Inspired by a fellow forumite on my favourite parenting forum (www.alternativebaby.net), I have decided that tonight I will manifest a list of things I want to experience before I die.

I have to say, this list would be different if I wrote it yesterday, or tomorrow, or next week. I’m quite mercurial like that. So this is mostly a reflection of my mood and what is resonating for me at this particular moment.

* I would like to travel various parts of the globe in a way that enriches myself and helps me connect and contribute to the communities I encounter. WWOOFing (Willing Workers on Organic Farms) and volunteering appeal to me, as does backpacking. I would like to do this while my children are still young, but old enough to fully embrace the experience and integrate it into their own worldview. Places I would really like to experience are Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, India, Northern Africa, France, Spain, Guatemala, The Amazon, Haiti, Cuba and Hawaii.

*I want to go to the Woodford Folk Festival, and Bluesfest in Byron Bay (which I will be doing in twenty something days).

*I want to learn to fire dance and belly dance.

*I want to expand Birth Healing into a more functional and holistic service for those recovering from birth trauma.

*I want to see major birth reform, and a paradigm shift back to birth as women’s business and natural- I want to see my future daughters/and or daughters in law birth not in a system, but in a cocoon of love and family.

*I aim to be more politically active.

*I want to make a major shift and start respecting my body as universal gift. This is something of obvious import, that I am and have been blocking for some time.

* I would like to get a tattoo of the tree of life, and Bodhi’s name and any further children in some kind of script. Just cos I think it looks cool. I’d also like to get my nose pierced again, and have dreads again, but longer and more successful this time.

*I would like to nurture my spiritual side a lot more, with meditation and cultivation of inner peace and all that comes with it. As part of this, balancing being and doing.

*I want to be involved in my children’s education through Steiner Schooling.

*I feel that there are two more little souls out there calling me to take them into my womb and bring them earthside, one of which is starting to call quite insistently. Before I fall pregnant again though, I will work through the remainder of Bodhi’s birth trauma, and then prepare my body, mind and soul for this blessing.

*I am looking forward to finishing my current Advanced Diploma course, and then eventually (after a break) going on to finish the last four modules of the degree. I’d then like to go on to do an honours and possibly masters in social science or sociology.

*I would like to do a doula course and perhaps a childbirth educator course along the way.

*The above two goals are to facilitate my career path as a counsellor specialising in birth and traumatic birth experiences, and the parent/child  dyad in the early years.

*My childhood dream was to be  a novelist, and that’s still very strong. I’d like my writing, whatever form it manifests in to provoke thought and social awareness.

*Dan and I both want to live in an intentional community, but I would prefer to be a founding member of one, to see the community from intention to fruition. Dan’s not so fussed, as long as there’s a good garden.I envision a place of creativity, sanctuary, connection and nurturing.

*Moving to Bellingen- our soul home- is resonating high, and will be happening in a few months time, if our plans work out.

What a beautiful life vision!

At this point, I think it would be timely to reflect on a previous post, ‘My hopes for the year”:

https://gaiaschild.wordpress.com/2009/01/01/my-hopes-for-the-year/

I do feel that I am beginning to slow down somewhat, and embrace the moment more, especially since attending the “Birth into Being” workshop and coming to realise I already have full worth just as a universal being. I can tap into that divine energy sometimes, but more often that not I am getting overwhelmed with the little things, and a greater sense of negativity than I usually operate at. Non-violent communication- well, not so much. I am having internal conflict about relationships with a couple of people in my life, and this is reflected in my interactions with them, but I also have a sense that sitting with this is an important part of working through it mindfully and successfully.

I have weaned off the medication, and it was an incredibly shitty journey. The rest of the wellbeing related items, as alluded to earlier, is still to be enacted.

I feel that I am mostly doing well in walking with Bodhi on his path. He has certainly found his will of late, which can at times be frustrating for us both, but I feel we are negotiating this respectfully. Watching him grow and learn is a constant source of joy, and I am, as always, honoured to be his mama.

I am currently working on the expansion of Birth Healing after a period of consultation with some wise and helpful Birth Healing mamas.

I am very close to completing my course, 15 out of 96 assignments to go, and onto my second field placement, which I am doing at the Manning River Steiner School with a focus on child development.

I haven’t done anything on my ‘just for fun’ list, although I will be dancing and grooving at Bluesfest in two weeks time!

Both Dan and I have extended our network of friends in Bellingen, every time we go there we seem to attract more like souls. I feel so blessed to have that circle of love to walk into when we get up there.

Dan and I continue to have a mostly blissful relationship. We celebrated our third wedding anniversary yesterday, and have been together nearly seven years, and I love him with more depth and richness than ever before.

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March 12, 2009

As many of you who are regular readers of my humble little blog will know, the Maternity Services Review has been a big issue for me lately.

A couple of weeks ago, the report into the review was published, after round table forums and over 900 submissions were made. You can read the report here:

http://www.health.gov.au/internet/main/publishing.nsf/Content/64A5ED5A5432C985CA25756000172578/$File/Improving%20Maternity%20Services%20in%20Australia%20-%20The%20Report%20of%20the%20Maternity%20Services%20Review.pdf

Some of the material in the report is, I believe, a great step forward. There appears to be a shift towards a less fragmented maternity system, collaborative care with some level of continuity, enhancement of midwife practice, more resources to ensure informed choice for parents-to-be, and a push to raise breastfeeding rates.

However, there is one thing that really disturbs me about the report. Despite the fact that over half the submissions made to the review were at some level advocating for more access to homebirth options, the report states:

“at the current time in Australia, homebirthing is a sensitive and controversial issue, the Review Team has formed the view that the relationship between maternity health care professionals is not such as to support homebirth as a mainstream Commonwealth-funded option (at least in the short term). The Review also considers that moving prematurely to a mainstream private model of care incorporating homebirthing risks polarising the professions rather than allowing the expansion of collaborative approaches to improving choice and services for Australian women and their babies.”

Whilst I personally never expected that homebirth would be funded by the public system, this still disappoints me. I feel it is inequitable that the more medicalised end of the spectrum- that is, elective caesarean- is funded by the public system, but homebirth isn’t. This is a paradigm issue. As was mentioned on the Insight episode on birth the other night, midwives come from a position of wellness, and obstetricians from a position of risk. Whilst I do not feel I am in a position to question any other mother’s choice on how to birth their baby- given that they have made an informed choice, which can be difficult in our current maternity climate, and understand and have made provisions for the extra psychological, psychical and physiological risks involved in a caesarean- there are factors that lead to elective caesarean not often considered such as residual trauma from earlier sexual assault, previous birth trauma, and a system and society that directly works against a woman’s trust in her body- I can’t see this as anything but unfair, and a quite overt way that the ‘system’ continues to value medicalisation over trust in nature.

Homebirth is seen as a risky option by many. On Monday night’s Insight program, Dr Ted  Weaver from RANZCOG (Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists) stated that a baby is three times more likely to die in homebirth. What Dr Weaver conveniently failed to add, is that this was addressing homebirths in Western Australia, in which only six babies died, and where it was found that place of birth had absolutely no impact on the outcome in at least five out of the six cases.

In fact, large studies on midwife assisted homebirth have found that homebirth is just as safe, if not safer, than hospital births in terms of mortality. When birth trauma and other morbidities are included, my personal observations of anecdotal evidence would suggest that it is a far ‘safer’ option. I have been involved with women suffering birth trauma for nearly a year and a half, and I am yet to find a woman traumatised by a homebirth (not to say it couldn’t happen, but I think it’s a telling observation).

The report cites the low levels of current homebirth as a reason for not funding it. This seems fair enough on the surface, but when you look at the possible reasons for the low level- not just a preference against homebirth, but issues such as prohibitive cost (at around $4000 a birth), low levels of independant midwives in some areas, and the controlling of said midwives by their feeder hospitals, it becomes clear that it is not simply a matter of preference.And clearly, the system is against homebirth.

The second thing that disturbs me is that not only is homebirth not to be funded, but it could very well be outlawed all together. The report recommends that all health care professionals in birthing be more regulated, and hold indemnity insurance. Since the insurance collapse of 2001, no homebirth midwife has been able to get this insurance- no insurance company will insure them. So, in leiu of some insurance company offering this insurance (and if they do, the premiums will drive up the cost of a homebirth even higher), homebirth will become illegal.

Having been through a traumatic birth experience, I now know the incredible value of a peaceful birth. Having been denigrated, ignored, and processed I know the value of being listened to, respected, and being able to make decisions about my birthing. Having been left in a room with no privacy, lights and verbal interaction that stimulates my neocortex at a time I need to limit this stimulation to birth, I know the value of a sacred and quiet birthing space.  Having been pumped full of drugs that inhibit the wonderful orchestration of hormones necessary for labour, birthing and bonding, I understand the need for an undisturbed birth wherever possible. Having lost the first few precious weeks of motherhood to guilt, shame, fear, anxiety and trauma, I look forward to a blissful babymoon next time. Having many times holding and soothing my child who is overcome with anxiety and fear because of a birth that taught him to be wary of the world, I see how birth imprints us for life.

Homebirth would afford me all the things Bodhi and I missed out on. I was looking so forward to birthing my baby with respect and in peace at home, when the time comes. Now I feel like the tide is turning against me, and instead of being able to reverently prepare my body to bear another child, conceive consciously , immerse myself in pregnancy and be open to the sacredness of birth, a great deal of my attention will be fighting the system and trying to protect myself, and my baby.

Drug of the Nation

March 5, 2009

The other day, I had a door to door salesperson come to my house. I usually have trouble extracting myself from this kind of situation, but this day it was easy. He wanted to sell me Pay TV, asked if I had a satellite dish, and I told him we were a TV free household.

It’s the easiest time I ever had getting rid of a cold seller.

To be honest, we aren’t a TV free household. We are, however, very TV limited. We have an old set in an unobtrusive corner of the spare room, as Zai likes to chill out with a bit of TV at the end of a long day after Bodhi and I are asleep. I use it too, for DVDs or shows on SBS or ABC like Foreign Correspondent or Insight. I choose not to watch commercial channels. My use is occasional though: I watched the DVD “Birth as We Know It” a few nights ago, and before that, it was about six weeks ago.

Zai and I have made the decision not to expose Bodhi to TV. Admittedly, he would have seen a little bit of it (maybe averaging half an hour a month) in the first few months of his life, and he does see it when he visits other people’s houses and it is on in the background, but it is our intention to protect him from it as much as possible.

Below is a brief rundown of the reasons that led us to make this decision.

TV Disengages us from nature, reality and relationships

Whilst we watch TV, we engage with a machine. We learn little about the world around us, the rhythm of life, of love and nurturing. At best, we may witness things like these concepts, but are simply passively observing rather than experiencing them for ourselves.

TV is harmful to neurological development

TV has a hypnotic effect. As soon as the television is turned on, a child within close range will experience a change in brain function, from beta waves that indicate conscious alertness, to alpha waves, which are daydreaming, unconscious state (Large, 1990).

The effect may be addictive, and it is linked to underdevelopment synaptically, and in language, high order organisation, control and motivation (Healy, 1990).

Furthermore, whilst in this quasi-hypnotic state, our left-hemisphere brain which is responsible for analytical and logical thinking, shuts down, so we are unable to properly debate the issues presented to us in a responsible way, making us more vulnerable to advertising, opinion and all the rest (Sigman, cited in Kindred, Issue 22)

The flickering, radiant light of TV is like nothing we can experience in nature, so we are not evolutionarily designed to witness it. As such, our brain shuts down whilst watching TV (Large, 1990).

TV  aggressively pushes negative and/or violent images into a child’s memory

In the first few years of a child’s life, he or she is unable to discern what is real and what is not on TV. Furthermore, the child will take on and remember images they have seen on TV, sometimes not remembering it was on TV that they saw it. As a result the child may have nightmares, irrational fears or emotional maladjustment. The average child will witness over 20000 acts of violence in movies, on TV and in video/computer games by the time they are 18. These images stay with them.

Children (and adults) can be vicariously traumatised by images seen on TV. For example, do you remember the image of people jumping out of the Twin Towers after the September 11 attacks? Did you feel overwhelmed, or have a greif reaction following the recent Victorian Bushfires, even if you weren’t directly involved?

Following September 11, the American Psychiatric Association found there was a “significant rise in new prescriptions for antidepressants, antipsychotics and benzodiazepine tranquillisers”, and of which they stated “The attacks were unprecedented in scope, and Americans viewed them again and again on television.”

TV impedes our quality of life

I personally would rather spend my time  playing with Bodhi, catching up with friends, reading, cooking, writing, studying, making love and a number of other activities than watch TV.

TV would interrupt my bond and connection with Bodhi, and our lifestyles would be less sedentary.

TV impedes us from thinking for ourselves

A great deal of TV  is taken up with advertising, making our already consumerist lives even more focused on bigger, better and more expensive “stuff”. As already mentioned, we are already vulnerable to the messages we see and hear on TV, so are likely to be drawn to the advertised product. Many (if not most products) advertised will either use slave labour for manufacture, be transported thousands of kilometres across the planet, will be made with toxic chemicals, require vast logging in their production and/or require a number of other social and environmental disasters to bring them to arrive at our shops. Not really worth it for a flash pair of shoes or a plastic toy, is it?

I could go on, but I think my point is obvious. Weighing up the pro’s and con’s, I believe TV is far more harmful to my child than beneficial.
That’s not to say being TV free has been easy. Parenting is damn exhausting, emotionally demanding and draining sometimes. There are times that I would love to be able to pop Bodhi in front of the TV for half an hour whilst I rest (or more likely to cook without having to hold him on my hip, clean without him riding the vacuum cleaner, study without being climbed all over or write or work on Birth Healing without him jumping on my lap for a feed). It’s been very difficult at times to be constantly present to him, but I owe him that. Life is about living, not about watching someone else living (or acting out living) on TV. The tiredness fades, but love and nurturing endures always.