Ahh Haus Mainusch. How I love you in theory and hate you in practice. Especially when the people who host parties and concerts in you can’t figure out how to turn down the bass on the too-powerful sound equipment that they have decided to use to serenade the five people still hanging out at 3 a.m. I didn’t used to have a problem with the noise (the Beard and I’s trailers are the first two behind that lovely graffiti-smeared house, making us the first target of any stray party sounds) because I can usually fall asleep no matter what the soundtrack—the first time. Get me tired enough or put on a movie and ta-ta. But when I wake up in the middle of the night—which happens at least two or three times a night since Peanut has taken to sitting on my bladder—and play bass in my ear, and I end up wide awake. And there’s nothing that can drive me into hysterics quite like not being able to sleep. The situation has been bothering the Beard for a while now, so with us both starting to go just a little bit crazy and a baby about to enter the sleep-deprivation equation, we decided we had to move our trailers to another spot or we had to move out.
Except I didn’t want to even think about moving out. The new tide approaching with the baby’s due date doesn’t phase me. But add another huge change to the pile? No fucking way. Just the thought of it had me in tears. Baby time is the last time when I want to leave a community I love, one where I have friends who I know will be around to chat or help out or keep me sane. There had to be a way to make it work here. That’s part of what an intentional community is all about, right? Right?!! I brought up the subject at our next plenum (the Beard was away at the time), and we started talking about potential solutions. It was incredibly stressful, was all we talked about for weeks, but there was a happy ending.
Our Wagenplatz community is situated in a loud spot. We’re flanked on both sides by construction sites (though those, being temporary, didn’t play into our calculations), and there is the autonomous center on one front and a large room used for weddings and the occasional student disco night on the other. There is just one corner of our Wagenplatz that offers any significant protection from all the noise, and that corner is, of course, full. Prime real estate. And we needed a piece. Long story short (too late), after a hell of a lot of discussion, we figured out a solution that everybody was pretty happy about. Unfortunately, it is a solution that involves moving six different trailers, including ours (though not including the baby trailer, which won’t come into the picture until next summer). And so the game of Bauwagen dominos began.
It took a month before the first trailer moved. But then! Yesterday! The first chip was placed! The first die was cast! The owner of this little green trailer packed up everything breakable, someone threw on the tractor, and we—I use the word “we” loosely as I jumped around taking pictures and silently cheering while five others did the grunt work—pushed and pulled it into its new home. Halle-fucking-lujah, the moving has begun. Above you can see the first domino parked en route to its new spot. Below you can see a “before” of its future home, as well as an action shot of it on its way there.
I love that we can move our houses around like this when the need arises. With two hours of daylight left and the momentum rolling, we decided, hell, let’s move another one. And guess which one it was?! My very own trash house. But I’ll save the pictures from that adventure for tomorrow. Two Wägen down, four more to go…
Fall is here, and the days are becoming more and more wood-stove centered. Is it warm enough to put off heating for another few hours? Is there kindling already made? Do I need to chop more wood? And where the hell are the matches?
Before Peanut landed in my belly I would spend crisp, bright fall days like today hauling scrap wood (mostly in the form of pallets) home from the big university trash corral and cutting it into tiny bits for getting fires started. Not only would it mean burning less bought wood and more free wood, but the work would keep me warm enough to put off lighting the wood stove for most of the day. Now I spend more time reading than hauling, and so I heat and I heat and I heat. I just hope the three square meters of firewood and the 20 packages of wood briquettes that we bought this winter are going to be enough. But my squirrelish nature always makes me worry about not having enough in the larder, whether it be dried food or dry firewood.
The leaves are changing colors and falling—not in the spectacular, triumphant way that I am used to from a life in the northeastern United States, but in a wilty way that speaks more of defeat than of celebration. I don’t sit outside for all my meals anymore—though today’s falafel lunch found me at the Dorf Zentrum (“village center”—what we jokingly call the table and chairs in roughly the middle of our community)—but the weather, at the very least, has become ideal for sleeping cuddled beneath two blankets. I can’t wait for Peanut to arrive and make that three people under those blankets. And by all means, remind me that I said that when I’m typing cracked out sleep-deprivation-inspired nonsense. Heh.
Flea market season is also grinding to a slow halt. I always miss them when winter comes, but a respite from buying—even second-hand buying—is never a bad thing. The last flea market Saturdays of the season are at least in good company as my first stop is the stand selling roasted chestnuts whose shells I leave in a Hansel-and-Gretel trail behind me as I wander. As luck would have it the end of the flea market has coincided with the end of my baby-crap shopping list, which I concluded last week with the purchase of a used two-kid bike trailer for carting around Peanut and company come February. It even has a “trunk” that could reasonably fit an entire case of beer. It’s just that awesome. (It’s the Captain XL shown here if you were wondering.) Nothing for it but to dig in for the winter with a stack of good books and enjoy the wait.
I have had this song stuck in my head all afternoon, and I’ve decided that it will be my fall hymnal theme song. I’m sharing it since I’ve stolen the title of this post from it’s lyrics and because Robin Pecknold and co. can sing like god damned angels. Just ignore the second song on the recording, as it is irrelevant to fall and winter musings.
Then one awesome lady surprised me with by sending a long winter jacket she didn’t need anymore in the mail. A few days later I found a second jacket, the one I am wearing in the rather too dark picture above, in the trash across the street to boot (to jacket!). The gifted jacket may or may not fit until month nine, but if it doesn’t this jacket is big enough for both the Beard and I to wear at the same time. And it’s really warm. And it’s lined with fleece. And it’s not a hideous color. And once Peanut is here she’ll fit in the carrier under the jacket as well. As usual, three cheers for the trash!
Read about why I do a “dumpster find of the week” series here. Or check out some of the other treasures I’ve pulled out of the trash here.
This post is part two of “midwives and home births in germany.” You can read part one here.
Midwives in Germany—home birth plans or not—come to your home for your appointments. I had read about the concept when doing research for a set of Young Germany articles about parenting in Germany, but remain astounded and jubilant at the luxury and convenience of it all to this day. While the first midwife we had met had had trouble finding our place, the second midwife showed up outside of my trailer door ten minutes before I had been expecting her. It wasn’t her first time at a Wagenplatz either—she’d come directly from an appointment with a pregnant woman at the Wagenplatz down the road. I figured that this could only work in my favor. I had telephoned with a handful of midwives before finding one who did home births and wasn’t already booked, and I didn’t want one of my few chances of having the baby at home shattered by misconceptions about and biases against Wagenplatz life.
This woman was older and not immediately overbearingly friendly. Her distanced behavior made me nervous: was she an unfriendly person or was this just Deutsche Distanz*? We sat at my table, and I poured her a mug of fresh peppermint tea while she flipped through my Mutterpass.** She asked me why I was interested in a home birth, and I explained my reasoning as best I could. (Reasoning that I explain here.)
She seemed satisfied with my answer and then looked around my trailer. “A home birth is one thing, but I don’t know.” She trailed off. “Is there running water here?” I pointed out the window at the house and told her we had running water inside. “And a bathroom?” Yes there is, I told her, and we’ve got a shower and a tub in the house as well. She considered this, still looking around. I didn’t know it at the time, but she had turned down another Wagenplatz mother the previous year because she hadn’t felt comfortable attempting a home birth in a Bauwagen. “Well, why not. It’s not like no one’s done it before.” YES! Yes yes yes!
Nervous about being able to find anyone at all willing to attempt a home birth, I forgot to ask her a lot of the questions that have since occurred to me. Specific questions about her philosophy and practice, about her history, about her experience. But reading between the lines, I thought we would be a good match, and a few weeks ago I talked to an aquaitance who had the same midwife attend her own recent birth. Now I know that we are a good match. Apparently she has a reputation as being a women who lets birth take its course without much intervention. Apparently she is the type of woman who, when she says it’s time for medical intervention, you can really believe. Perfect.
At the end of an hour, we wrapped up the conversation, and she asked for my insurance card and a signature. (Not only do midwives in Germany come to your home, but regular old state insurance pays for them to do so! Ba-da-bing! Though for the Beleghebamme/home birth servies we’ll need to pay an extra 250 euro.) “So why don’t you sleep on it, and then if you decide you want to work with me, give me a call and we’ll make an appointment for four weeks after your next ultrasound (my next ultra sound being the one that I mention here).” I walked her out of the trailer feeling relieved at having found a midwife willing to try delivering a baby in a Bauwagen with no running water and a wood stove for heat. When I called her to schedule our appointment the distance between us had dissolved and in a friendly tone we hashed out the date of our next meeting.
Do any of you have experience with midwives? How did the process of finding and working with one go for you?
*Deutsche Distanz is the term for the German habit of not “thawing” to new people until they have had time to establish an actual rapport.
**The Mutterpass (Mother pass) is a passport-sized book that your doctor issues you at your second prenatal appointment. In it all your pregnancy information, such as weight, fetal movement, and blood type, is recorded. This is meant to facilitate smooth transitions between doctors and midwives—as you are like to have at least one regular OB/GYN, a midwife, and whoever happens to be on duty when you go into labor—and to help any paramedics in case of an emergency while are you pregnant. For anyone in Germany looking to make sense of their Mutterpass, I recommend taking a look at this website (in German).
***Photo, as usual, copyright Click Clack Gorilla. That’s 23 weeks of Peanut in there, folks. And look, a little glimpse into what my wagon looks like when I’m not trying to take pretty pictures of it.
The first midwife that we met with was a young, bubbly woman, friendly in the way that you expect people who work in American customer service to be. We chatted with her about her experience and ours, but it was clear within a couple of minutes that she wasn’t the midwife for me: she didn’t do home births or offer Beleghebamme services (that means “a midwife who you pay a little extra to accompany you to the hospital for your birth). Ah well, she told us, I’ll send you a few contacts to try calling, call me if you can’t find someone who does do home births, and good luck!
Home birthing in Germany is legal, but rare. (Apparently Holland is the country of home births. Anyone with experience there??) In order to be allowed to practice in Germany, midwives who perform home births are required to buy such expensive insurance that, for most of them, it simply doesn’t pay off because demand isn’t high. The majority of folks want the securtiy of a hospital when they’re laboring, and considering all the fear-mongering that is done about giving birth, I don’t blame them for wanting to err on the side of caution.
But me, I despise hospitals. When I think of giving birth, the last place I can imagine wanting to be is in a hospital. I know, I know, some of them have comfortable, less-sterile-looking rooms for birthing and great staff and etc, but even so they are not places where I feel comfortable or relaxed, which in turn means they are not places where I particularly want to be when I’m in pain—or having one of the most intense, beautiful, life-changing, intimate, and skull-crackingly painful experiences of my life.
When I’m in pain I want to be in the most comfortable place there is: my own home. There is so much comfort in familiarity, in the way things smell, in the heaps of blankets and pillows on my bed, in not needing to figure out new things like where the bathroom or the light switch are, in not having to deal with any strangers. Knowing that being able to relax can help a birth go far more smoothly makes home birth a great fit for me. I love the idea of not having to drive anywhere once the contractions start and of not having to get home again once some other strangers have deemed Peanut and I fit for release. And I can’t think of anything more beautiful than giving birth in a place so important to me, in bringing Peanut into the world in the place that will remain our heart’s shell for many years to come.
And of course there is also the fact that hospital births tend to be overmanaged births. Many doctors have been trained to deal with birth through a slew of medical interventions, and so, logically, that is how they approach each birth that comes their way. I don’t want to have to fight someone every step of the way (not that I’ll be fit to do so at the time, so I suppose I should say that I don’t want to have to listen to the Beard fighting them) in order to have the birth experience I want. I’m not against medical intervention in general—it is certainly a relief to be living in a time when even extreme medical complications during birth generally end with a live child and mother—and when it comes down to a question of survival, I’d consent to be stuck with needles or cut open or sent to the moon. I’d just prefer not to be.
Birth doesn’t scare me. Hopsitals occasionally do. Birth will be intense, but the way I see it, my body was built to do it, and, more likely than not, will be able to do so without a lot of poking and prodding. With a midwife to guide and help me, I see home birthing as an exciting oppurtunity, and I feel for all the ladies interested in home birthing who live in states in America where it is illegal (or nearly so).
Of course, with child birth you never do know what is going to happen and because I don’t deal well with disappointment I tend to prepare for the worst. So while I am visualizing how fantastic it would be to give birth at home in the red trailer, I’m also preparing myself to be confronted with every situation that I dread. As Nina Planck says in Real Food for Mother and Baby: “The best preparation for pregnancy, birth, and mothering—even better than eating real food—is an open mind. Perhaps your life and work are well planned, orderly. Perhaps you find that satisfying. (I did.) Let go. Having a baby is stupendously wonderful, but things may not go as planned. If you have no fixed expectations, nothing can surprise or disappoint you. The ideal stance is a kind of gentle wonder, now and again brimming over into radical amazement, as your story unfolds.”
Read part two of “midwives and home births” here. Or read further musings on gorilla parenthood here.
Heh. Just discovered this little ditty about a romance that ends prematurely once the lady discovers her new duder is a garbage picker. Great story. Great punchline. Someday I will make a dumpster diving themed mix tape and this will be on it.
I always feel extra great when I can intercept a useful item before it lands in the dumpster. I dream of a world where grocers put out all of their throw-away food for people to take home with them. Wouldn’t that be beautiful? A world with fewer dumpsters and more free boxes? Yes, yes it would. *Eyes glaze over with daydream juice.* And now let’s get back to the real world, where unthinkable amounts of edibles are tossed every single day and grocers defend their edible trash with padlocks and legal charges.
I’ve been anxious to get back to dumpster diving lately—it’s been a good six months since I’ve been out (and it’s been a good six months since I’ve been pregnant, no coincidence there). And now I find myself wondering if I’m even going to be able to fit between the space between roof and fence at my favorite spot with this beach ball beneath my ribs. Let alone whether I’ll have the balance to climb a fence at all, or the energy to stay up past ten pm. So instead of pining for dumpster booty this week, I got back into an old habit and a great way for folks a bit too wary to root through any trash but in need of free eats: I went to the farmers’ market and asked around for leftovers.
If you’re the shy type, you might feel a little nervous about doing this at first, but usually the folks behind farmers’ market stands are kind and friendly. At this point I know which stands give and which stands don’t, but when you get started, you just walk around asking if that stand has any discards that they would be willing to give away. Of course many people say no, but no one has ever been rude. Beggars at farmers’ markets are standard, and you certainly won’t be the first person that has ever asked them for leftovers. Though a lot of stands don’t give—many feed their extras to their livestock—enough always do to keep us in produce for at least a week. As you can see from the picture above.
So I was going to make you all writhe in suspense for a couple of days, wondering what the results of the gender-revelation ultrasound were. But then I thought that maybe not everyone likes suspense as much as I do, and anyway, why not? Dumpster find of the week can wait one more day. So, tum ta ta tum tum tuuuuum! It’s going to be a girl peanut.
Back at the very beginning of the pregnancy, I thought I might prefer to have a girl. But then I imagined a small giggly version of the Beard playing a little-kid version of hangover wrestling (a Beard patented invention) in bed and decided that I would like to have a boy too. In the waiting room at the doctor’s office yesterday afternoon, the Beard proposed a bet. “Whoever loses has to pay for an evening in the sauna for both of us.” He bet boy, and I bet girl. Sauna night here I come.*
And so the gender coding that Peanut will have to deal with for the rest of her life begins. I’ve already noticed it at the flea market among the shoppers. “Is this for a boy or a girl,” a woman will ask, holding up a white onie with a picture of a dog on the front. “For a boy,” the stand owner might answer. “Oh, well then never mind. She’s having a girl.” What exactly is so “boy” about pictures of animals and so “girl” about that hideous shade of pink is beyond my comprehension. But you can tell which flea market stands are which from a mile away. Whoever decided that that color pink was good for anybody of any gender has a hell of a lot to answer for.
To me, pictures of animals don’t say “boy” or “girl,” they just say “kid.” And because I did all of Peanut’s clothes shopping before we knew what Peanut’s biological gender was, she is going to have a lot of clothes with pictures of animals on them or in fun bright colors, that is to say “boys’ clothes.” Because the boys’ clothes tend to strike me as generally gender neutral, while most of of the girls’ clothes tend to strike me as offensively hideous. And does an infant need to wear a dress?! But you’ve probably already noticed that I don’t understand most of today’s infant fashions. Ha—infant fashions. What a time we live in.
An infant’s gender is an interesting thing to know. It’ll be relevant in the doctor’s office and during impromptu biology lessons. But otherwise, who cares? What gender person she chooses to have sex with, what gender she identifies as, what pronoun she wants to use, and how she chooses to dress herself are all questions that will come later, to be asked and answered by her. Why start asking them now?
*Fun facts for the culturally interested: All the American pregnancy books say not to ever, ever enter a sauna while pregnant, while all the German pregnancy books (and doctors—we’ve asked) say it’s not a problem at all. Which just goes to show you that a lot of pregnancy taboos are just cultural ticks.
**Other fun facts for those who like nitty-gritty details: Baby heads look like ghoulish demons on the ultrasound. All of Peanut’s organs are present and intact. No open back, heart wall, or lip. Mildly large head. Twenty-eight centimeters long in week 22 of water cave life. She’s up to 500 grams in weight, and I’m up to 66.8 kilos. And I really like being round, even though I’m already starting to walk like a constipated duck.
The internet is choking on websites about parenting, most of which are utter crap. But one I enjoy is Offbeat Mama, which caters to the punks and the freaks and the hippies and anyone else considered a social other in this day and age. It’s where I found out that having a nipple peircing doesn’t mean you can never breastfeed and, this morning, it’s where I read an article called “Why punk rock dudes can make great dads.”
Turns out some folks got together and made a film about punk rock papas. They found a bunch of successful punk dudes (from bands like Blink 182 and the Chili Peppers) with kids, interviewed them about the ways that a punk rock mentality conflicts with and/or supports parenting, and followed them around with cameras while they played with their incredibly adorable children. I think I might even want to watch it, if only to see what conclusion the filmmakers come to about the question the film seems to be posing: What happens when folks from an anti-authoritarian movement find themselves in “the ultimate authority position” (as the filmmakers call it) of the father?
What already irritates me about the film is what a few of the fellows have to say about punk. “Punk rock was supposed to be about no responsibilty, no rules, I’m going to do things my way,” says one of the dads featured in the film. And yeah, punk rock is about throwing all the prescribed rules out the window. But no responsibility? The punk rock I know and love is all about responsibility. Responsibility for our own choices (because we don’t need the government to make our choices for us or take responsibility when we choose the wrong thing), our friends, our freedom. These guys are talking about the oogles and the No Future punks and cough cough a number of people who have been sitting several meters away from my trailer for three days, being drunk and loud and surly. And not in the good way. But I digress.
Another man interviewed in the trailer says that “Nothing in the punk rock ethos…prepares you for being a dad.” But that one I don’t even need to rebutt because someone else has already done it for me:
“It’s noted in the trailer that ‘There’s nothing in the punk rock ethos that prepares you for being a dad.’ But, actually, we’d like to respectfully disagree. Because we think that a life spent submerged in punk rock is the best training any human could hope for when it comes to raising a child. As anyone who has ever lived in a punk house, or squatted, will tell you, you will never find a more practical human being on earth than a punk — they’re good at eating on a budget, they’re good at making clothes last three times longer than they should, and, by God, they can fix anything and everything, often using only regular household objects and a bit of creativity (think of them as stinkier MacGyvers). Just imagine what these people are capable of once their band has been successful and they’ve got some money in their pockets!”
Not to mention the fact that punk rock also prepares you for mass chaos, piles of people in small beds, sleep deprivation, and a lot of screaming. It even helps you build up a high tolerance for unwashed dishes. So obviously the Beard is going to make an excellent dad. But I already knew that.
What I don’t know, but what I’m going to know later today (insert a thousand exclamation points) and eventually dramatically unviel to all of you (insert another thousand exclamation points), is what our darling Peanut’s got in his or her pants (exclamation point exclamation point exclamation point). If he or she was wearing pants that is. And it’s a good thing that he/she isn’t because otherwise I don’t think the doctor would be able to tell the man bits from the lady bits on the ultrasound. Anyone care to make a wager? So far the bets are all going for “girl.” I would give you a psychic mama hint, but so far I’ve dreamt Peanut was a girl, a boy, and a raccoon, so you can see how much I know.