Search Results for: Postpartum

Weekly Tidbits: Birth, Postpartum, the Triumvirate, and Anthropology

IMG_3501My sister-in-law shared a link to a really potent article from The Guardian about birth, midwifery, postpartum, and supportive friends. When she shared, she brought tears to my eyes by thanking me for being part of her own “triumvirate,” described by the post author as…

I needed a maternal figure, a dedicated and present midwife, dear and loving friends. I was blessed with one out of three. It could have been worse.

The only people I know who did just fine in the postpartum period are those who score the triumvirate: well cared for in birth, surrounded by supportive peers, helpful elders to stay with them for a time. The others, wild-eyed at the supermarket, prone to tears, unable to nurse or sleep or breathe, a little too eager to make friends at baby groups – I can spot them at 20 paces. We form a vast and sorry club.

via My friend breastfed my baby | Life and style | The Guardian.

I’m lucky enough to have also scored the triumvirate (I find it takes pretty careful planning and active attention to put it into place!). When my midwife came to visit me postpartum and commented that I was looking good and I replied that people kept telling me that, she said that rather than just saying “thank you,” I should point out my looking good was directly related to having excellent postpartum care. And, she was right. I did not look, feel, or sound depleted, exhausted or overwhelmed precisely because I was being taken care of. I had great prenatal from my midwife along with six weeks of postpartum follow-up visits. I had a postpartum doula for immediately post-birth support and several follow-up visits as well as meal calendar coordination. I had my mom, who cooked for us and cared for our other children. I had my sister-in-law who came to stay for several days and helped with cooking and cleaning. I had friends who brought me dinners and took my kids to playgroup. I had my husband, who got to enjoy our new baby with me because he wasn’t trying to do all of the above!

When I think of my triumvirate, a specific moment comes to mind. I am sitting in the bathroom holding my brand new baby, still attached to me by his cord. We are waiting for the placenta to come. My midwife is close by, peeking over, but not being hands-on or aggressive. My mom leans over to take pictures. My doula is standing in our bathtub to make room. My husband is kneeling near me and my other children are gathered around to cut the cord. In the driveway outside, my friend waits with her three children to take my kids to playgroup. This is what birth support looks like. I am surrounded with love and care.

The author of the article quoted above did not have the same experience…

Two weeks later, I gave birth at home, after a 13-hour posterior, or back-to-back, labour, which the long-practising, well-respected midwife did not bother to attend. Frankly, it felt like staring death in the face, by which I mean an altogether normal and intense physiological process that has nothing to do with the ordinariness of daily life. Throughout, my husband and doula repeatedly called and texted the midwife, whom we had found privately. She told us it was “probably” early labour. From inside the grip of what turned out to be very active labour, I managed to flat-out demand that she join us, speaking at the phone while the doula held it to my ear. The midwife sounded annoyed, vaguely put-upon. It was another three hours before she arrived. Minutes later, with a great and unbridled roar, I delivered my son into bathwater.

We wept with joy, held him, kissed him, named him. Eventually, I got out of the bath. My husband lay in bed with our new son on his chest. I showered in a state of trembling, happy shock. The midwife perched on the sink and told me a story about her estranged sister. She handed me a towel, and I remember commiserating, trying to comfort her about her unfortunate relationship with her family, as though we were two cool girls hanging out in the bathroom at a party. One of us just happened to be naked and bleeding, immediately postpartum. I didn’t care; I was too ecstatic. Having just given birth, I felt omnipotent. Epic. Heroic. Unstoppable.

via My friend breastfed my baby | Life and style | The Guardian.

I wrote about the value of breastfeeding support here:

But, what happens after the birth? I’ve often thought that my role in breastfeeding support, while less “glamorous” or exciting than birth work, has had more lasting value to the women I serve. Breastfeeding is the day in, day out, nitty-gritty reality of daily mothering, rather than a single event and it matters (so does birth, of course, it matters a lot, but birth is a rite of passage, liminal event and breastfeeding is a process and a relationship that goes on and on for every. single. day. for sometimes years). Anyway, sorry for the brief side note, but I enjoyed reading this article about the celebrity culture surrounding pregnancy and birth with its obsession with who has a “bump” and then how after the birth the main deal is losing that weight and having a fabulous bod again! Woot!

via Tuesday Tidbits: Birth Thoughts | Talk Birth.

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I shared this pic on Instgram this week in honor of the theme of “self-care” in the online Equinox 15 event I’ve been taking part in.

I’ve only recently recognized that while I was surrounded by excellent support for birth and postpartum, I’m not really giving myself much credit lately for still having just had a baby. Yes, Tanner is almost 5 months old, but that moment in the bathroom was only five months ago. I still need quite a bit of help and that normal and okay. I need to recognize what I’m capable of, which is a lot, while also still recognizing what I need and what the pace of my life can be and can handle at this point in time. I also recognized that I have difficult admitting or expressing how difficult it feels sometimes to be incorporating a new baby into the family, to be working around “baby time” again, and to be physically bound to a baby again. It is hard to admit, because Tanner is such a treasure of a baby and I enjoy him so much and love having his adorable, babiest of babies self in our lives. However, it also sometimes feels hard to be doing this all again and I often feel “old” and kind of worn out and ragged lately.

This brings me to a lovely article about vulnerability as strength (something my doula reminded me of several times following Tanner’s birth):

…Today I stood swaying my daughter to sleep in my mommas group shedding tears because of the intense sleep deprivation over the last 6 weeks. My tears fell and I was held with empathy, no one solved my problems; women just heard me and held me in my challenge. We heard each other, others cried, we softened, we opened ourselves up to the wisdom that each expressed and afterwards our hearts felt happier and lighter. Something sacred unfolded. I was in a container that was safe to share my soul, to be naked in front of these women, to admit I was not perfect and I didn’t have all the answers. And I felt better. I was not alone.

The more I allow myself to be vulnerable, the more I receive, the more I soften, and the more I open myself up to support. We are not meant to mother alone. The first year of our child’s life is a raw experience. It is amazing; it is illuminating, joyful, and raw.

via Vulnerability as a Strength | Mothering Arts.

This container is so important. Though, I will also acknowledge that for my personality, being told to “take it easy” or to “lower your standards” or “don’t have such high expectations of yourself,” often registers for me as being told: You’re not capable. I don’t believe in you. Give up. So, I personally, when trying to create a container of safety or support for other women I will not usually use those sorts of phrases.

Related to the idea of postpartum tenderness and triumph, I enjoyed this photo series of newborns and mothers: Born yesterday: mothers and their newborn babies – in pictures | Life and style | The Guardian.

Bringing the discussion around to anthropology and birth though, this interesting recent article suggests that it is the mother’s metabolism (and energetic reserves) that creates the human gestation length rather than the size of the pelvis as often commonly theorizes:

We’ve been doing anthropology with this warped view of the male pelvis as the ideal form, while the female pelvis is seen as less than ideal because of childbirth,” she said. “The female births the babies. So if there’s an ideal, it’s female and it’s no more compromised than anything else out there. Selection maintains its adequacy for locomotion and for childbirth.

via Long-held theory on human gestation refuted: Mother’s metabolism, not birth canal size, limits gestation — ScienceDaily.

In a past article about the wise women behind and around us, I included this interesting quote from Tsippy Monat:

“Anthropology describes trance as a condition is which the senses are heightened and everyday things take on a different meaning. Communicative competence with other people may increase or may not exist. Facts of time and place are revealed differently than in normal everyday consciousness. This description reminded me of situations encountered at birth because birth is a condition in which the mind is altered. When I accompany births, I experience the flooding of oxytocin and endorphins. In Hebrew, the root of the word birth can also mean ‘next to God’” (p. 49).

via Thesis Tidbits: The Wise Women Behind, Within, and Around Us | Talk Birth.

And, speaking of historical experiences of birth support, I re-visited this guest post about birth witnesses:

The only way to understand birth is to experience it yourself. The ONLY way? That comment stayed with me, haunted me. I became a doula after my daughter’s birth because I wanted to be able to provide women with support and knowledge that could give them a different experience, a better memory than what I had. I just couldn’t believe that there wasn’t a way to understand birth at all except to experience it firsthand. Certainly there wasn’t always this fear and unknown around birth that we each face today. Not always. I began studying that idea. What about other cultures? What about our culture, historically? What about The Farm? There wasn’t always this myth and mystery about birth! I realized there was a time (and in places, there still is) when women banded together for births. Mothers, sisters, cousins, daughters, aunts, friends. They came together and comforted, guided, soothed, coached, and held the space for one another during birth. These women didn’t go in it alone – they were surrounded by women who had birthed before them. Women who knew what looked and felt right, and what didn’t. Women who could empathize with them and empower them. In addition to that, girls and women were raised in a culture of attending births. Daughters watched mothers, sisters and aunts labor their babies into this world. They saw, heard, and supported these women for the long hours of labor, so when they became mothers themselves, the experience was a new, but very familiar one for them. Birth wasn’t a secretive ritual practiced behind the cold, business-like doors of a hospital. It was a time for bonding, learning, sharing and sisterhood. Girls learned how women become mothers, and mothers helped their sisters bring forth life. It was a sacred and special part of the birthing process that has become lost in our institutionalized, over-medicalized, isolating and impersonalized system today.

via Birth Witnesses | Talk Birth.

And, another regarding women’s rites of passage:

“I love and respect birth. The body is a temple, it creates its own rites, its own prayers…all we must do is listen. With the labor and birth of my daughter I went so deep down, so far into the underworld that I had to crawl my way out. I did this only by surrendering. I did this by trusting the goddess in my bones. She moved through me and has left her power in me.” ~Lea B., Fairfax, CA (via Mama Birth)

via Rites of Passage… Celebrating Real Women’s Wisdom | Talk Birth.

In just a few hours, I’m headed into town for our first local Red Tent Circle. I took this photo yesterday in honor of the spring equinox and the themes of manifestation, intention, and creativity. May we walk in harmony with each other and may we be surrounded by circles of support.

Happy Spring!

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Tuesday Tidbits: Postpartum Recovery

February 2015 029I keep meaning to write another post about my experience with postpartum bellybinding using a traditional wrap. However, in case I don’t get around to writing that post, I want to mention that I think it was incredibly beneficial in helping me avoid a diastasis recti. During pregnancy, I noticed a separation in my muscles near my belly button and after past births I’ve had a 1/2 inch gap or so. Just a few weeks ago during my yoga practice, I noticed that I have virtually no gap at all now, even though I now have more kids than ever! While I still have a bit more of a “mummy tummy” than I’d ideally like to have following Tanner’s birth, the muscles underneath said tummy are strong and together. Anyway, today I enjoyed this helpful video and blog post about diastasis recti. It was very interesting and informative! Does Your Diastasis Recti have to Close For Optimal recovery? | Pregnancy Exercise.

And, this is a good article by a Facebook friend of mine about postpartum anxiety.

There is one thing I did know, that I now realize many others don’t, and this is a big one: “Postpartum” is not shorthand for a mood disorder. Nobody “has” postpartum, in the history of the world, ever. Postpartum is what you are after you have a baby, not something you have. Every woman who gives birth is postpartum immediately afterwards. That’s because postpartum, by definition, refers to the first few months after delivery. Postpartum = ‘after baby’ just like pregnant = ‘expecting a baby’.

via Postpartum Depression and Anxiety: What I Wish I’d Known.

I’ve noticed this as well, particularly in my college classes, women will actually mention “not having postpartum” or worried about “she might have postpartum.” I always correct them—all women who have had a baby are postpartum (some would say you’re postpartum for the rest of your life!) and in itself the term alone does not mean anything about mood disorders.

Speaking of having the right words for experiences, I also shared this quote about birth and mystery:

Birth is a great mystery. Yet, we live in a rational, scientific world that doesn’t allow for mystery. ‘In this day and age, there must be a better way to have a baby,’ implies that if you are informed enough, strong enough, you can control it. Any woman who has given birth, who can be honest, will tell you otherwise. There are no guarantees. It is an uncontrollable experience. Taking care of yourself and being informed and empowered are crucial, but so is surrender. Forget about trying to birth perfectly. Forget about trying to please anyone, least of all your doctor or midwife…

–Jennifer Louden (The Pregnant Woman’s Comfort Book)

via Plucking out the heart of mystery | Talk Birth.

And, what we often need is women’s care for one another:

Women around the world and throughout time have known how to take care of each other in birth. They’ve shown each other the best positions for comfort in labor, they’ve used nurturing touch and repeated soothing words, and they’ve literally held each other up when it’s needed the most… –The Doula Guide to Birth

via Tuesday Tidbits: Parenting, Help, and Early Motherhood | Talk Birth.

(Side note: when I first used this quote, I was also celebrating 400,000 hits on Talk Birth. Now, I’m thisclose to 800,000!)

As I’ve shared before, one of my favorite quotes about postpartum comes from Naomi Wolf, A mother is not born when a baby is born; a mother is forged, made. The quote I share in this past post about an article about “Rebirth” touches that place in me—that motherhood results in a total life overhaul and a new, enriched identity: Rebirth: What We Don’t Say | Talk Birth.

I shared this link about our cesarean birth goddess pendant in a different post, but I’m sharing it again anyway. Sorry if I am overusing it, but it really touched me and I feel like it belongs in this post too!

I wear both of these daily (I am currently wearing them.) The only time I take them off is to bathe and sleep. I am so madly in love with these; I feel so empowered when wearing them. I had a hard time with my new body after my cesarean and after a couple of years of feeling very close to depression, I finally found myself. I submerged myself into the body positive scene and fell in love with my body; (perfect) imperfections and all. I am now proud of my body and totally in love with it. I also treat it better now; Instead of just going with the flow, I make a point to give it what it needs. Matthew will be wearing these necklaces when I give birth because I can’t have them on; though I want them there…

Lauren Douglas Creative: Handmade Love; Reviews of Things We’ve Recently Gotten.

February 2015 093And, speaking of birth art, I just love this cool mother blessing mandala I found on etsy recently:

Custom Mother woman blessing mandala - wall art original watercolor painting rainbow colors dream catcher boho

Custom Mother woman blessing mandala wall art by SusanaTavares.

And, this new meditative coloring book sounds extremely neat!

Birth art, motherhood coloring book

Blissful Birth Coloring Book – These Little Joys.

Switching topics slightly, I also enjoyed this article about why women criticize each other.

Approval from others has been our lifeline. For most of history, women couldn’t protect themselves through legal, political, or financial means. We didn’t have those options. We could ensure our survival only by adapting to what was desired and approved of by those with greater power. The legacy of that history is still alive in us and can make criticism or challenging the status quo feel like particularly high stakes.

via Why Women Criticize Each Other—Plus Ways to Play Bigger | Goop.

The author also points out that we don’t have to wait for confidence before we play big/reach bigger–I liked that. I am hard on myself sometimes about not being more confident, but if I take some steps back, I see that the things that I do and the ways in which I am vulnerable enough to put myself out there, are brave and that feeling insecure and yet moving forward anyway is perfectly fine. One does not have to eradicate self-doubt or insecurity–feel it and do it anyway! I’m also using the Inner Mentor meditation included in the post for our Red Tent Circle this week.

Speaking of Red Tents, she evolved into a Red Tent goddess after being cast with russet pigment, but this new sculpture design was originally a Winterspirit sculpt and she does look right at home in this week’s weather!

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Sacred Postpartum: Happy Tea + 40 Week Update

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After having already made Happy Mama tea with my friends at our family’s work party early in October, this past weekend we engaged in more tea-making adventures at the work party at my parents’ house. I had no idea how empowering it would feel to make my own tea blends. The Happy Mama tea based on our class recipe is exactly what I need. I adore it! I don’t have all of the ingredients in the original recipe, so the modified recipe blend I use is as follows:

2 cups each of alfalfa, motherwort, red raspberry leaf, nettle and one cup of cinnamon.*

After we made it the first time, two of my friends wrote to me independently saying, “this tea feels like something I need!” And, that is exactly, how I felt about it myself. It lifts my mood and feels like it replenishes something in me that I have been needing. The herbs used are intended for hormonal balancing, anxiety and stress reduction, calming, and immune system support. Until this class, I’ve never made my own tea blends or used loose tea. That has changed!

Here are some pix from our adventures:

And, we had a mini tea ceremony…

October 2014 018May You Never Thirst!

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(*Due to the uterine stimulant properties of some of the ingredients in this tea, it should not be enjoyed by pregnant women until they are close to full term.)

After the work party, we went to a Halloween party. Unfortunately, I didn’t re-discover this CBE teaching shirt until the following day or I would have worn it!

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Yesterday marked the first “due date” I’ve ever reached without already having my baby in arms!

40 weeks mama for first time ever!

I’ve been saying for a long time that I wouldn’t have been surprised to have him early AND I wouldn’t be surprised to have him late. However, I would also say, I wouldn’t be surprised to have him very close to or on his due date, since that is my pattern with my other kids (39w5d, on due date, and 39w5d). Note how very neatly I covered all of my possible bases, so that no matter what, my “intuition” on the subject will be impeccable! ;) However, I don’t think that in my heart I ever pictured really going past the day. I don’t feel disappointed/distressed over it, more like BONUS! However, I also hope he doesn’t get the “bonus” message TOO long and wait until November. Then, I might be singing a different tune. I also want to make sure he knows that it is okay to be born and that, despite what I may have said several times, we ARE ready for him to join us. I really expected him on October 25th as very likely and I did have lots of pre-labor that day. I really only picture a nighttime birth too, so whenever I wake up still pregnant, I feel pretty confident that I have an entire bonus day ahead of me. At 39w6d I made good use of my “bonus day” by creating six new sculpture prototypes. I listed to Brene Brown’s Daring Greatly on audio book while I worked. I am over the moon about how very much fun it is to be able to “read” and do something else at the same time. It is like a miracle. I wish I would have gotten a library card for this purpose a very long time ago! My sculpture prototypes (not in order of picture) are for a new nursing mama, miscarriage mama, cesarean birth mama, VBAC mama, birthing goddess, and possibilities goddess:

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This will give Mark plenty to do while I sit in the recliner and nurse the new baby!

For my bonus day at 40 weeks, I got my online class all launched and all introduction messages responded to (yes, the new school session started on my due date). I also, thankfully, remembered that my January syllabus is due November 2 and was my own best friend and got it finished and submitted yesterday afternoon rather than scrambling to prepare it with a newborn in arms.

I find that when you are a 40 weeks pregnant birth blogger, you may find yourself paying special attention to lots of the details of the day just in case these details turn out to be the beginning of a birth story. Last night, I felt very much pre-laborish again—lot of low back ache and millions of contractions (regularly every six minutes apart for a couple of hours) that kept going mildly for most of the night. I didn’t sleep well at all and stayed up until 1:30 reading a review copy of The Secrets of Midwives (review actually posted briefly today, but reverted to draft after I found out I need to wait for a new cover image to use for the review).

Today, in addition to lots of little catch-up tasks with emails, etc. I also used my bonus day to add some additional new products to our etsy shop:

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New mother-daughter pendant sets!

I also responded to an interview request for an upcoming holiday promotion for etsy that I’m really excited about. And, I turned down an interview request from the PR department at the main campus of the school for which I teach, since they wanted to meet me for lunch on October 30th and I’m virtually certain I will be holding a newborn by that date (right?!).October 2014 055

I’ve been interested to note that I’ve dreamed with increasing realism about the baby for the last three nights in a row. Last night, I was getting him latched on for the first time. The night before, my mom and Mark had brought him to campus for me to nurse on my breaks from class. The night before that was a water birth dream (two actually, both about twins). To me this indicates that whatever lingering “not readiness” I might be experiencing in my waking life, my subconscious is getting it. At some level, my brain is getting down with the idea of really, truly having another baby and it is incorporating him into my dreamscape/life accordingly. One of the ways I’ve known in the past that I was actually going to recover from my past birth-related injuries is that I have a dream about it and realize that I am getting better and healing okay. To me, these recent dreams about birthing, and nursing, and holding Tanner, indicate that the door that I’ve felt like was “closed” and that I’ve never quite managed to fully open back up during this pregnancy, has, in fact, opened again (at least at the dreamtime level!). It has taken its sweet time to open, but I’ve been patient…

Sacred Postpartum, Week 1: Birth Stories and Vow

Backtracking a little into week one of my current Sacred Postpartum class, for the first week’s assignments in reviewing our own birth and postpartum experiences, I set up a mini sacred space and put on some of my birth power bracelets (Mark and I started making these recently and I love them! It is like carrying a mini-mantra, birth power reminder with me every day).

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I did my vow page and then a collage of reminders to myself. I made a birth stories page and then printed out copies of each of my kids’ birth stories and stapled them to the back of one journal page per story, including one for my third baby who was born in a second trimester miscarriage (the stories are all available on my blog here. I didn’t include pictures of the actual print outs! ). Then, I did a page on the front of each birth story with pictures of each kid and significant words/lessons from their stories. I ended with a collage of myself as I prepare for my upcoming birth at the end of this month (39 weeks now, 37 when I did the assignment) and took a picture of a blank page as well as a symbol of the story yet to be written…

(click for bigger pix)

I also just have to pat myself on the back again about having enrolled in these trainings at this point in my own pregnancy. It was a stroke of genius! And, while I knew I would benefit from them, I had no idea how very deeply I would do so.

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Sacred Postpartum, Week 2: Ceremonial Bathing

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My Sacred Postpartum class began last week, though this is my first post about it. One of the assignments this week was to prepare a ceremonial bath.

Despite the deceptively simple sound of the assignment, this bath was an incredibly surprising and illuminating experience. I originally put off doing it because I had “too much to do” and then when I started getting it ready and setting up a little altar and doing the smudging, I felt both nervous and kind of apprehensive. I told my husband, “I think this is the first real bath I’ve ever really taken.” I’m not really a bath person. I took baths as a little kid and then moved on to showers and never took baths again except while postpartum with each of my kids. And, that is when I had my “breakthrough” moment. My eyes were prickling with tears and I said: “I associate taking baths with being weak and wounded.” I associate baths with cleaning blood away from myself and gingerly poking around for tears in my most vulnerable tissues. I associate baths with crying and holding my empty belly after the death-birth of my third baby in my second trimester. In fact, the last bath I remember ever taking in my current home was the one following his birth in which I sobbed my sorrow into the water and bled away the last traces of my baby’s life. (I think I probably did take a postpartum bath after the birth of my rainbow daughter the following year, but I don’t have a memory of it. The only bath I remember ever taking in this house was my post-loss, grief bath.) I associate baths with strings of blood and mucous floating away from me through the water and feeling injured, hurt, damaged and invalid. Deconstructed, taken apart. Lost. Shaking. Barely being able to lift my legs to get myself back out. Having to call for help and be dried off. Hollow. Changed forever.

For this bath, I set up an altar space, turned on my Sacred Pregnancy playlist, smudged the room and the tub. My husband brought me my October 2014 004mother’s tea (a blend I made last week with friends using the recipe intended for later in this class). I added salts from the salt bowl ceremony at my Mother Blessing. I added a little bit of my sitz bath mix. I added almond milk and honey. My husband went and picked a rose and scattered the petals in on top of me after I was in the tub. As I settled into my milk and honey bath, I felt restless at first, but then I calmed and my mind became more still. I went through my previous bath memories and I cried a little bit. I completely relaxed and sank lower into the water. I touched my body gently and honored what she has given and where she has been wounded. I rubbed my wiggling belly and talked to my baby about having a gentle, easy, smooth birth with a gradual emergence. My thoughts turned to my possible plans for water birth for this baby. I realized that my own “weak and wounded” bath memories are probably, in part, related to why I don’t feel particularly attracted to water birth (though I wasn’t really attracted before I ever had any kids either, so it isn’t all related to those past bath experiences). Can I be strong and powerful in the water, or is that just where I bleed and cry? I’ve been planning to try water during this upcoming birth because I’ve never done it before and because it might help prevent the issues with tearing that I’ve had in the past. However, I have had trouble actually picturing myself doing it. As I stilled into this peaceful, non-wounded, ceremonial bath, I could picture a safe, secure water birth better than ever before.

And, later that night we set this up in the living room…

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(glowing pumpkin head courtesy of the kids decorating for Halloween, not for Sacred Atmosphere!)

And, to finish the assignments for this week’s class, we made and enjoyed Thai sweet tea for dessert after dinner!

Tuesday Tidbits: Science, Mother Blame, & Postpartum Psychosis

“There is nobody, out the other side of that sort of strong birth, who is not better prepared to meet the absolutely remarkable challenges of parenthood. When the power and trust is transferred to the mother, when she delivers her child, rather than ‘is delivered’ when she chooses, rather than ‘is allowed’, no matter what sort of technical birth she has, she is stronger, fiercer, and better…”

–Stephanie Pearl McPhee (The Yarn Harlot)

August 2014 019Just a short Tidbits post for today…

Over the weekend, I appreciated reading this article about an unusual topic: postpartum psychosis.

Two weeks previously, Jessica was in perfect health, enjoying a career as an actress, comedian and writer and at the end of a straightforward pregnancy with her actor husband Matthew Bannister.

“I describe Albert’s first weeks as ‘peace and war’,” she says. “The birth was gentle; I delivered Albert myself in a pool in our dining room. I remember looking down as he was born, seeing this baby blinking up at me under the water, and feeling such love. Then came a tidal wave of terror.”

The first days of parenthood were the blur of joy and shock common to most. “It was a time of epic contradictions: you’ve lost so much of yourself and you’ve never been more whole,” Jessica explains. Yet by day three she began to display symptoms of a rare illness affecting one to two in every 1,000 UK mothers…

via Postpartum psychosis: How Jessica Pidsley was driven to the edge by the rare illness – Features – Health & Families – The Independent.

I also read a significant article about epigenetic research and motherblame:

So why is it that the complex science of human development, in particular, is so readily distilled into this single, unhelpful message: “It’s all about mom”?

Of course, science is influenced by values in all sorts of ways: in the questions we address, the conclusions we prioritize, and the applications we pursue. But when dealing with complex causal processes and the assignment of causal responsibility “it’s the mother!”, values can affect the conclusions we draw from science in an especially pernicious way. That’s because we think of causal claims as simple descriptive facts about the world — as value-free. But a growing body of empirical work shows they’re not. In fact, the way we make causal claims depends a lot on how things normally happen and on how we think they should happen.

via Using Science To Blame Mothers : 13.7: Cosmos And Culture : NPR.

This in turn reminded me of my own past post about asking the right questions, which I shared on a friend’s Facebook page in response to all of the recent media attention being paid to newly developed date rape drug detecting nail polish.

We MUST look at the larger system when we ask our questions. The fact that we even have to teach birth classes and to help women learn how to navigate the hospital system and to assert their rights to evidence-based care, indicates serious issues that go way beyond the individual. When we say things about women making informed choices or make statements like, “well, it’s her birth” or “it’s not my birth, it’s not my birth,” or wonder why she went to “that doctor” or “that hospital,” we are becoming blind to the sociocultural context in which those birth “choices” are embedded. When we teach women to ask their doctors about maintaining freedom of movement in labor or when we tell them to stay home as long as possible, we are, in a very real sense, endorsing, or at least acquiescing to these conditions in the first place. This isn’t changing the world for women, it is only softening the impact of a broken and oftentimes abusive system…”

Asking the right questions… | Talk Birth.

And, while not completely related to the topics at hand in today’s post, but absolutely relating to quality mother care, I wanted to share a link to a fundraising project from my doula, Summer:

Who's <br /><br />
Your <br /><br />
Doula?

“…Smyth comments that ‘the role of mother is not immediately intelligible to those who find themselves inhabiting it’ p. 4. This is certainly borne out in the confessional writing and memoirs of young feminist women, who try to make sense of their experiences as a new mother. They write of a crisis of selfhood, feeling undifferentiated in ‘a primordial soup of femaleness’ Wolf 2001 and of experiencing a gendered, embodied and relational self for the first time Stephens 2012…”

via Tuesday Tidbits: Story Power | Talk Birth.

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Sacred Pregnancy Week 4: Honoring, Sealing, & Postpartum Care

“I am the strength of all women who have ever birthed a baby and I am ready to join that tribe.”

–Anni Daulter (Sacred Pregnancy)

August 2014 055Me to my husband last night: “so, I know I might look like I’m just dancing around with flowers in my hair, but I’m really getting certified.”

<Mark wisely refrains from wide-open joke opportunity>

Yesterday, I finished the last assignments for my Sacred Pregnancy class. While I primarily took this class for personal reasons and am glad I did because I truly think it was the absolute BEST thing I could have done for myself to get ready for Tanner, to spend some time focused on my pregnancy, and to get ready for another mindful birth and postpartum experience. I have also completed all the work needed to be a Certified Sacred Pregnancy Mini-Retreat Instructor. On October 1st, I start the Sacred Postpartum training program—again with a dual purpose of personal enrichment and professional development.

I completed some of the activities out-of-order and finished the silk painting and honoring crown from week 3 in conjunction with the postpartum and “sealing” work of week 4.

I chose to use my drumstick as my stick around which to wrap my silk, since the drum is one way I express myself. Bringing the words painted on the silk into my drumming seemed like a logical companion. My silk power was bold fearlessness! Zander and Alaina also worked on small pieces of silk with me.

I’d delayed making the flower crown I thought because I’d told myself that I’ve already had several flower crowns at different ceremonies and so making another one for “no reason” felt kind of redundant. However, after I finished my second silk painting, I looked behind me and saw some wildflowers and I realized I did want to make a crown and I wanted to be with real flowers and not artificial. I’d been going to do artificial since I have some and thought then I could at least check it off the list. I don’t like fake flowers though, I like real ones. As soon as I realized that there were enough wildflowers scattered around the yard that I could make a real one, I got excited about the idea. My daughter helped me find and cut the flowers and then we put it together. And, then took some picture with my new silk and the crown together.

“The first few months after a baby comes can be a lot like floating in a jar of honey—very sweet and golden, but very sticky too.” –American College of Nurse-Midwives

I love the idea of a post-birth sealing ceremony SO much. This is similar to a mother blessing, but it is held postpartum to help “seal” the birth experience and welcome the baby and the mother into motherhood (or mother of however-many-children-hood). Absolutely wonderful. I also love the song Standing on the Edge from the Sacred Pregnancy CD. I identify with it so much as I prepare for my next birth as well as to welcome a new baby who I wasn’t expecting to have. As I’ve noted often in recent blog posts, I’m working very hard to wrap up a variety of projects so that I can cocoon with my new baby and give him and me the time and space I know we will need after birth. I have gotten better and better at taking care of myself postpartum, in asking for what I need, and getting very, very clear with my support people about what is most important to me.

We actually made the flax pillows for the sealing ceremony at the beginning of the week and then used them on Sunday (Alaina and I made the PPD tincture together the same day as the pillows). My husband tucked me in with the flax pillows and scarf and draped the silk painting across me as well. I lit my pregnancy candles and listened to Standing at the Edge. I spoke aloud the things I celebrate myself for–all the projects and children I have given birth to.

As I was setting up my wrap and pillows, my almost-11-year-old son had said he’d like to do it too. So, after my own sealing experience, each of my kids in turn got sealed in the scarf with the flax pillows. And, then they went and got my husband and we sealed him too! For each, I offered a blessing: “I’m glad you were born. I’m glad you are my son/daughter/husband. I love you. Thank you.” I placed my hands on different parts of their bodies as I spoke and then ended with kiss on the forehead. They all loved it and were very calm and contemplative. I think it was good for all of us and was, in its way, a “sealing” of their births and our relationship.

While I always have had a mother blessing ceremony before the baby’s birth, this time I’m going to make sure to do a postpartum sealing ceremony as well. The birth I actually sealed most consciously was the second trimester birth-death of my third son. On my due date with him, which also happened to be my birthday, I did a ceremony outside by our little labyrinth and the tree where we buried him. I spoke aloud, “I am not pregnant anymore,” and took time to hold and honor the powerful, honorable, birth and release I’d given him.

I’ve written a lot about my own postpartum thoughts, experiences, and feelings and they are grouped under the appropriate category on my blog here.

I also want to share a picture of my new mother-of-four goddess pendant! This pendant, too, has been part of my personal emotional preparation to integrate the new baby into my maternal identity. It took a long time for us to get the cast right for this sculpt and I’m so happy to have it to wear now.

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 The Sacred Pregnancy online retreat training experience was a very positive one. Lots of personal benefit as well as professional development! I’m so glad I decided to go for it!
August 2014 070Past posts in this series:

Sacred Pregnancy Week 1, Part 1: Sacred Space

Sacred Pregnancy, Week 1, Part 2: Connecting

Sacred Pregnancy Week 3, Part 1: Fears & Forgiveness

Sacred Pregnancy Week 3, Part 2: Empowerment and Self-Care

 

 

Tuesday Tidbits: Postpartum Mamas

As Americans, we are under the impression that new moms are ‘Superwomen’ & can return to life as it was before baby. We must remember to celebrate this new mother and emulate the other cultures that honor new mothers by caring for them, supporting them, & placing value on the magnificent transformation she is going through. This is the greatest gift we can give to new mothers & newborns…–Darla Burns (via Tuesday Tidbits: Postpartum Mothering)

“The first few months after a baby comes can be a lot like floating in a jar of honey—very sweet and golden, but very sticky too.” –American College of Nurse-Midwives

The United States are not known for their postpartum care practices. Many women are left caught completely off guard by the postpartum recovery experience and dogged by the nagging self-expectation to do and be it all and that to be a “good mother” means bouncing back, not needing help, and loving every minute of it.

This country is one of the only utterly lacking in a culture of postpartum care. Some version of the lie-in is still prevalent all over Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and particular parts of Europe; in these places, where women have found the postpartum regimens of their own mothers and grandmothers slightly outdated, they’ve revised them. The U.S. seems only to understand pregnancy as a distinct and fragile state. For the expectant, we issue reams of proscriptions—more than can reasonably be followed. We tell them what to eat and what not to eat. We ask that they visit the doctor regularly and that they not do any strenuous activity. We give them our seats on the bus. Finally, once they’ve actually undergone the physical trauma of it, their bodies thoroughly depleted, we beckon them most immediately to rejoin the rest of us. One New York mother summed up her recent postpartum experience this way: “You’re not hemorrhaging? OK, peace, see you later…”

…“A culturally accepted postpartum period sends a powerful message that’s not being sent in this country,” said Dr. Margaret Howard, the director of the Day Hospital for Postpartum Depression in Providence, Rhode Island. “American mothers internalize the prevailing attitude—‘I should be able to handle this myself; women have babies every day’—and if they’re not up and functioning, they feel like there’s something wrong with them.”

via Why Are America’s Postpartum Practices So Rough On New Mothers? – The Daily Beast.

Via First the Egg, I then read this powerful reflection prompted by the article above:

In the piece, one woman mentions that women are literally still bleeding, long after they’re expected to “bounce back” and reclaim their old lives and be totally self-sufficient. Our bodies haven’t finished healing, and we’re supposed to look and act as though nothing even happened here, it’s all good. It’s all just the same as it was.

Secretly, I’ve been the slightest bit ashamed of all the help I’ve needed.

via Eat the Damn Cake » bleeding time.

I also read this raw, honest, and touching look at the “betrayal” experienced by women who enter into the mystery of birth expecting a blissed out, earth mother, orgasmic birth experience:

…But inside my head, I could not believe what was happening. How painful it was. How terrifying. I felt helpless. And degraded and humiliated by there being witnesses. And at the same time, I felt so, so alone. I remember at one point saying, completely out of my mind, “I don’t understand why no one is doing anything to help me! Please help me!” Della reminded me that what I was feeling was the baby coming. That I was doing just what I was supposed to, having the baby, right then….

via Mutha Magazine » S. LYNN ALDERMAN’S Ugliest, Beautiful Moment (Or, Fuck Ina May).

And, that made me think of my own thoughts about birth regret and how we may hide it from the pregnant woman we perceive as vulnerable in her beautiful, fleeting state as Pregnant Woman:

I’ve come to realize that just as each woman has moments of triumph in birth, almost every woman, even those with the most blissful birth stories to share, have birth regrets of some kind of another. And, we may often look at subsequent births as an opportunity to “fix” whatever it was that went “wrong” with the birth that came before it. While it may seem to some that most mother swap “horror stories” more often than tales of exhilaration, I’ve noticed that those who are particularly passionate about birth, may withhold or hurry past their own birth regret moments, perhaps out of a desire not to tarnish the blissful birth image, a desire not to lose crunchy points, or a desire not to contribute to the climate of doubt already potently swirling around pregnant women…

via Birth Regrets? | Talk Birth.

Which then made me think about the women who know...

Where are the witches, midwives

and friends

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Circle of women sculptures as gifts for my women’s group. Yes, there’s a crack—“the world cracks everyone”—but that is how the light gets in…

to belly dance and chant

while I deliver

to hold me and breathe with me

as I push

to touch me and comfort me

as I cry?

Where are the womyn who know

what it’s like

to give birth?

via Where are the women who know? | Talk Birth.

Thinking about that reminded me of the chant we sang around the fire at the festival I just returned from on Sunday night:

Dance in a circle of women,

Make a web of my life,

Hold me as I spiral and spin,

Make a web of my life…

via Goddess Chants – Dance in a Circle of Women by Marie Summerwood.

May all pregnant women and tender postpartum mamas dance in a circle of women!

I’d hoped to have time to post a festival recap and some lessons learned, but other responsibilities take precedence at least for today, so I’ll leave you with one of the pictures my sister-in-law took on a misty morning, sunrise stroll around the lake and another that I took in the Temple at the festival:

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See also:

Postpartum Survival Tips

Timeless Days: More Postpartum Planning

Mothers Matter–Creating a Postpartum Plan

Planning for Postpartum

Some reminders for postpartum mamas & those who love them

Birthing the Mother-Writer (or: Playing My Music, or: Postpartum Feelings, Part 1)

Postpartum Thoughts/Feelings, Part 2

Postpartum Feelings, Part 3

What to tell a mother-to-be about the realities of mothering…

Tuesday Tidbits: Postpartum Mothering

Some honest, nitty-gritty, lovely, and poignant looks at motherhood today…

Beautiful print of a babyloss mandala by Amy Swagman. My mom surprised me with this for my birthday after thoughtfully contributing to our Amethyst Network fundraiser and receiving the print as a premium.

Beautiful print of a babyloss mandala by Amy Swagman. My mom surprised me with this for my birthday after thoughtfully contributing to our Amethyst Network fundraiser and receiving the print as a premium.

First, I very much enjoyed this article about the painfulness many women experience as they transition into motherhood. This may be re-experienced/re-visited with each baby, or perhaps the initial challenge fades into the background of memory, unless you actively acted to preserve it.

…For me, and for many other women, being a new mother is hard. It can be hard in a million different ways: painful physical recovery from a difficult birth, breast-feeding problems, colic, tensions with your partner, sleep problems. It’s also just hard on its own, on top of and in between all these other challenges. As a friend of mine said, “I knew it would be hard, but I didn’t know what ‘hard’ would feel like.” We thought it would be sitcom-style hard—not necessarily with a feel-good resolution at the end of every episode, but at least punctuated by those frequent moments of uplift indicating that, in spite of everything, life really is beautiful, isn’t it? I’m pretty sure it’s like that for some people, but for many of us, it’s not. For many of us, it’s not good hard, as in a “good hard workout”; it’s bad hard, as in, it sometimes feels like something bad is happening to you…

Before I Forget: What Nobody Remembers About New Motherhood – Jody Peltason – The Atlantic.

I recognize that many mothers do not have difficult transitions in postpartum, but I certainly did, and the period of time following the birth of my first baby remains fixed in my own memory one of the most pivotal, painful, challenging, and transformative times of my life as a woman. Perhaps it is more fixed, because I did write about it and the rawness and the struggle is preserved in those words from the past. This article reminds me of my own past thoughts:

When I had my first baby, I would see women who were pregnant and feel almost a sense of grief for them—like, just wait, you have NO idea what is coming. I also told my husband more than once: “this is both more wonderful and more HORRIBLE than I ever could have imagined.” The fear of being thought a “bad mom” is SO powerful that it keeps us quiet about many things. I’ve felt more than once that my kids were “torturing” or me or literally trying to crush my spirit/soul. It sounds horrible to type it out, but that is how I feel sometimes! I’ve also written about how it interesting to feel both captivated AND captive. Bonded and also bound. I discovered that there was a whole new section of women’s rights I hadn’t even been aware of prekids–mother’s rights. I do think many, many women have written about this, but when you start out you feel like you’re the only one whose “daring” to mention the ugly side [she’d also mentioned, “why doesn’t anyone write about this?” Um, they totally do. A lot]. Start reading “momoirs”—they’re a lifeline! So many good ones out there. I have a big collection of them. Oh, and start reading Brain, Child magazine. The best look at real mothering I’ve ever know.

via What to tell a mother-to-be about the realities of mothering…

See also:

Postpartum Survival Tips

Birthing the Mother-Writer (or: Playing My Music, or: Postpartum Feelings, Part 1)

Postpartum Thoughts/Feelings, Part 2

Postpartum Feelings, Part 3

The time of danger, what needs to be survived, comes at different times for mothers. For me, it came early — during my [child]‘s infancy.” ––From Sleeping Beauty & The Fairy Prince: A Modern Retelling By Cassie Premo Steele

Ever since my first child was born over nine years ago, I’ve been talking about writing an article about the tension between choices and that whatever it is you’re doing, you can be blamed for the outcome later—i.e. “you let me co-sleep, and now I have lifelong sleep problem” OR, “you didn’t co-sleep and now I have lifelong abandonment issues!”

So, I appreciated this humorous look at how you’re doing everything wrong:

Everybody’s always trying to figure out how to do it right.

What’s “best” for my children? What can I do to raise the healthiest, most well-adjusted kids possible?

How can I do it “right?”

Well I think we should reframe this whole discussion into a simple recognition that we’re doing it all wrong.

Everything we do, it’s wrong.

Every decision is the wrong decision. And I have proof. Check this out.

via So basically, you’re doing everything wrong always – renegade mothering.

In a happier tone, I very much enjoyed this sweet post about the end of the breastfeeding relationship:

I’m hoping that buried in the corners of my children’s minds, along with all the other lovely things, there are some memories of breastfeeding that will be there all their lives. As for me, it’s not so much a corner of my mind as an overflowing treasure chest.

via Lonely Scribe: Of milk and memories: how my breastfeeding story ends.

I was very grateful for my own breastfeeding relationship last week when we took Alaina in for her dental work under general anesthesia at an outpatient surgery clinic. After it was over, we nursed and nursed and nursed. It was healing and renewing for us both and it meant I didn’t have to worry about her getting enough to eat or drink after being groggy and having a sore mouth. Interestingly, while she was under, we went ahead and had her upper frenulum clipped (I’ve thought for a long time that she had a upper-lip tie) and it has made such a surprising difference in how comfortable it feels to nurse her. I think I had adapted to a low-level of irritation and discomfort throughout the entire two years that I’ve nursed her.

The day after surgery: showing off new teeth (the previously poorly repaired ones WERE able to be saved!) as well as a new baby chick!

The day after surgery: showing off new teeth (the previously poorly repaired ones WERE able to be repaired and saved! I went in thinking we’d be coming home with a [more] toothless girl) as well as a new baby chick!

Tuesday Tidbits: Hemorrhage & Postpartum Care

March 2013 068“A bright red ribbon of blood weaves women together. We are blood sisters. We bleed and bleed, and we do not die. Usually.” –Susun Weed

These Tuesday Tidbits all come from the current issue of Midwifery Today. It is an excellent issue with tons of great information. As I referenced before, however, it is literally making my uterus ache and contract to read it since the theme is Hemorrhage. I’ve had to read it in small doses—5-10 pages at a time—and then come back to it later because the contractions/crampiness in my uterus and lower back get too intense for me to continue. I’ve always known that I have an intense response to blood, but this is the first time that I’ve really tuned in to the body memory my pelvic bowl still holds with regard to excessive postpartum blood loss. That blood loss is one of the things I don’t blog about, but today I’m writing about hemorrhage anyway (even though my back/uterus is starting up again as I type this). I guess you could call it “psychosomatic,” but I call it uterine memory.

Robin Lim’s article about postpartum hemorrhage in Bali includes a nice list of preventing and managing hemorrhage, one of the most significant being to minimize prenatal “scare” as much as possible. She writes about good prenatal nutrition and nurturing prenatal care and she also recommends this essential:

Build layers of support and trust for the mother in pregnancy and labor to help her cope with any social, psychological or spiritual challenges that she might be carrying…

Lim also says that laboring women use “qi” while laboring and birthing, which is our life force, our energy. She says that if women run out of “qi,” they have to dip into their “jin,” which is, “one’s God-given lifespan”:

“If a mother uses all of her qi to bring her baby out, then she has none left to bring her baby out and to close her uterus properly…As birth-keepers it is our job to maintain the qi of pregnant, laboring, birthing and breastfeeding mothers. The mother who maintains her qi and does not use up her jin can still be glowing and full of energy after having five children…the mother who has dipped too deeply into her jin, due to having depleted her qi, can be dangerously run down after having just one baby…”

While one might interpret this as being a little too esoteric for the practical mind and perhaps a tad too close to the victim-blaming “you create your own reality” thought processes that grate on my nerves, I really appreciated the idea of the responsibility of birth-keepers to guard mothers’ life-force energy and to act to preserve mother’s natural resources and reserves of strength.

On a midwifery education note, I love the writing of Sister MorningStar and I loved reading her thoughts on midwifery education, especially her observation that

…I’m dreaming of a way and time when women are as healthy as deer and mothers birth in the night before professionals arrive. Don’t misunderstand, I want and am willing to talk at any roundtable about midwifery education. We need everyone who cares about birth at such a table, including mothers. We need a global table with a global voice, passion and wisdom. I am not saying that birth and midwives are not made better with midwifery education, but I am saying that I have many questions about modern midwifery education and its effect on the experience of birth.

And, moving on to postpartum care, loved this quote from Darla Burns in an article by Allie Chee:

As Americans, we are under the impression that new moms are ‘Superwomen’ & can return to life as it was before baby. We must remember to celebrate this new mother and emulate the other cultures that honor new mothers by caring for them, supporting them, & placing value on the magnificent transformation she is going through. This is the greatest gift we can give to new mothers & newborns…

I appreciated that Chee included information about postpartum recovery from miscarriage and stillbirth as well, rather than assuming that postpartum care is a need only following a live birth. Consistent with my own experiences and observations she notes that, “in the case of miscarriage and stillbirth, a woman is usually sent home with no postpartum care instructions other than perhaps a list of negative signs to watch for that may indicate further complications with her health. In these instances, many friends and family members, often not knowing how to respond, leave the mother to grieve alone and to recover physically by herself.” Other interesting notes with regard to postpartum recovery after miscarriage or stillbirth include these two:

  • The depression and anxiety experienced by many women after a miscarriage can continue for years, even after the birth of a healthy child….
  • [with regard to postpartum recovery/”lying in” time in other cultures]…Amy Wong, an internationally acclaimed author and expert on postpartum writes, “Natural delivery requires at least 30 days of rest, while cesarean delivery, miscarriage and abortion require at least 40 days…”

Of course, this made me reflect on my own experiences. I feel fortunate that I was cared for with a lot of love and tenderness in my own miscarriage postpartum, with my mom bringing us food and providing child care and support, and my doula organizing and delivering meals from friends as well as offering a loving and supportive listening ear. That said, I was back in front of the classroom two weeks postpartum and felt like perhaps I was taking “too long” to get back to “normal.”

Definitely make sure to check out the complete issue! Midwifery Today is my favorite birth publication and is a treasure trove of information as well as personal experiences and reflection.

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