Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Episode 14: "Replanting My Garden" — Heather's Story

Right click here to download the mp3.

Part of the aim of this podcast is to give voice to our stories as Daughters of Mormonism. This episode is an interview with Heather, one of our panelists. She shares her experiences with unassisted childbirth, "lactivism," the garden of her testimony, and more.

Heather will be watching the comments to answer questions or discuss issues raised in her interview.

Links from Heather's interview:


  1. What a great episode!!! I LOVE the Garden analogy!!That makes sooooo much sense to me!!! I am definitely going to steal that and use it! I really enjoyed your unassisted birth stories!! I think unassisted birth is great!! It reminds me of a saying I heard once, "If you never tell a child they can't do something, they can do the impossible!" I feel that if you don't let knowledge get in the way, you find that childbirth will happen all on its own, in it's own time! GREAT GREAT episode!

  2. Heather,
    you fabulous fabulous fabulous woman!! I, as well, am in love with your garden analogy. You're taking the whole "bloom where you're planted" to a whole new level!! I feel I've been in the uprooted stage for a while now, but am finally ready to start planting what I truly want to be in there.
    I'm not sure how I feel about breastfeeding. I wasn't successful with any of my four kids, despite seeing oodles of lactation consultants, nurses, etc...until one finally told me that I could possibly have "Raynaulds syndrome" in my breasts.

  3. I'm so blown away that you did unassisted birth. I'm wondering ... do you recommend it to other women? Like you said that your mom's births were all c-sections. Would you have recommended it to her, if you could have? (I know that's physically impossible, but I'm wondering.) I have never even considered unassisted birth. Like it really does just rock my world. Also, what was your "recovery" like? I feel like I'm just bursting with questions.

    Juliane, I thought Raynauld's Syndrome was a hands and feet sort of thing. What does it mean to have it in your breasts?

  4. Tiffany- thanks! One of my personal mantras at that time was, "Fear is not a good reason to do or not do something." I did a lot of praying and I really felt God was behind me in the unassisted birth and that not going that route just for fear was

    Juliane- also thanks! Start planting that garden exactly how you want it! And hugs about the breastfeeding. Raynauld's syndrom in the breast (also called vasospasms) can be hard to diagnose because it has the same symptoms as thrush, but won't respond to thrush treatment (obviously). And thrush is hard to deal with (I had it for a few months after Isaac's birth) I can't imagine having vasospasms for an undetermined amount of time!

    Tansy- I'm for all women having the free choice to choose what they want, without pressure from partner's, insurance companies, doctors, midwives, families, friends, etc. Some women prefer being alone and not being "on stage" and some women like having people around them. My mother had a cesarean with me because I was breech. I was frank breech, which is the easiest to deliver vaginally, but at that time, breech births were automatic cesareans, and doctors haven't always been (and are not necessarily now) well-versed in vaginal breech, so it's very possible she went with the best route available. Unassisted birth is something that is so dependent on how the pregnancy goes and even labor. And it helps to have a support system. With the Internet, it's a lot easier to find a support system for it. I don't fully know my mom's circumstances and health at the time, so I don't know if I could recommend it. I do like letting people know of the option- it just sometimes never occurs to mothers. I know I wouldn't have thought of it on my own without coming across it in that book and then online. And of course, complications do arise in pregnancy and birth that need medical attention andI would have definitely sought that out if the need occurred. It's definitely not homebirth-or-bust. :)

    As for my recovery, with my daughter I had a small tear which I did get repaired. It took me a long time (10 weeks) for my lochia to stop because every time it stopped, I'd think to myself, "Alright! Now I can get back to living my life!" and then overdue it and start it up again. It took about 6 months for sex to feel 100% comfortable again because of the healing of the tear. After Isaac's birth, I had hemorrhoids (oh fun) but those were gone in a few weeks, but I had no tearing and so postpartum sex never hurt. Also, I took it easier that time around, learning from my first mistakes, so my lochia ended around the standard 5-6 week. I started running at 9 weeks postpartum!

  5. Tansy,
    "Raynauld's syndrome" in the breasts is a little different from Raynauld's "disease" in the extremities. Your boobs aren't actually in danger of falling off or anything (whew ;), but the symptoms are similar in that during and after nursing my nipples would turn very hard and white, and I'd have shooting pains throughout my breasts. My nipples would burn and my breasts were very tender to the touch. Heat was really the only thing that helped to calm down the nipples, but as soon as I nursed again, it came back. I could have gone on some crazy medicine with bad side effects, but instead chose to use formula. That way I could actually enjoy feeding my daughter instead of resenting her for getting hungry.

    On the general subject of breastfeeding....I think women should nurse wherever they want, but I personally prefer other women's boobs to be covered up. I grew up in Germany around a lot more nudity than is normal here in the States, but seeing other women breastfeeding without being covered is still a little uncomfortable for me. Not that I see breasts as purely sexual, but our other sexual organs aren't purely sexual either (I wouldn't for example drop my pants and pee out in public, just because that's another use for my genitals and therefore people should be fine with it). Maybe it'd be different if I'd been able to breastfeed my babies longer, and gotten more comfortable myself. However, as much as my personal preference would be that I didn't have to see a stranger's boobs in public, I'm fine if mothers make that choice and do it. I don't really care, I guess, it's a matter of preference, but I don't get why so many are getting all worked up about it.

  6. Juliane- I used lots of layers at first, but once my daughter refused to use layers, I had no choice but to just pull down or have a toddler melt down, which actually draws more attention than breastfeeding! As far as using the bathroom in public, I think the reason we do it in private is related to hygiene more than it is to it being seen as sexual. Whatever way makes the mother comfortable is exactly how she should breastfeed. Some women like to be covered for various reasons and some women don't for other reasons.

  7. I wish the CHI would include a section on nursing in the chapel, one that was in line with the most progressive US federal and state regulations. And one that quoted Jesu, saying "Suffer your little ones, to come to me."

    My dear wife had to do high-risk bedrest pregnancies for all our kids, and all but one were premie. Having invested so much, she became a tenacious and talented nursing advocate. Most of of our kids weaned somewhere between 2-3 years of age.

    We had one ward where our youngest son, now ten, would discreetly nurse during sacrament meeting. Our bishop took us to task, saying that he forbade my wife to nurse our son in the chapel. We took it up with our stake and area presidencies, and while they allowed that the bishop was wrong, they fell back on the tribal loyalty trope, and told us we'd be blessed for following his counsel anyway.

    So we did--right out of the chapel. Whenever nursing was needed, the whole family would get up and vacate our pew. That was when I realized why Mormons so often resort to passive-aggressivity--because that is usually the only recourse you have when loyalty to the collective trumps all else. Maybe I should have shaved my head instead!

  8. dave, i hate that line of "you'll be blessed" for following someone's stupid preference. it's like it means that the leader's thoughts and opinions really are somehow divine, while ours, which are often more sane, are discounted as lesser. just because we don't have the calling. i think it's awesome that your whole family would get up and leave when it was time to nurse.

  9. Heather,
    yeah, I can see how a tantrum would cause more of a ruckus than just not dealing with the layers. It's not like I look around in the chapel to see who's I don't think it's very obvious when moms nurse in the chapel anyway. But yeah, like I said, i'd rather not see anyone's boobs in public no matter what they're used for. However, I think nursing in the chapel is totally fine.

    And Dave, that is ridiculous! I probably would have nursed demonstratively in the chapel, just to piss off the bishop (yeah, not the best motive I know, but come on, how silly was that....sheesh). What could the bishop do? It's not like you can get excommunicated for nursing in the chapel, right? And I'm totally with Heather that the whole "you'll be blessed if you follow this arbitrary counsel from your bishop who is simply uncomfortable personally" is BS.

  10. It was great to hear more of your story and to hear your voice Heather! I adore the garden analogy (I just love a good metaphor), especially the part about people not thinking that you care about the things that are being uprooted and how wrong that perception could be. I think it's really important to look ahead as you are and give some thought to what the end result might look like.

    Oh, and I've had some new experiences with nursing in church lately that always make me grateful for your lactivism and example. I've become increasingly comfortable nursing during Sacrament Meeting, even though my last RS Pres said she thought it was inappropriate. So far no one in priesthood leadership has said anything, even though I'm sitting on the front row right in front of them because of details with GF bread for us. But I'm prepared for if anyone does say anything! And I have actually had some women remark that they like that I don't feel obligated to go to the stinky, dark mother's lounge. Change is slow, but I see it coming. Thanks for all you do!

  11. Thank you so much for sharing your story, Heather. I loved reading the birth stories of your children as well. I don't have any children, and if I do I think I will go for a midwife or doula, but I love that you empowered yourself and took charge of your birthing experiences, and made them what you wanted them to be.

  12. Heather,
    I just had to tell you, because I've been thinking about why it bothers me to see other women's boobs while they're breast feeding....
    Well, turns out it makes me uncomfortable because I imagine myself in that situation, and I definitely would be uncomfortable nursing without a cover, BUT I really don't care what anybody else does. It was really helpful for me to get that clear in my head that I was projecting my own feelings on someone else, so now that I've been thinking about it for the last few days, it makes more sense.
    Anyhow, this is why I love listening to people's stories, because they help me gain more clarity about myself.

  13. Heather, your thoughts about how we're not punished for Eve's transgression ... or even how we ARE, because we think childbirth has to be so awful ... anyway, it really, really, REALLY struck me. Can you tell me more about how you came to your ideas on this? I feel like something huge is about to break loose inside of me!

  14. Corktree- I'm glad you like the metaphor. I came up with it about a week before your own post last winter about gardens! It was very serendipitous.

    Andrea- Thanks for liking it!

    Juliane- I do understand. I was very uneasy about nursing in public at first, but I couldn't figure out a good reason for it, so I just did it. And I love learning about other peoples' experiences via the Internet. I have done so much growing reading and listening to podcasts- I just need to figure out how to work all that learning and growth into my personal relationships.

    Tara- One of the things I first asked myself when reading about that Hmong woman was, "Well, what's the difference between me and her?" The only two things I could come up with was diet and our cultures. And I have access to the best nutrition in the world if I'm willing to pay for it-so that shouldn't be a factor in labor being inevitable suffering. It was just our cultures. I couldn't figure out how, if we are all God's children and subject to the Fall, the effects of that on her childbirth experiences were so minimal- not even there. Then I thought about the culture around me: sure, America is not all Protestant Christianity, but this country was definitely built on that- Catholics were looked down on for a long time in America; look at Kennedy's campaign issues: his Catholicism was a big issue for voters and that was only 50 years ago. So even though America is less and less Protestant nowadays, our culture was created when Protestantism was in full swing: including the media we watch and read and the ways that we look at birth interventions and doctors. And while you don't hear people saying, "Oh, Birth is going to be so rough because of Eve," it's pretty well-acknowledged that it IS going to hurt and be hard.

    Anyway, Mormonism was born in the midst of the Protestantism: That's the culture the early Mormons were surrounded with, so it makes sense to me that some of that ended up in things like the temple ceremony and Pearl of Great Price. We can't get away from our culture, and Joseph Smith couldn't either. Like I said in the interview, it was when I decided that just like the 2nd Article of Faith says we aren't punished for Adam's transgression: I'm not punished for Eve's transgression. And Christ taught that, too: the blind man was not blind because of anything his parents did.

    I've tried to figure out where we doctrinally draw the line: we have lessons about how the Fall affects us- but we also believe we aren't punished for it, so what's what here? We don't believe in original sin, but yet we do. I'm trying to work that out myself.

  15. YOU'RE RIGHT! We totally talk out of both sides of our mouth on the original sin stuff. We say both that we aren't punished for (and therefore, we're more enlightened than other religions), AND we say that we are living with the consequences of the Fall, one of which is that we women will have hard childbirth. I have to laugh at this because of course it doesn't make sense. I've always tried to make it work, and it really doesn't. I wonder what the church leaders would say, like if they would say that actually women ARE punished for Eve's transgression. That the 2nd AoF actually is only talking about men and Adam.

  16. I believe our taboos as Mormons sexualize many things including nursing in Church.

    A few years ago I witnessed a discussion on a blog among a group of Mormon gay men. They were all relaying experiences where straight men after finding out they were gay were extreamly embarrassed when encountering them in locker rooms or bath rooms. These men were flabergasted by this behavior. Not understanding why their straight courerparts would think that they would be aroused by these experiences, and they all asked are straight men so perverted as to become aroused anytime they might see a women any degree of undress.

    What I believe both the gay and the straight men did not understand is that in the church only reason any of these straight men would ever see any woman any degree of undress is because of a sexual experiences. Either with their wives or seeking out nudity or partial nudity for sexual arousal. Were as the gay men had not been socialized in the same way with male nudity. In fact they likely experienced varying degrees of male immodesty in many none sexuality venues. Therefore these none sexualized situations did not accompany arousal. I see it as simple Pavlovian psychology. Also even though I think as a church we could do a lot to desexualize many situations I see it as any adults responsibly to understand when their experiences is pathological and to concausly reverse the pathology.

  17. I thought you might be interested of this illustration of two women breastfeeding at General Conference back in the old days.

  18. Just wanted to quickly say I love the idea of having a green garment campaign! If the church started manufacturing them, I would certainly purchase them.

  19. Heather, I really enjoyed hearing more about you. My favorite bit was where you pointed out that you're not going to wear gloves while playing the piano to avoid arousing the lusts of any hand fetishists in the ward. I think that example really makes the point well that the viewer's thoughts are his (I use the word advisedly) own responsibility. Plus it just made me laugh!

  20. I was told in an Institute class that the words to Eve about painful childbirth, etc, were not a punishment, but rather an explanation of mortal life, with which they had not yet had any experience. I preferre that version. It always corresponded to other lessons I had had on how Eve was not bad or tricked, but actually made a deliberate decision to eat the fruit in order to commence mortal life. (Of course this theory isn't backed up by the wording in Genesis, as Eve makes the excuse that the serpent beguiled her, but anyway...)

  21. chosha, I'm inclined to agree with you about eve. I had that realization myself a couple of years ago (I blogged about it here ) basically that the 'sorrow' is just part of the ups and downs of life, not a pronouncement of childbirth as a horror.
    I've given birth twice, and neither one was a horror by any stretch. I loved it.

  22. Chosha- I was told that a few times as well and it does make it easier to handle, but I couldn't find any scripture or even the temple ceremony to support it. I'd love to believe that and I can hope for that, but there isn't any support other than what I hope. And now I sound like a downer- sorry!

  23. TopHat: people who state the truth often feel like downers. :) I'd rather have the truth.


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