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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I wrote about the value of breastfeeding support here:

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

via Tuesday Tidbits: Birth Thoughts | Talk Birth.

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

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

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

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

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

via Vulnerability as a Strength | Mothering Arts.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

via Birth Witnesses | Talk Birth.

And, another regarding women’s rites of passage:

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

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

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

Happy Spring!

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Fourmonthababy

IMG_3119THIS BABY.

Sometimes that is all I can say. I hold him up and stare at him and show him to Mark: this baby. THIS BABY! He may be the most babiest of babies we’ve ever enjoyed.

It is hard to turn four months old for a baby who is born on Oct. 30th, because February only has 28 days. He managed though. Because, this baby!

I did a fourthmonthababy comparapic:

IMG_3143A month or so ago, I saw a picture of him that looked familiar and so I dug out one of my own baby pictures instead of the baby pictures of my other kids and did a side by side of both of us at two months old:

IMG_0608Yes, familiar!

So, I went ahead and did a four months one too!

IMG_3144Unfortunately, one thing this baby isn’t known for is sleeping without being held or in being put down in general, which makes it hard to write effusive blog posts about him (or any other blog posts at all). I jotted down the following notes in my notes app though…

He has more hair. Still blond. Sticks up. Twists heart. I’m trying not to miss anything. At same time, feel like I am missing things with my other kids—there are only so many hours in a day and I feel like I spend them on Tanner and my work mainly (poor Mark hardly rates on my “pay attention” scale at all!).

I use this meditation bracelet as I sit in my nursing chair feeling like I'm not getting "enough" done.

I use this meditation bracelet as I sit in my nursing chair feeling like I’m not getting “enough” done.

Alaina is still having a hard time with the adjustment/displacement, perhaps the hardest I’ve experienced with a kid. She can be relentless and exhausting and needy and also very intentionally push parental guilt buttons. She went with my mom to KS for four days recently to visit and I think the time and more focused attention was good for her. Speaking of heart-twisting though, watching her walk away in her little purple pants with her little skinny legs, I realized that I will never, personally spend four days alone with my four-year-old-daughter in my life. Feels sad.

My mom also crocheted her a mermaid tail!
Back to Tan-baby.

Has large levels of what we call: Intent to grab. This involves serious, devoted staring at an item, with spasmodic hand twitches towards it and a full-weight leaning body. ITG progressed over the last two weeks into actually grabbing and moderate reaching for things being handed to him, including skills in swiping/knocking things from counters, trying to chew laptop cords, and screeching with outrage when thwarted.

After having his neck and chest develop a horribly red, chapped, and chafed looking areas, I finally caved and started putting bibs on him to protect him from copious drool. I always feel kind of sad for babies wearing bibs for drool, like it is embarrassing somehow! He also super-freakishly chews own lips/tongue in a weird mouth movement that can only be seen to be believed (and he stops doing it as soon as you say anything or try to take a picture or video and instead smiles hugely).

Sleeps on me for naps and on my arm all night.

Rolls over both ways on 2/20. Plays Boo for first time on March 2—prior to this day, “boo’ing” was unamusing. March 2 produced laughter and kicks to keep playing the game.

We’ve been snowed in off and on for weeks. All hours filled with kids. Has been surprisingly “vacationish” feeling for a large part, with a sprinkle of oversaturation.

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Seeing if UPS would deliver them to Baba and Tom’s house

I’ve made myself feel sad in advance to see the easy intimacy and connection of my kids now at their wide age ranges because in my own experience with my much younger siblings, it totally ended (as do all life stages). Seems like this is how it will be “forever.”

He definitely tries to be one of kids—watches the “show” (but wants to be on or with me while watching).

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My babies have all gotten propped up in pillow nests so this prompted another comparapic:

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Boogerectomies are an ongoing issue. This baby has the most terrible booger problem of any baby I have ever known. We had to buy a special device on Amazon to extract them and it is miserable torture for us all, but his nasal passages actually get so occluded at times that he cannot breathe well enough to sleep or to nurse and then a traumatic boogerectomy is required.

He intentionally gives kisses by responding the word “kiiiiissssses!” with an open-mouthed dive at your cheek. Weighs 16 pounds according to step-on-step-off-step-on scale method. He also seems to be getting ready to sit up and will actually stay balanced in a sitting up position for a few seconds instead of immediately flopping over. He likes to hear Daddy play the guitar. And, he still seems to say “hi.” It is funny and startling, because you will look at him and say “hi” and he looks right at you and says “hi” back.

I feel like in the last month particularly we’ve really been watching him develop…how he is grabbing, reaching, noticing stuff. It feels like we are watching it as it actually happens for the first time. Mark and I both stood there looking at each other and at Tanner as we watched him purposefully reach out for something for the first time in his whole baby life. And, the entire family gathered around just a few days ago and watched him grab his feet for the first time when he was getting his diaper changed. I’m kind of surprised that we have time to watch him so intensely and pay so much attention to these changes. Is it because there are more witnesses than ever in the house? Is it because it feels like a treat to get to watch someone new’s development unfold one more time? I’m not sure, but I do know that he has more attention paid to each developmental milestone he reaches than any baby who has lived in our house before!

Tanner is now almost twice as old as he was when the three of us ventured off to class for the first time since his birth. Now, 8 weeks have passed and we successfully made it all the way through the session! The last week has been pretty stressful for me as I struggled to grade all the papers for both my classes as well as the final exams for the seated class, but I did it. Mainly like this:

IMG_3125We joke that he experiencing the world through eyebrows (in addition to mouthing things)…


What a most fabulous four-month old Tan Tan we have in our house!

Tuesday Tidbits: Placentas, Of Course

“…Lately under the lunar tide
Of a woman’s ocean, I work
My own sea-change:
Turning grains of sand to human eyes.
I daydream after breakfast
While the spirit of egg and toast
Knits together a length of bone
As fine as a wheatstalk.
Later, as I postpone weeding the garden
I will make two hands
That may tend a hundred gardens…”

–Barbara Kingsolver

via Two Birth Poems | Talk Birth.

February 2015 096This week I enjoyed this interesting article about the placenta:

The picture draws attention to an organ that, while ephemeral, once sustained us all. “The placenta really is a marvel of design,” says Barker. “It is the only organ designed to be disposed of after it performs its function.”

via Picture of the Week: Human Placenta.

I keep hoping to write a post about Tanner’s placenta and its velamentous cord insertion, but keep running out of time to develop it. Someday! I did write about the placentas in general and how to honor them in this past post:

…I think the reason the placenta might not get as much acknowledgement and appreciation as it deserves is because it then pales in comparison to the miracle of a whole new person suddenly showing up on the earth as well. Forget growing a new organ, I just gave birth to a new person!!!! And so, the placenta may be cast aside with hardly a glance or even much thought to its powerful role in pregnancy and the sustaining gift of life it offers.

via Placenta Magic | Talk Birth.

Not related to placentas, I was also extremely interested by this article about medicating women’s feelings:

…Women’s emotionality is a sign of health, not disease; it is a source of power. But we are under constant pressure to restrain our emotional lives. We have been taught to apologize for our tears, to suppress our anger and to fear being called hysterical.

via Medicating Women’s Feelings – NYTimes.com.

In my classes, I tell my students that it we must be aware of whether we are putting people into untenable situations and then expecting them to cope “normally.” When their coping with a completely abnormal, unbearable situation isn’t “normal behavior” then it is pathologized (and may be medicated). The thing that really needs to change on many occasions is the environment surrounding the stressed person, not the fact that person personally is experiencing stress.

It makes me think of my own past article about the “Of Course” response:

You feel healthy and beautiful, but now your doctor tells you that you’ve “failed” the GTT and are now “high risk,” of course, you feel stressed out and…like a high risk “patient.” You tried really hard to labor without medications, but you were “strapped down” with IV’s and continuous monitoring, of course, you felt like a trapped animal and like you had no other choices but medications. Of course, you feel upset and discouraged that your baby is ‘rejecting’ you and your breast after having been supplemented with bottles in the nursery. Of course, you are crying all the time and wondering if you are really cut out to be a mother, when your husband had to return to work after two days off and you are expected to be back at your job in five more weeks. And, so on and so forth.

“The ‘Of Course’ response affirms that those who feel crazy, powerless, alone, confused, or frustrated within unhealthy systems such as patriarchy are experiencing just what one would expect of them.”

via The Of COURSE response… | Talk Birth.

An example of what I mean can be found in the same article about medicating women:

But at what cost? I had a patient who called me from her office in tears, saying she needed to increase her antidepressant dosage because she couldn’t be seen crying at work. After dissecting why she was upset — her boss had betrayed and humiliated her in front of her staff — we decided that what was needed was calm confrontation, not more medication.

via Medicating Women’s Feelings – NYTimes.com.

Maybe it is okay to be upset when things are upsetting. What a revolutionary concept! ;)

Talk Birth passed the 800,000 hit mark earlier in the week. I plan to have a special giveaway to celebrate this milestone soon, but I have to finish up my end of session paper and exam grading work first.

Despite all the grading, I did manage to get some of our new line of mindfulness bracelets up on etsy this week though and I just love them!

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Wednesday Tidbits: Mothers Writing

…we write
to connect ourselves
to this circle
these circles
of women writing
each time we pose
pen or pencil
to paper.

–Wendy Judith Cutler

via Circles Writing | Talk Birth.

IMG_2864Writing our Womanrunes book feels like it unlocked something and I’ve got about eight other books in me now that want to be born! The challenge is organizing and focusing my time and energy in order to work on them (particularly since I’m on baby time now!). I also can’t forget that I’m also trying to write a dissertation this year. When I get frustrated by my pace, I try to keep in mind that the notes I jot down and the ideas I have and quotes I share and books I read and blog posts I write can all be, in their own ways, pieces of these evolving projects and are sort of like writing all the time. I’m looking forward to settling down with a free interview series about self-publishing, Be Your Own Publisher, from Lucy Pearce and her team at Womancraft Publishing. The speaker on the agenda for today addresses writing and motherhood. Last night, I also decided to sign up for the full course!

I wrote about mothering and writing in a past post for a the Rainbow Way blog carnival:

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.

via Releasing Our Butterflies | Talk Birth.

This week I read some powerful articles from other mothers writing. This piece from the author of After Birth is about the loneliness of new motherhood:

“To Marianne, Ari’s feminism doesn’t make sense. Reclaiming the singular power of the female body is too radical or too way-way old fashioned or some weird combination therein. That’s stale thinking on Marianne’s part, and a pretty major failure of imagination. Problem is, a feminism that “liberates” women from biology turns out to not actually behoove anyone. Women still aren’t equal, and if we buy into that old feminism, now we’ve also divorced ourselves from something primal and arguably vital, and signed ourselves up for some pretty extreme new forms of violence in the process—forceps, shaving, enemas, episiotomy, the lithotomy position, induction, surgery.

Unmediated physical connection to childbirth and nursing is wildly magical. You see a lot of backlash to that idea, like, I don’t buy the magical birth/nursing bullshit, and you can’t make me, to which, you know, OK, to each her own, and Godspeed. But Ari wants to get back that essential connection to the body…”

via After Birth: An interview about motherhood, feminism, and loneliness with novelist Elisa Albert.

And, this piece about the ordinary but powerful realities of mothering

…But in each of those moments, the ones that are heavy and the ones that are hard, here’s the thing that I have settled on: We keep mothering…

When You Just Want to Quit Being a Mom | Sarah Sandifer.

I also enjoyed this post about Facebook reality vs. real reality. I keep meaning to write a similar post. I like her example of too much FB being like too much sugar…

But plenty of research has surfaced over the last few years indicating the psychological effects of social media are rather costly. Too much time on Facebook has been likened to eating too much sugar. It’s easily digested with little to no intrinsic value, and it weighs in heavily on users self-confidence, stress levels, comparison and overall satisfaction with their lives.

via Don’t Judge a Life by Its Facebook | Fort Worth Moms Blog.

IMG_2947Past Talk Birth posts about writing:

I’ve spent a lifetime writing various essays in my head, nearly every day, but those words always “died” in me before they ever got out onto paper. After spending a full three years letting other women’s voices reach me through books and essays, and then six more years birthing the mother-writer within, I continue to feel an almost physical sense of relief and release whenever I sit down to write and to let my own voice be heard….

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

…The body of a writer

is a political action

with each swing of a letter

each truth written

the world is broken open…

–Sarah Jones

via A Writer’s Prayer | Talk Birth.

“As long as women are isolated one from the other, not allowed to offer other women the most personal accounts of their lives, they will not be part of any narratives of their own…women will be staving off destiny and not inviting or inventing or controlling it.” –Carolyn Heilbrun quoted in Sacred Circles

via I am a Story Woman | Talk Birth.

“I know that for me, writing has something in common with nursing the baby. I can’t do it if I don’t do it all the time. Put it aside to build up strength, the flow will dwindle and finally disappear. When the baby was at my breast ten times a day, I had a rare secret feeling that we were violating a law of nature, defying a form of entropy…One cannot hoard some things. The more I gave the baby, the more I had to give her, and had I tried to conserve myself, I would have found that I conserved nothing.” –Rosellen Brown

via Writing and Nursing | Talk Birth.IMG_2855

 

 

Tuesday Tidbits: Postpartum Recovery

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

via Plucking out the heart of mystery | Talk Birth.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Custom Mother woman blessing mandala wall art by SusanaTavares.

And, this new meditative coloring book sounds extremely neat!

Birth art, motherhood coloring book

Blissful Birth Coloring Book – These Little Joys.

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

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

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

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

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

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Thursday Tidbits: The Return

1800276_792912184104774_7325239257627050486_nTwo months after Tanner’s birth, I still feel like I’m “coming back” from this trip.

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And, speaking of returning, last night I went back to teaching my in-seat class. I am grateful to have a husband who accompanied me to keep the baby close on site for nursing as well as for helpful parents who rearranged their schedules/lives to take care of our other kids while we were gone.

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At class last night.

As I mentioned in a recent post, I’d mentally prepared to be “off” until January and now that it is January, I have a feeling of being sped up in an unpleasant way. So, I appreciated reading this essay and the reminder: you just had a baby.

You just had a baby.

So, let’s stop pretending like that didn’t just happen.

And let’s give you some grace and permission.

You don’t have to answer every email, every text or every invitation that comes your way. You don’t have to keep your house clean or make fancy dinners this week or plan your family vacation for the year. You don’t have to take your toddler to the dentist or figure out how to save for college right now…

You Just Had a Baby | Ashlee Gadd.

While I do keep up with a large variety of projects, ideas, communication, and relationships, there is not a single day that passes that I don’t drop a ball, forget something, let something go (intentionally or not), or let someone down. There are emails I don’t answer, calls I don’t take, and text messages I don’t respond to as well as laundry I don’t fold and piles of clutter than don’t get put away, not to mention all the blog posts I don’t write. This simply has to be okay. I’ve joked with friends and with Mark that my “word of the year” should actually be “ruthless,” meaning that I must be ruthlessly assessing of how I spend my time, ruthless about cutting out non-essentials. Every day involves a pile of choices and some of them are hard to choose between, or to not choose. I must be ruthless in my discernment—choosing wisely, choosing carefully, choosing mindfully. My real word of the year is “grow,” while at the same time the message I’ve frequently been picking up in moments of synchronicity and surprising overlap is “let go.” So, maybe I’ve actually got a trifecta of words this year!

I already wrote about the breastfeeding brain in a recent past post, but it appears that there are permanent changes to the maternal brain as well:

The artist Sarah Walker once told me that becoming a mother is like discovering the existence of a strange new room in the house where you already live. I always liked Walker’s description because it’s more precise than the shorthand most people use for life with a newborn: Everything changes…

The greatest brain changes occur with a mother’s first child, though it’s not clear whether a mother’s brain ever goes back to what it was like before childbirth, several neurologists told me. And yet brain changes aren’t limited to new moms…

via What Happens to a Woman’s Brain When She Becomes a Mother – The Atlantic.

And, speaking of mothers and their childbearing brains, Childbirth Connection has produced two phenomenal new resources. There is a report by Sarah Buckley on the Hormonal Physiology of Childbearing and a companion booklet for mothers that simplifies the research into a user-friendly booklet on the role of hormones in a healthy birth. Great resources for childbirth educators and doulas.

For more see: Hormonal Physiology of Childbearing | Transforming Maternity Care.

Pregnant birthing mama goddess birth art sculpture (doula, midwife, birth altar, childbirth)

 

Twomonthababy!

 

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Babies. I highly recommend them.

My little Tan Tan is two months old today. As I snuggle him, two quotes often flit through my mind. The first when I nuzzle his head: “…his softly furred scalp.” The second when I experience those moments of amazement and delight in him and the desire to carefully preserve exactly what this sweetness is like in this very moment: “…the last baby trails his sweet scent like a soft flag of surrender.”

Today, I looked them up so I could use them in this post and behold they both come from the same author and the exact same passage of The Poisonwood Bible.

“A mother’s body remembers her babies–the folds of soft flesh, the softly furred scalp against December 2014 055her nose. Each child has its own entreaties to body and soul. It’s the last one, though, that overtakes you. I can’t dare say I loved the others less, but my first three were all babies at once, and motherhood dismayed me entirely. . . . That’s how it is with the firstborn, no matter what kind of mother you are–rich, poor, frazzled half to death or sweetly content. A first child is your own best foot forward, and how you do cheer those little feet as they strike out. You examine every turn of flesh for precocity, and crow it to the world.

But the last one: the baby who trails her scent like a flag of surrender through your life when there will be no more coming after–oh, that’s love by a different name. She is the babe you hold in your arms for an hour after she’s gone to sleep. If you put her down in the crib, she might wake up changed and fly away. So instead you rock by the window, drinking the light from her skin, breathing her exhaled dreams. Your heart bays to the double crescent moons of closed lashes on her cheeks. She’s the one you can’t put down.”

― Barbara Kingsolver, The Poisonwood Bible

I know I already used them in a past post about Alaina (don’t judge!).

I guess another bonus of a bonus baby is that you get to have the sweetness of a “last baby” twice! I remember writing after I had Alaina that I finally felt about her the way I always imagined feeling about motherhood. It isn’t that I didn’t feel the deep love and attachment with my older boys, I definitely did. And, I had lots of moments of delight and cherishment with them as well, but I just don’t remember consciously enjoying their babyness so very much. I really very much enjoy the babyness of this new last baby.

December 2014 213We haven’t weighed him since seven weeks and he was a little over 12lbs then. Is certifiably adorbs. Is first baby to have smiled at me while nursing and awake at this young. Seems extra smiley in general for a baby this age, actually. And, has been successfully peeing in potty when I remember to take him. I haven’t exactly been taking off with EC this time around, but suddenly decided it was time to try. Here is a video of his heart-melting goos.

Showing off my Dragonfire trifle on Hobbit Day!

Showing off my Dragonfire trifle on Hobbit Day!

He seems even more mama-focused than my other babies. I pretty much still hold him 22 hours a day. He likes to smile at and look at other people and can sometimes be held by them while sleeping, but his limit on being carried around by most others is about five minutes. Sometimes with my mom he lasts longer than that if she can get him out of the kid-chaos-zone and into a quiet room and lay him down to talk with him one-on-one. I keep exclaiming about this to Mark, as in—“couldn’t you hold our other kids longer than five minutes at a time?”—when I remember that Tanner is the only baby for whom Mark has been home. I guess I didn’t notice how mama-fied the other babies was, because I was the only adult home with them during the days of their babyhoods. I did envision that with two parents home all the time, baby-care would be distributed more between us than with prior babies, but so far it isn’t working out that way. Its okay though, because…softly furred scalp.

Also, and perhaps this plays a part in the delight in the babyness of the baby, when you have multiple kids, sitting down and snuggling the baby feels like a break. It feels like delicious respite. It feels like vacation. When you have one baby and you hold it all the time and are on so constantly, sitting down with the baby feels like that is “all” you do. I remember wishing to be free to be a complete human again. Now, with three other complete-human kids needing things, sitting down with the baby does not feel like the ongoing work that it once may have felt.

He does like to sit on a knee and pump his legs with enthusiasm!

December 2014 154Some things also haven’t changed. As I posted to Facebook recently, this week I was on the elliptical while Tanner slept. I started talking about how I was looking forward to my oatmeal for breakfast and how I was fantasizing about eating it. Then I started laughing and telling the kids about how when Lann was a baby I used to wait all morning to eat my oatmeal, until he went down for his morning nap. I would walk around getting weaker and headachy and sort of depressed and imagining my bowl and how good it would be. “How sad is that?!”

Then, the realization: Oops! I guess nothing has really changed in 11 years!

(Except my oatmeal has lots more chocolate chips now…)

Here is a picture of Tanner “opening” his first gift on the Winter Solstice:

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And, here is a picture of how I got my paper grading work done this session:

December 2014 022I knocked them out too! I really wanted to be drinking Nutella cocoa, making Christmas decorations, and brainstorming awesome biz plans for 2015 and not doing any grading at all, but I also tried to hold appreciation and gratitude for this work that I can do from my kitchen table with my baby listening to my heartbeat at the very same time.

(You might not be able to tell in the pic, but I also had an earbud in one ear because I was listening to Red Tent facilitator training recordings at the same time too! That’s how I roll. Later, I listened to audiobooks at 1.5 speed while grading. There may be nothing better than being able to read a book AND do something else at the same time. Dream come true!)

I also asked Mark to take a picture of some of my favorite accomplishments of 2014. Baby, M.Div degree, and finishing the facilitation of a year-long Rise Up curriculum with my women’s circle:

December 2014 207And, here are a couple of more pix from Christmas, including my cute new doll (Alaina got one too) in her crocheted boho vest made by my talented mom as well as lovely new handmade wine goblets. Also, the boys in their made-by-my-mom beard hats and Alaina in her princess hat and my brother in his Cthulu hat (which was too awesome not to include!):

We also got to experience more cousin power on Christmas!

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