It Turns Out I’m Crunchy

Our prenatal class started this week, and I am so excited! We got a list of classes in our area from the midwives, and I scoped them out only to find that on a two-sided page of options there was one class that I hoped would be a good fit (financially, philosophically, and geographically). After attending the first class, I think I was right, and I am really looking forward to the next 5 weeks 🙂

The woman leading our class, Shannon, is a doula (a professional birth attendant), and let me tell you this woman is passionate about birth! I think we were all pretty amazed as she described (with the help of a doll and a pink knit uterus lol) the stages of labour, what is happening in the body and how babies are active participants in the birth process. For example, were you aware that during a contraction the top of the uterus (fundus) tightens and pushes down on the baby, and the baby reflexively straightens its legs to push itself down against the cervix/down the birth canal. Apparently there have been cases of pregnant women in comas who have delivered babies without waking up – the body and the baby work together to make birth happen. Mind blown.

The class is not too big – 6 couples – and our due dates range from late November to early February. I like that the class is structured in a way that includes moms and partners throughout, and I loved that Shannon asked all of us what we hope for from our birth. As we went around the circle to introduce ourselves, it was neat to see all these different people and know that we had so much in common (we are all married and expecting our first) but also that there were so many differences in how we’d arrived on this common ground and where we’d be heading after birth.

I, for one, was surprised that we are the only couple planning a home birth. A few of the women said they would rather not have an epidural unless they really need it, but I think we’re all too afraid to say “I will reject any medically unnecessary interventions” because everyone knows that we don’t have a sweet clue of what to expect, and maybe the pain that comes with a natural labour and delivery will be too much to bear, and it would be just so awkward to be that pregnant lady who told everyone how well she was going to handle it and then didn’t.

After introductions, Shannon spent an hour or so giving us 5 minute summaries on a big stack of books about pregnancy and birth – all resources that we’re welcome to borrow if we want to. Over the last few months, I have decided that pregnancy books are not for me – I had borrowed one from a friend, but I found that each chapter (for each week of pregnancy) was packed with so much more information than I wanted or needed. The thing is, week to week is not always long enough to have a whole chapter of new information about the baby’s development, so the authors have to fill the pages with stats on deformities and diseases and warnings of everything that can go wrong. The last straw for me was in the chapter on week 16 when the book basically said,

“hopefully you’ve been sleeping on your side the last few weeks because it’s better for you and the baby than sleeping on your back. Starting this week DO NOT SLEEP ON YOUR BACK EVER OR YOUR BABY WILL DIE. This week is the cutoff and even if your baby manages to survive any back-sleeping you do, you are a crap parent for not being able to manage this simple and critical task.”

Oh, and then in week 22 the authors decided to give me one paragraph on baby’s development and 3 pages on Tay Sachs Disease. If I wanted to read about Tay Sachs Disease (which is really serious, but I don’t have the time or emotional energy to learn about it for no reason. It makes for really sucky filler material) I would google it. And then it hit me – the weekly emails I get about how the Truck is growing tell me enough. If I’m thinking ahead or want more info on a certain topic, I’ll search it up on the internet.

All this to say that as Shannon went through the books, I paid attention but knew that I wasn’t interested in signing any out. However, I was interested to see a few books in the pile that I had read from the library, and even one that I had on hold waiting to be picked up! Little did I know Shannon was saving the two books I’d read and the one I had on hold for the end of her presentation. “These last few are a little crunchy,” she said, and in fact each book was crunchier than the last. What makes them “crunchy” is that instead of summarizing weekly fetal development or the mechanics of labour and delivery, they are more focused on the experience of pregnancy, emotional health, and the personal journey that every woman goes through in every pregnancy. Medically, most births are more or less the same, but emotionally and spiritually it is a different story, so I’ve really enjoyed soaking up these books that are filled with other women’s birth stories and with reflections on how to make the most of this short time.

It’s true that along with focusing on the emotional side of pregnancy, there is also a general perspective in what I’ve been choosing to read that birth is a natural process that usually works as it was designed, especially when it is embraced and supported by the mother and her attendants. Obviously emergencies do come up, and it is a blessing to live in an age with so many means of saving mothers and babies who would not survive natural deliveries for whatever reason. But there is a very widespread perspective in the medical system and in the media (and therefore the culture at large) that birth is always an emergency or at least the brink of an emergency, and it needs to be closely monitored, inspected, measured, charted, analyzed and often rescued.

I do not want to be sidelined for the birth of my own child. A whole other post I need to write is why Matt and I are choosing to birth at home, but it really boils down to keeping our family at the center of this monumental event. Lest I get totally sidetracked from this already huge post, I will just say that I have been totally encouraged and blessed by all the crunch that I have absorbed over the past year (because it definitely started before getting pregnant), not just related to pregnancy but in life in general – washing my face with oil and using baking soda instead of deodorant and shampoo,  washing my clothes with soap nuts, and probably more. Oh! We’re gonna give cloth diapers a shot 🙂 Oh, and I literally do make my own granola. Ehem.

Matt and I were talking about it after class, and it’s so funny because only a few weeks ago I had explained to him what crunchy meant in terms of lifestyle – I think I had used it to describe a bunch of the blogs I read and he was like, what on earth does that mean. Little did we imagine that not only would I be totally validated in our prenatal class but that this label we had been talking about actually applies to us.

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Linda Boag Moores 05-10-2012, 19:02

You truly are a blessing Alyssa.

alyssa 06-10-2012, 11:08

Thanks! 🙂 I’m excited you can see the bump in person this weekend!

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