It's been a rollercoaster of a week. We had three classes at the midwife clinic, I had to be at work super early every morning, I had to do a full day training for staff and trainees on trauma treatment, I presented at a conference, AND I've had my normal workload on top of it all. The earliest I got home all week was after 7:00, but most nights were closer to 9 or 10. Monte had a vet appointment and we found out his cancer is back (probably an entire post coming on this, but long story short is that it's still treatable, just means more cost and effort), which hit me really hard. And I'm just....tired. Oh, and B has been extremely stressed at work with deadlines and meetings and contracts galore.
So what is the point of this long rant/complaint-fest? Well, it's not just to pour on the excuses for not commenting and blogging more. It's actually to set the stage for something nice. You see, as I write this, Monte is laying at my feet, Bear is sleeping on my belly wearing Indy's old kitten-collar, and I'm sitting in my brand new rocking chair. I'm feeling very "at peace." Which is surreal given the week I've had. I kept commenting all week on how bizarre it was that I was still "happy" despite all of my stress. And by "happy" I don't mean joyful and giddy, because god I'm tired, but I mean this buzzing feeling in the back of my mind that this is all temporary and insignificant compared to the contentment I have coating my world right now. Hoping this keeps up. This may be the most effective and healthy way to cope with stress that I've found since red wine!
So I mentioned we've had a lot of baby classes lately. I want to briefly update you on that and then, in a rambling way, meander myself to the true point of this post - something that happened in our Childbirth Class today.
So first of all, we had a class on Breastfeeding. Does everyone get this or is this just something specific to our clinic? Either way, I really enjoyed it. I feel like I really don't know anything about breastfeeding, and oddly enough, B seems to know everything. Honestly, every question - he had the answer. I think the teacher had a crush on him by the end of the night. Most importantly, the teacher leading the class, a lactation consultant for our clinic, was extremely maternal, down-to-earth, knowledgeable and calming. She is the one who does home visits through our clinic if you are having problems with breastfeeding. She is exactly the kind of person I would want to welcome into my home if I end up feeling my mommyhood threatened by my inability to breastfeed my baby. Oh, and she wasn't judgmental, over-the-top-attachment-parenting guru who would judge you for any decisions you end up making regarding pumping, length of time breastfeeding, etc. So, breastfeeding class? Success.
We also had a free Introduction to HypnoBirthing Class. This was taught by a "Licensed Hypnotherapist" (as a mental health professional, I'm not really sure what the heck that means...) who offers an Intro class to couples in order to entice them into taking her 4-course, $450 HypnoBirthing series. The neat thing about it is that she limits the class to four couples, and each series includes private sessions for both moms and dads, which focus on improving your relaxation skills and "facing your fears" about labor. Then, she makes you individualized hypnosis CDs based on your private sessions. Ok, so...what did I think? Well, again, as a psychologist, I am a bit skeptical about hypnosis. But let me be clear here, I am not skeptical about the effects of relaxation. Research shows the impact of deep relaxation on both overall mental health and neurological states of your brain. Not to mention, I've seen it work with my clients and with myself. I'm just not so sure there is any difference between hypnosis and deep relaxation. As in, I'm not sure you can hypnotize away my pain. You can just get me to a state where I'm so relaxed that I don't process it the same way.
Ok, so technicalities aside, I was still going into with an open mind. She gave us some background on hypnosis - theory, research, etc - then she led us through various practice exercises. Most of them were very similar to what I teach my own clients. During the exercises, I found myself editing them to do the things that I already know work for me in order to increase my relaxation. I realized through the course that I am already very attuned to what I need to do. I don't think that a few classes are really going to improve my skills that much. And please note - I'm not saying that I am a relaxation-yogi. I struggle with using the techniques in day to day life and definitely could use more individual practice. It's just that, I feel I can do that on my own. The only thing that may have been worth it is to teach B how to be my "coach" and guide my through my strategies. But again, I feel we can do that on our own. So, my plan is to sit down with B and teach him the techniques I already use (some are very personal) and then do a few practices where he guides me through them. Wish me luck that we ACTUALLY follow through with this. Anyhow, would I recommend the class to someone else who is not me? Well, it's $450 so that is quite an investment, but if you do not have anything structured that you currently do as a relaxation technique and you are looking for a natural birth AND you think you'll practice it and go into it with an open mind, then YES do it. It will be helpful. But if you don't fit those criteria, save your money.
Ok, last class. We are halfway through the Childbirth Series. Which consists of four classes, four hours each, with four couples in the class. A lot of hours, I know. I realized that they are run a bit like "couples therapy groups," which at first rubbed me the wrong way. Especially when they started asking us to do art therapy exercises (again, I don't do art therapy - just not that kind of therapist). But now, I have to say, the hippie-side of me has bought into these classes 100%. Both B and I kind of love them. We pack a bag of snacks and goodies, dress in comfy clothes, and grab "our couch" where we curl up together and cuddle throughout the whole class. I'm not kidding. All of the couples get really comfortable. Kick your shoes back, arrange a pillow nest, and cuddle up to your partner people, this is like entering an expensive hippie-commune for upper-middle-class Los Angelenos. Topics are not just about Labor and Birth. We also discuss sexuality during pregnancy, your relationship during pregnancy, pain relief methods, possible complications, and hubbies learned how to do belly palpitations to tell what position the babies are in. Really fun. So yeah, I've bought into it hook, line and sinker. Oh, and I kinda LOVE my husband at these classes. He drinks the koolaid too, and turns into this ultra-attentive, focused, caring guy who does things like - refills my water class, rubs my shoulders, rubs my belly, or arranges my pillows. How come I don't get that all of the time??
Finally this brings me to the subject I wanted to share with you (50 pages later). Today our homework was to call our parents and talk to them about the birth story of when we were born. There were specific questions to ask, etc. When it came time for our check in, one of the girls said doing the homework had put her into a "bad mood." As she started to talk about it, she started to cry and said she couldn't share right now what was going on and so we appropriately moved on to the next couple. Well, the next couple starts checking in about their baby shower, and then suddenly, the 2nd girl starts to cry and says how difficult it's been recently with her mother because her mom just isn't giving her what she needs and hasn't been there for her enough and how she "wants her mom." The first girl starts all out crying and nodding along with her. And then suddenly I am squeezing B's hand really, really tightly so I don't cry. Because, although I haven't blogged about it, it's something B and I have talked a lot about. My mom hasn't had the stereotypical response to my pregnancy that I was craving. Not enough phone calls to ask about how I'm doing, or how the baby is doing, no gushing over ultrasounds, so special "care packages." Now, remember my Princess Post? I thought I was just being ultra-needy. Because, really, she's not doing anything wrong. She says the right things, is excited that I'm pregnant, and is planning to come and be with me for a month after baby is born. So yeah, she's a great mom. It's just... I've felt something lacking. It turns out for all of the girls in the class, this baby will be their mom's first grandbaby, and we all felt they aren't quite sure how to transition into that role. Also, my in-laws have FIVE grandchildren and they do it perfectly. It's actually made me feel closer to them.
I guess, it just was an interesting moment for me to look around the room and see these women who are becoming mothers themselves but who are needing our moms so intensely right. What pressure on our mothers. What pressure on us. The expectations to have a certain feeling or a certain reaction....so strong. But it's a role transition. A big one. And a scary one. Probably for both generations. So. Yeah. I would say the hippie-commune-group-therapy modality was helpful today. Not to mention all the gross, gooey, sappy, bloody birth videos we watched after lunch. Can't have a childbirth class without them.
And, to end, I am going to share actually share with you our art therapy exercises from the first two classes. I can't believe I'm doing this because, 1) it is cheesy, and 2) I don't entirely believe in this shit and 3) I'm clearly not an artist. But mostly, I want to share them with you because I am so amazed with what B drew and what he said about his thoughts. So, I guess I'm kinda bragging about how sweet he is.
First of all, the women were asked to draw an animal that they would think of during labor (or something silly like that). So I drew this little cat. Partially because I heard once that cats purr during labor, which is admirable and amazing. But also because cats are strong and inwardly focused. I chose a housecat (as opposed to a lion or tiger or something more impressive), because I think that symbolizes me better and because I don't think I need to be ferocious during birth, just content, calm and focused.
Next, the men were asked to draw something that "symbolized pregnancy" to them. Other men drew pictures of growing flowers or women feeling uncomfortable or a house to symbolize a family. B drew this. He said he represents the sexiness, curviness, and beauty of a pregnant woman. And, inside, he drew shapes to symbolize the complexity of what is happening inside of the woman and the amazing biological things going on under the surface.
Today, we were asked to draw something to symbolize the "journey of pregnancy." Most people drew things about the two of them together and I felt a little bad because mine wasn't about B and I, but more about me. I had had this dream this morning that I was following this winding path that went up and down and up and down and in the distance I could see this beautiful sunset and I was desperately trying to get there. But my family was there and they were lagging behind and just couldn't understand how important it was to get to the sunset at the end. I was so frustrated and just kept telling them to hurry up. But I knew I'd get there in the end. And, if I'm honest, even though B wasn't actually in the dream, I have felt sometimes that I am leading the way and while he is following my lead (literally and figuratively), I'm the one who has to cut the path.
This is B's "journey of pregnancy" art. When he described it I actually got tearful. I am going to to try to explain it to you. He said that the two blue lines are the two of us, that come closer together and move farther apart, depending on our relationship. The yellow circle and then yellow lines is our baby, coming to join up with us. Then they go into the corner where there is a lot of colors and shapes and that represents some of the stressors we've had, specifically including what we thought was an almost miscarriage in Mexico. If you look close, you see like a yellow teardrop surrounded by blue, and that was us shielding and protecting him. Finally, in the upper right hand corner, there is a "vortex" because he described us as circling around and around faster and faster as we approach the birth. The colors around the vortex are our support network.
So yeah. I got tearful as he described his art because I got to see this entire pregnancy through his eyes and it was so sensitive and thoughtful and connected with how I feel that I realized I would marry him all over again. Not to mention, I was so proud that THIS guy is MY husband. Eat your heart out, everyone else in the room.
And there you have it, probably way more than you wanted to know about our "art therapy experience." If you're lucky, I'll share more later...we still have two more
sessionsclasses to go. What about everyone else? What would YOU draw? What animal would you choose to represent yourself in labor or going through something difficult? How would you represent your pregnancy or your relationship with your partner? Do you think you'd enjoy the art aspect or just burst out laughing? Please share....
p.s. This was my view as I wrote this post. Did you notice that my rocking chair is in some of the pictures? I'm still working on the nursery - waiting for last minute touches (namely artwork) to show up in the mail, so you can expect pictures in a few weeks or so!