Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The Born Identity

My favorite quotes this month:

From an interview in Bust Magazine:

“When I say (I am a) ‘feminist,’ I mean that in the most complex, interesting, exciting way!” –Miranda July, artist

From a conversation with my four year-old son:

Idris: “Here mom, let me burp the baby.”

Me: “Okay, kiddo! How do you know so much about taking care of babies?”

Idris: “From watching Dad take care of my brother.”

(This was said with one of those matter-of-fact, like “duh” expressions that four year-olds are so good at.)

From a class lecture regarding Hanuman:

“Our wounds are...opportunities to transform and create a deeper feature of our identity.”
--Professor Douglas Brooks, philosopher

So, I’ve been thinking a lot about identities, the creation of them, the meaning they carry. Becoming a mother, twice over, has shown me, for better and for worse, just who the world thinks a woman with children is supposed to be. So often tells we’re told a story in which we are to pick ourselves out in the reflection of a small pool of “mommy-types”, so that we can cling to one and revile others—you know, “working mom vs. stay-at-home mom” (as though ALL moms don’t work), “green mom vs. consumer mom” (though being a “green mom” often centers around the consumption of environmentally-friendly products); “young mom vs. old mom” (you’ve got about a seven-year window between 27 and 34 to be “age-appropriate mom”). And though there seem to be all kinds of mom-identities based on what kind of toys we buy, the sort of discipline we employ with our kids, what our families eat, our class status, etcetera and ad nauseum, in the end these “identities” are nothing that anyone I know feels realistically described by.
If I’ve learned anything from my beloved Yogin Professor (see above), it’s that identity formation is an organic process, and an interactive opportunity to engage the world. Our wounds, our mistakes, our shortcomings—they’re all included as pieces of that opportunity, and are especially useful in motivating us to look toward new possibilities. This is where we call upon our imagination—as Dr. Yoga has also said, “you will become only as much as you can imagine yourself to be. So imagine big!”
And it’s good to have examples to look toward in feeding our imaginations. Like my son pointed out, we start to know who we are, and who we can be, by seeing what others believe is possible—what others have MADE possible, through their actions, for themselves and for us.
So on the tough days, the exhausted, depleted, everything’s-gone-to-shit-and-I’m-not-cut-out-for-this days, I have to remind myself, Imagine Big! Taking on the tag of “mama” is an adventure—the opportunity to create a new outfit for our great Selves and, Tim Gunn-style, “make it work.” And the next time you hear someone described as being “a mom,” you can turn around and say, “and when you say ‘mom,’ you must mean that in the most complex, interesting, exciting way. Right?”

Friday, September 28, 2007

Because Sleep Deprivation Doesn't Make You Crazy Enough

Here's a fun quiz based on a recent visit to the "Parenting" section of Barnes and Noble.

Which of the following are real titles, marketed toward people with children?

A) Your Best Isn't Good Enough

B) Stupid Things Parents Do to Mess Up Their Kids

C) How Could You Do That?!: The Abdication of Character, Courage, and Conscience

D) Childhood Obesity: It's Your Fault

Answer: B and C. Okay, they are both written by that the demented Dr. Laura Schlessinger. Still, the fact that these books are marketed to parents, most of whom are probably just trying to get through the day, is really messed up. Go ahead and ask for the title "Awesome Things Parents Do to Make Their Kids Happy". It didn't get published.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

It's Almost Fall!

I can't believe we've been a four-pack for a full month now...the last weeks have been amazing, exhausting, exhilirating, and extremely challenging! It's an intense yoga, creating this new bond and configuration within our family. But we're getting into a somewhat recognizable groove, and I think we're all actually feeling reasonably well-rested. Idris is unbelievably sweet with his baby brother--the only problem is that he wants to wake him constantly to play! In addition to stepping further into his role as big brother, Idris approached another milestone this past week: learning to ride a two-wheel (well, two plus training wheels) bike, an early birthday gift from his Mimi and Uncles Dave and Mike. He's rocking it. We can't keep up! It makes me laugh and cry at the same time. How did he get so big in so little time?
September has shaped up to be a gorgeous month, and it's still quite warm. Still, you can smell autumn in the air in the evenings, and it makes me fall a little bit in love with this place (I wish I could keep that going through the winter!) We are looking forward to visits to nearby orchards, brewing fall beers and cider, going to the pumpkin patch with Idris's class, and walks around the lake near our house where the trees become a riot of color as October unfolds.
Love and big blessings to you all, family and friends.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Instead of having a "red diaper baby," we just had a red baby. He's not so brightly-hued anymore.
Performing live tonight on Hot 97....MC P-Pants! You'd better recognize.
The Ascherl-Hans-bros. (Sorry, couldn't resist...though it was Andrew who came up with that, of course.)
Me and my boys. (This was definitely one of those "there's no place like home" post-birth moments.)
Emile makes his first appearance. the living room? Andrew and Idris were great help, and some of the time labor was actually fun.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Baby in the House!

Emile Arjun Ascherl-Hansbrough was born at home on Thursday, August 23 at 8:03 p.m. He weighed 7 lb. 8 oz., and was 20 inches long at birth. Here's the story!

Like my labor with Idris, my labor this time around took on a pattern that might best be described as "avant garde," or "rythm-challenged". For the first twelve hours, I had contractions that went from 10 minutes apart, to seven, to fifteen, to five, to recognizable progression. Most of this time, they weren't strong enough to keep my from having a conversation, but they were strong enough to keep me from sleeping. So, as things started around 11 a.m. on Wednesday night, I had a long, sleepless night of waiting for things to really get going.

With my first birth, an acupuncture treatment turned out to be the miracle that got my labor on track, so first thing Thursday morning I made an appointment with an acupuncturist whom my midwife had recommended. Her office is in a yoga studio in East Aurora (about 35 minutes away), and we found ourselves driving there in the hardest rainstorm we've seen all summer. Yikes! I did NOT want to have this baby in the car. Luckily, we got there without a problem. Talk about a perfect place to get help and relax during labor—the building was all soft light, wood, and quiet, and by now I guess there’s no place I feel more at home than a yoga studio. Stacey, the acupuncturist, told me she knew I was ready to go, and that the treatment would help and give me strength. She was totally right. I felt great when I left.

My contractions began to get a little stronger and more frequent on the drive home, though they still weren’t following any recognizable pattern. I told Andrew that I thought we needed to take a walk to encourage things to keep moving, and asked him to start calling friends to see if someone could watch Idris for a while. Nate and Lydia were the first saintly ones to respond; they took Idris to the park while Andrew and I walked up and down the block. Every time a contraction hit, I would dive for the nearest tree, wrap my arms around it, and start chanting (well, moaning, really) “OOOOOMMMM namah shivaya”, while Andrew put his hand on my forehead and said “Relax, deeper...” (one of the cues from the childbirth hypnosis we'd been practicing.) We did this probably seven or eight times. I'm sure this looked like some strange pagan ritual to neighborhood passersby—it was around 5 p.m. in the summer, totally broad daylight, lots of people were out walking their dogs and stuff....

A little while later, Sol and Pete took over for Nate and Lydia, taking Idris to their house (while simultaneously hosting a barbeque—thanks for letting the little guy crash the party!) Andrew and I sat down to watch a movie, and my contractions still were not getting any more regular. They had been five minutes apart on the walk, and slowed down to ten minutes apart. At this point I was getting really depressed. I kept thinking, “maybe there’s some way I can just turn this labor off and try again in a few days.” But I had no idea how to do that. We decided to call Eileen again and see if she had some insight. Andrew spoke to her first, and then he put me on. She said, “do you think you’re making progress?” and I petulantly responded, “NO.” And she said, “Erin, I think you are. Why don’t I come over and check you out. Maybe it will give you some encouragement.” I said I’d like that. She also said she’d call Catherine, Eileen’s backup doctor who would be attending our birth (such a rare and cool thing—a doctor who is not only willing to back a midwife, but wanted to attend our birth just to get more familiar with what homebirth is like! She is fantastic.)

After we hung up, I laid down in bed with one of my hypnosis cds, and Andrew stayed with me. As I was breathing through a rather strong wave, I suddenly felt this big, warm burst of fluid on my legs and figured my water had broken. It was a LOT of water! This brightened my outlook a lot, because I finally had what I felt was a tangible, recognizable sign that labor was really happening. Sure enough, the contractions started coming faster, stronger and closer together. I got up in between a couple, and saw that Catherine had arrived. We told her my water had broken, and she said, “oh, that’s great.” And I was like, “really? Does that mean I’m getting closer?” (This was the state I was in—not yet believing that HOURS of contractions + water breaking= yes, your baby really will get here today.) She said, “I think your baby will be here in 2 or 3 hours.” Wow! This psyched me up. Eileen arrived shortly after that. I decided against an internal exam, even though I was still feeling very frustrated about my weird labor patterns. Everyone else, though, seemed to feel that things were well on their way. Andrew decided to start filling the pool in the living room.

I breathed strongly through a few more contractions, and when the pool was filled I got in. Wow, there is no greater feeling of relief than being in labor and stepping into warm water. I smiled. Things were going great. I was still talking between contractions, breathing strong during them. And then that changed, too. I said I was feeling pushy, and Eileen was like, “that’s great! Go for it when you’re ready.” I said I thought we’d better call to get Idris back to the house. With a knowing look on her face, Eileen said that would be a good idea.

As I was entering the pushing phase, I noticed that Idris was in the room. He walked right over to the pool to say hi to me, and then he brought me a glass of water. I couldn’t believe what a big boy he was! He seemed so grown up to me, helping me that way. Andrew changed him into his swimming trunks, and he got in the water with me. He giggled about swimming in the living room. He was having fun! This was excellent. I had a few rough contractions, starting to push, and I felt Idris’s little hand on my back. What an amazing son. After a while, the noise I was making seemed to get to him, so he got out. I didn’t really notice at that point, but everyone said he was really laid back about it; just like, “okay, I’m done with this scene now.” He hung outside with Sol and Ben, who had brought him back to the house and were waiting on the porch for Drea and Leticia, our third and final childbirth tag team, to arrive and watch Idris. Drea must have shown up as I was really starting to push. I made a lot of noise, and she said she could hear things progressing from outside on the porch. I pushed for about an hour altogether. Halfway through pushing, I started to feel a lot of pressure in my sacrum, and Eileen and Andrew gave me good counterpressure to relieve it. Now, I had back labor through my entire first labor, and it ranks right up there with war, capitalist-enforced poverty and exploitation on my list of things that I hate and want to rid the earth of. I found myself thinking, “this sucks. I don’t want to do this anymore”—not “I CAN’T do this anymore”, just a real feeling of, you know, enough already! Eileen suggested I change my position, so I went from kneeling to squatting, and smiled—what a genious suggestion. It got rid of the back pain. Still, after more pushing, I was getting tired. As Ram Dass said of the moment of his stroke, “My mind did not turn to god.” I was really, really just pissed. Luckily, this lovely attitude was eventually replaced by a voice in my head saying, “only three more.” And indeed, after a few more pushes, he started to crown! I had my hand on his head as he came out; I took a little breather, then worked a little harder to free his shoulders. Oh my god, I caught my own baby! I hadn’t even considered the possibility that I might catch him myself, and it was a wonderful surprise. Eileen told me to bring him forward, so I stood up a little, picked Emile up out of the water, and handed him over to Eileen while Andrew helped me turn around to sit. Eileen handed the baby back to me, and I held him in the water. I saw that Idris had come back into the room—he didn’t actually see his brother crowning or being born, but he was right there seconds afterward. Idris got back into the pool with me, and Andrew stood at the side of it as we all stared, awestruck, at the newest member of our little family. I held him for a nice long time, and even got to begin nursing him in the water while we let the cord stop pulsing. Idris got out of the pool, and with Andrew guiding the process, helped his papa cut his little brother’s cord.

It was sweet to have Emile arrive at such a social hour. Welcome, sweet little one!

Monday, August 20, 2007

L to R: Che in velvet, Me at 9 months, Idris swinging and singing.
Idris is a big fan of hip-hop music and breakdancing. He also has very specific ideas about the sort of clothing that must be worn for "hip-hop dancing", as he calls it. As you can see, pants are considered totally 2006. He DID find a gold chain necklace in our bedroom, and insisted he had to wear it with this ensemble. Incidentally, the only music I really wanted to listen to when I was pregnant with him was The Coup and Tenor Saw.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Capping One Off

Andrew and I, along with our friends Sol and Pete, decided to teach ourselves to brew beer this summer. The results have been very successful and tasty! I can't wait until I can actually drink a whole beer. Idris helped to cap some bottles.
Above that--well, pretty easy to figure out. Our waterbaby loves the summer.

Mujer al Borde de un Ataque de Nervios (or, Will This Pregnancy Ever End?)

Hello to friends, family and any curious onlookers!

I've been inspired by my new mom-pal Jesica's blog, and figured this would be an easy way to post pictures and keep you all up-to-date (as much as you so desire) as to our family's activities, current obsessions and the like.

So, I'm four days away from my Expected Due Date (which seems to fall somewhere between numerology and the predictions of Nostradamus for accuracy) with son number two, and have officially entered the "homocidal maniac" phase of late pregnancy. Yeah, good thing I'm on leave from teaching yoga now! Actually, though, I have to count my blessings as this has been a really gorgeous summer in Buffalo--far more bearable than the record-heat New Mexico summer of the first pregnancy.

We are getting super-excited for the birth. We're planning another homebirth, and we are ecstatic to have found, rather at the last minute, an amazing midwife to assist us. Idris gets along great with her, which has helped Andrew and I to feel even more psyched about this family event. Homebirth services in Western New York have been, for a long time, about as easy to come by as honest people in the White House (which is to say, "Good Freakin' Luck"); however, our midwife has recently decided to come back to practice, and she has a back-up M.D. who is not only super supportive of home birth, but has decided to get involved in helping to open a birth center! This is FANTASTIC news for women in Western New York. We'll throw up some pictures after the little guy's arrival.

In the meantime, I'll try to get some photo illustrations of our summer up. We miss you all, friends and loved ones, and hope to see you soon. I am desperately homesick for the Southwest and starving for green chile. What else are you supposed to eat when trying in induce labor?

Love to everyone.