Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Kicking It Old School

I am a strong intelligent and beautiful woman on my good days. 
I wonder what my life would be like if I had made different choices sometimes. 
I hear my phone buzzing with notifications all day long, and it kinda drives me nuts. 
I see my children growing way too fast. 
I want to freeze time so often. 
I am happy with my amazing life right now. 

I pretend to be some kind of animal almost every day with Mayzie. 
I feel lucky to be able to spend so much time with my kids yet still have plenty of my own ventures. 
I touch my girls' hair and kiss them every night before I go to bed 
I worry that I will give them some sort of body complex because of my own issues. 
I cry often and mostly without shame at movies & music all. the. time. 
I am silly and serious and intensely loyal to my friends.

I understand 2 languages fluently, and whining is not one of them. 
I say "Goodnight my beautiful, smart, funny, brave, strong girls" when I tuck them into bed at night. 
I dream of simple things, like owning our own home and decorating it the way I want. 
I try to be the kind of woman my girls can look up to and be proud. 
I hope that someday my house will be more organized when there is more than 1000 sq ft of it.
I am busier than I have ever been in my life before, juggling multiple projects and businesses and family, etc, and I am more content than I have ever been before. 

Happy to be hooking up with the fabulous Elaine from Miss Elainous Life & Angela at Jumping with My Fingers Crossed for this old school blogging link-up! Thanks for hosting ladies! 

Monday, May 11, 2015

I Get to Be There

I am still on a post-Listen To Your Mother HIGH from Saturday night and I'm losing my voice.  
I wanted to share the essay that I read on stage to a packed house at our show.  I feel so privileged to have been able to share this essay on a local stage that will then be put up on YouTube.  
Let me know what you think in the comments please! 
I am a doula.  
Now, MAYBE you just nodded your head because you know what a doula is and think they are awesome, OR you shook your head because you think doulas are super crunchy and only for hippies who birth at home OR you got a really confused look on your face because you thought I said something in another language and have no idea what a doula is. 

To be fair, Doula is a Greek word that means “mother helper.” Most specifically, I am a birth doula.  I give pregnant women tons of information about how to get the birth experience they want and help women physically, psychologically, and emotionally through labor and birth.  It is basically, the coolest job ever…most of the time. 

I recently went to a performance of Eve Ensler’s Vagina Monologues, and one of the monologues is titled, “I Was There.” The piece is Ensler’s reflection on the awesome beauty and power of the vagina to bring life into the world.  I was sitting near a doula friend of mine and we turned to each other after the show and talked about how we get to be there all the time.

Doulas have this great privilege to be invited into the intimate space of new beginnings for families.  We not only see babies be born, but mothers as well.  We hold hands, suggest position changes, and squeeze hips until our arms are exhausted beyond belief sometimes.  We voraciously read everything pregnancy and birth related, and bite our tongues when we hear misinformation and bad advice being given to pregnant women.  Personally, I quietly go hand these women a business card and tell them to call me, but not every doula is so brazen. 

I have seen all kinds of mothers be born into this world as their child comes earth-side.  I have seen mothers weep at the sight of their wrinkly vernix covered child being thrust into their arms while their umbilical cord is still attached and their physical connection is not yet separated.  I have seen mothers reach for their phone to update Facebook as they hold their 1 minute old baby wanting to share the moment with the world.  I have seen a mother scared to death and waiting to hear the cry of her baby as it is pulled from her splayed abdomen in the operating room.  I have seen a mother numb as she feels her baby slide out far too early and without a heartbeat.  I have heard the joyful moans of a mother who is no longer concerned about the waning pains of labor, who is absolutely in love at the sight of her family of now three.  I’ve stayed with a mother as her newborn is rushed to the NICU and the father follows not to return for several hours.

It is sacred, this space that a doula occupies as a mother is being born.  The mother is completely consumed with their baby and the task at hand, and I get to be there just for her.  These beginnings are magical, no matter how they happen.  Being there so many times has changed the way that I look at motherhood altogether.  I come home exhilarated from the experience of yet another beginning to a motherhood journey for someone else, and so thankful for the journey that I have been on so far.  I squeeze my two girls tight, no matter the hour, and smell their hair remembering their own entries into the world and my beginnings as a mother. 

Every birth is different.  I have never attended two births that were exactly alike, and I believe this reflects the journey of motherhood better than I could ever put into words.  We all experience beginnings in different ways, and our journeys take us many different places, but we are all part of this lovely club of motherhood.  Not one of us performs motherhood exactly the same, and for that I am truly grateful. 

I get to be there all the time to see the birth of mothers, and I never forget their faces as it happens to them.  I feel nothing but awe for these mothers every single time.  Doulas get to occupy this singular space between expecting and beginning.  We’re invited to bear witness and to help usher in the beginning of motherhood journeys for our clients.  We get to be there, and for that I am truly grateful.  
Here I am with our lovely photographer Erin Merris, our Emcee Stacey Godbold of Project Reveal fame, & the always beautiful Mary Rose Stewart! 

Friday, April 24, 2015

Mommy's Medicine

"Are those vitamins?" Mayzie inquires one rushed school-day morning. 

I ponder my answer as I hold my pills in my hand and look at Mayzie now 4 and Annika now 6.  Two of the pills I hold in my hand are in fact vitamins.  The large beige pill is a multi-vitamin and the small squishy gold one is the extra vitamin D that I take because I live in the Midwest and don't get nearly enough sunlight.  These two pills are not the issue.  My girls take vitamins every day, so they surely understand the fact that mommy takes them too.

The other 5 pills in my hand are the issue.  There is the long capsule that contains the medicine that supposedly regulates my serotonin, or something like that.  Then I have the medium-sized round white mood stabilizer, two small white anti-anxiety pills, and finally a diamond-shaped one that is supposed to boost the power of the other ones despite the fact that it is marketed as an anti-psychotic.  These are as much a part of my morning regimen as my coffee, and all of the above will give me a headache if I don't have them.

Yes, I am one of the millions of Americans that takes psychiatric medication on a daily basis.  I am not ashamed of my mental illness.  I come by it honestly with a loooooong family history of mental illness on both sides of my family, including some institutionalization (not me) and too many stories to count.  No, I do not believe it to be a moral failing on my part.  I refuse to be defined or stigmatized because of it either.  My diagnosis: Mood Disorder Not Otherwise Specified, which really means that my awesome psychiatrist thinks I should probably be diagnosed something that isn't recognized in the Diagnostics and Statistics Manual (DSM) anymore.

I have wrestled with my mental illness for all of my life.  I remember contemplating suicide in the 5th grade.  I got so depressed my senior year of high school that I stopped eating for a while, but it thankfully never developed into a full-blown eating disorder.  One of the worst episodes happened just after Andy and I got married.  I could NOT get out of bed or stop crying, and I was soo mad at myself because being a newlywed should have been one of the happiest times of my life.  Funny enough, I never got post-partum depression, despite having all the predispositions.  I have crippling anxiety, which typically leaves me incapable of making or receiving any phone calls or leaving the house sometimes too. Our year spent in Germany was especially trying!

Upon our return to the U.S., Andy finally convinced me to go to a psychiatrist.  I am admittedly not a very good patient.  I question everything a medical doctor (or PhD for that matter) tells me, like the good medical anthropologist that I am.  I understand the cultural patterns of mental illness and the culture of medicine that likes to throw medicine at people instead of solving underlying issues.  Intellectually, I struggle with my own personal need for medication, often to my own detriment.  I question classification of illnesses, doctors' intentions, and all things psychiatry related.  I read too many anthropology and medical academic research articles.  I am either a doctor's most hated or most beloved patient, and I can tell.  I can dissect everything, but it always has to come back to my bottom-line of the fact that I mostly cannot function without taking some sort of psychiatric medication.

The question then becomes: how do I relay this information to my children without making them think that I'm a sick person and at the same time convincing them that mental illness happens and is manageable?  How do I teach them in a way that is age appropriate and won't scare them?  How will they process this information?  I want them to understand that I'm alright, and that they shouldn't think about me any differently because I have a mental illness.  I don't want to burden them with too much information or with worry for their mother.  This conversation isn't in the mother's handbook.

So I sit down at the breakfast table with the morning light streaming in our back door.  I take a deep breath and gather all the wits and bravery that I can muster.  I AM going to have this conversation this morning.  I will answer their questions to the best of my ability.

Me, "Yes, two of these pills are vitamins that I take every morning."

Annika, "So what are the other ones?"

Me, "They are pills that help my brain work better."

Annika, "Do they make you smarter?"

Me, "No, they help me think more clearly."

Mayzie, "Are you sick mama?"

Me, "No buggy, mama's not sick."

Annika, "So why do you have to take them?"

Me, "My brain doesn't work right.  Sometimes it makes me really sad and I just want to cry.  Sometimes it makes me really scared and I want to hide.  But this medicine makes my brain work the way it is supposed to."

Annika, "Oh, ok. So it keeps you healthy?"

Me, "Yep.  Any other questions?"

Mayzie, "Can I have some juice?"

And that was that.  That was the whole conversation we far.  I know this will come up again.  I know this will be a conversation that happens over and over.  For now, my answers sufficed, but they won't always.  As I continue to struggle with my mental illness, so will I continue to struggle to define it to my children.  Difficult conversations are certainly in our future.  For now, mommy’s medicine makes her brain work better, and that’s all they need to know.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

What I've been up to...

I'm not even going to apologize for not posting more, because...well...LIFE happens.

I've been busy working with my friend Katharine McKinney to bring Listen To Your Mother to Evansville.  We have a cast and are now working on all the finer details of putting a show together for the very first time.  Holy mackerel is there some work that goes into it.  Good thing we are passionate about this show and making it the best that it can be.  Also, it is such a good thing we have some great mentors to help shepherd us along the way.

I'm teaching at UofE again this semester, though it looks like I won't be teaching the same class in the Fall.  Departmental restructuring cut the list of adjuncts to zero, so I'm happy to know it isn't because of anything I did.  I really LOVE teaching, and will be really sad if I don't get to do it at all next year.  That being said, I also will be fine if I don't teach at all.  It isn't like adjuncting pays the bills or that there is ANY glamour in it whatsoever.  I honestly do it because I love teaching and love being around college students.  Their energy is contagious!

Doula work has been going GREAT.  I've had some amazing clients that I've loved working with so far, and I find myself becoming more and more excited about this kind of work the more I do it.  The Doula Group of Evansville is getting off to a great start to the year, and I could not be more excited to get this business up and running smoothly.

What else?  Well...LIFE.
I'm writing an RO3 that's due next month.
I'm trying to help an awesome fund get off the ground with some truly inspiring women.
I'm going to start using my grant writing skills for a local non-profit that is dear to my heart.
AND...well, who knows what else I'll try to cram on my plate.

This post is all business, but I desperately want to get back to writing my heart more than anything right now.  I'm juggling too many balls at the moment and getting worried as I approach this revolving door while walking backwards that I might drop one at any moment.  This, coupled with my normal anxiety, could be a recipe for a breakdown at some point, but certainly not before May.  There is just too much to do before then.  I know I should slow down, but honestly, this is my normal right now.  Slow moments are typically fleeting in my life as sitting idle is not my forte.

Am I overly ambitious?  Probably, but I'm trying to take the 20 years perspective, which isn't always easy, but is almost always worth it!

Friday, January 2, 2015

This year I will

These are my goals for the year 2015.

1. Teach a class at the University of Evansville
2. Officially form an LLC for The Doula Group of Evansville
3. Continue to work as a doula, because I LOVE it
4. Run a 1/2 Marathon in April
5, Take a family vacation
6. Apply for research funding for a project that I'm super excited about
7. Bring Listen To Your Mother to Evansville, IN with my friend Kate from MammaCake  May 8th
8 Buy a house
9. Run a FULL Marathon in November  
10. Live in the moment as much as possible

I much prefer to have goals for the year instead of making resolutions.  Yes, I want to lose some weight, but I will accomplish that through goals #4 & #9.  #9 will also help me tick off one more goal on my 40 before 40 list.  I'm excited about the year to come.  It is going to be GREAT.

What about you?  Do you have intentions for the upcoming year?  Do you do resolutions?

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

This Magic Christmas

I used to hate Christmas.  I used to hate being shuffled between families back and forth, as is the plight of every child with divorced parents.  I hated it.  Yes, we had fun with our families when we were there, but something about being handed over in a McDonald's parking lot in Bardstown, KY seemed to take some of the magic out of it for me.  We got plenty of presents.  We ate plenty of sweets.  But that one hour ride between grandparents' houses made me loathe a holiday that most people enjoy.  I was a grinch, a scrooge, whatever you want to call someone that hates the holidays. 

Then I had children.  Children change you in a million inconceivable ways, many of which you don't even notice until someone points them out to you, but changing my mind about Christmas was noticeable and notable.  Changing my mind is a very difficult thing to do.  I am not easily moved once I make up my mind about something, and hating Christmas was something I had been doing for most of the years of my life.  Andy had been cajoling me about it for years, but it wasn't until I saw the pure joy of the season for my girls that my mind surrendered to the change.  

This year.  This year has been the major turning point in this change.  This year the girls are 4 & 6.  These are the magic years.  These are the years that are imprinted on your mind, with all the big things making impressions.  These are the years that parents want to remember, not because they are easy, but because they are filled with magic and wonder and curiosity.  These are the years when Santa Claus is real and a magic elf really does stay in our house and report back to him.  

These are the years when we do silly dances in the kitchen and nobody is self-conscious about it.  Goofiness emanates from your pores and you feel all the feelings ever so openly and heavily.   You are confident in your decisions and don't let anyone else's opinion shape your own of yourself. 

You are so fully yourselves in every situation, you girls.  You girls.  You light up my world and make it a better place to be. Which is why this Christmas is so special to me.  You are the most adorable and amazing tiny humans I have ever known and I feel so lucky to be able to say I'm your mother.  You will never know how much I treasure as many of the moments as I can.  Believe me, I try to forget the tantrums and breakdowns too.  We are not perfect, but we are perfectly wonderful just the way we are right now, all of us.  

So this magic Christmas I know that I will cherish for many years to come.  I know that we live in an apartment right now, but that's gonna change soon.  I know that we don't have a ton of money, but we have what we need.  We have enough and that is plenty.  You know only joy and plenty my dear girls and watching the magic through your eyes is what made me realize the error in my previous Christmas hating ways.  

So Christmas Eve, late at night while you are sleeping, we'll put all the presents under the tree.  We'll stuff your stockings full of tiny gifts and have trouble falling asleep because we can't wait to see your faces.  The pleasure of watching you open presents feels so precious to me, and I can't express the warmth it spreads in my heart to feel your little arms wrap around my neck and thank us.  I can't wait to spend the whole day together as a family.  I can't wait to go to GG Janie's house with ALL the Melch clan and watch all the kids cavorting around together.  I will take it all in with a genuine smile on my face.  

At the end of the day, I might cry a little because this magic Christmas will be done.  Next year will be great too, but after that one of you might not believe any more.  These are the years I want to cling to and wrap up in a time capsule so I can dig it up on a rough day in the future.  These are the years of magic and wonder and curiosity.  These years, they are the ones I will hold extra precious in my heart.  I know there will be great years to come later, but these magic years are few and I can't imagine anything being more fun than this right now. 

Monday, November 17, 2014

Snow Day

Oh southern Indiana, you gotta love it.  Last night we got about 3" of snow which translated to early morning phone calls from superintendent's letting us know that school would be cancelled for today.  The Cleveland girl inside of me balks at the ridiculousness of cancelling school when you can clearly see the road that you are driving on, but the Hoosier girl inside me knows that southern Indiana is ill-prepared to deal with any amount of snow because they are in serious denial about preparing for things that don't always happen here.  The girls rejoiced and I cringed.  I knew that I had a class to teach today at a university that was very unlikely to cancel classes.  I knew that I basically only needed my girls to be watched for 50 minutes so I could talk to my students about sexual health.  

Did I ask for help?  Of course not.  The optimist inside me won out when debating whether to call someone to watch the girls, so instead I opted to take the girls with me to my lecture and bring along some coloring books & toys to occupy them for the mere 50 minutes I had to work.  I really thought they might sit in the corner and color.  I really thought they might actually be good listeners for me.  I really really was WRONG.  

Here they are about to go outside and burn off some energy before my class: 

I made them go outside and play in the snow twice before we left.  I made sure they were fed lunch and had some just-in-case snacks along too.  I packed a bag of toys and such to keep their attention.  Little did I realize that 44 college students are much more entertaining than bags of toys.  

I should have realized my little entertainers would succumb to the temptation to make the whole class laugh.  What I couldn't have realized was what they would do once they got their first laugh.  

This week in my health and wellness course we are covering sexual health.  Thankfully today was not the sexual behaviors and STI lecture, rather the anatomy, physiology, and relationship lecture.  My students were remarkably quiet for a Monday even.  I put up a picture of the external female genitalia and none of them even wanted to say what it was.  Annika, being the over-achiever that she is, promptly raised her hand and announced to the class, "It's a vagina. Duh!"  The entire room erupted in 1/2 laughter and 1/2 gasps.  Apparently it is both hilarious and appalling that my 6 year old knows the proper name to call her junk.  Who knew?  

Annika was hooked.  She proceeded to spend the next 45 minutes dancing in front of the class, writing funny things on the chalkboard, and interrupting me to ask questions like, "Can I call on the next person when they all raise their hands?"  Yes, Mayzie also interrupted me a couple of times, but mostly to ask me to help her with something like the sweet little 4 year old she is.  Annika was a terror of holy proportions.  

It was stressful.  It was embarrassing.  It was hilarious...though admittedly I am only laughing about it now hours later.  

Lesson learned: Ask for help when you need it and NEVER count on your kids to behave when you need them to because that is the moment they will choose to prove you wrong every time. 

Snow days were so much better when I was the one getting the day off! 


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