Squatter’s Rights and a Womb with a View

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“When a woman births without drugs…she learns that she is strong and powerful…She learns to trust herself, even in the face of powerful authority figures. Once she realizes her own strength and power, she will have a different attitude for the rest of her life, about pain, illness, disease, fatigue, and difficult situations.” –Polly Perez

via Tuesday Tidbits: Birth Power | Talk Birth.

In addition to our new cesarean birth goddess pendant, this month I sculpted two more new pendants that my husband then transformed into pewter casts. The first is a “Squatter’s Rights” sculpture of a mama catching her own baby. I have found this image tremendously empowering for a very long time.

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 April 2014 065had, 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 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! Earlier this year a made a polymer clay birthing mama sculpture for a woman and she 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.

Our second new pendant is a “womb with a view” themed pendant. I’m particularly in love with this one, but I’ve noticed that reactions from other people seems quite mixed! (From “that is SO cool” to, “oh, okaaaaay.”) One friend said, “this is the kind of thing that people who are really into birth will like, but everyone else would think is gross.” ;) And, maybe that does sum it up! I love it because it has a placenta and an umbilical cord and the baby is quite purposefully LOA to send the right “head down, good position for birth” message to mothers who see or wear it.

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Cesarean Awareness Month

April is Cesarean Awareness Month! In honor of the event, my husband and I co-created a new cesarean birth goddess pendant that is now available in our etsy shop. Based on the “cesarean courage” theme of my past cesarean goddess sculptures, this mama has “love” written on her belly in her cesarean scar.

April 2014 046ICAN is offering a series of interesting webinars for free during April:

In honor of Cesarean Awareness Month, ICAN will be offering FREE access to our educational webinars for all participants throughout the month of April!

Join us from the comfort of your home online!

ICAN is offering the following webinars in multiple viewings throughout the month, just click on the link and time that works for you to register for the presentation.

via Free Webinars During Cesarean Awarness Month – ICAN of Northern Virginia.

Don’t forget to also check out ICAN’s helpful website. Their ICAN Birth brochure is one of my very favorites for classes, workshops, and tabling at ICAN Brochure- "ICAN Birth"events.

Giving Birth with Confidence shared an article indicating that choice of doctor is strongly linked to increased risk of cesarean, pointing out that “…what’s being done in the way of care might indeed be for the welfare of obstetricians who practice defensive medicine, and may not be for the best welfare of the woman in his care. The results of this study are not addressed in the recently released ACOG guidelines to eliminate the overuse of c-section, but it’s helpful to acknowledge the possible affect of malpractice insurance on women’s birth options…” (via Additional Factors that Can Influence the Risk of Cesarean).

Science and Sensibility offered a list of helpful resources for birth professionals to share with clients regarding cesarean awareness and also explained why we have a Cesarean Awareness Month in the first place.

April is Cesarean Awareness Month, an event meant to direct the American public’s attention to the United States’ high cesarean rate. 32.8% of all birthing women gave birth by cesarean in 2012. A cesarean delivery can be a life-saving procedure when used appropriately, but it takes one’s breath away when you consider that one third of all women birthing underwent major abdominal surgery in order to birth their babies…

via Science & Sensibility » Cesarean Awareness Month.

And Lamaze also collaborated to produce this infographic:

http://givingbirthwithconfidence.org/files/2013/10/Lamaze_CesaraenInfographic_FINAL-2.jpg

My own past posts related to cesareans are as follows:

Tuesday Tidbits: Cesarean Courage

Birthrites: Meditation Before a Cesarean

Cesarean Awareness Month

Cesarean Birth Art Sculptures

Cesarean Trivia

Cesarean Birth in a Culture of Fear Handout

Becoming an Informed Birth Consumer (updated edition)

The Illusion of Choice

ICAN Conference Thoughts

Helping a Woman Give Birth?

Tuesday Tidbits: Cesarean Awareness Month Round-Up

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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!

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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.

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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!

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This month we’ve also flown kites:

Taken a semi-torturous hike at Blossom Rock:

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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:

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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

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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)

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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

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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…?

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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!

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