Saturday, September 14, 2013

Talking About It

"This is the weird aftermath, when it is not exactly over, and yet you have given it up. You go back and forth in your head, often, about giving it up. It's hard to understand, when you are sitting there in your chair, having breakfast or whatever, that giving it up is stronger than holding on, that 'letting yourself go' could mean you have succeeded rather than failed. You eat your goddamn Cheerios and bicker with the bitch in your head that keeps telling you you're fat and weak: Shut up, you say, I'm busy, leave me alone. When she leaves you alone, there's a silence and a solitude that will take some getting used to. You will miss her sometimes. There is, in the end, the letting go." ~Marya Hornbacher
I want to say that most people in my life know that I've struggled on and off with an eating disorder for a while now, but I also want to say that might not be the case anymore. I stopped caring a long time ago about people knowing, but real life has happened to me and I've met wonderful people from things not having anything to do with death and sometimes - most of the time - it just doesn't come up. I guess I'm...moving on? Or something like that.

It's been two and a half years since I got out of the hospital and made the decision - without much thought - to stop being annoying and "take a break" from killing myself slowly and painfully. It's been a long two and a half years. Certainly a progression, and I hope that if you've known me throughout it all, you see that.

During that time I did some fun and crazy things. I left the country three times, loved women as they (always triumphantly) pushed their babies out, chopped all my hair off and then let it grow back, wrote and performed a piano composition, made a ton of new friends because I started talking to people again, tried breast milk for the first time since I was a toddler (and no I'm not telling you whose it was), volunteered as a barista, ironically played a bulimic in a skit, played an obnoxious Jewish angel with pink hair in another skit, dissected a cat, saw Sara Groves live, had the most amazing night ever on my friend Lauren's front porch and Peace Valley Park, started this blog, smoked a few cigarettes (I mostly regret that), appeared on the local news, organized a benefit show and a community baby shower and a rally, started a business, became a hippie, had one of the most spectacular weeks of my life in Hippietown USA (also known as The Farm) where I learned a few cool things like how to measure a cervix without even seeing it and how to determine what position a baby is in at that particular moment by feeling his mom's belly, dropped the F-bomb loudly on a roller coaster (hint: that's uncharacteristic of me), got tattooed and pierced, started to dread my hair, began liking things like eggs and coconut and spinach (I previously refused to eat those), worshiped God in spirit and in truth, performed in two choirs and three plays, gave a public speech while sitting on a friend's birthing ball, started college, and pretty much became a completely different person. All the while assuring myself it was okay, I was allowed to enjoy life because the eating disorder was right there waiting for me whenever I decided I wanted to access it again. And I did access it a few times - incredibly briefly - before deciding that was enough of that, it wasn't fun or interesting like everything else I was doing. But eventually it would be, so I'd go back to it then.

That thinking got annoying after a while.

And, well, that break never ended. And I'm starting to think it never will. And that maybe that's okay. Good, even.

Actually, it has really sucked in some ways. I didn't think it would take this long. On several occasions I've whined, ohh the temptation, why can't it go away, ohh my life sucks waahh. At least half of the time, I didn't actually want the temptation to go away. But sometimes I really did. And it didn't. I prayed and read the Bible and talked to people and looked in the mirror, trying to convince myself I was pretty, and tried to pretend food has always been a normal thing to me. But it didn't go away. For two and a half long years, it festered.
"The butterfly can just look back,
Flap those wings and say, 'Oh yeah,
I never have to be a worm again.'

The snake gets tired of being him,
He wriggles from that itchy skin,
Leaves it lying where he's been and moves on.

And I am longing for something tangible,
Some kind of proof that there's been change in me.

It feels like I have been waking up,
Only to fight with the same old stuff.
Change is slow and it fills me with such doubt.
Come on, New Man, where have you been?
Help me wriggle from this Self I'm in,
And leave it like a skin upon the ground."
~Sara Groves
It's not over. I don't know if it ever will be, if it ever can be. I wonder about that, especially since I don't really know what "over" means when we're talking about something like this. Am I going to forget? Never be tempted again? Always love my body? No, no, and no. But I'm okay with it never being "over." I'm just not okay with it silently festering inside of me, always, I'm not okay with waking up every morning and being greeted by a disease or sin or whatever you want to call it. And it won't and I won't.

There has been no revelation. Some tears, and a bit of common sense, but that's about it.

But this is the part I thought would never happen. When I eat breakfast sometimes. When I make water kefir for weeks before realizing that there's no possible way of knowing how many calories are in it. When I think maybe it's time to start thinking about a recovery tattoo. When going to the grocery store is a coping skill and before I needed to use a coping skill to go. When I can eat in front of people I just met and be okay. When singing "I surrender" in church might have nothing to do with my eating disorder. When I consistently say "I had an eating disorder" instead of sometimes saying "have" and sometimes saying "had" and other times just admitting I have no idea what verb form to use. When I wonder, from time to time, how a real food lifestyle is supposed to jive with an eating disorder and then I realize, oh, it's not, because surprisingly, an eating disorder is kind of unnatural and a little unhealthy. When my body doesn't attack me anymore. When I can look at myself in a mirror and not really like everything but still say, "My body is incredibly thrilling because if I really wanted to, I could grow, push out, and feed a human with it. And do a few other cool things too." When I think and talk about random things like vaccines, dementia, my opinions, and the Dominican Republic more than I do calories and puking and death.

When I let go.

Friday, August 9, 2013

I Went to the Farm & I Didn't Milk a Cow

photo credit
Yeah that's right. I. Went. To. The. Farm. The Farm Community but also The Farm Midwifery Center. The reason midwives exist in the US today. The largest intentional living community in the nation. The place that has a super legendary story that's almost too awesome to believe. I went there.

Yes, it was pure amazingness. And yes, you should be jealous.

photo credit: Rachel Leber
We learned practical skills like vital signs, dilation/effacement/station/presentation checks (YEAH it's SO about more than how big your cervix is at that given moment), feeling of bellies and listening to babies. We took time to appreciate the deeper meanings of these skills. Unlike the photo suggests, we did get to practice on actual pregnant ladies and for the first time in my life I shared in the squeal-y joy that comes with being around pregnant ladies with other females of my age range. I feel it every time a pregnant mama is in my midst. A silent and assumed yet intense and unshakable reverence of the beauty occurring before me. It is an incomprehensible process, pregnancy. And I hope that feeling never leaves me.

There were sixteen of us total who came to learn. Ages ranging from 18 to my mom's age (probably). A ton of doulas, a few yoga instructors, some birth activists (well aren't we all in one way or another?), a nurse, a nursing student, a Montessori teacher. Plenty of ladies with no kids and plenty of ladies with several. A woman who had an unnecessary c-section and doesn't want that to happen to anyone else, so she's decided to become a midwife. A woman who had a medicated birth, an unmedicated birth, a cesarean, and a VBAC (in that order - we all applauded when she told us that). Several women who had several different breastfeeding stories to share. A woman who went from 9 to 10 weeks pregnant that week. A lady who was born on The Farm and another who hopes to birth there. Single, married, gay, straight. California girls, women who live in states where midwifery is illegal or unheard of, Canadians. Vegans and raw milk drinkers. A truly diverse group was us. And I couldn't have asked for a better group of women to pass time with that week.

The sisterhood was something to tear up about. Living with women who don't roll their eyes when I get visibly upset about the state of maternity care in this country but instead initiate those conversations and get pumped up with me...women who revere midwives as "ancient mothers" and sing songs about them...women whose idea of idiotic fun is going to a birthing cabin, putting a pillow up your shirt and taking pictures (as much as I would love to share these photos I will just as willingly refrain)...LIVING with them, it ranks as one of the most refreshing experiences of my life thus far.

I'll never forget one of those nights. I think it was the third night and after a class in the clinic a few of just...never...left. We sat on the couches in one of the exam rooms (Can we stop calling it an exam room though? Midwife rooms are so much cozier than that) and talked. We talked about midwives, attachment parenting, vaginas, and telepathy. Until two in the morning. I never knew those topics could be so hilarious. We laughed, we cried. But mostly we laughed. And come to think of it...I'm pretty sure we were just crying from laughter.

Yes, I met and spent time with Ina May Gaskin, the "mother of modern midwifery." Also Pamela Hunt, Deborah Flowers, Joanne Santana, and Carol Nelson. (They are all mentioned in Spiritual Midwifery.) Have you ever sat at the feet of the master of the craft you are pursuing? Have you ever had dinner with someone who you would list as a person you would most like to have dinner with? Have you ever talked (or rather, listened) to someone whose wisdom you just ate up like honey...or sweet potato fries? (I love sweet potato fries.) Yeah, that's what it was like.

If anyone wants to know what the midwives are like, here's my two cents. They are extraordinarily sweet, calm, and meek (in a good way). They are also very humble, especially when you consider who they are and what they've done. They do say words like "telepathic" and "psychedelic" and they call their clients their pregnant ladies. They are not as crunchy as one might expect. One has personal beliefs against placentophagy ("Great job placenta, you're all done now") and some doubt the safety and validity of water birth. They care, and they are very knowledgeable.

I learned two songs that will go with me wherever I go. One entitled "The Witch Song" and another "Ancient Mother." Both beautiful and true.

The food was deliciously vegetarian (mostly vegan). I was really scared about that since I do love my steak and bacon but I came back wanting more of that goodness. I didn't miss the meat at all (although I know I would if I tried to cook vegetarian at my house for a week) and mainly ate the beef jerky I brought so my suitcase would be lighter coming back.
photo credit: Rachel Leber
We got to talk to Ina May about the history of midwifery, and we were all intrigued. We also got to discuss maternal mortality with her. We got to see some pieces of the Safe Motherhood Quilt and we discussed reasons why mothers die. (And so many! And only a third of deaths from pregnancy-related causes are accounted for! And and and...) The energy in the room was very heavy that night.

And the rest is a feeling that lies deep in my soul that I won't give up. It will stay here. It has to.

I would love if some of my fellow Farm workshop attendees would comment on this entry with some of their favorite memories of that week.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Day2day Joys Relaunch Giveaway!

I recently began contributing over at day2day joys, a blog that focuses on faith, family and health. Rachel's heart is that day2day joys can be a place where mothers and women can connect, can talk about their experiences, their hurts, their joys, and still focus on faith, family and health.

To date, I have shared my thoughts on our culture surrounding motherhood on the blog and also released my favorite natural bug spray recipe. It has been a joy for me to be a part of such an amazing group of writers. 

She's "relaunching" the blog with a new design and a new, broader tagline that will encompass the blog's tune more eloquently.

The hope of all the writers is that what we write will encourage you and will help you to be a better homemaker, mom, wife or mother in the making and woman, joyfully.

Please meet all of the writers:
Jenn from The Purposeful Mom- veteran writer here
Kelly from Eyes on the Source
Kristen from Smithspirations
Jenn D from A Simple Haven
Liz from Now Let Me Rejoice
Kim from Simple Natural Health
Nell from Whole Parenting Family

In honor of Rachel's relauch, she is hosting an amazing GIVEAWAY!

She is giving away one $75 gift card to Amazon to one lucky reader!!

*note: this is not a sponsored giveaway, she paid for this prize and hopes it blesses one of you tremendously! Must be 18 or older to enter. 
All you have to do is use the rafflecopter form below, earn more entries by completing more of the options.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Note from Rachel: Thanks for being a part of whether you're new here or have been around for a while!!! You should see the full site over the next few days so don't be surprised if you hop on to the website and it looks totally different.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Easy & Natural Bug Spray: Day2day Joys

In my multiple trips to the Dominican Republic, I’ve learned a lot.

Things like…
  • Plantains are God’s gift to His people.
  • The poverty we deal with in the US is filthy rich compared to that in the rest of the world.
  • And did you know that six people can fit on a moped? (You have to see it to believe it!)
But perhaps the most important lesson I’ve learned…I am a mosquito magnet.

Find out how I've learned to live with this sad, sad truth on my contributing post on Day2day Joys!

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Celebrating Mothers: Day2day Joys

Since the beginning of May we've been inundated with advertisements for the upcoming day that all moms look forward to; Mother's Day. Everywhere we go we are reminded, until it gets annoying, to buy our moms jewelry, flowers and chocolate and to celebrate our mothers.

And then as soon as the day is over, we collectively forget. As someone who has made a job out of celebrating mothers, I appreciate this sentiment but find it incredibly ironic. Why?

Find out at my first post as a regular contributor on Day2day Joys!

Friday, May 31, 2013

Let's get the facts straight. Midwives and doulas are totally different.

So I'm a doula. Not a midwife. I plan on becoming a midwife eventually, but I don't see doulas as inferior (or superior) to midwives. Just different. Like, not the same thing at all.

Most people I have conversations with about birth-related things don't fully understand the difference between a doula and a midwife. Many don't realize that there is a difference (and there's a big one). I've had people confidently tell me that doulas are like PA's (um - NO), that they can't have a doula because they're having a hospital birth, and a whole list of other falsehoods. This is understandable I guess, but it does get frustrating having to explain myself over and over again. So let's break it down.
Midwives draw blood, listen to mommy and baby hearts and lungs, take blood pressures, hold appointments at their office or home office, make recommendations that they expect their clients to at least consider, deal with insurance payments, prescribe and administer medications and herbs, make life-or-death decisions, palpate uteri, perform newborn exams, diagnose complications and diseases of the reproductive system, measure cervices with their fingers, own (and regularly use) dozens of vag specs, are sometimes employed by hospitals and OBs, work alongside doulas and are backed up by OBs, break water bags, swab vaginas for GBS, arrive at births when the mothers are in active labor or transition, have the education similar to that of a physician's assistant or nurse practitioner, meet clients at the hospital or birth center if that's the way they're going, chart chart and chart some more, see women even when they're not pregnant, and, of course, they catch babies.

Doulas don't.

Doulas spend hours helping their clients plan their births, meet with their clients in their clients' homes over coffee (decaf of course for the mama), work with women only if they're pregnant or in the 6-week postpartum period, make breast and belly casts if they know how to, encapsulate placentas if they know how to, show up at births when the mommies are still in early labor, refer clients to their pregnancy care providers for medical advice, are self-employed or work in a group practice, have extensive training in non-medical childbearing-period support, work alongside midwives, labor nurses and OBs, act as Medicalese to English interpreters, facilitate pow-wows when moms and dads don't know what to do, watch other kids while mom is laboring if needed, let clients borrow their birth balls, go to the hospital or birth center with clients if they are birthing there, hold legs back on epidural'd pushing mamas, and do everything else you can think of that is not medical.

Midwives don't.

But there is some overlap. Midwives AND doulas give frequent back and foot rubs, text and call their clients for updates, assist in home, hospital, and birth center births or all or some of the above, hug their clients whenever they see them and say "Look at you, you're the most beautiful pregnant/postpartum woman I've ever seen!" (and really mean it every time), drive around a lot, offer birth tubs for rental, have lending libraries, get pooped, sweated, bled and cried on, say things like "You can do this, I know you can. You know how I know? Because you ARE doing this, and the contractions can't be stronger than you, because they ARE you. Besides, you have no other choice!" often, educate their clients, eat their clients' food and share food with their clients, tearfully exclaim "Happy birthday!" whenever they witness a child emerge from a woman's body, encourage their clients to make their own decisions, but aid in those decision-making processes, suggest position changes and other coping mechanisms, laugh, weep and say "I'm so sorry" when there's nothing else to say, offer breastfeeding support, admire new squishy babies, get scared, pray with their clients if they so desire, rub pregnant bellies lovingly, help clients figure out where they are in labor, look at screenshots of contraction timer apps, take lots of pictures, and pour their hearts and souls into the mothers they serve. Both midwives and doulas want what is best for their clients, and do everything they can to make sure that happens.

Midwives and doulas do different things. They have different roles. Doulas aren't pre-midwives and midwives aren't advanced doulas. But they are entirely different. And women should have both. Get it? Got it? Good.

Sunday, March 10, 2013


Sleep and I have always had a love-hate relationship.  I started sleeping through the night at something like three months old (which, for those of you non-baby-lovers out there, is unusually early), and part of me thinks sometimes that perhaps it was because I really just loved sleep more than food.  Then, of course, throughout my early childhood I fought the bedtime thing nightly, but that's normal I'm pretty sure.

When I was sick sick, I avoided sleep at all costs.  I don't really know why, but I understood it at the time and got defensive when people close to me asked me to sleep.  Now that I think of it, I think it was because I wanted complete control over myself and succumbing to the human need to sleep is definitely not a display of self-control (don't bother telling me how stupid that sounds).

About a year ago, a crisis counselor told my family (at a time I was not even in crisis, I might add) that I should be going to bed at 10 because sleep lowers the likelihood of depression.  And, of course, my  overprotective father and step-mother immediately began enforcing the rule and still do, even though I will have complete control over when I go to sleep in less than six months.  But it has done the opposite of lowering the likelihood of depression for me. I simply don't have enough time to get everything done (maybe it's because I'm really busy, or because my school gives an unusual amount of homework, or because I'm a slacker, I don't know) and am extremely stressed out trying to get to bed by 10 every night.  This rule has caused me nothing but stress, and I'm not happy about it.

In my quest to learn to be aware of my body and to get to know it, I've recently discovered that I am one of those unlucky people that truly needs 9-10 hours of sleep every night in order to be able to fully function.  This is unfortunate, because it means I would actually have to go to bed at 8:30 every night.  This, of course, is unrealistic and impossible and would only stress me out about schoolwork even more than I already am.  But when I can't fully function, as is usually the case now, I don't get work done efficiently and am stressed and usually end up staying up late to get it all done...continuing the vicious cycle.

You can't win.