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Wednesday Tidbits: Mother Care

“I watch her face become alight with joy and ecstasy. ‘You’re here, oh look, you’re here! You’re so beautiful! I love you! We did it!’ It hasn’t been easy, but it was worth it…She knows–in a way that can never be taken from her–the story of her own courage and strength.”

–Jodi Green in SageWoman magazine

Photo: "I watch her face become alight with joy and ecstasy. 'You're here, oh look, you're here! You're so beautiful! I love you! We did it!' It hasn't been easy, but it was worth it...She knows--in a way that can never be taken from her--the story of her own courage and strength." </p><br /><br /> <p>--Jodi Green in SageWoman magazine
After talking with my doula last week about my own powerful need for postpartum care, I re-read my own past post about “birth regrets” and was reminded again how the theme of inadequate postpartum care in my own life resurfaces multiples times. I told my doula that I’ve never really been happy with my postpartum care, recovery, and experience until I hired her for my last birth and became very, very, very clear about exactly what I needed from the people around me following birth. This is despite having an extremely helpful mother who cooked and cared for me very well and lovingly after each birth AND an extremely involved, nurturing husband. I still needed MORE. Postpartum is hard! Many hands, helps, and small care-giving tasks are needed.

It is interesting to me to see that this is where my regrets and “things to fix” come from, rather than from the births themselves. It is kind of hard for me to write about clearly because I did get good care every time from my mom and from Mark, but I still needed MORE. And, I don’t think it is necessarily “fair” to them to skip bonding with the baby because they’re so busy helping me crawl to the bathroom, or whatever! I also didn’t take particularly good care of myself–emotionally, mainly–following birth.

Midwives are wonderful and midwife-attended birth is wonderful, but it feels like very often birth is the moment and then they fade away and the mother must pick up the early postpartum pieces herself, when perhaps her vulnerability and need for support and physical care is highest then, definitely more than prenatally and, I would argue, often more intensely than during the birth itself.

(Oh, and by the way, I still joke that what I’ve really needed is a continuous postpartum doula for the last 11 years…when my first son was born).

My birth regrets post is a companion to my “bragging rights” and birth post:

‘…Frankly, I think all mothers get bragging rights on their babies births. Birth is awesome and amazing and power-full. Every mother must face it. Sure, she may face it differently than me, but it IS a labyrinth we all go through. This is the way of life. So, mothers, brag away. Brag about whatever part of your labor and baby’s birth made you feel empowered….find that piece, even if it’s just a tiny moment, and cling to it. Shout it from the rooftops!…’

via Tuesday Tidbits: Bragging Rights | Talk Birth.

Speaking of doula Summer, Rolla area families should take note that she is available for a variety of different birth and postpartum packages as well as birth classes: Summer Birth Services. I’m looking forward to her care again in October when I have my baby!

And, still speaking of Summer, I am so excited to share that she is moving forward with the Womanspace community resource center idea that we have talked over and visioned for so many years.

…I visualize a center. A place where women can come together to learn, to talk, to develop, to grow. A safe place. A nurturing place. A supportive place. Hostess to LLL meetings, book clubs, birth circle, birth info nights, prenatal yoga classes, birth classes, birth art workshops, pregnancy retreats, journaling workshops, craft classes, crafty mamas meetings, a miscarriage support group, postpartum mamas support group, birth counseling/consultation sessions, dancing for birth, prenatal bellydance, drop-in support chats, blessingways, red tent events, meet the doulas night, Mother’s Guide to Self-Renewal groups, women’s spirituality circles, playgroups, baby massage classes, baby/tot yoga, girls’ coming of age classes, an ICAN chapter, Friends of Missouri Midwives meetings.

A gathering place. A woman’s place.

It will have a large, open meeting room, access to a bathroom and another, smaller room that could be an office, consult room, or playroom. We will have counter space to plug in some minimal cooking implements like a microwave. There will be comfy couches, chairs, toys, a lending library of books and films as well as perhaps toys/games/puzzles. There will be big pillows on the floor and beautiful art all over the walls. Other women wishing to have groups/classes for women, could also use the space for their groups/events.Think we can do it? And, if so, what can I not do to make space in my life for it? In a way, my vision is that this will be that classic “room of one’s one” that every woman needs access to. WomanSpace…

via WomanSpace | Talk Birth.

The above is an excerpt from a post I wrote four years ago! It is so exciting to have it going somewhere. Summer posted on her blog today with her expanded and deepened vision of this space: WomanSpace ~ Making the Vision a Reality

Related to celebrating women and mothers, I updated my mother blessing/women’s ritual page this week: Blessingways / Women’s Programs | Talk Birth.

And, returning to the need for mother care, it so important to recognize that women need support following birth regardless of the week of gestation at which she gives birth. Personally, I was knocked off my feet by my need for immediate support following my first miscarriage. I had never once dreamed miscarriage would be such an intense, physically demanding birth experience. I’m glad this information is now reaching others via Stillbirthday…

When a mother is experiencing pregnancy & infant loss, she needs immediate support.

If you’re a bereaved mother on facebook, it is extremely likely you’ve heard the cry of the newest bereaved mother, sharing that she just very recently endured the death and birth of her beloved baby.

What is some practical support she can use? We have three little buttons published in several places throughout the website, for support prior to, during and after birth in any trimester. Here’s a link for support in the earliest days and weeks after birth:

Photo: If you're a bereaved mother on facebook, it is extremely likely you've heard the cry of the newest bereaved mother, sharing that she just very recently endured the death and birth of her beloved baby.</p><br /><br /> <p>What is some practical support she can use?  We have three little buttons published in several places throughout the website, for support prior to, during and after birth in any trimester.</p><br /><br /> <p>Here's a link for support in the earliest days and weeks after birth:</p><br /><br /> <p>http://www.stillbirthday.com/after-the-birth/

Switching gears somewhat, another one of my quotes from a Pathways magazine article was turned in a Facebook meme and has been shared on Facebook over 3,000 times. I again would have missed it except for two of my friends tagging me in the post!

August 2014 047Remember that in honor of National Breastfeeding Month, we’re offering a 10% off discount code on any of the items in our shop through the end of August: WBW10OFF.

I am 30 weeks pregnant now! I had a bit of an “OMG, can I actually DO this?!” moment last night when the new session of classes began for me. My students asked me how much longer I have left of my pregnancy and my answer was, “about ten weeks.” I have 8 weeks of class…

August 2014 046It is a hot time of year to be pregnant and while I feel good and healthy over all, I am noticing some different things compared to past pregnancies. I weigh 165 pounds now, which is pretty big! I have way more round ligament pain than I’ve ever had before, including just randomly while walking or sitting, rather than exclusively related to getting up “wrong” or twisting in a not pregnant-friendly way. I also keep having some mild heartburn. And, getting up from the floor is a much bigger challenge than ever before.

I’ve mentioned several times in recent posts that Mark and I have been working on birthing a big project together and it is finally here!
August 2014 049Our first collaborative book project! I did the writing and he did all the illustrations, layout, and formatting. This has been a project about 18 months in the making, a more significant undertaking and more significant expenditure of energy than I could have guessed when I began.

I like how the experience of the final stages of the book have paralleled my own pregnancy. As I mentioned a couple of posts ago, our co-creative work on our business endeavors this year is really entwined with the progress of gestating and preparing to welcome our new baby.

As we’ve worked over the last weeks on the final push to finish the book, I saw this meme on Facebook:1479335_10153562403855714_35111715_nI shared it on our page and noted that when you’re both creative and you’re both home, the effects may be even more dramatic!

Our Embrace Possibility pendant is the design that has perhaps always held the most personal meaning for me, but as we continue to focus in on our shared vision and to embrace new directions, ideas, and projects in the context of our co-created business, she returns to me as very personally meaningful.


“Encoded in her cells,
written on her bones…
The mantle settles around her shoulders.
Sinking into belly, bones, and blood,
until she knows,
without a doubt,
that this is who,
she really is…”

(Embrace Possibility Pewter Goddess Priestess by BrigidsGrove)

And, I shared this on our page recently since it has spoken to me anew in multiple ways this month:

“…These waves of power. February 2014 007
They are you.
You are doing it.
You ARE it.
This is energy, this power, this unfolding might of creation.
It’s you.
Your body
your power
your birth
your baby…”

Birth Spiral Chakra Blessing | Talk Birth.

Sacred Pregnancy, Week 1, Part 2: Connecting

2.3

The focus of the second part of the first week of Sacred Pregnancy training was about connection. This was perfect, because I keep feeling like I have been going through the motions of being pregnant. My head still feels disconnected from my body and the physical experience. The baby is “distant” and still feels more like an “idea” than a reality. I really, really, really had “closed out” that chapter mentally and it is taking a lot of work to open the closed space back up. And, yet, as I worked through this section, I realized that almost everything I’ve done this year has intentionally and consciously been undertaken in order to make room for this baby and in preparation to give him and myself what I know we will need, which is times to ourselves to rest and to just be together. I have been driving myself very hard this year and especially in the last couple of months to finish many big projects and this is because I’m trying to give myself what I know I will need. I’m working hard to allow myself to pause and rest, when I didn’t expect to have to do so.

Also, the whole process of our business evolving and growing this year is directly connected to this process of my pregnancy. They were conceived and have grown alongside each other. My “pregnancy journal” this pregnancy is in the projects I have co-created and birthed with my husband over this year. This baby’s development is inextricably linked to the development of our shared business together. My efforts to pull in and to integrate my projects together under the Brigid’s Grove umbrella, while still an ongoing process, are connected to pulling in my resources and my very soul to welcome this baby.

I listened to Nina Lee’s Child and Mother song with my eyes closed, one hand on my belly and the other on my heart, in the heart-to-heart meditation process described in the course. My eyes were filled with tears. I love you. I want you. You are welcome here.

Speaking of “this baby,” we did name him some time ago, though we haven’t shared it with many people. His name is Tanner. His middle name will probably be Matthias, after an ancestor, though we have also looked at Malachi as a possibility. I was driving to class one day before I knew whether the baby was a boy or a girl and thinking about how I needed a boy name too and not just a girl name. I had told Mark that I knew I wanted a tree or woods-related name for him and as I was looking at the beautiful trees lining my drive, I knew it: Forest. What a great name! I was so excited to have “found it.” Then, on the way home again, “uh. oh. Forrest Gump. Oh no! I can’t use it after all.” We talked it over at home and Mark vetoed it immediately because of the Forrest Gump connection.  After we found out the baby was boy, we talked over names all the way home from St. Louis and I suggested Tanner as a possibility (briefly considered Tannen instead to better blend with our last name, but then thought of Biff Tannen of, “Hello!, McFly!” fame from Back to the Future and decided not to use it). This way we will have Lann, Zan, and Tan–who could resist?! Tanner actually surfaces on every baby name list I’ve created since 2003, when I was pregnant with our first baby, and is one of the few names on those lists that stands without having ever been crossed off (Alaina’s name also appears on said lists since 2003, even though we didn’t get to use it until 2011!). Anyway, I looked it up later and in addition to referring to the actual profession of a tanner, it is also from the German word for pine tree or…forest.

The other core work for this section was on messages about birth that we wish we would have received (or wish we would receive)…

Lento Tempo

“Invite the inner woman to speak in her language of poetry, bones, clouds, dreams, red shoes, fairy dust, ravens, and fissures of the heartland. She who dwells in the wild within will help to navigate the cliffs and valleys. She will show you the passage through – give you eyes to see in the dark. And then, when you are able, she will give you wings to fly out from that both nurturing and devastating abyss into divine light.”

–Shiloh Sophia McCloud

July 2014 037I’m taking an elective class called Women Engaged in Sacred Writing and one of our class texts is Women, Writing, and Soul-Making: Creativity and the Sacred Feminine by Peggy Tabor Millin. While the book itself is not about birth, I was struck by the author’s use of the descriptor “lento tempo” to describe the “slow time” associated with creative projects. My thoughts turned to our family as we await the birth of my sister-in-law and brother’s baby boy. He is arriving firmly on his own timetable and the waiting for him is a process of discovery in and of itself. I’ve never been overdue myself and so it is interesting to notice the parallels between waiting for labor to begin and the very process of labor itself!

Millin writes about the various creative works that require “slow time” and also writes that women crave this time and need it to survive:

Like the gestation in the womb, change happens in lento tempo, slow time. Women crave lento tempo and need it to survive. Slow is the timing of fertilization and incubation, of creative process. Creative writing often resists being manipulated to meet deadlines. We may need to wait on dreams or synchronicity to inspire and guide our work. In lento tempo, we learn the wisdom of letting things rest—bread dough, marinara sauce, roasted turkey, babies, tulip bulbs, fresh paint, grief, anger, ourselves. Almost every book of advice on writing suggests putting a manuscript away for a while once it feels complete. Then the final edit can be undertaken with a fresh ear and eye. Centered Writing Practice teaches us patience, to do by not doing

…Through focused attention, we engage watchful listening—to our inner voice and to our experience. What we achieve is not a perfect product, but a spinning spiral of synthesis. The movement of this spiral cannot be driven, hurried, or organized. Lento tempo is the natural rhythm of creation—of body, earth, and universe. As such, lento tempo is the rhythm of creativity we hear by practicing awareness…

Women, Writing, and Soul-Making: Creativity and the Sacred Feminine

(emphases mine)

While waiting with my mom, sister-in-law, and brother in Kansas, during one day of our visit we suddenly decided to look up any local labyrinths. We found one at a Lutheran church located only five miles from where we were driving at the time and so we swung by and walked the labyrinth together, pausing first to take symbolic pictures crossing the little bridge over to it—just like my sister-in-law prepares to cross the bridge into motherhood and take her own labyrinth journey of birth. We sang “I Am Opening,” one of our mother blessing songs, together when we reached the center. During the course of our visit, we kept discovering new “signs” every day that “today is the day!” and we eventually made a joke of it, since so far none of the signs have borne fruit! However, on this day we decided that our time in the labyrinth was a story and a precious moment in and of itself, independent of whether it eventually ended up having any part of the baby’s birth story.

I also recently re-read a quote from a book I read two years ago that describes the inward and outward swing of women’s lives. Since it is the time of the new moon now, it seemed particularly relevant:

“When we become practiced in the art of moving between the ‘upper’ and ‘under’ worlds of our lives (outwardly focused and engaged with the world; inwardly focused and listening to our soul) not only does the pattern of light moving into dark, into light again become clear, but also the gradations. We often experience this movement in dramatic (and unpleasant) swings from one to the other, but bringing practice and awareness to this journeying allows us to settle more gently into these transitions; just as the moon takes two weeks to darken, or lighten in small gradations. After all, we do not spend half the month in a dark moon, and half with a full moon. Rather, there are just a few days each of full darkness and full moon, and all the rest of the time is in gradual transition.”

Journey to the Dark GoddessJane Meredith

May we honor the call of lento tempo in our own lives, in our pregnancies, in the lives of our children, and in the unique unfolding of our births and creative projects.

Celebrating Motherhood: Creation

“To me the only answer a woman can make to the destructive forces of the world is creation. And the most ecstatic form of creation is the creation of new life.”

–Jessie Barnard (letter to an unborn child in the book Celebrating Motherhood)

July 2014 136

“You are entirely engrossed in your own body and the life it holds. It is as if you were in the grip of a powerful force; as if a wave had lifted you above and beyond everyone else. In this way there is always a part of a pregnant woman that is unreachable and is reserved for the future.”

–Sophia Loren (quoted in Celebrating Motherhood, p. 20)

“Throughout pregnancy and childbirth, a woman is driven to dig deep into herself for an inner strength she had not known existed. After birth, the smell of her baby opens a mother’s soul to a new intimacy. She has crossed the threshold into motherhood…I have had the privilege of living with indigenous mothers around the worlds and of seeing first hand their age-old ways of loving and teaching their children. I learned from these mothers that the natural world has eternity in it, and a mother’s instincts during pregnancy, birth, and child rearing links her to this eternal chain of life.” 

–Jan Reynolds (quoted in Celebrating Motherhood, p. 20)

“No force of mind or body can drive a woman in labor, by patience only can the smooth force of nature be followed.”

–Grantly Dick-Read (quoted in Celebrating Motherhood, p. 22)

I recently finished reading a book that has been on my shelf for a long time. Celebrating Motherhood: A Comforting Companion for Every Expecting Mother by Andrea Gosline and Lisa Bossi, is a treasure-trove of delightful birth quotes that will satisfy my birth-quote-archivist soul for a long time. I’m planning to do a series of short posts of quotes and readings from this book, similar to the series I did with the book Birthrites!

July 2014 005

24 weeks! (last week)

Tuesday Tidbits: Story Power (again!)

“One of the most important things I have learned about birthing babies is that the process is more of an unfolding marvel than a routine progression of events.” –Tori Kropp

May 2014 031Lots and lots of tidbits on my mind this week! It has been a while since I’ve done a proper Tuesday Tidbits post and it has caught up with me. To avoid making this too loooong, I’ve split it up into a series of loosely connected thematic posts to release over the next couple of days/weeks.

First, a beautifully touching story about a family’s decision to have another child after parenting a child with very serious special needs (for which they have no diagnosis).

“…I, alone, would have to make the decision whether or not to have another baby. If we did, I would be like any pregnant woman–following doctor’s orders, cutting out questionable foods and praying for a healthy baby; everything I had done with Joy. This this time, though, I would have an intimate knowledge of what most moms-to-be only fear in the ‘what-if’ scenarios they play out in their heads. Eric had made his decision. Was I willing to jump into the darkness with him? Would my marriage survive if I didn’t? Would it survive if I did?…”

The Family Bed | Brain, Child Magazine.

Then, some thoughts about birth and pain and sensation:

“You may be able to feel baby pressing on your cervix. You have never felt anything like this. You may be able to feel your pelvis flexing and be acutely aware of where your thighs join your hips. You may be able to feel your uterus flex in a way that feels exactly like a really tough workout. But the bottom line:

You have never felt anything like this…”

Meditation for Birth | Mothering.

While there is a simplistic understanding reflected in this post that doesn’t seem to accurately embrace or even grasp the wide, staggering array of women’s experiences during the childbearing year, I do totally agree with this premise: labor is like nothing you’ve ever felt before (or will since). That is why people use the frustrating term, “birth mystery” to describe it, because it is full, total, complex, complete, and all-encompassing, and you may never, ever be so fully present in your body during the rest of your life. And, it is different every time (though more “familiar” the more babies you have, there are always surprises in birth).

Some past posts from me about birth and pain:

Tuesday Tidbits: Pain, Birth, and Fear

Tuesday Tidbits: Pain, Power, and Lasting Memory

Pain with a Purpose?

Perceptions of Pain

And a gritty, real (and painful) postpartum story from a real-life friend:

My vagina winced. She had been through so much. Held together by medical stitches, she felt so fragile, vulnerable, broken. Like Humpty Dumpty post-fall. (How embarrassing. Could she go lower? She had been so glorious). The king’s horses and men failed to reconstruct Humpty, and I wondered, despite my OB’s expertise, if I too would never be put back together again. Humpty Dumpty was just an egg. Who gives a rip about an egg? My lady parts were much more important…

via Milk, Pain, & Fear | Peace, Love, & Spit Up.

A short, funny story from the news about a student getting trapped in giant vagina, “Gateway to the World” sculpture.

“…Police confirmed that the firefighters turned midwives delivered the student ‘by hand and without the application of tools’…”

US student is rescued from giant vagina sculpture in Germany | World news | The Guardian.

There is a neat article about Mother Blessing ceremonies in Breastfeeding Today magazine (LLLI’s publication).

And, speaking of honoring mothers, my sweet sister-in-law has a blog post up about her belly cast experience following the mother blessing we had for her in June: The Mossy Stone: My Belly Cast.

Returning to difficult stories though, here is one with a  **trigger warning for child loss**. This is a beautiful, touching story about the death of a son and the decision to have a second child.

I know lots of women avoid loss stories while pregnant. I can’t avoid them, even though I think about it and maybe it is mentally better for me not to read them. I have to hold/honor/hear these stories too—they don’t need to be hidden away.

“The pregnancy progressed smoothly, as my first pregnancy had. When I began to show and people began asking me if I was pregnant with my first child, I was determined to remember Ronan in my response, no matter how uncomfortable it made the asker. “No,” I replied. “I had a son and he died.” The conversation often stopped here, the narrative halted. When the questions first began I scrambled to make the awkward exchange a bit easier for the other person. “Sorry to throw that on you,” I’d say, smiling. But now I don’t. My new policy is: asked and answered. Or, as a relative of mine used to say, if you don’t want the answer, don’t ask the question. I don’t elaborate on how or why my first child died when some people go on to ask those questions (and they occasionally do); at that point I tell them that I prefer not to say any more. I don’t want to offer up the details of Ronan’s illness like the pieces of a tragic tale. But I want it to be known—to strangers, to everyone—that he was in the world, that he was fully loved, and that he was my first baby…”

What The Living Do | Brain, Child Magazine.

Why is this? Because stories hold power! I saw this quote this week on The Mother-Daughter Nest:

Telling our stories- while being witnessed with loving attention by others who care- may be the most powerful medicine on earth.

Some of the stories that want to be told are joyful.
Some are sad.
Some are painful and make us feel vulnerable and afraid.
Some are full of hope and inspiration.
Some of our “story doors” take courage to open.
Some we may not be ready to open and that is okay.

But the telling? The telling brings healing, understanding, and connection.

(This is also why Red Tents are powerful)

May 2014 085

Squatter’s Rights and a Womb with a View

April 2014 056

“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.

April 2014 052

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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