The journey of postpartum is a labyrinth too. Carrying our babies in our arms, past sleepless nights, through endless days. Through worry and tears, through sharp, sweet, timeless moments of a joy so bone deep it knows no words and in a love so endless that it defies description. And, we walk. Sometimes we bounce. Sometimes we sway. Sometimes we sing a little tune. Sometimes we beg. Sometimes we scream. Sometimes we sit down and say we can’t keep going. Sometimes we skip through the sunshine and dance in the moonlight. Sometimes we can’t believe how much fun we are having and how wonderful this is. Sometimes we feel so alone, we think we might break. And, yet, we keep going, and we emerge, blinking at the newness of it all…
“There really was a baby!” –Me, in birth video
As was my pregnancy custom, on October 3oth I woke up around 3:00 a.m. with definite contractions. They were spaced about 30 minutes apart, however, and I kept myself awake unnecessarily waiting for them to get bigger or closer together. I finally got up at 4:30 or 5:00 and Mark got up too. As I as I got up, contractions picked up to about three minutes apart. I couldn’t believe I’d “wasted time” by lying down, non-sleeping AND non-laboring! I felt very adrenaline filled and excited. The sense of urgency and “coming soon” was very familiar to Zander’s exceedingly fast labor, whereas my sense of need to call Mom during a contraction and then changing my mind afterward was similar to Lann’s. And, leaning on the kitchen half-wall as an ideal labor position was similar to Alaina’s. There was no slow lead-in here, these were sharp, strong, intense contractions that I already couldn’t talk through. Though they felt big and serious, they were also short in duration. I lit my birth altar candle and since I wanted to have clean, freshly washed hair, I decided to take a shower.
After showering and even blowdrying my hair for cuteness in future pictures, the intensity of the contractions increased again. Mark got to work on filling the pool and heating more water as soon as I got out of the shower and he kept messing with the pool even though I was starting to feel like I needed him (also needed pool, so he wasn’t doing the wrong thing!). I felt sure that this was picking up FAST. We texted Mom and she contacted Robin and Summer (midwife and doula). I felt a weird sensation of time pressure then, looking out window, waiting and not wanting to be observed, waited for, or watched. The pool continued to take a lot of time and attention and was annoying. Plus, the hose popped out when Mark was in the laundry room and flooded the floor. I was saying things like, “this had better be the best thing ever, because right now I hate it!” I couldn’t decide if I should keep standing up or try something else like sit on the birth ball or try the water. It seemed early for water (except during contractions!), so I sat on the ball at which point contractions became HUGE, but, also only 8-10 minutes apart. I was confused and kept trying to figure out what made more sense—smaller, more frequent contractions while standing up, or bigger but far apart on the ball. I was laughing about my indecisiveness and kept saying, “so, tell me what to doooooooo!” (which is actually my most despised thing in labor). I opted to stay on the ball because I felt open there and when standing I felt like I was closing my legs together and tensing up. On the ball, I started humming the Sacred Pregnancy Standing at the Edge song I listened to so often during my pregnancy: standing at the edge…clinging to my innocence…one more tiny step…time is here and now…diving into the unknown. I believe in me, I believe in meee-eeee. I believe in me, I do, I do…
Later, in the pool, I turned on the rest of my Sacred Pregnancy playlist from the CD, which I both liked and didn’t like because I could no longer anchor myself then with the “I believe in me, I do” hum. I talked and joked and laughed about stuff a lot. And, I would sing little things like: let’s find something else to say and not owie-zooooowie… I do not know how else to say that these were intense, big, powerful contractions. To my memory, they feel like they were the biggest, most painful contractions I’ve ever had—but slooooooowly far apart. The sensation of downward pressure was powerful already during each, but the distance between them very confusing. After back and forthing verbally for some time, I decided to get in the pool: this had BETTER be WORTH IT.
I loved the pool, but I also, intensely, felt like I was on “display” or being watched. I also felt a little isolated or separated and observed, even by my own mom (who, mindfully, went to sit on the couch to give me space). I kept feeling worried and pressured about my midwife and doula getting there any minute, even though we talked in advance about how I mainly needed them for immediate postpartum care and only wanted them to come in at the very end. I had never talked to my mom about specifically when to tell them to actually come though, so I kept thinking they were sitting in the driveway waiting for me (they weren’t, because they were being respectful of what they knew I wanted and needed). As with my other babies, I knew in my heart I wanted to birth alone, but then with immediate postpartum/follow-up care. This is hard to balance and gauge. And, I acknowledge that it isn’t really fair to the midwife either! My birth brain really needs to be alone and unwatched and I knew in the pool that I wanted to push my baby out before anyone else was there.
I took my favorite birth goddess sculpture into the pool with me where she kept me company and floated with me and reassured me until I was pushing and set her outside the tub (ever practical, I didn’t want her to get lost in what I knew would end up as bloody water!).
My mom kept me supplied with food and drinks and occasional encouragement and Mark stayed close, touching me and being present. There was lots of waiting in the pool (I feel like) for those slow but BIG contractions. I got out to pee and finally saw some BLOOD. I always wait and wait for this sign because for me it is the herald of nearly full dilation. I have no blood or any leaking or discharge until I’m only a short distance from pushing out a baby! I shook and shook in the bathroom at this point too, which I think was related to the temperature change from getting out of the warm pool and not transition per se, but it could have been both.
Back to the pool and out one more time to pee (more blood! Yay! Blood is so fun! Really. It is super encouraging for me to see during labor at this point.) I started to weirdly fret about my bladder at this point getting in the way of baby’s head (potentially): this can happen, you know, I told my mom and Mark (even though I was totally peeing and had no signs of bladder being in the way). I could tell baby was moving down and getting close to pushing, but I felt impeded with the amniotic sac intact. I moved to hands and knees in the tub and talked to myself: it’s okay. You’re okay. We’re okay. I can do it. We can do it. You can come out baby. We want you. We want you. (I cried I tiny bit saying this.)
I turned back over then and kept on smiling…
Some time after this, I started feeling inside after each contraction and could feel a hard lump getting closer and closer every time I had a (now close together) contraction. I didn’t feel sure it was a head though, but that maybe I was somehow feeling my own pubic bone or some other mysterious part of my anatomy never before felt. It felt squishy kind of, though hard underneath. (Duh, because it was an amniotic sac around a baby head, Molly!), so then I imagined I wasn’t fully dilated and was somehow prolapsing my cervix instead of feeling a baby’s head. I think these types of thoughts are one of the hazards of being a birth professional. They are also proof, to me, that no matter what odd or frightening things you think, babies’ heads still move down and come out anyway! At this point, the baby began to have hiccups. He was so low that it basically felt like my anus was hiccupping. I had Mark feel them very low on my belly—just above my pubic bone—and then I laughed and said, this counts as a fetal heart tones check!
Finally, my water broke at last and I knew he was almost out. Pushing was intense and big and felt huge and hard and long. I became convinced baby weighed ten pounds and was probably not going to come out. I felt like it was taking a long time and a lot of work, but according to Mom and Mark it was about four pushes and date stamps on pictures reveal about 5-6 minutes total of this hard work. I also kept thinking someone else was going to come in. I felt the familiar burning on my front right side and knew I would tear again (labial/clitoral). It felt scary and I looked at my mom and said I was scared (she said, “I know”). I almost pushed through the burn, but then I stopped myself and waited for the next push and then his head was out, along with a bloom of blood in the water which does indicate tearing, but I didn’t get checked for tears (by my specific decision and request) so I don’t know for sure. A minimal follow-up push and his body came out into my hands. He bobbed to the top of the pool and I lifted him out of the water. He cried a little and was already reasonably pink. He was looking around and was a little bit gurgly. I talked to him and kissed his head and told him I loved him: oh my little one, oh my little one. Oh my goodness! Oh my goodness! There really was a baby! Oh, he’s CUTE! I noticed his cord was around his neck and arm and somewhat awkwardly moved it off. It was 10:20, a little over five hours after I got up.
We called my dad to bring the kids back over to see the baby and cut the cord and they arrived a few minutes before Summer and Robin got there.
After Robin and Summer arrived, they helped me out the pool which I was eager to get out of, but had a lot of trouble actually doing, and onto my futon nest on the floor between the pool and bathroom. This is the part I didn’t like. So familiar and so not fun. The weak and wounded transition. But, Summer (doula) reminded me that the warrior moments are in feeling the vulnerability too. Sometimes the warrior is found in showing the vulnerability and needing the help.
After some lying on the futon and waiting for the placenta, I went to the bathroom (still holding baby attached with cord) and the placenta finally came out there (after it was washed, I swallowed a small piece of it). Zander and Alaina cut the cord as they had been waiting to do and then left for playgroup with my friend who was waiting patiently outside to take them. When the placenta was examined, they saw he had a velamentous cord, which is fairly rare and can actually be dangerous and possibly explains my widely spaced contractions (giving baby time he needed).
The baby’s temperature was low and it took us some time and effort to get him warmed up and that was probably because I was in the water a little long after birth and that is my only regret about this birth. When his temperature was normal, we weighed him and he only came up as 6lbs4oz. He then weighed 7lbs4oz at two days, which means he was really bigger than that at birth. He weighs eight pounds now at a week. So, he weighed something at birth, but the exact amount is unknown! He was 20 inches and had a 14 inch head.
As I laid on my futon and latched baby on for the first time, I realized that in all my planning and fretting and preparing and deadlining, I’d forgotten how very, very much love was possible.
I woke up this morning thinking that considering how close my due date is to Halloween, I’m surprised I have not managed a pumpkin + belly picture of any kind! So, despite the fact that I am intensely crabby crabbilicious, have a cold, and am wearing ugly clothes, I can now check pumpkin belly picture off my list.
I also dreamed I gave birth in a random driveway full of Halloween decorations! I said: “this was my first outdoor birth!” (the baby also had all his teeth, including molars)
Also, non-belly, but here is our annual pumpkin patch picture from our homeschool group outing last week:
The inexorable march towards Birth-Day is such an interesting, liminal place to be in. It both feels “mysterious” and inevitable. The closer I get to my official due date, the more wide open the possibilities seem as to when he will be born…when, in reality, the options narrow each day! I still have a certain sense of unreality about the whole thing—like, am I really going to do this? Am I really going to have a BABY????!!!!!
However, I’ve spent the last nine months working towards exactly this…
And, I hit 39 weeks on Monday too!
We realized a couple of weeks ago that we’d better order a couple of key things, like a car seat, to finish getting ready for Tanner. Shortly after, UPS, the mail carrier, and FedEx all came to the door within the space of about thirty minutes and then, same day in the evening, FedEx came AGAIN.
My final night of in-person class until January was October 7th and my students surprised me on final exam night with a whole bundle of baby presents and said it is in appreciation for everything I’ve given to them and how committed I am. I came very close to crying!
(I felt a little guilty about their three part comprehensive final exam then!)
My “crunchy mom” student also gave me an amber teething necklace. And, there wasn’t a bottle or pacifier to be found in the bundle of gifts.
A post about American postpartum practices continues to make the rounds on Facebook and when I read this quote…
“The problem is that no one recognizes the new mother as a recuperating person, and she does not see herself as one. For the mourning or the injured, we will activate a meal tree. For the woman who is torturously fatigued, who has lost one 10th of her body’s blood supply, who can scarcely pee for the stitches running up her perineum, we will not.”
…I thought that this is what I am SO not looking forward to doing again any time—the being someone in recuperation. I am healthy and happy and strong while pregnant and it is such a hard adjustment to “suddenly” be weak and wounded. I hate it. I’ve tried to explain to Mark how weird it is to one day be a bopping around pregnant woman and the next day to be having to have someone help you get into the shower and feed you! AND, that said, I have totally excellent postpartum support because it is like my personal obsession to get those needs adequately met after not having a clue how hard it would be after the first baby. Every baby, I have less and less of a birth plan of any kind (other than, “have baby at home”) and a more exhaustively detailed postpartum plan right down to: “I get this kind of tea with this honey in it immediately after the birth.”
One of my friends who shared the article made the interesting observation that perhaps this phenomenon is made worse by the empowerment culture of the homebirth/natural birth community, because of our emphasis on women as strong and capable (which they are). But, perhaps that translates into the assumption, goal, or expectation (either from herself or others) that the mother than then “triumph” over the vulnerability of postpartum just like she can or did during labor and birth. After I thought about this, I went ahead and took my sister-in-law up on her offer to come help me postpartum this time as well. I already have my mom and Mark and my postpartum doula and I have midwifery care. So, when my sister-in-law originally offered I felt like I shouldn’t say yes, also because she has a little baby herself. However, then I thought, bring on the love and help!
Though as I mentioned, I haven’t spent a lot of time making specific or detailed birth plans, I have revisited this past post based on the “what if” thoughts of Leilah McCracken:
Let’s shift the internal dialogue and think “what if?!” in powerful ways: “What if I have the most beautiful experience of my life? What if I could actually feel a wet, moving baby on my belly—just after birth—and fall in love with that feeling forever? What if I give birth and feel pure exhilaration? What will happen if I give birth as a powerful, free woman—what will happen if I claim my right to give birth as my biology impels me to? What if I emerge victorious, free, and powerful? What if—what if my baby never feels anything in her first moments other than my body and my love? What if I push my baby out into my own hands, and pull her up, and kiss her wet head, and cry and moan and weep my joy in private, darkness and love—what if… what if this birth is the most loving, sweet and gentle moment of my life? What if I give birth with wild joy and courageous abandon? What if…”
And, I’ve been wondering if going on a massive Unsubscribe From All The Things mission is a type of virtual “nesting”?! (Our non-virtual kitchen cabinets have been getting a ruthless sweep through too.)
I do not picture laboring during the day at all, so every night I go to bed thinking “tonight could be the night” and then when I wake up in the morning, I feel like I’ve got a “bonus” day ahead of me! Since two of my other babies were born two days before their due dates, I’ve had my sights set on tomorrow as a likely possibility… (the 25th, which could be tonight or tomorrow evening and still qualify)
Also, not totally related, but we got some new pigments recently and I am very fond of this “rose gold” one…
I keep feeling a sensation of needing to “get more done” during each “bonus” day I wake up to and have been feeling frustrated with what feels like overall household inertia from everyone else around me—all the rest of the family members seem content to just “hang out” and wait. I do not do “hanging out” well at all and feel like perhaps I should somehow go ahead and knock out the 50 page paper I have rolling around in my brain for one of the remaining three classes I have left in my D.Min degree. However, then my brain isn’t quite in it (and the household is not cooperative. Seriously. My other kids lately. Whoa!). So, today, I made one of the teas for my Sacred Postpartum class and did some other small projects and to-dos instead (like this post). The 50 page paper can keep waiting!
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).
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.
“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
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!…’
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…
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:
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!
Remember 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…
It 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!
Our 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:I 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.
And, I shared this on our page recently since it has spoken to me anew in multiple ways this month:
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)…
“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
I’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…
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 Goddess – Jane 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.