Thursday, December 29, 2005

On Watching My Wife Give Birth

Miah’s water broke while we were eating at a restaurant on December 21 around 8 pm. We went home after that and timed her contractions while cleaning the house. By 11:30 though, Miah contractions were about five minutes apart and lasted a full minute. So we headed to the hospital. By about 1 am, we were settled into the labor and delivery room, but then the contractions weren’t so regular. We felt a little guilty when the midwife came in and Miah wasn’t in active labor yet. The midwife told us to try to rest. I took a nap and woke up around 4 am to Miah’s moaning.

Then the midwife stayed with us and guided Miah through the labor. It was difficult for me to watch Miah go through so much pain. Miah had made the decision early on to avoid using anesthesia. I wrote the following poem about a moment when Miah was in active labor:

Natural Labor

A white rag drops from my wife’s clenched mouth.
Good, the midwife says, face the pain,
make a straight line through the pain.
Then my wife starts to moan
a high-pitched moan
with an even higher tone ringing above the main note.
like a lone fire truck hurdling through the night
sounding its sirens not to clear traffic
but to align all the elements in the universe
to focus all the forces from above and below
calling them to the cause.
As I stand there regarding her pain,
the city marches on,
the jets howl,
the buried pipes and cables whir,
lawnmowers, compressors, and heaters
groan, whine, and growl.
The highway is one long wail.
My wife outmoans it all, the whole city.
Her moan emanates from the walls and floor,
as if her moan never wasn’t there.
Her moan is not accidental
like a leafblower’s whistle and drone.
It is not the sound of a city driven by profit
concrete spilling over steel.
She moans with singular purpose.
She moans as if she is a planet
whose tectonic plates are unbuckling
bearing forth a glowing molten core.
Can she bear this?
She is not a planet, she is a body,
a human and not a celestial rock.
She’s crying for air
because she moaned it all out of her.
All I have to offer is an assurance,
one I do not entirely believe,
that our baby will be out soon.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Happy Birthday!!!!

Raj and Miah decided to celebrate Raj's birthday by having a baby! What else do you do on a birthday, but give birth?

BabyG was born 11.46AM, December 22, 2005.
She is 7lb 7oz, 20in.
And she and MaGreen are doing just fine.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

If Your Mama's Belly Were the Globe

Today is Miah's due date, but still no signs of real labor. We're waiting eagerly. Mehul says that Miah should eat spicy food and the baby will want to come out. Well, while we're all waiting enjoy this silly poem I wrote for our baby.

If Your Mama’s Belly Were the Globe

You would be the deep inner core
the hidden center of all the world.
You would be the force of gravity
you would be the source of magma flow.
Your kicks would be earthquakes
crushing whole city states.
You would cause a sky-high geyser
each time you kick your mama’s bladder.
You would make a great big mountain
by pushing out her belly button.
You the goddess Mahabhumi to whom we pray
with the soles of our feet each and every day.
You the yearning burning fearsome churning
six billion trembling waiting for your coming.
Om bhur bhuvah swah: come now at this twilight hour
earth air fire water may this planet turn inside out .

Monday, December 19, 2005

We Hauled out a Holly: Our Native Christmas Tree

Tree dilemmas are all over!  The two shrubby evergreens in front of
our house are wiping their brows for having survived this holiday season.  I found a merry holly at a store called Buchanan's ('s a list my friend Julie gave me of native plant stores in Houston.).  I was looking for an oak, like GreenDaddy wanted,but unfortunately they're all basically branchless sticks at this time of year.  Only Ziggy or Charlie Brown would buy one and decorate it.  Luckily I saw the holly, perfect because it’s full of all these little red berries.

What I learned while decorating our Ilex Vomitoria, or Pride of Houston
Yaupon Holly:
  1. Putting lights on holly is not the same as putting them on an evergreen.  You can’t just wrap them around the whole thing, you have to follow each of the main branches…our has about seven.  
  2. Important to find symmetrically balanced tree. Otherwise you'll have to stick your heaviest knicknacks in the pot so it won't tip.
  3. It’s hard to put lights on.  My dad always did it for us.
  4. It’s a relief not to have pine needles, but squashing the red berries that fell all over the floor while I put up the lights might be its own kind of meditiation on the word Vomitoria.
  5. When the lights are on, berries seem to glow of their own accord and are gorgeous.
  6. According to GreenDaddy:  whereas only a real square would not have appreciated our unusual wedding cake, many people will be upset by our strange little tree.  
I think its lovely.  It looks prairie-like and sweet.  It is true that we can't get a good photo of it, though.  I’ll put one up, but be   
assured it looks much nicer in person than it does in photograph. (I almost decided not to share an image since the image doesn't do it any real kind of justice.)

What I learned after decorating the Ilex Vomitoria:
  1. I thought I was buying the Ilex Opaca, which is a tree that grows 20 to 25 feet as is supposed to be a fabulous tree
  2. Ilex Vomitoria is a bush that grows about 15 feet, but it draws lots of birds and butterflies.
  3. Vomitoria does signify that the leaves, when boiled, makes a person vomit.  According to a website I read but can’t find again, Native Americans (which natives, I don’t know) used to eat its leaves in order to vomit as a means of cleansing themselves before hunting.
You would think either GreenDaddy or I would have noticed the difference between a tree and a shrub, and the truth is that we did.   GreenDaddy kept saying things like, “I just don’t see how these branches are going to turn into a trunk.”    Since I saw the picture of the tree in my book and it had a trunk and red berries, and since I saw the label at the store calling it American Holly Tree, I just figured this particular type of tree would look more like a shrub than a tree until it was older.  I think the man who put the tree in the car for me just picked up the wrong tree.  

Though you might pay more going to a local native plant store, their service is superb.  When I called to tell Buchanan’s about my sad tree mix-up, Donna (not the owner but “the other Donna” she said) told me I could bring my tree back in three weeks, so I wouldn’t have to undecorate it and redecorate it.   So I can still have a big tree to plant, like I had planned on.  

But also, I’ve just seen lots of pictures of the ‘Pride of Houston’ which can be trained into a tree-shape.  I think I like it better than the American Holly, which has the sharp leaves and grows in a conical shape.  So maybe I won’t even exchange the tree…though we’ll probably not use this tree to plant BabyG’s placenta.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Green Tree

I love Christmas Trees. My dad used to go cut one down from the Uintah Mountains when I was growing up, they smelled fabulous. They leaked pine sap all over the living room floor and oftentimes they were way too tall for the house. I guess it’s hard to gauge how high a tree ought to be when you’re out with a lot of drunken friends in the middle of a snowy Utah night, in early December. We’d have to cut off the bottom of the tree with regularity.

My mother Helen collects an eccentric and dazzling number of ornaments. She has hundreds that people have given her over the years, and even on an enormous tree, there’s not room for all she has. After spending a day putting on lights and decorating tree we had this lovely, lovely visual spectacle to greet us throughout December and January. The tree was always one of the important personalities of Christmas – its antics mirrored the woozy nog-filled ones that took place during my parents’ numerous holiday celebrations. On the years the tree didn’t tip over because in no way does a real pine tree’s base fit into a commercial tree-holder’s stand, one of the cats would invariably decide to climb it, or somebody would stagger into it. Always one of Helen’s favorite ornaments was broken, which was okay in the end. It was a sort of survival of the fittest sort of tree we hailed.

Since moving to Texas, I’ve never had a tree, but now that we’re having a baby, I feel like I need to start making some conscious efforts to incorporate holidays – both Indian and “culturally American” holidays. So I want a tree. But in keeping w/Green Parenting spirit, not a Christmas Tree lot tree. That seems wasteful of a perfectly good tree to me, especially in Houston where I figure any tree they have planted ought to stay that way. But I also don’t want a fake tree because that feels like lying. So we will:

a) Cut down the ugly little deciduous, pokey, evergreen-like trees in front of the house and decorate them. We were going to tear them out, anyway.


b) Research trees in my Texas Gardening book, buy two, decorate them and use them through Christmas, then plant them, along w/BabyG’s placenta, after Christmas. As I said in my ordinary blog, if BabyG is born already speaking Gujurati, English, or Spanish, she can tell us which tree she’d like her placenta buried beneath.

Probably unless BabyG comes out today, we are a choice “b” family. The downside to it is that I really love the evergreens I grew up with, and we’re going to buy some sort of oak or fruit or magnolia tree or a bush with red berries. Not to mention that we both secretly love the idea of using the two trees we don’t like and that we already own.

Though maybe we could freecycle those. All the time people have other people come over and dig up whatever plants they don’t want, and take them for themselves. Maybe the two scrappy trees I will never understand would make somebody else’s Winter Solstice.

I’ll have to consult Mr. GreenDaddy.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Who’d Want to Be Gandhi’s Child?

Last weekend, anti-war activists in Houston were abuzz with activity. Dick Cheney was to speak at a fundraiser for Tom Delay at a luxury hotel in town on the coming Tuesday. The opportunity to create media coverage of the terrifying mélange of corruption, scandal, lies, and policies of war, economic exploitation, and torture that Cheney and Delay represent was very enticing to the activist community. Local groups that often refuse to work together converged. spurred its Houston area members to action. By most accounts, the protest was a huge success.

Miah and I, however, did not go to the protest. She could go into labor anytime and I’d had bronchitis for two weeks that was beginning to abate. It was not the time for us to stand in the cold with a sign as the police circled us on their horses. I still made a little contribution to the organizing effort by writing and designing a feature about the coming protest on a local news website.

Our parents were in town that weekend and they were a bit upset with my participation. “It’s not inconceivable that you could be locked away for this type of activity,” they said, “and now you have to think about your child.”

My response was that repression grows strongest when people are silent and that it is our duty to our child to speak out so that she does not grow up in a society that locks people up for voicing dissent. Still, I took my parents’ concern to heart. At what point does the parents’ obligation to keep their family safe outweigh everything else? I don’t know the answer to that question. I’m not sure there is a single answer. Clearly, parents in 1938 Germany faced a different set of choices than parents in 2005 Texas.

I actually don’t think safety is my biggest concern when it comes to activism and parenting. I’m more worried that the rigidity and inflexibility of belief that is required for activism – how else can people be sure enough of themselves to stand up to authority – is contrary to what is called for to parent well. Unqualified commitment to a set of ideals, whether its Evangelical Christianity or Green Anarcho-Feminism, is sure to create distance in families and rear children who are more perceptive of their family’s hypocrisies than their family’s love.

Gandhi’s eldest son, Harilal (pictured above), had an estranged relationship with his father for, what seems to me, legitimate reasons. For example, Gandhi opposed his son’s remarriage after his son’s first wife died on the grounds that he opposed marriage for the sake of sexual gratification. Though I admire Gandhi and read his writing closely, I would not have wanted him as a father. Not because I would have missed my father if he was in jail, but because I would not have wanted my childhood to be defined by my father’s uncompromising experiments with truth.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Diaper Free: Potty Training Indian Style

Last October, the New York Times published an article called “Dare to Bare” about the growing number of American and European families raising babies without diapers. It was written by an anthropologist named Meredith F. Small. She wrote, “I am ashamed to admit that, even though I've studied how babies are cared for all over the world, it never occurred to me to focus on how children in other cultures use the potty, or not.” Though she’d adopted parenting techniques from Kenya and India like co-sleeping, she kept using diapers and chides herself for it.

When MaGreen read the piece she became interested. If you have been a regular reader of this blog you know that when MaGreen becomes interested in something, she researches it exhaustively. She bought a book by Laurie Boucke called Infant Potty Training. It explains elimination communication (EC) in great detail. The main message is that potty training can be a continuum of communicating and working with the child as she gets older. Infants can communicate the need to eliminate by squirming, grunting, straining, or making sounds. Initially, parents hold the child over a bowl, sink, or toilet. Eventually kids can get to the receptacle but need help disrobing. Ultimately, the child can walk to the potty, disrobe, and eliminate, often much earlier than kids raised on diapers.

I was hesitant. But, you know, my older brother was raised without diapers. And for that matter, I was potty trained in India during a family vacation.

Like Meridith Small, it hadn’t occurred to me that a child could be raised without diapers in America. Despite having Indian parents, living in India, and seeing my own cousins’ kids raised without diapers, I never considered going without diapers for our expected baby girl. When I read the book, I was pleased to find out that Laurie Boucke learned the diaper-free method from an Indian woman. A strange form of pride welled up inside me.

When MaGreen and I started to talk to acquantances about our diaper-free plans, we got lots of comments. “You could hurt the child,” one mother told us at a party. “You know you have to support their heads.” There were rants against the diaper-free method on the feminist listserv I subscribe to on the grounds that it keeps women out of the workforce.

When my parents visited last weekend, I thought they would get upset when we explained our plans, but they were excited. I gave my mom a copy of Laurie Boucke’s book. After a few minutes she laughed and said that she didn’t need to read it. “This is just how it is done in India,” she said.