Both my kids were born at home. People have often remarked on the courage I must have had to have made that choice. It wasn’t courage––it was a desire for a comfortable, supportive birth environment I knew was the best bet for my kids and me to avoid unnecessary trauma and intervention. There are times when medical intervention is necessary, but most of the time, the medical system itself and its medicalized birth practices create the issues which lead to intervention in the first place.
Our bodies are designed to give birth. Fit, healthy women in most cases should be able to deliver their babies naturally––if only they are allowed to. I was 37 years old with my first pregnancy and 40 with my second. My husband and I eschewed all the tests and screenings recommended for “a woman my age,” as we were committed to bringing our children into the world, regardless of what abnormalities or issues such screenings might suggest. And we were blessed with two wonderfully healthy children born without complication or intervention.
I remember being questioned about our choice to birth at home when I was pregnant with our eldest. Well-intended friends pointed to historical maternal and infant mortality rates as an argument for hospital birth. A closer look at the history, however, largely implicates hospitals and doctors in the staggeringly high maternal mortality rates from puerperal fever in the 17th, 18th and early 19th centuries––in which it was common practice for the medical profession to examine pregnant women and deliver babies after performing autopsies, WITHOUT WASHING THEIR HANDS. As Suzanne Humphries, MD and Roman Bystrianyk emphasize in their landmark book “Dissolving Illusions: Disease, Vaccines, and the Forgotten History,” puerperal fever’s massive maternal death toll profoundly impacted the fabric of society. It is no wonder this tragic and largely avoidable episode in recent human history influences our fears surrounding childbirth.
Furthermore, the medical system in the US is the cause of so many deaths that researchers from Johns Hopkins wrote an open letter to the CDC to request that CDC change its record collection criteria to accurately inform the public of this alarming statistic. With medical errors being the 3rd leading cause of death in our country, the hospital hardly seems a sensible environment for a healthy expectant mother to deliver her healthy baby into. On the contrary, the mother and baby would seem at less risk of fatal complications in the safety of their own home, attended to by trained midwives.
Beyond the health and safety of the mother and child, there are many more reasons to deliver at home. In the privacy of her own home, the mother is allowed to labor at her own pace. She can labor in the comfort and quiet of her own bedroom, bathtub or birth tub. While her midwives monitor her and the baby’s vitals throughout, they are unobtrusive and respectful, and they accommodate her timing, not theirs. She is not surrounded by or attached to any machines and monitors, and she is able to move her body freely.
Without intervention or epidural, labor proceeds naturally, as baby and mother coordinate their rhythm and contractions to bring the birth. The midwives do not pressure the mother to take Pitocin to induce labor. She is allowed to proceed as her body and her baby’s body dictates.
Family members or chosen friends are the only other people in the home, quietly and respectfully on-hand to support the laboring mother and whatever she may need at the time. A hushed reverence pervades the scene. And when the baby arrives, he or she is welcomed into the quiet, warm room, surrounded only by loving family, friends and trusted midwives the mother has gotten to know well over the course of her pregnancy.
Newborn baby and mother remain together in the comfort of their bed, while over the next couple of hours the midwives gently monitor, record birth stats and care for the mother (one of my midwives even brought me a plate of scrambled eggs after the birth of our daughter, as she felt I needed the protein). Once they determine all is well, they pack up their oxygen and equipment, hug the new mother, kiss the new baby and go home, only to return the next day and beyond to continue post-partum monitoring and care.
Mother and baby, big brother and father fall asleep in the comfort of their own beds. What a lovely way to welcome this new member of the family. And what a lovely way to come into the world.
We can find play––and joy––in work. And the chores we give our children can develop a capacity to approach work with the fullness of being.
Anne: 00:00 Okay. All right. Here we
are. Take 17.
Thea: 00:06 Hi, Anne!
Anne: 00:09 Hi, Thea. Okay. So if I
can just get my words together. So we’re going to talk today, a kind of
continuation on last week’s where we were talking about the importance of children’s
chores––and how necessary it is for children to participate in the family’s
survival, operation and more and how that very much aids in their development,
their sense of purpose self-esteem and wards off feelings of depression and
angst. So, so we decided, you know, it was not a really long conversation and
we thought we would continue on with maybe identifying some concrete examples
of the types of chores and tasks that we can assign to our children, but
Thea: 01:09 Sorry, I need to just
speak to my child…
Anne: 01:10 Okay. Let me, let me
pause it for one second.
Thea: 01:14 Okay. Sorry. All right.
Please don’t eat that, which is dinner right there…
Anne: 01:21 Okay. So we’re recording
again. So part of what we hit on was the fact that it seems, and from our
perspective perhaps as women, but it seems that the world that we live in, the
modern world here in the States––I live in the suburbs, you live in a small
city––does not provide as many natural opportunities and tasks for masculine
activities. In the same way it does female activities. And by that we’re
talking about, you know, the difference in––certainly between people and
different temperaments, but also between girls and boys. Girls, you know, the
type of household chores we have all the time. There’s never, never in short
supply––doing the dishes, sweeping the floor, vacuuming, tidying, making things
pretty. Even some of the yard work seems to resonate perhaps, maybe more with
my daughter than it does my son. And when I was stretching to figure out, well,
what is it that, that my son really resonates with? It’s chopping wood. It’s,
it’s getting the firewood to build, building a fire. Though my daughter is
pretty pro at that too. It’s, it’s digging. I remember, you know, how he really
got into helping my husband taking apart the deck to then repurpose the wood.
And fixing things. And it then led me to thinking about, well this house that
we built in our backyard, I wrote about this in an article I just wrote about
for his third grade year, Waldorf curriculum is building your own shelter. And
we built a six by six by six by six foot A-frame wooden house in our backyard.
Anne: 03:37 Something I never
imagined I had the capacity to do, and we did it mainly without power tools except
when we really needed my husband’s help here and there. Right? And that was
extraordinary. And so one of the things I wanted to, to share was this book, a
couple of these books that the Christopherus Curriculum––Donna Simmons writes,
does this extraordinary curriculum, Waldorf curriculum that’s designed for
homeschoolers, multi-age homeschoolers. And she had recommended Lester Walker’s
Housebuilding for Children, written
in like 1977 or something. And Lester Walker’s Carpentry for Children, you know, it was around the same era. And
we followed these his plans in here. And I mean, this is, you know, that’s the
house we basically, we built and it just, it goes through showing, you know,
building the walls putting the roof in.
Anne: 04:47 And there’s so much,
obviously that’s incorporated into that, you know, just from a homeschooler’s
perspective––algebra, geometry and more. Right? But anyways, so we had wanted
to come up with a prescription for the boys more specifically because it didn’t
seem as apparent in this, in this urbanized world that we’re living in. And I
thought back to another project that my son had done with my husband, which was
a bookshelf. I needed a bookshelf, and I needed one fast. And I’m particular
about what will fit in the house. Not that my taste is so high end, but it’s
just, you know, I just needed a, a particular kind of height and a compactness
for the space. And they took these two old dressers, wooden dressers, and
repurposed them and reconfigured them and then built some shelves into it and
built a bookshelf. And how wonderful that is. I mean, I walk by it every day,
several times a day. My son sees this useful manifestation of his creative
Thea: 06:07 Will forces.
Anne: 06:10 Yeah. And that I needed,
that he provided. And so that was the suggestion I wanted to give anyone
listening and who’s been thinking about this themselves. You know, no matter
how small an apartment one has, how no or little yard or back deck, patio or
whatever someone has, you can build a bookshelf. You can build a small
bookshelf in that. You can build a small table, you can build a spice rack, you
can build a cabinet and that is so terribly satisfying, and there’s so much
learning going on in so many levels when that’s happening. But I think that
that, that kind of task is something that is important to give to your son. Or
daughter. I mean, I am so pleased that I, know the basics of building a house
now from building this house. I feel so competent. I do as a almost 49 year old
having learned this just a couple of years ago. And this is following on our
father who was not so inclined that way. And you know, I mean his version of a
shed, I mean, we loved him so dearly and he was so great at so many things, but
Thea: 07:41 But he did make the
Anne: 07:44 Well, he made the effort,
which may not have been the greatest example because his version of the shed, I
don’t know if you remember, but was like basically buying a few pieces of
plywood and leaning it kind of up against the back wall of the garage, nailing
it together and slapping some paint on it. It was a shelter, but I think that
kind of thing was left with me and I probably didn’t feel all that competent in
my abilities to do something as well as we did these couple years ago with just
some good plans. Right? So I highly recommend Lester Walker’s books. Again, Carpentry
for Children, Housebuilding for Children,
they’re used books. I can’t find books like this anymore. This, this was
written back in the 70s when kids had more time. And time to fill up with
purposeful activities like this.
Thea: 08:54 With their own problem
solving and skill building, yeah. So with those ideas, I think we can also just
weave into that cause I think there’s a lot of room for those sort of projects
if we are willing to take the time to fill out the little spaces in our life
where it might be a different habit than what would be convenient to get this
thing that you need for something, but to them slow down and allow an
opportunity for your child or children to make that which you need out of maybe
something you already have around or you know, repurposed things or getting the
materials. So it’s just a slower pace to give those opportunities to our
children, I think. Is another window to look through regarding that topic.
Anne: 09:49 Yeah. I absolutely agree,
which makes me of course, think about even the slower pace of growing our own
food. Right? Whether you’re doing it in a window box garden or a small garden
bed or a community garden or your own backyard, that has been infinitely rewarding
for me in understanding many layers I think of just even this existence and
making connections. I mean, it strikes me that now that we don’t have a lot of
people growing their own food and I know there’s a movement back towards that,
but we lose touch with just the process and just the process of life and the
miracle of life. Just the fact of taking the seed and planting it in the ground
and watering it and with the sun and the nutrients in the soil.
Thea: 10:59 And caring for it,
nurturing it too, or allowing it to have its time to do its own. I mean all the
analogies for life are in…Isn’t that Thoreau? The seed? What is the quote? I
can’t think of…whatever. Life, eternity in a… I’m mixing things up.
Anne: 11:26 But yes, that is. I mean,
the miracle of life. I mean, it’s occurred to me, it’s not just that, but
health and wellness. You know, a farmer understands that the soil is critical
to the health of the plant and that without amending the soil and nourishing
the soil over and over again, there’s nothing for that plant. No matter what
you do to it, it’s not going to thrive. And so, you know, so gardening alone,
yes, brings so many understandings essential understandings back to us, right?
A spice garden even, right? Just a tiny little one. Yeah. Or like you said, or
the process of building the small table, a small bookshelf. To know what goes
into that Is, you know, all, all that is of value in that is hard to even put
in a language. And you know, when we’re so used to a world where you can get
online and order it with a button now and it’s delivered to your door in two
Thea: 12:43 Well there’s something
too, just that picture of taking, you know, what’s in your hand and scanning
over it. Like you run by it and you don’t really notice it. And then when we
slow down a little bit and we stand in that space of––what’s in your hand and
you just start to see all that it is, where did the wood that you’re using
grow, what was the, you know, what was the journey of that which you’re holding
to become that which you’re holding? And that’s, you know, that’s not so much
the pace of the world around us. So it’s the real choice to come into that, to
slow down, to have appreciation for that, the becoming of each thing that has
become, or is becoming.
Anne: 13:35 Absolutely. if we don’t
stay in touch with that, we lose touch with everything. I mean, as you’re, as
you’re talking, I kind of feel like maybe all this seems like a given
intellectually, but I can attest to having been transformed by putting it into
practice. You know, I grew up very heady and abstract, you know, and unlike
you, I didn’t, I never knitted or cared at all to do macrame or handwork or
crochet, or anything like that.
Thea: 14:13 I remember. I know. I’ve
watched you go through all of these things.
New Speaker: 14:19 And I was forced to by my
own choice to homeschool my children using a Waldorf curriculum, which appealed
to me for a variety of reasons that resonated very deeply in me, but you know,
all of that I kind of dreaded really. And as I have come to each one of those
subjects or new learnings, it’s been remarkable how, I mean, I say this, I
can’t say it enough. It’s like exponentially transformed me. It has––my spirit,
my being, my senses, my awarenesses, my connections have woken up like
exponentially, right? Just in knitting, learning to knit. And understanding
what goes into then everything that I have that’s knit/knitted. Understanding,
as basic as this sounds, but I mean, making yarn, you know, learning to make
yarn, the wool that comes from the sheep and beyond, beyond, beyond. Right? But
we’re such a society and culture here of immediate ready-made consumption that,
you know, the true prescription, I think for reconnection fulfillment, reward
that is all here in front of us to appreciate is to get back down to those
basics. And not just for a weekend camping, but to start to incorporate that
into our lives and recognize how critical that is in order to keep us whole.
Thea: 16:21 And tethered to that
force of creation, really. To not be adrift and lost in the darkness.
Anne: 16:31 Yes, yes. Especially for
those times of challenge and struggle. Yeah, that aids me, that has aided me in
how I have gotten through challenging times in my life, having gone back to
those basics and exercised so much more of me, myself. It’s all very hard to
quantify and talk about. It’s not tangible. Right?
Thea: 17:00 I don’t know. I mean, I
wonder about the tangibility, but I think it’s also, there’s something in there
that is the reminder that we are creators ourselves and so that is remembered
and recalled and exercised––it is then recognized through all of the weavings
of what’s around us.
Anne: 17:25 When it’s exercised on a
daily basis. Right? And so, so that brings us back to this with the children’s
chores and children’s work and children’s tasks. Our own chores and tasks, our
own, as you brought up in the last one, cooking our own food and not going and
buying it made or made and ready to heat up. There is so much that we have lost
in embracing that sort of convenience.
Thea: 18:00 Yeah. I mean it goes into
every facet, really, of what’s necessary for us to live. You know, we think about
the way we’ve––I mean this could be a quite the discussion just going from
being such community people, you know, where you washed the clothes at the
creek or where you, you know, harvest the food or the water, all of these
things that our culture is so removed from. And I think what part of that has
done––and we were touching upon this for a moment before we started this
conversation––those things that are, and there is, there can be drudgery in
those monotonous necessities. We know this. And there can also be a lot of joy
and camaraderie and space to daydream, space to create ideas. And I think that
in that there’s somewhere that the joy of work and that work is play in a
certain way that those are two sides of the same coin I think essentially. But
we have pretty successfully in our culture seemed to separate them in so many
views when I look. That work is something separate than play, and work is to be
something that we minimize and want less of so that we can have our relaxation
or recreation. But really, if we have the time to come into our work in such a
way with our fullness of being, there’s joy there. And within that comes that
element of play, which is what allows us to be human, really, and to relate to
others. I mean, you know, I work, I work five days a week outside of my home
and so I, every week I sort of think, gosh, there would be a better rhythm if I
didn’t have to go out to work five days a week, but did four, so that when I’m
doing my home work, my housework, I have the space and time to fill that
capacity with more joy. To do these tasks with more joy because there’s a
little more time to fill them out.
Anne: 20:40 There’s more room, right?
Thea: 20:41 More room, because you
know everything is about balance. I love my work that I go to, but I need to
balance that with the work that’s essential for just maintenance of life. And
it’s always trying to find how to live into the, the work of life with joy, you
know? And so that’s what we want to be able to give our children experiences
of. That work can be joyful, playful, all of those things. We want them to
exercise it and create avenues for those experiences to be there for them to
step into those capacities as they come into different challenges and
workspaces of life.
Anne: 21:24 Yes. And to have that
experience that even in a a task that might seem even drudgery there is in that
there is discovery to be had. So to have the experience of discovery, which
becomes joyful and leads to the next. And so it keeps us always sparked. It can
help keep us sparked, inspired and interested in just everyday living, if we’re
allowed to see it through that way. Right? And merge, as you’re saying––and I’d
like to discuss, maybe examine this more in the next one, but––work and play as
you said, it’s kind of two sides to the same coin. Rather than being so
separate, where one is resisted and the other so indulged in.
Thea: 22:19 And then the other thing
I had the thought to share, you know, especially for our children and these
ideas, if people are working to exercise to find new spaces to give their
children these experiences or spaces for these experiences or activities.
They’re not always going to be like, “Sweet, thanks!” You know,
that’s our job just to hold the line and continue to invite someone to pick up
this new way of being. This new way to find meaning and purpose in what is
needed in a house.
Anne: 23:08 Yeah. And what I will
say, and I, I don’t know how much time, I think we’re pretty far over. I didn’t
watch when we started. But a key I think to it is doing it a little bit
alongside at first. That really gets a momentum going and then you can kind of
leave them to go at it once they’re engaged and involved, so.
Thea: 23:30 So there’s more to
discuss here. I mean, it’s a pretty broad and deep idea, I think, that
continues to deepen the further we follow it and its ramifications. What we see
in the world and what we’re looking to see developed more of. So thank you,
Anne: 23:55 Thank you. All right,
well ’til next time. Hang on a second.