Hellena Post - Creatrix

I've tried on so many uniforms and badges that now I'm just me - mother of 8 children and all that entails, flowmad, and human animal parent. Writer of this living book of a blog, philosopher, and creatrix of hand dyed and spun crocheted wearable art. I gave up polite conversation years ago, and now I dive into the big one's.....birth, sex, great wellness, life, passion, death and rebirth.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Birthing Choices

Just as a lawyer can be excused for believing that most people sort out their problems with litigation, and a police person could be excused for believing that most people have criminal motivations, a hospital midwife or medical body can be excused for believing that most women and babies are safer if birthed in a hospital. As the British Obstetrician and father of the 'natural childbirth' movement, Dr Grantly Dick-Read eloquently argued, it's often our fear in general and fear of pain that causes the most constrictions in childbirth, and fear is often present in hospital births. People within this system often come across the worst case scenarios on a regular basis. But what they often don't come into contact with is the silent but usually incredibly happy and empowered body of women and families that have birthed safely and without fear at home, with trusted fellow travellers. Just as police folk don't often come into contact with the peacefull and law abiding community members, and lawyers don't often come across the peacemakers who work with hard situations in compromise and compassion, taking personal responsibility.

How do we avoid fear in childbirth? As Dr Sarah J. Buckley M.D from Queensland has extensively researched, the best way to avoid fear and pain is to let go into our mammalian instincts, (there's a lot of mammals on the planet, and we all birth very successfully, and usually outdoors...) and allow the natural rollercoaster of internal oxytocins, adrenalins, and other hormones take us on an age old journey. A large part of creating a successful mammalian birth is to ensure the birthing mother is talked to little, and in a gentle manner, left unobserved as much as possible, and given dim lighting. And Dr Grantly Dick-Read's conclusions on joyous birthing was to understand the way the body and the womb in particular works, and relax into contractions, rather than tense against them. Keeping your mouth open and muscles relaxed is a proven technique to transcend a potentially painfull experience. Not to mention ancient practices and cultural diversities presently and in the past, of a variety of different ways to treat the pregnant woman, the birthing woman, the umbilical cord and placenta, the post natal period, healing afterwards, breastfeeding, and early childhood techniques. Sometimes us western colonialists forget to honour the wisdom of the ages and different cultures. But even now, there are many advocates of gentle home and water births, from Deepak Chopra and Ina May Gaskin to Michel Odent and birthing practices in Holland.

As a mother of five children, I've experienced a beautifully diverse range of births, all of which have taught me more about myself and my body, and my place in the world. For my 4th birth I had the penultimate homebirth, water birth, and lotus birth in a remote northern town, where my homebirthing midwife travelled 250 kilometers to be with our family and the birth of my daughter, providing all the safety and expertise of a registered midwife of over 30 years, in the candlelit, sweetly smelling birthing room in our own house, with photo's of all my other births, children and extended family on the walls around me. In transition, I was reclined in the birthing pool, holding onto my partners arms , staring into his eyes and telling him I loved him. I sung, hummed, and toned her out of my body, with my awestruck family welcoming her in the dawns gentle light. We performed a lotus birth, had a 'baby moon' of 4 weeks where we didn't leave the house, had a real 'birth' day party for her within a couple of days of being born, where we all ate pink cake representing the placenta, and the other kids got presents from their new baby sister, to honour the fact that they were moving over to give her the room to be at my breast. We also got post natal visits from my long distance midwife, and advice and support with all and any of our needs.

And for my 5th birth I had the penultimate ceasarean. I must admit that transferring to hospital, dry birthing, having a spinal and a ceasarean were my personal worst birthing fears before the experience, but having faced my fears, I can highly recommend the journey to anyone, especially if your baby is 10 pound 7, with a cord around his neck, and sure to die by any other birthing method.

After preparing for a potential breech birth or birth of twins at home, ( I'd chosen to be surprised after past experiences and ensuing trust in my body), my treasured midwife from the previous birth brought another valued and registered homebirthing midwife along just in case it was twins, to provide back up, and for added safety. After labouring long and sweetly during the night in the birthing pool, getting to a point and realizing I couldn't go any further, getting out of the pool and walking the labyrinth out the back, I realised that the birth wasn't going to happen at home, and we had to transfer to hospital. Both midwifes checked me and the baby regularly to ensure we were both healthy at all times,and I'm greatful to them both that they let me make up my own mind, in my own time, within safe boundaries. Transferring from home to hospital was the worst bit, as I was travelling into my fears and the unknown. At no point were I or my baby in any danger whatsoever.

And from the moment I got there, everyone smiled at me. The medical staff were gentle and efficient, streamlining me through the hospital process to ease my pain as quickly as possible. They informed me fully of all my options and respected my choices. They also honoured and respected my homebirthing midwife and partner as they attended me, and she provided a valued continuum of midwifery care. The head obstetrician headed straight to the computer in the room where he googled lotus birth and placenta, so he could respect my wish for a lotus birth. The pediatrician introduced himself and his colleague, and said if everything went well, he wouldn't be touching me or my baby at all, respecting my desire for as much of a hands off approach as possible in the eventuality of a hospital birth, as I'd stated in my orange book on the suggestion of my midwife. They'd all read my birthing plan in the very short time between me getting there, and having my pain and fear relieved by their professional, gentle, and respectful conduct. I thanked them all to the point that I think they might have been a bit surprised, that this earth mother homebirthing type was so effusively greatfull...

After this major surgery, my partner and I stayed in hospital for 2 nights, holding our new baby constantly in a 'Continuum Concept' inspired approach to early childhood. We also performed a lotus birth, and many of the hospital midwives commented on how peacefull and quiet he was. This period was also the first time our other children had ever been away from us, so bonding didn't happen as beautifully as with my previous birth. But because I had a registered midwife as my carer, I got to rejoin the rest of my family a lot quicker than usual, and was enabled to convalesce at home, attended by daily visits from our midwife, to help with healing my scar and body. All illusions that caesareans were an 'easy option' were completely dispelled. It took over 6 weeks before I felt physically able again, compared to the relatively quick bounce back from my previous vaginal births.

But even the best care in the world can't prevent post natal depression when it comes, and a couple of months down the track I started to feel it's tendrils. And during my time of dealing with this hormonally and spiritually bleak process, I've discovered some interesting things. For example the caesarean scar directly cuts a major energy meridian in your body (no blame intended, it's the only place to cut) and a registered accupuncturist can attend you in hospital to mend the meridian and help with scar tissue now that they are accepted by the board of health. An ayuvedic masseuse can also help mend the meridian that's been severed, and Body Talk also assists beautifully in healing. As well, my visits with a psychologist have shown me the triggers within me and helpful areas on which to focus, when it comes to the depression side of PND.

And through this whole process I'm joined by family and two beautiful midwives, who might soon be made to face serious litigation if they continue their ancient craft, and provide other women with the invaluable assistance of the bodies of information and knowledge they hold around birthing, and specifically birthing at home. It seems surreal and ridiculous that if the current issues around homebirthing don't resolve positively, that I could have access to an accupuncturist in hospital, but not a homebirthing midwife!!

As my eldest daughter rapidly approaches her birthing years, my deepest hope and wish for her and all our future daughters, is that she too has access to all the birthing choices that I have had. And like the example set by Holland whereby the first option is homebirthing with hospitals as a valued backup, we can all experience the transformation available from all sorts of births, with a wholistic and wide range of options whithin which to perform them, and health proffessionals with which to work.

Regardless of law, a previous caesarean and the current debate around homebirthing, my family and I will have a homebirth if we get pregnant again. I have full and complete faith in my intuition, body, and the health proffessionals I've collected around me to take that journey if it happens in good faith and with joy. Knowing that I'm fortunate to live in a country where so many birthing options are possible and supported.

Friday, May 7, 2010

My answer to Dualism

Allright, so I've had TWO people now ask me what I think about Dualism, which is, I think, plenty of reasons (well at least two of them) why I should publish my dusty old university essay on the topic.  This essay was actually my crowning glory at uni, and also my kind of exit, as after writing it, and having my tutor not be able to understand it and pass it on to the head of the Philosophy department, who told me it was brilliant and what cutting edge philosophy and quantum physics was discussing, and how I could do a thesis on the subject....and gave me a high distinction.....I realised my brain did work, and I could probably keep going on my merry way without the side effects that I was beginning to dislike about University.

So here goes.  My essay on Dualism:)

Explain Dualism and assess one or two objections to it

Dualism is a theme that has reverberated throughout philosophy, thought and theory for most of written history.  The dualistic split between mind and body, human and animal, male and female, good and evil, freewill and determinism.  As P.F.M. Fontaine (1986, p.X) explains,
"In dualistic ideologies the world always becomes divided into two opposite halves, into two systems that are absolutely opposed and often are not even dependent on one another.  The two systems always differ from each other in quality.  For one of them is always seen as much better and more valuable than the other; it is preferable to the other in the most primary and absolute way. The lesser system exists only to be rejected."
Thereby, mind becomes attached to God or immortality, and body attached to the Devil or machine.  'Mankind' is attached to the controller, animals and nature with the controlled.  Male with God's image, and female with original sin.  Freewill the prerogative of the godly and determinism the mechanism of mortality.  In this essay I will focus on the dualism of consciousness and body, illuminate the main oppositions to said, and then suggest an alternative view to the dualistic split.

If we apply the above model to the Mind-Body problem, the dualist takes the view that the essential consciousness, or the soul, is separate in some fundamental way from the body or brain.  Independent or subtly connected depending on which brand of dualism you prefer, of qualitative difference to the neuron's dance in the brain, superior in it's capacity for emotion and reason, and ultimately able to transcend or reject the body in the death of the physical system, to traipse into immortality.  As Churchland (1988, p. 30) notes,
"Dualism is not the most widely held view in the current philosophical and scientific community, but it is the most common theory of mind in the public at large, it is deeply entrenched in most of the world's popular religions, and it has been the dominant theory of mind for most of Western history."
As for the different brands of dualism, Cartesian dualists maintain that the mind is made from a different substance to the brain and body, and exists purely for the function of thinking - a conclusion reached from introspection and it's supposed qualitative difference to brain functions.  Wheras Property dualists announce that instead of the mind being a different substance, it is rather a set of nonphysical properties that provide the consciousness with its difference, and allow for sensations, feelings, beliefs etc.  Both approaches rely on the commonsense notion that one's introspective world is one of  thought, emotion, reason, sensation, belief, and feeling, rather than of neuron's, electrochemical's, nerves, and parts of the brain communicating.  Thereby it seems fair to believe that the mind and brain must be separate.  And the majority of the worlds population have a huge amount invested in maintaining such a belief.  As Churchland (1988, p.33) states,
"Each of the major religions is in its way a theory about the cause or purpose of the universe, and Man's place within it, and many of them are commited to the notion of an immortal soul - that is, to some form of substance dualism."

The arguments against Dualism fall basically into the camps of Materialists, Behaviourists, Identity theorists, and Functionalists.  Materialist's expound the simplicity of their view that mind and body are made of the same stuff, and hold that at some time science will support their view by showing how the complexities of thought, reason, and emotion are causally connected to the brain's activities.  To borrow from Churchlands metaphor, just as when you look at an apple and see it as a red fruit rather than observe it's molecular makeup, science will discover that emotions and thinking have their roots in the neuron's communication.  They also point to in inability of dualists to propose a plausible explanation for what the mind stuff is made of, and how it acts, within the framework of the laws of conservation of momentum, which basically dictates that momentum (or body movement) must be caused by matter.  Another of the key validations of the Materialist stance, is the damage done to the memory or emotional states by damaging the brain, which seems to lead to conclusive proof that the mind and brain are one.  The other theories follow similar paths of argument, the main differences being that Behaviourists assert that emotions and sensations are in actuality merely patterns of behavioural disposition, and Functionalists compare the mind to a computer, with
"internal states mediating sensory inputs and behavioural outputs."  (Churchland, 1988, p. 45)

And now comes the fun bit.  I would like to put forward my own argument against Dualism, borrowing from Animism, Quantum Physics, the Gaia Hypothesis, Panpsychism, and personal intuition.  Let us for arguments sake call it the theory of 'Post-dualism'.  I suggest that both Dualism and Materialism contain part of, but not the whole picture, which is in actuality a combination of the two, and yet more.  I believe that the mind and body are indeed one and the same, and the stuff the body and mind are made of, (as well as that of which the universe is made), has inherent consciousness on a sub-atomic level, and is connected to the entire organism of our earth and universe in a holistic fashion.  To quote the physicist Freeman Dyson, (Davies, 1988, p. 190)
"I think our consciousness is not just a passive epiphenomenon carried along by the chemical events in our brains, but is an active agent forcing the molecular complexes to make choices between one quantum state and another.  In other words, mind is already inherent in every electron."

Furthermore, I propose that this consciousness is both a reflection of the cosmos, and also creates the cosmos and reality by thought and observation.

Ludicrous and far fetched?  Perhaps not.  Let us first asses my claim that the stuff that makes the mind, the body and the universe is all one and the same, interconnected, and conscious on some level.  Indeed it's hard to believe that there is any separation at all in the cosmos when you think that in the air you breathe, the makeup of your body, and the food and drink you intake, is the matter from millions and millions of different things.  Dinosaurs and people, the trinkets and gems of Queens and Kings, old plates and pot shards, excrement and blood cells, dirt and stones have disintegrated and found new forms.  As air, as plants, as people, as animals, as the things we make.  All moulding and remoulding the different clays of the earth.  Even stars and meteorites find a place within the foods we eat and the clothes we wear.  Add to this the realisation that atoms are structures of energetic activity within fields, and as Fritjof Capra (1982, p. 83) explains, how
"Quantum theory has shown that sub-atomic particles are not isolated grains of matter but are probability patterns, interconnections in an inseparable cosmic web that includes the human observer and her consciousness"

And I believe we're coming close to a coherent framework of understanding the matter that makes us as a conscious connection to our cosmos.

All that is left to explain is my claim that consciousness both reflects and creates reality.  One of the most startling discoveries made by quantum physics was the way that atoms being studied could take on either a wave or particle format, depending on the observer.  As Fritjof Capra (1982, p.77) again explains,

"The crucial feature of quantum theory is that the observer is not only necessary to observe the properties of an atomic phenomenon, but is necessary even to bring about these properties.  My conscious decision about how to observe, say, an electron will determine the electron's properties to some extent.  If I ask it a particle question, it will give me a particle answer; if I ask it a wave question, it will give me a wave answer.  The electron does not have objective properties independent of my mind."

In conclusion, I'd like to point out that I've only tipped the very top of the iceberg in terms of the discoveries of quantum physics, and it's ramifications on philosophy and society at large.  I believe the time of looking at the world in a dualistic fashion is drawing to an end, and interconnectedness must be honoured if we are to face the multi-dimensional crisis of our times.  I'd like to finish with a quote by Timothy Ferris (1997, p. 287)
"To assert that the universe is deeply interconnected is to echo what mystics have been saying for thousands of years.  This can be a liability in the scientific community, which has heard more than enough of complacent, shallow-draft assertions to the effect that science amounts to little more than proving what Lao Tzu and Chief Seattle were saying all along."

There you have it.  My argument against dualism.  If you want the bibliography, you'll have to let me know, cause I've had enough for typing for one early morning.  Hope you enjoyed it!