Birthrites: Ritual

October 2013 021“This is my body; this is the temple of light. This is my heart; this is the altar of love.”

–Sufi song (quoted in Birthrites)

I received a lot of wonderful books for Christmas this year. One that particularly caught my attention was Birthrites: Ceremonies and Rituals for the Child-bearing Years by Jackie Singer. While it doesn’t contain any ritual outlines, per se (which I had been hoping for), it does contain a lot of thoughtful information. I especially appreciated that it includes information about creating ceremonies to acknowledge a variety of outcomes during the childbearing year, including infertility, abortion, and miscarriage, as well as full-term birth. Two quotes from Birthrites about the value and purpose of rituals in general:

Making ritual diverts our attention from the everyday tasks of survival, and for a brief time allows us to notice and comment on where we are. Faced with the awesome experience of findings ourselves conscious in an unpredictable universe, making ritual is a noble attempt to confer rhythm and coherence to our lives…

…there is a paradox inherent in the whole concept of new ceremony, because part of the power of ceremony is that it has the weight of tradition behind it. In times of continuity, ritual would be something handed down by the elders. Perhaps this is an ideal, but we do not live in times of continuity. Rather than abandoning the whole idea of ritual as irrelevant, we need to respond to the challenges of our fast-changing age by renewing ritual practise in a way that honours the past but makes sense to us now.

This reminded me of my own previous post about blessingways and the role of ritual:

…We’re blessing each other. When we “call down a blessing” we’re invoking the connection of the women around us, the women of all past times and places, and of the beautiful world that surrounds us. We might each personally add something more to that calling down, but at the root, to me, it is an affirmation of connection to the rhythms and cycles of relationship, time, and place. Blessings come from within and around us all the time, there’s nothing supernatural about it.

I also think, though I could be wrong, that it is possible to plan and facilitate women’s rituals that speak to the “womanspirit” in all of us and do not require a specifically shared spiritual framework or belief system in order to gain something special from the connection with other women.

In another book I finished recently, The Power of Ritual, the author explains:

“Ritual opens a doorway in the invisible wall that seems to separate the spiritual and the physical. The formal quality of ritual allows us to move into the space between the worlds, experience what we need, and then step back and once more close the doorway so we can return to our lives enriched.”

via Blessingways and the role of ritual | Talk Birth.

This post is part of a four-part series of short posts from Birthrites.

Good Birth Books to Gift to Others

I’ve recently had several requests from friends asking about the best birth books to give as gifts to pregnant relatives. After sending my third response, I realized that there’s a blog post in here somewhere!December 2013 010

Here are my current recommendations:

Sacred Pregnancythis book is simply beautiful. My past review is here.

Giving Birth with Confidence—this is the well-known childbirth education organization Lamaze International’s guide to pregnancy and birth and it is one of my favorites. My review of a past edition is here.

The Birth Partnerthis guide by Penny Simkin is a classic for helping fathers or other birth partners serve during labor

The Greatest Pregnancy Everfocused on positive mental attitude during pregnancy and cultivating a mother-baby bond prenatally (caveat: I’ve not actually finished reading this one, so I’m not sure if I have any reservations about it or not. I bought it at the last CAPPA conference)

Birthing from Within—the original birth art resource and a fabulous “out-of-the-box” handbook for preparing for birth. It is not attached to a particular outcome and can help mothers dig deep whether experiencing a home birth or a cesarean. This book is my all-time favorite, but my recommendation comes with a caveat that the short breastfeeding section is terrible.

The Baby Book-a comprehensive, reassuring look at baby’s first year by Dr. and Martha Sears.

For birth stories, I love and adore Simply Give Birth (past mini-review is here). I also like Journey Into Motherhood (available as a free digital copy here) and Adventures in Natural Childbirth.

I used to recommend The Thinking Woman’s Guide to a Better Birth, but is has been replaced by an updated version called Optimal Care in Childbirth and I’ve not yet read that one. My educated guess is that it is still an excellent recommendation! :) I also used to recommend The Birth Book by Dr. Sears. It is still a good suggestion, but it is now an “older” book and so I don’t put it at the top of my list any longer.

Also, make sure you grab a copy of the free Guide to a Healthy Birth from Choices in Childbirth. I love this little booklet so much! It is my top favorite resource for tabling at community events. Another free educational resource that I recommend (particularly for women planning natural births in hospital settings) is Mother’s Advocate. There is a free booklet and a series of videos that explore Lamaze’s Six Healthy Birth Practices (which all mothers deserve as part of evidence-based care during birth, regardless of birth location).

Past book lists and related suggestions:

What To Do When Newly Pregnant and Wanting a Natural Birth…

Suggested Reading

Postpartum Reading List

Book list: Preparing Children for Homebirth

Non-Advice Books for Mothers

2012 Book List (all kinds of stuff, not just birth)

In addition, all the books I’ve reviewed in the past are available on my website from this link, so make sure to browse and see if anything else jumps out at you as a good match.

“Everyone who interacts with a pregnant woman is, in some way, her ‘teacher.’ Telling birth stories, sharing resources, imparting obstetrical information, giving advice or warnings—these are all direct or indirect ways of teaching about birth and parenting. Whether you currently identify yourself as a ‘childbirth teacher,’ or you are a midwife, doctor, doula, yoga teacher, nurse, therapist, breastfeeding counselor, or you are simply a woman or man who cares about the power of the childbearing year, you already hold the power of mentoring within you.”

–Pam England

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

Laughter and Tears: The Emotional Life of New MothersBecause books are my first and longest-lasting love, I began my blogging career with a book blog. I eventually gave it up when I felt I no longer had time for it and turned my attention of other blog work. However, I occasionally mine the old blog for content here and I’ve realized that rather than doing traditional reviews, I really, really like doing my somewhat-new “talk books” posts on this blog. I’ve mentioned before that one of my reasons for blogging is simply to store information in one place that I want to remember or come back to later. If I’ve typed up everything I like from a book, I don’t really need to hang onto the book and the “essence” of many books (or at least what I got from them) is all compiled in one place. So, what follows is one of those mined posts (though at the end, I got caught up in the topic and went off into some related thoughts).

Laughter and Tears: The Emotional Life of New Mothers was written in 1997 by Lamaze co-founder Elisabeth Bing. I found myself with a dearth of postpartum resource books after giving birth to my first child and desperately hungered for them. I went on a dogged mission to locate them, finding them somewhat difficult to unearth, and eventually I think I read basically every book ever written on the postpartum period.  I started out enjoying Laughter and Tears, but found it less and less engaging as it went on. I think there is such a great need for books about postpartum out there—ideally, for women to read before their babies are born. I wish I would have had one already on my shelf when my first baby was born, instead of having to discover the niche later. However, part of why the book was not engaging by the time I actually read it was simply because it is geared toward women in the immediate postpartum (and also first time mothers primarily)—when I read it, I was no longer there and so my interest in the book waned fairly quickly. I also found a the heavy emphasis on “reclaiming your body” off-putting—there was even a comment like, “now that your baby is a robust two month old, you can begin to reclaim your body by reducing or eliminating feedings at night.” Excuse me? “Robust” TWO MONTH OLD? That is practically still a fetus as far as I’m concerned!

Several quotes I marked to share:

“Our society is profoundly ambivalent about children. On one hand, we praise family values, but on the other, we emphasize individual liberty and the rights of women to have as many freedoms as men. We encourage mothers to desire to have it all, but do not guarantee maternity leave, health insurance, or day care. We use babies to sell products, from laundry detergent to automobile tires, but we don’t want a mother with a toddler in the seat next to us on an airplane. We question the legality of abortion but threaten to withdraw welfare benefits from disadvantaged children. We celebrate children and praise parents for having them, but we do not provide structures or systems to help nurture them.”

And, one I still find extremely relevant:

“The degree of pleasure you take in your mothering is not the same thing as loving the baby or being an effective parent. Keep in mind there is a distinction between mother love and maternal satisfaction. You may love your baby very much but be dissatisfied with your life circumstances.”

There was also a quote that I find a new relevance in today now that our household structure has changed to both parents being home nearly full-time. I’ve been confronted over and over again in the last several months with how many “keys” to the household and family life that I’ve held over my ten years as the primary parent in the home and that, at some level, there is a power in being the one who knows (even if it just where the mustard is, for example) and that switching over to sharing those household details doesn’t actually come easily for either parent, no matter how we’ve said we wish to share them. I’m also noticing how very, very many details of the somewhat invisible work of parenting are still very much my responsibility—such as planning birthday parties or taking kids to playgroup or making dentist appointments or making sure Christmas presents are purchased and equal—and apparently, I do not know how to let those go or start transferring some of the responsibility without feeling put-upon, annoyed, demanding or like, I’ll just do it myself, since I’m the expert anyway. And, as this quote below references, I also have enjoyed being the primary emotional parent as well and still hold on to that terrain—essentially, what I want to share is the cooking and towel-folding responsibilities, while still getting to be the one run to for security and snuggles.

“Men are challenged by their attempts to be more involved and more nuturant than the ‘traditional’ father. Women are challenged not only by developing an identity in the world outside the home, but also by opening up and truly incorporating men into the intimate life of the family. You may have a concept of what a more involved father should be like, but if you are honest with yourself, is your image truly about sharing the love and nurturance? Or is it actually about wanting your partner to help with domestic chores? Are you really imagining a co-parent, or are you thinking of something more like a regular baby-sitter and handyman?”

Whatever it’s shortcomings, this book again reminded me of how vital postpartum support is for families in our society and reminded me of why I originally wanted to be a postpartum doula and how called I felt to that work. In 2004, I trained with DONA as a postpartum doula and felt 100% certain that I had found where I belonged (indeed, I still get Christmas cards and updates from one of my first postpartum doula clients—I was good at the work and they liked me a lot!). I stopped working as a postpartum doula in 2006 though. My biggest reason for discontinuing postpartum work was because at this point in my life I couldn’t reconcile taking care of someone else’s family while my own needed me so much. There I would be washing my client’s dishes and thinking that I have a huge pile unwashed at my own house (that my husband then did at night when he got home) and/or folding their laundry and thinking of the two full baskets at my own house in my own living room as yet not put away. Also, I recognized that I felt more comfortable with and am temperamentally more suited for educational/”academic” types of support  rather than the “intimate” hands-on support that postpartum or labor support requires. For a time after quitting, I really felt embarrassed about it because I was SO sure it was my “calling” and because I spent so much money on training, books, supplies, certification packet, etc. (Luckily, I totaled it up when I was preparing to quit and I made enough money from my clients to at least more than pay myself back for the training!)

I feel fervently that women/families need postpartum doula support (sometimes desperately) and I felt depressed to realize that I wasn’t the person for the role after all. I didn’t understand at the time, but I quickly figured out why the majority of the women in the postpartum doula training with me were middle-aged. They had the energy to “mother-the-mother” and “nurture the family” at that season in their lives, whereas I am still in a season in which I need to nurture my own family before I have the energy to spare to nurture someone else’s. There were also a handful of women in the training, like me, who had very young children. There were no in-betweeners, like where I am right now. I’ve begun to notice this in birth activism work (and to a lesser, but still noticeable extent, in breastfeeding support work) as well—passionate mothers-of-infants or toddlers and gray-haired sage-women are the ones who come together for the bulk of the birth activist workload in various organizations.

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

December 2013 018Additional resource: Non-Advice Books for Mothers

Talk Books: Cut, Stapled, and Mended

To be honest, I wasn’t sure what to expect from Roanna Rosewood’s memoir, Cut, Stapled, and Mended. After it arrived I actually wondered if I should have agreed to review it, because I have so many things to read, things to think about, and interests that are calling me—do I really need to read a memoir about someone’s cesareans? I’ve already read so many books about birth, do I really want to read another one? Well…the answer was YES, I did need to read it. After I finished the book, I felt almost speechless at how deeply it had touched me. This book was a surprise all the way through, from the opening Orgasmic Amazon Queen sex scene, to a session with a psychic healer who tapped in to Roanna’s past life abdominal wound, to her dogged quest to open herself to her own feminine wisdom, to her birth experiences—all soul-shattering in their own way—this book touched me profoundly. I was shocked to find myself with tears in my eyes at many different points and eventually truly unable to put it down.

Orgasmic Amazon Queen notwithstanding, Roanna comes across as a practical and down-to-earth narrator, who in her quest to understand herself, her body, her inner wisdom, and her birth experiences, makes a decidedly not down-to-earth personal journey through a variety of healing modalities and nontraditional experiences and perspectives. I really loved the balance she struck between the spiritual and metaphysical experiences she describes and the nitty-gritty reality of doing this thing, giving birth. In a perfect example of what I mean, she writes:

You think I would run out of poop but I don’t. It’s endless poop.

My ego, having (literally) had enough of this shit, quits. It gets up and walks right out the door. What is left of me poops in the tub. Looking down, I say, ‘ewwwww.’ I say it as if it wasn’t me who just shat in the tub. I say it as if I just happened to come across poop in my bath one day. ‘Ewwww’ or not, I’m never getting out of the tub ever again. If this tub were full of nothing but shit mud, I would still stay right here (p. 144).

And, just a few pages later, the experience I already quoted in my earlier post:

Only then does the Divine come, taking my body as her own. I am no longer alone. There is no fear…I experience completeness. I find religion. Infinity is tangible. Generations of children, their dreams, passions, defeats and glories—they all pass through me, converging here, between my thighs… (p. 146-147).

via Thesis Tidbits: Cut, Stapled, and Mended | Talk Birth

Despite planning homebirths, Roanna experiences two cesareans and her journey towards VBAC is an arduous one:

Deep inside, I feel the screams of birth echoing off the sides of my skull. Softer and softer they fade, becoming a faint whisper, then disappearing completely.

I open my mouth. ‘Please,’ I whisper-scream-beg-cry, ‘please come back.’

She does not.

I am, once again, mortal. (p. 155)

While I would likely proceed with some degree of caution if reading this memoir as a pregnant first-time mom, there is much to be learned from Roanna’s experiences. Her narrative is rich, deep, compelling, scary, dramatic, poignant, and powerful. I highly recommend it!

Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book for review purposes.

Crossposted at Citizens for Midwifery.

Thesis Tidbits: Cut, Stapled, and Mended

Recently I found myself totally absorbed by Roanna Rosewood’s birth memoir: Cut, Stapled, and Mended. In an unexpected overlap with my thesis project topic, in many ways Rosewood’s book is about a journey to the sacred feminine within herself. This thread of the discovery of the larger forces of what it means to be female that runs throughout the book makes a perfect connection to my thesis topic about birth and spirituality (though, I’ve actually switched my topic again and am returning to using birth as the subject of my dissertation instead). Writing about the blessingway ceremony her mother and some friends had for her, Roanna wonders, “After the initiation of birth, will I feel comfortable in the world of women?” (p. 33).

Later, after her second cesarean, she hears from other people the comment that so many other women experience when they experience disappointment or trauma in birth: at least you have a healthy baby. Roanna writes, “I lift the corners of my mouth in silent submission, ignoring my heart’s protest: Birth is not an accident, to be celebrated when you make it through alive. Birth is a rite of passage. There was something I was supposed to do. I am not strong enough to bring life into this world, not good enough. I am unworthy of procreation. Incomplete. An actor playing the role of a woman” (p. 89).

During the birth of her last child, she feels the might of creation pass through her and feels she is herself inhabited by the Divine: “Only then does the Divine come, taking my body as her own. I am no longer alone. There is no fear…I experience completeness. I find religion. Infinity is tangible. Generations of children, their dreams, passions, defeats and glories—they all pass through me, converging here, between my thighs…” (p. 146-147).

She touches on this theme again as she concludes her beautifully written book:

“I understand why we fear birth and seek to make it a sterile and planned event. But doing so denies us our greatest opportunity: partnership with the divine. It’s not possible to numb oneself to fear, pain, and death without also numbing ourselves to courage, pleasure, and life” (p. 160).

Speaking of my thesis/dissertation, sometimes my mind boggles at how wonderfully the Internet “smallens” the world. Nané Jordan, who I quoted in my original thesis proposal, happened to find my blog post and offered to send me a copy of her own dissertation and thesis on birth/women’s spirituality related themes. The package arrived today from Canada and I am very much looking forward to digging into her work. I’m also sending one of my own pewter goddess pendants back to her and I love to know how we’ve made this connection, through words, from across the miles. :)

“This is a pilgrimage into women’s wholeness and holiness in giving birth. A journey into re-weaving human connection to the Earth and to each other through birth.” –Nané Jordan in Birthdance, Earthdance

And, this quote caught my eye via The Girl God on Facebook this evening:

“The only people who should run countries are breastfeeding mothers.” – Tsutomu Yamaguchi; Hiroshima Survivor

Tuesday Tidbits: Blogging, Busyness, and Life, Part 3

“In a way Winter is the real Spring – the time when the inner things happen, the resurgence of nature.”
– Edna O’Brien

“If I do not do it now, when else can I do it?”?
–Dogen Zenjiin quoted in Women, Writing, and Soul-Making


Newest pendant design—Mark cut this moonstone himself from one we found on the beach in California. (Donkeys?! We ride them!)

I’ve been remarking for a while now that I feel like I’m in a time of “fall cleaning,” so I really identify with the first quote above. Then, the second quote dances in with its companion reminder: do not go back to sleep. Do not let inspiration wither! Ride zee wild donkeys, as Leonie Dawson would say! For the most part, these both feel great. I feel full of promise and inspiration and the itch to declutter my closets. In some ways, it feels painful—I’ve been letting go of some things and saying no more often. I am trying to figure out how to say no to tasks without feeling like I’m saying no to people. And, once again, other women’s (and one man’s) blog posts have come to the rescue. First, some good reminders from the irrepressible Leonie:

I don’t say yes to every interview request I get, or JV request. I don’t say yes to every work opportunity that comes my way (i.e. to sign with a book licensing agent, or speak at a conference.)

I don’t say yes because I know that everything has an opportunity cost. If I say yes, it takes away time and energy and brainspace to work on other things – things that could be more lucrative or more on soul purpose.

And if opportunities aren’t being presented to me that I want, I actively go after the ones I do want and make them happen instead.

via How To Create A Wildly Prosperous 15 Hour Work Week! | Leonie Dawson – Amazing Biz, Amazing Life.

Leonie was the one who introduced me to the concept of what I now think of as the $50 idea or the $100 idea. She wrote a blog post about how to have a million dollar idea, in which she concluded she actually only needed $100,000 idea (which is what she wanted to have available for her household to live on) and she figured out how to do it:

And as I held my newborn daughter in my arms, and felt the mammoth task of mamahood in front of me, I knew I just didn’t have that kind of energy and time. I needed a better idea. A simpler idea. One that was happier and more joyful and full of ease. And as I’ve shared before, the idea came in a dream, in the haze of milky hours between nightime newborn feeds.

My dreamtime elders said to me:

Give it all away. Give everyone everything you’ve ever created and will create for $99 for the whole year. You only need a thousand goddesses to say yes. You will offer them all you have to help them and support them on their journey. And they will be happy to support you on yours.

And I woke up in a blaze of happy tears, and I wrote down on a piece of paper:

1000 x $99=my $100 000 idea

give them everything!!!!!!!!

via How to have a One Million Dollar Idea | Leonie Dawson – Amazing Biz, Amazing Life.

I found this concept transformational and since then, my husband and I have often referenced that we actually only need a $50 idea ($50 x 1000 people = $50,000, which is more than enough for us!). It is certifiably amazing what kind of good stuff you can come up when you’re thinking in terms of a $50 idea. I totally love it! Feel free to use it too :)

Oh, but enough with the adding, here is a man’s voice on the necessary art of subtraction:

Subtraction is beautiful: it creates space, time, clarity.

Subtraction is necessary: otherwise we are overburdened.

Subtraction can be painful: it means letting go of a child.

Subtraction is an art that improves with practice. Subtraction can be practiced on your schedule, task list, commitments list, possessions, reading list, writing, product line, distractions.

What can you subtract right now?

via The Necessary Art of Subtraction : zenhabits.

And, some thoughts on “sorry” from the author of the new book Maxed Out that I’m currently reading to review:


I’m sorry I was so slow to respond to your email. Sorry I can’t be there. Sorry I was late to pick up. Sorry to reschedule; sorry to ask for more time; sorry to miss the conference, the coffee, the call.

Most mothers who work outside the home, writes Katrina Alcorn in her book, “Maxed Out: American Moms on the Brink,” are perpetually sorry for all the ways they perceive themselves as failing their employers, their families and themselves. Hers is the story of her own “maxing out” after the birth of her youngest child: while working five days a week as a web design executive and shuttling three children through their busy lives, she pulled off the road one day and, as a crushing panic attack settled over her, called her husband to declare that she couldn’t “do this anymore.”

It is also the story of our collective “maxing out” in a society that she calls “uniquely hostile to working parents.” Her pediatrician casually tells her that most children get “8 to 10 colds and fevers a year”; she has six sick days a year (and must count herself fortunate) while her husband, a freelance designer, has none. School and preschool hours don’t cover a full day’s work for either of them, leaving them creating an elaborate spreadsheet every week to cover everything and add in doctor’s appointments, grocery shopping and chores. Preschool and day care eat into their budget, and every decision about part-time work or freelance scheduling means redoing the math. At every turn, Ms. Alcorn feels alone — but later realizes (as many reading this will recognize) that her problems are far from unique.

via Being a Working Mother Means Always Having to Say You’re Sorry –

A couple of weeks ago, I staggered down to my woods crying about something I’ve now forgotten, but that was probably related to not having time to do something I’d expected to get to do that day and that I had been saying “sorry” over, and it came to me very clearly: Don’t apologize.

And I realized very strongly, I’m done apologizing. I really am done. I wrote about this more in my Rainbow Way blog carnival contribution:

I feel as if I have a long and creative dance as well as a long and creative struggle to balance mothering with my other work. I recently decided that I’m done apologizing—to myself, to others, or in writing—about my twin desires to care for my children and to pursue my own work. I’ve been parenting for ten years. Though I’ve tried for what feels like forever to “surrender” to motherhood during these ten years, I just cannot stop creating other projects, birthing other ideas, and participating in other work while at the same time engaged in the deep carework, motherwork required by children. I do both and I’m done apologizing. My life includes my children and my AND. That’s okay with me.

via Talk Birth | and WomanSpace.

I thought about how often I use the words, “I’m sorry,” and I realized it is way too much. I’m done with it. To clarify, I’m not done with apologizing if I actually need to apologize, what I’m done with is apologizing for things I’m not actually sorry about (I can’t find the link right now, but there was a spoken word piece going around on Facebook recently in which the young woman says something to the effect of, “in my college chemistry class today I asked three questions and every one started with the words, ‘I’m sorry…’” [edited to add: Found it.]). So, far this is working out well and it is making me more mindful of the words I choose and excuses I make. My other realization that I keep having is: Maybe this is okay. Maybe I’m okay. (This is about things like having a bunch of unfolded laundry sitting around, or kids that stay up late and wake up “late,” or about having painting shirts on the table and dinner at 8:00…)

However, I also want to be mindful of the shadow comfort of distraction and one of my favorite authors, Jen Louden, had some juicy thoughts on this for me:

We all do it, I told her. Have mercy. Watch me answer an email supporting someone else rather than writing my new project – how did I get to the email program? It’s like a moment of time disappears and we have given up on our selves. The ways we distract ourselves take all sorts of inventive forms – micro-managing your children’s college application process, researching every last possible option for your vacation /car purchase/new duvet cover… or perhaps you prefer buying domain names and starting new businesses or – this is a truly delicious one – completely decluttering your entire house before you can begin that long held dream.

I’m not suggesting for one moment you try to stop distracting yourself – focus on doing that and you’ll end up with squeaky clean counters and that’s it. (Clean counters are great but probably not the deepest purpose of your life).

Instead, orient your life by desire.

Not because that’s a fool proof strategy or because you will “effortlessly manifest” (insert gagging) exactly what you want but because listening to what you truly desire will keep what you want up in your face while infusing you with energy – tons of wiggling wonderful energy. This makes it a whole lot harder to deny you are choosing someone else’s desire over your own.

You see what you are doing – “I want this but I’m doing this…. hmmm… interesting.”

See this choice point enough times in living breathing painful detail without adding one iota of self-cruelty and you will, slowly but surely, start to choose in favor of your dream. In favor of what calls you. To stop thinking, to stop planning, to stop distracting, and instead, to take blessed simple action.

With a little practice, the worn neural pathways of “But they will be mad at me!” or “It’s selfish to paint instead of visit mom” or “I know helping my friend is valuable, I don’t know if writing my novel is,” begin to atrophy and new ones are born. New pathways that sound something like “There is room for me in my life” and “What I want matters.” You understand it is by taking action on your desires and learning from those actions that the path of your truer life is revealed, one crooked step at a time.

Follow the aliveness, pay attention, orient by your desires.

via Jennifer Louden Blog News.

Orient your life by desire. Yes. This sounds promising. I was recently talking to Mark about how I often can’t separate my “want tos” from my “have tos.” It is hard for me to figure out what I really want to do most of the time, because I’m so darn good at being a harsh self-task-master and I can turn almost anything into a “job” that must be done, regardless of whether I really want to do it any longer. Speaking of Jen Louden, she has a fresh new paperback version (plus app and free support tools!) of her book The Life Organizer. I’m planning to re-work through this book beginning in January (I did it in 2008). I highly recommend it!

And, then, another quick little reminder about being present and about the distraction from “real life,” represented by needing to write a blog post about it!

There are a thousand things I could write about. Four months of adventure and wholehearted journeying has lots of stories. But the stories are where they were when they happened. And writing about them now takes away from Being with them then, and Being with now in this moment.

via The blog post about how I’m not blogging anymore.

This post is what I’ve got time for today. Now, it is time for shower—maybe it is okay that I haven’t had one yet?! ;-D

Blogging, Busyness, and Life: Part 1

Tuesday Tidbits: Blogging, Busyness, and Life (Part 2)

Releasing Our Butterflies

Welcome to Week One of the month-long Carnival of Creative Mothers to celebrate the launch of The Rainbow Way: Cultivating Creativity in the Midst of Motherhood by Lucy H. Pearce

Today’s topic is Nurturing a Culture of Creativity at Home. Be sure to read to the end of this post to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

Join the Carnival and be in with a chance to win a free e-copy of The Rainbow Way!

November 27th: Creative Heroines.

December 4th: Creative Inheritance.

December 11th: The Creative Process.


“This book is an attempt to put language to the reality of being the most fabulous, and misunderstood of creatures: a creative mother. One who answers the callings of her child – and also her creativity. A woman who says: I cannot, I will not choose. I must mother. I must create.” –Lucy Pearce, The Rainbow Way

I feel as if I have a long and creative dance as well as a long and creative struggle to balance mothering with my other work. I recently decided that I’m done apologizing—to myself, to others, or in writing—about my twin desires to care for my children and to pursue my own work. I’ve been parenting for ten years. Though I’ve tried for what feels like forever to “surrender” to motherhood during these ten years, I just cannot stop creating other projects, birthing other ideas, and participating in other work while at the same time engaged in the deep carework, motherwork required by children. I do both and I’m done apologizing. My life includes my children and my AND. That’s okay with me. As I’ve been reading Lucy’s book The Rainbow Way, reflecting on my own work, and looking around my home, I’ve had a realization: While I have struggled and cried and planned, while I have given up, and begun again, and surrendered, and refused to quit; While I have been present and been distracted, created and been “denied” the opportunity to create, while I have nursed babies and “written” in my head the whole time; While I have been filled with joy and filled with despair and while I have given myself permission and berated myself and then berated myself for self-beratement, my husband and I have created a home and family life together that is full of creativity. I told him as I prepared my thoughts for this post: if we are doing anything right as parents, it is this–our home is a rich, creative portal all the time. Within the last month, I’ve heard myself say, “get your painting shirt” to Alaina more times than I can count, and paused to appreciate, finally appreciate the fact that in our house there are painting shirts by the table that are never put away. I gripe about clutter and I struggle to be Zen, but my kids always have the opportunity to put on a painting shirt. It is at the ready and it is saying YES.

In 2008, when my second son was two, I dissolved into the nursing chair in one of those moments of surrender and self-beratement and a spontaneous vision filled my mind: I was walking to the top of a hill. At the top, I opened my hands and beautiful butterflies spread their wings and flew away from me. Then, a matching vision—instead of opening my hands, I folded their wings up and put them into a box. I wrote then as he nursed to sleep and I slowed my breathing to match his:

So, which is it? Open my hands and let my unique butterflies fly into the world. Or, fold their wings and shut them into a box in my heart to get out later when the time is right? Do I have to quit or just know when to stop and when to go? When to pause and when to resume?

What are the ways in which my children can climb the hill with me? To be a part of my growth and development at the same time that I am a part of theirs? How do we blend the rhythms of our lives and days into a seamless whole? How do we live harmoniously and meet the needs of all family members? To all learn and grow and reach and change together? Can we all walk up the hill together, joyfully hold up our open hands with our butterflies and greet the sun as it rises and the rain as it falls? Arm in arm?

via Surrender? | Talk Birth.

Some time ago, in the days in which I had a totally different blog, I re-read a book called Big Purple Mommy by Colleen Hubbard. The subtitle of this book is nurturing our creative work, our children, and ourselves. It was in the reading of this book that I realized that being a writer is my primary means of creative expression and is my creative work. She talks about how painters “see” paintings as they go about their days, dancers choreograph, and musicians compose. I know my own very creatively gifted mother “sees” patterns in nature or life and imagines them as felted pictures or woven pieces (or whatever her current area of focus is at the time). Me—I write essays in my head. Just about every day I compose some sort of essay or article in my head as I’m going about my life. Probably only about 10 percent of those actually make it onto the page even as notes and even less than that actually are fully born. In the past I have acknowledged that this process of words being born within me and dying before they make it to the page can feel like it literally hurts.

From the book I saved this quoted quote from Emily Dickinson: “To live is so startling it leaves little time for anything else.

And, one from Naomi Ruth Lowinsky: “Women who become mothers find that it is often in the crucible of that experiences in what is in so many ways a sacrifice of self, that she touches the deepest experiences of the female self and wrestles with an angel that at once wounds and blesses her.”

As I wrote in my Surrender post, I guess rather than balance per se, it comes back to mindfulness, attention, and discernment—knowing when to hold and when to fold. Just as I continue to return to my image of grinding corn, I continue to return to this inner vision of joyfully releasing our butterflies together.

As I considered the theme of this week of the blog carnival (nurturing a culture of creativity at home), a picture I took a couple of months ago kept coming to mind: in it Alaina is at the table painting with two paintbrushes at the same time. I couldn’t find the actual picture, but I did find an endless stream of other pictures that, irrespective of my own moments of guilt and endless mental machinations about how and why and am I doing a good job at this mothering thing, clearly show me a family successfully releasing its butterflies together. The majority of the photos in this gallery were taken on just one day. And, in taking them, I purposely didn’t get anything out to take a picture of. I just took pictures of what was already out, what was already on the wall, and what was already happening around me... (In my search for the two-paintbrush picture I did go back into my saved pictures and find some others included below that were taken on different days as well.)

This is a large gallery—click on an image to see the caption and to go through the pictures as a slideshow. Or, skim through them to the bottom of the post because at the end is my grand finale, concluding-thought picture! ;)

As I set down Lucy’s book and the cauldron of my mind bubbled with ideas and the pictures I’d just taken of our home and how we nurture a culture of creativity within it, I started talking to my husband. Getting ready for bed, I excitedly explained to him about how we are getting something right here with our kids. Really right. And, as I took off my shirt to put on my pajamas, he started to laugh. I said, excuse meI’m all serious here with my deep insights. Then, I looked down and I laughed too, because this is what I saw on my belly…

November 2013 085

“Womb of Creation” art installation by Alaina. ;)

I see butterflies.

Related past posts:

Rebirth: What We Don’t Say

Birthing the Mother-Writer

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


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  • Carnival host and author of The Rainbow Way, Lucy at Dreaming Aloud shares an extract from the chapter Nurturing a Family Culture of Creativity.
  • Lilly Higgins is a passionate food writer. Now a mother of two boys, she’s discovered a new calling: to instil in them a love of food and creativity in the kitchen.
  • DeAnna L’am shares how visioning the New Year with your child is an invitation to be inspired: use creativity and resolutions to create a fun road map for the year ahead.
  • Molly at Talk Birth on Releasing Our Butterflies – balancing motherhood with creativity.
  • Laura shares some of the creativity happening at Nestled Under Rainbows and a few thoughts about creativity.
  • Georgie at Visual Toast celebrates her own unique culture of creativity at home.
  • Esther at Nurtureworkshop spreads the love of the ordinary, the delights of everyday things that can be an adventure of the imagination.
  • For Dawn at The Barefoot Home creativity is always a free form expression to be shared by all in a supportive environment where anything can be an art material.
  • Naomi at Poetic Aperture is a mother, artist and photographer who tries to keep her daughter away from the expensive pens and paints.
  • Aimee at Creativeflutters writes about keeping your sanity and creativity intact with small kids in the house in her post: Mother + Creativity – They Must Coexist.
  • Amelia at My Grandest Adventure embarks on a 30 Days of Creativity challenge…you can too!
  • Becky at Raising Loveliness explores creating with her smaller family members.
  • Jennifer at Let Your Soul Shine reveals how children help us connect to our souls, through music and movement.
  • Mary at The Turquoise Paintbrush shares her experiences of creating with kids.
  • Joanna at Musings of a Hostage Mother explains why creativity at home is important to her in her post “I nurture a creative culture.”
  • It took until Amy at Mama Dynamite was pregnant aged 35 to discover her dormant creative
    streak – she has found lovely ways of tuning into it every since.
  • Emily at The Nest explores how creativity runs through her family’s life together.
  • Jennifer at OurMuddyBoots sees that encouraging creativity in children is as simple as appreciating them for who they are: it just means overriding everything we know!
  • Lisa from has discovered that a combination of writing and traditional crafts can provide a creative outlet during those busy early years of new motherhood.
  • Anna at Biromums shares what nurturing a culture of creativity means to her.
  • Zoie at TouchstoneZ argues that the less they are interfered with, the more creative children become as they grow up.
  • Darcel at The Mahogany Way celebrates creating with her kids.
  • Sally (aka The Ginger Ninja) of The Ginger Chronicles is continually inspired by her own mum and grandmother.
  • Just being creative is enough, says Nicki at Just Like Play, as she ponders her journey of nurturing a creative family.
  • Allurynn shares her creative family’s musings in her post “Creativity… at the Heart of it” on Moonlight Muse.
  • Laura at Authentic Parenting explores how being creative saves her sanity.
  • Mama is Inspired talks about how she puts an emphasis on the handmade in her home, especially in the holiday season.
  • Kirstin at Listen to the Squeak Inside shares with you several easy ways for busy mamas and dads to encourage their children to be creative every day.
  • Mila at Art Play Day always lived in her dreams, sleepwalking through life … now she is finding out what creativity is all about…. her inner child!
  • Sadhbh at Where Wishes Come From describes how picture books can nurture creativity in young children.
  • On womansart blog this week – nurturing a creative culture at home.

Guest Post: The Land of Colour

In a lovely synchronicity with the Carnival of Creative Mothers coming up on Wednesday, I got a surprise message this weekend from one of my Facebook page’s fans. She shared a beautiful story of self-discovery through birth art and she offered the story to me to share with others. It is my great pleasure to share her voice and her art with you now.

by Amanda Wolf Hara

I started a painting 6 years ago- I was reading about the transformative power of birth art- creating art to capture the energy of pregnancy.

I remember the power I felt creating such bold lines and stark contrasts.

The shape of her flowed. The huge swell of her belly, the small legs—because that’s how they felt! The breasts, shaped like mine, not just stock representations of breasts. I was proud of myself as she emerged!

Then I became unsure–afraid.

I didn’t want to go any further—I believed I would add too much and take away her potential & power. I wasn’t sure how to finish her head… Could I do a face? Would that ruin the rest of her?

So I hurriedly made an impersonal head shape–no face, and gave her black short hair–nothing like mine, but, I told myself, maybe we can go for elegant?? Then, did a quick grey background behind her, to fill the blank space & choosing grey, thinking I had to keep the monochromatic quality for her to be “art”.

It was my serious go at sophisticated expression. And I had my inner critic telling me my Birth Art had to be a certain kind of primal. Stark. High contrast. Simple.

But, I hated it.

The grey was depressing. It lacked any technique or skill.

I felt timid and trapped when I looked at her.

All this awesome power, and I caged her in with some hurried attempt to keep her subdued- safe- not “too much” so she would be accepted by her audience.

When I was done, I hung her- mostly out of a determination and obligation to display her.

To show off her powerful form.

But, I never revered her. Celebrated her.

She was in a room only I went into.

When we moved, I kept her in the closet.

I thought about taking off the canvas, rolling it up & storing it, and using the frame to stretch another canvas and create “better” art.

I avoided her for years.

But then, yesterday, I had to paint.

A canvas.

A piece came to mind- a design of the feminine using a prayer I found and love.

I searched my stacks for the right canvas.

I found Her. I looked at her again. Again, hating the grey.

I thought, “If only I could change it; cover the grey. Even just a white background has got to be better.
“But, no, that’s gotta be cheating. That breaks the “rules” of birth art. You can’t go back once it’s done- I’m not pregnant anymore-” blah blah blah went my list.

I kept staring at her, wishing the grey was different.

Then, a thought came like a tickle.
What if?
Why the hell not?
It was MY work, after all.
Why should this have to be a snapshot?
Why can’t I change it?
Why can’t this be a story??
Maybe an ongoing one, if I want?
Who’s going to know?
There are no birth art police, for heaven’s sake!

“Yeah!” I encouraged myself-
“Motherhood is an ongoing story!
I’ve developed, I’m constantly pregnant with myself- learning to birth myself in a myriad of ways!
I want this piece to be a tribute to my ongoing process, not just a one time shot!”

And as I looked at her, giving myself permission to alter her, she started coming alive.
She instantly began calling for bright pinks, blues, purple, red, yellow!
I began to “see” where colours wanted to be.

So, I took the dive and set up to do it.

And, I hesitated.

All those same fears I’ve carried with me.
What if I mess her up?
What if she gets lost under new paint?
What if go totally too wild and end up somewhere in this process where she is unrecognizable, and I exceeded my skill to be able to “fix” it?

What if I regret it??

All these questions are so very familiar.

I ask myself variations of them every time I feel myself called by my passions and intuition to do something.
It’s a contest between my Muse and my inner Critic.
My confidence and my insecurity.

Sometimes I let the Critic win.

So, brush full of white paint, ready to cover the grey, I paused. Waited. Debated.
Then looked at her.

I hated how sad I felt looking at her.
How limited.

I connected with my own feelings of my pregnancy: wanting to burst with empowerment, celebration, Creative force!
feeling obligated to bear the responsibility of all the emotional BS and baggage that surrounded me during that time.

I hated how she was stuck there.
In that time.
I had done amazing work- liberating myself from that energy. I had escaped into the land of Colour.

She needed to, too.

So, I took the plunge.
I did it.
Colours flowed onto her, taking shape and coming home.
She began to come alive!
She began to claim her power.
Celebrate it!
She suddenly became infused with all the vitality I wished I could have articulated before.

I revisited parts of her that never looked like me–I gave her wild curls, more hair, red lips, a blush on her cheeks, a colourful womb, and, as the colours spoke, a baby took shape.

I paused.

My daughter.


All the creative projects waiting inside me to be birthed and claimed as my Work.

She began to claim her power.
Celebrate it!
She suddenly became infused with all the vitality I wished I could have articulated before.

So, why didn’t I do this before?

I don’t think I had the skill- the experience- I have now- this wouldn’t have come out of me the way it did yesterday.

I don’t think I would have trusted her wisdom in calling for the colours the way I did yesterday.
No, I’m certain of it.

I needed time to develop.

To allow my exploration and development.

I look at her now, and instead of feeling like I covered up that first painting, I have the exhilarating feeling like I built a bridge.

Then to now.

All the colours and lines, considerations and the process are all there for me.

Not either/or like I believed.

So, I ask myself, “Is she done?”
I dunno.

I think, so…
For now….



Amanda Wolf Hara’s web site and etsy shop, Wild Priestess, is coming soon. She is an Artist, Writer, Single Mom (to an absolutely dazzling 5 yr old daughter!), Intuitive, and Shamanic Minister… among a few other things. She can be contacted for commission work.

Tuesday Tidbits: Breastfeeding and Menstruation

I actually meant to make this post last week following my LLL meeting, but the day (and the week) spiraled away from me and before I knew it, it was already Tuesday again! As I mentioned in my last post, at our meeting we started out talking about breastfeeding and intimacy, which led into a discussion of breastfeeding and fertility as well as many other interlocking topics. It reminded me of some saved items-to-blog-about, especially this post from Lucy Pearce:

I don’t know about you, but I rarely see anything written about breastfeeding and your moontime, I mean how mamas cope with the ups and downs of their cycle while giving to their little ones 24 hours a day? Is it just presumed that if you are breastfeeding then you don’t have a cycle? I know this is true for many women (I’ve known women not bleed for 2 years!) but for me, my bleeding time has always returned after a few months, despite exclusively breastfeeding.

Most days breastfeeding is such a joy, I love the oxytocin high I get when I snuggle with my little one and feed all night long- BUT the days and nights just before my moontime, I feel touched out, wound up by the constant demands and I JUST WANT MY OWN SPACE!

…I have some ‘rules’ that I adhere to on my Sacred 1st Bleeding Day- I DON’T cook, clean, wash or do any ‘housework’, I DON’T work (although occasionally you might find me peeping in on Facebook!), I DO eat simple nourishing foods, I DO some gentle exercise- sometimes a bit of yoga, more often a walk in nature, I have a period of SILENCE to listen in to my inner wisdom- sometimes that has to be a few mins with my eyes closed while feeding.

I know- I’m lucky to have a supportive husband who accepts this- I think because I would take ‘Sacred Days’ when he first met me, he knew the score! So he is happy to take on household duties and extra childcare on these days to support me- and in the bigger picture, by supporting me on these few days I am able to be there for him and my family the rest of the month! (This is possible as we both work part time, so we can support each other, share childcare and housework)

via Blood and Milk – Self-Care for Breastfeeding Mamas who are Menstruating | The Happy Womb.

My presentation about “moontime” was very well-received at the LLL of Missouri conference in 2013 and I’ll be doing an encore presentation in 2014. However, I did not include anything in it specifically about how to handle being a menstruating, breastfeeding woman—time to make some additions! And, speaking of Lucy Pearce, I’m right in the middle of her amazing new book The Rainbow Way, which is about mothering and creativity. I’m getting my blog post finalized for her Carnival of Creative Mothers and I’m just loving this book, this topic, and this creative life I am weaving with my family.

Speaking of creativity and mothering, a lot of my energy has been going into creating some new sculptures to be cast in pewter for my collaborative project with my free-range husband. I feel like I’m frequently patting myself on the back about them, but I just can’t help myself—I feel so pleased and really kind of impressed that we’re doing this. I didn’t know we could and yet…look!

1459073_10202506420051769_817650504_nNovember 2013 100 November 2013 101 The first and last photos are of new designs that I created after our fall women’s retreat this past Saturday. The last one (which I’m currently wearing!) reminds me of this quote that I read today for one of my classes:

“I can be a strong woman and laugh loudly and sing joyfully and dance wildly occasionally. I can imagine incredible things and weep if I need to.”

(woman speaking in the book To Make and Make Again: Feminist Ritual Thealogy, on why rituals matter)

And that reminded me of a lovely recent post by a friend about her sacred work:

She speaks the words and I hear the rumble
Rumbling, within me
It IS a calling
For it calls to me
Deep in my soul, my heart, my sleep
It is in every fiber of my being

via Sacred Work | Midwives, Doulas, Home Birth, OH MY!

Okay, so now I’ve moved totally away from my post theme and I don’t really have time to pull it back. Nor can I re-title it and start over, because it does, for now, I’ll bring it around the circle by mentioning that last week on my way to class, I listened to my favorite podcast, Voices of the Sacred Feminine. The first topic of the night was Women’s Spiritual Power by Hilary Hart (whose awesome sounding book Body of Wisdom went immediately on the top of my Amazon wishlist). She speaks about both menstruation and breastfeeding as powerful spiritual openings for women. Menstruation as a time of “cleaning out,” both emotionally and physically, not just for the mother, but for the whole family. She said mothers “process” the whole family’s emotions each month and clean the house, semi-metaphorically, for the family to renew and begin again. She spoke of breastfeeding as this relational, spiritual act that holds deep power. She also talked about birth and the power of birth as a creative, spiritual act. I enjoyed her thoughts because she doesn’t have children herself and nor does the host of the show and it was interesting to hear them touching on topics that I care about so much, but that they are viewing from somewhat of the “outside.”

The second topic of the night was the Sexual Politics of Meat. It may not sound that connected, but it did, in fact, tie right into my Birth Lessons from a Chicken article (in the podcast connections are made between the exploitation and domination of women and the sexual exploitation of female animals. In my article, I make the connection between the mothering and “birthing” behavior of the chicken and the birthing needs of women):

Then, one morning when my husband went to feed the chickens, he heard a funny noise. He looked at the broody hen and from beneath her, a fuzzy head appeared. Then two. Eventually, four. In this cold, cold weather at the wrong time of year with the wrong kind of feet and the wrong kind of eggs, she did it! We didn’t trust her, or believe in her. Our book and the experts didn’t either. However, her inherent mothering wisdom won out—it trumped us. At the risk of excessive personification, it truly seemed that she had believed in herself and trusted her instincts (or perhaps, that Nature believed in itself).

via Birth Lessons from a Chicken | Talk Birth.

Chain of Mothers

20131105-164320.jpg“I know myself linked by chains of fires,
to every woman who has kept a hearth.
In the resinous smoke
I smell hut, castle, cave,
mansion and hovel,
See in the shifting flame
my mother and grandmothers
out over the world.”
–Elsa Gidlo

“If we don’t take care of mothers, they can’t take care of their babies.” –Jeanne Driscoll

At our La Leche League meeting this month we started out talking about breastfeeding and intimacy. This led into a discussion about breastfeeding and fertility and moved on to decisions about family size as well as feelings about motherhood in general. We talked about postpartum adjustment, about the frustrations of parenting, and about the seemingly endless struggle between being with our babies and “getting things done.”

At the beginning of the week a mysterious box arrived in the mail and I opened it to discover a gigantic pile of vintage LLL publications that I had told another Leader several months ago that I would take off of her hands. When I opened it, my first 20131105-164327.jpgreaction was to feel slightly horrified—I’m in a declutter mode lately and have been thinking about getting rid of some of my own old papers and magazines, so taking on someone else’s stash seems like an ill-considered idea. However, then I started looking through the box and while I’m still shaking my head over my own tendency to hoard information, it is really a treasure. There are issues of the old LLL News (with headlines like: “Can La Leche League really be 20 years old?” [it is now pushing 60]) and New Beginnings and Missouri’s En Face newsletter, as well as old editions of the Leader journal, Leaven. While the formatting and style were very different and clearly read “vintage,” most of the content is remarkably timeless. The questions raised in the few issues I paged through could have come from my meetings today. The articles about mothers’ struggle to balance baby-raising and their own creative pursuits could have been written by the mothers who were at my local meeting just this month. This chain of mothers is timeless. I was amused by this “quiz” and read it aloud during the meeting:

20131105-164336.jpgAnd, the realistic answers…

20131105-164618.jpgAnd, my heart twinged at the cover images and the knowledge that my own nursing days will all too soon be a faded memory:


I felt a little bit like crying, looking at this stack and the voices of women represented. The moments now passed. The babies now grown. The stories now boxed up and forgotten. The chain of mothers with their chain of timeless stories and timeless voices have reached off many pages to me many times in my ten years as a parent though. They reached out at my LLL meeting this week and they reach out from blogs and online articles every day. When I shared the link to Noah’s miscarriage-birth story on Facebook on his birthday, I was touched to receive many comments about how our story had helped others and thanking me for my openness in writing and sharing it. I was in turn helped by reading the reflections of a mother’s reflections on the stillbirth journey she experienced:

Because something helped me hear the muffled words that sometimes bounced off the sheer rock cliffs of my pain. I began to hear the voices in the cemeteries I visited—voices of mothers who murmured that if I could just keep breathing long enough the tunneled darkness might begin to lift. I began to see the anguish of my cancer patients in terms of cells defying death. I began to connect myself to a humanity bound up with suffering—plague victims, war dead, road kill, religious martyrs, and most of all a long line of women who had keened over children in caskets.

via Hope Floating | Full Grown People.

I returned to a saved article from Birthing Beautiful Ideas:

Sometimes, boys, my motherhood is all too human.

All too imperfect. All too messy. All too flawed, terribly flawed.

All too unlike that specter of motherhood, that perfect, inhuman motherhood, that haunts the very concept of what it means to be a mother.

I, my children, am all too human.

Mother, all too mother.

Sometimes I try to look back on our journeys together, and my mind yearns to create a revisionary history of us, mother and children.

Erase the loud, the frenzied, the desperate. Amplify the sweet, the tender, the beautifully organized and attentive and calm.

But I know this is not me. I know this is not us. I know this is not what we have always been, or what we will always be.

I know that my motherhood has been indicative of a human, all too human person.

I know our intertwined histories betray any such revisionism.

Sometimes I’ve tuned you out when I could have, perhaps should have, been paying more attention to you. Sometimes I’ve played dumb games on my phone when I could have been playing engaging games with you. Sometimes I’ve encouraged an hour of glazed-eyed television watching just so that I could do something wholly unproductive and time-wasteful and selfish. Sometimes I’ve taken you to the playground so that you could play away from me: not with me.

Sometimes I’ve even begged, “Please, please, no one say ‘Mommy’ for ten whole minutes. Please.”

But do you know that there are times where I think that my whole body and soul are attuned to each of you?

I’ve raced out the front door to save you from running into the street, outpacing everyone who was fifty steps closer to you. I’ve jumped into a pool, clothes on, and pulled you out of the deep water, even though two people were already in the pool, moving to rescue you. I’ve plumbed the depths of my empathy, seen straight into what moves and shakes you, and quieted your inner beast just by understanding you…

via Mother, All Too Mother.

I also returned to one of my own past articles after having shared a story about it during my meeting:

At one point when my first son was a baby, I was trying to explain my “trapped” or bound feelings to my mother and she said something like, “well what would you rather be doing instead?” And, that was exactly it. I DIDN’T want to be doing something instead, I wanted to be doing something AND. I wanted to grind my corn with my baby. Before he was born I had work that I loved very much and that, to me, felt deeply important to the world. Motherhood required a radically re-defining of my sense of my self, my purpose on earth, and my reason for being. While I had been told I could bring my baby with me while continuing to teach volunteer trainings, I quickly found that it was incompatible for me—I felt like I was doing neither job well while bringing my baby with me and I had to “vote” for my baby and quit my work. While I felt like this was the right choice for my family, it felt like a tremendous personal sacrifice and I felt very restricted and “denied” in having to make it. With my first baby, I had to give up just about everything of my “old life” and it was a difficult and painful transition. When my second baby was born, it was much easier because I was already in “kid mode.” I’d already re-defined my identity to include motherhood and while I still chafed sometimes at the bounds of being bonded, they were now familiar to me…

via I just want to grind my corn! | Talk Birth.

One of my new pewter pendant sculptures is of a yoga tree pose. I describe her like this: My sculptures were created as a 3-D “journal” of pregnancy, birth, and motherhood and were created to communicate the deep experience of the childbearing year. I view Tree Pose as a fitting metaphor for motherhood—you must find your center to stay in balance (and balance can look lopsided, but still be rooted and strong). The Tree Pose metaphor is explained in more depth in this past post:

I also thought it might be of interest to the other mothers out there who continually teeter on the edge of finding that elusive and possibly-not-actually necessary “balance” in their work tasks and mothering tasks. I have a friend who describes balance not as making things “equal,” but as being like tree pose in yoga—you want one leg to be firm underneath you so you can stay standing up, but your two sides do not have to actually be “equal” in order to be balanced. Today, my balance is weighted towards the work-at-home tasks, but it will shift again and I’ll still be standing. Find your center. That is the mental reminder that instantly pulls my own literal tree pose into balance for me during my (formerly daily, now erratic) morning yoga. Find your center…

via The tensions and triumphs of work at home mothering | Talk Birth.

I took Alaina down to the woods with me for my daily spiritual practice and while there, I took this picture:

November 2013 023“I feel deeply connected with mothers everywhere. A million stand behind me, having birthed and raised their babies before I had my own. That current of Motherhood feels palpable. It’s a kind of ancestor work that makes sense: I want to honor them and ask for their wisdom. I want their energy to be a part of my life, not something that I access only when the veils are thin.” -Kira at Earth Mama Prime (via Pagan Families)