Home Waterbirth Story

October 3, 2013

I wasn’t expecting the process to begin with my water breaking 24 hours before labor began.  We had spent all day cooking African foods for the freezer, and just in time!  Of course I wonder how much over-doing it contributed to the water break as I felt incredibly exhausted afterword.

I had taken a bit of late pregnancy and labor tea that day and poured myself a cup of the brew that had been sitting all day – it was strong!  My mom and I were watching one programme when I felt my tummy go a bit yucky, so at the next commercial I got up for the toilet and had a wee.  When I stood up I did one little cough (I had been coughing all day) and a second later as I washed my hands I felt a bit of wet warmth between my legs.  I couldn’t really believe that’s what it was and thought maybe I had just wee’d myself.  So I checked and found more fluid that was a bit gooey.  I quickly pulled up my pants and went upstairs to tell Kalu.  As I stood there waters started dripping out of me and all I could do was laugh as it felt like I was peeing my pants.  We just looked at each other with surprised excitement.

We decided to lay back and get some rest, but Kalu was snoring so much that I ended up on the couch and only slept an hour at time in-between going to the toilet.  That morning we cuddled and watched the Norwich v. Swansea match.  This baby is definitely to be a Norwich City fan.  The worst pains I felt were during that match and I was sure things would be getting going.  Unfortunately it all subsided and the pains were just barely as bad as mild menstrual cramps.

The rest of the day was calm but frustrating with the delay.  My midwife, Louisa, kept checking in and by 5pm I was ready to take some initiative in getting going.  My dad took us to buy ingredients for a Castor Oil cocktail: 1T Almond Butter, 2T Castor Oil, 1c juice, blended.  I took a couple drops of Verbena essential oil in water and 15 minutes later downed the smoothie, which was quite tasty!  Without having slept much that night and only a nap in the afternoon, I really should have slept a bit more before the cocktail, because as it turns out it put me into labor 30 minutes after consumption.

I kept laying down in hopes that I would sleep, but contractions came so randomly that sometimes it was only 2 minutes and others 10.  I would lay on my side lightly cuddling Kalu and when a contraction came on I’d push up into all fours with my head down.  Kalu would rub my back a little and my doula, Kellie, put counter-pressure where needed.  Eventually we moved downstairs to ‘walk the circle,’ which was quite nice.  I slowly led the procession and would lean on Kalu or the wall or the door jams to get through the pain as they would rub my back.  Even this little movement was somewhat exhausting so we moved to the couch and I would rest in-between contractions.  I actually fell asleep several times!  Around 2am we heard a bang and a little rattle, I knew right away it was an earthquake.

I thought I’d use the ball a lot more than I did, but I found that sitting on it put more pressure down and contracting on it too intense so I would stand and lean into Kalu.  The process of standing up would hurt more than necessary so I ditched the ball.  Kellie then set up a rebozo to hang from the laundry room door and I was able to pull on it and do a little squat.  By this time my contractions were approaching 5 minute intervals, which was the first goal so that we could call Louisa out.  However, I was having double peak events and sometimes a 3rd chaser.  I was feeling a little jipped that my contractions kept running into each other, which did not afford rest or enough definition.  Louisa suggested by text that I do hip swirls and possible side stair steps to get the pains more rhythmic.  This helped a lot and I did try the ball some more, but knowing what needed to happen, 5-1-1, helped me get my mind and body engaged and I got my midwife.

Kellie was corresponding with Louisa and at that point my contractions really sped up.  I think we all thought I was getting close and would go pretty quickly from there.  We called my parents up from the RV to fill the pool while Kellie and I labored on the stairs.  She got her iPod with soothing music and I started toning with the contractions.

Louisa arrived and came upstairs to do vitals as I was leaning over that small ball on my bed.  She suggested I lay on my side for contractions as this intensified them but gave me a bigger break in-between.  I had never wanted to labor on my side because I perceived this as inactive and too much like hospital labor.  However, it did the trick and I got some rest.  At one point I was laying on my back and completely passed out when I did my classic Kymberly twitch.  Kalu knew what it was but Kellie was surprised.  I can just imagine the look on their faces.  The twitch threw me into a contraction and so all I could do was express pain even though I was actually giggling at my twitch.

I asked Louisa where she thought I was at and she said confidently, ‘early active labor.’  To her this was positive, but I was immediately disappointed – I thought filling the pool signaled the end was near.  I asked Kalu to come up to spoon me and this is when I got weepy.  I was tired and said “I don’t know where I am.”  In some ways this was said in my blur of labor – which room? who’s with me? why am I doing this?  As I cried this, Louisa asked ‘does it matter’  or ‘what will that tell you’ – I didn’t really know and I agreed it didn’t really matter, but it still made me feel too out of control not knowing where I was.  I think at least knowing what my next milestone was helped me always get there.

It was starting to get light and Louisa offered a pelvic exam.  Up until this point I had NEVER been examined this entire pregnancy, which is some of the best part of midwifery care.  Even the NHS would have done so earlier.  I wasn’t sure I wanted an exam because of infection risk, discomfort, but mostly because I was afraid of the result.  The way Louisa made suggestions would always be in the form of a question.  She would say things such as ‘would you like me to do an exam?’  When I said, ‘I don’t know,’ she responded ‘I’d like to know where you are at, but you don’t have to know, do you want to know?’  Off course I did, but totally didn’t, and waited to see her response.  She checked me and said it was good, really good and offered to tell me.  Knowing it was good put me at ease just enough and she said I was 7cm and 100% effaced.  Somehow I knew what that meant without knowing, and anything less than 10 wasn’t going to make me super excited.  I remained perplexed and it was Kellie whose excited response and congratulations is what got me on track and ready to put more effort in.

Louisa suggested we go downstairs as it was now light and there were people about so I could feed off the energy.  This is the only time I really kept my eyes open through all of labor.  I walked a bit and spent time on the ball.  By now I hated the ball, but once again Louisa offered it as an option to speed things up.  Knowing that this was a method to get me to my next milestone meant that I was able to do it.  I swirled around between pains and leaned on Kalu with toning during them.  My parents were on the couch and Louisa and Ashley (the birth assistant had arrived – another good sign) were going over notes and speaking softly.  Kellie was also with me most of the time, though I think she took her 2nd break to pump for her own baby.  She never ate, never rested, never tired – incredible woman!  My friend Gloria had also arrived, her presence was meant to be as observer, but turns out she was intercessor, which every birth should have.

I did more walking and leaning on Kalu as he was always following me so I could turn around and throw my hands over his neck.  I was able to do a squat and the poor guy never wavered despite the pain I was inflicting with my weight on his neck.  At one point we were back in the living room and a pain was coming on.  Kalu had done something in the bathroom – maybe turned off the heater, and shut the door.  I didn’t know which side of the door he was on and was in such a blur that I thought he was gone.  I said ‘he’s not here’ and fluttered my hands in panic, but he said ‘I’m right here’ and I quickly found his neck and labored through.  He was such an amazing parter and I am so proud of how well he did and how much he helped me.

All along I wanted to get in the pool and had thought I’d spend time laboring in it, but I really only used it for pushing.  I got in the water on my knees, but found it much too hot.  I guess the temperature was fine, but to me it wasn’t.  They said if I was getting hot then baby was getting hot, so out I came again.  Louisa asked about my pains and since I still had some in my tummy she said it was the last bit of cervix causing them.  I had picked up from her questions earlier that there was something to having more front than anal pain, but didn’t know what it meant.  Had I known earlier I think my sphincter concentration would have been more focused.  As soon as I knew this then I knew once again what my next milestone was.  Louisa again suggested laying on my side – which is absolutely not what I wanted to do, but it worked last time to open me up, so okay, I did it.

These contractions were the absolute worst ever.  I was in excruciating pain and near panic at all times.  I did get a little rest again, which I desperately needed as I wasn’t sure how much longer I could go with my energy waning.  At one point I was on my left side and had Kellie, Kalu, and maybe Ashley and Louisa around me.  I didn’t know who was who, but somehow knew Kalu was behind me and I reached back and grabbed his neck with fingers and fingernails.  The poor guy was probably suffering and said afterwards that he was indeed bruised.  I’m just glad I reached for his neck and not someone else’s.  I know I held hands with whoever was near, which I find fascinating for it seems a classic thing to do that you expect is only for the movies.  Being able to squeeze and knowing someone was there with you was the best.

Louisa felt the laying down had done the job and so she gave me my second exam – 10 centimeters!  Wow, it was finally time to push.  She suggested I do some ‘practice pushes’ on the toilet – which is not what I wanted to do.  Every time I wee’d I’d take too long and end up contracting on the toilet – these too were always more intense than the others.

On the toilet is when I had my 2nd breaking point.  I told Kellie & Kalu “I don’t think I can do this.”  Kalu has since said that his stomach dropped when he heard this and was the only time he felt panic.  Kellie proclaimed ‘you’re doing it’ and was encouraging, but I just wasn’t sure how I could endure any more pain as well as possibly push something out, the mechanics just didn’t make sense.

In my birth plan I had wanted to pause between the go-ahead to push and when I started pushing.  Even though I had done one practice push, this was the moment that we needed.  Kalu remembered and he asked if we should pray, and so he did.  He thanked God for the process so far and asked for the remainder to be speedy and safe and that I would have confidence to do it.  This prayer gave me that last umph I needed (and a slobber of GU gel).

We only did one more ‘practice push’ (so far as I recollect), which I had said didn’t feel like ‘practice’ and then I was able to go back to the pool.  I waddled with Kellie holding my left hand and Kalu my right to keep my steady.  At the edge of the pool I could feel a contraction coming so I ‘quickly’ took two steps in and went straight to my knees.  As soon as my bum hit the water I was pushing my first push.  The water was still too hot and I asked for cold water.  I crawled over to the edge so I could lean on the side.  Kalu was right in front of me helping along and I think someone poured water over my back.

Each time a pain came I would sit up and bear down.  The pushing became involuntary (like heaving the opposite direction), which was another fascinating experience in the process.  I knew I would be noisy, but I never expected that noisy!  Just as I never expected labor to hurt that much, go that long, and be that much work.  I would tone high and would be reminded to keep it low, being able to concentrate on lowering the octave helped distract me from the pain.  If I started to make a panic sound I would be reminded to direct the sound down into the push, which would result in grumbling or growling.  Yes, I totally growled like a bear.  As the contraction progressed I’d join my body in the pushing and by the end of the contraction would give it just a bit more to get more out of it.  My naiveté showed at the beginning of pushing when I asked Louisa when I could push – which she said I could do anytime – and I asked if that was only during contractions. She said, yes as pushing without one would be futile.

Earlier on the toilet Louisa invited me to reach inside and feel the baby’s head.  He was just within reach of my middle finger and I could make out the soft sponginess of his head.  It was strange to know that was my baby and not just another part of my body.  In the pool she asked me to do it again and to tell her how far in he was.  I said 2 inches, which she thought was great and said ‘you are 2 inches from your baby.’  I told Kalu last night, through tears, that this sort of encouragement wasn’t really so for me.  Hearing that I was about to meet my baby did not motivate me because my mind was saying ‘I’m not sure I want a baby’.  It breaks my heart a little to know this about myself, and yet I’m so glad I can be honest.  Just as honest as I am now that I never want to be without this little guy.

A push or few later she asked me to feel again and expected the update to be a knuckle or so, but I said no – I just have to pull apart my labia and he’s there.  She was surprised.  The next pushes brought him to a crown and I felt the ring of fire.  I involuntarily panted a few times and was still unsure how it was possible a baby was coming, and could come out of me.  Somehow I mustered the determination to push extra hard, which is not how I had planned to push – on the toilet I had breathed out the pushes, but these ones were as hard as they come.  I think I had my hand on his head when I pushed it out, and I definitely remember holding his head while between my legs.  That was a strange feeling and I could tell he had a good little cone with lots of hair.  Louisa had suggested I lift a leg to widen my pelvis, but by this time both legs were more or less numb.  If not for the water I wouldn’t have been able to stay up.  This was possibly the only time she decided for me – and went ahead and lifted my left.  Maybe this was before the head came out, which is why it popped out?  After this she told me to lean back, which I didn’t want to do because I had imagined birthing on all fours, which I had done, so it felt odd to go into a recline.  As I leaned back I gave one more big push and out he came into the water.  Apparently this last bit was nearly silent – very peaceful and calm – which I love!

I was completely stunned that he was out and didn’t really register it for a moment – what felt like a very long moment, but apparently was a second.  Louisa caught the baby and kept him in the water before asking us if we wanted to lift him up.  This snapped me back to the present and I quickly lifted him with Louisa and Kalu and we put him on my tummy.  I got super crazy and made all sorts of silly sounds and said lots of things to welcome him. I was so excited and felt every cell in my body rejoicing.  Kalu’s head was right next to mine and I wanted to look at him, but didn’t want to take my eyes off Obasi, so I switched back and forth.  We kissed several times and I whimpered a lot as I looked at my baby as he looked at me.  He took a bit to cry, but really got going, which was such a sweet sound to my ears.  We cuddled for awhile and I eventually calmed down.  Once the cord stopped pulsating they clamped it and Kalu took the scissors.  It took several chewy snips and I said to Obasi that now we are two, not one anymore.

Kalu took Obasi for their first cuddle skin-to-skin while I pushed out the placenta and waddled to the mattress on the floor.  I ended up with a 2nd degree tear, but didn’t need sutures so long as I followed instructions to keep my knees together when I moved and only do stairs once a day.  Obasi had his first meal while I ate eggs and toast, then we all went upstairs for naps and to begin our new life together as a little family.

The sharing circle

December 10, 2012

I started a pregnancy yoga class two weeks ago as a way to move a little more intentionally so to make up for having quit the gym 3 months ago. I haven’t been this sedentary in 10+ years, though its probably unfair to define myself this way considering I walk 1.5 miles each way to work nearly every day.

The yoga seems to have been a smart decision as I come away feeling relaxed and content. I also quite enjoy meeting other pregnant women and hearing bits about each other’s experience. One downside is that with women ranging from 14 – 38 weeks along, my ‘bump-envy’ has increased. I look around the room and can confirm that I win the award of ‘least pregnant looking.’ Even the instructor who is 3 weeks behind me is quite obviously with child. With all this, throughout the first session I kept thinking ‘I really don’t belong here… I’m not really pregnant!’ Oh denial.

At the beginning of class we go around the circle and say our name and a bit about whatever the instructor suggested we state. On week 1 we declared the basics: how far, boy or girl, # pregnancies etc. Last week we shared a mini recap about how we were feeling this week, which of course includes a bit about events that took place.

I shared about how my baby is most obviously like the daddy – mellow and only interested in doing what he wants to do when he wants to do it. I’d just made an epic, delayed by sleet bus trip to the hospital for a 2nd attempt at measuring the heart via ultrasound. It was not successful. Apparently sound-wave produced image loses clarity past 10mm. With the placenta being at the front of my uterus and chubby mummy’s tummy stacked on top, there just wasn’t much chance to get a close-up of the heart – especially not with a tightly balled back-facing baby.

This was discouraging even though I have no idea what heart measurements will tell us. Even more, it was discouraging to find that the previous two scan reports both stated ‘diminished view,’ of which meant nothing to me until this third report, which continues the phrase …due to increased BMI. Awesome. Add that to the list of shitty things you get to experience for carrying around extra pounds your whole life. Oh, but this time it negatively affects an innocent life. Double Awesome.

The baby lives where?

November 26, 2012

We got a really lovely picture of the baby at the 13 weeks scan. Most babies are curled up at this stage, but ours was stretched out and showing some powerful legs with knobby knees. This of course comes from the daddy… as does the already obvious voluptuous, squishy lips I plan to kiss incessantly.

Even though the scan is meant for estimating a due date and taking measurements to detect Down Syndrome, for me it was the first ‘reality-check’ that I really am pregnant. It only took a second for the image of a complete little person to pop up on the screen. I got a little teary as both relief and shock passed over me. Relief that all looks good, and shock this is 100% happening and I’ve not dreamt this up a la ‘hysterical pregnancy.’

For awhile my boyfriend would ‘eat dinner with the baby’. He’d prop the photo up toward his bowl as he leaned forward scooping soup. I still glance at the picture every day, but I don’t pull it up on my phone as often.

Sometimes I get nervous looking at the picture for it seems to diminish the realness I felt during the scan experience. Having the photo, or even the image in my mind, somehow puts distance between my head and what’s happening in my body. Just like that picture on the mantle of Aunt Mildred, who you can only see when you visit Ohio, the scan photo makes me think that the baby lives at the hospital….. instead of living INSIDE me.

It seems this is another instance of how technology is bending our brains and blurring the outlines of our reality. Skyping with my parents keeps up the relationship and makes me feel like I just saw them yesterday, when in reality it has been nearly 2 years. I don’t know if that is good or bad, but it is definitely weird.

All this just makes me realise and want to appreciate more the flesh and blood, instead of pixels and RGB, of living. As this pregnancy progresses I want to be still and contemplate more often this new life inside me who is changing my life. I want to hum and sing and send vibrations down for the baby to feel and I want to cherish the little one’s flutters, tickles, and kicks. Such will be our first communication as we get to know each other.

This body

November 18, 2012

Within the first week of knowing I was pregnant I also came to know just how much my body is no longer my own. Everything I eat, every bit of exercise I partake, all moments of stress are shared with this life growing inside. This reality may be the hardest thing in pregnancy for me to swallow.

I’ve mostly experienced the less obvious signs of pregnancy. I had serious back pain in weeks 3-5 and was the first symptom that something was going on. My boobs hurt for awhile and well, they still do, but I can’t say they’ve gotten much bigger. My skin is clear, my hair is lush, and I’ve been complimented several times on my happy glow.

But the other outward changes of my body are taking their time, and I totally have ‘bump envy.’ The lack of bump-ness may be a a blessing to one who wants to retain physical autonomy for as long as possible. But in fact, that I’m not ‘showing’ is driving me crazy and proving that I absolutely don’t have control.

Pre-pregnancy, If I wanted to lose weight I could go to the gym and change my appearance ever so slightly. But if I want to grow a basketball in my front, well there is nothing I can do. No matter how many Snickers bars I’ve consumed, its just the bicycle tyre that grows, not the bump.

I’d like to know ‘where actually is this baby.’ At time of writing the news remains unpublished, so whilst its handy that halfway through I’m still not showing, its annoying that even if I wanted to post a new profile picture, there wouldn’t be much point.

I find myself envious of women on the street as much as friends I know who are also preggers. My boss’ wife is a week behind me and looks about 7 months already – but its her fourth. Another friend is a month ahead, her first, and is ginormous. Her pictures are gorgeous in all that soft lens, blissful miracle moment shots. For awhile I used her photos as a way of gauging how I’d look in 4 more weeks, but I’ve given up on that idea for I keep reaching the week that photo 1… 5…. 26 were shot, and I still look my normal, tall, slightly chubbier self.

Besides public empathy and never having to wait in a line at the loo again, what I’m honestly anxious for is a physical sign that what I’m experiencing is really real. The ultra-sound image helped a bit, but the effect is wearing off. My symptoms have been slight and are lessening, so I’m looking for those fabled flutters.

Autonomy

November 12, 2012

I love being alone and I crave solitude. In my earliest years I shared a room with my brother and remember sleeping toe to toe for awhile. By 3 years old we moved into our own house and me into my own bedroom. I had my own double-bed, inherited from my great-grandmother, and by 15 I had my own phone. We lived on the end of a private drive in a house built into a hill, surrounded by trees and a gully. I was often lonely, but made my own fun and learned to ‘live in my head.’

In Alaska I had my own little one bedroom apartment – Wytherbei. I still miss that place, not a month goes by that I do not reminisce about its cuteness and the calm it gave. Since moving to the UK I have felt more or less ‘homeless’ as I’ve moved from one rented room the next. Come December I will have called this present room ‘home’ for 2 years! Though I merely rent a room in a house with other tenants, I am afforded some autonomy in that mingling with housemates is not required, though I do like the friendly Polish guy.

Last week as I walked down the stairs this thought came into my mind – “I will never be alone again.” Never, ever, ever again will I just be me by myself doing my own thing. I will always have this child, always. How does one let that sink in…

The colloquial advice a person gives to someone lusting after a baby is “get a cat”. The person will find that the pet is a lot of work and yet not nearly as much as a baby, so then will quickly forget pursuing the latter. This week I’ve found myself dwelling on this reality. From the insignificant, “oh wow, I won’t be able to just put out food and water and head for the coast” to the serious, “how can I pursue an ambitious career when workplaces are so baby un-friendly, who’s gonna watch the kid… me you say?”

I wonder if I will lament all the times in my young adult life I lamented being alone. So many times did I find myself weeping that I had no sweetheart to go out with on a Friday night. Equally as often did I feel sorry for myself that all my friends were busy without me. Eventually I became incredibly good at making my own fun, best manifest in my addiction to solo-sports in Alaska (road cycling, skate-skiing, and running). Of those 3, all that remains is my cycling – but even that has fallen away. It’s cold and getting slippery and I’m too nervous of falling off. Once baby is here I’ll have to wait till he/she is big enough to sit up in the chair, and from what I can tell that’s at least 8 months, but more likely 12! So much for hopping on my bike for a quick ride – that type of outing will now require a babysitter. *sigh

An Old Joke for a New Life

September 12, 2012

Even though I knew I was pregnant before my parents went on holiday, I waited to tell them until they returned home.  The news hadn’t yet sunk in nor settled for me, and this kind of news should be broken with much happiness.  It was easy to delay the announcement for a couple weeks as they were camping in a valley with no mobile reception.  I had thought to wait a whole week after they returned, but I’m rubbish at secrets and wanted to get it out there and over with.  I was happy, but I was nervous.

I finally got around to telling them after skyping for 2-3 hours.  They couldn’t believe I had chatted so long without spilling the beans.  At the last minute I nearly didn’t because they had started debating their to-do list and I thought, “okay, I won’t add anymore stress.”  Fortunately, the converse happened and the news dispelled said stress.

Even though we were on Skype, I announced by email and had them read it aloud.  Both of them were at the screen and I could watch their reaction – which started slow, because I threw them for a loop.  I used an old joke told back when I was about 14.  If you know it, this will make more sense:

Duck walks into a meat market…..

how-to-draw-animals-12

Got any grapes?

220px-Table_grapes_on_white

Are you kidding me?

fa8pqlx3xro44nnaxnuv

We don’t have any grapes!

no grapes

How bout something the size of a grape?

IMG_7073

Sure…. its grape-sized now, but best wait another 32 weeks.

grape-baby-hat

Congratulations GRANDMA and GRANDPA!

BABY_GRAPES

My mom figured it out first and looked at my dad who was still confused.  She had to explicitly say, “its a baby.”  To which I added, “I’m having a baby.”  The Skype image turned to nodding of heads and small grins until my mom declared, “we’re finally going to get a grandkid.”

Hope that’ll suffice as a retirement gift.  :)

**if these are your photos, sorry for not crediting, its just a silly personal blog anyway – get in touch if you want me to add credit

I Don’t Want It

September 4, 2012

I’m pretty sure I planned my unplanned pregnancy. Yet, when the pee stick returned its results in 3 seconds (not enough time to finish a wee) my eyes widened and mind raced with expletives.

Once I stood up and took the stick in my hands, the first words from my mouth were “I don’t want it.”

This isn’t the reaction one would expect from a woman who has brooded for the past several months and lightly complained to her beau that he wasn’t giving her a baby. I even told people last Christmas that I wanted to be pregnant this time next year. And when we were making love I “knew” we were making a baby – and said as much in my head.

Whether I spoke out my broodiness in jokey quips or matter of fact statements, all those moments were living inside of fantasy. They were covered in images of cute little mixed babies with curly twirls of feathery brown hair and puppy dog eyes with crocodile tears dripping down chubby cheeks.

The day after conception I felt a dutiful responsibility to prevent any such fantasies from becoming reality. I went up to the GP and took emergency contraception instead of visiting the clinic I so dislike and having a new copper IUD fitted. Afterward I told my boyfriend the situation and together we decided to definitely forgo the latter option. Again, the un-realness of such a conversation meant we assumed the chances were low and would make due if we indeed ended up in the 5-15% category.

I consider myself well versed in contraceptive options, but to my surprise, the next week whilst skimming scientific studies I found that doctors are not so convinced emergency contraception is effective in preventing implantation. I blame my confusion on anti-choice politicians who claim it does so and is therefore akin to abortion. No sirs, its definitely not and I’m all the case study I’ll ever need to make that argument.

When I reached my bedroom I started pacing and shaking my wrists before laying on the bed and weeping. I had to get out and so walked to the park on what was one of the most marvellously beautiful mornings we’ve had all summer. I traced the labyrinth and stood among the ducks. I walked along the river and prayed and cried and walked some more.

Three hours later my boyfriend came in from work and I composed myself until he could collapse into a chair. I sat across from him and squeaked, “I took a test, and I’m pregnant. I’m sorry,” then I burst into more tears. I showed him the stick to which he raised his eyebrows. He was silent, but not for too long, as soon he was asking why I was crying. My immediate reply, “its scary.” I cried a lot more. He hugged me. He kissed me. He said, “there’s no reason to be scared.” Then it sunk in and he declared himself a daddy.

He spent the rest of the morning dancing around the room – and joy filled my heart.

Feminism v. Christianity, Christians v. Feminists [and vice versa]

April 30, 2012

Woe to the woman who chooses a secular framework to guide her theology. She will be caught in the middle of ideas, ones that she does not believe are opposed to each other. She will feel contempt and skepticism from both parties. No one will seem to understand her.

She uses feminism to explore the Divine and learns about the ‘feminine’ attributes long oppressed throughout the ages. The Spirit personified as woman. Wisdom, or Sophia, it is She whom you shall seek.

She uses feminism to reconcile the differences wrought out of culture that makes a modern life simply unliveable otherwise. How fortunate is the Proverbs 31 woman for in her industriousness she will sustain the family amidst neoliberal agenda and the crushing of her husband’s industry (low-level banking, unionised professions, academia). “Women obey your husbands,” sure thing, but feminism explores the circumstance and amends absolute terms in order to preserve a woman’s life. Jesus stopped the stoning of a woman by men of the city, but would he not if her accuser had been her husband? Maybe he was.

The Christian Feminist woman struggles with that very Proverbs 31 woman. Why did she have to be so damn good at everything? But wait a minute, why did we need 2nd wave feminism if even in Biblical times women were expected to work outside the home? Though the form of work may have changed, the purpose of providing for a family and the reward of success and recognition are the same. Centuries and then decades later feminists are interrogating this double-burden and introducing terms of ‘care labour’ and ‘time poverty’. The former does not gain public recognition in macro nor micro economics as it is usually unpaid work. Only the feminist identifies this problem. Only she understands the toll it takes and the impossibility of doing it all. Only the feminist will challenge norms and asks for help regardless of cultural standard.

She finds herself exasperated and grows weary of keeping just a little bit quiet. At church she holds her tongue when the Pastor’s tangent includes all the mandates of gender dictated by culture yet masked in doctrine. She shrinks back when the conference attendee fundamentalizes feminism proclaiming, “we should have a problem with religion,“ and not just religious extremists.

Can she handle the realities of her life in this chosen identity – being a bit of both? How can she convince her sweetheart that her feminism does not attack her faith, but informs it and guides her into clearer understanding? That it was the Divine who led her to this ideology and that the world cannot afford to ignore it.

And if he refuses to come alongside her, where does she turn when she already knows she will fail the ever-expanding litmus test of feminism? Her own friend scoffed at her for claiming to be a ”Christian Feminist” even going so far as to say she was merely Christian for the sake of the sweetheart. In this respect, does he think she is merely Feminist for the sake of her Sisters? What if both are true, is she not free to make these choices?

She’s been told by Christians, you just can’t be a feminist. She’s been told by feminists, you just can’t be a Christian.

Then how is it that I exist?

When You Find Your Life In Your Studies

April 29, 2012

I completed the coursework of my Masters two years ago. TWO YEARS AGO! I can’t believe how fast life goes these days and I blame not just getting older, but the monotony of it all.

Since finishing I have done very little toward my degree – and really toward the whole reason I came to this country to get a degree. I have an M.A. in Gender Analysis of International Development from the University of East Anglia. It’s a vey expensive piece of paper (though the printed paper is el-cheapo).

Two years ago I also learned about the AWID conference (Association of Women’s Rights in Development) and kept it on my mind in hopes I could attend. I did and it knocked my socks off.

HOWEVER, whilst its only been 6 days since I returned, my newly renewed motivation, inspiration, and overall happier outlook on life have already tanked. I was greeted with the dreariest of weather I’ve ever experienced on the island. Returning to work meant being bombarded with a host of grumpiness and obsessions over small annoyances. Being at home meant going back to the way things always are, which is a life of stolen moments to converse about the mundane and stolen kisses to maintain a reminder of the romantic.

When I haven’t been occupied with “care labour” – I’ve spent a bit of time each day going through the stack of literature I brought back. I even entered the received business cards into my address book! Right now I write this blog – all progress. I should remind myself of this more as pre-Istanbul I hadn’t written since January.

The biggest realisation of all began on the last day during a pre-session (on the way to the loo) conversation. As most encounters at conferences go, I was asked what I do/who do I work for, and so each of the four days I spent replying “I’m looking for opportunities.” Sometimes I would delve into details as was such this last morning. The lovely UK woman I spoke with gathered my words and made the clear point that I’ve simply been spending my time doing what everyone else in the world does.

A month after graduation I found myself in a crisis mix of ‘what do I do now’ & ‘how did I suddenly get this poor?’ & ‘wow, I love being in love’.

These two years have been a time to live everything I studied. Whether it be household dynamics, shared labour, buying power, religion-ascribed gender roles, migration, remittance yada yada yada – I’ve lived it. I’ve likely learned more about these topics by being part of them, and definitely feel a more genuine solidarity with anyone out there that “I studied” or “hope to help”.

I’ve been part of many compromises, and technically I’ve lost out on a lot. I delayed my career and chose to live far below my standards. I scrimp and save and dream of stability. I cook and clean, pick up after my sweetheart, and so often feel the pain of loneliness as we work opposite shifts. It’s terrible, but I chose this. It’s been a time to invest in our relationship and prepare the way for a future together.

It feels very un-feminist of me to have done this and its that internal struggle that seems to breed strife, but how can it not? This commonality with women across the world is the biggest insight to me. Daily we live and daily we struggle with how we live. Our ideologies content for our lifestyle, but our realities more readily dictate how we live.

Sister Solidarity

April 23, 2012

It’s my last night in Istanbul and whilst I’ve had an enjoyable, sunny day, I’ve been lonely. I miss my sisters!

Never have I been part of such a welcoming, encouraging, inspirational space. The AWID 2012 conference in Turkey will be a highlight of my 30’s.

I came full of positive self-talk: Be confident, Make friends and contacts, Bring energy. I did pre-reading, ordered ‘business’ cards, and prayed for an end to these 2 months of low energy. I believe I was successful.

Apologies to my Facebook friends whose feeds I filled. But if a woman does not speak does she still have a voice? Tweeting incessantly was my first practice in confidence for until now I presume many fb friends didn’t really know Kymberly. The one who seethes at injustice and took to action at the finale event marching through the streets of Istanbul.

I almost skipped the march, but felt convicted that for me this would be hypocrisy. How could I spend 4 days learning and agreeing in the need for global solidarity for all women and their rights and yet not take the first opportunity to manifest these beliefs? I went and had an opportunity-within-the-opportunity to stand up for other women.

Street Harassment is pervasive in, well, the world. But never would I imagine that during a joyful march of solidarity with our Turkish sisters a Jamaican woman would be assaulted! Amongst us all she was groped – and visibly shaken.

She told me this after I noticed a man attempting to flirt with her friend. Really?! I started walking just a little nearer to them.

A few minutes later she recognised the perpetrator and moved to confront him. As I watched her fiercely interrogate him I saw him deny and deflect using ‘no english’ as excuse.

I would have none of this and backed up my sister by shouting away the perpetrator. I yelled and pointed and yelled some more. He quickly retreated in his guilt, I just hope he left the street altogether.

My sister was near tears as we embraced and walked with arms around each other. She was grateful I did that for her – how could I not?

How many times have you been groped on the street – and in a foreign country? Do you know what that does to a woman? One minute she walks confidently and the next second she’s in shock and fear. She’s stunned and needs someone to intercede.

On both of my occasions I did nothing. Yesterday I saw my sister gather herself and do something, I’m proud to have joined. This action showed the really really real Kymberly and even I’m glad to meet her!

Nearly 3 years ago I quit my job and sold nearly everything so I could step out more tangibly into the role of ‘the girl who cares’. Though the path has been curved with doubt and delay, this week has jolted me back into the cause of women’s rights by connecting me to dozens of the 2,000+ participants of AWID 2012.

“Don’t get too comfortable, because in front of me lies a terrifying bunch of revolutionary women.” – Egyptian activist, AWID2012 speaker


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.