QUAIL MUTTERINGS #19. A Natural Progression (December 27, 2012)
My decision to birth my children at home came naturally, eventually. During my late teens and early twenties I didn’t want to personally add to the population problem. In fact, during high school, my Catholic friend swore she was going to have six while I wasn’t going to have any. It’s funny how well you think you know yourself at that age. She’s the one who wound up with no children while I had three.
During the early 1980’s I taught creative movement at the private Community School down Mussey Grade Road. This was before the school turned public and moved into town. A group of extremely caring and involved parents wanted an alternative to the regular education offered during that time. They wanted individualized, yet cooperative learning that was art-based and open-minded, to keep the love of learning alive. Their level of commitment was commendable. The highly gifted teacher they hired was Susan Nelson who only just retired last June.
I’d grown up in the country, helping my mom with gardening, taking care of animals, and dancing throughout my childhood. Becoming involved with this organic, cooperative family of people helped cement in me the core of who I am. I’m sure I already brought with me a strong leaning in this direction anyway, but in joining them I felt more secure in my philosophy. I just happened to be in the right place at the right time for my path to become clear. Talk about synchronicity.
The school was located down by the creek behind the midwife’s house in a converted shed. Susan would come in each morning, light a fire in the wood-burning stove, and circle the children on the rug while Moonlight Sonata, or another classical piece, spun on the record player. I remember the students counting in different languages as she dropped coins into a jar, similar to the effect of a metronome.
Later, I would take the kids out to the dirt play yard and we’d dance around the bales of straw. We’d skip, leap, join hands and gallop around as the buzzards circled above. We sang songs and clapped our hands in time with stomping feet. Bunnies scampered through the yard and scurried under bushes. The natural environment was our classroom.
Most of the families lived down Mussey Grade, in Buzzard Gulch (Fernbrook), so all the kids were pretty “countrified.” We all took turns working at the food co-op in order to get our discount on healthy groceries. Sometimes we’d get together to play music and sing, or play volleyball, or go swim in the local pond. Life was good in the garden of that caring and supportive community.
I think it was in watching these parents interact with and raise their young children that I began to change my mind about having kids. And so it came to be. Following college graduation (after six years working my way through) I had Jessie. Three-and-a-half years later Kali came along followed by Chance six years later. There went my earlier decision to not personally contribute to the world’s overpopulation dilemma. Therefore, I felt that I absolutely had to do the very best job possible to raise these three new beings. It was an opportunity to bring forth positive contributors to society. Something to aspire to anyway. Isn’t that what most parents want?
Jumping forward in time, a quarter century later, I was fortunate enough to be there for my first grandchild’s birth. My daughter had opted for natural childbirth while in a hospital. By the time I arrived she was hooked up to a monitoring device strapped around her middle. I asked what this was about and the nurse replied, “Her blood pressure is too high so she has to have this on.” When the nurse exited the room, being the mama that I am, I had Kali close her eyes and then led her through a guided meditation, making it up as I went. “… Now follow the trail leading down to the stream… Sitting on a warm rock in the sunshine, dangling your feet in the water…” When the nurse returned her blood pressure was back to normal. The power of the mind can be transforming. They still wouldn’t take off that constricting monitoring strap claiming that her blood pressure would need to remain stable for at least two hours. Even after those two hours I had to nag at them to get it removed.
Hours later, as is often the case with natural childbirth, Kali was throwing up and “enduring” the pain.
She said, “I don’t know if I can do this.”
With that I said, “Yes you can. You’ve already done it. This means that you’re in transition and it’s not going to get any worse. You’re almost there.”
Walking out for a bathroom break I overheard the nurse’s at their station.
“There’s a woman in there that’s not getting any drugs. How does she do that?”
“I heard they don’t get drugs if they have a home birth. But here? How can she?”
“How do they do it at home? I mean, how do you clean all that up?” another wondered.
I just shook my head and went back into the room as quickly as possible.
Kali said, “I’m ready to push.”
I called a nurse back in and told her the doctor needed to get here pretty soon. She said that Kali probably wasn’t ready yet and to wait for the doctor since she wasn’t here yet. But after checking her she was surprised.
“I have to push!” Kali declared in no uncertain terms.
The doctor arrived shortly and with Kali’s husband supporting her, me playing “Doula,” and the doctor presiding, little Ian was born.
My mom had been there for all three of my home births and now it had come full circle. Closeness of family and community provides an effective network, helpful in bringing forth a fully-functioning, responsible adult. At least, that’s what we aim for. We do our best and then hope for the best. And then there’s the whole argument of nature versus nurture. I think it all goes into the mix. And that’s the beauty of it. Isn’t it?
Chi Varnado is the author of two books. Her memoir, A CANYON TRILOGY: Life Before, During and After the Cedar Fire, and her children’s book, The Tale of Broken Tail, are both available on www.amazon.com. Chi directs the Ramona Dance Centre: www.ramonadancecentre.com. Her collection of essays, Quail Mutterings, can be found on www.chivarnado.com.