Imagine being pregnant. This is your second pregnancy; you have a 20 month old daughter. You are young, low-income, and not sure how best to get care for yourself during your pregnancy. You have no or insufficient health insurance. You want to be an active participant in your pregnancy care and you want to be the one making the decisions (instead of someone who does not know you getting to decide what and how things are done to your body). You are unsure of what all of your options for care and for birthing might be. You see an ad for a D.I.Y. clinic on the bulletin board at Planned Parenthood.
Now, imagine this clinic is a place where you can go to that is staffed with friendly care providers and assistants. There are various staff members at this place: traditional midwives, nurse-midwives, doulas, massage therapists, yoga instructors, childbirth educators, herbalists, chiropractors, and even a physician. Imagine this place is close to you, on the bus line. Imagine that you will not be turned away regardless of your in/ability to pay or where you plan to give birth (or if you plan not to give birth). Imagine being fully informed about what kind of care you need, how to get it (or do it yourself), and being able to share your experience with other expectant parents.
Imagine you walk in and are warmly greeted. There is nourishing herbal tea, biscuits, and fruit on a sideboard. There are comfortable couches, rocking chairs, and floor cushions to take a break on or to nurse your toddler on. An area for toddlers and older children is within view and there is a nice young adult engaging in play with the littler ones. Your daughter runs over to join them. You recognise a few faces from last month and have a sweet chat or two. The walls have helpful and friendly posters with all kinds of families and parents depicted on them. You walk down the softly lit and warmly decorated hallway to another room.
This room has various stations where you can weigh yourself, measure your fundal height, find a variety of equipment (low-tech and high-tech) to listen to your baby’s heart tones, test your urine for possible early signs of complications, and fill out your own personal prenatal flow chart. There are several other parents in the room moving around from station to station, some are helping each other, some are comparing charts, and some are visiting with staff members. You grab your chart from your cubby and start filling out questions about how you are feeling. Once you are done in this room, you walk across the hallway to another room.
This room is a very cosy and comfortable classroom. This is where you have discussions about parenting, what to bring with you to the hospital if you decide to birth there, how to cope with non-stop night time nursing, and how to ensure you get the most from your homebirth experience if you choose to have one. You look over the schedule and sign up for a prenatal yoga class that is scheduled later in the evenings and for an early Saturday morning Mother’s Brunch Salon. You can not wait to visit with some of the other parents you have started developing friendships with since you started coming to this place.
Today you decided that you needed to talk to one of the staff members, because you are feeling a little uneasy about how bad your morning sickness still is at week 14 in your pregnancy. You also want to sign up to interview some doulas, because you have decided that this time around, you want that extra support person at your birth. Before you leave today, you will make an appointment with the chiropractor and sit and have a lovely conversation with a teen mother over a cuppa.
You know that you are empowered with knowledge about your body, baby, care, and you have the skills needed to monitor your own progression into Parenthood for the second time. Your time at the D.I.Y. prenatal clinic is the best part of your month. Every time you leave, you walk away with so much more wisdom and confidence. You tell all of your friends about this wonderful place.
You have not completely made up your mind about where you plan to give birth, but you are leaning towards having a homebirth. You have an appointment next week with a couple local traditional midwives (one of which works at the clinic) to discuss your options. You do know that no matter where you decide to give birth, you will have a chart to hand your care provider with important information about your pregnancy and that this will ensure you have the best treatment and appropriate care offered to you by your care-provider of choice.
On your way out of the clinic today, you and your daughter stop in the garden and collect some wild mint and red raspberry leaves for some tea later on this evening.
This is my dream. I want to find a way to bring this dream into reality for Pittsburgh. It is lofty. It is a logistical and legal nightmare. But, it is what the people need. It is what my soul sings out about.
As a traditional homebirth midwife that focuses my practice on low-income, Queer/LGBT, and POC communities, I see a need for this kind of facility. I see the potential a place like this has to save lives. I see the potential for parents to really be the ones in charge of their care (as they should be) and being empowered with the knowledge and skills necessary for them to take care of themselves and each other. Every person has the potential to be their own midwife.
So, let’s define a couple words before we begin (for grins):
A nerd (adjective: nerdy) is a person, typically described as being overly intellectual, obsessive, or socially impaired. They may spend inordinate amounts of time on unpopular, obscure, or non-mainstream activities, which are generally either highly technical or relating to topics of fiction or fantasy, to the exclusion of more mainstream activities. Additionally, many nerds are described as being shy, quirky, and unattractive, and may have difficulty participating in, or even following, sports. “Nerd” is a derogatory, stereotypical term, but as with other pejoratives, it has been reclaimed and redefined by some as a term of pride and group identity. (wikipedia)
The word geek is a slang term for odd or non-mainstream people, with different connotations ranging from “a computer expert or enthusiast” to “a person heavily interested in a hobby”, with a general pejorative meaning of “a peculiar or otherwise dislikable person, esp[ecially] one who is perceived to be overly intellectual”. Although often considered as a pejorative, the term is also often used self-referentially without malice or as a source of pride. (wikipedia)
And they both seem to be described in similar terms:
Intellectual, academic, or technical hobbies, activities, and pursuits, especially topics related to science, mathematics, engineering, linguistics, history and technology.
Hobbies, games, and activities that are described as obsessive and “immature”, such as trading cards, comic books, fantasy and science fiction novels, television programs and films, role-playing games, tabletop games, and video games.
Interest in the fine arts, non-mainstream music, hobbies (i.e., collecting), or other “obscure” interests.
Heavy obsession with a topic that would otherwise be mainstream (such as a popular TV show or a sport).
Basically, a nerd is a geek is a nerd is a geek. I have to admit to liking or preferring ‘nerd’ over ‘geek’, but I think that’s just because I have a soft spot for Nerfighters.
I have jokingly and in passing referred to myself as a geek or nerd in the past, but I’ve never really and truly embraced my nerdtasticness. Likewise, I have never really tried to hide it either. Lately, I seem to be immersed in a rather nerdy world (yes, predominately online). I’ve always had at least one of my feet over the threshold of nerdland, but in these last couple years, I have fully moved in and embraced nerdhood. I give credit to my son, and some to my husband too.
I spawned a gamer or rather a game designer, as he’s not all that interested in actually playing most games, but incredibly focused on designing game concepts, levels, characters, and music for games. I, on the other hand, LOVE to play games (and I also have a bit of a desire to do some designing, especially in the area of world design and game writing: narrations, scripts, journals, packaging, and hints, because I hate most of the writing in games — hint hint for anyone looking for an emplyee). I grew up with a console in my hand. I was born in 1982; the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) came out in North America in 1985 and I am pretty sure that my parents bought one not too long afterwards. I remember watching my mum play hours of Tetris. Then I played tons of Tetris, Mario Brothers, and Duck Hunt; and I eventually went through every NES game that our local Blockbuster could rent out to me. I also played. All. The. Table. Top. Games. at my house and at my grandparent’s house when I stayed over. I discovered my love of crosswords and logic puzzles from my paternal grandmother, whom ALWAYS had at least two crossword puzzle books going at the same time. At some point I got a Gameboy and was made hip to the fact that we had the Internet on this thing called a computer — how rad! Then in 1991, again in North America, the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) was released and my nine year old self saved all my monies and bought myself one that Christmas. I was so fucking elated. My grandparents (I believe it was them, though it might have been my parents) bought me a tiny 10 inch TV to play my SNES on in my bedroom. Amazeballs!
So, the story doesn’t stop there, but a lot happened in the time between getting a NES and discovering American Online (AOL) chat rooms. I became a gamer and an online social network person who wasn’t even a teenager yet. I found out that there was a world of amazing folks online that I could chat with pretty much round the clock. And thanks to the ‘walled- garden‘ that AOL was, I could look up chat rooms by specific topics: video gaming, programming, hacking, class of 2000, Dungeons and Dragons, lesbians (um, yeah…), C++, BASIC, PRODOS, and various other random chat rooms. I was online as much as I could get away with. I wanted to absorb it all and take everything in. And it’s weird, because I also played outside and rode my bike like miles away from home and ‘normal’ kid stuff. In a nutshell, I discovered a world online that was, at times, more engaging and most definitely more accepting than my IRL (in real life) world. People who accepted me for me and without judgement. People who were honestly into the things I was into and who taught me all kinds of things that school was failing at. And it didn’t matter, nor was it creepy, that most everyone that I interacted with online was at least ten years my senior. I was 11 years old the first time that I hacked a payphone and made free calls; I felt like a badass and I was one, dammit! Discovering 2600 at the library via an IRC channel for queer hackers is a fond memory — I think that says something about me.
It was at this point that I became a bit of a computer gamer and less of a console gamer. In fact, I wasn’t exposed to another console until I was in 7th or 8th grade and played Sonic the Hedgehog with my best friend’s little brother on their Sega. And by play, I mean that I died a lot and mostly just watched J. play a lot. My next console exposure wasn’t until I married my husband in 2001; um, yeah, and I was still playing computer games then, but was watching him play Final Fantasy VII (“the greatest god damn JRPG ever made”, says he) on the PlayStation 1. I stuck with computer (mainly PC/Linux) games because as much as I enjoyed side-scrolling platformer games like Super Mario World, I really liked puzzle games and text-based adventure games, which were better executed on the PC. I didn’t revisit console gaming until after our son was about three years old and we bought him a LeapFrog Leapster hand held gaming system. He soon had a laptop and then we bought a Nintendo DSLite and a Wii and damn near everything since then (and in multiples w/ insurance, because E was breaking shit all the time).
One of my gaming loves that I wish I would have done more of and wish I was doing now was PnP RPGs (Pen and Paper Roleplaying Games) or tabletop RPGs. However, because my father is a heteronormative man (and assumed I was a heteronormative female) and was convinced that being alone with boys (the majority of gamers I knew) would some how lead me into a world of terrible things, I missed out on a lot of RPGing at a young age, you know, when I *should have* been doing it; RPGing would have kept me out of the world of terrible things I eventually found myself in, mainly because I wasn’t allowed to socialise like other children were allowed to (but that’s another ranty post all together) and well, when I was making out with fellow nerds in dusty basements or in bedrooms with the door closed (gasp!) it was rarely, if ever, with the penis-wielding nerds. I really like tabletop RPGs. I love creating characters, their back stories, and developing their personalities (even though most characters that I’ve made are nothing more than more awesome versions of myself or slightly skewed versions of myself, which makes things a little bit easier). Like, I would love to have a job where my main focus was designing starter RPG characters for folks or helping others flesh out their character ideas (hint hint to anyone out there reading who has the capacity to offer me a job like that).
In recent history, I have played a lot of Skyrim on PS3 (which I just absolutely love and was bought on the day of release for me by my incredibly awesome husband), Super Mario Brothers (Wii), Minecraft (Linux), Little Big Planet 2 w/ my son E (PS3), and my old standby Solitary (mainly played on my Linux-wielding laptop). I have also logged many hours watching and assisting from the sidelines while my husband plays through the Resident Evil and the Assassin’s Creed series of games — I like watching others play these games, but I’m not really into First Person Shooters (FPSs). And of course, I might have done a crossword puzzle or 50 and lots of rounds of Scrabble and Words With Friends recently.
Um, in case you want to start a game with me online using Scrabble or Words With Friends, find me on Facebook or start a game with fierylasirena. I sometimes have to skip a day or two of word-making, but I will happily play with anyone of any skill level.
Science Fiction (and TV/movies in general):
Because my mum is kind of awesome, I was raised on a steady diet of sci-fi (a tiny bit of fantasy): Star Trek franchise, The X-Files, The Twilight Zone, Babylon 5, Quantum Leap, Stargate SG-1, Futurama, Mork & Mindy, 3rd Rock from the Sun, The Jetsons, Johnny Quest, Star Wars, The Transformers, and OMG, I could fill up an entire blog post on how the television played a huge role in my childhood. She also has a love for procedural crime/police shows and movies, so I was able to hone my deductive reasoning and research skills from logging many hours watching Law & Order franchise, Hill Street Blues, NYPD Blue, CSI franchise, Homicide: Life on the Street, Silk Stalkings, Miami Vice, and 21 Jump Street. Both of my grandmothers might have got me turned onto Columbo and Murder, She Wrote.
In later years, my husband has reintroduced or introduced me to lots of great things, such as: the Dr. Who franchise, Battlestar Galactica, the Star Trek franchise, Futurama, Monk, Psych, Criminal Minds, Columbo, and the Aliens & Hell Raiser movies. And of course, my son has picked up some great things all on his own, like Futurama, Psych, Red Dwarf, Torchwood, Warehouse 13, Alphas, and Eureka. William and I were talking about how most people who grew up being exposed to a lot of sci-fi are usually pretty rad, open-minded, and hopeful about the future.
Other Random Media:
I spend a lot of time watching YouTube videos with E since he does most of his research for gaming ideas online. We watch Let’s Plays, game reviews, game MOD reviews, game walkthroughs, and gamer related content like: Geek & Sundry. We also watch most VlogBrothers, Vi Hart, Vsauce, and MinutePhysics videos together. I’ve been getting back into TED Talks and William just turned me onto another podcast, Girl on Guy, which is hosted by Aisha Tyler. I just recently listened the fantastically nerdy geekery of an episode of Girl on Guy, Grrrl Power edition that featured Felicia Day (whom I totally have a crush on). As an adult, I’ve also started to find a love for comics and web comics; some of my favourites are: xkcd, garfield minus garfield, Penny Arcade, and what if? (which is technically not a comic, but so what).
Things that Get Me Fired Up:
And can we just take a moment to talk about weird, obscure, or nerdy hobbies and interests that my nerdy self is into? I’m just going to list some things, because that’s, you know, easier than writing complete sentences (the end-of-post-laziness is setting in).
Library and Research Sciences – I love to find things and would love a job sitting around finding things all day (hint hint to anyone needing to hire a research assistant or non-credentialed librarian) and well, I like to read and find cool books on interesting topics, though I have to admit to relying on the Internet more lately for my information gathering. I refer to myself as an Armchair Librarian, because I have no desire to go through a lot of the insane amount of college required to become a librarian; so much of the skills learned in ‘library school’ are innate skills for me and paying someone to ‘teach’ them to me again is not an efficient use of my time, energy, or money.
Maths – I don’t think I really have to explain this one. I LOVE maths. Maths are sexy and everywhere; you can not avoid maths. I LOVE logic puzzles and number magic.
Synesthesia – I’m a synesthete and I am really into hearing about other synesthetes’ experiences. I wrote a blog post about my crazy brain.
The Accordion – I don’t play well, but I want to be able to. I love accordion music and people who play the accordion automatically get bonus ‘hotness points’ (not that I actually give anyone ‘hotness points’).
Tea – I LOVE tea. Drinking and making tea is an art. I have my own tea ritual.
British English – Yeah, I don’t know why either. But, there are certain spellings or phases that I find more ‘right’ or aesthetically pleasing (except for spelling synesthesia like, synaesthesia and no, I don’t know why that one word bothers me).
Radical Unschooling and Education – How people learn, why they like to learn certain things or in certain ways, and how best to help them achieve their goals. How to make spaces constructive for learning to happen in organic ways. Proselytising the fact that children (and most adults) LOVE to learn and are naturally inquisitive; that all people learn best when allowed to explore their world as freely as possible and without the influence of external agendas. Working at a real freeschool or opening one of my own would be pretty rad; helping children in families who can’t or won’t unschool their children at home would be much more satisfying then the time I spent teaching at a public high school.
Childbirth and Midwifery – I’m a traditional midwife who attends homebirths and I talk about birthy stuff a lot. I am kind of absorbed in that world.
Artist Trading Cards (ATCs) and ZenTangles/zendoodling/repetitive doodling – Have you seen some of the amazing ATCs out there? I love making tiny pieces of art to gift or trade with friends. Showing children and adults alike how they can turn simple doodles into master pieces is a huge passion of mine; everyone can be an artist if they want to be one.
Crocheting – My mum taught me how to crochet when I was a very young girl and I’ve remembered how to do it throughout the years. It’s a great time passer at births and an easy way to whip up wash cloths, scarves, shawls, and other fun accessories.
Languages and Linguistics (yeah, grammar too) – My latest language of interest is Romani, the language of the Roma (Gypsy) people. Other languages that I have a lot of past experience with or interest in have been Czech, Latin, Greek, Spanish, and of course, English.
Magic – Not prestidigitation that would be my husband’s thing, but rather ‘real’ magic. Intuition, intention, energy, empathy, conduition (conduit + intuition), healing, and manipulation.
List of Distractions (started as a joke, but is truly representative of how I am easily distracted while writing a blog post):
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about certain communities of people involved in the world of birth and parenting:
- Queer/Trans* (nonheteronormative)
- People of Colour
- Polyamorous families
- That awesome family of folks who result when those three overlap
I am wanting to feature posts on Natural Attachment Midwifery’s blog about queer/trans/POC folks, their experiences, and their advice to other people involved in the worlds of birth and parenting. I recently posted a round up of links pertaining to this topic and it’s been on my mind ever since. I’m hoping to share some people’s experiences who are not otherwise well represented, are underserved, and often invisible.
- being a queer/trans/POC birthworker
- experience as a queer/trans person or POC giving birth (at home — mainly since homebirth is even more under represented in minority communities)
- perinatal care for queer/trans/POC clients
- how are care providers failing the queer/trans/POC community?
- reviews of media and educational materials (books, articles, studies, documentaries/films) portraying or discussing queer/trans people/POC and birth
- special needs or considerations for expectant queer/trans folks/POC & their families
- culturally significant needs regarding care for queer/trans/POC expectant families
- inclusive language and pronoun usage in the birthing/parenting world
Some topics/questions for queer/trans/POC birthworkers:
- positive and negative aspects of your career that you attribute towards your identity
- are you a more sensitive and qualified care provider for other queer/trans/POC clients because of your own identity and experiences?
- for queer/trans birthworkers: do you explicitly or implicitly share with clients that you are queer/trans? How has this worked out thus far?
- what advice would you give to other birthworkers (minority or otherwise) who are caring for queer/trans/POC clients?
Some topics/questions for queer/trans/POC expectant families:
- positive and negative aspects of your care that you attribute towards your identity- is there a care provider/place of service (concerning birth/parenting) that you have experience with that should be highlighted as a positive example for other care providers/places of service?
- do you feel under represented in media and education materials concerning the birthing/parenting world?
- general advice for care providers and other expectant people/families in regards to your identity
Some topics/questions for polyamorous families:
- positive and negative aspects of your care that you attribute to wards your family dynamic
- what are some ways the birthing/parenting world could be more inclusive of poly families?
- do you feel under represented in media and education materials concerning the birthing/parenting world?
I’m going to collect a few posts and then probably publish one or two a week on my site, which will also post them on my business Facebook page and Google+ page. If authors of submissions are willing, I’d like to include a short bio to go at the bottom of posts: feel free to include links to personal or professional websites/blogs. If an author wishes to remain anonymous (or use pseudonyms), that is fine as well.
My own experience, in a nutshell:
I’m queer; I’m a midwife; and technically speaking, ethnically, I’m a Person of Colour. However, to most people, I look like a poor to middle class liberal white woman and for the most part, I live in that social world of privilege. I’m not shy about who I am with my clients. I expect that at some point potential clients have at least read the About page on my business site, which plainly states that I am queer and that I offer my services in an inclusive manner. I won’t lie; this has been a barrier between myself and certain potential clients, but not as often as outright prejudice has been for expectant families in my community. In my own birthing community there have been midwives who have said deplorable things to their queer/homosexual clients about their clients’ orientation and about their clients’ queer/homosexual family members. I have had clients transfer their care to me and contact me seeking transfer or referral, because of the insensitivity and intolerance of fellow midwives, not to mention both the implicit and explicit racism as well. We don’t have enough midwives on the Western side of the state; the last thing we need is for some of the few we have to be bigoted. It boggles my mind and saddens my heart.
Questions, concerns, and submissions can be sent to Michele (fierylasirena at gmail (dot) com)