Thursday, May 29, 2014

Book Review: HypnoBirthing

HypnoBirthing: The Mongan Method

Summary (Courtesy of Goodreads): Childbirth is not something to be feared; it is a natural expression of life. With HypnoBirthing, your pregnancy and childbirth will become the gentle, life-affirming process it was meant to be. In this easy-to-understand guide, HypnoBirthing founder Marie F. Mongan explodes the myth of pain as a natural accompaniment to birth. She proves through sound medical information that it is not our bodies but our culture that has made childbirth a moment of anguish, and that when we release the fear of birth, a fear that is keeping our bodies tense and closed, we will also release the pain. HypnoBirthing is nature, not manipulation. It relaxes the mind in order to let the body work as it is designed. The HypnoBirthing exercises - positive thinking, relaxation, visualization, breathing and physical preparation — will lead to a happy and comfortable pregnancy, even if you are currently unsure of an intervention-free birth. Your confidence, trust and happy anticipation will in turn lead to the peaceful, fulfilling and bonding birth that is your right as a mother.

So, my first book review since February, and it's a pregnancy book? And not just any pregnancy book, but perhaps the most hippy-dippy crunchy-granola pregnancy book on the market (okay, probably not).

But you guys. I'm pregnant. This is just where my brain is these days. Feel free to skip if this is not your phase of life right now, or cup of tea, or whatever.

Because that summary up there is a little bit weird, let me add some clarity. First off, this book is somewhat of a text-book of sorts that is supposed to accompany a pre-natal course with a certified Hypnobirthing instructor. In the course, you go over all of the breathing and relaxation techniques talked about in the book (I assume, I haven't actually taken the course). The focus is all about having a natural, drug-free, medical-intervention free labor and delivery. And yeah, it can sound pretty weird to the average person.

I'm almost 90% certain that I read this book at some point in my first pregnancy, but my dear, sweet, super mainstream husband thought the whole concept sounded way too weird. I mean, isn't hypnosis for late-night cruise shows and other creepy entertainment venues? Also, my husband is totally on the "doctors know best" bandwagon. I, on the other hand, was intrigued by the idea of it all (it's not really side-show hypnosis, it's more like self-meditation to help manage the pain of labor), but I wasn't super sold on the idea of an un-medicated birth and, coupled with my husband's resistance, I didn't push for it. Plus, we were poor college students at the time, so forking out a couple hundred dollars to take the course, when the hospital's pre-natal class was free, was just too much to swallow.

However, one super traumatic C-section later, and I'm looking for ANYTHING that will allow me to have a more positive birth experience this second time around. So here I am, devouring everything this book has to say, eagerly buying their promises that no medication will make everything go so much smoother this time. Once again, I'm not actually taking the course with an instructor (the nearest instructor I could find lives about an hour away, which is just not feasible with my husband's work schedule), but I've got the book and accompanying cd's (full of relaxing music and relaxation scripts), and I have a feeling I will be rereading this multiple times before the big due date in October.

Even my super mainstream husband is on board this time. After watching many of our "normal" friends and family use this technique with great success over the past two years, and after witnessing the trauma I went through last time with the stupid epidural (seriously, hated the epidural more than the pain of contractions), he's promised to be my supportive companion with this whole thing.

Unfortunately, my chances of having a C-section again are still pretty high. Even though I'm working with a doctor who is very supportive of VBAC's, if the same perfect storm from my first pregnancy happens again (I'll spare you the details, but my doctor told me it was either a C-section or they would have broken my hips...) I will likely end up with another scar. But in the off chance things work out and this baby cooperates, I am 100% committed to a natural birth this time around.

Regardless of what happens for the actual delivery, I'm finding many aspects of this book to be helpful now, just in managing this pregnancy. For instance, there is a chapter discussing how negative emotions and speech can adversely affect a fetus. While the scientific support behind that may be questionable, I realized that I really have been quite negative about this whole pregnancy. I have just been SOOOOOO sick for so long (and still not feeling quite over it yet), that I've found myself adopting a "grumpy pregnant lady" persona, accepting that I will just hate life as long as I am pregnant. And whenever anyone asks me how the pregnancy is going, I immediately launch into my long list of complaints and grievances about everything I hate about being pregnant. While this attitude may or may not be affecting my baby at all, I realized this attitude was totally affecting me. I was victimizing myself, trying to convince other people that I had it so hard and was so miserable. So, my new resolution has been to change that, because I don't really want to be the grumpy pregnant lady. In reality, I AM happy to be pregnant. I AM thrilled to be having another little baby. And it probably wouldn't hurt anything if my attitude reflected that.

Second, I am LOVING the relaxation exercises. Every day, as soon as I put my kid down for nap time, I go in my room and turn on the Rainbow Relaxation track (I know, isn't that a terribly hippie title? It makes me think the next track should be about unicorns, but whatever) and you guys! The BEST naps of my life. I wake up an hour or two later in this completely zen state. Yeah, I'm not actually using nap time to be productive and get things done (thus the lack of posting recently), but I don't even care. For a few hours after doing those relaxation techniques I don't feel nauseous, I don't feel body aches, I just feel good. It's amazing.

So, to sum up, I don't buy everything this book is selling. I don't necessarily believe that birth is naturally meant to be painless (maybe for some lucky few with nice wide hips, but even then...) or that everything about the medical maternity ward is evil and meant to thwart the natural birth process. There's still a lot of hippie-dippie crunchy-granola language in this book that I just sort of looked past. That being said, I do firmly believe in the underlying position that the mind-body connection is a powerful thing, and that a woman can use her mind to manage what is going on in her body during labor. I do believe in the power of a positive attitude. And I'm certainly converting to the benefits of these self-relaxation techniques.

So yes, I wholeheartedly recommend this book to any woman of child-bearing inclination who is even remotely interested in the idea of natural child-birth.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

It's That Time of Year Again

Folks, I am just not on top of it this year. I can't believe we're already two weeks into Sync's summer audio book program, and I only just remembered to check out the line-up.

I wrote about this last year, because it really is one of my favorite parts of summer. For those of you who don't know, every summer Sync offers two free audio books for download every week all summer long. Usually one book is a new-ish YA book, and the other is a classic along a similar theme. This year, some of the classics don't seem quite as "classic" to me, but I'm still excited for many of the books on the list. I don't download every book every week (my ancient laptop here doesn't have quite that much available memory, and not all of them seem to be my thing), but every summer I always find a few new gems that are completely awesome. Here are a few I'm excited about this year:

Code Name Verity - I've already read this one (review here), but my husband needs to read it, and since he only does audio books these days I'm excited to download it for him. If you're in to World War II spy dramas with female heroins, this is a fabulous story.

The Hiding Place - I've also already read this one, but again, my husband hasn't, and he absolutely NEEDS to. I think everyone needs to read this one. I've read it several times, just because it is that powerful of a book, and really makes me want to be a better person.

Peter and the Starcatchers - So this is one I hadn't heard of before, and I'm a bit mystified about how I missed out on it because I'm a huge Dave Barry fan. How did I miss that he wrote a Peter Pan themed novel? I'm kind of terribly excited for this.

So go to it. Take a look at the schedule, mark your calendars, and don't miss out on your chance to score some awesome free audio books this summer.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Why Grad School, Why Now?

"Oh, you're going to grad school? Why?"

I can't tell you how many people have asked me this question, and I suppose it's a valid one. People aren't necessarily being nosy or rude, this is a perfectly polite question to ask when people are getting to know me. But the answer is still always kind of complicated, and more than I can really explain in a short conversation with passing acquaintances.

Usually, people have two reactions when they find out I'm going to grad school:

Some people assume I'm doing this to get back into teaching, or go on for a doctorate, or jump start my career in some way. And the answer is, no. Probably not. With young kids at home, I have no plans to go back to teaching (yet) or get a doctorate (yet) or work on maintaining any kind of career, but that's difficult to explain because otherwise, what's the point of paying for grad school?

Other people, the ones familiar with Mormon culture and the expectation for women to stay home with the kids (especially when their husbands have very suitable jobs that provide very well for a young family), are just confused. Raised eyebrows. Question marks. Because why on earth would I waste the money we could be using to save for a house to pay tuition? Why would I shuffle my child around to various babysitters and disrupt our family life like this? What's the point?

The short answer I usually give both groups of people is that a maser's degree is just on my life's bucket list of goals. Something I want to do. That answer tends to satisfy most people, even if they are still a little confused about my timing.

And while that short answer is completely true in every way, the long answer is a bit more complicated. The long answer is that I'm not really sure why I needed to go to grad school right now other than it felt like a very right decision, and that every step of the way has been guided by what I can only describe as God's hand. I still don't know why God wants this experience for me right now. I'm not sure if he's just interested in my personal growth, or if there's a larger plan in play here, but I have definitely felt divine guidance in this whole process.

As I sit back and reflect on my first semester, I can already see ways I've personally grown. I grew up in Utah, I never went on a mission, and I attended BYU for undergrad, so most of my life, and the development of my faith and intellect, happened in a fairly sheltered environment where people totally accepted that religious faith and intellectual advancement could coexist peacefully in one person. Now, going to a graduate school outside of Utah, I've experienced the complete opposite. In my various classes, I saw a range of opinions expressed, from my non-religious professor who specializes in Bible studies and holds a very deep respect for believers even though he isn't one of them, to the very liberal professor who vehemently and caustically attacked religious belief in any form. I found myself in the very new-to-me situation of defending spiritual belief in an academic setting, and I can't say that I always had the words or the courage to defend myself. In fact, for being a literature program at a state university, I'm seriously surprised in general how much class time was devoted to the discussion of religion and belief. I've been stretched and pushed to think about my belief in new ways, and to find the language to defend it academically. It's an interesting challenge.

But it wasn't all testing and defending faith. I also had some deeply uplifting experiences with some of the things I read and some of our class discussions, especially as I learned about other religions and philosophies. For example, my experience reading The Faerie Queene opened up a whole new way for me to conceive of the virtue of chastity, and it is quite beautiful. Honestly, I wish that epic poem were a little more accessible to modern readers, because if I'm ever called to be in the Young Women's program, I'm totally going to teach my girls about Britomart. Spenser created one of the most brilliant allegories on chastity I've ever encountered in that text. I know the teenage girls will think I'm weird, but I'm not kidding. It's beautiful stuff, once you wade through the archaic language and strange narrative structure.

So it's definitely been a growing experience, but one I am deeply grateful to be in the middle of. I feel there is so much more for me to learn and discover and think about, and I'm still feeling excited that this opportunity is mine right now (despite what a grueling semester it was). It's hard and stressful, but still such a blessing.

Anyway, I've probably rambled enough for one post. So I should stop now. But thanks for giving me some space to think through all of my experiences with grad school. There's more to come, for sure.

Monday, May 12, 2014

And... I'm Back

Did you miss me? All eight of you that follow this blog (eight might be generous...)?

Yes, well, I turned in my last paper one week ago today, returned an enormous stack of books to the university library, and carefully filed away all my notebooks filled with notes I will never look at again. I've spent the past week sleeping and not doing much else. It's been glorious.

But like I said in my last post (months ago), school is not the reason I've been so MIA around here this year. Yes, the pregnancy continues, and I am slowly, ever so slowly, clawing my way back into some semblance of health and energy. I'm at least only throwing up about once a week these days, so there's hope I may feel normal about food and life and whatever before this baby actually arrives. Although considering I'm already half-way through, I can say say in no uncertain terms that this has been the worst pregnancy of my life (out of two, and I pray the next one isn't this bad or I may have to stop at three kids... actually right now I've sworn I will never have kids again, but give me five years or so and I might consider going through this again).

But! No one wants to hear the details of the nauseous nightmare I've been living for the past three months, so let's get back to talking about books! Right, I haven't actually read any non-school related books since the semester started, but there are still SOOOO many things I've been dying to write about here all semester long because seriously, the thoughts! The ideas! The thinking! I'm sounding incoherent, but this semester of grad school has been one of the most intellectually rewarding experiences of my life, and I need a place to process ALL THE THOUGHTS! Well, not ALL the thoughts, but at least some of them. And I do plan to review at least a few of the books I read for various classes, but I'll try to stay away from the sixteenth century metaphysical poetry (you're welcome). I've got a bunch of Student Mom posts planned on some of the practical sides of this adventure with all of my hard earned wisdom and advice. So, lots of posting to come. I'm excited to be back.

Now, here's to a summer of much fluffier reading!