A Gentle Birth: Suubi’s Birth Story

“How has your ‘Gentle Project’ been going since the baby, Ashley?” I am condescendingly asked. “Are you up to your eyeballs in cloth diapers and compost?” Serves me right for being drawn to such smart ass friends. 

Yes, since having baby, my blogging for the Gentle Project has taken a bit of a back seat. I arrogantly thought babies just slept and ate all day so surely I would be able to commit to writing… but alas…

With that said, part of my Gentle Project was also about being gentle with myself; my heart, my emotions, and my body. The season of pregnancy, the experience of childbirth, and my survival through postpartum has indeed been a crash course in self-care and gentleness. In that spirit, I wanted to use my final Gentle Project post to share about my birth experience, what I have learned about self-care and the power of gentle thoughts.

Not-So-Gentle Birth Ideas

“Gentle” was never a word I associated with childbirth. In fact, I had never met anyone who, in my opinion, was more afraid of childbirth than me. Fear was a HUGE struggle for me long before I was even pregnant. Television, movies, and other people’s horror stories contributed to me believing that birth was a nightmare women had to survive, as opposed to a natural activity our bodies knew how to perform.

Fast forward to postpartum-me and I can confidently say I enjoyed my childbirth experience. I would even go as far as using the term “gentle.” My pregnancy wasn’t perfect, my birthing experience wasn’t perfect, but I did indeed enjoy it. 

My running joke during pregnancy was that I felt great until I visited a doctor and they told me all the things that were potentially wrong with me. With every doctors visit we would learn of something new detected in my blood or something seen in a sonogram, I would panic, and then the next appointment they would say they couldn’t find any problems… so I never knew what to expect, other than that I was expecting.

I started reading and researching about pregnancy and childbirth, even though my doctor told me never to Google anything ever. What can I say? I’m a rebel. A lot of what I read was SO negative and scary, I started understanding why my doctor discouraged me from my internet research, but in fairness, the doctors were just as scary. 

Hypnobirthing and Other Gentle Things

Somewhere around the 12 week mark, a dear friend of mine asked me if I had ever heard of hypnobirthing, and encouraged me to listen to a podcast from Russel Brand (yes, that Russel Brand) where he interviews a woman by the name of Katharine Graves about Hypnobirthing. 

There were three factors in me having a gentle pregnancy and birth: a supportive partner, my “doula” friend, and hypnobirthing! When I first heard about Hypnobirthing I summoned images of a stage performer hypnotizing audience members into clucking like chickens and embarrassing themselves. Then as I started learning more about it I summoned images of crunchy hippies lighting serenity candles, and braiding their armpit hair. I remained a skeptic for a long time, even when seeing it’s benefits during pregnancy, but after coming out on the other side of childbirth, I’m happy to report there was nothing crunchy, hippy, or stage performer about it. I could go on and on about what hypnobirthing is, but that would be a different (really long) blog post. If you want more info go to the experts here. 

Upon the discovery of hypnobirthing I immediately changed my approach to birth. Instead of being an experience I had to “endure,” I started looking at it as the amazing life-changing, life-starting experience it is. I started shutting people down when they’d see my swollen belly and feel inclined to tell me about their traumatic labour experience (everyone from the well meaning ladies at work, to random strangers in the grocery store. I also grabbed a stranger-woman’s boob in the grocery store when she grabbed my pregnant belly… but that’s a story for another time. Well, actually, that’s pretty much the whole story. I’m not into unsolicited touch. The end.) I stopped watching TV shows when birth was being depicted as a screaming, bloody, horror show, and I was also careful with how I spoke about pregnancy and birth. 

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The day before I went into labour (featuring cute pregnant belly: great to compliment, not recommended to touch without asking.)

Funny enough, I found a lot of people struggled with me speaking positively about birth. Many felt inclined to “take me down a peg” when I spoke about what I enjoyed about pregnancy or what I looked forward to in birth. I quickly learned that complaining was far more socially acceptable than being positive. 

Suubi’s birth was an amazing experience. It did not go as I planned, but I was prepared for my plans to change and to go with the flow… so in that way, it went according to plan. 

I planned and hoped for a short labour, no drugs, and natural delivery. That was the dream. I was hoping to be like those women who feel a sneeze coming on and then whoop, a baby.

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One’s high on gas, the other one is high on life.
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My birth team, clearly having a blast.

I laboured for a few more hours than expected (48 more hours actually), and after successfully dilating to seven centimetres, ended up having an “emergency” cesarian section (“emergency” is in quotes because it did not feel like an emergency; we calmly came to the conclusion that c-section was the best route, and 8 hours later, there we were). KmyXVl2BTqy1Mbk7oTJC2Q

Though Suubi’s birth turned out a lot different than I planned, anything I was able to have some control over went beautifully. My time labouring at home was peaceful and quiet. The people who surrounded me were positive, encouraging, and empowering. I listened to music, cracked jokes, and felt an absolute gentleness around the whole experience.

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Hypnobirthing helped me not only in pregnancy, and labour, it also helped me during postpartum. It taught me how to speak and think kindly about my body, my feelings, and my baby. It taught me to be  prepared with close friends to support me and check in on me. Most importantly, it assured me that I know what’s best for myself and my child, and that I am allowed to advocate for my own care.

Living Gently 

I recognize, statistically, that the experience of birth for many women can be quite scary and dangerous. I recognize the privilege I have to live where I do, with the medical care I have, in the skin I have. It is not lost on me the absolute blessing [miracle] it is to have a healthy baby and an incredibly supportive husband.

I wrote this post out probably about 14 times. I was meant to post this in December but kept second guessing myself. I didn’t want to feel like I was rubbing salt in the wound for anyone. I didn’t want to trigger those who have struggled. 

But I also think about pre-pregnancy me. I think about the YEARS I spent fearing something that turned out to be one of the best experiences I have ever had. I know how much I needed to hear from somebody that birth could be gentle and not terrifying. I know that not everyone’s experience can be guaranteed, but if I have learned anything from this year of The Gentle Project it’s that there is no harm in attempting to live more kindly, and more gently, no matter how imperfectly. 

How to Keep your Husband Alive

When I got married to my husband, Giddy, I had a lot of people volunteer relationship advice:

  • Never let the sun go down on your anger
  • Men want sex all the time; prepare yourself
  • Your first year of marriage is going to be hard 
  • Never say “you always,” or “you never” 

And then, of course, I got a ton of unsolicited advice about when, where, and how we were to have children. 

But of all the advice I received, no one warned me of what would be the greatest challenge my marriage would face. 

The dreaded question: “What are we going to eat for dinner?” 

I knew before we got married that Giddy had a very specific list of foods he would not eat:

  • Shepherd’s Pie 
  • Lasagna 
  • Sandwiches 
  • Soup
  • Pirogies
  • Macaroni and Cheese

In my mind that left me with: 

  • Chicken
  • Rice 
  • Potatoes
  • Left-over chicken, rice, and potatoes 

At first I thought he had merely had bad experiences with these foods but surely he would like my versions of them. 

Giddy would sit quietly at the dinner table looking at me as I devoured my handcrafted sandwich. 

Me: “What?”

G: “I don’t eat sandwiches”

Me: “But you haven’t tried THIS sandwich” 

G: “I don’t eat sandwiches” 

Me: “Why don’t you just try it before you decide it’s not for you.” 

G: “I have tried sandwiches. I don’t like them. I don’t need to try yours.” 

This would throw me into a fit of rage. 

Then I decided I would try to be tricky and rename the foods on the fated list in an attempt to broaden his pallet. This had a 50% success rate.

G: “What is this?”

Me: “Baked Pasta”

G: “It looks a lot like Lasagna.”

Me: “No, it’s baked pasta.” 

*Insert Gideon giving me a dubious look* 

My adventures and misfortunes of attempting to find foods my husband would eat only began to expand his “do not serve list”:

  • Lettuce Wraps
  • Anything with a cream sauce
  • Tacos 
  • Anything that combines chocolate and peanut butter (fine on their own but combined? Atrocious!)

I floated between being infuriated that Giddy wasn’t eating all of my cooking creations, to being panicked that I was going to unintentionally starve my husband within the first year of marriage. I could hear the voices of my critics/advice givers now, “The man could survive living in Uganda during the civil war, but his wife’s food killed him.” 

Well, isn’t that interesting

Almost immediately upon Gideon’s arrival to Canada, we were invited over to friend’s houses for dinner so they could meet Giddy. Friend’s would ask, “Does Giddy have any allergies?” The truthful answer is no, no he doesn’t have anything that physically keeps him from eating certain foods. “But should I mention Giddy’s list of aversions?” I’d think to myself. No, I determined that would be rude, and I could risk the purchase of McDonald’s on the way home to keep Giddy’s BMI up and keep down my wife-guilt about starving my husband. 

But then something interesting would happen. 

He would go to other people’s houses and eat every, dang, thing. He would even make proclamations across the dinner table like, “Ashley, why haven’t you ever made this for me?” 

OH, you mean this cream-based soup and grilled cheese sandwiches? Because it causes us to doubt the validity of our marriage, that’s why. 

And this was not a show for my friends, he would genuinely request these recipes after the fact. 

99 Problems But Food Ain’t One

I am happy to report after four years of marriage, our food saga has (mostly) ended. My husband is not malnourished, and I do not have an anxiety disorder over what to pack for lunch. I have at least 10 recipes I can throw into rotation (though many of those recipes are just chicken and rice cooked in a variety of ways) and Giddy even cooks a great deal of our meals. Self-high-five! 

Marriage Advice

Four years of marriage does not feel like enough time to become one of those people who hands out relationship advice. With that said, this was the only piece of advice I didn’t get when Giddy and I got married, and it would have been really helpful. 

So get ready for some unsolicited marriage advice:

Spend your pre-wedding date nights strolling the isles of Chapters Indigo in the cookbook isle, and scrolling through Pinterest. Have your significant other identify recipes that look appetizing; use force if necessary. 

If at any point your significant other mentions their mother, abort all plans, register for gift cards to major food chains, and call it a day. 

Now go in peace. 

Monday Moment of Joy: Target

I love Target and I don’t care who knows it.

I even loved CANADIAN Target. Talk about commitment.

For those of you Americans who don’t know what I mean, let me give you the Coles Notes version of what happened with Canadian Target.

  • Canada did not have Target
  • Target was brought to Canada
  • Ashley rejoiced
  • Canadian Target didn’t do so great
  • ALL Canadian Target’s were closed down
  • Ashley mourned

In my opinion, Canadian Target could have been successful. They opened too many stores, too quickly, and they were poorly stocked, and staffed. If they had opened a few, stocked them like Granny stocks her pantry, and hired staff that embody the energy and charisma of a Disney Land attendant, the powers that be at Canadian Target would have been rollin’ in the Benjamin’s (or the Borden’s I suppose).

Regardless as to it’s success, it was still Target and I still loved it. To this day if I hear someone say, “Target in Canada was terrible,” I escalate into a well rehearsed rant about how it’s that kind of attitude that got us here… with no Target. Quitters… bunch of quitters.

So with passport in hand, and American Target merely twenty minutes away, I proclaim with a full heart, and a full shopping cart, Target brings me real joy.

A friend tagged me in this video and it is all too true; I’m sharing it with you to bring a little joy to your Monday.

Happy shopping.

Dear Meghan Trainor

Dear Meghan Trainor,

We, you and me, are all right. Go ahead; take a deep sigh of relief.

I read a blog the other day, crediting you to a lot of things I don’t believe you’re responsible for (Taylor was right, haters are going to hate). In lieu of this, I thought you’d be happy to know, I have got your back (figuratively).

I am not offended by your music, or to be more specific, your lyricism. I don’t think you sat down with a guitar, or a piano, or a xylophone one day and thought, “I hate skinny people, someone needs to put them in their place. Also, my butt looks great today. I should write a song with these reoccurring lyrical themes running through it.”

Don’t worry though Meg, (can I call you Meg?) I have compiled for you a selection of reasons why I think people need to chill out.

First off, I think the people who are having such a hard time with you, are taking you and your music way too seriously. Not to say your music has not had a lot of thought put into it, but let’s be real; it’s not a piece of government legislation… you are writing pop songs.

I understand the powerful affect music can have on an individual, but I didn’t go screaming for the hills when Destiny’s Child released “Bootylicious.” I didn’t think, “Oh no! Beyonce said that I wasn’t ready for their jelly, but it seems as if they’re providing me with their jelly regardless. I’m not ready! Your body is just too Bootylicious for me.”

I have never sought out abuse from a man because Britney Spears seemed to be so hell bent on being hit one more time.

I have not kissed a girl, because even though Katy Perry seemed to enjoy it, I don’t feel like I would.

You know why? Because I don’t live my life by these songs (if I did I’d be living out some strange montage of the Backstreet Boys Greatest hits)!

All music has a message; some are messages of love, some of hatred, some have deep political messages, and there are some that are meant to be tongue-in-cheek. I feel like “All About That Bass” is meant as the latter.

Secondly, I think the concept of a “self-image role model” is a bit of a joke.

Do you have great self-image?

Yes? Awesome.

No? That’s too bad for you.

It doesn’t help or hinder me.

Thankfully (or sometimes regretfully), my self-image is really only controlled by me. Which means, that if I don’t like hearing about your love for fine booty because it makes me doubt the quality of my own, that’s my issue, not yours.

Third and lastly, I feel like you’re getting way too much credit.

Here is a list of songs which seem to possess preferential treatment towards big butts:

  • Sir Mix-a-lot’s “Baby Got Back”
    • “My Anaconda don’t want none unless you’ve got buns hun.”
  • Snoop Dog and Jason Derulo’s “Wiggle Wiggle Wiggle”
    • “You know what to do with that big fat butt… wiggle, wiggle, wiggle”
  • Jenifer Lopez and Iggy’s “Booty”
    • “Mesmerized by the size of the, You can find it if you like take your time, I can guarantee you’ll have the time of your life, Throw up your hands if you love a big booty” (Poetry, I know)
  • Black Eyed Pea’s “My Humps”
    • “Whatcha gonna do with all that junk? All that junk inside that trunk? I’m gonna get get get you drunk; get you love drunk off this hump.”

There are many more. I am not kidding. Google, “Songs about booty.” You’re sure to find a myriad of musical gems.

I say all this not to trash musicians who were previously inspired by a woman’s posterior, and of course, not to diminish your contribution to this classic collection. I am merely pointing out that, “All About that Bass,” does not contain revolutionary content. The booty has been sung about for years, and in significantly more derogatory ways.

Do I love the “skinny bitches” line in your song? No, not particularly.

Do I love the way any sized woman is acknowledged in most pop, rap, country, or rock music ever through out history? No, not particularly.

You know M (can I call you M?); I think the world needs to cop a balance. There is not one ideal body type for women. Bottom line (no pun intended), if you are a woman, and you have a body, that’s ideal. We should appreciate our bodies, take care of them, and value them for what they are: a container for much more important things.

You are a fun, young woman, who wrote a catchy song about enjoying your body, to which makes curvy girls everywhere wiggle, wiggle, wiggle, and that’s okay.

Your shoulders don’t need to carry the weight of all the women who have body issues.

Women People need to stop blaming music, television, movies, and video games for the world’s problems, and get working on their own problems.

No one person is to blame, not even you Meghan Trainor.

Yours truly,

Ashley