Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Is Breast Milk Kosher?

Bet you didn't know that Mother's milk is kosher.

But most Jews could tell you quickly that it is. Breastmilk not kosher? How would we grow our babies?

Found this today, a YouTube of Ina May Gaskin, one of the most famous midwives of our age.

(This gives me hope that YouTube has some real usefulness by having important figures speaking and easily accessible. Such use is in stark contrast to the footage of Columbine shootings that my teens tell me you can find there.)

Ina May has a long history in middle Tennessee and nationally for her work as a midwife. In the 70s her books had a ground breaking effect - many would say she changed the face of birthing in this country.

The Farm
is one of the oldest "communes" in the country, and Ina May helped set it up.

These days, I found, they are called intentional communities. It's interesting to think that thousands of people have decided to take a harder road for their living arrangements.

It's not immediately obvious that "intentional" means "harder", but it does. If you find a neighborhood and it passes some basic hurdles (price, style, age of the houses, kids or lack of kids, proximity to the things you value - school, work, shopping) then you buy a house and figure the rest out.

You definitely don't have to go through an interview and get approval from all or most of your neighbors. And you don't eat meals with them, raise kids together, figure out community chores or make an effort to work out differences in a public way.

I've stayed at a couple of these intentional communities. I had to see what they were about, learn what they do, how they do it, think about the commitment it takes to Community to live that way.

I was lucky to stay at two of the oldest American intentional communities. Gwyneth, then 6 or so, and I visited The Farm in 2006 and I went with my ex and two small kids to Twin Oaks in about 1994 or '95.

There were significant differences between the two. Twin Oaks in Virginia (outside of Charlottesville) was very closeknit, with meals served together, (tho you could stay at your own home and cook), chores divided and the community businesses of tofu production and hammock manufacturing shared.

The Farm
was more individuals and families living together with a common cause, but many with "outside" jobs. They had a strong commitment to protecting the land they own (and bought more to keep developers out of their immediate area) and to working together, but they seemed less rules oriented.

For me there were tectonic shifts during the 10 or 12 years between the two visits.

When my children were young I was fascinated and drawn to these kinds of places. I had a need to take my progeny away from the world, protect them. Not that I thought the world to be evil or dangerous, but rather that the world of Ninja Turtles, and falling twin towers and starving children in developing nations was not what I wanted them to be thinking about.

Since then they have grown to driving age, and the hard work of releasing them truly into the world has begun in earnest.

Now, instead of being available with a lap or a hug, (or breastmilk) I offer advice sparingly, encourage strongly at times, but force myself to stop at that, give them their head (a loose rein to be sure) and see what happens.

Today another parent of twenty-somethings said she was amazed that they come back home to roost. It isn't just a few families that are getting this. Move out, conquer the world, tell you that you are doing everything wrong, and then, a few years, they're back.

I found it odd that while parents are seeing children take on subjects at younger ages, often more than they can really absorb (explict sex and violence in music and all over Madison Avenue, internet dating, global warming, etc) thus growing up "too fast" in some ways, yet in other ways they seem to prolong the growing up over all.

It reminds me of elephants, 20 something months gestation and years to get to full adulthood, much like humans (I think it's 15 or 16 years).

But I'm glad that intentional communities are still out there, cutting away ties to conventional thinking, forging new paths. I've even heard friends talk of converting a large piece of family farmland to a divided grouping of homes for like-minded friends.

Another intentional community is Celo, NC. I found it in those toddler years, a small town that happens to be the oldest land trust in the country. Everyone owns their own property, but it is a communal land trust, and they all make decisions accordingly.

I'm not sure if the land trust is legally much different from a typical town, but at least the intentions and approach are a departure from any place I've found.** Certainly the intentional communities step into the work of making more decisions together, presumably with equal voices.

Of course that entire area of the world, the deep mountains of Tennessee, North Carolina and Georgia tends to set itself apart.

There are still home remedies, music making on the front porch and old crafts practiced. I think the allure is for those "simpler" times, especially as the baby boomers age. (I once counted myself among them, but being born in '63 apparently am on the cusp, and therefore given a small window of choice, at least by demographers. These days I like that - betwixt and between two generations... Baby boomers and Gen X.)

In Atlanta, like in all big towns, it's fashionable to have a place in the mountains, or at the beach. We're seeing a lot of development in those lovely Blue Ridge and Smokey Mountains. Maybe the real estate bust will slow some of that down.

In the meantime I've seen the ripple effects of tourism in the mountains. Over the last 4 or 6 weeks I've been to Cherokee, an Indian reservation, Black Mountain, NC and last weekend Brevard NC. It's not just the stores and restaurants that are more "usual" but the entire world view of the locals has changed.

Maybe it's good that they aren't as suspicious of us outsiders as they used to be; then again, maybe they were more protected when they worked harder to keep us away.

I hope as long as Crones like Ina May are around, and we young'uns pick up the arts of midwifery, "sang hunting" (that's ginseng), salves and maybe an ability to slow down, there will still be places for our children and grandchildren to explore and savor. Without Walmart.

*Passover is the only time of the year I try to keep somewhat kosher, at least at home. Ok, it's the only time I try to stay on a No Fat Fluffy Bread diet - see blog entries related to baking phenomenal bread.

**There is an awesome place down the road from Celo, Hemlock State Park, where I'd love to get a fishing line wet. Very quiet and preserved.

1 comment:

em said...

Hi vj,

I stumbled upon your blog from the Steve Pavlina woman post. I shouldn't have been surprised to see the kosher breastmilk post after that one, but I was. I'm a cusp baby too, and I birthed one of my kids at home and read Ina May's book and spent years breastfeeding and marveling at the wonder of birth and perfection of breastmilk.

It was good to read your post. Thanks.