Archive | March 2011

Labor Pictures

I’ve mentioned before that I was disappointed not to have any birth pictures from my last baby. What I do have is quite a few labor pictures and I want to share them in a post since labor pictures don’t often get as much “glory” as birth pictures 🙂 I didn’t have any birth pictures with my first son either, though we have several immediately after as was my preference at the time. I have two labor pictures with him, this one, taken in fairly early labor:

Trying to decide whether or not this is it!

Then, my mom took this one of me after I got out of the shower. I was going to try to go to bed, because the birth center staff seemed pretty sure I wasn’t really in labor and should just get some rest. This picture was taken about 5-6 hours before he was born:

With my second son, my mom took a great series of birth pictures as he was emerging. They’re really good and step by step as he comes out—however, the angle is a very direct “rear view” that I don’t feel comfortable putting on the internet! With that birth, there is only one picture from the actual labor (and, it is a nice active labor picture that isn’t too graphic and it has actually been printed in several publications):

About 30 minutes before giving birth to second baby

I like how you can see all of my older son’s playdoh creations in the foreground. That’s homebirth for you!

With my daughter, my mom took a series of labor pictures and while I’m sad not to have birth pictures too, I like the story that these pictures tell:

Taken during the morning of birthing day–wanted one last “belly picture” of pregnancy.

Spent a lot of time on the ball with Mark at my side

My birth nest is all ready! (on floor outside bathroom) Notice that my birth altar is set up nearby.

More time on the ball…

Proving I can still smile one hour before she is born! (+ advertising my alma mater)

Accidentally got trapped on floor in horrible and painful position.

The closer I get to having a baby, the nearer to the floor I get (hands and knees is right for me)

Switched into ridiculous too-small PJ shirt right before pushing.

She’s here! Closest thing to a birth picture that we got.

First nursing

Birth Story Wordle

I’ve done Wordle images before using the text of this blog, but I didn’t realize that you could make one using only one particular post. A couple of nights ago when I was up late with the baby, I made one using Alaina’s short birth story! I made it the day before her two month birthday—I also took her out to show her the supermoon 🙂 I like it—I find it meaningful that my husband’s name is the second largest word after the word “birth.” I also find it significant that the word baby is above the word birth, since for me this time, the baby ranked above the birth in my emotional experience of birthing. In an ultimate reckoning, The baby is always more important than the birth, of course, but my feelings about the two are usually interlocked and go hand and hand and I believe that birth has inherent value as an experience—this time I felt exhilirated about the baby and then secondarily had separate feelings about the experience of birth.

Rapturous Acts

I had included this quote in my recent update post, but decided it edit that one for length and give this its own post.  From the book, The Blue Jay’s Dance: Growing, bearing, mothering, or fathering, supporting, and at last letting go…are powerful and mundane creative acts that rapturously suck up whole chunks of life. –Louise Erdrich

I went to a retreat yesterday and one of my friends said of her own baby that, “I am his everything.” That is an excellent description of that mother-baby unity that I touched on in my last post. With Alaina right now, I am everything she needs. I am her habitat. I am her gauge for the world around her and also for her own self—I’ve pointed out to the boys before how if she gets startled and her arms go out, she immediately searches for my eyes, looking for my signal (calmness) that everything is fine and the startle is unnecessary. She uses me and my responses to her to understand the world (and herself). If she gets fussy when someone else is holding her, as soon as I take her back, she rides along happily peeking over my shoulder—balance of her world restored. Her eyes follow me when I am walking around. I feel like I have savored all of my babies, but I feel more intensely aware this time around how short this time period is—this time of complete symbiosis and dependence. I also remember feeling more confused by my first baby and I remember worrying and worrying about, “what if he cries?” I think I thought he might cry and I’d never be able to calm him back down or something? I’m not really sure what that was about, but I remember feeling like crying = bad mother. With Alaina, I am 100% confident that she will not keep crying (duh). I mentioned before that she doesn’t cry much, but last night she had a fussy spell after our second day in a row being away from home all day, and I had no doubt at all that her trust in me to care for her would calm the fussy (and it did). Oh, and, she also laughed at me for the first time last night! It is amazing to be someone’s whole world and it just feels extra special this time around. This morning when I was playing with her and she was smiling with her whole body (love that), I felt like our connection is so pure and basic that it feels almost holy. I have to confess that she makes me feel like having another baby—how can I not do this again?! I’m still pretty certain we won’t have any more children, but I surprise myself by frequent thoughts about maybe ONE more…

My boys still think I’m pretty awesome and prefer being with me to pretty much anything else (they do adore their grandpa and he is their most fun person to hang out with), but they really like me a whole bunch and I still have the power to make their worlds “right” as well. I enjoy their company and their wild, funny, enthusiastic, creative, complicated personalities and I feel like they are the treasures of my heart. I also feel like my love for them is deeper in a way (or more developed, maybe?) than it was when they were babies, because we are so invested in each other. I know them so well and we’ve had so much life together, I can’t imagine not having them. I can still remember not having Alaina and I can remember how I thought I may never get to have another baby ever again and I’m really enjoying this very uncomplicated, unconditional, sweet, sacred love of and for a little baby again.

I am currently reading and very much enjoying a book called She Changes: Re-imagining the Divine in the World and the author critiques the foundations of modern philosophy as being based on independence from others as the goal/highest state  as well as critiquing spiritual traditions that see attachment as a flaw and a state to be transcended (the book is based on process philosophy instead). She describes an anecdote how a fellow student wrote a paper making a case for “the existence of other minds” and no one else in her class other than her seemed to find it bizarre. She discusses Descartes and his “I think, therefore I am” conclusion as inherently flawed saying that before Descartes could articulate this thought, “he reached out his hand for his mother.” It is relationship, not thought that forms our basis for life and our experience of reality.

In her habitat ("the maternal nest")

I’m getting ready to start teaching in-seat again at the end of this week. I’m getting nervous about it, because we’re not really ready for separation yet, even for short times. The class is 5 hours and since I’m the teacher, I can give breaks when I need to. My husband is going to stay in town with all the kids—I know this sounds slightly crazy, but I have to know she can get to me if she needs me AND we also always have a Wal-Mart list, so he’s going to do that each week (the boys love to go to WM with him, because he has a tendency to say yes to new toys, candy, and weird food for dinner). The class only lasts 8 weeks and one week is a midterm and one a final, which usually means dismissal a bit early those nights. I guess it is a little strange to be worried about it, because many mothers go back to work when their babies are 6 weeks old and for 40 hours at a time. I’m getting all concerned about only working 5 hours once a week! (with a baby lurking in the parking lot with my husband!) But, still, it is on my mind…a LOT.

I’m going to remain on leave from teaching birth classes and I’m also strongly considering not resuming breastfeeding support group meetings—just stick with phone/email help and no in-person group for a while. I do have another project brewing, but I’m not going to write about it until I know if it is going to work out or not!


I keep wanting to write an update post about Alaina and never finding enough moments in one day in which to do it—I joked the other day about, “instead of taking care of your sweet little self, I want to write a blog post about taking care of your sweet little self!” ;-D Overall, I’m surprised by how easy she is to take care of. I love having a baby again—I’m surprised I ever found it hard to take care of a baby! Her needs are very simple and easy to meet and it just isn’t very complicated to figure her out. Older kids are a different story altogether! Though, taking care of her while taking care of my other kids adds a different level of challenge and isn’t itself actually easy. But, caring for her when considered on its own is very easy and natural and good. I was concerned about “starting over” and taking care of a baby all over again and I’m pleased to discover anew how much I love having a baby.

She does have an interesting habit of being awake until about 1:00 a.m. every night. Not sure what is up with that and keep puzzling over changing the pattern. With my first baby, I remember remarking that at night I felt in “perfect harmony” with him, but during the day I found him somewhat confusing (and also kind of fussy/unsettled). With Alaina, I feel in perfect daytime harmony with her, but the night is the confusing time. It is also hard to write about her without comparing her to my other babies—I’d like to consider each child on their own, rather than using the others as a yardstick, but I also think it is a natural thing to do. I feel like she is my happiest baby yet. I’d worried she would be an anxious or difficult baby, because of all the fear I “marinated” her in during pregnancy, but she is a happy little soul. She is also incredibly quiet. It is weird, actually, sometimes I look down at her and she’s just riding along quietly and I get kind of a start, like, “oh, you’re still here!” She does not really ever cry—just occasionally commentary type “wahs” of protest or alert or notice. I remember the boys becoming unsettled more easily and also being harder to calm down. For example, yesterday she was asleep when we got home from the park. I hurried to bring in my stuff and when I got back out to the car she was awake and crying pretty hard—I was horrified and ran to scoop her up. The second I picked her up, she made not another peep. I know for a fact that my other babies would have kept on crying for a couple of moments just for emphasis, as well as just taken a little more conscious effort for me to calm them back down. She smiles a lot and enjoys watching her big brothers play.

While the feeling isn’t as intense as it was when she was first born (she is two months old tomorrow!), I continue to marvel at her every day—“HOW did you get here, you amazing little thing?” I feel almost startled that she is here with us, happy and whole and engaging with the world around her. I don’t remember having quite the same sense of miracle about the boys. Sense of magic, yes, but the sense of surprise and/or disbelief about their existence, no.

Aren't they cuties?

I think she looks remarkably like my oldest in this picture, but in baby pictures at the same age and to my eyes in person, she doesn’t look so much like him.

I am enjoying experiencing the symbiosis of the nursing relationship again. I sat nursing her a couple of days ago and remembered a quote from the book The Blue Jay’s Dance by Louise Erdrich in which she is talking about male writers from the nineteenth century and their longing for an experience of oneness and seeking the mystery of an epiphany. She says:

“Perhaps we owe some of our most moving literature to men who didn’t understand that they wanted to be women nursing babies.”

I am currently reading three different books about spirituality and one of them has this focus on  “oneness”I was reading it while nursing her and that quote popped into mind.

Book Review: Times Two

Book Review: Times Two: Two Women In Love & the Happy Family They Made
By Kristen Henderson & Sarah Kate Ellis
Free Press, 2011
ISBN 978-1439176405
224 pages, hard cover, $14.81

Reviewed by Molly Remer, MSW, ICCE, CCCE

Written in a she said/she said format, Times Two is an engaging memoir of two women’s journey into parenthood. I was immediately entranced by their story and devoured the whole book in less than 24 hours. A professional couple living in New York, Kristen and Sarah embark on various fertility treatments and experience a devastating miscarriage before both becoming pregnant—with the same donor and with due dates only three days apart. The rest of the book chronicles their progress through their dual pregnancies, the births of their nearly-twins, and a brief discussion of the postpartum adjustment period. It was interesting—and sad—to read about the hurdles faced by same-sex couples in achieving legal parenting rights.

I was especially interested in their birth choices. While beginning with very different goals, the mothers-to-be hire a doula and find the private birth classes she offers to be a transformative influence. Sarah successfully turns her transverse baby with moxibustion shortly before her due date and avoids a scheduled cesarean and both women give birth with doula support (and eventually epidurals) during the same month.

The book is fast-paced and reads like a novel. A nice, extra touch is a series of color photos in the middle of the book—ultrasound pictures, double-belly pictures, and photos of the babies and family. The tone of Times Two is fairly lightweight and casual and the dialogue felt somewhat stilted or artificial, but this unusual double narrative kept me captivated.

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

DVD Review: The HUG: Understanding the Secret Language of the Newborn

DVD Review: The HUG: Understanding the Secret Language of the Newborn
Created by Jan Tedder, 2010
21 minutes, $25

Reviewed by Molly Remer, MSW, ICCE

Developed by a nurse-practitioner to help educate new parents,  HUG stands for “help, understanding, guidance for young families.” In this short, informative DVD, parents learn about the baby’s ability to use distinct body language to communicate its needs and emotional states. Short sections showing real newborns with their parents address calming a crying baby, helping baby eat and sleep well, and playing with baby. It is helpful to see footage of real babies that illustrate a baby’s “Zones” and SOS cues (“Sign of Overstimulation”). The families shown are ethnically diverse.

The information provided on The HUG is very simple and basic. It is nurturing, empowering, and clearly presented. Mentions of breastfeeding communicate that it is the normal and expected way to feed babies. The HUG is a good resource for people who have little previous experiences with newborns or for birth/postpartum professionals looking for ideas about communicating newborn behavior to new parents.

Most new parents are eager to learn about more than just the “baby basics” newborn care such as diapering and bathing. The HUG takes parents into more meaningful territory and helps them learn about their baby’s special communication abilities.

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

Threshold Moments

In cleaning off my desk this weekend, I found the following note from a webinar by Rose St. John that I attended some time ago:

“Labor is all about finding your threshold and learning you can go beyond it.” –Rose St. John

Threshold Stone, Newgrange, Ireland

I think one of the powerful lessons of birth is about one’s own immense capacity—each of my births has had a “threshold” moment and, indeed, I have some notes taken for a possible future article about “At the Threshold: Pivotal Moments in Birth.” With my first son it was during pushing when I realized I had to just do it, I had to push him out even though it was scaring me to do it. With my second son, it was when I realized that I was actually in labor—I had a distinct sense of literally crossing a threshold. A sense of, “there is no turning back now. I’m going back into the house and I’m having a baby.” With my third son, it was when I got up in the night feeling contractions and went into the kitchen. There, I talked to the baby, telling him it was time to let go of each other—“Lets do this. Lets get it done by 3:00” (and we did).With my last baby, it was when I was talking to myself prior to pushing—fretting that I was too “in my head” and not letting go enough. After this moment, I did let go and she was born very rapidly after that.

So, looks like I had two “pushing” thresholds and two “bring it on—labor is beginning” thresholds. The pushing thresholds occurred during my longer labors and the bring it on moments during my short labors.

Responsive Readings for Women’s Rituals

As I noted in my previous post, I’m choosing some readings for an upcoming women’s retreat. Our theme for the spring is “personal power” and so these responsive readings from the book Readings for Women’s Programs by Meg Bowman and Connie Springer seemed perfect to me. The capitalized (or italicized) sections are read in unison by the group and the non-capitalized/italicized sections are read by the facilitator. I think they could work for any type of women’s ceremony (blessingways, etc.):


At my blessingway for my second son, May 2006

Self-love is respecting my own uniqueness,

my creativity and my talents.




Self-love is acknowledging my good qualities

and following my own guidelines.



Self-love is taking time to enjoy each day.




Self-love is loving and respecting my body.




Self-love is seeing myself equal to others,

accepting myself and letting myself win.





The more I love myself,

the more I can love others

and the more others will return my love.




Blessed be.


To Be

BE healthy enough

To live each day to the fullest

BE strong enough

To know that I cannot do everything alone.

BE wise enough

To realize I don’t know everything

BE courageous enough

To speak my mind and to change my mind

BE understanding enough

To listen to those with differing views

BE secure enough

To reveal my own unique personality

BE generous enough

To assist those who need my help

BE frugal enough

To take care of my own needs

BE realistic enough

To let go of the past and live in the present

And above all, BE loving enough

To BE loved

To BE happy

To BE whole

To BE myself.

Blessed Be.

Blessingway Readings & Chants

I’m looking through my files to choose a reading for a mother blessing this weekend as well as choosing readings for a women’s retreat this weekend. Anyway, I felt like sharing some of them here for people who might be googling around looking for something to share at a blessingway:

From the book Joyful Birth: A Spiritual Path to Motherhood by Susan Piver

The path of motherhood has a beginning, but no end. It’s constantly changing and constantly challenging. Along the way, we encounter our personal limits over and over. We fall in love over and over. We ride the sharp edge of hope and fear. On this path of discovery, as on any spiritual path, our pretensions are shattered, our minds are blown, and our hearts are opened. We cry, we laugh, we bumble around and make countless mistakes. Through it all, we are gently—or abruptly—poked into greater honesty, lovingkindness, and understanding. It is a truly joyful path.

The memory of [my child’s] birth has become a talisman that I hold in my heart as I journey deeper and deeper into motherhood. For these moments come again in every mother’s life—the times when we are asked to walk straight into our pain and fear, and in doing so, open up to a love that is greater than anything we ever could have imagined: all life’s beauty and wonder, as well as all the ways that things can break and go wrong…Again and again, motherhood demands that we break through our limitations, that we split our hearts open to make room for something that may be more than we thought we could bear. In that sense, the labor with which we give birth is simply a rehearsal for something we mothers must do over and over: turn ourselves inside out, and then let go.

This is the reading we often use for symbolically summoning the four directions. It is from the book  Mother Rising: The Blessingway Journey into Motherhood:

Blessed be this gathering with the gifts of the East: communication of the heart, mind, and body; fresh beginnings with each rising of the sun; the knowledge of the growth found in sharing silences.

Blessed be this gathering with the gifts of the South: warmth of hearth and home; the heat of the heart’s passion; the light to illuminate the darkest of times.

Blessed be this gathering with the gifts of the West: the lake’s deep commitments; the river’s swift excitement; the sea’s breadth of knowing.

Blessed be this gathering with the gifts of the North: firm foundation on which to build; fertile fields to enrich our lives; a stable home to which we may always return.

From previous posts here is:

After my blessingway with baby girl, January 2011

A birth blessing

Full moon poem

Courage reading

Fear release for birth

Birth warrior affirmation

Two birth poems

Birthing poem

And, finally, here is a handout of the chants we often use. It is formatted with the chants in two columns so it can be cut in half to distribute.

Birth & Breastfeeding in Unexpected Places

No, I’m not talking about giving birth in the car, or breastfeeding in the rotunda at the Capitol, I’m talking about birth and breastfeeding showing up in unexpectedly positive ways in books and movies. I had two such occasions last week.

In the animated children’s movie Ponyo, which we watched on Netflix, the two main character children encounter a father, mother, and baby floating in a small boat in the flooded town. Ponyo attempts to give the baby a drink from her thermos and the mother says, “no, he gets his milk from me. I can drink it and make milk for the baby and he can get it that way.” The little boy then says, “when I was little my mom made milk for me too.” Ponyo then tries to give the mother big stacks of sandwiches saying, “for milk! For milk! Here, you can have this for milk!” It was really cute 🙂

Then, I finished reading a novel called Medicus on my Kindle. It was a “novel of the Roman Empire” about a military doctor in Britannia during the Roman occupation. It was a mystery book, but definitely not a traditional sort of mystery. The doctor ends up buying an enslaved girl to stop her from being abused and investigates the suspicious deaths of several prostitutes/slaves. It is noted several times that the girl has “some skill in midwifery” and that she used to attend births with her mother. Towards the very end of the book, the doctor is called to attend a complicated birth in which the baby is transverse and everyone is pretty sure both mother and baby will die. She has been pushing for a long time and is all worn out. The doctor enters the room and has no idea what to do. He says, “I’m only a medic. A surgeon. Where’s a midwife?” And, with a few dramatic twists, the slave girl with some midwifery knowledge is convinced to come help, turns the transverse baby, and saves the lives of both mother and baby who are later described as nursing happily (the mother “pale, but alive”). Birth often makes a dramatic appearance in books and films, but the drama usually involves the baby, mother, or both then dying. So, this was a refreshing change as well as a nice plug for midwifery 🙂