Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The First Ladies unpaid "Women's Work"

Please check out this fascinating article (to me anyway) about the role of the Chief Wife, Babymaker, Director of Internal Affairs, etc, etc of our country. Do you think this needs to change? How do you see our lives and roles as women, mothers, wives, etc, reflected or as compared to the First Lady's?


Sunday, December 7, 2008

Ode to Nanny

Doing “Sunday morning things” like getting up early, earlier than everyone else, and cleaning the kitchen or cooking a meal for the family or both, bring me such peace of mind and beauty. I feel like my granny(we called her "nanny"), who would do those things when she came to visit, waking up at dawn and preparing the dough to rise for the dinner rolls she was making for Sunday dinner. She’d make sugar cookies and raisin bread too. And when I got up early with her, awakened by not feeling her presence in the room she shared with me when she came to visit, as much as her quiet singing and moving about in the kitchen that I heard., she’d show me how to coat the top of the cookies with white sugar, or cut out breakfast biscuits with a glass..

Maybe its the apron too. I find myself wearing an apron when i'm in the kitchen for long hauls, it just makes so much sense when you're really getting down and dirty in there. However, never saw myself as an "apron girl". That was what older ladies like my grandmothers wore, and now, here I am, wearing the apron and caring for my family, like my grandmommas did. Never really knowing until now, the power they quietly (and sometimes not so quietly) held. Not really knowing till now, the power of that apron, the power of those hands that cooked and cleaned and prepared the meals, the power of their love shining through in all of those acts.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Is Motherhood Safe?

Several years ago, I took a couple of my women/mama friends down to the Shenandoah Mountains area of Virginia, to have the opportunity to hear legendary activist and spiritual midwife, Ina May Gaskin speak. (Check out http://www.inamay.com/ and http://www.thefarm.org/midwives/index.html.)

I brought these particular women with me because all were pregnant and planning to give birth and all were hoping for a vaginal birth after only previously given birth by c-section. Ina May was just the person for them to meet for her inspirational wisdom and Knowing about birth.

When Ina May's time came to speak, we were seated in a small classroom at Shenandoah University. In this small, intimate setting we felt as if we were in her living room.

Ina May's talk was uplifting, enlightening and healing. Her impeccable research linearly pointed out what we all really Know deep within us; that normal, un-interfered-with birth is safest. That what makes birth risky, is the unnecessary use of interventions, for profit and/for convenience. Ina May is the perfect balance, to me, of book knowledge, deep intelligence, and eternal, intuitive wisdom and voice.

In the second part of her talk, Ina May brought to our attention the emerging yet still underground issue of maternal mortality. Basically, that means a woman who has died sometime before, during or a period after childbirth. Do you ever hear anyone talking about this in our country? I never did. I always thought that BIRTH was safe here in the US, and that women died "back in the old days" or in other countries were there might be inadequate health care.

Well, Mama May brought to our attention that US women do die in childbirth and that African American women die at a rate of 4x that of white woman, and Latina women die at the rate of 2x that of white women. It's completely tragic when any women dies during this period, equally unbelievable that there is a huge racial disparity. and of course the question is "why?"

It seems that the UK gives it citizens carefully detailed reports on incidences of maternal mortality numbers and reasons. This is an accountability measure that helps to determine what steps must be taken in order to improve maternal mortality rates. The definition of a maternal death related to childbearing includes deaths that have occurred up to a year after childbirth, as some childbirth related morbidity can exist and cause problems for the rest of a women's life. In contrast the US does not require that hospital or doctors gather statistics on maternal mortality, and regard a maternal death as something that only occurs up to six weeks after pregnancy.

To that end, Ina May decided to create a quilt to commemorate any women that she hears about that has suffered from maternal mortality, (http://www.rememberthemothers.net/) to bring awareness to this alarming trend, and so that their lives would not be forgotten. Each square of the quilt is embroidered with the name of the mother who has perished, her birth and death date.

She brought the quilt to show us and talked about the stories of some of the women, the complications that came up that caused each one of them their lives. Many of these deaths, if not all were related to complications occurring during interventions and interferences in the normal birth process, many of which birth advocates feel are extremely risky. It's no wonder we never hear of these stories, birth is a big business in this country, and the more interventions a doctor uses, the more the hospital profits. Although sometimes interventions are necessary, many times interventions are used unnecessarily.

Fast forward to about a year later. I receive a call from my Aunt Elaine, and as I hear her voice, I am so surprised and happy that I am gushing all over the phone. She calms me down in her sweet tone and lets me know that my Aunt Anne, whom I even more rarely speak too, is also on the line. Happy but a bit confused, I ask them "Why am I so blessed today to receive this call from both of you today?"

My sweet Aunties laugh nervously, and then my Auntie Elaine goes on to explain that Aunt Anne's youngest daughter and my childhood friend or "cousin", Leslie is dead. I'm in shock of course, Leslie was a wonderful women, young, recently married and had just given birth to a beautiful little girl.

Leslie went to have her baby expecting a normal vaginal delivery. She ended up with a c-section. Days after returning home, she began having trouble breathing. Repeated calls to the doctor resulted in an over the phone diagnosis of the flu. More days pass and Leslie finally goes back to the hospital as her condition has worsened. Shortly after being admitted, she dies. Doctors are puzzled at first, but later come up with a diagnosis of Peripartum Cardiomyopathy, (http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000188.htm for more info) an uncommon and poorly researched complication of the postpartum period. My cousin had just become a statistic.

Her husband, her mom and her sister take over the care of Leslie's precious newborn even as they go through their own deep grieving process. It was oh so bittersweet to hear that Leslie was a breastfeeding mom. I thought of her baby girl, her family. I lived on, stunned with it all.

Spirit led me to contact Ina May. With the permission of Leslie's family, I related Leslie's story to Ina May, who let me know that she would give her information to one of her quilting volunteers (read: angel) who would make a square commemorating Leslie's life.

Fast forward to October 2005. I now live in LA, and I attend a CAPPA conference with Ina May as one of the keynote speakers. I greet her after her excellent talk. As usual, the "Safe Motherhood Quilt" is with her, a visual disclosure of the women who've died and whose names, lives and deaths have existed, until the quilt, in secret. She knows who I am, and walks me over to where the quilt is laid, and points out a square. It's purple-ish blue, black and gold, an African print (perfect!) with Leslie's name, birth and death dates, embroidered over an , tear-drop design. It's beautiful. I know Leslie must have helped the artist pick out the fabric and colors because it truly looks like her. Again, I am grateful...

Maternal morbidity and mortality are not pretty or fun subjects. Neither is infant mortality. They are heartbreaking, devastating and tragic facts of life. We cannot, however, stick our heads in the sand and think that we are safe from these things because we live in the US, or anywhere else. What angers me the most, is how corporate interests, health care as for-profit business, lack of access to quality health care, lack of access to safe birth practices, lack of accountability and the suppression of the women's' voice in life in general promote infant and maternal mortality.

Ina May has written an article in the March/April issue of Mothering Magazine on maternal mortality. I urge you to check it out. For more info on where to get Mothering go to http://www.mothering.com/. To see Leslie Ann Spencer's quilt square, go to http://www.inamay.com/, click on to The Safe Motherhood Quilt Project". After you enter that site, go to "Virtual Quilt" and look for Leslie's name.

For those of you who in serve in the birth field, or for those of you planning on having a baby, or know someone who is, check out http://www.motherfriendly.org/ for information on how to know if your doctor, midwife, center or hospital facility practices in way that promotes optimal outcomes for mother and baby. Also, Amnesty International is studying maternal mortality in this country. If you know of someone who died after giving birth or experienced a near-miss, please contact Rosa Cho at rcho@aiusa.org, or by phone at 212-633-4161.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Excuse me while I reinvent myself.

This is a special posting. It's kinda like when someone goes on Oprah to reveal a deep, dark secret, only it's in front of millions of people.

I'm getting a divorce. Yeah, for real this time. I'm going to be a single mother of 5!

As I was thinking about this life change, I first thought that this is yet another trailblazing area in my life. Then, looking over my friends and families relationships over the past 22 years, I realize that I am certainly not the first one to go through this, and I won't be the last.

After 18 years of marriage, 22 years total of togetherness and all that history, pulling away has felt like ripping apart vines that have become entangled as they grew together. I admit that all the times in the past when I desired divorce, just the thought of the pain of the entangled vines ripping apart was enough to turn me around to try and "make it work".

Maybe I'm stronger now, maybe it's my age. Maybe I'm in a better place with myself. All I know is that my life is worth living in joy, in happiness, in honesty, in fullfulment. Living my life in these principles honors my children more than staying in an unhappy marriage ever could.

I am grateful for my friends and family who are already supporting me through this, without judgement. They remind me to continue to love deeply, and that I am deeply loved, to know that I waited to separate until I had a "safe" space to do it in. When I feel guilt, they remind me that it serves no purpose. When I tell them I'm scared because I don't have a roadmap, they gently tell me that there is no roadmap, but I will still find my way.

Thanks for listening.

Mama Kim

Friday, January 18, 2008

The Love Never Dies

Y'all who love me might have been wondering where I've been. I haven't posted in a bit of a time, but nevertheless, I'm HERE!!!

Life is so exciting, so wonderful, and that still stands no matter what is going on around us, Yes? I encourage all of you who read this to wake up each morning Knowing that, and go to bed each night, Knowing that. Live your life each minute Knowing that and you will have found the secret to everlasting happiness and joy. Better still, you'll be contagious and spread love around everyone you touch like warm massage oil on a tired, aching body. Be that warm oil, massaged into the aching spirit bodies of others. Be that comfort for every child, man and woman that you encounter...But first start by massaging yourself, your on spirit, everyday.

Which leads back to being thankful, grateful, for every, every moment and everything seemingly good or seemingly "bad".

Feeling sad or blue? Can't catch your rhythm? It happens to me too, don't get me wrong, but I learned the secret! Begin with gratitude and you will be healed.

I turned on some great music today, Have you all ever heard of Pandora? Its a great site where you can create your own radio station (www.pandora.com) On my Erykah Badu station, the played "Strength, Courage and Wisdom" by India.Arie. I always cry when I hear that song, its so beautiful. It's an anthem that we all could play everyday to "wake us up!" I also cry because it was the song that Rennea Goines played several years ago when her family and our family did an informal Kwanzaa celebration at her home. It was just us and Rennea, Doug (her husband) and her daughter Adamaa. Hearing the song brings me right back to that moment in eternity where our families held hands together and including this song, which we all listened to together in our prayer.

Rennea was a phenomenal teacher at our children's school in Virgina. She was an high healer through the realm of education. She turned many, many children on to education, children who were struggling, unsupported, lost, ignored or forgotten. She demanded the best from these kids as well as the best from the "trust fund" kids she also taught. She was the teacher that would go knock on the door of a child's home to find a child who hadn't been coming to class. She walked in the valley in the shadow of death and feared no evil.

Rennea taught my daughter in 6th grade and in 7th grade. She loved Y. as here own. I believe she saw a smaller version of herself in my child and they became very close.

Sometime during the middle of that year, health concerns that had been plaguing her brought her to a place where she could no longer ignore. Cancer was found. In one of the last conversations that she had with me, she said, "Kim , this is my test." Several months later, she was gone. Just like that.

Be grateful for your life. We will not be in this body for long. I do believe, as I am taught at my spiritual home, Agape, and through my spiritual teachers that we are eternal, our spirits are forever...

Rennea, I feel you, I see you, I love you and I thank you, you touch me, I touch you....forever.

For all of you reading this, I send the same message to you.

Go with God.

Mama Kim

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Biscuit Boy

As most of you readers know, hubby and I have 5 beautiful kids, three girls and two boys. It lays out like this, 16 year old girl, 13 year old boy, 10 year old girl, 7 year old girl and 3 ½ year old boy.

My eldest son, (the 13 year old one), is the subject of my post today. S. has always been a wonderful child, not withstanding all of his “boy energy” that can sometimes be annoying and other times incredibly hilarious.

I remember being pregnant with him. I knew he was a boy, by an intuitive mama sense, as well as by the powerful kicks he gave me while still in utero. I would tell his Granddaddy (hubby’s dad) that he has got to be a football player or something, because those kicks would literally take the breath out of me, they were that strong!

His birth was a powerful experience. I was blessed to have had him at home with a wonderful midwife, Tioma. This was a big thing because #1; Most folks did not have their kids at home and #2; I had a c-section with my first child. So preparing for this homebirth was a kind of back and forth of “should I or shouldn’t I?”

When I was about 7 months pregnant, my hubby’s college friends came to visit. The both happened to be Drs, the husband a Opthamologist and wife an OB/GYN. When they asked me where I was giving birth, I happily exclaimed, Home! To this, our OB/GYN friend reacted in horror! "That", she said, "is the most horrible thing that I have ever heard of!" Naive me, I thought she would be happy for me, and be encouraging. That's the time when I began to understand that OB's and Midwives practiced from two entirely different paradigms.

Needless to say, from that point on I was really scared s**tless and called my midwife a few days later to call off the homebirth.
"Why?", she asked. "I really want to work with you." I mumbled something until in her skillful ways, she drew out of me my FEARS, one by one and laid them to rest. Of course, I am very thankful for that exercise, because if I had let the fear run me, I would have missed out on one of the most empowering, and amazing experiences of my life.

Not to say that I didn’t still worry a bit, about, what if this or that goes wrong, but at least I knew that I was in very capable hands and that there was a back-up plan in case of emergency.
Fast forward to the first weekend in March, 1994. I had begun laboring on that Saturday and continued on and off for days. My mom had already driven to Brooklyn from Jersey for support. But as my early, on and off again contractions dragged on, I felt I would be pregnant forever, and I felt silly that I had asked my mom to come (like I was never going to have that baby! Isn’t it funny how your mind plays tricks on you?)

Every time I felt the slightest twinge, contraction or discomfort, my mom or hubby would ask, “Are you alright?" Or “Was that a contraction?" I loved their support but was sick of their questions. On the 9th, (that was a Wednesday) I decided to attend a La Leche League meeting to get my mind off of the coming and going sensations I was having. Silly me, since I had never had labor the natural way, I had no ides that I was actually doing great, and that my body was slowly opening and my cervix gently softening with each wave. Although all the fun stuff had started on the Saturday prior, it wasn’t so bad that I couldn’t walk, talk or just relax and ride the rushes.

After the meeting, I stilled myself to listen to my inner voice. I could clearly hear that I should finish up any loose ends and the baby would come. So, I looked back over my to-do lists and got to work on completing every item. After coming home from the LLL meeting, my mom and I took the bus to McDonald’s, where I proceeded to eat like a damn pig. Then we walked back up Fulton St (about 8 blocks) with she and I taking turns on holding a then two ½ year old eldest child. It had started to snow.

Once home I was determined to finish those loose ends. I had done a styling job for Arrested Development and still had clothes to pack up and send back to their designers. After completing that, I got a phone call from a friend from college. As we talked, this buddy of mine proceeded to put in a state of goofiness with his jokes, causing me to get a severe case of the giggles when POP! My water broke with a vengeance and began to rush down my legs. I was still giggling and also feeling a lot a pressure as I rushed my bud off the phone, saying something classic like “I think my water just broke!”

Hubby called the midwife and here's where it gets sketchy-time began to have no meaning. At some point our midwife came and at some point I was climbing the walls and at some point I threw up ever morsel of my McDonald's meal, and at some point I was in the shower, and at some point the whole room we set up to have baby boy was changed by me 'cause the room I wanted to be in was much warmer, and at some point Tioma was tell me to breathe the baby down and at some point I could feel the ring of fire and then out came a head (relief) and then out slid a wet baby body (super relief)! Tioma dried off baby boy and then up to the breast, he latches. Happiness, Joy, counting fingers, counting toes, more joy, tears, thank you God!

Placenta out shortly after, look at that thing! Midwife examines it. Shows us the tree of life etched in it. We put it in the freezer to save for planting with a tree later. WOW! A little boy by my side. I’ve had that little boy by my side ever since.

I’m amazed by my boy. When he was a baby, my girlfriend Micheala gave him the nickname "Biscuit", cause he was so juicy, you just wanted to dip him in some gravy and sop him up!

My little sweetheart, who nursed for three years, is already several inches taller then I. (He never fails to remind me.) He’s a great student, and he is in love with animals. He has several snakes, turtles, lizards and other sundry creatures in the desert habitats that he created in his room.

He prefers hanging out with our adult friends, his grandparents and his uncles more then he hangs out with kids his age. He loves Richard Pryor, Dave Chapelle, Chris Rock and Katt Williams (he told me to add that). He’s got a wickedly dry sense of humor. He loves teasing his sisters. He loves dogs, (but I won’t get him one! Too much work!) He’s a music lover and digs the stuff of now and old skool equally. He is learning to play guitar and ain’t bad. He’s sensitive, shy at times and very handsome.

I look forward to the man he’ll become, the husband and father he will be. The profession he’ll choose, what will it be? He’d be a great vet or a great pediatrician, but of course, it’s his choice. One of the things I really love about him is that he really loves to hang out with his Grandmother and Grandfather.

I love my boy, now, my manchild. I’ve had this little boy by my side ever since and I pray to God that he will forever be as close to me, if not physically, in his heart, as he was when he was a baby, carried constantly in his sling. It’s so cool that when we go to church together, he scrunches down in his seat really far so that he can lay his head on my shoulder. I love it-I love him.

Thank you, S, for choosing me to be your mama. Let me always know how to be a good mama to you forever:)

Mama Kim

Sunday, November 18, 2007

A Doula in the Kitchen

Today, I had a chance to be interviewed by Keb’ Mo', a very awesome blues musician, for his web site www.kebmo.com. And guess what? The name of his show is “The Kitchen”-(do we have a theme going on here or what?!!?) So it was like “The Crone’s Kitchen in Keb' Mo’s Kitchen” FIERCE!

No, I am not in the music biz, (yet!) He wanted to interview me to learn more about what I do as a Doula and Lactation Consultant. He and his wife have a beautiful 6 month old son, and Keb' has an older son (almost 20!) as well.

Robbie experienced a natural birth in the hospital surrounded by her husband, her friend, (the OB) and her other friend (a midwife). They also had a great Postpartum doula whom they said they could not have lived without. Talk about support! Robbie and Keb' went through about 12 hours of labor and overall found their experience to be life changing, powerful and transformative.

Keb' is doing this video/web blog thing as a way to raise social consciousness and give back to the community. Disappointed with what he sees on TV he has decided to make a difference by creating his own positive, progressive programming. Check out the interview upcoming on his site. I’ll try and upload it on this site at some point, too.


That got me to thinking, about being a so-called “Doula” and what that means to me, and what I think it means to others...

I did not become a Doula because I wanted to be around birth. I mean, I learned a lot from my own birth experiences which were a c-section first and then a homebirth with my second. But, I never had the desire to be at someone else’s birth.

Helping women with breastfeeding, though, was something that came natural to me, I don’t know why. People saw that I breastfed my kids, then they wanted to do it to, so I would help them out. I held breastfeeding support group meetings at my house in Brooklyn, and was surrounded by pregnant and nursing mothers.

The Doula thing happened when folks started asking me to come to their births. I really didn’t want to go, but my friends just kept asking me. I was not interested in seeing all the bodily fluids and “stuff” that happens in birth. I was thinking, “No Way!”

Yet after attending a few births, I noticed that I was completely relaxed with the birth process and really enjoyed the type of vibrational field that birth energy created. It’s so powerful and healing, and if you open yourself to it, everyone that witnesses it can float on that gorgeous energy for sometime. Best of all, the mom gets the highest of all, especially when the birth process goes well; she begins to feel her power as a woman to its fullest extent.

That’s really how I got started in this business. I’ve had training and lots of experience now, but I have never found the need to become certified under one organization or another, as I try and blend all things and really just listen to what the woman who is going to be doing the birthing feels she needs, and I try and make that happen.

A lot of being a Doula is “holding the space” for the birthing woman, father, and (let’s not forget) the baby that’s on its way! This act of witnessing and compassion creates a pure field of love for these new souls to enter peacefully, where Mom and Dad feel relaxed and supported.
I am honored by each and every one of the families that have invited me into their lives, their hearts, and their most sanctified moments, the birth of their children. And through my spiritual work, I am beginning to understand this work as a calling and a ministry.
Going forward, I see more women in society being trained to be Doulas for each other. This is a way to build trust between women and help strengthen the bonds of love and community in ALL.
A big “Thank you” Mama Josie for thinking of me and hooking me up with your sweet friend, Keb and his beautiful wife and baby boy!