actually a bit of a relief.
  • Blogging has also been hard hit.  I'm posting around once a week now and I can't keep up with reading all my bloggy friends. I don't want blogging or reading blogs to feel like a chore. The worst part is I don't think of random blog posts to write throughout the day.  I miss that.
  • My book club meets next week.  I'm only a third of the way through the book (mostly because I don't like it all that much) and have a growing mound of books I want to read on my nightstand.  I'm not sure how long reading for pleasure will last.
  • I've also been working my way through Friday Night Lights on Netflix.  By the end of the day I am often too tired for anything but a TV show.  I was amazed by the first season.  What I thought was a silly teen show about football was really a critical analysis of race and gender relations, class, and disability.  The second season has proven to be less critical than the first but I've been assured it gets better.