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Thursday, November 10, 2011

Birth Art

My first son, and I, still connected via umbilical cord.
  I remember the words of my abuelita as Akinyemi descended from me and I crowned, "Ya estas como tu foto, hija!".  I was in a full squat, with my grandmother, husband, and mother supporting me.  I was astonished at the power of myself- birthing EXACTLY in the same position as my birth art- down to the last detail.  In her natural wisdom, my grandmother always knows what to say, and those words gave me the extra energy I needed to push out my son...Calmly on the outside, with hysterical joy and confusion on the inside.

"Lalo's Birth", Drawing at 28 weeks gestation.

As artistically challenged as I am, I have not quit art therapy.  Birth art serves as evidence of the metaphysical power we have, as women, to materialize thoughts, desires, and goals, simply by fantasizing on paper. Digging deep within ourselves without inhibition or judgment, teaches us about ourselves, and facilitates deep healing required for an easier birth and postpartum experience.

Here is a short guide to Birth Art:

"Arbol de la Vida", by Jess at nine months.
Every day, we are inundated with social expectations and norms we women must abide by.  During labor especially, our identity, sexuality and language are often repressed- either by a hostile environment, or by self-inhibition.  Birth Art helps us move away from decision-making and opens our primal brain and heart.  This helps us transition to the state of mind so vital during labor. 

Anyone can make birth art.  Create birth art to open up the silence kept by linguistic, logical processes. We express thoughts, feelings, concerns, fantasies, and emotions creatively, instead.  Learning more about ourselves, and preparing for our ceremony, is more important than how our art actually looks. 

Belly painting as birth art helps connect with baby and celebrate mother's body.

"My Sister's Placenta", by Tots
You can use paper, canvas, clay, dioramas, belly casts, collages, paint, body art, sand, recycled items- anything you feel comfortable using to express yourself.  If you’re not an artist by trade, you’ll be surprised at how art can help heal your emotional stresses during pregnancy and postpartum.

Birth art after childbirth helps support and integrate us into parenthood. Traumatic births kept in silence will be examined and released for more clarity and management strategies.  Pride, anxiety, and other feelings and inner stresses that motherhood may bring about are proudly displayed as art, helping parents cope- rather than hide or feel ashamed about our emotions. 

You can get creative with a fresh placenta print.  The whole family can participate.

Birth art Prompts:

1. Tlazolteotl has come to take your filth, so that you may have a smooth, pure delivery. What does she take with her? How do you feel afterward?  How does baby feel?

2.  Create your ideal birth. Fantasize on paper- no matter how outrageous.  Include details like scents, what you are wearing and thinking, who is with you, backround noises, etc.

3.  Role reversal: Imagine you are your fetus. What does your world look, feel and sound like from inside your womb.  What flavors do you experience? Who's voices do you recognize, and what do they say?  What type of connection do you have with your mother? You can use icons, symbols, colors, words, phrases, etc. 

Blessings on your journey!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Nitty Gritty Postpartum Tips for Fathers and Co-Parents

Thinks he has it all figured out...

Many couples separate during the tribulations of new parenthood, the majority occurring in the first year postpartum.  Dads and other Co-parents, here are some helpful tips that will help you get along.  This is my first attempt at making my blog male-friendly.

  • If mom complains about breastfeeding, don't respond "Well at least you don't have to pay the bills!" or, "Just let me give him a bottle".
Instead:  Ask mom how you can make it easier.  If she doesn't know, make her tea, bring her water, help her latch and position baby or simply sit next to or look into her and baby's eyes while they nurse. Demonstrate appreciation. She is, after all, providing the ultimate sustenance to your child.

  • Don't ask for sex, let her initiate the sex talk.
Instead: Find creative ways to be intimate.  Reduce her stress, help her regulate it, and she'll be interested in sex sooner.

    •  If she makes a mess, don't complain about how messy she is, or how she has a problem with cleanliness.
    Instead:  Tell her she must be having difficulty caring for herself and the baby and you will do your part by cleaning so they can have a comfortable environment.  Trust that she will do more as she adjusts.

    • If baby is having a crying spell, and mom is stressed out, it's up to you to be the calm one.  Refrain from comments like "I told you those greens were going to give the baby gas", or my mom did it alone and she survived".
    Instead:  Allow the baby to cry and release stress, in your calm embrace, away from mom's earshot.

    • If she asks you not to touch her, don't comment on hormones or postpartum depression.  
    Instead: Understand that having a baby latched to you 24/7 can be draining.  A new mom might feel her identity has been taken away overnight.  All she needs is some time with herself.  Offer to take the baby for a walk around the block.

    • If your  mother comes over and makes comments on parenting, STAY MUTUAL.
    •  Give her a massage and backrub when she looks tense.  Try not to make a move, though.
    • If she asks you to cook a meal because she needs a break, cheerfully do so.  Don't tell her you're too tired to clean up the mess and bring back fast food.
    •  If at any point, she loses it, stay calm.  If she needs professional assistance, bring it up with love and compassion.  Remind her you love her unconditionally, and that you will support her during this time of growth. 
      First few days can be tough for the whole family.

      Wednesday, November 2, 2011

      Baby's First KRS-ONE Show

      Ear protection is important!
      As an artist, organizer, and activist, it has been difficult to make all of those years of work worth something in the realm of motherhood.  As a new mother, I was cursed with inhibitions and biases of appropriate parenting, behavior as a mother, and even what to wear.  Finally, I'm okay with cursing now and then, staying out late as a family, dressing like a "MILF", and doing things that make me happy.  I have found the delicate balance of sacrificing without losing myself. 

      So, taking eight month old Itzix to a big Hip-Hop concert, more than anything, was a test.  "Will they allow him in with me?", "Will they even notice him?", "Will he be happy?", "I hope I can nurse in the green room!".

      My husband, checking bass levels at sound check.
      After sound check, Sherm and I walked down the street for pizza.  Upon returning, we were rejected at the door.  I listened to my husband's performance through the dense walls of the Key Club while I sat in our truck with Itzix.  My cue came, and a friend came out to watch the baby, allowing me to perform our song together.

      Waiting for pizza.
      On the way back to my baby, every other person stopped me, congratulating us, saluting our performance, and thanking me.  I haven't done this in too long, I thought to myself.  The high was so familiar, but instead of sticking around, networking, I  hurried back to my baby, who was in the car with Gabby. 
      Hip Hop Son Jarocho at the Key Club.

      Sherman followed soon behind, and took over babysitting.  I headed back into the club to get a piece of the action. More action than I wanted.  In passing, some nasty drunk dude thrusted his pelvis into my ass.  I turned around to dog him and he shrugged.  I gave another dirty look, looked at his friends, and everyone pretended not to notice.  My bandmates waved me over and I explained what happened.

      "Should we kick his ass?", I didn't know how else to handle it.  I resisted my first instinct to beat him, but why?

      "HELL yeah, let's GO! Let's kick his ass! Fuck him! Let's fuck him up, dude!", Pavis shouted underneath KRS.

      Sounded like a fail-proof plan.  Before leading the way, the music stopped, and while all was quiet, I accidentally shouted

      "-And then I'll break his glasses!".

      People turned, stared, and searched for the nearest guy with glasses.
      Pavis and Juan pretended not to know me, and gave me the 'abort mission' face.
      The Hip Hop legend began to talk about Martin Luther King, Jr, and I wondered whether this was a sign that I should practice nonviolence.

      "But I wasn't RAISED to turn the other cheek".  I told myself.  I have to do something for all of the times I've done nothing, for the women who are silent, and for this pervert's future victims.
      I can't start a fight with my baby waiting for me in the car to nurse, I tell myself.

      I decided to leave- pissed as hell.  On my way out,  I instinctively stopped, turned around at the security guard, and said:

      "Excuse me, I would like to report a sexual battery".

      He referred me to the head of security, a 7-foot meatie baldie, chatting it up with some older women.  He made me wait until he finished his meaningless conversation.  His lady friends paused, looked me up and down, with faces of utter disgust, when I told him:

      "I was sexually assaulted in your club and need you to escort out, the man who did it".

      I didn't file a police report on his white perv-ass, because I didn't want to deal with cops, you know the old saying, "con el diablo, no se habla".

      Itzix and I, playing in the car, enjoying the show.

      Sherman and I watched the cops get there, laughed and pointed at them from our car window.  We kind-heartedly mocked KRS-1, and when he'd scream, "STOP!", to his DJ, we'd almost cry laughing.  "Uh-oh, the Booty Bandit got KRS", we joked.  "It's not a concert without the Booty Bandit", we fooled.  Not the most gentle words after a sexual battery (or "booty bandit attack"), but sometimes, laughter is the best medicine.

      At this point, all of my notions of romance crumbled.  Here we were, in our family vehicle- VIP parking, basking in the breezy moonlight- live revolutionary Hip-Hop, windows down, car doors open, and our happy little Itzix enjoying having us to himself. I didn't care that other moms have babysitters, or baby bottles.  I didn't care about the way the club rejected me and my baby, or about the Booty Bandit, and I didn't care what people thought about me bringing my baby to a Hip Hop concert.  The three of us were safe, together, and happy.

                                             Our Performance at the Key Club, opening for KRS-1.

      Saturday, October 1, 2011

      Let's Hear Each Other's Voices

      I haven't written in forever.  An experience with the state temporarily crippled my fingers, but arthritic pain transformed into fire and now I have much to say.  One- take control of your life; two- anything you do may be illegal and you might be threatened, coerced, or punished for it; and three- in the words of my husband, "It's time that we wake the fuck up and take our freedom".

      Beautiful to watch father and son.
      How do we do that?  As mothers, we have so much to lose- our children would perish without us, or be scarred for life.  We are nurturers and protectors- how can we put ourselves on the frontlines of what is happening today?  Well, in case you haven't noticed, we've been on the battle front since 1519, and in 2011, we remain here.

      Take Juana Villegas, who was wrongfully pulled over after a prenatal visit to her Doctor and unjustly arrested without explanation, leaving her three crying children in the car.  Later, she is forced to give birth shackled, hands and feet, and to top it off, she was immediately separated from her baby.  We are not all born equal if we are denied the nutrient and antibody rich first colostrum, baby's first food and building block for health. We do not have equal rights if our birthing mother is alone, shackled, pleading for one hand to be let free while in labor.  And when we are separated from our babies right away, not knowing if she is dead or alive, in a nursery or with her father, every human right has been barbarically violated.

      We, indigenous women, keepers of the earth, face an intricate legal system, well organized, and strategically placed to disenfranchise us, intimidate us and to maintain the delicate balance where we live just within the margins.

      The case of Nancy Jacinto, a young woman on trial, facing first degree murder and the death penalty, is another example.  After the accidental drowning of her two year old son, she was immediately imprisoned.  Pregnant and perpetually famished, she asked for more food.  They denied her.  She wrote letters home about her hardships, injustices in prison, and prison guards tore them, breaking her motivation to advocate for herself.  Like Villegas, and too many others, she was forced to give birth to her baby in shackles.  The same routine: separation; isolation; and this time, foster care was used. Jacinto's children had capable, willing relatives who cared for them often in the past, but instead, the family unit was dismembered. These tactics are developed to destroy the family unit, traumatizing our babies and remaining children, birthing them into the world with violence and subservience, in hopes that they will always be submissive and hopeless.

      It used to be difficult to fathom that I could be arrested for an infraction and give birth shackled, have my family unit destroyed and be in a position where there is nothing anyone can do about it- it's all legal.  It sounds too much like 1492, 1519, Colombus and Cortez's European invasion tactics.

      I will never forget seeing hospital shackling first hand.  A female sheriff at a local Los Angeles hospital, twiddling gray, metal chains in her hands stood outside the imprisoned mother's door, bracing herself.  I felt the woman in the hospital room begging me to enter- pleading for anyone to hold her, tell her she's doing beautifully, that she is a goddess, the gatekeeper of humanity.  My client was in the next room, I couldn't doula them both, but I could not ignore the situation.  When the viking walked out of the hospital room, I stopped her.

      "Did you just shackle the woman giving birth in there?" I asked, concernedly.

      "Yes, ma'am, we do it to all the women in here it's just protocol", she responded with sincerity.

      "Well, how do you FEEL about that?", the pseudo-psychologist in me kicked in.  Her confidence crumpled, her pale face heated red.

      "Well-uh-it's...It's my JOB", she played the confident cop role, but clearly, she is accustomed to being belittled.

      I wanted her to ask herself the question she should have before blindly following orders.

      "Yes, but how do you FEEL about it, don't you think it's wrong?  I mean, where is she going to go? What can she do?", I asked without making a scene, I didn't want to get kicked out.

      "Well, it's my job, and you know what she's- she's not in there for doing something good, these people- she- she probably did something violent- she did SOMETHING to get in there--" she was stuttering and rambling.

      "Well, can't you refuse? You feel bad about it, you have feelings, you don't HAVE to do that..." I tried explaining to her stiff, blinking surface.  It was too much emotion for her, she broke a sweat and said,

      "You know what- I don't have to talk to you- I'm not going to talk to you. Thank you." she turned her back and kicked her heels away.
      "THANK YOU", she said again to silence me.

      We are on the front lines.  Our children born disenfranchised, without an equal opportunity.  If we choose to raise them outside the margins, we wait for the folks in suits to coerce us into staying in line.  If there is an accident that our family may never recover from, rather than being supported, they seize the opportunity to kick us while we are at our lowest, bewildered that there is still worse that can happen.

      We can't fix the system, it's not broken.  It is the systematic suppression of creating children who reach their full potential.  It's A 500 year old, well-organized campaign, followed by legalistic procedures, and financed by the occupying elite.  We risk our families living our life style, being who we are, and I risk that the wrong people may read this, writing to you.  But as my father always said about my mother, "I'm damned if I do, damned if I don't". 

      Speak. Sing. Write. Laugh. Scream. We need each other's voices.

      Friday, July 22, 2011

      Hood Tendencies Part 1

      Daddy's girl.
      One of my earliest memories of Echo Park is throwing up a gang sign to a guy turning the corner in his car.  My proud Father thought it was hilarious, but asked me to stop.  Yelling, my mom warned me that we could all be shot and killed if the wrong person had seen that.  I was a little scared, but knowing folks with fun nicknames like Cricket, Cowboy, and Caveman made gang-life seem imaginary and harmless to four year old Panquetzani.  People get shot, abused, pregnant, imprisoned, stuck on drugs, and I lost friends.  The juvenile, romantic view of gang life fades away and reality sets in.

      I love my community, but I am working toward a different lifestyle.  Despite this, the effects of growing up in an urban, post-colonial setting haunt the core of who I am, making 'hood tendencies my friendly charm but also my enemy.

      My 'Hood moment yesterday showed me just how much harder I need to work at deconstructing and decolonizing myself in order to have healthy communication with the family I love so much.  The victim: my 21 year old, annoying brother, who likes to spend weekends free loading at my house, verbally and emotionally abusing my kids, expecting me to cater to him like he's in a 5-star hotel.  He accuses me of slavery when I ask him to contribute- but that's not all.

      Scenario: We're at my mom's house. I'm making sandwiches for everyone, while my baby cries.  My brother finally picks him up (after I asked him several times), holding him in front of the television.  Iztix is perched on his leg, being supported by one hand, because the remote control is in the other.
      "Tots, hold him right, please.  That's not the way you hold a baby", I tell him.  He's good at blocking people out, and poor Itzix continues crying.

      Exacerbated, I snatch Itzix and verbally attack his half-ass attempt to contribute.  He tells me to shut the fuck up, and I ask him to tell me why he's angry.  "You're a spoiled little bitch!", he mouths.  In disbelief and disappointment, I silently pack some food, my stuff, my baby, and head to my car.  Stubbornly, he picks at me, and I lose it.  I get tunnel vision and see myself choking him out- I stop myself, yelling at his face instead.  "Look at how you're acting, Oh my god!", he holds up his phone and I snatch it from his hands.  Breaking it in half, I throw one half outside the house, the other above my head as I walk away.  He keeps following me, mouthing sarcastic remarks like "Oh, where's your non-violent parenting class, now, huh?".  In some order, I screamed back "You're an asshole!  Get the fuck away from my car" and "Don't come to Long Beach!".

      I can't remember the last time I went this crazy!  I cried afterward, giggled a little, called my husband, and felt better.  I plan on writing a letter to my brother, who was on his all too familiar un-medicated bipolar low.  Violence is everywhere, but it shouldn't be used where non-violent communication can be productive.  I want to have a healthy relationship with all of my family members, and provide the healthy model for my children that I lacked.  Echo Parque, you were good to me...but DANG...I have to be good to me now.

      1990, Echo Park. Playing with our pit-bull puppies in matching LA Raiders outfits.

      Friday, July 8, 2011

      Honoring Baby's Wisdom

      As I held four month old Itzix in my arms, from the living room on my way to the bedroom, he stared about intently.  Passing by the bathroom, he gazed in through the open door, flailing his arms and legs.  Recognizing his vocalization as an "I want that, Mama!", I immediately and instinctively stopped in my tracks, observing my surroundings for what he wanted.

      Embracing my four month old, in his birthday suit.
      Keeping his eyes on the bathroom, he continued waving and vocalizing.  "Oh! Quieres hacer pipi en la potty?" I delightedly squatted him over, and he released his squirmy tension with a stream of urine.  I shake him off gently, and as I place him back on my chest, I take a moment to honor his innate ability to communicate his needs to me clearly.  Recognizing the bathroom as the place of elimination is a huge milestone in infant pottying.  Naturally, I am proud, and we celebrate.

      "¡Te gusta hacer pipi en el baño! ¿ve'da', Itzix? SI, di que si...", I playfully sing.  Every mother has attunement to her baby, by natural law.  Moments of sharing wisdom and affection during my hectic days are the golden moments of our short time together as mama and baby.

      Wednesday, July 6, 2011

      Eczema= Bad Mom

      Investigating our emotions through funny faces.

      Akinyemi's last outbreak of eczema was at two months old.  Since then, we have been on a strict dairy, egg, red meat, and shellfish- free diet (pork has never been in our diet for other health concerns).  He has balanced meals, takes Vitamins, Supplements, Superfoods, gets plenty of Sun, and avoids sugar, refined carbs, processed, or junk foods.
      A healthy snack! Home made paleta: chia, piña, orange, lemon, peppermint.

      Sometimes I forget how much of an impact our emotional/psychological health makes in our daily lives.  Since the birth of my second son, I haven't made enough time to sit with my son, and explain how our roles are all changing, how our lives have been enriched, and how my lack of time for him has nothing to do with how much I love him.

      The worst part (although still mild), his thumb.

      His little scratchy skin is his way of reminding me not to snap, not to scream, or not to give him that extra little squeeze or shove.  He's two and a half and deserves nothing but empathy, affection, and protection.  It's a physical reminder for my absent-mindedness and neglect to find sufficient methods of resolving difficult situations and feelings he has never encountered. 

      So what am I going to do? We'll start by making books with him, have some puppet shows, and help him regulate and express emotions his emotions through art.   My family is always supportive, and I've slowed down our days, so I have time to whole-heartedly exhibit empathy.

      Essential oil bath before bed.
      He hasn't complained at all about his eczema, but it's slowly spreading.  I apply patchouli essential oil to his thumb, where it's the worst, rub him down with shea butter, and give him relaxing herbal/essential oil baths before bed.  

      On the nutritive side, he's continuing his probiotics, and he was on an immune booster for ten days.  Since he hates his Omega supplement by the spoon, I am searching for a gummy one, with cod liver oil.  I drizzle a little coconut oil on his food for the medium chain fatty acids (great for skin), and sometimes spread a tad on his skin.

      His diet, when I am in complete control of it, is alkaline, and we take liquid chlorophyll.  Lately, he's been nursing more, and only wants to eat fruit.  I figure it's okay, some of the time, since his food preferences change so often.  At night he'll have his tesito: manzanilla; canela; yerba buena; or whatever I'm having.

      Ultimately, my job is to help Akinyemi regulate his stress, a common trigger, and nurture him in every possible way.  Every mom wants optimal conditions for her children.  "We do the best with what we have", is what many moms utter.  Right now, I have a rashy two and a half year old who wants my undivided attention, a holistic medicine cabinet, and mother's intuition.

      Saturday, June 25, 2011

      Pottying Just Got Easier!

      Found my son on his mica, reading his potty book
      Finally, Akinyemi went through an entire month without any potty misses!  After the birth of Itzix, he had a slight regression.  He didn't have one miss- for months during my pregnancy, but right after our birth, he left a nice puddle for my admirable postpartum doula to wipe up.  I'm glad he's dry all day and night again- anywhere we go, at two and a half years old. 

      Itzix sleeps, diaper free with a bed liner
      Itix is doing well.  He usually sleeps throughout the night.  When he squirms, I zombie over to the bathroom sink and squat him over to pee.  He goes right away, and saves his poops for daytime. Akinyemi joins in and together, we perform a worn-out symphony of urine streams.  Most nights, it upsets Akinyemi that I have to get up to pee, he cries "NO! Mommy! Sleep, dormir, hug!".  Even while he pees on his own, this is his mantra.  But sometimes he's lucky and sleeps through the whole ordeal, or follows us without protest.

      When I am drained and Akinyemi is having a bad day, I wrap a towel around Itzix when he wakes up to pee so he won't soil the bed.  After he pees, I toss it and he falls right back into REM. Pottying my newborn is most difficult when I am tired.  He warns me every time.  I convince myself that I'm misreading his messages so I don't have to get up, but as the saying goes: "the lazy way is the hard way", I end up peed on.  Other people, not having sensitive attunement yet, get peed on frequently.  Last night, Itzix peed on my friend's crotch a few times.  A good sport, she just cackled in amazement.

      My brother and husband are not good sports.  They promptly diaper him up when they carry him- even if they are only watching him for a minute.  Are we so conditioned to associate babies with diapers that we can't grasp the concept of a "diaper-free baby"?   My husband, the infamous anarchist, and my brother, the carefree punk, would rather consume capitalist diaper products and create unnecessary environmental waste, than pay attention to baby's clear signals and be aware of his elimination needs.  Those grungy boys are closet germaphobes, I know it.

      Breast fed newborn poop and pee in the potty.
      Newborn waste is not nasty...it smells like the steam of a fresh, warm bread roll- mmm...que rico!   Itzix doesn't like his little potty anymore, so I have to get up and take him over the sink.  This sucks when I eat.  Being the vulture I am, I see and hear nothing else but my meal, and his subtle warnings just fly over head and- another miss!  Despite our endless mound of laundry, it's worth having him comfortable, diaper-free, aware of his bowel movements, and vocal about his needs.  Saving tons of cash on disposable diapers and carrying around a little booty baby is sweet satisfaction.

      Friday, June 17, 2011

      Doulas DO Come in Color!

      I looked everywhere for a midwife of color who would attend my birth for a discounted fee.  Finding a midwife in general who would care for me at a discounted fee was difficult in itself.  I settled for a hospital birth with a CNM through Medi-Cal, wrote a birth plan, and educated myself extensively.  I was pissed that I couldn't find a doula of color.  Of course, I had no money to pay for one, but I at least wanted to bargain, haggle, or just communicate with a woman who could feel like my sister.  It was my first baby, I had no cash, no experienced friends who were educated in holisitc childbirth, and a family of women who wouldn't stop projecting their birth traumas onto me.

      After the most self-affirming and empowering experience of my life, natural childbirth, my life took an unexpected turn.  By six months postpartum, I became a trained doula, and attended my first birth.  Doula Panquetzani was on demand: moms of color, whose parents were monolingual Spanish speakers, requested I attend their births; contacted me for support; asked me for advice; and borrowed educational resources.  Through these women, I found other women interested in becoming doulas, midwives, childbirth educators, and sisters to women like me.

      In 2009, a fellow midwifery student, Cristina, and I formed: Ticicalli Yahualli (the Healer's/midwife's House).  Our circle grew into a collective and has supported numerous Indigenous women in their journey to motherhood.  Our community doula program assists childbearing women who could otherwise not afford to be sistered.  We support each others' educations through fundraising and teaching the skills we learn to all women in our circle.  We try our best to remain conscious of the fact that after a 500 year culture of being colonized, we may bring internalized oppression to the circle.  We hold internal healing circles and hold each other accountable for our actions, with respect and empathy.

      Throughout my second pregnancy, birth, and postpartum periods, I finally had birth workers of color to support me.  As more women grow pregnant bellies, our education and experience grow, and we are more capable of lending a hand.  Currently, two of our sisters are studying in Veracruz with Naoli Vinaver, a partera tradicional.  We have come a long way, and I am proud that my fellow Indigenous birth workers can offer empathy, support and creative community solutions.

      Grateful for my new sisters.

      Thursday, June 2, 2011

      Mama's First Day Out

      I never want to forget the kind of mother I always envisioned myself being:  Fun; cool; wise; energetic; spontaneous; adventurous- the type of mom I wanted for myself.  On days where I am "turning into my mother", I visualize myself in the same way I used to when I was a kid.  This morning, preparing for a family get-together was a battle between two different women:  The one I wish I was; and the one who needs to work her booty off to actually get there. 

      I planned to leave at noon, but at 11am, my two year-old, who has been on a potty strike, was outside piling his dad's tools on a pancaked turd he freshly soft-served onto the driveway.   Calmly, I escorted him to the shower and sang until he cried for "chichi".  Empathetic to his recent change as a big brother, I talk to him lovingly, and we step out of the shower.  Itzix is crying, for me, "Akinyemi, el bebe tiene que tomar chichi. Okay? Tu hermanito esta bastante pequeño y no puede comer comida como, tu", I explain in a song-like tone.

      Akinyemi's cries compete with the exacerbated, cat-in-heat tone of the baby's.  This is where the hormones kick in.  A lactating mom hearing her child cry will break through concrete with her bare hands to nurse.  I can't think straight, so I rock and nurse my newborn, leaving Akinyemi hanging.  Akinyemi's little hands point right at the tip of my nipple through my shirt "this, this", he explains as if I don't understand that he wants to nurse.  I cave, and there they are, my two month old and my two year old, nursing desperately. I was the only one lacking a drink. 

      Itzix, who is amazing at vocalizing his potty needs, is fussing and bites at my nipple, I explain, again, to Akinyemi, his baby brother's needs.  Finally, when I say "Itzix va hacer poo poo aqui en la cama!", he latches off.  Just then, Itzix has an explosive newborn poop, spraying my only pair of jeans that fit.  "Eeeewww...nacky...poopoo, nacky", Akinyemi is surprised, despite the warnings.  After wiping myself down, I potty Itzix, so he can finish, and dress both kids.  I wasn't patient enough with Itzix, because right as I'm about to walk out the door, he poops, looking me STRAIGHT in the eye.

      Disappointed, stressed out, and in a rush, I fumble through his diaper bag, clean him up, find some last minute snacks- then realize in all of this mess, that I haven't pottied Akinyemi.  Too late.  He peed himself a fresh, warm pipi. I struggle to be empathetic walking him to the bathroom, I go into the hallway, and bang on the wall, thinking "He was potty trained BEFORE the baby- WHAT is WRONG with him?!!".  I notice Akinyemi staring at me, breathe it out, change him, grab my newborn, and we are back to square one: nursing.

      Once we got on the freeway, I talked to Akinyemi about all of the fun things we would do.  He was laughing excitedly and dancing in his car seat.  I look over to ask if he wants a snack, and see his smiling face look back at me like I'm the coolest mom in the world.  His seat belt is unbuckled!  I pull over at the first exit, begging myself not to crash.  I have to fight him to get it back on, he cries a while, but at this point I'm too relieved to be frustrated.

      We made it to our family function, after two hours of traffic and crying babies.  It should've taken 45 minutes, but good food and family always make me happy.  I kept my adventure a secret from everyone but my husband until now.  He gave an untroubled laugh at my attempt to take the kids out two months postpartum.  He'll get his turn.

      Saturday, May 28, 2011

      My Little Nook

      Ready to celebrate Huei Tozoztli down the street.
      Moving back to Long Beach has only gotten better.  I've reconnected with old friends, met new families, and finally feel like I've dug my toes into the sand.  Recently, celebrating Huei Tozoztli, the beginning of the veintena, or Mesoamerican 20-day count, has reminded me the importance of extended family.  When you're the unconventional mother for breastfeeding a two-year old, not spanking your kids, or giving birth unassisted, it's nice to reinforce your "crazy" morals through peer validation.

      Coming out of my newborn fog, I realize that I can't parent without this network of loving people.  Where have they been the past few months?  Where have I been?  I have to take care of my children, eat, sleep, breastfeed, cook, clean, and have quality time with Sherm, so sometimes socializing is on the back-burner.  Our contact with other families becomes limited to after yoga chit-chat, meetings with my women's health collective, and farmer's market shopping.  When did I become so anti-social?

      Nesting, after our first son.

      Maybe I'm a bit disheartened that my community didn't change along with me.  My late-night performances, activist work, weekend meetings- even "community events" weren't conducive to breastfeeding, nap time, crying, or other basic needs a little one has.  A fellow midwifery student and single mother, had the idea for us to study together, raise funds for our education, and together, we began a woman's circle.  From there, I reached out to other families, communities, women, and old friends, educated current ones, and asserted my needs as a mother to the world.
      Single, female friends happily take turns holding Itzix, so I can enjoy dessert.

      Redefining myself as a mother was a slow, laborious project.  Setting boundaries with my husband, and not holding his gender against him was intense.  I was angry that my body was pushed to it's limit, while he was still able to hit the gym every day.  Instead of asking for his support in my recovery, I wanted him to suffer with me- no amount of pain would be enough!  Instead, our relationship suffered, and our first son felt the emotions of his two parents, angry at each other.  Now that we have overcome our growing pains, Sherman and I have clear, realistic expectations of each other as co-parents, and partners.  I appreciate that during study groups, meetings, exercise, and births, he takes care of our son, understanding the value of my work.
      Before our children. Photo by Jennifer Ruggiero

      Society expects me to view caring for my children as a bump in the road.  In Western culture a "good baby" is one who interferes very little with your life before kids.  But lives change, along with people, and we must express our needs as mothers to our partners, families, and communities.  Taking my children with me to a safe environment, where I can pop out my titty and nurse, poop my baby in the toilet, nurse both of my children at once, and have direct access to healthy foods, is an indication of a healthy, growing culture.  How fortunate we are, to have a choice in where we live, who we socialize with, and what we eat.

      Thursday, May 26, 2011

      3 Month Update: Tandem Nursing

      Keeping two nurslings happy at once, I imagine, is like having to appease two lovers.  It's a little awkward at first, but once you get into the rhythm of things and put your game face on, you can't wait to tell all your friends about it.  My biggest challenge in tandem breastfeeding at three months postpartum, is nursing my newborn while my assertive two and a half year old, also demands to nurse.  Akinyemi's eagerness to continue to nurse on demand makes me doubtful of my parenting:  "Am I not explaining this correctly?";  "Have I not offered him sufficient alternatives?"; "How can I contribute to his self-empowerment and get him to self-soothe?".  
      Tandem nursers, two and a half years, and three months old.

      Our co-sleeping arrangement has been cut back half the night.  I nurse Akinyemi until my nipples are sore.  Sometimes he falls asleep quickly, but most times I'm not that lucky.  I read him books, tell him stories, sing him songs, or rock him to sleep after a short explanation of why I have to cut the nursing session. All the while, I hope my easily-awoken newborn, Itzix is not scared by his screaming, crying, or my singing.  When he finally falls asleep in his little bed, Itzix usually wakes up to nurse.  I take him with me to bed, think of all the things I'm too tired to do, and we drift off to the place of dreams.  Akinyemi usually wakes up as soon as I fall asleep.  Lately, he's been so tired that he won't cry for chichi.  He just asks for 'brazo, mami, 'brazo! I contort my body for his hug until he falls asleep, still nursing Itzix on the other side.  Trying to slip my arm out without waking him feels like I'm a teenager sneaking out of the house: bad; exciting; and liberating! When Sherm comes to bed, he'll sleep on my thighs, hips, or I'll make space for him to spoon me.  We need a bigger bed.  I wake up with a sore back, stiff hips, and a kink in my neck, but the pain subsides with yoga or a little stretching.
      Nursing Itzix at the farmer's market, exhausted Akinyemi asks for "la otra".

      In public, Akinyemi only asks to nurse when he's really tired or uncomfortable.  If there's someone to keep Itzix occupied, and my nipples aren't sore, I'll nurse him, but it's been happening less.  Sherman and I are bumping heads on alternatives to nursing.  Pizza crust is not a healthy snack, taking cheese off of pizza doesn't make it vegan, and chicken with every meal is setting our son up to be a little obese American with diabetes at age 4 (yes, we have unresolved issues regarding diet).  I let Akinyemi nurse when he wakes up, to detox.  I know he has too much leche de mama to drink when his bowels are really loose (breastmilk is a natural laxative).

      It's still a nightmare to recall those first couple of months postpartum, when Akinyemi was so disregulated that he'd cry, scream "Mami, help!", and beat his father for trying to soothe him.  Akinyemi is nursing only when he really needs it, or when I feel comfortable enough.  He loves nursing when Itzix nurses, and sometimes it's beautiful to watch the two of them- wide-eyed, feasting, and grabbing each others' hands.  Akinyemi thinks it's hilarious that his baby brother can touch and feel him.  He looks up at me, smiling with my nipple in his mouth to make sure I'm watching and enjoying the moment along with them.  I am, baby, I am.

      Monday, May 16, 2011

      Back to Yoga

      Itzix, experiencing yoga outside of the womb.  He loves mantras.
      I never thought a synthetic material- probably toxic to the environment, could feel so sacred.  As I sat on my yoga mat after two months of rest, I inhaled all of the cherished moments that I had previously spent with my son in my womb.  Not having him inside of me as I sat there cross legged bestowed a curious grief upon me.  But knowing he was healthy and remembering that ecstatic moment, when the power of the universe converged in me, helped silence my mind and allowed me to succumb to calmness and breath.

       As with many new things, I was skeptical about yoga.  I preferred daily trips to the gym, cardio, lifting weights, and meditating during ceremonies.  I tried "gym yoga" with my first pregnancy.  Being unable to understand the teacher's accent, and annoyed by the Madonna head mic that echoed through the entire gym, didn't stop me from trying yoga again.  During my second pregnancy, a fellow preggo invited me along with her, "I used to think that, too, but this one is cool, I'm telling you, it depends on the teacher."  Lupe says, in a matter-of-fact way.

      We wobble in late, trying to be discreet, breathing hard, with our big panzas, and Dharma welcomes us with her warm smile. "Forget about labels, degrees, status...forget all the drama, good and bad..." Dharma calmly announces to the crowded class.  I met Dharma and her family at our favorite Vegan spot some time before, but these words won me over, and I melt into whatever else it was that she was uttering.  Every week after that, I packed my old mat, stuffed my face, woke up my husband, packed snacks, got our son dressed and fed- then we were off to "Oh-Ga", as my two year old calls it.

      A whole week has passed since I've been back, and slowly, my new life is unfolding. It's tough getting the timing right- especially when nursing two little ones with different schedules.  Getting my husband to help is another challenge, since he works late. But washing away the week's stresses with yogic breaths is priceless.  Dharma welcomed me to bring Itzix, my nursing newborn, any time.  This is the warm, fuzzy atmosphere I want to include in our family outings.  Returning to my husband and kids rejuvenated, awake, energetic, and appreciative is inspiration to continue.

      Everything a parent does affects her family.  I'm fortunate to have a family-friendly outfit available in my community, as motherhood outside of the dominant paradigm can be isolating. Trilogy Yoga, a donation-based studio in Long Beach, has become our little family spot.  I get dropped off, the boys go out for some snacks and juice, and I get picked up.  Sherman gets harassed by my yoga friends, If he sees some husbands, or other males, they chat for a bit, and if Akinyemi is still awake, he gets to hang out with Dharma's sons. 
      My son, Dharma's son marauding the studio. Fun!

      My period of hibernation is over, my newborn is three months old, and Daddy and Akinyemi are new BFFs.  Motherhood has it's pressures, surprises, losses, troubles, and heartaches.  I'm thankful to be slowly transitioning into my modified routine and returning back to Yoga.  What an awesome inauguration. 

      Owner, Trilogy Yoga Studio, carrying Itzix.

      Saturday, May 14, 2011

      Indigenous Free Birth

      Born naturally myself, I have never thought of birth in any other way but natural.  My mother described her birth of me as the worst pain she had ever felt in her life.  At the tender age of 17, without any scientific information or facts, she understood that natural is safer for her birthing baby.  That didn't save her from a traumatic hospital birth experience from which she still has not recovered.

      I could not trust the world from a very young age.  Looking back, I wonder if being pulled, suctioned, and handled roughly at birth is partly to blame.  Every day has been a struggle to become emotionally intelligent, empathetic, and to regain the strength of my natural human instincts and intuition.

      Choosing Indigenous free birth became a mesh between my success as a human being and Indigenous woman.  In one event I was able to see the support beams I had built over a strong base I have created over many years.

      Indigenous Free Birth is not only birthing unassisted, or without a trained professional in attendance.  For Indigenous families, the added element of colonization has interrupted us from knowing and practicing who we are.  After over 500 years of being occupied in the "United States", Mexico, and "Central America", it helps reclaim an independence that has been stripped from us since 1492.  Punished if we practiced our own medicine or religion, we have become dependent on European, or Western medicine.  Traditional midwives were swept away with the invasion, and consequently, so was a tradition of birthing in our native popular culture. 

      Making the decision to birth at home requires that you look inward and discuss your health history, feelings, and intuition with your partner.  Taking our health into our own hands is a catalyst for change, whether or not we decide Free Birth is suitable for us.

      In the Mexica tradition, birth was perceived as a ceremony of battle: the birthing mother, the warrior.  Reasserting who we are in the birth setting, is to re-appropriate this battle and give it contemporary meaning.

      During my research of Unassisted Childbirth, I found very little on Indigenous motherhood. Nevertheless, with my fellow women of color in mind, I compiled a list of resources.  Below are some websites and books that helped me along my journey through pregnancy and childbirth.  It is a work in progress, so, please, if you find any more information, please message me.  I am especially interested in native-focused resources, we need them.

      Unassisted/Unattended Pregnancy & Childbirth Reference List








      Unassisted Childbirth, Laura Shanley

      Emergency Childbirth:  A Manual, Gregory B White

      Wise Woman’s Herbal for the Chilbearing Year, Susan Weed

      Heart in Hands, Elizabeth Davis

      Ina May's Guide to Childbirth, Ina May Gaskin

      Hygeia, Jeanine Parvatti

      Unasisted Homebirth: an Act of Love, Lynne M Griesemer

      Tuesday, May 10, 2011

      Second Time Around: Pottying from Birth

      After his first meconium passed, my little Itzix was all mine to observe and potty.  His fat little body was so warm, and he slept so much that it was a little difficult to predict when he'd eliminate.  I kept him naked, with a cloth diaper inside of his swaddler, just in case he unloaded.  My postpartum doula and mother kept telling me to put a shirt on the poor little guy, but I knew that as long as he was in my arms, he'd have all the warmth he could ever need.

      The first three days we had a huge pile of swaddlers, blankets, cloth diapers, and clothing (mine included!) to wash.  My husband complained that he couldn't keep up if I kept it going, but after the first few days, Itzix and I improved our relationship.  It came naturally for me to potty Itzix as soon as he woke up and before he fell asleep.  His calm, intense presence would sometimes change from flailing arms and kicking, to a moan, or other noisy announcement.  Unlike my first son, he was very vocal about having to eliminate, often making angry faces as he talked to me about it.

      Our rhythm the first few weeks was like this: He'd wake up, I'd offer the potty right away.  Sometimes he'd go within the first few seconds.  Otherwise, he'd ask to nurse.  If we had a long nursing session, he would sometimes release while nursing, so if he slept for a long stretch of time, or was extra hungry, I'd nurse over the sink.  It was surprisingly easy the second time around.  If Itzix was awake and fussing, I'd go over my mental list: Is he hungry?  Is he sleepy? When did he last eliminate? Is he overstimulated or stressed? How do I feel? Pottying became another way to embrace my son and sensitively attune myself to his needs.

      Itzix is almost three months old now.  Our biggest challenge is managing Natural Infant Hygeine, or Infant Pottying, with our every day life.  When Sherman cares for Itzix, it's always, "Why doesn't he have a diaper on?"  that he asks.   He understands the value of elimination communication, and has seen it work with our first son, but I don't expect my husband to potty our newborn until Itzix could speak the very clear, assertive words "Dada, potty. Now".  Sometimes I wonder whether his genuine lack of attunement is because I am so awesome, or because he is a man.

      At any rate, Akinyemi, my first born, plays an important role in pottying our newborn.  His recent profound obsession with nursing often prevents me from taking Itzix to the potty in time.  He nurses until his last breath, when he sees his 'mito project a 'naky' pipi or fuchi poo-poo into oblivion. Despite my many warnings, he is startled, and mildly afraid of coming into contact with his brother's urine or feces.  Slowly, Akinyemi is also becoming interested in his brother's movements, and very often, we will take a trip to the bathroom, and both boys will 'go'.

      Waking up in the morning, next to a "booty baby" (he sleeps bottomless), who's dry, alert, and ready to take on the world with his family, helps keep me sane throughout my hectic days and sleepless nights.  My heart overflows with joy as I squat him over of the bathroom sink, the two of us smiling at each other through the mirror, cooing and agoo-ing, knowing that this moment, we avoided a diaper change.  Life is swell.

      Friday, May 6, 2011

      Vagina Dinner

      My father was the parent who nurtured me with stories, baths, brushing my hair, outings and jokes.  Naturally, in adolescence, I gravitated toward male friends, who often talked about sexual encounters with women whom they didn't care for.  Although I never wanted to be in a story like theirs, during High School, I attempted to fit in with the "girly girls".  After realizing that they were mostly a group of hurt, spiteful, and insecure women, I rejected the ideal of the traditional female.  Cloaking my wiry body in layers of over-sized clothing and headwraps was my way of disconnecting myself from that mainstream woman. I didn't comb my hair, shave, or wear make-up.  I cussed, drank, smoked weed, wrestled boys, and openly mocked girls who were "feminine".  I was a female machista, believing "they" (females) couldn't be trusted, only cared about material objects, appearances and impressing men.  I was as wounded as the females I despised.

      My long-time circle of female friends, fellow musicians I met in 2005, have stuck by me during my lengthy transformation through womanhood and into motherhood.  Although I had "cleaned up" a bit by the time we met, I often insulted, ignored, or neglected them.  I was distant, emotionally unavailable and lacked empathy.  As all wounds heal, motherhood has helped me realize that stable, enduring, and healthy relationships must be maintained.  Although a few of us quit our band and got jobs some years ago, we developed a series of meetings to stay in one another's lives. 

      Since men aren't allowed, we coined them, Vag Dinners.  The location is always rotated, usually someone's house, or occasionally, a restaurant.  It can be potluck-style, or the host will provide the main dish.  In Indigenous tradition, we always come with something in our hands to offer.  After I had my first son, we had a vag dinner at my house- everything brought to me, and my house was left cleaner than when they had arrived.  Yes, only women can be so meticulous! If you don't have female friends, find some!  Today, I live for women, and have depended on female support during the most difficult times in my life.

      Despite it's bad reputation, chismeando can be healing.   We laugh a whole lot, eat all evening, and somehow, one starts the chain effect of crying.  Every vag dinner is a personal triumph and group bonding experience.  As Indigenous women, we have lived collectively, in group settings for nearly all of our history.  Today, with individualism, industrialization, and other affects of colonization, we are isolated from one another.  Our human needs for touch, socializing, and bonding are limited to our daily jobs, the little time we spend with family, and the internet (keep reading my blog, though!).  Vag dinners, and our relationships with one another, have helped some of us heal from loneliness, depression, abusive relationships, past traumas, and low self-worth. 

      I look forward to tomorrow, when I get to drop off my son, rebozo my baby, and refill my plate to my heart's content.  I am fortunate to have such intelligent, enduring, and caring women in my life.  Thanks, ladies, for being sisters in struggle, and accepting me for who I am, every step of the way.

       Intelligent, sweet and beautiful.  Vag dinner 2009.

      ¡En Solidaridad!  Vag dinner 2008.

      Wednesday, May 4, 2011

      Itzix: an Unassisted Birth Story

      Reading birth stories helped prepare me for my births.  As touching as they were, I longed for a compilation of birth stories by those who shared similar social and cultural experiences, values, and history.  This is a call out to mothers of color: Please share your birth stories with one another.  Narratives help us heal, teach empathy, and serve as education.  If you are a mom of color, please take the time to share your experiences in giving birth by posting, even if only a link, a word, picture, or a brief comment.  Soon we will have our book.  This is the first part of two in birthing our second child.  
      Parte uno
      Part one

      February 19, 2011 
      Chicome Itzcuintli
               I wake up next to my husband around 8:30am. My two year old son had spent another night with my mom. I'm having slight contractions, so i jot it down in my birth journal, knowing that this would be the day that, you, my precious stone of jade, would come into this world. My contractions are 3 or 4 minutes apart, and i feel uterine cramping in my lower pelvic area. The quiet room is still. I hold my breath, and thrust my arms in joy, allowing my nesting instinct to take over. I tidy up the house and make myself a breakfast fit for a fat queen. Since my husband is asleep from a long night, i video tape bits and pieces in between contractions. The more i squat down to clean and bend over, the stronger the contraction. I welcome the contractions, knowing that you are one sensation closer to being in my arms.

                I lay down beside my husband. Mother nature gives me a break while i lay down and we nap side by side. After a couple of hours, I wake up with INTENSE downward pressure. My hemorrhoids burn and are causing more discomfort than my actual labor pains. SHOOT... I never picked up that witch hazel!

      "Sherm, you need to wake up... I'm in labor."

      For the next four hours, I wait for him to "situate" the birth pool. I hop in the shower to alleviate some burning and I hear my son's voice.

      "Sherm, Sherm, Who's there?" I shout from inside the shower.
      He tells me my mom is dropping off Akinyemi.

      "Well tell her to take him back! I'm in labor." I walk out of the shower to find my son in his high chair, and a new box of toy cars.
      Overbearing Grandma comes in handy I think, as i gobble down a large plate of spaghetti... Akinyemi is glad to leave with grandma, but one of the perks of being a community organizer, is having a busy home.
      I sit by the kitchen window massacring my food, when i see Edgar's stupid Che Guevara hat and glasses peer into my window. I'm pretty pissed, but I don't want labor to stall like last night when Sherman and I argued over making tea too slowly.

      "What do you want, fool? I'm in labor!"  I shout through the window.
      "Oh, what the fuck, fool, I thought you'd already be pushing and shit" He imitates a woman screaming and cursing Sherman.
      "Sherm! Edgar's here! Sherm!"
      He comes in from hooking up the hoses in the garage and assures me the pool is almost ready.
      Laying down in my bed, I side-lie and breath, feeling my bottom stretch open.

      In the birth pool, an hour before giving birth.
      Stepping into the birth pool is ecstasy.  Sherm shows off his two pressure hoses.  I'm slightly disappointed the "midwives' epidural" doesn't alleviate all of my pain.  Night falls on the city of Compton and my doula arrives.  Martha is my close friend and new doula, but she is calm, hands-off, and has keen instincts.  I try not to critique her doula approach.  Stay focused.  Forget her burrito breath, we all get hungry.  She sticks to my birth plan and gives me my special teas, drinks and juices.  My husband is in the garage, catching up with her husband.  I get tired of laboring without him and send for him.  Right away my contractions kick in.  Whew!

      "That tea WORKED, huh Martha?" I surprisingly remarked.
      "Yeah...fast.  Where do you feel the contractions?" She decides to time a few again.

      I grunt and feel like I should stand.  Daddy keeps telling me it's too hot in the house with the heater and pool, complaining that he's uncomfortable.

      "DON'T COMPLAIN" Sherman knows I mean it and doesn't reply.

      He helps me get out of our Eco Birth Pool in a Box into my large, luxurious bath towel.  We lay in bed for a little bit listening to native tunes.  We cuddle, kiss and have an intense erotic moment before falling asleep.  I switch sides and call for Martha to massage me with some lavender essential oil and shea butter.

      "You're opening up" Martha says in her usual nonchalant voice.

      "No shit, that's why it hurts", I think to myself.

      Too late to go over birth affirmations. I feel cramping in that same localized pelvic area and my whole pelvis shifts to accommodate you, my precious stone of jade.  Naturally my breathing pattern changes to a faster, more shallow grunt.
      A little dizzy and disoriented, I stand on the bed.

      "You're leaking"one of them says with concern.

      I saw my waters rupture earlier that afternoon and realize I'm not looking at the remaining liquid.  Dark red spots of blood splattered the chux pad.  I didn't want to transfer to a hospital, so Martha calls a midwife friend. Stuck in limbo for a minute, I give myself permission to let go and push once I hear the fateful words:

      "It's fine, she says, the baby's coming soon."

      I collapse, back first into Marthas arms and grunted. After the intense moment ends, I lean into my husband the same way.  I feel him struggle to keep balanced.  Immense comfort and pleasure overcome me knowing that he is physically exerting himself with me.  My primal grunt is so loud that I don't realize the deep place it is coming from.  Sherm asks me to change position.

      "No, hold me!" I demand, feeling another rush about to overcome me.

      I submit to the animal in me and we roar, dangling and squatting- fully supported by my rock, my man.  My doula helps instruct Sherman, so that he holds me more comfortably, and after that third push, I feel burning.  I touch my perineum and free myself from my husband's arms.

      "What's wrong?", he confusedly asks as I laugh in amazement, mouth and eyes wide open.
      "Nothing, she can feel his head!" my doula replied because I wouldn't.
      "He is here!" I thought to myself and paused in amazement.

      Overcome by peace, I cherished the last moments of you, Itzix Chicome Itzcuintli, in my womb.  I touched your wrinkly head and my thin perineum with my cupped hand and positioned myself slowly into a one-legged half squat.

      Sherm laughs and shouts:

      "I see his face! Whoa...I see his eyes! hahaha".

      While Sherman's amazement of your head creeping out of my vagina sets in, you rotate.
      All of the births I've ever seen flash before my eyes in an instant- and I have a vision of you splashing out.  Just then, you squish out with a burst of water into Dada's hands.  You slip, face first into the world, purple and still.  Daddy picks you up and hands him to me while I come back into my head and surroundings.

      My husband, usually mellow, warns me anxiously:  "He has the cord wrapped around his neck! He's not breathing!  He's NOT BREATHING!"

      I feel disoriented, in the clouds, yet ultra calm.  Doula instincts kicking in, I reassure dad and unwrap your cord.  As I stimulate you to breathe, I notice you have a little bit of meconium in your fresh baby anus. Your breathing is slow, quiet, and calm.  Finally, you give a little cry and I rub into your skin the little vernix you have left on your birth day.

      "It's a BOY!" my doula announces, we knew it all along.
      "Oh I LOVE you, baby! It's 9:55pm" Martha proclaims.

      My brother walks in with bright red hair, looking stressed out.  We cover you up, make sure you're warm and still breathing.  We fall in love. We are calm. tired. ecstatic.  You quickly bob over to my breast and latch all by yourself. You are so wise, my little Itzix.

      Seconds after birth, photo by our doula.
      Borgia Codex, Tlazolteotl gives birth (I also birthed in this position)