Narcissism-Scenes From the Front Line — New Job

20131108-090107.jpgThis is an excerpt from my first book, “I Woke Up in Paradise“.

was receiving cheques from the government. They had started to come again after my work at the emergency clinic, but they were about to run out. I had been applying to jobs and despite Bob’s insistence that I work; he was actively interfering with this process.

One company called to set up an interview. The job would have been in sales. Bob told the person that called that I was pregnant but that it would work out really well because I could take the baby with me to the sales calls. He explained to me afterwards that he had told the guy this. I was never interviewed for this position.

One job that I did get interviewed for was with the federal government. Not an ideal job but government jobs have a lot of benefits and security. On Thanksgiving weekend that year I got a call saying that I could start on the Tuesday. There were twelve weeks of training set up and if I could start right away, I could attend the training. If I could not start away I would not be able to start until they ran the training course again and that might be a year or so.

It was 12 weeks until the baby was due, so if all went well, I could work the twelve weeks and then the baby would be born. A woman that I had met through the playgroup said that she would take my youngest daughter for the twelve weeks. I explained that I would only need day care until the baby came. My daughter and her son were the same age and had gotten to know each other pretty well.

So, I took the job. When animals are being used for food, they are brought to slaughter plants. These places are more or less disassembly plants. The animal comes in one door and it is processed until all of the edible parts have been removed and all of the inedible parts have been disposed of.

Unfortunately, one of the known drawbacks to working in slaughter is that you become exposed to all of the bacteria that naturally occur on the animals. All of the caution about cooking your food before you eat it does not apply when you are not actually eating the animals. There is no way to protect yourself from exposure to these bacteria. They are in the air. You can inhale them on a water droplet.

All this to say that near the end of my pregnancy, I got a type of food poisoning from my initial exposure to these bacteria. When the smooth muscles of your digestive tract contract to aid in the removal of these pathogens from your body, it stimulates the contractions of your uterus. Some of the things that pregnant women are told to help bring on birth are based on this understanding. Eating spicy foods, for instance, can cause your digestive tract to become upset and have extra movement. This movement stimulates the uterus as well.

I can’t describe how awful it was not knowing which end to put closest to the toilet and having a contraction, each time my body tried to expel the toxins. I managed to call Bob at work and told him about the situation. He assured me that there was nothing that he could do about it and he was quite upset that I would not be able to pick my daughter up from day care. I guess I was not doing my part. There was no question that I was completely alone in the world.

Narcissism-Scenes From the Front Line — The Drive

Narcissism-Scenes From the Front Line — The Fax

Narcissism-Scenes From the Front Line — The Interview

Narcissism-Scenes From the Front Line — The Call

Narcissism-Scenes From the Front Line — The Cavity

Narcissism–Scenes From the Front Line — The Funeral

Narcissism-Scenes From the Front Line — The Pants

Narcissism-Scenes From the Front Line — The Trailer

Narcissism-Scenes From the Front Line — Biking

Narcissism-Scenes From the Front Line — The Doctor

Read the entire book, now available
Read the entire book, now available
The Narcissist Survival Guide now available

www.wendypowell.ca

Medical Literature — Chapter 3

IMG_1683Access to the medical research journals at the university was a blessing that I will be forever thankful for. As any new parents can attest to, once you become pregnant your focus shifts to things pregnancy and baby related.

My first concern was with weight gain. I was gaining weight way faster than any of the baby books thought reasonable. I went into the library to research aspartame. It seemed reasonable to see if there were any problems with it. I felt that if I was gaining weight too fast one way to deal with this was to replace real sugar with no calorie sugar. I looked up the two peptides or the ‘dipeptide’ that is used to make aspartame and found a study.

It is well known that some people have sensitivity to one of the components of aspartame. Blood taken from babies when they are born is routinely checked for this sensitivity so that the diet can be adjusted accordingly. So, I found a study that was designed to take a group of “normal” subjects and expose them to aspartame in order to establish a control group. Then subjects that were known to be sensitive would be exposed to the same amount of aspartame and compared to the control group.

In any scientific experiment it is necessary to develop a control group. The control group essentially balances all of the things that the experimenters cannot account for. Biological systems are so complex that it is difficult to draw any conclusions unless you have a group that has been exposed to exactly the same “experiment” without whatever it is you are testing.

So the idea of this experiment was to bring in the control group and have them do basic comprehension and math tests. Then, after exposure to the aspartame, they were to repeat the tests. The test group, the ones that were sensitive to a component of aspartame, would go through the same process and the results from the two separate experiments could be compared to see if there were any differences in how the test subjects responded.

In this particular scientific paper the authors explained that when the “control” group came back in to do the comprehension and math tests for a second time the study was discontinued on ethical grounds. Simply put, their ability to do the tests was diminished so significantly that the experimenters could no longer ask anyone to participate because they knew that exposure was doing them harm. Enough said. No way I was going near aspartame while pregnant.

The second thing that I started to research was the interventions that occur during birth. When you go into the hospital you will find that each hospital has a protocol of what needs to be done to a woman in labour. The range of these procedures is great and varies with the hospital. At the time, things like fetal monitoring were quite popular. It has been sixteen years since I had a baby and I have no way of knowing if they still do fetal monitoring or if the same equipment is being used. But although most hospitals used fetal monitoring, it was already established that it was not related to healthier babies but it was related to more intervention in the birth including a higher cesarean section rate and a higher rate of induction. Scary stuff.

The literature was full of controversy. If you go to any doctor or hospital and ask what their policy is, you will always get an explanation of why they do what they do. These are “truisms” that are believed by the staff. My favourite is that you should get an episiotomy before the baby is born. For those of you that have not been intimately involved in a birth, this is a cut that is made to open the woman wider so that the baby can come out.

The “truism” is that it is “better to have a clean cut than it is to have a ragged tear”. Nice visual imagery, I must admit, but it is completely false. The reason that women need an episiotomy is because when you are in the hospital you are forced to give birth on your back with your legs in the air. This is not true of all hospitals, but it was certainly true in the 1980’s. This is very unnatural. Just try having a poo in this position and see how things turn out. It is essentially the same process.

Fear overwhelmed me. My friend told me that she was looking into having a midwife. I remembered seeing a television program about them and being impressed so I looked into it. Fortunately for me, there was a Mennonite Settlement not far from where I lived and they still had births attended by midwives and so I found myself a midwife.

Read the entire book, now available
Read the entire book, now available

Keep Reading: Midwives

www.wendypowell.ca

Baby Number Three — Chapter 4

20131108-090107.jpgII was receiving cheques from the government. They had started to come again after my work at the emergency clinic, but they were about to run out. I had been applying to jobs and despite Bob’s insistence that I work; he was actively interfering with this process.

One company called to set up an interview. The job would have been in sales. Bob told the person that called that I was pregnant but that it would work out really well because I could take the baby with me to the sales calls. He explained to me afterwards that he had told the guy this. I was never interviewed for this position.

One job that I did get interviewed for was with the federal government. Not an ideal job but government jobs have a lot of benefits and security. On Thanksgiving weekend that year I got a call saying that I could start on the Tuesday. There were twelve weeks of training set up and if I could start right away, I could attend the training. If I could not start away I would not be able to start until they ran the training course again and that might be a year or so.

It was 12 weeks until the baby was due, so if all went well, I could work the twelve weeks and then the baby would be born. A woman that I had met through the playgroup said that she would take my youngest daughter for the twelve weeks. I explained that I would only need day care until the baby came. My daughter and her son were the same age and had gotten to know each other pretty well.

So, I took the job. When animals are being used for food, they are brought to slaughter plants. These places are more or less disassembly plants. The animal comes in one door and it is processed until all of the edible parts have been removed and all of the inedible parts have been disposed of.

Unfortunately, one of the known drawbacks to working in slaughter is that you become exposed to all of the bacteria that naturally occur on the animals. All of the caution about cooking your food before you eat it does not apply when you are not actually eating the animals. There is no way to protect yourself from exposure to these bacteria. They are in the air. You can inhale them on a water droplet.

All this to say that near the end of my pregnancy, I got a type of food poisoning from my initial exposure to these bacteria. When the smooth muscles of your digestive tract contract to aid in the removal of these pathogens from your body, it stimulates the contractions of your uterus. Some of the things that pregnant women are told to help bring on birth are based on this understanding. Eating spicy foods, for instance, can cause your digestive tract to become upset and have extra movement. This movement stimulates the uterus as well.

I can’t describe how awful it was not knowing which end to put closest to the toilet and having a contraction, each time my body tried to expel the toxins. I managed to call Bob at work and told him about the situation. He assured me that there was nothing that he could do about it and he was quite upset that I would not be able to pick my daughter up from day care. I guess I was not doing my part. There was no question that I was completely alone in the world.

As a veterinarian, we are in the slaughter plants representing the public and the farmer. We do not work for the company that owns the slaughter plant. Our job is to decide what can and cannot be eaten. So for instance, if an animal has some sort of illness or injury, it is our job to decide if the animal, or part of the animal, is safe to eat.

This is a factory setting with overhead machinery and loud noises. The carcasses go by on tracks that hang from the ceiling. I was on the vet stand, which was a raised part of the floor. It was composed of metal mesh that had ridges on it so that it would not be slippery. I had hearing protection on, a hardhat on and steel-toed rubber boots.

I was the only woman on the floor. These places are rough by their very nature. Most of the men carry large knives that they take pride in keeping very sharp. There is a code of conduct that can be felt in the air. Lots of teasing, lots of insults, lots of profanity.

It felt like an extreme contrast to standing there feeling a contraction wash over my abdomen knowing that I was going to give birth. The endorphins kicked in right away and it felt incongruous. Here I was in this dark, loud, aggressive place feeling all blissed-out and knowing that my third baby was coming. This was Friday, the last day of my training and the government had done me a favour by moving me to a plant within walking distance of where I lived.

My older two daughters were present for the birth. This is one of the many advantages of having babies at home. We had practised making the “power noises” that can aid in bringing the baby out and they were full participants. Hearing a five year old and a two year old grunting and making deep throaty guttural sounds while you are pushing a baby out is quite comical and really makes it more of a family event.

Keep Reading:  Back to Work

Read the entire book.
Read the entire book.

The Narcissist Survival Guide now available

Narcissism-Scenes From the Front Line — New Job

20131108-090107.jpgThis is an excerpt from my first book, “I Woke Up in Paradise“.

was receiving cheques from the government. They had started to come again after my work at the emergency clinic, but they were about to run out. I had been applying to jobs and despite Bob’s insistence that I work; he was actively interfering with this process.

One company called to set up an interview. The job would have been in sales. Bob told the person that called that I was pregnant but that it would work out really well because I could take the baby with me to the sales calls. He explained to me afterwards that he had told the guy this. I was never interviewed for this position.

One job that I did get interviewed for was with the federal government. Not an ideal job but government jobs have a lot of benefits and security. On Thanksgiving weekend that year I got a call saying that I could start on the Tuesday. There were twelve weeks of training set up and if I could start right away, I could attend the training. If I could not start away I would not be able to start until they ran the training course again and that might be a year or so.

It was 12 weeks until the baby was due, so if all went well, I could work the twelve weeks and then the baby would be born. A woman that I had met through the playgroup said that she would take my youngest daughter for the twelve weeks. I explained that I would only need day care until the baby came. My daughter and her son were the same age and had gotten to know each other pretty well.

So, I took the job. When animals are being used for food, they are brought to slaughter plants. These places are more or less disassembly plants. The animal comes in one door and it is processed until all of the edible parts have been removed and all of the inedible parts have been disposed of.

Unfortunately, one of the known drawbacks to working in slaughter is that you become exposed to all of the bacteria that naturally occur on the animals. All of the caution about cooking your food before you eat it does not apply when you are not actually eating the animals. There is no way to protect yourself from exposure to these bacteria. They are in the air. You can inhale them on a water droplet.

All this to say that near the end of my pregnancy, I got a type of food poisoning from my initial exposure to these bacteria. When the smooth muscles of your digestive tract contract to aid in the removal of these pathogens from your body, it stimulates the contractions of your uterus. Some of the things that pregnant women are told to help bring on birth are based on this understanding. Eating spicy foods, for instance, can cause your digestive tract to become upset and have extra movement. This movement stimulates the uterus as well.

I can’t describe how awful it was not knowing which end to put closest to the toilet and having a contraction, each time my body tried to expel the toxins. I managed to call Bob at work and told him about the situation. He assured me that there was nothing that he could do about it and he was quite upset that I would not be able to pick my daughter up from day care. I guess I was not doing my part. There was no question that I was completely alone in the world.

Narcissism-Scenes From the Front Line — The Drive

Narcissism-Scenes From the Front Line — The Fax

Narcissism-Scenes From the Front Line — The Interview

Narcissism-Scenes From the Front Line — The Call

Narcissism-Scenes From the Front Line — The Cavity

Narcissism–Scenes From the Front Line — The Funeral

Narcissism-Scenes From the Front Line — The Pants

Narcissism-Scenes From the Front Line — The Trailer

Narcissism-Scenes From the Front Line — Biking

Narcissism-Scenes From the Front Line — The Doctor

Read the entire book, now available
Read the entire book, now available
The Narcissist Survival Guide now available

www.wendypowell.ca

My Father — Chapter 4

IMG_3282While I was pregnant with my second daughter my father had what we all thought was a stroke. He was unable to stand on his own and ended up in the hospital. The tests failed to confirm that it was a stroke and my understanding is that they came to the diagnosis of multiple sclerosis by default. After hearing this, many things fell into place.

During the time that I was getting to know Bob I was working for a professor. He was a shy, gregarious guy, which is a hard combination to imagine, but once he felt comfortable with the people involved, he was great in groups. It was the getting to know you part that could set him off balance. Anyhow, this guy stepped in for a while as my father.

One thing that I know for sure is that whether or not you realize it, if you need something, the universe will give it to you. When I got engaged my father was estranged, more or less, so one became available. It had been quite a while since I had seen my father. My attempt to contact him after I left my mother’s place had been hurtful for me, so I really hadn’t bothered much after that.

I asked the professor if he would walk me down the aisle at my wedding. He was wonderful for this and remembered to ask me if I actually wanted to go through with it. I was certain, of course, that I wanted to get married. He provided a jovial and calming presence during my descent.

When my father arrived in town for my wedding, I made sure that I told him that someone else was walking me down the aisle and he looked surprisingly happy. He got up to dance with me at my wedding, but that was the only time that he got up to dance and we only danced the one song. I did not know at the time that he was probably unable to stand for much longer or walk all the way down the aisle.

My father was a proud man and his wife was a great cook. I suspect that he attributed his inability to walk to being heavier than he had ever been in his life and his total lack of exercise. Coming to this conclusion may have precluded the need to go to the doctor’s and have a checkup, but I am only guessing about this. I also knew that when he took his wife shopping, he would wait in the car for her. So, there is a good chance that he had been feeling the symptoms of this disease for a lot longer than he was letting on.

When I got called about the stroke, I went to the hospital to see him. I knew that I was pregnant with my second daughter at that time. He had been devastated when he had been alone after his separation and I’m sure that he was glad that I had reconciled with Bob.

So, after my second daughter was born, he visited me and we sat on the front porch. He loved the porch. The house was on a fairly busy street and he had fond memories of sitting on his front porch when he was young and how there was so much going on. His mother’s place was the one with the store on the one side, so there would have been people coming just to go to the store, when he was a boy.

He was a little uncomfortable about breast feeding and announced once while I was feeding the baby that he thought it was inappropriate for the family room. To be honest, I don’t think that he knew that I was doing it while we were having the discussion.

When you are having a baby at home, there is no one telling you to get out of the way, or that you can or cannot photograph anything, so we had a very extensive photographic account of the entire process. I had sorted the photos into general; share with everyone photos; those that had some redeeming qualities but were not for general viewing and the final pile that I needed to burn. I had set the burn pile aside so that they would not get passed around when people visited.

During my father’s stay, while we were discussing the birth in very general broad terms, my oldest daughter decided that this was her chance to share the photos with my father. She ran up to my room and grabbed photos and presented them to my dad. My father was a very conservative man that easily got squeamish and certainly did not want to view explicit photos of his daughter. You know which pile was handed to him.

I was sitting with the baby on my lap when my daughter handed him the photos and it took me a moment to realize what pile she likely gave to him. I jumped up and grabbed the pile out of his hands before he was forever traumatized.

My father was never strong enough to visit again. It was nice to have him come and see my place. It was also comforting for me to know that he liked the place and was happy with where I was in life.

The multiple sclerosis would come in waves. Each wave would knock him down and then he would not fully recover the strength and independence that he had before that particular bout. As each successive wave hit he found himself increasingly reliant on his wife to help him do the simplest tasks. Finally, she was unable to give him all of the support that he needed and he had to go into the hospital.

This must have been the ultimate insult to him as a person. My mother had always used her illnesses as a way to get attention and to make herself feel important. I know that my father resented this. He had told me that he hated playing cards with people that could not hold their cards properly or deal quickly. He said that it slowed the game down and made playing unpleasant. It was important to him to be strong and capable and his final days, weeks, months and years were the opposite of that.

 

Keep reading: The Best Defense is a Good Offense

Read the entire book, now available
Read the entire book, now available

 

 

Early Labour — Chapter 4

IMG_1035A totally new experience for first time moms is Braxton Hicks contractions. Named after John Braxton Hicks who first described them in 1872, these non-painful contractions are the body’s way of training to prepare for the big day. My entire abdomen would tense up and get really hard to the touch and then relax. Sometimes it would do this, at regular intervals, for hours.

Every night, at the end of my first pregnancy, I would lie down in bed and they would start to occur. Since I had been told a full two weeks before my due date that I could, “go any time”, and I was now after my due date, I paid a lot of attention to them. Bob got tired of hearing about it. Early on, I found myself timing them and they were as regular as “real” labour. How was I supposed to know the difference?

The midwives had told us that when we thought that labour had begun, I was to have a small glass of wine. It is an amount that will not hurt the baby and will be completely metabolized before the baby is born. This is important because a baby’s liver cannot metabolize alcohol and that is why when babies are exposed to alcohol during pregnancy it can have such a devastating effect on their development.

The wine served two purposes. First, Braxton Hicks labour will stop when you have a glass of wine, so it made it possible to distinguish warm up contractions from the real thing. Second, wine will relax the mother. After having no alcohol for an entire nine months a small glass hits you like a wall, but it does have a calming effect.

There is a difference between Braxton Hicks contractions and the real ones and it is not what you think. When real labour starts your body knows the difference and begins preparing. Unlike having Braxton Hicks that made me feel like I was grasping and needy, almost as though I was trying to will labour into happening, real contractions have more of a peaceful feel. The body begins to produce endorphins, the natural painkillers, at the same time as real labour begins.

This means that the pain of labour is somewhat mediated by the endorphins but it also means that you get the ‘high’ that morphine users must experience. When my actual labour started the world was rosy and there were endless possibilities for goodness. I did not feel like I was trying to urge labour to begin. I felt like the world was in technicolor. This was a marked difference and it occurred at the beginning of true labour, each time.

So, I was well past my due date for my second pregnancy. This upset my doctor considerably and he had begun the induction threats as he had with my first pregnancy. I was not worried. Midwives take a different stance on this. They have been trained to help you to “check-in” on the baby. Essentially, you can feel the baby moving and the baby should be moving regularly. I forget how often and that sort of details but it is not just random. The baby needs to be behaving normally.

There is a large black bird just hanging out in my front yard as I edit this. It has been walking around in the rain, going back and forth across the yard and up and down the driveway. I thought that I should add this into my story. These birds are my consistent totem animals and my guess is that it just wanted to be mentioned.

As a veterinarian, I had learned how long the pregnancy should be for cows. It was recognized that different types of cows had different pregnancy lengths. In general, smaller breeds of cows had shorter pregnancies. Why was it that human doctors thought that all women should have the same length of pregnancy regardless of ethnicity and size? It did not ring true for me.

As a scientist, I had known exactly what day I had ovulated on. This is not actually the start of pregnancy, per se, but it does determine the timing. The egg moves into the uterus and may or may not become an embryo along the way. It is more exact to know when the egg was released than any other measurement. So, dating my pregnancy was not a question. I knew how many days my first pregnancy had been from ovulation to birth and so I had a pretty good idea how long my second pregnancy should be.

I was unable to get the same primary midwife for this second pregnancy because of the political climate. Midwifery had become a contentious issue. The medical doctors could see a large amount of their practice going to what they considered to be an “unregulated” profession and they had started to fight back legally. In some parts of the United States, parents were being arrested for child abuse or neglect by choosing to have their babies at home. I was not aware of anything so outrageous in Canada, but the medical profession is quite powerful and well funded.

It looked like midwives were going to have to be licensed, so my first midwife had decided to go back to university to become a nurse so that she could continue practicing in Ontario. The Mennonite women did not care about the law regarding births outside of their community so it did not have the same impact on them. I was able to get two midwives. The primary midwife was different but the secondary one was the same as for my first birth.

Read the entire book, now available
Read the entire book, now available

Baby Number Two

www.wendypowell.ca

Narcissism-Scenes From the Front Line — New Job

20131108-090107.jpgThis is an excerpt from my first book, “I Woke Up in Paradise“.

was receiving cheques from the government. They had started to come again after my work at the emergency clinic, but they were about to run out. I had been applying to jobs and despite Bob’s insistence that I work; he was actively interfering with this process.

One company called to set up an interview. The job would have been in sales. Bob told the person that called that I was pregnant but that it would work out really well because I could take the baby with me to the sales calls. He explained to me afterwards that he had told the guy this. I was never interviewed for this position.

One job that I did get interviewed for was with the federal government. Not an ideal job but government jobs have a lot of benefits and security. On Thanksgiving weekend that year I got a call saying that I could start on the Tuesday. There were twelve weeks of training set up and if I could start right away, I could attend the training. If I could not start away I would not be able to start until they ran the training course again and that might be a year or so.

It was 12 weeks until the baby was due, so if all went well, I could work the twelve weeks and then the baby would be born. A woman that I had met through the playgroup said that she would take my youngest daughter for the twelve weeks. I explained that I would only need day care until the baby came. My daughter and her son were the same age and had gotten to know each other pretty well.

So, I took the job. When animals are being used for food, they are brought to slaughter plants. These places are more or less disassembly plants. The animal comes in one door and it is processed until all of the edible parts have been removed and all of the inedible parts have been disposed of.

Unfortunately, one of the known drawbacks to working in slaughter is that you become exposed to all of the bacteria that naturally occur on the animals. All of the caution about cooking your food before you eat it does not apply when you are not actually eating the animals. There is no way to protect yourself from exposure to these bacteria. They are in the air. You can inhale them on a water droplet.

All this to say that near the end of my pregnancy, I got a type of food poisoning from my initial exposure to these bacteria. When the smooth muscles of your digestive tract contract to aid in the removal of these pathogens from your body, it stimulates the contractions of your uterus. Some of the things that pregnant women are told to help bring on birth are based on this understanding. Eating spicy foods, for instance, can cause your digestive tract to become upset and have extra movement. This movement stimulates the uterus as well.

I can’t describe how awful it was not knowing which end to put closest to the toilet and having a contraction, each time my body tried to expel the toxins. I managed to call Bob at work and told him about the situation. He assured me that there was nothing that he could do about it and he was quite upset that I would not be able to pick my daughter up from day care. I guess I was not doing my part. There was no question that I was completely alone in the world.

Narcissism-Scenes From the Front Line — The Drive

Narcissism-Scenes From the Front Line — The Fax

Narcissism-Scenes From the Front Line — The Interview

Narcissism-Scenes From the Front Line — The Call

Narcissism-Scenes From the Front Line — The Cavity

Narcissism–Scenes From the Front Line — The Funeral

Narcissism-Scenes From the Front Line — The Pants

Narcissism-Scenes From the Front Line — The Trailer

Narcissism-Scenes From the Front Line — Biking

Narcissism-Scenes From the Front Line — The Doctor

Read the entire book, now available
Read the entire book, now available
The Narcissist Survival Guide now available

www.wendypowell.ca

My Father — Chapter 4

While I was pregnant with my second daughter my father had what we all thought was a stroke. He was unable to stand on his own and ended up in the hospital. The tests failed to confirm that it was a stroke and my understanding is that they came to the diagnosis of multiple sclerosis by default. After hearing this, many things fell into place.

During the time that I was getting to know Bob I was working for a professor. He was a shy, gregarious guy, which is a hard combination to imagine, but once he felt comfortable with the people involved, he was great in groups. It was the getting to know you part that could set him off balance. Anyhow, this guy stepped in for a while as my father.

One thing that I know for sure is that whether or not you realize it, if you need something, the universe will give it to you. When I got engaged my father was estranged, more or less, so one became available. It had been quite a while since I had seen my father. My attempt to contact him after I left my mother’s place had been hurtful for me, so I really hadn’t bothered much after that.

I asked the professor if he would walk me down the aisle at my wedding. He was wonderful for this and remembered to ask me if I actually wanted to go through with it. I was certain, of course, that I wanted to get married. He provided a jovial and calming presence during my descent.

When my father arrived in town for my wedding, I made sure that I told him that someone else was walking me down the aisle and he looked surprisingly happy. He got up to dance with me at my wedding, but that was the only time that he got up to dance and we only danced the one song. I did not know at the time that he was probably unable to stand for much longer or walk all the way down the aisle.

My father was a proud man and his wife was a great cook. I suspect that he attributed his inability to walk to being heavier than he had ever been in his life and his total lack of exercise. Coming to this conclusion may have precluded the need to go to the doctor’s and have a checkup, but I am only guessing about this. I also knew that when he took his wife shopping, he would wait in the car for her. So, there is a good chance that he had been feeling the symptoms of this disease for a lot longer than he was letting on.

When I got called about the stroke, I went to the hospital to see him. I knew that I was pregnant with my second daughter at that time. He had been devastated when he had been alone after his separation and I’m sure that he was glad that I had reconciled with Bob.

So, after my second daughter was born, he visited me and we sat on the front porch. He loved the porch. The house was on a fairly busy street and he had fond memories of sitting on his front porch when he was young and how there was so much going on. His mother’s place was the one with the store on the one side, so there would have been people coming just to go to the store, when he was a boy.

He was a little uncomfortable about breast feeding and announced once while I was feeding the baby that he thought it was inappropriate for the family room. To be honest, I don’t think that he knew that I was doing it while we were having the discussion.

When you are having a baby at home, there is no one telling you to get out of the way, or that you can or cannot photograph anything, so we had a very extensive photographic account of the entire process. I had sorted the photos into general; share with everyone photos; those that had some redeeming qualities but were not for general viewing and the final pile that I needed to burn. I had set the burn pile aside so that they would not get passed around when people visited.

During my father’s stay, while we were discussing the birth in very general broad terms, my oldest daughter decided that this was her chance to share the photos with my father. She ran up to my room and grabbed photos and presented them to my dad. My father was a very conservative man that easily got squeamish and certainly did not want to view explicit photos of his daughter. You know which pile was handed to him.

I was sitting with the baby on my lap when my daughter handed him the photos and it took me a moment to realize what pile she likely gave to him. I jumped up and grabbed the pile out of his hands before he was forever traumatized.

My father was never strong enough to visit again. It was nice to have him come and see my place. It was also comforting for me to know that he liked the place and was happy with where I was in life.

The multiple sclerosis would come in waves. Each wave would knock him down and then he would not fully recover the strength and independence that he had before that particular bout. As each successive wave hit he found himself increasingly reliant on his wife to help him do the simplest tasks. Finally, she was unable to give him all of the support that he needed and he had to go into the hospital.

This must have been the ultimate insult to him as a person. My mother had always used her illnesses as a way to get attention and to make herself feel important. I know that my father resented this. He had told me that he hated playing cards with people that could not hold their cards properly or deal quickly. He said that it slowed the game down and made playing unpleasant. It was important to him to be strong and capable and his final days, weeks, months and years were the opposite of that.

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Read the entire book, now available

The Best Defense is a Good Offense

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Early Labour — Chapter 4

IMG_1035A totally new experience for first time moms is Braxton Hicks contractions. Named after John Braxton Hicks who first described them in 1872, these non-painful contractions are the body’s way of training to prepare for the big day. My entire abdomen would tense up and get really hard to the touch and then relax. Sometimes it would do this, at regular intervals, for hours.

Every night, at the end of my first pregnancy, I would lie down in bed and they would start to occur. Since I had been told a full two weeks before my due date that I could, “go any time”, and I was now after my due date, I paid a lot of attention to them. Bob got tired of hearing about it. Early on, I found myself timing them and they were as regular as “real” labour. How was I supposed to know the difference?

The midwives had told us that when we thought that labour had begun, I was to have a small glass of wine. It is an amount that will not hurt the baby and will be completely metabolized before the baby is born. This is important because a baby’s liver cannot metabolize alcohol and that is why when babies are exposed to alcohol during pregnancy it can have such a devastating effect on their development.

The wine served two purposes. First, Braxton Hicks labour will stop when you have a glass of wine, so it made it possible to distinguish warm up contractions from the real thing. Second, wine will relax the mother. After having no alcohol for an entire nine months a small glass hits you like a wall, but it does have a calming effect.

There is a difference between Braxton Hicks contractions and the real ones and it is not what you think. When real labour starts your body knows the difference and begins preparing. Unlike having Braxton Hicks that made me feel like I was grasping and needy, almost as though I was trying to will labour into happening, real contractions have more of a peaceful feel. The body begins to produce endorphins, the natural painkillers, at the same time as real labour begins.

This means that the pain of labour is somewhat mediated by the endorphins but it also means that you get the ‘high’ that morphine users must experience. When my actual labour started the world was rosy and there were endless possibilities for goodness. I did not feel like I was trying to urge labour to begin. I felt like the world was in technicolor. This was a marked difference and it occurred at the beginning of true labour, each time.

So, I was well past my due date for my second pregnancy. This upset my doctor considerably and he had begun the induction threats as he had with my first pregnancy. I was not worried. Midwives take a different stance on this. They have been trained to help you to “check-in” on the baby. Essentially, you can feel the baby moving and the baby should be moving regularly. I forget how often and that sort of details but it is not just random. The baby needs to be behaving normally.

There is a large black bird just hanging out in my front yard as I edit this. It has been walking around in the rain, going back and forth across the yard and up and down the driveway. I thought that I should add this into my story. These birds are my consistent totem animals and my guess is that it just wanted to be mentioned.

As a veterinarian, I had learned how long the pregnancy should be for cows. It was recognized that different types of cows had different pregnancy lengths. In general, smaller breeds of cows had shorter pregnancies. Why was it that human doctors thought that all women should have the same length of pregnancy regardless of ethnicity and size? It did not ring true for me.

As a scientist, I had known exactly what day I had ovulated on. This is not actually the start of pregnancy, per se, but it does determine the timing. The egg moves into the uterus and may or may not become an embryo along the way. It is more exact to know when the egg was released than any other measurement. So, dating my pregnancy was not a question. I knew how many days my first pregnancy had been from ovulation to birth and so I had a pretty good idea how long my second pregnancy should be.

I was unable to get the same primary midwife for this second pregnancy because of the political climate. Midwifery had become a contentious issue. The medical doctors could see a large amount of their practice going to what they considered to be an “unregulated” profession and they had started to fight back legally. In some parts of the United States, parents were being arrested for child abuse or neglect by choosing to have their babies at home. I was not aware of anything so outrageous in Canada, but the medical profession is quite powerful and well funded.

It looked like midwives were going to have to be licensed, so my first midwife had decided to go back to university to become a nurse so that she could continue practicing in Ontario. The Mennonite women did not care about the law regarding births outside of their community so it did not have the same impact on them. I was able to get two midwives. The primary midwife was different but the secondary one was the same as for my first birth.

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Read the entire book, now available

Baby Number Two

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Midwives — Chapter 3

Midwifery was in that legal grey area back when I was making my decision. The medical community was arguing that it put women in danger because all of the advantages of being in the hospital were not available. The literature, all written by scientists that identified more with doctors than with midwives, was filled with studies that didn’t even bother to separate the babies that were born outside of the hospital on purpose from those that were born en route to the hospital or those that came on unexpectedly and caught the mother off guard. Needless to say, these studies showed how dangerous it was to not be in the hospital when your baby is born.

Bob loved the idea because it was decidedly against the grain. We were doing something that others were not. This made him special and unique. He was fully in support of this decision.

The midwife was a lovely woman that had attended hundreds of births. She was not a Mennonite herself but had teamed up with the Mennonite midwives because they provided the same service. At each birth it is ideal to have two midwives. If the mother and the baby are both in trouble there is one midwife to attend to each person.

It was with full knowledge that there was a hospital within driving distance that I decided to have a home birth. If I found that the pain was truly unbearable and I wanted to have an epidural, I could always go into the hospital. If my pregnancy did not progress as it should and I needed a cesarean section, I could go into the hospital. The only other possibility was that there was a life and death situation that came on suddenly.

This could be something like the baby had the cord wrapped around its neck and could not be delivered and it was literally being strangled to death and an emergency cesarean was required. This is awfully gruesome, but this is the thought process that we went through. In this case, we would call ahead and the hospital would be ready for us when we arrived.

It was understood that a certain amount of time is required to ready a surgery before surgery can begin. At the very least, the doctors and nurses need to scrub up, gown and glove and assemble the appropriate equipment. The hospital was about 10 minutes away so it would not be much longer to get there.

So, on my next prenatal appointment I said to my doctor, “I’m thinking of going with a midwife.” He said that he knew that it could be a good experience and that he thought that it was a reasonable thing to consider.

On the prenatal appointment after that, I said to my doctor, “I have decided to have my baby with a midwife.” He unceremoniously told me that he would no longer do my prenatal care. This is the same guy that told my husband, not me, that I was pregnant. Good riddance.

In general, most people still feel this way about midwives. We have been so sold on the expertise of the medical profession, that no one even considers how many babies are born in this world without medical care. Would we have such large impoverished populations in many areas of the world if childbirth was as dangerous as we have been led to believe in North America? The death of many babies and mothers has more to do with hygiene and malnutrition than it does with the process of birth, but I digress.

We did decide to not tell Bob’s mother. She was the only family that was really involved with us at the time and we both knew that this would cause her undue stress. I knew that she would worry and I was also concerned that she would pressure Bob to try to change my mind so we both agreed to not tell her until after the fact.

The midwife was wonderful. She came to the house for the prenatal exams, which is a big deal when you are pregnant and you don’t have a car of your own to get to the doctor’s. She arranged an appointment with another doctor that supported midwifery and drove me to visit him.

She was really big on how to eat and what to eat and how to prepare for the birth, the first couple of days after the birth and breastfeeding. None of this instruction had come from the doctor. I had told him that I was concerned about how much weight I was gaining and he had put my name on a list to speak to a nutritionist. She still had not called.

There was a real intimacy with this woman. The three of us would sit together in our living room and we could ask anything. I always got the feeling that she had as much time as we needed. At this time, we had to pay cash for the midwife. She worked on a sliding scale which meant that the amount that she charged was based on how much the couple made. I thought that this was brilliant, because it did not exclude people that could not pay as much, but it still allowed her to charge people with higher incomes more money so that she could make a decent living. I don’t remember how much the midwife was paid, but it certainly was not a serious part of whether or not we were going to have a midwife.

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Read the entire book, now available

Keep Reading: Pregnancy Support

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