Kidbits

I post a lot of little things on Facebook about my kids and the funny things they say and do. I decided to compile some reason moments into a “kidbits” post for today, so that I have it all in one place instead of lost in the Facebook ether!

When I finished getting ready for bed a few nights ago, I discovered Alaina was not in bed waiting for me, but was in the kitchen diligently working on painting her “fingernators.” She’d also put on lipstick, powdered her nose, and put on a hair accessory!

20140415-222928.jpg

Speaking of Alaina, she’s weaned, by the way! It was not without some nudging from me, as it was definitely time and I was feeling so done. She still has to “snuggle nonnies” to fall asleep and the hands-down-the-shirt thing is another weaning process that in my past experience takes practically a year as well! Turned out that my middle child was the one who nursed the longest (2y9m for the first, 3.5 years for the second, and 3.25 years for the third!)

Earlier in the month, a family fun cookout/campout day turned dramatic when Alaina found an ancient bead in the bottom of the tent and put it in her nose! (First nose incident in ten years of parenting!) Luckily, I am married to a genius of calmness and smooth thinking. After some quick googling, Mark laid her back and blew into her other nostril with his mouth and the bead came out! Saved a trip to the doctor, plus sweet relief! This kid has spent an awful lot of time around beads to suddenly do this. It was too weird!

Last month, she conked out before 10:00, but then woke up complaining that her knee hurt and wouldn’t fall back asleep. She started singing a little tune, “beautiful day, beautiful day, beautiful day.” I asked her about it and she said, “it my favorite day!”

Lann finally talked me into setting up a youtube channel for him: O Zander Squadron. So far, it only has a couple of silly, weird little videos on it, but he would really love for people to subscribe and like (Rules for future are no real names and comments always have to be disabled.) He also got me to set up his own website and blog and is having fun adding content to it: O Zander Squadron | Fun movies and fun things to buy.

Lann and Zander frequently play sort of a live-action, talk through video-game-esque game. They earn different skills and strengths, one of which is apparently VIP. Last week, as they played, Zander was exclaiming over and over to Lann: “you got VIPness, you got VIPness.” And, Mark and I ended up cracking up in a very mature fashion.

After my class last week, I weirdly stopped at McDonald’s at 10:15 on my way home from class to get a strawberry pie (I know. But, they’re super yum). I saw a sign in the drive thru for My Little Pony happy meals and went in to ask if they’d just sell me the toys. I was super impressed by three friendly employees who actually went through every Happy Meal box at the counter to make sure to find all the different ones for me and even went to the back to dig out a Princess Twilight Sparkle for me too. I drove home feeling like The Best Mom Ever ™ and the kids agreed. Speaking of MLP, I am a little sad to see how my boys are kind of embarrassed about their love of MLPs. When they buy MLP toys, they put on sort of “quick and casual” persona and toss them lightly and nonchalantly into the cart. And, they asked me, “if you get Zander some ponies for his birthday, can you make sure to give them to him when other kids aren’t here yet?”

Lann still loves cooking, a while ago I heard him in the kitchen kind of talking to himself: “this is just how I roll. I’ll put anything into a cake pan…” A little while later he arrived with mini chocolate cake on a plate for me. (He made one for each person in the family.)

They also teamed up on another gruesome movie make-up job. My kids are…awesome? Weird? Funny? Creative? Horrible? I can’t decide…!

In February, the very super-desired Furby Booms arrived! Bro and sis-in-law, Skyler and Jenny, felt sorry for the kid sharing their one tiny Furbling and decided to grant their wish for like a magical cool uncle and aunt.

March 2014 004

So, on my way to a faculty meeting at Fort Leonard Wood several weeks ago, three Furbies ended up left in the back seat and riding to FLW and back home again. The jostling from driving kept them constantly awake and conversing from the back seat. Sometimes I couldn’t hear them over the traffic noise and therefore alternately experienced adrenalin-spiking incidents of momentarily thinking I heard: sirens, someone else’s radio, the screams of a small child being run over, someone yelling at me, and something being terribly wrong with my car. It was a long 1.5 hours…

Look what I got last week! Red tent on the go (for vending at festivals, but maybe for using at women’s circles or events too). First picture had photo bombs from all three kids (can you find them?) and last picture was trying to show the shadows from the trees on the inside. (purchased from ebay via this seller.)

I also got a lovely new dress from Holy Clothing!

April 2014 002

This month we’ve also flown kites:

Taken a semi-torturous hike at Blossom Rock:

April 2014 037

Picked kale from the aquaponics greenhouse for dinner:
April 2014 073 Been pleased to see my grandma’s memorial hydrangea coming back! April 2014 074And, delighted to see blooms on Noah’s memorial magnolia tree:

20140415-223010.jpg

20140415-223038.jpg

Mark and I have created several new pendant designs this month that I am SO excited to unveil over the next couple of days (our spring newsletter will be out soon and will feature our new pieces as well as new free poetry book):

20140415-222952.jpgWe’re getting ready to visit family for the day and I’m very much looking forward to a day off to rest, visit, and enjoy everyone’s company!

Tuesday Tidbits: Miscarriage and Story-Sharing

April 2014 077

As birth professionals, we are often cautioned against sharing our personal stories. We must remember that it is her birth and her story, not ours. In doula and childbirth educator trainings, trainees are taught to keep their own stories to themselves and to present evidence-based information so that women can make their own informed choices. As a breastfeeding counselor too, I must remind myself to keep my own personal experiences out of the helping relationship. My formal education is in clinical social work and in that field as well we are indoctrinated to guard against inappropriate self-disclosure in a client-helper setting. In each environment, we are taught how to be good listeners without clouding the exchange with our own “baggage.” The messages are powerful—keep your own stories out of it. Recently, I have been wondering how this caution might impact our real-life connections with women?

via The Value of Sharing Story | Talk Birth.

This week I’ve been reminded several times about the power of sharing stories in a variety of contexts. I’ve also been thinking about miscarriage and miscarriage stories and how they need to be told.

I read a touching and heart-wrenching unexpected birth story of a baby at 19 weeks while the author was traveling in Mongolia:

But the truth is, the ten or twenty minutes I was somebody’s mother were black magic. There is no adventure I would trade them for; there is no place I would rather have seen. Sometimes, when I think about it, I still feel a dark hurt from some primal part of myself, and if I’m alone in my apartment when this happens I will hear myself making sounds that I never made before I went to Mongolia. I realize that I have turned back into a wounded witch, wailing in the forest, undone.

via Ariel Levy: “Thanksgiving in Mongolia” : The New Yorker.

A couple of weeks ago, one of my friends entered the miscarriage “club” that I so wish would gain no further members and wrote her Miscarriage Memories Footprints on Heart Charm, Pendant, Babylossvulnerable, visceral, story with raw intensity about the blood and grief of miscarriage:

Blood. As women we have a complex relationship with blood. The sight of our red-stained underwear can elate us, relieve us, annoy us, embarrass us, disappoint us, or devastate us depending on our life stage and intentions. The arrival of our period can bring the sweetest relief when we dread becoming pregnant. Conversely, it can lower the cruelest blow when our efforts to conceive have not been successful and we deeply long for a child. And somewhere in the middle of the spectrum, is the unfortunate experience of finding yourself ill-prepared for Aunt Flow in a public location…thank goodness for kind friends (or total strangers) who provide emergency tampons in such situations.

I have been thinking about blood a lot because I just had a terrifying, violent, and heartbreaking experience with my own blood. That sounds so hokey to say, that I “had an experience with my blood.” But I did. It was me and my blood. Doing battle. So much blood. There was no one else.

My baby died.

Three words. It only took me three words to tell you, friend, acquaintance, or stranger, what happened to me. I wonder how many more words it will take to tell myself — the MAMA, the bearer of lost life — what happened.

via Losing Susannah | Peace, Love, & Spit Up.

Miscarriage stories often bring up the question of “when to tell” about pregnancies, with mothers lamenting that they told “too soon,” OR wishing that they had told, so they wouldn’t have to bear the loss with such aloneness. I retain enough scars from pregnancy loss, despite my successful pregnancy-after-loss experience too, that my initial reaction to anyone’s new pregnancy announcement is always fear, not joy. I worry every time I see a Facebook announcement that I will then see a sad follow-up a couple of weeks later—my main thought being, “what if she has to look back on this and be so sad?” However, that does not mean I think she shouldn’t tell, I just hold such hope in my heart for her that she doesn’t end up entering the club too.

I love this article about why it is okay to tell:

I’m angry that we live in a world where talking about miscarriage and first trimester pregnancy is still taboo. Where a woman must go to great lengths to hide her fatigue, nausea, sudden diet changes and pain, both emotional and physical, just to be polite.

Staying quiet for 12 weeks while you grow a human being inside of you is nothing short of completely insane.

Thanks in large part to social media, people have no problem opening up about personal details to those they might not have shared with in the past. The curtain of privacy has been pulled back, yet this one life-changing event remains shrouded until you reach a certain threshold.

I respect any woman’s decision to keep her pregnancy or miscarriage a secret, but I don’t think we should feel ashamed if we decide to share the news with whomever we choose, whenever we choose.

Take a look around you. Chances are, if you’re sitting in a room with five women of childbearing age, one of them has had (or will have) a miscarriage. And if you’re one of them, don’t be afraid to open up. You just might find comfort in the arms of a nurse, in the knowing nod of a trusted friend, or in kind words of an Internet stranger — the war stories of unlikely heroes.

via Why We Shouldn’t Have to Keep Pregnancy A Secret For the First Trimester | xoJane.

I was also deeply touched by this heartbreaking and very honest exploration of a mother’s experience in spending time with the body of her baby Thor who was stillborn:

This was when I understood: Thor was our baby. He did not belong to the hospital. He did not belong to the funeral home. He was ours.

So began my life with Thor. Thor pulled me to him like a magnet. I craved him. I never thought he was real, if by real you mean alive or in some way sentient after death. I just wanted to be with him. Not with him in spirit. With him in body.

I’d carried his body inside me for nine months; I’d felt it kicking for the last five or six of them. That body had forced its way out of me early in the morning of Nov. 12, 2008, and along the way it had turned from a living body to a dead body, but it was still Thor. Why should the body that was Thor transmogrify from a beloved member of the family, from a familiar part of my own body, into a repellent object just because it had died? This was my child.

via My stillborn child’s life after death – Salon.com.

And, this very honest, detailed, thorough miscarriage story:

I have a folder on my computer called “1st Pregnancy” and it is full of things that still make me sad. Pictures of my growing belly, a video of us telling our family the news that we were pregnant, this story, and the pictures we took from the miscarriage that happened one year ago today. I am a student of traditional midwifery, so my take on the experience, and the details I share may be different than most miscarriage stories. It is really long, really honest, and really raw, but I wanted to share it in its entirety, both to honor my experience, to share it with others that are going through similar stories themselves, and for those that support women (friends or clients) that are experiencing a pregnancy loss. This story was written in the days after the miscarriage, and I am thankful that I took the time and energy to put it all down. I hope that this story can serve as a resource for women going through pregnancy and baby losses, and that we at Indie Birth can provide support for these experiences as well.

via A Miscarriage Story.

These stories reminded me of my own past post:

“…When you miscarry, the body has already broken its ties with the baby, but I’d already put this child into my family in my imagination. That was what was hard to break…”

via Birthrites: Miscarriage | Talk Birth.

And, of a healing experience with story and sand tray therapy at the ICAN conference in St. Louis:IMG_8501

While it might be hard to see everything, I chose the bridge to symbolize my feeling of having crossed the bridge to the “other side”—meaning first the fact that after Noah and my second miscarriage, I felt separated from women who had not experienced loss by a bridge and as if I’d crossed over into new territory and left my old, happy, naive pregnant self behind (along with the other non-loss mamas. A little more about this bridge here). AND, that I also felt like with Alaina’s birth that I crossed a bridge into the unknown and to the end of the pregnancy-after-loss journey. Her birth represented the “other side” of PAL. So, at the end of the bridge I drew a question mark in the sand, representing all the questions I had to get past and over in order to get to my new baby.

via Sand Tray Therapy | Talk Birth.

We also need to remember how many women have stories they are holding close to their hearts and that our casual inquiries or thoughtless remarks about family size may leave further scars. This essay is about miscarriage at ten weeks and is a reminder why biting your tongue before casually remarking on someone else’s family size or fertility is a good idea:

During a recent girls’ night at a friend’s house, I sat cross-legged on the living room floor sipping coffee and catching up with four other women. One friend had just finished sharing the antics of her toddler who gave himself a haircut during quiet time when another friend announced the pending arrival of her third child—”a complete accident” as she described it. Then she turned her attention to me and assured me in front of the other women in the room, “It’s okay if you hate me. I understand.” I was stunned and mortified. I knew this was not her intent, but her statement minimized my loss in such a way that I felt small and petty for struggling with infertility.

via Bite Your Tongue | Brain, Child Magazine.

So, is there anything to say, or to do for those who are grieving? For people I know, I mail little gifts—usually jewelry—so that they know that their loss is real to me too and that they are not alone. I recently found this little handout on “how to help” (not miscarriage-specific, but for anyone going through a hard time):

Here’s the big thing I’ve learned: no two people need help in the same way. I’ve gotten to the point where I have very little pride and I’ll just take what goodness comes my way. But for other people, well intentioned but actually unhelpful help is just one more thing they have to deal with.

This is especially true when people express sympathy and then say, “Let me know if you need anything.”

via How to help – Reese Dixon.

I was also touched by this article by a bereaved mother about what she wishes people would say after the death of her daughter:

…Nothing at all when I start crying. I do it every day. It’s my normal and if you give me a minute or two, I’ll probably be able to put on my social mask again.

Some kind words to accompany those pictures of a new family member that you’re sharing with me. To bereaved parents, seeing a newborn can be a cruel shove back to the time when our world was safe, when our late child was an infant, like the one in the pictures you’re showing me, destined for a future full of love and full of light. An infant that blossomed into a gorgeous girl. A girl that left this world about 70 years too early…

via A Bereaved Mom’s Plea to the Nonbereaved: ‘I Wish You’d Say …’ – Mothering Community.

My own family is coming up on the anniversary of my grandmother’s death. I’m teaching three classes again this session and it is a lot to manage at once. I felt pretty stressed in advance about my Fort Leonard Wood class, Working with Families, because last time I was teaching it one year ago was during my grandma’s sudden and brutal illness and it was unbelievably hard to be teaching about families while my own family was experiencing so much stress and sadness (and then also planning a trip to CA and helping with a memorial service, etc. while trying to grade papers and finish class.) Three weeks ago, on the first night of class, I found myself acknowledging the upcoming anniversary to my class and sharing a story about my mom texting me while singing to my grandma at her bedside, which prompted a brief tears-in-front of class episode which caught both my students and me by surprise. I feel like there is “work” to do here in my own family during this anniversary month and yet the hustle and bustle of kids and responsibilities is making it hard to settle down and sit with it. :(

Thesis Tidbits: Feminism, Midwifery, and Motherhood

“Feminism catches fire when it draws upon its inherent spirituality. When it does not, it is just one more form of politics, and politics never fed our deepest hungers.” –Carol Lee Flinders (in The Millionth Circle)

Yesterday, I spent several hours finishing a blog post for Feminism and Religion regarding empowered self-care (it won’t run until next  week). It is a primarily a personal narrative, rather than a political commentary, but as I was writing it, I learned about new legislation introduced in Missouri in an effort to effectively destroy the practice of independent midwifery here. I also have a friend whose family March 2014 082 member just experienced terribly abusive treatment during the immediate postpartum period. I typed feverishly away with an absolutely excruciating headache and a million things on my mind, primarily the very many injustices experienced by women during the childbearing year. I was also left wondering HOW we can truly take care of ourselves when legislators and health care workers actively take dramatic and even cruel steps to prevent us from doing so?

Another friend wrote a comprehensive blog post about this malpractice insurance legislation and the issues involved with it. Midwifery advocacy organizations have already introduced a perfectly appropriate piece of legislation this session and do not need the proposed bogus piece of legislation that offers nothing in the way of protection for Missouri midwifery consumers and instead simply serves to drive midwives out of practice:

…Fortunately, midwives in Missouri do offer a grievance process and adhere to the practice standards set by the certifying agency NARM (North American Registry of Midwives). While there is already a high degree of professional accountability practiced in Missouri, this is because the state professional organization (Missouri Midwives Association) believes it is important and necessary for the professional practice of midwifery and not because the state has directed midwives to do so.

The state of Missouri has continued to be uninterested in working with midwives and home birth families to improve and safeguard the practice of midwifery.

Is there a better option? YES! HB 1363

Instead of HB 2189, we would like to suggest directing legislators to support HB 1363. This is a comprehensive midwifery licensing bill which does provide a mechanism for oversight and responsible, regulated practice. It also addresses the issue of malpractice insurance by requiring midwives to have coverage under the same conditions as physicians. It would also require Medicaid reimbursement for families desiring the care of Certified Professional Midwives and home birth.

via Missouri Legislature Works Against Women, Families and Midwives….AGAIN. | Midwives, Doulas, Home Birth, OH MY!.

I also recently finished a class on ritual theory for my doctoral degree program. The text for the class was To Make and Make Again: Feminist Ritual Thealogy by Charlotte Caron. In it, I was repeatedly reminded that gathering with other women in a circle for ritual and ceremony is deeply important even though it might just look like people having fun or even being frivolous, it is actually a microcosm of the macrocosm—a miniature version of the world we’d like to see and that we want to make possible. Returning to Caron, she explains something similar: “Ritual change is symbolic change, but it can lead to direct action or to ideological change, so it can be an important element in strategizing for change. One way of causing change is to re-form or alter the system. This involves recognizing that we are part of the system and that the system is dependent on feedback from its parts to keep it in balance, which means that we have the capacity to change” (p. 209).

Ritual experience can lead to practical action: spiritual praxis. But, this action does not need to look the same for all women, nor does it always have to involve large structures of society or even sweeping societal change.

“It is important to recognize that not all women will choose to act in the large structures of society. While it is hoped that all women will act toward justice, still electoral politics, lobbying, and revising the economic system may not be the spheres in which some women exert their energy. Ritual actions, raising children to be just and caring people, living in just ways in intimate and community relationships, and modeling different patterns and values are political actions to change patriarchal ideology. The choices of what spheres to devote energy to are important to honor. The constraints of women’s lives—when they are disabled, when they are dealing with past traumas, when they are raising young children, and when they are doing the many other things expected of women in our society—mean that women need to make choices that will allow them to live with integrity and well-being.” (p. 211)

A number of options of action are possible. “What is important are women’s choices to act in concrete ways in every circumstance, to know our neighbors, to raise children to be caring people, to live as if justice exists, to be just in personal relationships, and to live in the community in ways that model the values of justice and well-being for women and all of creation.” (p. 211)

As a mother who works extensively with other mothers, I appreciated Caron’s acknowledgement that raising children is a feminist act with potential to create change as well. “Another strategy for change is through raising children to be just and caring people. A media image portrays feminists as being against motherhood—but in fact, feminists make the best mothers. They raise children aware of themselves and the world, of options and values, of what justice means and how to work toward it, and how to be self-critical and self-respecting” (p. 203-204). Caron also explains that “in a just society, women would be free to make whatever decisions they needed to, for however long they needed to, in relation to political action in the public and the private sphere. All people would participate in the decision-making, and women would be supported in their decisions rather than, as sometimes happens, made to feel guilty for not doing enough or not valued for what they do.”

In connection with women being valued for what they actually do, Caron makes an interesting note about the visions women in her research hold for the future, for the possible:

“Interestingly, none of the visions described by women was based in self-fulfillment, in gaining personal power, or in one’s group having power and the expense of others. Instead, the interviewees talked about the elimination of social, economic, military, and other patriarchal problems, and about living in a world of valued individuals, healthy and diverse relationships, economic and environmental sustainability, equality for all, and shared decision-making and power” (p. 220).

Connected to these themes, one of my classic favorite quotes about women’s spirituality groups is this one:

“…Women’s spirituality groups can become birth centers for social change”

–Anne Rush in The Politics of Women’s Spirituality (p. 384)

March 2014 127

Breastfeeding as a (s)hero’s journey?

Every single human being was drummed into this world by a woman, having listened to the heart rhythms of their mother.

––Connie Sauer

February 2014 003

Recently I re-posted an article I wrote about breastfeeding and parenting as spiritual practices. I received a comment on the re-post that really gave me pause and some food for thought:

I’ve really liked your writing about preparing for birth as a warrior’s rite. I only wish I’d had materials that prepared me for breastfeeding similarly…

I’d like to have at least one breastfeeding book out there that supports women in breastfeeding even when it’s hell, and that doesn’t assume any pain is due to some tiny, easily fixed problem. I continue to get the most condescending advice when I talk about this in public — I don’t know how anyone thinks, with the amount of pain I’ve experienced trying to make this work, that I haven’t already tried every obvious solution.

Anyway, that is all a bit tangential to your post. I do think breastfeeding can be spiritual, though for some of us, it may be an ordeal as much as birth is. I would love to see that acknowledged better in breastfeeding resources.

 

I’ve been a breastfeeding counselor for nine years. I’ve written before that I have much more often marveled that a mother kept breastfeeding than I have wondered why she didn’t! Mothers are amazing and they go through a LOT. Reading this comment made me wonder why I’ve never really written about my own breastfeeding stories in the sense of a hero’s journey—perhaps because the difficult parts, once overcome, then fade into the fabric of that ongoing relationship? Perhaps because of the sheer ongoing involvement of breastfeeding, rather than the more discreet, definable event of birth? Perhaps because the path can be even more twisty and intimate and embodied and thorough and invested than even pregnancy and birth? Perhaps because, for me, my early breastfeeding stories are very bound up in my overall feelings during postpartum and the struggles I experienced there? Perhaps because for me personally the breastfeeding relationship continues to evolve into toddlerhood and so some of visceral, newborn, early journey elements are subsumed into the more habitual and every day? Why have I never written about the bloody, messy, tearful, painful parts of breastfeeding in my own personal motherhood story?! They’re there. And, when I counsel mothers in person I do talk about those parts. I also never tell people that breastfeeding hurts because they’re doing it wrong—I tell them they will read that phrase over and over, but that in reality, most women experience some degree of discomfort and even pain in the early weeks. Where it becomes not normal is when there is blood or blisters or open wounds, but if someone suddenly started sucking on ANY of your body parts 8-12 times a day, I think it is logical that we can expect some adjustment or difficulty or stress or pain in adjusting to that degree of intense, sustained, body contact/involvement.

I wrote the following at the end of one of my blog posts last year: January 2014 041

I’m also reminded again, however, of why breastfeeding support holds such a lasting pull for me and that is because postpartum is where it is at, that is where we are so very, very deeply needed as support people. Birth is amazing and exhilarating and women most definitely need us there too, but in the nitty-gritty, day-to-day, unglamorous, nipples and breast infections, teething, crying, dirty-haired, exhausted, wrung-out maternal web of daily being is a very tender and delicate beauty that becomes visible only when we’re willing to spend months and months, or even years, serving as a listening ear, a medication lookup, and someone to trust with both her laughter and her tears.

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

Birth has been one of my biggest passions for many years. It is so exciting and interesting and almost “glamorous”—it is where the thrill is, the big work, and the big moment: the baby’s emergence. But, guess what, it is in the breastfeeding relationship and the first year with the new baby in which the mother’s strength is really tested. Breastfeeding is the day in and day fabric of connection. It is a huge physical and emotional investment, the continued devotion of one’s body to one’s baby. Breastfeeding support may not as exciting or thrilling as birthwork for me, but it is so very REAL and so very needed, and part of the nitty-gritty reality of individual mother’s complicated lives as they find their feet on the motherhood road. It really matters.

In what ways has breastfeeding been a hero’s journey for you? I’ve written a lot about birth in this context—the idea of the birth warrior or birth as a shamanic experience or birth as a labyrinth path, etc…but what about the breastfeeding journey? How were you tested, how were you challenged, how did you rise, or make peace, or triumph, or cry, or scream, or dig so deeply into yourself that you had to gasp in wonder at your own capacity? What is your breastfeeding story…?

cropped-tbjanuary-2014-039.jpg

 

Talk Birth Wordwalls

In thePewter Birth Partners Sculpture Pendant (custom sculpture, hand cast, doula, midwife, birth art, birthing)
womb
we begin
enclosed
and safe
nurtured
by our
mother’s
body
soul
connected
to soul.

We are fed
and
encouraged
to
grow
to take
the
steps
to life
beyond
the womb.

–Linda Ervin quoted in To Make and Make Again: Feminist Ritual Thealogy by Charlotte Caron

A couple of days ago, my brother was home sick from work and sent me an email with two photos attached. He said he was sick and messing around with different things and made me two wordwalls using the most commonly used words on my blog. Not only that, but he made them into cool goddess shapes also! What fun. :)

goddess goddess1Aside from things like “posted” and “February,” I really got a kick out of seeing the words that were the biggest (meaning used most frequently in the last several weeks of my blog).

I am getting read for a new session of classes to begin as well as working feverishly on my own classwork. Today, I spent many hours working on my fourth paper for my Ritual Thealogy class. I realized I hadn’t made a post this week yet and it is already Wednesday and then as I closed To Make and Make Again, which was my text for this class, the little poem I opened with caught my eye in the Appendix of the book.

This past weekend I was in St. Louis where we had a booth for Brigid’s Grove at a women’s spirituality gathering. It was very successful! But, not a lot of time leftover for blogging!

20140319-163736.jpg

Tuesday Tidbits: Cesarean Courage

“Her courage is written on her body.” –Molly (Talk Birth)

March 2014 009Last year I made several cesarean birth art sculptures by request. It felt like a “risk” of sorts to make them, like I was trying to interpret another woman’s experience artistically, but I did it and they were well-received. I chose to imprint words in the figure’s cesarean scar because I kept thinking about how that mother’s love and hope and courage are all permanently written on her body. Recently, I had a request to make another and so I re-visited my Cesarean Courage idea and made some new figures. She is wearing her baby and her scar with pride and strength. These sculptures are not supposed to send “at least you have a healthy baby” message, they are communicating that her birth journey with her baby is seen and acknowledged and validated.

“I became a mama goddess, too. I became a wonder of fertility, of softness, of late nights and warm beds; a body capable of unimaginable things. I labored and tore open, too.”

–Amanda King (in Being a C-Section Mama In the Birth Goddess Club)

When I shared the cesarean courage mama picture on Facebook, someone responded: Usually I look at the scar as a forever reminder of my failure. The idea my courage and love is forever written on my body in the marks of a surgeon’s knife is so transforming. I am humbled and amazed and inspired and encouraged by the ways in which birth art “speaks” to other women. It is a powerful experience and I feel so honored to communicate and share in this way. When I stopped teaching birth classes, I worried about no longer being “of service” to birthing women, but through my sculptures, jewelry, and writing, I still am doing this work and I am grateful.

Thinking about it reminded me of this wonderfully powerful photo of a mother-assisted cesarean birth in which the mother (a midwife, IIRC) caught her own baby…

You can read more in the accompanying article.

WHEN a baby is born by caesarean, the hands that lift it from the womb to the world usually belong to an obstetrician. But now, there’s someone else who can help deliver the baby: the mother.

via Delivered safely by caesarean with his mother’s hands – National – theage.com.au.

This picture and article were published several years ago and also covered in a Radical Doula post.

There are lovely photos from an online doula friend at Plenitud of a family-centered cesarean birth as well. And, two more recent posts with family-centered cesarean births here and here.

This week I was also touched to read a mother’s story of homebirth plans turned hospital birth plans turned cesarean birth after the baby developed an atrial flutter and was risked out of homebirth:

This has been a big week, with deep shifts that I’m sure will keep happening as we go through the coming days. March 2014 036Sometime in the next three weeks, I will subdivide into two women — one a mother, and one a fresh newborn infant, each with our own developing story and life path. I will find that I care more deeply about some things than I ever thought possible, and other things that were important markers of my life and identity are no longer significant. I’ll celebrate and I’ll mourn…

via Pregnancy Not-So-Blahs: My Story of Fetal Atrial Flutter | Amanda Aguilar Shank.

I knew I was going to be a mother very soon. I focused on not freaking out, and on enjoying my last moments of being so intertwined with my baby. I sent her telepathic messages of love and reassurance. I knew I wouldn’t be seeing her right after the surgery and that likely she would have to go through some trials before I could be with her again.

The operation itself was not as bad as I expected. One critical piece of my experience was having the accompaniment of a labor and delivery nurse friend, who served as a kind of impromptu doula, helping me to hold my ground when treatments being offered were inappropriate or unnecessary, and to fully embrace with less fear and more trust the life-saving help that hospital staff had to offer…

via From Home Birth to Hospital: My Story of Fetal Atrial Flutter | Amanda Aguilar Shank.

smallMarch 2014 059These mamas have taken powerful birth journeys. They have laid down their bodies for their babies. They hold their experiences, they wear them, their courage, love, and hope, upon their skin. The birth experience is there, loud and clear, and yet new experiences and joys are too. She is whole.

 

The Goddess of Willendorf & Does My Uterus Make Me Look Fat?

“Loving, knowing, and respecting our bodies is a powerful and invincible act of rebellion in this society.”
~ Inga Muscio

IMG_0222

Replica on my birth altar.

I do not remember the first time I ever saw her, but I do know that I have loved the Goddess (Venus) of Willendorf sculpture for many, many years now. I consider her almost a personal “totem.” I do not see her as a literal representation of a particular deity (though when someone uses the phrase, “Great Goddess” or “Great Mother,” she’s the figure I see!), I see her more as honoring the female form. I love that she is so full-figured and not “perfect” or beautiful. I like that she is not pregnant (there is some disagreement about this and many people do describe her as pregnant) and what I like best is that she is complete unto herself. She is a complete form–not just a headless pregnant belly–I just LOVE her. She represents this deep, ancient power to me.

In a past assignment for one of D.Min classes, I wrote:

I have a strong emotional connection to the Paleolithic and Neolithic figures. I do not find that I feel as personally connected to Egyptian and Greek and Roman Goddess imagery, but the ancient figures really speak to something powerful within me. I have a sculpture of the Goddess of Willendorf at a central point on my altar. Sometimes I hold her and wonder and muse about who carved the original. I almost feel a thread that reaches out and continues to connect us to that nearly lost past—all the culture and society and how very much we don’t know about early human history. There is such a solid power to these early figures and to me they speak of the numinous, non-personified, Great Goddess.

I know ancient goddess figures are commonly described as “fertility figures” or as pregnant, but most of the early sculptures do not actually appear pregnant to me, they appear simply full-figured. One of the things I love about the Willendorf Goddess is her air of self-possession. She is complete unto herself. She may be a fertile figure, but she is not clearly pregnant and she does not have a baby in her arms, which indicates that her value was not exclusively in the maternal role. Early goddess figurines are usually portrayed alone, it is only later that we see the addition of the son/baby figure at the mother’s breast or in arms. The earliest figures seem independent of specifically maternal imagery, it is later that we begin to see Goddess defined in relationship to children or as exclusively maternal. I think this reflects a shift that women continue to struggle with today (in Goddess religion as well as personal life) with the mother role see as exhaustive or exclusive. In contemporary society, the only mainstream representation of the Goddess that manages to survive under public recognition is the Madonna and Child and here, not only has Goddess been completely subsumed by her offspring, but she is no longer even recognized as truly divine.

This image has been a potent affirmation for me many times in my life. One Mother’s Day, my then four-year-old son Lann found a IMG_0636little green aventurine Goddess of Willendorf at a local rock shop: “We have GOT to get this for Mom!” he told my husband and they surprised me with it that afternoon. It still makes me get a little teary to look at it, because it was such a beautiful moment of feeling seen by my little child.  When I found out I was pregnant for the third time, my husband surprised me with a beautiful, large Goddess of Willendorf pendant. I was holding onto that pendant during the ultrasound that told us that our third son no longer had a heartbeat and during my labor with my little non-living baby, I wore and held onto the pendant. It went with me to the emergency room and I could feel its solid, reassuring weight against my chest when dressed in just a hospital gown and receiving IV fluids as blood continued to come from me as my body said goodbye to my baby. I buried a goddess of willendorf bead with my baby’s body and put a matching one on his memorial necklace.

100_2269

Bead ready to go in with my baby.

On Mother’s Day the following year, right after finding out I was pregnant with my rainbow baby girl, my husband gave me a beautiful new Goddess of Willendorf ring. I was little scared to wear it, because what if she too, became a sad reminder of a pregnancy lost (I have only worn the pendant again a tiny handful of times since the miscarriage-birth experience, even though I took a lot of comfort in it during that time), but wear it I did up to and through the moment when I caught my sweet little living girl in my own grateful, be-ringed hands.

The website that he bought the ring from went down shortly after and I’d not ever seen another ring like it for sale. However, I signed up to become a retailer for Wellstone Jewelry in 2011. While on the phone making an order, I requested one of their Venus of Lespugue pendants. The woman on the phone told me, “we don’t sell very many of those. She seems to make people uncomfortable. In fact, we used to make a ring too. A venus of willendorf ring, but no one ever wanted her. I think because 1057she is ‘too fat’ and she makes people feel weird.” Oh my goodness, I replied, I think I have one of your rings! I emailed her a picture of my hand and sure enough, though discontinued now, I’d coincidentally gotten one of the last ones ever made. She said they could get the mold out of storage and make some more custom rings just for me. Since I’m a business genius (what? You said they never sold? Sign me up for a dozen!), I immediately said yes and she shipped me several beautiful Goddess of Willendorf rings, which I then sold to several friends. (I still have two left if anyone wants to buy one! I would wear them all if I had enough fingers. My favorite ring ever!)

What does this have to do with my uterus making me look fat? Well, I’ve had the experience of wearing this ring and having another woman, a wonderful, peaceful, healer of a woman, laugh at it, like it was a joke ring. My mom sold a pottery sculpture version of the Willendorf to a man at our craft workshop and he laughed at her too saying, “this is hilarious.” Hilarious? Because she is fat, I guess? Several years ago, I read a post online titled Does My Uterus Make Me Look Fat? and I thought of my beloved Goddess of Willendorf, She of the Ample Uterus. While I can no longer locate the article itself and the post I had linked to in my drafts folder takes me to a re-direct site, I remember the article talking about how even pre-teen girls have a slight swell to their bellies. The author of the post was like, “duh, a flat belly IS NEVER POSSIBLE. THERE IS A UTERUS IN THERE.” When I read it, I thought about the jewelry woman’s comments about women not liking the goddess of willendorf ring because she is too fat. And, I saved a couple of quotes, the first two from the Our Bodies edition of Sage Woman magazine (Spring, 1996):

IMG_0243

Batik Goddess of Willendorf from a friend at my blessingway.

“…so it has been: women’s power has declined as woman’s belly has been violated and shamed…5,000 years of patriarchal culture has degraded belly, body, woman, the sacred feminine, the soul, the feminine sensibility in both women and men, native peoples, and nature–all in a single process of devaluation. Because our belly is the bodily site of feminine sensibility, our patriarchal culture marks the belly as a target of assault, through rape, unnecessary hysterectomies and Cesarians [sic], reproductive technology, legal restrictions on women’s authority in pregnancy and childbirth, and belly-belittling fashions, exercise regimens, and diet schemes…a culture that literally hates women’s guts…” –Lisa Sarasohn, The Goddess Ungirdled

“Our bodies are vessels of the sacred, not the homes of sinful urges. Our bodies create and sustain the sacred. And that sacredness does not equate with any artificial notion of bodily perfection. All of us are fit habitations for the divine, no matter what the diet doctors, fitness gurus, health good fanatics, New Age healers, and the fashion police try to force on us. If we don’t take our bodies into account in our expression of [our religion], then it becomes a mere shadow of itself. When we are fully present in our bodies [women's religion] becomes a three-dimensional, vibrant, fully fleshed-out expression of the divine…” –DeAnna Alba in How to Flesh Our Your Magick

And, perhaps from the original Does My Uterus Make Me Look Fat article, I had this quote saved as well that addresses the “love your body,” rhetoric so often expressed, including, I suppose, in even the quote I chose to open this post:

“the fact that “love your body” rhetoric shifts the responsibility for body acceptance over to the individual, and away from communities, institutions, and power, is also problematic. individuals who do not love their bodies, who find their bodies difficult to love, are seen as being part of the problem. the underlying assumption is that if we all loved our bodies just as they are, our fat-shaming, beauty-policing culture would be different. if we don’t love our bodies, we are, in effect, perpetuating normative (read: impossible) beauty standards. if we don’t love our individual bodies, we are at fault for collectively continuing the oppressive and misogynistic culture. if you don’t love your body, you’re not trying hard enough to love it. in this framework, your body is still the paramount focus, and one way or another, you’re failing. it’s too close to the usual body-shaming, self-policing crap, albeit with a few quasi-feminist twists, for comfort.”

–saved from this post

March 2014 023
Even though I am a goddess sculptor myself, I have never been able to make my own version of the Goddess of Willendorf that satisfied me. I tried polymer clay, I tried pottery clay, I tried making my husband make one for me. None of them were right. Finally, just this month, my husband said, why don’t you make one, but using your own style? This was an ah ha moment for me and guess what, it worked! I successfully used the same technique and structure I use for all of my sculptures, but with a Willendorf-style-twist and I finally made my own sculpture that I’m really proud of. My husband made a mold and cast her in pewter and I’m wearing her right now. Her uterus might make her look fat, but to me, she is one of the most powerfully affirming images of womanhood I have ever encountered and there is nothing funny about her.

        “Your body is your own. This may seem obvious. But to inhabit your physical self fully, with no apology, is a true act of power.”

–Camille Maurine (Meditation Secrets for Women)

March 2014 022  March 2014 038