Monday, December 2, 2013

Our Unschooling Update: Two Years Later

I've been rereading old blog posts and stumbled on this gem.....Unschooling, A-H .  Written exactly two years ago, I hit the nail on the head about our current homeschool status.

Or lack of.

Or exactly like we like it.

I'm not a huge fan of the term "unschooling".  It seems irresponsible.  Like I don't care what my kids are learning or as though I am not invested in their future of little people growing into big people.  

And that obviously isn't the case.  If I didn't care, I wouldn't be biting my tongue, taming my temper and constantly examining my behavior to make sure I am modeling the behavior I want to see mirrored.

However it is safe to say I am utterly disenfranchised with mainstream education.  Been there.  Done that.  I was unimpressed as a teacher peering from the inside and I am equally unimpressed as a parent peering from the outside.

As I said two years ago, I don't claim to know what the future holds.  But right now my kids are amazing little sponges and impress me to no end with their knowledge of the natural world and developments in their literacy and math skills with only tiny amounts of direct instruction and none of the cute little activities I pin onto my homeschool Pinterest board.  

Much like when I felt protective over the very big decision to switch to a homebirth midwife at 35 weeks pregnant with Liza, I am a bit sensitive over our decision to defy the norm and allow our kids to learn in a no expectations and unstructured kind of way.

So if we run into each other at the grocery story and you ask about our first year of homeschooling, I will probably laugh a nervous little laugh and say that nothing has really changed in our day and my kids just play all day.  A couple of months ago, I might have even said that we will start "real" homeschool next year when Henry is six.

I lied.

That much I know for sure.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

My Heathens and Church

I frequently refer to my kids as heathens.  All in good jest.  Or in brutal honesty.  Maybe a bit of both?  With a daddy who scorns organized religion and a mama who is a cradle Catholic but feels vomicious at the thought of emotionally and financially supporting a church who does not call the police for child abusers to be arrested, it is easy to say we are not church going people.

However, we have our own brand of spirituality at our house and my "church" is a long lived tradition of listening to Bob Marley at top volume on Sunday mornings.  So when I realized it was 10am and I had been up for hours without listening to Bob Marley I got a bit panicky and made a huge exclamation about missing church.....which led to Henry saying he wanted to go to church.....which led to a very quick explanation that I was actually just talking about blaring Bob Marley.....which led to a confused look on the kid's face......which led to a quick offer to take him to church if he wanted to go.

The child has exclusively worn shorts since the weather has turned chilly.  When I said he had to wear pants for the walk to church he hightailed it to his room and put on the first pair of pants he saw.

Excited is an understatement.

No surprise that Liza was immediately excited about attending church.  Her excitement was visible through her willingness to brush her hair without any drama or postponement.

Right on time we walked one block to the Catholic Church.
The kids dunked their entire arms in the holy water and we took our seats.
End of the pew.
Back row.
We lasted one song and half of a prayer.

On the walk home Liza picked up a yellow ginkgo biloba leaf and proclaimed it her "magic leaf".

"How was church?"

Henry said church was great.
Liza said her magic leaf didn't work because she couldn't fly.
And I said I was glad to be home to finally listen to my Bob Marley.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

By The Numbers

12.........hours of sleep for me last night.  That is what happens when you get in bed at 6:45pm.

163.......sad feelings for Ollie's stuffy little baby nose last night.

1...........little baby sniffle I've heard since we got out of bed.

3...........different baby carriers I have used today and it isn't even lunch time.

19.........requests for Henry to stop interrupting the librarian during story time.  His non-sequiters were making me crazy!

3,574.....requests for Liza to stop yelling at me.  I might have even yelled my request a few times.  Ineffective, yes.

63..........thoughts that crossed my mind today about how nice it would be to not worry about money.

63...........thoughts of feeling grateful that we have good food to eat and a healthy family.

27............reminders from Liza that we need to go to the co-op to buy honey as I've been writing this for the past 5 minutes.

10,983.....wishes that I could break my no cartoons during the week rule and veg out to My Little Ponies for the rest of the day.  Too bad, the rule was already broken yesterday at their grandparents' house.


1..............tired mama.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Ollie and Empathy

July.  Mississippi. 36 weeks pregnant.  I was over being pregnant, over feeling hormonal, over my body aching, over my children getting on my nerves, over my abundant desire to eat out every night.  I was over it.  41 weeks?  Oh yeah, I was totally and utterly over it.  

And very understanding of why an elective induction is appealing in late stages of pregnancy.  Let's just get it over with, shall we?  Homebirths and midwives are not conducive to getting the show started before every hormone is perfectly in sync but I day and night dreamed about cranking up the artificial hormones and turning my prodromal labor into some effective, baby bringing contractions.

^ From a woman who has great disdain for elective inductions.  

Then the back labor.  I hear women talking about back labor.  But I didn't get it. Oh yes, now I understand back labor.  And it is a bitch.  As was that raw abrasion on my back from Taylor's counter pressure with his palm.

^ From a woman who has been rather flippant about labor pains in the past.

And with intense emotions and intense back labor marches in Ollie....otherwise known as "high palate and mild posterior tongue tie boy".  I now understand why women give up on breastfeeding -- the pain of a crappy latch, the horrors of recurrent plugged ducts, the internal self doubt of whether or not your baby is getting enough, the googling for answers that just leads to more stress.  Thanks to breastfeeding my first two babies for a total of 3.5 years and having a wide circle of breastfeeding support, Ollie and I pushed through and things are significantly better at this point.  But I think of women crying with their babies at night because their breasts hurt and everyone in their life says just give the baby a bottle.  It is a common story and I feel blessed that it isn't my story.

^ From a woman who might not have reached out for help with her first baby.

Ollie. He is my little empathy giver.  

Sunday, November 17, 2013

To TV or not to TV?

Many moons ago I wrote about why we don't have a TV and why I think children's programming is basically the devil incarnate.

Then Liza stopped napping at 18 months.  I had a 3.5 year old and an 18 month old.  Napless.

Then I got pregnant.
First trimester.

Then I miscarried.
Then I fell in the pit of despair.

Then I felt better.

Then I got pregnant again.
First trimester.
Second trimester.
Third trimester.
Immediate postpartum.

Basically, life happened and we watched Netflix.  Lots of Netflix.  The rule was always we only watch from 1-3.  However, my kids can't tell time and there is a pregnancy clause allowing for extra toon time on account of my need to nap on the couch.

My silly little list of 10 things all about me on Facebook mentioned that my kids haven't watched cartoons in a week and it makes me feel like Super Mom.

Because Mary Beth asked:

It all started with 2 bratty acting little children at the park.  Not playing, just bothering people.  Big kids.  Little kids.  Parents.  Me.  Each other.  They were bothering everybody.

On the ride home, Henry blamed Alvin and the Chipmunks for the poor choices he made that day.

Fine!  No more cartoons!!!!!  *Tears of disbelief*

I stuck to it....even though day 2 of the detox was the worst....let me say it myself:  Hallelujah!  My kids are playing much more imaginatively, not nearly as much screaming and fighting and everyone is more amenable to helping around the house.

I've always said that their work is to play.  And now they are hard at work 100% of the day.  Including a rest time which is incrementally longer every day.  And it all makes me feel very homeschooly and I like that feeling.

Except, you know, for today.  A rainy Sunday is surely worth two full-length Disney movies?

Yes, we thought so too.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Zephyr. Ollie. Zephyr.

We didn't find out Ollie's sex at our (one and only) ultrasound at 20 weeks and by 40 weeks I was convinced he was a girl.   I was in utter shock when Liza lifted the blanket and announced our baby had a big penis.  In reality, she was looking at his over sized, hormone inflated testicles but still, our girl announced we had a boy.  Because obviously, I gestate long with girls since Liza and our presumed baby girl were both born at 41 weeks and 2 days and Henry was born at 40 weeks and 2 days.  And obviously, my belly had the look of a girl.  And don't forget the woman that witched me and read my palm at the country buffet who also agreed our baby was a girl.

Baby boy was nameless for 48 hours.

During this time:  My body felt like it had been hit by a truck.  My colostrum was transitioning to mature milk in a glorious manner leaving my breasts feeling like bags of wet cement.  The kids were acting crazy.  It was harder than I imagined having a baby boy rather than a baby girl.  We were ready to be home but I was anxious about the 4 hour drive.  Needless to say, things were feeling a bit unsettled.

The baby needed a name.  Everything would feel better if the baby just had a name.

The 2nd night of Ollie's life, I decided his name was either Zephyr or Ollie.  Ollie came out of left field.  I honestly wasn't even thinking about Oliver being a family name.  Ollie just seemed right and I liked it.  Zephyr was my much sought after hippie name for my tie-dyed baby born on a hippie commune.  "Late spring and early summer breezes."

Henry, Liza, Ollie.
Henry, Liza, Zephyr.

Taylor chose Ollie.  Oliver Pace Dearman.  I was confused about why Oliver was my son's name.  I didn't even like the name.  But it was his name.  I couldn't deny it.

But now I get it.

My Aunt Betty died in a horribly tragic way right around Ollie's due date after we been at The Farm for about 2 weeks. We decided not to attend the funeral and I coped with the tragedy by compartmentalizing and focusing on our impending peaceful homebirth.

After we named Ollie, I remembered Betty's dog is named Oliver and I liked that.

Then, just a few weeks ago, my mom told me that Betty named her dog Oliver because she always loved the name Oliver for a baby boy but her husband didnt' like the name for their sons.  So naturally, she named her dog Oliver.

Betty and I were never particularly close.  But I think of her everyday and I absolutely believe she is the reason Ollie is Ollie rather than Zephyr.

And when I am empty nesting and needing a little dog to snug in my lap, I can always name him Zephyr and think of Betty.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Shall I blog again?

Back by popular and my opinionated views.

It's been a while.  A long while.  I feel the need to explain....basically, blogs started to annoy me.  Not mine, of course, because I love my view points and vantages but why would I read other people's ramblings when I could read research and lovely anecdotes about birth?  Then my camera crapped out.  Or I say it crapped out but I have put zero effort into making it functional and beautiful.  And who wants to read my opinions without looking at my beautiful children?  Or rather.  Why would I want you to read my opinions if I didn't get at least a few comments about my beautiful children?  More like it.

So.  Here I am.  Blogging again?  It would be appropriate since I get in bed every night at 7:30 with Ollie.  Literally, my children and I all have the same bedtime.  It is a major highlight of my day.  I don't even watch Vampire Diaries in my bed.  I pat Ollie on the back because I love him and I want to touch him 24 hours a day, I BookFace and I read birthy news.  Loads of fun.  Yes.

For the curious.  Family cloth is non-existent.  Pretty sure we just tried out that so I could blog about it.

For the past year I used a squirt of Dr. Bronner's liquid peppermint soap as toothpaste.  Now I am using Ipsab Tooth Powder.  Laurin, that bit of info is just for you.  I know you want to know these things.

And last but not least, I can no longer see and my feet are a half size bigger.  Thank you, children.

Will I be back tomorrow?  If recent history repeats itself, the answer is no.  If distant history repeat itself, I will need to talk about Ollie and talk about how my little free thinkers are firmly convinced they can do whatever the hell they want to do all day long.  And how they are pretty much right.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Ollie's Perfect Birth

We arrived at The Farm on July 22, 2013.  I was 39 weeks pregnant to the day and hopeful we would soon meet our baby.  The first week was spent excitedly exploring The Farm, meeting like-minded people at the swimming hole, getting to know the midwife whose basement apartment we were staying in, playing board games with the kids and enjoying non-stop time together as a family of 4.

The 39th week passed.  The 40th week passed.  We were still enjoying ourselves but my husband, Taylor, and I found ourselves very much ready to be at home with a newborn in our arms rather than playing the endless game of waiting for labor to start.  Baby was not in optimal fetal position and my nightly bouts of prodromal labor complete with an aching back and hips had me doing all I could to help baby rotate out of the posterior position as fast as possible.  I spent my days doing the tricks of the trade to help baby rotate to the anterior position as I meditated and practiced deep breathing on the words “calm, safe, open, low, down, baby” and constantly visualized my perineum stretching in anticipation of my first birth without a painful 2nd degree tear.

The eighth day past my estimated due date was spent aimlessly wandering around Wal-Mart shopping for an impromptu birthday celebration for our daughter Liza’s 3rd birthday the next day.  We were happy to find the “blue scooter” she desperately wanted and I was feeling bummed that it seemed likely our baby would be born on his big sister’s birthday.  After all, they already shared the due date of July 29 so it didn’t seem too outlandish to think this baby would also hold out until August 7th to be born.

That night I organized her little pile of 3rd birthday presents on the kitchen table and prayed I wouldn’t still be pregnant for our son Henry’s 5th birthday on August 17th.

After a half-hearted attempt to watch an episode of “Are You Being Served?” and not understanding the most basic jokes, I went to sleep hoping I would wake up perkier for Liza’s special day.  I slept very fitfully that night, getting up to pee no less than a dozen times and noticing a contracted but painless belly each time I got out of bed.  At 4:00 am, my tossing and turning woke up Liza and after getting her settled and back asleep I got out of bed at 4:30 am and laid down on the couch in the living room.  I was 100% sure I was in labor as both of my previous labors started the exact same way and quickly progressed but my doula brain never stops working and I reminded myself to rest as this was early labor and I needed to save my energy.

At 5:00 am on the dot, I got off the couch and turned on my “Birth on The Farm” playlist we had worked on since arriving 2.5 weeks earlier.  Every song on the 8 hour playlist is a favorite and specifically chosen because it gave me a sense of calm and control.  The music started and I experimented with what felt best as my labor grew stronger with every contraction.  I paced the floor, leaned over the counter, dropped to all 4s and swayed my hips as I consciously enjoyed laboring alone knowing my instinct had been correct all along and our baby would be born after a very short labor.

Even with the ever-increasing power of my contractions I felt completely safe and trusted I would know exactly when I needed to wake up my husband and call my midwife.  After the first contraction that emitted a deep, low breath and required complete surrender to the powerful sensations, I knew the time had come to assemble my birth team.  

At 5:10 am I woke up my husband with a quiet “I’m in labor” and gave him time to get up as I called my midwife, Stacie.  I told her “I think I’m in labor” and then quickly changed to “I’m in labor” as she told me that it would take her an hour to get to our house on The Farm and to wake up Sharon, the midwife who lived upstairs, if we needed her.  Considering one of our main reasons for birthing at The Farm were concerns about a precipitous labor and an accidental unassisted birth, remembering Sharon asleep upstairs and her 30 years of midwifery experience was a wonderful thing.  

As we had planned, Taylor began picking up toys, folding clothes and making sure things were organized around the house.  I was still laboring on my own, enjoying finally being in labor and doula-ing myself with reminders about the signs of progress during labor.  I could tell by my breathing and low tones that labor was moving right along and at that point, I was easily handling my back labor by leaning over on the coffee table and swaying my hips during each contraction.  My doula brain reminded my laboring brain that baby would likely rotate on it’s own with an active labor and I had no need to fear a posterior birth even with the intense back labor I was experiencing.

I was hungry and ate a fried egg on toast I had to shove in my mouth and chugged a huge glass of water because I salted it during a contraction and it was disgustingly salty. But I knew that if I didn’t eat something soon I would be turned off by food and my hungry belly was telling me to eat!

Stacie and her apprentice, Laura, arrived at 6:15am and the strength of my contractions increased almost immediately.  I told Stacie I felt nauseous but was scared to throw up because it would make my contractions stronger.  She told me that would be a good thing which I knew perfectly well but I still chose to hold back the vomit because I wasn’t ready for the next phase of labor.  

Then I needed Taylor to rub my back.  Hard.  I needed him to put down his coffee, stop folding clothes, stop busying himself with the list of things I had created to keep him busy during early labor....and I needed him to know exactly what I wanted without me having to say a word.  Obviously that didn’t go  well and I ended up being very bossy about where he needed to sit, how he needed to look at me and how I needed him to affirm me.  I made a comment about being “pissy” to Stacie when she asked how I was doing and I tried to laugh about it because I knew I was being ridiculous but laughter wasn’t happening at that point.

Then things get hazy.

I needed to pee and thought I might finally have the notorious clearing of the bowels that typically occurs during early labor but as with my reluctance to vomit, I had no desire to willingly propel myself to more intense contractions.  I reminded myself that emptying my bladder was important to help reduce immediate postpartum bleeding I had experienced with my first two births.  I remember sitting on the toilet with my tippy toes on the floor desperately trying not to sink too deep into the toilet and encourage stronger contractions.

I took one step out of the bathroom and dropped to the floor in hard labor.  My back labor was intense intense intense and I instinctively went into the “polar bear” with my chest and belly on the ground, knees spread wide and butt in the air.  I have no idea how long I labored like this but my moans got lower and LOWER and louder and LOUDER.  

Transition was here although that word never crossed my mind.  This is what I remember during that point of specific order.
- Looking up at Stacie and telling her I needed her.  She got on the ground and I grabbed her hands as she reminded me I was doing exactly what I needed to do.
- Taylor became an amazing labor partner and told me all the things I needed to hear without me having to say a word.
- I asked how much longer it would take knowing perfectly well that it wouldn’t be too much longer with the way I was moaning but I really wanted somebody to tell me it was almost over.  Somebody asked if I wanted my dilation checked and Stacie spoke up and said I had already declined an exam and didn’t want to be checked.  Then she pulled my panties down a bit and checked for “the purple line” on my natal cleft.  She said it showed I was about 7cm.  I was not happy with that number and very glad I didn’t have an uncomfortable hand up my vagina to give the information.  I asked her to show Taylor the purple line and as expected, he didn’t see a thing but my butt crack.    
-Stacie asked if I could take off my underwear and I told her just to cut it off because I couldn’t move to take it off.  Taylor had spent the previous week sharpening every knife in the house so cutting off my underwear with the sharpest knife available seemed like the right idea to him.
- Henry woke up!  I heard Taylor tell him that I was in labor and our baby would be born soon.  He was so so so excited and years of preparing him to witness a homebirth immediately showed.  He knew exactly what was going on and never showed an ounce of fear or anxiety about his mama rocking on the floor with her butt in the air moaning as loudly and deeply as she possibly could.  He echoed everybody’s affirmations and told me I was doing a wonderful job.  I don’t think anybody in the room will ever forget my precious little boy saying “You can do this, Mama!  You did it with me and with Liza and you can do it with our baby!”.  
- Liza stayed asleep even though I was two feet from her bedroom door and I was LOUD!

At some point, Stacie asked if I could stand up and allow gravity to bring my baby down.  I feel sure I resisted but I soon found myself standing up holding on to Taylor’s neck and looked around to see myself surrounded by four women....two Certified Professional Midwives and two apprentices...all who birthed their babies naturally at home.  It was powerful knowing they were there to help assist me through this birth and seeing them gave me a renewed energy.  A strong female presence of women experienced in birth was a top priority during my pregnancy and even with back to back contractions, I felt the power of their support.   Taylor pointed out that one of my favorite Bob Dylan songs was playing and told me I was safe.  I repeated “I am safe” over and over again as I labored holding onto his neck....and contorted his body into the most horribly uncomfortable positions possible.  He experienced his own labor pains!

As soon as I began to feel pushy I also felt dizzy and lightheaded.  During Liza’s birth, I blamed too hot water in the birth tub for my dizziness when I began to feel pushy but maybe it’s just the way my body reacts to that certain feeling of needing to push a bowling ball out of my butt.    Stacie guided me to the bathroom to sit on the toilet and labor sitting down but that didn’t last long and we quickly moved to the couch for me to lay down.  A midwife, Sharon, said “Ahh, now that’s the waddle of a woman who has a baby between her legs” as I walked across the room to the couch.  Hearing that made me realize the end was near!  

I laid on my left side  and grabbed the back of the couch as the apprentices rolled me over to cover the couch with chux pads.  With the next pushy contraction I felt a stream of fluid and asked if I was bleeding or if it was my bag of waters.  After learning that it was my waters, I asked if there was meconium present and was quickly reassured everything was clear with no meconium present.  My doula brain turned on and I reminded myself that side-lying is an excellent way to facilitate a slow, patient pushing phase with lots of hands on support to minimize the risk of tearing.  I braced my left leg on Sharon and Laura, an apprentice, lifted my right leg with Taylor sitting by my head holding my hand. Liza had woken up at some point and she and Henry were sitting in another apprentice’s lap in a chair near the foot of the couch and I was glad they were in a good position to watch their baby being born.

This pregnancy centered around mentally preparing myself to push only with contractions, pant through crowning and not suffer through another painful 2nd degree tear.  My months of consciously telling myself that I would push slowly with my contractions and my recent weeks of intense visualizations of my perineum stretching stretching stretching became my reality as I let my body bare down without actively pushing and when I felt his head crown I panted heavily during the next contraction.  The only time I purposely pushed was when Stacie said “ok, now push out your baby”.  

And then it was done.  My baby was here at 7:55 am -- 3.5 hours after labor began.  Midwife Sharon quickly made the observation that we likely would have had an unassisted birth had we stayed home in Mississippi and she was right.  My instincts about a short labor were exactly right.

After the cord was limp and white, Henry cut the cord as he had excitedly planned for the past 6 months and Liza lifted the baby blanket and announced we had a boy with a “look at his big penis!”.  

Even with controlled pushing I had a first degree tear needing 3 internal stitches and a short running stitch on my perineum.  The consensus was that I wouldn't have torn if he hadn't had a compound presentation with a hand by his cheek and his other hand trapped under his cord which was wrapped around his torso.  His awkward hand placement explained his persistent posterior position during late pregnancy and late rotation during labor.

I’ll be honest.  I didn’t even see the wet little thing on my chest at first.  I was just so happy.  Happy the months and especially those final weeks of anticipation were over.  Happy his labor was short and straightforward.  Happy his birth was so much better than his sister’s homebirth because of all the emotional support from having 4 women present.  Happy I didn’t hemorrhage all over the couch.  Happy I didn’t have a bad tear.  Happy the time away from home to birth at The Farm was 100% worthwhile to bring my baby into this world in the safest way possible for me and my family.  

48 hours later that wet little thing was named Oliver Pace Dearman.  Just like his birth, he is 100% perfect!