Talk Books: Cycle to the Moon

c2m3D“Moontime opens up our intuition.
By allowing ourselves to honour this time,
we can eliminate premenstrual tendencies…
Moontime is a sacred passage leading
to a greater awareness of self.”

–Veronika Robinson, Cycle to the Moon (p. 142)

In April, on the evening of our local Red Tent Circle, a package arrived for me from the UK. In it was the beautiful book by Veronika Robinson, Cycle to the Moon, that I won in the Red Tent fundraising auction for Moontimes. March 2015 183

Cycle to the Moon is a quick read and an inspiring one. The line illustrations are beautiful and the combination of journal pages/prompts and text is nice.

Cycle to the Moon also suggests a neat idea of creating a “Red Box” for a pre-teen daughter. Either together with your daughter or on your own for a surprise, collect special items in a box to be given to her upon menarche. It can have jewelry, garnet gemstones, books, cloth pads, tea, and so forth. She makes the potent observations that how we welcome young girls into womanhood, sets the stage for how they will view themselves and their life cycles and transitions for a lifetime:

“As we hold the hands of our young sisters when they cross the menstrual threshold, we would be wise to remember that their experience of this cycle will affect them throughout their childbearing years and into menopause. There’s a red thread which weaves through these major themes of our life. Every moment is connected. Whatever we have learned and integrated benefits not only us, but the culture” (p. 41).

Robinson also writes about the idea how you treat yourself during menstruation as a “mirror of your life”:

“The simple truth is that menstruation is a mirror of your life. If you’re not honouring your body through healthy food choices; ample hydration; rest; playtime; calmly managing stressful events; positive thoughts; creativity and sleep; then it will show up in your menstrual cycle…your hormones will come to call; and they will demand that you rest. You might try and quiet them down with headache tablets or something pharmaceutical for cramps, but they will keep talking to you (even if it takes twenty years), until you get the message. If you don’t honour your body during the menstrual years, you are highly likely to suffer when you reach menopause…

She also makes an interesting distinction between what is “normal” and what is “natural”:

“There is such a wide variance in cycle length these days that doctors consider it normal to bleed any time. It might be normal, but it is not natural. Modern statistics relating to menstruating women are taken from huge cities about women whose lifestyles are not in accord with Nature. Artificial street lighting, pollution, stress, foods coated in chemicals, nutritional deficiencies, are just a few contributing factors in the variance of cycle days.

Our body’s cycle is regulated by the Moon’s light. The pituitary and hypothalamus glands are light sensitive, which is why we disrupt our cycle immensely by sleeping near artificial light, such as street lights, computer, mobile/cell phone or clock-radio lights. In fact, keep all electromagnetic devices well out of your sleeping space. If you intend to be conscious of cycling to the Moon, and ensuring optimal health, then don’t sleep under or next to any artificial light. Instead, keep your room dark, and only open your curtain for the week of the full Moon, thus coming into alignment with it. If you live in the country it will not be necessary to keep out starlight…city girls often begin menstruation earlier than country girls because of street lighting” (p. 142).

There are also a number of great resources at the end of Cycle to the Moon, such as:

Red Wisdom

Red Tent

Red Tent Booklet

What we do in our own local Red Tent Circle varies each month, but we start with introductions using our maternal May 2015 047line and a red thread to represent our connection to the women who came before us and who will go after us, we sing, we have a sharing circle where we “pass the rattle” and talk about our lives and have what we say witnessed and held in safe space. We do a guided meditation and journaling and then a project. In April we had a salt bowl ceremony and then did footbaths and in May we made moon necklaces. We close with a poetry reading and a song. There is tea and a “reflection” table with guidance cards, art supplies, and books to look at. At our May Circle, I shared these two quotes:

“The revolution must have dancing; women know this. The music will light our hearts with fire,
The stories will bathe our dreams in honey and fill our bellies with stars…”

–Nina Simons in We’Moon 2012

“A woman’s best medicine is quite simply herself, the powerful resources of her own deep consciousness, giving her deep awareness of her own physiology as it changes from day to day.”

–Veronica Butler and Melanie Brown

I asked the women to share their revolutions and their medicine. As they spoke, I realized that my “revolution” and my “medicine” were in the planning and facilitation of these Circles, as well as in the online Red Tent Initiation Program I will be offering this summer. I’m so glad I decided to go this direction this year.

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Tuesday Tidbits: Birth Transformation

“Women are as nervous and unsure of themselves as ever, and they need to learn to trust their bodies. Birthing is much more that eliminating pain. It is one of life’s peak experiences.” –-Elisabeth Bing

via Thesis Tidbits: Exceptional Human Experiences | Talk Birth.

May 2015 146The mother of the Lamaze childbirth education movement in the U.S., Elisabeth Bing, died this week at age 100. She had a tremendous impact on the birth culture and was a very early activist in promoting the “radical” idea of birth as a transformative, powerful, important experience in a woman’s life.

…For years Ms. Bing led classes in hospitals and in a studio in her apartment building on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, where she kept a collection of pre-Columbian and later Native American fertility figurines.

Ms. Bing preferred the term “prepared childbirth” to “natural childbirth” because, she said, her goal was not to eschew drugs altogether but to empower women to make informed decisions. Her mantra was “Awake and alert,” and she saw such a birth as a transformative event in a woman’s life.

“It’s an experience that never leaves you,” she told The New York Times in 2000. “It needs absolute concentration; it takes up your whole being. And you learn to use your body correctly in a situation of stress.”

via Elisabeth Bing Dies at 100; ‘Mother of Lamaze’ Helped Change Childbirth – NYTimes.com.

Bing was also early to recognize that birth experiences can be traumatic for mothers. This week, I read another May 2015 164 interesting article about mothers’ experiences of birth trauma:

“…far too many women are left in the aftermath of a traumatic experience on the very day she is born as a mother. She is a new woman – amazing, strong and life-giving – ready to face the world. Holding her new baby in her arms and a smile (or not, depending on her acting skills) on the outside, with a broken heart, fractured spirit and shattered self-confidence on the inside. This is the result of traumatic birth…”

The Secret That Many Moms Are Keeping – Mothering.

Can part of the “cause” of traumatic births be the expectation that a “good birth” is a quiet and controlled birth? Nadia Raafat wrote a powerful article at the Huffington Post that touches on this possibility:

Contractions were outed, surges, came in, the un-gratifying word pain was ostracised from the semantics of childbirth and, across the nation, grateful midwives watched in awe as powerful, silent women breathed their way through drug-free labours.

That’s half the story. The other half concerns those who did not experience the blissful or natural birth outcome that hypnobirthing promised them; the many disappointed women whose labours were violent, or which deviated from the normal care pathway, women who found the experience not only painful, but shocking and traumatic – all the more so because they believed it might be painless. I have met many of these women – still processing their birth experience years later, still wondering what they did wrong? Their emotional and physical scars run deep and take many years to heal.

via Denying the Pain of Labour Is Like Denying the Pain of Life | Nadia Raafat.

Raafat goes on to advocate the full spectrum of the semantics of birth and birth experiences:

Childbirth is the most profound experience in a women’s life. It is awesome, challenging, brutal, visceral, joyful, transporting, awful, deeply physical, incredible, powerful, at times, calm and in-flow, at other times all-consuming and over-whelming. Our preparation and our semantics need to acknowledge the whole spectrum of the experience, not just the palatable colours.

via Denying the Pain of Labour Is Like Denying the Pain of Life | Nadia Raafat.

I have a long time interest in words and birth and how we “talk birth” in our culture:

…On the flip side, I’ve also read other writer’s critiques of an overly positive language of birth, labeling and mocking words like “primal” as “euphemisms” for hours of “excruciating” pain. But, that makes me think about the locus of control in the average birth room. It seems like it might more difficult to start an IV in a “triumphant” woman, so lets call her stubborn or even “insisting on being a martyr”? Could you tell someone making “primal” noises to be quiet? Probably not, but you can tell someone who is “screaming” to “stop scaring” others. Asserting that a painful and degrading language of labor and birth is “real” English and that the language of homebirth advocates are “euphemisms” is a way to deny women power and to keep the locus of control with medicine.

via Wordweaving | Talk Birth.

I’ve also thought a lot about the association between a quiet birth and good birth. “Quiet” during labor is often associated with “coping well” and noise is associated with not coping, which may not be the case:

…Occasionally, I hear people telling birth stories and emphasizing not making noise as an indicator, or “proof,” of how well they coped with birthing–“I didn’t make any noise at all,” or “she did really well, she only made noise towards the end…” Women also come to classes looking for ways to stay “in control” and to “relaxed.”

This has caused me to do some thinking. Though relaxation is very important and helpful, to me, the goal of “laboring well” is not necessarily “staying in control” or “staying relaxed” or “not making any noises.”

via What Does Coping Well Mean? | Talk Birth.

And, speaking of how we talk about experiences as well as pulling this post back around to Elisabeth Bing, I quoted some reflections on postpartum care from Bing in a past post:

“The degree of pleasure you take in your mothering is not the same thing as loving the baby or being an effective parent. Keep in mind there is a distinction between mother love and maternal satisfaction. You may love your baby very much but be dissatisfied with your life circumstances.”

via Talk Books: Laughter & Tears: The Emotional Life of New Mothers | Talk Birth.

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Creative Ceremony Academy

May 2015 028The Creative Ceremony Academy is a community of members who celebrate lifecycle transitions and pivotal moments through art and ceremony and use artistic expression as our means of story-telling and experience-sharing. We create art and ceremony in order to “tell about it.”

Upcoming classes from the Creative Ceremony Academy branch of Brigid’s Grove:

Facebook Group!

If you want to make sure you see our posts regularly, to engage with the birth art community, and to ask questions or share ideas about seasonal rituals, mother blessings, women’s ceremonies, or life cycle ceremonies in a safe space, feel free to join our new Facebook community! You will also be the first to know about new classes, books, and projects and will get sneak peeks of new sculpture designs and special bonuses not available to the general public. It is here that we’ll also offer rock bottom deals on sculpture seconds! (i.e. we’ve got a bunch of our Squatter’s Rights figurines with flawed hands right now. I don’t want to list them all separately on etsy, so they’re going to be offered on our FB group for a bargain bin price!)

May 2015 109The_Red_Tent_Resourc_Cover_for_Kindle

 

Heart Art

cropMollyblessingway 126Twenty years ago today, after asking me out at Lion’s Club Park after a long day of making rope with the Boy Scouts, I went on a date with a tall, quiet, curly-haired boy. It was my first date ever and we had lunch, saw While You Were Sleeping at the theater, and walked around the park. Twenty years ago, people! While our lives have grown and evolved and changed and become broader and deeper and more connected and added four other lives to the planet (only one of which got that curly hair!), our original teenager-connection of respect, affection, friendship, security, complementary strengths, and sense of home-place in each other’s company, has never changed. I’m so glad that what started out as sort of a chance and unexpected pairing, became something so steadfast and strong.

I was thinking about what to post today and about our complementary strengths and I realized that I wanted to finally share our Heart Art assignment from the Sacred Pregnancy course I took while I was pregnant with Tanner. I didn’t end up posting about it right away because it felt private, but I did save a draft post about it to share someday. In this exercise, the couple paints a heart together and then fills in the heart with things they love about the other person.

When I told my husband about the exercise he said he didn’t want to do it. He is usually game to do anything I want to do and to support any project I care about, but this time he said, “you know how I am. If I’m at work and they do a team-building thing where everyone has to go write something nice about everyone else, that is my idea of hell. I’d rather do anything else than have to write things about someone else. Not everyone is into or likes this kind of stuff. I am not the kind of person who likes to do these kinds of things.” He then went on to say, “but if I can just tell you why I love you, I would say…” and then he listed off all my good qualities and made me cry and cry.

I decided I should honor his truth in that this is not his kind of exercise and that I would do the Heart Art activity by myself. But, then we were walking together as we do every night and he brought it up again, saying that it is writing that is not his strength, but that he really wanted to tell me all these things and it was beautiful and affirming to hear and I cried and we stood in our driveway hugging and kissing and crying together.

I’d painted the heart and added my side of the words after our first conversation and when I went back inside, I added his words to the other side. One of the best things about our relationship is how our skills/strengths complement each other and this exercise was another example of how that works.

August 2014 010Inspired by our heart art, I then I added these glass hearts to my Sacred Pregnancy altar where they remained until after Tanner’s birth in October.

August 2014 034

(Unfortunately, instead of watching While You Were Sleeping, reminiscing, and having a twenty-year-date, I have to go give a final exam!)

New Squatter’s Rights Sculpture

“Birth is not an event; it’s a series of sophisticated biological processes… Really, we’re talking about processes that should make us fall on our knees in awe.”

–Suzanne Arms

Squatter's Rights laboring mama birth goddess sculpture (birth art, unassisted birth), Birth Warrior.In our May newsletter from Brigid’s Grove, we introduced our new “Squatter’s Rights” sculpture of a mama catching her own baby. This sculpture has a lot of personal significance to me and I have found her image tremendously empowering for a long time. I have made a variety of different versions all expressing the same message: reach down and catch what’s yours.

…Would the new child coming from me be slippery like soap? I rubbed my fat belly. I loved each pound I gained, each craving I had, and every trip to the bathroom. Okay, maybe not every trip to the bathroom. But, I loved this growing baby. Tucked away like a pearl in the sea just waiting to be discovered. I was in a constant state of marvel.

Would I be able to physically do this? No, I don’t mean the labor, nor do I mean the birth. I knew I could do that. I got lost in thought as I planned in my head every moment that would come after my body did the work of labor. The moment would come once my body was ready and the crown of a child’s head pushed itself from me, the moment the child would emerge. That’s what I was planning for; I planned to catch my own baby…

via Guest Post: Squatter’s Rights | Talk Birth.

It is hard to express how much I love knowing about how these figures “speak” to the women who receive them. I started making them to express something within me and to speak to myself or remind me of my own power. I absolutely love knowing that they carry these messages to other women as well, not just me! An early customer of the Squatter’s Rights sculpture gave me permission to share her feedback on it:

I LOVE THIS!!! <3  I JUST got my lovely statue, she’s gorgeous, I am in awe of your work, and I caught myself choking up a bit at how I look at her and it pulls me back to that most empowering of moments, Me-birthing my little rainbow.. Completely uninhibited.. THANK YOU!…They will be in a sacred space, helping watch over me as I go through Midwifery school… <3 Thank you, thank you!! <3

What a tremendous honor to be a small part of another woman’s journey in this way. It feels like a sacred trust.

Sixmonthababy!

IMG_4367So…THIS BABY! Somehow, he is six months old already. Somehow, he acts more like a ten month old! One of the things that is different about being a fourth baby than a first baby, is that you accept being zoomed around on a tiny car as a normal part of your morning…

Speaking of mornings, I’d like to comment that whomever said, “the days are long, but the years are short,” was totally wrong. Both the days AND the years are short. So, so short. I mentioned before that I am definitely feeling maxed out in my caregiving powers in an average day (and, one can only reduce household tasks so far without becoming disgusting). It is unbelievable to me how many things I DON’T get to do in a day and that I have to release or let go of. At the same time it is amazing how many things I actually do, but the number of important things that slip through my fingers is feeling rough to accept lately. It feels like much of my relationship work is being sacrificed. Activism, local events, friendships, relationships in general, doing things with my other kids, going places, self-care basics—these are all getting pared away, reduced, or feel like they are suffering, untended, or neglected. As one small example, I didn’t read most of or reply to hardly any of the birthday greetings I had on Facebook last week, I can’t respond to simple midwifery activism action alerts, and so forth. What I have been having time for is time to work next to my sleeping baby, since I have to sit in a quiet room with him and actively keep him asleep for naps. This is handy for blog posts, newsletters, etsy work, class preparation, and writing projects!

Okay, enough whining, and back to this baby. He is mobile! Very mobile. He crawls—mostly army style, but also on knees and then launch forward and then knees again and launch forward (sort of inch-worm style). He pulls to standing on everything. He gets himself back to a seated position after being flat on his belly. He lets go while standing and holds on with only one hand. He does some transferring between surfaces, but not cruising yet…that is coming any day now I think. He practices getting down from bed and chair by sliding off the edge (with help) over and over again—slide down, reach to be lifted back up, slide down again. You can see the practiced concentration. He does things like get canned goods out of the cabinet while standing there holding on with one hand (that’s what I mean about feeling like I have a ten month old). He’s only six months old! By the same token I feel like he bonks his head or hurts himself more often than he should as only a six month old baby—he tries things that are just a little out of his actual capacity. (Such as holding on to the laundry basket with one hand and leaning over and swiping other hand toward the couch trying to transfer surfaces even though he isn’t quite close enough to reach.)

Along with this mobility comes some struggling with our nursing relationship. He clearly feels “bored” or held down by needing to stop for “nonnies.” Some day, despite lots of offering and two minute long nursing sessions, it feels like he is only really, truly nursing at naptimes and then all night long (to make up for the busyness during the day). I pretty much have to shut myself up in the bedroom with him to nurse him very well at all. Along with this, he is eating a ton of solid food. Way more than any of my kids have ever done at the same age and he started doing so with no real fanfare or lead-in or episodes of gagging over textures and spitting things out. He grabs, he chomps, he gobbles, he has a specific “desperate” (horrible!) sound he makes when he wants a snack or something from our meals. Despite having a pile of other kids, until this month with Tanner, I have been pretty judgey towards other parents about their solid food choices with their babies. Since my other three were only passingly interested at this age and would gag and spit out almost everything, I assumed other parents who said their six month old loved to eat, were exaggerating or almost “forcing” the babies to have solids when they weren’t really ready. Apparently, no matter how many years you parent, there is always room to be humbled yet again!

He still weighs about 18 pounds (maybe 19. We get varying results.) The other thing he does that is different than my other kids is suddenly degenerate into extreme crying fits when it is time to go to sleep, usually when we’re changing his clothes/diaper and I’m brushing my teeth to get in bed. It is an abrupt shift into crying hard and he shrieks in a desperate, agitated, really over-the-top manner. He also continues with the car crying horror to the extent that we only actually leave the house once or twice a week! Oh, that said though, he as started to make some visits over to my parents’ house when the other kids go to visit during the day. The first time he left with them, I cried three times! Now, I’m seeing the advantage. Mark and I really benefit from focused time to work together instead of shouting to each other over the tops of people’s heads (not ideal for running a collaborative business). I’ve also left Tanner with Mark twice while I teach, instead of dragging them with me to sit in the hall. I’m almost to another session break and I also got it arranged to do my next two classes partially online, meaning I won’t be gone for the entire time and can get home to my baby in a timely fashion, instead of having to bring him + Mark along with me. While I do enjoy “grinding my corn” with my baby and having him close by while I teach, I do have to admit that I do a better job and feel much more satisfied when I am on my own at class and not worrying about them out in the hallway waiting for me!

He also got to visit with his great grandma last month!

April 2015 015Something Tanner does do that all of our co-sleeping babies have done is touch our faces in the night to ID who he’s got—since Mark has a beard, when he reaches up and feels Mark’s scratchy face, he knows to roll away and back towards me! In the night, I’ll feel a little hand patting at my cheek…checking in…right person? And, then snuggling up to nurse. He still sleeps on my arm all night long, but he rolls to face different directions while still being on my arm.

Despite the maxing and the chaos and the juggling and the paring away, I literally cannot believe I ever worried about not loving him. He is the baby I didn’t know I needed. The member of the family that was missing. He totally belongs and is so much a part of me and our lives that I can barely remember him not being here and can certainly not imagine that we might never have had him!

April 2015 153

Restoring Women to Ceremony: The Red Tent Resource Kit

 “… Every day, we witness the positive, transformative effects of, ‘restoring women to ceremony’…another reason it is vital that we continue our work…”

–D’vorah Grenn (Stepping into Ourselves, p. 56)

We’ve been hard at work over the last three months giving birth to a new project!

Introducing…The Red Tent Resource Kit

redtentkit

I actually ended up sort of accidentally writing a whole new book to go with this kit. It was originally going to be a collection of handouts as a pdf. However, as I put the handouts together, I realized I was actually writing a short book or manual instead. I also reflected on how I am tired of only getting pdf manuals and ebooks when I sign up for different programs, rather than an actual, printed book. One of my mottoes this year is to follow the inspiration, so I went with it, and at the end of last month our new books arrived and they’re beautiful and I’m so excited about them!

Our unique, signature Red Tent Kit includes ALL of the following resources:

  • Womanrunes Book and Card set: ideal for personal guidance and self-development, or for the inspiration and renewal corner at your Red Tent Circle.
  • Red Tent Goddess Sculpture: symbolic of self-care and of both receiving and giving.
  • Carnelian Pendulum (kit exclusive!)
  • Brand new 58 page book: Restoring Women to Ceremony, The Red Tent Resource Kit, written exclusively for this kit. In this collection of essays and ritual resources, you will find a complete Red Tent “recipe,” circle leadership basics, moontime musings, and readings, quotes, and poems to help you facilitate a rich, inviting, welcoming, creative space for the women of your community.
  • Moontime pendant with silver-tone, solid crescent moon charm
  • Red altar cloth
  • Red organza bag to store your resources
  • Coupon for $100 off the companion Red Tent Initiation online training to be held in July-August
  • Extra surprise bonus goodies intuitively chosen for you!

The contents of this Kit are valued at $100 when sold separately!

When I was taking pictures for the Kit, I randomly drew three Womanrunes cards to include in the pictures. The ones I drew were absolutely perfect for sharing the message of what this collection has to offer to others and what we hope to create in restoring women to ceremony:

IMG_4889