Thursday, March 26, 2009


Whan that Aprill with his shoures soote
The droughte of March hath
perced to the roote
And bathed
every veyne in swich licour
Of which vertu engendered
is they flour;
Whan Zephirus eek with his
sweete breeth
Inspired hath in every holt
and heeth
The tendre croppes, and the
yonge sonne
Hath in the Ram his halfe
cours yronne,
And smale fowles maken melodye,
That slepen al the nyght
with open eye-
(So priketh hem Nature in
hir corages); Thanne longen folk to goon
on pilgrimages. . .
                                     Geoffery Chaucer- The Canterbury Tales

Like Chaucer's pilgrims of old, my family and I harkened to the call of spring and took some time off to travel.  Chaucer is right; spring is a great time to leave home and see the countryside. Unfortunately, I did not have the pleasure of traveling with the loquacious Wife of Bath, the jolly cook, or the creative nun's priest, but like Chaucer's pilgrims, there was good company and a lot of  great stoytelling. 

The pilgrimage is as archetypical to religion as the snake and the tree, the flood, or the apocalypse.  The Buddists travel to Kapilavastu to see the Buddah's birthplace.  Jews and Christians alike travel to Israel to see where prophets strode.  Many still travel to Greece to make their winding way to Delphi. 

Unlike the pilgrims of old or the steadfast Tibetan monks, my family and I boarded a plane.  The location was not particularly exotic: it was no Thebes, Lhasa, or Jerusalem.  In fact, it is a little known place except to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons.)  We spent our spring break in Missouri and Illinois to visit sites only as ancient as the 1840's.

Like Chaucer's pilgrims who travled to visit the resting place of the martyr
Sir Thomas a' Becket, we travled to sites related to the founding prophet of our religion and martyr, Joseph Smith.  We saw the jail in Liberty, Missouri where Smith and seven of his follwers were held captive for five brutal winter months and where Smith received some of his most hopeful revelation that has now been canonized in modern scripture.  We traveled to (and spent most of our time in) Nauvoo, Illinois built on the banks of the Mississippi River by early Mormon settlers: a testament to their faith and work ethic.  There, we saw the homes and tombs of the martyred prophet and his brother, Hyrum Smith.  One brisk morning, we traveled to Carthage, Illinois to visit the Carthage Jail (ironically a much more hospitable place than Liberty) where Joseph and Hyrum Smith were shot and killed by an senseless mob (the door still bears the bullet holes from that day.)

Perhaps my family and I did not have to walk to Mecca and suffer en route (does a turbulent flight count?),  but the purpose of our pilgrimage was much the same for us as it has been for pilgrims throughout time:  
to make it real; to explore and examine and reaffirm the roots of our belief. During my time in Illinois, I was able to walk where my ancestors once walked and to see that my life, like theirs, is only one part of a greater work.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Penelope at the Loom

Today she will entwine red
the color of sunrise.
She pulls over and through vertical
Threads- packed hard down with the 
Shuttle leaving tight neat knots.

This is how she always spends her days
She thinks of her husband gone twenty years
Their infant son now a man.  How bitterly
Those hours spent arranged in colored weave
that shows no time, like the shore
licked nightly clean by tide.  She craves
Odysseus to float to her front door
heralded by seagull cries- a piece of driftwood
dropped, joyously, at her feet.

A freshness in the air and she recalls last night's 
buffet of rain that crushed out suitors' revels-
left olive leaves strewn over hard packed ground.
All summer gone in those leaves
all sundrench all dew.  Gaia giving
then destroying
what took eternity to grow.

Her days weave nights and nights unravel days
The tight weft of hours built up and loosed
Ceaselessly storing moments like coins.
Dawn's rosy finger streak the dark

Light has streaked her hair
By the rythm of some loom.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Oh, Spare Me! (A VBAC post)

I’ve always prided myself on being a bit of a skeptic.  It’s not that I don’t believe in the supernatural, for instance. It’s just that I don’t think ghosts or aliens have much personal interaction with the inhabitants of planet earth.  I approach social causes in a similar frame of mind.  It seems to me that the greatest interest of most charities happens to be the kind accumulating in my bank account and how to get me to proffer it up for their “good causes.”  Before I sound, completely selfish and curmudgeonly, it’s not that I don’t support social causes and charities; it’s just that I want to know that my money is actually being used for good and is not just contributing to some administrator’s BMW fund.

Of course, I’m not anti-woman or anti-minority, but I do feel as if worthy causes get exploited to pull at the heartstrings of a sympathetic, gullible public.  The inverse is also true; sometimes causes I feel most strongly about seem to slip by with very little notice. 

I also submit that nothing stirs the ethical pot like reproductive issues.  For instance, consider the years of controversy over abortion, and, more recently, the hotly-debated topics of stem-cell research and cloning.  Why else the fascination with Octomom: hubbub over a woman with a lot of kids, and the public eager to stand as ethical judge? (Not that I support or sympathize, it’s just that there are bigger fish to fry.)

What reproductive issue, you may ask, could be more  important than a mother who has voluntarily sentenced herself to raising 8+ teenagers all at the same time ? My answer: VBAC's.  Ha!  Chances are you haven’t heard of them even as they are increasingly endangered and drawing close to extinction.  VBAC is the acronym for “Vaginal Birth after Caesarean.” (I know, bleck!  That’s why we call them VBAC’s.)

Currently, nearly one third of babies are delivered in the U.S. via Caesarean even though, according to the World Health Organization no more than 15% of babies should ever have to be delivered c-section.  The results of the overuse of this operation: increase of pre-term infants, increase in infant and maternal mortality rate, much longer maternal recovery time, baby is born drugged and groggy, mom is drugged and groggy and thus unable to give baby optimal care directly after delivery, and (my personal major gripe) c-sections often screw up the first, crucial moments when breastfeeding needs to be established.

On a more personal level, many hospitals forever sentence mothers to c-section:  my local hospital maintains the policy of once a c-section, always a c-section.  So as to avoid unnecessary abdominal surgery, I have had to resort to delivering my babies out of town in hospitals that are more willing to work with VBAC moms and now, even those hospitals are raising a wary eyebrow at my request.

So, why are healthcare professionals unwilling to let some mothers walk into their clinics and simply give birth?  They always claim the risk of placental accreta otherwise known as placental hemorrhaging.  VBAC deliveries, as all with all deliveries, present a certain risk that the placenta will rupture.  The increased risk of placental hemorrhage during a VBAC delivery: .5%.

The truth is that doctors and patients alike are attracted to the seeming ease of the c-section.  They love the idea of being able to schedule a delivery, but overlook the amount of risk involved by interfering with birth in its natural course.

Due to the increasing scarcity of VBAC friendly hospitals, with this delivery (which will be my third successful VBAC), I have been told that if I want to avoid the knife, I may have to schedule my surgery, stand-up the surgical team, allow myself to go into voluntary labor and get far enough along before I reach the hospital that the doctors will have no choice but to let me deliver the baby.

Am I intrepid enough to take on the hospital?  My pleasure!  Some causes are worth fighting for and I believe in a woman’s right to forgo unnecessary major surgery.  Of course, my definition of hell is a place where I am tied down and slashed open against my will; and where toddlers forever smear apple sauce across the kitchen floor that I am doomed to mop eternally (but that’s a different post.)

What can actually be done:

*For anyone who may read this and is interested in fighting the beast, the best approach is 

1-  Avoid ever getting a c-section.  How?  Pregnant moms should not let their obstetricians induce labor unless absolutely necessary (i.e. major risk is posed to mother or neonate.)  

2- If you are in the same boat as I am in and have already had a c-section and want to VBAC, I recommend the following:

a) Do not let your doctor discourage you or tell you that you are unable to VBAC without proving it first or presenting you with a darn good reason why you can't.

b) Link up with ICAN (International Caesarean Awareness Network).  They are a wonderful support and have a bevy of good information and studies that support VBAC's.

c) Try to find a doctor or birthing facility that will support your plan to VBAC.  This is often easier said than done.

d) Have a plan before you actually go into labor.  (Especially if you are VBACing for the first time.)

e) Talk to mothers who have VBACed.  It really does help.