Thursday, August 31, 2006

Vacation week

I am a little disorganized so the photos are still in the camera. And I didn't even take photos of a lot of the memorable things from vacation. But I returned with some mental equilibrium and even peace. So screw the photos, ya know?

But a few of the highlights:

1. Sailing.
A college friend of my husband lives in Traverse City and brough his sailboat to the lake one day. It's a very small boat, so we had to take turns going out with him. But he was very patient and took each of us for as long as we wanted. I got hooked. Now I'm looking into sailing lessons in the area. Watch out.

2. Kayaking
We rented 2-person kayaks and spent 3 hours going down an uninhabited stretch of the Crystal River. We beached the boats for a half hour and ate a snack while the kids waded in the eponymous waters and chased fish.

3. Yarn stores
I visited three yarn stores in the Leelanau peninsula. The Yarn Shop in Glen Arbor was disappointing -- mostly novelty yarns, only a smattering of supplies (I couldn't find size 5 needles in any form) and two proprietors who were too busy knitting and talking with each other to help me. Lost Art Yarns in TC had a lot of yarn and books but little charm. The yarn was just packed in crates along two narrow walls. Completely functional, but not inviting. Inish Knits in Cedar (a mere crossroads) was the gem. It carries a nice selection of basic and hand-dyed yarns, displayed attractively on old general-store style shelves and counters. The owner, Melissa, was very friendly and helpful. Go there if you're in the area and enjoy fiber.

Less than 24 hours after we returned, I was hosting a reception for donors at the Center. On Monday, my spouse started work with his new employer (a local nonprofit), I switched to a 5-day-a-week schedule (compared to the 4 days I worked when he was a student), and our older son went to my parents for this last week before school starts. Younger son returned to day care for 2 days. Then day care closed for annual in-servicing and my sister-in-law came up from Ohio to babysit the younger child. The college students are returning this week and classes start next week. Work is busy.

And, I have a doula client due any day now.

Breathe. Breathe. Remember sailing, remember floating on the river...

Photos to follow.

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Monday, August 28, 2006


First I have a dream in which I am at the wedding reception of a co-worker and Jonathan Franzen (and am overwhelmed with jealosy). Then I return from vacation and see a link to THIS in my Google News Alerts for "menstruation" of all things.

Coincidence? Most definitely.

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Friday, August 18, 2006

While I'm gone...

...yes, it's that lovely time of August when I get the hell out of Dodge. We're headed north for a week on a lake. I hope to knit and read and relax. I'll be back in a week.

While I'm gone, I'd be curious to hear from you regular commenters as well as lurkers about whether you have any sensory/sensual memories from your birth(s). This past week some of us from the Center's board met for drinks to celebrate the new website. Talk couldn't help but turn to birth stories. One woman shared how her midwife arrived at the height of transition when she was on her hands and knees. The midwife knelt down. The laboring mother reached out and hugged her then hung from her for a contraction. This particular midwife has luscious, long, curly hair.

Our board member recounted how struck she was by the juxtaposition of intense pain in her pelvis and the delicious softness of the hair her hands were tangled in.

I had a doula client who with every contraction dragged her fingertips slowly down over her face again and again. It reminded me of the break-an-egg simulation we used to do at slumber parties.

What is your tactile, sensual labor memory?

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Just one more sti---------

The bus has become my new knitting venue. The drawback is that I know many people on my bus -- some friends from elsewhere in life, some friends I have met through shared rides on the AATA -- and I feel rude reading a pattern while carrying on a conversation. So if I know someone on board, the knitting has to wait.

Yesterday was a great day, though. I got on the bus just as it entered the transit center. The driver took a longer than usual break, so I had 2 rows under my belt before she even pulled out on her run.

I use my exit stops as incentives: can I finish this row before I have to get off? It's surprising how quickly I can knit when I have reason to.

Yesterday I was sailing along, seven stitches and two stops to go. Plenty of time to finish the row and pack up my yarn and pattern. When, what's this? Someone has pulled the cord for the stop before mine? No one ever pulls for that stop. It's just as close to my house as the stop I usually get off at, but because it's across a busy road, I never exit there.

Plus waiting for the next stop gives me an additional 35 seconds of knitting.

Yet here was the stop, the bus was slowing down, and I felt it would be selfish to pass up the opportunity to exit when it was happening anyway. For this same reason, I usually don't push the elevator button to the floor I need. Rather, I get off at a floor someone else has pushed for and walk the difference on the stairs. That way the elevator isn't stopping just for me. [And you thought I was without psychological pathologies?]

I quickly gathered my things, thanked the driver, and jumped out the rear door. As I got to the sidewalk, I felt a tugging on my bag. I looked down and a cord of coral yarn was stretched from my bag to the bus's door. I'd left my ball of yarn in my seat! I could hear the engine revving. I dashed back to bang on the rear door -- I was NOT going to have my half-finished sleeve and bamboo needles dragged around southwest Ann Arbor -- when it opened. A smiling man was standing there holding my yarn.

I don't know if I can ride that route again.


Monday, August 14, 2006

Updates all around

I cleaned up my blogroll a bit. I was sad to see "You Knit What?" close its virtual doors. And Iatrogenic Causes has been quiet for so many months it is as good as gone. I miss it.

Then there were other blogs I found I was, for whatever reason, no longer reading. Red Spiral is a fascinating journey of discovery. I will follow it on my own and hope many of you do, too. It has evolved and expanded from its original doula focus. I don't know why I stopped enjoying Abortion Clinic Days. It's well written. The posts are compelling. Maybe I'll return to it someday. Likewise with Andrea's Diary. I feel criminal taking it down. But I use my blogroll, too. And I don't want it full of blogs I never visit, no matter how meritorious their content.

But what a fabulous new birth partner we have in FPMama. And I'm including a few new knitting blogs' links as well. There are many out there and I'm probably going to continue to cycle them through from time to time. I like to keep my blogroll manageable, not 80 titles long.

And finally, I discovered that a missing chunk of code was obstructing my links to Navelgazing Midwife, The Edge of the Forest and I Blame the Patriarchy. I'm happy to connect you with them now.

*** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** ***
On the doula front, I gave a footbath to my August client last night. It was very nice. She chose jasmine scent for the water. Thanks to the windows open on opposite sides of the room, the smell all came to me. It was delightful. I tried to fan some up to her but she had to settle for tactile rewards, not olfactory ones. She is due in a couple of weeks. Between now and then I'm out of town for an eight day vacation. She says she's sure she'll deliver the Sunday I get home. So I'll fill you in on the details in a couple of weeks!

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Homebirth from a headset

It would be a snap to start a weekly feature: unplanned homebirth. It seems every other day I see a news story about a baby that arrives precipitously at home, in the car, in the hospital parking lot.

For all these stories, particularly the ones where the paramedics arrive to find mama happily cuddling her newborn, have you ever stopped to think about the intermediary? The person who gets the 9-1-1 call and sends the ambulance on its way? Me neither.

Well now we can know what it's like to be the dispatcher in those cases. And it seems like quite a thrill. (Note that she knits, too.)

Monday, August 07, 2006

Feelin' Low

I just got e-mail confirmation from a good friend that she is miscarrying. She's nearly 10 weeks pregnant. Last night she called to say she had been spotting off and on since Friday. An ultrasound today validated her worst fears. She'd already asked me to be her doula. Now I will be doula-ing her through a loss. So sad. My heart is heavy for her.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

There's a pattern here

Possibly the funnest part of doula work is the moment when you talk with a prospective client for the first time. The conversation is all potential and no action. You get a call (or e-mail) and the woman says she's pregnant, she's due at this time, she's looking for a doula. You ask further questions: Where is she delivering, what number pregnancy is this, why is she looking for a doula. Very often by the end of this conversation, the doula-client relationship is well underway. In fact, I have several women with whom I interviewed to be their doula and based on that one contact -- they ultimately hired someone else -- have formed a fond acquaintance.

Saying it's all downhill from that point is far too strong. However, with each subsequent contact, the level of doula-ly obligation, commitment and responsibility increases. Prenatal meetings are more weighty. The client shares her questions, her health history and pregnancy complications, her anxieties. Talking about these things and making sure she's getting the information she needs is a good challenge, but not without some drain on one's personal energy.

Then comes the birth. Typically this makes heavy demands on one's physical and mental reserves. No two births are the same, which keeps it interesting. And by this point, there is usually a strong enough doula-client relationship that the doula has a personal interest in seeing that the client has a good birth experience. These same factors make it all the harder when a labor takes a frustrating turn or external circumstances thwart the family's best intentions.

There are births that end with less than satisfactory outcomes for the mother or the family. The most extreme of these would be a baby's death or the birth of a very ill baby. Then there are the unplanned situations -- Caesarean, hemorrhage, induction -- that leave women grieving the birth they'd hoped to have. And even births that appear wonderful from the outside can be, somehow, not what the mother expected and therefore disappointing. It is hard to drive home from these births with any sense of accomplishment, let alone a desire to do it all again.

Of course the vast majority of births go well, even by the mother's standards. There is almost always the high watching a new life enter the world birth at the end. The real reward of this work comes in seeing the pride and satisfaction on new mothers' faces or in hearing them say, "I did it!" Playing a part in that doesn't make the work easy, but it is what keeps this doula coming back to it.

The truth remains, though, that the idea of doula work is often more "fun" than the actual business of it. It is very easy to commit to attend a birth and very hard to follow through on that commitment well.

I suppose a lot of things in life are that way. Certainly that's how legal practice was for me. And now I find that if I'm honest, knitting follows the same pattern. The funnest -- and certainly the easiest -- part of knitting is hooking up with the yarn and the pattern. It's so easy to say "YES!" to a beautifully colored hand-dyed yarn or some unbelievably soft cashmere blend.

It takes a bit more resolve to actually start a project, to commit THIS yarn to THESE needles as directed by THIS pattern. One starts to realize this is more than a lark -- you are planning to see it through to the end.

And then there is the monotony of row after row, slow building of sweater sleeves, scarf bulk, or hat depth. The temptation to walk away grows. You ask how could this ever have seemed appealing? Did I really imagine I would want to be doing this with my time rather than reading? Sleeping? Spending time with family?

Granted, there is the rush of a finished project. To see yarn transformed by your patience and care into something that can be worn is deeply fulfilling. But by then you're already involved with another clie -- I mean project. You're hopeful and enthused again. You've forgotten it will get long and unbearable and exhausting. It will. And then you'll do it again. And again.

Is this my particular pathology or have others of you experienced this?

Thursday, August 03, 2006

One to Watch

I don't have time to update my blogroll, but for those of you who like good birth stories, here's a new blog to check out: FPMama. She's a family practice doctor who includes baby catching in her practice.

She writes, "I'm starting to feel like the epidural queen, though, so I'm hoping to see someone birth normally soon!"

Welcome FPMama!

"Wrong" is a strong word

I am still bemused, and only that -- not despondent, self-shaming, or irate, at the discovery I made last night. I have been knitting my purl stitches incorrectly all this time. I wrap my yarn clockwise (i.e. front to back) around the needle rather than counter-clockwise (back to front).

Actually, I have suspected for some time that I wasn't doing something quite right. My stockinette stitches never seemed to have those beautifully aligned sides that I see everywhere else. Also, there was a little wiggle to my stitch columns. Then, when I attended Yarn Harlot's talk Sunday and knitted for the first time, the woman next to me commented on the "interesting" pattern I had in my stockinette. That was when I knew something was wrong.

So I revisited Stitch n' Bitch last night. First I double-checked my knit stitch. No problems there. Then I looked at the purl instructions and copied them step for step with my needles and yarn. A-ha!

Now I have to retrain my hands to do the stitch correctly. That's a drag because I've gotten very fast with my purl stitch and am able to do it without watching 60% of the time. In fact, I was knitting WHILE reading Stitch 'n Bitch.

But as I said at the beginning, this isn't really a setback. What I continue to love about knitting is its forgiving nature. The fact that my purls have been reversed so far has, at worst, resulted in slightly wavy stockinette. I'm certainly not going to rip out the cardigan fronts and back that I've finished. Nor will I change my stitch for the arm. I'll do the whole sweater in my quirky little stitch. Maybe I'll even keep doing it this way forever and it will be MY signature stockinette. Doulicia stitch. I'll sell you the pattern for $5.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

The Poop Post

While contemplating the urgency of investigating "runner's diarrhea" during a jog the other night, my thoughts turned to, well, birth.

At that moment I was feeling jealous of laboring women. They are among the few healthy adults given a complete pass on the social taboo against shitting oneself. In a delivery room fecal matter is routine, a positive sign even. Not so on the legs of a 'round the town jogger.

I have had a few clients state right off that having a bowel movement during delivery was their primary birth fear. Others joke about it. Some seem not to care at all.

I was hoping to put some hard and fast (no pun intended) numbers here about bowel movements during delivery. I can't find any. The closest thing to an authoritative discussion of the subject was at But it simply said what we all know: birth hormones and the mechanics of the baby's head moving down the birth canal both facilitate pooping during birth.

What I want to know is how often does this happen? And how often does a full-blown bowel movement -- versus a little pellet of stool -- present itself?

The births I have attended have been remarkably poop-free. Someone who knows statistics better than I can tell me whether an n of 24 is statistically significant. If so, then my numbers show that pooping during delivery is relatively rare.

I cannot remember any instance of -- as my spouse described it after the fact with my first son's birth -- "sausage grinder" production. Maybe two or three women pushed out a small piece of stool in advance of their baby. But most women gave birth without any rectal activity at all.

This is potentially comforting news for my concerned clients. I just don't know how to go about validating it. Are there any readers who can find an ACOG article or other reference to the frequency of maternal bowel movements during delivery? Short of that, do any midwives, nurses, doctors or doulas share my experience of fewer-than-expected occurrences?

And for anxious expectant parents, I can offer two reassurances: 1) hospital staff are remarkably skilled at sweeping away stool before anyone sees or smells it -- if you do poop, you are likely never to know (I promise I won't tell!); 2) by the time the threat of public pooping presents itself, you'll be working so hard you're not likely to care. Or at least you'll be far less concerned about it than you are now, sitting calmly at your computer.