Thursday, February 1, 2007

I'm Not Sure I'm Ready Yet

I have been seriously thinking about writing a book ever since I got back from my trip to Grand Rapids in January. Trista and I spent a lot of time talking about mother related issues and both she and Mark recommended that I write and/or edit a book on mother-daughter relationships. I’ve also wanted to write about book about my experiences with natural childbirth/breastfeeding zealots, post-partum depression, and finding my way back to myself.

Trying to decide where to get started has been difficult. Do I need to recap the childbearing experiences of humans from the beginning of time to counter the claims of midwives that tell first time mothers that “your body knows what it’s doing” when in many cases it does not? The little bit of Internet research I did on the history of childbirth brought me face to screen with the story of a woman whose midwife birthed her baby’s arm. In order to save the mother, they had to amputate the baby’s arm, then amputate the leg that was birthed next. As my stomach was turning, the diary of the doctor writing this story mentioned how strong the mother was during all of this. I decided that I really didn’t need that level of specifics.

Today I thought I would look for the books that my doula, C, lent to me while I was waiting for Allison’s birth. There were two books in specific that I was looking for: one was written by a midwife who ran a place she called “The Farm” where low-risk women could come to give birth. Why didn’t I find the name of that place as demeaning then as I do today? It was this midwife who posed the idea of the “orgasmic” delivery. The other was written by a British or Australian midwife. Her book, if I remember correctly, venerated childbirth in Africa and came pretty darn close to worshipping the cervix. When I found the first book, my heart rate sped up, I started to feel hot all over, and I began breathing heavy. It was as if I was seeing someone who hurt me or my children. I stopped looking any further. If just seeing the front jacket of this book and reading the comments from the publisher can get me that worked up, am I ready to reread it with a more critical eye? Am I ready to write about my experiences at all?

On a related topic a few weeks earlier...

Danny and Emma were looking at family pictures on the computer when I happened to walk into the office. About that time Emma asked, “What’s that on Ally’s ear.” Danny replied, “That’s where she got stuck inside Mommy."

I looked at the picture. It’s one I’ve seen hundreds of times before but didn’t notice the bruising on her ear and on that same side of the top of her head. Instantly I thought, “It really wasn’t my fault!” It made me really happy until I realized that I still apparently had issues with the birth. If I was healed, so to speak, why would my first thoughts be about fault? Then I wondered why in the world I never noticed that before. This proof that Allison’s head had been positioned wrong for birth and was being clamped down upon by the muscles of my uterus has been there all along. She wasn’t even two hours old in this picture. Why hadn’t I noticed this before? Was I so sure that I caused this that I didn’t register any evidence to the contrary? Did I not want to see it? I think I still have some work to do here.


DD said...

I think it's also very interesting that your first response was to say it wasn't your fault, which of course it wasn't.

I think you are ready, but just in a different way then you thought.

Mark said...

At the risk of sounding overly lame, my advise is to just start writing. In "On Writing", Stephen King says you should write everyday... somedays you will write nothing but crap. Somedays you will toil over what to say and how to say it. But the hope is that you will do something worthwhile often enough to keep you happy (and make progress!)

Are you ready? If you don't start, then the answer is always no. If you do start, you actually get to find out if you are or not. It may very well be that the answer is "no" for a while... and you will write about less sensitive topics and softened sections that you may eventually revise. But (much like this blog) I think it will help you to get ready... and who knows what gems will spill onto the page when you least expect?

That's my two cents, as someone who knows nothing about this but is trying to pretend he does (but at least admits it).

Jennifer said...

DD and Mark,

Thank you so much for your support. I think you are both right. I hadn't thought about this before, but my "it's not my fault" wasn't like an epiphany, just a re-statement of the facts. And writing about hard things has really helped me since I've started blogging. What further hard could confronting those books bring? It's time for me to start reading them critically and recognize that they have no power over me anymore.

You guys made my day!

Trista said...

Maybe you're not ready for cohesive "book-quality" writing, but I think it would be beneficial for you to record the difficult feelings you're having. Maybe journal-style writing would better serve you for now, and you can compile your thoughts later. Just my two cents.