Saturday, January 23, 2010

did the microwave make us impatient? Part 2

Today was my son's 6th birthday. Well, his actual birthday isn't for a few days, but today was his party. Instead of having a brood of 6 year old boys tearing up my house, we decided on the bowling party. It was great, the boys loved it, all I had to do was bring cake and we could leave all the mess behind.

Now while this overstimulating place with the loud rock music, clash of bowling balls and kids screaming, not to mention the crazy decor was all good for the 6 year old, I was amazed to see a 5 day old baby there. Yes, 5 days old.

Did you know in many countries around the world including China women are not encouraged to leave the house for 30-40 days? When I first heard this 6 years ago, I thought it was archaic. I mean, what male centered society thought this one up? As if women weren't oppressed enough, now they can't even leave the house? My tune has now changed greatly.

This idea of not leaving the home for 40 days is wise. Newborn babies have just come from a perfectly balanced environment providing them with warmth, darkness, safety and closeness. Once they enter the big bright world, their senses are not yet equipped to deal with all of the stimulus around them. In situations like the bowling alley (and yes this baby was doing it), they shut down. They tend to "sleep" and be quiet until it is all over and they spend the next 4 hours screaming. The slightly older baby may just scream in that moment. It is an assault on their senses, not to mention the mother's.

This all brings me to the thought, why in our society is our productivity and capability measured by how quickly we can leave the postpartum space rather than remain in it? Is this yet another example of how impatient we have become as a society that we have not only forgotten the importance, but actually hold disdain for staying in the sacred space of our home? A place that is quiet and warm for both mother and baby? A place where they can rest, heal, be fed nourishing food, bond and breastfeed? Not only is the world too much for the newly emerged baby, it is also too much for the newly emerged mother. Both have come through a profound transition and both need to enter the world gently.

There is wisdom in slowing down and being taken care of and by rushing the postpartum process we are doing harm to all those involved. In cultures around the world such as Guatemala, Thailand, China, Korea and South East Asia just to name a few, where women are kept warm at home with their babies they are given daily massages, warm foods prepared for the mother, housecleaning and warm baths. The whole intention is to surround the new mother with love and care so that she can recover from the birth slowly and nourish her baby peacefully. This process honours the woman's transformation into a mother as something that is sacred and to be respected.

We need to change this idea of showing the world how competent we are by how quickly we return to every day life to how we allowed ourselves to be cared for and nourished quietly at home. These delicate postpartum days are precious and they never come back. Not only does the newborn baby deserve a quiet entry into this world, so does the mother. We can support mothers in this time by bringing them food, offering to do their laundry and giving them a well deserved massage. If you are about to step over the threshold into motherhood, I encourage you to ask for these things, you and your baby deserve it.

Monday, January 18, 2010

did the microwave make us impatient? Part 1

I was standing at my microwave yesterday waiting for my maple syrup to warm for our Sunday pancakes. After needing to put the pitcher back in because it wasn't warm enough, I actually found myself becoming impatient when it still had 10 seconds to go. I started thinking about my life before a microwave (which wasn't that long ago) and I would have no problem waiting for something to warm in a pot on the stove, but in the microwave I somehow expect instant results. When did 30 seconds become a long time to wait?

So as I sat down to eat my breakfast I started thinking about how we as a culture have become so impatient. Everything around us has been expediated, our food, travel, Internet, laundry, dishes, you name it, no one wants to wait for anything. Then the thought came, if we live in a microwave society, it is no wonder that we want our children to catch up to our drive-thru lives and get frustrated when they can't keep up?

I get asked all the time in my classes about how to train a baby to sleep through the night and become independent. I get it. We are a busy society and many of us need to work in order to eat. Although in Canada we have 1 year of Maternity leave, I know many mamas that have had to go back to work sooner just so they could keep a roof over their heads. There are so many books out there promising parents to be Babywise or how to have the Happiest baby on the block or that someone who claims to be the Baby Whisperer will solve all your problems.

The problem here is that babies don't know, and don't care that it is 2010. For all they know it could be 1180BC. Their needs have not changed one bit. They want to be breastfed, they want to be carried, they want to be responded to when they cry, they want to be with their mother when they sleep and they want to be attached, they are incapable of independence. They can't do anything for themselves. If they don't have these things, they go into distress and the essential bond that mother and baby have is put at risk. All of these "experts" have forgotten that children are not dogs you can train and are promising parents things they can't give. Because at the end of the day, babies don't want a 30 second mother, they want a love and bond that takes months and years of patience to solidify.

What we need in this backward culture of ours is not another book on how to have an independent baby who sleeps through the night in the $5000, 00 designer nursery. We need a culture that supports the mother/infant bond by making it possible for us to be able to slow down with our children and really be with them, even if that means a nap together at 11:00 in the morning. This is a huge topic and one that is dear to my heart....there is more to come.

Monday, January 11, 2010

this was not my best purchase

Ok, I'm not sure if maybe my children are railway challenged or if I have been sucked into the idea that this toy is what childhood is all about, but in my house it is a nightmare. I started buying a set for my son when he was 2. I was so excited for him to open the present only to find out that you need an engineering degree to put the tracks together in some kind of interesting configuration or at least to make them connect so that the trains don't drop off into a frustrating land called the floor.

Once you have that figured out, you then need to have reached a developmental milestone which gives you the dexterity to keep the train actually on the track. After many more hopeful gifts of this wooden railway and the blind faith that it would just take a bit of practice, not to mention the frustration and throwing of the wooden tracks, the trains found a home in a basket under the stairs.

Now my daughter, 2 1/2 is excited about them. She points at the basket (which in my mind is still thinking about what it has done) and says, "choo, choo? Me play choo choo?" So here I am today, in a time warp from 4 years ago helping the little one to put the tracks together only for her to end up in a puddle of tears because the trains don't stay on the tracks. She actually put herself face down, head in arms sobbing. A few minutes later she finally conceded and just brought 3 trains to the table and pushed them around. Watching her made me think how much I wished that I had just bought this train and not jumped on the bandwagon. Trouble is, I'm not going to go out and spend more money on any kind of train now since I have a perfectly good basket full of them right here.

Maybe one day they will grow into them....

Saturday, January 2, 2010

you never know where the road may take you....

Happy New Year everyone! I have a really good feeling about this year. 2010 just feels like a good number not to mention I turn35 this year and Beautiful Birth turns 5 (watch for upcoming events).

So to begin our New Year, we decided to go on an adventure and explore a new place in this beautiful valley of ours. Youbou. The name does not do this community justice. It is on the shores of Lake Cowichan and is absolutely beautiful. We found ourselves a little park by the lake and let the kids run off some post Christmas energy. Unfortunately, the rain clouds opened up and despite the muddy buddies, we were getting very wet and cold.

Just as I was about to haul the troops back to the car, a woman came up to me and we started chatting. She had two young children herself, but left them at home due to the weather. She told me about giving birth in our community as an immigrant (she was from India) and then invited us to her home for tea. Now, I don't normally go to strangers homes for tea, but it was such a sweet offer and we were all cold and wet so we couldn't say no.

This invitation reminded me of when I was 5 and my dad and I were on China Beach on a day very similar to this one. It was rainy and cold and very gray. I remember wanting to go home when a young woman came up to us and invited us back to her tent city (she was a hippie squatting with many others on the land). We went with her and I remember the smell of Chai tea and the blue light cast by the tarp. We sat there that day drinking our yogi tea with these people who to a 5 year old seemed like magic.

This past New Year's day proved to be no less interesting. While we went back to a home, not a squatters camp, our new friend made us Chai tea on this very cold west coast day. As we talked for the next couple of hours we would learn that she was a Tibetan refugee, born in a refugee camp on the boarder of India. Her mother was still there, unable to leave. When I asked her if she had ever been to Tibet (pictured above), she said no since she was on the Chinese government's wanted list. Turns out she spent many years working for His Holiness, the Dali Lama. Her work included being a nurse for Tibetan orphans whose parents had been killed by the Chinese government. She has spent her life traveling the world and somehow ended up in Youbou.

What an amazing start to the year. Discovering a beautiful little town on the edge of a lake surrounded by the mountains where a remarkably courageous woman lives with her two children and her husband. An incredible woman with an infectious smile, who invited us into her home on a rainy New Year's day to sip Chai tea and tell her story about being born a refugee and practicing the message of love in places where it would be impossible for most. It's always so interesting when you head out somewhere new, you just never know where it will take you.

I wish you a year full of love and many roads filled with adventures and maybe even a cup of Chai tea or two.