Matt W Cook

writer.former fundamentalist.christianly fellow

Tag: health

Our Birth Story

When birthing our first and second children, Ruth coped through medical technology.  Both experiences were mostly negative, which I guess is what we were expecting anyway.  I mean, who sets out to try and enjoy labour?  Even the name we give it–labour–suggests that it’s not going to be a fun thing.

Three KidsSo for our third child, we wanted to try something different.  We got hooked up with the amazing wonderful people at Kensington Midwives.  Their care and nurturing concern for us and the nascent little human freed us to look at childbirth in a different way.  No as a medical condition to deal with, but as an act of creation to enjoy and experience.  So when the contractions started on Thursday, April 25, Ruth was excited to greet them with Zen-level mindfulness.

Ruth played with her contractions as they grew and spilled over onto Friday.  She would see each one coming and, instead of bracing against it, she would breathe and watch.  She would mentally acknowledge the contraction, thank it for preparing her body for birth, and gratefully send it on its way.  And it worked.  We spent the day doing all the same things she had been doing since before the pregnancy began—walking, jogging, taking the stairs, getting hot oil massages and having wild sex.  Pretty much normal life for us.

In the wee hours of the night, Ruth woke up.  The contractions had been steadily growing in intensity and consistency and had reached a point where Ruth was having some difficulty managing while in bed.  She woke her vigorous husband at 3:00am, who drew her a bath and vigorously went back to bed.  Ruth spent half an hour in the tub, rolling with the contractions as they went through her.  After a time she got out and started pacing the house, kneeling, squatting, going on all fours, searching for a position that would give her a bit of an edge as she dealt with the tension.  And even though she had to move around the house and use all of her mindfulness to get through them, they were bearable.  Not only that, it was enjoyable and she was glad to have the opportunity to face them alone.  She woke her husband at 4:20 and they called the midwife.  The time was close.

She almost called too late.  Our on-call midwife, Sara, was half an hour away.  Sara arranged for Houley, another wonderful midwife from Kensington Midwives, to come as well, because she was already in the area finishing up another birth.  Houley arrived just as Matt finished setting up the bed for birth.  She did all the lovely midwifery stuff that midwives do, and told Ruth that if she felt like pushing she might as well go ahead and do it.

Sara, our main midwife, arrived at 5:00am, jogging with her big backpack of midwife gear.

Isaiah Dev arrived at 5:08am.

Sara caught our son as he came out and handed him to Matt who rested the child on Ruth’s belly.  He was warm and slippery, covered with the broth he had been cooked in.  And that was it.  There he was.

Out other children were born in good, modern hospitals—the first in Canada, the second in Pakistan.  Both were very safe, highly professional places.  Sanitary, organized, business-like.  Both births were very much like watching a mechanic work on your car.  There was no magic, just mechanics.  We didn’t touch our children until they were appropriately cleaned and prepared.  And even then we had to give them back so they could endure some time under that blindingly warm light with that odd goo on their eyes.  The doctors who delivered our children disappeared immediately after it was over.  Sara stayed with us for hours.  The doctors told us what choices to make.  The midwives gave us information and asked us what choices we wanted to make.  In the hospitals Ruth was a patient with a condition to be cured.  With the midwives, she was a holy person creating another person.

Sara and Safire at Kensington Midwives completely blew our minds.  We never expected the level of care they gave us.  Because of them and all the other midwives and students and staff at Kensington Midwives, Ruth not only endured her pregnancy and labour, she enjoyed them.  Labour stopped being a painful thing to get through, it became a rare and vibrant experience to drink in.  It was not labour.  It was birth.

We learned things.

We learned that labour is not a trial to be endured—it is an experience to revel in.
We learned that your mindset will determine a large part of what your experience will be.
We learned that everything goes better with mindfulness and everything goes worse with worry.
We learned that Ruth is an awesome creator of humans and had no need to wake her husband or cry out for help when it was time to give birth. She is mighty enough to rely on her own strength.

That’s our story. We cannot thank the people at Kensington Midwives enough. Thank you for showing us how powerful a mother can be. Thank you for being a part of our person-making project.

Better Than a Good Night’s Rest

There’s not much better than a god night’s rest, eh?  Not much better then that satisfied feeling of haivng gotten enough sleep.  That feeling of your eyes being wide open.

I don’t feel that right now.

It’s been days since my last good night’s rest.

Because some things are better.  Some things beat a good night’s rest.  Some things are just worth more.

  • Beaches on warm summer days are better than a good night’s rest.
  • Laughs with friends are better than a good night’s rest.
  • Wrestling matches with children are better than a good night’s rest.
  • Video games with your wife are better than a good night’s rest.
  • Sneaking into a public pool on a warm summer’s night is better than a good night’s rest.
  • Making out is definitely better than a good night’s rest.
  • Good talks are better than a good night’s rest.
  • Taking your children out for coffee and chocolate milk is better than a good night’s rest.
  • Blasting through your daily writing quota is better than a good night’s rest.
  • Cooking food your family loves is better than a good night’s rest.

Because of all these things, it’s been a while since I’ve had a good night’s rest.

I’m glad.  Because I’ve been too busy touching people, creating things and living great experiences to sleep right.  And that’s just fine by me.

What is more important than sleep to you?


     And just like that, my anti-addiction struck. And it struck hard.

     I’ve been addicted to a few things in my day. Some good. Some bad. I used to be addicted to cigarettes. And anyone who’s been on those will tell you that it’s not a matter of the intellect that gets you to smoke. It’s a deep, passionate and physical need. I knew it was hurting me. But the hurt from smoking was not as bad as the hurt from not smoking.

     I’m still addicted to some things. Food, for example. If I even go half a day without food, I feel a pain in my body and mind and soon it’s all I can think of. There are a few other things like that in my life. Water. Air. Third-wave ska. Stuff like that.

     But my present addictions are nothing compared to my anti-addictions.

     If an addiction is a physical / mental need to do something, then an anti-addiction is a physical / mental need to not do something. Ever had that? Here’s how it works:

     You sit down to do something very good. Maybe to paint a picture or plan a party or spend time praying or meditating or get moving on your ridiculous novel. Suddenly you feel a deep well of hate rise up within you. You look at your computer and you scowl. You can feel your whole spirit rebel against the idea of doing that good thing. It’s all the symptoms of an addiction, except it’s pushing you away. Steven Pressfield calls it Resistance. I call it a serious, life-stopping pain in the ass.

     When you feel the resistance, there are only two ways of success, so far as I can see. First, you can try to plow through and have faith that the road will clear in time and you’ll soon stop hating the thing you love. This is the best way.

     But sometimes it doesn’t work. Sometimes the resistance, strengthed by negative distractions and attidutdes, is too strong. The demons pull at your creativity and piss all over it. Some demons can’t be cast out with hard work alone. Some demons need prayer.

     I’m a spiritual person, though not really religious. And I believe in the power of mystic prayer. So when the resistance is hard, I stop. I turn off the screen. I pull my legs up and close my eyes and breathe. I let my thoughts leave as I become mindful of my breaths. In. Out. In. Out. Breathing in I calm my body. Breathing out I smile. Dwelling in the present moment, I know it is a wonderful moment.

     And my mind and heart calm. The demons stop screaming long enough for me to cup my hands to my face and utter the sacred words with deep mindfulness.

     “Our father which art in heaven,
     Hallowed be thy name.
     Thy kingdom come.
     Thy will be done on earth
     As it is in heaven.”

     And they flee. My spirit soars and touches the source. I float on the goodness of the great compassionate source of the universe.

     And when I’m done my communion I open my eyes. I can hear the story being whispered in my ear now. I say “Thank you, thank you” and take the story and put it done on paper.

     I win.