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About Birth Stories (Suzy)

Most people think of birth stories as warm and cuddly pieces, filled with glowing parents and happy babies. The truth, of course, is that there are as many ways to be born as there are people to experience them. And while every birth story contains two important characters – a mother and a baby – there is a whole slew of other participants that can make for a not-so-heartwarming piece.

Does a good drama have to include a birth? However, having discussed last month that emotions are inherent to a dramatic piece, the beginning of new life certainly seemed a good place to, well, start. A mother of three, I can testify that the birthing process contains a great deal of emotion – and I didn’t even swear at my husband.

There is a myriad of stories to tell, however, that aren’t so bright and cheerful. Consider the first chapter of Dean R. Koontz’ ‘Lightning.’ A mysterious stranger stops the doctor from delivering baby Laura by kidnapping him until the delivery is concluded. The stranger ties up the doctor and delivers a lecture on sobriety and a warning that the doctor will die if his habits are not changed. Once the baby is born, the stranger cuts the ropes partway and leaves, never to be seen again. Talk about an intriguing birth story that never comes near a baby!

Or look at the birth of poor Wade Hamilton in ‘Gone with the Wind.’ To Scarlett O’Hara, who cannot flee burning, Yankee-assaulted Atlanta until Melanie has delivered the new baby, the new life is nothing but a nuisance.
Consider the Greek goddess of wisdom, Athena, who sprung, fully formed, from her father’s head. Now that’s the way to go – mom skips not only the delivery but also the anxious teen years!

And no matter what you believe, it is difficult to deny that story of Jesus, and his birth still has repercussions around the world. If nothing else, consider the fate of the other baby boys born in Bethlehem at the same time.
I’d like to conclude with a real-life occurrence of birth I experienced before I ever married or had children. My sister dropped out of high school and wound up pregnant at seventeen. Despite promises that my mother would help her raise the baby, my sister decided to put the child up for adoption. The tense atmosphere of the delivery room hung over everyone as my mother struggled with her emotions, feeling pushed out of her natural place as grandmother by the adoptive mother. Emotions ran high that day, and not all were warm and happy.

Stories about birth have serious potential for drama. I’d like to challenge each of you to consider childbirth from a different angle – or even from the everyday angle – and write a short story

Natural labor may be over-rated for some, but for me, it was an adventure that started weeks before the delivery day. My first born was delivered via a planned induction complete with a full dose of Pitocin, breaking of my water bag, an epidural to relieve painful contractions, and 12 hours of labor. My decision to be induced had everything to do with being diagnosed with a distended (enlarged) kidney and feeling confident I needed my personal doctor in the delivery room with me.

With my son, I decided early on I would go into labor naturally, would still receive an epidural but not until I needed it. So, when at 36 weeks after a long, fun-filled Memorial Day weekend, and several pulled abdominal muscles, I started contracting and didn’t stop for hours: I thought this is it! My stomach was rock solid, spastic and the pain – gut wrenching. We were in the middle of a small town and didn’t even know where the hospital was. We called my doctor to confirm what we should do. After explaining I was going up and down boat and pool ladders, picking up a 30 lb toddler and not stopping for several days, the doctor explained the stomach spasms I was having were muscular-skeletal and not labor contractions.

I returned home and almost immediately developed a cold with a bad cough. On top of this, my husband was going out of town for a full week, and I was experiencing more Braxton Hicks contractions. Having almost no energy and no plan in place, I put myself on bed rest just hoping I would make it past 37 weeks. At 37 weeks and three days, I lost my mucous plug, which exacerbated my fear I would go into labor without my other half, scheduled for a work trip two days away. He’d only be gone 48 hours this time, but with a full moon approaching and a strange feeling I’d be giving birth soon, I put a plan in place this time. Two girlfriends agreed to stay the night; one would go with me to the hospital, and the other would stay with my toddler.

The night of the full moon, thunder and rain awoke me. I went to use the restroom and noticed a contraction, but ignored it and went back to bed. An hour later I woke up with another contraction, and then every 30 minutes I would wake up with another one. By 6 o’clock in the morning, I was having contractions every 8-12 minutes. My husband was on a red-eye back from San Diego, CA. I went in to wake up my friend, and we continued tracking the contractions. We called the doctor and made an appointment to get checked.


Susy Richards is a lovely mother of 3 (3 years, 4 years and 5) and simple woman who is ready to share her priceless experience with other mommies around the world. She is an Advanced Practice Provider who passed birth doula and postpartum doula courses at Childbirth International in 2013. She is passionate about providing holistic care and is involved in pregnancy research currently publishing her articles concerning pregnancy on site rocketparents.com

Categories: Belly, Pregnant, Submissions

The Past and Future of SOAM

smash bracelet

So I turned 39 this week. I don’t think 39 is old at all, and I have no problem with growing older anyway, but boy does it feel weird. Maybe it’s weirder because I am currently an undergrad going to school with kids born the year I graduated high school. Most of the time it doesn’t make a difference and I feel like they are my peers as we dissect literature or discuss feminist theory. But then they’ll make a comment (“Have you ever heard of Mr. Coffee?”) that brings me back to the reality that I could be their mother. I enjoy regaling them with stories of what the world was like in my day: having to write essays on word processors and without Google or Wikipedia. These days I do all my research from my bed or couch, but in the 90’s I remember driving to local universities to use their libraries when our civic ones weren’t enough.

So I’ve spent ten years here discussing body image and fighting the demands society puts on us to stay young. I’ve been fighting it in my own head much longer – maybe 35 years. Believe me, you could not pay me to be young again. It was exhausting not knowing as much as I do now about life. But I have to admit that I struggle with my body image. Even after all this time. Even after all this work. Sometimes it makes me feel like a big fake since I have this whole website here trying to help women love themselves just as they are. But I guess it’s normal – it takes a lifetime to undo all the societal conditioning bred into us by the time we enter grade school. Sometimes I am better at loving me exactly as I am and sometimes I struggle more with it.

SOAM has slowed down a TON in the last two years. This is a post I sort of expected to write in the early days: where I begin to consider the future of the website. In those early days, I never expected it to last as long as it has. I was lulled into a sense of permanence and so I’ve struggled these last couple of years with the slowness of the website. In some ways, I worry that I’ve failed it (and therefore you, my readers). The fact is that I may be a good writer, but I am a terrible blogger. I do not like having to market myself and I am not good enough at social media and then I let my anxieties get in the way: when I haven’t done enough work, I tend to hide my head in the sand and pretend nothing exists. SOAM could be more than what it is and the fact that it isn’t is my fault.

At the same time, though, I also realize that I have too much on my plate. I am a single mom of two kids, I am low-income, I am a full-time student, I struggle with depression and anxiety, and I am recovering from an abusive childhood and trying to learn how to be a good human. Poor SOAM, then, simply isn’t always a priority. I am sure many of you relate.

But I think the other aspect of the slowness of the site is actually really good and really exciting: these days there are so many more resources for seeing normal bodies. 10 1/2 years ago, there was almost nothing. Now there’s a ton! (You can find these other sites in the Body Positive Links above.) It’s not so revolutionary anymore and that is GOOD. It is so, so good. Ultimately the goal for SOAM is that we all want into become pointless, right?

I don’t think we’re quite there yet.

And it’s going to be a wild ride as women’s issues come to a bigger battle in the courts. I don’t like to alienate readers with politics, but I think it would be irresponsible to SOAM’s daughters and granddaughters to not take a stand for women.

So here’s the future for SOAM: I don’t really know. As long as people keep sending me posts, I’ll keep sharing them. If people stop, I’ll keep the ones we already have up for as long as I can. I’ll be writing here from time to time when I can to share news, keep readership up, etc. I’ll probably take some political stands. I want to reach out to other people who SOAM might inadvertently alienate – mamas who adopt, or trans mamas or papas who struggle with post-baby bodies or the lack thereof. I’m hoping to have some local (San Diego) gatherings – already working on one for near Mother’s Day. But while I finish school, the fact is that SOAM is not going to be my top priority. Once I’ve graduated I hope to put a ton more energy into it and make it something bigger than it ever was with books and conferences and classes. I think it would be awesome to turn it into a multi-dimensional community working towards body positivity in new ways. SOAM will probably never be exactly what it was before, but I was stupid for hoping it would never change because change is, after all, the only constant.

T-minus one year until I’m 40. I feel very old to just now be graduating and beginning a career, but life looks different for everyone and I plan to make the most of everything I have from my past to my future.

So much love to you, my readers, and here’s to another great year doing good work in the world together!

Categories: My Own Ramblings, News

Happy New Year!


Happy New Year!

I am not usually the resolution type. This year I have chosen a word of the year to focus on (it’s “nourish” and you can read more about that here), and I’m also working on a daily moment to meditate on happiness (posting as zebrabelly on instagram under the tag #findinghappy2017 if you want to join in).

But this resolution here I think is reasonably easy to implement – it doesn’t require a daily or weekly commitment. You can do it as often as you think of it or as you need it.

When my daughter was little and just learning to talk, I made the decision to stop insulting myself in front of her. I didn’t want her to learn those habits. That small move made a huge difference in my self-esteem. So then I started complimenting myself where she could overhear me and it was good for both of us. Just a simple, “Wow, I love the way I look in these jeans!” or an “I’m having a great hair day today!” or even “red really looks good on me!” make a huge impact on you.

I have studied physiological psychology a little bit and the most fascinating and important thing I’ve learned is that our brains are kind of stupid. If they hear you say something, they believe you. If you speak ill of yourself, they start to think bad things about you. But if you say nice things about yourself, they start to believe that, too. You don’t even need to necessarily believe it at first – just hearing the words can be convincing to your brain. And the more you say it, they more they believe it.

So do it. Right now. Go say something nice about you to yourself. If your kids are around, make sure they overhear you. But if they are sleeping or elsewhere at this moment, let this compliment be practice. Because they deserve it and you deserve it.

Happy new year, you beautiful human, you.

Categories: My Own Ramblings, News
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