Wednesday, March 31, 2010

"Pearls" of Wisdom?

I believe the Pearls first came to my attention after reading: 

No Greater Joy Ministries "Biblical" Parenting Couple Beats Child to Death by Danelle Frisbie from Peaceful Parenting.  I was horrified and yet compelled to look into the matter further and see what the Pearls really believe and preach.

Don't they look harmless?

When you drop by their website called No Greater Joy Ministries (founded by Michael and Debi Pearl), you may notice a tab at the top entitled "Child Training".  Upon clicking, one of the resources found is called "12 Parenting Essentials".  They list each of these "essentials" as:  Love, Security, Acceptance, Respect, Communication, Time, Boundaries, Structure, Belonging/Significance, Example, Crisis Management, and The Meaning of Life.  Sounds pretty hunky dory, but lets dig deeper into what this "Ministry" is all about.  Are they really "Christian"?  What are their "methods"?  Could these methods really be abusive and even deadly?

A parent submitted a question to them:  "How do I deal with an angry child? When he doesn't get his way, when I fix a breakfast he's not fond of, he acts angry and blames me.  He often tells me that spankings only makes him angrier. What am I missing?"

Michael Pearl himself answers.  After first deeply insulting the mother for several paragraphs, and admitting to intentionally wanting to make her angry, he goes on to say "If you think it is appropriate and you spank him make sure that it is not a token spanking. Light, swatting spankings, done in anger without courtroom dignity will make children mad because they sense that they have been bullied by an antagonists. A proper spanking leaves children without breath to complain."

I seriously shudder at the thought of what it must take to spank a child until they are "without breath to complain".  I have seen my children get accidently hurt to the point of breathlessness.  If you're a parent, you've probably seen that gut-wrenching cry where they are literally making no more sound and/or are gasping for air.  I've seen my daughter split her lip wide open, I've seen her fall into a sharp corner... the breathless cries are enough to make me nearly vomit with grief and sympathy.  I try to imagine just how much "spanking" it would take to inflict that level of pain and response from my child... Does it make you sick to think about too?

"If he should tell you that the spanking makes him madder, spank him again. If he is still mad…. He desperately needs an unswayable authority, a cold rock of justice. Keep in mind that if you are angry you are wasting your time trying to spank his anger away."

But wait, if you're NOT angry, it's okay to try and "spank his anger away"?  I definitely don't think parents should be spanking out of anger, but the concept of "spanking anger away" doesn't make sense to me under ANY circumstances. 

Next he says "I could break his anger in two days. He would be too scared to get angry. On the third day he would draw into a quiet shell and obey."

Okay, hello!  Is this not sending up any abusive red flags for anyone?  What if we were talking about a man "breaking" his wife until she was scared and submissive?  It would be abusive, no question, but children deserve LESS respect and safety than grown adults?

"On the fourth day I would treat him with respect and he would respond in kind. On the fifth day the fear would go away and he would relax because he would have judged that as long as he responds correctly there is nothing to fear."

Really, where was that respect on day one, and would the child really respond with true respect, or simple fear-motivated compliance?  I, personally, want my children to truly respect me because they know I love them and want the best for them, not because I've scared the crap out of them.  "As long as he responds correctly there is nothing to fear".  But at what point was the child shown what is "correct"?  A beating only addresses the "wrong" behavior, and doesn't show a child what the "correct" behavior is.  So they have to figure it out for themselves, and if they don't then they had better be scared?  

He goes on, and at the end the disclaimer reads "Views expressed here are not necessarily the views of No Greater Joy Ministries, and are in no way endorsed by us."  Seriously?!  The "article" was written by the founder himself, and if they don't endorse what was said, then why is it on their page in the first place?  Trying to cover their arses and doing a poor job of it!

An older couple writes to them:  "We recently visited a family who follow your teachings to the “T”. The children are very well behaved. But I wondered if you’ve ever had anyone overdo it?  The children didn’t have the spark of life as much as we remember our children having. We pass out your books and have been around other families with wonderful kids that are more relaxed and happy. We were troubled. Should we be?  We also noted that the mother was swatting their very young children for not meeting possibly unfair expectations. One as young as 13 weeks old was being swatted to stop crying. The mother was trying to teach her one year old to put toys away, but the kid just didn’t understand and it was an intense confrontation. We tried to let them see a balance but what they understood you meant and what we understood you meant were 2 very different things."

Can you imagine swatting a 13 week old, or getting in an "intense confrontation" with a one year old?!  

Let's see how they respond to the questions:  "Training should not be tense, upsetting, hurtful, or pushed. It should be a simple exercise in showing the child what you want him to do."

That doesn't sound scary, but it completely contradicts the other "advice" they have given in the previous story.  Spanking a child until they are breathless is tense, upsetting, hurtful, and pushed.  They contradict themselves!  What is a parent to do?  

They go on:  "A tiny stimulus to direct the child when they are small is enough. For example, if a 3 month-old nursing baby bites, don’t spank. She does not know she did bad. Just gently pull a hair on her head. She will startle back in momentary discomfort and immediately start nursing again"

Pull a hair on her head?  A three month old?  WHY?!  There are ways to help a baby stop biting that don't resort to childish hair pulling.  This is absurd.  And if you do it "gently", it wouldn't "startle" them.   

Next, I come across an article called "Baby Potty Training", which is basically about elimination communication, only twisted into being about control rather than communication.  Some parents may come across this and believe that No Greater Joy Ministries is in favor of Attachment Parenting, and I'm glad that they speak about breastfeeding, and other things.  There are indeed some "Pearls" of wisdom that can be found on their site if you ignore the fact that they do it all for manipulation rather than out of love, but if a parent is vulnerable they could get sucked into the full scheme and find themselves using abusive techniques that completely contradict Attachment Parenting, and the Bible for that matter!

In one article, they advise that a 13 week old should not be spanked, but should have a hair pulled.  So at what age should a child be spanked and otherwise "trained", according to them?

"You must start training your children one year before their first birthday, because if you don’t, they will be trained without your input"  

Okay, so from day one, we "train" them.  Now what do they consider to be "training"?

"A child left to himself in a crib or a room is being trained."  

Trained to do, or not do, what exactly?  They don't follow it up with recommending any sort of guidance, or talking with the child about WHY they are in their room.

"The first time an infant pulls your hair, if you pull his, he will never be a hair-puller."

These folks really like hair pulling.  

"If a child cries out in loneliness and is rewarded by being picked up, you have trained him to repeat the crying any time he wants to control the adults in his life."

This really boils my blood.  If a child is LONELY to the point of crying about it, a parent should NOT pick them up?!  What kind of message does that send?  "I don't give a crap about your feelings", yeah, great lesson there.

Another mother writes in with a bunch of questions, and one of their responses about discipline was:  "We never used the rod to punish a child younger than 12 months. You should read No Greater Joy Volume One and Volume Two. We discussed this subject several times in those two books. For young children, especially during the first year, the rod is used very lightly as a training tool."

More contradictions, first they say "the rod" is NEVER used on a child under 12 months, but in the same paragraph state it is "used very lightly".  That sounds like more than "never" to me.

"You use something small and light to get the child’s attention and to reinforce your command. One or two light licks on the bare legs or arms will cause a child to stop in his tracks and regard your commands. A 12-inch piece of weed eater chord works well as a beginner rod. It will fit in your purse or pocket."

I wonder what Child Services would say about hitting an infant on bare skin with weed eater cord.  

"Later, a plumber's supply line is a good spanking tool. You can get it at Wal-Mart or any hardware store. Ask for a plastic, ¼ inch, supply line. They come in different lengths and several colors; so you can have a designer rod to your own taste."

Excuse me while I go vomit!  They are so into this "rod" business that they go into great detail about what to use.   A "designer rod"?  Sickening.  Yeah, I'm going to head to the hardware store and pick up a pink one so I'll be en vogue while I beat my kids!

"When your 6-month-old baby grabs sister’s hair, while he still has a hand full of hair, swat his hand or arm and say “No, that hurts sister.”"

6 months old?!  Again, so much for "never" using the rod on a child under 12 months.

"Tell the baby “No” and give him a swat. If your response is new, he may be offended and scream louder. But continue your normal activities as if you are unaffected. Wait one minute, and then tell the baby to stop crying. If he doesn’t, again swat him on his bare legs. You don’t need to undress him, turn him over, or make a big deal out of it. Just swat him where any skin is exposed. Continue to act as if you don’t notice the fit. Wait two minutes and repeat. Continue until the baby realizes that this is getting worse not better. Most babies will keep it going for 3 or 4 times and then slide to a sitting position and sob it out."

I'm sure this garbage speaks for itself.

Oy, what a question?  Which is worse, spanking a 7 month old, or ignoring them while they wail?  Do they not realize there are other options?!  I've never spanked my children to sleep, nor had to let them cry alone until they give in.  Yet they do sleep, I must be magic!

"A 7-month-old is too young to be spanked as such—too young to be punished. They do not have any understanding of good and evil"

So in one article, spanking a 6 month old is acceptable, but in this one, 7 months is too young? How can anyone keep this crap straight?!

"If the child has been mistrained, or if you have failed to provide a good prelude to sleep, and the child rises up to fight and resist, you should evaluate your whole procedure so as to improve your pre-sleep ritual for tomorrow night. But for the moment, you must constrain the child to obey authority and remain lying down. As a last resort, you may have to prove the power of your word by enforcing it with one or two stinging licks (applied with a small flexible switch) to the child’s leg"

*headdesk*  So once again, it IS okay to spank them?

At this point, I've started becoming so emotionally overwhelmed that it is hard to continue.  I've taken an entire day off since writing what you've just read, and as I attempt to go on and read more on their site I find myself literally sick to my stomach.  I would LOVE to believe that these er... people... (if you can call them that) have no influence over others and that no one would take them seriously.  Unfortunately, one can see that their Facebook has over 5,000 "fans" and they claim to have reached millions of people over the years of their "ministry".

It seems that they even use "the rod" method on their childrens' friends: "Amy, just turned two, has visited us on several occasions"  He goes on to detail how this little one kept trying to go outside, and he repeatedly told her no.  When she persisted:  "As she opened the outside door, I took off my belt and surprised my little butterfly with one swat across the calves. She shut the door and looked at me with shock and anger.  Her scream was not just of pain, but of defiance."

My own little one has just turned two... care to guess what myself or my husband would do if ANYONE struck her in such a way?  I wonder if this little girl's parents were aware of this situation and if they were upset by it, or were so brainwashed by the Pearls that they condoned it.

"The defiant scream testified that she was still in a resistant state of mind. She was protesting interference with her self-will. She must be caused to recognize the supremacy of government. Her soul depends on it. So I commanded, “Amy, stop crying.” She screamed louder, so I gave her another forceful lick on the legs. She again screamed her defiance... Again I gave her one lick on the legs and commanded, “Stop crying, now.

Michael Pearl goes on to talk about how the child was later all rainbows and unicorns, threw herself into his arms happily, etc.  Really?  Even if this is true, the ends don't justify the means.  My ex step-father used to kick and beat our Rottweilers. Did they obey him?  Yes.  Did they still play with him and act happy sometimes?  Yes.  Does that justify the abuse and prove they were "okay"?  Hell no.

These are my findings from just the first few sections of their "Child Training".  I trust that by now you've heard more than enough, or could go on to learn more on your own if you have the stomach for it. 

I have not personally read the books by the Pearls, and after reading just a few of their "articles", I don't think I could handle more.  Here are a few things I am told are in their book "To Train Up A Child", which based on what we've seen of the Pearls so far, seem right in line with their usual crap:

1) The Pearls recommend whipping infants only a few months old on their bare skin. They describe whipping their own 4 month old daughter (p.9). They recommend whipping the bare skin of "every child" (p.2) for "Christians and non-Christians" (p.5) and for "every transgression" (p.1). Parents who don't whip their babies into complete submission are portrayed as indifferent, lazy, careless and neglectful (p.19) and are "creating a Nazi" (p.45).

2) On p.60 they recommend whipping babies who cannot sleep and are crying, and to never allow them "to get up." On p.61 they recommend whipping a 12 month old girl for crying. On p.79 they recommend whipping a 7 month old for screaming.

3) On p.65 co-author Debi Pearl whips the bare leg of a 15 month old she is babysitting, 10 separate times, for not playing with something she tells him to play with. On p.56 Debi Pearl hits a 2 year old so hard "a karate chop like wheeze came from somewhere deep inside."

4) On p.44 they say not to let the child's crying while being hit to "cause you to lighten up on the intensity or duration of the spanking." On p.59 they recommend whipping a 3 year old until he is "totally broken."

5) On p.55 the Pearls say a mother should hit her child if he cries for her.

6) On p.46 the Pearls say that if a child does obey before being whipped, whip them anyway. And "if you have to sit on him to spank him, then do not hesitate. And hold him there until he is surrendered. Prove that you are bigger, tougher." "Defeat him totally." On p.80 they recommend giving a child having a tantrum "a swift *forceful* spanking." On the same page they say to whip small children on their bare skin until they stop screaming. "Don't be bullied. Give him more of the same." They say to continue whipping until their crying turns into a "wounded, submissive whimper."

7) On p.47 they recommend their various whips, including "a belt or larger tree branch" to hit children.

8) The Pearls recommend pulling a nursing infant's hair (p.7), and describe tripping their non-swimming toddler so she falls into deep water (p.67). They recommend ignoring an infant's bumped head when he falls to the floor, and ignoring skinned knees (p.86). They also say "if your child is roughed-up by peers, rejoice." (p.81) And on p.103 the Pearls say if children lose their shoes, "let them go without until they (the children) can make the money to buy more."

9) The Pearls claim their "training" methods are Godly, yet they have *no religious training or credentials* They never mention Jesus' injunctions to forgive "seventy times seven" and be merciful, and they decry the "extraordinary ingnorance of modern psychology." (these can also be found on the facebook group against the Pearls, HERE)

As far as whether the Pearls' methods are truly Biblical, I found this article called "Christian Child Discipline: Is Spanking Biblical? (No!)by Parenting Freedom to be very helpful and they cover far more than I ever could.  They take a look at what the words used mean in their original languages, and take into account the context of the verses.  This article can be found (HERE

Dr. Sears also tackles the subject of spanking, and you can see his thoughts about whether it is Biblical under #6 (HERE)

The autopsy results have come back on Lydia Schatz, the little girl that was beaten to death by her parents:  

"According to Butte County District Attorney Mike Ramsey, the autopsy report says Lydia Schatz died of complications of Rhabdomyolysis. This is a rapid breakdown of skeletal muscle due to injury to muscle tissue. It can be caused by physical, chemical, or biological factors. In Lydia's case, Ramsey said, it was physical - described in the report as blunt force trauma.

The destruction of the muscle leads to the release of damaged muscle cells into the bloodstream and some of these cells - like proteins can harm the kidneys and sometimes lead to acute kidney failure, Ramsey explained. He said this is significant because 11-year-old Zariah Schatz was hospitalized with kidney failure after Lydia died. She too, was allegedly beaten by her parents.

This is the most pressing breakdown because it can lead to other organ failures. It causes an increase in potassium which is associated with cardiac arrhythmia, Ramsey said. This is a change in the rhythm of the heart, leading to cardiac arrest." (source)

As a Christian, I am frankly insulted beyond belief that these people call themselves the same.  

At this point, all I can do speak, and also pray that people will see the Pearls and their "ministry" for what it really is.  

For some non-violent parenting articles see "The Natural Child Project" site (HERE) and Dr. Sears discipline section (HERE)

Bless you, and may your children experience TRUE Love, Security, Acceptance, Respect, Communication, Time, Boundaries, Structure, Belonging/Significance, Example, Crisis Management, and The Meaning of Life

This is actually Michael Pearl, taken from their Facebook.  He is apparently a knife thrower, but I imagine this is something like what his children have seen right before being "trained"  :-/

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Breastfeeding Mothers, Sexual Deviants

I was recently part of a "discussion" in a horrific group that claims to be all about "Peaceful Parenting" (after copying the name from a TRULY wonderful page).  The subject of breastfeeding came up, and quickly dissolved into some really sick ideas...

(this photo is not from the discussion, but hilariously appropriate for the topic...)

M: "I know someone who is still nursiing a six year old child. That creeps me out, I gotta say it. I nursed G__ til she was two and I really felt that was pushing it, but when the child can say that is mommy's breast enough is enough." 

K: "... it is creepy after a certain age. Actually seeings we're talking about sexual predators. When a woman nurses her child her uterus contracts. Once that Uterus is done shrinking her genitals still pulsate which I'm sorry is creepy. She is being stimulated which is wrong. This child would be school aged"

First of all, correct me if I'm wrong, but I do not believe the genitals pulsate while breastfeeding, and yes the uterus does but I, for one, stopped feeling it a couple days after birth (and it was PAINFUL anyway!).  And anyway... how does that make breastfeeding "creepy"?  If these physical reactions in the mother brought her sexual gratification, then that would happen despite the age of the child, and not just because they turn a certain age.  Therefore ALL breastfeeding is "creepy"?

Several people jumped in trying to correct their odd views, but they went on:

M: "So your saying your partner never stimulates your breasts when you make love? Are you from Utah? K__ I agree with you completely. uterine contractions are a big part of an orgasm. There are lots of ways to comfort a child. Sexual gratification should be your partners responsibility not your childs."

These people are TWISTED to even be capable of this sort of thinking!  Yes, my partner does sometimes touch my breasts and nipples in a sexual way.  What does that have to do with breastfeeding?  I also happen to use my mouth and hands in sexual ways... does that make me a "sexual predator" if I use those same lips and hands to kiss and hold my children in a normal motherly way?  I even... *GASP*... use my vagina for sexual purposes!  Should I have scheduled c-sections?  Heaven forbid my babies come in contact with something that is my "partner's responsibility". If breastfeeding is sexual just because it involves what they believe to be sexual body parts, then by their logic, eating is sexual because it involves my mouth, a sometimes sexual part of my body.  But no... I happen to have the mental capacity to separate a normal every day act from a sexual one.  I can kiss my husband and get turned on.  I can kiss my children and NOT get turned on.  Wow, I'm magic!  My husband can touch my breasts and turn me on.  My children can touch my breasts and NOT turn me on.  AMAZING.  How is this a hard concept to grasp?  Breastfeeding is FAR from sexual, and the fact that these people can connect a normal mothering function to sex and perversion scares the crap out of me and suggests the very pedophilic mind-set they are accusing myself and others of. There were more horrified responses to these women and their strange ideas, but they did not relent of course. 

 M: "All I am saying is that I have taught my child to feel secure without needing oral gratification to relieve stress, fear or a cut on the knee."

Wow... so now mothers that nurse their children are bad parents because we're not teaching them to feel secure in other ways?  This group keeps preaching about "respect for all", yet is so obviously lacking it for mothers who breastfeed past a certain arbitrary age line.

Breasts are only sexual to people who are conditioned to believe they are.  Babies/children wouldn't find breastfeeding any more sexual than eating an apple or getting a hug.  There are cultures that go topless or even completely naked, and they aren't perpetually aroused because of it.

I like how this article addresses the issue:

Certainly people in the US, UK, Australia, and other countries think of breasts as being a sexual organ.  However, the obvious biological function of breast is to make milk for the baby.  Human reproduction can certainly be carried on without ever touching the breasts, so breasts are NOT inherently a sexual organ.

But are they somehow both a feeding machine and secondarily a sexual organ, as many think?  Consider the fact that about 100 years ago woman's ankles were very sexual in men's minds.  And tiny feet were a fetish for Chinese men in times past.  All kinds of parts of female body have been inspiring to men during history and in various cultures, so we ask you to consider that breasts simply have been turned into a similar fetish in US society and others influenced by it.

Breasts are a part of the "whole package of a woman", and men can easily respond sexually to seeing a woman — but the difference is that breasts in themselves are not any special "arousal" machines or obsession points UNLESS the influences from around you have wired your brain to think so. In other words, if a man grows up without this "breasts = sex" influence from media, TV, magazines, and peers, then to him, female breasts will not be any more special than a woman's face, feminine hair, wide hips, narrow waist, or other such feminine characteristics.

Also, please read our article Are breasts and nipples sexual organs?. Nipples are a sensitive body part (though the sensitivity depends on hormones), and rubbing or stimulating them releases oxytocin, but it is for this purpose: nipple stimulation (as by baby's suckling) causes the brain to release hormone oxytocin, which then "opens up" the doors of the milk-making cells so the milk will flow in the lactating breast. That is all scientifically well documented.
Many women have "learned" that touching nipples is supposed to excite them sexually - so then it does, but it is the brain that is responsible for their sexual feelings. Our mind is very powerful; after all, some people get sexually aroused by thinking about certain fruits. But this connection "nipple rubbing = sexual arousal" in the mind does not make nipples by nature an erogenous body part.

"Well, we do have a peculiar obsession with breasts in this culture. A lot of people think it's just the human nature to be fascinated with breasts but in many cultures, breasts aren't sexual at all. I interviewed a young anthropologist working with women in Mali, in a country in Africa where women go around with bare breasts. They're always feeding their babies. And when she told them that in our culture men are fascinated with breasts there was an instant of shock. The women burst out laughing. They laughed so hard, they fell on the floor. They said, "You mean, men act like babies?

If you think breastfeeding is perverted, YOU'RE the pervert, The End.

(YES, I know the image at the beginning is from a SPOOF SITE, for crying out loud.  It just happens to be hilarious and relevant to this topic of freaks who believe this crap)

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Elizabeth's Home Birth Story: How Having My Midwife Probably Saved My Son's Life

By Elizabeth Hoskins

For my entire life I have wanted nothing so badly as to be a mother, but for some reason I have always viewed myself as being "unlucky." Not unlucky as in “oh my life sucks,” but more like a “Nothing incredibly exciting ever happens to me, I will NEVER win the lottery,” sort of way. Why? I really couldn't tell you, it is just a feeling I have always had. Because of this feeling of unluckiness for my whole life I thought I couldn't and wouldn't ever be able to get pregnant. Since I wanted nothing more than to have a child and since I was also "unlucky" such a miraculous and wonderful thing of course could never happen to me! Completely irrational I know, but it is how I felt nonetheless.

As soon as I moved in with my husband, before we were married, it took us all of about two months before I was pregnant. For two months I didn't have a period and had all the early symptoms of pregnancy. Sore boobs, a little bit of cramping on and off, fatigue, and all that fun stuff. We took a total of about 5 pregnancy tests and they kept coming out negative, so of course I kept telling my husband that I was not pregnant but merely about to start my period. On the fifth test he stood in the bathroom while I peed on the stick and instructed me that I needed to "point the test down while you pee!!" My husband took the test and  watched it as I cleaned up, and then with the biggest smile told me I was pregnant!

I decided that a home birth was the way to go and my husband supported me 100%. We found our wonderful midwife Paula, an absolutely amazing woman. She is so caring and gentle and loves her job so much. She has also attended over 2000 home births in the last 30+ years, so I felt completely safe in her care. At the first appointment we found out I was 10 weeks along and got to hear our baby's heartbeat for the first time. It took everything I had not to start bawling when I heard that precious beat of life.

(ultrasound picture at 16weeks)

Fast forward a bit since I had a pretty uneventful pregnancy other than some mild nausea (puked about 15 times total), hip pain, and itchy legs. My due date was December 26th, 2009.  My mother drove down to Arizona from Oregon on Christmas for the birth, and was supposed to leave around January 5th or 6th. For nearly two weeks after my due date we waited, and waited, and waited. Every day my mother would say to me, "Aren't you going to have that baby already? I have to leave soon, I'm never going to get to see my grandson!" and things similar in nature. I also had people from my husband's side calling and texting daily asking if I had had the baby yet and asking why I was still pregnant. My mother in law was wanting daily updates, even though there were no new updates, and texted us at 4:30am one day saying she was worried cause she hadn't heard from us (even though she knew my mom, mom’s fiance, and my sister were staying with us) and that if we didn't call her she was going to send someone over to check on us. WHAT?!?! We found out the next day she had meant for us to find the text in the morning when we woke up, not at 4:30am. So due to all the pressure from family and the deadline for my mom's departure quickly approaching I felt like I needed to do whatever I could naturally to make the baby come.

After talking to my midwife about natural induction I went into her office after hours on January 3, 2010 so
she could strip my membranes. It was incredibly painful, but I didn’t expect anything less. She then talked to
me and my husband and gave us a paper of instructions about inducing labor naturally, and said that it doesn't always work but that there was a good chance it 'would. At 3am January 4th My husband made me a castor oil shake with 2oz castor oil and vanilla chocolate chip ice cream.  For the record, vanilla chocolate chip is by no means a strong enough flavor to even come close to disguising castor oil! Within an hour the dreadful stuff started working.  Needless to say, I only got about four hours of sleep on and off. At 8am my husband made me another shake with 2oz more of castor oil. For the rest of the day every hour on the hour I drank 1 dropper of both blue and black cohosh in grape juice, followed by a hot shower, followed by nipple stimulation by my partner, rinse and repeat. All the while having diarrhea about every 10-20 minutes, and attempting to go for walks whenever it wasn't too bad. I was exhausted, a part of me was hoping this wouldn’t work because I was afraid of having a long labor and I was already worn out. At the same time though, I did NOT want to go through all of this and have it not result in a baby. By the evening I was having somewhat regular contractions, so Paula came to my house to check me. Nothing!  NO change! All that work, all that diarrhea for nothing! All it got me was false labor, exhaustion, and 14 hours of the runs!!  She told me to stop doing everything, take a warm bath,  and relax for the rest of the night.

The next day I went to my midwife appointment which had been scheduled the week before.  I was 10 days past my due date. Being unlucky and all , I was doomed to be forever pregnant!  Of course the baby was never going to come, what had I been thinking! I asked Paula what would happen if I went 2 weeks past my due date. She said that I needed to get the baby out in about 5 days or else I would have to fire her and go to the hospital. Something about Arizona laws and midwives not being able to care for a patient who goes 2 weeks over the due date. She also said if I hadn’t had the baby by Friday (it was Tuesday) we would try castor oil again over the weekend and that she was nearly positive it would work this time around! I went home  feeling worried and a bit depressed. I so so so did not want to birth in the hospital, but it was looking more and more like that was where I was headed. “I’m so unlucky I can’t even go into labor and have a baby correctly“, were my thoughts that night! My husband told me that he felt like that was going to be the last night I was pregnant.  I prayed so hard, the hardest I ever have that this would be true.

I woke at 9 am on January 6th when my husband got up for work, and I felt weird. I cannot explain it. There were no contractions. I didn't feel anything different physically.  Just.weirdness. I had this strange feeling that I would be spotting when I went to the bathroom and sure enough I was. I had also passed the mucous plug during the whole castor oil fiasco. Since I wasn't having any contractions I decided to go back to sleep, but told my husband to be prepared to come home early from work. I woke up again a little before 11:30am and went downstairs to make some chocolate milk.

As I was drinking my chocolate milk and talking to my sister in the kitchen it came on all of a sudden. Strong painful contractions, nothing like the Braxton hicks I had been experiencing for the last 2 months. My sister and I went for a walk while my mom was out doing laundry since we didn‘t have a washer and dryer at the time. After the walk I decided to time the contractions and attempt to play mahjong on the laptop. In the birthing classes my husband and I took they talked about having a “labor project” at the beginning of labor to take you mind off of it while you can. I figured mahjong would be mine, but I couldn’t even get through one level because of the pain! Contractions were about between 4 and 6 minutes apart and I was only able to time them for about 40 minutes before it was too hard to concentrate. I called Paula's office and talked to her assistant Deborah since they were having appointments that day. I explained the situation and she told me they really couldn't leave the office to come check me and that I would have to come to them. I went to the bathroom and there was more blood than just a little spotting. Was this normal, should I be bleeding this much? Was I dying? I started to panic a little and called my mom and told her to come pick me up NOW and take me to Paula's office.

We got to the office at 2:30, 3 hours after the contractions began. Paula checked me during one of the contractions and told me, "It looks like we are gonna be canceling the rest of our appointments and heading over to your place to have a baby! You are a generous 7."  After only 3 hours of labor I was already at 7 almost 8 centimeters dilated!! My little sister called my husband and told him the news and to get home ASAP! When we got home my husband was already there and heating huge stew pots of water and toping off the birthing pool with a little more air, using his mouth no less since we didn’t have a pump for it! Paula and Deborah arrived at our house within half an hour and started helping my husband get everything ready for the pool. I was calm, lost within myself as I breathed through the contractions. My mom helped rub my back and held the bowl as I puked a few times (3 total and my husband also held the bowl at least one of these times) during some particularly painful contractions. Let me tell you, grape juice with chunks of salad floating about is really quite nasty, and as I was throwing up my mom told me to just shut my eyes and not look at it!  I remember after a particularly painful contraction looking at my mom and informing her that this wasn't so bad, I could handle a lot more! Much better than I had thought it would be! As soon as my mom, who is an E.R. nurse, found out about the home birth plan she started telling me horror stories about her natural birth with me and how unbearably painful it was, and that I didn’t know what I was getting myself into not having an epidural. She says having me was so painful, to the point of her passing out between contractions. She was 16 when she had me.
Finally, finally the pool was ready! I got in and it felt so warm and nice. So relaxing, almost sleepy. After about 30 or so minutes of laboring in the warm confines of the pool with my husband helping me through contractions, I tell Paula I feel like I need to go to the bathroom. I am helped out and she tells me not to worry, she will wait there by the bathroom and make sure everything is ok while I push through a few contractions and try to poop. It wasn’t happening. I tell her I feel like I have to but I just can't! She asks if she may check me. "You are a 9 and the baby's head is just right here, that is what you are feeling," she tells me. I get back in the warm peaceful bliss and continue to labor as my husband comforts me and breathes with me.

 Not long after returning to the pool I start having a strong urge to push. I tell Paula and she says that that is wonderful and to just listen to my body, and I do! The pain of contractions was completely gone! Instead of pain during the contractions there was merely an urge to push! It was such a nice break! I pushed! I pushed as slow as I wanted. As hard as I wanted. Whenever I wanted. I listened to my body, and did what it commanded me to do.  My water ended up breaking naturally in the middle of the pushing phase, and was a bit meconium stained. There was no chanting of "push push push." Just total silence as my husband, mom, Paula, and Deborah watched the miracle of a woman listening to her body and giving birth in peace as nature intended. It was WONDERFUL! 

Once it was starting to get close to the baby's arrival Paula stood behind me and gently massaged my perineum while Deborah started listening to the baby's heart rate with a small handheld, waterproof, fetal heart rate monitor. I was on my knees in the pool with my upper body resting on the edge of the pool and one hand bracing myself on the bottom of the pool. With every push Paula would tell me that I was doing a beautiful job, and how amazing I was doing.  All the while Paula kept asking Deborah what the baby's heart rate was.

"wonderful, right where it should be"
All the while massaging.
"Alright Elizabeth, stop pushing and take a few deep breaths for your baby so he can get enough 
"back up to 125"
With the next contraction and pushing
"keep monitoring and lets see if it goes back up after the contraction"
"I'm having trouble finding the baby's heartbeat"
"Just keep looking, everything is ok"

At this point I knew something was very wrong as did everyone in the room. After his heart rate kept dropping to around 70 during the pushing and then when they couldn’t find it again this  overwhelming thought raced through my mind that my baby was dead. He died. I was so close, minutes away from seeing him and he died! I had waited so long, my whole life, and I was going to deliver a dead baby! The whole pregnancy, the whole labor, months and months of dreaming about what my son would look like, dreaming of holding him in my arms for the first time,  it was all just a cruel trick. For those 60 seconds or however long it took to find his heart beat (seemed like a freaking eternity) I died inside. I completely gave up. I didn’t want to go on. Just cut him out of me, what was the point now?

Thank you, thank you!!
"Lets put her on some oxygen, the baby isn't getting enough, and it should help."
Someone put the oxygen mask on me, I am not sure who. 

All I know is I was holding my husbands hand and pushing, but backing off every time I felt the burn. I was scared. I could feel that I was going to tear. (which I did, a small tear on the inside of each labia minor, but not bad enough to need stitches.)  I didn't want his head to come out! BUT, I wanted to see my baby so badly, so I kept going. With the next couple contractions:


Suddenly Paula tells me that it is time to get the baby out, he has to come out now! For two contractions she tells me, "Push Elizabeth, give it everything you have. Keep going, keep going! You can do it!!!" She also tells my husband to come back there and help catch his son. I was later informed by my husband that I was holding on to his thumb so hard he had to jerk it away from me when Paula told him to come help catch. I don’t even remember holding his thumb or anything!

I wanted to jump out of the pool, jump away from the pain as my son's head came out. With the next contraction the rest of my son slid out into my husband's hands. The room went completely deathly silent as everyone but me looked at my son. I could not see him since he was behind me. Paula told me in the calmest, almost cheerful voice so as not to scare me, "Everything is okay Elizabeth, the cord is just wrapped around his neck a little bit. Let me just unwrap that and you can turn around and I'll hand your baby to you." They help me turn around and I am handed my baby. 

He was completely blue and purple, but the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. He was so soft. The softest thing I have ever felt. I had never imagined how soft he would be fresh from the womb, and I was amazed! It took him a minute, but he finally started to cry. Once he started breathing and crying it didn’t take him long to pink up. He was fine, we did it! Paula talked to him soothingly as my husband and I stared at him in disbelief. This tiny, beautiful, perfect being came out of ME! I held my baby for about 10 or 15 minutes in the water with my husband right beside me outside the pool, umbilical cord still connected. Then my husband cut the cord. Paula gently took my son, wrapped him up, and gave him to my husband to hold for the first time while she helped me deliver the placenta.

I completely believe that if my midwife had not been there at my son’s birth with all of her knowledge and experience that my son would have died or had some ill lasting effects. We would not have know his heart rate was dropping to 70 while I was pushing with every contraction. I would not have been put on oxygen. I would not have pushed him out as soon as I had. I NEEDED the demand and encouragement my midwife gave me to get my son out. I was afraid. I did not want to do it. When my son was born the cord was wrapped around his neck FOUR times! In all her years of experience and many, many births (over 2000), Paula had never seen a cord around the neck more than three times. He had a 48 inch long cord and every time I would push during a contraction it would strangle him. My midwife knew what was going on, and knew the cord was around his neck when his heart rate started dropping. He was very distressed and ended up passing meconium while he was being born. My midwife told me later that he probably lost about 4 ounces in meconium during the birth. 

Tyler Philip Hoskins was born at 5:20pm on Wednesday January 6th, 2010 after only 6 hours of labor including 30 minutes of pushing. 11 days after my due date. He was 7lbs 6oz and 20 3/4 in  long. A 48in cord wrapped around his neck four times and a heart shaped placenta! 

(Tyler at 2 months old)

I am lucky. I have the most precious, beautiful gift in the entire world. I am a mother. 
For once in my life I no longer feel unlucky!

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