The (Unrealistic) Expectations of Childbirth

Our first was an accident. Her twin brothers were an unholy revelation.

I remember with absolute clarity the “Oh shit!” that cut through the groggy is-it-morning-yet darkness as my wife of four months emerged from the hallway into our bedroom and tossed  something a little bigger than a pen onto my side of the bed.   Our daughter was a surprise: a heart-stopping, nerve-wracking, I’m-too-young-to-die surprise.   My initial reaction could not be measured in seconds, minutes, hours, or days. It is a continuing process looking like the readout on a seismograph, things were placid, then there was an earthquake. The line flies high then dips low and back and forth with violence. I remember these moments of panic and fear interspersed with feelings of elation, like I had somehow risen above the world on a tangible cloud. Almost three years after her birth, the aftershocks keep coming, some more violent than others, but you learn to deal with them, to accept the unknown, and embrace your ignorance.

My wife is five foot five ( 165 cm to the civilized world).  Carrying our daughter was like Atlas carrying the globe. How the female physiology can do what it does baffles me. As men/partners, we are on the outskirts of this process, mere witnesses; which brings me to the first bit of advice for you, my expectant friends:

Pregnancy is not always a beautiful thing.

There are beautiful moments.  Cherish them, but do not set your expectations for 9 mos of bliss and wonder at the miracle of life.  Pregnancy is an arduous, life-altering trial of body, mind, and spirit of which you and I are little more than active observers.  Forums/Facebook, birthing classes, and most importantly advertising will try and glaze it over as some kind of euphoric experience in which you take part. You may even find your significant other quoting these tomes. Temper your expectations. Read the articles, take the classes, but keep in the front of your mind : your body is not gaining a few dozen pounds producing a watermelon which will eventually pass through your freshly shorn genitalia for public view. You will never have any idea what your significant other is going through. Don’t try and delude yourself to think otherwise.

If you can accept what you do not know, then you can approach the process from a much more pragmatic stance.

Plans are ideals and life seldom goes according to plan.

When you are in that “relaxation through breathing” class, “self-hypnosis”, “birthing naturally”, or even “breast is best”, remember, the plans you and your significant other create are little more than wishes for how things should ideally proceed. They are not contracts with doctors to make things happen a certain way and they absolutely ARE NOT agreements with your child’s mother to hold aloft in the delivery room and afterward into motherhood. Things change. You are not in control, and you must also accept : neither is she.

This is one of the most frustrating things I found in my daughter’s birth : the absolute helplessness I experienced when the plan went off course. Kathryn was induced; she was showing signs of what was likely evolving into pre-ecalmpsia (serious changes in blood pressure – – remember, relatively small bodies growing watermelons). Being induced : we handled fine. It was the labor that was horrible.

It went on for hours; it was unproductive. We breathed and held it, she pushed, but it wasn’t happening. The pain was shaking her body. He muscles were giving out. We had practiced and practiced (and I had been chanting the rhythm in my mind for months like a mantra). The breathing did nothing. Trying to keep her focused was like trying to fill a pool with a sieve. It was futile. Her will had been eclipsed by pain. I remember looking at the nurses in the room. I felt like they were judging me, like I had failed as Kathryn’s partner to keep things together. I had allowed things to deviate from the plan.

That feeling of failure took months to abate. It was completely and totally irrational. The nurses were not judging, they were sympathetic and understood a fact which I came to understand very well for the eventual birth of our twins : do not make your plans your expectation! This is one of those basic tenants we hear so often in life but chose to ignore in the face of our own supposed superiority and arrogance: that we can somehow overcome the reality that our bodies are those of animals bound to space, time, and physics, each with its variations not adhering to medical best practice and 2 hour classroom seminars.

Deal with it. Accept it. You may have a plan to go natural, but suddenly she is screaming for drugs. You planned to do it at home but now she needs the hospital. She was going to give birth vaginally, but her body and will are giving out. DO NOT question it. What matters is getting the job done; she is the person who needs to have the say and needs you to back her up, and for the love of whatever you hold “holy”, do not abuse yourself for being human.

Who is this blog for?

This blog is intended for the parents who are not/were not the ones giving birth. I will usually write from the male/father perspective because that is the one with which I identify, however, I see the principles of this blog applying to same-sex couples, adoptive parents, and parents of surrogates. The basic needs remain the same.

When I learned I was going to be a father, and soon after, the father of multiples, I realized quickly there is little social, community, or even online discussion of what those things mean nor how one navigates these states in any honest and pragmatic sense. Frankly, I think the contemporary literature and social expectations glaze over the role of the “father”/partner and front ideals that are not constructive. Moreover, the varied and complex physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual impacts of fatherhood are buried under the unrealistic expectations of a romantic and misguided society.

I will tell it as it is. I am your eccentric brother who wants to help and who may often make you laugh at your own anxiety, because frankly : you and I need to do a lot of laughing to get through the day.

Seattle in the Rain

Concluding my first week in Seattle.  Walking in a light rain.  At the end of the street, I stare out over the Sound.  Quiet, peaceful, wise and ancient.  Greater than me.  Teaching through being and letting me be a part of the moment it owns.  How is it that 4 years in Philadelphia, I never called it “home”, but 1 week here and I feel like I’ve come full-circle to myself?

Does language inhibit thought?

Is thought eternal or a function of man?

Is thought the pure essence and language tries to codify it?  Is language a construct whereby we attempt to tame (and dumb-down) thought to make it communicable in the unreal world?  Does this mode of communication then retard thought and is it then only when we cast off language that thought resumes in itself?  To think without language, without unreal structure without concepts of unreal logic, sequence and codification, is this the means to be within the quiet and to walk within dharma?  To cast away the artificial connection to all others and to find courage in being alone and in one?

Re-Learning Creativity From a Toddler

Every day, one of the things I am thankful for is the ability to create : to have been gifted such a vast canvas and be able to fill in what little details I have the time and skill to render.  This weekend, my 1.5 year old daughter taught me something about creativity when she sat  on the piano bench in our dining room.  Until this moment, I had always observed from her perspective as she had  played while sitting on my lap, but this time, I stood back and watched.  She was absolutely enraptured with her creativity.  What shocked me was the realization of her pleasure at her playing.  There wasn’t frustration.  There wasn’t self-reproach at her lack of skill, but only joy at exploring percussive action and sound.  As I watched, I honestly felt silly for all those times I played when I got frustrated because I’m not good enough, all those times the sound in my head didn’t come out of my hands, or worse, those times that I compare myself to the likes of idols who dedicated their lives to an instrument.  It’s too often lately I am competing against my imagination… here, in front of me, was a toddler at one with her imagination.

When is it that creativity becomes competitive?  Art becomes an act not just of inspiration, but of adversity?  Too often, I find myself looking at my creativity in terms of market potential (monetization) which is its own competition (capitalism).  What Minnette showed me in a few minutes revealed that not only had I lost track of the meaning of inspiration, but that I was defeating my own creativity by pitting my imagination against itself.  In the simplest, and purest form, the act of creation shows itself to be its own reward on the face and in the laughter of a 1.5 year-old.

 

“Mandalay” by Rudyard Kipling

 

 

Had a request for Kipling on my YouTube channel.  This has now become one of my favorites.

 

 

 

“Mandalay” by Rudyard Kipling

 

By the old Moulmein Pagoda, lookin’ eastward to the sea,
There’s a Burma girl a-settin’, and I know she thinks o’ me;
For the wind is in the palm-trees, and the temple-bells they say:
“Come you back, you British soldier; come you back to Mandalay!”

 

Come you back to Mandalay,
Where the old Flotilla lay;
Can’t you ‘ear their paddles chunkin’ from Rangoon to Mandalay,
On the road to Mandalay,
Where the flyin’-fishes play,
An’ the dawn comes up like thunder outer China ‘crost the Bay!

 

‘Er petticoat was yaller an’ ‘er little cap was green,
An’ ‘er name was Supi-yaw-lat—jes’ the same as Theebaw’s Queen,
An’ I seed her first a-smokin’ of a whackin’ white cheroot,
An’ a-wastin’ Christian kisses on an ‘eathen idol’s foot:

 

Bloomin’ idol made o’ mud—
What they called the Great Gawd Budd—
Plucky lot she cared for idols when I kissed ‘er where she stud!
On the road to Mandalay, etc.

 

When the mist was on the rice-fields an’ the sun was droppin’ slow,
She’d git her little banjo an’ she’d sing “Kulla-lo-lo!”
With ‘er arm upon my shoulder an’ ‘er cheek agin my cheek
We uster watch the steamers an’ the hathis pilin’ teak.

 

Elephints a-pilin’ teak
In the sludgy, squdgy creek,
Where the silence ‘ung that ‘eavy you was ‘arf afraid to speak!
On the road to Mandalay, etc.

 

But that’s all shove be’ind me—long ago an’ fur away,
An’ there ain’t no ‘busses runnin’ from the Bank to Mandalay;
An’ I’m learnin’ ‘ere in London what the ten-year soldier tells:
“If you’ve ‘eard the East a-callin’, you won’t never ‘eed naught else.”

 

No! you won’t ‘eed nothin’ else
But them spicy garlic smells,
An’ the sunshine an’ the palm-trees an’ the tinkly temple-bells;
On the road to Mandalay, etc.

 

I am sick o’ wastin’ leather on these gritty pavin’ stones,
An’ the blasted Henglish drizzle wakes the fever in my bones;
Tho’ I walks with fifty ‘ousemaids outer Chelsea to the Strand,
An’ they talks a lot o’ lovin’, but wot do they understand?

 

Beefy face an’ grubby ‘and—
Law! wot do they understand?
I’ve a neater, sweeter maiden in a cleaner, greener land!
On the road to Mandalay, etc.

 

Ship me somewheres east of Suez, where the best is like the worst,
Where there aren’t no Ten Commandments an’ a man can raise a thirst;
For the temple-bells are callin’, and it’s there that I would be—
By the old Moulmein Pagoda, looking lazy at the sea.

 

On the road to Mandalay,
Where the old Flotilla lay,
With our sick beneath the awnings when we went to Mandalay!
Oh the road to Mandalay,
Where the flyin’-fishes play,
An’ the dawn comes up like thunder outer China ‘crost the Bay!

 

BBC News – Alfredo Moser: Bottle light inventor proud to be poor

Excellent article on a very simple but profound solution to a common problem.

Alfredo Moser combines water and chlorine in a soda bottle to create a “solar” lamp which is currently affecting lives around the world.

BBC News – Alfredo Moser: Bottle light inventor proud to be poor.

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