Where I am and what I’m doing

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Over the last year as more and more of my time, focus, and attention have shifted to Brigid’s Grove, my posts at Talk Birth have become more sporadic. Two things have happened this month that made me realize it is time to officially retire from my commitment to this blog. I was on the trampoline with my kids one beautiful spring afternoon. I like to lie on my back and look at the “hoop of the world” as the trees are framed by the safety net around the trampoline. As I laid there, it came to me with crystal clarity: “I need to retire as an LLL Leader.” I’ve been a Leader for ten years. My ability to continue to serve in the capacity and level to which I was accustomed and expect of myself was dramatically impacted by having our fourth child. I took a maternity leave and expected to pick back up more active involvement after his birth. He is almost eighteen months old now and not only have I not picked it back up, I have let it drop back to virtually nothing. And, I no longer see any remaining crack of space in my time or life to pick it back up. It was beautiful, important work. I gave a lot to it. I was very good at it. And, now I am done.

This weekend I went to a spring festival. While I was there, I met three beautiful women. One was a midwife, one was a student midwife, and one was a pregnant woman. We chatted and connected over postpartum care (including photos of clots), belly casting, and midwifery legislation. And, I realized I felt “far away” from it all. It felt like something distant or removed from me. Like, “oh yeah, this Molly. The one who is into all of this stuff, who is current, who knows, who is enthralled by conversations about birth.” It wasn’t that I wasn’t interested, per se, but that my interest felt detached, removed, like I was accessing something “old” rather than something current. And, in that moment I knew: Talk Birth is complete.

Talk Birth as a site will remain as a storehouse, resource, and database of my past posts and content and I may periodically update it or release from my draft posts from their dusty prison, but I will no longer be updating or maintaining it on a regular basis. I do envision putting all of my class outlines, articles, and information-based posts into a “Best Of” compendium or educator’s resource packet at some point, but I have no idea when that will rise to the top of my priority list.

When I wrote my first post here in 2007, intended solely for a local childbirth education client audience, I had no idea that Talk Birth would grow to have well over a million hits as well as give birth to my passion for priestessing and for goddess art, and lead me into the fulfilling work I am now doing.

My heart has been in service to women and women’s empowerment work since before I was even a legal adult. How I express this service has gone through several evolutions. The time has come for me to lay aside this birth-oriented expression of my commitment to women and to continue to pour my heart into what I offer through Brigid’s Grove. Feel free to join me there.12744433_10208840231073086_7611516801155821755_n

 

Eighteenmonthababy!

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The serious little face. The fishing pole. The lactivist-baby t. The tiny Crocs. The blond hair.

This is what an eighteenmonthababy looks like.

I feel inspired to share a quick update post about our little Tan Tan and his adventures in becoming March 2016 012Boy instead of Baby. He is adding new words constantly. I cannot keep up with them all. We’ve skipped right past the stage at which I can keep a list of the words he knows how to say, because he can say anything (albeit with limited range of enunciation. So, most words are not clear, but you can ask him to say anything or repeat anything and he will do it. He will also follow instructions like, “go find a dinosaur and bring it to me.”) He is also starting to do a few two word combinations: “big car,” “yes, dog,” “Daddy, outside.” We are lucky in that he’s been able to shake his head for yes and no for many months now, which eliminates lots of frustration and confusion in communicating with someone with limited vocabulary. This month he has begun verbally saying, “yeah” as well though.

He adores going outside and would live outside all day long, in whatever weather, if he could. He April 2016 043loves playing on the trampoline and runs around on it in impossibly fast circles with blond hair sticking straight up all around his head. He also runs very fast inside and there his hair flops up and down in an adorable fashion. He has begun using the potty with some regularity on his own accord. Often wakes up with a dry diaper and will even pull at his pants saying, “pee pee, potty,” sometimes.

He has to do a lot of keeping up with everyone in the house and has a tendency to run after me/get left behind while I’m doing whatever it is that needs my attention. Falls asleep for nap each day in Ergo and sleeps by my leg in the bed, waking instantly if I try to get up without him.

Fascinated by the cats and enjoys the fact that we have baby kitties right now for him to study. Stares with delight. Says, “wow!” and “yay!” and “uh oh” liberally and has a most indescribable twinkle in his eye + the most impish grins and expressions of any toddler I’ve ever seen. Climbs on stuff. Jumps off stuff. Uses my body as jungle gym. Is a wrestling act to even keep him in the air while holding him, as he writhes and twists and climbs my body instead of just sitting on my him. Wants to be on counters and tables March 2016 007constantly. Desperate to “help” with all business elements like packing orders and attaching jump rings. It is hard to take good pictures of him because he is constantly in motion. I’m not sure if it is the fact that I’m older than I used to be, or that I have four kids now, or that I have a business to run, but it is extraordinarily tiring to parent this small delightful whirlwind of a person. I feel literally worn out and worn down by him at the end of every day. It is physically exhausting just to hold him. And, even exhausting and a physical strain on my body just to nurse him while wrestling his other hand around from my other nipple and holding myself up as he flops from side to side, kicks and twists his legs, stands up, etc. while also nursing. He has a huge presence in life and in our family. He is good at “rolling with it” in terms of noise and chaos and people suddenly swinging him up into the air. He is funny and clever and a tiny problem solver and “engineer.”

He also loves his shovel.

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I can hardly believe he is one and half already and yet, he is so here with who and how he is, I forgot that he hasn’t always been in our family.

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Talk Books: Pregnancy, Childbirth, and the Newborn

March 2016 121Several months ago, I received an email from one of my former college students. His wife was newly pregnant and they had several specific questions. They asked for my help and recommendations with where to go for answers and without hesitation, I suggested a book: Pregnancy, Childbirth, and the Newborn. I was confident that not only would they find the answers they sought in the book, but also reliable, practical, helpful answers to questions they haven’t even thought to ask yet.

Co-authored by a foremost authority in childbirth and doula education, Penny Simkin, Pregnancy, Childbirth, and the Newborn was one of the first books I bought as a new childbirth educator in 2005. Now, newly revised and updated, the book has a companion website packed with resources to help you have a healthy pregnancy, a rewarding birth, and a nurturing postpartum.

One of the things I’ve always enjoyed about this book as a wonderful resource for childbirth educators are the line March 2016 119drawings illustrating a variety of positions and concepts. This new fifth edition has lots of black and white photos as well. The fact that the book is co-authored by a world-renowned doula, a nurse/lactation consultant, a nurse/childbirth educator, a social worker, and a physical therapist, means it is an interdisciplinary resource benefiting from the skills and professional experience of each co-author. Childbirth educators and doulas as well as pregnant couples will want to check out the companion website which has a plethora of pdf handouts available on numerous topics including comfort techniques, nutrition, and parental leave.

Evidence-based, comprehensive, and encouraging, Pregnancy, Childbirth, and the Newborn is an ideal companion for both childbirth professionals and expectant parents.


Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Newborn is published by Meadowbrook Press, an award-winning publisher specializing in pregnancy & childbirth, baby names, parenting & childcare, and children’s books & poetry: Meadowbrook Press. Pregnancy, Childbirth, and the Newborn

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

Product Review: Robeez Soft Sole Boots

My almost 18 month old has a favorite pair of shoes and will rarely wear anything but them: a hand-me-down pair of Robeez soft leather shoes with cute little puppies on them. My daughter wore her favorite Robeez with dragons on them and my older son had a favorite pair with trains. These shoes are inextricably linked with toddlerhood to me–the small hand reaching up to join mine and then setting forth on uneven terrain with an extra bounce of confidence in the step, once securely hand in hand. So, when I had a chance to review some fabulous new Robeez soft leather boots, I jumped at the chance! Available in multiple sizes and colors, these little boots are quite simply: beautiful.

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Soft and flexible, they mold to my toddler’s feet, protecting them from his adventurous terrain and yet allowing them full range of motion so important for healthy foot development. For our family, Robeez shoes have been all-terrain, all-weather, sometimes-even-napped-in, childhood favorites. All of our kids have liked to go barefoot whenever possible and we find that Robeez are the next closest thing.

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The fur-lined interior of the boots gives them both extra comfort as well as extra protection against wear, meaning they will last for a long time. Plus, did I mention cute?!

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These boots have a non-slip suede outsole which helps prevent slipping. They also have an elasticized ankle band which does a great job keeps the boots on securely.
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The boots in my photos above are the Brown Classic Baby Boots. Giveaway now closed. I’m excited to have another pair of Robeez boots to give away as well! The giveaway pair are the Cozy Ankle style instead, which have a suede upper and faux-fur lining.

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Size 12-18 months, there are several ways to enter to win this pair of Brown Cozy Ankle Boots for your own precious little one.

  • Leave a comment letting me know why you’d like to win these boots!
  • Follow Talk Birth on Facebook and leave a comment on the picture I post there.
  • For a bonus entry, share this post on social media (and leave a comment letting me know you did so).

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Giveaway is open until March 28th. Good luck! These are certifiably adorable!

Disclosure: I received a complimentary pair of these boots for review purposes. All photos in this review were taken by me of the boots I received.

Tuesday Tidbits: International Women’s Day

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Today is International Women’s Day! In addition to my work online and face-to-face with women as well as with the products offered by our shop, I support two resources that help make every day “international women’s day.” I sponsor a woman through Women for Women International and I keep multiple microloans going at Kiva – Loans that change lives. We started making Kiva loans in 2012 when we covered economic freedom in the Cakes for the Queen of Heaven feminist spirituality class I was teaching at the time. We decided to put our money where our mouths were and make a collective loan, from our women’s circle to a women’s circle somewhere else in the world. We collected $50 from the members of the circle and I made two microloans to two different women’s groups, both in Senegal. A few more women contributed in later months, I contributed another $25 of my own and we got a $25 referral credit, and I’ve steadily kept microloans going there ever since, loaning a total of $650 to 26 different women’s groups in 19 countries since we began. The cool thing is that this did not cost me $650, instead it is the same, original money from that long-ago Cakes class that I keep relending as soon as my Kiva account builds up to $25 in repayments. There are 7 loans currently going, from what was originally only $50. Just a drop in the bucket. I encourage you to do this too!

More International Women’s Day Resources:

A collection of recent women’s circle-oriented blog posts and resources:12772035_1711717539040461_2725422556128238837_o

Past posts about Women’s Day:

“The minute my child was born, I was reborn as a feminist. It’s so incredible what women can do…Birthing naturally, as most women do around the globe, is a superhuman act. You leave behind the comforts of being human and plunge back into being an animal. My friend’s partner said, ‘Birth is like going for a swim in the ocean. Will there be a riptide? A big storm? Or will it just be a beautiful, sunny little dip?’ Its indeterminate length, the mystery of its process, is so much a part of the nature of birth. The regimentation of a hospital birth that wants to make it happen and use their gizmos to maximum effect is counter to birth in general.”

–Ani DiFranco interviewed in Mothering magazine, May/June 2008

Source: International Women’s Day, Birth Activism, and Feminism | Talk Birth

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Home from the Beach!

12783712_1710227505856131_31295821355430542_oSo, I posted that I’d finished my dissertation and then I ran away to the beach and haven’t posted since! We’ve been wanting to take a family vacation to Dauphin Island for several years now. Last year, Tanner was an infant, so we didn’t do it. The year before I was pregnant with him and it didn’t seem like a good time to take a long car trip. We have been feeling the itch for a family adventure for a while and then we found out how much lower the beach house rates are in the winter and in January we decided to just go for it. We went for a week at the end of February. While we have tight bonds with Pismo Beach on California’s central coast, Dauphin Island, Alabama is the closest ocean-access point within driving distance for us from our beloved but landlocked Missouri, so that was the clear choice. Paying for gas and driving six people somewhere is much less expensive than flying six people to California! Aside from a very short stop at Castaway Cay on the Disney Cruise Mark and I went on in 2001, we’ve never been to an island before, nor have we seen or experienced the Gulf of Mexico.

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We were worried about how Tanner would handle the drive, so we split the trip there into two parts, but on the way back we just powered through and did the whole drive in one day (it is about 11 hours if you don’t stop, but took us 14 to get home due to one dinnertime stop and then a disastrous accidental wrong turn when we were only one hour from home! And, yes, somehow, it is actually possible to be in five states all in one day!). Tanner did an amazing job, no tears and just kind of accepting of his state of confinement. I sat in the back seat with him the whole time, crammed between two car seats, unable to face my body fully forward and instead having to sit sideways. Was it worth it? YES! Not only did we feel like brave, intrepid, adventurous explorers doing cool things with our family, but we had a beautiful and fun and unforgettable time together on the island. The weather was quite variable with the kids able to be in just bathing suits the first two days, the wind becoming so ferocious the following day that we couldn’t really go out (and the house literally shook the whole night!), to icy gusts of wind that required down coats and hats (and horrible windburn for Mark on his hands). We ate fresh crab legs and shrimp, bought amazing cinnamon rolls and french bread, and ate one dinner of delicious whiting that Mark caught in the ocean. We petted stingrays at the aquarium, drove back over the thrilling bridge to the mainland and ate dinner at Golden Corral in Mobile, AL (and got our week’s groceries at Wal-Mart). We stopped at a bayside park and all went on the swings together. We spent hours upon hours walking on the beach and picking up shells, just like we imagined. Except for Mark, we also all got fevers and coughs and sinus headaches to varying degrees, sprinkled throughout the trip. Tanner was extremely clingy the entire time and I spent what felt like 12 hours a day wearing him in the Ergo and nursing him at the same time (in addition to the coughing, he is also getting what seems to be six new teeth at once!).

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Excited about stingrays!

I became obsessed with taking full moon, sunrise, and sunset pictures with my new camera and not only did I not succeed, I ended up annoying Mark by fretting over the photos instead of enjoying the moment.

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We built sand castles and dug holes and sketched a labyrinth in the sand with our toes and walked it. I made a goddess in the sand and spent hours memorizing the charge of the goddess poem and reciting it on the beach into the hair of my dozing baby.

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We took boxes of goddesses and Womanrunes books with us and mailed them to people around the world from the tiny island post office (hope they all make it to their destinations!). I got sidetracked by Facebook advertising campaigns that weren’t working. We baked pound cake and ate raspberry sorbet. We went to bed by 10:00 and were up by 6:00 to watch the sun rise.

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We were very often the only people within sight on the beach. We had trouble differentiating whether that made us fools or geniuses, but there is nothing like a broad open stretch of sand and sea, with only your most treasured loved ones around you.

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The Return from a trip is often exhausting, not just the travel day, but the re-integrating into “real life,” especially when it doesn’t slow down (and all my students submitted their final papers Sunday night!) Maybe I will come back and do a more detailed recap post with more pictures some other day, but I’m betting that this is all I’ve got!

I have the Red Tent and Womanspirit programs beginning on March 21st and I also go back to teaching at the Fort that same day. I have a training manual to finish writing, a website to update, and spring ritual kits to finish creating. The kids are still coughing and I’m sitting in my bed next to my sleeping baby writing this post when I really should be grading papers. And, I’m so, so glad we carved out the time and space to be adventurous together anyway. It was totally worth it.

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After the third try to take awesome priestess robe beach pictures I gave up and asked Mark to take a reality mamapriestess beach picture instead.

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“I and so many other mothers before me have fully lived this ritual of connection and sustenance. We are the Life Givers, and we are holy in our work.”

–Jennifer Pratt-Walker (in SageWoman magazine)

Thursday Tidbits: Everyday Sheroism in Birth and Life

February 2016 005Do you know how many days have gone by in which I’ve said: “well, I didn’t write my dissertation today?”

This past Monday I got to say: I *DID* WRITE MY DISSERTATION TODAY!!!!!!!!!

It may be a first draft rather than a final submission, depending on suggestions from the reviewers, but there is a huge qualitative difference between someone who is writing a dissertation and someone who has submitted a dissertation and who might need to make revisions. It is 187 pages and 88,000 words and involves one year of original research with 100 pages of collated research results. Five years of classes, study, and contemplation, with also doubling my amount of offspring during this time. I grew this dissertation project at the same time I was growing Tanner from a tiny newborn to a walking, talking toddler. And, I feel like I just pushed out the biggest baby of my life. I cannot even describe the energy expenditure this required of me. I feel so satisfied and very, very proud of myself.

At Red Tent last week, when we passed the rattle, we each had a moment to share something we needed to be “compassionately witnessed.” After making a good effort at doing daily dissertation work throughout December, I’ve been semi-half-hearted on it since, averaging one “good” day of intensive work on it per week. I was hoping to have it finished before we go on a trip this month, but I was feeling so strained and drained and tense that adding it to my to-do list felt almost cruel and possibly ridiculous. When it was my turn for compassionate witness, I shared with the circle that I had reached a point in which I could no longer distinguish whether finishing my dissertation was self-care or self-harm.

After making manifestation bracelets together at Red Tent.

After making manifestation bracelets together at Red Tent.

Now, in hindsight, I recognize the “transition” stage. I’ve known for a while now that it is part of my personal process with big projects to have to be able to have a time and a place in which I am able to say, I don’t know if I can do this. And, to have that fear and self-doubt, and vulnerability simply witnessed. And, then, do that thing anyway. It is hard to find a space in which this is “allowed.” Very often well-meaning suggestions are to cut myself slack, to lower my expectations, or to give myself a break. I have discovered that just like these comments are not actually helpful to a woman in labor, they are not helpful to me in “labor” with other big projects either. In fact, I think there is a secret “dark” side to many popular self-care messages, primarily because what we sometimes might pass off as “self-care” is actually a “shadow comfort” (to borrow Jen Louden’s term) and is actually a meanings of inhibiting ourselves, holding ourselves back, or sabotaging ourselves (or those around us, when we offer the “out” of quitting or not following through…of letting ourselves down). When I was able to let out the fear and doubt, only for a few minutes, and have it simply received, it was as if something unlocked within me and suddenly I knew I had it in me after all. Only a few days later, after several focused bursts of intense writing, I submitted my completed project.

Anyway, a long story just to make this point: I felt SO good after submitting it. I may never have been so proud of myself. I was giddy, thrilled, exhilarated, excited, and exuberant. “What if I had QUIT?!” I yelled, “then I would never have gotten to feel like THIS!” When I lower expectations, sure, I might meet them, but when I keep my expectations high…and meet them. There is nothing that can replace that feeling. And, guess what, it keeps stretching me to reach just a little higher and a little higher. And yes, the self-harm shadow side of continuous life-stretching is that I can be trapped into “striving and striving and never arriving,” but the self-care amazing life side, is that I prove to myself that I can do incredible things and that I accomplish that which may have felt impossible for a time.

Bringing it back to birth, I read this post about ten things not to say to a woman in labor and the first reminded me of my own big “push” to finish the dissertation and how compassionate witness is infinitely more valuable than sympathetic shadow comfort enabling:

Scenario 1: If a woman is trying to make a rational and educated decision while in labor (a very difficult thing to do when in pain!) about whether or not to get an epidural (which is a big deal, by the way) by saying “you don’t have to be a hero” is playing to her emotions and vulnerability which isn’t fair. If she’s questioning this choice instead of immediately signing up for anesthesia, she likely has a reason for the hesitation. I guarantee she doesn’t want an unmedicated birth to become “a hero”. Maybe she was hoping for a natural birth, or wants to reduce the chance of further interventions like pitocin, or maybe she’s wanting the best start for her baby. I don’t know. But by saying “you don’t have to be a hero” to help her make a decision is basically blowing her off when she is in a very vulnerable position. It’s a low blow.

Source: 10 Things to NEVER Say to a Woman in Labor | Mother Rising

And, here’s the deal…women in labor and postpartum are heroes. They are incredible. They are amazing. We should never deny them that knowledge, particularly if all we are offering in return is a patronizing platitude masquerading as compassion. This “One Day Young” photo project captures that sheroism:

These goddesses headed to a WIC peer counselor's office this week.

These goddesses headed to a WIC peer counselor’s office this week.

“In those first 24 hours, it’s like this warrior comes out in women,” says Jenny. “They gain this inner strength to protect the child and you can see it in the photos. “They’re like those heroic pictures of soldiers on the battlefield or the footballer after the match, still full of the adrenaline of achievement. This moment isn’t often captured in women, but what they’ve just achieved is just as important as that goal or that battle, and that moment deserves to be recorded and celebrated in the public arena.”

Source: Empowering Photo Project ‘One Day Young’ Reassures Women That Childbirth Is Nothing To Fear

At the same time, birth can be very hard work and the recovery can be intense and long-lasting. Culturally, while we may minimize, invalidate or deny women’s power, strength, and amazingness in birth, we also often minimize, invalidate, and deny their vulnerability after birth.

We don’t talk about postpartum pain — bleeding, stitches, not being able to stand upright, or easily walk around. We don’t talk about the struggles of early breastfeeding: cracked and bleeding nipples, mastitis, and worries about producing enough milk. We are only beginning to talk about postpartum depression and anxiety. And it almost seems as if new fathers and adoptive parents don’t matter at all. The rhetoric from those who don’t want change paint a rosy picture of motherhood, but the realities of these anti-family policies are much more grim. In a recent TED talk, I share a number of heart-wrenching personal stories from women who have suffered as a result of having to return to work too soon.

Source: Maternity Leave Policy Postpartum Pain – Susan Crowe

After submitting my dissertation, I was heard to say that I felt like I needed a long nap and maybe several large gifts. After the intensity and unpredictability of giving birth, a ceremony might be in order, either a sealing ceremony like I experienced, or a birth reclaiming ceremony as is described in this article:

“I wasn’t at the birth, but it was super quick and the mother felt traumatised. I came in on a Monday, and the baby looked a little pinched. I asked the mother about feeding and she said she thought it was going okay. I offered to change the baby’s nappy – I took it off and it was bone dry. I asked how long it had been on and it was over 12 hours. The maternal health nurse was due over that day, so we had a bit of time to suss what was going on, since I was a breastfeeding counsellor as well. From chatting, we realised her milk had not come in and the baby was clearly not getting anything.

The mother was super stressed and her baby was about a week old — and clearly not in fabulous shape. I talked about a birth reclaiming ceremony and we ran her a lovely warm bath. It was daytime, so we closed the curtains and played soft music. As she climbed into the bath, I saw her high, tense shoulders drop right down and she let out a big sigh. When she was ready, I stripped her baby, and placed the baby on her chest. We sat quietly, not saying a word. The mother started to cry, then sob, totally overwhelmed by the responsibility of being a parent and not doing a good enough job. All the while, looking at her sleeping baby, holding her.

As the mother eventually finished crying… her milk started to roll down her breasts. She looked at me, so surprised, and said, “Is that what its meant to look like?”

Source: Birth Reclaiming Ceremony – Could It Help You Heal? | BellyBelly

Finally, I like to share this link. I haven’t actually watched any of these, but for people who like TED Talks, this sounds like an interesting round-up!

11 TED Talks for Pregnancy and Birth — Tulsa Birth Doula, Bethanie Verduzco, CD(DONA) – Hello Sunshine Birth Services

February 2016 022What else is up with me this week:

  • The etsy shop is on limited inventory until March 1.
  • I’ve been working on the materials kits for both the Red Tent Initiation and Womanspirit Initiation courses that I have coming up. They’re beautiful and I’m so proud of both of them. Every time I pack up a kit, I feel so thrilled. Both trainings begin March 21st and still have spaces available for registration if you’re interested!

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