"Parents are like shuttles on a loom. They join the threads of the past with threads of the future and leave their own bright patterns as they go."
-Fred Rogers

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Epilepsy...you suck

Today is my 8th wedding anniversary to my supportive and amazing husband.  Instead of having a celebratory breakfast and a day of fun, I spent the morning at Rush University Medical Center with my youngest daughter as she had a sleep deprived EEG.  About 3 weeks ago Macy had a seizure.  I keep telling myself that she probably doesn't have a neurological disorder like my oldest daughter, but I'm not sure if it is intution or just wishful thinking and denial.  After all, neurological disorders are often genetic.  I'm a ball of emotions right now, but surprisingly calm.  I know it won't be the end of the world if Macy has epilepsy, but it will suck.  Epilepsy sucks.

During the next year I hope to help bring epilepsy out of the shadows.  More people need to understand how a neurological disorder in children and adults can be a hassle at the least and deadly at the worst.  People need to know how many different kinds of epilepsy there are.  They need to know that children with epilepsy often look perfectly "normal", but that doesn't mean they don't struggle with even the most mundane daily tasks and routines.  People just need to know epilepsy.

Jasmine Sassack, a mom who took my HypnoBirthing class about two years ago, just sent me a message on Facebook about a walk/run to support epilepsy research.  I had no idea that she lost her brother to SUDEP (sudden unexpected death of someone with epilepsy) only 4 days before her daughter was born.

Please join us on Sunday, October 17, 2010 for Paul's Run for Epilepsy to honor Jasmine's brother, to support my daughter, and to raise awareness and money for epilepsy research.  Because epilepsy sucks.

UPDATE:  Macy's EEG came back normal!  There is still a very slim chance she will have more seizures and/or has epilepsy, but most likely she is absolutely fine and the seizure was just random.  Woo-hoo!!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Excerpts from Haiti--A Midwive's Journey

Katherine Bramhall is an inspiration to say the least.  She is a midwife who has been volunteering and giving her time, knowledge, passion, and love to the women and babies of Haiti for months now.  I received the following e-mail from her today.  It has been posted her with permission.  Please consider donating to Finance for Bumi Sehat Haiti.


Sunday morning in Haiti….not quite hot, already noisy.

I love it all. I’m the only one awake at the compound after 2 nights and a day of birth at the dome…3 babies…3 new mothers…all born peacefully in one off the most beautiful birth settings I have ever been in.

Go figure. In post-earthquake Haiti…that such exquisite beauty is not only possible less than 4 months after such devastation, but it is functional and operational.

It’s hard for me to not be in love with this. It’s hard for everyone who visits to not be struck by it all. And then fall in love.

It’s still pretty unbelievable, actually.
Except that it’s true. All of it.

The dome at night is a looming, luminescent, white structure, softly lit…a 22 foot tall structure in the middle of a clearing. 44 feet in diameter. Leon planted flowers around one side of it and they are in bloom.

Inside, the walls which separate each birthing space are constructed of thick bamboo poles, with perfectly white, starched sheets stretched across the bamboo frames to serve as soft walls and doorways.

The center console, where the supplies are kept is made of wood. An octagon, which mirrors the roundness of the dome. Josh was brilliant in his vision of this. Its feeling is it is the core of the dome, supporting everything which happens in it.

In the night, with the lights on….soft tube lights around the entire 44 foot circumference of the dome…Christmas lights…give just enough light in each room. Headlamps on birth attendants fill in the rest at just the right times…only as needed.

This scene...this miracle of love…invited 3 new babies into our world in the last 2 nights. This clinic, this soft, solid magic held the space for 3 new women to make their way into motherhood.

And we know that none of this would have been possible without THOUSANDS of people opening their hearts to help keep this possible and happening.

On this Sunday morning, the only feeling I have is endless gratitude.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Thank you.
In love,
Katherine Bramhall
Director of Finances & Volunteer Midwife
Finance for Bumi Sehat Haiti

Weekend in Haiti

After seeing 47 women and newborn babies on Friday in Prenatal Clinic, the evening breeze was welcome…we were all very tired, but profoundly satisfied. And all semi-secretly hoping for a quiet birthing night so we could sleep a bit. Saturday is the “day after” prenatals…catching up on inventory, charting, planning schedules. By noon all was finished, we were all here and a festive mood set in.

It was hot. It’s always hot, but this was oppressive. Blessing and delight came with the water truck to fill our tank on top of the bathroom building. It always overflows after a fill, a steady stream coming from the roof corner. Kate got THAT look in her eyes, walked straight over in her red tank top and capris and stood under, soaking and cooling every bit of herself…still with that look in her eyes, but mixed with relief.

The “coolest” one among us in more than one way!

Pamela was working in the storeroom and found an inflatable beach ball, blew it up, tossed it out and a sweet game of beach ball volley began, while Nathanael, Stanley and Russeau played Monkey-in-the-Middle in the courtyard.
It was still hot and everyone dispersed…to naps, writing, disappearing to unknown places…and then it was evening.
Kate went to tour Jacmel on foot with Nathanael and Pam and I eventually followed, meeting them on the way back. She and I walked through night neighborhoods of Jacmel to the ocean-front, where you can sit and get a beer at a little table across the street from the ocean. It was the first time she had been out of the compound since she arrived a week later. The ocean was known only as white-topped waves in the dark and a thundering sound.

Oppressive night’s heat…no air moved and it laid on top of all of us. But another blessed night of rest. Sunday morning at 7 we got a call to the dome…2nd time mom in active labor. Pam got there before me and 7 minutes later, a baby girl was born…frank breech…with the placenta arriving almost simultaneously. No complications for mom or baby. Because the dome was so hot, we moved the bed outside under the tarp, so the breeze could cool mom and baby. Family wandered up with food, baby lay nursing peacefully.

Poetry would be so easy at this point in writing! Kate and Pamela burned the cord, as mom watched intently, her relatives observing the entire procedure. I just watched it all. Kate assisted Pamela in every way. The dome was beautiful in our clearing, pure white under the deep, clear blue sky, flowers planted around ½ the perimeter.

What do I write after this? How do I keep deep pride for what we have built out of my words?

Perhaps with gratitude…for the amazing midwives who come and help us build trust in the community one birth at a time by offering their hands, skills and hearts, helping us toward our goal to reduce the highest maternal mortality rate in the west. Perhaps with gratitude for the support we have from the Haitian community in Jacmel…the officials, the men building our clinic, one brick at a time. Perhaps with gratitude to Tata, Russeau, Nadej, Nathanael, Darline and Reginald who keep us going every day…washing our clothes, cooking meals, running errands, advising us…in a million ways.

Katherine Bramhall, Volunteer Midwife and Director of Finance for Bumi Sehat Haiti

Katherine Bramhall

New mommy and baby relaxing with family outside of the dome

New mama nursing her newborn baby


Saturday, May 15, 2010

Take a nap, Superwoman! --The Value and Importance of a Postpartum Doula

I asked my good friend (and former homebirth client) Katrina to tell us a little bit about what a postpartum doula is and what she does for families.  Check out why you should hire a postpartum doula after your next birth, or why you should consider giving the gift of a postpartum doula to a friend or family member who has a new baby.

Take a nap, Superwoman!
By:  Katrina Pavlik

My dad was born in 1943. His mother, a typical woman of her time, was a new mom at age 19, having married her high school sweetheart and moved in with him and his family. No doubt those early years of marriage and motherhood were riddled with tension with the in-laws and my grandfather’s several sisters. Nevertheless, there were plenty of arms to hold the new baby, plenty of people to hop over to the grocery store, do the laundry, change the sheets and cook the meals. My grandmother jokes that my father didn’t touch the ground in his first year of life because there were so many aunties around! Fast forward to 1976. I was born in Colorado, thousands of miles from my grandparents and any extended family. Coming home from the hospital, my mother, now a mother of two, was dropped off at home by my dad, a typical man of his time. My dad (a wonderful person, by the way) went back to work and my mom was on her own.

What happened? When did we forget that new moms need help? That we are not Superwoman and we are not supposed to be? Sure, you can blame this recent phenomenon on gender equality or job mobility or the modern family, but those changes don’t make up for the fact that new moms, whether this baby is their first or their fifth, need skilled, compassionate, I’ll-do-whatever-you-need-me-to-do help.
Postpartum doulas provide the support that you would expect from your best friend and Mary Poppins combined. You got sore nipples? We can help with that. You got a whining 3 year old in desperate need of attention? We can help with that. You got a dusty floor, dirty diaper, screaming baby, demanding visitors, hungry family? Yup, yup, yup - done. More importantly, what about you? What do YOU need? A nap? A shower? A walk? When mama is taken care of, the whole world is a better place.

Postpartum doulas take on all the work that needs to be done so the family can do the most important thing in the world – bond with their brand new, sweet-smelling, gurgling, snuggling, miraculous baby. We “mother” the mother and her family so that they can do the real work of becoming a family.

Sit down, Superwoman. Relax. You can be Superwoman later. Right now, I’ve got you covered.

Katrina Pavlik is a brand new postpartum doula working on the south side of Chicago. She is the mother of two beautiful boys and the wife of one amazing man. She has a Master’s in elementary education and teaches part-time at Daley College. Her passions include chocolate, Jane Austen novels, attachment parenting, cloth diapers and social justice. She dreams of a world where good parenting is seen as heroic and noble. She can be contacted at kpavlik@yahoo.com

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

My Proudest Accomplishment this Year-Happy Mother's Day

My former doula client, and now good friend, Katrina, has asked the moms she knows to answer this question as Mother's Day approaches:

"We as moms rarely give ourselves a pat on the back for all the amazing work we do. What are you MOST PROUD of yourself for doing this year?  This can be child related, but it doesn't have to be since we all know we are not only mothers, we are also women!"

Wow...where do I begin?  This has been one hell of a year.  I got pregnant, sent my oldest off to Kindergarten, attended almost 35 births in 10 months as a doula (while pregnant), taught close to 50 couples HypnoBirthing, taught over 75 undergraduate and graduate students in the School of Education at DePaul, gave birth, and I'm sure I'm leaving many awesome things out.  So which of these makes me the most proud?  Here are a few of my achievements that stand out:

1. Watching the moms and couples I teach and support become strong and confident makes me more proud than I can even explain.  Seeing a pregnant woman have the confidence to trust her inner voice as she labors and births is amazing.  Being asked to be in the room when a baby is born makes me even more proud.  I can't believe there are people out there that like and trust me enough to allow me to be part of the intimate experience of their baby's birth.

2. Seeing my education students at DePaul student teach with confidence and knowledge, and knowing that they will directly affect so many children positively makes me extremely proud.  When I left the early childhood classroom I didn't know if I would ever make a difference in children's lives again, but as an instructor at DePaul I realize I am touching far more children's lives than I ever have before, albeit by proxy! 

3. Watching my oldest daughter Cora, who has childhood epilepsy, start Kindergarten at a school that I found through a bit of research and luck makes me so proud of myself.  I know my daughter is getting the best education possible at The Academy for Global Citizenship.  I know her IEP is being respected and her needs are truly being met.  I am amazed by my daughter daily, and I am also proud of all she has accomplished this year.

4. I am proud that I am raising such empathetic and caring little people.  My daughters Sydney and Macy handle all of the extra attention Cora receives with grace and understanding.  I know many adults who wouldn't handle a similar situation so well.

5. And while all of the above make me proud, I think I am most proud of allowing myself to move on and to open my heart, mind and spirit to carrying and birthing another baby.  When I lost Michael in February of 2008 I couldn't imagine ever going through that pain again.  I was frightened by the thought of being pregnant again, because there was the potential that I would lose another baby and be right back in that horrible pit of grief and anguish.  But I chose to live.  I chose to love.  I chose to throw caution to the wind and to trust that God would only give me as much as I could handle.  And now, as I type this and watch my beautiful 5 month old son, Mickey, as he sleeps, I know I made the right choice.  And for that I am immensely proud.