Brave Woman

Adventures of a future nurse-midwife


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Posted by Lucille on October 18, 2011 at 1:50 AM Comments comments (0)

Every morning that I wake up at 7 to go to work I think, "Why am I awake? This is insane, I want to sleep, why on earth did I sign up for this?"

       And then I go to work, and they hand me a baby, and I don't want to leave. Work is at a slower pace than the rest of the world, the only part of my day that is separate from the whirlwind of college, and who wouldn't want to rock sleeping babies, at any hour of the day?

       This is how I was tricked. Someone quit, which left the center with extra hours they needed people to cover. Had she emailed me when I was at home and in full awareness of how much I have to do and how little spare time I have to do it, I would have said no way. Instead, she waited until I got to work. The toddler she was holding turned around when I came in. "Hewo! Ucy! Ucy! Up?" They handed her to me and she wrapped her arms around my neck and gave me a hug, and then they handed me a paper and pen and said, "Would you like to come here more often?"

       This is how I ended up with an extra shift.

Gotta Catch 'Em All

Posted by Lucille on October 16, 2011 at 4:05 AM Comments comments (0)

GRL had an exchange with a fraternity. Basically, a sorority and a fraternity have a joint party with a theme. The theme: pokemon. Costume required.

       First everyone in the sorority met in someone's apartment and showed off their costumes. I went as a pokeball. Some people went all out though--one girl had made Jessie's hair out of posterboard. Someone else had covered christmas ornaments in electric tape to make her own pokeballs. All in all it was fairly awesome. We walked over to the fraternity and crowded in front, and then the doors opened and all the guys were lined up on the steps inside, in full pokemon garb, and started singing the pokemon theme song. One of the best moments of my life. The decorations were amazing--they had cutouts of a bunch of pokemon, and had decorated each room to be a place in the show. Some of the costumes were really creative. I was excited about the opportunity to meet guys (not because this is normally a high priority, but I've noticed that when your main social outlets are a lesbian sorority and doula workshops, your life can be significantly male deficient) and hopefully make some friends.

       First thing, people started a game of beer pong. Now, I knew there'd be drinking. At the new member class today while they were going over how we're not allowed to have alcohol or drugs of any kind at any event with two or more members of the sorority, someone raised their hand and said, "Will there be drinking at the exchange tonight?"

       "OH yes. There will be drinking at the exchange tonight. I mean...wait. You should have let me take off my teacher hat before I said that."

       So I knew that would be a part of it. I wasn't planning on drinking, partially because I didn't feel like my first college party was a good time to experiment, and partially because beer tastes gross. But I wasn't particularly bothered by the idea of drinking going on in the background of people socializing and making friends.

       What bothered me was that it became clear pretty quickly that drinking was in place of socializing and making friends. After beer pong people congregated in groups to play card games. Everyone would be sitting in silence, and then one person would groan and reach for a cup of beer and the others would laugh, and then it would go back to silence. Of course, the music was so loud that people wouldn't have been able to hear each other anyway. So I did the reasonable thing to do and went into the room with the music to dance instead. There were a lot of people in there to start with, but gradually they got pulled into the various drinking games that were going on. I just danced. There was a strobe light going, and I closed my eyes and got into that mode where you're the only person in the whole world, just you and the music.

       I opened my eyes and realized that there was a group of guys watching me, and faltered. I hadn't realized I had an audience. One of them came over. " you want to...go upstairs?"

       "No, no I'm fine, thanks."


       So I decided to go around and look for people who were standing by the walls looking out of place and talk (by which I mean lip read) with them. I was surprised by how many other people weren't drinking, but even more surprised by how tense they were. One girl was standing by herself, so I went over to ask how she was doing, and before I could open my mouth she yelled, "I don't like drinking games!" and fled to the other side of the room. I would have explained that that's not what I was asking, but she wouldn't have been able to hear me anyway. Oh well. It confused me because, despite the frequent warnings I received in middle school, I've never ever witnessed anyone pressure anyone else to drink or do drugs in the US. Europe is a different story, but in the US, I've never seen that happen. But maybe that's just Portland.

       I went to check in with my friends who were playing cards. One of them waved me over and yelled in my ear, "If you figure out who the pledges are and touch their panties, they have to do something nice for you."

       My first thought was, "Cookies?" And my second thought was, "No, not that kind of nice. Better not." Something about grabbing the underwear of drunken strangers just didn't sound like a great idea.

       Within the first hour people started disappearing into bedrooms, and I decided it was time for me to go. I said goodbye to the person I'd come with and slipped out the door. Before I'd even crossed the street, three different people texted me saying, "Looked around and didn't see you, just making sure you're safe." If/when I do decide to take part in the party action, this is the group I'm going to do it with.

       In any case, singing with a group of forty college students dressed as pokemon was amazing, so all in all, it was a pretty good night.

       First college party: check.       

What Dad Said

Posted by Lucille on October 16, 2011 at 3:40 AM Comments comments (0)

In chemistry lab today the GSI was handing back our work. He brought over a pile to my desk.

       "Umm...excuse me? None of these have a grade on them..." I said.

       "They were late," he said.

       I stared at him in disbelief. "I was sick."

       "And they were late."

       "Fuck you," I thought. What I actually said was, "My understanding of the chem 1A excused absence policy is that work can be made up any time before the end of the semester, or make up points can be assigned for the average of the grades of comparable assignments. Are you saying you want to assign make up points instead?"


       "I don't understand. All GSIs have to follow the same policy, don't they? I have all the necessary paperwork to prove that I was sick, and the head of the chemistry department asked me to tell you that everything was excused. I mean, if you'd rather I go back and tell him you refused to grade my work..."

       "You do that."

       He wasn't there. I called the social services number on my doctor's note. They referred me to an advisor. She referred me to the department head. They referred me to a professor. He referred me to the laboratory manager. Basically, everyone's playing kick the can. The next chem midterm is in four days. On the plus side, I figured out how to access the online textbook, which helps a LOT with studying. Bring on the weekend.


Posted by Lucille on October 16, 2011 at 3:30 AM Comments comments (0)

 I had another confrontation with my roommate. By this I mean that she accosted me as I was walking down the hallway dripping wet and wrapped in a towel, which as you can imagine, does not do a lot for making you feel brave and like standing up to people. With a raised voice and many curse words, she explained that my request to keep the door locked when we’re asleep or not home is unreasonable and (because she’s Jewish) anti-Semitic. She then called me a Nazi and yelled loud enough that heads poked out of every door the length of the hallway. They saw what was happening and went back to their rooms. I was ashamed that, standing there in my towel and dripping onto the floor, I was too flustered and embarrassed to call for help. I dressed, ran outside, and left a tearful message for my landlord. She has yet to return my call.

Something has to give, and my roommate has made it abundantly clear that it’s not going to be her. Feeling under attack in my own living place, for the crime of wanting a locked door at night, is not okay.

I'd been looking at various apartments before I got sick, so I checked craigslist again for other housing options and picked out a couple places to go see. One was supposedly an apartment suite shared between a bunch of Berkeley students. I emailed them and arranged to come and see the place.

When I get there, it's a house, and there's this old man sitting out front who stands up and smiles at me. I have no justification for this impression, but he just looked creepy. I'm feeling confused at this point, wondering if I somehow mixed up the email addresses of the places I was considering. He introduces himself and opens the door and I move forward instinctively. There was a place with one occupant, looking for a female student to rent a room to. I'd assumed it was a female student in an apartment, but maybe it didn't specifically say... Besides, why would a creepy old guy want to rent a room dirt-cheap to a female college stude- OH.

The door closed behind me. I looked up. The place reeked of cat pee. The guy was clearly a hoarder, there were piles of junk on every available surface, and then I looked again and noticed that every wall was covered in crude sketches of nude women and torn out lingerie advertisements. "This is your room," he says, stepping toward me as though to herd me further inside. No one knows where I am. I am in this guy's house. He is between me and the door. Shitshitshitshitshit-- I went into antelope mode. Ears pricked up, scan for exits, notice potential weapons, watchful of his hands, his eyes, ready to respond to the slightest--"Well, this looks great," edging around him, "I'll email you if I'm interes-" Hand on the doorknob, GO. Didn't stop running until I was back on campus, ducked into a coffee shop and called my mom. I think I need to get a seven-foot tall football player for a boyfriend before I do any more apartment hunting. With a gun.

Why is the world so scary?!

Wait A Second...

Posted by Lucille on October 16, 2011 at 3:15 AM Comments comments (0)

Went to a chem review. It didn't make any sense. I was completely lost, and although I valiantly tried to piece together what the GSI was doing for the first hour and a half, I kept getting confused and by the third hour I was pretty much waiting for it to end so I could go home and study. When, at long last, the GSI wrote the last example problem on the board, I scanned it hoping it would be short so we could go home, and something kind of clicked. Wait a minute, that makes sense. I pulled out scratch paper and my calculator, scribbled some numbers, and came up with 1.3. I was sure it would be wrong, because that's how chemistry's been going lately, but the GSI walked through every step I'd just done, wrote 1.3 in big letters on the board, and circled it. I was beaming. "There. Do you all understand?"

       Before I could nod, a chorus around me yelled out, "NO!"

       The GSI started laughing. "It's okay, I just threw this one in there for fun. This is an example problem from my chemistry class. I just wanted to show you where you can go with these concepts, but don't worry, you're not supposed to be able to understand this yet."

       Well now I'm really confused!

Doula Day 3

Posted by Lucille on October 16, 2011 at 2:20 AM Comments comments (0)

I woke up at 8:30. (The doula workshop starts at 8:00.) Sun was coming through the window. The bus would have taken an hour and a half. And apparently the BART doesn't even run on Sundays. I called my mom, panicked, and she thought about it and said, "Why don't you just take a taxi?"

       Oh, yeah! I forgot about taxis. Got there in twenty minutes, and they'd just finished opening circle and were about to start instruction.

       Today was full of guest speakers. We had a couple parents come in to talk about their experience working with a doula, and spent some time ooh-ing and aah-ing over their newborns. Then we met a nurse midwife from the local hospital. He was really cool. The woman leading the workshop requested a story from last fall, when the labor and delivery ward had it's annual dinner where they share the statistics for each care provider. When they put up his slide, the people running it thought there must have been a mistake, because it said he had an episiotomy rate of 3%. They thought it had to have been 13%, but it was right. Episiotomy had been the subject of a lot of debate the day before. Some care providers actually refuse to do them. Personally the thought of scissors coming anywhere near there is enough to make my stomach turn. In Africa I would step quickly out of the room every time they went toward a woman with scissors until I figured out those were just for cutting the cord. He surprised me, though, by enumerating the situations where an episiotomy is a good idea. There are three: when the baby's heart rate drops and you need to get it out quickly, when you have to use a vacuum or forceps (because if you tear from them it'll be on the sides and take longer to heal), and when there's tearing into the urethra or clitoris (I crossed my legs) because that'll lead to all kinds of problems, among them excruciating pain. Fervent yes from me. Like for C-sections, I like knowing that there are valid medical reasons for the procedure, even if it's overused.

       Someone asked him if he'd attended a home birth. "No," he said, "But I've attended a flagpole birth, a car birth, a side of the road birth..." We got to hear all of those stories and laughed so hard our bellies hurt.

       In one of them, he mentioned fundal pressure. I had a sudden flashback to a Gambian nurse bracing himself against the wall and pumping his hands into a woman's belly like he was doing CPR. Waitwaitwait that can't be an actual procedure, there's no way that's allowed in the US, tell me that's not allowed in the US... "Yeah, we do that every now and then. Not routinely, but from time to time. You apply pressure on the uterus from the outside, usually only if the mom has an epidural and can't push effectively, or if you're using a vacuum or forceps, to reduce the pressure on the baby's neck." He pulled up a birth video. Vacuum extraction. The vacuum was secured with minimal pressure, and one doctor slowly eased it out while the other ever so gently applied pressure to the mom's belly to guide the baby forward. A healthy crying infant was placed straight in its mother's arms. A few minutes later, the placenta showed up at the entrance of the birth canal, and the doctor reached out, and very very gently caught it and lowered it to the bin. It occurred to me that I'd never actually seen a placenta delivered just by the mother's power, and watching this video felt healing. If for nothing else--if I never go into women's health and end up being a professional football player or something instead--I'm glad I came to this workshop just for that.

       After lunch, we got down to learn the most demanding doula skill of all: the take-charge routine. This is for the moment of truth, when the mother panics, when she is screaming and her eyes are rolling and she's thrashing about yelling that she can't do it anymore--this is what you do. We went through individual things to try, and then the leader asked for volunteers to role-play it. No one moved. "Lucille, how about you? And Kari, you be the mom."

       Suddenly I couldn't remember half of the things she'd just shown me. She nodded for us to start. I looked at Kari, expecting her to close her eyes and maybe shake a little, but she went for it--the whole thrashing ball of chaos, screaming and crying, throwing herself all over the place. And then I was moving, bring her in, pressure point, grab her hand, "Kari, open your eyes. Look at me, Kari. Breathe with me. Hee...hoo. Hee...hoo. Good. Feel your lungs, feel the baby's lungs. Stay with me, now. You're doing so well. In, and out. Rock with me. Breathe. It's going away now. There, that one's over. Rest. You never have to do that one again." Kari looked up and smiled, so I relaxed out of character, too. There was silence for a minute.

       "Damn, girl! You can take charge!"

       Obviously it'll be a lot scarier when they're not acting and you have to maintain that for a while, but I thought it was cool.

       And finally it was time for closing circle. First the class leader started by telling us that she'd seen something in this group she'd never seen before, that the immediacy with which we welcomed each other and formed such a close community was something she'd never witnessed, and had inspired her to work toward that kind of relationship in her own life. We'd drawn names out of a hat the day before for a kind of secret santa ritual. I'd drawn the woman who gave me a ride the first day, and written her a nice note about how inspiring she was and how much I enjoyed getting the chance to meet her. The woman who'd started crying the day before had drawn my name. She came over and told me (through tears) that she hadn't written anything, because she knew it wouldn't make any sense, but that she'd talked to her husband about me and they wanted to give me some things that had been on many journeys with them, specifically a miniature Buddha statue, a sari, and a beautiful candle holder, so that 'my light will never go out'. She wanted me to know that she considered me family and that if I ever needed anything, to call on them, because I had a family here. I was feeling too many things to trust myself to express them, but I gave her a hug and thanked her. Later that night, I would decide to email her. She'd made herself vulnerable by being so openly affectionate with me and I felt it needed a response. Now I consider myself a decent writer, but I probably stared at that blank email for an hour before I got up the courage to write anything. Words. What do you say to something that welcomes you so readily into their heart like that?! Eventually I hit send, and got back the sweetest reply. So I have my mom, a French mom, a Gambian mom, and now a Californian mom.

       The class leader stood up and opened her arms to the whole circle. "Congratulations, you're trained doulas!"

       Okay, you can all go get pregnant now! Send me your pregnant mommas!

Doula Day 2

Posted by Lucille on October 14, 2011 at 1:45 PM Comments comments (0)

I woke up at six. (I know, why on earth would anyone wake up at six. But I did.) It was still dark so I bundled up and walked past people's park to the bus stop. I'm learning things about when it's okay to go out as a woman by yourself: two in the morning is okay, the streets will be packed. At six, though, the streets are deserted. I made it to the bus stop and sat for a while enjoying the peacefulness of morning, watching the few homeless people that were already waking up, a woman walking her dog, a few college students making their walk of shame, and a man whose car had apparently been towed. They watched me as they passed, and I thought it was funny that in this early morning I was reduced to the same simplicity: the girl at the bus stop. Not Lucille, not the girl who went to Africa, not the shy freshman...just the girl at the bus stop. To the strangers that shared this early hour, this moment defined me. So I started singing. And it felt amazing, like I hadn't really breathed since I quit choir. I made it through every song I knew from Lord of the Rings before the bus came.

       I had a choir teacher who explained the concept of a shit sandwich, basically a recipe for giving feedback. Compliment-constructive criticism-compliment...a sandwich. I think they intentionally made the three-day doula workshop a shit sandwich, because on the second day we spent a lot of time going through paper work, standards of practice, ethics of practice, scope of practice, and going over in exhaustive details all of the ways doulas can get in trouble. You do not do anything medical. You do not question the doctor. You do not discourage the mother from using pain meds. You do not give medical advice. Or any advice. You do not say anything that could possibly be misinterpreted as medical advice on pain of death. Needless to say it was a little depressing.

       During lunch, we watched a video about a woman who started a clinic for teen moms in a poor African American neighborhood. Many of the moms in the film had tragic life stories, but used drugs even though they knew they were pregnant and refused to leave abusive relationships even when offered help. The doula stood by them when no one else would. Yes, it was inspiring. It also convinced me beyond a shadow of a doubt that I am never ever working in a clinic like that as my job. I know it's important work, but it's also the sort of work that will eat your soul. Once in a while would be okay, I just couldn't handle doing that all the time. You need some hippie water births thrown in there to balance things out.

       After lunch, things got a lot more fun. We went around to stations with props and information cards about various medical interventions. There was a vacuum, forceps, an IV line, a catheter, diagrams of an episiotomy and an epidural, and then pieces of paper next to them where we would write down the advantages, disadvantages, and alternatives to everything we saw. Next we got back in a circle and went over different breathing patterns, and broke into pairs to practice conducting each other's breathing. Then we got down to basics: what does emotional support mean? What does that look like? So we discussed and practiced things like calming chant and touch, reflective listening, and holding space. Holding space is one of those things that are tricky to define, but incredibly powerful. When women shift their attention inward during labor, you need to make sure they know they are supported, that they're in a safe zone of unconditional acceptance...but in a way that doesn't distract them. You don't want to be telling them the whole time because you risk disrupting the focus they need to get through each contraction. So how do you tell them without words? There's no required set of actions, but one of the common aspects, at least in birth, is eye contact. We were asked to stand, find a partner, and go to neutral looking into each other's eyes.

       I've done this kind of exercise before, usually in theater and dance troupes, so at first I settled into neutral without a second thought and met my partner's gaze. There was music playing, and the leader guided us, reminding us to relax, breathe. "Tell her, with your eyes, how beautiful she is. Tell her she's strong. See her for everything that she is." This sort of exercise can be both extremely calming and brutally intense. Everything that you feel is open for your partner to see. You're vulnerable. It's a shared vulnerability, and that's why it builds trust. It's just that opening yourself to that kind of trust can be scary. Just when I thought she was going to ask us to release, the leader said, "And if it feels right, take a step closer." Another minute passed. "And if it feels right, maybe add touch." I was starting to recognize that my focus was slipping. I was starting to subconsciously tense, trying perhaps to control my face to create some barrier and shield myself, and kept reminding myself to relax, go with it. It was with genuine affection and some measure of relief that I gave my partner a hug as that round concluded.

         We had a couple seconds to mingle, shake out, and find another partner. I started subtly maneuvering toward a woman on the other side of the room that I'd felt particularly drawn to. She smiled and we slid into neutral, met each other's gaze. "See your partner, breathe with her. Tell her with your eyes that you see her strength." You're strong, I sent out. You're beautiful. You bring people together, make them feel safe, make them laugh. I admire you. You're strong. Then something in her face reminded me that she was sending me thoughts, too, that I was also supposed to be receiving, and as soon as I made that energetic shift it felt like being hit by a waterfall, it was too intense for me to begin to comprehend what was happening, there was so much love and depth in her eyes that I felt every barrier in me melt and just when I was about to start crying, she burst into tears. I lowered my gaze to give her some privacy to compose herself, if she wanted it, but she made no attempt to stop her crying and we made eye contact again. I was not crying, not because things had calmed down but because it had crossed into a whole new level of intensity that I didn't know how to express. Gradually we moved closer and held each other while tears poured down her face.

       We paired up a few more times, and all the other times through this exercise were more similar to the first. Finally we got in a circle to share our experiences. She raised her hand. She'd stopped crying at some point, but as soon as she started talking about it, she started crying again, and explained that for just a second, looking at me, she'd seen her daughter. We moved on to other activities, and at the end of the day she came up to me to make sure I knew it was a compliment and said that she hopes her daughter will be like me when she grows up. I was deeply touched, but at the time I was putting that off to focus on the moment. What are you supposed to say to that? I thanked her, gave her a hug, and grabbed my stuff. As soon as I was out the door I started crying. I went down to the bay, called my dad, and talked his ears off again. Eventually found the bus. I'd been invited to go to a friend's birthday--we were going to go to a strip club dressed as 'gentlemen and scholars', fake mustaches, top hats, and all--but I was too physically and emotionally exhausted. Plus I had to get up at six in the morning. In the full celebratory spirit of her birthday, I went to sleep.

Doula Training

Posted by Lucille on October 14, 2011 at 12:40 AM Comments comments (0)

Oh. My. God. Doula training.

       This was one of those experiences that literally changes your life forever.

       Unfortunately I've been so insanely busy that I'm writing about it a week later, and so much happened in so little time that I had trouble remembering it all to begin with. Hang on while I try to piece together as much as I can.

       The actual doula training was two days, Saturday and Sunday, but one of the requirements for certification is attending a childbirth education class and that was offered on Friday. So Friday, I took the bus out to San Francisco. That in itself was an adventure. My first stop was, fittingly, on Apgar St. After that I took BART, in the wrong direction, and when I finally found the metro I took that in the wrong direction, too. (It's harder to tell which way is north when you're underground. That is my excuse.) I made it, and was buzzed into an apartment building and went up to the third floor. The door was open with soft music playing, and the murmur of women's voices. It was the apartment of the son of one of the people attending the workshop, but my first impression was that it looked exactly like where I imagined a doula training taking place. The skylight was open and vines hung down from the loft over a circle of cushions. A couple cats licked themselves lazily in the shade of the potted plants. There was a bright kitchen with food laid out, a CD player playing serene birth music, and a flat screen TV in the corner showing the menu screen of a birth video. There were baby dolls tucked throughout the room, and a model pelvis on the windowsill. The seats were so cushy that it felt like you sank into them.

       First we did opening circle, where we introduced ourselves and did some mingling exercises. There were a dozen women, all very different from one another. I was the youngest. The oldest was probably in her late seventies. She was doing the training because her son and his wife were having a baby and wanted her to be a part of the birth. People came from all sorts of backgrounds--some were in nursing school, some in training as midwives, some wanted to volunteer with teen moms, some were midwives already and just seeking to supplement their education with the emotional support side of birth.

       First we reviewed anatomy and the changes that take place during birth. We passed around matches (the match head is the size of the os before labor), then a cheerio (1 cm), a lifesaver (2 cm), all the way up to a 10 cm can lid to get an idea for the scale of physical changes taking place as the cervix opens. We practiced passing the dolls through the pelvis to learn about different fetal positions, and I got to tell my story of witnessing a breech birth. At some point we watched some birth videos. These were very emotional. I loved watching the dads in the videos actively supporting their partners, rocking with them, gently wiping their face, providing counterpressure, or looking steadily into their eyes to ground them during a contraction. In two of the videos, the mothers were free to move around, and went through a variety of coping techniques, all visibly (now that I knew what to look for) tied to the three Rs of labor: relaxation, rhythm, and ritual. From the birth ball to the shower, they went through all the ideas I'd read about. Oh so that's what it's supposed to look like! Only it's a thousand times more emotional than reading, because you're watching a real woman in labor, a real birth. I loved how freely they vocalized when they needed to. And I was so excited when they gave birth in some of the alternate positions we'd read about. The availability of videos like that is extremely important. Ina May spent a whole chapter talking about how the flat on your back, knees in your ears dead cockroach position is the worst for labor, but then every diagram in her book showed a pelvis from that perspective. Many doctors and midwives know the importance of at least offering other positions but don't because, when things are flipped, they just don't know where to put their hands. I was happy for the opportunity to familiarize myself with what birth from those positions looks like. And then, of course, there's a baby, and the sweet music plays, and the parents look into their newborn's face, and everyone watching the video starts crying.

       We also watched a video of a cesarean birth. Now I know this could be an acquired idea--coming from a person who's seen a number of births--but a vagina just looks like a place a baby should come out of. Now keep in mind, this does not mean a normal, not-pregnant woman's vagina. The idea of a 10-centimeter object coming out of there is, frankly, horrifying. But by the time of birth a woman's body is so full of  so many different hormones that her vagina gradually transforms into a round, neatly rimmed opening about the size of a baby. Round peg, round hole, it just kind of makes sense. My dominant impression watching the cesarean video was not horror or disgust, but just recurring confusion. That's not where the baby comes out of. Why is there a ragged opening in her belly? There are not supposed to be openings in bellies! You are not supposed to be able to reach into people's bellies and touch their organs! And then the doctor pulled out a baby, cut the cord and immediately handed it to mom, and dad came over, and they're both beaming, and the music starts playing, and everyone starts crying again. I'd felt worried that if I became a doula and they had to have a C-section, I would be just as unprepared and scared as the parents. So I was glad to have the opportunity to see it (in a situation without the smells of blood and operating room and where you can flinch and shut your eyes without looking stupid) so that if that ever happens I'll have a better idea of how things work.

       Lunch. I loved the instructional part of class but, hands down, my favorite part were the breaks in between when we just sat together and talked and listened to each other's stories. People came from so many different backgrounds! I wish I had an extra week just to talk with them all.

       After lunch we got into pairs and sat back-to-back, breathing, feeling our partner's breath. It was very calming and built a strong sense of connection and trust in the room. Then the instructor brought out the model pelvis and showed us how it's not a ring of bone, it's bones connected by ligaments, and in labor a woman's body is pumped full of hormones that relax those ligaments and make the pelvis even more flexible, so that different positions can significantly change its shape. The instructor asked for a volunteer to demonstrate an assisted squat and I volunteered, moved to the middle of the circle and took her hands. She kind of paused, watching me. Then, "You have a beautiful squat!" The others watching murmured in agreement. I was not expecting that, and felt the same way as when the guy that took out my wisdom teeth told me I have a beautiful airway. But hey, I'll take compliments where I can get them.

       We got into pairs and practiced different positions, feeling how it changed the dimensions of our pelvis, which took more energy, how they changed our breath. Then we discussed vocalizations. High-pitched sounds usually happen in transition in response to pain, and often cause tension and draw energy away from the body. Low-pitched noises are associated with opening and send energy down. Grunts indicate pushing, light pants that the baby is crowning. I've heard that experienced birth attendants don't do vaginal exams and can tell how progressed the labor is just by the sounds and smells in the room. We went through the positions again, trying out different vocalizations to see how they felt and what they changed in our bodies. I was very focused, experimenting, amazed by the difference each one made, and then suddenly realized that I was squatting in a roomful of strangers and mooing like a cow. It seemed so absurd, and i hadn't even noticed. I'm squatting, mooing like a cow, in a roomful of strangers... I tried to picture what would happen if one of my friends suddenly walked into the room, and thought that my belly was going to tear from trying not to laugh.

        It had gotten dark. A woman offered me a ride home, and as she drove off, I just kind of stood there, stunned, emotionally high and with no idea how to begin processing what I'd just been a part of. I called my dad and talked his ears off for two hours.

Like The Twilight Zone...Sort Of

Posted by Lucille on October 13, 2011 at 1:25 AM Comments comments (0)

Walking down the street yesterday I heard a freshman saying to her friends that she thought college was like an alternate reality. They kind of made a noncommittal answer and changed the subject, but it stuck with me for some reason. I think she was right. Squeeze 35,840 students on a 200-acre campus with 9 Nobel laureates and drugs for every color of the rainbow...sounds like an alternate reality to me.

I'm Trying To Eat Here

Posted by Lucille on October 13, 2011 at 1:15 AM Comments comments (0)

Today at breakfast a housemate of mine was describing in detail his hookup from the night before. Apparently he was quite enamored with her. "No, I'm serious, guys!" he said to the table of giggling women, "I really liked this one!"

       "Aww, look, he's smitten!"

       "I want to like...try to hang out with her or something...I don't know, do you think that'd be weird? I don't want to seem clingy...and what if there were a bunch of awkward silences?"

      So you have sex, then decide if you like them, then try to figure out if you can carry on a conversation? Not the order I usually go about things, but to each their own. It must have been quite an experience though, because he kept returning to the subject and going over every phase of their long night together in lovesick detail. Dude, I'm eating breakfast! I don't really want to know about what kinds of sex you had in what order! The conversation ended when the girl whose boyfriend just got deployed to Afghanistan started crying.

       College is weird.



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Sometimes I have the privilege of being a part of intimate, powerful moments in other people’s lives. I cannot and would not share these stories, because they are not mine to tell. However, they touch my life and become part of my own story. When I share these moments here, you can trust that I have not broken anyone’s confidentiality. The characters are invented. They are not real, but could be. I take creative license to communicate the essence of my experience while respecting the privacy of others.