Friday, March 16, 2012

Ninja Doula!

. . . I'm not so sure what Rush Limbaugh would make of me. I'm hoping for "scarlet woman" because "slut" is so last week. We were comparing HD's "Pear Tree" and the symbol of Janie's nascent sexuality in Their Eyes Were Watching God, Sir, nothing funny about women's rights. Off to the right is a diagram of a Greek theatre for my 5th block class; let's talk about society-ordained condemnation of women!

But, seriously, hello! I'm sorry for my poor writerly habits; I suppose I'm going to play the I'm-a-first-year-teacher-with-3-UNM-classes-and-just-finished-coaching card. I've been journaling better the past week or so, and I'm glad Res to Rez followed suit.  It's a Friday, and Checkers and I look roughly like this:

It's more than impossible to summarize two months of teaching and craziness and such, so I'll just provide a snapshot or two.
FIRST, my literary snapshot. Yesterday I finished Feed, the devastating technocratic dystopia by MT Anderson. Well written? Yes. Enjoyable? No. Anderson captures the voice of a "null bro" at the end of the 21st century, and very likely the end of the world. The YA novel hits a little too close to home (especially having read about the "Google glasses" and the new iDoodad in the past week); the America of the future is one where the majority of Americans have chips implanted in their brains that broadcasts their "feed," or personalized internet stream. Think of it as Star Girl meets Fahrenheit 451 meets The Oresteia. The setting is Bradburyian, the characters / symbolism is Aeschylus, and Star Girl is Cassandra. Dang it!
For an even more riveting read that's less like a proverbial curb stomp? The Hunger Games. Yes, what they said is true. They are well written, the premise is disturbing and beautifully-imagined, yet the Romantic aesthetic of nature and pure emotion still has a prominent role (it is obliterated in Feed). Let's just say my grading, sleep, teaching, coaching, homework, and social skills suffered the 5 days in which it took me to read the trilogy. They come STRONGLY recommended.
My current baby reading is Ina May's Spiritual Midwifery. Classic, groovy, and great! I'm enjoying the birthing stories, rife with rushes and smooches and spiritual highs, but especially look forward to the advice for parents and midwives section. However, I came across two other FABirth reads, and where else but in the biblio-Mecca of Gallup Goodwill? (The best part of the past sentence is that I'm completely serious) The first is simply called Midwife by Jennifer Worth; it is a memoir about her experiences as a midwife with the House of Nonnatus (yes, midwife nuns) in the impoverished East End of London in the 1950s. Compellingly written, but the stories are the true incredible portion. It pushes no agenda, but makes a strong gentle birth message just by recounting her history. I also just finished Catherine Taylor's Giving Birth. Also great! It was made sweller by taking place in New Mexico, where Taylor herself lives. She very meticulously wove together field experience, her own doula training, research, and her own second pregnancy. It's a very satisfying read that tracks her own dawning self awareness as a powerful being in agency of her own body.

SECOND, my cheerleading snapshot? My girls' season wrapped up beautifully, and all had a lovely time at our supper at Chu-Chu's. They also produced this for homecoming: . Yes, I know they're wonderful.

THIRD, my UNM snapshot. Cor. Overwhelmed. I got a bit behind when I missed a couple of classes for cheerleading and coaching / judging at the State Speech and Debate meet in Santa Fe two weeks ago (that's a whole story within itself), so I have 9 assignments for ONE of my classes. 2 assignments for another, and 2 for the third. Um, ridiculous? Qué sí.


But my true reason for writing - the namesake of my article - is this:
First, OMG am I cute or what?? Kidding, but I was thrilled about my outfits this past week. Last weekend I pulled out all the stops for my Ms. L - we're talking blue-corn crepes filled with ricotta & wild rice and topped with peach salsa, an appetizer of a butternut bisque, and manjar brownies for dessert here  - and I shaved my legs to top off the Beyonce look. (If you're confused, look up "Jay-Z & Beyonce's Baby" on SNL. Emily played "White Butler") So, for the first time since probably September, I could wear knee-length skirts without fear of more dyke accusations!

Ahem, ANYWAY - you can't see clearly in the picture, but I am holding up Ina May's Guide to Chilbirth, Penny Simpkin's The Birth Partner, my binder from my DONA conference, and Gentle Birth by Barbara Walters. This is because I was a NINJA DOULA! My 2nd and 3rd periods of English 11 had just finished Hemingway's A Farewell to Arms. Beautiful book? Yes. Troubling in terms of its portrayal of pregnancy? YES. 
A bit of background: When I was in high school, I was terrified of pregnancy and birth. I was convinced I would die in childbirth. By no fault of my family, I had been inundated by scary birth stories; A Farewell to Arms did nothing to assuage it. In fact, it worsened significantly. 
What IS the deal about the mother-dead-in-childbirth trope?? From "Cinderella" to "Whale Rider" it floods our collective unconscious. I know it's symbolic, but come on!
So I was determined - especially for the sake of my students who are moms (9) or currently pregnant (6 that I know of) - to make meaning and de-mystify Catherine's death. 
On Monday, then, we worked with the symbolic reasons for why she "had" to die. We traced the foreshadowing and looked at Frederic / Hemingway's life philosophy.
Tuesday, however, was my day. I made five groupings of the desks and called them "Birth Centers." (and then laughed about it heartily) Each had a theme: hemorrhage prevention, family present during labor, eating / drinking during labor, beneficial birthing positions, and dangers of cesarean sections. They had 7 minutes at each section to read the handout and take notes on the key points. At the end of the hour, then, they wrote up a paragraph on "Why did Catherine die? What could've been done better?" A lot of the guys cracked up about the nipple stimulation and turned in half-serious notes, but some were real gems! I must admit it was exceedingly edifying to read this one:

"Cat died because she bled too much after birth. If there was somebody there to comfort her, her delivery would have gone more comforting and more smoothly. If she had tried different positions and ate or drank during so that she would have more energy. After the delivery, she should have rubbed her lower abdomen by herself or had a midwife do it to her so it would have closed faster. This is also known as fundal massage. I still say it would have been better if someone was also in there comforting her."

Ninja doula!
Seeing that 5th block (my sophomores in their drama units) were working on their Conceptualization projects for Antigone and my 6th and 7th block juniors were doing a "moving blue book" (three questions, one at each clump of desks) about Their Eyes Were Watching God, it was a pretty good day.

Wednesday too, since it was my self-proclaimed "Why We Love Literacy Day" with a book share, statistics on the value of independent reading, and a quote discussion - it too was swell. Ender's Game, Atonement, and Dante's Inferno were snatched up by the end of the day. Other excellent finds? Never Let Me Go, The Bean Trees, Animal Dreams, Silent Night, The Mists of Avalon, StarGirl, The Red Tent, Notes From a Small Island, and 10 more. Yes, the GoodWill workers have begun to notice me and give me discounts. 
To give you an idea of the average haul, I made a list of the books I got from my previous trip (February 12):

To Kill a Mockingbird (Harper Lee)
The Reader (Bernard Schlink)
Persuasion (Jane Austen)
All Quiet on the Western Front (Erik Maria Remarque)
Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (James Joyce)
One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich (Alexander Solzhenitsyn)
The Lovely Bones (Alice Sebold)
Thurber Carnival (James Thurber)
A Great and Terrible Beauty (Libba Bray)
A Yellow Raft in Blue Water (Michael Dorris)
Izzy, Willy-Nilly (Cynthia Voigt)
Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (Ann Brashares)
Watership Down (Richard Adams)
Candide (Voltaire)
The Cloudy Patriot (Sarah Vowell)
The Dark Wind (Tony Hillerman)
"A Raisin in the Sun" (Lorraine Hansberry)
The Time Traveler's Wife (Audrey Niffenegger)
Bridget Jones's Diary (Helen Fielding)
The Van (Roddy Doyle)
Something Wicked This Way Comes (Ray Bradbury)
Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (Stieg Larsson)
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (Mark Haddon)
In the Lake of the Woods (Tim O'Brien)
The City of Falling Angels (Berendt)

And that is that.

It's approaching 10, so I should hop off to write / read / perhaps watch Away We Go or Casa de los Babys. Tomorrow I have to wake early so I can knock off some of those wretched UNM assignments before the rest of the day is dedicated to celebrating old St. Pat! 

Yours in literacy, education, and empowered birth.

Over and out ~